The Sundered Streams

The History of a Memory That Had No Full Stops

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CHAPTER I

The English language, flexible and rich though it be, lacks words in which to convey the subtler social distinctions. We have had to go abroad for ‘nouveau-riche’ and ‘parvenu,’ to say nothing of ‘Philistia,’ ‘Bohemia,’ the ‘demi-monde,’ and all the other geographical names that we have taken from the atlas of the human world to describe some small corner in our own little parish. But, as our civilization grows more and more complex, so does our borrowed vocabulary grow less and less adequate, until nowadays we find not a few fine differences in our microcosm which no word of our own or of any other nation avails to identify. The ‘Arrived’ and the ‘New-rich’ are familiar figures, but what of those many families who suddenly become wealthy and prominent after many generations of well-bred obscurity? They cannot fairly be described as ‘nouveau-riche’ or ‘parvenu’; they have been there all the time, though not in evidence; to brand them with the stigma of novelty would be manifestly unfair. They have antiquity without importance—a vast difference, in the eyes of social astronomers, between them and the blazing stars of wealth that so suddenly emerge from the black

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 night of genealogical non-existence. As well compare a dazzling meteor, here and gone in a flash, with a genuine star which, after æons of inconspicuousness, abruptly swells into a luminary of the first magnitude. To describe such fixed lights in our English hemisphere a new word must first be coined in another language, and then borrowed. Such people are not ‘nouveau-riche’; they are ‘renrichis.’ And to this class belonged the Dadds of Darnley-on-Downe—that obscure dynasty from which it is now necessary to show the gradual genesis, through many quiet generations, of Kingston Darnley, its apostate offspring.

Among soft Kentish meadows sleeps the little metropolis of Darnley-on-Downe. It lies on the grassy plain like a neat poached egg on a vast green plate, and, over all, the blue vault of heaven makes a domed lid. The Downe meanders placidly at the foot of its gardens, and comfortable little Georgian houses speak of agelong ease and decent leisure. Darnley-on-Downe has no local peer, no local palace; rank and fashion, therefore, are represented only by these dignified dwellings of red brick, each enclosed in shrubberies of rose and laurel and lilac, each tenanted by some family well known for generations in Darnley-on-Downe.

As Cranford was, as Highbury was, so also was Darnley-on-Downe—placid, happy and exclusive, intolerant of all new-comers and of all change. Mrs. John succeeded Mrs. Joshua, and Mr. Reuben Mr. James; and no outsider was ever permitted to disturb the orderly dynasties that so long had ruled in the little town. Crowns fell, but the serenity of Darnley-on-Downe remained unruffled, and the collapse of the Corsican ogre took no higher rank in general conversation than the misdoings of Mrs. Blessing’s Matilda, or the strange theft of Miss Minna Dadd’s Leghorns. So,

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 talking only to themselves, and only of themselves, the aristocracy of Darnley-on-Downe passed inconspicuously from the nursery to the grave, through the leisurely old days when the peace of the country contrasted so strongly with the restless misery of the great cities, and, in the absence of halfpenny morning papers, only rare rumours filtered down into the provinces of a young Queen gradually making her seat secure on a dishonoured and endangered throne.

Nowadays Cranford, probably, plays pit, and motors hoot beneath the walls of Donwell Abbey. Nowadays clash and clangour fill the one main street of Darnley-on-Downe, and the Georgian houses are being swept away to make room for glassy palaces of art-nouveau design. But, in the days when Fortune swooped so suddenly on the Dadds, only peace and slumber haunted the Market Place and St. Eldred’s.

Clean, humble, small, and quiet, the cottages and shops of the working-classes lined the broad pavement, with here a neat bank fronted by Corinthian pilasters, and there a rambling, wide-mouthed inn, haunted by loafing dogs and ostlers full of leisure. Then came the church, solid and unassuming, very essence made visible of that orderly if unimpassioned spirit that then possessed the Church of England. Under its shadow, flanked by tall clipped obelisks of yew, squatted the solid square of the vicarage, with green lawn and beds of roses leading down to the wicket that opened on the roadway. And beyond this again began a wide, ancient avenue of limes, fragrant and tranquil, on whose either side stretched that series of red-brick houses in which the Upper Ten of Darnley-on-Downe discreetly led its days, and formed an aristocracy no less rigid, no less zealous for birth and tradition than that higher world called ‘county,’ with which it had nothing to do, and yet so much in common.

