Asphodel | Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Literary Fiction, Published 1800 -1900 | Audio Book | 3/12



Chapter six of asphodel this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org recording by jennifer painter Ashford l by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 6 love maketh all to gone miss way aunt Rhoda was not a person to be set at defiance even by Daphne who was by no means a tractable spirit she had said come to the rectory and had said it with such an air of offended dignity that Daphne felt she must obey and promptly less to worst lecture should befall her so directly after luncheon on the following day she changed her down and prepared herself for the distasteful visit Madeline was going to drive to Warwick with her father so Daphne would have to perform her penance alone it was a lovely afternoon in the first week of May the air balmy and summer-like the midde is looking their greenest before the golden glory of Buttercup time yonder in the Reedy Hallows the first of the Marsh marigolds were opening their yellow cups and smiling up at the Yellow Sun the walk to arden rectory was something over a mile and it was as lovely a walk as anyone need care to take through meadows beside flowery hedgerows with the river flowing near but almost hidden by a thick screen of willows and then by one of the most delightful lanes in the county a green arcade of old Elms with here a spreading oak and they are a mountain ash to give variety to the foliage daphne set out alone as soon as she had seen the carriage drive away from the door but she was not destined to go her way unaccompanied halfway down the avenue she met mr. Churchill strolling at a lazy pace a cigar in his mouth and a redsetter of Irish pedigree at his heels at site of Daphne he threw away his cigar and took his hands out of his pockets I was coming up to the hill to ask somebody to play a game of billiards and everybody seems going out he said they had known him so long in an easygoing neighborly way that he almost took rank as a relation Daphne who had spent so much of her life away from home had naturally seen less of him than anybody else but as she had been a child during the greater part of their acquaintance he had fallen into the way of treating her as an elder brother might have done and he had not yet become impressed with the dignity of her advancing years for him she was still the Daphne he had romped with in the Christmas holidays and whose very small pony it had been his particular care to get broken I met Madeline and Severna and going to Warwick why go to Warwick what is there for anyone but a cook's tourist to do in Warwick I thought you would be at home you haven't a bad notion of billiards and you might have helped a fellow to wile away and afternoon you are like the idle boy in the spelling-book story wanting someone to play with you said Daphne laughing at him he had turned and was walking beside her the dose I'll set her following meekly like a dog who felt that he was of no consequence in the world now that the days of sport were done well the hauntings all over don't you know and there's no more shooting and I never cared much for fishing and I've got such a confoundedly clever bailiff that he won't let me open my mouth on the farm so the days do hang rather heavy on a fellow's hands why don't you take to Alpine climbing suggested Daphne I don't mean Mont Blanc everybody does that but the matterhorn or Monte Rosa or something if I were a young man I should amuse myself in that way I don't set an exaggerated value on my life but when I do make up my mind to throw it away I think I'll do the thing more comfortably replied Edgar Churchill don't trouble yourself to suggest employment for me I'm not complaining of my life there's a good deal of loafing in it but I rather like loafing especially when I can loaf in Pleasant company where are you going and may I go with you I'm going on a duty visit to aunt Rhoda and my new uncle isn't it rather dreadful to have an uncle thrust upon one in that way well returned Edgar deliberately I must say if I had the choosing of my relations I should leave out the rector but you needn't mind him practically he's no more to you than he was before he married your aunt I don't know it's a Daphne doubtfully he may take liberties he was always a lecturing old thing and he lecture ever so much more now that he's a relation but you needn't stand his lecturing just tell him quietly that you don't hold with clerical interference in the affairs of the lair T he got me ready for my confirmation and that gave him a kind of hold over me said Daphne you see he found out the depths of my ignorance I'll wager he'd be plowed in a divinity exam tomorrow said Edgar these old heathens of Village Parsons got their degrees in a day when the Dons were a set of sleep he headed old duffers like themselves but don't let's talk about him what is Madeline going to do in Warwick she and my father are going to make some calls in the neighborhood and I believe she has a little shopping to do why didn't you go with them Papa does not like to have three people in the barouche besides I had promised to call on my aunt she talked to me quite awfully last night about my want of proper feeling in never having visited her in her new house why didn't you wait till she asked you to dinner they give capital dinners at the rectory but their feeds are few and far between I don't want to say anything rude about your aunt but she strikes me as a lady who has to clean and appreciation of the value of money to fritter it away upon other people why don't you say at once that she's horribly stingy said the outspoken Daphne I don't think she ever spent a sixpence except upon her own clothes all the time she lived in my father's house and I know she was always getting gowns and bonnets out of Madeline I've seen her do it but please don't let's talk of her anymore it's rather worse than talking of him I shall have to kiss her and call her dear aren't presently and I shall detest myself for being such a hypocrite they had gone out by the lodge gate by this time the lodge with its thatched roof and dormer window like a big eye looking out under a shaggy penthouse eyebrow the lodge by which they grew one of those tall deer Dara's which were the chief glory of the grounds at South Hill across the high road and into the meadow path which led towards Arden red tree and the setter finding himself at large in a field frisked about a little as if with a faint suspicion of partridges Oh by-the-by began Daphne in quite a new tone now that we are alone I want you to tell me all about Lina's engagement is he nice Edgar Churchill's face clouded over so darkly that the look seemed a sufficient answer to her question oh I see she said you don't like him I can't say that he's an old acquaintance a friend a kind of family connection even for his mother's grandmother was a turn chill but to be candid I don't like the engagement why not unless you know something against him I know nothing against him he is a gentleman he is 10 times cleverer than I 10 times richer a great deal handsomer my superior in every way I should be Ameen cared if I couldn't acknowledge as much as that but you think lino ought to have accepted him I think the match in every way suitable natural inevitable how could he help falling in love with her why should she refuse him you're talking in riddles said Daphne you said it is a suitable match and a minute ago you said you did not like the engagement I say so still can't you imagine a reason for my feelings Daphne contemplated him thoughtfully for a few moments as they walked on his Frank English face looked graver than she ever remembered to have seen it grave to mournfulness I'm very sorry she faltered I see you were fond of her yourself I'm desperately sorry I should have liked you ever so much better for a brother don't say that till you have seen Gerald he has wonderful powers of fascination he paints and poet eise's and all that kind of thing don't you know the sort of thing that pleases women he can't ride a little bit no seat no hands how dreadful cried Daphne aghast does he tumble off I don't mean that he can stick in his saddle somehow and he hunts when he's at home in the season but he can't ride Oh said Daphne as if she were trying to understand this distinction yes Daphne I don't mind your knowing it now it's all over and done with pursued Edgar glad to pour his griefs into a friendly ear you're my old playfellow almost like a little sister and I don't think you'll laugh at me will you dear laugh at you cried Daphne if I do may I never be able to smile again I asked your sister to marry me I had gone on loving her for I don't know how long before I could pluck up courage to ask the question I was so afraid of being refused and I knew if she would only say yes that my mother would be the proudest woman in the county for she positively adores Madeline and I knew Lena liked Hawke's yard and that was encouraging so one day about four years ago I got desperate and asked the plain question in a plain way heaven knows how much of my happiness hung on the answer but I couldn't have screwed any poetry out of myself to save my life I could only tell her the honest truth that I loved her as well as man ever loved woman well our Stephanie it was no use she said no so kindly so sweetly so affectionately for she really likes me you know in a sisterly way that she made me cry like a child yes Daphne I made a miserable ass of myself she must have despised such a manly weakness and then in a few minutes it was all over all my hopes were extinguished like a candle blown out by the wind and all my future life was dark and I had to go back and tell the poor mother that the daughter she wanted was never to come to Hawks yard I am so sorry for you faltered Daphne thank you dear I knew you would be sympathetic the blow was a crusher I assure you I went away for a few months deer stalking in the highlands but lying on a mountainside in a gray mist for hours on end not daring to move an eyelash gives a fellow too much time for thought I was always thinking of Madeline and my thoughts were just 250 miles due south of the stag when he came across so I generally shot wide and felt myself altogether a failure then I tried a month in Normandy and Brittany with a knapsack thinking I might walk down my trouble but I found the tramping from one badly drained town to another badly drained town all infected with garlic and looking at churches I didn't particularly want to see was a sham kind of consolation for a very real disappointment so I made up my mind to come back to Hawke's yard and live it down and I have lived it down concluded Edgar exultant Lee you don't care for Madeleine any longer not care for her I shall worship her as long as I have breath in my body but I have resigned myself to the idea that somebody else is going to marry her that the most I can ever be to her is a good useful humdrum kind of friend who will be godfather to one of her boys by and by ready to ride helter skelter for the doctor if any of her children shows symptoms of measles or whooping cough dad to take dummy of an evening when she and her husband want to play whist or to entertain the boys at Hawkes yard for their summer holidays while she and he are enjoying a Tater Tate ramble in the anger Dean that is the sort of man I shall be how good you are is it Daphne slipping