THE GOLDEN CALF
THE GOLDEN CALF
M. E. BRADDON
BY M.E. BRADDON
'LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET' 'AURORA FLOYD'
'VIXEN' 'ISHMAEL' ETC. ETC.
[Illustration: "Ida stood with clasped hands and lips moving dumbly in
I. THE ARTICLED PUPIL
II. 'I AM GOING TO MARRY FOR MONEY'
III. AT THE KNOLL
IV. WENDOVER ABBEY
V. DR. RYLANCE ASSERTS HIMSELF
VI. A BIRTHDAY FEAST
VII. IN THE RIVER-MEADOW
VIII. AT THE LOCK-HOUSE
IX. A SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT
X. A BAD PENNY
XI. ACCOMPLISHMENTS AT A DISCOUNT
XII. THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
XIII. KINGTHORPE SOCIETY
XIV. THE TRUE KNIGHT
XV. MR. WENDOVER PLANS AN EXCURSION
XVI. THICKER THAN WATER
XVII. OUGHT SHE TO STAY?
XVIII. AFTER A STORM COMES A CALM
XIX. AFTER A CALM A STORM
XX. WAS THIS THE MOTIVE?
XXI. TAKING LIFE QUIETLY
XXII. LADY PALLISER STUDIES THE UPPER TEN
XXIII. 'ALL OUR LIFE is MIXED WITH DEATH'
XXIV. 'FRUITS FAIL AND LOVE DIES AND TIME RANGES'
XXV. 'MY SEED WAS YOUTH MY CROP WAS ENDLESS CARE'
XXVI. 'AND IF I DIE NO SOUL WILL PITY ME'
XXVII. JOHN JARDINE SOLVES THE MYSTERY
XXVIII. AN ENGLISHMAN'S HOUSE IS HIS CASTLE
XXIX. 'AS ONE DEAD IN THE BOTTOM OF A TOMB'
XXX. A FIERY DAWN
XXXI. 'SOLE PARTNER AND SOLE PART OF ALL THESE JOYS'
THE GOLDEN CALF
THE ARTICLED PUPIL.
'Where is Miss Palliser?' inquired Miss Pew in that awful voice of hers
at which the class-room trembled as at unexpected thunder. A murmur ran
along the desks from girl to girl and then some one near that end of
the long room which was sacred to Miss Pew and her lieutenants said that
Miss Palliser was not in the class-room.
'I think she is taking her music lesson ma'am' faltered the girl who
had ventured diffidently to impart this information to the
'Think?' exclaimed Miss Pew in her stentorian voice. 'How can you think
about an absolute fact? Either she is taking her lesson or she is not
taking her lesson. There is no room for thought. Let Miss Palliser be
sent for this moment.'
At this command as at the behest of the Homeric Jove himself half a
dozen Irises started up to carry the ruler's message; but again Miss
Pew's mighty tones resounded in the echoing class-room.
'I don't want twenty girls to carry one message. Let Miss Rylance go.'
There was a grim smile on the principal's coarsely-featured countenance
as she gave this order. Miss Rylance was not one of the six who had
started up to do the schoolmistress's bidding. She was a young lady who
considered her mission in life anything rather than to carry a message--a
young lady who thought herself quite the most refined and elegant thing
at Mauleverer Manor and so entirely superior to her surroundings as to
be absolved from the necessity of being obliging. But Miss Pew's voice
when fortified by anger was too much even for Miss Rylance's calm sense
of her own merits and she rose at the lady's bidding laid down her
ivory penholder on the neatly written exercise and walked out of the
room quietly with the slow and stately deportment imparted by a long
course of instruction from Madame Rigolette the fashionable
'Rylance won't much like being sent on a message' whispered Miss
Cobb the Kentish brewer's daughter to Miss Mullins the Northampton
'And old Pew delights in taking her down a peg' said Miss Cobb who was
short plump and ruddy a picture of rude health and unrefined good
looks--a girl who bore 'beer' written in unmistakable characters across
her forehead Miss Rylance had observed to her own particular circle. 'I
will say that for the old lady' added Miss Cobb 'she never cottons to
Vulgarity of speech is the peculiar delight of a schoolgirl off duty. She
spends so much of her life under the all-pervading eye of authority she
is so drilled and lectured and ruled and regulated that when the eye
of authority is off her she seems naturally to degenerate into licence.
No speech so interwoven with slang as the speech of a schoolgirl--except
that of a schoolboy.
