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About the Book


Una Latreille inherits the St Pensart's estate which has been in the family since the Norman Conquest. Unfortunately the estate is now bankrupt, and although still in mourning, Una's only hope of living in the style to which she has been accustomed is to marry a wealthy man, and quickly. Several suitors have disappeared after learning of the debts, and the one man who still expresses any interest in Una is Keith Broughton. He started work as a mill hand, and is now the young and wealthy owner of a large woollen mill. But how can she possibly marry so far beneath her class? Reluctantly, Una agrees to marriage on condition that there is no physical contact between them, and certainly no honeymoon! She also insists that she will never, ever suffer the indignity of meeting anyone in his family, or put one foot inside the door of his mill. This book was first published in 1898 by SW Partridge and Co, publishers of both Christian and secular books. Although there is no openly Christian message in this story, unlike the majority of Margaret Haycraft's books, it deals sensitively with the true nature of love -- as well as being an extremely readable story.


Una's Marriage

Margaret S. Haycraft

1855-1936


Abridged Edition


Original book first published 1898


This abridged edition ©Chris Wright 2017


e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9957594-5-9


Published by

White Tree Publishing

Bristol

UNITED KINGDOM


wtpbristol@gmail.com


Full list of books and updates on

www.whitetreepublishing.com



Una's Marriage is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.


All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.


Contents

Cover

About the Book

Author Biography

Note

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

More Books from White Tree Publishing

About White Tree Publishing

Christian non-fiction

Christian fiction

Young readers



Author Biography



Margaret Scott Haycraft was born Margaret Scott MacRitchie at Newport Pagnell, England in 1855. She married William Parnell Haycraft in 1883 and wrote mostly under her married name. In 1891 she was living in Brighton, on the south coast of England, and died in Bournemouth, also on the south coast, in 1936. She also wrote under her maiden name of Margaret MacRitchie. Margaret Haycraft is by far our most popular author of fiction.


Margaret was a contemporary of the much better-known Christian writer Mrs. O. F. Walton. Both ladies wrote Christian stories for children that were very much for the time in which they lived, with little children often preparing for an early death. Mrs. Walton wrote three romances for adults (with no suffering children, and now published by White Tree in abridged versions). Margaret Haycraft concentrated mainly on books for children. However, she wrote several romances for older readers. Unusually for Victorian writers, the majority of Margaret Haycraft's stories are told in the present tense.


Both Mrs. Walton's and Margaret Haycraft's books for all ages can be over-sentimental, referring throughout, for example, to a mother as the dear, sweet mother, and a child as the darling little child. In our abridged editions overindulgent descriptions of people have been shortened to make a more robust story, but the characters and storyline are always unchanged.


A problem of Victorian writers is the tendency to insert intrusive comments concerning what is going to happen later in the story. Today we call them spoilers. They are usually along the lines of: "Little did he/she know that...." I have removed these when appropriate.


£1,000 in 1898 may not sound much, but in income value it is worth £120,000 pounds today (about US$150,000). I mention this in case the sums of money in this book sound insignificant!


Chris Wright


Editor



NOTE


There are 10 chapters in this book. In the second half are advertisements for our other books, so this book may end earlier than expected! The last chapter is marked as such. We aim to make our eBooks free or for a nominal cost, and cannot invest in other forms of advertising. However, word of mouth by satisfied readers will also help get our books more widely known. When the story ends, please take a look at the other books we publish: Christian non-fiction, Christian fiction, and books for younger readers.




Chapter 1



Betrothed


"Well, to think that Una Latreille should marry into trade! It is enough to make her ancestors turn in their graves!"


"Yes, I can scarcely believe the rumour even now. Una is the acknowledged beauty of the neighbourhood, and she would have made quite a brilliant match, could she have had the advantages of a London season."


"Of course she makes no pretence that it is a love match."


"Then she ought to be ashamed of herself, and I shall tell her so when I see her! A little while ago she entirely overlooked Keith Broughton if she chanced to meet him in society, and now, when her uncle has died, and the estates prove to be heavily burdened, and Mr. Broughton has purchased the St. Pensart's estate, she is actually willing to marry him -- to take him for better, for worse!"


The ladies who are taking afternoon tea at Clevethorne Grange smile tolerantly upon May Clevethorne, nineteen years old, who bends over the back of her mother's chair and hotly denounces the idea of self-interest in the matter of matrimony.


"My dear," says Mrs. Perriss, a rich widow from the neighbouring cathedral town, "circumstances are altered now with poor Una, and she rightly makes the best of the situation."


"Circumstances," exclaims blue-eyed May, "cannot alter the fact that it is wrong to accept a husband she despises!"


"Indeed," says Mrs. Clevethorne, "I see no reason why Mr. Broughton should be despised. His father was a self-made man, and not ashamed of the fact, but I am sure everyone respected the old gentleman, and his son is well educated and bears a high character. What more can Una want?"


"Oh, mother, she is the proudest girl I have ever known. She will never be able to forget those woollen mills, and besides -- there is poor Mrs. Broughton."


"Was she not merely a factory hand? I have heard something of the sort," remarks the spinster companion of Mrs. Perriss. "Thank you, Mrs. Clevethorne, I will take a macaroon."


"Yes, she was a mill girl once, I believe," replies her hostess. "But then John Broughton was only a factory hand himself. It was later on that by successful inventions he made his fortune. Of course, there is a great deal of competition nowadays, but his mills are the oldest and largest in Westborough."


"I can scarcely picture Una Latreille with a common mother-in-law," says Mrs. Perriss, smiling. "Poor Una, she may find she also has family connections in the pawnbroking or laundry or costermonger's line, or even in service! Well, I always considered her somewhat haughty, and it is all too true that pride goes before a fall."


