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
L. AT THE COTTAGE ON THE COMMON
LI. IN THE NIGHT
LII. QUESTION OF A PILGRIMAGE AND AN ACT OF PENANCE
LIII. THE APOLOGY TO DR. SHRAPNEL
LIV. THE FRUITS OF THE APOLOGY
LV. WITHOUT LOVE
LVI. THE LAST OF NEVIL BEAUCHAMP
AT THE COTTAGE ON THE COMMON
Rain went with Lord Romfrey in a pursuing cloud all the way to Bevisham,
and across the common to the long garden and plain little green-
shuttered, neat white cottage of Dr. Shrapnel. Carriages were driving
from the door; idle men with hands deep in their pockets hung near it,
some women pointing their shoulders under wet shawls, and boys. The earl
was on foot. With no sign of discomposure, he stood at the half-open
door and sent in his card, bearing the request for permission to visit
his nephew. The reply failing to come to him immediately, he began
striding to and fro. That garden gate where he had flourished the
righteous whip was wide. Foot-farers over the sodden common were
attracted to the gateway, and lingered in it, looking at the long,
green-extended windows, apparently listening, before they broke away to
exchange undertone speech here and there. Boys had pushed up through the
garden to the kitchen area. From time to time a woman in a dripping
bonnet whimpered aloud.
An air of a country churchyard on a Sunday morning when the curate has
commenced the service prevailed. The boys were subdued by the moisture,
as they are when they sit in the church aisle or organ-loft, before their
members have been much cramped.
The whole scene, and especially the behaviour of the boys, betokened to
Lord Romfrey that an event had come to pass.
In the chronicle of a sickness the event is death.
He bethought him of various means of stopping the telegraph and
smothering the tale, if matters should have touched the worst here.
He calculated abstrusely the practicable shortness of the two routes from
Bevisham to Romfrey, by post-horses on the straightest line of road, or
by express train on the triangle of railway, in case of an extreme need
requiring him to hasten back to his wife and renew his paternal-despotic
system with her. She had but persuaded him of the policy of a liberal
openness and confidence for the moment's occasion: she could not turn his
nature, which ran to strokes of craft and blunt decision whenever the
emergency smote him and he felt himself hailed to show generalship.
While thus occupied in thoughtfulness he became aware of the monotony
of a tuneless chant, as if, it struck him, an insane young chorister or
canon were galloping straight on end hippomaniacally through the Psalms.
There was a creak at intervals, leading him to think it a machine that
might have run away with the winder's arm.
The earl's humour proposed the notion to him that this perhaps was one
of the forms of Radical lamentation, ululation, possibly practised by a
veteran impietist like Dr. Shrapnel for the loss of his youngster, his
political cub--poor lad!
Deriding any such paganry, and aught that could be set howling, Lord
Romfrey was presently moved to ask of the small crowd at the gate what
that sound was.
'It's the poor commander, sir,' said a wet-shawled woman, shivering.
'He's been at it twenty hours already, sir,' said one of the boys.
'Twenty-foor hour he 've been at it,' said another.
A short dispute grew over the exact number of hours. One boy declared
that thirty hours had been reached. 'Father heerd'n yesterday morning as
he was aff to 's work in the town afore six: that brings 't nigh thirty
and he ha'n't stopped yet.'
The earl was invited to step inside the gate, a little way up to the
house, and under the commander's window, that he might obtain a better
He swung round, walked away, walked back, and listened.
If it was indeed a voice, the voice, he would have said, was travelling
high in air along the sky.
Yesterday he had described to his wife Nevil's chattering of hundreds to
the minute. He had not realized the description, which had been only his
manner of painting delirium: there had been no warrant for it. He heard
the wild scudding voice imperfectly: it reminded him of a string of
winter geese changeing waters. Shower gusts, and the wail and hiss of
the rows of fir-trees bordering the garden, came between, and allowed him
a moment's incredulity as to its being a human voice. Such a cry will
often haunt the moors and wolds from above at nightfall. The voice hied
on, sank, seemed swallowed; it rose, as if above water, in a hush of wind
and trees. The trees bowed their heads rageing, the voice drowned; once
more to rise, chattering thrice rapidly, in a high-pitched key, thin,
shrill, weird, interminable, like winds through a crazy chamber-door at
The voice of a broomstick-witch in the clouds could not be thinner and
stranger: Lord Romfrey had some such thought.
Dr. Gannet was the bearer of Miss Denham's excuses to Lord Romfrey for
the delay in begging him to enter the house: in the confusion of the
household his lordship's card had been laid on the table below, and she
was in the sick-room.
'Is my nephew a dead man?' said the earl.
The doctor weighed his reply. 'He lives. Whether he will, after the
exhaustion of this prolonged fit of raving, I don't dare to predict. In
the course of my experience I have never known anything like it. He
lives: there's the miracle, but he lives.'
'That would soon have sped him.'
'Ha. You have everything here that you want?'
'He's in your hands, Gannet.'
The earl was conducted to a sitting-room, where Dr. Gannet left him for a
Mindful that he was under the roof of his enemy, he remained standing,
The voice overheard was off at a prodigious rate, like the far sound of a
yell ringing on and on.
The earl unconsciously sought a refuge from it by turning the leaves of a
book upon the table, which was a complete edition of Harry Denham's
Poems, with a preface by a man named Lydiard; and really, to read the
preface one would suppose that these poets were the princes of the earth.
Lord Romfrey closed the volume. It was exquisitely bound, and presented
to Miss Denham by the Mr. Lydiard. 'The works of your illustrious
father,' was written on the title-page. These writers deal queerly with
their words of praise of one another. There is no law to restrain them.
Perhaps it is the consolation they take for the poor devil's life they
A lady addressing him familiarly, invited him to go upstairs.
He thanked her. At the foot of the stairs he turned; he had recognized
Seeing her there was more strange to him than being there himself; but he
bowed to facts.
'What do you think?' he said.
She did not answer intelligibly.
He walked up.
The crazed gabbling tongue had entire possession of the house, and rang
through it at an amazing pitch to sustain for a single minute.
A reflection to the effect that dogs die more decently than we men,
saddened the earl. But, then, it is true, we shorten their pangs by
A dismal figure loomed above him at the head of the stairs.
He distinguished it in the vast lean length he had once whipped and flung
Dr. Shrapnel was planted against the wall outside that raving chamber, at
the salient angle of a common prop or buttress. The edge of a shoulder
and a heel were the supports to him sideways in his distorted attitude.
His wall arm hung dead beside his pendent frock-coat; the hair of his
head had gone to wildness, like a field of barley whipped by tempest.
One hand pressed his eyeballs: his unshaven jaw dropped.
Lord Romfrey passed him by.
The dumb consent of all present affirmed the creature lying on the bed to
be Nevil Beauchamp.
Face, voice, lank arms, chicken neck: what a sepulchral sketch of him!
It was the revelry of a corpse.
Shudders of alarm for his wife seized Lord Romfrey at the sight. He
thought the poor thing on the bed must be going, resolving to a cry,
unwinding itself violently in its hurricane of speech, that was not
speech nor exclamation, rather the tongue let loose to run to the death.
It seemed to be out in mid-sea, up wave and down wave.
A nurse was at the pillow smoothing it. Miss Denham stood at the foot of
'Is that pain?' Lord Romfrey said low to Dr. Gannet.
'Unconscious,' was the reply.
Miss Denham glided about the room and disappeared.
Her business was to remove Dr. Shrapnel, that he might be out of the way
when Lord Romfrey should pass him again: but Dr. Shrapnel heard one voice
only, and moaned, 'My Beauchamp!' She could not get him to stir.
Miss Denham saw him start slightly as the earl stepped forth and, bowing
to him, said: 'I thank you, sir, for permitting me to visit my nephew.'
Dr. Shrapnel made a motion of the hand, to signify freedom of access to
his house. He would have spoken the effort fetched a burst of terrible
chuckles. He covered his face.
Lord Romfrey descended. The silly old wretch had disturbed his
equanimity as a composer of fiction for the comfort and sustainment of
his wife: and no sooner had he the front door in view than the
calculation of the three strides requisite to carry him out of the house
plucked at his legs, much as young people are affected by a dancing
measure; for he had, without deigning to think of matters disagreeable to
him in doing so, performed the duty imposed upon him by his wife, and now
it behoved him to ward off the coming blow from that double life at
He was arrested in his hasty passage by Cecilia Halkett.
She handed him a telegraphic message: Rosamund requested him to stay two
days in Bevisham. She said additionally: 'Perfectly well. Shall fear to
see you returning yet. Have sent to Tourdestelle. All his friends. Ni
espoir, ni crainte, mais point de deceptions. Lumiere. Ce sont les
tenebres qui tuent.'
Her nimble wits had spied him on the road he was choosing, and outrun
He resigned himself to wait a couple of days at Bevisham. Cecilia begged
him to accept a bed at Mount Laurels. He declined, and asked her: 'How
is it you are here?'
'I called here,' said she, compressing her eyelids in anguish at a wilder
cry of the voice overhead, and forgetting to state why she had called at
the house and what services she had undertaken. A heap of letters in her
handwriting explained the nature of her task.
Lord Romfrey asked her where the colonel was.
'He drives me down in the morning and back at night, but they will give
me a bed or a sofa here to-night--I can't . . .' Cecilia stretched her
hand out, blinded, to the earl.
He squeezed her hand.
'These letters take away my strength: crying is quite useless, I know
that,' said she, glancing at a pile of letters that she had partly
replied to. 'Some are from people who can hardly write. There were
people who distrusted him! Some are from people who abused him and
maltreated him. See those poor creatures out in the rain!'
Lord Romfrey looked through the venetian blinds of the parlour window.
'It's as good as a play to them,' he remarked.
Cecilia lit a candle and applied a stick of black wax to the flame,
saying: 'Envelopes have fallen short. These letters will frighten the
receivers. I cannot help it.'
'I will bring letter paper and envelopes in the afternoon,' said Lord
Romfrey. 'Don't use black wax, my dear.'
'I can find no other: I do not like to trouble Miss Denham. Letter paper
has to be sealed. These letters must go by the afternoon post: I do not
like to rob the poor anxious people of a little hope while he lives. Let
me have note paper and envelopes quickly: not black-edged.'
'Plain; that's right,' said Lord Romfrey.
Black appeared to him like the torch of death flying over the country.
'There may be hope,' he added.
She sighed: 'Oh! yes.'
'Gannet will do everything that man can do to save him.'
'He will, I am sure.'
'You don't keep watch in the room, my dear, do you?'
'Miss Denham allows me an hour there in the day: it is the only rest she
takes. She gives me her bedroom.'
'Ha: well: women!' ejaculated the earl, and paused. 'That sounded like
'At times,' murmured Cecilia. 'All yesterday! all through the night!
'He'll be missed.'
Any sudden light of happier expectation that might have animated him was
extinguished by the flight of chatter following the cry which had sounded
He went out into the rain, thinking that Beauchamp would be missed. The
fellow had bothered the world, but the world without him would be heavy
The hour was mid-day, workmen's meal-time. A congregation of shipyard
workmen and a multitude of children crowded near the door. In passing
through them, Lord Romfrey was besought for the doctor's report of
Commander Beauchamp, variously named Beesham, Bosham, Bitcham, Bewsham.
The earl heard his own name pronounced as he particularly disliked to
hear it--Rumfree. Two or three men scowled at him.