There came a sudden hush upon the class-room after Miss Rylance had
departed on her errand. It was a sultry afternoon in late June and the
four rows of girls seated at the two long desks in the long bare room
with its four tall windows facing a hot blue sky felt almost as
exhausted by the heat as if they had been placed under an air-pump. Miss
Pew had a horror of draughts so the upper sashes were only lowered a
couple of inches to let out the used atmosphere. There was no chance of
a gentle west wind blowing in to ruffle the loose hair upon the foreheads
of those weary students.
Thursday afternoons were devoted to the study of German. The sandy-haired
young woman at the end of the room furthest from Miss Pew's throne was
Fraeulein Wolf from Frankfort and it was Fraeulein Wolf's mission to go
on eternally explaining the difficulties of her native language to the
pupils at Mauleverer Manor and to correct those interesting exercises of
Ollendorff's which ascend from the primitive simplicity of golden
candlesticks and bakers' dogs to the loftiest themes in romantic
For five minutes there was no sound save the scratching of pens and the
placid voice of the Fraeulein demonstrating to Miss Mullins that in an
exercise of twenty lines ten words out of every twenty were wrong and
then the door was opened suddenly--not at all in the manner so carefully
instilled by the teacher of deportment. It was flung back rather as if
with an angry hand and a young woman taller than the generality of her
sex walked quickly up the room to Miss Pew's desk and stood before that
bar of justice with head erect and dark flashing eyes the incarnation
_'Was fuer ein Maedchen.'_ muttered the Fraeulein blinking at that distant
figure with her pale gray-green eyes.
Miss Pew pretended not to see the challenge in the girl's angry eyes. She
turned to her subordinate Miss Pillby the useful drudge who did a
little indifferent teaching in English grammar and geography looked
after the younger girls' wardrobes and toadied the mistress of the
'Miss Pillby will you be kind enough to show Ida Palliser the state of
her desk?' asked Miss Pew with awe-inspiring politeness.
'She needn't do anything of the kind 'said Ida coolly. 'I know the state
of my desk quite as well as she does. I daresay it's untidy. I haven't
had time to put things straight.'
'Untidy!' exclaimed Miss Pew in her appalling baritone; 'untidy is not
the word. It's degrading. Miss Pillby be good enough to call over the
various articles which you have found in Ida Palliser's desk.'
Miss Pillby rose to do her employer's bidding. She was a dull piece of
human machinery to which the idea of resistance to authority was
impossible. There was no dirty work she would not have done meekly
willingly even at Miss Pew's bidding. The girls were never tired of
expatiating upon Miss Pillby's meanness; but the lady herself did not
even know that she was mean. She had been born so.
She went to the locker lifted the wooden lid and proceeded in a flat
drawling voice to call over the items which she found in that receptacle.
'A novel "The Children of the Abbey" without a cover.'
'Ah!' sighed Miss Pew.
'One stocking with a rusty darning-needle sticking in it. Five apples
two mouldy. A square of hardbake. An old neck-ribbon. An odd cuff. Seven
letters. A knife with the blade broken. A bundle of pen-and-ink--well I
suppose they are meant for sketches.'
'Hand them over to me' commanded Miss Pew.
She had seen some of Ida Palliser's pen-and-ink sketches before
to-day--had seen herself represented in every ridiculous guise and
attitude by that young person's facile pen. Her large cheeks reddened in
anticipation of her pupil's insolence. She took the sheaf of crumpled
paper and thrust it hastily into her pocket.
A ripple of laughter swept over Miss Palliser's resolute face; but she
said not a word.
'Half a New Testament--the margins shamefully scribbled over' pursued
Miss Pillby with implacable monotony. 'Three Brazil nuts. A piece of
slate-pencil. The photograph of a little boy--'
'My brother' cried Ida hastily. 'I hope you are not going to confiscate
that Miss Pew as you have confiscated my sketches.'
'It would be no more than you deserve if I were to burn everything in
your locker Miss Palliser' said the schoolmistress.
'Burn everything except my brother's portrait. I might never get another.
Papa is so thoughtless. Oh please Miss Pillby give me back the photo.'
'Give her the photograph' said Miss Pew who was not all inhuman
although she kept a school a hardening process which is supposed to
deaden the instincts of womanhood. 'And now pray Miss Palliser what
excuse have you to offer for your untidiness?'
'None' said Ida 'except that I have no time to be tidy. You can't
expect tidiness from a drudge like me.'
And with this cool retort Miss Palliser turned her back upon her mistress
and left the room.
'Did you ever see such cheek?' murmured the irrepressible Miss Cobb to
'She can afford to be cheeky' retorted the neighbour. 'She has nothing
to lose. Old Pew couldn't possibly treat her any worse than she does. If
she did it would be a police case.'