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 St. Eldred’s was the name of this provincial faubourg, and the wayfarer, passing down its green length, might divine its exclusive character from the lack of any invidious distinction made between the houses. The identity of each was kept sacred for the elect, and the outsider was to know nothing. In our own assertive time each gate would bear a curly Gothic title—‘Chatsworth,’ ‘Arundel,’ ‘Sandringham’ would gratify our loyal eyes. In those days Mrs. Blessing knew Miss Dadd’s house, and Miss Dadd knew Mrs. Blessing’s. This knowledge was held to be amply sufficient, and it was even felt that to share it with the unprivileged world at large would be profane and vulgar. Thus the unguided stranger would have travelled uninstructed past gateway after gateway, past trim red wall after trim red wall, without being able to attribute any definite personality to the dweller in each cloistered precinct. And therefore he must necessarily have passed on his way without gathering any idea of the extent to which the Dadds dominated St. Eldred’s.

All the dwellers in these houses lived in a small way, and all of them drew their incomes from some retail trade. ‘County’ people, from their own high circle, contemplating these lesser worlds, would never have guessed the intense and silent arrogance with which, in turn, these lesser worlds looked down on the struggling aspirants from beneath, on the new and unknown persons who painfully fought to win a footing in St. Eldred’s. But, in the close ring of this aristocracy, the Dadds were certainly the ruling dynasty. Had the wayfarer been privileged with a guide, he would have learned that every fourth house in St. Eldred’s enshrined a Dadd or the relation of a Dadd. Here dwelt Mrs. Reuben Dadd; yonder Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Dadd; and, not a stone’s-throw

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 farther, was the house of the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd. As for the head of the family, Mr. Dadd, with his consort, dwelt in a stout-pillared edifice which even an uninstructed stranger must have seen to be the residence of a presiding Power.

The Dadds permeated social life in Darnley-on-Downe. They were everywhere, had married into every family, had accorded brides to every neighbouring house of repute, had come at last to be, as it were, the very incarnation of decency and proper pride in Darnley-on-Downe. They were no richer than their neighbours, but in those days wealth gave no precedence, and the Dadds had a prestige which their fellow-nobles in St. Eldred’s lacked. For the Dadds owned land, and, though St. Eldred’s made no attempt to connect itself with the world of landowners and county families, yet a vague aroma of grandeur still clung to the one family in its midst that might be said to verge on the territorial class. The glory of the Dadds was a big freehold farm beyond the town, where they had been established from time immemorial, honourably obscure from the days of Henry the Eighth. St. Eldred’s, accordingly, cherishing its own pedigrees and antiquities, as it did, with as fervent a passion as any Austrian noble, yet by tacit consent accorded supremacy to this landowning family in its midst.

The Dadds by now had gone down, alas, in the world; however, St. Eldred’s never dreamed of making worldly prosperity a criterion for approval. St. Eldred’s lived, itself, in a penurious prosperity or a prosperous poverty; wealth, being unattainable, was held to be undesirable as well as rather vulgar, and the fading income of the Dadds only set the seal on their title to general admiration. The farm was still theirs indeed, but its yield was less and lessening. All through

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 the good old Protection days their corn had brought high prices; but, unfortunately, the cost of living had grown even higher in proportion, until the Dadds found themselves forced to renounce agricultural hopes, leave the farm fallow, and plunge into small trade. From this they made a fair livelihood, and were able to support their regal position in the world of St. Eldred’s. So they lived, married, ruled, and died, till never a house in St. Eldred’s but was kin to the royal family of Dadd.