"I believe," says Mrs. Clevethorne, "money is not the only motive for this marriage. I have heard a rumour -- I cannot vouch for its truth -- that in his last illness Mr. Latreille entreated Una to marry Keith Broughton after his death, and indeed made her promise to do so. He had long seen that Broughton admired his niece, and in this way he designed to provide for her future."


"I don't believe they are engaged at all," says May. "Gossip makes so many mistakes about the people round here, and Keith Broughton has been in London nearly three months now. How can they have settled things in his absence?"


"By letter, of course," says Mrs. Perriss. "All I know is that Latreille's solicitor is my own as well, and he told me Una is not proposing to leave the St. Pensart's estate, except for a visit to the Rectory. There can be no doubt that she is engaged to marry the purchaser."


"Well," says Mrs. Clevethorne, "we shall know the facts of the case in time. I only hope the poor motherless girl will not marry in haste and repent at leisure. If she marries for the sake of the estate, she has but little prospect of happiness."


"Happiness, mother?" cries May. "It must be misery to be tied to a husband for whom one cares nothing. I have not seen much of Una since I came home from Germany. But we used to play together, and I mean to go up and see her and try to talk her out of such a marriage."


"What would you advise her to do instead, my dear child?" asks Miss Burdenne. "She has been brought up in the lap of luxury. Is the poor girl to starve?"


"She could be a typist, or a lady-guide, or something like that," says May passionately. "Mother would have her here and advise her about her future, and so would the Rectory people, I know. For myself, I would rather be a kitchen maid than marry for money!"


"Well, well, we all know you need not go out as a kitchen maid, May," says Mrs. Perriss smilingly. "When does a certain man-of-war sail homeward again? You always talk like a little Socialist, but you will end in your old age by finding yourself an admiral's wife! Don't look so indignant, but bring your cousin round to see me when he gets leave from his ship. Now we must really be going. I am always tempted to linger so long in this cosy room."


"May," says Mrs. Clevethorne, when the visitors have left, "I really think you had better not interfere in Una Latreille's arrangements. I am quite sure she would resent any intrusion. Remember how rude it would seem for anyone even to suggest to her that this is a loveless marriage. In society, my dear, one must keep one's thoughts to oneself."


"I will promise not to offend her, mother," says May, "but Una was proud beyond all words, even when she was only a little child. I believe her life will be simply wretched if she marries beneath her. And you know the Broughtons have some very common relations -- second cousins, I fancy they are. I shall never forget Una's indignant stare when one of them spoke to her at the Westborough ball without any introduction. She simply looked him through and through. Poor man! He had asked if he might take her to get an ice, but he soon vanished with a face perfectly crimson."


"Well, Una must learn to put up with such people now," says Mrs. Clevethorne.


<><><><>


The St. Pensart's estate has belonged to the Latreilles through many changeful centuries. There have been alterations and additions, but portions yet remain that stood in the time of the Norman kings. Sir Courcy de Latreille rendered service to William the Conqueror, who bestowed upon the family many marks of favour. None in the county have enjoyed repute beyond the owners of St. Pensart's, and it has struck consternation into many a breast to hear that, through foolish and ruinous speculations, Hugh Latreille has died, leaving behind him mortgages and debts that oblige the ancestral seat to be sold, and leave his niece and heiress virtually a pauper!


"He meant to make me rich. He told me his idea was to leave me a millionaire," thinks Una, sitting by the firelight this very afternoon while her affairs are discussed so freely at Clevethorne Grange. "Poor Uncle Hugh! It was not his fault, but oh, what must the Latreilles of Tudor and Stuart times be feeling at the thought of a tradesman reigning at St. Pensart's!"


Her ancestors, if we may judge by the serene expression of the ancient paintings on the walls, are taking very little notice of the change of ownership; but to Una it seems almost like sacrilege for Keith Broughton and his common connections to tread the oak flooring of St. Pensart's.


Alone in the morning room that has been arranged to suit her own fancy, garbed in black, and looking grave and wearied by the flickering light of the fire, she recalls those last days of her uncle's illness -- when he reminded her that Keith Broughton had proposed to her once by letter, and been contemptuously rejected, and told her he could die happy if she would promise to alter that decision now.


Una believed him half-delirious, and promised anything he desired. Later, she perceived his anxiety for her future had prompted a request so strange from one by nature as proud as herself. Her lips take a half-scornful curl as she remembers the few lines received about a month ago from Keith Broughton, telling her the family lawyer had handed him a pencilled memorandum, written by her uncle on his sickbed. It urged him to try his luck again, for Miss Latreille's answer would be different. To this Una sent only a few words.


Before despatching her note, she had weighed St. Pensart's and riches against freedom and need, and her mind was made up that she could not abandon her life of luxury -- even marrying into trade would be better than falling from her position of county queen, and earning her bread in some menial situation. And what alternative does she have? She knows her other suitors have fled when they learned of the huge debts she has inherited.


Keith Brougbton has thanked her for her reply, and she finds it is well known now in the neighbourhood that they are engaged. Already Mr. Latreille's creditors seem satisfied and respectful, and the solicitor tells her every claim has been paid, so as to leave the estate unencumbered -- but the future she shrinks from facing. Her only comfort is that, as far as she can judge of Keith Broughton, he is extremely unassuming, knowing his place as concerns an old family like the Latreilles, and he and his can easily be kept in the background when she is entertaining.


Una has had her dreams of a knightly cavalier, preferably one renowned for military deeds of glory. Now she lays aside such visions of necessity, and thinks her fate decidedly hard that the choice for her lies between poverty or a mill owner!


In the midst of these melancholy reflections she is disturbed by the entrance of the butler to light the lamp.