When Ida Palliser was in the little lobby outside the class room she
took the little boy's photograph from her pocket and kissed it
passionately. Then she ran upstairs to a small room on the landing where
there was nothing but emptiness and a worn-out old square piano and sat
down for her hour's practice. She was always told off to the worst pianos
in the house. She took out a book of five-finger exercises by a Leipsic
professor placed it on the desk and then just as she was beginning to
play her whole frame was shaken like a bulrush in a sudden gust of wind;
she let her head fall forward on the desk and burst into tears hot
passionate tears that came like a flood in spite of her determination
not to cry.
What was the matter with Ida Palliser? Not much perhaps. Only poverty
and poverty's natural corollary a lack of friends. She was the
handsomest girl in the school and one of the cleverest--clever in an
exceptional way which claimed admiration even from the coldest. She
occupied the anomalous position of a pupil teacher or an articled pupil.
Her father a military man living abroad on his half pay with a young
second wife and a five-year old son had paid Miss Pew a lump sum of
fifty pounds and for those fifty pounds Miss Pew had agreed to maintain
and educate Ida Palliser during the space of three years to give her the
benefit of instruction from the masters who attended the school and to
befit her for the brilliant and lucrative career of governess in a
gentleman's family. As a set-off against these advantages Miss Pew had
full liberty to exact what services she pleased from Miss Palliser
stopping short as Miss Green had suggested of a police case.
Miss Pew had not shown herself narrow in her ideas of the articled
pupil's capacity. It was her theory that no amount of intellectual
labour including some manual duties in the way of assisting in the
lavatory on tub-nights washing hair-brushes and mending clothes could
be too much for a healthy young woman of nineteen. She always talked of
Ida as a young woman. The other pupils of the same age she called girls;
but of Ida she spoke uncompromisingly as a 'young woman.'
'Oh how I hate them all!' said Ida in the midst of her sobs. 'I hate
everybody myself most of all!'
Then she pulled herself together with an effort dried her tears
hurriedly and began her five-finger exercises _tum tum tum_ with the
little finger all the other fingers pinned resolutely down upon the
'I wonder whether if I had been ugly and stupid they would have been a
little more merciful to me?' she said to herself.
Miss Palliser's ability had been a disadvantage to her at Mauleverer
Manor. When Miss Pew discovered that the girl had a knack of teaching she
enlarged her sphere of tuition and from taking the lowest class only as
former articled pupils had done Miss Palliser was allowed to preside
over the second and third classes and thereby saved her employers forty
pounds a year.
To teach two classes each consisting of from fifteen to twenty girls
was in itself no trifling labour. But besides this Ida had to give music
lessons to that lowest class which she had ceased to instruct in English
and French and whose studies were now conducted by Miss Pillby. She had
her own studies and she was eager to improve herself for that career of
governess in a gentleman's family was the only future open to her. She
used to read the advertisements in the governess column of the _Times_
supplement and it comforted her to see that an all-accomplished teacher
demanded from eighty to a hundred a year for her services. A hundred a
year was Ida's idea of illimitable wealth. How much she might do with
such a sum! She could dress herself handsomely she could save enough
money for a summer holiday in Normandy with her neglectful father and her
weak little vulgar step-mother and the half-brother whom she loved
better than anyone else in the world.
The thought of this avenue to fortune gave her fortitude. She braced
herself up and set herself valourously to unriddle the perplexities of a
nocturne by Chopin.
'After all I have only to work on steadily' she told herself; 'there
will come an end to my slavery.'
Presently she began to laugh to herself softly:
'I wonder whether old Pew has looked at my caricatures' she thought
'and whether she'll treat me any worse on account of them?'
She finished her hour's practice put her music back into her portfolio
which lived in an ancient canterbury under the ancient piano and went to
the room where she slept in company with seven other spirits as
mischievous and altogether evilly disposed as her own.
Mauleverer Manor had not been built for a school or it would hardly have
been called a manor. There were none of those bleak bare dormitories
specially planned for the accommodation of thirty sleepers--none of those
barrack-like rooms which strike desolation to the soul. With the
exception of the large classroom which had been added at one end of the
house the manor was very much as it had been in the days of the
Mauleverers a race now as extinct as the Dodo. It was a roomy rambling
old house of the time of the Stuarts and bore the date of its erection
in many unmistakable peculiarities. There were fine rooms on the ground
floor with handsome chimney-pieces and oak panelling. There were small
low rooms above curious old passages turns and twists a short flight
of steps here and another flight there various levels irregularities
of all kinds and in the opinion of every servant who had ever lived in
the house an unimpeachable ghost. All Miss Pew's young ladies believed
firmly in that ghost; and there was a legend of a frizzy-haired girl
from Barbados who had seen the ghost and had incontinently gone out
of one epileptic fit into another until her father had come in a
fly--presumably from Barbados--and carried her away for ever epileptic
to the last.
