The Wooing of the Tutor
Reginald Turner in the Saturday Journal.
How a Rich, Young Nobleman, Reported to Have Gone on a Yachting Expedition, Engaged as Instructor to Two Boys and in This Guise Captured the Affections of a Refined and Amiable Daughter, Whose Stern Parent Forbade Marriage to an Impecunious Upstart.
FOR reasons best known to himself, but which you shall learn later, Herbert Ford took a situation as holiday tutor to the son of Mr. Brackley, a substantial merchant, whose business was in the city, and whose house was in Lancaster Gate.
The two boys were aged eight and nine, and they were the only offspring of Mr. Brackley’s second marriage. Refinement went out of his home when prosperity came in, at the date of that second marriage.
Miss Mabel Brackley was now nearly twenty, and far superior to the other inmates of the house, with whom, however, she lived on the most amiable terms.
She felt, nevertheless, that she was not quite one of the family. Her stepmother had many relations, who were inclined to consider her as an outsider, of little account, and who devoted their attention to her little half-brothers. She would not have been sorry to have a home which was really her own, and her father realized that it would be a good thing for her. Therefore, while discouraging any attempts of poor young men to pay attention to the daughter of the substantial house, he was at the present moment encouraging the advances of a very rich young merchant who had looked on Mabel with a favorable eye.
It was to this household that Herbert Ford entered as tutor to the two boys. Frankly, he had admitted that up to the present his experience in teaching had not been great. He intended for himself a literary career, he stated, and tutored only as a temporary expedient, but his public school and university education fully qualified him to undertake his task.
Mr. Brackley had been much pleased with the voung man at his first interview
with him, and his impression corresponded with that of Mrs; Brackley when she saw him.
Mabel Brackley had an impression of having seen him somewhere before, but not remembering where, and feeling she might have been mistaken, she said nothing about it. He, at any rate, did not seem to remember her, for his greeting, though extremely courteous, was that of a complete stranger.
“We shan’t want you to be always teaching the boys,” explained Mrs. Brackley, and Ford bowed, relieved that his work would not be continuous. “We should like you to take them out for walks, you know, and show them London—the museums and picture galleries. . It improves the mind so much, does it not? And on Sundays you càn take them to the Zoo. My husband is a member through having had a sick monkey he once sent to be nursed there.I want the boys to take a great interest in natural history.”
Ford was not very pleased at hearing that he was expected to look after the boys in his hours of recreation, but he merely bowed, and said that certainly the Zoo and museums and picture galleries were very improving.
“You have evening clothes, I suppose?” inquired Mr. Brackley.
Ford admitted that he had.
* '.‘Then you will dine with us as a rule. Sometimes when we go to the theatre, or have a dinner-party at which we don’t want an extra man, no doubt you won’t mind having high tea with the boys.”
“Certainly not,” said Ford.
In the evening the Brackleys saw that not only had Ford dress clothes, but that they were exceedingly well cut—so well cut, and so well did he look in them, that Brackley remarked on the fact to his wife when they were alone.
“You see, dear,” said Mrs. Brackley with a side glance at her husband’s figure, “a young man looks well in anything. Mr. Ford is a well set-up, smart-looking young man, and I’ve no doubt that if you were to give him some of your cast-off clothes he would look quite well in them.”
At that first dinner no one had been present but the members of the family minus the boys, and the rich young man, Mr. Alfred Speedwell, who was expected to marry Mabel Brackley. The young man took rather a dislike to Ford until his host, somewhat ostentatiously, referred to his position in the house as tutor.
When the conversation got on to stocks and shares (in which neither the women nor Ford took any part), Brackley apologized humorouslyto Ford for the topic, admitting that he realized it must be all Greek to him.
“Greek to the tutor—ha, ha!” he added, pleased with his little jest. Then, thinking that perhaps he was not very gracious, he went on: “But you are lucky, young man, in not having to trouble about investments. Times are bad, and the stock markets are almost as difficult to understand as a woman—and as fluctuating, eh, my dear?” And he looked at his daughter.
Mabel shivered slightly, and gave Ford a glance which seemed half an apology for her father’s wit. Speedwell, however, found the joke excellent, and laughed long and loudly.