"Not yet, Atkins," she tells him. "I prefer to sit by the firelight."


"A gentleman has called, Miss Una," says the old man, presenting a card on his salver. "I showed him into the library, as there is a good fire there, and the drawing room one is almost out. Charles is that forgetful, there's no trusting him with the fires."


"Oh, light the lamp, then," says Una, thinking the visitor is probably the rector or her uncle's solicitor. "Ask him in here, Atkins, it is more comfortable." But when she glances at the card she suddenly twists it up as though it had stung her, for it bears the words "Keith Broughton, High Street, Westborough."


In the glow of the rose-shaded ormolu lamp the two stand face to face -- Broughton, tall, erect, brown-eyed, wavy-haired, an ordinary-looking young man, and yet with a certain stamp of honesty and decision that has won him favour even within the portals of society -- and Una, with wondrous locks of auburn crowning her proud, fair brow, and dusky, blue-black eyes that seem to hold the haughty spirit of her high-born kindred.


"I returned from town this morning," he says. "If you are free for a few minutes, Miss Latreille, I thought we could have a quiet talk as to future arrangements. I have been so very sorry to hear of all your troubles."


This Una does not believe, since her troubles alone have procured him the honour of a Latreille to preside over his household. She points to a somewhat distant chair, and seats herself again near the fire.


"The past cannot be recalled," she says coldly. "The future must, as you say, be arranged sooner or later. I am about to pay a visit at the Rectory, and I shall remain there, or with other friends, till ... till I return here as mistress."


"First of all, let me thank you, Una, for making me so happy. I know I am not worthy of you, dear, but I love you very truly, and now you are trusting your life to me."


"Mr. Broughton," says Una, her stately figure looking prouder than ever as she surveys him with icy repression, "such speeches are the right thing for fiction or the stage, but between us they are most unsuitable, and I beg they may be dropped."


"Unsuitable, Una? Are we not engaged to be married?"


"I suppose so, but endearments between us are as incorrect as the use of my Christian name, if you please. Let there be no hypocrisy or talk of affection on either side. You are desirous of marrying into the aristocracy."


A sudden exclamation of impatience from Keith Broughton checks her for an instant, but she takes no notice, and continues.


"And I am compelled to marry money. Let the truth be realized on both sides. We each get what we desire, with the drawback that I lose my freedom. But this is a large house, and as you intend living here, we need not trouble one another more than society requires."


"As to society," he answers, looking white and stern, "I know nothing and care very little what it may expect; but I am old-fashioned enough to require that my wife shall bestow her affection on me, and I did not propose to you, Miss Latreille, for the sake of aristocratic connections."


"I am sorry," she says, shielding her face with a feather screen from the fire, "that you are sentimentally inclined, as affection is entirely out of the question. You must at once clearly understand that, please. And I cannot conveniently be married till I am in half-mourning -- say, about next July."


Keith Broughton gazes at her silently. Despite the fact that in society she has seemed to overlook his presence, her uncle's letter has awakened the dream that Una really may be interested in him, and though commonsense has whispered her change of mind was simultaneous with her loss of fortune, he has loyally and indignantly repressed the notion. Now he is faced by the fact that in careless and heartless selfishness she offers him her hand for the sake of his money. One moment he is on the point of asking her how much money she will take to close the brief betrothal, but the next instant he feels such words to the woman he loves would be insulting, and she is so dear to his secret heart that he cannot bring himself to sever their pathway.


"July will do for me," he says quietly. "Have you thought where you would like to pass the honeymoon?"


"Oh, there will be no honeymoon!" she answers with decision. "Uncle used to go into Scotland for the shooting, and I shall visit the Dugals in the Trossachs as usual, of course, but my maid is a capable escort. I always thought honeymoons a foolish institution. Why two people should tire each other out in some uncivilised country district I never could understand. You will oblige me by arranging everything connected with the marriage as simply and quietly as possible."


"I agree with you there," he answers. "I dislike parade on such occasions, but July is a long way off and we shall have plenty of time to discuss details. Mr. Craig will enter into the matter of settlements with you. I think all that is arranged to your contentment. There is one thing more this evening...." and he rises and approaches the fire, drawing a little diamond hoop from his pocket. "I got that for you in town," he tells her. "If it fits you, will you wear it in token of our engagement?"


"Thank you," says Una, gazing at the flashing stones with unconcealed distaste, "but I have my mother's engagement ring. I wear it on my right hand now, but if I must wear an engagement ring I prefer to use this. Opals are unfortunate, I know, but I never have been particularly lucky."


"I am sorry you decline my ring," he answers, looking rather hurt. "I am afraid your head aches this afternoon, Miss Latreille. I will not weary you further, for you certainly are not looking so well as when I last had the pleasure of meeting you at Mrs. Lindsay's dinner. You were the life of the tableaux vivants they got up suddenly during the evening, I remember. You must take care of yourself and rest. Do not dwell too much upon your troubles, dear."


"Do not call me that," says Una haughtily.


"Call you what?" is his quiet question.


"'Dear,'" she explains impatiently. "I strongly object to such expressions. I have accepted my fate, and I will do my duty by you as a wife. I can introduce you, of course, to the Armsteds, and the Hursts, and the Duvignys -- leading county families. I can make a social position for you, since that is your ambition. But a Darby and Joan existence is led nowadays by the lower classes alone, and mutual civility is all I can personally tolerate."


"Very well," he answers, "I understand your wishes, and I will not offend you again, though I hope to call occasionally at the Rectory."


"Oh, certainly," says Una. "Society would expect you to visit me from time to time. But I shall spend most of the day riding, and the Peels do not care for evening guests as a rule. They generally go to sleep after dinner. Do not let me detain you now. It is a long way into Westborough. Good afternoon, Mr. Broughton."


