Part 2 out of 12
world simply affected him by its contrast with the overpowering horrors,
repugnances, despairs, pities, rushing at him, surcharging his senses.
Those that live much by the heart in their youth have sharp foretastes of
the issues imaged for the soul. St. Mark's was in a minute struck black
for him. He neither felt the sunlight nor understood why column and
campanile rose, nor why the islands basked, and boats and people moved.
All were as remote little bits of mechanism.
Nevil escaped, and walked in the direction of the Frari down calle and
campiello. Only to see her--to compare her with the Renee of the past
hour! But that Renee had been all the while a feast of delusion; she
could never be resuscitated in the shape he had known, not even clearly
visioned. Not a day of her, not an hour, not a single look had been his
own. She had been sold when he first beheld her, and should, he muttered
austerely, have been ticketed the property of a middle-aged man, a worn-
out French marquis, whom she had agreed to marry, unwooed, without love
--the creature of a transaction. But she was innocent, she was unaware
of the sin residing in a loveless marriage; and this restored her to him
somewhat as a drowned body is given back to mourners.
After aimless walking he found himself on the Zattere, where the lonely
Giudecca lies in front, covering mud and marsh and lagune-flames of later
afternoon, and you have sight of the high mainland hills which seem to
fling forth one over other to a golden sea-cape.
Midway on this unadorned Zattere, with its young trees and spots of
shade, he was met by Renee and her father. Their gondola was below,
close to the riva, and the count said, 'She is tired of standing gazing
at pictures. There is a Veronese in one of the churches of the Giudecca
opposite. Will you, M. Nevil, act as parade-escort to her here for half
an hour, while I go over? Renee complains that she loses the vulgar art
of walking in her complaisant attention to the fine Arts. I weary my
Renee protested in a rapid chatter.
'Must I avow it?' said the count; 'she damps my enthusiasm a little.'
Nevil mutely accepted the office.
Twice that day was she surrendered to him: once in his ignorance, when
time appeared an expanse of many sunny fields. On this occasion it
puffed steam; yet, after seeing the count embark, he commenced the parade
'This is a nice walk,' said Renee; 'we have not the steps of the Riva dei
Schiavoni. It is rather melancholy though. How did you discover it? I
persuaded my papa to send the gondola round, and walk till we came to the
water. Tell me about the Giudecca.'
'The Giudecca was a place kept apart for the Jews, I believe. You have
seen their burial-ground on the Lido. Those are, I think, the Euganean
hills. You are fond of Petrarch.'
'M. Nevil, omitting the allusion to the poet, you have, permit me to
remark, the brevity without the precision of an accredited guide to
'I tell you what I know,' said Nevil, brooding on the finished tone and
womanly aplomb of her language. It made him forget that she was a girl
entrusted to his guardianship. His heart came out.
'Renee, if you loved him, I, on my honour, would not utter a word for
myself. Your heart's inclinations are sacred for me. I would stand by,
and be your friend and his. If he were young, that I might see a chance
She murmured, 'You should not have listened to Roland.'
'Roland should have warned me. How could I be near you and not . . .
But I am nothing. Forget me; do not think I speak interestedly, except
to save the dearest I have ever known from certain wretchedness. To
yield yourself hand and foot for life! I warn you that it must end
miserably. Your countrywomen . . . You have the habit in France; but
like what are you treated? You! none like you in the whole world! You
consent to be extinguished. And I have to look on! Listen to me now.'
Renee glanced at the gondola conveying her father. And he has not yet
landed! she thought, and said, 'Do you pretend to judge of my welfare
better than my papa?'
'Yes; in this. He follows a fashion. You submit to it. His anxiety is
to provide for you. But I know the system is cursed by nature, and that
means by heaven.'
'Because it is not English?'
'O Renee, my beloved for ever! Well, then, tell me, tell me you can say
with pride and happiness that the Marquis de Rouaillout is to be your--
there's the word--husband!'
Renee looked across the water.
'Friend, if my father knew you were asking me!'
'I will speak to him.'
'He is generous, he loves you.'
'He cannot break an engagement binding his honour.'
'Would you, Renee, would you--it must be said--consent to have it known
to him--I beg for more than life--that your are not averse . . . that
you support me?'
His failing breath softened the bluntness.
She replied, 'I would not have him ever break an engagement binding his
'You stretch the point of honour.'
'It is our way. Dear friend, we are French. And I presume to think that
our French system is not always wrong, for if my father had not broken it
by treating you as one of us and leaving me with you, should I have heard
. . . ?'
'I have displeased you.'
'Do not suppose that. But, I mean, a mother would not have left me.'
'You wished to avoid it.'
'Do not blame me. I had some instinct; you were very pale.'
'You knew I loved you.'
'Yes; for this morning . . .'
This morning it seemed to me, and I regretted my fancy, that you were
inclined to trifle, as, they say, young men do.'
'With your friend Renee. And those are the hills of Petrarch's tomb?
They are mountains.'
They were purple beneath a large brooding cloud that hung against the
sun, waiting for him to enfold him, and Nevil thought that a tomb there
would be a welcome end, if he might lift Renee in one wild flight over
the chasm gaping for her. He had no language for thoughts of such a
kind, only tumultuous feeling.
She was immoveable, in perfect armour.
He said despairingly, 'Can you have realized what you are consenting to?'
She answered, 'It is my duty.'
'Your duty! it's like taking up a dice-box, and flinging once, to certain
'I must oppose my father to you, friend. Do you not understand duty to
parents? They say the English are full of the idea of duty.'
'Duty to country, duty to oaths and obligations; but with us the heart is
free to choose.'
'Free to choose, and when it is most ignorant?'
'The heart? ask it. Nothing is surer.'
'That is not what we are taught. We are taught that the heart deceives
itself. The heart throws your dicebox; not prudent parents.'
She talked like a woman, to plead the cause of her obedience as a girl,
and now silenced in the same manner that she had previously excited him.
'Then you are lost to me,' he said.
They saw the gondola returning.
'How swiftly it comes home; it loitered when it went,' said Renee.
'There sits my father, brimming with his picture; he has seen one more!
We will congratulate him. This little boulevard is not much to speak of.
The hills are lovely. Friend,' she dropped her voice on the gondola's
approach, 'we have conversed on common subjects.'
Nevil had her hand in his, to place her in the gondola.
She seemed thankful that he should prefer to go round on foot. At least,
she did not join in her father's invitation to him. She leaned back,
nestling her chin and half closing her eyes, suffering herself to be
divided from him, borne away by forces she acquiesced in.
Roland was not visible till near midnight on the Piazza. The
promenaders, chiefly military of the garrison, were few at that period of
social protestation, and he could declare his disappointment aloud,
ringingly, as he strolled up to Nevil, looking as if the cigar in his
mouth and the fists entrenched in his wide trowsers-pockets were mortally
at feud. His adventure had not pursued its course luminously. He had
expected romance, and had met merchandize, and his vanity was offended.
To pacify him, Nevil related how he had heard that since the Venetian
rising of '49, Venetian ladies had issued from the ordeal of fire and
famine of another pattern than the famous old Benzon one, in which they
touched earthiest earth. He praised Republicanism for that. The spirit
of the new and short-lived Republic wrought that change in Venice.
'Oh, if they're republican as well as utterly decayed,' said Roland, 'I
give them up; let them die virtuous.'
Nevil told Roland that he had spoken to Renee. He won sympathy, but
Roland could not give him encouragement. They crossed and recrossed the
shadow of the great campanile, on the warm-white stones of the square,
Nevil admitting the weight of whatsoever Roland pointed to him in favour
of the arrangement according to French notions, and indeed, of
aristocratic notions everywhere, saving that it was imperative for Renee
to be disposed of in marriage early. Why rob her of her young
'French girls,' replied Roland, confused by the nature of the explication
in his head--'well, they're not English; they want a hand to shape them,
otherwise they grow all awry. My father will not have one of her aunts
to live with him, so there she is. But, my dear Nevil, I owe my life to
you, and I was no party to this affair. I would do anything to help you.
What says Renee?'
'Exactly. You see! Our girls are chess-pieces until they 're married.
Then they have life and character sometimes too much.'
'She is not like them, Roland; she is like none. When I spoke to her
first, she affected no astonishment; never was there a creature so nobly
sincere. She's a girl in heart, not in mind. Think of her sacrificed to
this man thrice her age!'
'She differs from other girls only on the surface, Nevil. As for the
man, I wish she were going to marry a younger. I wish, yes, my friend,'
Roland squeezed Nevil's hand, 'I wish! I'm afraid it's hopeless. She
did not tell you to hope?'
'Not by one single sign,' said Nevil.
'You see, my friend!'
'For that reason,' Nevil rejoined, with the calm fanaticism of the
passion of love, 'I hope all the more . . . because I will not believe
that she, so pure and good, can be sacrificed. Put me aside--I am
nothing. I hope to save her from that.'
'We have now,' said Roland, 'struck the current of duplicity. You are
really in love, my poor fellow.'
Lover and friend came to no conclusion, except that so lovely a night was
not given for slumber. A small round brilliant moon hung almost globed
in the depths of heaven, and the image of it fell deep between San
Giorgio and the Dogana.
Renee had the scene from her window, like a dream given out of sleep.
She lay with both arms thrown up beneath her head on the pillow, her
eyelids wide open, and her visage set and stern. Her bosom rose and sank
regularly but heavily. The fluctuations of a night stormy for her,
hitherto unknown, had sunk her to this trance, in which she lay like a
creature flung on shore by the waves. She heard her brother's voice and
Nevil's, and the pacing of their feet. She saw the long shaft of
moonlight broken to zigzags of mellow lightning, and wavering back to
steadiness; dark San Giorgio, and the sheen of the Dogana's front. But
the visible beauty belonged to a night that had shivered repose,
humiliated and wounded her, destroyed her confident happy half-infancy of
heart, and she had flown for a refuge to hard feelings. Her predominant
sentiment was anger; an anger that touched all and enveloped none, for it
was quite fictitious, though she felt it, and suffered from it. She
turned it on Nevil, as against an enemy, and became the victim in his
place. Tears for him filled in her eyes, and ran over; she disdained to
notice them, and blinked offendedly to have her sight clear of the
weakness; but these interceding tears would flow; it was dangerous to
blame him, harshly. She let them roll down, figuring to herself with
quiet simplicity of mind that her spirit was independent of them as long
as she restrained her hands from being accomplices by brushing them away,
as weeping girls do that cry for comfort. Nevil had saved her brother's
life, and had succoured her countrymen; he loved her, and was a hero. He
should not have said he loved her; that was wrong; and it was shameful
that he should have urged her to disobey her father. But this hero's
love of her might plead excuses she did not know of; and if he was to be
excused, he, unhappy that he was, had a claim on her for more than tears.