It had not occurred to him ever before in his meditations to separate his
blood and race from the common English; and he was not of a character to
dwell on fantastical and purposeless distinctions, but the
mispronunciation of his name and his nephew's at an instant when he was
thinking of Nevil's laying down his life for such men as these gross
excessive breeders, of ill shape and wooden countenance, pushed him to
reflections on the madness of Nevil in endeavouring to lift them up and
brush them up; and a curious tenderness for Nevil's madness worked in his
breast as he contrasted this much-abused nephew of his with our general
English--the so-called nobles, who were sunk in the mud of the traders:
the traders, who were sinking in the mud of the workmen: the workmen, who
were like harbour-flats at ebb tide round a stuck-fast fleet of vessels
big and little.
Decidedly a fellow like Nevil would be missed by him!
These English, huddling more and more in flocks, turning to lumps,
getting to be cut in a pattern and marked by a label--how they bark and
snap to rend an obnoxious original! One may chafe at the botheration
everlastingly raised by the fellow; but if our England is to keep her
place she must have him, and many of him. Have him? He's gone!
Lord Romfrey reasoned himself into pathetic sentiment by degrees.
He purchased the note paper and envelopes in the town for Cecilia.
Late in the afternoon he deposited them on the parlour table at Dr.
Shrapnel's. Miss Denham received him. She was about to lie down for her
hour of rest on the sofa. Cecilia was upstairs. He inquired if there
was any change in his nephew's condition.
'Not any,' said Miss Denham.
The voice was abroad for proof of that.
He stood with a swelling heart.
Jenny flung out a rug to its length beside the sofa, and; holding it by
one end, said: 'I must have my rest, to be of service, my lord.'
He bowed. He was mute and surprised.
The young lady was like no person of her age and sex that he remembered
ever to have met.
'I will close the door,' he said, retiring softly.
'Do not, my lord.'
The rug was over her, up to her throat, and her eyes were shut. He
looked back through the doorway in going out. She was asleep.
'Some delirium. Gannet of good hope. All in the usual course'; he
transmitted intelligence to his wife.
A strong desire for wine at his dinner-table warned him of something
wrong with his iron nerves.
IN THE NIGHT
The delirious voice haunted him. It came no longer accompanied by images
and likenesses to this and that of animate nature, which were relieving
and distracting; it came to him in its mortal nakedness--an afflicting
incessant ringing peal, bare as death's ribs in telling of death. When
would it stop? And when it stopped, what would succeed? What ghastly
He walked to within view of the lights of Dr. Shrapnel's at night: then
home to his hotel.
Miss Denham's power of commanding sleep, as he could not, though contrary
to custom he tried it on the right side and the left, set him thinking of
her. He owned she was pretty. But that, he contended, was not the word;
and the word was undiscoverable. Not Cecilia Halkett herself had so
high-bred an air, for Cecilia had not her fineness of feature and full
quick eyes, of which the thin eyelids were part of the expression. And
Cecilia sobbed, snifed, was patched about the face, reddish, bluish.
This girl was pliable only to service, not to grief: she did her work for
three-and-twenty hours, and fell to her sleep of one hour like a soldier.
Lord Romfrey could not recollect anything in a young woman that had taken
him so much as the girl's tossing out of the rug and covering herself,
lying down and going to sleep under his nose, absolutely independent of
She had not betrayed any woman's petulance with him for his conduct to
her uncle or guardian. Nor had she hypocritically affected the reverse,
as ductile women do, when they feel wanting in force to do the other.
She was not unlike Nevil's marquise in face, he thought: less foreign of
course; looking thrice as firm. Both were delicately featured.
He had a dream.
It was of an interminable procession of that odd lot called the People.
All of them were quarrelling under a deluge. One party was for
umbrellas, one was against them: and sounding the dispute with a question
or two, Everard held it logical that there should be protection from the
wet: just as logical on the other hand that so frail a shelter should be
discarded, considering the tremendous downpour. But as he himself was
dry, save for two or three drops, he deemed them all lunatics. He
requested them to gag their empty chatter-boxes, and put the mother upon
that child's cry.
He was now a simple unit of the procession. Asking naturally whither
they were going, he saw them point. 'St. Paul's,' he heard. In his own
bosom it was, and striking like the cathedral big bell.
Several ladies addressed him sorrowfully. He stood alone. It had become
notorious that he was to do battle, and no one thought well of his
chances. Devil an enemy to be seen! he muttered. Yet they said the
enemy was close upon him. His right arm was paralyzed. There was the
enemy hard in front, mailed, vizored, gauntleted. He tried to lift his
right hand, and found it grasping an iron ring at the bottom of the deep
Steynham well, sunk one hundred feet through the chalk. But the
unexampled cunning of his left arm was his little secret; and, acting
upon this knowledge, he telegraphed to his first wife at Steynham that
Dr. Gannet was of good hope, and thereupon he re-entered the ranks of the
voluminous procession, already winding spirally round the dome of St.
Paul's. And there, said he, is the tomb of Beauchamp. Everything
occurred according to his predictions, and he was entirely devoid of
astonishment. Yet he would fain have known the titles of the slain
admiral's naval battles. He protested he had a right to know, for he was
the hero's uncle, and loved him. He assured the stupid scowling people
that he loved Nevil Beauchamp, always loved the boy, and was the
staunchest friend the fellow had. And saying that, he certainly felt
himself leaning up against the cathedral rails in the attitude of Dr.
Shrapnel, and crying, 'Beauchamp! Beauchamp!' And then he walked firmly
out of Romfrey oakwoods, and, at a mile's distance from her, related to
his countess Rosamund that the burial was over without much silly
ceremony, and that she needed to know nothing of it whatever.
Rosamund's face awoke him. It was the face of a chalk-quarry,
featureless, hollowed, appalling.
The hour was no later than three in the morning. He quitted the
detestable bed where a dream--one of some half-dozen in the course of his
life-had befallen him. For the maxim of the healthy man is: up, and have
it out in exercise when sleep is for foisting base coin of dreams upon
you! And as the healthy only are fit to live, their maxims should be
law. He dressed and directed his leisurely steps to the common, under a
black sky, and stars of lively brilliancy. The lights of a carriage
gleamed on Dr. Shrapnel's door. A footman informed Lord Romfrey that
Colonel Halkett was in the house, and soon afterward the colonel
'Is it over? I don't hear him,' said Lord Romfrey.
Colonel Halkett grasped his hand. 'Not yet,' he said. 'Cissy can't be
got away. It's killing her. No, he's alive. You may hear him now.'
Lord Romfrey bent his ear.
'It's weaker,' the colonel resumed. 'By the way, Romfrey, step out with
me. My dear friend, the circumstances will excuse me: you know I'm not a
man to take liberties. I'm bound to tell you what your wife writes to
me. She says she has it on her conscience, and can't rest for it. You
know women. She wants you to speak to the man here--Shrapnel. She wants
Nevil to hear that you and he were friendly before he dies; thinks it
would console the poor dear fellow. That's only an idea; but it concerns
her, you see. I'm shocked to have to talk to you about it.'
'My dear colonel, I have no feeling against the man,' Lord Romfrey
replied. 'I spoke to him when I saw him yesterday. I bear no grudges.
Where is he? You can send to her to say I have spoken to him twice.'
'Yes, yes,' the colonel assented.
He could not imagine that Lady Romfrey required more of her husband.
'Well, I must be off. I leave Blackburn Tuckham here, with a friend of
his; a man who seems to be very sweet with Mrs. Wardour-Devereux.'
'Ha! Fetch him to me, colonel; I beg you to do that,' said Lord Romfrey.
The colonel brought out Lydiard to the earl.
'You have been at my nephew's bedside, Mr. Lydiard?'
'Within ten minutes, my lord.'
'What is your opinion of the case?'
'My opinion is, the chances are in his favour.'
'Lay me under obligation by communicating that to Romfrey Castle at the
first opening of the telegraph office to-morrow morning.'
'The raving has ended?'
'Hardly, sir, but the exhaustion is less than we feared it would be.'
'Gannet is there?'
'He is in an arm-chair in the room.'
'And Dr. Shrapnel?'
'He does not bear speaking to; he is quiet.'
'He is attached to my nephew?'
'As much as to life itself.'
Lord Romfrey thanked Lydiard courteously. 'Let us hope, sir, that some
day I shall have the pleasure of entertaining you, as well as another
friend of yours.'
'You are very kind, my lord.'
The earl stood at the door to see Colonel Halkett drive off: he declined
to accompany him to Mount Laurels.
In the place of the carriage stood a man, who growled 'Where's your
He dogged the earl some steps across the common. Everard returned to his
hotel and slept soundly during the remainder of the dark hours.
QUESTION OF A PILGRIMAGE AND AN ACT OF PENANCE
Then came a glorious morning for sportsmen. One sniffed the dews, and
could fancy fresh smells of stubble earth and dank woodland grass in the
very streets of dirty Bevisham. Sound sleep, like hearty dining, endows
men with a sense of rectitude, and sunlight following the former, as a
pleasant spell of conversational ease or sweet music the latter, smiles
a celestial approval of the performance: Lord Romfrey dismissed his
anxieties. His lady slightly ruffled him at breakfast in a letter
saying that she wished to join him. He was annoyed at noon by a message,
wherein the wish was put as a request. And later arrived another
message, bearing the character of an urgent petition. True, it might be
laid to the account of telegraphic brevity.
He saw Dr. Shrapnel, and spoke to him, as before, to thank him for the
permission to visit his nephew. Nevil he contemplated for the space of
five minutes. He cordially saluted Miss Denham. He kissed Cecilia's
'All here is going on so well that I am with you for a day or two to-
morrow,' he despatched the message to his wife.
Her case was now the gravest. He could not understand why she desired to
be in Bevisham. She must have had execrable dreams!--rank poison to
However, her constitutional strength was great, and his pride in the
restoration of his House by her agency flourished anew, what with fair
weather and a favourable report from Dr. Gannet: The weather was most
propitious to the hopes of any soul bent on dispersing the shadows of
death, and to sportsmen. From the windows of his railway carriage he
beheld the happy sportsmen stalking afield. The birds whirred and
dropped just where he counted on their dropping. The smoke of the guns
threaded to dazzling silver in the sunshine. Say what poor old Nevil
will, or did say, previous to the sobering of his blood, where is there a
land like England? Everard rejoiced in his country temperately. Having
Nevil as well,--of which fact the report he was framing in his mind to
deliver to his wife assured him--he was rich. And you that put
yourselves forward for republicans and democrats, do you deny the
aristocracy of an oaklike man who is young upon the verge of eighty?
These were poetic flights, but he knew them not by name, and had not to
be ashamed of them.
Rosamund met him in the hall of the castle. 'You have not deceived me,
my dear lord,' she said, embracing him. 'You have done what you could
for me. The rest is for me to do.'
He reciprocated her embrace warmly, in commendation of her fresher good
She asked him, 'You have spoken to Dr. Shrapnel?'
He answered her, 'Twice.'
The word seemed quaint. She recollected that he was quaint.
He repeated, 'I spoke to him the first day I saw him, and the second.'
'We are so much indebted to him,' said Rosamund. 'His love of Nevil
surpasses ours. Poor man! poor man! At least we may now hope the blow
will be spared him which would have carried off his life with Nevil's.
I have later news of Nevil than you.'
'Good, of course?'
'Ah me! the pleasure of the absence of pain. He is not gone.'
Lord Romfrey liked her calm resignation.
'There's a Mr. Lydiard,' he said, 'a friend of Nevil's, and a friend of
'Yes; we hear from him every four hours,' Rosamund rejoined. 'Mention
him to her before me.'
