Part 1 out of 2
This etext was prepared by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset
'It is only through deep sympathy that a man can become a great
artist.'--Lewes's Life of Goethe.
'Sympathy is feeling related to an object, whilst sentiment is the
same feeling seeking itself alone.'--Arnold Toynbee.
'Nothing fills a child's mind like a large old mansion; better if
un- or partially occupied; peopled with the spirits of deceased
members of the county and Justices of the Quorum. Would I were
buried in the peopled solitude of one, with my feelings at seven
years old!'--From Letters of Charles Lamb.
To attempt a formal biography of Derrick Vaughan would be out of the
question, even though he and I have been more or less thrown
together since we were both in the nursery. But I have an odd sort
of wish to note down roughly just a few of my recollections of him,
and to show how his fortunes gradually developed, being perhaps
stimulated to make the attempt by certain irritating remarks which
one overhears now often enough at clubs or in drawing-rooms, or
indeed wherever one goes. "Derrick Vaughan," say these authorities
of the world of small-talk, with that delightful air of omniscience
which invariably characterises them, "why, he simply leapt into
fame. He is one of the favourites of fortune. Like Byron, he woke
one morning and found himself famous."
Now this sounds well enough, but it is a long way from the truth,
and I--Sydney Wharncliffe, of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-law--
desire, while the past few years are fresh in my mind, to write a
true version of my friend's career.
Everyone knows his face. Has it not appeared in 'Noted Men,' and--
gradually deteriorating according to the price of the paper and the
quality of the engraving--in many another illustrated journal? Yet
somehow these works of art don't satisfy me, and, as I write, I see
before me something very different from the latest photograph by
Messrs. Paul and Reynard.
I see a large-featured, broad-browed English face, a trifle heavy-
looking when in repose, yet a thorough, honest, manly face, with a
complexion neither dark nor fair, with brown hair and moustache, and
with light hazel eyes that look out on the world quietly enough.
You might talk to him for long in an ordinary way and never suspect
that he was a genius; but when you have him to yourself, when some
consciousness of sympathy rouses him, he all at once becomes a
different being. His quiet eyes kindle, his face becomes full of
life--you wonder that you ever thought it heavy or commonplace.
Then the world interrupts in some way, and, just as a hermit-crab
draws down its shell with a comically rapid movement, so Derrick
suddenly retires into himself.
Thus much for his outer man.
For the rest, there are of course the neat little accounts of his
birthplace, his parentage, his education, etc., etc., published with
the list of his works in due order, with the engravings in the
illustrated papers. But these tell us little of the real life of
Carlyle, in one of his finest passages, says that 'A true
delineation of the smallest man and his scene of pilgrimage through
life is capable of interesting the greatest men; that all men are to
an unspeakable degree brothers, each man's life a strange emblem of
every man's; and that human portraits faithfully drawn are of all
pictures the welcomest on human walls.' And though I don't profess
to give a portrait, but merely a sketch, I will endeavour to sketch
faithfully, and possibly in the future my work may fall into the
hands of some of those worthy people who imagine that my friend
leapt into fame at a bound, or of those comfortable mortals who seem
to think that a novel is turned out as easily as water from a tap.
There is, however, one thing I can never do:--I am quite unable to
put into words my friend's intensely strong feeling with regard to
the sacredness of his profession. It seemed to me not unlike the
feeling of Isaiah when, in the vision, his mouth had been touched
with the celestial fire. And I can only hope that something of this
may be read between my very inadequate lines.
Looking back, I fancy Derrick must have been a clever child. But he
was not precocious, and in some respects was even decidedly
backward. I can see him now--it is my first clear recollection of
him--leaning back in the corner of my father's carriage as we drove
from the Newmarket station to our summer home at Mondisfield. He
and I were small boys of eight, and Derrick had been invited for the
holidays, while his twin brother--if I remember right--indulged in
typhoid fever at Kensington. He was shy and silent, and the ice was
not broken until we passed Silvery Steeple.
"That," said my father, "is a ruined church; it was destroyed by
Cromwell in the Civil Wars."
In an instant the small quiet boy sitting beside me was transformed.
His eyes shone; he sprang forward and thrust his head far out of the
window, gazing at the old ivy-covered tower as long as it remained
"Was Cromwell really once there?" he asked with breathless interest.
"So they say," replied my father, looking with an amused smile at
the face of the questioner, in which eagerness, delight, and
reverence were mingled. "Are you an admirer of the Lord Protector?"
"He is my greatest hero of all," said Derrick fervently. "Do you
think--oh, do you think he possibly can ever have come to
My father thought not, but said there was an old tradition that the
Hall had been attacked by the Royalists, and the bridge over the
moat defended by the owner of the house; but he had no great belief
in the story, for which, indeed, there seemed no evidence.
Derrick's eyes during this conversation were something wonderful to
see, and long after, when we were not actually playing at anything,
I used often to notice the same expression stealing over him, and
would cry out, "There is the man defending the bridge again; I can
see him in your eyes! Tell me what happened to him next!"
Then, generally pacing to and fro in the apple walk, or sitting
astride the bridge itself, Derrick would tell me of the adventures
of my ancestor, Paul Wharncliffe, who performed incredible feats of
valour, and who was to both of us a most real person. On wet days
he wrote his story in a copy-book, and would have worked at it for
hours had my mother allowed him, though of the manual part of the
work he had, and has always retained, the greatest dislike. I
remember well the comical ending of this first story of his. He
skipped over an interval of ten years, represented on the page by
ten laboriously made stars, and did for his hero in the following
"And now, reader, let us come into Mondisfield churchyard. There
are three tombstones. On one is written, 'Mr. Paul Wharncliffe.'"
The story was no better than the productions of most eight-year-old
children, the written story at least. But, curiously enough, it
proved to be the germ of the celebrated romance, 'At Strife,' which
Derrick wrote in after years; and he himself maintains that his
picture of life during the Civil War would have been much less
graphic had he not lived so much in the past during his various
visits to Mondisfield.
It was at his second visit, when we were nine, that I remember his
announcing his intention of being an author when he was grown up.
My mother still delights in telling the story. She was sitting at
work in the south parlour one day, when I dashed into the room
"Derrick's head is stuck between the banisters in the gallery; come
quick, mother, come quick!"
She ran up the little winding staircase, and there, sure enough, in
the musician's gallery, was poor Derrick, his manuscript and pen on
the floor and his head in durance vile.
"You silly boy!" said my mother, a little frightened when she found
that to get the head back was no easy matter, "What made you put it
"You look like King Charles at Carisbrooke," I cried, forgetting how
much Derrick would resent the speech.
And being released at that moment he took me by the shoulders and
gave me an angry shake or two, as he said vehemently, "I'm not like
King Charles! King Charles was a liar."
I saw my mother smile a little as she separated us.
"Come, boys, don't quarrel," she said. "And Derrick will tell me
the truth, for indeed I am curious to know why he thrust his head in
such a place."
"I wanted to make sure," said Derrick, "whether Paul Wharncliffe
could see Lady Lettice, when she took the falcon on her wrist below
in the passage. I mustn't say he saw her if it's impossible, you
know. Authors have to be quite true in little things, and I mean to
be an author."
"But," said my mother, laughing at the great earnestness of the
hazel eyes, "could not your hero look over the top of the rail?"
