Part 3 out of 16
The beginning of an acquaintance whether with persons or things is to
get a definite outline for our ignorance.
Mr. Grandcourt's wish to be introduced had no suddenness for Gwendolen;
but when Lord Brackenshaw moved aside a little for the prefigured stranger
to come forward and she felt herself face to face with the real man, there
was a little shock which flushed her cheeks and vexatiously deepened with
her consciousness of it. The shock came from the reversal of her
expectations: Grandcourt could hardly have been more unlike all her
imaginary portraits of him. He was slightly taller than herself, and their
eyes seemed to be on a level; there was not the faintest smile on his face
as he looked at her, not a trace of self-consciousness or anxiety in his
bearing: when he raised his hat he showed an extensive baldness surrounded
with a mere fringe of reddish-blonde hair, but he also showed a perfect
hand; the line of feature from brow to chin undisguised by beard was
decidedly handsome, with only moderate departures from the perpendicular,
and the slight whisker too was perpendicular. It was not possible for a
human aspect to be freer from grimace or solicitious wrigglings: also it
was perhaps not possible for a breathing man wide awake to look less
animated. The correct Englishman, drawing himself up from his bow into
rigidity, assenting severely, and seemed to be in a state of internal
drill, suggests a suppressed vivacity, and may be suspected of letting go
with some violence when he is released from parade; but Grandcourt's
bearing had no rigidity, it inclined rather to the flaccid. His complexion
had a faded fairness resembling that of an actress when bare of the
artificial white and red; his long narrow gray eyes expressed nothing but
indifference. Attempts at description are stupid: who can all at once
describe a human being? even when he is presented to us we only begin that
knowledge of his appearance which must be completed by innumerable
impressions under differing circumstances. We recognize the alphabet; we
are not sure of the language. I am only mentioning the point that
Gwendolen saw by the light of a prepared contrast in the first minutes of
her meeting with Grandcourt: they were summed up in the words, "He is not
ridiculous." But forthwith Lord Brackenshaw was gone, and what is called
conversation had begun, the first and constant element in it being that
Grandcourt looked at Gwendolen persistently with a slightly exploring
gaze, but without change of expression, while she only occasionally looked
at him with a flash of observation a little softened by coquetry. Also,
after her answers there was a longer or shorter pause before he spoke
"I used to think archery was a great bore," Grandcourt began. He spoke
with a fine accent, but with a certain broken drawl, as of a distinguished
personage with a distinguished cold on his chest.
"Are you converted to-day?" said Gwendolen.
(Pause, during which she imagined various degrees and modes of opinion
about herself that might be entertained by Grandcourt.)
"Yes, since I saw you shooting. In things of this sort one generally sees
people missing and simpering."
"I suppose you are a first-rate shot with a rifle."
(Pause, during which Gwendolen, having taken a rapid observation of
Grandcourt, made a brief graphic description of him to an indefinite
"I have left off shooting."
"Oh then you are a formidable person. People who have done things once and
left them off make one feel very contemptible, as if one were using cast-
off fashions. I hope you have not left off all follies, because I practice
a great many."
(Pause, during which Gwendolen made several interpretations of her own
"What do you call follies?"
"Well, in general I think, whatever is agreeable is called a folly. But
you have not left off hunting, I hear."
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen recalled what she had heard about Grandcourt's
position, and decided that he was the most aristocratic-looking man she
had ever seen.)
"One must do something."
"And do you care about the turf?--or is that among the things you have
(Pause, during which Gwendolen thought that a man of extremely calm, cold
manners might be less disagreeable as a husband than other men, and not
likely to interfere with his wife's preferences.)
"I run a horse now and then; but I don't go in for the thing as some men
do. Are you fond of horses?"
"Yes, indeed: I never like my life so well as when I am on horseback,
having a great gallop. I think of nothing. I only feel myself strong and
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen wondered whether Grandcourt would like what she
said, but assured herself that she was not going to disguise her tastes.)
"Do you like danger?"
"I don't know. When I am on horseback I never think of danger. It seems to
me that if I broke my bones I should not feel it. I should go at anything
that came in my way."
(Pause during which Gwendolen had run through a whole hunting season with
two chosen hunters to ride at will.)
"You would perhaps like tiger-hunting or pig-sticking. I saw some of that
for a season or two in the East. Everything here is poor stuff after
"_You_ are fond of danger, then?"
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen speculated on the probability that the men of
coldest manners were the most adventurous, and felt the strength of her
own insight, supposing the question had to be decided.)
"One must have something or other. But one gets used to it."
"I begin to think I am very fortunate, because everything is new to me: it
is only that I can't get enough of it. I am not used to anything except
being dull, which I should like to leave off as you have left off
(Pause, during which it occurred to Gwendolen that a man of cold and
distinguished manners might possibly be a dull companion; but on the other
hand she thought that most persons were dull, that she had not observed
husbands to be companions--and that after all she was not going to accept
"Why are you dull?"
"This is a dreadful neighborhood. There is nothing to be done in it. That
is why I practiced my archery."
(Pause, during which Gwendolen reflected that the life of an unmarried
woman who could not go about and had no command of anything must
necessarily be dull through all degrees of comparison as time went on.)
"You have made yourself queen of it. I imagine you will carry the first
"I don't know that. I have great rivals. Did you not observe how well Miss
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen was thinking that men had been known to choose
some one else than the woman they most admired, and recalled several
experiences of that kind in novels.)
"Miss Arrowpoint. No--that is, yes."
"Shall we go now and hear what the scoring says? Every one is going to the
other end now--shall we join them? I think my uncle is looking toward me.
He perhaps wants me."
Gwendolen found a relief for herself by thus changing the situation: not
that the _tete-a-tete_ was quite disagreeable to her; but while it lasted
she apparently could not get rid of the unwonted flush in her cheeks and
the sense of surprise which made her feel less mistress of herself than
usual. And this Mr. Grandcourt, who seemed to feel his own importance more
than he did hers--a sort of unreasonableness few of us can tolerate--must
not take for granted that he was of great moment to her, or that because
others speculated on him as a desirable match she held herself altogether
at his beck. How Grandcourt had filled up the pauses will be more evident
"You have just missed the gold arrow, Gwendolen," said Mr. Gascoigne.
"Miss Juliet Fenn scores eight above you."
"I am very glad to hear it. I should have felt that I was making myself
too disagreeable--taking the best of everything," said Gwendolen, quite
It was impossible to be jealous of Juliet Fenn, a girl as middling as mid-
day market in everything but her archery and plainness, in which last she
was noticeable like her father: underhung and with receding brow
resembling that of the more intelligent fishes. (Surely, considering the
importance which is given to such an accident in female offspring,
marriageable men, or what the new English calls "intending bridegrooms,"
should look at themselves dispassionately in the glass, since their
natural selection of a mate prettier than themselves is not certain to bar
the effect of their own ugliness.)
There was now a lively movement in the mingling groups, which carried the
talk along with it. Every one spoke to every one else by turns, and
Gwendolen, who chose to see what was going on around her now, observed
that Grandcourt was having Klesmer presented to him by some one unknown to
her--a middle-aged man, with dark, full face and fat hands, who seemed to
be on the easiest terms with both, and presently led the way in joining
the Arrowpoints, whose acquaintance had already been made by both him and
Grandcourt. Who this stranger was she did not care much to know; but she
wished to observe what was Grandcourt's manner toward others than herself.
Precisely the same: except that he did not look much at Miss Arrowpoint,
but rather at Klesmer, who was speaking with animation--now stretching out
his long fingers horizontally, now pointing downward with his fore-finger,
now folding his arms and tossing his mane, while he addressed himself
first to one and then to the other, including Grandcourt, who listened
with an impassive face and narrow eyes, his left fore-finger in his
waistcoat-pocket, and his right slightly touching his thin whisker.
"I wonder which style Miss Arrowpoint admires most," was a thought that
glanced through Gwendolen's mind, while her eyes and lips gathered rather
a mocking expression. But she would not indulge her sense of amusement by
watching, as if she were curious, and she gave all her animation to those
immediately around her, determined not to care whether Mr. Grandcourt came
near her again or not.
He did not come, however, and at a moment when he could propose to conduct
Mrs. Davilow to her carriage, "Shall we meet again in the ball-room?" she
said as he raised his hat at parting. The "yes" in reply had the usual
slight drawl and perfect gravity.
"You were wrong for once Gwendolen," said Mrs. Davilow, during their few
minutes' drive to the castle.
"In what, mamma?"
"About Mr. Grandcourt's appearance and manners. You can't find anything
ridiculous in him."
"I suppose I could if I tried, but I don't want to do it," said Gwendolen,
rather pettishly; and her mother was afraid to say more.
It was the rule on these occasions for the ladies and gentlemen to dine
apart, so that the dinner might make a time of comparative ease and rest
for both. Indeed, the gentlemen had a set of archery stories about the
epicurism of the ladies, who had somehow been reported to show a revolting
masculine judgment in venison, even asking for the fat--a proof of the
frightful rate at which corruption might go on in women, but for severe
social restraint, and every year the amiable Lord Brackenshaw, who was
something of a _gourmet_, mentioned Byron's opinion that a woman should
never be seen eating,--introducing it with a confidential--"The fact is"
as if he were for the first time admitting his concurrence in that
sentiment of the refined poet.
In the ladies' dining-room it was evident that Gwendolen was not a general
favorite with her own sex: there were no beginnings of intimacy between
her and other girls, and in conversation they rather noticed what she said
than spoke to her in free exchange. Perhaps it was that she was not much
interested in them, and when left alone in their company had a sense of
empty benches. Mrs. Vulcany once remarked that Miss Harleth was too fond
of the gentlemen; but we know that she was not in the least fond of them--
she was only fond of their homage--and women did not give her homage. The
exception to this willing aloofness from her was Miss Arrowpoint, who
often managed unostentatiously to be by her side, and talked to her with
"She knows, as I do, that our friends are ready to quarrel over a husband
for us," thought Gwendolen, "and she is determined not to enter into the
"I think Miss Arrowpoint has the best manners I ever saw," said Mrs.
Davilow, when she and Gwendolen were in a dressing-room with Mrs.
Gascoigne and Anna, but at a distance where they could have their talk
"I wish I were like her," said Gwendolen.
"Why? Are you getting discontented with yourself, Gwen?"
"No; but I am discontented with things. She seems contented."
"I am sure you ought to be satisfied to-day. You must have enjoyed the
shooting. I saw you did."