James Dadd after James Dadd contentedly took up his sceptre, swayed it during his time, and laid it by. Their clan, like all others in St. Eldred’s, was magnificently complacent in contemplation of its own position. No Dadd was ever heard to aspire to more giddy worlds, no Dadd was ever known to show any hankerings after wilder flights, after new courses, after original thought or action of any kind. In a young member of the family, in a collateral, the weight of his elders would immediately have crushed out such sparks of discontent; as for the head of the dynasty, so surrounded was the ruling Dadd by now with uncles, cousins, and aunts, not to mention dowagers of bygone sovereigns, that it would have been as easy for him to revolt as for a Pope to make headway against the College of Cardinals. Such, then, was the decorous state of affairs, when suddenly a most astonishing thing happened.

The railway mania was sweeping over England. Counties were being opened up, and landowners being driven crazy with hysterical apprehensions of ruin, and opposition to every threatened change. At first all these commotions left the quiet waters of St. Eldred’s unruffled. But eventually a railway company came sniffing round the ancestral but profitless farm of the Dadds, and, somehow, during the negotiations,

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 it was discovered that those barren acres covered a coal-field of exuberant richness.

It was not to be expected that this new fact should bring about any sudden alteration in the feeling of St. Eldred’s towards the Dadds. Only a mild flutter agitated for a while the red-brick houses. Then it was felt that the acquisition of wealth by the Dadds was very right and proper. Wealth was only vulgar when in new and plebeian hands. A Dadd could be trusted to avoid giving offence, a Dadd would never be ostentatious, nor presume to change his mode of life. So, undeterred by any disapproval from their peers, the ruling Dadds proceeded quietly to develop their new possibilities. What those possibilities were no one had the audacity or the grandeur of mind to compute. Unsuspected, unrealized, volumes of money rolled ceaselessly in to the account of the mine-owners, while they, in their innocence, continued unperturbed in the old simple ways, never caring to dream that their new wealth could do more for them than add, at most, a parlourmaid.

It was some years before even this grand addition was made to their scale of living, and then it was only when the sudden death of James Dadd the Eighth had left the family sceptre in the hands of a queen-regent. The widow ruled for her son (now, at a tender age, raised to the rank of James Dadd the Ninth), and hardly had she grasped the reins of power than she began to show signs of wishing to use the abundant resources which had now been accumulating for fifteen years or more. Her ambitions were not approved, and the extra parlourmaid was only condoned as an indulgence for the sorrows of widowhood. But from that moment a little rift began to widen between the reigning Dadds and Darnley-on-Downe. The money began insensibly to come between the rulers and the

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 ruled. It was inevitable that it should. An income—even an unspent income—of fifteen thousand a year cannot long live on terms of perfect friendly equality with incomes of several hundred or so. The richer, sooner or later, condescends; the poorer, sooner or later, grudges. Thus it was in Darnley-on-Downe. Even the suspicion that Mrs. Dadd had ‘notions’—that she would have liked a landau, and had conceived thoughts of sending her sons to Eton—caused a certain vigilant enmity to exasperate the keenness with which her every action was watched and weighed by her council of relatives. The slightest sign of ambition was soon marked as a treason to the clan. All the Dadd connections, all the Dadd collaterals, all the dowagers and younger branches of the Dadds made common cause with St. Eldred’s, and joined in the general suspicion with which the conduct of Mrs. Dadd was viewed. The widow found herself unable to carry out the smallest extravagance. Very innocent and trifling were the few indulgences that she had hoped for, but even these were put beyond her reach by the decree of her relatives, by that incorruptible synod over which even a Dadd queen-regent had no more power than a doge of Venice over his Council of Ten. Nor was her submission able to redeem her popularity. The very fact of having once had ‘notions’ was enough to mark her out for ever as a traitor to the Constitution of St. Eldred’s. She was no longer quite ‘one of themselves.’ The excommunication was pronounced by those terrible princesses, the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd, and no one was found to question its justice as it thundered across the tea-table.

Inquiries were made into her remote ancestry, and it was soon found that, though by birth an unblemished Blessing, yet she had inherited the sinister tendencies

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 of a Messiter great-great-great-grandmother, whom history convicted of eccentricities that went the length of reading her Bible in French. From such a tainted spring what purity could be expected? The situation was summed up by the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd. The stream cannot rise higher than its source, was their stern pronouncement. A regretful loyalty, a disapproving adherence now marked the family’s attitude towards her—a loyalty, an adherence as faithful but as disapproving as ever a virtuous believer in Divine right can have felt for a drunken and profligate Pretender, or a patriotic Catholic for Queen Elizabeth.