her hand through his arm with an affectionate impulse ah my little Daphne it will be your turn to fall in love some of these days put it off as long as you can dear but there's more pain and pleasure in it at best Daphne gave an involuntary sigh and then I hope you'll confide in me just as freely as I have confided in you I may be useful as an adviser you know having had my own troubles you could only advise me to be patient and give up all hope said Daphne drawing her hand from his arm what would be the god of such advice but I shall never trouble you I'm not going to fall in love ever she gave the last word and almost angry emphasis poor little Daphne as if you could know anything about it exclaimed Edgar smiling incredulous Lee at her that kind of thing comes upon one unawares you talk as if you could choose whether you would fall in love or not like Hercules between his two Rhodes deliberating whether he should go to the right or the left our idea when we come to that stage of our journey there is but one road for us and whether it lead to the Garden of Eden or the slough of despond we must travel over it you're getting poetical exclaimed Daphne scornfully I didn't know that was in your line but please tell me about Gerald I've never seen him you know he was always at Oxford or roaming about the world somewhere when I was at home for the holidays I've been at home so little you see she interjected with a piteous air I used to hear a great deal about a very wonderful personage enormous Lea rich fabulously clever and accomplished and handsome and I grew rather to hate him as one is apt to hate such perfection and then one day I got a letter from Lena a letter brimming over with happiness to say that she and this demigod were engaged to be married but it was to be a long engagement because the other demigod my father wished for delay so you see I know very little about my future brother you're sure to like him said they'd go with a somewhat regretful heir he has all the qualities which please women another man might be as handsome or even handsomer yet not half so sure of winning a woman's love there is something languid lackadaisical poetical I suppose Madeline would call it in his appearance and manner which women admire I hope he is not effeminate exclaim Daphne I hate a woman ish man no I don't think anyone could call him effeminate but he is dreamy bookish fond of lolling about under trees smoking cigarettes and reading verses I'm certain I shall detest him said Daphne with conviction and it will be very dreadful since I must pretend to like him for Lena's sake you must stand by me Edgar when he is at the hill you and I can chum together and leave the lovers to spoon by themselves Oh by-the-by of course you haven't lived on the avon all your life without being able to row a boat no I can row pretty well then you must teach me please I'm going to have a boat my very own it is being built for me you'll teach me to row weren't you Edgar she asked with a pleading smile I shall be delighted thanks tremendously that will be ever so much better than learning of Bink indeed and who is Bink asked Edgar somewhat dashed one of the under gardeners such an honest creature and devoted to me I see and your first idea was to have been taught by Bink if there had been no one else she admitted apologetically you see having ordered a boat it is essential that I should learn to row naturally they had arrived at the last field by this time the village lay before them in the sunlight an old grey church in an old churchyard on the edge of the river a cluster of half-timbered cottages with walls of wattle and dab a homestead dwarfed by Rick yards and barns and finally the rectory alo Minnie gabled house half timbered like the cottages a regular 16th century house with clustered chimneys of massive ruddy brown brickwork finished by a stone coping in which the Martins have built from time immemorial I can't tell you how glad I am to have you with me said Daphne as they came near the style it will take the edge off my visit oh but I did not mean to go in with you I only walked with you for the pleasure of being your escort nonsense you are going in and you're going to stay till I go home and you're going back with me to dinner I'm sure you must oh and Road or a call just consider now if you don't Edgar who had a guilty memory of being a guest at one of the rector's rare but admirable dinners just five weeks ago blushed as he admitted his indebtedness I certainly haven't called since I dined there he said but the fact is I don't get on very fast with your aunt although I've known her so long of course not I never knew anyone who could get on with her except Lena and she's an angel they came to the style which was what the country people call a tumble down style all the timbers of the gate sliding down with a clatter when a handle is moved and leaving space for the pedestrian to step over the rectory gate stood before them a low wide gate standing open to admit the entrance of a carriage the garden was lovely even before the season of bedding out plants and carpet horticulture for the last 20 years the rector had annually imported a choice selection of Dutch bulbs whereby his flower beds and borders on this May afternoon were a blaze of color tulip hyacinth ranunculus polly anthis each and every flower that blooms in the sweet youth of the year and as a background for the level lawn with its many flowerbeds there was a belt of such timber and an inner circle of such shrubs as are only to be found in a garden that has been cultivated and improved for a century or so copper beeches Spanish chestnuts curious specimens of the oak tribe the feathery foliage of acacia and mountain ash the pink bloom of the wild plum and the snowy clusters of the American crab deer daraa Cypress you and in the foreground Arbutus and syringa lilac laburnum gelda rose with all the family of laurel laura Steines and bay a shrubbery so exquisitely kept that not a blighted branch or withered leaf was to be seen in the spacious circle which fenced and protected that smiling lawn from all the outer world the house was in its way as perfect as the garden there were many rooms but none large or lofty the rectory had all the shortcomings and all the fascinations of an old house wide halves and dog stoves high mantle pieces deep recessed casements diamond panes leaden lattices massive roughly hewn beams supporting the ceilings a wide shallow staircase rooms opening one out of another irregular levels dark oak floors a little stained glass here and there real old glass rich dark red or somber green or deep dull topaz the house was delightfully furnished though mr. Ferrars had never taken any trouble about it many a collector worn out before his time by the fever and anxiety of long summer afternoons at Christie's would have envied Marmaduke Ferrars the treasures which had fallen to him without the trouble of collecting residuary legatee to all his aunts and uncles he had taken to himself the things that were worth having among their goods and chattels and had sold all the rubbish the aunts and uncles had been old-fashioned non locomotive people hoarding up and garnering the furniture of past generations thus at the – required Chippendale chairs and tables old Dutch tulip wood cabinets and bureaus Louis has commodes Elizabethan clocks Darby and Worcester beau Bristol Leeds and Swansea crockery with a sprinkling of those dubious jugs and bowls that are generally fathered on Lowestoft past generations had amassed and hoarded in order that the rector might be rich in art treasures without ever putting his hand in his pocket furniture that had cost a few pounds when it was bought was now worth hundreds and the rector had it all for nothing just because he came of a selfish celibate race the Chippendale furniture the Dutch market rework old China and old plate had all been in Miss Lawford's mind when she took the rector in hand and brought him to see her fitness for his wife true that her home at South Hill was as elegant and in all things as desirable but there was a wide difference between living under the roof of her brother more or less on sufferance and being mistress of her own house thus the humbler charms of the rectory impressed her more than the dignity of the hill Severna and Lawford was not a pleasant man to whom to be beholden his daughters were now grown-up Madeline was sovereign mistress of the house which must one day be her own and Rhoda Lawford felt that to stay at the hill would be to sink to the humdrum position of a maiden aunt for whom nobody cared very much mrs. Ferrars was sitting in a Japanese chair on the lawn in front of the drawing-room Windows nursing a black and white Japanese pug and rather yearning for someone from the outer world even in that earthly paradise where the Gilda roses were all in bloom and the air was heavy with the odor of Hawthorn blossom at last she exclaimed as Daphne and her companion made their timorous advance across the velvet turf mon twice-a-week in the growing season you to mr. Churchill I thought you're never coming to see me after that delightful evening with the Mowbray's and the people from lidding Tintin it was too ungrateful of me said Edgar if you call me mr. Churchill I shall think I'm never to be forgiven well then it shall be Edgar as it was in the old days said mrs. ferrars with a faint suspicion of sentiment there had been a time when it had seemed to her not altogether impossible that she should become mrs. Churchill Hawks Yard Grange was such a delicious old place and edgar was her junior by only fourteen years I don't want you to make ceremonious calls just because you happen to have dined here but I want you to drop in often because you like us I want you to bring me breathing's of the outside world the life of a clergyman's wife in a country parish is so narrow I feel early becoming a vegetable mrs. ferrars looked complacently down at her Tegan of soft creamy Indian silk copiously trimmed with softer Breton lace and felt that at least she was a very well-dressed vegetable knots of palest blue satin nestled here and there among the lace a cluster of hothouse roses large velvety yellow roses reposed on mrs. ferrars shoulder and agreeably contrasted with her dark smoothly banded hair she prided herself on the classic form of her small head and the classic simplicity of her coiffeur I think we all belong more or less to the vegetable tribe about here said mr. Churchill there is something sleepy in the very air of our pastoral valleys I sometimes long to get away to the Stonewall country yonder on the Cotswolds to breathe a freer more wakeful air I can't say that I languish for the Cotswolds replied mrs. Ferrars but I should very much like a fortnight in Mayfair do you know if your father and Madeline are going to London this season Daphne I think not papow fancies himself not quite well enough for the fatigue of London and Lina does not care about going it had been server nun's habit to take a furnished house at the West End for part of May and June in order to see all the picture galleries and hear all the operas that were worth being heard and do a little visiting among his very select circle of acquaintances he was not a man who made new acquaintances if he could help it all who went to people because they lived in big houses and gave big dinners he was exclusive to a fault detested crowds and had a rooted conviction that every