She wept resentfully. Forces above her own swayed and hurried her like a
lifeless body dragged by flying wheels: they could not unnerve her will,
or rather, what it really was, her sense of submission to a destiny.
Looked at from the height of the palm-waving cherubs over the fallen
martyr in the picture, she seemed as nerveless as a dreamy girl. The
raised arms and bent elbows were an illusion of indifference. Her shape
was rigid from hands to feet, as if to keep in a knot the resolution of
her mind; for the second and in that young season the stronger nature
grafted by her education fixed her to the religious duty of obeying and
pleasing her father, in contempt, almost in abhorrence, of personal
inclinations tending to thwart him and imperil his pledged word. She
knew she had inclinations to be tender. Her hands released, how promptly
might she not have been confiding her innumerable perplexities of
sentiment and emotion to paper, undermining self-governance; self-
respect, perhaps! Further than that, she did not understand the feelings
she struggled with; nor had she any impulse to gaze on him, the cause of
her trouble, who walked beside her brother below, talking betweenwhiles
in the night's grave undertones. Her trouble was too overmastering; it
had seized her too mysteriously, coming on her solitariness without
warning in the first watch of the night, like a spark crackling
serpentine along dry leaves to sudden flame. A thought of Nevil and a
regret had done it.
A NIGHT ON THE ADRIATIC
The lovers met after Roland had spoken to his sister--not exactly to
advocate the cause of Nevil, though he was under the influence of that
grave night's walk with him, but to sound her and see whether she at all
shared Nevil's view of her situation. Roland felt the awfulness of a
French family arrangement of a marriage, and the impertinence of a
foreign Cupid's intrusion, too keenly to plead for his friend: at the
same time he loved his friend and his sister, and would have been very
ready to smile blessings on them if favourable circumstances had raised
a signal; if, for example, apoplexy or any other cordial ex machina
intervention had removed the middle-aged marquis; and, perhaps, if Renee
had shown the repugnance to her engagement which Nevil declared she must
have in her heart, he would have done more than smile; he would have laid
the case deferentially before his father. His own opinion was that young
unmarried women were incapable of the passion of love, being, as it were,
but half-feathered in that state, and unable to fly; and Renee confirmed
it. The suspicion of an advocacy on Nevil's behalf steeled her. His
tentative observations were checked at the outset.
'Can such things be spoken of to me, Roland? I am plighted. You know
He shrugged, said a word of pity for Nevil, and went forth to let his
friend know that it was as he had predicted: Renee was obedience in
person, like a rightly educated French girl. He strongly advised his
friend to banish all hope of her from his mind. But the mind he
addressed was of a curious order; far-shooting, tough, persistent, and
when acted on by the spell of devotion, indomitable. Nevil put hope
aside, or rather, he clad it in other garments, in which it was hardly to
be recognized by himself, and said to Roland: 'You must bear this from
me; you must let me follow you to the end, and if she wavers she will
find me near.'
Roland could not avoid asking the use of it, considering that Renee,
however much she admired and liked, was not in love with him.
Nevil resigned himself to admit that she was not: and therefore,' said
he, 'you won't object to my remaining.'
Renee greeted Nevil with as clear a conventional air as a woman could
She was going, she said, to attend High Mass in the church of S. Moise,
and she waved her devoutest Roman Catholicism to show the breadth of the
division between them. He proposed to go likewise. She was mute.
After some discourse she contrived to say inoffensively that people who
strolled into her churches for the music, or out of curiosity, played the
'Well, I will not go,' said Nevil.
'But I do not wish to number you among them,' she said.
'Then,' said Nevil, 'I will go, for it cannot be barbarous to try to be
'No, that is wickedness,' said Renee.
She was sensible that conversation betrayed her, and Nevil's apparently
deliberate pursuit signified to her that he must be aware of his mastery,
and she resented it, and stumbled into pitfalls whenever she opened her
lips. It seemed to be denied to them to utter what she meant, if indeed
she had a meaning in speaking, save to hurt herself cruelly by wounding
the man who had caught her in the toils: and so long as she could imagine
that she was the only one hurt, she was the braver and the harsher for
it; but at the sight of Nevil in pain her heart relented and shifted, and
discovering it to be so weak as to be almost at his mercy, she defended
it with an aggressive unkindness, for which, in charity to her sweeter
nature, she had to ask his pardon, and then had to fib to give reasons
for her conduct, and then to pretend to herself that her pride was
humbled by him; a most humiliating round, constantly recurring; the worse
for the reflection that she created it. She attempted silence. Nevil
spoke, and was like the magical piper: she was compelled to follow him
and dance the round again, with the wretched thought that it must
resemble coquettry. Nevil did not think so, but a very attentive
observer now upon the scene, and possessed of his half of the secret,
did, and warned him. Rosamund Culling added that the French girl might
be only an unconscious coquette, for she was young. The critic would not
undertake to pronounce on her suggestion, whether the candour apparent in
merely coquettish instincts was not more dangerous than a battery of the
arts of the sex. She had heard Nevil's frank confession, and seen Renee
twice, when she tried in his service, though not greatly wishing for
success, to stir the sensitive girl for an answer to his attachment.
Probably she went to work transparently, after the insular fashion of
opening a spiritual mystery with the lancet. Renee suffered herself to
be probed here and there, and revealed nothing of the pain of the
operation. She said to Nevil, in Rosamund's hearing:
'Have you the sense of honour acute in your country?' Nevil inquired for
'None,' said she.
Such pointed insolence disposed Rosamund to an irritable antagonism,
without reminding her that she had given some cause for it.
Renee said to her presently: 'He saved my brother's life'; the apropos
being as little perceptible as before.
Her voice dropped to her sweetest deep tones, and there was a
supplicating beam in her eyes, unintelligible to the direct Englishwoman,
except under the heading of a power of witchery fearful to think of in
one so young, and loved by Nevil.
The look was turned upon her, not upon her hero, and Rosamund thought,
'Does she want to entangle me as well?'
It was, in truth, a look of entreaty from woman to woman, signifying need
of womanly help. Renee would have made a confidante of her, if she had
not known her to be Nevil's, and devoted to him. 'I would speak to you,
but that I feel you would betray me,' her eyes had said. The strong
sincerity dwelling amid multiform complexities might have made itself
comprehensible to the English lady for a moment or so, had Renee spoken
words to her ears; but belief in it would hardly have survived the girl's
next convolutions. 'She is intensely French,' Rosamund said to Nevil--
a volume of insular criticism in a sentence.
'You do not know her, ma'am,' said Nevil. 'You think her older than she
is, and that is the error I fell into. She is a child.'
'A serpent in the egg is none the less a serpent, Nevil. Forgive me; but
when she tells you the case is hopeless!'
'No case is hopeless till a man consents to think it is; and I shall
'But then again, Nevil, you have not consulted your uncle.'
'Let him see her! let him only see her!'
Rosamund Culling reserved her opinion compassionately. His uncle would
soon be calling to have him home: society panted for him to make much of
him and here he was, cursed by one of his notions of duty, in attendance
on a captious 'young French beauty, who was the less to be excused for
not dismissing him peremptorily, if she cared for him at all. His
career, which promised to be so brilliant, was spoiling at the outset.
Rosamund thought of Renee almost with detestation, as a species of
sorceress that had dug a trench in her hero's road, and unhorsed and fast
The marquis was expected immediately. Renee sent up a little note to
Mrs. Calling's chamber early in the morning, and it was with an air of
one-day-more-to-ourselves, that, meeting her, she entreated the English
lady to join the expedition mentioned in her note. Roland had hired a
big Chioggian fishing-boat to sail into the gulf at night, and return at
dawn, and have sight of Venice rising from the sea. Her father had
declined; but M. Nevil wished to be one of the party, and in that case
. . ? . . . Renee threw herself beseechingly into the mute
interrogation, keeping both of Rosamund's hands. They could slip away
only by deciding to, and this rare Englishwoman had no taste for the
petty overt hostilities. 'If I can be of use to you,' she said.
'If you can bear sea-pitching and tossing for the sake of the loveliest
sight in the whole world,' said Renee.
'I know it well,' Rosamund replied.
Renee rippled her eyebrows. She divined a something behind that remark,
and as she was aware of the grief of Rosamund's life, her quick intuition
whispered that it might be connected with the gallant officer dead on the
'Madame, if you know it too well . . .' she said.
'No; it is always worth seeing,' said Rosamund, 'and I think,
mademoiselle, with your permission, I should accompany you.'
'It is only a whim of mine, madame. I can stay on shore.'
'Not when it is unnecessary to forego a pleasure.'
'Say, my last day of freedom.'
Renee kissed her hand.
She is terribly winning, Rosamund avowed. Renee was in debate whether
the woman devoted to Nevil would hear her and help.
Just then Roland and Nevil returned from their boat, where they had left
carpenters and upholsterers at work, and the delicate chance for an
understanding between the ladies passed by.
The young men were like waves of ocean overwhelming it, they were so full
of their boat, and the scouring and cleaning out of it, and provisioning,
and making it worthy of its freight. Nevil was surprised that Mrs.
Culling should have consented to come, and asked her if she really wished
it--really; and 'Really,' said Rosamund; 'certainly.'
'Without dubitation,' cried Roland. 'And now my little Renee has no more
shore-qualms; she is smoothly chaperoned, and madame will present us tea
on board. All the etcaeteras of life are there, and a mariner's eye in
me spies a breeze at sunset to waft us out of Malamocco.'
The count listened to the recital of their preparations with his usual
absent interest in everything not turning upon Art, politics, or social
intrigue. He said, 'Yes, good, good,' at the proper intervals, and
walked down the riva to look at the busy boat, said to Nevil, 'You are a
sailor; I confide my family to you,' and prudently counselled Renee to
put on the dresses she could toss to the deep without regrets.
Mrs. Culling he thanked fervently for a wonderful stretch of
generosity in lending her presence to the madcaps.