"Well, yes," said Derrick. "He would have done that, but you see
it's so dreadfully high and I couldn't get up. But I tell you what,
Mrs. Wharncliffe, if it wouldn't be giving you a great deal of
trouble--I'm sorry you were troubled to get my head back again--but
if you would just look over, since you are so tall, and I'll run
down and act Lady Lettice."
"Why couldn't Paul go downstairs and look at the lady in comfort?"
asked my mother.
Derrick mused a little.
"He might look at her through a crack in the door at the foot of the
stairs, perhaps, but that would seem mean, somehow. It would be a
pity, too, not to use the gallery; galleries are uncommon, you see,
and you can get cracked doors anywhere. And, you know, he was
obliged to look at her when she couldn't see him, because their
fathers were on different sides in the war, and dreadful enemies."
When school-days came, matters went on much in the same way; there
was always an abominably scribbled tale stowed away in Derrick's
desk, and he worked infinitely harder than I did, because there was
always before him this determination to be an author and to prepare
himself for the life. But he wrote merely from love of it, and with
no idea of publication until the beginning of our last year at
Oxford, when, having reached the ripe age of one-and-twenty, he
determined to delay no longer, but to plunge boldly into his first
He was seldom able to get more than six or eight hours a week for
it, because he was reading rather hard, so that the novel progressed
but slowly. Finally, to my astonishment, it came to a dead stand-
I have never made out exactly what was wrong with Derrick then,
though I know that he passed through a terrible time of doubt and
despair. I spent part of the Long with him down at Ventnor, where
his mother had been ordered for her health. She was devoted to
Derrick, and as far as I can understand, he was her chief comfort in
life. Major Vaughan, the husband, had been out in India for years;
the only daughter was married to a rich manufacturer at Birmingham,
who had a constitutional dislike to mothers-in-law, and as far as
possible eschewed their company; while Lawrence, Derrick's twin
brother, was for ever getting into scrapes, and was into the bargain
the most unblushingly selfish fellow I ever had the pleasure of
"Sydney," said Mrs. Vaughan to me one afternoon when we were in the
garden, "Derrick seems to me unlike himself, there is a division
between us which I never felt before. Can you tell me what is
She was not at all a good-looking woman, but she had a very sweet,
wistful face, and I never looked at her sad eyes without feeling
ready to go through fire and water for her. I tried now to make
light of Derrick's depression.
"He is only going through what we all of us go through," I said,
assuming a cheerful tone. "He has suddenly discovered that life is
a great riddle, and that the things he has accepted in blind faith
are, after all, not so sure."
"Do all go through it?" she said thoughtfully. "And how many, I
wonder, get beyond?"
"Few enough," I replied moodily. Then, remembering my role,--"But
Derrick will get through; he has a thousand things to help him which
others have not,--you, for instance. And then I fancy he has a sort
of insight which most of us are without."
"Possibly," she said. "As for me, it is little that I can do for
him. Perhaps you are right, and it is true that once in a life at
any rate we all have to go into the wilderness alone."
That was the last summer I ever saw Derrick's mother; she took a
chill the following Christmas and died after a few days' illness.
But I have always thought her death helped Derrick in a way that her
life might have failed to do. For although he never, I fancy, quite
recovered from the blow, and to this day cannot speak of her without
tears in his eyes, yet when he came back to Oxford he seemed to have
found the answer to the riddle, and though older, sadder and graver
than before, had quite lost the restless dissatisfaction that for
some time had clouded his life. In a few months, moreover, I
noticed a fresh sign that he was out of the wood. Coming into his
rooms one day I found him sitting in the cushioned window-seat,
reading over and correcting some sheets of blue foolscap.
"At it again?" I asked.
"I mean to finish the first volume here. For the rest I must be in
"Why?" I asked, a little curious as to this unknown art of novel-
"Because," he replied, "one must be in the heart of things to
understand how Lynwood was affected by them."
"Lynwood! I believe you are always thinking of him!" (Lynwood was
the hero of his novel.)
"Well, so I am nearly--so I must be, if the book is to be any good."
"Read me what you have written," I said, throwing myself back in a
rickety but tolerably comfortable arm-chair which Derrick had
inherited with the rooms.
He hesitated a moment, being always very diffident about his own
work; but presently, having provided me with a cigar and made a good
deal of unnecessary work in arranging the sheets of the manuscript,
he began to read aloud, rather nervously, the opening chapters of
the book now so well known under the title of 'Lynwood's Heritage.'
I had heard nothing of his for the last four years, and was amazed
at the gigantic stride he had made in the interval. For, spite of a
certain crudeness, it seemed to me a most powerful story; it rushed
straight to the point with no wavering, no beating about the bush;
it flung itself into the problems of the day with a sort of sublime
audacity; it took hold of one; it whirled one along with its own
inherent force, and drew forth both laughter and tears, for
Derrick's power of pathos had always been his strongest point.
All at once he stopped reading.
"Go on!" I cried impatiently.
"That is all," he said, gathering the sheets together.
"You stopped in the middle of a sentence!" I cried in exasperation.
"Yes," he said quietly, "for six months."
"You provoking fellow! why, I wonder?"
"Because I didn't know the end."
"Good heavens! And do you know it now?"
He looked me full in the face, and there was an expression in his
eyes which puzzled me.
"I believe I do," he said; and, getting up, he crossed the room, put
the manuscript away in a drawer, and returning, sat down in the
window-seat again, looking out on the narrow, paved street below,
and at the grey buildings opposite.
I knew very well that he would never ask me what I thought of the
story--that was not his way.
"Derrick!" I exclaimed, watching his impassive face, "I believe
after all you are a genius."
I hardly know why I said "after all," but till that moment it had
never struck me that Derrick was particularly gifted. He had so far
got through his Oxford career creditably, but then he had worked
hard; his talents were not of a showy order. I had never expected
that he would set the Thames on fire. Even now it seemed to me that
he was too dreamy, too quiet, too devoid of the pushing faculty to
succeed in the world.
My remark made him laugh incredulously.
"Define a genius," he said.
For answer I pulled down his beloved Imperial Dictionary and read
him the following quotation from De Quincey: 'Genius is that mode
of intellectual power which moves in alliance with the genial
nature, i.e., with the capacities of pleasure and pain; whereas
talent has no vestige of such an alliance, and is perfectly
independent of all human sensibilities.'
"Let me think! You can certainly enjoy things a hundred times more
than I can--and as for suffering, why you were always a great hand
at that. Now listen to the great Dr. Johnson and see if the cap
fits, 'The true genius is a mind of large general powers
accidentally determined in some particular direction.'
"'Large general powers'!--yes, I believe after all you have them
with, alas, poor Derrick! one notable exception--the mathematical
faculty. You were always bad at figures. We will stick to De
Quincey's definition, and for heaven's sake, my dear fellow, do get
Lynwood out of that awful plight! No wonder you were depressed when
you lived all this age with such a sentence unfinished!"
"For the matter of that," said Derrick, "he can't get out till the
end of the book; but I can begin to go on with him now."
"And when you leave Oxford?"
"Then I mean to settle down in London--to write leisurely--and
possibly to read for the Bar."
"We might be together," I suggested. And Derrick took to this idea,
being a man who detested solitude and crowds about equally. Since
his mother's death he had been very much alone in the world. To
Lawrence he was always loyal, but the two had nothing in common, and
though fond of his sister he could not get on at all with the
manufacturer, his brother-in-law. But this prospect of life
together in London pleased him amazingly; he began to recover his
spirits to a great extent and to look much more like himself.