'That's exactly what I was going to tell you to do before me,' said her
'Because, Everard, is it not so?--widows . . . and she loves this
'Certainly, my dear; I think with you about widows. The world asks them
to practise its own hypocrisy. Louise Devereux was married to a pipe;
she's the widow of tobacco ash. We'll make daylight round her.'
'How good, how kind you are, my lord! I did not think so shrewd! But
benevolence is almost all-seeing: You said you spoke to Dr. Shrapnel
twice. Was he . . . polite?'
'Thoroughly upset, you know.'
'What did he say?'
'What was it? "Beauchamp! Beauchamp!" the first time; and the second
time he said he thought it had left off raining.'
'Ah!' Rosamund drooped her head.
She looked up. 'Here is Louise. My lord has had a long conversation
with Mr. Lydiard.'
'I trust he will come here before you leave us,' added the earl.
Rosamund took her hand. 'My lord has been more acute than I, or else
your friend is less guarded than you.'
'What have you seen?' said the blushing lady.
'Stay. I have an idea you are one of the women I promised to Cecil
Baskelett,' said the earl. 'Now may I tell him there's no chance?'
They spent so very pleasant an evening that the earl settled down into a
comfortable expectation of the renewal of his old habits in the September
and October season. Nevil's frightful cry played on his ear-drum at
whiles, but not too affectingly. He conducted Rosamund to her room,
kissed her, hoped she would sleep well, and retired to his good hard
bachelor's bed, where he confidently supposed he would sleep. The sleep
of a dyspeptic, with a wilder than the monstrous Bevisham dream, befell
him, causing him to rise at three in the morning and proceed to his
lady's chamber, to assure himself that at least she slept well. She was
'I thought you might come,' she said.
He reproached her gently for indulging foolish nervous fears.
She replied, 'No, I do not; I am easier about Nevil. I begin to think he
will live. I have something at my heart that prevents me from sleeping.
It concerns me. Whether he is to live or die, I should like him to know
he has not striven in vain--not in everything: not where my conscience
tells me he was right, and we, I, wrong--utterly wrong, wickedly wrong.'
'My dear girl, you are exciting yourself.'
'No; feel my pulse. The dead of night brings out Nevil to me like the
Writing on the Wall. It shall not be said he failed in everything.
Shame to us if it could be said! He tried to make me see what my duty
was, and my honour.'
'He was at every man Jack of us.'
'I speak of one thing. I thought I might not have to go. Now I feel I
must. I remember him at Steynham, when Colonel Halkett and Cecilia were
there. But for me, Cecilia would now be his wife. Of that there is no
doubt; that is not the point; regrets are fruitless. I see how the
struggle it cost him to break with his old love--that endearing Madame de
Rouaillout, his Renee--broke his heart; and then his loss of Cecilia
Halkett. But I do believe, true as that I am lying here, and you hold my
hand, my dear husband, those losses were not so fatal to him as his
sufferings he went through on account of his friend Dr. Shrapnel. I will
not keep you here.
Go and have some rest. What I shall beg of you tomorrow will not injure
my health in the slightest: the reverse: it will raise me from a bitter
depression. It shall not be said that those who loved him were unmoved
by him. Before he comes back to life, or is carried to his grave, he
shall know that I was not false to my love of him.'
'My dear, your pulse is at ninety,' said the earl.
'Look lenient, be kind, be just, my husband. Oh! let us cleanse our
hearts. This great wrong was my doing. I am not only quite strong
enough to travel to Bevisham, I shall be happy in going: and when I have
done it--said: "The wrong was all mine," I shall rejoice like the pure in
spirit. Forgiveness does not matter, though I now believe that poor
loving old man who waits outside his door weeping, is wrong-headed only
in his political views. We women can read men by their power to love.
Where love exists there is goodness. But it is not for the sake of the
poor old man himself that I would go: it is for Nevil's; it is for ours,
chiefly for me, for my child's, if ever . . . !' Rosamund turned her
head on her pillow.
The earl patted her cheek. 'We 'll talk it over in the morning,' he
said. 'Now go to sleep.'
He could not say more, for he did not dare to attempt cajolery with her.
Shading his lamp he stepped softly away to wrestle with a worse nightmare
than sleep's. Her meaning was clear: and she was a woman to insist on
doing it. She was nevertheless a woman not impervious to reason, if only
he could shape her understanding to perceive that the state of her
nerves, incident to her delicate situation and the shock of that fellow
Nevil's illness--poor lad!--was acting on her mind, rendering her a
victim of exaggerated ideas of duty, and so forth.
Naturally, apart from allowing her to undertake the journey by rail, he
could not sanction his lady's humbling of herself so egregiously and
unnecessarily. Shrapnel had behaved unbecomingly, and had been punished
for it. He had spoken to Shrapnel, and the affair was virtually at an
end. With his assistance she would see that, when less excited. Her
eternal brooding over Nevil was the cause of these mental vagaries.
Lord Romfrey was for postponing the appointed discussion in the morning
after breakfast. He pleaded business engagements.
'None so urgent as this of mine,' said Rosamund.
'But we have excellent news of Nevil: you have Gannet's word for it,' he
argued. 'There's really nothing to distress you.'
'My heart: I must be worthy of good news, to know happiness,' she
answered. 'I will say, let me go to Bevisham two, three, four days
hence, if you like, but there is peace for me, and nowhere else.'
'My precious Rosamund! have you set your two eyes on it? What you are
asking, is for permission to make an apology to Shrapnel!'
'That is the word.'
'That's Nevil's word.'
'It is a prescription to me.'
The earl's gorge rose. Why, such an act was comparable to the circular
mission of the dog!
'If I do not make the apology, the mother of your child is a coward,'
'I trust not.'
'You are a reasonable woman, my dear. Now listen the man insulted you.
It's past: done with. He insulted you . . .'
'He did not.'
'He was courteous to me, hospitable to me, kind to me. He did not insult
me. I belied him.'
'My dear saint, you're dreaming. He spoke insultingly of you to Cecil.'
'Is my lord that man's dupe? I would stand against him before the throne
of God, with what little I know of his interview with Dr. Shrapnel, to
confront him and expose his lie. Do not speak of him. He stirs my evil
passions, and makes me feel myself the creature I was when I returned to
Steynham from my first visit to Bevisham, enraged with jealousy of Dr.
Shrapnel's influence over Nevil, spiteful, malicious: Oh! such a nest of
vileness as I pray to heaven I am not now, if it is granted me to give
life to another. Nevil's misfortunes date from that,' she continued, in
reply to the earl's efforts to soothe her. 'Not the loss of the
Election: that was no misfortune, but a lesson. He would not have shone
in Parliament: he runs too much from first principles to extremes. You
see I am perfectly reasonable, Everard: 'I can form an exact estimate of
character and things.' She smiled in his face. 'And I know my husband
too: what he will grant; what he would not, and justly would not. I know
to a certainty that vexatious as I must be to you now, you are conscious
of my having reason for being so.'
'You carry it so far--fifty miles beyond the mark,' said he. 'The man
roughed you, and I taught him manners.'
'No!' she half screamed her interposition. 'I repeat, he was in no way
discourteous or disobliging to me. He offered me a seat at his table,
and, heaven forgive me! I believe a bed in his house, that I might wait
and be sure of seeing Nevil, because I was very anxious to see him.'
'All the same, you can't go to the man.'
'I should have said so too, before my destiny touched me.'
'A certain dignity of position, my dear, demands a corresponding dignity
of conduct: you can't go.'
'If I am walking in the very eye of heaven, and feeling it shining on me
where I go, there is no question for me of human dignity.'
Such flighty talk offended Lord Romfrey.
'It comes to this: you're in want of a parson.'
Rosamund was too careful to hint that she would have expected succour and
seconding from one or other of the better order of clergymen.
She shook her head. 'To this, my dear lord: I have a troubled mind; and
it is not to listen nor to talk, that I am in need of, but to act.'
'Yes, my dear girl, but not to act insanely. I do love soundness of
head. You have it, only just now you're a little astray. We'll leave
this matter for another time.'
Rosamund held him by the arm. 'Not too long!'
Both of them applied privately to Mrs. Wardour-Devereux for her opinion
and counsel on the subject of the proposal to apologize to Dr. Shrapnel.
She was against it with the earl, and became Rosamund's echo when with
her. When alone, she was divided into two almost equal halves: deeming
that the countess should not insist, and the earl should not refuse: him
she condemned for lack of sufficient spiritual insight to perceive the
merits of his wife's request: her she accused of some vestige of
something underbred in her nature, for putting such fervid stress upon
the supplication: i.e. making too much of it--a trick of the vulgar: and
not known to the languid.
She wrote to Lydiard for advice.
He condensed a paragraph into a line:
'It should be the earl. She is driving him to it, intentionally or not.'
Mrs. Devereux doubted that the countess could have so false an idea of
her husband's character as to think it possible he would ever be bent to
humble himself to the man he had castigated. She was right. It was by
honestly presenting to his mind something more loathsome still, the
humbling of herself, that Rosamund succeeded in awakening some remote
thoughts of a compromise, in case of necessity. Better I than she!
But the necessity was inconceivable.
He had really done everything required of him, if anything was really
required, by speaking to Shrapnel civilly. He had spoken to Shrapnel
Besides, the castle was being gladdened by happier tidings of Beauchamp.
Gannet now pledged his word to the poor fellow's recovery, and the earl's
particular friends arrived, and the countess entertained them. October
She said once: 'Ancestresses of yours, my lord, have undertaken
pilgrimages as acts of penance for sin, to obtain heaven's intercession
in their extremity.'
'I dare say they did,' he replied. 'The monks got round them.'
'It is not to be laughed at, if it eased their hearts.'
Timidly she renewed her request for permission to perform the pilgrimage
'Wait,' said he, 'till Nevil is on his legs.'
'Have you considered where I may then be, Everard?'
'My love, you sleep well, don't you?'
'You see me every night.'
'I see you sound asleep.'
'I see you watching me.'
'Let's reason,' said the earl; and again they went through the argument
upon the apology to Dr. Shrapnel.
He was willing to indulge her in any amount of it: and she perceived why.
Fox! she thought. Grand fox, but fox downright. For her time was
shortening to days that would leave her no free-will.
On the other hand, the exercise of her free-will in a fast resolve, was
growing all the more a privilege that he was bound to respect. As she
became sacreder and doubly precious to him, the less would he venture to
thwart her, though he should think her mad. There would be an analogy
between his manner of regarding her and the way that superstitious
villagers look on their crazy innocents, she thought sadly. And she bled
for him too: she grieved to hurt his pride. But she had come to imagine
that there was no avoidance of this deed of personal humiliation.
Nevil had scrawled a note to her. She had it in her hand one forenoon in
mid November, when she said to her husband: 'I have ordered the carriage
for two o'clock to meet the quarter to three train to London, and I have
sent Stanton on to get the house ready for us tonight.'
Lord Romfrey levelled a marksman's eye at her.
'Why London? You know my wish that it should be here at the castle.'
'I have decided to go to Bevisham. I have little time left.'
'None, to my thinking.'
'Oh I yes; my heart will be light. I shall gain. You come with me to
'You can't go.'
'Don't attempt to reason with me, please, please!'
'I command, madam.'
'My lord, it is past the hour of commanding.'
He nodded his head, with the eyes up amid the puckered brows, and blowing
one of his long nasal expirations, cried, 'Here we are, in for another
bout of argument.'
'No; I can bear the journey, rejoice in confessing my fault, but more
argument I cannot bear. I will reason with you when I can: submit to me
'Feminine reasoning!' he interjected.
'I have nothing better to offer. It will be prudent to attend to me.