The next morning Ford commenced -his work with the boys. Fortunately there was no one to witness his efforts as tutor, for they were hardly calculated to inspire confidence in him. People would have said that whatever his prospect might be as a writer—and everyone (it is said) can and does write nowadays—he certainly had but little gift for teaching.
The boys soon discovered this, and plied him with questions which bored him to answer even when he was able to give an answer at all. When he was quite stumped he got over the difficulty by telling them, rather sharply, to get on with their work.
The truth was that Ford had forgotten most of his school learning. English history was vague in his mind. When Jack,
the eldest, asked him the date of Queen Elizabeth’s decease, Ford simply realized that he didn’t know it to within thirty years, and with the stern eye of the boy on him he daren’t consult a book. So he contented himself by saying that his business was to ask questions, and riposted by requesting to know the date of the wreck of the Spanish Armada. That point having been settled with great alacrity, he proceeded to give the boys quite a useful account of the progress in ship-making from that day to this.
So little did his learnings impress the boys that they were inclined to conclude that he wasn’t much of a fellow, and by way of stating their opinion they made him an apple-pie bed. Their joke, however, told rather heavily against them, and when Ford discovered it at a somewhat advanced hour of the night, he dashed off to the boys’ room, woke them from pleasant slumbers, hauled them from 'their beds, and insisted on their re-making his for him.
The sleepy little creatures did the best they could, and Ford professed himself content, though when they had gone he had to give the finishing touches to their work before he was comfortable. But he judged rightly that there would be no more apple-pie beds for him, and when he laughed at them the next morning instead of pulling a long face, they gave up their intention of complaining to their father, and voted the tutor a good sort.
From that time they became friends.
When the first Sunday came, and Mrs. Brackley suggested that he should take the boys to the Zoo, Ford proposed that Miss Brackley should accompany them. Somewhat to the stepmother’s surprise, Mabel at once fell in with the idea, though she was not, as a rule, very keen to accompany her little brothers. Brackley was quite pleased when he heard that his daughter was one of the natural history party, but began to be a little uneasy when Alfred Speedwell wondered why Miss Brackley had gone to the Zoo with “that fellow.”
Indeed, Speedwell and Ford did not get on. Ford paid no deference to the very rich young man, and Speedwell was quite unable to score off him. He thought the tutor a stuck-up prig, and said that if his were Oxfôrd manners he was glad he had never gone there, but had gone into the city instead.
Rut Mabel came back from the Zoo very pleased and happy, and in no way put out by Speedwell's bad temper. Her mood was only less boisterous than that of the boys and Ford's, who. for a tutor, was perhaps in unseemly spirits. But the air of happiness had its effect on the parents, who (not seeing any real danger in a penniless tutor) were infected by the general content, and inclined to treat Speedwell's ill-temper in a jocular manner.
They were soon, however, to change their min#l about the tutor. There came the day to which they had been looking forward. Speedwell proposed for Mabel’s hand, and spoke first of all to her parents. Having obtained their hearty permission, he went to Mabel herself—and was refused. Such a thing they had never thought of. Mabel had seemed to like him ; she knew that they desired him for a son-inlaw, and they knew she was quite aware what a figure she would be able to cut with his immense wealth. She could not hope for a greater fortune, and if she had not encouraged Speedwell; she had certainly never discouraged him, while they had given him every reason to hope.
To let slip such a chance of a magnificent home of her own seemed to them madness which bordered on wickedness. And then they thought (though the idea was so monstrous that they could not be sure) that they saw the cause. Mabel must be “taken with” the tutor. If so, they determined speedily to choke off the adventurer, and bring the girl to her senses.
With much bluster at luncheon next day, Mr. Brackley, ignoring the tutor, whom he would have disdained to warn directly, announced that whoever his daughter married he would never give her a halfpenny. He added, also, that if she married someone he didn’t approve of he would never speak to her again.
Mabel blushed painfully, and Ford looked at her with furtive interest.
“I think we've settled the young man’s hash,” said Brackley to his wife, “if indeed he did have designs on Mabel.”