Altogether the day was a reanimation of external Venice. But there was a
thunderbolt in it; for about an hour before sunset, when the ladies were
superintending and trying not to criticize the ingenious efforts to
produce a make-believe of comfort on board for them, word was brought
down to the boat by the count's valet that the Marquis de Rouaillout had
arrived. Renee turned her face to her brother superciliously. Roland
shrugged. 'Note this, my sister,' he said; 'an anticipation of dates in
paying visits precludes the ripeness of the sentiment of welcome. It is,
however, true that the marquis has less time to spare than others.'
'We have started; we are on the open sea. How can we put back?' said
'You hear, Francois; we are on the open sea,' Roland addressed the valet.
'Monsieur has cut loose his communications with land,' Francois
responded, and bowed from the landing.
Nevil hastened to make this a true report; but they had to wait for tide
as well as breeze, and pilot through intricate mud-channels before they
could see the outside of the Lido, and meanwhile the sun lay like a
golden altarplatter on mud-banks made bare by the ebb, and curled in
drowsy yellow links along the currents. All they could do was to push
off and hang loose, bumping to right and left in the midst of volleys and
countervolleys of fishy Venetian, Chioggian, and Dalmatian, quite as
strong as anything ever heard down the Canalaggio. The representatives
of these dialects trotted the decks and hung their bodies half over the
sides of the vessels to deliver fire, flashed eyes and snapped fingers,
not a whit less fierce than hostile crews in the old wars hurling an
interchange of stink-pots, and then resumed the trot, apparently in
search of fresh ammunition. An Austrian sentinel looked on passively,
and a police inspector peeringly. They were used to it. Happily, the
combustible import of the language was unknown to the ladies, and Nevil's
attempts to keep his crew quiet, contrasting with Roland's phlegm, which
a Frenchman can assume so philosophically when his tongue is tied, amused
them. During the clamour, Renee saw her father beckoning from the riva.
She signified that she was no longer in command of circumstances; the
vessel was off. But the count stamped his foot, and nodded imperatively.
Thereupon Roland repeated the eloquent demonstrations of Renee, and the
count lost patience, and Roland shouted, 'For the love of heaven, don't
join this babel; we're nearly bursting.' The rage of the babel was
allayed by degrees, though not appeased, for the boat was behaving
wantonly, as the police officer pointed out to the count.
Renee stood up to bend her head. It was in reply to a salute from the
Marquis de Rouaillout, and Nevil beheld his rival.
'M. le Marquis, seeing it is out of the question that we can come to you,
will you come to us?' cried Roland.
The marquis gesticulated 'With alacrity' in every limb.
'We will bring you back on to-morrow midnight's tide, safe, we promise
The marquis advanced a foot, and withdrew it. Could he have heard
correctly? They were to be out a whole night at sea! The count
dejectedly confessed his incapability to restrain them: the young
desperadoes were ready for anything. He had tried the voice of
authority, and was laughed at. As to Renee, an English lady was with
'The English lady must be as mad as the rest,' said the marquis.
'The English are mad,' said the count; 'but their women are strict upon
'Possibly, my dear count; but what room is there for the proprieties on
board a fishing-boat?'
'It is even as you say, my dear marquis.'
'You allow it?'
'Can I help myself? Look at them. They tell me they have given the boat
the fittings of a yacht.'
'And the young man?'
'That is the M. Beauchamp of whom I have spoken to you, the very pick of
his country, fresh, lively, original; and he can converse. You will like
'I hope so,' said the marquis, and roused a doleful laugh. 'It would
seem that one does not arrive by hastening!'
'Oh! but my dear marquis, you have paid the compliment; you are like
Spring thrusting in a bunch of lilac while the winds of winter blow.
If you were not expected, your expeditiousness is appreciated, be sure.'
Roland fortunately did not hear the marquis compared to Spring. He was
saying: 'I wonder what those two elderly gentlemen are talking about';
and Nevil confused his senses by trying to realize that one of them was
destined to be the husband of his now speechless Renee. The marquis was
clad in a white silken suit, and a dash of red round the neck set off his
black beard; but when he lifted his broad straw hat, a baldness of sconce
shone. There was elegance in his gestures; he looked a gentleman, though
an ultra-Gallican one, that is, too scrupulously finished for our taste,
smelling of the valet. He had the habit of balancing his body on the
hips, as if to emphasize a juvenile vigour, and his general attitude
suggested an idea that he had an oration for you. Seen from a distance,
his baldness and strong nasal projection were not winning features; the
youthful standard he had evidently prescribed to himself in his dress and
his ready jerks of acquiescence and delivery might lead a forlorn rival
to conceive him something of an ogre straining at an Adonis. It could
not be disputed that he bore his disappointment remarkably well; the more
laudably, because his position was within a step of the ridiculous, for
he had shot himself to the mark, despising sleep, heat, dust, dirt, diet,
and lo, that charming object was deliberately slipping out of reach,
proving his headlong journey an absurdity.
As he stood declining to participate in the lunatic voyage, and bidding
them perforce good speed off the tips of his fingers, Renee turned her
eyes on him, and away. She felt a little smart of pity, arising partly
from her antagonism to Roland's covert laughter: but it was the colder
kind of feminine pity, which is nearer to contempt than to tenderness.
She sat still, placid outwardly, in fear of herself, so strange she found
it to be borne out to sea by her sailor lover under the eyes of her
betrothed. She was conscious of a tumultuous rush of sensations, none of
them of a very healthy kind, coming as it were from an unlocked chamber
of her bosom, hitherto of unimagined contents; and the marquis being now
on the spot to defend his own, she no longer blamed Nevil: it was
otherwise utterly. All the sweeter side of pity was for him.
He was at first amazed by the sudden exquisite transition. Tenderness
breathed from her, in voice, in look, in touch; for she accepted his help
that he might lead her to the stern of the vessel, to gaze well on
setting Venice, and sent lightnings up his veins; she leaned beside him
over the vessel's rails, not separated from him by the breadth of a
fluttering riband. Like him, she scarcely heard her brother when for an
instant he intervened, and with Nevil she said adieu to Venice, where the
faint red Doge's palace was like the fading of another sunset north-
westward of the glory along the hills. Venice dropped lower and lower,
breasting the waters, until it was a thin line in air. The line was
broken, and ran in dots, with here and there a pillar standing on opal
sky. At last the topmost campanile sank.
Renee looked up at the sails, and back for the submerged city.
'It is gone!' she said, as though a marvel had been worked; and swiftly:
'we have one night!'
She breathed it half like a question, like a petition, catching her
breath. The adieu to Venice was her assurance of liberty, but Venice
hidden rolled on her the sense of the return and plucked shrewdly at her
tether of bondage.
They set their eyes toward the dark gulf ahead. The night was growing
starry. The softly ruffled Adriatic tossed no foam.
'One night?' said Nevil; 'one? Why only one?'
Renee shuddered. 'Oh! do not speak.'
'Then, give me your hand.'
'There, my friend.'
He pressed a hand that was like a quivering chord. She gave it as though
it had been his own to claim. But that it meant no more than a hand he
knew by the very frankness of her compliance, in the manner natural to
her; and this was the charm, it filled him with her peculiar image and
spirit, and while he held it he was subdued.
Lying on the deck at midnight, wrapt in his cloak and a coil of rope for
a pillow, considerably apart from jesting Roland, the recollection of
that little sanguine spot of time when Renee's life-blood ran with his,
began to heave under him like a swelling sea. For Nevil the starred
black night was Renee. Half his heart was in it: but the combative
division flew to the morning and the deadly iniquity of the marriage,
from which he resolved to save her; in pure devotedness, he believed.
And so he closed his eyes. She, a girl, with a heart fluttering open
and fearing, felt only that she had lost herself somewhere, and she had
neither sleep nor symbols, nothing but a sense of infinite strangeness,
as though she were borne superhumanly through space.
MORNING AT SEA UNDER THE ALPS
The breeze blew steadily, enough to swell the sails and sweep the vessel
on smoothly. The night air dropped no moisture on deck.
Nevil Beauchamp dozed for an hour. He was awakened by light on his
eyelids, and starting up beheld the many pinnacles of grey and red rocks
and shadowy high white regions at the head of the gulf waiting for the
sun; and the sun struck them. One by one they came out in crimson flame,
till the vivid host appeared to have stepped forward. The shadows on the
snow-fields deepened to purple below an irradiation of rose and pink and
dazzling silver. There of all the world you might imagine Gods to sit.
A crowd of mountains endless in range, erect, or flowing, shattered and
arid, or leaning in smooth lustre, hangs above the gulf. The mountains
are sovereign Alps, and the sea is beneath them. The whole gigantic body
keeps the sea, as with a hand, to right and left.
Nevil's personal rapture craved for Renee with the second long breath he
drew; and now the curtain of her tent-cabin parted, and greeting him with
a half smile, she looked out. The Adriatic was dark, the Alps had heaven
to themselves. Crescents and hollows, rosy mounds, white shelves,
shining ledges, domes and peaks, all the towering heights were in
illumination from Friuli into farthest Tyrol; beyond earth to the
stricken senses of the gazers. Colour was stedfast on the massive front
ranks: it wavered in the remoteness, and was quick and dim as though it
fell on beating wings; but there too divine colour seized and shaped
forth solid forms, and thence away to others in uttermost distances where
the incredible flickering gleam of new heights arose, that soared, or
stretched their white uncertain curves in sky like wings traversing
It seemed unlike morning to the lovers, but as if night had broken with a
revelation of the kingdom in the heart of night. While the broad smooth
waters rolled unlighted beneath that transfigured upper sphere, it was
possible to think the scene might vanish like a view caught out of
darkness by lightning. Alp over burning Alp, and around them a hueless
dawn! The two exulted they threw off the load of wonderment, and in
looking they had the delicious sensation of flight in their veins.
Renee stole toward Nevil. She was mystically shaken and at his mercy;
and had he said then, 'Over to the other land, away from Venice!' she
would have bent her head.
She asked his permission to rouse her brother and madame, so that they
should not miss the scene.
Roland lay in the folds of his military greatcoat, too completely happy
to be disturbed, Nevil Beauchamp chose to think; and Rosamund Culling, he
told Renee, had been separated from her husband last on these waters.
'Ah! to be unhappy here,' sighed Renee. 'I fancied it when I begged her
to join us. It was in her voice.'
The impressionable girl trembled. He knew he was dear to her, and for
that reason, judging of her by himself, he forbore to urge his advantage,
conceiving it base to fear that loving him she could yield her hand to
another; and it was the critical instant. She was almost in his grasp.
A word of sharp entreaty would have swung her round to see her situation
with his eyes, and detest and shrink from it. He committed the capital
fault of treating her as his equal in passion and courage, not as metal
ready to run into the mould under temporary stress of fire.