Nobody at present located at Mauleverer Manor remembered that young lady
from Barbados nor had any of the existing pupils ever seen the ghost.
But the general faith in him was unshaken. He was described as an elderly
man in a snuff-coloured square-cut coat knee-breeches and silk
stockings rolled up over his knees. He was supposed to be one of the
extinct Mauleverers; harmless and even benevolently disposed; given
to plucking flowers in the garden at dusk; and to gliding along
passages and loitering on the stairs in a somewhat inane manner. The
bolder-spirited among the girls would have given a twelve-month's
pocket money to see him. Miss Pillby declared that the sight of that
snuff-coloured stranger would be her death.
'I've a weak 'art you know' said Miss Pillby who was not mistress
of her aspirates--she managed them sometimes but they often evaded
her--'the doctor said so when I was quite a little thing.'
'Were you ever a little thing Pillby?' asked Miss Rylance with superb
disdain the present Pillby being long and gaunt.
And the group of listeners laughed with that frank laughter of school
girls keenly alive to the ridiculous in other people. There was as much
difference in the standing of the various bedrooms at Mauleverer Manor as
in that of the London squares but in this case it was the inhabitants
who gave character to the locality. The five-bedded room off the front
landing was occupied by the stiffest and best behaved of the first
division and might be ranked with Grosvenor Square or Lancaster Gate.
There were rooms on the second floor where girls of the second and third
division herded in inelegant obscurity the Bloomsbury and Camden Town
of the mansion. On this story too slept the rabble of girls under
twelve--creatures utterly despicable in the minds of girls in their
teens and the rooms they inhabited ranked as low as St. Giles's.
Ida Palliser was fortunate enough to have a bed in the butterfly-room so
called on account of a gaudy wall paper whereon Camberwell Beauties
disported themselves among roses and lilies in a strictly conventional
style of art. The butterfly-room was the most fashionable and altogether
popular dormitory at the Manor. It was the May Fair--a district not
without a shade of Bohemianism a certain fastness of tone. The wildest
girls in the school were to be found in the butterfly-room.
It was a pleasant enough room in itself even apart from its association
with pleasant people. The bow window looked out upon the garden and
across the garden to the Thames which at this point took a wide curve
between banks shaded by old pollard willows. The landscape was purely
pastoral. Beyond the level meadows came an undulating line of low hill
and woodland with here and there a village spire dark against the blue.
Mauleverer Manor lay midway between Hampton and Chertsey in a land of
meadows and gardens which the speculating builder had not yet invaded.
The butterfly-room was furnished a little better than the common run of
boarding-school bedchambers. Miss Pew had taken a good deal of the
Mauleverer furniture at a valuation when she bought the old house; and
the Mauleverer furniture being of a _rococo_ and exploded style the
valuation had been ridiculously low. Thus it happened that a big wainscot
wardrobe with doors substantial enough for a church projected its
enormous bulk upon one side of the butterfly-room while a tall narrow
cheval glass stood in front of a window. That cheval was the glory of the
butterfly-room. The girls could see how their skirts hung and if the
backs of their dresses fitted. On Sunday mornings there used to be an
incursion of outsiders eager to test the effect of their Sabbath
bonnets and the sets of their jackets by the cheval.
And now Ida Palliser came into the butterfly-room yawning wearily to
brush herself up a little before tea knowing that Miss Pew and her
younger sister Miss Dulcibella--who devoted herself to dress and the
amenities of life generally--would scrutinize her with eyes only too
ready to see anything amiss.
The butterfly-room was not empty. Miss Rylance was plaiting her long
flaxen hair in front of the toilet table and another girl a plump
little sixteen-year-old with nut-brown hair and a fresh complexion was
advancing and retiring before the cheval studying the effect of a
cherry-coloured neck-ribbon with a gray gown.
'Cherry's a lovely colour in the abstract' said this damsel 'but it
reminds one too dreadfully of barmaids.'
'Did you ever see a barmaid?' asked Miss Rylance languidly slowly
winding the long flaxen plait into a shining knob at the back of her
head and contemplating her reflection placidly with large calm blue eyes
which saw no fault in the face they belonged to.