Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
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
his forehead, and it was apparently one of his life's labours to get it
to lie amid the mass, for his hand rarely ceased to be in motion without
an impulsive stroke at the refractory forelock. He peered through his
eyelashes ordinarily, but from no infirmity of sight. The truth was,
that the man's nature counteracted his spirit's intenser eagerness and
restlessness by alternating a state of repose that resembled dormancy,
and so preserved him. Rosamund was obliged to give him credit for
straightforward eyes when they did look out and flash. Their filmy blue,
half overflown with grey by age, was poignant while the fire in them
lasted. Her antipathy attributed something electrical to the light they
Dr. Shrapnel's account of Nevil stated him to have gone to call on
Colonel Halkett, a new resident at Mount Laurels, on the Otley river. He
offered the welcome of his house to the lady who was Captain Beauchamp's
friend, saying, with extraordinary fatuity (so it sounded in Rosamund's
ears), that Captain Beauchamp would certainly not let an evening pass
without coming to him. Rosamund suggested that he might stay late at
'Then he will arrive here after nightfall,' said the doctor. 'A bed is
at your service, ma'am.'
The offer was declined. 'I should like to have seen him to-day; but he
will be home shortly.'
'He will not quit Bevisham till this Election's decided unless to hunt a
stray borough vote, ma'am.'
'He goes to Mount Laurels.
'For that purpose.'
'I do not think he will persuade Colonel Halkett to vote in the Radical
'That is the probability with a landed proprietor, ma'am. We must knock,
whether the door opens or not. Like,' the doctor laughed to himself up
aloft, 'like a watchman in the night to say that he smells smoke on the
'Surely we may expect Captain Beauchamp to consult his family about so
serious a step as this he is taking,' Rosamund said, with an effort to be
Why should he?' asked the impending doctor.
His head continued in the interrogative position when it had resumed its
elevation. The challenge for a definite reply to so outrageous a
question irritated Rosamund's nerves, and, loth though she was to admit
him to the subject, she could not forbear from saying, 'Why? Surely his
family have the first claim on him!'
'Surely not, ma'am. There is no first claim. A man's wife and children
have a claim on him for bread. A man's parents have a claim on him for
obedience while he is a child. A man's uncles, aunts, and cousins have
no claim on him at all, except for help in necessity, which he can grant
and they require. None--wife, children, parents, relatives--none has a
claim to bar his judgement and his actions. Sound the conscience, and
sink the family! With a clear conscience, it is best to leave the family
to its own debates. No man ever did brave work who held counsel with his
family. The family view of a man's fit conduct is the weak point of the
country. It is no other view than, "Better thy condition for our sakes."
Ha! In this way we breed sheep, fatten oxen: men are dying off.
Resolution taken, consult the family means--waste your time! Those who
go to it want an excuse for altering their minds. The family view is
everlastingly the shopkeeper's! Purse, pence, ease, increase of worldly
goods, personal importance--the pound, the English pound! Dare do that,
and you forfeit your share of Port wine in this world; you won't be
dubbed with a title; you'll be fingered at! Lord, Lord! is it the region
inside a man, or out, that gives him peace? Out, they say; for they have
lost faith in the existence of an inner. They haven't it. Air-sucker,
blood-pump, cooking machinery, and a battery of trained instincts,
aptitudes, fill up their vacuum. I repeat, ma'am, why should young
Captain Beauchamp spend an hour consulting his family? They won't
approve him; he knows it. They may annoy him; and what is the gain of
that? They can't move him; on that I let my right hand burn. So it
would be useless on both sides. He thinks so. So do I. He is one of
the men to serve his country on the best field we can choose for him. In
a ship's cabin he is thrown away. Ay, ay, War, and he may go aboard.
But now we must have him ashore. Too few of such as he!'
'It is matter of opinion,' said Rosamund, very tightly compressed;
scarcely knowing what she said.
How strange, besides hateful, it was to her to hear her darling spoken
of by a stranger who not only pretended to appreciate but to possess him!
A stranger, a man of evil, with monstrous ideas! A terribly strong
inexhaustible man, of a magical power too; or would he otherwise have won
such a mastery over Nevil?
Of course she could have shot a rejoinder, to confute him with all the
force of her indignation, save that the words were tumbling about in her
head like a world in disruption, which made her feel a weakness at the
same time that she gloated on her capacity, as though she had an enormous
army, quite overwhelming if it could but be got to move in advance. This
very common condition of the silent-stricken, unused in dialectics,
heightened Rosamund's disgust by causing her to suppose that Nevil had
been similarly silenced, in his case vanquished, captured, ruined; and he
dwindled in her estimation for a moment or two. She felt that among a
sisterhood of gossips she would soon have found her voice, and struck
down the demagogue's audacious sophisms: not that they affected her in
the slightest degree for her own sake.
Shrapnel might think what he liked, and say what he liked, as far as she
was concerned, apart from the man she loved. Rosamund went through these
emotions altogether on Nevil's behalf, and longed for her affirmatizing
inspiring sisterhood until the thought of them threw another shade on
What champion was she to look to? To whom but to Mr. Everard Romfrey?
It was with a spasm of delighted reflection that she hit on Mr. Romfrey.
He was like a discovery to her. With his strength and skill, his robust
common sense and rough shrewd wit, his prompt comparisons, his chivalry,
his love of combat, his old knightly blood, was not he a match, and an
overmatch, for the ramping Radical who had tangled Nevil in his rough
snares? She ran her mind over Mr. Romfrey's virtues, down even to his
towering height and breadth. Could she but once draw these two giants
into collision in Nevil's presence, she was sure it would save him. The
method of doing it she did not stop to consider: she enjoyed her triumph
in the idea.
Meantime she had passed from Dr. Shrapnel to Miss Denham, and carried on
a conversation becomingly.
Tea had been made in the garden, and she had politely sipped half a cup,
which involved no step inside the guilty house, and therefore no distress
to her antagonism. The sun descended. She heard the doctor reciting.
Could it be poetry? In her imagination the sombre hues surrounding an
incendiary opposed that bright spirit. She listened, smiling
incredulously. Miss Denham could interpret looks, and said, 'Dr.
Shrapnel is very fond of those verses.'
Rosamund's astonishment caused her to say, 'Are they his own?'--a piece
of satiric innocency at which Miss Denham laughed softly as she answered,
Rosamund pleaded that she had not heard them with any distinctness.
'Are they written by the gentleman at his side?'
'Mr. Lydiard? No. He writes, but the verses are not his.'
'Does he know--has he met Captain Beauchamp?'
'Yes, once. Captain Beauchamp has taken a great liking to his works.'
Rosamund closed her eyes, feeling that she was in a nest that had
determined to appropriate Nevil. But at any rate there was the hope and
the probability that this Mr. Lydiard of the pen had taken a long start
of Nevil in the heart of Miss Denham: and struggling to be candid, to
ensure some meditative satisfaction, Rosamund admitted to herself that
the girl did not appear to be one of the wanton giddy-pated pusses who
play two gentlemen or more on their line. Appearances, however, could be
deceptive: never pretend to know a girl by her face, was one of
She was next informed of Dr. Shrapnel's partiality for music toward the
hour of sunset. Miss Denham mentioned it, and the doctor, presently
sauntering up, invited Rosamund to a seat on a bench near the open window
of the drawing-room. He nodded to his ward to go in.