Even later in the morning, when she was cooler and he had come to speak,
more than her own strength was needed to resist him. The struggle was
hard. The boat's head had been put about for Venice, and they were among
the dusky-red Chioggian sails in fishing quarters, expecting momently a
campanile to signal the sea-city over the level. Renee waited for it in
suspense. To her it stood for the implacable key of a close and stifling
chamber, so different from this brilliant boundless region of air, that
she sickened with the apprehension; but she knew it must appear, and
soon, and therewith the contraction and the gloom it indicated to her
mind. He talked of the beauty. She fretted at it, and was her petulant
self again in an epigrammatic note of discord.
He let that pass.
'Last night you said "one night,"' he whispered. 'We will have another
sail before we leave Venice.'
'One night, and in a little time one hour! and next one minute! and
there's the end,' said Renee.
Her tone alarmed him. 'Have you forgotten that you gave me your hand?'
'I gave my hand to my friend.'
'You gave it to me for good.'
'No; I dared not; it is not mine.'
'It is mine,' said Beauchamp.
Renee pointed to the dots and severed lines and isolated columns of the
rising city, black over bright sea.
'Mine there as well as here,' said Beauchamp, and looked at her with the
fiery zeal of eyes intent on minutest signs for a confirmation, to shake
that sad negation of her face.
'Renee, you cannot break the pledge of the hand you gave me last night.'
'You tell me how weak a creature I am.'
'You are me, myself; more, better than me. And say, would you not rather
coast here and keep the city under water?'
She could not refrain from confessing that she would be glad never to
'So, when you land, go straight to your father,' said Beauchamp, to whose
conception it was a simple act resulting from the avowal.
'Oh! you torture me,' she cried. Her eyelashes were heavy with tears.
'I cannot do it. Think what you will of me! And, my friend, help me.
Should you not help me? I have not once actually disobeyed my father,
and he has indulged me, but he has been sure of me as a dutiful girl.
That is my source of self-respect. My friend can always be my friend.'
'Yes, while it's not too late,' said Beauchamp.
She observed a sudden stringing of his features. He called to the chief
boatman, made his command intelligible to that portly capitano, and went
on to Roland, who was puffing his after-breakfast cigarette in
conversation with the tolerant English lady.
'You condescend to notice us, Signor Beauchamp,' said Roland. 'The
vessel is up to some manoeuvre?'
'We have decided not to land,' replied Beauchamp. 'And Roland,' he
checked the Frenchman's shout of laughter, 'I think of making for
Trieste. Let me speak to you, to both. Renee is in misery. She must
not go back.'
Roland sprang to his feet, stared, and walked over to Renee.
'Nevil,' said Rosamund Culling, 'do you know what you are doing?'
'Perfectly,' said he. 'Come to her. She is a girl, and I must think and
act for her.'
Roland met them.
'My dear Nevil, are you in a state of delusion? Renee denies . . .'
'There's no delusion, Roland. I am determined to stop a catastrophe.
I see it as plainly as those Alps. There is only one way, and that's the
one I have chosen.'
'Chosen! my friend'. But allow me to remind you that you have others to
consult. And Renee herself . . .'
'She is a girl. She loves me, and I speak for her.'
'She has said it?'
'She has more than said it.'
'You strike me to the deck, Nevil. Either you are downright mad--which
seems the likeliest, or we are all in a nightmare. Can you suppose I
will let my sister be carried away the deuce knows where, while her
father is expecting her, and to fulfil an engagement affecting his
Beauchamp simply replied:
'Come to her.'
A SINGULAR COUNCIL
The four sat together under the shadow of the helmsman, by whom they were
regarded as voyagers in debate upon the question of some hours further on
salt water. 'No bora,' he threw in at intervals, to assure them that the
obnoxious wind of the Adriatic need not disturb their calculations.
It was an extraordinary sitting, but none of the parties to it thought of
it so when Nevil Beauchamp had plunged them into it. He compelled them,
even Renee--and she would have flown had there been wings on her
shoulders--to feel something of the life and death issues present to
his soul, and submit to the discussion, in plain language of the market-
place, of the most delicate of human subjects for her, for him, and
hardly less for the other two. An overmastering fervour can do this.
It upsets the vessel we float in, and we have to swim our way out of
deep waters by the directest use of the natural faculties, without much
reflection on the change in our habits. To others not under such an
influence the position seems impossible. This discussion occurred.
Beauchamp opened the case in a couple of sentences, and when the turn
came for Renee to speak, and she shrank from the task in manifest pain,
he spoke for her, and no one heard her contradiction. She would have
wished the fearful impetuous youth to succeed if she could have slept
through the storm he was rousing.
Roland appealed to her. 'You! my sister! it is you that consent to this
wild freak, enough to break your father's heart?'
He had really forgotten his knowledge of her character--what much he
knew--in the dust of the desperation flung about her by Nevil Beauchamp.
She shook her head; she had not consented.
'The man she loves is her voice and her will,' said Beauchamp. 'She
gives me her hand and I lead her.'
Roland questioned her. It could not be denied that she had given her
hand, and her bewildered senses made her think that it had been with an
entire abandonment; and in the heat of her conflict of feelings, the
deliciousness of yielding to him curled round and enclosed her, as in a
cool humming sea-shell.
'Renee!' said Roland.
'Brother!' she cried.
'You see that I cannot suffer you to be borne away.'
'No; do not!'
But the boat was flying fast from Venice, and she could have fallen at
his feet and kissed them for not countermanding it.
'You are in my charge, my sister.'
'And now, Nevil, between us two,' said Roland.
Beauchamp required no challenge. He seemed, to Rosamund Culling, twice
older than he was, strangely adept, yet more strangely wise of worldly
matters, and eloquent too. But it was the eloquence of frenzy, madness,
in Roland's ear. The arrogation of a terrible foresight that harped on
present and future to persuade him of the righteousness of this headlong
proceeding advocated by his friend, vexed his natural equanimity. The
argument was out of the domain of logic. He could hardly sit to listen,
and tore at his moustache at each end. Nevertheless his sister listened.
The mad Englishman accomplished the miracle of making her listen, and
appear to consent.
Roland laughed scornfully. 'Why Trieste? I ask you, why Trieste? You
can't have a Catholic priest at your bidding, without her father's
'We leave Renee at Trieste, under the care of madame,' said Beauchamp,
'and we return to Venice, and I go to your father. This method protects
Renee from annoyance.'
'It strikes me that if she arrives at any determination she must take the
'She does. She is brave enough for that. But she is a girl; she has to
fight the battle of her life in a day, and I am her lover, and she leaves
it to me.'
'Is my sister such a coward?' said Roland.
Renee could only call out his name.
'It will never do, my dear Nevil; Roland tried to deal with his
unreasonable friend affectionately. 'I am responsible for her. It's
your own fault--if you had not saved my life I should not have been in
your way. Here I am, and your proposal can't be heard of. Do as you
will, both of you, when you step ashore in Venice.'
'If she goes back she is lost,' said Beauchamp, and he attacked Roland on
the side of his love for Renee, and for him.
Roland was inflexible. Seeing which, Renee said, 'To Venice, quickly, my
brother!' and now she almost sighed with relief to think that she was
escaping from this hurricane of a youth, who swept her off her feet and
wrapt her whole being in a delirium.
'We were in sight of the city just now!' cried Roland, staring and
frowning. 'What's this?'
Beauchamp answered him calmly, 'The boat's under my orders.'
'Talk madness, but don't act it,' said Roland. 'Round with the boat at
once. Hundred devils! you haven't your wits.'
To his amazement, Beauchamp refused to alter the boat's present course.
'You heard my sister?' said Roland.
'You frighten her,' said Beauchamp.
'You heard her wish to return to Venice, I say.'
'She has no wish that is not mine.'
It came to Roland's shouting his command to the men, while Beauchamp
pointed the course on for them.
'You will make this a ghastly pleasantry,' said Roland.
'I do what I know to be right,' said Beauchamp.
'You want an altercation before these fellows?'
'There won't be one; they obey me.'
Roland blinked rapidly in wrath and doubt of mind.
'Madame,' he stooped to Rosamund Culling, with a happy inspiration,
'convince him; you have known him longer than I, and I desire not to lose
my friend. And tell me, madame--I can trust you to be truth itself, and
you can see it is actually the time for truth to be spoken--is he
justified in taking my sister's hand? You perceive that I am obliged to
appeal to you. Is he not dependent on his uncle? And is he not,
therefore, in your opinion, bound in reason as well as in honour to wait
for his uncle's approbation before he undertakes to speak for my sister?
And, since the occasion is urgent, let me ask you one thing more:
whether, by your knowledge of his position, you think him entitled to
presume to decide upon my sister's destiny? She, you are aware, is not
so young but that she can speak for herself . . .'
'There you are wrong, Roland,' said Beauchamp; 'she can neither speak nor
think for herself: you lead her blindfolded.'
'And you, my friend, suppose that you are wiser than any of us. It is
understood. I venture to appeal to madame on the point in question.'
The poor lady's heart beat dismally. She was constrained to answer, and
said, 'His uncle is one who must be consulted.'
'You hear that, Nevil,' said Roland.
Beauchamp looked at her sharply; angrily, Rosamund feared. She had
struck his hot brain with the vision of Everard Romfrey as with a bar of
iron. If Rosamund had inclined to the view that he was sure of his
uncle's support, it would have seemed to him a simple confirmation of his
sentiments, but he was not of the same temper now as when he exclaimed,
'Let him see her!' and could imagine, give him only Renee's love, the
world of men subservient to his wishes.
Then he was dreaming; he was now in fiery earnest, for that reason
accessible to facts presented to him; and Rosamund's reluctantly spoken
words brought his stubborn uncle before his eyes, inflicting a sense of
helplessness of the bitterest kind.
They were all silent. Beauchamp stared at the lines of the deck-planks.
His scheme to rescue Renee was right and good; but was he the man that
should do it? And was she, moreover, he thought--speculating on her bent
head--the woman to be forced to brave the world with him, and poverty?
She gave him no sign. He was assuredly not the man to pretend to powers
he did not feel himself to possess, and though from a personal, and still
more from a lover's, inability to see all round him at one time and
accurately to weigh the forces at his disposal, he had gone far, he was
not a wilful dreamer nor so very selfish a lover. The instant his
consciousness of a superior strength failed him he acknowledged it.