"Oh, that is over now, and I don't know what will come next," said
Gwendolen, stretching herself with a sort of moan and throwing up her
arms. They were bare now; it was the fashion to dance in the archery
dress, throwing off the jacket; and the simplicity of her white cashmere
with its border of pale green set off her form to the utmost. A thin line
of gold round her neck, and the gold star on her breast, were her only
ornaments. Her smooth soft hair piled up into a grand crown made a clear
line about her brow. Sir Joshua would have been glad to take her portrait;
and he would have had an easier task than the historian at least in this,
that he would not have had to represent the truth of change--only to give
stability to one beautiful moment.
"The dancing will come next," said Mrs. Davilow "You We sure to enjoy
"I shall only dance in the quadrille. I told Mr. Clintock so. I shall not
waltz or polk with any one."
"Why in the world do you say that all on a sudden?"
"I can't bear having ugly people so near me."
"Whom do you mean by ugly people?"
"Mr. Clintock, for example, is not ugly." Mrs. Davilow dared not mention
"Well, I hate woolen cloth touching me."
"Fancy!" said Mrs. Davilow to her sister who now came up from the other
end of the room. "Gwendolen says she will not waltz or polk."
"She is rather given to whims, I think," said Mrs. Gascoigne, gravely. "It
would be more becoming in her to behave as other young ladies do on such
an occasion as this; especially when she has had the advantage of first-
rate dancing lessons."
"Why should I dance if I don't like it, aunt? It is not in the catechism."
"My _dear_!" said Mrs. Gascoigne, in a tone of severe check, and Anna
looked frightened at Gwendolen's daring. But they all passed on without
saying any more.
Apparently something had changed Gwendolen's mood since the hour of
exulting enjoyment in the archery-ground. But she did not look the worse
under the chandeliers in the ball-room, where the soft splendor of the
scene and the pleasant odors from the conservatory could not but be
soothing to the temper, when accompanied with the consciousness of being
preeminently sought for. Hardly a dancing man but was anxious to have her
for a partner, and each whom she accepted was in a state of melancholy
remonstrance that she would not waltz or polk.
"Are you under a vow, Miss Harleth?"--"Why are you so cruel to us all?"--
"You waltzed with me in February."--"And you who waltz so perfectly!" were
exclamations not without piquancy for her. The ladies who waltzed
naturally thought that Miss Harleth only wanted to make herself
particular; but her uncle when he overheard her refusal supported her by
"Gwendolen has usually good reasons." He thought she was certainly more
distinguished in not waltzing, and he wished her to be distinguished. The
archery ball was intended to be kept at the subdued pitch that suited all
dignities clerical and secular; it was not an escapement for youthful high
spirits, and he himself was of opinion that the fashionable dances were
too much of a romp.
Among the remonstrant dancing men, however, Mr. Grandcourt was not
numbered. After standing up for a quadrille with Miss Arrowpoint, it
seemed that he meant to ask for no other partner. Gwendolen observed him
frequently with the Arrowpoints, but he never took an opportunity of
approaching her. Mr. Gascoigne was sometimes speaking to him; but Mr.
Gascoigne was everywhere. It was in her mind now that she would probably
after all not have the least trouble about him: perhaps he had looked at
her without any particular admiration, and was too much used to everything
in the world to think of her as more than one of the girls who were
invited in that part of the country. Of course! It was ridiculous of
elders to entertain notions about what a man would do, without having seen
him even through a telescope. Probably he meant to marry Miss Arrowpoint.
Whatever might come, she, Gwendolen, was not going to be disappointed: the
affair was a joke whichever way it turned, for she had never committed
herself even by a silent confidence in anything Mr. Grandcourt would do.
Still, she noticed that he did sometimes quietly and gradually change his
position according to hers, so that he could see her whenever she was
dancing, and if he did not admire her--so much the worse for him.
This movement for the sake of being in sight of her was more direct than
usual rather late in the evening, when Gwendolen had accepted Klesmer as a
partner; and that wide-glancing personage, who saw everything and nothing
by turns, said to her when they were walking, "Mr. Grandcourt is a man of
taste. He likes to see you dancing."
"Perhaps he likes to look at what is against his taste," said Gwendolen,
with a light laugh; she was quite courageous with Klesmer now. He may be
so tired of admiring that he likes disgust for variety."
"Those words are not suitable to your lips," said Klesmer, quickly, with
one of his grand frowns, while he shook his hand as if to banish the
"Are you as critical of words as of music?"
"Certainly I am. I should require your words to be what your face and form
are--always among the meanings of a noble music."
"That is a compliment as well as a correction. I am obliged for both. But
do you know I am bold enough to wish to correct _you_, and require you to
understand a joke?"
"One may understand jokes without liking them," said the terrible Klesmer.
"I have had opera books sent me full of jokes; it was just because I
understood them that I did not like them. The comic people are ready to
challenge a man because he looks grave. 'You don't see the witticism,
sir?' 'No, sir, but I see what you meant.' Then I am what we call ticketed
as a fellow without _esprit_. But, in fact," said Klesmer, suddenly
dropping from his quick narrative to a reflective tone, with an impressive
frown, "I am very sensible to wit and humor."
"I am glad you tell me that," said Gwendolen, not without some wickedness
of intention. But Klesmer's thoughts had flown off on the wings of his own
statement, as their habit was, and she had the wickedness all to herself.
"Pray, who is that standing near the card-room door?" she went on, seeing
there the same stranger with whom Klesmer had been in animated talk on the
archery ground. "He is a friend of yours, I think."
"No, no; an amateur I have seen in town; Lush, a Mr. Lush--too fond of
Meyerbeer and Scribe--too fond of the mechanical-dramatic."
"Thanks. I wanted to know whether you thought his face and form required
that his words should be among the meanings of noble music?" Klesmer was
conquered, and flashed at her a delightful smile which made them quite
friendly until she begged to be deposited by the side of her mamma.
Three minutes afterward her preparations for Grandcourt's indifference
were all canceled. Turning her head after some remark to her mother, she
found that he had made his way up to her.
"May I ask if you are tired of dancing, Miss Harleth?" he began, looking
down with his former unperturbed expression.
"Not in the least."
"Will you do me the honor--the next--or another quadrille?"
"I should have been very happy," said Gwendolen looking at her card, "but
I am engaged for the next to Mr. Clintock--and indeed I perceive that I am
doomed for every quadrille; I have not one to dispose of." She was not
sorry to punish Mr. Grandcourt's tardiness, yet at the same time she would
have liked to dance with him. She gave him a charming smile as she looked
up to deliver her answer, and he stood still looking down at her with no
smile at all.
"I am unfortunate in being too late," he said, after a moment's pause.
"It seemed to me that you did not care for dancing," said Gwendolen. "I
thought it might be one of the things you had left off."
"Yes, but I have not begun to dance with you," said. Grandcourt. Always
there was the same pause before he took up his cue. "You make dancing a
new thing, as you make archery."
"Is novelty always agreeable?"
"No, no--not always."
"Then I don't know whether to feel flattered or not. When you had once
danced with me there would be no more novelty in it."
"On the contrary, there would probably be much more."
"That is deep. I don't understand."
"It is difficult to make Miss Harleth understand her power?" Here
Grandcourt had turned to Mrs. Davilow, who, smiling gently at her
"I think she does not generally strike people as slow to understand."
"Mamma," said Gwendolen, in a deprecating tone, "I am adorably stupid, and
want everything explained to me--when the meaning is pleasant."
"If you are stupid, I admit that stupidity is adorable," returned
Grandcourt, after the usual pause, and without change of tone. But clearly
he knew what to say.
"I begin to think that my cavalier has forgotten me," Gwendolen observed
after a little while. "I see the quadrille is being formed."
"He deserves to be renounced," said Grandcourt.
"I think he is very pardonable," said Gwendolen.
"There must have been some misunderstanding," said Mrs. Davilow. "Mr.
Clintock was too anxious about the engagement to have forgotten it."
But now Lady Brackenshaw came up and said, "Miss Harleth, Mr. Clintock has
charged me to express to you his deep regret that he was obliged to leave
without having the pleasure of dancing with you again. An express came
from his father, the archdeacon; something important; he was to go. He was
"Oh, he was very good to remember the engagement under the circumstances,"
said Gwendolen. "I am sorry he was called away." It was easy to be
politely sorrowful on so felicitious an occasion.
"Then I can profit by Mr. Clintock's misfortune?" said Grandcourt. "May I
hope that you will let me take his place?"
"I shall be very happy to dance the next quadrille with you."
The appropriateness of the event seemed an augury, and as Gwendolen stood
up for the quadrille with Grandcourt, there was a revival in her of the
exultation--the sense of carrying everything before her, which she had
felt earlier in the day. No man could have walked through the quadrille
with more irreproachable ease than Grandcourt; and the absence of all
eagerness in his attention to her suited his partner's taste. She was now
convinced that he meant to distinguish her, to mark his admiration of her
in a noticeable way; and it began to appear probable that she would have
it in her power to reject him, whence there was a pleasure in reckoning up
the advantages which would make her rejection splendid, and in giving Mr.
Grandcourt his utmost value. It was also agreeable to divine that this
exclusive selection of her to dance with, from among all the unmarried
ladies present, would attract observation; though She studiously avoided
seeing this, and at the end of the quadrille walked away on Grandcourt's
arm as if she had been one of the shortest sighted instead of the longest
and widest sighted of mortals. They encountered Miss Arrowpoint, who was
standing with Lady Brackenshaw and a group of gentlemen. The heiress
looked at Gwendolen invitingly and said, "I hope you will vote with us,
Miss Harleth, and Mr. Grandcourt too, though he is not an archer."
Gwendolen and Grandcourt paused to join the group, and found that the
voting turned on the project of a picnic archery meeting to be held in
Cardell Chase, where the evening entertainment would be more poetic than a
ball under, chandeliers--a feast of sunset lights along the glades and
through the branches and over the solemn tree-tops.
Gwendolen thought the scheme delightful--equal to playing Robin Hood and
Maid Marian: and Mr. Grandcourt, when appealed to a second time, said it
was a thing to be done; whereupon Mr. Lush, who stood behind Lady
Brackenshaw's elbow, drew Gwendolen's notice by saying with a familiar
look and tone to Grandcourt, "Diplow would be a good place for the
meeting, and more convenient: there's a fine bit between the oaks toward
the north gate."
Impossible to look more unconscious of being addressed than Grandcourt;
but Gwendolen took a new survey of the speaker, deciding, first, that he
must be on terms of intimacy with the tenant of Diplow, and, secondly,
that she would never, if she could help it, let him come within a yard of
her. She was subject to physical antipathies, and Mr. Lush's prominent
eyes, fat though not clumsy figure, and strong black gray-besprinkled hair
of frizzy thickness, which, with the rest of his prosperous person, was
enviable to many, created one of the strongest of her antipathies. To be
safe from his looking at her, she murmured to Grandcourt, "I should like
to continue walking."