"Good afternoon, Miss Latreille," he answers, this time not troubling her to extend a reluctant hand.


"He wearies one out," thinks Una, with a yawn of vexation as she hears his retreating steps. "I shall take care he seldom finds me in at the Peels. I wonder how he is arranging as to the settlements. I suppose Mr. Craig will make it clear to me, and give me some definite idea of his income. Everyone says he is immensely rich, and nothing pays like trade. Fancy, a shopkeeper at St. Pensart's! Yet what is his warehouse but a shop?"


Keith Broughton, riding through the dark lanes to Westborough, tells himself again and again he is a senseless idiot to link his fate to Una Latreille, however witching be her beauty.




Chapter 2



Naming the Day


M

ay Clevethorne comes up to the St. Pensart's estate with some exquisite flowers from her mother, and a kind letter expressing the hope that Miss Latreille will be able to stay for some time, during her proposed round of visits, at Clevethorne Grange.


Una admires the camellias and primulas, and asks that the matter of the visit to Clevethorne may wait till she can definitely arrange her time. She says nothing of matrimonial intentions, but May's quick eyes perceive the opal ring on her engagement finger, and the girl exclaims, "So, Una, it is true. You are going to be married. But why did you choose opals? I thought you Latreilles were rather superstitious."


"Uncle used to believe in omens," says Una hastily. "I suppose opals are thought unlucky, but this is an old family ring, and I preferred it to any Mr. Broughton could purchase."


"Yes, I heard it was him," says May, more earnestly than grammatically. "But, Una, I scarcely believed it. You won't be cross with me if I speak my mind, will you? I do really believe you are making a mistake."


"Marriage generally is a mistake," says Una, looking straight before her and conjuring up drearily the vanished ideal of the chivalrous hero of the Victoria Cross. "We shall get on as well as most people, I suppose."


"Una, what a way to talk! You know well your heart is not in this marriage. We have known each other ever since we have been in pinafores, and if nobody else will speak plainly to you just now, I will. The Latreilles have always been thought the proudest people in the county. May not a time come when the thought will be unbearable to you that your husband is in trade?"


"It is not a pleasant reflection," says Una, colouring, "but I have taken all the circumstances of the case into consideration, and as time goes on I shall marry Mr. Broughton. You and I certainly are old friends, May, but my engagement is quite my own concern, and I am the best judge of future arrangements."


"There, you are offended, Una. But I often made you cross when we were little children, and we always made it up, you know. I know well you do possess a heart, though you seem so cold and stately as a rule. Is it not wronging Keith Broughton to marry him when the love of your heart is not his, and in secret you despise him? Yes, I know you do, Una. For my part, I would rather sweep a crossing than marry a man I do not love. I am sorry for the two of you; most of all for him. Now I suppose I am quite in your black books, and you will not offer me a cup of tea."


"Yes, I will," says Una graciously, as she touches the bell. "You always were a romantic little thing, May, and I know you write poetry and that sort of thing. I have learnt to be matter-of-fact and practical, and I have not an atom of faith in the sentiment you call love. Mr. Broughton and I will get on as comfortably, I dare say, as most couples in society, and at any rate we are not going to be married tomorrow. Next week I am going for some time to stay with the Peels at the Rectory. Now let us change the subject, for I am tired of it."


Nothing will induce Una Latreille to return to the subject of her engagement, and May ceases her protest, though she feels inwardly assured that to marry out of her own sphere will mean many a thorn of misery for one of the St. Pensart's family.


"It is to keep this estate and all her ancestral belongings that she takes poor Broughton," thinks the girl. "He must be blind not to be aware of her scornful pride: and yet in her heart of hearts Una has a warmth of feeling very few would guess. If only she could have married someone she really loved. If only by some miracle she could learn to care for Mr. Broughton."


<><><><>


Two days before Una is to leave St. Pensart's she hears, to her vexation, that scarlet fever has made its appearance at the Rectory. Three of Mrs. Peel's grandchildren are laid up with it, though in a mild form. Mrs. Peel begs her to destroy the letter in which she conveys the news, and sorrowfully tells her the doctor will not hear of any guest coming to the house at present.


"How very annoying!" reflects Una. "It would have been so comfortable at the Rectory. The old people always look after one so, and let me enjoy myself in my own way. Now I suppose I must go to Kensington to the Whytes. I wanted to leave that visit till the height of the London season. I have never seen a real season yet; but in my case I could not have gone out while in mourning, so I may as well telegraph to Sybil that I shall go up on Thursday."


Mrs. Sybil Whyte is a former school friend of Una's, both having passed one finishing year, after the reign of governesses, at an extremely exclusive Parisian establishment. Una informs her maid of the change of plans, and the necessary labels are prepared for her trunks. But within two hours of sending her telegram, a reply wire is handed to her: MASTER AND MISTRESS AT MENTON IN FRANCE TILL APRIL. BEING TOLD TO OPEN TELEGRAMS, I HAVE DONE SO AND THOUGHT BEST TO WIRE AT ONCE -- HENRY ABBOT.

"I suppose he is the butler or caretaker," thinks Una. "I am glad he let me know, but how tiresome for Sybil to be away just now! I can't bear Brighton this time of the year, but I suppose I must go to the Warings, and then I can return here and stay with the Clevethornes till Sybil is home, or the risk of infection is over at the Rectory."


Clevethorne Grange is at present full of visitors, and there is no more accommodation. So Una decides her first visit shall be to Brighton. The Warings used to live at Westborough Manor, but now they have moved to the seaside, and they have long pressed Una to visit them. She telegraphs to know if it will be convenient, for she is aware Keith Broughton is sending in workpeople next week to do certain needed repairs, and she wishes to keep to the date she has fixed for her departure.