'I am a fire-worshipper, ma'am,' he said. 'The God of day is the father
of poetry, medicine, music: our best friend. See him there! My Jenny
will spin a thread from us to him over the millions of miles, with one
touch of the chords, as quick as he shoots a beam on us. Ay! on her
wretched tinkler called a piano, which tries at the whole orchestra and
murders every instrument in the attempt. But it's convenient, like our
modern civilization--a taming and a diminishing of individuals for an
'You surely do not object to the organ?--I fear I cannot wait, though,'
Miss Denham entreated her. 'Oh! do, madam. Not to hear me--I am not so
perfect a player that I should wish it--but to see him. Captain
Beauchamp may now be coming at any instant.'
Mr. Lydiard added, 'I have an appointment with him here for this
'You build a cathedral of sound in the organ,' said Dr. Shrapnel, casting
out a league of leg as he sat beside his only half-persuaded fretful
guest. 'You subject the winds to serve you; that's a gain. You do
actually accomplish a resonant imitation of the various instruments; they
sing out as your two hands command them--trumpet, flute, dulcimer,
hautboy, drum, storm, earthquake, ethereal quire; you have them at your
option. But tell me of an organ in the open air? The sublimity would
vanish, ma'am, both from the notes and from the structure, because
accessories and circumstances produce its chief effects. Say that an
organ is a despotism, just as your piano is the Constitutional bourgeois.
Match them with the trained orchestral band of skilled individual
performers, indoors or out, where each grasps his instrument, and each
relies on his fellow with confidence, and an unrivalled concord comes of
it. That is our republic each one to his work; all in union! There's
the motto for us! Then you have music, harmony, the highest, fullest,
finest! Educate your men to form a band, you shame dexterous trickery
and imitation sounds. Then for the difference of real instruments from
clever shams! Oh, ay, one will set your organ going; that is, one in
front, with his couple of panting air-pumpers behind--his ministers!'
Dr. Shrapnel laughed at some undefined mental image, apparently careless
of any laughing companionship. 'One will do it for you, especially if
he's born to do it. Born!' A slap of the knee reported what seemed to
be an immensely contemptuous sentiment. 'But free mouths blowing into
brass and wood, ma'am, beat your bellows and your whifflers; your
artificial choruses--crash, crash! your unanimous plebiscitums! Beat
them? There's no contest: we're in another world; we're in the sun's
Miss Denham's opening notes on the despised piano put a curb on the
doctor. She began a Mass of Mozart's, without the usual preliminary
rattle of the keys, as of a crier announcing a performance, straight to
her task, for which Rosamund thanked her, liking that kind of composed
simplicity: she thanked her more for cutting short the doctor's fanatical
nonsense. It was perceptible to her that a species of mad metaphor had
been wriggling and tearing its passage through a thorn-bush in his
discourse, with the furious urgency of a sheep in a panic; but where the
ostensible subject ended and the metaphor commenced, and which was which
at the conclusion, she found it difficult to discern--much as the sheep
would, be when he had left his fleece behind him. She could now have
said, 'Silly old man!'
Dr. Shrapnel appeared most placable. He was gazing at his Authority in
the heavens, tangled among gold clouds and purple; his head bent acutely
on one side, and his eyes upturned in dim speculation. His great feet
planted on their heels faced him, suggesting the stocks; his arms hung
loose. Full many a hero of the alehouse, anciently amenable to leg-and-
foot imprisonment in the grip of the parish, has presented as respectable
an air. His forelock straggled as it willed.
Rosamund rose abruptly as soon as the terminating notes of the Mass had
Dr. Shrapnel seemed to be concluding his devotions before he followed her
'There, ma'am, you have a telegraphic system for the soul,' he said.
'It is harder work to travel from this place to this' (he pointed at ear
and breast) 'than from here to yonder' (a similar indication traversed
the distance between earth and sun). 'Man's aim has hitherto been to
keep men from having a soul for this world: he takes it for something
infernal. He?--I mean, they that hold power. They shudder to think the
conservatism of the earth will be shaken by a change; they dread they
won't get men with souls to fetch and carry, dig, root, mine, for them.
Right!--what then? Digging and mining will be done; so will harping and
singing. But then we have a natural optimacy! Then, on the one hand,
we whip the man-beast and the man-sloth; on the other, we seize that old
fatted iniquity--that tyrant! that tempter! that legitimated swindler
cursed of Christ! that palpable Satan whose name is Capital! by the
neck, and have him disgorging within three gasps of his life. He is the
villain! Let him live, for he too comes of blood and bone. He shall not
grind the faces of the poor and helpless--that's all.'
The comicality of her having such remarks addressed to her provoked a
smile on Rosamund's lips.
'Don't go at him like Samson blind,' said Mr. Lydiard; and Miss Denham,
who had returned, begged her guardian to entreat the guest to stay.
She said in an undertone, 'I am very anxious you should see Captain
'I too; but he will write, and I really can wait no longer,' Rosamund
replied, in extreme apprehension lest a certain degree of pressure should
overbear her repugnance to the doctor's dinner-table. Miss Denham's look
was fixed on her; but, whatever it might mean, Rosamund's endurance was
at an end. She was invited to dine; she refused. She was exceedingly
glad to find herself on the high-road again, with a prospect of reaching
Steynham that night; for it was important that she should not have to
confess a visit to Bevisham now when she had so little of favourable to
tell Mr. Everard Romfrey of his chosen nephew. Whether she had acted
quite wisely in not remaining to see Nevil, was an agitating question
that had to be silenced by an appeal to her instincts of repulsion,
and a further appeal for justification of them to her imaginary
sisterhood of gossips. How could she sit and eat, how pass an evening
in that house, in the society of that man? Her tuneful chorus cried,
'How indeed.' Besides, it would have offended Mr. Romfrey to hear that
she had done so. Still she could not refuse to remember Miss Denham's
marked intimations of there being a reason for Nevil's friend to seize
the chance of an immediate interview with him; and in her distress at the
thought, Rosamund reluctantly, but as if compelled by necessity, ascribed
the young lady's conduct to a strong sense of personal interests.
'Evidently she has no desire he should run the risk of angering a rich
This shameful suspicion was unavoidable: there was no other opiate for
Rosamund's blame of herself after letting her instincts gain the
It will be found a common case, that when we have yielded to our
instincts, and then have to soothe conscience, we must slaughter
somebody, for a sacrificial offering to our sense of comfort.