It must have been just as he had taken his degree that he received a
telegram to announce that Major Vaughan had been invalided home, and
would arrive at Southampton in three weeks' time. Derrick knew very
little of his father, but apparently Mrs. Vaughan had done her best
to keep up a sort of memory of his childish days at Aldershot, and
in these the part that his father played was always pleasant. So he
looked forward to the meeting not a little, while I, from the first,
had my doubts as to the felicity it was likely to bring him.
However, it was ordained that before the Major's ship arrived, his
son's whole life should change. Even Lynwood was thrust into the
background. As for me, I was nowhere. For Derrick, the quiet, the
self-contained, had fallen passionately in love with a certain Freda
'Infancy? What if the rose-streak of morning
Pale and depart in a passion of tears?
Once to have hoped is no matter for scorning:
Love once: e'en love's disappointment endears;
A moment's success pays the failure of years.'
The wonder would have been if he had not fallen in love with her,
for a more fascinating girl I never saw. She had only just returned
from school at Compiegne, and was not yet out; her charming
freshness was unsullied; she had all the simplicity and
straightforwardness of unspoilt, unsophisticated girlhood. I well
remember our first sight of her. We had been invited for a
fortnight's yachting by Calverley of Exeter. His father, Sir John
Calverley, had a sailing yacht, and some guests having disappointed
him at the last minute, he gave his son carte blanche as to who he
should bring to fill the vacant berths.
So we three travelled down to Southampton together one hot summer
day, and were rowed out to the Aurora, an uncommonly neat little
schooner which lay in that over-rated and frequently odoriferous
roadstead, Southampton Water. However, I admit that on that
evening--the tide being high--the place looked remarkably pretty;
the level rays of the setting sun turned the water to gold; a soft
luminous haze hung over the town and the shipping, and by a stretch
of imagination one might have thought the view almost Venetian.
Derrick's perfect content was only marred by his shyness. I knew
that he dreaded reaching the Aurora; and sure enough, as we stepped
on to the exquisitely white deck and caught sight of the little
group of guests, I saw him retreat into his crab-shell of silent
reserve. Sir John, who made a very pleasant host, introduced us to
the other visitors--Lord Probyn and his wife and their niece, Miss
Freda Merrifield. Lady Probyn was Sir John's sister, and also the
sister of Miss Merrifield's mother; so that it was almost a family
party, and by no means a formidable gathering. Lady Probyn played
the part of hostess and chaperoned her pretty niece; but she was not
in the least like the aunt of fiction--on the contrary, she was
comparatively young in years and almost comically young in mind; her
niece was devoted to her, and the moment I saw her I knew that our
cruise could not possibly be dull.
As to Miss Freda, when we first caught sight of her she was standing
near the companion, dressed in a daintily made yachting costume of
blue serge and white braid, and round her white sailor hat she wore
the name of the yacht stamped on a white ribbon; in her waist-band
she had fastened two deep crimson roses, and she looked at us with
frank, girlish curiosity, no doubt wondering whether we should add
to or detract from the enjoyment of the expedition. She was rather
tall, and there was an air of strength and energy about her which
was most refreshing. Her skin was singularly white, but there was a
healthy glow of colour in her cheeks; while her large, grey eyes,
shaded by long lashes, were full of life and brightness. As to her
features, they were perhaps a trifle irregular, and her elder
sisters were supposed to eclipse her altogether; but to my mind she
was far the most taking of the three.
I was not in the least surprised that Derrick should fall head over
ears in love with her; she was exactly the sort of girl that would
infallibly attract him. Her absence of shyness; her
straightforward, easy way of talking; her genuine goodheartedness;
her devotion to animals--one of his own pet hobbies--and finally her
exquisite playing, made the result a foregone conclusion. And then,
moreover, they were perpetually together. He would hang over the
piano in the saloon for hours while she played, the rest of us
lazily enjoying the easy chairs and the fresh air on deck; and
whenever we landed, these two were sure in the end to be just a
little apart from the rest of us.
It was an eminently successful cruise. We all liked each other; the
sea was calm, the sunshine constant, the wind as a rule favourable,
and I think I never in a single fortnight heard so many good
stories, or had such a good time. We seemed to get right out of the
world and its narrow restrictions, away from all that was hollow and
base and depressing, only landing now and then at quaint little
quiet places for some merry excursion on shore. Freda was in the
highest spirits; and as to Derrick, he was a different creature.
She seemed to have the power of drawing him out in a marvellous
degree, and she took the greatest interest in his work--a sure way
to every author's heart.
But it was not till one day, when we landed at Tresco, that I felt
certain she genuinely loved him--there in one glance the truth
flashed upon me. I was walking with one of the gardeners down one
of the long shady paths of that lovely little island, with its
curiously foreign look, when we suddenly came face to face with
Derrick and Freda. They were talking earnestly, and I could see her
great grey eyes as they were lifted to his--perhaps they were more
expressive than she knew--I cannot say. They both started a little
as we confronted them, and the colour deepened in Freda's face. The
gardener, with what photographers usually ask for--'just the faint
beginning of a smile,'--turned and gathered a bit of white heather
"They say it brings good luck, miss," he remarked, handing it to
"Thank you," she said, laughing, "I hope it will bring it to me. At
any rate it will remind me of this beautiful island. Isn't it just
like Paradise, Mr. Wharncliffe?"
"For me it is like Paradise before Eve was created," I replied,
rather wickedly. "By the bye, are you going to keep all the good
luck to yourself?"
"I don't know," she said laughing. "Perhaps I shall; but you have
only to ask the gardener, he will gather you another piece
I took good care to drop behind, having no taste for the third-
fiddle business; but I noticed when we were in the gig once more,
rowing back to the yacht, that the white heather had been equally
divided--one half was in the waist-band of the blue serge dress, the
other half in the button-hole of Derrick's blazer.
So the fortnight slipped by, and at length one afternoon we found
ourselves once more in Southampton Water; then came the bustle of
packing and the hurry of departure, and the merry party dispersed.
Derrick and I saw them all off at the station, for, as his father's
ship did not arrive till the following day, I made up my mind to
stay on with him at Southampton.
"You will come and see us in town," said Lady Probyn, kindly. And
Lord Probyn invited us both for the shooting at Blachington in
September. "We will have the same party on shore, and see if we
can't enjoy ourselves almost as well," he said in his hearty way;
"the novel will go all the better for it, eh, Vaughan?"
Derrick brightened visibly at the suggestion. I heard him talking
to Freda all the time that Sir John stood laughing and joking as to
the comparative pleasures of yachting and shooting.
"You will be there too?" Derrick asked.
"I can't tell," said Freda, and there was a shade of sadness in her
tone. Her voice was deeper than most women's voices--a rich
contralto with something striking and individual about it. I could
hear her quite plainly; but Derrick spoke less distinctly--he always
had a bad trick of mumbling.
"You see I am the youngest," she said, "and I am not really 'out.'
Perhaps my mother will wish one of the elder ones to go; but I half
think they are already engaged for September, so after all I may
have a chance."
Inaudible remark from my friend.
"Yes, I came here because my sisters did not care to leave London
till the end of the season," replied the clear contralto. "It has
been a perfect cruise. I shall remember it all my life."
After that, nothing more was audible; but I imagine Derrick must
have hazarded a more personal question, and that Freda had admitted
that it was not only the actual sailing she should remember. At any
rate her face when I caught sight of it again made me think of the
girl described in the 'Biglow Papers':
"''Twas kin' o' kingdom come to look
On sech a blessed creatur.