So far, it is true, her eldest son, James Dadd the Ninth, seemed a model of Dadd virtues. He had made no open move towards ostentation and prodigality. His younger brother Robert, however, was the incarnate tragedy of St. Eldred’s, the incarnate accusation of Mrs. Dadd’s regency. Briefly, this ulcer of St. Eldred’s must be skimmed; Robert Dadd had run away from home, and when next heard of, many years later, was understood to be in Japan, and to have become a Mormon or a Buddhist, or a disciple of whatever religion rules in those benighted parts. Never again was his name heard in St. Eldred’s, but the Messiter great-great-great-grandmother was held accountable for such a strange, terrible aberration—the first break in the impeccable succession of the Dadds. There was yet another child—a daughter—but she was ten years younger than her brothers, and could not as yet prove, in her own person, the corrupt heredity of her mother. However, she was already watched with care, and every tearing of her pinafore was held symptomatic of inherited depravity.

James Dadd the Ninth came at last to his own, and his unhappy mother, crushed by years of disapproval,

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 sank, unregretted, to the grave. And hardly had St. Eldred’s consigned her decently to the tomb, than James Dadd gave abundant proof of the evil spirit that all his relatives had long suspected. He left Darnley-on-Downe. He shut up the family house; he travelled; he began timidly to live on a scale that drove St. Eldred’s dizzy with horrified astonishment. Thanks to his mother’s economy, he was now extremely rich, and bit by bit began to realize the extent of his opportunities. But, though St. Eldred’s shook its head over him, though the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd refused to read the papers any longer, for fear of finding his iniquities chronicled, James Dadd remained the true son of his fathers. Wealth could not make him wealthy; it takes a generation at least to make the genuine spendthrift, to ingraft the joy and the splendour of purchasing. James Dadd remained nervous, awkward, bourgeois in his uneasy enjoyment of his money. Assertive one moment, he was uneasy and parsimonious the next, always self-conscious, always troubled by the disapproval of the only world he really knew—the world that had made him and written its signature large across the face of his personality. Wherever he went, he carried St. Eldred’s, and heard the mild but tremendous tones of the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd among the arches of the Colosseum as in the silences of the Desert. Sometimes he defied the voices, sometimes he quailed before them, but escape them he never could. He was out of his sphere; they told him so. He had cast off his own world, and could enter no other.

Often in his travels he met other men on similar errands of pleasure, young men and old, sons of country squires or illustrious families. In most cases they had not a quarter of his income, but they seemed to have the careless knack of getting more pleasure out

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 of half a crown than he could ever buy with a five-pound note. Poor as they might be, generations of spending ancestors had left them the secret of spending easily, gaily, serenely, of letting money flow unperceived between their fingers, of securing a double return for their outlay through their very indifference as to whether they ever got any return at all. This was the whole distinction between himself and them. Actual superiority of birth and breeding they had none, though their forbears might be more prominent than his. But centuries of inconspicuousness disqualify a man for the conspicuous position conferred by sudden wealth, and James Dadd, for all his long pedigree, was far less fitted for his new place in life than many a grandson of some successful politician or lawyer, who might number, perhaps, two generations to James Dadd’s twenty, but made up for this lack of quantity by the eminence of the father and grandfather whose high and hard-won position he had painlessly inherited.

So James Dadd, misplaced and ill at ease, passed thus through life with occasional spasmodic attempts at the assumption of a defiant self-complacency. He knew that he was an outcast from St. Eldred’s. Even if he would, he could never now return to the red-brick house of his early years. In the flesh, perhaps, he might, but his spirit could never again be admitted within its doors, could never again be admitted to intimacy by the spirit of St. Eldred’s. Rashly he had cut himself off from his own people, and must henceforth face the fact. Nor, though either diffident or vehement in the spending of his money, could he really contemplate returning to the life of Darnley-on-Downe. He had tasted of headier joys—tasted awkwardly, perhaps, and incompletely, but even so the small-beer on which St. Eldred’s had reared him must for evermore

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 be insipid to his palate. Though now he never heard from his brother Robert, he sympathized with his revolt, and resolved that he, too, could never again have any part in the life of Darnley-on-Downe. And at this point, just after the one brief tragic flash of romance that broke into his life, he came across Lady Kirk-Hammerton.

