Mr. Verdant Green Married and Done for/Chapter 5




MENTION had frequently been made by the members of the Honeywood family, but more especially by Miss Patty, of a cousin—a male cousin—to whom they all seemed to be exceedingly partial—far more partial, as Mr. Verdant Green thought, with regard to Miss Patty, than he would have wished her to have been. This cousin was Mr. Frank Delaval, a son of their father's sister. According to their description, he possessed good looks, and an equivalently good fortune, with all sorts of accomplishments, both useful and ornamental; and was, in short (in their eyes at least), a very admirable Crichton of the nineteenth century.

Mr. Verdant Green had heard from Miss Patty so much of her cousin Frank, and of the pleasure they were anticipating from a visit he had promised shortly to make to them, that he had at length begun to suspect that the young lady's maiden meditations were not altogether "fancy free," and that her thoughts dwelt upon this handsome cousin far more than was palatable to Mr. Verdant Green's feelings. In the most unreasonable manner, therefore, he conceived a violent antipathy to Mr. Frank Delaval, even before he had set eyes upon him, and considered that the Honeywood family had, one and all, greatly overrated him. But these suppositions and suspicions made him doubly anxious to come to an understanding with Miss Patty before the arrival of the dreaded Adonis; and it was this thought that had helped to nerve him through the terrors of the orchard scene, and which, but for Mr. Bouncer's malapropos intrusion, would have brought things to a crisis.

However, after he had had a talk with Mr. Bouncer, and had been fortified by that little gentleman's pithy admonitions to "go in and win," and to "strike while the iron's hot," and that "faint heart never won a nice young 'ooman," he determined to seek out Miss Patty at once, and bring to an end their unfinished conversation. For this purpose he returned to the hall, where he found a great commotion, and a carriage at the door; and out of the carriage jumped a handsome young man, with a black moustache, who ran up to the open hall-door (where Miss Patty was standing with her sister), seized Miss Kitty by the hand, and placed his moustache under her nose, and then seized Miss Patty by her hand, and removed the moustache to beneath her nose! And all this unblushingly and as a matter of course, out in the sunshine, and before the servants! Mr. Verdant Green retreated without having been seen, and, plunging into the shrubbery, told his woes to the evergreens, and while he listened to

"The dry-tongued laurel's pattering talk,"

he thought, "It is as I feared! I am nothing more to her than a simple friend." Though, why he so morosely arrived at this idea it would be hard to say. Perhaps other jealous lovers have been similarly unreasonable and unreasoning in their conclusions, and, of their own accord, run to the dark side of the cloud, when they might have pleasantly remained within its silver lining.

But when Frank Delaval had been seen, and heard, and made acquaintance with, Verdant, who was much too simple-hearted to dislike any one without just grounds for so doing, entered (even after half an hour's knowledge) into the band of his admirers; and that same evening, in the drawing-room, while Miss Kitty was playing one of Schulhoff's mazurkas, with her moustached cousin standing by her side, and turning over the music-leaves, Verdant privately declared, over a chess-board, to Miss Patty, that Mr. Frank Delaval was the handsomest and most delightful man he had ever met. And when Miss Patty's eyes sparkled at this proof of his truth and disinterestedness, Verdant mistook the bright signals; and further misconstruing the cause why (as they continued to speak of her cousin) she made a most egregious blunder, that caused her opponent to pronounce the word "Mated!" he regarded it as a fatal omen, more especially as Mr. Frank came to her side at that very moment; and when the young lady laughed, and said, "What a goose I am! whatever could I have been thinking of?" he thought within himself (persisting in his illogical and perverse conclusions), "It is very plain what she is thinking about! I was afraid that she loved him, and now I know it." So he put up the chess-men, while she went to the piano with her cousin; and he even wished that Mr. Bouncer had interrupted their apple-tree conversation at its commencement; but was thankful to him for coming in time to save him from the pain of being rejected in favour of another. Then, in five minutes, he changed his mind, and had decided that it would have spared him much misery if he could have heard his fate from his Patty's own lips. Then he wished that he had never come to Northumberland at all, and began to think how he should spend his time in the purgatory that Honeywood Hall would now be to him.