A dogrose blushin' to a brook
Ain't modester nor sweeter.'"
So the train went off, and Derrick and I were left to idle about
Southampton and kill time as best we might. Derrick seemed to walk
the streets in a sort of dream--he was perfectly well aware that he
had met his fate, and at that time no thought of difficulties in the
way had arisen either in his mind or in my own. We were both of us
young and inexperienced; we were both of us in love, and we had the
usual lover's notion that everything in heaven and earth is prepared
to favour the course of his particular passion.
I remember that we soon found the town intolerable, and, crossing by
the ferry, walked over to Netley Abbey, and lay down idly in the
shade of the old grey walls. Not a breath of wind stirred the great
masses of ivy which were wreathed about the ruined church, and the
place looked so lovely in its decay, that we felt disposed to judge
the dissolute monks very leniently for having behaved so badly that
their church and monastery had to be opened to the four winds of
heaven. After all, when is a church so beautiful as when it has the
green grass for its floor and the sky for its roof?
I could show you the very spot near the East window where Derrick
told me the whole truth, and where we talked over Freda's
perfections and the probability of frequent meetings in London. He
had listened so often and so patiently to my affairs, that it seemed
an odd reversal to have to play the confidant; and if now and then
my thoughts wandered off to the coming month at Mondisfield, and
pictured violet eyes while he talked of grey, it was not from any
lack of sympathy with my friend.
Derrick was not of a self-tormenting nature, and though I knew he
was amazed at the thought that such a girl as Freda could possibly
care for him, yet he believed most implicitly that this wonderful
thing had come to pass; and, remembering her face as we had last
seen it, and the look in her eyes at Tresco, I, too, had not a
shadow of a doubt that she really loved him. She was not the least
bit of a flirt, and society had not had a chance yet of moulding her
into the ordinary girl of the nineteenth century.
Perhaps it was the sudden and unexpected change of the next day that
makes me remember Derrick's face so distinctly as he lay back on the
smooth turf that afternoon in Netley Abbey. As it looked then, full
of youth and hope, full of that dream of cloudless love, I never saw
"Religion in him never died, but became a habit--a habit of enduring
hardness, and cleaving to the steadfast performance of duty in the
face of the strongest allurements to the pleasanter and easier
Life of Charles Lamb, by A. Ainger.
Derrick was in good spirits the next day. He talked much of Major
Vaughan, wondered whether the voyage home had restored his health,
discussed the probable length of his leave, and speculated as to the
nature of his illness; the telegram had of course given no details.
"There has not been even a photograph for the last five years," he
remarked, as we walked down to the quay together. "Yet I think I
should know him anywhere, if it is only by his height. He used to
look so well on horseback. I remember as a child seeing him in a
sham fight charging up Caesar's Camp."
"How old were you when he went out?"
"Oh, quite a small boy," replied Derrick. "It was just before I
first stayed with you. However, he has had a regular succession of
photographs sent out to him, and will know me easily enough."
Poor Derrick! I can't think of that day even now without a kind of
mental shiver. We watched the great steamer as it glided up to the
quay, and Derrick scanned the crowded deck with eager eyes, but
could nowhere see the tall, soldierly figure that had lingered so
long in his memory. He stood with his hand resting on the rail of
the gangway, and when presently it was raised to the side of the
steamer, he still kept his position, so that he could instantly
catch sight of his father as he passed down. I stood close behind
him, and watched the motley procession of passengers; most of them
had the dull colourless skin which bespeaks long residence in India,
and a particularly yellow and peevish-looking old man was grumbling
loudly as he slowly made his way down the gangway.
"The most disgraceful scene!" he remarked. "The fellow was as drunk
as he could be."
"Who was it?" asked his companion.
"Why, Major Vaughan, to be sure. The only wonder is that he hasn't
drunk himself to death by this time--been at it years enough!"
Derrick turned, as though to shelter himself from the curious eyes
of the travellers; but everywhere the quay was crowded. It seemed
to me not unlike the life that lay before him, with this new shame
which could not be hid, and I shall never forget the look of misery
in his face.
"Most likely a great exaggeration of that spiteful old fogey's," I
said. "Never believe anything that you hear, is a sound axiom. Had
you not better try to get on board?"
"Yes; and for heaven's sake come with me, Wharncliffe!" he said.
"It can't be true! It is, as you say, that man's spite, or else
there is someone else of the name on board. That must be it--
someone else of the name."
I don't know whether he managed to deceive himself. We made our way
on board, and he spoke to one of the stewards, who conducted us to
the saloon. I knew from the expression of the man's face that the
words we had overheard were but too true; it was a mere glance that
he gave us, yet if he had said aloud, "They belong to that old
drunkard! Thank heaven I'm not in their shoes!" I could not have
better understood what was in his mind.
There were three persons only in the great saloon: an officer's
servant, whose appearance did not please me; a fine looking old man
with grey hair and whiskers, and a rough-hewn honest face,
apparently the ship's doctor; and a tall grizzled man in whom I at
once saw a sort of horrible likeness to Derrick--horrible because
this face was wicked and degraded, and because its owner was drunk--
noisily drunk. Derrick paused for a minute, looking at his father;
then, deadly pale, he turned to the old doctor. "I am Major
Vaughan's son," he said.
The doctor grasped his hand, and there was something in the old
man's kindly, chivalrous manner which brought a sort of light into
"I am very glad to see you!" he exclaimed. "Is the Major's luggage
ready?" he inquired turning to the servant. Then, as the man
replied in the affirmative, "How would it be, Mr. Vaughan, if your
father's man just saw the things into a cab? and then I'll come on
shore with you and see my patient safely settled in."
Derrick acquiesced, and the doctor turned to the Major, who was
leaning up against one of the pillars of the saloon and shouting out
"'Twas in Trafalgar Bay," in a way which, under other circumstances,
would have been highly comic. The doctor interrupted him, as with
much feeling he sang how:
"England declared that every man
That day had done his duty."
"Look, Major," he said; "here is your son come to meet you."
"Glad to see you, my boy," said the Major, reeling forward and
running all his words together. "How's your mother? Is this
Lawrence? Glad to see both of you! Why, you'r's like's two peas!
Not Lawrence, do you say? Confound it, doctor, how the ship rolls
And the old wretch staggered and would have fallen, had not Derrick
supported him and landed him safely on one of the fixed ottomans.
"Yes, yes, you're the son for me," he went on, with a bland smile,
which made his face all the more hideous. "You're not so rough and
clumsy as that confounded John Thomas, whose hands are like
brickbats. I'm a mere wreck, as you see; it's the accursed climate!
But your mother will soon nurse me into health again; she was always
a good nurse, poor soul! it was her best point. What with you and
your mother, I shall soon be myself again."
Here the doctor interposed, and Derrick made desperately for a
porthole and gulped down mouthfuls of fresh air: but he was not
allowed much of a respite, for the servant returned to say that he
had procured a cab, and the Major called loudly for his son's arm.
"I'll not have you," he said, pushing the servant violently away.
"Come, Derrick, help me! you are worth two of that blockhead."