new man was a swindler who was destined to end his career in ignominy esperen see it had gone hard with him to consent to his daughter's engagement with a man who on the father's side was a parvenu but he had consoled himself as best he might with the idea of lady Geraldine's blueblood a mr. gorings very substantial fortune and so you are no longer a schoolgirl Daphne and have come home for good said mrs. Ferrars dropping her elegant society manner I'm putting on a sententious air which Daphne knew too well I hope you're going to try and improve yourself for what girls learn at school is a mere smattering and that you're aware how much room there is for improvement in your carriage for instance I haven't any carriage aren't but for par is going to let me keep a boat said Daphne who had been absently watching the little yellow butterflies skimming above the flame colored tulips my dear I'm talking of your deportment you are sitting most awkwardly at this moment one shoulder at least three inches higher than the other don't worry about it aren't said Daphne indifferently perhaps it's a natural deformity I hope not I think it rests with yourself to become a very decent figure replied mrs. ferrars stray her own slim waist here comes your uncle returning from his round of duty in time to enjoy his afternoon tea the rector drove up to the gate in a low Park Phaeton drawn by a sleek Bay Cobb a Cobb – well-fed and lazy to think of running away but a little apt to become what the groom called a bit above himself and to prance and toss his head in an arrogant manner or even to shy at a stray rabbit as if he had never seen such creature before and hadn't the least idea what the apparition meant the rector's round of duty had been a quiet drive through elm shadowed lanes and rustic occupation roads with an occasional pull up before the door of a cottage or a farmhouse where without alighting he would inquire in a fat pompous voice after the welfare spiritual and temporal of his parishioners and then shedding on them the light of a benign and smile or a few solemn words of clerical patronage he would give the reins a gentle shake and drive off again this kind of parochial visitation lasting for about two hours the rector performed twice or three times a week always selecting a fine afternoon it kept him in the fresh air gave him an appetite for his dinner and maintained pleasant relations between the pastor and his flock mr. Ferrars flung the reins to his groom a man of middle age in sober dark livery and got himself ponderously out of his carriage onto the gravel drive he was a large man tall and broad with a high bald head red brown eyes of the protuberant order a florid complexion pendulous cheeks and chin and mutton chop whiskers of a warm chestnut he was a man whose appearance even to the stranger suggested a life devoted to dining a man to whom dinner was the one abiding reality of life the same yesterday today and tomorrow a memory and a cue I hope he was the man for whom asparagus and peas are forced into untimely perfection the man who eats poached salmon in January and gives a fabulous price for the first of the grouse the man for whom green geese are roasted in June and who requires immature turkeys to be fat it for him in October who can enjoy oysters at fourpence apiece who thinks 90 shillings a dozen a reasonable price for dry champagne and would drive 30 miles to secure a few dozen of the late Colonel somebody's famous East India sherry Roda had married the Reverend Marmaduke with her eyes fully opened to the materialistic side of his character she knew that if she wanted to live happily with him and to exercise that gentle an imperceptible sway which vulgar people called hen pecking she must make dinner the chief study of her life so long as she gave full satisfaction upon this point so long as she could maintain a table in which the homely English virtue of substantial abundance was combined with the artistic variety of French cooking so long as she anticipated the rectus fancies and forced all the seasons she would be sure to please but an hour's forgetfulness of his tastes or prejudices a single failure an experimental dish would shatter for the time being the whole fabric of domestic bliss and weaken her hold of the matrimonial sceptre the rector's wife had considered all this before she took upon herself the responsibilities of married life supremely indifferent herself to the pleasures of the table she had to devote one thoughtful hour of every day to the consideration of what her husband would like to eat drink and avoid she had to project her mind into the future to secure for him novelty of diet Todd the housekeeper had ministered to him for many years and knew all his tastes but mrs. Farrow wanted to do better than Todd had done and to prove to the rector that he had acted wisely in committing himself to the dolsot bondage of matrimony she was a clever woman not bookish or highly cultured but skilled in all the small arts and devices of daily life and so far she had succeeded admirably the rector granted the supreme indulgence of all his desires was his wife's admiring slave he flattered her he deferred to her he praised her he boasted of her to all his acquaintances as the most perfect thing in wives just as he boasted of the sleek bay as the paragon of cobs and his garden as the archetype of gardens and now for the first time Daphne had to salute this great man in his new character of an uncle she went up to him timidly a graceful gracious figure in a pale yellow Battiste gown a knot of straw coloured Marguerite's shining on her breasts her lovely liquid eyes darkened by the shadow of her Tuscan hat how do you do uncle she said holding out a slender hand in a long loose Swedish glove the rector started and stared at her dumbly whether bewildered by so fair a vision or taken aback by the unexpected assertion of kinsman ship only he himself knew bless my soul he cried is this Daphne what the child has grown out of all knowledge how did he do man dear very glad to see you you'll stop for dinner of course you enter chill how'd he do to chill the rector had a troublesome trick of asking everybody who crossed his threshold in the afternoon to dinner he had an abiding idea that his friends wanted to be fed that they would rather dine with him than go home and that if they refused their refusal was mere modesty and self-denial ought not to be accepted vainly had Rhoda lectured her spouse upon this evil habit vainly has she tried to demonstrate to him that an afternoon visit should be received as such and need not to generate into a dinner party the rector was incorrigible hospitality was his redeeming virtue thanks awfully replied Daphne but I must go home to dinner apparently nor expect me of course mr. Churchill can do as he likes then Churchill will stay said the rector my dear rector you are very kind but I must go home with Daphne I brought her don't you see and I'm bound to take her back there might be a ball or something do you think I'm afraid of balls right Daphne why I love the whole cow tribe if I saw a ball in one of our Meadows I should walk up to him and to make friends the rector surveyed the yellow damsel with an unctuous smile it would be dangerous he said in his fat voice if I were the ball boy I should be tempted to imitate an animal famous in classic story and swim the Aven with you on my back replied the rector Duke said mrs. ferrars with her blander smile don't you think you had better rest yourself in your cool study while we take our tea I'm sure you must be tired after your long drive these first warm days are so exhausting I'll bring you your cup of tea don't trouble yourself my love replied the rector Daphne can wait upon me her legs are younger than yours this unflattering comparison to say nothing of the vulgar allusion to legs was too much for rodas carefully educated temper she gave her Marmaduke a glance of undisguised displeasure I am not so ancient or infirm as to find my duty Aksum she said severely I shall certainly bring you your tea the rector had a weakness about pretty girls there was no harm in it he had lived all his life in an atmosphere of beauty and no scandal had ever arisen about Pyrrhus or peasants he happened to possess an artistic appreciation of female loveliness and he took no trouble to disguise the fact youth and beauty and freshness were to him as the very wine of life second only to actual Kiko or Roederer clove or gay or maca Bruna his wife was too well acquainted with this weakness she had known it for years before she had secured Marmaduke for her own and she flattered herself that she could cure him of this inclination to Philander but so far the curative process had been a failure but Marmaduke though inclined to folly was not rebellious he loved a gentle doze in the cool shade of his study where there were old-fashioned easy chairs of a shape more comfortable than has ever revealed itself to the mind of modern upholster the briefs lubber gave him strength to support the fatigue of dressing for dinner for the Reverend Marmaduke was as careful of the outward man as of the inner and had never been seen in slovenly a tower or with unshaven visage mrs. Ferrars sank into a chair with a sigh of relief as the rector disappeared through the deep rustic porch the irreproachable Butler who had grown gray in mr. Ferrars service brought the tea tray with its Japanese cups and saucers edgar touch hill subsided upon a low rustic stool at Daphne's feet just where his length of arm would enable him to wait upon the two ladies they made a pretty domestic group the westering Sun shining upon them the Japanese pug fawning at their feet flowers and foliage surrounding them bird singing bees humming cattle lowing in the neighboring fields Edgar looked up admiringly at the bright young face above him eyes so darkly luminous a complexion of lilies and roses that exquisite creamy whiteness which goes with pale auburn hair that lovely varying bloom which seems of beauty of the mind rather than of the person so subtly does it indicate every emotion and follow the phases of thought yes the face was full of charm though it was not the face of his dreams not the face he had worshipped for years before he presumed to reveal his love for the owner if a man cannot win the woman he loves it were better surely that he should teach himself to love one who seems more easily attainable the bright particular star shines afar off in an inaccessible heaven but lovely Humanity is here at his side smiling on him ready to be wooed and won Edgar's reflections did not go quite so far as this but he felt that he was spending his afternoon pleasantly and he looked forward with complacency to the home would walk through the meadows end of chapter 6 Chapter seven of asphodel this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org recording by jennifer painter Ashford L by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 7 his heart bathed in a bath of bliss deafness boat came home from the builders at the end of three weeks of longing and expectation a light where he shaped boat not the tub like seagoing dinghy but a neat little craft which would have done no discredit to a Thames Water man daphne was in raptures mr. Churchill was impressed into her service in no wise reluctant and all the mornings of that happy June were devoted to the art of rowing a pair of sculls on the rapid Avon never had the river been