Part 2 out of 2
was at the same time in her remains of pride cool enough to examine and
rebuke the weakness she succumbed to in now clinging to him by that which
yesterday she hardly less than loathed, still deeply disliked.
On the part of Beauchamp, his conversation with Cecilia during the drive
into Bevisham opened out for the first time in his life a prospect of
home; he had felt the word in speaking it, and it signified an end to the
distractions produced by the sex, allegiance to one beloved respected
woman, and also a basis of operations against the world. For she was
evidently conquerable, and once matched with him would be the very woman
to nerve and sustain him. Did she not listen to him? He liked her
resistance. That element of the barbarous which went largely to form his
emotional nature was overjoyed in wresting such a woman from the enemy,
and subduing her personally. She was a prize. She was a splendid prize,
cut out from under the guns of the fort. He rendered all that was due to
his eminently good cause for its part in so signal a success, but
individual satisfaction is not diminished by the thought that the
individual's discernment selected the cause thus beneficent to him.
Beauchamp's meditations were diverted by the sight of the coast of France
dashed in rain-lines across a weed-strewn sea. The 'three days' granted
him by Renee were over, and it scarcely troubled him that he should be
behind the time; he detested mystery, holding it to be a sign of
pretentious feebleness, often of imposture, it might be frivolity.
Punctilious obedience to the mysterious brevity of the summons, and not
to chafe at it, appeared to him as much as could be expected of a
struggling man. This was the state of the case with him, until he stood
on French earth, breathed French air, and chanced to hear the tongue of
France twittered by a lady on the quay. The charm was instantaneous.
He reminded himself that Renee, unlike her countrywomen, had no gift for
writing letters. They had never corresponded since the hour of her
marriage. They had met in Sicily, at Syracuse, in the presence of her
father and her husband, and so inanimate was she that the meeting seemed
like the conclusion of their history. Her brother Roland sent tidings of
her by fits, and sometimes a conventional message from Tourdestelle.
Latterly her husband's name had been cited as among the wildfires of
Parisian quays, in journals more or less devoted to those unreclaimed
spaces of the city. Well, if she was unhappy, was it not the fulfilment
of his prophecy in Venice?
Renee's brevity became luminous. She needed him urgently, and knowing
him faithful to the death, she, because she knew him, dispatched purely
the words which said she needed him. Why, those brief words were the
poetry of noble confidence! But what could her distress be? The lover
was able to read that, 'Come; I give you three days,' addressed to him,
was not language of a woman free of her yoke.
Excited to guess and guess, Beauchamp swept on to speculations of a
madness that seized him bodily at last. Were you loved, Cecilia? He
thought little of politics in relation to Renee; or of home, or of honour
in the world's eye, or of labouring to pay the fee for his share of life.
This at least was one of the forms of love which precipitate men: the
sole thought in him was to be with her. She was Renee, the girl of whom
he had prophetically said that she must come to regrets and tears. His
vision of her was not at Tourdestelle, though he assumed her to be there
awaiting him: she was under the sea-shadowing Alps, looking up to the red
and gold-rosed heights of a realm of morning that was hers inviolably,
and under which Renee was eternally his.
The interval between then and now was but the space of an unquiet sea
traversed in the night, sad in the passage of it, but featureless--and it
had proved him right! It was to Nevil Beauchamp as if the spirit of his
old passion woke up again to glorious hopeful morning when he stood in
Tourdestelle enjoyed the aristocratic privilege of being twelve miles
from the nearest railway station. Alighting here on an evening of clear
sky, Beauchamp found an English groom ready to dismount for him and bring
on his portmanteau. The man said that his mistress had been twice to the
station, and was now at the neighbouring Chateau Dianet. Thither
Beauchamp betook himself on horseback. He was informed at the gates that
Madame la Marquise had left for Tourdestelle in the saddle only ten
minutes previously. The lodge-keeper had been instructed to invite him
to stay at Chateau Dianet in the event of his arriving late, but it would
be possible to overtake madame by a cut across the heights at a turn of
the valley. Beauchamp pushed along the valley for this visible
projection; a towering mass of woodland, in the midst of which a narrow
roadway, worn like the track of a torrent with heavy rain, wound upward.
On his descent to the farther side, he was to spy directly below in the
flat for Tourdestelle. He crossed the wooded neck above the valley, and
began descending, peering into gulfs of the twilight dusk. Some paces
down he was aided by a brilliant half-moon that divided the whole
underlying country into sharp outlines of dark and fair, and while
endeavouring to distinguish the chateau of Tourdestelle his eyes were
attracted to an angle of the downward zigzag, where a pair of horses
emerged into broad light swiftly; apparently the riders were disputing,
or one had overtaken the other in pursuit. Riding-habit and plumed hat
signalized the sex of one. Beauchamp sung out a gondolier's cry. He
fancied it was answered.
He was heard, for the lady turned about, and as he rode down, still
uncertain of her, she came cantering up alone, and there could be no
Moonlight is friendless to eyes that would make sure of a face long
unseen. It was Renee whose hand he clasped, but the story of the years
on her, and whether she was in bloom, or wan as the beams revealing her,
he could not see.
Her tongue sounded to him as if it were loosened without a voice. 'You
have come. That storm! You are safe!'
So phantom-like a sound of speech alarmed him. 'I lost no time. But
'I am well.'
'Nothing hangs over you?'
'Why give me just three days?'
'Pure impatience. Have you forgotten me?'
Their horses walked on with them. They unlocked their hands.
'You knew it was I?' said he.
'Who else could it be? I heard Venice,' she replied.
Her previous cavalier was on his feet, all but on his knees, it appeared,
searching for something that eluded him under the road-side bank. He
sprang at it and waved it, leapt in the saddle, and remarked, as he drew
up beside Renee: 'What one picks from the earth one may wear, I presume,
especially when we can protest it is our property.'
Beauchamp saw him planting a white substance most carefully at the breast
buttonhole of his coat. It could hardly be a flower. Some drooping
exotic of the conservatory perhaps resembled it.
Renee pronounced his name: 'M. le Comte Henri d'Henriel.'
He bowed to Beauchamp with an extreme sweep of the hat.
'Last night, M. Beauchamp, we put up vows for you to the Marine God,
beseeching an exemption from that horrible mal de mer. Thanks to the
storm, I suppose, I have won. I must maintain, madame, that I won.'
'You wear your trophy,' said Renee, and her horse reared and darted
The gentleman on each side of her struck into a trot. Beauchamp glanced
at M. d'Henriel's breast-decoration. Renee pressed the pace, and
threading dense covers of foliage they reached the level of the valley,
where for a couple of miles she led them, stretching away merrily, now in
shadow, now in moonlight, between high land and meadow land, and a line
of poplars in the meadows winding with the river that fed the vale and
shot forth gleams of silvery disquiet by rustic bridge and mill.
The strangeness of being beside her, not having yet scanned her face,
marvelling at her voice--that was like and unlike the Renee of old, full
of her, but in another key, a mellow note, maturer--made the ride magical
to Beauchamp, planting the past in the present like a perceptible ghost.
Renee slackened speed, saying: 'Tourdestelle spans a branch of our little
river. This is our gate. Had it been daylight I would have taken you by
another way, and you would have seen the black tower burnt in the
Revolution; an imposing monument, I am assured. However, you will think
it pretty beside the stream. Do you come with us, M. le Comte?'
His answer was inaudible to Beauchamp; he did not quit them.
The lamp at the lodge-gates presented the young man's face in full view,
and Beauchamp thought him supremely handsome. He perceived it to be a
lady's glove that M. d'Henriel wore at his breast.
Renee walked her horse up the park-drive, alongside the bright running
water. It seemed that she was aware of the method of provoking or
reproving M. d'Henriel. He endured some minutes of total speechlessness
at this pace, and abruptly said adieu and turned back.