Lady Kirk-Hammerton was the sonless widow of a second-rate Lord Chancellor. Devoid of wealth or breeding, she and her husband had had recourse to blatancy to emphasize their value. Now that he was dead she redoubled the intensity of her methods, and soon acquired that notoriety which she considered synonymous with fame. Bereft of her husband, there was no reason why people should ever take notice of her again, unless her demeanour forced them to do so. Therefore she set herself heroically to the task of making her existence conspicuous in the eye of the world, with such success that, with the best resolve, nobody could succeed in ignoring her. Physically and metaphorically, she shouted her way from place to place, and her conversation blazed no less obtrusively than her gowns. As for a foil, she felt that her brilliancy needed none, and therefore had no reason for tolerating her daughter’s incorrigible respectability. With the more joy, therefore, did she fall upon James Dadd at Naples, and hurl him, not unwilling, into the company of her undesirable offspring.

But if the daughter emphasized the mother’s mature and vehement charms, so did the mother’s overwhelming presence show up the pale grace of the daughter. Lady Adela Vayne-Kingston was pretty, shrinking, mild, domestic—the very type that, in happier circumstances, would have been most dear to St. Eldred’s. She hated her mother’s loud voice and

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 louder manners; her one hope was to marry someone obscure and gentle, who would remove her from the burning atmosphere of Lady Kirk-Hammerton, in whose train, since her girlhood, she had been dragged hither and thither, never protesting, but always reluctant. James Dadd, for his part, found in Lady Adela a reminiscence of his old home-life. She seemed to him the ghost of peaceful St. Eldred’s, with an added touch of worldly experience and travelled charm. Her character, far from repeating her mother’s, harked back to some obscure ancestress, probably in domestic service, and was so meek and placid as to be the very incarnation of all that James Dadd had been brought up to love and respect. On the other hand, this same gentleness of temperament, which St. Eldred’s considered the hall-mark of good breeding, was believed by Lady Kirk-Hammerton to be especially distasteful to those high circles after which she hankered; and she had long, therefore, been eagerly seeking a chance to be rid of the daughter whom her best efforts had failed to render brazen and clamorous. Her delight, accordingly, surpassed all bounds, when at the end of a week’s acquaintance, James Dadd proposed to Lady Adela, and was thankfully accepted.

Though the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd had ceased to subscribe to ‘the Paper,’ they yet had their recognised channels for the reception of news. For the butcher conveyed the events of the world to their cook, and she, in turn, laid edited selections before her mistresses. In this way was brought to their notice the approaching marriage between ‘James Dadd, Esq., of Darnley-on-Downe, and the Lady Adela Vayne-Kingston, daughter of the late Earl of Kirk-Hammerton.’

That afternoon was hurriedly convened a great meeting of the Dadd family to consider this announcement.

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 Unmixed disapproval filled every bosom in the tribe. The engagement was held equivalent to the abdication of James Dadd from the headship of his race. In two ways the proposed marriage was disliked. It was thoroughly unsuitable to a Dadd; it was thoroughly unworthy of a Dadd. Lady Adela was at once too high and too low to be a fair match of James Dadd. Accident had given her a titular position superior to her lover’s, while her birth was in every way disastrously inferior to his own. Even St. Eldred’s had heard something of Lady Kirk-Hammerton, and it was impossible to imagine that her daughter could, by any stretch of courtesy, be called a lady in the true sense of the word. All the Dadd pride of birth rose up against the thought of connection with a girl without a grandfather—a girl, too, whom uninstructed sections of the world might dare to consider her husband’s social superior. It was felt that James Dadd had inflicted a crowning insult on his family in thus threatening to misally it. Mrs. John, Mrs. Reuben, Mrs. Joshua, coincided in the opinion firmly announced by the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd; the young Johns, Reubens, and Joshuas, dissented in nothing; only the peccant James’s sister, now a girl of promising beauty, held her own counsel, and decided to write congratulations to her brother and his destined bride. For in her, too, the blood of great-great-great-grandmother Messiter was at its fell work; her soul longed for change and variety and gaiety; and all these things she saw attainable through James’s marriage with the daughter of that notorious Lady Kirk-Hammerton.