Take my conduct for the portion I bring you. Before I put myself in
God's care I must be clean. I am unclean. Language like that offends
you. I have no better. My reasoning has not touched you; I am helpless,
except in this determination that my contrition shall be expressed to Dr.
Shrapnel. If I am to have life, to be worthy of living and being a
mother, it must be done. Now, my dear lord, see that, and submit.
You're but one voice: I am two.'
He jumped off his chair, frowning up his forehead, and staring awfully at
the insulting prospect. 'An apology to the man? By you? Away with it.'
'Make allowances for me if you can, my dear lord that is what I am going
'My wife going there?' He strode along furiously. 'No!'
'You will not stop her.'
'There's a palsy in my arm if I don't.'
She plucked at her watch.
'Why, ma'am, I don't know you,' he said, coming close to her. 'Let 's
reason. Perhaps you overshot it; you were disgusted with Shrapnel.
Perhaps I was hasty; I get fired by an insult to a woman. There was a
rascal kissed a girl once against her will, and I heard her cry out; I
laid him on his back for six months; just to tell you; I'd do the same to
lord or beggar. Very well, my dear heart, we'll own I might have looked
into the case when that dog Cecil . . . what's the matter?'
'Speak on, my dear husband,' said Rosamund, panting.
'But your making the journey to Bevisham is a foolish notion.'
'Well, we'll wait.'
'Oh! have we to travel over it all again?' she exclaimed in despair at
the dashing out of a light she had fancied. 'You see the wrong. You
know the fever it is in my blood, and you bid me wait.'
'Drop a line to Nevil.'
'To trick my conscience! I might have done that, and done well, once.
Do you think I dislike the task I propose to myself? It is for your sake
that I would shun it. As for me, the thought of going there is an
ecstasy. I shall be with Nevil, and be able to look in his face. And
how can I be actually abasing you when I am so certain that I am worthier
of you in what I do?'
Her exaltation swept her on. 'Hurry there, my lord, if you will. If you
think it prudent that you should go in my place, go: you deprive me of a
great joy, but I will not put myself in your way, and I consent. The
chief sin was mine; remember that. I rank it viler than Cecil
Baskelett's. And listen: when--can you reckon?--when will he confess his
wickedness? We separate ourselves from a wretch like that.'
'Pooh,' quoth the earl.
'But you will go?' She fastened her arms round the arm nearest: 'You or
I! Does it matter which? We are one. You speak for me; I should have
been forced to speak for you. You spare me the journey. I do not in
truth suppose it would have injured me; but I would not run one
Lord Romfrey sighed profoundly. He could not shake her off. How could
he refuse her?
How on earth had it come about that suddenly he was expected to be the
person to go?
She would not let him elude her; and her stained cheeks and her trembling
on his arm pleaded most pressingly and masteringly. It might be that she
spoke with a knowledge of her case. Positive it undoubtedly was that she
meant to go if he did not. Perhaps the hopes of his House hung on it.
Having admitted that a wrong had been done, he was not the man to leave
it unamended; only he would have chosen his time, and the manner. Since
Nevil's illness, too, he had once or twice been clouded with a little bit
of regret at the recollection of poor innocent old Shrapnel posted like a
figure of total inebriation beside the doorway of the dreadful sickroom.
There had been women of the earl's illustrious House who would have given
their hands to the axe rather than conceal a stain and have to dread a
scandal. His Rosamund, after all, was of their pattern; even though she
blew that conscience she prattled of into trifles, and swelled them, as
women of high birth in this country, out of the clutches of the priests,
do not do.
She clung to him for his promise to go.
He said: 'Well, well.'
'That means, you will,' said she.
His not denying it passed for the affirmative.
Then indeed she bloomed with love of him.
'Yet do say yes,' she begged.
'I'll go, ma'am,' shouted the earl. 'I'll go, my love,' he said softly.
THE APOLOGY TO DR. SHRAPNEL
'You and Nevil are so alike,' Lady Romfrey said to her lord, at some
secret resemblance she detected and dwelt on fondly, when the earl was on
the point of starting a second time for Bevisham to perform what she had
prompted him to conceive his honourable duty, without a single intimation
that he loathed the task, neither shrug nor grimace.
'Two ends of a stick are pretty much alike: they're all that length
apart,' said he, very little in the humour for compliments, however well
braced for his work.
His wife's admiring love was pleasant enough. He preferred to have it
unspoken. Few of us care to be eulogized in the act of taking a nauseous
For him the thing was as good as done, on his deciding to think it both
adviseable and right: so he shouldered his load and marched off with it.
He could have postponed the right proceeding, even after the partial
recognition of his error:--one drops a word or two by hazard, one
expresses an anxiety to afford reparation, one sends a message, and so
forth, for the satisfaction of one's conventionally gentlemanly feeling:
but the adviseable proceeding under stress of peculiar circumstances,
his clearly-awakened recognition of that, impelled him unhesitatingly.
His wife had said it was the portion she brought him. Tears would not
have persuaded him so powerfully, that he might prove to her he was glad
of her whatever the portion she brought. She was a good wife, a brave
woman, likely to be an incomparable mother. At present her very virtues
excited her to fancifulness nevertheless she was in his charge, and he
was bound to break the neck of his will, to give her perfect peace of
wind. The child suffers from the mother's mental agitation. It might be
a question of a nervous or an idiot future Earl of Romfrey. Better death
to the House than such a mockery of his line! These reflections reminded
him of the heartiness of his whipping of that poor old tumbled signpost
Shrapnel, in the name of outraged womankind. If there was no outrage?
Assuredly if there was no outrage, consideration for the state of his
wife would urge him to speak the apology in the most natural manner
possible. She vowed there was none.
He never thought of blaming her for formerly deceiving him, nor of
blaming her for now expediting him.
In the presence of Colonel Halkett, Mr. Tuckham, and Mr. Lydiard, on a
fine November afternoon, standing bareheaded in the fir-bordered garden
of the cottage on the common, Lord Romfrey delivered his apology to Dr.
Shrapnel, and he said:
'I call you to witness, gentlemen, I offer Dr. Shrapnel the fullest
reparation he may think fit to demand of me for an unprovoked assault on
him, that I find was quite unjustified, and for which I am here to ask
Speech of man could not have been more nobly uttered.
Dr. Shrapnel replied:
'To the half of that, sir--'tis over! What remains is done with the
He stretched his hand out.
Lord Romfrey closed his own on it.
The antagonists, between whom was no pretence of their being other after
the performance of a creditable ceremony, bowed and exchanged civil
remarks: and then Lord Romfrey was invited to go into the house and see
Beauchamp, who happened to be sitting with Cecilia Halkett and Jenny
Denham. Beauchamp was thin, pale, and quiet; but the sight of him
standing and conversing after that scene of the skinny creature
struggling with bareribbed obstruction on the bed, was an example of
constitutional vigour and a compliment to the family very gratifying to
Lord Romfrey. Excepting by Cecilia, the earl was coldly received. He
had to leave early by special express for London to catch the last train
to Romfrey. Beauchamp declined to fix a day for his visit to the castle
with Lydiard, but proposed that Lydiard should accompany the earl on his
return. Lydiard was called in, and at once accepted the earl's
invitation, and quitted the room to pack his portmanteau.
A faint sign of firm-shutting shadowed the corners of Jenny's lips.
'You have brought my nephew to life,' Lord Romfrey said to her.
'My share in it was very small, my lord.'
'Gannet says that your share in it was very great.'
'And I say so, with the authority of a witness,' added Cecilia.
'And I, from my experience,' came from Beauchamp.
His voice had a hollow sound, unlike his natural voice.
The earl looked at him remembering the bright laughing lad he had once
been, and said: 'Why not try a month of Madeira? You have only to step
on board the boat.'
'I don't want to lose a month of my friend,' said Beauchamp.
'Take your friend with you. After these fevers our Winters are bad.'
'I've been idle too long.'
'But, Captain Beauchamp,' said Jenny, 'you proposed to do nothing but
read for a couple of years.'
'Ay, there's the voyage!' sighed he, with a sailor-invalid's vision of
sunny seas dancing in the far sky.
'You must persuade Dr. Shrapnel to come; and he will not come unless you
come too, and you won't go anywhere but to the Alps!' She bent her eyes
on the floor. Beauchamp remembered what had brought her home from the
Alps. He cast a cold look on his uncle talking with Cecilia: granite, as
he thought. And the reflux of that slight feeling of despair seemed to
tear down with it in wreckage every effort he had made in life, and cry
failure on him. Yet he was hoping that he had not been created for
He touched his uncle's hand indifferently: 'My love to the countess: let
me hear of her, sir, if you please.'
'You shall,' said the earl. 'But, off to Madeira, and up Teneriffe: sail
the Azores. I'll hire you a good-sized schooner.'
'There is the Esperanza,' said Cecilia. 'And the vessel is lying idle,
Nevil! Can you allow it?'
He consented to laugh at himself, and fell to coughing.
Jenny Denham saw a real human expression of anxiety cross the features of
the earl at the sound of the cough.
Lord Romfrey said 'Adieu,' to her.
He offered her his hand, which she contrived to avoid taking by dropping
a formal half-reverence.
'Think of the Esperanza; she will be coasting her nominal native land!
and adieu for to-day,' Cecilia said to Beauchamp.
Jenny Denham and he stood at the window to watch the leave-taking in
the garden, for a distraction. They interchanged no remark of surprise
at seeing the earl and Dr. Shrapnel hand-locked: but Jenny's heart
reproached her uncle for being actually servile, and Beauchamp
accused the earl of aristocratic impudence.
Both were overcome with remorse when Colonel Halkett, putting his head
into the room to say good-bye to Beauchamp and place the Esperanza at his
disposal for a Winter cruise, chanced to mention in two or three half
words the purpose of the earl's visit, and what had occurred. He took
it for known already.
To Miss Denham he remarked: 'Lord Romfrey is very much concerned about
your health; he fears you have overdone it in nursing Captain Beauchamp!
'I must be off after him,' said Beauchamp, and began trembling so that he
could not stir.
The colonel knew the pain and shame of that condition of weakness to a
man who has been strong and swift, and said: 'Seven-league boots are not
to be caught. You'll see him soon. Why, I thought some letter of yours
had fetched him here! I gave you all the credit of it.'
'No, he deserves it all himself--all,' said Beauchamp and with a dubious
eye on Jenny Denham: 'You see, we were unfair.'
The 'we' meant 'you' to her sensitiveness; and probably he did mean it
for 'you': for as he would have felt, so he supposed that his uncle must
have felt, Jenny's coldness was much the crueller. Her features, which
in animation were summer light playing upon smooth water, could be
exceedingly cold in repose: the icier to those who knew her, because they
never expressed disdain. No expression of the baser sort belonged to
them. Beauchamp was intimate with these delicately-cut features; he
would have shuddered had they chilled on him. He had fallen in love with
his uncle; he fancied she ought to have done so too; and from his excess
of sympathy he found her deficient in it.
He sat himself down to write a hearty letter to his 'dear old uncle
Jenny left him, to go to her chamber and cry.
THE FRUITS OF THE APOLOGY
This clear heart had cause for tears. Her just indignation with Lord
Romfrey had sustained her artificially hitherto now that it was erased,
she sank down to weep. Her sentiments toward Lydiard had been very like
Cecilia Halkett's in favour of Mr. Austin; with something more to warm
them on the part of the gentleman. He first had led her mind in the
direction of balanced thought, when, despite her affection for Dr.