Renee bounded like a vessel free of her load. 'But why should we hurry?'
said she, and checked her course to the walk again. 'I hope you like our
Normandy, and my valley. You used to love France, Nevil; and Normandy,
they tell me, is cousin to the opposite coast of England, in climate,
soil, people, it may be in manners too. A Beauchamp never can feel that
he is a foreigner in Normandy. We claim you half French. You have
grander parks, they say. We can give you sunlight.'
'And it was really only the wish to see me?' said Beauchamp.
'Only, and really. One does not live for ever--on earth; and it becomes
a question whether friends should be shadows to one another before death.
I wrote to you because I wished to see you: I was impatient because I am
'You relieve me!'
'Evidently you have forgotten my character, Nevil.'
'Not a feature of it.'
'Ah!' she breathed involuntarily.
'Would you have me forget it?'
'When I think by myself, quite alone, yes, I would. Otherwise how can
one hope that one's friend is friendship, supposing him to read us as we
are--minutely, accurately? And it is in absence that we desire our
friends to be friendship itself. And . . . and I am utterly astray!
I have not dealt in this language since I last thought of writing a
diary, and stared at the first line. If I mistake not, you are fond of
the picturesque. If moonlight and water will satisfy you, look yonder.'
The moon launched her fairy silver fleets on a double sweep of the little
river round an island of reeds and two tall poplars.
'I have wondered whether I should ever see you looking at that scene,'
He looked from it to her, and asked if Roland was well, and her father;
then alluded to her husband; but the unlettering elusive moon, bright
only in the extension of her beams, would not tell him what story this
face, once heaven to him, wore imprinted on it. Her smile upon a parted
mouth struck him as two-edged in replying: 'I have good news to give you
of them all: Roland is in garrison at Rouen, and will come when I
telegraph. My father is in Touraine, and greets you affectionately; he
hopes to come. They are both perfectly happy. My husband is
Beauchamp was conscious of some bitter taste; unaware of what it was,
though it led him to say, undesigningly: 'How very handsome that M.
d'Henriel is!--if I have his name correctly.'
Renee answered: 'He has the misfortune to be considered the handsomest
young man in France.'
'He has an Italian look.'
'His mother was Provencale.'
She put her horse in motion, saying: 'I agree with you that handsome men
are rarities. And, by the way, they do not set our world on fire quite
as much as beautiful women do yours, my friend. Acknowledge so much in
He assented indefinitely. He could have wished himself away canvassing
in Bevisham. He had only to imagine himself away from her, to feel the
flood of joy in being with her.
'Your husband is travelling?'
'It is his pleasure.'
Could she have intended to say that this was good news to give of him as
well as of the happiness of her father and brother?
'Now look on Tourdestelle,' said Renee. 'You will avow that for an
active man to be condemned to seek repose in so dull a place, after the
fatigues of the season in Paris, it is considerably worse than for women,
so I am here to dispense the hospitalities. The right wing of the
chateau, on your left, is new. The side abutting the river is inhabited
by Dame Philiberte, whom her husband imprisoned for attempting to take
her pleasure in travel. I hear upon authority that she dresses in white,
and wears a black crucifix. She is many centuries old, and still she
lives to remind people that she married a Rouaillout. Do you not think
she should have come to me to welcome me? She never has; and possibly of
ladies who are disembodied we may say that they know best. For me, I
desire the interview--and I am a coward: I need not state it.' She
ceased; presently continuing: 'The other inhabitants are my sister, Agnes
d'Auffray, wife of a general officer serving in Afric--my sister by
marriage, and my friend; the baronne d'Orbec, a relation by marriage; M.
d'Orbec, her son, a guest, and a sportsman; M. Livret, an erudite. No
young ladies: I can bear much, but not their presence; girls are odious
to me. I knew one in Venice.'
They came within the rays of the lamp hanging above the unpretending
entrance to the chateau. Renee's broad grey Longueville hat curved low
with its black plume on the side farthest from him. He was favoured by
the gallant lift of the brim on the near side, but she had overshadowed
'He wears a glove at his breast,' said Beauchamp.
'You speak of M. d'Henriel. He wears a glove at his breast; yes, it is
mine,' said Renee.
She slipped from her horse and stood against his shoulder, as if waiting
to be questioned before she rang the bell of the chateau.
Beauchamp alighted, burning with his unutterable questions concerning
'Lift your hat, let me beg you; let me see you,' he said.
This was not what she had expected. With one heave of her bosom, and
murmuring: 'I made a vow I would obey you absolutely if you came,' she
raised the hat above her brows, and lightning would not have surprised
him more; for there had not been a single vibration of her voice to tell
him of tears running: nay, the absence of the usual French formalities in
her manner of addressing him, had seemed to him to indicate her intention
to put him at once on an easy friendly footing, such as would be natural
to her, and not painful to him. Now she said:
'You perceive, monsieur, that I have my sentimental fits like others; but
in truth I am not insensible to the picturesque or to gratitude, and I
thank you sincerely for coming, considering that I wrote like a Sphinx--
to evade writing comme une folle!'
She swept to the bell.
Standing in the arch of the entrance, she stretched her whip out to a
black mass of prostrate timber, saying:
'It fell in the storm at two o'clock after midnight, and you on the sea!'
A single day was to be the term of his holiday at Tourdestelle; but it
stood forth as one of those perfect days which are rounded by an evening
before and a morning after, giving him two nights under the same roof
with Renee, something of a resemblance to three days of her; anticipation
and wonder filling the first, she the next, the adieu the last: every
hour filled. And the first day was not over yet. He forced himself to
calmness, that he might not fritter it, and walked up and down the room
he was dressing in, examining its foreign decorations, and peering
through the window, to quiet his nerves. He was in her own France with
her! The country borrowed hues from Renee, and lent some. This
chivalrous France framed and interlaced her image, aided in idealizing
her, and was in turn transfigured. Not half so well would his native
land have pleaded for the forgiveness of a British damsel who had wrecked
a young man's immoderate first love. That glorified self-love requires
the touch upon imagination of strangeness and an unaccustomed grace, to
subdue it and make it pardon an outrage to its temples and altars, and
its happy reading of the heavens, the earth too: earth foremost, we ought
perhaps to say. It is an exacting heathen, best understood by a glance
at what will appease it: beautiful, however, as everybody has proved; and
shall it be decried in a world where beauty is not overcommon, though it
would slaughter us for its angry satisfaction, yet can be soothed by a
tone of colour, as it were by a novel inscription on a sweetmeat?
The peculiarity of Beauchamp was that he knew the slenderness of the
thread which was leading him, and foresaw it twisting to a coil unless he
should hold firm. His work in life was much above the love of a woman in
his estimation, so he was not deluded by passion when he entered the
chateau; it is doubtful whether he would not hesitatingly have sacrificed
one of the precious votes in Bevisham for the pleasure of kissing her
hand when they were on the steps. She was his first love and only love,
married, and long ago forgiven:--married; that is to say, she especially
among women was interdicted to him by the lingering shadow of the
reverential love gone by; and if the anguish of the lover's worse than
death survived in a shudder of memory at the thought of her not solely
lost to him but possessed by another, it did but quicken a hunger that
was three parts curiosity to see how she who had suffered this bore the
change; how like or unlike she might be to the extinct Renee; what traces
she kept of the face he had known. Her tears were startling, but tears
tell of a mood, they do not tell the story of the years; and it was that
story he had such eagerness to read in one brief revelation: an eagerness
born only of the last few hours, and broken by fears of a tarnished
aspect; these again being partly hopes of a coming disillusion that would
restore him his independence and ask him only for pity. The slavery of
the love of a woman chained like Renee was the most revolting of
prospects to a man who cherished his freedom that he might work to the
end of his time. Moreover, it swung a thunder-cloud across his holiday.