Whether it was so or no, Mabel still continued to go to the Zoo with the boys and their tutor, and even accompanied them in their afternoon walks. Brackley would have liked to have forbidden the walks, but he found that by taking too much notice he might give the matter more importance
than it really had, and putting ideas into the girl's head which were not there. And, after his remarks, he felt that the tutor would not want to marry his daughter for his own sake, even if he were willing enough for her to be a pauper.
But he was more seriously disturbed when his wife reported to him that Mabel had invested in a typewriter, and was practising it hard. Ford had also learnt this, and seemed delighted at the news. A few days later he asked for an interview with the father.
“I come to ask you for your daughter’s hand,” he said simply.
“What, sir—what do you mean?”
“I want your daughter’s .hand—of course, I mean the rest of her with it. I want her. I want to marry her. Indeed, she has consented to marry me. But, as in duty bound, I ask you for your permission.”
“You are an outrageous scoundrel, sir,” was all Mr. Brackley could get out. He was pink with rage. The tutor’s manner was not calculated to make him less angry.
“Come, sir, come,” said Ford testily, “have I your permission to marry your daughter ?”
Brackley looked at him in impotent rage. He wiped his forehead with a large red handkerchief. At last he collected himself sufficiently to speak.
“You steal into this house—the best house in Lancaster Gate—under the pretense of tutoring my boys, and deliberately set yourself to take my daughter away.”
“Precisely. You have stated the case as shortly as I could, though you have guessed rather quickly. 1 stole into this house with that deliberate intention. The tutoring was only a blind.”
Mr. Brackley gasped again. The man acknowledged it, seemed to acknowledge more than even he had charged him with.
“I’ve a good mind to send for the police ” he cried.
“Unfortunately, what I have done is not a criminal offence—not one recognized by the law, at least.”
“So you came here for that purpose j What do you mean by that ?”
“I came for your daughter, yes; most decidedly I came for her. And,” he added exultantly, “I have got her.”
“You would take her away from a luxurious home ; you have already caused her to give up a most excellent chance. And for what? That -she may be a typewriting drudge, and typewrite your wretched and, I have no doubt, wicked stories.”
“Well, if she likes she may.”
“You think that I shall give her money. You are mistaken. She will never have a penny from me.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
“You say so. But you know I am her father. You trust that I shall repent.”
“I hope so—for your sake.”
“Now, sir, I tell you that the girl is penniless, and that she will never—never you understand—have a penny of my money. If you have a spark of honor left, a spark of true regard for her happiness, you will give her up.”
“I have her promise, and I shall keep her to it,” said Ford.
“You talk bravely. I suppose you will tell me that you never cared about her money, that you love her for herself.”
“It is sufficient for me that she loves me for myself,” said Ford calmly. “At any rate, she doesn’t love me for my money.” '«“No, indeed,” sneered Brackley. “A man like you would never have got into a house like this save by a subterfuge. You and I don’t meet in the ordinary way.” “That is true,” admitted Ford, “and that is why I determined to become tutor here.” “And why, sir, did you single my daughter out for your designs?”
“Well, you see, I had seen her in the distance, and fallen in love with her. I wanted to know her better. She is all I thought her, and if I am not all she thinks me, at any rate I shall make her a good husband.” “Look here, sir,” said Brackley, at the last gasp of exasperation, “if my girl marries you I swear I will never give her a penny, and I swear I will never speak to you again.”
Ford looked at him steadily.
“I hear what you say,” he said, “and I shall keep you to your word if you are inclined to break it?”
“What do you mean?” bawled Brackley. “I don’t like you, Mr. Brackley. I don't like your house, and I don’t like your friends. T think your daughter will be well away from you. and in time I have hopes that T shall be able to make her forget you.” -
“Well! Am I mad, am I dreaming? Is this a joke?”
“If it is, I don’t see the point of it. I don’t like you, Mr. Brackley, and 1 don’t want to see you. I don’t mind your sons. They can come and see me and their sister.”
“You think I would allow my sons to see their sister’s degradation, her shame! Perhaps you think it is amusing to live in a workhouse.”