He obeyed immediately; but when they were thus away from any audience, he
spoke no word for several minutes, and she, out of a half-amused, half-
serious inclination for experiment, would not speak first. They turned
into the large conservatory, beautifully lit up with Chinese lamps. The
other couples there were at a distance which would not have interfered
with any dialogue, but still they walked in silence until they had reached
the farther end where there was a flush of pink light, and the second wide
opening into the ball-room. Grandcourt, when they had half turned round,
paused and said languidly--
"Do you like this kind of thing?"
If the situation had been described to Gwendolen half an hour before, she
would have laughed heartily at it, and could only have imagined herself
returning a playful, satirical answer. But for some mysterious reason--it
was a mystery of which she had a faint wondering consciousness--she dared
not be satirical: she had begun to feel a wand over her that made her
afraid of offending Grandcourt.
"Yes," she said, quietly, without considering what "kind of thing" was
meant--whether the flowers, the scents, the ball in general, or this
episode of walking with Mr. Grandcourt in particular. And they returned
along the conservatory without farther interpretation. She then proposed
to go and sit down in her old place, and they walked among scattered
couples preparing for the waltz to the spot where Mrs. Davilow had been
seated all the evening. As they approached it her seat was vacant, but she
was coming toward it again, and, to Gwendolen's shuddering annoyance, with
Mr. Lush at her elbow. There was no avoiding the confrontation: her mamma
came close to her before they had reached the seats, and, after a quiet
greeting smile, said innocently, "Gwendolen, dear, let me present Mr. Lush
to you." Having just made the acquaintance of this personage, as an
intimate and constant companion of Mr. Grandcourt's, Mrs. Davilow imagined
it altogether desirable that her daughter also should make the
It was hardly a bow that Gwendolen gave--rather, it was the slightest
forward sweep of the head away from the physiognomy that inclined itself
toward her, and she immediately moved toward her seat, saying, "I want to
put on my burnous." No sooner had she reached it, than Mr. Lush was there,
and had the burnous in his hand: to annoy this supercilious young lady, he
would incur the offense of forestalling Grandcourt; and, holding up the
garment close to Gwendolen, he said, "Pray, permit me?" But she, wheeling
away from him as if he had been a muddy hound, glided on to the ottoman,
saying, "No, thank you."
A man who forgave this would have much Christian feeling, supposing he had
intended to be agreeable to the young lady; but before he seized the
burnous Mr. Lush had ceased to have that intention. Grandcourt quietly
took the drapery from him, and Mr. Lush, with a slight bow, moved away.
"You had perhaps better put it on," said Mr. Grandcourt, looking down on
her without change of expression.
"Thanks; perhaps it would be wise," said Gwendolen, rising, and submitting
very gracefully to take the burnous on her shoulders.
After that, Mr. Grandcourt exchanged a few polite speeches with Mrs.
Davilow, and, in taking leave, asked permission to call at Offendene the
next day. He was evidently not offended by the insult directed toward his
friend. Certainly Gwendolen's refusal of the burnous from Mr. Lush was
open to the interpretation that she wished to receive it from Mr.
Grandcourt. But she, poor child, had no design in this action, and was
simply following her antipathy and inclination, confiding in them as she
did in the more reflective judgments into which they entered as sap into
leafage. Gwendolen had no sense that these men were dark enigmas to her,
or that she needed any help in drawing conclusions about them--Mr.
Grandcourt at least. The chief question was, how far his character and
ways might answer her wishes; and unless she were satisfied about that,
she had said to herself that she would not accept his offer.
Could there be a slenderer, more insignificant thread in human history
than this consciousness of a girl, busy with her small inferences of the
way in which she could make her life pleasant?--in a time, too, when ideas
were with fresh vigor making armies of themselves, and the universal
kinship was declaring itself fiercely; when women on the other side of the
world would not mourn for the husbands and sons who died bravely in a
common cause, and men stinted of bread on our side of the world heard of
that willing loss and were patient: a time when the soul of man was
walking to pulses which had for centuries been beating in him unfelt,
until their full sum made a new life of terror or of joy.
What in the midst of that mighty drama are girls and their blind visions?
They are the Yea or Nay of that good for which men are enduring and
fighting. In these delicate vessels is borne onward through the ages the
treasure of human affections.
"O gentlemen, the time of life is short;
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour."
--SHAKESPEARE: _Henry IV_.
On the second day after the Archery Meeting, Mr. Henleigh Mallinger
Grandcourt was at his breakfast-table with Mr. Lush. Everything around
them was agreeable: the summer air through the open windows, at which the
dogs could walk in from the old green turf on the lawn; the soft, purplish
coloring of the park beyond, stretching toward a mass of bordering wood;
the still life in the room, which seemed the stiller for its sober
antiquated elegance, as if it kept a conscious, well-bred silence, unlike
the restlessness of vulgar furniture.
Whether the gentlemen were agreeable to each other was less evident. Mr.
Grandcourt had drawn his chair aside so as to face the lawn, and with his
left leg over another chair, and his right elbow on the table, was smoking
a large cigar, while his companion was still eating. The dogs--half-a-
dozen of various kinds were moving lazily in and out, taking attitudes of
brief attention--gave a vacillating preference first to one gentleman,
then to the other; being dogs in such good circumstances that they could
play at hunger, and liked to be served with delicacies which they declined
to put in their mouths; all except Fetch, the beautiful liver-colored
water-spaniel, which sat with its forepaws firmly planted and its
expressive brown face turned upward, watching Grandcourt with unshaken
constancy. He held in his lap a tiny Maltese dog with a tiny silver collar
and bell, and when he had a hand unused by cigar or coffee-cup, it rested
on this small parcel of animal warmth. I fear that Fetch was jealous, and
wounded that her master gave her no word or look; at last it seemed that
she could bear this neglect no longer, and she gently put her large silky
paw on her master's leg. Grandcourt looked at her with unchanged face for
half a minute, and then took the trouble to lay down his cigar while he
lifted the unimpassioned Fluff close to his chin and gave it caressing
pats, all the while gravely watching Fetch, who, poor thing, whimpered
interruptedly, as if trying to repress that sign of discontent, and at
last rested her head beside the appealing paw, looking up with piteous
beseeching. So, at least, a lover of dogs must have interpreted Fetch, and
Grandcourt kept so many dogs that he was reputed to love them; at any
rate, his impulse to act just in that way started from such an
interpretation. But when the amusing anguish burst forth in a howling
bark, Grandcourt pushed Fetch down without speaking, and, depositing Fluff
carelessly on the table (where his black nose predominated over a salt-
cellar), began to look to his cigar, and found, with some annoyance
against Fetch as the cause, that the brute of a cigar required relighting.
Fetch, having begun to wail, found, like others of her sex, that it was
not easy to leave off; indeed, the second howl was a louder one, and the
third was like unto it.
"Turn out that brute, will you?" said Grandcourt to Lush, without raising
his voice or looking at him--as if he counted on attention to the smallest
And Lush immediately rose, lifted Fetch, though she was rather heavy, and
he was not fond of stooping, and carried her out, disposing of her in some
way that took him a couple of minutes before he returned. He then lit a
cigar, placed himself at an angle where he could see Grandcourt's face
without turning, and presently said--
"Shall you ride or drive to Quetcham to-day?"
"I am not going to Quetcham."
"You did not go yesterday."
Grandcourt smoked in silence for half a minute, and then said--
"I suppose you sent my card and inquiries."
"I went myself at four, and said you were sure to be there shortly. They
would suppose some accident prevented you from fulfilling the intention.
Especially if you go to-day."
Silence for a couple of minutes. Then Grandcourt said, "What men are
invited here with their wives?"
Lush drew out a note-book. "The Captain and Mrs. Torrington come next
week. Then there are Mr. Hollis and Lady Flora, and the Cushats and the
"Rather a ragged lot," remarked Grandcourt, after a while. "Why did you
ask the Gogoffs? When you write invitations in my name, be good enough to
give me a list, instead of bringing down a giantess on me without my
knowledge. She spoils the look of the room."
"You invited the Gogoffs yourself when you met them in Paris."
"What has my meeting them in Paris to do with it? I told you to give me a
Grandcourt, like many others, had two remarkably different voices.
Hitherto we have heard him speaking in a superficial interrupted drawl
suggestive chiefly of languor and _ennui_. But this last brief speech was
uttered in subdued inward, yet distinct, tones, which Lush had long been
used to recognize as the expression of a peremptory will.
"Are there any other couples you would like to invite?"
"Yes; think of some decent people, with a daughter or two. And one of your
damned musicians. But not a comic fellow."
"I wonder if Klesmer would consent to come to us when he leaves Quetcham.
Nothing but first-class music will go down with Miss Arrowpoint."
Lush spoke carelessly, but he was really seizing an opportunity and fixing
an observant look on Grandcourt, who now for the first time, turned his
eyes toward his companion, but slowly and without speaking until he had
given two long luxuriant puffs, when he said, perhaps in a lower tone than
ever, but with a perceptible edge of contempt--
"What in the name of nonsense have I to do with Miss Arrowpoint and her
"Well, something," said Lush, jocosely. "You need not give yourself much
trouble, perhaps. But some forms must be gone through before a man can
marry a million."
"Very likely. But I am not going to marry a million."
"That's a pity--to fling away an opportunity of this sort, and knock down
your own plans."
"_Your_ plans, I suppose you mean."
"You have some debts, you know, and things may turn out inconveniently
after all. The heirship is not _absolutely_ certain."
Grandcourt did not answer, and Lush went on.
"It really is a fine opportunity. The father and mother ask for nothing
better, I can see, and the daughter's looks and manners require no
allowances, any more than if she hadn't a sixpence. She is not beautiful;
but equal to carrying any rank. And she is not likely to refuse such
prospects as you can offer her."
"The father and mother would let you do anything you like with them."
"But I should not like to do anything with them."
Here it was Lush who made a little pause before speaking again, and then
he said in a deep voice of remonstrance, "Good God, Grandcourt! after your
experience, will you let a whim interfere with your comfortable settlement
"Spare your oratory. I know what I am going to do."
"What?" Lush put down his cigar and thrust his hands into his side
pockets, as if he had to face something exasperating, but meant to keep
"I am going to marry the other girl."
"Have you fallen in love?" This question carried a strong sneer.
"I am going to marry her."
"You have made her an offer already, then?"
"She is a young lady with a will of her own, I fancy. Extremely well
fitted to make a rumpus. She would know what she liked."
"She doesn't like you," said Grandcourt, with the ghost of a smile.
"Perfectly true," said Lush, adding again in a markedly sneering tone.
"However, if you and she are devoted to each other, that will be enough."
Grandcourt took no notice of this speech, but sipped his coffee, rose, and
strolled out on the lawn, all the dogs following him.