He recurred to the idea of the holiday repeatedly, and the more he did so
the thinner it waned. He was exhausting the very air and spirit of it
with a mind that ran incessantly forward and back; and when he and the
lady of so much speculation were again together, an incapacity of
observation seemed to have come over him. In reality it was the
inability to reflect on his observations. Her presence resembled those
dark sunsets throwing the spell of colour across the world; when there is
no question with us of morning or of night, but of that sole splendour
Owing to their arrival late at the chateau, covers were laid for them in
the boudoir of Madame la Marquise, where he had his hostess to himself,
and certainly the opportunity of studying her. An English Navy List,
solitary on a shelf, and laid within it an extract of a paper announcing
the return of the Ariadne to port, explained the mystery of her knowing
that he was in England, as well as the correctness of the superscription
of her letter to him. 'You see, I follow you,' she said.
Beauchamp asked if she read English now.
'A little; but the paper was dispatched to me by M. Vivian Ducie, of your
embassy in Paris. He is in the valley.'
The name of Ducie recalled Lord Palmet's description of the dark beauty
of the fluttering pale gold ornaments. She was now dressed without one
decoration of gold or jewel, with scarcely a wave in the silk, a modesty
of style eloquent of the pride of her form.
Could those eyes fronting him under the lamp have recently shed tears?
They were the living eyes of a brilliant unembarrassed lady; shields
flinging light rather than well-depths inviting it.
Beauchamp tried to compare her with the Renee of Venice, and found
himself thinking of the glove she had surrendered to the handsomest young
man in France. The effort to recover the younger face gave him a dead
creature, with the eyelashes of Renee, the cast of her mouth and throat,
misty as a shape in a dream.
He could compare her with Cecilia, who never would have risked a glove,
never have betrayed a tear, and was the statelier lady, not without
language: but how much less vivid in feature and the gift of speech!
Renee's gift of speech counted unnumbered strings which she played on
with a grace that clothed the skill, and was her natural endowment--an
art perfected by the education of the world. Who cannot talk!--but who
can? Discover the writers in a day when all are writing! It is as rare
an art as poetry, and in the mouths of women as enrapturing, richer than
their voices in music.
This was the fascination Beauchamp felt weaving round him. Would you,
that are separable from boys and mobs, and the object malignly called the
Briton, prefer the celestial singing of a woman to her excellently
talking? But not if it were given you to run in unison with her genius
of the tongue, following her verbal ingenuities and feminine silk-flashes
of meaning; not if she led you to match her fine quick perceptions with
more or less of the discreet concordance of the violoncello accompanying
the viol. It is not high flying, which usually ends in heavy falling.
You quit the level of earth no more than two birds that chase from bush
to bush to bill in air, for mutual delight to make the concert heavenly.
Language flowed from Renee in affinity with the pleasure-giving laws that
make the curves we recognize as beauty in sublimer arts. Accept
companionship for the dearest of the good things we pray to have, and
what equalled her! Who could be her rival!
Her girl's crown of irradiated Alps began to tremble over her dimly, as
from moment to moment their intimacy warmed, and Beauchamp saw the young
face vanishing out of this flower of womanhood. He did not see it
appearing or present, but vanishing like the faint ray in the rosier.
Nay, the blot of her faithlessness underwent a transformation: it
affected him somewhat as the patch cunningly laid on near a liquid dimple
in fair cheeks at once allures and evades a susceptible attention.
Unused in his French of late, he stumbled at times, and she supplied the
needed phrase, taking no note of a blunder. Now men of sweet blood
cannot be secretly accusing or criticizing a gracious lady. Domestic men
are charged with thinking instantly of dark death when an ordinary
illness befalls them; and it may be so or not: but it is positive that
the gallant man of the world, if he is in the sensitive condition, and
not yet established as the lord of her, feels paralyzed in his masculine
sense of leadership the moment his lady assumes the initiative and
directs him: he gives up at once; and thus have many nimble-witted dames
from one clear start retained their advantage.
Concerning that glove: well! the handsomest young man in France wore the
glove of the loveliest woman. The loveliest? The very loveliest in the
purity of her French style--the woman to challenge England for a type of
beauty to eclipse her. It was possible to conceive her country wagering
her against all women.
If Renee had faults, Beauchamp thought of her as at sea breasting
tempests, while Cecilia was a vessel lying safe in harbour, untried,
however promising: and if Cecilia raised a steady light for him, it was
over the shores he had left behind, while Renee had really nothing to do
with warning or rescuing, or with imperilling; she welcomed him simply to
a holiday in her society. He associated Cecilia strangely with the
political labours she would have had him relinquish; and Renee with a
pleasant state of indolence, that her lightest smile disturbed. Shun
It is the tricksy heart which sets up that balance, to jump into it on
one side or the other. Comparisons come of a secret leaning that is sure
to play rogue under its mien of honest dealer: so Beauchamp suffered
himself to be unjust to graver England, and lost the strength she would
have given him to resist a bewitchment. The case with him was, that his
apprenticeship was new; he had been trotting in harness as a veritable
cab-horse of politics--he by blood a racer; and his nature craved for
diversions, against his will, against his moral sense and born tenacity
Not a word further of the glove. But at night, in his bed, the glove was
a principal actor in events of extraordinary magnitude and inconsequence.
He was out in the grounds with the early morning light. Coffee and sweet
French bread were brought out to him, and he was informed of the hours of
reunion at the chateau, whose mistress continued invisible. She might be
sleeping. He strolled about, within view of the windows, wondering at
her subservience to sleep. Tourdestelle lay in one of those Norman
valleys where the river is the mother of rich pasture, and runs hidden
between double ranks of sallows, aspens and poplars, that mark its
winding line in the arms of trenched meadows. The high land on either
side is an unwatered flat up to the horizon, little varied by dusty
apple-trees planted in the stubble here and there, and brown mud walls of
hamlets; a church-top, a copse, an avenue of dwarf limes leading to the
three-parts farm, quarter residence of an enriched peasant striking new
roots, or decayed proprietor pinching not to be severed from ancient.
Descending on the deep green valley in Summer is like a change of climes.
The chateau stood square at a branch of the river, tossing three light
bridges of pretty woodwork to park and garden. Great bouquets of
swelling blue and pink hydrangia nestled at his feet on shaven grass. An
open window showed a cloth of colour, as in a reminiscence of Italy.
Beauchamp heard himself addressed:--'You are looking for my sister-in-
law, M. Beauchamp?'
The speaker was Madame d'Auffray, to whom he had been introduced
overnight--a lady of the aquiline French outline, not ungentle.
Renee had spoken affectionately of her, he remembered. There was nothing
to make him be on his guard, and he stated that he was looking for Madame
de Rouaillout, and did not conceal surprise at the information that she
was out on horseback.
'She is a tireless person,' Madame d'Auffray remarked. 'You will not
miss her long. We all meet at twelve, as you know.'
'I grudge an hour, for I go to-morrow,' said Beauchamp.
The notification of so early a departure, or else his bluntness,
astonished her. She fell to praising Renee's goodness. He kept her to
it with lively interrogations, in the manner of a, guileless boy urging
for eulogies of his dear absent friend. Was it duplicity in him or
'Has she, do you think, increased in beauty?' Madame d'Auffray inquired:
an insidious question, to which he replied:
'Once I thought it would be impossible.'
Not so bad an answer for an Englishman, in a country where speaking is
fencing; the race being little famous for dialectical alertness: but was
it artful or simple?
They skirted the chateau, and Beauchamp had the history of Dame
Philiberte recounted to him, with a mixture of Gallic irony, innuendo,
openness, touchingness, ridicule, and charity novel to his ears. Madame
d'Auffray struck the note of intimacy earlier than is habitual. She
sounded him in this way once or twice, carelessly perusing him, and
waiting for the interesting edition of the Book of Man to summarize its
character by showing its pages or remaining shut. It was done
delicately, like the tap of a finger-nail on a vase. He rang clear; he
had nothing to conceal; and where he was reserved, that is, in speaking
of the developed beauty and grace of Renee, he was transparent. She read
the sort of man he was; she could also hazard a guess as to the man's
present state. She ventured to think him comparatively harmless--for the
hour: for she was not the woman to be hoodwinked by man's dark nature
because she inclined to think well of a particular man; nor was she one
to trust to any man subject to temptation. The wisdom of the
Frenchwoman's fortieth year forbade it. A land where the war between
the sexes is honestly acknowledged, and is full of instruction, abounds
in precepts; but it ill becomes the veteran to practise rigorously what
she would prescribe to young women. She may discriminate; as thus:--
Trust no man. Still, this man may be better than that man; and it is bad
policy to distrust a reasonably guileless member of the preying sex
entirely, and so to lose his good services. Hawks have their uses in
destroying vermin; and though we cannot rely upon the taming of hawks,
one tied by the leg in a garden preserves the fruit.
