Mary of Marion Isle - H. Rider Haggard - ebook

Mary of Marion Isle ebook

H. Rider Haggard

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Mary of Marion Isle – the penultimate novel by Henry Rider Haggard, which he wrote before his death. The young socialist doctor faced a series of obstacles in his life, and learned what unhappy love is. Then he found himself on a desert island. What will he do in this situation? By the way, Marion Isle is a real place and one of the Prince Edward Islands.

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Liczba stron: 524

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Contents

Chapter I. Lord Atterton

Chapter II. Mrs. Josky

Chapter III. Rose

Chapter IV. Somerville Black

Chapter V. Arabella

Chapter VI. The Hospital

Chapter VII. Andrew’s Farewell

Chapter VIII. The Station

Chapter IX. What Happened In Egypt

Chapter X. A Meeting

Chapter XI. Temptation

Chapter XII. Clara Goes Angling

Chapter XIII. The Holy Estate

Chapter XIV. His Excellency

Chapter XV. Disaster

Chapter XVI. Alone

Chapter XVII. Exploration

Chapter XVIII. Mary

Chapter XIX. Old Man Tom

Chapter XX. The Troglodytes

Chapter XXI. Flight

Chapter XXII. Return

Chapter XXIII. The Fatal Albatross

Chapter XXIV. What The Gale Gave

CHAPTER I

LORD ATTERTON

“I think, Clara, that your cousin Andrew is a damned young fool. You must excuse the language, but on the whole I consider him the damnedest young fool with whom I ever had to do.”

Thus in cold and deliberate tones did Lord Atterton express himself concerning Andrew West, the only son of his deceased brother. Clara Maunsell, his sister’s child who was also an orphan, studied her uncle for a while before she answered, which there was no need for her to do at once as he was busy lighting a cigar. An observant onlooker might have thought that she was thinking things out and making up her mind what line to take about the said Andrew West.

These two, uncle and niece, presented a somewhat curious contrast there on that September day in the richly furnished but yet uncomfortable library of Lord Atterton’s great house in Cavendish Square. He was a medium-sized, stout man of about sixty-eight years of age. His big, well-shaped head resembled that of a tonsured monk, inasmuch as it was completely bald save for an encircling fringe of white hair. His face was clean-cut and able, with rather a long nose and a fierce, determined mouth remarkable for the thinness of the lips and absence of any curves. There was much character in that mouth; indeed, his whole aspect gave an impression of cold force. “Successful man” was written all over him.

The niece was a young lady of about four-and-twenty, of whom at first sight one would instinctively say, “How pretty she is, and how neat!”

In fact, she was both. Small in build but perfectly proportioned, fair in complexion with just the right amount of colour, with crisp auburn hair carefully dressed, and steady, innocent-looking blue eyes, a well-formed mouth and a straight little nose, she was the very embodiment of prettiness as distinguished from beauty, while in neatness none could surpass her. Her quiet- coloured dress suited her to perfection, no one had ever seen that auburn coiffure disordered even in a gale of wind, her boots and gloves were marvels of their sort, and even the pearl drops on the necklace she wore seemed to arrange themselves with a mathematical exactitude. “Little Tidy” they had called her in the nursery, and “Clever Clara” at school, and now that she was grown up these attributes continued to distinguish her.

In a way there was about her more than a hint of her uncle, Lord Atterton. Between a young lady and this old man, especially as the one might be said to represent decorated ice-cream and the other something very much on the boil, there could be no real resemblance. And yet the set of their mouths and the air of general ability common to both of them, did give them a certain similitude, due no doubt to affinity of blood.

Lord Atterton finished lighting his cigar, very much on one side, and Clara finished her reflections, which apparently urged her to a course of non- committal.

“Andrew,” she said in her light, pleasant and evenly balanced voice, “is just Andrew and there is no one else quite like him.”

“Why not say that an ass is just an ass and that there is no other ass quite so much an ass?” snapped her uncle, biting heavily at the end of the cigar.

“Because, Uncle, I do not consider that Andrew is an ass. I think, on the contrary, that he has in him the makings of a very clever man.”

“Clever! Do you call it clever for an inexperienced young fellow to take up all these Radical, not to say Socialistic ideas which, if ever they are put into practice,–thank God, that will not be in my time!–would utterly destroy the class to which he belongs? Has it ever occurred to you, Clara, that your cousin Algernon is my only child and that his lungs are very delicate? If anything happened to him,” he added with a twitch of the face, “Andrew must succeed to the title?”

She nodded her head.

“Naturally that has occurred to me, Uncle, but I see no reason to suppose that anything of the sort will happen. The doctors say they are sure this new treatment will succeed. Also, Algernon might marry and leave children.”

“The doctors! I have no faith in doctors and I know our family weakness. Look at me, the last of five, all of them taken off with something to do with the lungs. As for marrying, Algernon will never marry. Also, if he did, he would have no children. I believe that one day that mad hatter of a fellow, Andrew, will be Lord Atterton,” he said with emphasis, and, turning, threw the ruined cigar into the fire which burned upon the hearth although the day was mild.