And Derrick came quickly forward, his face still very pale, but with
a dignity about it which I had never before seen; and, giving his
arm to his drunken father, he piloted him across the saloon, through
the staring ranks of stewards, officials, and tardy passengers
outside, down the gangway, and over the crowded quay to the cab. I
knew that each derisive glance of the spectators was to him like a
sword-thrust, and longed to throttle the Major, who seemed to enjoy
himself amazingly on terra firma, and sang at the top of his voice
as we drove through the streets of Southampton. The old doctor kept
up a cheery flow of small-talk with me, thinking, no doubt, that
this would be a kindness to Derrick: and at last that purgatorial
drive ended, and somehow Derrick and the doctor between them got the
Major safely into his room at Radley's Hotel.
We had ordered lunch in a private sitting-room, thinking that the
Major would prefer it to the coffee-room; but, as it turned out, he
was in no state to appear. They left him asleep, and the ship's
doctor sat in the seat that had been prepared for his patient, and
made the meal as tolerable to us both as it could be. He was an
odd, old-fashioned fellow, but as true a gentleman as ever breathed.
"Now," he said, when lunch was over, "you and I must have a talk
together, Mr. Vaughan, and I will help you to understand your
I made a movement to go, but sat down again at Derrick's request. I
think, poor old fellow, he dreaded being alone, and knowing that I
had seen his father at the worst, thought I might as well hear all
"Major Vaughan," continued the doctor, "has now been under my care
for some weeks, and I had some communication with the regimental
surgeon about his case before he sailed. He is suffering from an
enlarged liver, and the disease has been brought on by his
unfortunate habit of over-indulgence in stimulants." I could almost
have smiled, so very gently and considerately did the good old man
veil in long words the shameful fact. "It is a habit sadly
prevalent among our fellow-countrymen in India; the climate
aggravates the mischief, and very many lives are in this way ruined.
Then your father was also unfortunate enough to contract rheumatism
when he was camping out in the jungle last year, and this is
increasing on him very much, so that his life is almost intolerable
to him, and he naturally flies for relief to his greatest enemy,
drink. At all costs, however, you must keep him from stimulants;
they will only intensify the disease and the sufferings, in fact
they are poison to a man in such a state. Don't think I am a bigot
in these matters; but I say that for a man in such a condition as
this, there is nothing for it but total abstinence, and at all costs
your father must be guarded from the possibility of procuring any
sort of intoxicating drink. Throughout the voyage I have done my
best to shield him, but it was a difficult matter. His servant,
too, is not trustworthy, and should be dismissed if possible."
"Had he spoken at all of his plans?" asked Derrick, and his voice
sounded strangely unlike itself.
"He asked me what place in England he had better settle down in,"
said the doctor, "and I strongly recommended him to try Bath. This
seemed to please him, and if he is well enough he had better go
there to-morrow. He mentioned your mother this morning; no doubt
she will know how to manage him."
"My mother died six months ago," said Derrick, pushing back his
chair and beginning to pace the room. The doctor made kindly
"Perhaps you have a sister, who could go to him?"
"No," replied Derrick. "My only sister is married, and her husband
would never allow it."
"Or a cousin or an aunt?" suggested the old man, naively unconscious
that the words sounded like a quotation.
I saw the ghost of a smile flit over Derrick's harassed face as he
shook his head.
"I suggested that he should go into some Home for--cases of the
kind," resumed the doctor, "or place himself under the charge of
some medical man; however, he won't hear of such a thing. But if he
is left to himself--well, it is all up with him. He will drink
himself to death in a few months."
"He shall not be left alone," said Derrick; "I will live with him.
Do you think I should do? It seems to be Hobson's choice."
I looked up in amazement--for here was Derrick calmly giving himself
up to a life that must crush every plan for the future he had made.
Did men make such a choice as that while they took two or three
turns in a room? Did they speak so composedly after a struggle that
must have been so bitter? Thinking it over now, I feel sure it was
his extraordinary gift of insight and his clear judgment which made
him behave in this way. He instantly perceived and promptly acted;
the worst of the suffering came long after.
"Why, of course you are the very best person in the world for him,"
said the doctor. "He has taken a fancy to you, and evidently you
have a certain influence with him. If any one can save him it will
But the thought of allowing Derrick to be sacrificed to that old
brute of a Major was more than I could bear calmly.
"A more mad scheme was never proposed," I cried. "Why, doctor, it
will be utter ruin to my friend's career; he will lose years that no
one can ever make up. And besides, he is unfit for such a strain,
he will never stand it."
My heart felt hot as I thought of Derrick, with his highly-strung,
sensitive nature, his refinement, his gentleness, in constant
companionship with such a man as Major Vaughan.
"My dear sir," said the old doctor, with a gleam in his eye, "I
understand your feeling well enough. But depend upon it, your
friend has made the right choice, and there is no doubt that he'll
be strong enough to do his duty."
The word reminded me of the Major's song, and my voice was
abominably sarcastic in tone as I said to Derrick, "You no longer
consider writing your duty then?"
"Yes," he said, "but it must stand second to this. Don't be vexed,
Sydney; our plans are knocked on the head, but it is not so bad as
you make out. I have at any rate enough to live on, and can afford
There was no more to be said, and the next day I saw that strange
trio set out on their road to Bath. The Major looking more wicked
when sober than he had done when drunk; the old doctor kindly and
considerate as ever; and Derrick, with an air of resolution about
that English face of his and a dauntless expression in his eyes
which impressed me curiously.
These quiet, reserved fellows are always giving one odd surprises.
He had astonished me by the vigour and depth of the first volume of
'Lynwood's Heritage.' He astonished me now by a new phase in his
own character. Apparently he who had always been content to follow
where I led, and to watch life rather than to take an active share
in it, now intended to strike out a very decided line of his own.
"Both Goethe and Schiller were profoundly convinced that Art was no
luxury of leisure, no mere amusement to charm the idle, or relax the
careworn; but a mighty influence, serious in its aims although
pleasureable in its means; a sister of Religion, by whose aid the
great world-scheme was wrought into reality."
Lewes's Life of Goethe.
Man is a selfish being, and I am a particularly fine specimen of the
race as far as that characteristic goes. If I had had a dozen
drunken parents I should never have danced attendance on one of
them; yet in my secret soul I admired Derrick for the line he had
taken, for we mostly do admire what is unlike ourselves and really
noble, though it is the fashion to seem totally indifferent to
everything in heaven and earth. But all the same I felt annoyed
about the whole business, and was glad to forget it in my own
affairs at Mondisfield.
Weeks passed by. I lived through a midsummer dream of happiness,
and a hard awaking. That, however, has nothing to do with Derrick's
story, and may be passed over. In October I settled down in
Montague Street, Bloomsbury, and began to read for the Bar, in about
as disagreeable a frame of mind as can be conceived. One morning I
found on my breakfast table a letter in Derrick's handwriting. Like
most men, we hardly ever corresponded--what women say in the eternal
letters they send to each other I can't conceive--but it struck me
that under the circumstances I ought to have sent him a line to ask
how he was getting on, and my conscience pricked me as I remembered
that I had hardly thought of him since we parted, being absorbed in
my own matters. The letter was not very long, but when one read
between the lines it somehow told a good deal. I have it lying by
me, and this is a copy of it:
"Dear Sydney,--Do like a good fellow go to North Audley Street for
me, to the house which I described to you as the one where Lynwood
lodged, and tell me what he would see besides the church from his
window--if shops, what kind? Also if any glimpse of Oxford Street
would be visible. Then if you'll add to your favours by getting me
a second-hand copy of Laveleye's 'Socialisme Contemporain,' I should
be for ever grateful. We are settled in here all right. Bath is
empty, but I people it as far as I can with the folk out of
'Evelina' and 'Persuasion.' How did you get on at Blachington? and
which of the Misses Merrifield went in the end? Don't bother about
the commissions. Any time will do.