Renee did not look up. She had none of those lightnings of primitive
energy, nor the noble rashness and reliance on her lover, which his
imagination had filled her with; none. That was plain. She could not
even venture to second him. Had she done so he would have held out. He
walked to the head of the boat without replying.
Soon after this the boat was set for Venice again.
When he rejoined his companions he kissed Rosamund's hand, and Renee,
despite a confused feeling of humiliation and anger, loved him for it.
Glittering Venice was now in sight; the dome of Sta. Maria Salute shining
like a globe of salt.
Roland flung his arm round his friend's neck, and said, 'Forgive me.'
'You do what you think right,' said Beauchamp.
'You are a perfect man of honour, my friend, and a woman would adore you.
Girls are straws. It's part of Renee's religion to obey her father.
That's why I was astonished! . . . I owe you my life, and I would
willingly give you my sister in part payment, if I had the giving of her;
most willingly. The case is, that she's a child, and you?'
'Yes, I'm dependent,' Beauchamp assented. 'I can't act; I see it. That
scheme wants two to carry it out: she has no courage. I feel that I
could carry the day with my uncle, but I can't subject her to the risks,
since she dreads them; I see it. Yes, I see that! I should have done
well, I believe; I should have saved her.'
'Run to England, get your uncle's consent, and then try.'
'No; I shall go to her father.'
'My dear Nevil, and supposing you have Renee to back you--supposing it,
I say--won't you be falling on exactly the same bayonet-point?'
'If I leave her!' Beauchamp interjected. He perceived the quality of
Renee's unformed character which he could not express.
'But we are to suppose that she loves you?'
'She is a girl.'
'You return, my friend, to the place you started from, as you did on the
canal without knowing it. In my opinion, frankly, she is best married.
And I think so all the more after this morning's lesson. You understand
plainly that if you leave her she will soon be pliant to the legitimate
authorities; and why not?'
'Listen to me, Roland. I tell you she loves me. I am bound to her, and
when--if ever I see her unhappy, I will not stand by and look on
Roland shrugged. 'The future not being born, my friend, we will abstain
from baptizing it. For me, less privileged than my fellows, I have never
seen the future. Consequently I am not in love with it, and to declare
myself candidly I do not care for it one snap of the fingers. Let us
follow our usages, and attend to the future at the hour of its delivery.
I prefer the sage-femme to the prophet. From my heart, Nevil, I wish I
could help you. We have charged great guns together, but a family
arrangement is something different from a hostile battery. There's
Venice! and, as soon as you land, my responsibility's ended. Reflect,
I pray you, on what I have said about girls. Upon my word, I discover
myself talking wisdom to you. Girls are precious fragilities. Marriage
is the mould for them; they get shape, substance, solidity: that is to
say, sense, passion, a will of their own: and grace and tenderness,
delicacy; all out of the rude, raw, quaking creatures we call girls.
Paris! my dear Nevil. Paris! It's the book of women.'
The grandeur of the decayed sea-city, where folly had danced Parisianly
of old, spread brooding along the waters in morning light; beautiful; but
with that inner light of history seen through the beauty Venice was like
a lowered banner. The great white dome and the campanili watching above
her were still brave emblems. Would Paris leave signs of an ancient
vigour standing to vindicate dignity when her fall came? Nevil thought
of Renee in Paris.
She avoided him. She had retired behind her tent-curtains, and
reappeared only when her father's voice hailed the boat from a gondola.
The count and the marquis were sitting together, and there was a spare
gondola for the voyagers, so that they should not have to encounter
another babel of the riva. Salutes were performed with lifted hats,
nods, and bows.
'Well, my dear child, it has all been very wonderful and uncomfortable?'
said the count.
'Wonderful, papa; splendid.'
'No qualms of any kind?'
'None, I assure you.' And madame?'
'Madame will confirm it, if you find a seat for her.'
Rosamund Culling was received in the count's gondola, cordially thanked,
and placed beside the marquis.
'I stay on board and pay these fellows,' said Roland.
Renee was told by her father to follow madame. He had jumped into the
spare gondola and offered a seat to Beauchamp.
'No,' cried Renee, arresting Beauchamp, 'it is I who mean to sit with
Up sprang the marquis with an entreating, 'Mademoiselle!'
'M. Beauchamp will entertain you, M. le Marquis.'
'I want him here,' said the count; and Beauchamp showed that his wish was
to enter the count's gondola, but Renee had recovered her aplomb, and
decisively said 'No,' and Beauchamp had to yield.
That would have been an opportunity of speaking to her father without a
formal asking of leave. She knew it as well as Nevil Beauchamp.
Renee took his hand to be assisted in the step down to her father's arms,
'Do nothing--nothing! until you hear from me.'
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A bone in a boy's mind for him to gnaw and worry
A kind of anchorage in case of indiscretion
A night that had shivered repose
Am I thy master, or thou mine?
An instinct labouring to supply the deficiencies of stupidity
And now came war, the purifier and the pestilence
And one gets the worst of it (in any bargain)
Anticipate opposition by initiating measures
Appetite to flourish at the cost of the weaker
As for titles, the way to defend them is to be worthy of them
Boys are unjust
Braggadocioing in deeds is only next bad to mouthing it
Calm fanaticism of the passion of love
Compassionate sentiments veered round to irate amazement
Despises the pomades and curling-irons of modern romance
Disqualification of constantly offending prejudices
Efforts to weary him out of his project were unsuccessful
Empty magnanimity which his uncle presented to him
Energy to something, that was not to be had in a market
Feminine pity, which is nearer to contempt than to tenderness
Fit of Republicanism in the nursery
Forewarn readers of this history that there is no plot in it
Haunted many pillows
He had expected romance, and had met merchandize
He was too much on fire to know the taste of absurdity
Holding to his work after the strain's over--That tells the man
Humour preserved her from excesses of sentiment
I cannot say less, and will say no more
Impudent boy's fling at superiority over the superior
In India they sacrifice the widows, in France the virgins
Incessantly speaking of the necessity we granted it unknowingly
Levelling a finger at the taxpayer
Men had not pleased him of late
Mental and moral neuters
Never was a word fitter for a quack's mouth than "humanity"
No case is hopeless till a man consents to think it is
Peace-party which opposed was the actual cause of the war
Peculiar subdued form of laughter through the nose
Play the great game of blunders
Please to be pathetic on that subject after I am wrinkled
Politics as well as the other diseases
Press, which had kindled, proceeded to extinguished
Ready is the ardent mind to take footing on the last thing done
She was not, happily, one of the women who betray strong feeling
Shuns the statuesque pathetic, or any kind of posturing
Straining for common talk, and showing the strain
Style resembling either early architecture or utter dilapidation
The people always wait for the winner
The system is cursed by nature, and that means by heaven
The tragedy of the mirror is one for a woman to write
Times when an example is needed by brave men
Tongue flew, thought followed
We could row and ride and fish and shoot, and breed largely
We dare not be weak if we would
We were unarmed, and the spectacle was distressing
We're treated like old-fashioned ornaments!
You're talking to me, not to a gallery
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XI. CAPTAIN BASKELETT
XII. AN INTERVIEW WITH THE INFAMOUS DR. SHRAPNEL
XIII. A SUPERFINE CONSCIENCE
XIV. THE LEADING ARTICLE AND Mr. TIMOTHY TURBOT
XV. CECILIA HALKETT
XVI. A PARTIAL DISPLAY OF BEAUCHAMP IN HIS COLOURS
XVII. HIS FRIEND AND FOE
XVIII. CONCERNING THE ACT OF CANVASSING
Our England, meanwhile, was bustling over the extinguished war, counting
the cost of it, with a rather rueful eye on Manchester, and soothing the
taxed by an exhibition of heroes at brilliant feasts. Of course, the
first to come home had the cream of the praises. She hugged them in a
manner somewhat suffocating to modest men, but heroism must be brought to
bear upon these excesses of maternal admiration; modesty, too, when it
accepts the place of honour at a public banquet, should not protest
overmuch. To be just, the earliest arrivals, which were such as reached
the shores of Albion before her war was at an end, did cordially
reciprocate the hug. They were taught, and they believed most naturally,
that it was quite as well to repose upon her bosom as to have stuck to
their posts. Surely there was a conscious weakness in the Spartans, who
were always at pains to discipline their men in heroical conduct, and
rewarded none save the stand-fasts. A system of that sort seems to
betray the sense of poverty in the article. Our England does nothing
like it. All are welcome home to her so long as she is in want of them.
Besides, she has to please the taxpayer. You may track a shadowy line or
crazy zigzag of policy in almost every stroke of her domestic history:
either it is the forethought finding it necessary to stir up an impulse,
or else dashing impulse gives a lively pull to the afterthought: policy
becomes evident somehow, clumsily very possibly. How can she manage an
enormous middle-class, to keep it happy, other than a little clumsily?
The managing of it at all is the wonder. And not only has she to stupefy
the taxpayer by a timely display of feastings and fireworks, she has to
stop all that nonsense (to quote a satiated man lightened in his purse)
at the right moment, about the hour when the old standfasts, who have
simply been doing duty, return, poor jog-trot fellows, and a
complimentary motto or two is the utmost she can present to them.
On the other hand, it is true she gives her first loves, those early
birds, fully to understand that a change has come in their island
mother's mind. If there is a balance to be righted, she leaves that
business to society, and if it be the season for the gathering of
society, it will be righted more or less; and if no righting is done at
all, perhaps the Press will incidentally toss a leaf of laurel on a name
or two: thus in the exercise of grumbling doing good.
With few exceptions, Nevil Beauchamp's heroes received the motto instead
of the sweetmeat. England expected them to do their duty; they did it,
and she was not dissatisfied, nor should they be. Beauchamp, at a
distance from the scene, chafed with customary vehemence, concerning the
unjust measure dealt to his favourites: Captain Hardist, of the Diomed,
twenty years a captain, still a captain! Young Michell denied the cross!
Colonel Evans Cuff, on the heights from first to last, and not advanced a
step! But Prancer, and Plunger, and Lammakin were thoroughly well taken
care of, this critic of the war wrote savagely, reviving an echo of a
queer small circumstance occurring in the midst of the high dolour and
anxiety of the whole nation, and which a politic country preferred to
forget, as we will do, for it was but an instance of strong family
feeling in high quarters; and is not the unity of the country founded on
the integrity of the family sentiment? Is it not certain, which the
master tells us, that a line is but a continuation of a number of dots?