Shrapnel, her timorous maiden wits, unable to contend with the copious
exclamatory old politician, opposed him silently. Lydiard had helped her
tongue to speak, as well as her mind to rational views; and there had
been a bond of union in common for them in his admiration of her father's
writings. She had known that he was miserably yoked, and had respected
him when he seemed inclined for compassion without wooing her for
tenderness. He had not trifled with her, hardly flattered; he had done
no more than kindle a young girl's imaginative liking. The pale flower
of imagination, fed by dews, not by sunshine, was born drooping, and hung
secret in her bosom, shy as a bell of the frail wood-sorrel. Yet there
was pain for her in the perishing of a thing so poor and lowly. She had
not observed the change in Lydiard after Beauchamp came on the scene: and
that may tell us how passionlessly pure the little maidenly sentiment
was. For do but look on the dewy wood-sorrel flower; it is not violet or
rose inviting hands to pluck it: still it is there, happy in the woods.
And Jenny's feeling was that a foot had crushed it.
She wept, thinking confusedly of Lord Romfrey; trying to think he had
made his amends tardily, and that Beauchamp prized him too highly for the
act. She had no longer anything to resent: she was obliged to weep. In
truth, as the earl had noticed, she was physically depressed by the
strain of her protracted watch over Beauchamp, as well as rather
But she had been of aid and use in saving him! She was not quite a
valueless person; sweet, too, was the thought that he consulted her,
listened to her, weighed her ideas. He had evidently taken to study her,
as if dispersing some wonderment that one of her sex should have ideas.
He had repeated certain of her own which had been forgotten by her. His
eyes were often on her with this that she thought humorous intentness.
She smiled. She had assisted in raising him from his bed of sickness,
whereof the memory affrighted her and melted her. The difficulty now was
to keep him indoors, and why he would not go even temporarily to a large
house like Mount Laurels, whither Colonel Halkett was daily requesting
him to go, she was unable to comprehend. His love of Dr. Shrapnel might
account for it.
'Own, Jenny,' said Beauchamp, springing up to meet her as she entered the
room where he and Dr. Shrapnel sat discussing Lord Romfrey's bearing at
his visit, 'own that my uncle Everard is a true nobleman. He has to make
the round to the right mark, but he comes to it. I could not move him--
and I like him the better for that. He worked round to it himself. I
ought to have been sure he would. You're right: I break my head with
'No; you sowed seed,' said Dr. Shrapnel. 'Heed not that girl, my
Beauchamp. The old woman's in the Tory, and the Tory leads the young
maid. Here's a fable I draw from a Naturalist's book, and we'll set it
against the dicta of Jenny Do-nothing, Jenny Discretion, Jenny Wait-for-
the-Gods: Once upon a time in a tropical island a man lay sick; so ill
that he could not rise to trouble his neighbours for help; so weak that
it was lifting a mountain to get up from his bed; so hopeless of succour
that the last spark of distraught wisdom perching on his brains advised
him to lie where he was and trouble not himself, since peace at least he
could command, before he passed upon the black highroad men call our
kingdom of peace: ay, he lay there. Now it chanced that this man had a
mess to cook for his nourishment. And life said, Do it, and death said,
To what end? He wrestled with the stark limbs of death, and cooked the
mess; and that done he had no strength remaining to him to consume it,
but crept to his bed like the toad into winter. Now, meanwhile a steam
arose from the mess, and he lay stretched. So it befel that the birds of
prey of the region scented the mess, and they descended and thronged at
that man's windows. And the man's neighbours looked up at them, for it
was the sign of one who is fit for the beaks of birds, lying unburied.
Fail to spread the pall one hour where suns are decisive, and the pall
comes down out of heaven! They said, The man is dead within. And they
went to his room, and saw him and succoured him. They lifted him out of
death by the last uncut thread.
'Now, my Jenny Weigh-words, Jenny Halt-there! was it they who saved the
man, or he that saved himself? The man taxed his expiring breath to sow
seed of life. Lydiard shall put it into verse for a fable in song for
our people. I say it is a good fable, and sung spiritedly may serve for
nourishment, and faith in work, to many of our poor fainting fellows!
Jenny said: 'I think it is a good fable of self-help. Does it quite
illustrate the case? I mean, the virtue of impatience. But I like the
fable and the moral; and I think it would do good if it were made
popular, though it would be hard to condense it to a song.'
'It would be hard! ay, then we do it forthwith. And you shall compose
the music. As for the "case of impatience," my dear, you tether the
soaring universal to your pet-lamb's post, the special. I spoke of seed
sown. I spoke of the fruits of energy and resolution. Cared I for an
apology? I took the blows as I take hail from the clouds--which
apologize to you the moment you are in shelter, if you laugh at them.
So, good night to that matter! Are we to have rain this evening? I must
away into Bevisham to the Workmen's Hall, and pay the men.'
'There will not be rain; there will be frost, and you must be well
wrapped if you must go,' said Jenny. 'And tell them not to think of
deputations to Captain Beauchamp yet.'
'No, no deputations; let them send Killick, if they want to say
anything,' said Beauchamp.
'Wrong!' the doctor cried; 'wrong! wrong! Six men won't hurt you more
than one. And why check them when their feelings are up? They burn to
be speaking some words to you. Trust me, Beauchamp, if we shun to
encounter the good warm soul of numbers, our hearts are narrowed to them.
The business of our modern world is to open heart and stretch out arms to
numbers. In numbers we have our sinews; they are our iron and gold.
Scatter them not; teach them the secret of cohesion. Practically, since
they gave you not their entire confidence once, you should not rebuff
them to suspicions of you as aristocrat, when they rise on the effort to
believe a man of, as 'tis called, birth their undivided friend. Meet
'Send them,' said Beauchamp.
Jenny Denham fastened a vast cloak and a comforter on the doctor's
heedless shoulders and throat, enjoining on him to return in good time
He put his finger to her cheek in reproof of such supererogatory counsel
to a man famous for his punctuality.
The day had darkened.
Beauchamp begged Jenny to play to him on the piano.
'Do you indeed care to have music?' said she. 'I did not wish you to
meet a deputation, because your strength is not yet equal to it.
Dr. Shrapnel dwells on principles, forgetful of minor considerations.'
'I wish thousands did!' cried Beauchamp. 'When you play I seem to hear
ideas. Your music makes me think.'
Jenny lit a pair of candles and set them on the piano. 'Waltzes?' she
'Call in a puppet-show at once!'
She smiled, turned over some leaves, and struck the opening notes of the
Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, and made her selections.
At the finish he said: 'Now read me your father's poem, "The Hunt of the
She read it to him.
'Now read, "The Ascent from the Inferno."'
That she read: and also 'Soul and Brute,' another of his favourites.
He wanted more, and told her to read 'First Love--Last Love.'
'I fear I have not the tone of voice for love-poems,' Jenny said,
returning the book to him.
'I'll read it,' said he.
He read with more impressiveness than effect. Lydiard's reading thrilled
her: Beauchamp's insisted too much on particular lines. But it was worth
while observing him. She saw him always as in a picture, remote from
herself. His loftier social station and strange character precluded any
of those keen suspicions by which women learn that a fire is beginning to
glow near them.
'How I should like to have known your father!' he said. 'I don't wonder
at Dr. Shrapnel's love of him. Yes, he was one of the great men of his
day! and it's a higher honour to be of his blood than any that rank can
give. You were ten years old when you lost him. Describe him to me.'
'He used to play with me like a boy,' said Jenny. She described her
father from a child's recollection of him.
'Dr. Shrapnel declares he would have been one of the first surgeons in
Europe: and he was one of the first of poets,' Beauchamp pursued with
enthusiasm. 'So he was doubly great. I hold a good surgeon to be in the
front rank of public benefactors--where they put rich brewers, bankers,
and speculative manufacturers now. Well! the world is young. We shall
alter that in time. Whom did your father marry?'
Jenny answered, 'My mother was the daughter of a London lawyer. She
married without her father's approval of the match, and he left her
Beauchamp interjected: 'Lawyer's money!'
'It would have been useful to my mother's household when I was an
infant,' said Jenny.
'Poor soul! I suppose so. Yes; well,' Beauchamp sighed. 'Money! never
mind how it comes. We're in such a primitive condition that we catch at
anything to keep us out of the cold; dogs with a bone!--instead of
living, as Dr. Shrapnel prophecies, for and, with one another. It's war
now, and money's the weapon of war. And we're the worst nation in Europe
for that. But if we fairly recognize it, we shall be the first to alter
our ways. There's the point. Well, Jenny, I can look you in the face
to-night. Thanks to my uncle Everard at last!'
'Captain Beauchamp, you have never been blamed.'
'I am Captain Beauchamp by courtesy, in public. My friends call me
Nevil. I think I have heard the name on your lips?'
'When you were very ill.'
He stood closer to her, very close.
'Which was the arm that bled for me? May I look at it? There was a
'Have you not forgotten that trifle? There is the faintest possible mark
of it left.'
'I wish to see.'
She gently defended the arm, but he made it so much a matter of earnest
to see the bruise of the old Election missile on her fair arm, that, with
a pardonable soft blush, to avoid making much of it herself, she turned
her sleeve a little above the wrist. He took her hand.
'It was for me!'
'It was quite an accident: no harm was intended.'
'But it was in my cause--for me!'
'Indeed, Captain Beauchamp . . .'
'Nevil, we say indoors.'
'Nevil--but is it not wiser to say what comes naturally to us?'
'Who told you to-day that you had brought me to life? I am here to prove
it true. If I had paid attention to your advice, I should not have gone
into the cottage of those poor creatures and taken away the fever. I did
no good there. But the man's wife said her husband had been ruined by
voting for me: and it was a point of honour to go in and sit with him.
You are not to have your hand back: it is mine. Don't you remember,
Jenny, how you gave me your arm on the road when I staggered; two days
before the fever knocked me over? Shall I tell you what I thought then?
I thought that he who could have you for a mate would have the bravest
and helpfullest wife in all England. And not a mere beauty, for you have
good looks: but you have the qualities I have been in search of. Why do
your eyes look so mournfully at me? I am full of hope. We'll sail the
Esperanza for the Winter: you and I, and our best friend with us. And
you shall have a voice in the council, be sure.'
'If you are two to one?' Jenny said quickly, to keep from faltering.
Beauchamp pressed his mouth to the mark of the bruise on her arm. He
held her fast.
'I mean it, if you will join me, that you and I should rejoice the heart
of the dear old man--will you? He has been brooding over your loneliness
here if you are unmarried, ever since his recovery. I owe my life to
you, and every debt of gratitude to him. Now, Jenny!'
'Oh! Captain Beauchamp--Nevil, if you will . . . if I may have my
hand. You exaggerate common kindness. He loves you. We both esteem
'But you don't love me?'
'Indeed I have no fear that I shall be unable to support myself, if I am
'But I want your help. I wake from illness with my eyes open. I must
have your arm to lean on now and then.'
Jenny dropped a shivering sigh.
'Uncle is long absent!' she said.
Her hand was released. Beauchamp inspected his watch.
'He may have fallen! He may be lying on the common!'
'Oh!' cried Jenny, 'why did I let him go out without me?'
'Let me have his lantern; I'll go and search over the common.'
'You must not go out,' said she.
'I must. The old man may be perishing.'
'It will be death to you . . . Nevil!'
'That 's foolish. I can stand the air for a few minutes.'
'I 'll go,' said Jenny.
'Cook shall come with me.'
'Nevil, if you care a little for me, be good, be kind, submit.'
'He is half an hour behind dinner-time, and he's never late. Something
must have happened to him. Way for me, my dear girl.'
She stood firm between him and the door. It came to pass that she
stretched her hands to arrest him, and he seized the hands.
'Rather than you should go out in this cold weather, anything!' she
said, in the desperation of physical inability to hold him back.