There is no reply by telegram, but Thursday morning brings her a letter from Mrs. Waring saying she is in constant attendance at the sickbed of her husband who sustained a fall while riding, and she would be so "glad to welcome dear Una if she could postpone her visit for awhile. Later, it would be in her power to make her pretty one far more comfortable than now in a house of sickness."


Una is sitting with Mrs. Waring's letter in her hand, forgetful of the waiting breakfast, uncertain as to what she had better do. She is mentally running over the various invitations she has received, when the butler brings her Keith Broughton's card, bearing a pencilled line: "Can you see me for five minutes?"


She consents rather impatiently, for she knows her maid is waiting for orders, and she has as yet devised no new project as to her destination.


Keith Broughton looks fresh and almost handsome in the glow of his morning ride as he apologises for his early intrusion, and remarks he is anxious to see her before going to the mills.


"I only heard yesterday," he says, "that there is illness at the Rectory. Do I understand rightly that you intend staying with friends in London, Miss Latreille?"


"My plans are not decided yet," she replies coldly. "I told Mr. Craig I should leave today, and you need not countermand any orders you may have given as to repairs. My things are already packed for departure."


"But where are you going?" he inquires. "You will allow me the right to feel some interest in your movements."


"Oh, of course. Mr. Craig said he would want to see me more than once about the settlements. I will take care he has my address."


"But why not give it to me at once, Una? I am going to London myself today"


"Oh, but I am not," she answers with dignity. "The fact is, owing very likely to my changed fortunes, there does not seem to be a strong desire among my friends for my company just now, and this extremely inconvenient illness at the Rectory has caused me some perplexity. I must think things over. Indeed, I was doing so when you came."


"Why not go to Mrs. Perriss?" he asks quietly.


"Mrs. Perriss is going to Geneva almost directly, and 1 have no invitation there. We are not close friends."


"She told me," he answers, "that she intended to ask you for the fortnight she remains in Westborough. She hoped you would come, seeing the Rectory plan is altered. She is on the Soup Kitchen Committee, and I happened to meet her yesterday."


Just then a groom passes the window, and both recognise him as in the employ of Mrs. Perriss. The widow sends Una a warm invitation for a few days, adding: "I shall be delighted if you will use my house as a sister's. You know I am always interested in such occasions."


"What does she mean?" asks Una, in astonishment, reading these words aloud. "I think she must have meant the note for someone else."


"No," says Broughton, fidgeting a little with the spoon in the marmalade dish, "I told Mrs. Perriss yesterday I should suggest to you a change in our plans. It struck me, as our marriage is to be so very quiet, why can it not take place at once? The fact is, Miss Latreille, I must go abroad almost immediately on business, and it would be more satisfaction to me to think of you in your own home than depending on the convenience of friends. Mrs. Perriss was kind enough to suggest we should be married from her house."


"Oh, no!" cries Una haughtily. "I have nothing ready. Things cannot be hurried like that. Mr. Craig said the settlements would...."


"Trust me to see that is all right before the wedding day," he answers, flushing. "You shall not be disappointed in that respect. But why should you be perplexed any longer as to your plans? I will get a licence admitting of our marriage within a fortnight. Meanwhile, make yourself comfortable with Mrs. Perriss. As to getting things, you can buy at your leisure just as well after marriage as before. By the way," he adds gently, "are you short of ready money, Una?"


"No, I am not!" she says, with a burning face. "I have five pounds, seventeen and fourpence; and I do wish you would not call me 'Una,' but 'Miss Latreille.'"


"I will call you anything you like if you will become Mrs. Broughton before I go to Paris."


Paris! How Una would like to re-visit the famous city and enjoy its attractions, no longer the withdrawn schoolgirl who knew it of yore. Then she remembers her objection to honeymoons, and reflects it would not be pleasant escorted by one travelling on business, to run the risk of meeting any of her former associates, some of whom have married into the nobility.


"Will you think it over, Miss Latreille?" asks Keith Broughton. "You can send me a line at your convenience to tell me your decision. I see you have not breakfasted yet, so I will not intrude: but I hope as soon as possible you will come back to St. Pensart's as your home."


"He is evidently afraid of losing me," thinks Una, with some self-complacence. "He is determined to make an effort to rise socially, and he is sorely anxious to get a wife of good birth, poor fellow. He pretends to be concerned as to my own comfort, but self is at the bottom of his anxiety. He fears, perhaps, that during my visits I may meet somebody more eligible. I certainly should have done so had I ever enjoyed a London season, like other girls. Did not Ida Valecourt marry a prince? And she had no beauty except her figure! I wonder what I had better do. As he is going abroad, I should not have to endure his company yet awhile, that is one consideration!"


"Must I unpack, then, madam?" asks Valerie, her maid, on hearing the Brighton visit is abandoned. "I have everything strapped and covered, but I can soon get out your dresses. I had better hang them again if madam is remaining here longer."


"No," says Una, "I feel I must have a change of some sort. I am getting restless. It is so lonely in this great house without Uncle Hugh. Valerie, I want someone to ride into Westborough with a note. Mrs. Perriss, of the Knoll, has invited me, and I shall visit her for a few days. Be ready to accompany me this afternoon."


Una is not only feeling lonely, but disquieted and out of sorts. She is beginning to long for company and for some relief from her own thoughts. Although she has never yet been on intimate terms with the mistress of the Knoll, she feels the conversational widow will be an acceptable companion after her solitude since the loss of her uncle.