Lush glanced after him a moment, then resumed his cigar and lit it, but
smoked slowly, consulting his beard with inspecting eyes and fingers, till
he finally stroked it with an air of having arrived at some conclusion,
and said in a subdued voice--
"Check, old boy!"
Lush, being a man of some ability, had not known Grandcourt for fifteen
years without learning what sort of measures were useless with him, though
what sort might be useful remained often dubious. In the beginning of his
career he held a fellowship, and was near taking orders for the sake of a
college living, but not being fond of that prospect accepted instead the
office of traveling companion to a marquess, and afterward to young
Grandcourt, who had lost his father early, and who found Lush so
convenient that he had allowed him to become prime minister in all his
more personal affairs. The habit of fifteen years had made Grandcourt more
and more in need of Lush's handiness, and Lush more and more in need of
the lazy luxury to which his transactions on behalf of Grandcourt made no
interruption worth reckoning. I cannot say that the same lengthened habit
had intensified Grandcourt's want of respect for his companion since that
want had been absolute from the beginning, but it had confirmed his sense
that he might kick Lush if he chose--only he never did choose to kick any
animal, because the act of kicking is a compromising attitude, and a
gentleman's dogs should be kicked for him. He only said things which might
have exposed himself to be kicked if his confidant had been a man of
independent spirit. But what son of a vicar who has stinted his wife and
daughters of calico in order to send his male offspring to Oxford, can
keep an independent spirit when he is bent on dining with high
discrimination, riding good horses, living generally in the most luxuriant
honey-blossomed clover--and all without working? Mr. Lush had passed for a
scholar once, and had still a sense of scholarship when he was not trying
to remember much of it; but the bachelor's and other arts which soften
manners are a time-honored preparation for sinecures; and Lush's present
comfortable provision was as good a sinecure in not requiring more than
the odor of departed learning. He was not unconscious of being held
kickable, but he preferred counting that estimate among the peculiarities
of Grandcourt's character, which made one of his incalculable moods or
judgments as good as another. Since in his own opinion he had never done a
bad action, it did not seem necessary to consider whether he should be
likely to commit one if his love of ease required it. Lush's love of ease
was well-satisfied at present, and if his puddings were rolled toward him
in the dust, he took the inside bits and found them relishing.
This morning, for example, though he had encountered more annoyance than
usual, he went to his private sitting-room and played a good hour on the
"Philistia, be thou glad of me!"
Grandcourt having made up his mind to marry Miss Harleth, showed a power
of adapting means to ends. During the next fortnight there was hardly a
day on which by some arrangement or other he did not see her, or prove by
emphatic attentions that she occupied his thoughts. His cousin, Mrs.
Torrington, was now doing the honors of his house, so that Mrs. Davilow
and Gwendolen could be invited to a large party at Diplow in which there
were many witnesses how the host distinguished the dowerless beauty, and
showed no solicitude about the heiress. The world--I mean Mr. Gascoigne
and all the families worth speaking of within visiting distance of
Pennicote--felt an assurance on the subject which in the rector's mind
converted itself into a resolution to do his duty by his niece and see
that the settlements were adequate. Indeed the wonder to him and Mrs.
Davilow was that the offer for which so many suitable occasions presented
themselves had not been already made; and in this wonder Grandcourt
himself was not without a share. When he had told his resolution to Lush
he had thought that the affair would be concluded more quickly, and to his
own surprise he had repeatedly promised himself in a morning that he would
to-day give Gwendolen the opportunity of accepting him, and had found in
the evening that the necessary formality was still unaccomplished. This
remarkable fact served to heighten his determination on another day. He
had never admitted to himself that Gwendolen might refuse him, but--heaven
help us all!--we are often unable to act on our certainties; our objection
to a contrary issue (were it possible) is so strong that it rises like a
spectral illusion between us and our certainty; we are rationally sure
that the blind worm can not bite us mortally, but it would be so
intolerable to be bitten, and the creature has a biting look--we decline
to handle it.
He had asked leave to have a beautiful horse of his brought for Gwendolen
to ride. Mrs. Davilow was to accompany her in the carriage, and they were
to go to Diplow to lunch, Grandcourt conducting them. It was a fine mid-
harvest time, not too warm for a noonday ride of five miles to be
delightful; the poppies glowed on the borders of the fields, there was
enough breeze to move gently like a social spirit among the ears of uncut
corn, and to wing the shadow of a cloud across the soft gray downs; here
the sheaves were standing, there the horses were straining their muscles
under the last load from a wide space of stubble, but everywhere the green
pasture made a broader setting for the corn-fields, and the cattle took
their rest under wide branches. The road lay through a bit of country
where the dairy-farms looked much as they did in the days of our
forefathers--where peace and permanence seemed to find a home away from
the busy change that sent the railway train flying in the distance.
But the spirit of peace and permanence did not penetrate poor Mrs.
Davilow's mind so as to overcome her habit of uneasy foreboding. Gwendolen
and Grandcourt cantering in front of her, and then slackening their pace
to a conversational walk till the carriage came up with them again, made a
gratifying sight; but it served chiefly to keep up the conflict of hopes
and fears about her daughter's lot. Here was an irresistible opportunity
for a lover to speak and put an end to all uncertainties, and Mrs. Davilow
could only hope with trembling that Gwendolen's decision would be
favorable. Certainly if Rex's love had been repugnant to her, Mr.
Grandcourt had the advantage of being in complete contrast with Rex; and
that he had produced some quite novel impression on her seemed evident in
her marked abstinence from satirical observations, nay, her total silence
about his characteristics, a silence which Mrs. Davilow did not dare to
break. "Is he a man she would be happy with?"--was a question that
inevitably arose in the mother's mind. "Well, perhaps as happy as she
would be with any one else--or as most other women are"--was the answer
with which she tried to quiet herself; for she could not imagine Gwendolen
under the influence of any feeling which would make her satisfied in what
we traditionally call "mean circumstances."
Grandcourt's own thought was looking in the same direction: he wanted to
have done with the uncertainty that belonged to his not having spoken. As
to any further uncertainty--well, it was something without any reasonable
basis, some quality in the air which acted as an irritant to his wishes.
Gwendolen enjoyed the riding, but her pleasure did not break forth in
girlish unpremeditated chat and laughter as it did on that morning with
Rex. She spoke a little, and even laughed, but with a lightness as of a
far-off echo: for her too there was some peculiar quality in the air--not,
she was sure, any subjugation of her will by Mr. Grandcourt, and the
splendid prospects he meant to offer her; for Gwendolen desired every one,
that dignified gentleman himself included, to understand that she was
going to do just as she liked, and that they had better not calculate on
her pleasing them. If she chose to take this husband, she would have him
know that she was not going to renounce her freedom, or according to her
favorite formula, "not going to do as other women did."
Grandcourt's speeches this morning were, as usual, all of that brief sort
which never fails to make a conversational figure when the speaker is held
important in his circle. Stopping so soon, they give signs of a suppressed
and formidable ability so say more, and have also the meritorious quality
of allowing lengthiness to others.
"How do you like Criterion's paces?" he said, after they had entered the
park and were slacking from a canter to a walk.
"He is delightful to ride. I should like to have a leap with him, if it
would not frighten mamma. There was a good wide channel we passed five
minutes ago. I should like to have a gallop back and take it."
"Pray do. We can take it together."
"No, thanks. Mamma is so timid--if she saw me it might make her ill."
"Let me go and explain. Criterion would take it without fail."
"No--indeed--you are very kind--but it would alarm her too much. I dare
take any leap when she is not by; but I do it and don't tell her about
"We can let the carriage pass and then set off."
"No, no, pray don't think of it any more: I spoke quite randomly," said
Gwendolen; she began to feel a new objection to carrying out her own
"But Mrs. Davilow knows I shall take care of you."
"Yes, but she would think of you as having to take care of my broken
There was a considerable pause before Grandcourt said, looking toward her,
"I should like to have the right always to take care of you."
Gwendolen did not turn her eyes on him; it seemed to her a long while that
she was first blushing, and then turning pale, but to Grandcourt's rate of
judgment she answered soon enough, with the lightest flute-tone and a
careless movement of the head, "Oh, I am not sure that I want to be taken
care of: if I chose to risk breaking my neck, I should like to be at
liberty to do it."
She checked her horse as she spoke, and turned in her saddle, looking
toward the advancing carriage. Her eyes swept across Grandcourt as she
made this movement, but there was no language in them to correct the
carelessness of her reply. At that very moment she was aware that she was
risking something--not her neck, but the possibility of finally checking
Grandcourt's advances, and she did not feel contented with the
"Damn her!" thought Grandcourt, as he to checked his horse. He was not a
wordy thinker, and this explosive phrase stood for mixed impressions which
eloquent interpreters might have expanded into some sentences full of an
irritated sense that he was being mystified, and a determination that this
girl should not make a fool of him. Did she want him to throw himself at
her feet and declare that he was dying for her? It was not by that gate
that she could enter on the privileges he could give her. Or did she
expect him to write his proposals? Equally a delusion. He would not make
his offer in any way that could place him definitely in the position of
being rejected. But as to her accepting him, she had done it already in
accepting his marked attentions: and anything which happened to break them
off would be understood to her disadvantage. She was merely coquetting,
However, the carriage came up, and no further _tete-a-tete_ could well
occur before their arrival at the house, where there was abundant company,
to whom Gwendolen, clad in riding-dress, with her hat laid aside, clad
also in the repute of being chosen by Mr. Grandcourt, was naturally a
centre of observation; and since the objectionable Mr. Lush was not there
to look at her, this stimulus of admiring attention heightened her
spirits, and dispersed, for the time, the uneasy consciousness of divided
impulses which threatened her with repentance of her own acts. Whether
Grandcourt had been offended or not there was no judging: his manners were
unchanged, but Gwendolen's acuteness had not gone deeper than to discern
that his manners were no clue for her, and because these were unchanged
she was not the less afraid of him.
She had not been at Diplow before except to dine; and since certain points
of view from the windows and the garden were worth showing, Lady Flora
Hollis proposed after luncheon, when some of the guests had dispersed, and
the sun was sloping toward four o'clock, that the remaining party should
make a little exploration. Here came frequent opportunities when
Grandcourt might have retained Gwendolen apart, and have spoken to her
unheard. But no! He indeed spoke to no one else, but what he said was
nothing more eager or intimate than it had been in their first interview.
He looked at her not less than usual; and some of her defiant spirit
having come back, she looked full at him in return, not caring--rather
preferring--that his eyes had no expression in them.
But at last it seemed as if he entertained some contrivance. After they
had nearly made the tour of the grounds, the whole party stopped by the
pool to be amused with Fetch's accomplishment of bringing a water lily to
the bank like Cowper's spaniel Beau, and having been disappointed in his
first attempt insisted on his trying again.