Nevil Beauchamp was for insisting that great Government officers had paid
more attention to a dot or two than to the line. He appeared to be at
war with his country after the peace. So far he had a lively ally in his
uncle Everard; but these remarks of his were a portion of a letter, whose
chief burden was the request that Everard Romfrey would back him in
proposing for the hand of a young French lady, she being, Beauchamp
smoothly acknowledged, engaged to a wealthy French marquis, under the
approbation of her family. Could mortal folly outstrip a petition of
that sort? And apparently, according to the wording and emphasis of the
letter, it was the mature age of the marquis which made Mr. Beauchamp so
particularly desirous to stop the projected marriage and take the girl
himself. He appealed to his uncle on the subject in a 'really--really'
remonstrative tone, quite overwhelming to read. 'It ought not to be
permitted: by all the laws of chivalry, I should write to the girl's
father to interdict it: I really am particeps criminis in a sin against
nature if I don't!' Mr. Romfrey interjected in burlesque of his
ridiculous nephew, with collapsing laughter. But he expressed an
indignant surprise at Nevil for allowing Rosamund to travel alone.
'I can take very good care of myself,' Rosamund protested.
'You can do hundreds of things you should never be obliged to do while
he's at hand, or I, ma'am,' said Mr. Romfrey. 'The fellow's insane. He
forgets a gentleman's duty. Here's his "humanity" dogging a French
frock, and pooh!--the age of the marquis! Fifty? A man's beginning his
prime at fifty, or there never was much man in him. It's the mark of a
fool to take everybody for a bigger fool than himself-or he wouldn't have
written this letter to me. He can't come home yet, not yet, and he
doesn't know when he can! Has he thrown up the service? I am to
preserve the alliance between England and France by getting this French
girl for him in the teeth of her marquis, at my peril if I refuse!'
Rosamund asked, 'Will you let me see where Nevil says that, sir?'
Mr. Romfrey tore the letter to strips. 'He's one of your fellows who
cock their eyes when they mean to be cunning. He sends you to do the
wheedling, that's plain. I don't say he has hit on a bad advocate; but
tell him I back him in no mortal marriage till he shows a pair of
epaulettes on his shoulders. Tell him lieutenants are fledglings--he's
not marriageable at present. It's a very pretty sacrifice of himself he
intends for the sake of the alliance, tell him that, but a lieutenant's
not quite big enough to establish it. You will know what to tell him,
ma'am. And say, it's the fellow's best friend that advises him to be out
of it and home quick. If he makes one of a French trio, he's dished.
He's too late for his luck in England. Have him out of that mire, we
can't hope for more now.'
Rosamund postponed her mission to plead. Her heart was with Nevil; her
understanding was easily led to side against him, and for better reasons
than Mr. Romfrey could be aware of: so she was assured by her experience
of the character of Mademoiselle de Croisnel. A certain belief in her
personal arts of persuasion had stopped her from writing on her homeward
journey to inform him that Nevil was not accompanying her, and when she
drove over Steynham Common, triumphal arches and the odour of a roasting
ox richly browning to celebrate the hero's return afflicted her mind with
all the solid arguments of a common-sense country in contravention of a
wild lover's vaporous extravagances. Why had he not come with her? The
disappointed ox put the question in a wavering drop of the cheers of the
villagers at the sight of the carriage without their bleeding hero. Mr.
Romfrey, at his hall-doors, merely screwed his eyebrows; for it was the
quality of this gentleman to foresee most human events, and his capacity
to stifle astonishment when they trifled with his prognostics. Rosamund
had left Nevil fast bound in the meshes of the young French sorceress,
no longer leading, but submissively following, expecting blindly, seeing
strange new virtues in the lurid indication of what appeared to border on
the reverse. How could she plead for her infatuated darling to one who
was common sense in person?
Everard's pointed interrogations reduced her to speak defensively,
instead of attacking and claiming his aid for the poor enamoured young
man. She dared not say that Nevil continued to be absent because he was
now encouraged by the girl to remain in attendance on her, and was more
than half inspired to hope, and too artfully assisted to deceive the
count and the marquis under the guise of simple friendship. Letters
passed between them in books given into one another's hands with an
audacious openness of the saddest augury for the future of the pair,
and Nevil could be so lost to reason as to glory in Renee's intrepidity,
which he justified by their mutual situation, and cherished for a proof
that she was getting courage. In fine, Rosamund abandoned her task of
pleading. Nevil's communications gave the case a worse and worse aspect:
Renee was prepared to speak to her father; she delayed it; then the two
were to part; they were unable to perform the terrible sacrifice and slay
their last hope; and then Nevil wrote of destiny--language hitherto
unknown to him, evidently the tongue of Renee. He slipped on from Italy
to France. His uncle was besieged by a series of letters, and his
cousin, Cecil Baskelett, a captain in England's grand reserve force--her
Horse Guards, of the Blue division--helped Everard Romfrey to laugh over
It was not difficult, alack! Letters of a lover in an extremity of love,
crying for help, are as curious to cool strong men as the contortions of
the proved heterodox tied to a stake must have been to their chastening
ecclesiastical judges. Why go to the fire when a recantation will save
you from it? Why not break the excruciating faggot-bands, and escape,
when you have only to decide to do it? We naturally ask why. Those
martyrs of love or religion are madmen. Altogether, Nevil's adjurations
and supplications, his threats of wrath and appeals to reason, were an
odd mixture. 'He won't lose a chance while there's breath in his body,'
Everard said, quite good-humouredly, though he deplored that the chance
for the fellow to make his hero-parade in society, and haply catch an
heiress, was waning. There was an heiress at Steynham, on her way with
her father to Italy, very anxious to see her old friend Nevil--Cecilia
Halkett--and very inquisitive this young lady of sixteen was to know the
cause of his absence. She heard of it from Cecil.
'And one morning last week mademoiselle was running away with him, and
the next morning she was married to her marquis!'
Cecil was able to tell her that.
'I used to be so fond of him,' said the ingenuous young lady. She had to
thank Nevil for a Circassian dress and pearls, which he had sent to her
by the hands of Mrs. Culling--a pretty present to a girl in the nursery,
she thought, and in fact she chose to be a little wounded by the cause of
'He's a good creature-really,' Cecil spoke on his cousin's behalf.
'Mad; he always will be mad. A dear old savage; always amuses me.
He does! I get half my entertainment from him.'
Captain Baskelett was gifted with the art, which is a fine and a precious
one, of priceless value in society, and not wanting a benediction upon it
in our elegant literature, namely, the art of stripping his fellow-man
and so posturing him as to make every movement of the comical wretch
puppet-like, constrained, stiff, and foolish. He could present you
heroical actions in that fashion; for example:
'A long-shanked trooper, bearing the name of John Thomas Drew, was
crawling along under fire of the batteries. Out pops old Nevil, tries to
get the man on his back. It won't do. Nevil insists that it's exactly
one of the cases that ought to be, and they remain arguing about it like
a pair of nine-pins while the Muscovites are at work with the bowls.
Very well. Let me tell you my story. It's perfectly true, I give you my
word. So Nevil tries to horse Drew, and Drew proposes to horse Nevil, as
at school. Then Drew offers a compromise. He would much rather have
crawled on, you know, and allowed the shot to pass over his head; but
he's a Briton, old Nevil the same; but old Nevil's peculiarity is that,
as you are aware, he hates a compromise--won't have it--retro Sathanas!
and Drew's proposal to take his arm instead of being carried pickaback
disgusts old Nevil. Still it won't do to stop where they are, like the
cocoa-nut and the pincushion of our friends, the gipsies, on the downs:
so they take arms and commence the journey home, resembling the best of
friends on the evening of a holiday in our native clime--two steps to the
right, half-a-dozen to the left, etcaetera.'
Thus, with scarce a variation from the facts, with but a flowery chaplet
cast on a truthful narrative, as it were, Captain Baskelett could render
ludicrous that which in other quarters had obtained honourable mention.
Nevil and Drew being knocked down by the wind of a ball near the battery,
'Confound it!' cries Nevil, jumping on his feet, 'it's because I
consented to a compromise!'--a transparent piece of fiction this, but so
in harmony with the character stripped naked for us that it is accepted.
Imagine Nevil's love-affair in such hands! Recovering from a fever,
Nevil sees a pretty French girl in a gondola, and immediately thinks,
'By jingo, I'm marriageable.' He hears she is engaged. 'By jingo, she's
marriageable too.' He goes through a sum in addition, and the total is a
couple; so he determines on a marriage. 'You can't get it out of his
head; he must be married instantly, and to her, because she is going to
marry somebody else. Sticks to her, follows her, will have her, in spite
of her father, her marquis, her brother, aunts, cousins, religion,
country, and the young woman herself. I assure you, a perfect model of
male fidelity! She is married. He is on her track. He knows his time
will come; he has only to be handy. You see, old Nevil believes in
Providence, is perfectly sure he will one day hear it cry out, "Where's
Beauchamp?"--"Here I am!"--"And here's your marquise!"--"I knew I should
have her at last," says Nevil, calm as Mont Blanc on a reduced scale.'
The secret of Captain Baskelett's art would seem to be to show the
automatic human creature at loggerheads with a necessity that winks at
remarkable pretensions, while condemning it perpetually to doll-like
action. You look on men from your own elevation as upon a quantity of
our little wooden images, unto whom you affix puny characteristics, under
restrictions from which they shall not escape, though they attempt it
with the enterprising vigour of an extended leg, or a pair of raised
arms, or a head awry, or a trick of jumping; and some of them are
extraordinarily addicted to these feats; but for all they do the end is
the same, for necessity rules, that exactly so, under stress of activity
must the doll Nevil, the doll Everard, or the dolliest of dolls, fair
woman, behave. The automatic creature is subject to the laws of its
construction, you perceive. It can this, it can that, but it cannot leap
out of its mechanism. One definition of the art is, humour made easy,
and that may be why Cecil Baskelett indulged in it, and why it is popular
with those whose humour consists of a readiness to laugh.
The fun between Cecil Baskelett and Mr. Romfrey over the doll Nevil
threatened an intimacy and community of sentiment that alarmed Rosamund
on behalf of her darling's material prospects. She wrote to him,
entreating him to come to Steynham. Nevil Beauchamp replied to her both
frankly and shrewdly: 'I shall not pretend that I forgive my uncle
Everard, and therefore it is best for me to keep away. Have no fear.