Poor old fellow! all the spirit seemed knocked out of him. There
was not one word about the Major, and who could say what
wretchedness was veiled in that curt phrase, "we are settled in all
right"? All right! it was all as wrong as it could be! My blood
began to boil at the thought of Derrick, with his great powers--his
wonderful gift--cooped up in a place where the study of life was so
limited and so dull. Then there was his hunger for news of Freda,
and his silence as to what had kept him away from Blachington, and
about all a sort of proud humility which prevented him from saying
much that I should have expected him to say under the circumstances.
It was Saturday, and my time was my own. I went out, got his book
for him; interviewed North Audley Street; spent a bad five minutes
in company with that villain 'Bradshaw,' who is responsible for so
much of the brain and eye disease of the nineteenth century, and
finally left Paddington in the Flying Dutchman, which landed me at
Bath early in the afternoon. I left my portmanteau at the station,
and walked through the city till I reached Gay Street. Like most of
the streets of Bath, it was broad, and had on either hand dull,
well-built, dark grey, eminently respectable, unutterably dreary-
looking houses. I rang, and the door was opened to me by a most
quaint old woman, evidently the landlady. An odour of curry
pervaded the passage, and became more oppressive as the door of the
sitting-room was opened, and I was ushered in upon the Major and his
son, who had just finished lunch.
"Hullo!" cried Derrick, springing up, his face full of delight which
touched me, while at the same time it filled me with envy.
Even the Major thought fit to give me a hearty welcome.
"Glad to see you again," he said pleasantly enough. "It's a relief
to have a fresh face to look at. We have a room which is quite at
your disposal, and I hope you'll stay with us. Brought your
"It is at the station," I replied.
"See that it is sent for," he said to Derrick; "and show Mr.
Wharncliffe all that is to be seen in this cursed hole of a place."
Then, turning again to me, "Have you lunched? Very well, then,
don't waste this fine afternoon in an invalid's room, but be off and
So cordial was the old man, that I should have thought him already a
reformed character, had I not found that he kept the rough side of
his tongue for home use. Derrick placed a novel and a small
handbell within his reach, and we were just going, when we were
checked by a volley of oaths from the Major; then a book came flying
across the room, well aimed at Derrick's head. He stepped aside,
and let it fall with a crash on the sideboard.
"What do you mean by giving me the second volume when you know I am
in the third?" fumed the invalid.
He apologised quietly, fetched the third volume, straightened the
disordered leaves of the discarded second, and with the air of one
well accustomed to such little domestic scenes, took up his hat and
came out with me.
"How long do you intend to go on playing David to the Major's Saul?"
I asked, marvelling at the way in which he endured the humours of
"As long as I have the chance," he replied. "I say, are you sure
you won't mind staying with us? It can't be a very comfortable
household for an outsider."
"Much better than for an insider, to all appearance," I replied.
"I'm only too delighted to stay. And now, old fellow, tell me the
honest truth--you didn't, you know, in your letter--how have you
been getting on?"
Derrick launched into an account of his father's ailments.
"Oh, hang the Major! I don't care about him, I want to know about
you," I cried.
"About me?" said Derrick doubtfully. "Oh, I'm right enough."
"What do you do with yourself? How on earth do you kill time?" I
asked. "Come, give me a full, true, and particular account of it
"We have tried three other servants," said Derrick; "but the plan
doesn't answer. They either won't stand it, or else they are bribed
into smuggling brandy into the house. I find I can do most things
for my father, and in the morning he has an attendant from the
hospital who is trustworthy, and who does what is necessary for him.
At ten we breakfast together, then there are the morning papers,
which he likes to have read to him. After that I go round to the
Pump Room with him--odd contrast now to what it must have been when
Bath was the rage. Then we have lunch. In the afternoon, if he is
well enough, we drive; if not he sleeps, and I get a walk. Later on
an old Indian friend of his will sometimes drop in; if not he likes
to be read to until dinner. After dinner we play chess--he is a
first-rate player. At ten I help him to bed; from eleven to twelve
I smoke and study Socialism and all the rest of it that Lynwood is
at present floundering in."
"Why don't you write, then?"
"I tried it, but it didn't answer. I couldn't sleep after it, and
was, in fact, too tired; seems absurd to be tired after such a day
as that, but somehow it takes it out of one more than the hardest
reading; I don't know why."
"Why," I said angrily, "it's because it is work to which you are
quite unsuited--work for a thick-skinned, hard-hearted, uncultivated
and well-paid attendant, not for the novelist who is to be the chief
light of our generation."
He laughed at this estimate of his powers.
"Novelists, like other cattle, have to obey their owner," he said
I thought for a moment that he meant the Major, and was breaking
into an angry remonstrance, when I saw that he meant something quite
different. It was always his strongest point, this extraordinary
consciousness of right, this unwavering belief that he had to do and
therefore could do certain things. Without this, I know that he
never wrote a line, and in my heart I believe this was the cause of
"Then you are not writing at all?" I asked.
"Yes, I write generally for a couple of hours before breakfast," he
And that evening we sat by his gas stove and he read me the next
four chapters of 'Lynwood.' He had rather a dismal lodging-house
bedroom, with faded wall-paper and a prosaic snuff-coloured carpet.
On a rickety table in the window was his desk, and a portfolio full
of blue foolscap, but he had done what he could to make the place
habitable; his Oxford pictures were on the walls--Hoffman's 'Christ
speaking to the Woman taken in Adultery,' hanging over the
mantelpiece--it had always been a favourite of his. I remember
that, as he read the description of Lynwood and his wife, I kept
looking from him to the Christ in the picture till I could almost
have fancied that each face bore the same expression. Had this
strange monotonous life with that old brute of a Major brought him
some new perception of those words, "Neither do I condemn thee"?
But when he stopped reading, I, true to my character, forgot his
affairs in my own, as we sat talking far into the night--talking of
that luckless month at Mondisfield, of all the problems it had
opened up, and of my wretchedness.
"You were in town all September?" he asked; "you gave up
"Yes," I replied. "What did I care for country houses in such a
mood as that."
He acquiesced, and I went on talking of my grievances, and it was
not till I was in the train on my way back to London that I
remembered how a look of disappointment had passed over his face
just at the moment. Evidently he had counted on learning something
about Freda from me, and I--well, I had clean forgotten both her
existence and his passionate love.
Something, probably self-interest, the desire for my friend's
company, and so forth, took me down to Bath pretty frequently in
those days; luckily the Major had a sort of liking for me, and was
always polite enough; and dear old Derrick--well, I believe my
visits really helped to brighten him up. At any rate he said he
couldn't have borne his life without them, and for a sceptical,
dismal, cynical fellow like me to hear that was somehow flattering.
The mere force of contrast did me good. I used to come back on the
Monday wondering that Derrick didn't cut his throat, and realising
that, after all, it was something to be a free agent, and to have
comfortable rooms in Montague Street, with no old bear of a drunkard
to disturb my peace. And then a sort of admiration sprang up in my
heart, and the cynicism bred of melancholy broodings over solitary
pipes was less rampant than usual.
It was, I think, early in the new year that I met Lawrence Vaughan
in Bath. He was not staying at Gay Street, so I could still have
the vacant room next to Derrick's. Lawrence put up at the York
"For you know," he informed me, "I really can't stand the governor
for more than an hour or two at a time."