<><><><>


Mrs. Perriss has no intention of warning Una, as May Clevethorne did, not to marry without love. Her own ideas of happiness are not very exalted, and comfortable means would be her first consideration in studying the pros and cons of matrimony on behalf of any young protégée. She considers Una would be "flying in the face of Providence" not to secure St. Pensart's as quickly as possible, and in her heart she likes the little she has seen of Keith Broughton.


"Of course, my dear," she tells Una confidentially, "you cannot see much of his mother. I believe she does lead a retired sort of life, and very sensible of her, considering what she was. Nor can you know his cousins and his aunts, and so forth. People like those must be taught their proper places. They need a great deal of repressing, as a rule, but I can see that with you they would not take liberties twice."


The end of Una's deliberations is that she sends Keith Broughton a brief note. "It can be while I am here;" and that same evening he calls to see her, having been unable to leave the claims of business at the mill earlier. Mrs. Perriss is nodding in an easy chair, and her companion is out of the room, so the two have every opportunity for a lover-like talk, but such a notion seems to occur to neither.


"Shall we say Friday week, Miss Latreille?" he asks, taking out a business-like notebook. "I am afraid that is the latest date available."


"When do you cross?" asks Una, turning over a series of Venetian views with interest.


"I must leave London Friday afternoon. I find the workmen at St. Pensart's need not interfere at all with your comfort, so you could return there when convenient. I thought if we could be married quite early on Friday morning...."


"Oh, my dear, never be married on a Friday!" says Mrs. Perriss, rousing slightly and opening her eyes. "Did I hear you say Friday, Mr. Broughton? I must really advise Una not to tempt Providence by choosing a day well known to be unfortunate."


"Oh, that day will do as well as any other," says Una indifferently, "and the earlier the better. I do not want anybody I know in the church. Friday week, then, Mr. Broughton." And her tone is cold and careless, as though leaving an order at a costumier's.


Mrs. Perriss looks shocked to think of a wedding on Friday, but closes her eyes resignedly, and Broughton rises to go.


"Miss Latreille," he says hesitatingly, "before I leave England I should like, if convenient to you, to take you to see my mother. She cannot get out much this cold weather, but----"


"Mr. Broughton," says Una coldly, "it is a delicate subject to touch upon, but I prefer that my acquaintance with your family shall not extend beyond yourself. I have consented to marry you, but please understand from the beginning, I decline to know your family."


He makes no answer, but looks at her for a moment as if he could say a great deal. She congratulates herself that never again will he propose a Latreille should visit his common, assuming mother.


"Friday week at nine o'clock," he tells her quietly, and the words seem to toll in her ears like funeral notes through every day that lies between.




Chapter 3



"For Better, For Worse"


U

na has more than one interview with Mr. Craig, Keith Broughton's solicitor, but she does not expect to see any more of her future husband till they stand at the altar of St. Luke's Church, Westborough, on the approaching marriage morning. She is, therefore, somewhat astonished when on returning from a drive with Mrs. Perriss on the Thursday afternoon she hears he is waiting to see her.


"No doubt he has brought the wedding ring," says her hostess, in a low voice. "Mind you offer him some tea, my dear. I shall join you after I have changed my things."


Una walks, proud and erect, into the drawing room, retaining her out-of-door things as a hint that she has no leisure to spare for callers. He is looking rather nervous, and a sudden fear comes to Una that he has lost his money. Some bank may have failed, or some great financial calamity have occurred. Of course, if such be the case, he would not think of holding her to her promise.


"Is anything the matter, Mr. Broughton?" she inquires. "I did not expect to see you till tomorrow."


"The fact is," he answers abruptly, "I have been a good deal disturbed in mind, Una, and I have had a serious talk this week with my mother, too. She has been too poorly to discuss matters with me before, but she is anxious concerning both of us. So before you put it out of your power to arrange your destiny more brightly, I want you to think the question over -- are you not procuring unhappiness for yourself by our marriage?"


"I can quite understand," says Una haughtily. "Your mother resents your marrying one who cannot know her, but her interference comes too late. The curate has postponed a journey to perform the ceremony tomorrow, and I have acquainted the servants at home that they may expect me back in the afternoon. Mrs. Perriss and her companion are coming, too, for a few days, and so I shall not be left to mope. I dislike being alone."


"As to that," he answers gently, "you will be mistress, and you will invite whom you please. But pray do not misunderstand my meaning. My mother reasons probably in her own mind, though she has never done so in words, that if you cared for your future husband you would wish to know his mother. And if you do not care for him, will not the day come when you will wish yourself unfettered? Ask your heart this question, dear, before it is too late."


"I am not going to be made a public laughingstock to gratify your mother," says Una with dignity. "The servants here have told all the neighbourhood that tomorrow I shall be married. And besides, Mrs. Perriss has bought a large cake, though I tried to persuade her nobody expects cake at such a quiet affair as ours."


"The cake can soon be settled for," he replies. "Do not spoil your life because a cake has been purchased."


"What do you want?" she asks, after a pause. "Is all this preamble an effort to free yourself?"


"You know what I want," he answers quietly. "I cared for you when a train of flatterers hung round you wherever you went, and the dearest wish of my heart is to call you my wife."


"Of course, and then you will be second cousin to the Earl of Glenrhaer," says Una scornfully. "That is not a trifling lift in the social scale for----"


"I hope you are very well, Mr. Broughton," says Mrs. Perriss graciously, as she comes upon the scene in a grey and black tea gown, a charming half-mourning confection. "He looks out of temper," she thinks. "Surely that foolish girl need not irritate him before she is mistress of the situation. St. Pensart's is too good to be lost, but girls are so sure of their power that they make sad mistakes sometimes. Suppose he is not at the church tomorrow?"


"Everything is so nicely settled," she tells him. "The bells are to strike up directly you are pronounced man and wife together. I admire the custom, so I took it on myself to arrange that matter. And you will come here afterwards and get something to eat. How very unfortunate, though, that business calls you to Paris."