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When they separated for the night, he again placed his moustache beneath her nose. Mr. Verdant Green turned away his head at such a sickly exhibition. It was a presumption upon cousinship. Charles Larkyns did not kiss her; and he was equally as much her cousin as Frank Delaval.

And yet, when the young men went into the back kitchen for a pipe and a chat before going to bed, Verdant was so delighted with that handsome cousin Frank, that he thought, "If I was a girl, I should think as she does."

"And why should she not love him?" meditated the poor fellow, when he was lying awake in his bed that self-same night, rendered sleepless by the pain of his new wound; "why should she not love him? how could she do otherwise? thrown together as they have been from children—speaking to each other as 'Patty' and 'Fred'—kissing each other—and being as brother and sister. Would that they were so! How he kept near her all the evening—coming to her even when she was playing chess with me, then singing with her, and playing her accompaniments. She said that no one could play her accompaniments like he could—he had such good taste, and such a firm, delicate touch. Then, when they talked about sketching, she said how she had missed him, and that she had been reserving the view from Brankham Law, in order that they might sketch it together. Then he showed her his last drawings—and they were beautiful. What can I do against this?" groaned poor Verdant, from under the bed-clothes; "he has accomplishments, and I have none; he has good looks, and I haven't; he has a moustache and a pair of whiskers,—and I have only a pair of spectacles! I cannot shine in society, and win admiration, like he does; I have nothing to offer her but my love. Lucky fellow! he is worthier of her than I am—and I hope they will be very happy." At which thought, Verdant felt highly the reverse, and went off into dismal dreams.

In the morning, when Miss Patty and her cousin were setting out for the hill called Brankham Law, Verdant, who had retreated to a garden-seat beneath a fine old cedar, was roused from a very abstracted perusal of "The Dream of Fair Women," by the apparition of one who, in his eyes, was fairer than them all.

"I have been searching for you everywhere," said Miss Patty. "Mamma said that you were not riding with the others, so I knew that you must be somewhere about. I think I shall lock up my Tennyson, if it takes you so much out of our society. Won't you come up Brankham Law with Frank and me?"

"Willingly if you wish it," answered Verdant, though with an unwilling air; "but of what use can I be? Othello's occupation is gone. Your cousin can fill my place much better than if I were there."

"How very ungrateful you are!" said Miss Patty; "you really deserve a good scolding! I allow you to watch me when I am painting, in order that you may gain a lesson, and just when you are beginning to learn something, then you give up. But, at any rate, take Fred for your master, and come and watch him; he can draw. If you were to go to any of the great men to have a lesson of them, all that they would do would be to paint before you, and leave you to look on and pick up what knowledge you could. I know that I cannot draw anything worth looking at,—"

"Indeed, but"——

"But Fred," continued Miss Patty, who was going at too great a pace to be stopped, "but Fred is as good as many masters that you would meet with; so it will be an advantage to you to come and look over him."

"I think I should prefer to look over you."

"Now you are paying compliments, and I don't like them. But, if you will come, you will really be useful. You see I am mercenary in my wishes, after all. Here is Fred with a load of sketching materials; won't you take pity on him, and relieve him of my share of his burden?"

If I could take you off his hands, thought Verdant, I should be better pleased. But Miss Patty won the day; and Verdant took possession of her sketching-block and drawing materials, and set off with them to Brankham Law.

Frederick Delaval was a yachtsman, and owner of the Fleur-de-lys, a cutter yacht, of fifty tons. Besides being inclined to amateur nautical pursuits, he was also partial to an amateur nautical costume; and he further dressed the character of a yachtsman by slinging round him his telescope, which was protected from storms and salt water by a leathern case. This telescope was, in a moment, uncased and brought to bear upon everybody and everything, at every opportunity, in proper nautical fashion, being used by him for distant objects as other people would use an eyeglass for nearer things. And no sooner had they arrived at the grassy plateau that marked the summit of Brankham Law, than the telescope was unslung, and its proprietor swept the horizon—for there was a distant view of the ocean—in search of the Fleur-de-lys.