"Derrick manages to do it," I said.
"Oh, Derrick, yes," he replied, "it's his metier, and he is well
accustomed to the life. Besides, you know, he is such a dreamy,
quiet sort of fellow; he lives all the time in a world of his own
creation, and bears the discomforts of this world with great
philosophy. Actually he has turned teetotaller! It would kill me
in a week."
I make a point of never arguing with a fellow like that, but I think
I had a vindictive longing, as I looked at him, to shut him up with
the Major for a month, and see what would happen.
These twin brothers were curiously alike in face and curiously
unlike in nature. So much for the great science of physiognomy! It
often seemed to me that they were the complement of each other. For
instance, Derrick in society was extremely silent, Lawrence was a
rattling talker; Derrick, when alone with you, would now and then
reveal unsuspected depths of thought and expression; Lawrence, when
alone with you, very frequently showed himself to be a cad. The
elder twin was modest and diffident, the younger inclined to brag;
the one had a strong tendency to melancholy, the other was blest or
cursed with the sort of temperament which has been said to accompany
"a hard heart and a good digestion."
I was not surprised to find that the son who could not tolerate the
governor's presence for more than an hour or two, was a prime
favourite with the old man; that was just the way of the world. Of
course, the Major was as polite as possible to him; Derrick got the
kicks and Lawrence the half-pence.
In the evenings we played whist, Lawrence coming in after dinner,
"For, you know," he explained to me, "I really couldn't get through
a meal with nothing but those infernal mineral waters to wash it
And here I must own that at my first visit I had sailed rather close
to the wind; for when the Major, like the Hatter in 'Alice,' pressed
me to take wine, I--not seeing any--had answered that I did not take
it; mentally adding the words, "in your house, you brute!"
The two brothers were fond of each other after a fashion. But
Derrick was human, and had his faults like the rest of us; and I am
pretty sure he did not much enjoy the sight of his father's foolish
and unreasonable devotion to Lawrence. If you come to think of it,
he would have been a full-fledged angel if no jealous pang, no
reflection that it was rather rough on him, had crossed his mind,
when he saw his younger brother treated with every mark of respect
and liking, and knew that Lawrence would never stir a finger really
to help the poor fractious invalid. Unluckily they happened one
night to get on the subject of professions.
"It's a comfort," said the Major, in his sarcastic way, "to have a
fellow-soldier to talk to instead of a quill-driver, who as yet is
not even a penny-a-liner. Eh, Derrick? Don't you feel inclined to
regret your fool's choice now? You might have been starting off for
the war with Lawrence next week, if you hadn't chosen what you're
pleased to call a literary life. Literary life, indeed! I little
thought a son of mine would ever have been so wanting in spirit as
to prefer dabbling in ink to a life of action--to be the scribbler
of mere words, rather than an officer of dragoons."
Then to my astonishment Derrick sprang to his feet in hot
indignation. I never saw him look so handsome, before or since; for
his anger was not the distorting, devilish anger that the Major gave
way to, but real downright wrath.
"You speak contemptuously of mere novels," he said in a low voice,
yet more clearly than usual, and as if the words were wrung out of
him. "What right have you to look down on one of the greatest
weapons of the day? and why is a writer to submit to scoffs and
insults and tamely to hear his profession reviled? I have chosen to
write the message that has been given me, and I don't regret the
choice. Should I have shown greater spirit if I had sold my freedom
and right of judgment to be one of the national killing machines?"
With that he threw down his cards and strode out of the room in a
white heat of anger. It was a pity he made that last remark, for it
put him in the wrong and needlessly annoyed Lawrence and the Major.
But an angry man has no time to weigh his words, and, as I said,
poor old Derrick was very human, and when wounded too intolerably
could on occasion retaliate.
The Major uttered an oath and looked in astonishment at the
retreating figure. Derrick was such an extraordinarily quiet,
respectful, long-suffering son as a rule, that this outburst was
startling in the extreme. Moreover, it spoilt the game, and the old
man, chafed by the result of his own ill-nature, and helpless to
bring back his partner, was forced to betake himself to chess. I
left him grumbling away to Lawrence about the vanity of authors, and
went out in the hope of finding Derrick. As I left the house I saw
someone turn the corner into the Circus, and starting in pursuit,
overtook the tall, dark figure where Bennett Street opens on to the
"I'm glad you spoke up, old fellow," I said, taking his arm.
He modified his pace a little. "Why is it," he exclaimed, "that
every other profession can be taken seriously, but that a novelist's
work is supposed to be mere play? Good God! don't we suffer enough?
Have we not hard brain work and drudgery of desk work and tedious
gathering of statistics and troublesome search into details? Have
we not an appalling weight of responsibility on us?--and are we not
at the mercy of a thousand capricious chances?"
"Come now," I exclaimed, "you know that you are never so happy as
when you are writing."
"Of course," he replied; "but that doesn't make me resent such an
attack the less. Besides, you don't know what it is to have to
write in such an atmosphere as ours; it's like a weight on one's
pen. This life here is not life at all--it's a daily death, and
it's killing the book too; the last chapters are wretched--I'm
utterly dissatisfied with them."
"As for that," I said calmly, "you are no judge at all. You can
never tell the worth of your own work; the last bit is splendid."
"I could have done it better," he groaned. "But there is always a
ghastly depression dragging one back here--and then the time is so
short; just as one gets into the swing of it the breakfast bell
rings, and then comes--" He broke off.
I could well supply the end of the sentence, however, for I knew
that then came the slow torture of a tete-a-tete day with the Major,
stinging sarcasms, humiliating scoldings, vexations and difficulties
I drew him to the left, having no mind to go to the top of the hill.
We slackened our pace again and walked to and fro along the broad
level pavement of Lansdowne Crescent. We had it entirely to
ourselves--not another creature was in sight.
"I could bear it all," he burst forth, "if only there was a chance
of seeing Freda. Oh, you are better off than I am--at least, you
know the worst. Your hope is killed, but mine lives on a tortured,
starved life! Would to God I had never seen her!"
Certainly before that night I had never quite realised the
irrevocableness of poor Derrick's passion. I had half hoped that
time and separation would gradually efface Freda Merrifield from his
memory; and I listened with a dire foreboding to the flood of
wretchedness which he poured forth as we paced up and down, thinking
now and then how little people guessed at the tremendous powers
hidden under his usually quiet exterior.
At length he paused, but his last heart-broken words seemed to
vibrate in the air and to force me to speak some kind of comfort.
"Derrick," I said, "come back with me to London--give up this
I felt him start a little; evidently no thought of yielding had come
to him before. We were passing the house that used to belong to
that strange book-lover and recluse, Beckford. I looked up at the
blank windows, and thought of that curious, self-centred life in the
past, surrounded by every luxury, able to indulge every whim; and
then I looked at my companion's pale, tortured face, and thought of
the life he had elected to lead in the hope of saving one whom duty
bound him to honour. After all, which life was the most worth
living--which was the most to be admired?
We walked on; down below us and up on the farther hill we could see
the lights of Bath; the place so beautiful by day looked now like a
fairy city, and the Abbey, looming up against the moon-lit sky,
seemed like some great giant keeping watch over the clustering roofs
below. The well-known chimes rang out into the night and the clock
"I must go back," said Derrick, quietly. "My father will want to
get to bed."