A SUPERFINE CONSCIENCE
However much Mr. Everard Romfrey may have laughed at Nevil Beauchamp with
his 'banana-wreath,' he liked the fellow for having volunteered for that
African coast-service, and the news of his promotion by his admiral to
the post of commander through a death vacancy, had given him an exalted
satisfaction, for as he could always point to the cause of failures, he
strongly appreciated success. The circumstance had offered an occasion
for the new commander to hit him hard upon a matter of fact. Beauchamp
had sent word of his advance in rank, but requested his uncle not to
imagine him wearing an additional epaulette; and he corrected the
infallible gentleman's error (which had of course been reported to him
when he was dreaming of Renee, by Mrs. Culling) concerning a lieutenant's
shoulder decorations, most gravely; informing him of the anchor on the
lieutenant's pair of epaulettes, and the anchor and star on a
commander's, and the crown on a captain's, with a well-feigned
solicitousness to save his uncle from blundering further. This was done
in the dry neat manner which Mr. Romfrey could feel to be his own turned
He began to conceive a vague respect for the fellow who had proved him
wrong upon a matter of fact. Beauchamp came from Africa rather worn by
the climate, and immediately obtained the command of the Ariadne
corvette, which had been some time in commission in the Mediterranean,
whither he departed, without visiting Steynham; allowing Rosamund to
think him tenacious of his wrath as well as of love. Mr. Romfrey
considered him to be insatiable for service. Beauchamp, during his
absence, had shown himself awake to the affairs of his country once only,
in an urgent supplication he had forwarded for all his uncle's influence
to be used to get him appointed to the first vacancy in Robert Hall's
naval brigade, then forming a part of our handful in insurgent India.
The fate of that chivalrous Englishman, that born sailor-warrior, that
truest of heroes, imperishable in the memory of those who knew him, and
in our annals, young though he was when death took him, had wrung from
Nevil Beauchamp such a letter of tears as to make Mr. Romfrey believe the
naval crown of glory his highest ambition. Who on earth could have
guessed him to be bothering his head about politics all the while! Or
was the whole stupid business a freak of the moment?
It became necessary for Mr. Romfrey to contemplate his eccentric nephew
in the light of a mannikin once more. Consequently he called to mind,
and bade Rosamund Culling remember, that he had foreseen and had
predicted the mounting of Nevil Beauchamp on his political horse one day
or another; and perhaps the earlier the better. And a donkey could have
sworn that when he did mount he would come galloping in among the Radical
rough-riders. Letters were pouring upon Steynham from men and women of
Romfrey blood and relationship concerning the positive tone of Radicalism
in the commander's address. Everard laughed at them. As a practical
man, his objection lay against the poor fool's choice of the peccant
borough of Bevisham. Still, in view of the needfulness of his learning
wisdom, and rapidly, the disbursement of a lot of his money, certain to
be required by Bevisham's electors, seemed to be the surest method for
quickening his wits. Thus would he be acting as his own chirurgeon,
gaily practising phlebotomy on his person to cure him of his fever. Too
much money was not the origin of the fever in Nevil's case, but he had
too small a sense of the value of what he possessed, and the diminishing
stock would be likely to cry out shrilly.
To this effect, never complaining that Nevil Beauchamp had not come to
him to take counsel with him, the high-minded old gentleman talked. At
the same time, while indulging in so philosophical a picture of himself
as was presented by a Romfrey mildly accounting for events and smoothing
them under the infliction of an offence, he could not but feel that Nevil
had challenged him: such was the reading of it; and he waited for some
justifiable excitement to fetch him out of the magnanimous mood, rather
in the image of an angler, it must be owned.
'Nevil understands that I am not going to pay a farthing of his expenses
in Bevisham?' he said to Mrs. Culling.
She replied blandly and with innocence, 'I have not seen him, sir.'
He nodded. At the next mention of Nevil between them, he asked, 'Where
is it he's lying perdu, ma'am?'
'I fancy in that town, in Bevisham.'
'At the Liberal, Radical, hotel?'
'I dare say; some place; I am not certain . . . .'
'The rascal doctor's house there? Shrapnel's?'
'Really . . . I have not seen him.'
'Have you heard from him?'
'I have had a letter; a short one.'
'Where did he date his letter from?'
'From what house?'
Rosamund glanced about for a way of escaping the question. There was
none but the door. She replied, 'From Dr. Shrapnel's.'
'That's the Anti-Game-Law agitator.'
'You do not imagine, sir, that Nevil subscribes to every thing the horrid
man agitates for?'
'You don't like the man, ma'am?'
'I detest him.'
'Ha! So you have seen Shrapnel?'
'Only for a moment; a moment or two. I cannot endure him. I am sure I
Rosamund flushed exceedingly red. The visit to Dr. Shrapnel's house was
her secret, and the worming of it out made her feel guilty, and that
feeling revived and heated her antipathy to the Radical doctor.
'What reason?' said Mr. Romfrey, freshening at her display of colour.
She would not expose Nevil to the accusation of childishness by
confessing her positive reason, so she answered, 'The man is a kind of
man . . . I was not there long; I was glad to escape. He . . .'
she hesitated: for in truth it was difficult to shape the charge against
him, and the effort to be reticent concerning Nevil, and communicative,
now that he had been spoken of, as to the detested doctor, reduced her to
some confusion. She was also fatally anxious to be in the extreme degree
conscientious, and corrected and modified her remarks most suspiciously.
'Did he insult you, ma'am?' Mr. Romfrey inquired.
She replied hastily, 'Oh no. He may be a good man in his way. He is one
of those men who do not seem to think a woman may have opinions. He does
not scruple to outrage those we hold. I am afraid he is an infidel. His
ideas of family duties and ties, and his manner of expressing himself,
shocked me, that is all. He is absurd. I dare say there is no harm in
him, except for those who are so unfortunate as to fall under his
influence--and that, I feel sure, cannot be permanent. He could not
injure me personally. He could not offend me, I mean. Indeed, I have
nothing whatever to say against him, as far as I . . .'
'Did he fail to treat you as a lady, ma'am?'
Rosamund was getting frightened by the significant pertinacity of her
'I am sure, sir, he meant no harm.'
'Was the man uncivil to you, ma'am?' came the emphatic interrogation.
She asked herself, had Dr. Shrapnel been uncivil toward her? And so
conscientious was she, that she allowed the question to be debated in her
mind for half a minute, answering then, 'No, not uncivil. I cannot
exactly explain . . . . He certainly did not intend to be uncivil.
He is only an unpolished, vexatious man; enormously tall.'
Mr. Romfrey ejaculated, 'Ha! humph!'
His view of Dr. Shrapnel was taken from that instant. It was, that this
enormously big blustering agitator against the preservation of birds,
had behaved rudely toward the lady officially the chief of his household,
and might be considered in the light of an adversary one would like to
meet. The size of the man increased his aspect of villany, which in
return added largely to his giant size. Everard Romfrey's mental eye
could perceive an attractiveness about the man little short of magnetic;
for he thought of him so much that he had to think of what was due to his
pacifical disposition (deeply believed in by him) to spare himself the
trouble of a visit to Bevisham.
The young gentleman whom he regarded as the Radical doctor's dupe, fell
in for a share of his view of the doctor, and Mr. Romfrey became less
fitted to observe Nevil Beauchamp's doings with the Olympian gravity he
had originally assumed.
The extreme delicacy of Rosamund's conscience was fretted by a remorseful
doubt of her having conveyed a just impression of Dr. Shrapnel, somewhat
as though the fine sleek coat of it were brushed the wrong way.