'There is a necessity for your leaving us to-morrow; M. Beauchamp?'
'I regret to say, it is imperative, madame.'
'My husband will congratulate me on the pleasure I have, and have long
desired, of making your acquaintance, and he will grieve that he has not
been so fortunate; he is on service in Africa. My brother, I need not
say, will deplore the mischance which has prevented him from welcoming
you. I have telegraphed to him; he is at one of the Baths in Germany,
and will come assuredly, if there is a prospect of finding you here.
None? Supposing my telegram not to fall short of him, I may count on his
being here within four days.'
Beauchamp begged her to convey the proper expressions of his regret to M.
'And M. de Croisnel? And Roland, your old comrade and brother-in-arms?
What will be their disappointment!' she said.
'I intend to stop for an hour at Rouen on my way back,' said Beauchamp.
She asked if her belle-soeur was aware of the short limitation of his
He had not mentioned it to Madame la Marquise.
'Perhaps you may be moved by the grief of a friend: Renee may persuade
you to stay.'
'I came imagining I could be of some use to Madame la Marquise. She
writes as if she were telegraphing.'
'Perfectly true of her! For that matter, I saw the letter. Your looks
betray a very natural jealousy; but seeing it or not it would have been
the same: she and I have no secrets. She was, I may tell you, strictly
unable to write more words in the letter. Which brings me to inquire
what impression M. d'Henriel made on you yesterday evening.'
'He is particularly handsome.'
'We women think so. Did you take him to be . . . eccentric?'
Beauchamp gave a French jerk of the shoulders.
It confessed the incident of the glove to one who knew it as well as he:
but it masked the weight he was beginning to attach to that incident, and
Madame d'Auffray was misled. Truly, the Englishman may be just such an
ex-lover, uninflammable by virtue of his blood's native coldness; endued
with the frozen vanity called pride, which does not seek to be revenged.
Under wary espionage, he might be a young woman's friend, though male
friend of a half-abandoned wife should write himself down morally saint,
mentally sage, medically incurable, if he would win our confidence.
This lady of sharp intelligence was the guardian of Renee during the
foolish husband's flights about Paris and over Europe, and, for a proof
of her consummate astuteness, Renee had no secrets and had absolute
liberty. And hitherto no man could build a boast on her reputation. The
liberty she would have had at any cost, as Madame d'Auffray knew; and an
attempt to restrict it would have created secrets.
Near upon the breakfast-hour Renee was perceived by them going toward the
chateau at a walking pace. They crossed one of the garden bridges to
intercept her. She started out of some deep meditation, and raised her
whip hand to Beauchamp's greeting. 'I had forgotten to tell you,
monsieur, that I should be out for some hours in the morning.'
'Are you aware,' said Madame d'Auffray, 'that M. Beauchamp leaves us
'So soon?' It was uttered hardly with a tone of disappointment.
The marquise alighted, crying hold, to the stables, caressed her horse,
and sent him off with a smack on the smoking flanks to meet the groom.
'To-morrow? That is very soon; but M. Beauchamp is engaged in an
Election, and what have we to induce him to stay?'
'Would it not be better to tell M. Beauchamp why he was invited to come?'
rejoined Madame d'Auffray.
The sombre light in Renee's eyes quickened through shadowy spheres of
surprise and pain to resolution. She cried, 'You have my full consent,'
and left them.
Madame d'Auffray smiled at Beauchamp, to excuse the childishness of the
little story she was about to relate; she gave it in the essence, without
a commencement or an ending. She had in fact but two or three hurried
minutes before the breakfast-bell would ring; and the fan she opened and
shut, and at times shaded her head with, was nearly as explicit as her
He understood that Renee had staked her glove on his coming within a
certain number of hours to the briefest wording of invitation possible.
Owing to his detention by the storm, M. d'Henriel had won the bet, and
now insisted on wearing the glove. 'He is the privileged young madman
our women make of a handsome youth,' said Madame d'Auffray.
Where am I? thought Beauchamp--in what land, he would have phrased it,
of whirlwinds catching the wits, and whipping the passions? Calmer than
they, but unable to command them, and guessing that Renee's errand of the
morning, by which he had lost hours of her, pertained to the glove, he
said quiveringly, 'Madame la Marquise objects?'
'We,' replied Madame d'Auffray, 'contend that the glove was not loyally
won. The wager was upon your coming to the invitation, not upon your
conquering the elements. As to his flaunting the glove for a favour,
I would ask you, whom does he advertize by that? Gloves do not wear
white; which fact compromises none but the wearer. He picked it up from
the ground, and does not restore it; that is all. You see a boy who
catches at anything to placard himself. There is a compatriot of yours,
a M. Ducie, who assured us you must be with an uncle in your county of
Sussex. Of course we ran the risk of the letter missing you, but the
chance was worth a glove. Can you believe it, M. Beauchamp? it was I,
old woman as I am, I who provoked the silly wager. I have long desired
to meet you; and we have little society here, we are desperate with
loneliness, half mad with our whims. I said, that if you were what I had
heard of you, you would come to us at a word. They dared Madame la
Marquise to say the same. I wished to see the friend of Frenchmen,
as M. Roland calls you; not merely to see him--to know him, whether he is
this perfect friend whose absolute devotion has impressed my dear sister
Renee's mind. She respects you: that is a sentiment scarcely
complimentary to the ideas of young men. She places you above human
creatures: possibly you may not dislike to be worshipped. It is not to
be rejected when one's influence is powerful for good. But you leave us
'I' might stay . . .' Beauchamp hesitated to name the number of hours.
He stood divided between a sense of the bubbling shallowness of the life
about him, and a thought, grave as an eye dwelling on blood, of sinister
things below it.
'I may stay another day or two,' he said, 'if I can be of any earthly
Madame d'Auffray bowed as to a friendly decision on his part, saying,
'It would be a thousand pities to disappoint M. Roland; and it will be
offering my brother an amicable chance. I will send him word that you
await him; at least, that you defer your departure as long as possible.
Ah! now you perceive, M. Beauchamp, now you have become aware of our
purely infantile plan to bring you over to us, how very ostensible a
punishment it would be were you to remain so short a period.'
Having no designs, he was neither dupe nor sceptic; but he felt oddly
entangled, and the dream of his holiday had fled like morning's beams,
as a self-deception will at a very gentle shaking.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BOAT
Madame d'Auffray passed Renee, whispering on her way to take her seat at
Renee did not condescend to whisper. 'Roland will be glad,' she said
Her low eyelids challenged Beauchamp for a look of indifference. There
was more for her to unbosom than Madame d'Auffray had revealed, but the
comparative innocence of her position in this new light prompted her to
meet him defiantly, if he chose to feel injured. He was attracted by a
happy contrast of colour between her dress and complexion, together with
a cavalierly charm in the sullen brows she lifted; and seeing the reverse
of a look of indifference on his face, after what he had heard of her
frivolousness, she had a fear that it existed.
'Are we not to have M. d'Henriel to-day? he amuses me,' the baronne
'If he would learn that he was fashioned for that purpose!' exclaimed
little M. Livret.