“It’s a hard thing,” he went on with a kind of choke in the throat, “to be successful in everything else–make a large fortune, come into a title and the rest–and yet not to have a healthy son to inherit it all. And if Algernon goes–oh! if he goes––!”

Again Clara considered for a moment and appeared to come to the conclusion that the moment was one when it would be right and proper to exhibit sympathy, if possible without causing alarm, as ill-judged doses of that quality often do.

“Don’t fret, Uncle,” she said softly. “I know how you worry about all these things and it makes me worry too. Often I lie awake at night and think about it.”

“So do I, and listen to Algernon coughing in the room above.”

“Yes, but there is really no need for you to be anxious. He is ever so much better. Oh! my dear Uncle, I implore you–there, you know what I mean although I am not good at expressing myself,” and furtively wiping her eyes with a very clean and beautifully embroidered handkerchief, she advanced to him and laid her cool lips upon his brow.

“Thank you, my dear, thank you,” he said. “I know you have a good heart and feel for me, which is more than anyone else does. I only wish you had been––”

“Hush!” said Clara, stepping back lightly, “here they come.”

As she spoke the door was thrown open somewhat violently and two young men entered the room. Except in age (they were both twenty-one) they differed strangely. The first, Andrew, who had outstepped his cousin, was tall and lanky and as yet comparatively unformed, with thin, delicate hands and small feet, although no one would have guessed this from the boots it pleased him to wear. He was not good-looking; for that his face was too irregular, but a singular charm pervaded him. It shone in the vivacity of his large dark eyes, which now were full of fire and now seemed to go to sleep, and was reflected from his whole countenance that was of a remarkable mobility and seemed to respond to every thought which flitted across his mind. For the rest his waving brown hair was over long and unkempt and his clothes were shocking. A dilapidated velveteen coat that might have come second-hand from the wardrobe of a deceased artist, and a red tie, frayed and faded, that had managed to slip up over one point of a limp calico collar, were peculiarities most likely to immediate attention, although there were others which would have paid for research, such as a rusty steel watch-chain from which hung some outlandish charms, and the absence of two waistcoat buttons. Yet with it all no one of any class could for a moment have mistaken his standing, since Andrew West was one of those men who would have looked a gentleman in a sack and nothing else.

His cousin Algernon was different indeed. To begin with, his attire was faultless, made by the best tailor in London and apparently put on new that moment. Within this perfect outer casing was a short, pale-eyed, lack-lustre young man with straight, sandy hair and no eyebrows, one whose hectic flush and moist hands betrayed the mortal ailment with which he was stricken, a poor, commonplace lad who, loving the world and thirsting for its pleasures, was yet doomed to bid it and them an early farewell.

The two were arguing as they came up the stairs, Andrew in clear, ringing tones, and Algernon in a husky voice to which low little coughs played the part of commas and full stops. So loudly did they talk that Lord Atterton and Clara could hear what they said, for the massive mahogany doors stood ajar.

“I tell you, Algy, and mind you, I am a medical man, or shall be next week, that you drink too much of the family whisky. It has poisoned thousands and is poisoning you, although I dare say yours comes out of the best vat, not that which has made millionaires of West & Co., and a peer of your grandfather––” (here that unwilling eavesdropper, Lord Atterton, snorted and muttered something that Clara could not catch). “Claret should be your tipple, and perhaps a couple of glasses of port after dinner, no more.”

“Claret is poor stuff to lean on when one feels low, Andrew; besides, I am not fool enough to drink West’s whisky; I know too much about it, for you see I’m in the business. Anyway, a short life and a merry one for me,” replied Algernon with a husky chuckle.

Then they entered the room.

“Would you be so good as to shut that door, Andrew,” said his uncle icily.

“If you wish, Uncle, though it should be left open for the room is far too hot,–Ah! I thought so,” he added, glancing at a thermometer which hung upon the wall, “over seventy-two, and no wonder when you have a fire upon a mild September afternoon, and everything shut.”

“I hate cold,” interrupted Algernon.

“I dare say,” replied Andrew. “Most of us do hate what does us good. As a matter of fact, you should live in a low temperature with all the windows open.”

“Perhaps, Andrew,” said Lord Atterton, puffing himself out like a turkey cock, “you will be so good as to allow me and Algernon to regulate our house in our own way?”

“Certainly, Uncle. It isn’t my business, is it? Only I wouldn’t if I were your medical adviser. Where there is a tendency to a pulmonary weakness,” he added rather sententiously, “as in our family,” and he glanced at Algernon, “fresh air is essential.”

“Thank you for that information,” replied his uncle with sarcasm, “but I have already sought advice upon the point from the heads of the profession to which I understand you intend to belong.”

“Then why do you not follow it?” said Andrew coolly, whereon the discreet Clara, foreseeing trouble, intervened hurriedly with a question.

“Are you really going to be a doctor soon, Andrew?” she asked.

“Yes, I hope so, Clara. I have just gone through my final examination, which is why I’m able to come and look you up, for the first time in six months, I think.”