The baron likes a man of his own tastes: they may laugh together, if it
suits them; he never could be guilty of treachery, and to disinherit me
would be that. If I were to become his open enemy to-morrow, I should
look on the estates as mine-unless I did anything to make him disrespect
me. You will not suppose it likely. I foresee I shall want money. As
for Cecil, I give him as much rope as he cares to have. I know very well
Everard Romfrey will see where the point of likeness between them stops.
I apply for a ship the moment I land.'
To test Nevil's judgement of his uncle, Rosamund ventured on showing this
letter to Mr. Romfrey. He read it, and said nothing, but subsequently
asked, from time to time, 'Has he got his ship yet?' It assured her that
Nevil was not wrong, and dispelled her notion of the vulgar imbroglio of
a rich uncle and two thirsty nephews. She was hardly less relieved in
reflecting that he could read men so soberly and accurately. The
desperation of the youth in love had rendered her one little bit doubtful
of the orderliness of his wits. After this she smiled on Cecil's
assiduities. Nevil obtained his appointment to a ship bound for the
coast of Africa to spy for slavers. He called on his uncle in London,
and spent the greater part of the hour's visit with Rosamund; seemed
cured of his passion, devoid of rancour, glad of the prospect of a run
among the slaving hulls. He and his uncle shook hands manfully, at the
full outstretch of their arms, in a way so like them, to Rosamund's
thinking--that is, in a way so unlike any other possible couple of men so
situated--that the humour of the sight eclipsed all the pleasantries of
Captain Baskelett. 'Good-bye, sir,' Nevil said heartily; and Everard
Romfrey was not behind-hand with the cordial ring of his 'Good-bye,
Nevil'; and upon that they separated. Rosamund would have been willing
to speak to her beloved of his false Renee--the Frenchwoman, she termed
her, i.e. generically false, needless to name; and one question quivered
on her tongue's tip: 'How, when she had promised to fly with you, how
could she the very next day step to the altar with him now her husband?'
And, if she had spoken it, she would have added, 'Your uncle could not
have set his face against you, had you brought her to England.' She felt
strongly the mastery Nevil Beauchamp could exercise even over his uncle
Everard. But when he was gone, unquestioned, merely caressed, it came to
her mind that he had all through insisted on his possession of this
particular power, and she accused herself of having wantonly helped to
ruin his hope--a matter to be rejoiced at in the abstract; but what
suffering she had inflicted on him! To quiet her heart, she persuaded
herself that for the future she would never fail to believe in him and
second him blindly, as true love should; and contemplating one so brave,
far-sighted, and self-assured, her determination seemed to impose the
lightest of tasks.
Practically humane though he was, and especially toward cattle and all
kinds of beasts, Mr. Romfrey entertained no profound fellow-feeling for
the negro, and, except as the representative of a certain amount of
working power commonly requiring the whip to wind it up, he inclined to
despise that black spot in the creation, with which our civilization
should never have had anything to do. So he pronounced his mind, and the
long habit of listening to oracles might grow us ears to hear and
discover a meaning in it. Nevil's captures and releases of the grinning
freights amused him for awhile. He compared them to strings of bananas,
and presently put the vision of the whole business aside by talking of
Nevil's banana-wreath. He desired to have Nevil out of it. He and Cecil
handed Nevil in his banana-wreath about to their friends. Nevil, in his
banana-wreath, was set preaching 'humanitomtity.' At any rate, they
contrived to keep the remembrance of Nevil Beauchamp alive during the
period of his disappearance from the world, and in so doing they did him
There is a pause between the descent of a diver and his return to the
surface, when those who would not have him forgotten by the better world
above him do rightly to relate anecdotes of him, if they can, and to
provoke laughter at him. The encouragement of the humane sense of
superiority over an object of interest, which laughter gives, is good for
the object; and besides, if you begin to tell sly stories of one in the
deeps who is holding his breath to fetch a pearl or two for you all, you
divert a particular sympathetic oppression of the chest, that the
extremely sensitive are apt to suffer from, and you dispose the larger
number to keep in mind a person they no longer see. Otherwise it is
likely that he will, very shortly after he has made his plunge, fatigue
the contemplative brains above, and be shuffled off them, even as great
ocean smoothes away the dear vanished man's immediate circle of foam, and
rapidly confounds the rippling memory of him with its other agitations.
And in such a case the apparition of his head upon our common level once
more will almost certainly cause a disagreeable shock; nor is it
improbable that his first natural snorts in his native element, though
they be simply to obtain his share of the breath of life, will draw down
on him condemnation for eccentric behaviour and unmannerly; and this in
spite of the jewel he brings, unless it be an exceedingly splendid one.
The reason is, that our brave world cannot pardon a breach of continuity
for any petty bribe.
Thus it chanced, owing to the prolonged efforts of Mr. Romfrey and Cecil
Baskelett to get fun out of him, at the cost of considerable
inventiveness, that the electoral Address of the candidate, signing
himself 'R. C. S. Nevil Beauchamp,' to the borough of Bevisham, did not
issue from an altogether unremembered man.
He had been cruising in the Mediterranean, commanding the Ariadne, the
smartest corvette in the service. He had, it was widely made known, met
his marquise in Palermo. It was presumed that he was dancing the round
with her still, when this amazing Address appeared on Bevisham's walls,
in anticipation of the general Election. The Address, moreover, was
ultra-Radical: museums to be opened on Sundays; ominous references to the
Land question, etc.; no smooth passing mention of Reform, such as the
Liberal, become stately, adopts in speaking of that property of his, but
swinging blows on the heads of many a denounced iniquity.
Cecil forwarded the Address to Everard Romfrey without comment.
Next day the following letter, dated from Itchincope, the house of Mr.
Grancey Lespel, on the borders of Bevisham, arrived at Steynham:
'I have despatched you the proclamation, folded neatly. The electors of
Bevisham are summoned, like a town at the sword's point, to yield him
their votes. Proclamation is the word. I am your born representative!
I have completed my political education on salt water, and I tackle you
on the Land question. I am the heir of your votes, gentlemen!--I forgot,
and I apologize; he calls them fellow-men. Fraternal, and not so risky.
Here at Lespel's we read the thing with shouts. It hangs in the smoking-
room. We throw open the curacoa to the intelligence and industry of the
assembled guests; we carry the right of the multitude to our host's
cigars by a majority. C'est un farceur que notre bon petit cousin.
Lespel says it is sailorlike to do something of this sort after a cruise.
Nevil's Radicalism would have been clever anywhere out of Bevisham. Of
all boroughs! Grancey Lespel knows it. He and his family were
Bevisham's Whig M.P.'s before the day of Manchester. In Bevisham an
election is an arrangement made by Providence to square the accounts of
the voters, and settle arrears. They reckon up the health of their two
members and the chances of an appeal to the country when they fix the
rents and leases. You have them pointed out to you in the street, with
their figures attached to them like titles. Mr. Tomkins, the twenty-
pound man; an elector of uncommon purity. I saw the ruffian yesterday.
He has an extra breadth to his hat. He has never been known to listen to
a member under L20, and is respected enormously--like the lady of the
Mythology, who was an intolerable Tartar of virtue, because her price was
nothing less than a god, and money down. Nevil will have to come down on
Bevisham in the Jupiter style. Bevisham is downright the dearest of
boroughs--"vaulting-boards," as Stukely Culbrett calls them--in the
kingdom. I assume we still say "kingdom."
'He dashed into the Radical trap exactly two hours after landing. I
believe he was on his way to the Halketts at Mount Laurels. A notorious
old rascal revolutionist retired from his licenced business of
slaughterer--one of your gratis doctors--met him on the high-road, and
told him he was the man. Up went Nevil's enthusiasm like a bottle rid of
the cork. You will see a great deal about faith in the proclamation;
"faith in the future," and "my faith in you." When you become a Radical
you have faith in any quantity, just as an alderman gets turtle soup.
It is your badge, like a livery-servant's cockade or a corporal's sleeve
stripes--your badge and your bellyful. Calculations were gone through at
the Liberal newspaper-office, old Nevil adding up hard, and he was
informed that he was elected by something like a topping eight or nine
hundred and some fractions. I am sure that a fellow who can let himself
be gulled by a pile of figures trumped up in a Radical newspaper-office
must have great faith in the fractions. Out came Nevil's proclamation.
'I have not met him, and I would rather not. I shall not pretend to
offer you advice, for I have the habit of thinking your judgement can
stand by itself. We shall all find this affair a nuisance. Nevil will
pay through the nose. We shall have the ridicule spattered on the
family. It would be a safer thing for him to invest his money on the
Turf, and I shall advise his doing it if I come across him.
'Perhaps the best course would be to telegraph for the marquise!'
This was from Cecil Baskelett. He added a postscript:
'Seriously, the "mad commander" has not an ace of a chance. Grancey and
I saw some Working Men (you have to write them in capitals, king and
queen small); they were reading the Address on a board carried by a red-
nosed man, and shrugging. They are not such fools.
'By the way, I am informed Shrapnel has a young female relative living
with him, said to be a sparkler. I bet you, sir, she is not a Radical.
Do you take me?'
Rosamund Culling drove to the railway station on her way to Bevisham
within an hour after Mr. Romfrey's eyebrows had made acute play over this
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE INFAMOUS DR. SHRAPNEL
In the High street of the ancient and famous town and port of Bevisham,
Rosamund met the military governor of a neighbouring fortress, General
Sherwin, once colonel of her husband's regiment in India; and by him, as
it happened, she was assisted in finding the whereabout of the young
Liberal candidate, without the degrading recourse of an application at
the newspaper-office of his party. The General was leisurely walking to
a place of appointment to fetch his daughter home from a visit to an old
school-friend, a Miss Jenny Denham, no other than a ward, or a niece, or
an adoption of Dr. Shrapnel's: 'A nice girl; a great favourite of mine,'
the General said. Shrapnel he knew by reputation only as a wrong-headed
politician; but he spoke of Miss Denham pleasantly two or three times,
praising her accomplishments and her winning manners. His hearer
suspected that it might be done to dissociate the idea of her from the
ruffling agitator. 'Is she pretty?' was a question that sprang. from
Rosamund's intimate reflections. The answer was, 'Yes.'
'I think very pretty,' said the General.
'Clara thinks she is perfect; she is tall and slim, and dresses well.
The girls were with a French Madam in Paris. But, if you are interested
about her, you can come on with me, and we shall meet them somewhere near
the head of the street. I don't,' the General hesitated and hummed--
'I don't call at Shrapnel's.'
'I have never heard her name before to-day,' said Rosamund.