'Do not ask young men for too much head, my friend; he would cease to be
'D'Henriel should have been up in the fields at ten this morning,' said
M. d'Orbec. 'As to his head, I back him for a clever shot.'
'Or a duelling-sword,' said Renee. 'It is a quality, count it for what
we will. Your favourite, Madame la Baronne, is interdicted from
presenting himself here so long as he persists in offending me.'
She was requested to explain, and, with the fair ingenuousness which
outshines innocence, she touched on the story of the glove.
Ah! what a delicate, what an exciting, how subtle a question!
Had M. d'Henriel the right to possess it? and, having that, had he the
right to wear it at his breast?
Beauchamp was dragged into the discussion of the case.
Renee waited curiously for his judgement.
Pleading an apology for the stormy weather, which had detained him, and
for his ignorance that so precious an article was at stake, he held, that
by the terms of the wager, the glove was lost; the claim to wear it was a
matter of taste.
'Matters of taste, monsieur, are not, I think, decided by weapons in your
country?' said M. d'Orbec.
'We have no duelling,' said Beauchamp.
The Frenchman imagined the confession to be somewhat humbling, and
generously added, 'But you have your volunteers--a magnificent spectacle
of patriotism and national readiness for defence!'
A shrewd pang traversed Beauchamp's heart, as he looked back on his
country from the outside and the inside, thinking what amount of
patriotic readiness the character of the volunteering signified, in the
face of all that England has to maintain. Like a politic islander, he
allowed the patriotic spectacle to be imagined; reflecting that it did a
sort of service abroad, and had only to be unmasked at home.
'But you surrendered the glove, marquise!' The baronne d'Orbec spoke
'I flung it to the ground: that made it neutral,' said Renee.
'Hum. He wears it with the dust on it, certainly.'
'And for how long a time,' M. Livret wished to know, 'does this amusing
young man proclaim his intention of wearing the glove?'
'Until he can see with us that his Order of Merit is utter kid,' said
Madame d'Auffray; and as she had spoken more or less neatly, satisfaction
was left residing in the ear of the assembly, and the glove was permitted
to be swept away on a fresh tide of dialogue.
The admirable candour of Renee in publicly alluding to M. d'Henriel's
foolishness restored a peep of his holiday to Beauchamp. Madame
d'Auffray took note of the effect it produced, and quite excused her
sister-in-law for intending to produce is; but that speaking out the
half-truth that we may put on the mask of the whole, is no new trick; and
believing as she did that Renee was in danger with the handsome Count
Henri, the practice of such a kind of honesty on her part appeared
Still it is imprudent to press for confidences when our friend's heart is
manifestly trifling with sincerity. Who knows but that some foregone
reckless act or word may have superinduced the healthy shame which cannot
speak, which must disguise itself, and is honesty in that form, but
roughly troubled would resolve to rank dishonesty? So thought the
patient lady, wiser in that than in her perceptions.
Renee made a boast of not persuading her guest to stay, avowing that she
would not willingly have him go. Praising him equably, she listened to
praise of him with animation. She was dumb and statue-like when Count
Henri's name was mentioned. Did not this betray liking for one,
subjection to the other? Indeed, there was an Asiatic splendour of
animal beauty about M. d'Henriel that would be serpent with most women,
Madame d'Auffray conceived; why not with the deserted Renee, who adored
beauty of shape and colour, and was compassionate toward a rashness of
character that her own unnatural solitariness and quick spirit made her
Meanwhile Beauchamp's day of adieu succeeded that of his holiday, and no
adieu was uttered. The hours at Tourdestelle had a singular turn for
slipping. Interlinked and all as one they swam by, brought evening,
brought morning, never varied. They might have varied with such a
division as when flame lights up the night or a tempest shades the day,
had Renee chosen; she had that power over him. She had no wish to use
it; perhaps she apprehended what it would cause her to forfeit. She
wished him to respect her; felt that she was under the shadow of the
glove, slight though it was while it was nothing but a tale of a lady and
a glove; and her desire, like his, was that they should meet daily and
dream on, without a variation. He noticed how seldom she led him beyond
the grounds of the chateau. They were to make excursions when her
brother came, she said. Roland de Croisnel's colonel, Coin de
Grandchamp, happened to be engaged in a duel, which great business
detained Roland. It supplied Beauchamp with an excuse for staying, that
he was angry with himself for being pleased to have; so he attacked the
practice of duelling, and next the shrug, wherewith M. Livret and M.
d'Orbec sought at first to defend the foul custom, or apologize for it,
or plead for it philosophically, or altogether cast it off their
shoulders; for the literal interpretation of the shrug in argument is
beyond human capacity; it is the point of speech beyond our treasury of
language. He attacked the shrug, as he thought, very temperately; but in
controlling his native vehemence he grew, perforce of repression, and of
incompetency to deliver himself copiously in French, sarcastic. In fine,
his contrast of the pretence of their noble country to head civilization,
and its encouragement of a custom so barbarous, offended M. d'Orbec and
irritated M. Livret.
The latter delivered a brief essay on Gallic blood; the former maintained
that Frenchmen were the best judges of their own ways and deeds.
Politeness reigned, but politeness is compelled to throw off cloak and
jacket when it steps into the arena to meet the encounter of a bull.
Beauchamp drew on their word 'solidaire' to assist him in declaring that
no civilized nation could be thus independent. Imagining himself in the
France of brave ideas, he contrived to strike out sparks of Legitimist
ire around him, and found himself breathing the atmosphere of the most
primitive nursery of Toryism. Again he encountered the shrug, and he
would have it a verbal matter. M. d'Orbec gravely recited the programme
of the country party in France. M. Livret carried the war across
Channel. You English have retired from active life, like the exhausted
author, to turn critic--the critic that sneers: unless we copy you
abjectly we are execrable. And what is that sneer? Materially it is an
acrid saliva, withering where it drops; in the way of fellowship it is a
corpse-emanation. As to wit, the sneer is the cloak of clumsiness; it is
the Pharisee's incense, the hypocrite's pity, the post of exaltation of
the fat citizen, etc.; but, said M. Livret, the people using it should
have a care that they keep powerful: they make no friends. He terminated
with this warning to a nation not devoid of superior merit. M. d'Orbec
said less, and was less consoled by his outburst.
In the opinion of Mr. Vivian Ducie, present at the discussion, Beauchamp
provoked the lash; for, in the first place, a beautiful woman's apparent
favourite should be particularly discreet in all that he says: and next,
he should have known that the Gallic shrug over matters political is
volcanic--it is the heaving of the mountain, and, like the proverbial
Russ, leaps up Tartarly at a scratch. Our newspapers also had been flea-
biting M. Livret and his countrymen of late; and, to conclude, over in
old England you may fly out against what you will, and there is little
beyond a motherly smile, a nurse's rebuke, or a fool's rudeness to answer
you. In quick-blooded France you have whip for whip, sneer, sarcasm,
claw, fang, tussle, in a trice; and if you choose to comport yourself
according to your insular notion of freedom, you are bound to march out
to the measured ground at an invitation. To begin by saying that your
principles are opposed to it, naturally excites a malicious propensity to
try your temper.
A further cause, unknown to Mr. Ducie, of M. Livret's irritation was,
that Beauchamp had vexed him on a subject peculiarly dear to him. The
celebrated Chateau Dianet was about to be visited by the guests at
Tourdestelle. In common with some French philosophers and English
matrons, he cherished a sentimental sad enthusiasm for royal concubines;
and when dilating upon one among them, the ruins of whose family's castle
stood in the neighbourhood-Agrees, who was really a kindly soul, though
not virtuous--M. Livret had been traversed by Beauchamp with questions as
to the condition of the people, the peasantry, that were sweated in taxes
to support these lovely frailties. They came oddly from a man in the
fire of youth, and a little old gentleman somewhat seduced by the melting
image of his theme might well blink at him to ask, of what flesh are you,
then? His historic harem was insulted. Personally too, the fair
creature picturesquely soiled, intrepid in her amorousness, and
ultimately absolved by repentance (a shuddering narrative of her sins
under showers of salt drops), cried to him to champion her. Excited by
the supposed cold critical mind in Beauchamp, M. Livret painted and
painted this lady, tricked her in casuistical niceties, scenes of pomp
and boudoir pathos, with many shifting sidelights and a risky word or
two, until Renee cried out, 'Spare us the esprit Gaulois, M. Livret!'