“And for the last in six years, I hope,” muttered Lord Atterton to himself.

If Andrew overheard him he took no notice, but went on gaily.

“I don’t suppose that any of you know what it is to work for twelve or sometimes fourteen hours a day, but if you did, you would understand that it does not leave much time for paying visits. Such amusements are for the idle rich.”

“Indeed,” growled Lord Atterton. “Well, I think I have done as much as that in my time.”

“I think you misunderstand me, Uncle,” went on the imperturbable Andrew. “By work, I mean intellectual research in any branch of knowledge; I do not mean the mere pursuit of wealth in a business.”

Algernon in the background chuckled hoarsely, a faint and swiftly repressed smile flittered over Clara’s placid features like a shadow over a still lake, and Lord Atterton turned purple.

“What do you mean, young man?” he gasped.

“Oh! nothing personal,” replied the gay Andrew in the intervals of lighting a cigarette, “but I think you will admit, Uncle, that there is a difference between, let us say, the skilful advertisement of patent medicines or alcoholic drinks with the assistance of a large office staff, and the mastering of a science by individual application.”

“All that I am inclined to admit at present,” ejaculated Lord Atterton, “is that you are a most offensive young prig.”

“Do you think so?” answered Andrew with an airy smile. “Well, I dare say from your point of view you are right. Everything depends upon how one looks at things, doesn’t it, Uncle? Now I hate trade and look upon the drink traffic as a crime against the community, at any rate where the manufacture of spirits is concerned, having seen too much of their effects, and I dare say that these convictions make me intolerant, as all young people are apt to be––”

“And I hate impertinent Pill-boxes, like yourself, Sir,” shouted Lord Atterton.

“Which shows,” replied Andrew calmly, “that intolerance is not peculiar to the young. By ‘Pill-boxes’ I suppose you symbolize the Medical Profession in general, of which I am informed you are a great supporter where your own ailments and those of your family are concerned. Now if hate, as it is fair to assume, implies disbelief, why do you employ them?”

Lord Atterton tried to answer, but only succeeded in gurgling.

“Such disparagement,” went on Andrew, “seems peculiarly unjust in your case, Uncle, seeing that one of your grandfathers was an eminent ‘Pill-box’ of the old school whose monographs upon certain subjects are still studied, and, so far as I am able to judge, infinitely the most respectable and useful man that our family has produced.”

Here Algernon, on a sofa in the background, burst into convulsive screams of laughter which he tried vainly to stifle with a cushion, while the infuriated Lord Atterton rushed from the room uttering language which need not be recorded.

“You’ve done it this time,” said Algernon, removing the sofa cushion and sitting up. “If there’s one thing his Lordship hates” (he always called his father his Lordship behind his back), “it is any allusion to his medical ancestor whose mother was a mill-hand and who dropped his h’s.”

“I expect that’s where his vigour came from, and if he dropped h’s, he picked up lives, hundreds of them; indeed, he was a most admirable person.”

“Oh! Andrew,” broke in Clara, “can’t you stop fooling? Don’t you see that you are ruining yourself?”

“Well, if you ask me, Clara, I don’t. Besides, how am I ruining myself? I expect nothing from my uncle who has never given me anything, except an occasional luncheon and many lectures. I know that everybody goes about blacking his boots just because he is so rich, so it can’t hurt him to hear a little of the truth by way of a change.”

“But it may hurt you, Andrew. What are you going to do when you become a doctor?”

“Oh, that’s all arranged. An excellent fellow called Watson, a really clever man though a bit of a Socialist, who might be anything but because of his opinions prefers a practice in Whitechapel, is going to take me as an assistant. He was one of the examiners and suggested it himself only this morning, from which I gather that I have passed all right. It is a splendid opening.”

“Indeed,” remarked Clara doubtfully, “and what is Doctor Watson going to pay you?”

“I don’t know. Something pretty small, I expect, but that doesn’t matter to me, for I’ve a couple of hundred a year of my own, you know, which is riches to most young doctors.”

Clara looked him up and down with an air of genuine if tempered amazement on her face that was not entirely unmixed with admiration. Then she asked:

“Do you really mean to say, Andrew, that it is your intention to become the assistant of an unknown Socialistic practitioner in the East End who will pay you little or nothing?”

“That is my intention and desire, Clara,” he answered in the intervals of lighting another cigarette. “What do you see against it?”

“Oh! nothing,” she answered, shrugging her shoulders, “except the results which commonly follow from madness of any sort. To begin with, you will infuriate our uncle––”

“Strike that out,” interrupted Andrew, “for I have done it already. Nothing can make him hate me more than he does.”

“–who,” went on Clara, taking no notice, “with all his enormous interest would otherwise have been able to help you to a career in almost any walk of life that offers rewards at the end of it–or earlier––”

“To those with relatives whose money gives them direct or indirect means of corruption and thereby of lifting the undeserving over the heads of the deserving,” suggested Andrew.

Again she shrugged her shoulders, and went on:

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