"I am afraid," he said, "that we shall not be able to make her out; the distance is almost too great to distinguish her from other vessels, although the whiteness of her sails would assist us to a recognition. If the skipper got under way at the hour I told him, he ought about this time to be rounding the headland that you see stretching out yonder."

"I think I see a white sail in that direction," said Miss Patty, as she shaded her eyes with her hand, and looked out earnestly in the required quarter.

"My dear Patty," laughed her cousin, "if you knew anything of nautical matters, you would see that it was not a cutter yacht, for she has more than one mast; though, certainly, as you saw her, she seemed to have but one, for she was just coming about, and was in stays."

"In stays!" exclaimed Miss Patty; "why what singular expressions you sailors have!"

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"Oh yes!" said Frederick Delaval, "and some vessels have waists—like young ladies. But now I think I see the Fleur-de-lys! that gaff tops'l yard was never carried by a coasting vessel. To be sure it is! the skipper knows how to handle her; and, if the breeze holds, she will soon reach her port. Come and have a look at her, Patty, while I rest the glass for you." So he balanced it on his shoulder, while Miss Patty looked through it with her one eye, and placed her fingers upon the other—after the manner of young ladies when they look through a telescope; and then burst into such animated, but not thoughtful observations, as "Oh! I can see it quite plainly. Oh! it is rolling about so! Oh! there are two little men in it! Oh! one of them's pulling a rope! Oh! it all seems to be brought so near!" as if there had been some doubt on the matter, and she had expected the telescope to make things invisible. Miss Patty was quite in childish delight at watching the Fleur-de-lys' movements, and seemed to forget all about the proposed sketch, although Mr. Verdant Green had found her a comfortable rock seat, and had placed her drawing materials ready for use.

"How happy and confiding they are!" he thought, as he gazed upon them thus standing together; "they seem to be made for each other. He is far more fitted for her than I am. I wonder if I shall ever see them after they are—married. I shall never be married." And, after this morbid fashion, the young gentleman took a melancholy pleasure in arranging his future.

It was about this time that the divine afflatus—which had lain almost dormant since his boyish "Address to the Moon"—was again manifested in him by the production of numberless poetical effusions, in which his own poignant anguish and Miss Patty's incomparable attractions were brought forward in verses of various degrees of mediocrity. They were also equally varied in their style and treatment; one being written in a fierce and gloomy Byronic strain, while another followed the lighter childish style of Wordsworth. To this latter class, perhaps, belonged the following lines, which, having accidentally fallen into the hands of Mr. Bouncer, were pronounced by him to be "no end good! first-rate fun!" for the little gentleman put a highly erroneous construction upon them, and, to the great laceration of the author's feelings, imagined them to be altogether of a comic tendency. But, when Mr. Verdant Green wrote them, he probably thought that "deep meaning lieth oft in childish play:"—

"Pretty Patty Honeywood,
Fresh, and fair, and plump,
Into your affections
I should like to jump!
Into your good graces
I should like to steal;
That you lov'd me truly
I should like to feel.

"Pretty Patty Honeywood,
You can little know
How my sea of passion
Unto you doth flow;
How it ever hastens.
With a swelling tide,
To its strand of happiness
At thy darling side.

"Pretty Patty Honeywood,
Would that you and I
Could ask the surpliced parson
Our wedding knot to tie!
Oh! my life of sunshine
Then would he begun,
Pretty Patty Honeywood,
When you and I were one."

But by far his greatest poetical achievement was his "Legend of the Fair Margaret," written in Spenserian metre, and commenced at this period of his career, though never completed. The plot was of the most dismal and intricate kind. The Fair Margaret was beloved by two young men, one of whom (Sir Frederico) was dark, and (necessarily, therefore) as badly disposed a young man as you would desire to keep out of your family circle, and the other (Sir Verdour) was light, and (consequently) as mild and amiable as any given number of maiden aunts could wish. As a matter of course, therefore, the Fair Margaret perversely preferred the dark Sir Frederico, who had poisoned her ears, and told her the most abominable falsehoods about the good and innocent Sir Verdour; when just as Sir Frederico was about to forcibly carry away the Fair Margaret—

Why, just then, circumstances over which Mr. Verdant Green had no control, prevented the dénouement, and the completion of "the Legend."