'Ah!' Beauchamp crossed his arms round her. 'I'll wait for five
One went by, with Jenny folded, broken and sobbing, senseless, against
They had not heard Dr. Shrapnel quietly opening the hall door and hanging
up his hat. He looked in.
'Beauchamp!' he exclaimed.
'Come, doctor,' said Beauchamp, and loosened his clasp of Jenny
She disengaged herself.
'Beauchamp! now I die a glad man.'
'Witness, doctor, she 's mine by her own confession.'
'Uncle!' Jenny gasped. 'Oh! Captain Beauchamp, what an error! what
delusion! . . . Forget it. I will. Here are more misunderstandings!
You shall be excused. But be . . .'
'Be you the blessedest woman alive on this earth, my Jenny!' shouted Dr.
Shrapnel. 'You have the choice man on all the earth for husband,
sweetheart! Ay, of all the earth! I go with a message for my old friend
Harry Denham, to quicken him in the grave; for the husband of his girl is
Nevil Beauchamp! The one thing I dared not dream of thousands is
established. Sunlight, my Jenny!'
Beauchamp kissed her hand.
She slipped away to her chamber, grovelling to find her diminished self
somewhere in the mid-thunder of her amazement, as though it were to
discover a pin on the floor by the flash of lightning. Where was she!
This ensued from the apology of Lord Romfrey to Dr. Shrapnel.
At the end of November, Jenny Denham wrote these lines to Mr. Lydiard, in
reply to his request that she should furnish the latest particulars of
Nevil Beauchamp, for the satisfaction of the Countess of Romfrey:
'There is everything to reassure Lady Romfrey in the state of Captain
Beauchamp's health, and I have never seen him so placidly happy as he has
been since the arrival, yesterday morning, of a lady from France, Madame
la Marquise de Rouaillout, with her brother, M. le Comte de Croisnel.
Her husband, I hear from M. de Croisnel, dreads our climate and coffee
too much to attempt the voyage. I understand that she writes to Lady
Romfrey to-day. Lady Romfrey's letter to her, informing her of Captain
Beauchamp's alarming illness, went the round from Normandy to Touraine
and Dauphiny, otherwise she would have come over earlier.
'Her first inquiry of me was, "Il est mort?" You would have supposed her
disappointed by my answer. A light went out in her eyes, like that of a
veilleuse in the dawn. She looked at me without speaking, while her
beautiful eyes regained their natural expression. She shut them and
sighed. "Tell him that M. de Croisnel and his sister are here."
'This morning her wish to see Miss Halkett was gratified. You know my
taste was formed in France; I agree with Captain Beauchamp in his more
than admiration of Frenchwomen; ours, though more accomplished, are
colder and less plastic. But Miss Halkett is surpassingly beautiful,
very amiable, very generous, a perfect friend. She is our country at its
best. Probably she is shy of speaking French; she frequently puts the
Italian accent. Madame de Rouaillout begged to speak with her alone:
I do not know what passed. Miss Halkett did not return to us.
'Dr. Shrapnel and Captain Beauchamp have recently been speculating on our
becoming a nation of artists, and authorities in science and philosophy,
by the time our coalfields and material wealth are exhausted. That, and
the cataclysm, are their themes.
'They say, will things end utterly?--all our gains be lost? The question
seems to me to come of that love of earth which is recognition of God:
for if they cannot reconcile themselves to believe in extinction, to what
must they be looking? It is a confirmation of your saying, that love
leads to God, through art or in acts.
'You will regret to hear that the project of Captain Beauchamp's voyage
is in danger of being abandoned. A committee of a vacant Radical borough
has offered to nominate him. My influence is weak; madame would have him
go back with her and her brother to Normandy. My influence is weak, I
suppose, because he finds me constantly leaning to expediency--I am your
pupil. It may be quite correct that powder is intended for explosion
we do not therefore apply a spark to the barrel. I ventured on that.
He pitied me in the snares of simile and metaphor. He is the same, you
perceive. How often have we not discussed what would have become of him,
with that "rocket brain" of his, in less quiet times! Yet, when he was
addressing a deputation of workmen the other day, he recommended patience
to them as one of the virtues that count under wisdom. He is curiously
impatient for knowledge. One of his reasons for not accepting Colonel
Halkett's offer of his yacht is, that he will not be able to have books
enough on board. Definite instead of vast and hazy duties are to be
desired for him, I think. Most fervently I pray that he will obtain a
ship and serve some years. At the risk of your accusing me of
"sententious posing," I would say, that men who do not live in the
present chiefly, but hamper themselves with giant tasks in excess of
alarm for the future, however devoted and noble they may be--and he is an
example of one that is--reduce themselves to the dimensions of pigmies;
they have the cry of infants. You reply, Foresight is an element of love
of country and mankind. But how often is not the foresight guess-work?
'He has not spoken of the DAWN project. To-day he is repeating one of
uncle's novelties--"Sultry Tories." The sultry Tory sits in the sun and
prophecies woefully of storm, it appears. Your accusation that I am one
at heart amuses me; I am not quite able to deny it. "Sultriness" I am
not conscious of. But it would appear to be an epithet for the
Conservatives of wealth. So that England, being very wealthy, we are to
call it a sultry country? You are much wanted, for where there is no
"middleman Liberal" to hold the scales for them, these two have it all
their own way, which is not good for them.
Captain Beauchamp quotes you too. It seems that you once talked to him
of a machine for measuring the force of blows delivered with the fist,
and compared his efforts to those of one perpetually practising at it:
and this you are said to have called "The case of the Constitutional
Realm and the extreme Radical." Elsewhere the Radical smites at iron or
rotten wood; in England it is a cushion on springs. Did you say it? He
quotes it as yours, half acquiescingly, and ruefully.
'For visitors, we have had Captain Baskelett for two minutes, and Lord
Palmet, who stayed longer, and seems to intend to come daily. He
attempts French with Madame de R., and amuses her a little: a silver foot
and a ball of worsted. Mr. and Mrs. Grancey Lespel have called, and Lord
and Lady Croyston. Colonel Halkett, Miss Halkett, and Mr. Tuckham come
frequently. Captain Beauchamp spoke to her yesterday of her marriage.
'Madame de R. leaves us to-morrow. Her brother is a delightful, gay-
tempered, very handsome boyish Frenchman--not her equal, to my mind, for
I do not think Frenchmen comparable to the women of France; but she is
exceedingly grave, with hardly a smile, and his high spirits excite
Nevil's, so it is pleasant to see them together.'
The letter was handed to Lady Romfrey. She read through it thoughtfully
till she came to the name of Nevil, when she frowned. On the morrow she
pronounced it a disingenuous letter. Renee had sent her these lines:
'I should come to you if my time were not restricted; my brother's leave
of absence is short. I have done here what lay in my power, to show you
I have learnt something in the school of self-immolation. I have seen
Mlle. Halkett. She is a beautiful young woman, deficient only in words,
doubtless. My labour, except that it may satisfy you, was the vainest of
tasks. She marries a ruddy monsieur of a name that I forget, and of the
bearing of a member of the gardes du corps, without the stature. Enfin,
madame, I have done my duty, and do not regret it, since I may hope that
it will win for me some approbation and a portion of the esteem of a lady
to whom I am indebted for that which is now the best of life to me: and I
do not undervalue it in saying I would gladly have it stamped on brass
and deposited beside my father's. I have my faith. I would it were
Nevil's too--and yours, should you be in need of it.
'He will marry Mlle. Denham. If I may foretell events, she will steady
him. She is a young person who will not feel astray in society of his
rank; she possesses the natural grace we do not expect to see out of our
country--from sheer ignorance of what is beyond it. For the moment she
affects to consider herself unworthy; and it is excuseable that she
should be slightly alarmed at her prospect. But Nevil must have a wife.
I presume to think that he could not have chosen better. Above all, make
him leave England for the Winter. Adieu, dear countess. Nevil promises
me a visit after his marriage. I shall not set foot on England again:
but you, should you ever come to our land of France, will find my heart
open to you at the gates of undying grateful recollection. I am not
skilled in writing. You have looked into me once; look now; I am the
same. Only I have succeeded in bringing myself to a greater likeness to
the dead, as it becomes a creature to be who is coupled with one of their
body. Meanwhile I shall have news of you. I trust that soon I may be
warranted in forwarding congratulations to Lord Romfrey.'
Rosamund handed the letters to her husband. Not only did she think
Miss Denham disingenuous, she saw that the girl was not in love with
Beauchamp: and the idea of a loveless marriage for him threw the
mournfullest of Hecate's beams along the course of a career that the
passionate love of a bride, though she were not well-born and not
wealthy, would have rosily coloured.
'Without love!' she exclaimed to herself. She asked the earl's opinion
of the startling intelligence, and of the character of that Miss Denham,
who could pen such a letter, after engaging to give her hand to Nevil.
Lord Romfrey laughed in his dumb way. 'If Nevil must have a wife--and
the marquise tells you so, and she ought to know--he may as well marry a
girl who won't go all the way down hill with him at his pace. He'll be
'You do not object to such an alliance?'
'I 'm past objection. There's no law against a man's marrying his
'But she is not even in love with him!'
'I dare say not. He wants a wife: she accepts a husband. The two women
who were in love with him he wouldn't have.'
Lady Romfrey sighed deeply: 'He has lost Cecilia! She might still have
been his: but he has taken to that girl. And Madame de Rouaillout
praises the girl because--oh! I see it--she has less to be jealous of
in Miss Denham: of whose birth and blood we know nothing. Let that pass!
If only she loved him! I cannot endure the thought of his marrying a
girl who is not in love with him.'
'Just as you like, my dear.'
'I used to suspect Mr. Lydiard.'
'Perhaps he's the man.'
'Oh, what an end of so brilliant a beginning!'
'It strikes me, my dear,' said the earl, 'it's the proper common sense
beginning that may have a fairish end.'
'No, but what I feel is that he--our Nevil!--has accomplished hardly
anything, if anything!'
'He hasn't marched on London with a couple of hundred thousand men: no,
he hasn't done that,' the earl said, glancing back in his mind through
Beauchamp's career. 'And he escapes what Stukely calls his nation's
scourge, in the shape of a statue turned out by an English chisel. No:
we haven't had much public excitement out of him. But one thing he did
do: he got me down on my knees!'
Lord Romfrey pronounced these words with a sober emphasis that struck the
humour of it sharply into Rosamund's heart, through some contrast it
presented between Nevil's aim at the world and hit of a man: the immense
deal thought of it by the earl, and the very little that Nevil would
think of it--the great domestic achievement to be boasted of by an
enthusiastic devotee of politics!
She embraced her husband with peals of loving laughter: the last laughter
heard in Romfrey Castle for many a day.
THE LAST OF NEVIL BEAUCHAMP
Not before Beauchamp was flying with the Winter gales to warmer climes
could Rosamund reflect on his career unshadowed by her feminine
mortification at the thought that he was unloved by the girl he had
decided to marry. But when he was away and winds blew, the clouds which
obscured an embracing imagination of him--such as, to be true and full
and sufficient, should stretch like the dome of heaven over the humblest
of lives under contemplation--broke, and revealed him to her as one who
had other than failed: rather as one in mid career, in mid forest, who,
by force of character, advancing in self-conquest, strikes his impress
right and left around him, because of his aim at stars. He had faults,
and she gloried to think he had; for the woman's heart rejoiced in his
portion of our common humanity while she named their prince to men: but
where was he to be matched in devotedness and in gallantry? and what
man of blood fiery as Nevil's ever fought so to subject it? Rosamund
followed him like a migratory bird, hovered over his vessel, perched on
deck beside the helm, where her sailor was sure to be stationed, entered
his breast, communed with him, and wound him round and round with her
love. He has mine! she cried. Her craving that he should be blest
in the reward, or flower-crown, of his wife's love of him lessened in
proportion as her brooding spirit vividly realized his deeds. In fact
it had been but an example of our very general craving for a climax,
palpable and scenic. She was completely satisfied by her conviction that
his wife would respect and must be subordinate to him. So it had been
with her. As for love, let him come to his Rosamund for love, and
Rosamund drew nigh to her hour of peril with this torch of her love of
Beauchamp to illuminate her.