Here Grandcourt, who stood with Gwendolen outside the group, turned
deliberately, and fixing his eyes on a knoll planted with American shrubs,
and having a winding path up it, said languidly--
"This is a bore. Shall we go up there?"
"Oh, certainly--since we are exploring," said Gwendolen. She was rather
pleased, and yet afraid.
The path was too narrow for him to offer his arm, and they walked up in
silence. When they were on the bit of platform at the summit, Grandcourt
"There is nothing to be seen here: the thing was not worth climbing."
How was it that Gwendolen did not laugh? She was perfectly silent, holding
up the folds of her robe like a statue, and giving a harder grasp to the
handle of her whip, which she had snatched up automatically with her hat
when they had first set off.
"What sort of a place do you prefer?" said Grandcourt.
"Different places are agreeable in their way. On the whole, I think, I
prefer places that are open and cheerful. I am not fond of anything
"Your place of Offendene is too sombre."
"It is, rather."
"You will not remain there long, I hope."
"Oh, yes, I think so. Mamma likes to be near her sister."
Silence for a short space.
"It is not to be supposed that _you_ will always live there, though Mrs.
"I don't know. We women can't go in search of adventures--to find out the
North-West Passage or the source of the Nile, or to hunt tigers in the
East. We must stay where we grow, or where the gardeners like to
transplant us. We are brought up like the flowers, to look as pretty as we
can, and be dull without complaining. That is my notion about the plants;
they are often bored, and that is the reason why some of them have got
poisonous. What do you think?" Gwendolen had run on rather nervously,
lightly whipping the rhododendron bush in front of her.
"I quite agree. Most things are bores," said Grandcourt, his mind having
been pushed into an easy current, away from its intended track. But, after
a moment's pause, he continued in his broken, refined drawl--
"But a woman can be married."
"Some women can."
"You, certainly, unless you are obstinately cruel."
"I am not sure that I am not both cruel and obstinate." Here Gwendolen
suddenly turned her head and looked full at Grandcourt, whose eyes she had
felt to be upon her throughout their conversation. She was wondering what
the effect of looking at him would be on herself rather than on him.
He stood perfectly still, half a yard or more away from her; and it
flashed through her mind what a sort of lotus-eater's stupor had begun in
him and was taking possession of her. Then he said--
"Are you as uncertain about yourself as you make others about you?"
"I am quite uncertain about myself; I don't know how uncertain others may
"And you wish them to understand that you don't care?" said Grandcourt,
with a touch of new hardness in his tone.
"I did not say that," Gwendolen replied, hesitatingly, and turning her
eyes away whipped the rhododendron bush again. She wished she were on
horseback that she might set off on a canter. It was impossible to set off
running down the knoll.
"You do care, then," said Grandcourt, not more quickly, but with a
"Ha! my whip!" said Gwendolen, in a little scream of distress. She had let
it go--what could be more natural in a slight agitation?--and--but this
seemed less natural in a gold-handled whip which had been left altogether
to itself--it had gone with some force over the immediate shrubs, and had
lodged itself in the branches of an azalea half-way down the knoll. She
could run down now, laughing prettily, and Grandcourt was obliged to
follow; but she was beforehand with him in rescuing the whip, and
continued on her way to the level ground, when she paused and looked at
Grandcourt with an exasperating brightness in her glance and a heightened
color, as if she had carried a triumph, and these indications were still
noticeable to Mrs. Davilow when Gwendolen and Grandcourt joined the rest
of the party.
"It is all coquetting," thought Grandcourt; "the next time I beckon she
will come down."
It seemed to him likely that this final beckoning might happen the very
next day, when there was to be a picnic archery meeting in Cardell Chase,
according to the plan projected on the evening of the ball.
Even in Gwendolen's mind that result was one of two likelihoods that
presented themselves alternately, one of two decisions toward which she
was being precipitated, as if they were two sides of a boundary-line, and
she did not know on which she should fall. This subjection to a possible
self, a self not to be absolutely predicted about, caused her some
astonishment and terror; her favorite key of life--doing as she liked--
seemed to fail her, and she could not foresee what at a given moment she
might like to do. The prospect of marrying Grandcourt really seemed more
attractive to her than she had believed beforehand that any marriage could
be: the dignities, the luxuries, the power of doing a great deal of what
she liked to do, which had now come close to her, and within her choice to
secure or to lose, took hold of her nature as if it had been the strong
odor of what she had only imagined and longed for before. And Grandcourt
himself? He seemed as little of a flaw in his fortunes as a lover and
husband could possibly be. Gwendolen wished to mount the chariot and drive
the plunging horses herself, with a spouse by her side who would fold his
arms and give her his countenance without looking ridiculous. Certainly,
with all her perspicacity, and all the reading which seemed to her mamma
dangerously instructive, her judgment was consciously a little at fault
before Grandcourt. He was adorably quiet and free from absurdities--he
would be a husband to suit with the best appearance a woman could make.
But what else was he? He had been everywhere, and seen everything. _That_
was desirable, and especially gratifying as a preamble to his supreme
preference for Gwendolen Harleth. He did not appear to enjoy anything
much. That was not necessary: and the less he had of particular tastes, or
desires, the more freedom his wife was likely to have in following hers.
Gwendolen conceived that after marriage she would most probably be able to
manage him thoroughly.
How was it that he caused her unusual constraint now?--that she was less
daring and playful in her talk with him than with any other admirer she
had known? That absence of demonstrativeness which she was glad of, acted
as a charm in more senses than one, and was slightly benumbing. Grandcourt
after all was formidable--a handsome lizard of a hitherto unknown species,
riot of the lively, darting kind. But Gwendolen knew hardly anything about
lizards, and ignorance gives one a large range of probabilities. This
splendid specimen was probably gentle, suitable as a boudoir pet: what may
not a lizard be, if you know nothing to the contrary? Her acquaintance
with Grandcourt was such that no accomplishment suddenly revealed in him
would have surprised her. And he was so little suggestive of drama, that
it hardly occurred to her to think with any detail how his life of thirty-
six years had been passed: in general, she imagined him always cold and
dignified, not likely ever to have committed himself. He had hunted the
tiger--had he ever been in love or made love? The one experience and the
other seemed alike remote in Gwendolen's fancy from the Mr. Grandcourt who
had come to Diplow in order apparently to make a chief epoch in her
destiny--perhaps by introducing her to that state of marriage which she
had resolved to make a state of greater freedom than her girlhood. And on
the whole she wished to marry him; he suited her purpose; her prevailing,
deliberate intention was, to accept him.
But was she going to fulfill her deliberate intention? She began to be
afraid of herself, and to find out a certain difficulty in doing as she
liked. Already her assertion of independence in evading his advances had
been carried farther than was necessary, and she was thinking with some
anxiety what she might do on the next occasion.
Seated according to her habit with her back to the horses on their drive
homeward, she was completely under the observation of her mamma, who took
the excitement and changefulness in the expression of her eyes, her
unwonted absence of mind and total silence, as unmistakable signs that
something unprecedented had occurred between her and Grandcourt. Mrs.
Davilow's uneasiness determined her to risk some speech on the subject:
the Gascoignes were to dine at Offendene, and in what had occurred this
morning there might be some reason for consulting the rector; not that she
expected him anymore than herself to influence Gwendolen, but that her
anxious mind wanted to be disburdened.
"Something has happened, dear?" she began, in a tender tone of question.
Gwendolen looked round, and seeming to be roused to the consciousness of
her physical self, took off her gloves and then her hat, that the soft
breeze might blow on her head. They were in a retired bit of the road,
where the long afternoon shadows from the bordering trees fell across it
and no observers were within sight. Her eyes continued to meet her
mother's, but she did not speak.
"Mr. Grandcourt has been saying something?--Tell me, dear." The last words
were uttered beseechingly.
"What am I to tell you, mamma?" was the perverse answer.
"I am sure something has agitated you. You ought to confide in me, Gwen.
You ought not to leave me in doubt and anxiety." Mrs. Davilow's eyes
filled with tears.
"Mamma, dear, please don't be miserable," said Gwendolen, with pettish
remonstrance. "It only makes me more so. I am in doubt myself."
"About Mr. Grandcourt's intentions?" said Mrs. Davilow, gathering
determination from her alarms.
"No; not at all," said Gwendolen, with some curtness, and a pretty little
toss of the head as she put on her hat again.
"About whether you will accept him, then?"
"Have you given him a doubtful answer?"
"I have given him no answer at all."
"He _has_ spoken so that you could not misunderstand him?"
"As far as I would let him speak."
"You expect him to persevere?" Mrs. Davilow put this question rather
anxiously, and receiving no answer, asked another: "You don't consider
that you have discouraged him?"
"I dare say not."
"I thought you liked him, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, timidly.
"So I do, mamma, as liking goes. There is less to dislike about him than
about most men. He is quiet and _distingue_." Gwendolen so far spoke with
a pouting sort of gravity; but suddenly she recovered some of her
mischievousness, and her face broke into a smile as she added--"Indeed he
has all the qualities that would make a husband tolerable--battlement,
veranda, stable, etc., no grins and no glass in his eye."
"Do be serious with me for a moment, dear. Am I to understand that you
mean to accept him?"
"Oh, pray, mamma, leave me to myself," said Gwendolen, with a pettish
distress in her voice.
And Mrs. Davilow said no more.
When they got home Gwendolen declared that she would not dine. She was
tired, and would come down in the evening after she had taken some rest.
The probability that her uncle would hear what had passed did not trouble
her. She was convinced that whatever he might say would be on the side of
her accepting Grandcourt, and she wished to accept him if she could. At
this moment she would willingly have had weights hung on her own caprice.
Mr. Gascoigne did hear--not Gwendolen's answers repeated verbation, but a
softened generalized account of them. The mother conveyed as vaguely as
the keen rector's questions would let her the impression that Gwendolen
was in some uncertainty about her own mind, but inclined on the whole to
acceptance. The result was that the uncle felt himself called on to
interfere; he did not conceive that he should do his duty in witholding
direction from his niece in a momentous crisis of this kind. Mrs. Davilow
ventured a hesitating opinion that perhaps it would be safer to say
nothing--Gwendolen was so sensitive (she did not like to say willful). But
the rector's was a firm mind, grasping its first judgments tenaciously and
acting on them promptly, whence counter-judgments were no more for him
than shadows fleeting across the solid ground to which he adjusted
This match with Grandcourt presented itself to him as a sort of public
affair; perhaps there were ways in which it might even strengthen the
establishment. To the rector, whose father (nobody would have suspected
it, and nobody was told) had risen to be a provincial corn-dealer,
aristocratic heirship resembled regal heirship in excepting its possessor
from the ordinary standard of moral judgments, Grandcourt, the almost
certain baronet, the probable peer, was to be ranged with public
personages, and was a match to be accepted on broad general grounds
national and ecclesiastical. Such public personages, it is true, are often
in the nature of giants which an ancient community may have felt pride and
safety in possessing, though, regarded privately, these born eminences
must often have been inconvenient and even noisome. But of the future
husband personally Mr. Gascoigne was disposed to think the best. Gossip is
a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of of those who
diffuse it: it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker. But if
Grandcourt had really made any deeper or more unfortunate experiments in
folly than were common in young men of high prospects, he was of an age to
have finished them. All accounts can be suitably wound up when a man has
not ruined himself, and the expense may be taken as an insurance against
future error. This was the view of practical wisdom; with reference to
higher views, repentance had a supreme moral and religious value. There
was every reason to believe that a woman of well-regulated mind would be
happy with Grandcourt.