in better condition there was plenty of water but there had been no heavy rains since April and the river had not overflowed its natural limits the stream ran smoothly between its Green and willowy banks just such a lenient tide as Horace loved to sing when Daphne took up a new thing it was a passion with her she was at the exuberant age when all fresh fancies of fevers she had had her fever for watercolors for battledore and shuttlecock for cruel work she had risen at daybreak to pursue each new delight but this fancy for the boat was the most intense of all her fevers for the love of the river was a love dating from infancy and she had never been able to gratify it thoroughly until now every evening in the billiard room she addressed the same prayer to Edgar Churchill when she bade him goodnight covers early as you can tomorrow morning please and to do her pleasure the squire of Hawkes yard rose at cock-crow and rode six miles in the dewy morning so as to be at the Boathouse in server nun's meadow before Arden church clock struck seven let him be there as early as he might daphne was always waiting for him fresh is the morning in her dark blue linen gown and sailor hat the sleeves tucked up to the elbow to give free play to her supple wrists her arms lily-white in spite of wind and weather it's much too good of you said she in her careless way not ungrateful but with the air of a girl who thinks men were created to wait upon her very early you must beam up not so much earlier than you it is only an hour's ride from Hawks yard even when I take it gently and you have had no breakfast I daresay I've had nothing since the tumbler of Sant Gagnaire you poured out for me in the billiard room last night poor dear soul sighed Daphne with a pause after each word how quite too shocking we must institute a gypsy teakettle this kind of thing shall not occur again she looked at him with her loveliest smile as much as to say I've made you my slave but I mean your bondage to be pleasant when he came to the boathouse next morning he found a kettle singing gaily on a rakish looking gipsy stove a table laid for breakfast inside the boathouse a smoking dish of eggs and bacon and the faithful Bink doing Butler rough and rustic but devoted I wonder whether she has read Don Juan thought Edgar the water the gipsy breakfast the sweet face smiling at him reminded him of an episode in that poem where I she brick tomorrow I would not wish to awaken in a fairer paradise he said to himself while bink adjusted a camp stool for him breathing his hardest all the time this is a delicious surprise he exclaimed he bacon no the privilege of a Tater Tate breakfast with you tater fiddlestick pink is my chaperon if you are impertinent I will ask mr. McClosky to join us tomorrow morning sugar yes of course sugar and cream aren't the eggs and bacon nice I cooked them it was big suggestion I was going to confine myself to rolls and strawberry jam but the eggs bacon a more farm aren't they you should have heard how they frizzled and sputtered in the frying pan I had no idea bacon was so noisy your first lesson in cookery said Edgar we shall hear of you graduating at South Kensington my first lesson indeed why i fried pancakes over a spirit-lamp ever so many times it has nia and i don't know which smelt nastiest the pancakes or the lamp our dormitory got into awful disgrace about it she had seated herself on her camp stool and was drinking tea while she watched Edgar eat the eggs and bacon with an artistic interest in the process mr. bacon done she asked did i Frizzle it long enough it's simply delicious I never ate such a breakfast it was indeed a meal in Fairyland the soft clear morning light the fresh yet balmy atmosphere the sunlit River and shadowy boathouse all things about and around lent their enchantment to the scene Edgar forgot that he had ever cared for anyone in the world except this girl with the soft gray eyes and sunny hair and all too captivating smile to be with her to watch her to enjoy her girlishness and bright vivacity to minister to her amusement and wait upon her fancies what better use could a young man free to take his pleasure where he liked fine for his life and far away in the future in the remoteness of years to come Edgar Churchill saw this lovely being tamed and sobered and subdued into the pattern of his ideal wife losing no charm that made her girlhood lovely but gaining the holier graces of womanhood and wife hood today she was little more than a child seeking her pleasure as a child does draining the cup of each new joy like a child and he knew that he was no more to her than the agreeable companion of her pleasures but such an association such girlish friendship so freely given must surely ripen into a warmer feeling his pulses could not be so deeply stirred and hers give no responsive throb there must be some sympathy some answering emotion in her nature so intensely sensitive cheered by such hopeful reflections mr. Churchill at an excellent breakfast while Daphne somewhat timorously tried an egg and was agreeably surprised to find it tasted pretty much the same as if the cook had fried it a little leathery perhaps but that was a detail I feel so relieved she said I shouldn't have been surprised if I had turned them into chickens and now if you have quite finished we'll begin our rowing I have a conviction that if I don't learn to feather properly today I shall never accomplish it while I live the boat was ready for them more to a steep flight of steps which pink had hewn out of the bank after his working hours he had found odd planks in the wood house and had contrived to face the steps with timber in a most respectable manner rewarded by Daphne by sweet words and sweeter looks and by such a shower of shillings that he had opened a post office Savings Bank book on the strength of her bounty and felt himself on the road to fortune there was the boat in all the smartness of new varnished wood Daphne had given up her idea of a Pompeii and read dado to oblige the boatbuilder there were the ores and skulls with Daphne's monogram in dark blue and gold and their glittering in the sunlight was the name she had chosen for her craft in bright golden letters Nero what a queer name to choose said Edgar he was such an out-and-out beast you know that's a bit of it retorted Daphne I read an article yesterday in an old volume of Cornhill in which the writer demonstrates that he was rather a nice man he didn't poison Britannicus he didn't make away with his mama he didn't set fire to Rome though he did play the violin beautifully he was a very accomplished young man and the historians of his time was silly Gobber moosh who jot it down every ridiculous scandal that was floating in society I think that Tessie what's-his-name ought to be ashamed of himself Oh Nero has been set on his legs has he said Edgar carelessly as he took the rudder lines while Daphne bent over her skulls and began rather too vehemently to feather and I suppose to our beerus was a very meritorious monarch and all those scandals about capri would so many Aryans well it doesn't make much difference to us does it except that it will go hard with me by and by when my boys come to learn the history of the future to have the young scamp's tell me that all I learnt at rugby was Bosh happy cried Daphne suddenly earnest you were at rugby with my brother weren't you were you great friends Edgar leant over the boat concerned about some weeds that were possibly interfering with the rudder we didn't see much of each other he was ever so much younger than I you know was he nice people fond of him everybody was dreadfully sorry when he died of scarlet fever poor fellow answered Edgar without looking at her yes it was terrible was it not I can just remember him such a bright handsome boy full of life and spirits he used to tease me a good deal but that is the nature of boys and then when I was at Brighton I came a letter to say that he was dead and I had to wear black frocks forever so long Paul Loftus how dearly I should have loved him if he had lived yes it would have been nice for you to have a brother would it not said Edgar still with a shade of embarrassment dice it would have been my salvation to have someone of my own kindred quite my brother I loved Madeleine with all my heart and soul but she is only my half-sister I always feel that there is a difference between us she is my superior she comes of a better stock nobody ever talks my mother or my mother's family but Lina's parentage is in everybody's mouth she seems to be related at least in heraldry to everybody worth knowing in the county but Loftus would have been the same clay that I am made of don't you know neither better nor worse blood is thicker than water that's a morbid feeling of yours Daphne is it I'm afraid I have a few morbid feelings get rid of them there never was a better sister than Madeleine is to you I know it she is perfection but that only makes her further away from me I reverence her I look up to her and admire her but I can never feel on an equality with her that shows your good sense it is an advantage for you to have someone to look up to yes but I should like someone on my own level as well you've got me said Edgar bluntly can't you make a brother of me the nonce for everyone always if you like replied Daphne I'm sure I've got the best of the bargain I don't believe any brother would get up at five o'clock to teach me to row Edgar felt very sure that Loftus would not have done it that short-lived youth having been the very essence of selfishness and debased by a marked inclination towards juvenile profligacy brothers are not the most self-sacrificing of human beings he said I think you'll find finer instances of devotion in an Irish or a Scottish foster brother than in the saxon blood relation but madeline is a sister in a thousand take care of that willow as the boat shot under the drooping foliage of an ancient Pollard how bright and happy she looked last night yes she had just received a long letter from Gerald and he talks of coming home sooner than she expected him he will give up his fishing in Norway though I believe he had engaged an inland sea all to himself and he will be home before the end of July isn't that nice I am dying with curiosity to see what he is like didn't I describe him to you in the fakest way you said I was sure to like him now I have an invincible conviction that I shall test him just because it is my duty to feel a sisterly affection for him take care that you keep within the line of duty and that your affection doesn't go beyond the sisterly limit so they'd go with a grim smile there is no fear of the other thing what a savage look cried Daphne laughingly Oh horridly jealous you must be of him hasn't he robbed me of my first love demanded Edgar and now don't be so gloomy didn't you tell me that you had got over your disappointment and that you meant to be a dear useful bachelor uncle to Madeline's children by-and-by I don't know about being always a bachelor said Edgard out for me that would imply that I hadn't got over my disappointment that is what you said the other day I'm only quoting yourself against yourself I like to think of you as a perpetual bachelor for Lena's sake it is a more poetical idea than the notion of your consoling yourself with somebody else yet a man does generally console himself it is in human nature don't say another word cried Daphne you are positively hateful