There had been a difficulty in getting him to go. One day Cecilia walked
down to Dr. Shrapnel's with Mr. Tuckham, to communicate that the
Esperanza awaited Captain Beauchamp, manned and provisioned, off the
pier. Now, he would not go without Dr. Shrapnel, nor the doctor without
Jenny; and Jenny could not hold back, seeing that the wish of her heart
was for Nevil to be at sea, untroubled by political questions and
prowling Radical deputies. So her consent was the seal of the voyage.
What she would not consent to, was the proposal to have her finger ringed
previous to the voyage, altogether in the manner of a sailor's bride.
She seemed to stipulate for a term of courtship. Nevil frankly told the
doctor that he was not equal to it; anything that was kind he was quite
ready to say; and anything that was pretty: but nothing particularly kind
and pretty occurred to him: he was exactly like a juvenile correspondent
facing a blank sheet of letter paper:--he really did not know what to
say, further than the uncomplicated exposition of his case, that he
wanted a wife and had found the very woman. How, then, fathom Jenny's
mood for delaying? Dr. Shrapnel's exhortations were so worded as to
induce her to comport herself like a Scriptural woman, humbly wakeful to
the surpassing splendour of the high fortune which had befallen her in
being so selected, and obedient at a sign. But she was, it appeared that
she was, a maid of scaly vision, not perceptive of the blessedness of her
lot. She could have been very little perceptive, for she did not
understand his casual allusion to Beauchamp's readiness to overcome
'a natural repugnance,' for the purpose of making her his wife.
Up to the last moment, before Cecilia Halkett left the deck of the
Esperanza to step on the pier, Jenny remained in vague but excited
expectation of something intervening to bring Cecilia and Beauchamp
together. It was not a hope; it was with pure suspense that she awaited
the issue. Cecilia was pale. Beauchamp shook Mr. Tuckham by the hand,
and said: 'I shall not hear the bells, but send me word of it, will you?'
and he wished them both all happiness.
The sails of the schooner filled. On a fair frosty day, with a light
wind ruffling from the North-west, she swept away, out of sight of
Bevisham, and the island, into the Channel, to within view of the coast
of France. England once below the water-line, alone with Beauchamp and
Dr. Shrapnel, Jenny Denham knew her fate.
As soon as that grew distinctly visible in shape and colour, she ceased
to be reluctant. All about her, in air and sea and unknown coast, was
fresh and prompting. And if she looked on Beauchamp, the thought--my
husband! palpitated, and destroyed and re-made her. Rapidly she
underwent her transformation from doubtfully-minded woman to woman
awakening clear-eyed, and with new sweet shivers in her temperate blood,
like the tremulous light seen running to the morn upon a quiet sea. She
fell under the charm of Beauchamp at sea.
In view of the island of Madeira, Jenny noticed that some trouble had
come upon Dr. Shrapnel and Beauchamp, both of whom had been hilarious
during the gales; but sailing into Summer they began to wear that look
which indicated one of their serious deliberations. She was not taken
into their confidence, and after awhile they recovered partially.
The truth was, they had been forced back upon old English ground by a
recognition of the absolute necessity, for her sake, of handing
themselves over to a parson. In England, possibly, a civil marriage
might have been proposed to the poor girl. In a foreign island, they
would be driven not simply to accept the services of a parson, but to
seek him and solicit him: otherwise the knot, faster than any sailor's
in binding, could not be tied. Decidedly it could not; and how submit?
Neither Dr. Shrapnel nor Beauchamp were of a temper to deceive the
clerical gentleman; only they had to think of Jenny's feelings. Alas for
us!--this our awful baggage in the rear of humanity, these women who have
not moved on their own feet one step since the primal mother taught them
to suckle, are perpetually pulling us backward on the march. Slaves of
custom, forms, shows and superstitions, they are slaves of the priests.
'They are so in gratitude perchance, as the matter works,' Dr. Shrapnel
admitted. For at one period the priests did cherish and protect the weak
from animal man. But we have entered a broader daylight now, when the
sun of high heaven has crowned our structure with the flower of brain,
like him to scatter mists, and penetrate darkness, and shoot from end to
end of earth; and must we still be grinning subserviently to ancient
usages and stale forms, because of a baggage that it is, woe to us! too
true, we cannot cut ourselves loose from? Lydiard might say we are
compelling the priests to fight, and that they are compact foemen, not
always passive. Battle, then!--The cry was valiant. Nevertheless, Jenny
would certainly insist upon the presence of a parson, in spite of her
bridegroom's 'natural repugnance.' Dr. Shrapnel offered to argue it with
her, being of opinion that a British consul could satisfactorily perform
the ceremony. Beauchamp knew her too well. Moreover, though tongue-tied
as to love-making, he was in a hurry to be married. Jenny's eyes were
lovely, her smiles were soft; the fair promise of her was in bloom on her
face and figure. He could not wait; he must off to the parson.
Then came the question as to whether honesty and honour did not impose
it on them to deal openly with that gentle, and on such occasions
unobtrusive official, by means of a candid statement to him overnight,
to the effect that they were the avowed antagonists of his Church,
which would put him on his defence, and lead to an argument that would
accomplish his overthrow. You parsons, whose cause is good, marshal out
the poor of the land, that we may see the sort of army your stewardship
has gained for you. What! no army? only women and hoary men? And in the
rear rank, to support you as an institution, none but fanatics, cowards,
white-eyeballed dogmatists, timeservers, money-changers, mockers in their
sleeves? What is this?
But the prospect of so completely confounding the unfortunate parson
warned Beauchamp that he might have a shot in his locker: the parson
heavily trodden on will turn. 'I suppose we must be hypocrites,' he said
in dejection. Dr. Shrapnel was even more melancholy. He again offered
to try his persuasiveness upon Jenny. Beauchamp declined to let her be
She did not yield so very lightly to the invitation to go before a
parson. She had to be wooed after all; a Harry Hotspur's wooing. Three
clergymen of the Established Church were on the island: 'And where won't
they be, where there's fine scenery and comforts abound?' Beauchamp said
to the doctor ungratefully.
'Whether a celibate clergy ruins the Faith faster than a non-celibate, I
won't dispute,' replied the doctor; 'but a non-celibate interwinds with
us, and is likely to keep up a one-storied edifice longer.'
Jenny hesitated. She was a faltering unit against an ardent and
imperative two in the council. And Beauchamp had shown her a letter of
Lady Romfrey's very clearly signifying that she and her lord anticipated
tidings of the union. Marrying Beauchamp was no simple adventure. She
feared in her bosom, and resigned herself.
She had a taste of what it was to be, at the conclusion of the service.
Beauchamp thanked the good-natured clergyman, and spoke approvingly of
him to his bride, as an agreeable well-bred gentlemanly person. Then,
fronting her and taking both her hands: 'Now, my darling,' he said: 'you
must pledge me your word to this: I have stooped my head to the parson,
and I am content to have done that to win you, though I don't think much
of myself for doing it. I can't look so happy as I am. And this idle
ceremony--however, I thank God I have you, and I thank you for taking me.
But you won't expect me to give in to the parson again.'
'But, Nevil,' she said, fearing what was to come: 'they are gentlemen,
'They are educated men, Nevil.'
'Jenny! Jenny Beauchamp, they're not men, they're Churchmen. My
experience of the priest in our country is, that he has abandoned--
he 's dead against the only cause that can justify and keep up a Church:
the cause of the poor--the people. He is a creature of the moneyed
class. I look on him as a pretender. I go through his forms, to save
my wife from annoyance, but there 's the end of it: and if ever I'm
helpless, unable to resist him, I rely on your word not to let him
intrude; he's to have nothing to do with the burial of me. He's against
the cause of the people. Very well: I make my protest to the death
against him. When he's a Christian instead of a Churchman, then may my
example not be followed. It 's little use looking for that.'
Jenny dropped some tears on her bridal day. She sighed her submission.
'So long as you do not change,' said she.
'Change!' cried Nevil. 'That's for the parson. Now it's over: we start
fair. My darling! I have you. I don't mean to bother you. I'm sure
you'll see that the enemies of Reason are the enemies of the human race;
you will see that. I can wait.'
'If we can be sure that we ourselves are using reason rightly, Nevil!--
'Of course. But don't you see, my Jenny, we have no interest in opposing
'But have we not all grown up together? And is it just or wise to direct
our efforts to overthrow a solid structure that is a part . . . ?'
He put his legal right in force to shut her mouth, telling her presently
she might Lydiardize as much as she liked. While practising this
mastery, he assured her he would always listen to her: yes, whether she
Lydiardized, or what Dr. Shrapnel called Jenny-prated.
'That is to say, dear Nevil, that you have quite made up your mind to a
toddling chattering little nursery wife?'
Very much the contrary to anything of the sort, he declared; and he
proved his honesty by announcing an immediate reflection that had come to
him: 'How oddly things are settled! Cecilia Halkett and Tuckham; you and
I! Now, I know for certain that I have brought Cecilia Halkett out of
her woman's Toryism, and given her at least liberal views, and she goes
and marries an arrant Tory; while you, a bit of a Tory at heart, more
than anything else, have married an ultra.'
'Perhaps we may hope that the conflict will be seasonable on both sides?
--if you give me fair play, Nevil!'
As fair play as a woman's lord could give her, she was to have; with
which, adieu to argumentation and controversy, and all the thanks in life
to the parson! On a lovely island, free from the seductions of care,
possessing a wife who, instead of starting out of romance and poetry with
him to the supreme honeymoon, led him back to those forsaken valleys of
his youth, and taught him the joys of colour and sweet companionship,
simple delights, a sister mind, with a loveliness of person and nature
unimagined by him, Beauchamp drank of a happiness that neither Renee nor
Cecilia had promised. His wooing of Jenny Beauchamp was a flattery
richer than any the maiden Jenny Denham could have deemed her due; and if
his wonder in experiencing such strange gladness was quaintly ingenuous,
it was delicious to her to see and know full surely that he who was at
little pains to court, or please, independently of the agency of the
truth in him, had come to be her lover through being her husband.
Here I would stop. It is Beauchamp's career that carries me on to its
close, where the lanterns throw their beams off the mudbanks by the black
riverside; when some few English men and women differed from the world in
thinking that it had suffered a loss.
They sorrowed for the earl when tidings came to them of the loss of his
child, alive one hour in his arms. Rosamund caused them to be deceived
as to her condition. She survived; she wrote to Jenny, bidding her keep
her husband cruising. Lord Romfrey added a brief word: he told Nevil
that he would see no one for the present; hoped he would be absent a
year, not a day less. To render it the more easily practicable, in the
next packet of letters Colonel Halkett and Cecilia begged them not to
bring the Esperanza home for the yachting season: the colonel said his
daughter was to be married in April, and that bridegroom and bride had
consented to take an old man off with them to Italy; perhaps in the
autumn all might meet in Venice.
'And you've never seen Venice,' Beauchamp said to Jenny.
'Everything is new to me,' said she, penetrating and gladly joining the
conspiracy to have him out of England.