'Exactly,' said the General, crowing at the aimlessness of a woman's
The young ladies were seen approaching, and Rosamund had to ask herself
whether the first sight of a person like Miss Denham would be of a kind
to exercise a lively influence over the political and other sentiments of
a dreamy sailor just released from ship-service. In an ordinary case she
would have said no, for Nevil enjoyed a range of society where faces
charming as Miss Denham's were plentiful as roses in the rose-garden.
But, supposing him free of his bondage to the foreign woman, there was,
she thought and feared, a possibility that a girl of this description
might capture a young man's vacant heart sighing for a new mistress.
And if so, further observation assured her Miss Denham was likely to be
dangerous far more than professedly attractive persons, enchantresses and
the rest. Rosamund watchfully gathered all the superficial indications
which incite women to judge of character profoundly. This new object of
alarm was, as the General had said of her, tall and slim, a friend of
neatness, plainly dressed, but exquisitely fitted, in the manner of
Frenchwomen. She spoke very readily, not too much, and had the rare gift
of being able to speak fluently with a smile on the mouth. Vulgar
archness imitates it. She won and retained the eyes of her hearer
sympathetically, it seemed. Rosamund thought her as little conscious as
a woman could be. She coloured at times quickly, but without confusion.
When that name, the key of Rosamund's meditations, chanced to be
mentioned, a flush swept over Miss Denham's face. The candour of it was
unchanged as she gazed at Rosamund, with a look that asked, 'Do you know
Rosamund said, 'I am an old friend of his.'
'He is here now, in this town.'
'I wish to see him very much.'
General Sherwin interposed: 'We won't talk about political characters
just for the present.'
'I wish you knew him, papa, and would advise him,' his daughter said.
The General nodded hastily. 'By-and-by, by-and-by.'
They had in fact taken seats at a table of mutton pies in a pastrycook's
shop, where dashing military men were restrained solely by their presence
from a too noisy display of fascinations before the fashionable waiting-
Rosamund looked at Miss Denham. As soon as they were in the street the
latter said, 'If you will be good enough to come with me, madam . . .?'
Rosamund bowed, thankful to have been comprehended. The two young ladies
kissed cheeks and parted. General Sherwin raised his hat, and was
astonished to see Mrs. Culling join Miss Denham in accepting the salute,
for they had not been introduced, and what could they have in common? It
was another of the oddities of female nature.
'My name is Mrs. Culling, and I will tell you how it is that I am
interested in Captain Beauchamp,' Rosamund addressed her companion. 'I
am his uncle's housekeeper. I have known him and loved him since he was
a boy. I am in great fear that he is acting rashly.'
'You honour me, madam, by speaking to me so frankly,' Miss Denham
'He is quite bent upon this Election?'
'Yes, madam. I am not, as you can suppose, in his confidence, but I hear
of him from Dr. Shrapnel.'
'I call him uncle: he is my guardian, madam.'
It is perhaps excuseable that this communication did not cause the doctor
to shine with added lustre in Rosamund's thoughts, or ennoble the young
'You are not relatives, then?' she said.
'No, unless love can make us so.'
'Is he not very . . . extreme?'
'He is very sincere.'
'I presume you are a politician?'
Miss Denham smiled. 'Could you pardon me, madam, if I said that I was?'
The counter-question was a fair retort enfolding a gentler irony.
Rosamund felt that she had to do with wits as well as with vivid feminine
intuitions in the person of this Miss Denham.
She said, 'I really am of opinion that our sex might abstain from
'We find it difficult to do justice to both parties,' Miss Denham
followed. 'It seems to be a kind of clanship with women; hardly even
Rosamund was inattentive to the conversational slipshod, and launched one
of the heavy affrmatives which are in dialogue full stops. She could not
have said why she was sensible of anger, but the sentiment of anger, or
spite (if that be a lesser degree of the same affliction), became stirred
in her bosom when she listened to the ward of Dr. Shrapnel. A silly
pretty puss of a girl would not have excited it, nor an avowed blood-
relative of the demagogue.
Nevil's hotel was pointed out to Rosamund, and she left her card there.
He had been absent since eight in the morning. There was the probability
that he might be at Dr. Shrapnel's, so Rosamund walked on.
'Captain Beauchamp gives himself no rest,' Miss Denham said.
'Oh! I know him, when once his mind is set on anything,' said Rosamund.
'Is it not too early to begin to--canvass, I think, is the word?'
'He is studying whatever the town can teach him of its wants; that is,
how he may serve it.'
'Indeed! But if the town will not have him to serve it?'
'He imagines that he cannot do better, until that has been decided, than
to fit himself for the post.'
'Acting upon your advice? I mean, of course, your uncle's; that is, Dr.
'Dr. Shrapnel thinks it will not be loss of time for Captain Beauchamp to
grow familiar with the place, and observe as well as read.'
'It sounds almost as if Captain Beauchamp had submitted to be Dr.
'It is natural, madam, that Dr. Shrapnel should know more of political
ways at present than Captain Beauchamp.'
'To Captain Beauchamp's friends and relatives it appears very strange
that he should have decided to contest this election so suddenly. May I
inquire whether he and Dr. Shrapnel are old acquaintances?'
'No, madam, they are not. They had never met before Captain Beauchamp
landed, the other day.'
'I am surprised, I confess. I cannot understand the nature of an
influence that induces him to abandon a profession he loves and shines
in, for politics, at a moment's notice.'
Miss Denham was silent, and then said:
'I will tell you, madam, how it occurred, as far as circumstances explain
it. Dr. Shrapnel is accustomed to give a little country feast to the
children I teach, and their parents if they choose to come, and they
generally do. They are driven to Northeden Heath, where we set up a
booth for them, and try with cakes and tea and games to make them spend
one of their happy afternoons and evenings. We succeed, I know, for the
little creatures talk of it and look forward to the day. When they are
at their last romp, Dr. Shrapnel speaks to the parents.'
'Can he obtain a hearing?' Rosamund asked.
'He has not so very large a crowd to address, madam, and he is much
beloved by those that come.'
'He speaks to them of politics on those occasions?'
'Adouci a leur intention. It is not a political speech, but Dr. Shrapnel
thinks, that in a so-called free country seeking to be really free, men
of the lowest class should be educated in forming a political judgement.'
'And women too?'
'And women, yes. Indeed, madam, we notice that the women listen very
'They can put on the air.'
'I am afraid, not more than the men do. To get them to listen is
something. They suffer like the men, and must depend on their
intelligence to win their way out of it.'
Rosamund's meditation was exclamatory: What can be the age of this
An afterthought turned her more conciliatorily toward the person, but
less to the subject. She was sure that she was lending ear to the echo
of the dangerous doctor, and rather pitied Miss Denham for awhile,
reflecting that a young woman stuffed with such ideas would find it hard
to get a husband. Mention of Nevil revived her feeling of hostility.
We had seen a gentleman standing near and listening attentively,' Miss
Denham resumed, 'and when Dr. Shrapnel concluded a card was handed to
him. He read it and gave it to me, and said, "You know that name." It
was a name we had often talked about during the war.
He went to Captain Beauchamp and shook his hand. He does not pay many
compliments, and he does not like to receive them, but it was impossible
for him not to be moved by Captain Beauchamp's warmth in thanking him for
the words he had spoken. I saw that Dr. Shrapnel became interested in
Captain Beauchamp the longer they conversed. We walked home together.
Captain Beauchamp supped with us. I left them at half-past eleven at
night, and in the morning I found them walking in the garden. They had
not gone to bed at all. Captain Beauchamp has remained in Bevisham ever
since. He soon came to the decision to be a candidate for the borough.'
Rosamund checked her lips from uttering: To be a puppet of
She remarked, 'He is very eloquent--Dr. Shrapnel?'
Miss Denham held some debate with herself upon the term.
'Perhaps it is not eloquence; he often . . . no, he is not an orator.'
Rosamund suggested that he was persuasive, possibly.
Again the young lady deliberately weighed the word, as though the nicest
measure of her uncle or adoptor's quality in this or that direction were
in requisition and of importance--an instance of a want of delicacy of
perception Rosamund was not sorry to detect. For good-looking, refined-
looking, quick-witted girls can be grown; but the nimble sense of
fitness, ineffable lightning-footed tact, comes of race and breeding, and
she was sure Nevil was a man soon to feel the absence of that.
'Dr. Shrapnel is persuasive to those who go partly with him, or whose
condition of mind calls on him for great patience,' Miss Denham said at
'I am only trying to comprehend how it was that he should so rapidly have
won Captain Beauchamp to his views,' Rosamund explained; and the young
lady did not reply.
Dr. Shrapnel's house was about a mile beyond the town, on a common of
thorn and gorse, through which the fir-bordered highway ran. A fence
waist-high enclosed its plot of meadow and garden, so that the doctor,
while protecting his own, might see and be seen of the world, as was the
case when Rosamund approached. He was pacing at long slow strides along
the gravel walk, with his head bent and bare, and his hands behind his
back, accompanied by a gentleman who could be no other than Nevil,
Rosamund presumed to think; but drawing nearer she found she was
'That is not Captain Beauchamp's figure,' she said.
'No, it is not he,' said Miss Denham.
Rosamund saw that her companion was pale. She warmed to her at once; by
no means on account of the pallor in itself.
'I have walked too fast for you, I fear.'
'Oh no; I am accused of being a fast walker.'
Rosamund was unwilling to pass through the demagogue's gate. On second
thoughts, she reflected that she could hardly stipulate to have news of
Nevil tossed to her over the spikes, and she entered.
While receiving Dr. Shrapnel's welcome to a friend of Captain Beauchamp,
she observed the greeting between Miss Denham and the younger gentleman.
It reassured her. They met like two that have a secret.
The dreaded doctor was an immoderately tall man, lean and wiry,
carelessly clad in a long loose coat of no colour, loose trowsers, and
He stooped from his height to speak, or rather swing the stiff upper half
of his body down to his hearer's level and back again, like a ship's mast
on a billowy sea. He was neither rough nor abrupt, nor did he roar
bullmouthedly as demagogues are expected to do, though his voice was
deep. He was actually, after his fashion, courteous, it could be said of
him, except that his mind was too visibly possessed by distant matters
for Rosamund's taste, she being accustomed to drawing-room and hunting
and military gentlemen, who can be all in the words they utter.
Nevertheless he came out of his lizard-like look with the down-dropped
eyelids quick at a resumption of the dialogue; sometimes gesturing,
sweeping his arm round. A stubborn tuft of iron-grey hair fell across