"Oh, it does not matter," says Broughton absently. "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Perriss, I was thinking of something else."


"We must all think about a cup of tea at present," the lady answers amiably. "We have been to see the Whitmores at Vale Abbey. It was a long, cold drive, so Una and I are quite ready for some refreshment."


"I must ask you to excuse me," says Keith Broughton. "As I leave tomorrow, this is a very busy day with me. Then, Miss Latreille, is it all settled for tomorrow? There is to be no change in the arrangements?"


He has turned to Una, and he catches an indistinct murmur about "Uncle Hugh's last wishes," then his fiancée says, with more composure, "Certainly, everything is settled. Even the cake has come home, and Mrs. Perriss is going to stay with me for a time at St. Pensart's."


"Mrs. Perriss will be very welcome," he says gallantly. "Goodbye then, ladies, till tomorrow: I am sorry such an early hour was necessary, but there is only one train that will catch the Dover express from town."


"He is a very undemonstrative fiancé, my dear," says the widow, as the two sit over their tea. "What an unromantic leave-taking! But perhaps my presence restrained sentimentality."


"Oh dear, no. Neither Mr. Broughton nor myself intend to go in for sentiment," says Una. "One hears enough of that kind of thing in connection with breach-of-promise cases. How ridiculous all the love-making seems a few years later! I have always been a practical sort of person, and I leave romance to the novelists."


"Well," says Mrs. Perriss, "I hope you will be as happy as I was. Arthur was only a struggling barrister when we married. Success came after many years, but those days were very bright ones." And she sighs, looking into the flickering fire.


<><><><>


Friday, despite its reputation for ill luck, dawns bright and beaming. "An ideal wedding morning," Mrs. Perriss tells her guest. Una is almost disinclined to turn out so early, the weather being keen and cold. As it is, she is late at the church, and the curate, having a bad cold, is rather put out at having to wait unduly in the chill, unwarmed atmosphere of the building. Una is attended only by her hostess, but many of the servants from St. Pensart's are present, as well as some in the employ of Mrs. Perriss.


Una also recognises a few of the tenants on the estate now belonging to Broughton. But the large church looks empty, and has a depressing effect on her spirits. To the spectators she looks prouder than ever in the plain black tailor-made gown she has not troubled to vary for the occasion, the sombre attire relieved only by a spray of white flowers sent her by the old gardener at St. Pensart's.


Keith Broughton, however, is conscious that the hand he holds is cold and trembling, and that Una is probably realizing for the first time the solemnity of the step she has taken with such indifference.


The service over, the curate offers his congratulations in the vestry, receives an envelope from Broughton, and departs willingly to coffee and bacon at his lodgings. When the requisite formalities are completed, Mrs. Perriss remarks the bride and bridegroom can return to her house in her carriage, and she will follow in a hired vehicle, but Una insists on her accompanying them.


"This is quite out of order," says the widow, as they drive along. "No third person is permitted, as a rule, with a newly married couple. But dear Una has been superior all through to the ordinary affectations of brides, and I heard several people say how clearly and admirably she made the responses."


"I am glad it is over," says Una, sinking back as though exhausted. "Early morning marriages are most melancholy occasions. When did you say your train leaves for London, Mr. Broughton?"


"I shall only just have time to escort you two ladies back," he replies. "Are you cold, Una? I beg your pardon, I thought you were shivering."


"She wants her breakfast," says Mrs. Perriss.


"We all do," says Una. "We only had an early cup of tea and a biscuit. Why, it is beginning to snow. What a dreadful time of the year for you to cross the Channel, Mr. Broughton."


Things look more cheerful when they enter the dining room and find a warm breakfast all ready for them. The wedding cake, bright with frosted Cupids, adorns the table, and the servants have offered various gifts, in addition to a bronze statuette from Mrs. Perriss.


"Many more gifts have gone to St. Pensart's," Mrs. Perris tells Keith, "and others will come when the fact of the wedding is more widely known. Now it is no use for you to keep on your overcoat, Mr. Broughton. Give yourself time to thaw, at least. The coffee is just coming up."


She hurries away to remove her wraps, and Una is about to follow her, but Broughton's voice detains her. "So it is really over," he tells her, "and I am second cousin to the Earl of Glenrhaer."


Una glances up at him, suspecting sarcasm, but he looks quiet and grave, as he warms his hands at the fire.


"Yes," she answers, "and Debrett will tell you all about him. Glenrhaer is travelling now. We used to play together when we were children. I do not know what he will say when he knows ... I ... I have married into trade."


"I hope the shock will not be fatal," says her husband. "If I see him in Paris I will break it to him gently."


"You.... Excuse me, but you would scarcely be on Glenrhaer's visiting list."


"I hope not," he replies. "I should say that list would chiefly consist of the betting fraternity, if he is the same Glenrhaer who quitted Cambridge rather suddenly when I was there."


"Were you at Cambridge?" asks Una, opening her eyes. "Ah, yes, I have heard anybody can go to the universities nowadays. My cousin, of course, lives like many other young men in society. His disposition is lively, but he never forgets he is a gentleman."


Broughton is not ungenerous enough to recall certain episodes of college life scarcely very gentlemanly. He remembers young Glenrhaer as a thoughtless, good-natured ne'er-do-well, too fond of the flowing bowl and the dice.


"Well, well," he answers, "there were many good points about my second cousin, and I daresay he has settled down a bit by this time. Are you warmer now, Una? Come closer to the fire."


He takes her hands and chafes them gently in his own. Una is simply aghast at his audacity, and opens her lips more than once to forbid such presumption. But it has been a trying morning, and she is feeling almost on the verge of hysteria.