this morning solo and material I'm afraid it must be the consequence of eggs and bacon such a vulgar anaesthetic breakfast Binx idea I shall give you bread and butter and strawberries tomorrow if McCloskey will let me have any strawberries if you were to talk a little less and row a little more I think we should get on faster suggested Edgar smiling at her they had got into a spot where a little green peninsula jutted out into the stream and where the current was almost a whirlpool the boat had been travelling in a circle for the last five minutes while Daphne plied her sculls unconscious of the fact they were nearing Stratford the low-level Meadows lay round them the tall spire rose yonder above the many arched gothic bridge built by good Sir Hugh Clopton before Shakespeare was born William Shakespeare must have crossed it many and many a time with a light foot of boyhood a joyous spirit finding ineffable delight in simplest things and again after he had lived his life and had measured himself amidst the greatest minds of his age in the greatest city of the world and had toiled and conquered independence and fame and came back rich enough to buy the great house hard by the grammar school how often must he have lounged against the grey stone parapet in the calm even tie watching the light linger and fade upon the Reedy River bats and swallows skimming across the water the grand old gothic church embowered in trees and the level Meadows beyond they were in the very heart of Shakespeare's country yonder far away to their right lay the meadow path by which he walked to show tree memories of him were into woven with every feature in the landscape my father told me I was not to go beyond our own meadows said Daphne but of course he meant when I was alone it's quite different when you're with me naturally I think I'm capable of taking care of you this kind of thing went on for another week of weather which at worst was showery they breakfasted in the boathouse every morning Daphne exercising all her ingenuity in the arrangement of the meal and making rapid strides in the art of cookery it must be confessed that mr. Churchill seemed to enjoy the breakfasts suggested by the vulgar minded bink rather more than those which were direct emanations of Daphne's delicate fancy he liked broiled mackerel better than cream and raspberry jam he preferred deviled kidneys to honeycomb and milk rolls but whatever Daphne set before him he ate with thankfulness it was so sweet to spend his mornings in this bright joyous company it was a grand thing to have so intelligent of pupil for Daphne was becoming very skillful in the management of her boat she was able to navigate her bark safely through the most difficult bits of the deep Swift River she could shoot the narrow arches of Stratford Bridge in as good style as a professional Waterman but when two young pure minded people are enjoying themselves in this frank easygoing fashion there is generally someone of mature age near at hand to suggest evil and to put a stop to their enjoyment so it was in this case the rector's wife heard of her nieces watery meanderings and gipsy breakfasts and took upon herself to interfere mr. McClosky who had reluctantly furnished a dish of forced strawberries for the Boathouse breakfast happened to stroll over to Arden rectory in the afternoon with a basket of the same fruit as an offering from himself to mrs. ferrars an inevitable half-crown tip to the head gardener and deer at the price in the lady's opinion naturally a man of McCluskey's consequence required refreshment after his walk so mrs. Todd entertained him in her snug little sanctum next the pantry with a dish of strong tea and a crusty knob of home baked bread lavishly buttered whereupon in the course of conversation mr. McClosky let fall that miss Daphne was carrying on finally with mr. Churchill of Hawkes Yard and that he supposed that would be a match some of these days pressed for details he described the early breakfasts at the boathouse the long mornings spent on the river the afternoons at billiards the tea drinking's in the conservatory all this Todd who was an irrepressible gossip retailed to her mistress next morning when the bill of fare had been written and the campaign of gluttony for the next 24 hours had been carefully mapped out mrs. ferrars heard with the air of profound indifference which she always assumed on such occasions McCloskey is an incorrigible gossip she said and you are almost as bad but directly she had dismissed Todd the fare Rhoda went up to her dressing room and arrayed herself for a rural walk life in a pastoral district with a husband of few ideas were now and then wax monotonous and Rhoda was glad to have some little mental excitement something which made it necessary for her to bestow herself and which enabled her to be useful after her man to her kith and kin I shall not speak to her father yet she said to herself he has strict ideas of propriety and might be too severe Madeleine must remonstrate with her she walked across the smiling fields light of foot buoyed up by the pleasing idea that she was performing a Christian duty that her errand was in all things forfeiting her double position as near relation and past his wife she felt that if faith had made her a man she would have been an excellent Bishop all the sterner duties of that high calling visitations remonstrances suspensions would have come easy to her she found Madeleine in the morning room the French windows wide open the balcony full of flowers the tables and mantelpiece and cabinets all a bloom with roses sorry to interrupt your morning practice dearest said mrs ferrars as Madeleine rose from the piano you play those sweet classic bits so deliciously Mendelssohn is it not no ref early you are aunt Rhoda I have something very particular to say to you Leena so I came directly I had done with Todd this kind of address from a woman of Rhoda's type generally for bodes unpleasantness Madeleine looked alarmed there's nothing wrong I hope she faltered not absolutely not intentionally wrong I trust said mrs. Ferrars but it must be put a stop to immediately Madeleine turned pale in the days that were gone aunt Rhoda had always been a dreadful nuisance to the servants she had been perpetually baking unpleasant discoveries pick you lations dissipations and carryings-on of divers coins not unfrequently she had stumbled upon mayor's nests and after making everybody uncomfortable for a week or two had been constrained to confess herself mistaken her rule at South Hill had not been peace and now Lina feared that even outside the house aunt Rhoda had contrived to make one of her terrible discoveries someone had been giving away the milk or selling the corn or stealing garden stuff what is it aunt Rhoda mrs. Ferrars did not give a direct answer her cold gray eyes made the circuit of the room and then she asked where is Daphne in her own room lying down I think tard out with rowing and where is mr. Churchill gone home he had some important business I believe a horse to look at oh he does go home sometimes how curiously you talk aunt Rhoda is there any harm in him coming here as often as he likes he is our oldest friend papaya treats him like a son oh no harm of course if Vernon is satisfied but I don't wonder Daphne is tired and is lying down at midday a horribly lazy unladylike habit by the way are you aware that she is down at the boat house before 7:00 every morning certainly aren't it is much nicer for her to row at that early hour than later in the day edgar is teaching her she is quite safe in his care and do you know that there is a gypsy breakfast every morning in the boathouse I have heard something about a teakettle and ham and eggs Daphne has an idea that she is learning to cook and do you approve of all this Madeline smiled at the question I like her to be happy I think she wastes a good deal of time that she is doing nothing to carry on her education but all this is only natural in a girl of her age and she has been at home such a short and she is so fond of the river has it never occurred to you Madeleine that there is some impropriety in these tato tape mornings with Edgar to chill propriety impropriety and definitely being on friendly terms with Edgar Edgar who has been brought up with us almost as a brother with you perhaps not with Daphne she has spent most of her life away from South Hill she is little more than a stranger to mr. Churchill she would be very much surprised if you were to tell her so and so would Edgar why he used always to make himself her playfellow in her holidays before she went to madam till mush that was all very well while she was in short frocks but she is now a woman and people will talk about her about Tiffany my innocent child like sister little more than a child in years quite a child in gaiety in light heartedness how can such an idea into your head aunt Rhoda surely the most hardened scandalmonger could not find anything to say against Daphne My dear Madeleine began mrs. Ferrars severely you are usually so sensible in all you do and say that I really wonder it the way you were talking this morning there are certain rules of conduct established time out of mind for well-bred young women and Daphne can no more violate those rules with impunity than anyone else can it is not because she wears her hair down her back and her petticoat seem modestly scanty that she is to go scot-free added aunt wrote her in a little involuntary burst of malevolence she had not been fond of Daphne as a child she liked her much less as a young woman to a well-preserved woman of 40 who still effects to be young there is apt to be something aggravating in the wild freshness unconscious insolence of lovely 17 March Roda I think you forget that Daphne is my sister my very dear sister your half-sister Madeline I forget nothing it is you who forget that there are reasons in Daphne's antecedents why we should be most especially careful about her it is unkind of you to speak of that aren't protested Madeline blushing as to edgert urge Hill he is my father's favorite companion he's devoted to all of us there can be no possible harm in his being a kind of adopted brother to Daphne he was an adopted brother to you three years ago and we all know what came of it sure that was a foolish fancy and is all over and done with the same thing may happen in Daphne's case if it should would you be sorry I'm sure I should not I know my father would approve Oh if Fernan is satisfied with the state of affairs I can have nothing further to say replied mrs. Ferrars with dignity but if Daphne were my daughter and heaven forbid I should ever have such a responsibility as an overgrown girl of that temperament I would allow no Boathouse breakfasting 'he's no meanderings on the avon however it is no business of mine concluded mrs. Ferrars with an injured heir having said all she had to say how is your water lily counterpane getting on nearly finished answered Madeline delighted to change the conversation it will be ready for proposed birthday how is my brother by the by he has been complaining of rheumatic pains I'm afraid we shall have to spend next winter abroad what not since Lina it is mere hypochondria on Vernon's part he was always full of fancies he is as well as I am he does not think so himself are and he oughta know best I'm not sure of that a hypochondriac may fancy has hydrophobia but he is not obliged to be right you foster Vernon's