Reflection warned her that her deliberative intensely sincere pause
before she responded to Mr. Romfrey's last demand, might have implied
more than her words. She consoled herself with the thought that it was
the dainty susceptibility of her conscientiousness which caused these
noble qualms, and so deeply does a refined nature esteem the gift, that
her pride in it helped her to overlook her moral perturbation. She was
consoled, moreover, up to the verge of triumph in her realization of the
image of a rivalling and excelling power presented by Mr. Romfrey, though
it had frightened her at the time. Let not Dr. Shrapnel come across him!
She hoped he would not. Ultimately she could say to herself, 'Perhaps I
need not have been so annoyed with the horrid man.' It was on Nevil's
account. Shrapnel's contempt of the claims of Nevil's family upon him
was actually a piece of impudence, impudently expressed, if she
remembered correctly. And Shrapnel was a black malignant, the foe of the
nation's Constitution, deserving of punishment if ever man was; with his
ridiculous metaphors, and talk of organs and pianos, orchestras and
despotisms, and flying to the sun! How could Nevil listen to the
creature! Shrapnel must be a shameless, hypocrite to mask his wickedness
from one so clear-sighted as Nevil, and no doubt he indulged in his
impudence out of wanton pleasure in it. His business was to catch young
gentlemen of family, and to turn them against their families, plainly.
That was thinking the best of him. No doubt he had his objects to gain.
'He might have been as impudent as he liked to me; I would have pardoned
him!' Rosamund exclaimed. Personally, you see, she was generous. On
the whole, knowing Everard Romfrey as she did, she wished that she had
behaved, albeit perfectly discreet in her behaviour, and conscientiously
just, a shade or two differently. But the evil was done.
THE LEADING ARTICLE AND MR. TIMOTHY TURBOT
Nevil declined to come to Steynham, clearly owing to a dread of hearing
Dr. Shrapnel abused, as Rosamund judged by the warmth of his written
eulogies of the man, and an ensuing allusion to Game. He said that he
had not made up his mind as to the Game Laws. Rosamund mentioned the
fact to Mr. Romfrey. 'So we may stick by our licences to shoot to-
morrow,' he rejoined. Of a letter that he also had received from Nevil,
he did not speak. She hinted at it, and he stared. He would have deemed
it as vain a subject to discourse of India, or Continental affairs, at a
period when his house was full for the opening day of sport, and the
expectation of keeping up his renown for great bags on that day so
entirely occupied his mind. Good shots were present who had contributed
to the fame of Steynham on other opening days. Birds were plentiful and
promised not to be too wild. He had the range of the Steynham estate in
his eye, dotted with covers; and after Steynham, Holdesbury, which had
never yielded him the same high celebrity, but both lay mapped out for
action under the profound calculations of the strategist, ready to show
the skill of the field tactician. He could not attend to Nevil. Even
the talk of the forthcoming Elections, hardly to be avoided at his table,
seemed a puerile distraction. Ware the foe of his partridges and
pheasants, be it man or vermin! The name of Shrapnel was frequently on
the tongue of Captain Baskelett. Rosamund heard him, in her room, and
his derisive shouts of laughter over it. Cecil was a fine shot, quite as
fond of the pastime as his uncle, and always in favour with him while
sport stalked the land. He was in gallant spirits, and Rosamund,
brooding over Nevil's fortunes, and sitting much alone, as she did when
there were guests in the house, gave way to her previous apprehensions.
She touched on them to Mr. Stukely Culbrett, her husband's old friend,
one of those happy men who enjoy perceptions without opinions, and are
not born to administer comfort to other than themselves. As far as she
could gather, he fancied Nevil Beauchamp was in danger of something, but
he delivered his mind only upon circumstances and characters: Nevil
risked his luck, Cecil knew his game, Everard Romfrey was the staunchest
of mankind: Stukely had nothing further to say regarding the situation.
She asked him what he thought, and he smiled. Could a reasonable head
venture to think anything in particular? He repeated the amazed, 'You
don't say so' of Colonel Halkett, on hearing the name of the new Liberal
candidate for Bevisham at the dinner-table, together with some of Cecil's
waggish embroidery upon the theme.
Rosamund exclaimed angrily, 'Oh! if I had been there he would not have
'Why not be there?' said Stukely. 'You have had your choice for a number
She shook her head, reddening.
But supposing that she had greater privileges than were hers now? The
idea flashed. A taint of personal pique, awakened by the fancied
necessity for putting her devotedness to Nevil to proof, asked her if she
would then be the official housekeeper to whom Captain Baskelett bowed
low with affected respect and impertinent affability, ironically praising
her abroad as a wonder among women, that could at one time have played
the deuce in the family, had she chosen to do so.
'Just as you like,' Mr. Culbrett remarked. It was his ironical habit of
mind to believe that the wishes of men and women--women as well as men--
were expressed by their utterances.
'But speak of Nevil to Colonel Halkett,' said Rosamund, earnestly
carrying on what was in her heart. 'Persuade the colonel you do not
think Nevil foolish--not more than just a little impetuous. I want
that marriage to come off! Not on account of her wealth. She is to
inherit a Welsh mine from her uncle, you know, besides being an only
child. Recall what Nevil was during the war. Miss Halkett has not
forgotten it, I am sure, and a good word for him from a man of the world
would, I am certain, counteract Captain Baskelett's--are they designs?
At any rate, you can if you like help Nevil with the colonel. I am
convinced they are doing him a mischief. Colonel Halkett has bought an
estate--and what a misfortune that is!--close to Bevisham. I fancy he is
Toryish. Will you not speak to him? At my request? I am so helpless I
'Fancy you have no handkerchief,' said Mr. Culbrett, 'and give up
scheming, pray. One has only to begin to scheme, to shorten life to
half-a-dozen hops and jumps. I could say to the colonel, "Young
Beauchamp's a political cub: he ought to have a motherly wife."'
'Yes, yes, you are right; don't speak to him at all,' said Rosamund,
feeling that there must be a conspiracy to rob her of her proud
independence, since not a soul could be won to spare her from taking
some energetic step, if she would be useful to him she loved.
Colonel Halkett was one of the guests at Steynham who knew and respected
her, and he paid her a visit and alluded to Nevil's candidature,
apparently not thinking much the worse of him. 'We can't allow him to
succeed,' he said, and looked for a smiling approval of such natural
opposition, which Rosamund gave him readily after he had expressed the
hope that Nevil Beauchamp would take advantage of his proximity to Mount
Laurels during the contest to try the hospitality of the house. 'He
won't mind meeting his uncle?' The colonel's eyes twinkled. 'My daughter
has engaged Mr. Romfrey and Captain Baskelett to come to us when they
have shot Holdesbury.'