Dr. Shrapnel was not so compliant as the young husband. Where he could
land and botanize, as at Madeira, he let time fly and drum his wings on
air, but the cities of priests along the coast of Portugal and Spain
roused him to a burning sense of that flight of time and the vacuity it
told of in his labours. Greatly to his astonishment, he found that it
was no longer he and Beauchamp against Jenny, but Jenny and Beauchamp
'What!' he cried, 'to draw breath day by day, and not to pay for it by
striking daily at the rock Iniquity? Are you for that, Beauchamp? And
in a land where these priests walk with hats curled like the water-lily's
leaf without the flower? How far will you push indolent unreason to gain
the delusion of happiness? There is no such thing: but there's trance.
That talk of happiness is a carrion clamour of the creatures of prey.
Take it--and you're helping tear some poor wretch to pieces, whom you
might be constructing, saving perchance: some one? some thousands! You,
Beauchamp, when I met you first, you were for England, England! for a
breadth of the palm of my hand comparatively--the round of a copper
penny, no wider! And from that you jumped at a bound to the round of
this earth: you were for humanity. Ay, we sailed our planet among the
icy spheres, and were at blood-heat for its destiny, you and I! And now
you hover for a wind to catch you. So it is for a soul rejecting prayer.
This wind and that has it: the well-springs within are shut down fast!
I pardon my Jenny, my Harry Denham's girl. She is a woman, and has a
brain like a bell that rings all round to the tongue. It is her kingdom,
of the interdicted untraversed frontiers. But what cares she, or any
woman, that this Age of ours should lie like a carcase against the Sun?
What cares any woman to help to hold up Life to him? He breeds divinely
upon life, filthy upon stagnation. Sail you away, if you will, in your
trance. I go. I go home by land alone, and I await you. Here in this
land of moles upright, I do naught but execrate; I am a pulpit of curses.
Counter-anathema, you might call me.'
'Oh! I feel the comparison so, for England shining spiritually bright,'
said Jenny, and cut her husband adrift with the exclamation, and saw him
float away to Dr. Shrapnel.
'By comparison, Nevil.'
'There's neither spiritual nor political brightness in England, but a
common resolution to eat of good things and stick to them,' said the
doctor: 'and we two out of England, there's barely a voice to cry scare
to the feeders. I'm back! I'm home!'
They lost him once in Cadiz, and discovered him on the quay, looking
about for a vessel. In getting him to return to the Esperanza, they
nearly all three fell into the hands of the police. Beauchamp gave him a
great deal of his time, reading and discussing with him on deck and in
the cabin, and projecting future enterprises, to pacify his restlessness.
A translation of Plato had become Beauchamp's intellectual world. This
philosopher singularly anticipated his ideas. Concerning himself he was
beginning to think that he had many years ahead of him for work. He was
with Dr. Shrapnel, as to the battle, and with Jenny as to the delay in
recommencing it. Both the men laughed at the constant employment she
gave them among the Greek islands in furnishing her severely accurate
accounts of sea-fights and land-fights: and the scenes being before them
they could neither of them protest that their task-work was an idle
labour. Dr. Shrapnel assisted in fighting Marathon and Salamis over
again cordially--to shield Great Britain from the rule of a satrapy.
Beauchamp often tried to conjure words to paint his wife. On grave
subjects she had the manner of speaking of a shy scholar, and between
grave and playful, between smiling and serious, her clear head, her nobly
poised character, seemed to him to have never had a prototype and to
elude the art of picturing it in expression, until he heard Lydiard
call her whimsically, 'Portia disrobing'
Portia half in her doctor's gown, half out of it. They met Lydiard and
his wife Louise, and Mr. and Mrs. Tuckham, in Venice, where, upon the
first day of October, Jenny Beauchamp gave birth to a son. The thrilling
mother did not perceive on this occasion the gloom she cast over the
father of the child and Dr. Shrapnel. The youngster would insist on his
right to be sprinkled by the parson, to get a legal name and please his
mother. At all turns in the history of our healthy relations with women
we are confronted by the parson! 'And, upon my word, I believe,'
Beauchamp said to Lydiard, 'those parsons--not bad creatures in private
life: there was one in Madeira I took a personal liking to--but they're
utterly ignorant of what men feel to them--more ignorant than women!'
Mr. Tuckham and Mrs. Lydiard would not listen to his foolish objections;
nor were they ever mentioned to Jenny. Apparently the commission of the
act of marriage was to force Beauchamp from all his positions one by one.
'The education of that child?' Mrs. Lydiard said to her husband.
He considered that the mother would prevail.
Cecilia feared she would not.
'Depend upon it, he'll make himself miserable if he can,' said Tuckham.
That gentleman, however, was perpetually coming fuming from arguments
with Beauchamp, and his opinion was a controversialist's. His common
sense was much afflicted. 'I thought marriage would have stopped all
those absurdities,' he said, glaring angrily, laughing, and then
frowning. 'I 've warned him I'll go out of my way to come across him if
he carries on his headlong folly. A man should accept his country for
what it is when he's born into it. Don't tell me he's a good fellow.
I know he is, but there 's an ass mounted on the good fellow. Talks of
the parsons! Why, they're men of education.'
'They couldn't steer a ship in a gale, though.'
'Oh! he's a good sailor. And let him go to sea,' said Tuckham. 'His
wife's a prize. He's hardly worthy of her. If she manages him she'll
deserve a monument for doing a public service.'
How fortunate it is for us that here and there we do not succeed in
wresting our temporary treasure from the grasp of the Fates!
This good old commonplace reflection came to Beauchamp while clasping his
wife's hand on the deck of the Esperanza, and looking up at the mountains
over the Gulf of Venice. The impression of that marvellous dawn when he
and Renee looked up hand-in-hand was ineffaceable, and pity for the
tender hand lost to him wrought in his blood, but Jenny was a peerless
wife; and though not in the music of her tongue, or in subtlety of
delicate meaning did she excel Renee, as a sober adviser she did, and
as a firm speaker; and she had homelier deep eyes, thoughtfuller brows.
The father could speculate with good hope of Jenny's child. Cecilia's
wealth, too, had gone over to the Tory party, with her incomprehensible
espousal of Tuckham. Let it go; let all go for dowerless Jenny!
It was (she dared to recollect it in her anguish) Jenny's choice to go
home in the yacht that decided her husband not to make the journey by
land in company with the Lydiards.
The voyage was favourable. Beauchamp had a passing wish to land on the
Norman coast, and take Jenny for a day to Tourdestelle. He deferred to
her desire to land baby speedily, now they were so near home. They ran
past Otley river, having sight of Mount Laurels, and on to Bevisham, with
swelling sails. There they parted. Beauchamp made it one of his 'points
of honour' to deliver the vessel where he had taken her, at her moorings
in the Otley. One of the piermen stood before Beauchamp, and saluting
him, said he had been directed to inform him that the Earl of Romfrey was
with Colonel Halkett, expecting him at Mount Laurels. Beauchamp wanted
his wife to return in the yacht. She turned her eyes to Dr. Shrapnel.
It was out of the question that the doctor should think of going.
Husband and wife parted. She saw him no more.
This is no time to tell of weeping. The dry chronicle is fittest.
Hard on nine o'clock in the December darkness, the night being still and
clear, Jenny's babe was at her breast, and her ears were awake for the
return of her husband. A man rang at the door of the house, and asked
to see Dr. Shrapnel. This man was Killick, the Radical Sam of politics.
He said to the doctor: 'I 'm going to hit you sharp, sir; I've had it
myself: please put on your hat and come out with me; and close the door.
They mustn't hear inside. And here's a fly. I knew you'd be off for the
finding of the body. Commander Beauchamp's drowned.'
Dr. Shrapnel drove round by the shore of the broad water past a great
hospital and ruined abbey to Otley village. Killick had lifted him into
the conveyance, and he lifted him out. Dr. Shrapnel had not spoken a
word. Lights were flaring on the river, illuminating the small craft
sombrely. Men, women, and children crowded the hard and landing-places,
the marshy banks and the decks of colliers and trawlers. Neither Killick
nor Dr. Shrapnel questioned them. The lights were torches and lanterns;
the occupation of the boats moving in couples was the dragging for the
'O God, let's find his body,' a woman called out.
'Just a word; is it Commander Beauchamp?' Killick said to her.
She was scarcely aware of a question. 'Here, this one,' she said, and
plucked a little boy of eight by the hand close against her side, and
shook him roughly and kissed him.
An old man volunteered information. 'That's the boy. That boy was in
his father's boat out there, with two of his brothers, larking; and he
and another older than him fell overboard; and just then Commander
Beauchamp was rowing by, and I saw him from off here, where I stood, jump
up and dive, and he swam to his boat with one of them, and got him in
safe: that boy: and he dived again after the other, and was down a long
time. Either he burst a vessel or he got cramp, for he'd been rowing
himself from the schooner grounded down at the river-mouth, and must have
been hot when he jumped in: either way, he fetched the second up, and
sank with him. Down he went.'
A fisherman said to Killick: 'Do you hear that voice thundering? That's
the great Lord Romfrey. He's been directing the dragging since five o'
the evening, and will till he drops or drowns, or up comes the body.'
'O God, let's find the body!' the woman with the little boy called out.
A torch lit up Lord Romfrey's face as he stepped ashore. 'The flood has
played us a trick,' he said. 'We want more drags, or with the next ebb
the body may be lost for days in this infernal water.'
The mother of the rescued boy sobbed, 'Oh, my lord, my lord!'
The earl caught sight of Dr. Shrapnel, and went to him.
'My wife has gone down to Mrs. Beauchamp,' he said. 'She will bring her
and the baby to Mount Laurels. The child will have to be hand-fed. I
take you with me. You must not be alone.'
He put his arm within the arm of the heavily-breathing man whom he had
once flung to the ground, to support him.
'My lord! my lord!' sobbed the woman, and dropped on her knees.
'What 's this?' the earl said, drawing his hand away from the woman's
clutch at it.
'She's the mother, my lord,' several explained to him.
'Mother of what?'
'My boy,' the woman cried, and dragged the urchin to Lord Romfrey's feet,
cleaning her boy's face with her apron.
'It's the boy Commander Beauchamp drowned to save,' said a man.
All the lights of the ring were turned on the head of the boy. Dr.
Shrapnel's eyes and Lord Romfrey's fell on the abashed little creature.
The boy struck out both arms to get his fists against his eyelids.
This is what we have in exchange for Beauchamp!
It was not uttered, but it was visible in the blank stare at one
another of the two men who loved Beauchamp, after they had examined the
insignificant bit of mudbank life remaining in this world in the place of
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
And life said, Do it, and death said, To what end?
As fair play as a woman's lord could give her
Dogs die more decently than we men
Dreads our climate and coffee too much to attempt the voyage
Had come to be her lover through being her husband
He bowed to facts
He condensed a paragraph into a line
He runs too much from first principles to extremes
I do not think Frenchmen comparable to the women of France
It would be hard! ay, then we do it forthwith
Making too much of it--a trick of the vulgar
More argument I cannot bear
None but fanatics, cowards, white-eyeballed dogmatists
Push indolent unreason to gain the delusion of happiness
Reproof of such supererogatory counsel
She had no longer anything to resent: she was obliged to weep
Slaves of the priests
The healthy only are fit to live
The world without him would be heavy matter
This girl was pliable only to service, not to grief
Virtue of impatience
We women can read men by their power to love
When he's a Christian instead of a Churchman
Where love exists there is goodness
Without a single intimation that he loathed the task
Wonderment that one of her sex should have ideas