imaginary complaints by pretending to believe in them Lena did not argue the point perceiving very plainly that her aunt was out of temper nor did she press that lady to stay to luncheon nor offer any polite impediment to her departure but the interference of starched propriety had the usual effect likely as Madeline had seemed to hold her aunt's advice she was too thorough a woman not to act upon it she went up to Daphne's room directly mrs ferrars left the house she stole softly in so as not to disturb the girls slumber and seated herself by the open window calmly to await her waking Daphne's room was one of the prettiest in the house it had a wide window overlooking the pastoral valley and winding Avon it was neatly furnished with birch wood and turquoise cretton and white and gold crockery but it was sorely out of order Daphne's gowns of yesterday and the day before were flung on the sofa Daphne's hats of all the week round was strewed on tables and chairs her sunshade lay across the dressing table among the brushes and scent bottles and flower glasses and pin cushions and trumpery she had no maid of her own and her sisters maid in whose articles of service it was to attend upon her had renounced that Duty as a task impossible of performance no well-drilled maid could have anything to do except when positively obliged with such an untidy and unpunctual young lady a young lady who would appoint to have her hair dressed and her down laced at seven and to come running into the house breathless and panting at twenty minutes to eight a young lady made hay of her cuffs and collars whenever she was in the hurry and his drawer of ribbons was always being upheaved as if by an earthquake Daphne being remonstrating with and complained of protested that she would infant Lee rather weighed upon herself than be worried you are all goodness Lina dear but half a maid is no maid I would rather do without one altogether she said the room was not absolutely ugly even in its disorder all the things that were scattered about were pretty things there were a good many ornaments such as are apt to be accumulated by young ladies with plenty of pocket money and very little common sense mock Venetian glass flower vases of every shape and color Japanese cups and saucers and fans and screens swiss brackets willow pattern plates a jumble of everything trumpery and fashionable flowers everywhere and the atmosphere sickly sweet with the odor of two boroughs Daphne stirred in her sleep faintly conscious of a new presence in the room sighed turned on her pillow and presently sat up flushed and tousled in her indigo gown just as she had come in from her boating excursion have you had a nice nap dear lovely I was awfully tired we rode to Stratford where and you are quite able to row now it just says I scull as well as he does then dearest I think you ought to dispense with Edgar in future and keep to our own meadows as Papa said he wished you to do Oh said Daphne said a message from my father no dear but I'm sure it will be better for you to consider his wishes upon this point he is very particular about being obeyed oh very well Lina of course if you wish it I will tell Edgar the call of lessons is concluded he has been awfully good it will be rather slow without him but I was beginning to find the breakfasts a weight on my mind it was so difficult to maintain variety and Bink has such low ideas do you know that he actually suggested sausages pork sausages in June and I could not make him comprehend the nausea sness of the notion then it is understood darling that you row by yourself in future I know my father would prefer it you prefer a cleaner that is enough for me answer Daphne in her coaxing way but I think I ought to give Edgar some little present for all his goodness to me a smoking cap or a cigar case or an auntie Macassar for his mother I could work it in crawls don't you know you never finish anything Daphne because the beginning is always so much nicer but if I should break down in this you would finish it wouldn't you Lena with pleasure my pet Edgar was told that evening that his services as a teacher of rowing would no longer be required and though the fact was imparted to him with infinite sweetness he felt as if half the sunshine was taken out of his life end of chapter 7 chapter 8 of asphodel this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org asphodel by Mary Elizabeth broadened chapter 8 god wrote that worldly joy is sown ago perfect mistress of rabo daphne reveled in the lonely delight of the river she felt no grief at the loss of mr. to Charles company he had been very kind to her he had been altogether devoted and unselfish and the Gypsy breakfasts in the old boathouse had been capital fun but these delights would have called in time while the languid pleasure of drifting quietly down the stream thinking her own thoughts dreaming her own dreams could never no satiety she was so full of thoughts sweet thoughts vague fancies visions of them impossible future dreams which made up half her light what did it matter that this Airy fantastic a so she had built for herself was no earthly edifice that she could never live in it or be any nearer it then she was today to her the thing existed were it only in dreamland and it was a part of herself and of her life it was a more consequence to her than the commonplace routine of daily existence the dressing and dining and driving and visiting had her life been more varied full of Duty or even diversified by the frivolous activity of pleasure she could not have thus given herself up to dreaming but she had few pleasures and no duties Madeleine held her absolved from every care and every trouble on the ground of her youth she did not like parish work of any kind she hated the idea of visiting the poor so Madeleine held her excused from that duty as from all others her mind would awaken to the serious side of life when she was older her sister thought she seemed now to belong to the flowers and butterflies and the fair ephemeral things of the garden thus Daphne ignored by her father indulged by her sister enjoyed a freedom which is rarely accorded to a girl of seventeen her aunt Rhoda looked on and disapproved and hoped piously that she would come to no harm and was surprised Lena's weakness and thought Daphne's bright little boat a blot upon the landscape when he came gliding down the river below the rectory windows the Parsons rich glebe was conterminous with sir vernon Lawford's property and at me hardly knew where her father's fields ended or where the church feels began Edgar Churchill degraded from his post of instructor still contrived to spend a considerable portion of his life at South Hill if he was not there for lawn tennis in the afternoon with the rector's wife or forth he was there in the evening for billiards he fetched and carried for Madeleine rode over to Warwick to get her a new book or to Leamington to match a skein of cruel there was no commission to petty for him no offers too trivial or lowly so that he might be permitted to spend his time with the sisters Daphne fought this devotedness a bad sign and began to fear that the canker was at his heart and that he would die for love of Madeleine when the fortunate gerald came home to claim her you poor creature she said to him one day you foolish moth why flutter round the flame that must destroy you I declare you are getting worse every day you were wrong said Edgar I believe I'm getting cured what did Daphne dream about in those language summer mornings as her boat moved slowly down the stream and the cool shadow of the Willows with only a gentle dip of the skulls now and then to keep her straight her thoughts were all of the past her fancies were all of the future her thoughts were of the nameless stranger who went across the Jura last year one little year ago almost at this season her dreams were of meeting him again yet the chances against such a meeting reduced it almost to an impossibility the world is so horribly long she reflected sadly and I told him such atrocious stories it will be a just punishment if I never see him anymore yet how am I to live through my life without ever looking on his face again it had gone so far as this it seemed her almost an absolute need of her soul that they too should meet and no more of each other the ardent senses Nature had been thus deeply impressed by the first bright and picturesque image presented to the girlish fancy it was something more than love at first sight it was the awakening of a fresh young mind to the passion of love she had changed from a child to a woman in the hour when she met the unknown in the forest who is he what is he where shall I find him she asked herself he is the only man I can ever love he is the only man I will ever marry all other men are low and commonplace beside him the river was the confidante and companion of all her dreams the sweet lonely river flowing serenely between green pastures where the cattle stood in tranquil idleness pastern deep in purple clover she had no other ear into which to whisper her secret she had tried over so many times to tell Madeleine and had failed Lina was so sensible and would be deeply shocked did such folly how could she tell Lina who's wooing had been conducted in the most conventionally correct manner with everybody's consent and approval that she had flung her heart under the feet of a nameless stranger of whom the only one fact she knew was that he was engaged to be married so she kept this one foolish secret locked in her own breast the passion was not deep enough to make her miserable or to spoil the unsophisticated joys of her life perhaps it was rather fancy than passion it was fed and fostered by all her dreams but her life was in no wise unhappy because this love liked more substantial food than dreaming God had given her that intense delight in nature that love of his beautiful earth for which Faustus thanked his Creator filled streamlet wood and garden were sources of inexhaustible pleasure she loved animals of all kinds the grey jersey cows in the marshy water Meadows the house dogs and yard dogs and stable Terriers supposed to be tremendous at rats yet never causing any perceptible diminution of that prolific race the big white horses at the farm with their course plebeian tails tied up into tight knots their manes elaborately clouded and their harness ba'd eyes and with much braze and ornamentation Madeline's exquisite pair of dark chestnuts thoroughbred to the tips of their delicate ears sir Vernon's massive roadster boiler and crock the old carriage horses Daphne had an affection for them all they were living things with soft friendly eyes more unvarying lay kind than human eyes and they all seemed to love her she was more at her ease with them than in the dimly lighted flower scented drawing-room where Sir Vernon always seemed to look at her as if he wished her away and where her aunt worried her about her want of deportment with Lina she was always happy Lina's love and gentleness never very Daphne came home after a morning wasted on the river to sit at her sister's feet while she worked or to lie on the sofa while Lina read to her glad to get in the thin edge of the educational wedge in the form of an interesting article from one of the Quarterly's or a few pages of good poetry Daphne was a fervent lover averse so that it came and the limits of her comprehension her tastes were Catholic she worshipped