But she was too wise to make her heresy public; and the condemnation of James’s choice was passed without protest by the assembled council. An ultimatum was drafted by the Misses Adelaide and Minna

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 Dadd, and would have been dispatched on the morrow, with the approval of all, had not the morrow brought news that destroyed every hope of reconciliation with the traitor. It was announced that, with royal permission, James Dadd, of Darnley-on-Downe, would in future be known as James Darnley. St. Eldred’s gasped at the wickedness of this public repudiation.

In point of fact it was Lady Adela, gentle and winning, whose vitality had stirred to a great effort, under great pressure, and had risen to urge upon her lover this change of name. She pointed out that to ask a girl to become Lady Adela Dadd was to exact a sacrifice as far beyond mortal power to grant as beyond mortal justice to demand. James Dadd, recognising that he could never hope to be reincluded in the clan whose nominal sovereign he still was, found himself inclined to consider Lady Adela’s plea in a favourable spirit. Together they decided to adopt the more euphonious name of Darnley, and James Dadd hastened to make his decision public, that thus he might at once be finally cut off from any remonstrances or embassies of his family. He judged the temper of St. Eldred’s rightly. His announcement was taken as an irremediable declaration of war. His name was never mentioned again in Darnley-on-Downe, except as that of one deservedly dead and unregretted. The sceptre passed into the capable hands of Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Dadd, and by silent consent it was agreed that no infant henceforth should bear the dishonoured names of James or Robert. Only James Dadd’s young sister remained hopefully loyal to his memory, and when, a year later, the redoubled severity of the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd alone betrayed their secret knowledge that a son had been born to Mr. and Lady Adela Darnley, the one acknowledgment of the event that reached the outlaw from Darnley-on-Downe was a

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 surreptitiously-posted letter of his sister’s. If anything could have aggravated the wrath of the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd it would have been the knowledge that the infant, that their own great nephew, had been christened, not James, but Kingston.

Kingston Darnley, indeed! There was a name for a child! You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, said the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd; and they were universally felt to have expressed the situation in all its bearings. And thus, from years of corrupting wealth and secret disloyalty, was generated the culminating disgrace of the Dadds, in Kingston Darnley. Kingston Darnley!

Why, why had great-great-great-grandfather Blessing married a Messiter of eccentric tendencies? And what a curse is money! Better decorum and a competence than stalled peacocks and a marriage with the daughters of Heth! It became the fashion in St. Eldred’s to affect, by contrast, a greater poverty than the circumstances of anyone necessitated. To give two cakes at tea became vulgar, and the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd took to going to church with only one Prayer Book between them. Nothing could have induced St. Eldred’s to confess that it knew anything of the Darnleys, and the various steps in Lady Adela’s progress were sternly ignored by a watchful world. Even when Mr. and Lady Adela Darnley entertained a Princess for some charitable function, the only comment made in St. Eldred’s was the tacit one involved in the simultaneous retirement to bed of the Misses Adelaide and Minna Dadd. Another outcast, however, was soon added to James and Robert—another topic for the silence of St. Eldred’s. For, after some secret correspondence, James Darnley’s sister eloped from the care of her aunts, and was next heard of under the wing of her

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 brother’s wife in London. Within a year she had married a stockbroker of abundant wealth. The lips of St. Eldred’s snapped on this fulfilment of the disasters brought about by great-great-great-grandmother Messiter. The old dynasty of Dadd was ended in Darnley-on-Downe. The main royal line was wiped out, and the Reuben Dadds reigned in its stead.

GENRE
Biography
RELEASED
2020
26 June
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
230
Pages
PUBLISHER
Rectory Print
SIZE
17.6
MB