And Captain Baskelett! thought Rosamund; her jealousy whispering that the
mention of his name close upon Cecilia Halkett's might have a nuptial
She was a witness from her window--a prisoner's window, her 'eager heart
could have termed it--of a remarkable ostentation of cordiality between
the colonel and Cecil, in the presence of Mr. Romfrey. Was it his humour
to conspire to hand Miss Halkett to Cecil, and then to show Nevil the
prize he had forfeited by his folly? The three were on the lawn a little
before Colonel Halkett's departure. The colonel's arm was linked with
Cecil's while they conversed. Presently the latter received his
afternoon's letters, and a newspaper. He soon had the paper out at a
square stretch, and sprightly information for the other two was visible
in his crowing throat. Mr. Romfrey raised the gun from his shoulder-pad,
and grounded it. Colonel Halkett wished to peruse the matter with his
own eyes, but Cecil could not permit it; he must read it aloud for them,
and he suited his action to his sentences. Had Rosamund been accustomed
to leading articles which are the composition of men of an imposing
vocabulary, she would have recognized and as good as read one in Cecil's
gestures as he tilted his lofty stature forward and back, marking his
commas and semicolons with flapping of his elbows, and all but doubling
his body at his periods. Mr. Romfrey had enough of it half-way down the
column; his head went sharply to left and right. Cecil's peculiar
foppish slicing down of his hand pictured him protesting that there was
more and finer of the inimitable stuff to follow. The end of the scene
exhibited the paper on the turf, and Colonel Halkett's hand on Cecil's
shoulder, Mr. Romfrey nodding some sort of acquiescence over the muzzle
of his gun, whether reflective or positive Rosamund could not decide.
She sent out a footman for the paper, and was presently communing with
its eloquent large type, quite unable to perceive where the comicality or
the impropriety of it lay, for it would have struck her that never were
truer things of Nevil Beauchamp better said in the tone befitting them.
This perhaps was because she never heard fervid praises of him, or of
anybody, delivered from the mouth, and it is not common to hear
Englishmen phrasing great eulogies of one another. Still, as a rule,
they do not object to have it performed in that region of our national
eloquence, the Press, by an Irishman or a Scotchman. And what could
there be to warrant Captain Baskelett's malicious derision, and Mr.
Romfrey's nodding assent to it, in an article where all was truth?
The truth was mounted on an unusually high wind. It was indeed a leading
article of a banner-like bravery, and the unrolling of it was designed to
stir emotions. Beauchamp was the theme. Nevil had it under his eyes
earlier than Cecil. The paper was brought into his room with the beams
of day, damp from the presses of the Bevisham Gazette, exactly opposite
to him in the White Hart Hotel, and a glance at the paragraphs gave him a
lively ardour to spring to his feet. What writing! He was uplifted as
'The heroical Commander Beauchamp, of the Royal Navy,' and 'Commander
Beauchamp, R.N., a gentleman of the highest connections': he was 'that
illustrious Commander Beauchamp, of our matchless, navy, who proved on
every field of the last glorious war of this country that the traditional
valour of the noble and indomitable blood transmitted to his veins had
lost none of its edge and weight since the battle-axes of the Lords de
Romfrey, ever to the fore, clove the skulls of our national enemy on the
wide and fertile campaigns of France.' This was pageantry.
There was more of it. Then the serious afflatus of the article
condescended, as it were, to blow a shrill and well-known whistle:--the
study of the science of navigation made by Commander Beauchamp, R.N., was
cited for a jocose warranty of a seaman's aptness to assist in steering
the Vessel of the State. After thus heeling over, to tip a familiar wink
to the multitude, the leader tone resumed its fit deportment. Commander
Beauchamp, in responding to the invitation of the great and united
Liberal party of the borough of Bevisham, obeyed the inspirations of
genius, the dictates of humanity, and what he rightly considered the
paramount duty, as it is the proudest ambition, of the citizen of a free
But for an occasional drop and bump of the sailing gasbag upon catch-
words of enthusiasm, which are the rhetoric of the merely windy, and a
collapse on a poetic line, which too often signalizes the rhetorician's
emptiness of his wind, the article was eminent for flight, sweep, and
dash, and sailed along far more grandly than ordinary provincial organs
for the promoting or seconding of public opinion, that are as little to
be compared with the mighty metropolitan as are the fife and bugle boys
practising on their instruments round melancholy outskirts of garrison
towns with the regimental marching full band under the presidency of its
drum-major. No signature to the article was needed for Bevisham to know
who had returned to the town to pen it. Those long-stretching sentences,
comparable to the very ship Leviathan, spanning two Atlantic billows,
appertained to none but the renowned Mr. Timothy Turbot, of the Corn Law
campaigns, Reform agitations, and all manifestly popular movements
requiring the heaven-endowed man of speech, an interpreter of multitudes,
and a prompter. Like most men who have little to say, he was an orator
in print, but that was a poor medium for him--his body without his fire.
Mr. Timothy's place was the platform. A wise discernment, or else a
lucky accident (for he came hurriedly from the soil of his native isle,
needing occupation), set him on that side in politics which happened to
be making an established current and strong headway. Oratory will not
work against the stream, or on languid tides. Driblets of movements that
allowed the world to doubt whether they were so much movements as
illusions of the optics, did not suit his genius. Thus he was a Liberal,
no Radical, fountain. Liberalism had the attraction for the orator of
being the active force in politics, between two passive opposing bodies,
the aspect of either of which it can assume for a menace to the other,
Toryish as against Radicals; a trifle red in the eyes of the Tory. It
can seem to lean back on the Past; it can seem to be amorous of the
Future. It is actually the thing of the Present and its urgencies,
therefore popular, pouring forth the pure waters of moderation, strong in
their copiousness. Delicious and rapturous effects are to be produced in
the flood of a Liberal oration by a chance infusion of the fierier
spirit, a flavour of Radicalism. That is the thing to set an audience
bounding and quirking. Whereas if you commence by tilling a Triton
pitcher full of the neat liquor upon them, 'you have to resort to the
natural element for the orator's art of variation, you are diluted--and
that's bathos, to quote Mr. Timothy. It was a fine piece of discernment
in him. Let Liberalism be your feast, Radicalism your spice. And now
and then, off and on, for a change, for diversion, for a new emotion,
just for half an hour or so-now and then the Sunday coat of Toryism will
give you an air. You have only to complain of the fit, to release your
shoulders in a trice. Mr. Timothy felt for his art as poets do for
theirs, and considered what was best adapted to speaking, purely to
speaking. Upon no creature did he look with such contempt as upon Dr.
Shrapnel, whose loose disjunct audiences he was conscious he could,
giving the doctor any start he liked, whirl away from him and have
compact, enchained, at his first flourish; yea, though they were composed
of 'the poor man,' with a stomach for the political distillery fit to
drain relishingly every private bogside or mountain-side tap in old
Ireland in its best days--the illicit, you understand.
Further, to quote Mr. Timothy's points of view, the Radical orator has
but two notes, and one is the drawling pathetic, and the other is the
ultra-furious; and the effect of the former we liken to the English
working man's wife's hob-set queasy brew of well-meant villany, that she
calls by the innocent name of tea; and the latter is to be blown, asks to
be blown, and never should be blown without at least seeming to be blown,
with an accompaniment of a house on fire. Sir, we must adapt ourselves
to our times. Perhaps a spark or two does lurk about our house, but we
have vigilant watchmen in plenty, and the house has been pretty fairly
insured. Shrieking in it is an annoyance to the inmates, nonsensical;
weeping is a sickly business. The times are against Radicalism to the
full as much as great oratory is opposed to extremes. These drag the
orator too near to the matter. So it is that one Radical speech is
amazingly like another--they all have the earth-spots. They smell, too;
they smell of brimstone. Soaring is impossible among that faction; but
this they can do, they can furnish the Tory his opportunity to soar.