It was no surprise to Gwendolen on coming down to tea to be told that her
uncle wished to see her in the dining-room. He threw aside the paper as
she entered and greeted her with his usual kindness. As his wife had
remarked, he always "made much" of Gwendolen, and her importance had risen
of late. "My dear," he said, in a fatherly way, moving a chair for her as
he held her hand, "I want to speak to you on a subject which is more
momentous than any other with regard to your welfare. You will guess what
I mean. But I shall speak to you with perfect directness: in such matters
I consider myself bound to act as your father. You have no objection, I
"Oh dear, no, uncle. You have always been very kind to me," said
Gwendolen, frankly. This evening she was willing, if it were possible, to
be a little fortified against her troublesome self, and her resistant
temper was in abeyance. The rector's mode of speech always conveyed a
thrill of authority, as of a word of command: it seemed to take for
granted that there could be no wavering in the audience, and that every
one was going to be rationally obedient.
"It is naturally a satisfaction to me that the prospect of a marriage for
you--advantageous in the highest degree--has presented itself so early. I
do not know exactly what has passed between you and Mr. Grandcourt, but I
presume there can be little doubt, from the way in which he has
distinguished you, that he desires to make you his wife."
Gwendolen did not speak immediately, and her uncle said with more
"Have you any doubt of that yourself, my dear?"
"I suppose that is what he has been thinking of. But he may have changed
his mind to-morrow," said Gwendolen.
"Why to-morrow? Has he made advances which you have discouraged?"
"I think he meant--he began to make advances--but I did not encourage
them. I turned the conversation."
"Will you confide in me so far as to tell me your reasons?"
"I am not sure that I had any reasons, uncle." Gwendolen laughed rather
"You are quite capable of reflecting, Gwendolen. You are aware that this
is not a trivial occasion, and it concerns your establishment for life
under circumstances which may not occur again. You have a duty here both
to yourself and your family. I wish to understand whether you have any
ground for hesitating as to your acceptance of Mr. Grandcourt."
"I suppose I hesitate without grounds." Gwendolen spoke rather poutingly,
and her uncle grew suspicious.
"Is he disagreeable to you personally?"
"Have you heard anything of him which has affected you disagreeably?" The
rector thought it impossible that Gwendolen could have heard the gossip he
had heard, but in any case he must endeavor to put all things in the right
light for her.
"I have heard nothing about him except that he is a great match," said
Gwendolen, with some sauciness; "and that affects me very agreeably."
"Then, my dear Gwendolen, I have nothing further to say than this: you
hold your fortune in your own hands--a fortune such as rarely happens to a
girl in your circumstances--a fortune in fact which almost takes the
question out of the range of mere personal feeling, and makes your
acceptance of it a duty. If Providence offers you power and position--
especially when unclogged by any conditions that are repugnant to you--
your course is one of responsibility, into which caprice must not enter. A
man does not like to have his attachment trifled with: he may not be at
once repelled--these things are matters of individual disposition. But the
trifling may be carried too far. And I must point out to you that in case
Mr. Grandcourt were repelled without your having refused him--without your
having intended ultimately to refuse him, your situation would be a
humiliating and painful one. I, for my part, should regard you with severe
disapprobation, as the victim of nothing else than your own coquetry and
Gwendolen became pallid as she listened to this admonitory speech. The
ideas it raised had the force of sensations. Her resistant courage would
not help her here, because her uncle was not urging her against her own
resolve; he was pressing upon her the motives of dread which she already
felt; he was making her more conscious of the risks that lay within
herself. She was silent, and the rector observed that he had produced some
"I mean this in kindness, my dear." His tone had softened.
"I am aware of that, uncle," said Gwendolen, rising and shaking her head
back, as if to rouse herself out of painful passivity. "I am not foolish.
I know that I must be married some time--before it is too late. And I
don't see how I could do better than marry Mr. Grandcourt. I mean to
accept him, if possible." She felt as if she were reinforcing herself by
speaking with this decisiveness to her uncle.
But the rector was a little startled by so bare a version of his own
meaning from those young lips. He wished that in her mind his advice
should be taken in an infusion of sentiments proper to a girl, and such as
are presupposed in the advice of a clergyman, although he may not consider
them always appropriate to be put forward. He wished his niece parks,
carriages, a title--everything that would make this world a pleasant
abode; but he wished her not to be cynical--to be, on the contrary,
religiously dutiful, and have warm domestic affections.
"My dear Gwendolen," he said, rising also, and speaking with benignant
gravity, "I trust that you will find in marriage a new fountain of duty
and affection. Marriage is the only true and satisfactory sphere of a
woman, and if your marriage with Mr. Grandcourt should be happily decided
upon, you will have, probably, an increasing power, both of rank and
wealth, which may be used for the benefit of others. These considerations
are something higher than romance! You are fitted by natural gifts for a
position which, considering your birth and early prospects, could hardly
be looked forward to as in the ordinary course of things; and I trust
that, you will grace it, not only by those personal gifts, but by a good
and consistent life."
"I hope mamma will be the happier," said Gwendolen, in a more cheerful
way, lifting her hands backward to her neck and moving toward the door.
She wanted to waive those higher considerations.
Mr. Gascoigne felt that he had come to a satisfactory understanding with
his niece, and had furthered her happy settlement in life by furthering
her engagement to Grandcourt. Meanwhile there was another person to whom
the contemplation of that issue had been a motive for some activity, and
who believed that he, too, on this particular day had done something
toward bringing about a favorable decision in _his_ sense--which happened
to be the reverse of the rector's.
Mr. Lush's absence from Diplow during Gwendolen's visit had been due, not
to any fear on his part of meeting that supercilious young lady, or of
being abashed by her frank dislike, but to an engagement from which he
expected important consequences. He was gone, in fact, to the Wanchester
station to meet a lady, accompanied by a maid and two children, whom he
put into a fly, and afterward followed to the hotel of the Golden Keys, in
that town. An impressive woman, whom many would turn to look at again in
passing; her figure was slim and sufficiently tall, her face rather
emaciated, so that its sculpturesque beauty was the more pronounced, her
crisp hair perfectly black, and her large, anxious eyes what we call
black. Her dress was soberly correct, her age, perhaps, physically more
advanced than the number of years would imply, but hardly less than seven-
and-thirty. An uneasy-looking woman: her glance seemed to presuppose that
the people and things were going to be unfavorable to her, while she was,
nevertheless, ready to meet them with resolution. The children were
lovely--a dark-haired girl of six or more, a fairer boy of five. When Lush
incautiously expressed some surprise at her having brought the children,
she said, with a sharp-toned intonation--
"Did you suppose I should come wandering about here by myself? Why should
I not bring all four if I liked?"
"Oh, certainly," said Lush, with his usual fluent _nonchalance_.
He stayed an hour or so in conference with her, and rode back to Diplow in
a state of mind that was at once hopeful and busily anxious as to the
execution of the little plan on which his hopefulness was based.
Grandcourt's marriage to Gwendolen Harleth would not, he believed, be much
of a good to either of them, and it would plainly be fraught with
disagreeables to himself. But now he felt confident enough to say
inwardly, "I will take, nay, I will lay odds that the marriage will never
I will not clothe myself in wreck--wear gems
Sawed from cramped finger-bones of women drowned;
Feel chilly vaporous hands of ireful ghosts
Clutching my necklace: trick my maiden breast
With orphans' heritage. Let your dead love
Marry it's dead.
Gwendolen looked lovely and vigorous as a tall, newly-opened lily the next
morning: there was a reaction of young energy in her, and yesterday's
self-distrust seemed no more than the transient shiver on the surface of a
full stream. The roving archery match in Cardell Chase was a delightful
prospect for the sport's sake: she felt herself beforehand moving about
like a wood-nymph under the beeches (in appreciative company), and the
imagined scene lent a charm to further advances on the part of Grandcourt
--not an impassioned lyrical Daphnis for the wood-nymph, certainly: but so
much the better. To-day Gwendolen foresaw him making slow conversational
approaches to a declaration, and foresaw herself awaiting and encouraging
it according to the rational conclusion which she had expressed to her
When she came down to breakfast (after every one had left the table except
Mrs. Davilow) there were letters on her plate. One of them she read with a
gathering smile, and then handed it to her mamma, who, on returning it,
smiled also, finding new cheerfulness in the good spirits her daughter had
shown ever since waking, and said--
"You don't feel inclined to go a thousand miles away?"
"Not exactly so far."
"It was a sad omission not to have written again before this. Can't you
write how--before we set out this morning?"
"It is not so pressing. To-morrow will do. You see they leave town to-day.
I must write to Dover. They will be there till Monday."
"Shall I write for you, dear--if it teases you?"
Gwendolen did not speak immediately, but after sipping her coffee,
answered brusquely, "Oh no, let it be; I will write to-morrow." Then,
feeling a touch of compunction, she looked up and said with playful
tenderness, "Dear, old, beautiful mamma!"
"Old, child, truly."
"Please don't, mamma! I meant old for darling. You are hardly twenty-five
years older than I am. When you talk in that way my life shrivels up
"One can have a great deal of happiness in twenty-five years, my dear."
"I must lose no time in beginning," said Gwendolen, merrily. "The sooner I
get my palaces and coaches the better."
"And a good husband who adores you, Gwen," said Mrs. Davilow,
Gwendolen put out her lips saucily and said nothing.
It was a slight drawback on her pleasure in starting that the rector was
detained by magistrate's business, and would probably not be able to get
to Cardell Chase at all that day. She cared little that Mrs. Gascoigne and
Anna chose not to go without him, but her uncle's presence would have
seemed to make it a matter of course that the decision taken would be
acted on. For decision in itself began to be formidable. Having come close
to accepting Grandcourt, Gwendolen felt this lot of unhoped-for fullness
rounding itself too definitely. When we take to wishing a great deal for
ourselves, whatever we get soon turns into mere limitation and exclusion.