Shakespeare she adored Byron and Shelley and Tennyson mrs. browning and the simpler poems of Robert Browning and she had heard vaguely our verses written by a poet called Swinburne but this was all she had been permitted to learn of the latest development of the lyric muse Byron and Tennyson it is needless to say were her especial favourites one makes me feel wicked and the other makes me feel good but I adore them both she said I don't see what you can find in childe Harold to make you wicked argued Madeleine you had the old-fashioned idea hereditary of course that Byron was the poet of the century oh I can hardly tell you but there is a something a sense of shortcoming in the world generally an idea that life is not worth living that amidst all that is most beautiful and sacred and solemn and interesting upon earth one might just as well be dead one would be better off than walking about a world in which virtue was never rightly rewarded true than honor and courage or lofty thoughts never fairly understood where everything is at sixes and sevens in short I know i express myself horribly but the feeling is difficult to explain I think what you mean is that Byron even at his loftiest and best wrote like a misanthrope I suppose that said now Tennyson though his poetry never lifts me to the skies makes me feel that earth is a good place and having better that high thoughts and noble deeds bear their fruit somehow and somewhere that it is better to suffer a good deal and sacrifice one's dearest desires in the cause of duty and right than to snatch some brief Joy's out of life and perish like the insects that are born and die in a day I'm so glad you can enjoy good poetry dear said Madeleine delighted at any surcease that for voluntee and her young sister enjoy it I revel in it it is my delight pray don't suppose that I dislike books Mina only keep away from me grammars and geographies and biographies of learned men and voyages to the North Pole there is a South Pole – isn't there dear though nobody even seems to worry about yet and you may read me as many books as you like how condescending of you little one said Madeline smiling at the bright young face looking up from the sofa pillow on which Daphne's golden head reclined in luxurious restfulness well I will read to you with pleasure it will be my delight to help to carry on your education for the girls learn an immense number of things at school they don't seem to know much when they come away we will read together for a couple of hours a day if you like dear till jarrell comes home retorted Daphne he will not let you give me two hours of your life every day he will want you all to himself he can join our studies he is a great reader exposed by ignorance to a future brother-in-law not for worlds cried Daphne let us talk about him Lina aren't you delighted to think he is coming home yes I'm very glad how do my father and Gerald get on together not too well I'm sorry to say Papa is fonder of Edgar than of Gerald you know how prejudiced he is about race and high birth I don't think he is ever quite forgiven Gerald his father's trade but there is lady Geraldine to fall back upon surely she makes amends hardly according to Papa's ideas you see the earldom of arendelle is only a creation of Charles the seconds rein and his peerages are not always respectable I believe there were scandals about the first countess her portrait by Sir Peter Ellie hangs in the refectory at goring Abbey she was a very lovely woman and Lady Geraldine was rather proud of being thought like her although she was not respectable said Daphne and was there really a likeness yes and a marked one I can see it even in Gerald who is the image of his mother the same dreamy eyes the same thoughtful mouth but you will be able to judge for yourself when Jarrell comes home for I have no doubt we shall be going over to the Abbey the Abbey it is of their old place I suppose no it was built by mr. Goering why Abbey surely that means an old place that was once inhabited by monks it was mr. goings fancy he insisted upon calling his house and Abbey it was foolish of course but though he was a very good man I believe he had a slight leaven of obstinacy in his disposition and when once he had made up his mind about anything he was not to be turned from his purpose perverse old creature and is the abbey nice it is as grand and as beautiful a place as money could make it there are cloisters copied from those that ma cross and the dining room has a gothic roof and is called a refectory the situation is positively lovely a richly timber Valley sheltered by green hills and you are to be mistress of this magnificent place Oh Lina what shall I do when you are married and I am left alone here tete-a-tete with Papa how shall I support my life dearest by that time you will have learned to understand your father and he will be quite at your ease with him I think not I'm afraid he is one of those mysteries which I shall never fathom my love that is such a foolish notion besides in a you or to my Daphne may have a husband in a house of her own perhaps a more interesting place than going Abbey Adelina thinking of Hawkes yard which seemed to her Daphne's natural destination June ripened and bloomed and grew daily more beautiful it was peerless weather was just such blue skies and sunny noon tides as there had been at Fontainebleau last year but without the baking heat and the breathless atmosphere here there were cool winds to lift the rippling hair from Daphne's bra and cool grass under her feet she reveled in the summer beauty of the earth she spent almost all her life out of doors on the river in the woods in the garden if she studied it was under the spreading boughs of the low Spanish chestnut which made a tent of greenery on the lawn sometimes she carried her drawing book to some point of Vantage on a neighboring Hill and sketched the outline of a wide range of landscape and washed in a sky and began a tree in the foreground and left off in disgust she never finished anything her portfolio was full of beginnings not altogether devoid of talent mouse-colored cow's deep red oxen every kind of tree in rock an old English cottage or Ricardo gray stone village church but nothing finished the stamp of an impetuous impatient temple upon all there then no definite announcement as to Gerald's return he was in Sweden seeing wonderful Falls and grottoes which he described in his letters to Madeline and he was coming back soon perhaps before the end of July he had told the abbey servants to be prepared for him at any time this indefiniteness kept Madeline's mind in a somewhat perturbed state yet she had to be outwardly calm and full of thoughtfulness for her father who required constant attention his love for his elder daughter was the one redeeming grace of a selfish nature it was a selfish love where he would have willingly let her waste her life in maiden solitude for the sake of keeping her by his side but it was love and this was something in a man of so and unyielding a temper he liked her to be always near him always within call his companion abroad his counselor at home he consulted her about all the details of his estate of her own rarely wrote a business letter without reading it to her she was wanted in his study continually when he was tired after a morning's business she read the newspapers to him or a heavy political article in Blackwood or one of the Quarterly's were he inclined to hear it she never shirked a duty or considered her own pleasure she had educated herself to be her father's companion and counted it a privilege to minister to him thoughtless daughter perfect wife said sir Vernon clasping her hand as she sat beside his sofa going as a lucky fellow to get such a prize why should he not have a good wife to your father he is good himself remember what a good son he was to his mother admirable I doubt if he and Oh goring hit it quite so well I wish he came of a better stock that is a prejudice of yours father it is a prejudice that I have rarely seen the lied by experience I wish you Jo's and Edgar there was a fine fellow for you a lineal descendant of that Churchill who was sheriff of Warwickshire in the reign of the Confessor Shakespeare's mother could trace her descent from the same stock so you see that Edgar can claim alliance with the greatest poet of all time I should never have thought it said Madeleine laughingly his lineage doesn't show itself in his conversation I like him very much you know papa indeed I may say I love him but it is in a thoroughly sisterly fashion by the bark of God don't you think he might make an excellent husband for Daphne she faltered with downcast eyes as she went on with her cruel work she would be an uncommonly fortunate girl if she got him retorted sir Vernon with a clouding countenance he is too good for her Oh father can you speak like that of your own daughter remonstrated Lina is a man to shut his eyes to a girl's character because she mr. bear his name ask they're learnin impatiently Daphne is a lump of self-indulgent frivolity indeed you are mistaken cried Lina she is very sweet tempered and loving sweet tempered yes I know the kind of thing winning words pretty looks trivial fascinations a creature whose movements you watch thus native our variety as you watch a bird in a cage graceful beautiful false worthless I have some experience of the type father this is the most cruel prejudice what can Daphne have ever done to offend you done is she not her mother's daughter don't argue with me about her Lina she is here beside my heart that I must make the best of her god grant she may come to no harm but I am full of fear when I think of her future then you would be glad if Edgar were to propose for her and she were to accept him certainly it would be the very best thing that could happen to her I should only feel sorry for him but I don't think a man who once loved you would ever content himself with Daphne he is very attentive to her que sera sera murmured sir Vernon languidly it was midsummer day the hottest brightest day there had been yet and Daphne had given herself up to a mixed enjoyment of the warmth and light and cloudless blue sky sir Vernon and Madeline had a luncheon engagement at a house beyond stone Leigh a drive of eleven miles each way so dinner had been postponed from eight to half-past and Daphne had the live long day to herself free to follow her own devices free even from the company of her devoted slave Edgar who would have hung upon her like a bird had he been at home but who was spending a few days in London with his mother escorting that somewhat homely matron to picture galleries garden parties and theatres and trying to rub off a year's rural rust by a week's metropolitan friction Edgar was away the light Park Phaeton with the chestnuts had driven off at half-past eleven Madeleine looking lovely in a Madras muslin gown and Obama roses her father content to law in the low seat by her side while she managed the somewhat audacious comps Daphne watched the carriage to look vanished at a curve of the narrow wooded drive and then ran back to the house to plan her own campaign I will have a picnic she said to herself a solitary selfish Robinson Crusoe like picnic I will have nobody but Tennyson and Lena's collie to keep me company Goldie and I will go trespassing and find a sly secret corner in charcoal Park where we can eat our luncheon I believe it is against the law to stray