When hear you a thrilling Tory speech that carries the country with it,
save when the incendiary Radical has shrieked? If there was envy in the
soul of Timothy, it was addressed to the fine occasions offered to the
Tory speaker for vindicating our ancient principles and our sacred homes.
He admired the tone to be assumed for that purpose: it was a good note.
Then could the Tory, delivering at the right season the Shakesperian
'This England . . .' and Byronic--'The inviolate Island . . .'
shake the frame, as though smiting it with the tail of the gymnotus
electricus. Ah, and then could he thump out his Horace, the Tory's
mentor and his cordial, with other great ancient comic and satiric poets,
his old Port of the classical cellarage, reflecting veneration upon him
who did but name them to an audience of good dispositions. The Tory
possessed also an innate inimitably easy style of humour, that had the
long reach, the jolly lordly indifference, the comfortable masterfulness,
of the whip of a four-in-hand driver, capable of flicking and stinging,
and of being ironically caressing. Timothy appreciated it, for he had
winced under it. No professor of Liberalism could venture on it, unless
it were in the remote district of a back parlour, in the society of a
cherishing friend or two, and with a slice of lemon requiring to be
refloated in the glass.
But gifts of this description were of a minor order. Liberalism gave the
heading cry, devoid of which parties are dogs without a scent, orators
mere pump-handles. The Tory's cry was but a whistle to his pack, the
Radical howled to the moon like any chained hound. And no wonder, for
these parties had no established current, they were as hard-bound waters;
the Radical being dyked and dammed most soundly, the Tory resembling a
placid lake of the plains, fed by springs and no confluents. For such
good reasons, Mr. Timothy rejoiced in the happy circumstances which had
expelled him from the shores of his native isle to find a refuge and a
vocation in Manchester at a period when an orator happened to be in
request because dozens were wanted. That centre of convulsions and
source of streams possessed the statistical orator, the reasoning orator,
and the inspired; with others of quality; and yet it had need of an ever-
ready spontaneous imperturbable speaker, whose bubbling generalizations
and ability to beat the drum humorous could swing halls of meeting from
the grasp of an enemy, and then ascend on incalescent adjectives to the
popular idea of the sublime. He was the artistic orator of Corn Law
Repeal--the Manchester flood, before which time Whigs were, since which
they have walked like spectral antediluvians, or floated as dead canine
bodies that are sucked away on the ebb of tides and flung back on the
flow, ignorant whether they be progressive or retrograde. Timothy Turbot
assisted in that vast effort. It should have elevated him beyond the
editorship of a country newspaper. Why it did not do so his antagonists
pretended to know, and his friends would smile to hear. The report was
that he worshipped the nymph Whisky.
Timothy's article had plucked Beauchamp out of bed; Beauchamp's card in
return did the same for him.
'Commander Beauchamp? I am heartily glad to make your acquaintance,
sir; I've been absent, at work, on the big business we have in common,
I rejoice to say, and am behind my fellow townsmen in this pleasure and
lucky I slept here in my room above, where I don't often sleep, for the
row of the machinery--it 's like a steamer that won't go, though it's
always starting ye,' Mr. Timothy said in a single breath, upon entering
the back office of the Gazette, like unto those accomplished violinists
who can hold on the bow to finger an incredible number of notes, and may
be imaged as representing slow paternal Time, that rolls his capering
dot-headed generation of mortals over the wheel, hundreds to the minute.
'You'll excuse my not shaving, sir, to come down to your summons without
an extra touch to the neck-band.'
Beauchamp beheld a middle-sized round man, with loose lips and pendant
indigo jowl, whose eyes twinkled watery, like pebbles under the shore-
wash, and whose neck-band needed an extra touch from fingers other than
'I am sorry to have disturbed you so early,' he replied.
'Not a bit, Commander Beauchamp, not a bit, sir. Early or late, and ay
ready--with the Napiers; I'll wash, I'll wash.'
'I came to speak to you of this article of yours on me. They tell me in
the office that you are the writer. Pray don't "Commander" me so much.
--It's not customary, and I object to it.'
'Certainly, certainly,' Timothy acquiesced.
'And for the future, Mr. Turbot, please to be good enough not to allude
in print to any of my performances here and there. Your intentions are
complimentary, but it happens that I don't like a public patting on the
'No, and that's true,' said Timothy.
His appreciative and sympathetic agreement with these sharp strictures on
the article brought Beauchamp to a stop.
Timothy waited for him; then, smoothing his prickly cheek, remarked:
'If I'd guessed your errand, Commander Beauchamp, I'd have called in the
barber before I came down, just to make myself decent for a 'first
Beauchamp was not insensible to the slyness of the poke at him.
'You see, I come to the borough unknown to it, and as quietly as
possible, and I want to be taken as a politician,' he continued, for the
sake of showing that he had sufficient to say to account for his hasty
and peremptory summons of the writer of that article to his presence.
'It's excessively disagreeable to have one's family lugged into notice in
a newspaper--especially if they are of different politics. I feel it.'
All would, sir,' said Timothy.
'Then why the deuce did you do it?'
Timothy drew a lading of air into his lungs. 'Politics, Commander
Beauchamp, involves the doing of lots of disagreeable things to ourselves
and our relations; it 's positive. I'm a soldier of the Great Campaign:
and who knows it better than I, sir? It's climbing the greasy pole for
the leg o' mutton, that makes the mother's heart ache for the jacket and
the nether garments she mended neatly, if she didn't make them. Mutton
or no mutton, there's grease for certain! Since it's sure we can't be
disconnected from the family, the trick is to turn the misfortune to a
profit; and allow me the observation, that an old family, sir, and a high
and titled family, is not to be despised for a background of a portrait
in naval uniform, with medal and clasps, and some small smoke of powder
clearing off over there:--that's if we're to act sagaciously in
introducing an unknown candidate to a borough that has a sneaking liking
for the kind of person, more honour to it. I'm a political veteran, sir;
I speak from experience. We must employ our weapons, every one of them,
and all off the grindstone.'
'Very well,' said Beauchamp. 'Now understand; you are not in future to
employ the weapons, as you call them, that I have objected to.'
Timothy gaped slightly.
'Whatever you will, but no puffery,' Beauchamp added. 'Can I by any
means arrest--purchase--is it possible, tell me, to lay an embargo--stop
to-day's issue of the Gazette?'
'No more--than the bite of a mad dog,' Timothy replied, before he had
considered upon the monstrous nature of the proposal.
Beauchamp humphed, and tossed his head. The simile of the dog struck him
with intense effect.
'There'd be a second edition,' said Timothy, 'and you might buy up that.
But there'll be a third, and you may buy up that; but there'll be a
fourth and a fifth, and so on ad infinitum, with the advertisement of the
sale of the foregoing creating a demand like a rageing thirst in a
shipwreck, in Bligh's boat, in the tropics. I'm afraid, Com--Captain
Beauchamp, sir, there's no stopping the Press while the people have an
appetite for it--and a Company's at the back of it.'
'Pooh, don't talk to me in that way; all I complain of is the figure you
have made of me,' said Beauchamp, fetching him smartly out of his
nonsense; 'and all I ask of you is not to be at it again. Who would
suppose from reading an article like that, that I am a candidate with a
single political idea!'