Still there was the reassuring thought that marriage would be the gate
into a larger freedom.
The place of meeting was a grassy spot called Green Arbor, where a bit of
hanging wood made a sheltering amphitheatre. It was here that the coachful
of servants with provisions had to prepare the picnic meal; and the warden
of the Chase was to guide the roving archers so as to keep them within the
due distance from this centre, and hinder them from wandering beyond the
limit which had been fixed on--a curve that might be drawn through certain
well-known points, such as the double Oak, the Whispering Stones, and the
High Cross. The plan was to take only a preliminary stroll before
luncheon, keeping the main roving expedition for the more exquisite lights
of the afternoon. The muster was rapid enough to save every one from dull
moments of waiting, and when the groups began to scatter themselves
through the light and shadow made here by closely neighboring beeches and
thereby rarer oaks, one may suppose that a painter would have been glad to
look on. This roving archery was far prettier than the stationary game,
but success in shooting at variable marks were less favored by practice,
and the hits were distributed among the volunteer archers otherwise than
they would have been in target-shooting. From this cause, perhaps, as well
as from the twofold distraction of being preoccupied and wishing not to
betray her preoccupation, Gwendolen did not greatly distinguish herself in
these first experiments, unless it were by the lively grace with which she
took her comparative failure. She was in white and green as on the day of
the former meeting, when it made an epoch for her that slie was introduced
to Grandcourt; he was continually by her side now, yet it would have been
hard to tell from mere looks and manners that their relation to each other
had at all changed since their first conversation. Still there were other
grounds that made most persons conclude them to be, if not engaged
already, on the eve of being so. And she believed this herself. As they
were all returning toward Green Arbor in divergent groups, not thinking at
all of taking aim but merely chattering, words passed which seemed really
the beginning of that end--the beginning of her acceptance. Grandcourt
said, "Do you know how long it is since I first saw you in this dress?"
"The archery meeting was on the 25th, and this is the 13th," said
Gwendolen, laughingly. "I am not good at calculating, but I will venture
to say that it must be nearly three weeks."
A little pause, and then he said, "That is a great loss of time."
"That your knowing me has caused you? Pray don't be uncomplimentary; I
don't like it."
Pause again. "It is because of the gain that I feel the loss."
Here Gwendolen herself let a pause. She was thinking, "He is really very
ingenious. He never speaks stupidly." Her silence was so unusual that it
seemed the strongest of favorable answers, and he continued:
"The gain of knowing you makes me feel the time I lose in uncertainty. Do
_you_ like uncertainty?"
"I think I do, rather," said Gwendolen, suddenly beaming on him with a
playful smile. "There is more in it."
Grandcourt met her laughing eyes with a slow, steady look right into them,
which seemed like vision in the abstract, and then said, "Do you mean more
torment for me?"
There was something so strange to Gwendolen in this moment that she was
quite shaken out of her usual self-consciousness. Blushing and turning
away her eyes, she said, "No, that would make me sorry."
Grandcourt would have followed up this answer, which the change in her
manner made apparently decisive of her favorable intention; but he was not
in any way overcome so as to be unaware that they were now, within sight
of everybody, descending the space into Green Arbor, and descending it at
an ill-chosen point where it began to be inconveniently steep. This was a
reason for offering his hand in the literal sense to help her; she took
it, and they came down in silence, much observed by those already on the
level--among others by Mrs. Arrowpoint, who happened to be standing with
Mrs. Davilow. That lady had now made up her mind that Grandcourt's merits
were not such as would have induced Catherine to accept him, Catherine
having so high a standard as to have refused Lord Slogan. Hence she looked
at the tenant of Diplow with dispassionate eyes.
"Mr. Grandcourt is not equal as a man to his uncle, Sir Hugo Mallinger--
too languid. To be sure, Mr. Grandcourt is a much younger man, but I
shouldn't wonder if Sir Hugo were to outlive him, notwithstanding the
difference of years. It is ill calculating on successions," concluded Mrs.
Arrowpoint, rather too loudly.
"It is indeed," said Mrs. Davilow, able to assent with quiet cheerfulness,
for she was so well satisfied with the actual situation of affairs that
her habitual melancholy in their general unsatisfactoriness was altogether
I am not concerned to tell of the food that was eaten in that green
refectory, or even to dwell on the stories of the forest scenery that
spread themselves out beyond the level front of the hollow; being just now
bound to tell a story of life at a stage when the blissful beauty of earth
and sky entered only by narrow and oblique inlets into the consciousness,
which was busy with a small social drama almost as little penetrated by a
feeling of wider relations as if it had been a puppet-show. It will be
understood that the food and champagne were of the best--the talk and
laughter too, in the sense of belonging to the best society, where no one
makes an invidious display of anything in particular, and the advantages
of the world are taken with that high-bred depreciation which follows from
being accustomed to them. Some of the gentlemen strolled a little and
indulged in a cigar, there being a sufficient interval before, four
o'clock--the time for beginning to rove again. Among these, strange to
say, was Grandcourt; but not Mr. Lush, who seemed to be taking his
pleasure quite generously to-day by making himself particularly
serviceable, ordering everything for everybody, and by this activity
becoming more than ever a blot on the scene to Gwendolen, though he kept
himself amiably aloof from her, and never even looked at her obviously.
When there was a general move to prepare for starting, it appeared that
the bows had all been put under the charge of Lord Brackenshaw's valet,
and Mr. Lush was concerned to save ladies the trouble of fetching theirs
from the carriage where they were propped. He did not intend to bring
Gwendolen's, but she, fearful lest he should do so, hurried to fetch it
herself. The valet, seeing her approach, met her with it, and in giving it
into her hand gave also a letter addressed to her. She asked no question
about it, perceived at a glance that the address was in a lady's
handwriting (of the delicate kind which used to be esteemed feminine
before the present uncial period), and moving away with her bow in her
hand, saw Mr. Lush coming to fetch other bows. To avoid meeting him she
turned aside and walked with her back toward the stand of carriages,
opening the letter. It contained these words--
If Miss Harleth is in doubt whether she should accept Mr. Grandcourt,
let her break from her party after they have passed the Whispering
Stones and return to that spot. She will then hear something to decide
her; but she can only hear it by keeping this letter a strict secret
from every one. If she does not act according to this letter, she will
repent, as the woman who writes it has repented. The secrecy Miss
Harleth will feel herself bound in honor to guard.
Gwendolen felt an inward shock, but her immediate thought was, "It is come
in time." It lay in her youthfulness that she was absorbed by the idea of
the revelation to be made, and had not even a momentary suspicion of
contrivance that could justify her in showing the letter. Her mind
gathered itself up at once into the resolution, that she would manage to
go unobserved to the Whispering Stones; and thrusting the letter into her
pocket she turned back to rejoin the company, with that sense of having
something to conceal which to her nature had a bracing quality and helped
her to be mistress of herself.
It was a surprise to every one that Grandcourt was not, like the other
smokers, on the spot in time to set out roving with the rest. "We shall
alight on him by-and-by," said Lord Brackenshaw; "he can't be gone far."
At any rate, no man could be waited for. This apparent forgetfulness might
be taken for the distraction of a lover so absorbed in thinking of the
beloved object as to forget an appointment which would bring him into her
actual presence. And the good-natured Earl gave Gwendolen a distant jocose
hint to that effect, which she took with suitable quietude. But the
thought in her mind was "Can he too be starting away from a decision?" It
was not exactly a pleasant thought to her; but it was near the truth.
"Starting away," however, was not the right expression for the languor of
intention that came over Grandcourt, like a fit of diseased numbness, when
an end seemed within easy reach: to desist then, when all expectation was
to the contrary, became another gratification of mere will, sublimely
independent of definite motive. At that moment he had begun a second large
cigar in a vague, hazy obstinacy which, if Lush or any other mortal who
might be insulted with impunity had interrupted by overtaking him with a
request for his return, would have expressed itself by a slow removal of
his cigar, to say in an undertone, "You'll be kind enough to go to the
devil, will you?"
But he was not interrupted, and the rovers set off without any visible
depression of spirits, leaving behind only a few of the less vigorous
ladies, including Mrs. Davilow, who preferred a quiet stroll free from
obligation to keep up with others. The enjoyment of the day was soon at
its highest pitch, the archery getting more spirited and the changing
scenes of the forest from roofed grove to open glade growing lovelier with
the lengthening shadows, and the deeply-felt but undefinable gradations of
the mellowing afternoon. It was agreed that they were playing an
extemporized "As you like it;" and when a pretty compliment had been
turned to Gwendolen about her having the part of Rosalind, she felt the
more compelled to be surpassing in loveliness. This was not very difficult
to her, for the effect of what had happened to-day was an excitement which
needed a vent--a sense of adventure rather than alarm, and a straining
toward the management of her retreat, so as not to be impeded.
The roving had been lasting nearly an hour before the arrival at the
Whispering Stones, two tall conical blocks that leaned toward each other
like gigantic gray-mantled figures. They were soon surveyed and passed by
with the remark that they would be good ghosts on a starlit night. But a
soft sunlight was on them now, and Gwendolen felt daring. The stones were
near a fine grove of beeches, where the archers found plenty of marks.
"How far are we from Green Arbor now?" said Gwendolen, having got in front
by the side of the warden.
"Oh, not more than half a mile, taking along the avenue we're going to
cross up there: but I shall take round a Couple of miles, by the High
She was falling back among the rest, when suddenly they seemed all to be
hurrying obliquely forward under the guidance of Mr. Lush, and lingering a
little where she was, she perceived her opportunity of slipping away. Soon
she was out of sight, and without running she seemed to herself to fly
along the ground and count the moments nothing till she found herself back
again at the Whispering Stones. They turned their blank gray sides to her:
what was there on the other side? If there were nothing after all? That
was her only dread now--to have to turn back again in mystification; and
walking round the right-hand stone without pause, she found herself in
front of some one whose large dark eyes met hers at a foot's distance. In
spite of expectation, she was startled and shrank bank, but in doing so
she could take in the whole figure of this stranger and perceive that she
was unmistakably a lady, and one who must have been exceedingly handsome.
She perceived, also, that a few yards from her were two children seated on
"Miss Harleth?" said the lady.
"Yes." All Gwendolen's consciousness was wonder.
"Have you accepted Mr. Grandcourt?"
"I have promised to tell you something. And you will promise to keep my
secret. However you may decide you will not tell Mr. Grandcourt, or any
one else, that you have seen me?"
"My name is Lydia Glasher. Mr. Grandcourt ought not to marry any one but
me. I left my husband and child for him nine years ago. Those two children
are his, and we have two others--girls--who are older. My husband is dead
now, and Mr. Grandcourt ought to marry me. He ought to make that boy his
She looked at the boy as she spoke, and Gwendolen's eyes followed hers.