There was much to make him angry with this Englishman.
'The esprit Gaulois is the sparkle of crystal common sense, madame, and
may we never abandon it for a Puritanism that hides its face to conceal
its filthiness, like a stagnant pond,' replied M. Livret, flashing.
'It seems, then, that there are two ways of being objectionable,' said
'Ah! Madame la Marquise, your wit is French,' he breathed low; 'keep your
Both M. Livret and M. d'Orbec had forgotten that when Count Henri
d'Henriel was received at Tourdestelle, the arrival of the Englishman was
pleasantly anticipated by them as an eclipse of the handsome boy; but a
foreign interloper is quickly dispossessed of all means of pleasing save
that one of taking his departure; and they now talked of Count Henri's
disgrace and banishment in a very warm spirit of sympathy, not at all
seeing why it should be made to depend upon the movements of this M.
Beauchamp, as it appeared to be. Madame d'Auffray heard some of their
dialogue, and hurried with a mouth full of comedy to Renee, who did not
reproach them for silly beings, as would be done elsewhere. On the
contrary, she appreciated a scene of such absolute comedy, recognizing it
instantly as a situation plucked out of human nature. She compared them
to republicans that regretted the sovereign they had deposed for a
pretender to start up and govern them.
'Who hurries them round to the legitimate king again!' said Madame
Renee cast her chin up. 'How, my dear?'
'What of him?'
'He is returning.'
'What brings him?'
'You should ask who, my Renee! I was sure he would not hear of M.
Beauchamp's being here, without an effort to return and do the honours of
Renee looked hard at her, saying, 'How thoughtful of you! You must have
made use of the telegraph wires to inform him that M. Beauchamp was with
'More; I made use of them to inform him that M. Beauchamp was expected.'
'And that was enough to bring him! He pays M. Beauchamp a wonderful
'Such as he would pay to no other man, my Renee. Virtually it is the
highest of compliments to you. I say that to M. Beauchamp's credit; for
Raoul has met him, and, whatever his personal feeling may be, must know
your friend is a man of honour.'
'My friend is . . . yes, I have no reason to think otherwise,' Renee
replied. Her husband's persistent and exclusive jealousy of Beauchamp
was the singular point in the character of one who appeared to have no
sentiment of the kind as regarded men that were much less than men of
honour. 'So, then, my sister Agnes,' she said, 'you suggested the
invitation of M. Beauchamp for the purpose of spurring my husband to
return! Apparently he and I are surrounded by plotters.'
'Am I so very guilty?' said Madame d'Auffray.
'If that mad boy, half idiot, half panther, were by chance to insult
M. Beauchamp, you would feel so.'
'You have taken precautions to prevent their meeting; and besides,
M. Beauchamp does not fight.'
Renee flushed crimson.
Madame d'Auffray added, 'I do not say that he is other than a perfectly
brave and chivalrous gentleman.'
'Oh!' cried Renee, 'do not say it, if ever you should imagine it.
Bid Roland speak of him. He is changed, oppressed: I did him a terrible
wrong . . . .' She checked herself. 'But the chief thing to do is to
keep M. d'Henriel away from him. I suspect M. d'Orbec of a design to
make them clash: and you, my dear, will explain why, to flatter me.
Believe me, I thirst for flattery; I have had none since M. Beauchamp
came: and you, so acute, must have seen the want of it in my face. But
you, so skilful, Agnes, will manage these men. Do you know, Agnes, that
the pride of a woman so incredibly clever as you have shown me you are
should resent their intrigues and overthrow them. As for me, I thought
I could command M. d'Henriel, and I find he has neither reason in him nor
obedience. Singular to say, I knew him just as well a week back as I do
now, and then I liked him for his qualities--or the absence of any. But
how shall we avoid him on the road to Dianet? He is aware that we are
'Take M. Beauchamp by boat,' said Madame d'Auffray.
'The river winds to within a five minutes' walk of Dianet; we could go by
boat,' Renee said musingly. 'I thought of the boat. But does it not
give the man a triumph that we should seem to try to elude him? What
matter! Still, I do not like him to be the falcon, and Nevil Beauchamp
the . . . little bird. So it is, because we began badly, Agnes!'
'Was it my fault?'
'Mine. Tell me: the legitimate king returns when?'
'In two days or three.'
'And his rebel subjects are to address him--how?'
Madame d'Auffray smote the point of a finger softly on her cheek.
'Will they be pardoned?' said Renee.
'It is for him to kneel, my dearest.'
'Legitimacy kneeling for forgiveness is a painful picture, Agnes.
Legitimacy jealous of a foreigner is an odd one. However, we are women,
born to our lot. If we could rise en masse!--but we cannot. Embrace
Madame d'Auffray embraced her, without an idea that she assisted in
performing the farewell of their confidential intimacy.
When Renee trifled with Count Henri, it was playing with fire, and she
knew it; and once or twice she bemoaned to Agnes d'Auffray her abandoned
state, which condemned her, for the sake of the sensation of living, to
have recourse to perilous pastimes; but she was revolted, as at a piece
of treachery, that Agnes should have suggested the invitation of Nevil
Beauchamp with the secret design of winning home her husband to protect
her. This, for one reason, was because Beauchamp gave her no notion of
danger; none, therefore, of requiring protection; and the presence of her
husband could not but be hateful to him, an undeserved infliction. To
her it was intolerable that they should be brought into contact. It
seemed almost as hard that she should have to dismiss Beauchamp to
preclude their meeting. She remembered, nevertheless, a certain
desperation of mind, scarce imaginable in the retrospect, by which,
trembling, fever-smitten, scorning herself, she had been reduced to hope
for Nevil Beauchamp's coming as for a rescue. The night of the storm had
roused her heart. Since then his perfect friendliness had lulled, his
air of thoughtfulness had interested it; and the fancy that he, who
neither reproached nor sentimentalized, was to be infinitely
compassionated, stirred up remorse. She could not tell her friend Agnes
of these feelings while her feelings were angered against her friend.
So she talked lightly of 'the legitimate king,' and they embraced: a
situation of comedy quite as true as that presented by the humble
admirers of the brilliant chatelaine.
Beauchamp had the pleasure of rowing Madame la Marquise to the short
shaded walk separating the river from Chateau Dianet, whither M. d'Orbec
went on horseback, and Madame d'Auffray and M. Livret were driven.
The portrait of Diane of Dianet was praised for the beauty of the dame,
a soft-fleshed acutely featured person, a fresh-of-the-toilette face,
of the configuration of head of the cat, relieved by a delicately
aquiline nose; and it could only be the cat of fairy metamorphosis which
should stand for that illustration: brows and chin made an acceptable
triangle, and eyes and mouth could be what she pleased for mice or
monarchs. M. Livret did not gainsay the impeachment of her by a great
French historian, tender to women, to frailties in particular--yes, she
was cold, perhaps grasping: but dwell upon her in her character of woman;
conceive her existing, to estimate the charm of her graciousness. Name
the two countries which alone have produced THE WOMAN, the ideal woman,
the woman of art, whose beauty, grace, and wit offer her to our
contemplation in an atmosphere above the ordinary conditions of the
world: these two countries are France and Greece! None other give you
the perfect woman, the woman who conquers time, as she conquers men,
by virtue of the divinity in her blood; and she, as little as illustrious
heroes, is to be judged by the laws and standards of lesser creatures.