'An article like that,' said Timothy, winking, and a little surer of his
man now that he suggested his possession of ideas, 'an article like that
is the best cloak you can put on a candidate with too many of 'em,
Captain Beauchamp. I'll tell you, sir; I came, I heard of your
candidature, I had your sketch, the pattern of ye, before me, and I was
told that Dr. Shrapnel fathered you politically. There was my brief!
I had to persuade our constituents that you, Commander Beauchamp of the
Royal Navy, and the great family of the Earls of Romfrey, one of the
heroes of the war, and the recipient of a Royal Humane Society's medal
for saving life in Bevisham waters, were something more than the Radical
doctor's political son; and, sir, it was to this end, aim, and object,
that I wrote the article I am not ashamed to avow as mine, and I do so,
sir, because of the solitary merit it has of serving your political
interests as the liberal candidate for Bevisham by counteracting the
unpopularity of Dr. Shrapnel's name, on the one part, and of reviving the
credit due to your valour and high bearing on the field of battle in
defence of your country, on the other, so that Bevisham may apprehend, in
spite of party distinctions, that it has the option, and had better seize
upon the honour, of making a M.P. of a hero.'
Beauchamp interposed hastily: 'Thank you, thank you for the best of
intentions. But let me tell you I am prepared to stand or fall with
Dr. Shrapnel, and be hanged to all that humbug.'
Timothy rubbed his hands with an abstracted air of washing. 'Well,
commander, well, sir, they say a candidate's to be humoured in his
infancy, for he has to do all the humouring before he's many weeks old at
it; only there's the fact!--he soon finds out he has to pay for his first
fling, like the son of a family sowing his oats to reap his Jews. Credit
me, sir, I thought it prudent to counteract a bit of an apothecary's shop
odour in the junior Liberal candidate's address. I found the town
sniffing, they scented Shrapnel in the composition.'
'Every line of it was mine,' said Beauchamp.
'Of course it was, and the address was admirably worded, sir, I make bold
to say it to your face; but most indubitably it threatened powerful drugs
for weak stomachs, and it blew cold on votes, which are sensitive plants
like nothing else in botany.'
'If they are only to be got by abandoning principles, and by anything but
honesty in stating them, they may go,' said Beauchamp.
'I repeat, my dear sir, I repeat, the infant candidate delights in his
honesty, like the babe in its nakedness, the beautiful virgin in her
innocence. So he does; but he discovers it's time for him to wear
clothes in a contested election. And what's that but to preserve the
outlines pretty correctly, whilst he doesn't shock and horrify the
optics? A dash of conventionalism makes the whole civilized world kin,
ye know. That's the truth. You must appear to be one of them, for them
to choose you. After all, there's no harm in a dyer's hand; and, sir, a
candidate looking at his own, when he has won the Election . . .'
'Ah, well,' said Beauchamp, swinging on his heel, 'and now I'll take my
leave of you, and I apologize for bringing you down here so early.
Please attend to what I have said; it's peremptory. You will give me
great pleasure by dining with me to-night, at the hotel opposite. Will
you? I don't know what kind of wine I shall be able to offer you.
Perhaps you know the cellar, and may help me in that.'
Timothy grasped his hand, 'With pleasure, Commander Beauchamp. They have
a bucellas over there that 's old, and a tolerable claret, and a Port to
be inquired for under the breath, in a mysteriously intimate tone of
voice, as one says, "I know of your treasure, and the corner under ground
where it lies." Avoid the champagne: 'tis the banqueting wine. Ditto
the sherry. One can drink them, one can drink them.'
'At a quarter to eight this evening, then,' said Nevil.
'I'll be there at the stroke of the clock, sure as the date of a bill,'
And it's early to guess whether you'll catch Bevisham or you won't, he
reflected, as he gazed at the young gentleman crossing the road; but
female Bevisham's with you, if that counts for much. Timothy confessed,
that without the employment of any weapon save arrogance and a look of
candour, the commander had gone some way toward catching the feminine
side of himself.
Beauchamp walked down to the pier, where he took a boat for H.M.S. Isis,
to see Jack Wilmore, whom he had not met since his return from his last
cruise, and first he tried the efficacy of a dive in salt water, as a
specific for irritation. It gave the edge to a fine appetite that he
continued to satisfy while Wilmore talked of those famous dogs to which
the navy has ever been going.
'We want another panic, Beauchamp,' said Lieutenant Wilmore. 'No one
knows better than you what a naval man has to complain of, so I hope
you'll get your Election, if only that we may reckon on a good look-out
for the interests of the service. A regular Board with a permanent Lord
High Admiral, and a regular vote of money to keep it up to the mark.
Stick to that. Hardist has a vote in Bevisham. I think I can get one or
two more. Why aren't you a Tory? No Whigs nor Liberals look after us
half so well as the Tories. It's enough to break a man's heart to see
the troops of dockyard workmen marching out as soon as ever a Liberal
Government marches in. Then it's one of our infernal panics again, and
patch here, patch there; every inch of it make-believe! I'll prove to
you from examples that the humbug of Government causes exactly the same
humbugging workmanship. It seems as if it were a game of "rascals all."
Let them sink us! but, by heaven! one can't help feeling for the country.
And I do say it's the doing of those Liberals. Skilled workmen, mind
you, not to be netted again so easily. America reaps the benefit of our
folly . . . . That was a lucky run of yours up the Niger; the admiral
was friendly, but you deserved your luck. For God's sake, don't forget
the state of our service when you're one of our cherubs up aloft,
Beauchamp. This I'll say, I've never heard a man talk about it as you
used to in old midshipmite days, whole watches through--don't you
remember? on the North American station, and in the Black Sea, and the
Mediterranean. And that girl at Malta! I wonder what has become of her?
What a beauty she was! I dare say she wasn't so fine a girl as the
Armenian you unearthed on the Bosphorus, but she had something about her
a fellow can't forget. That was a lovely creature coming down the hills
over Granada on her mule. Ay, we've seen handsome women, Nevil
Beauchamp. But you always were lucky, invariably, and I should bet on
you for the Election.'
'Canvass for me, Jack,' said Beauchamp, smiling at his friend's
unconscious double-skeining of subjects. 'If I turn out as good a
politician as you are a seaman, I shall do. Pounce on Hardist's vote
without losing a day. I would go to him, but I've missed the Halketts
twice. They 're on the Otley river, at a place called Mount Laurels,
and I particularly want to see the colonel. Can you give me a boat
there, and come?'
'Certainly,' said Wilmore. 'I've danced there with the lady, the
handsomest girl, English style, of her time. And come, come, our English
style's the best. It wears best, it looks best. Foreign women . . .
they're capital to flirt with. But a girl like Cecilia Halkett--one
can't call her a girl, and it won't do to say Goddess, and queen and
charmer are out of the question, though she's both, and angel into the
bargain; but, by George! what a woman to call wife, you say; and a man
attached to a woman like that never can let himself look small. No such
luck for me; only I swear if I stood between a good and a bad action, the
thought of that girl would keep me straight, and I've only danced with
Not long after sketching this rough presentation of the lady, with a
masculine hand, Wilmore was able to point to her in person on the deck of
her father's yacht, the Esperanza, standing out of Otley river. There
was a gallant splendour in the vessel that threw a touch of glory on its
mistress in the minds of the two young naval officers, as they pulled for
her in the ship's gig.