The handsome little fellow was puffing out his cheeks in trying to blow a
tiny trumpet which remained dumb. His hat hung backward by a string, and
his brown purls caught the sun-rays. He was a cherub.
The two women's eyes met again, and Gwendolen said proudly, "I will not
interfere with your wishes." She looked as if she were shivering, and her
lips were pale.
"You are very attractive, Miss Harleth. But when he first knew me, I too
was young. Since then my life has been broken up and embittered. It is not
fair that he should be happy and I miserable, and my boy thrust out of
sight for another."
These words were uttered with a biting accent, but with a determined
abstinence from anything violent in tone or manner. Gwendolen, watching
Mrs. Glasher's face while she spoke, felt a sort of terror: it was as if
some ghastly vision had come to her in a dream and said, "I am a woman's
"Have you anything more to say to me?" she asked in a low tone, but still
proud and coldly. The revulsion within her was not tending to soften her.
Everyone seemed hateful.
"Nothing. You know what I wished you to know. You can inquire about me if
you like. My husband was Colonel Glasher."
"Then I will go," said Gwendolen, moving away with a ceremonious
inclination, which was returned with equal grace.
In a few minutes Gwendolen was in the beech grove again but her party had
gone out of sight and apparently had not sent in search of her, for all
was solitude till she had reached the avenue pointed out by the warden.
She determined to take this way back to Green Arbor, which she reached
quickly; rapid movements seeming to her just now a means of suspending the
thoughts which might prevent her from behaving with due calm. She had
already made up her mind what step she would take.
Mrs. Davilow was of course astonished to see Gwendolen returning alone,
and was not without some uneasiness which the presence of other ladies
hindered her from showing. In answer to her words of surprise Gwendolen
"Oh, I have been rather silly. I lingered behind to look at the Whispering
Stones, and the rest hurried on after something, so I lost sight of them.
I thought it best to come home by the short way--the avenue that the
warden had old me of. I'm not sorry after all. I had had enough walking."
"Your party did not meet Mr. Grandcourt, I presume," said Mrs. Arrowpoint,
not without intention.
"No," said Gwendolen, with a little flash of defiance, and a light laugh.
"And we didn't see any carvings on the trees, either. Where can he be? I
should think he has fallen into the pool or had an apoplectic fit."
With all Gwendolen's resolve not to betray any agitation, she could not
help it that her tone was unusually high and hard, and her mother felt
sure that something unpropitious had happened.
Mrs. Arrowpoint thought that the self-confident young lady was much
piqued, and that Mr. Grandcourt was probably seeing reason to change his
"If you have no objection, mamma, I will order the carriage," said
Gwendolen. "I am tired. And every one will be going soon."
Mrs. Davilow assented; but by the time the carriage was announced as,
ready--the horses having to be fetched from the stables on the warden's
premises--the roving party reappeared, and with them Mr. Grandcourt.
"Ah, there you are!" said Lord Brackenshaw, going up to Gwendolen, who was
arranging her mamma's shawl for the drive. "We thought at first you had
alighted on Grandcourt and he had taken you home. Lush said so. But after
that we met Grandcourt. However, we didn't suppose you could be in any
danger. The warden said he had told you a near way back."
"You are going?" said Grandcourt, coming up with his usual air, as if he
did not conceive that there had been any omission on his part. Lord
Brackenshaw gave place to him and moved away.
"Yes, we are going," said Gwendolen, looking busily at her scarf, which
she was arranging across her shoulders Scotch fashion.
"May I call at Offendene to-morrow?
"Oh yes, if you like," said Gwendolen, sweeping him from a distance with
her eyelashes. Her voice was light and sharp as the first touch of frost.
Mrs. Davilow accepted his arm to lead her to the carriage; but while that
was happening, Gwendolen with incredible swiftness had got in advance of
them, and had sprung into the carriage.
"I got in, mamma, because I wished to be on this side," she said,
apologetically. But she had avoided Grandcourt's touch: he only lifted his
hat and walked away--with the not unsatisfactory impression that she meant
to show herself offended by his neglect.
The mother and daughter drove for five minutes in silence. Then Gwendolen
said, "I intend to join the Langens at Dover, mamma. I shall pack up
immediately on getting home, and set off by the early train. I shall be at
Dover almost as soon as they are; we can let them know by telegraph."
"Good heavens, child! what can be your reason for saying so?"
"My reason for saying it, mamma, is that I mean to do it."
"But why do you mean to do it?"
"I wish to go away."
"Is it because you are offended with Mr. Grandcourt's odd behavior in
walking off to-day?"
"It is useless to enter into such questions. I am not going in any case to
marry Mr. Grandcourt. Don't interest yourself further about it."
"What can I say to your uncle, Gwendolen? Consider the position you place
me in. You led him to believe only last night that you had made up your
mind in favor of Mr. Grandcourt."
"I am very sorry to cause you annoyance, mamma, dear, but I can't help
it," said Gwendolen, with still harder resistance in her tone. "Whatever
you or my uncle may think or do, I shall not alter my resolve, and I shall
not tell my reason. I don't care what comes of it. I don't care if I never
marry any one. There is nothing worth caring for. I believe all men are
bad, and I hate them."
"But need you set off in this way, Gwendolen," said Mrs. Davilow,
miserable and helpless.
"Now mamma, don't interfere with me. If you have ever had any trouble in
your own life, remember it and don't interfere with me. If I am to be
miserable, let it be by my own choice."
The mother was reduced to trembling silence. She began to see that the
difficulty would be lessened if Gwendolen went away.
And she did go. The packing was all carefully done that evening, and not
long after dawn the next day Mrs. Davilow accompanied her daughter to the
railway station. The sweet dews of morning, the cows and horses looking
over the hedges without any particular reason, the early travelers on foot
with their bundles, seemed all very melancholy and purposeless to them
both. The dingy torpor of the railway station, before the ticket could be
taken, was still worse. Gwendolen had certainly hardened in the last
twenty-four hours: her mother's trouble evidently counted for little in
her present state of mind, which did not essentially differ from the mood
that makes men take to worse conduct when their belief in persons or
things is upset. Gwendolen's uncontrolled reading, though consisting
chiefly in what are called pictures of life, had somehow not prepared her
for this encounter with reality. Is that surprising? It is to be believed
that attendance at the _opera bouffe_ in the present day would not leave
men's minds entirely without shock, if the manners observed there with
some applause were suddenly to start up in their own families.
Perspective, as its inventor remarked, is a beautiful thing. What horrors
of damp huts, where human beings languish, may not become picturesque
through aerial distance! What hymning of cancerous vices may we not
languish over as sublimest art in the safe remoteness of a strange
language and artificial phrase! Yet we keep a repugnance to rheumatism and
other painful effects when presented incur personal experience.
Mrs. Davilow felt Gwendolen's new phase of indifference keenly, and as she
drove back alone, the brightening morning was sadder to her than before.
Mr. Grandcourt called that day at Offendene, but nobody was at home.
"_Festina lente_--celerity should be contempered with
cunctation."--SIR THOMAS BROWNE.
Gwendolen, we have seen, passed her time abroad in the new excitement of
gambling, and in imagining herself an empress of luck, having brought from
her late experience a vague impression that in this confused world it
signified nothing what any one did, so that they amused themselves. We
have seen, too, that certain persons, mysteriously symbolized as Grapnell
& Co., having also thought of reigning in the realm of luck, and being
also bent on amusing themselves, no matter how, had brought about a
painful change in her family circumstances; whence she had returned home--
carrying with her, against her inclination, a necklace which she had
pawned and some one else had redeemed.
While she was going back to England, Grandcourt was coming to find her;
coming, that is, after his own manner--not in haste by express straight
from Diplow to Leubronn, where she was understood to be; but so entirely
without hurry that he was induced by the presence of some Russian
acquaintances to linger at Baden-Baden and make various appointments with
them, which, however, his desire to be at Leubronn ultimately caused him
to break. Grandcourt's passions were of the intermittent, flickering kind:
never flaming out strongly. But a great deal of life goes on without
strong passion: myriads of cravats are carefully tied, dinners attended,
even speeches made proposing the health of august personages without the
zest arising from a strong desire. And a man may make a good appearance in
high social positions--may be supposed to know the classics, to have his
reserves on science, a strong though repressed opinion on politics, and
all the sentiments of the English gentleman, at a small expense of vital
energy. Also, he may be obstinate or persistent at the same low rate, and
may even show sudden impulses which have a false air of daemonic strength
because they seem inexplicable, though perhaps their secret lies merely in
the want of regulated channels for the soul to move in--good and
sufficient ducts of habit without which our nature easily turns to mere
ooze and mud, and at any pressure yields nothing but a spurt or a puddle.
Grandcourt had not been altogether displeased by Gwendolen's running away
from the splendid chance he was holding out to her. The act had some
piquancy for him. He liked to think that it was due to resentment of his
careless behavior in Cardell Chase, which, when he came to consider it,
did appear rather cool. To have brought her so near a tender admission,
and then to have walked headlong away from further opportunities of
winning the consent which he had made her understand him to be asking for,
was enough to provoke a girl of spirit; and to be worth his mastering it
was proper that she should have some spirit. Doubtless she meant him to
follow her, and it was what he meant too. But for a whole week he took no
measures toward starting, and did not even inquire where Miss Harleth was
gone. Mr. Lush felt a triumph that was mingled with much distrust; for
Grandcourt had said no word to him about her, and looked as neutral as an
alligator; there was no telling what might turn up in the slowly-churning
chances of his mind. Still, to have put off a decision was to have made
room for the waste of Grandcourt's energy.
The guests at Diplow felt more curiosity than their host. How was it that
nothing more was heard of Miss Harleth? Was it credible that she had
refused Mr. Grandcourt? Lady Flora Hollis, a lively middle-aged woman,
well endowed with curiosity, felt a sudden interest in making a round of
calls with Mrs. Torrington, including the rectory, Offendene, and
Quetcham, and thus not only got twice over, but also discussed with the
Arrowpoints, the information that Miss Harleth was gone to Leubronn, with
some old friends, the Baron and Baroness von Langen; for the immediate
agitation and disappointment of Mrs. Davilow and the Gascoignes had
resolved itself into a wish that Gwendolen's disappearance should not be
interpreted as anything eccentric or needful to be kept secret. The
rector's mind, indeed, entertained the possibility that the marriage was
only a little deferred, for Mrs. Davilow had not dared to tell him of the
bitter determination with which Gwendolen had spoken. And in spite of his
practical ability, some of his experience had petrified into maxims and
quotations. Amaryllis fleeing desired that her hiding-place should be
known; and that love will find out the way "over the mountain and over the