In fashioning her, nature and art have worked together: in her, poetry
walks the earth. The question of good or bad is entirely to be put
aside: it is a rustic's impertinence--a bourgeois' vulgarity. She is
preeminent, voila tout. Has she grace and beauty? Then you are
answered: such possessions are an assurance that her influence in the
aggregate must be for good. Thunder, destructive to insects, refreshes
earth: so she. So sang the rhapsodist. Possibly a scholarly little
French gentleman, going down the grey slopes of sixty to second
childishness, recovers a second juvenility in these enthusiasms;
though what it is that inspires our matrons to take up with them is
unimaginable. M. Livret's ardour was a contrast to the young
Englishman's vacant gaze at Diane, and the symbols of her goddesship
running along the walls, the bed, the cabinets, everywhere that the
chaste device could find frontage and a corner.
M. d'Orbec remained outside the chateau inspecting the fish-ponds. When
they rejoined him he complimented Beauchamp semi-ironically on his choice
of the river's quiet charms in preference to the dusty roads. Madame de
Rouaillout said, 'Come, M. d'Orbec; what if you surrender your horse to
M. Beauchamp, and row me back?' He changed colour, hesitated, and
declined he had an engagement to call on M. d'Henriel.
'When did you see him?' said she.
He was confused. 'It is not long since, madame.'
'On the road?'
'Coming along-the road.'
'And our glove?'
'Madame la Marquise, if I may trust my memory, M. d'Henriel was not in
Renee allowed herself to be reassured.
A ceremonious visit that M. Livret insisted on was paid to the chapel of
Diane, where she had worshipped and laid her widowed ashes, which, said
M. Livret, the fiends of the Revolution would not let rest.
He raised his voice to denounce them.
It was Roland de Croisnel that answered: 'The Revolution was our
grandmother, monsieur, and I cannot hear her abused.'
Renee caught her brother by the hand. He stepped out of the chapel with
Beauchamp to embrace him; then kissed Renee, and, remarking that she was
pale, fetched flooding colour to her cheeks. He was hearty air to them
after the sentimentalism they had been hearing. Beauchamp and he walked
like loving comrades at school, questioning, answering, chattering,
laughing,--a beautiful sight to Renee, and she looked at Agrnes d'Auffray
to ask her whether 'this Englishman' was not one of them in his frankness
Roland stopped to turn to Renee. 'I met d'Henriel on my ride here,' he
said with a sharp inquisitive expression of eye that passed immediately.
'You rode here from Tourdestelle, then,' said Renee.
'Has he been one of the company, marquise?'
'Did he ride by you without speaking, Roland?'
'Thus.' Roland described a Spanish caballero's formallest salutation,
saying to Beauchamp, 'Not the best sample of our young Frenchman;--woman-
spoiled! Not that the better kind of article need be spoiled by them--
heaven forbid that! Friend Nevil,' he spoke lower, 'do you know, you
have something of the prophet in you? I remember: much has come true.
An old spoiler of women is worse than one spoiled by them! Ah, well: and
Madame Culling? and your seven-feet high uncle? And have you a fleet to
satisfy Nevil Beauchamp yet? You shall see a trial of our new field-guns
They were separated with difficulty.
Renee wished her brother to come in the boat; and he would have done so,
but for his objection to have his Arab bestridden by a man unknown to
'My love is a four-foot, and here's my love,' Roland said, going outside
the gilt gate-rails to the graceful little beast, that acknowledged his
ownership with an arch and swing of the neck round to him.
He mounted and called, 'Au revoir, M. le Capitaine.'
'Au revoir, M. le Commandant,' cried Beauchamp.
'Admiral and marshal, each of us in good season,' said Roland. 'Thanks
to your promotion, I had a letter from my sister. Advance a grade, and I
may get another.'
Beauchamp thought of the strange gulf now between him and the time when
he pined to be a commodore, and an admiral. The gulf was bridged as he
looked at Renee petting Roland's horse.
'Is there in the world so lovely a creature?' she said, and appealed
fondlingly to the beauty that brings out beauty, and, bidding it disdain
rivalry, rivalled it insomuch that in a moment of trance Beauchamp with
his bodily vision beheld her, not there, but on the Lido of Venice,
shining out of the years gone.
Old love reviving may be love of a phantom after all. We can, if it must
revive, keep it to the limits of a ghostly love. The ship in the Arabian
tale coming within the zone of the magnetic mountain, flies all its bolts
and bars, and becomes sheer timbers, but that is the carelessness of the
ship's captain; and hitherto Beauchamp could applaud himself for steering
with prudence, while Renee's attractions warned more than they beckoned.
She was magnetic to him as no other woman was. Then whither his course
After they had taken leave of their host and hostess of Chateau Dianet,
walking across a meadow to a line of charmilles that led to the river-
side, he said, 'Now I have seen Roland I shall have to decide upon
'Wantonly won is deservedly lost,' said Renee. 'But do not disappoint my
Roland much because of his foolish sister. Is he not looking handsome?
And he is young to be a commandant, for we have no interest at this
Court. They kept him out of the last war! My father expects to find you
at Tourdestelle, and how account to him for your hurried flight? save
with the story of that which brought you to us!'
'The glove? I shall beg for the fellow to it before I depart, marquise.'
'You perceived my disposition to light-headedness, monsieur, when I was a
'I said that I--But the past is dust. Shall I ever see you in
'That country seems to frown on me. But if I do not go there, nor you
come here, except to imperious mysterious invitations, which will not be
repeated, the future is dust as well as the past: for me, at least. Dust
here, dust there!--if one could be like a silk-worm, and live lying on
the leaf one feeds on, it would be a sort of answer to the riddle--living
out of the dust, and in the present. I find none in my religion. No
doubt, Madame de Breze did: why did you call Diane so to M. Livret?'
She looked at him smiling as they came out of the shadow of the clipped
trees. He was glancing about for the boat.
'The boat is across the river,' Renee said, in a voice that made him seek
her eyes for an explanation of the dead sound. She was very pale. 'You
have perfect command of yourself? For my sake!' she said.
He looked round.
Standing up in the boat, against the opposite bank, and leaning with
crossed legs on one of the sculls planted in the gravel of the river,
Count Henri d'Henriel's handsome figure presented itself to Beauchamp's
With a dryness that smacked of his uncle Everard Romfrey, Beauchamp said
of the fantastical posture of the young man, 'One can do that on fresh
Renee did not comprehend the sailor-sarcasm of the remark; but she also
commented on the statuesque appearance of Count Henri: 'Is the pose for
photography or for sculpture?'
Neither of them showed a sign of surprise or of impatience.
M. d'Henriel could not maintain the attitude. He uncrossed his legs
deliberately, drooped hat in hand, and came paddling over; apologized
indolently, and said, 'I am not, I believe, trespassing on the grounds
of Tourdestelle, Madame la Marquise!'
'You happen to be in my boat, M. le Comte,' said Renee.
'Permit me, madame.' He had set one foot on shore, with his back to
Beauchamp, and reached a hand to assist her step into the boat.
Beauchamp caught fast hold of the bows while Renee laid a finger on Count
Henri's shoulder to steady herself.
The instant she had taken her seat, Count Henri dashed the scull's blade
at the bank to push off with her, but the boat was fast. His manoeuvre
had been foreseen. Beauchamp swung on board like the last seaman of a
launch, and crouched as the boat rocked away to the stream; and still
Count Henri leaned on the scull, not in a chosen attitude, but for
positive support. He had thrown his force into the blow, to push off
triumphantly, and leave his rival standing. It occurred that the boat's
brief resistance and rocking away agitated his artificial equipoise, and,
by the operation of inexorable laws, the longer he leaned across an
extending surface the more was he dependent; so that when the measure of
the water exceeded the length of his failing support on land, there was
no help for it: he pitched in. His grimace of chagrin at the sight of
Beauchamp securely established, had scarcely yielded to the grimness of
feature of the man who feels he must go, as he took the plunge; and these
two emotions combined to make an extraordinary countenance.