Wilmore sang out, 'Give way, men!'
The sailors bent to their oars, and presently the schooner's head was put
to the wind.
'She sees we're giving chase,' Wilmore said. 'She can't be expecting me,
so it must be you. No, the colonel doesn't race her. They've only been
back from Italy six months: I mean the schooner. I remember she talked
of you when I had her for a partner. Yes, now I mean Miss Halkett.
Blest if I think she talked of anything else. She sees us. I'll tell
you what she likes: she likes yachting, she likes Italy, she likes
painting, likes things old English, awfully fond of heroes. I told her a
tale of one of our men saving life. "Oh!" said she, "didn't your friend
Nevil Beauchamp save a man from drowning, off the guardship, in exactly
the same place?" And next day she sent me a cheque for three pounds for
the fellow. Steady, men! I keep her letter.'
The boat went smoothly alongside the schooner. Miss Halkett had come to
the side. The oars swung fore and aft, and Beauchamp sprang on deck.
Wilmore had to decline Miss Halkett's invitation to him as well as his
friend, and returned in his boat. He left the pair with a ruffling
breeze, and a sky all sail, prepared, it seemed to him, to enjoy the most
delicious you-and-I on salt water that a sailor could dream of; and
placidly envying, devoid of jealousy, there was just enough of fancy
quickened in Lieutenant Wilmore to give him pictures of them without
disturbance of his feelings--one of the conditions of the singular
visitation we call happiness, if he could have known it.
For a time his visionary eye followed them pretty correctly. So long
since they had parted last! such changes in the interval! and great
animation in Beauchamp's gaze, and a blush on Miss Halkett's cheeks.
She said once, 'Captain Beauchamp.' He retorted with a solemn formality.
They smiled, and immediately took footing on their previous intimacy.
'How good it was of you to come twice to Mount Laurels,' said she.
'I have not missed you to-day. No address was on your card. Where are
you staying in the neighbourhood? At Mr. Lespel's?'
'I'm staying at a Bevisham hotel,' said Beauchamp.
'You have not been to Steynham yet? Papa comes home from Steynham to-
'Does he? Well, the Ariadne is only just paid off, and I can't well go
to Steynham yet. I--' Beauchamp was astonished at the hesitation he
found in himself to name it: 'I have business in Bevisham.'
'Naval business?' she remarked.
'No,' said he.
The sensitive prescience we have of a critical distaste of our
proceedings is, the world is aware, keener than our intuition of contrary
opinions; and for the sake of preserving the sweet outward forms of
friendliness, Beauchamp was anxious not to speak of the business in
Bevisham just then, but she looked and he had hesitated, so he said
flatly, 'I am one of the candidates for the borough.'
'And I want the colonel to give me his vote.'
The young lady breathed a melodious 'Oh!' not condemnatory or
reproachful--a sound to fill a pause. But she was beginning to reflect.
'Italy and our English Channel are my two Poles,' she said. 'I am
constantly swaying between them. I have told papa we will not lay up the
yacht while the weather holds fair. Except for the absence of deep
colour and bright colour, what can be more beautiful than these green
waves and that dark forest's edge, and the garden of an island! The
yachting-water here is an unrivalled lake; and if I miss colour, which I
love, I remind myself that we have temperate air here, not a sun that
fiends you under cover. We can have our fruits too, you see.' One of
the yachtsmen was handing her a basket of hot-house grapes, reclining
beside crisp home-made loaflets. 'This is my luncheon. Will you share
His Christian name was pleasant to hear from her lips. She held out a
bunch to him.
'Grapes take one back to the South,' said he. 'How do you bear
compliments? You have been in Italy some years, and it must be the South
that has worked the miracle.'
'In my growth?' said Cecilia, smiling. 'I have grown out of my
Circassian dress, Nevil.'
'You received it, then?'
'I wrote you a letter of thanks--and abuse, for your not coming to
Steynham. You may recognize these pearls.'
The pearls were round her right wrist. He looked at the blue veins.
'They're not pearls of price,' he said.
'I do not wear them to fascinate the jewellers,' rejoined Miss Halkett.
'So you are a candidate at an Election. You still have a tinge of
Africa, do you know? But you have not abandoned the navy?'
'Oh! no, no: I hope not. I have heard of you, . . . but who has not?
We cannot spare officers like you. Papa was delighted to hear of your
The exclamation was contemptuous.
'It's the highest we can aim at,' Beauchamp observed meekly.
'I think I recollect you used to talk politics when you were a
midshipman,' she said. 'You headed the aristocracy, did you not?'
'The aristocracy wants a head,' said Beauchamp.
'Parliament, in my opinion, is the best of occupations for idle men,'
'It shows that it is a little too full of them.'
'Surely the country can go on very well without so much speech-making?'
'It can go on very well for the rich.'
Miss Halkett tapped with her foot.
'I should expect a Radical to talk in that way, Nevil.'
'Take me for one.'
'I would not even imagine it.'
'Say Liberal, then.'
'Are you not'--her eyes opened on him largely, and narrowed from surprise
to reproach, and then to pain--are you not one of us? Have you gone over
to the enemy, Nevil?'
'I have taken my side, Cecilia; but we, on our side, don't talk of an
'Most unfortunate! We are Tories, you know, Nevil. Papa is a thorough
Tory. He cannot vote for you. Indeed I have heard him say he is anxious
to defeat the plots of an old Republican in Bevisham--some doctor there;
and I believe he went to London to look out for a second Tory candidate
to oppose to the Liberals. Our present Member is quite safe, of course.
Nevil, this makes me unhappy. Do you not feel that it is playing traitor
to one's class to join those men?'
Such was the Tory way of thinking, Nevil Beauchamp said: the Tories
upheld their Toryism in the place of patriotism.
'But do we not owe the grandeur of the country to the Tories?' she said,
with a lovely air of conviction. 'Papa has told me how false the Whigs
played the Duke in the Peninsula: ruining his supplies, writing him down,
declaring, all the time he was fighting his first hard battles, that his
cause was hopeless--that resistance to Napoleon was impossible. The Duke
never, never had loyal support but from the Tory Government. The Whigs,
papa says, absolutely preached submission to Napoleon! The Whigs, I
hear, were the Liberals of those days. The two Pitts were Tories. The
greatness of England has been built up by the Tories. I do and will
defend them: it is the fashion to decry them now. They have the honour
and safety of the country at heart. They do not play disgracefully at
reductions of taxes, as the Liberals do. They have given us all our
heroes. Non fu mai gloria senza invidia. They have done service enough
to despise the envious mob. They never condescend to supplicate brute
force for aid to crush their opponents. You feel in all they do that the
instincts of gentlemen are active.'
'Do I speak too warmly?' she asked. 'Papa and I have talked over it
often, and especially of late. You will find him your delighted host
and your inveterate opponent.'
'Just the same. You will have to pardon me; I am a terrible foe.'
'I declare to you, Cecilia, I would prefer having you against me to
having you indifferent.'