from the miserable foot path but who cares for law on midsummer day I shall feel myself almost as brave as Shakespeare when he went poaching and thank goodness there is no justice shallow to call me to order she ran to her own room for a basket a picturesque beehive basket the very one she carried and he had carried at Fontainebleau what a foolish impulse it must have been which made her touched the senseless straw with her lips remembering whose hand had held it then to the housekeeper's room to forage for provisions the wing of a chicken a thick wedge of pound cake a Punnett of strawberries a bottle of lemonade a couple of milk rolls mrs. Spicer would have packed these things neatly in white paper but Daphne bundled them into the basket anyhow don't trouble you dear good soul they are only for Goldie and me she said you may just as well have things nice miss there you'd have forgot the salt if I wasn't here and it you're going to take that there obstreperous collie you want something more substantial give me a slice to be for him then and a couple more of your delicious rolls ask Daphne coaxingly my Goldie mustn't be start and be quick like a love for I'm in an awful hurry Norma's when you've got all the day before you you be fearful lonesome what with Goldie and the idols of the King exclaimed Daphne glancing downwards at her little green cloth volume oh well I know when young ladies have got a nice novel to read they never feel lonesome said mrs. Spicer the every available corner of the basket with which Daphne stepped off gaily to summon Goldie Goldie was a bright yellow collie intensely vivacious sharp nosed brown eyed the dog that knew not what it was to be quite a dog you might lose at the other end of the county confident that he would scamper home across wooden Hill and dolly as straight as the crows flight he spent half his life tied up in the stable yard and the other half rushing about the country with Daphne he traveled an incalculable number of miles in the course of an ordinary walk and was given to racing cattle he worshipped Daphne and held her in some aw on this cattle question would leap into the air with mad delight when she was kind to him or gravel at her feet when she was angry now Goldie do if you and I are to lunch in Chow Cote Park I must take a strap for you said Daphne as they started from the stable yard Goldie proclaiming his rapture by clamorous barking it will never do for you to go racing the Lucy deer or even the Lucy oxen we should get into worse trouble than Shakespeare did for Shakespeare had not such a frigid father as mine I dare say Oh John the Glover was an easygoing indulgent so whom his son could treat anyhow it was only a walk of two miles across the fields to charcoal two miles by letters that are as lovely and as richly timbered as they could have been in Shakespeare's time high farming is not yet the rule in Warwickshire hedges grow high and wild broad oak spread their kingly branches above the rich rank grass Dokka mallow foxglove fern and dog Rose thrive and bloom beside every ditch and many affair and stretch of grass by the roadside a no-man's land of pleasant pasture offers space for the hawkers then or the children's noonday sports or the repose of the tired Tramp lying face downwards and a rapture of rest while the Skylark trills in the distant loo above him and the rustle of summer leaves soothes his slumbers it is a lovely country lovely in its simple pastoral English beauty calm and fitting cradle for a great mind after the fields came Alain a green arcade without leafy route through which the sunrays crept in quivering lines of light and then the gate that opened on the footpath across tronco park yonder showed the grey walls of the house venerable on one side modern on the other and the stone single arched bridge and the lake narrowing to a gaul sluggish looking stream that seemed to flow nowhere in particular the tallest and stoutest of the Elms looked too young for Shakespeare's time but here and there appeared the ruin of a tree hollow of trunk gone to blend whose green branches may once have sheltered the deer he stole the place was very lonely there was nobody to interfere with Daphne's pleasure or even to object to the collie you crept meekly to her side held by a strap and casting longing looks at the distant oxen she wandered about in the loneliest bits of the park supremely indifferent to rules and regulations as to where she might go and where she might not till she finally deposited her basket and sunshade under a stalwart oak and sat down at the foot thereof with Goldy still strapped and constrained to virtue she fastened one end of the strap to the lowest branch of the tree golde standing on and licking her hands all the time now dear you are as comfortable as in your own stable yard you can admire the cows and sheep in the distance standing about so peacefully in the sunshine as if they have never heard of sunstroke but you can't hunt them and now you shall have your dinner it was a very quiet picnic perhaps even a trifle dull though at the worst it might be better to picnic alone among the four for the beasts and Charcot parked then to a similar forced gaiety and a party of stupid people at the conventional banquet of doubtful lobster and tepid champagne in one of the time-honored haunts of the Cockney picnic er Daphne thought of midsummer day in the year that was gone as she sat eating her chicken and sipping her lemonade half of which have been lost in the process of uncorking how gay she had been how foolishly unreal lovely glad and now a great deal of the flavor had gone out a life sensor seventeenth birthday how happy nina looks now that the time for her lover's return draws near she thought she is something to look forward to some reason for counting the days well to me time is all alike one week just the same as another I am a horribly selfish creature I ought to feel glad of her gladness I ought to rejoice in her joy but nature made me out of poor stuff didn't she go too dear she laid her bright head on the Colley's tawny coat the pale gold of her soft flowing hair contrasted and yet harmonized with a ruddy hue of the dog and made a picture fair to look upon but there was no one wandering in charcoal Park to paint Daphne's portrait she was very lucky and not being discovered by a party of eager Americans spectacled water proved hyper-intelligent and knowing a great deal more about shakespeare's biography than is known to the dollar remnant of the anglo-saxon race still extant on this side of the Atlantic she ate her strawberries and dreamy thoughtfulness and fed Goldie to repletion till he stretched himself luxuriously upon her gown and dreamed of a chaise he was too lazy to follow had he been ever so free then she shut the empty basket propped herself up against the rugged old trunk and opened the idols it is a book to be read over and over again forever and ever just one of those rare books of which the soul knows no weariness like Shakespeare or goethe's faust or childe Harold a book to be opened haphazard anywhere but Daphne did not so open the volume Alain was her poem of Palms and it was Alain she read today in that class in shade amidst green pastures and venerable trees under a cloudless sky lastly was her ideal man faulty but more loveable in his faultiness than even the perfect arthur yet what woman would not wish i even the guilty one groveling at his feet to be arthur's why she read slowly pondering every word for that very young Saxon was to her a very real person age a being whose sorrows gave her absolute pain as she read time had been when she could not read Elaine story without tears but today her eyes were dry even to the last when her fancy saw the barge gliding silently down the stream with the fair dead face looking up to the sky and the wax and hands meekly folded above the heart that had broken for love of Lancelot I wonder how long his sorrow lasted she thought as she closed the book and then she clasped her hands above the fair head resting against the rugged bark of the oak and gave herself up to daydreams and thought the afternoon whereon as it might in Placid enjoyment of the atmosphere and the landscape ciao cote church o'clock had struck five when she plucked herself out of dreamland with an effort unstrapped her dog from the tree took up her empty basket and started on the journey home she had ample leisure for a walk dinner was not to be until half-past eight and sir Vernon and his daughter were hardly likely to be back till dinnertime it was a stately feast to which they had been bidden a feast in honor of somebody's coming of age a champagne breakfast for the quality roasted oxen and strong ale for the commonalty speechifying military bands and altogether ponderous entertainment server ninh had grown over the inevitable weariness of the affair in advance and had talked of himself as a martyr to neighborly feeling the homeward walk in the quiet afternoon light was delicious gaudí released from his struck directly they left charco ran and leaped like a creature possessed oh how he enjoyed himself with the first herd they came to scampering after innocent milked cows and endangering his life by flying at the foreheads of horned oxen Daphne let him do as he liked she wandered out of her way a little to follow the windings of her beloved river it was between seven and eight when she dispatched Goldie to his stable-yard and went into the cool shady Hall where two old orange trees and great green crockery tubs scented the air the butler met her on her way to the morning room oh if you please miss Daphne mr. growing has arrived and would like to see you before you dress for dinner he was so disappointed at finding miss Lawford away from home and he would like to have a talk with you Daphne looked at the tumbled white gown it was the same she had warned last year at Fontainebleau and thought of her tousled hair I'm so shamefully untidy she said I think I had better dress first Brooks oh don't miss Daphne you look nice enough I'm sure and I dare say mr. growing is impatient to hear all about Miss Lawford or he wouldn't have asked so particular to see you of course not no perhaps he won't notice my untidy nostalgia skill yet first impressions I don't want him to thank me an underbred schoolgirl muttered Daphne as she opened the drawing-room door the room is large and full of flowers and objects that broke the view and all the glow and glory of a summer sunset was shining in at the wide West window for a moment or so Daphne could see no one the room seemed empty of humanity there was the American squirrel revolving in his big Airy cage there lay fluff the Maltese Terrier curled into a silky ball in a corner of the sofa and that seemed all but as Daphne went timidly towards the window a figure rose from a low chair a face turned to meet her she lifted her clasped hands to her breast with a startled cry Nero Poppaea end of chapter 8

1 thought on “Asphodel | Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Literary Fiction, Published 1800 -1900 | Audio Book | 3/12

  1. Asphodel | Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Literary Fiction, Published 1800 -1900 | Audio Book | 3/12

    6: [00:00:00] – VI. ' Love maketh all to gone misway '

    7: [00:43:52] – VII. ' His Herte bathed in a Bath of Blisse '

    8: [01:21:10] – VIII. ' God wote that worldly Joy is sone ago '

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