“I don’t know, but there may be worse places. If you hadn’t been able to tide over some crises in the city, for instance, you might have been living in gaol !”
It was a hard hit and a true one. “Whatever I’ve done I did for my children. At any rate, I haven’t stolen into a house and persuaded a girl to go out of it and starve with me. If you think you can blackmail me, you are mistaken. If you take the girl, she starves—mind that—she starves !”
“But why should she starve?”
“Then what—what do you propose my daughter is to live on? Though, mind you, if she marries you she is no longer daughter of mine.”
“I do mind you. Well, she can live on me. I am a very rich man, Mr. Brackley.” “Rich—you?” said Brackley, thinking that the tutor was bluffing.
“Very, very rich. One of the richest men in England. You see, I came here as a tutor—like King Arthur, don’t you know —just to see how the poor live.”
“How the poor live! You needn’t insult me, sir! To steal my daughter and rob her of her inheritance is enough.”
“You are right, Brackley, you are right.” said Ford, dropping into familiarity very unbecoming in a tutor, “and I wasn’t speaking the truth. I came here to see your daughter. Yours are not, as you mentioned yourself, the sort of people whom I am likely to meet. You must forgive my being vulgar enough to say so. But I had fallen in love at sight of her. and I thought if I made her acquaintance in the ordinary way, that if she didn’t fall in love with me. you would, and try to persuade her. I so wanted to be loved for myself. and T was as little sure of that in my own world as in yours. I’m a nobleman.” “A nobleman!”
“Haven’t you heard of Lord Ascott? I see you have. Well, he is the richest nobleman in Rutland, if not the oldest in descent, and he was reported to have eone on a yachting expedition. Well, it wasn’t true. His yacht went, but he didn’t, tie went on an expedition to Lancaster Gate.” “Lord Ascott! You!”
“Yes, and I am so glad that in marrying Mabel I shall not be marrying her family. I was a little afraid I should have to, and I was quite prepared to make the sacrifice. But you have made the way easy.”
Brackley sank into a chair. The revelation had been too much for him. It was some minutes before he could speak.
“Then I have the honor to tell you, Lord Ascott,” fie said, gathering strength as he went on, “I have the honor to tell you that you have behaved like a cad. You steal into a man’s house and get his daughter’s affections under the pretence that you are a penniless tutor. You take advantage of a father’s natural and proper anger at such ruin for his daughter to break with him, and to cut him off from that daughter’s love. You may be a nobleman, by name if not by nature, and you may be a rich man, but I don’t take back a word which I said to Ford the tutor—except, perhaps, what I said about our not being likely to meet.” “By Jove! you’ve got more spirit in you than I bargained for,” said Lord Ascott. “I am beginning to be sorry for the first time that you swore you would never speak to your daughter again if she married me.” But at that moment Mabel burst into the room.
“I can’t bear the suspense any longer,”
she cried. “Has he told you, father? I see he has. You must forgive him and me.”
She went and stood by the young man, taking his hand.
“Your father has sworn that if you marry me he will never speak to you again.”
“Father!” She left her lover’s hand, and went to her father. “You can’t mean that. I love Mr. Ford. I don’t mind trying to w'ork for my living. But I do want to be happy. And I couldn’t be happy if you cast me off like that, and cast him off too.”
“So you would leave your father for this man?” said Mr. Brackley.
“I would leave you for him because he is to be my husband. But I love you, father, and if you do this dreadful thing yqu will know that you are spoiling my life—and spoiling it just when I ought to be happy.”
The two men looked at each other.
“We mustn’t spoil her happiness, even to please ourselves,” said the younger man. “I expect you will have to break your oath, Brackley ; and I shall have to grin when you do it. Shall we fall on our knees and ask your blessing?”
But at that Mr. Brackley turned and left the room hurriedly.
“He will forgive us I’m sure he will,” said Mabel.
“I think so, darling; and we shall yet learn to like each other—he and I.”
There are two kinds of rockets. One goes off with a great sputter and is gone; the other produces the steady, glowing light.
The man who is afraid of himself certainly cannot hope to win confidence with other men.
Shoulder your share.—Workers’ Magazine.