Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 10/Lord Oakburn's daughters - Part 12

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LORD OAKBURN’S DAUGHTERS.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “EAST LYNNE.”

CHAPTER XXIII.MISS LETHWAIT.

In a magnificent reception-room of Portland Place sat the Earl of Oakburn and Lady Jane Chesney. It was the middle of June, and the London season was at its height. The whole of May Lord Oakburn and his daughters had stayed at Chesney Oaks; he had now taken this house, furnished, for three months. Chesney Oaks was in the market to let: to let to anybody who would take it and pay rent for it; and the countess dowager had worked herself into a fume and a fret when she first saw the advertisement, and had come down upon the earl in a burst of indignation, demanding to know what he meant by disgracing the family. The earl answered her; he was quite capable of doing it; and a hot war of words waged for some minutes between them, and neither would give way. The earl had reason on his side, though; if his means were not sufficient to keep up Chesney Oaks, better that he should let it than allow it to go to ruin through unoccupation.

So Chesney Oaks was in the hire market, and old Lady Oakburn told her sailor nephew that he deserved to have his ears boxed, that she should never forgive him, and then she withdrew in dudgeon to her house in Kensington Gardens, and the earl devoutly wished she might never come out of it to torment him again.

Indeed there was scarcely a poorer peer on Great Britain’s roll than the new Earl of Oakburn, but to him and to Jane this poverty was as very riches. His net revenue would be little if any more than three thousand per annum; as to the rent he expected to get from the letting of Chesney Oaks, it would nearly if not all go in keeping the place in proper repair. Chesney Oaks had no broad lands attaching to it; the house was good, and the ornamental gardens were good; but these are not the things that yield huge revenues. The furniture of Chesney Oaks was the private property of the late earl, it reverted to his grandmother, the old countess. Had the present earl pleased her—that is, had he not offended her by advertising the place—she would very probably have made him a present of it, for she was capable of being generous when it suited her; but when she found the house was irrevocably to be let, she, in a fit of temper, game orders for it to be taken out, and it was now in, the course of removal. “I’ll not. leave a stick or a stone in the place,” she had said to Lord Oakburn in the stormy interview alluded to above. ”I’d not use them if you did,” retorted the exasperated earl, “and the sooner the things are out, the better.” For one thing, the house was in admirable repair; the young earl having had it put in complete ornamental order twelve months before, on the occasion of his marriage. So the furniture passed out of Lord Oakburn’s hands, when perhaps by a little diplomacy, which he was entirely incapable of exercising, it might have remained his, and the dowager was distributing it amidst her married daughters—who were too well off to care for it.

For a fortnight or more after Chesney Oaks was advertised no applicant had applied for it. Then one came forward. It was Sir James Marden, a gentleman who was returning to Europe after a long sojourn in the East, and who had commissioned his brother, Colonel Marden, to engage for him a suitable residence. It was natural that the colonel should wish to secure one in the vicinity of his own; he lived at Pembury, and Chesney Oaks appeared to be the very thing, of all others; and the negotiations were proceeding satisfactorily.

The earl was talking to Jane about it now. He was no hard bargain dealer. Generous by nature, he could not higgle and haggle, and stand out for pence and shillings and pounds, as so many do. All he did, any transaction he might engage in, was set about in the most simple, straightforward manner imaginable. It would have occurred to most people to employ an agent to conduct this business of the letting; it did not occur to the earl. He wrote the advertisements out with his own hand, and he added to them his own name and address in full, as to where applications might be made. One or two interviews had taken place between him and Colonel Marden, who was staying with his family in town; and on the previous day to this morning on which the earl and his daughter were sitting together, Mrs. Marden had made her first call on Indy Jane, and they had grown in that short call quite intimate. Jane was now telling her father that she had promised to accompany Mrs. Marden to a morning concert that very day.

Jane was attired in mourning; a handsome black dress of a thin gauzy texture, ample and flowing. She was quiet and unpretending as ever, but there was a look of rest in her face Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/668 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/669 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/670 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/671 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/672 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/673 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/674 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/675