He went like a gallant gentleman; he threw up his heels to clear the
boat, dropping into about four feet of water, and his first remark on
rising was, 'I trust, madame, I have not had the misfortune to splash
Then he waded to the bank, scrambled to his feet, and drew out his
moustachios to their curving ends. Renee nodded sharply to Beauchamp to
bid him row. He, with less of wisdom, having seized the floating scull
abandoned by Count Henri, and got it ready for the stroke, said a word of
condolence to the dripping man.
Count Henri's shoulders and neck expressed a kind of negative that, like
a wet dog's shake of the head, ended in an involuntary whole length
shudder, dog-like and deplorable to behold. He must have been conscious
of this miserable exhibition of himself; he turned to Beauchamp: 'You
are, I am informed, a sailor, monsieur. I compliment you on your naval
tactics: our next meeting will be on land. Au revoir, monsieur. Madame
la Marquise, I have the honour to salute you.'
With these words he retreated.
'Row quickly, I beg of you,' Renee said to Beauchamp. Her desire was to
see Roland, and open her heart to her brother; for now it had to be
opened. Not a minute must be lost to prevent further mischief. And who
was guilty? she. Her heart clamoured of her guilt to waken a cry of
innocence. A disdainful pity for the superb young savage just made
ludicrous, relieved him of blame, implacable though he was. He was
nothing; an accident--a fool. But he might become a terrible instrument
of punishment. The thought of that possibility gave it an aspect of
retribution, under which her cry of innocence was insufferable in its
feebleness. It would have been different with her if Beauchamp had taken
advantage of her fever of anxiety, suddenly appeased by the sight of him
on the evening of his arrival at Tourdestelle after the storm, to attempt
a renewal of their old broken love-bonds. Then she would have seen only
a conflict between two men, neither of whom could claim a more secret
right than the other to be called her lover, and of whom both were on a
common footing, and partly despicable. But Nevil Beauchamp had behaved
as her perfect true friend, in the character she had hoped for when she
summoned him. The sense of her guilt lay in the recognition that he had
saved her. From what? From the consequences of delirium rather than
from love--surely delirium, founded on delusion; love had not existed.
She had said to Count Henri, 'You speak to me of love. I was beloved
when I was a girl, before my marriage, and for years I have not seen or
corresponded with the man who loved me, and I have only to lift my finger
now and he will come to me, and not once will he speak to me of love.'
Those were the words originating the wager of the glove. But what of
her, if Nevil Beauchamp had not come?
Her heart jumped, and she blushed ungovernably in his face,--as if he
were seeing her withdraw her foot from the rock's edge, and had that
instant rescued her. But how came it she had been so helpless? She
could ask; she could not answer.
Thinking, talking to her heart, was useless. The deceiver simply feigned
utter condemnation to make partial comfort acceptable. She burned to do
some act of extreme self-abasement that should bring an unwonted degree
of wrath on her externally, and so re-entitle her to consideration in her
own eyes. She burned to be interrogated, to have to weep, to be scorned,
abused, and forgiven, that she might say she did not deserve pardon.
Beauchamp was too English, evidently too blind, for the description of
judge-accuser she required; one who would worry her without mercy, until-
disgraced by the excess of torture inflicted--he should reinstate her by
as much as he had overcharged his accusation, and a little more.
Reasonably enough, instinctively in fact, she shunned the hollow of an
English ear. A surprise was in reserve for her.
Beauchamp gave up rowing. As he rested on the sculls, his head was bent
and turned toward the bank. Renee perceived an over-swollen monster
gourd that had strayed from a garden adjoining the river, and hung
sliding heavily down the bank on one greenish yellow cheek, in prolonged
contemplation of its image in the mirror below. Apparently this obese
Narcissus enchained his attention.
She tapped her foot. 'Are you tired of rowing, monsieur?'
'It was exactly here,' said he, 'that you told me you expected your
She glanced at the gourd, bit her lip, and, colouring, said, 'At what
point of the river did I request you to congratulate me on it?'
She would not have said that, if she had known the thoughts at work
He set the boat swaying from side to side, and at once the hugeous
reflection of that conceivably self-enamoured bulk quavered and
distended, and was shattered in a thousand dancing fragments, to re-unite
and recompose its maudlin air of imaged satisfaction.
She began to have a vague idea that he was indulging grotesque fancies.
Very strangely, the ridiculous thing, in the shape of an over-stretched
likeness, that she never would have seen had he indicated it directly,
became transfused from his mind to hers by his abstract, half-amused
observation of the great dancing gourd--that capering antiquity,
lumbering volatility, wandering, self-adored, gross bald Cupid, elatest
of nondescripts! Her senses imagined the impressions agitating
Beauchamp's, and exaggerated them beyond limit; and when he amazed her
with a straight look into her eyes, and the words, 'Better let it be a
youth--and live, than fall back to that!' she understood him immediately;
and, together with her old fear of his impetuosity and downrightness,
came the vivid recollection, like a bright finger pointing upon darkness,
of what foul destiny, magnified by her present abhorrence of it, he would
have saved her from in the days of Venice and Touraine, and unto what
loathly example of the hideous grotesque she, in spite of her lover's
foresight on her behalf, had become allied.
Face to face as they sat, she had no defence for her scarlet cheeks; her
'We will land here; the cottagers shall row the boat up,' she said.
'Somewhere--anywhere,' said Beauchamp. 'But I must speak. I will tell
you now. I do not think you to blame--barely; not in my sight; though no
man living would have suffered as I should. Probably some days more and
you would have been lost. You looked for me! Trust your instinct now
I'm with you as well as when I'm absent. Have you courage? that 's the
question. You have years to live. Can you live them in this place--with
honour? and alive really?'
Renee's eyes grew wide; she tried to frown, and her brows merely
twitched; to speak, and she was inarticulate. His madness, miraculous
penetration, and the super-masculine charity in him, unknown to the world
of young men in their treatment of women, excited, awed, and melted her.
He had seen the whole truth of her relations with M. d'Henriel!--the
wickedness of them in one light, the innocence in another; and without
prompting a confession he forgave her. Could she believe it? This was
love, and manly love.
She yearned to be on her feet, to feel the possibility of an escape from
She pointed to a landing. He sprang to the bank. 'It could end in
nothing else,' he said, 'unless you beat cold to me. And now I have your
hand, Renee! It's the hand of a living woman, you have no need to tell
me that; but faithful to her comrade! I can swear it for her--faithful
to a true alliance! You are not married, you are simply chained: and you
are terrorized. What a perversion of you it is! It wrecks you. But
with me? Am I not your lover? You and I are one life. What have we
suffered for but to find this out and act on it? Do I not know that a
woman lives, and is not the rooted piece of vegetation hypocrites and
tyrants expect her to be? Act on it, I say; own me, break the chains,
come to me; say, Nevil Beauchamp or death! And death for you? But you
are poisoned and thwart-eddying, as you live now: worse, shaming the
Renee I knew. Ah-Venice! But now we are both of us wiser and stronger:
we have gone through fire. Who foretold it? This day, and this misery
and perversion that we can turn to joy, if we will--if you will! No
heart to dare is no heart to love!--answer that! Shall I see you cower
away from me again? Not this time!'
He swept on in a flood, uttered mad things, foolish things, and things of
an insight electrifying to her. Through the cottager's garden, across a
field, and within the park gates of Tourdestelle it continued
unceasingly; and deeply was she won by the rebellious note in all that
he said, deeply too by his disregard of the vulgar arts of wooers: she
detected none. He did not speak so much to win as to help her to see
with her own orbs. Nor was it roughly or chidingly, though it was
absolutely, that he stripped her of the veil a wavering woman will keep
to herself from her heart's lord if she can.
They arrived long after the boat at Tourdestelle, and Beauchamp might
believe he had prevailed with her, but for her forlorn repetition of
the question he had put to her idly and as a new idea, instead of
significantly, with a recollection and a doubt 'Have I courage, Nevil?'
The grain of common sense in cowardice caused her to repeat it when her
reason was bedimmed, and passion assumed the right to show the way of
right and wrong.
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A string of pearls: a woman who goes beyond that's in danger
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