"I hope Mr. Craig contented you as to money matters," he tells her. "You understand that, equally with myself, you draw on our banking account."


"Of course," she replies, though to speak truly his confidence in this respect rather touches her, for she was never allowed to sign cheques for her Uncle Hugh, and of late very little pocket money came her way, owing to his debts. "Mr. Broughton, the parlour maid is coming. My hands are warm now, thank you."


"You are quite welcome," he replies gravely, as he releases her. "Do you know, Una, my mother has a wedding present for you, but I will not let her give it till you call."


"Brides receive calls," says Una.


"Yes, but the old lady cannot get out in such cold weather. I know you will go. It would give her such pleasure."


"Nothing will induce me to do so," says his wife with decision. "What is the present?"


"A miniature of myself as a baby, with a lock of my hair at the back. It forms a brooch, I believe," he answers. "Is not that worth going for?"


Una makes no reply beyond a scornful gesture, and turns with relief to the breakfast that appears simultaneously with Mrs. Perriss. Broughton partakes of some coffee and fish, and expresses the hope that Mrs. Perriss will remain at St. Pensart's as long as possible. Then, glancing at the clock, he begs to be excused.


"Take care of yourself," says Mrs. Perriss, shaking hands cordially. "You will need plenty of travelling wraps today. I will look after Una, and keep her company in your absence."


Una is sorely afraid he intends to kiss her, and looks at him distantly, coldly repressing any such idea. He only shakes hands, however, recommending her to try the fish, as it is extremely nice.


"A very composed sort of bridegroom," says Mrs. Perriss, smiling. "Well, Una dear, I think you are fortunate. A well-to-do husband, a handsome house, and an invalid mother-in-law who cannot interfere."


"Interfere? I should think not! I can have no possible acquaintance with Mrs. Broughton," says Una haughtily. "My husband quite understands me on that point. How it snows! I wonder if we shall be able to get to St. Pensart's."


<><><><>


The drive is managed about four o'clock, and Mrs. Perriss is impressed by the long train of staff, many of whom have grown up under the Latreilles, who welcome their young mistress to her home. The marriage has delighted them, for at one time all expected the establishment would be broken up, and "Miss Una" would have to leave and earn her living as best she could. They have not anticipated the bridegroom's absence today, and the butler peers out into the grounds, awaiting his master.


"Mr. Broughton had to go to Paris," Una tells him hastily. "Shut the door, please, the snow is coming in. We shall dine at seven this evening. Let us have tea now. Valerie," she adds to her maid. "Do see there are good fires upstairs. We are almost frozen."


Mrs. Perriss and Miss Burdenne have visited at St. Pensart's now and then, but they have never before had a prolonged opportunity of examining the art treasures of the Latreilles. Their interest in ancestral pictures, armour, china, and plate is balm to Una's heart, so deep is her family feeling and her reverence for the chronicles of bygone Latreilles.


The evening thus passes away, and the day ends happily enough for the newly-made wife. Her guests, listening to her animated converse as she exhibits the lance of Geoffrey de Latreille of Plantagenet times, quietly wonder if she gives any thought to the far-distant traveller speeding onward through the inclement weather.


"Did you ever hear the like, Mrs. Dean?" asks the parlour maid of the dapper little housekeeper, who is handing her out some stores required for the morrow. "What do you think of that? Miss Una only married today and him gone for his honeymoon all alone. That don't seem to me the way to treat a wife."


"You are speaking of the master, Benson," says Mrs. Dean reprovingly. "Miss Una's husband is Squire at St. Pensart's now, and a very nice, pleasant-spoken gentleman he is, though not of any family, so to speak. It is not for us to criticise what he and Miss Una choose to arrange. Master's in business, and I dare say he has been called away unexpectedly."


"Well, it do look strange, and that's my candid opinion, Mrs. Dean. I wonder Miss Una could bear to let him go, a-facing the winds and the waves such weather as this! It gave us a turn, the other day, to hear the wedding was to come off at once, when we didn't expect it till the summer. And now off he goes, and Miss Una's no sooner married than she brings home visitors to stay. Such ways is past my comprehension!"


"It is not for us to criticise the quality," says Mrs. Dean solemnly. "Now, Benson, mind you are careful with this furniture cream, and tell the housemaids the same. You girls forget things cost money. Be careful how you carry the jars, Benson, and take my advice, do not gossip downstairs about Mr. and Mrs. Broughton's concerns. They are the best judges of their own affairs."


"So they may be," returns Benson, "and I'm not likely to open my mind, Mrs. Dean, to any but yourself. But it does seem so funny to get married and say goodbye, all in a breath as it were. I only hope when my time comes, me and my husband will do things more like folks expects. Everyone supposes a bride and bridegroom are going to be sociable-like, and if I were Miss Una, I shouldn't be any too well pleased to have my husband go on his wedding trip and leave me behind in the lurch!"




Chapter 4



Mrs. Perriss and her companion remain with Una a fortnight, and she feels enlivened by their company. She is naturally fond of entertaining, and of late her Uncle Hugh rather objected to visitors, his mind being full of his financial troubles and disappointments. "By-and-by," thinks Una, "when I am out of mourning, St. Pensart's shall be known as of old through all the country for its hospitality." She pictures many an animated scene, many a festive gathering. But in the background there is always the figure of her low-born husband; and she sighs impatiently, feeling that he and his family will assuredly detract from the social brilliance of St. Pensart's.


Una is only alone for a day, when she is surprised by a telegram from a distant relative, the Hon. Mrs. Courstans, asking her if she can receive her daughters, Sybil, Maud, and Vivien for a while, as she has been sent for to nurse her husband, attached to a continental embassy.


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