I couldn't say a word; we turned, passed Beckford's house once more,
walked briskly down the hill, and reached the Gay Street lodging-
house. I remember the stifling heat of the room as we entered it,
and its contrast to the cool, dark, winter's night outside. I can
vividly recall, too, the old Major's face as he looked up with a
sarcastic remark, but with a shade of anxiety in his bloodshot eyes.
He was leaning back in a green-cushioned chair, and his ghastly
yellow complexion seemed to me more noticeable than usual--his
scanty grey hair and whiskers, the lines of pain so plainly visible
in his face, impressed me curiously. I think I had never before
realised what a wreck of a man he was--how utterly dependent on
Lawrence, who, to do him justice, had a good deal of tact, and who,
I believe, cared for his brother as much as he was capable of caring
for any one but himself, repeated a good story with which he had
been enlivening the Major, and I did what I could to keep up the
talk. Derrick meanwhile put away the chessmen, and lighted the
Major's candle. He even managed to force up a laugh at Lawrence's
story, and, as he helped his father out of the room, I think I was
the only one who noticed the look of tired endurance in his eyes.
How far high failure overtops the bounds
Of low successes. Only suffering draws
The inner heart of song, and can elicit
The perfumes of the soul."
Epic of Hades.
Next week, Lawrence went off like a hero to the war; and my friend--
also I think like a hero--stayed on at Bath, enduring as best he
could the worst form of loneliness; for undoubtedly there is no
loneliness so frightful as constant companionship with an
uncongenial person. He had, however, one consolation: the Major's
health steadily improved, under the joint influence of total
abstinence and Bath water, and, with the improvement, his temper
became a little better.
But one Saturday, when I had run down to Bath without writing
beforehand, I suddenly found a different state of things. In Orange
Grove I met Dr. Mackrill, the Major's medical man; he used now and
then to play whist with us on Saturday nights, and I stopped to
speak to him.
"Oh! you've come down again. That's all right!" he said. "Your
friend wants someone to cheer him up. He's got his arm broken."
"How on earth did he manage that?" I asked.
"Well, that's more than I can tell you," said the Doctor, with an
odd look in his eyes, as if he guessed more than he would put into
words. "All that I could get out of him was that it was done
accidentally. The Major is not so well--no whist for us to-night,
He passed on, and I made my way to Gay Street. There was an air of
mystery about the quaint old landlady; she looked brimful of news
when she opened the door to me, but she managed to 'keep herself to
herself,' and showed me in upon the Major and Derrick, rather
triumphantly I thought. The Major looked terribly ill--worse than I
had ever seen him, and as for Derrick, he had the strangest look of
shrinking and shame-facedness you ever saw. He said he was glad to
see me, but I knew that he lied. He would have given anything to
have kept me away.
"Broken your arm?" I exclaimed, feeling bound to take some notice of
"Yes," he replied; "met with an accident to it. But luckily it's
only the left one, so it doesn't hinder me much! I have finished
seven chapters of the last volume of 'Lynwood,' and was just wanting
to ask you a legal question."
All this time his eyes bore my scrutiny defiantly; they seemed to
dare me to say one other word about the broken arm. I didn't dare--
indeed to this day I have never mentioned the subject to him.
But that evening, while he was helping the Major to bed, the old
landlady made some pretext for toiling up to the top of the house,
where I sat smoking in Derrick's room.
"You'll excuse my making bold to speak to you, sir," she said. I
threw down my newspaper, and, looking up, saw that she was bubbling
over with some story.
"Well?" I said, encouragingly.
"It's about Mr. Vaughan, sir, I wanted to speak to you. I really do
think, sir, it's not safe he should be left alone with his father,
sir, any longer. Such doings as we had here the other day, sir!
Somehow or other--and none of us can't think how--the Major had
managed to get hold of a bottle of brandy. How he had it I don't
know; but we none of us suspected him, and in the afternoon he says
he was too poorly to go for a drive or to go out in his chair, and
settles off on the parlour sofa for a nap while Mr. Vaughan goes out
for a walk. Mr. Vaughan was out a couple of hours. I heard him
come in and go into the sitting-room; then there came sounds of
voices, and a scuffling of feet and moving of chairs, and I knew
something was wrong and hurried up to the door--and just then came a
crash like fire-irons, and I could hear the Major a-swearing
fearful. Not hearing a sound from Mr. Vaughan, I got scared, sir,
and opened the door, and there I saw the Major a leaning up against
the mantelpiece as drunk as a lord, and his son seemed to have got
the bottle from him; it was half empty, and when he saw me he just
handed it to me and ordered me to take it away. Then between us we
got the Major to lie down on the sofa and left him there. When we
got out into the passage Mr. Vaughan he leant against the wall for a
minute, looking as white as a sheet, and then I noticed for the
first time that his left arm was hanging down at his side. 'Lord!
sir,' I cried, 'your arm's broken.' And he went all at once as red
as he had been pale just before, and said he had got it done
accidentally, and bade me say nothing about it, and walked off there
and then to the doctor's, and had it set. But sir, given a man
drunk as the Major was, and given a scuffle to get away the drink
that was poisoning him, and given a crash such as I heard, and given
a poker a-lying in the middle of the room where it stands to reason
no poker could get unless it was thrown--why, sir, no sensible woman
who can put two and two together can doubt that it was all the
"Yes," I said, "that is clear enough; but for Mr. Vaughan's sake we
must hush it up; and, as for safety, why, the Major is hardly strong
enough to do him any worse damage than that."
The good old thing wiped away a tear from her eyes. She was very
fond of Derrick, and it went to her heart that he should lead such a
I said what I could to comfort her, and she went down again, fearful
lest he should discover her upstairs and guess that she had opened
her heart to me.
Poor Derrick! That he of all people on earth should be mixed up
with such a police court story--with drunkard, and violence, and
pokers figuring in it! I lay back in the camp chair and looked at
Hoffman's 'Christ,' and thought of all the extraordinary problems
that one is for ever coming across in life. And I wondered whether
the people of Bath who saw the tall, impassive-looking, hazel-eyed
son and the invalid father in their daily pilgrimages to the Pump
Room, or in church on Sunday, or in the Park on sunny afternoons had
the least notion of the tragedy that was going on. My reflections
were interrupted by his entrance. He had forced up a cheerfulness
that I am sure he didn't really feel, and seemed afraid of letting
our talk flag for a moment. I remember, too, that for the first
time he offered to read me his novel, instead of as usual waiting
for me to ask to hear it. I can see him now, fetching the untidy
portfolio and turning over the pages, adroitly enough, as though
anxious to show how immaterial was the loss of a left arm. That
night I listened to the first half of the third volume of 'Lynwood's
Heritage,' and couldn't help reflecting that its author seemed to
thrive on misery; and yet how I grudged him to this deadly-lively
place, and this monotonous, cooped-up life.
"How do you manage to write one-handed?" I asked.
And he sat down to his desk, put a letter-weight on the left-hand
corner of the sheet of foolscap, and wrote that comical first
paragraph of the eighth chapter over which we have all laughed. I
suppose few readers guessed the author's state of mind when he wrote
it. I looked over his shoulder to see what he had written, and
couldn't help laughing aloud--I verily believe that it was his way
of turning off attention from his arm, and leading me safely from
the region of awkward questions.
"By-the-by," I exclaimed, "your writing of garden-parties reminds
me. I went to one at Campden Hill the other day, and had the good
fortune to meet Miss Freda Merrifield."
How his face lighted up, poor fellow, and what a flood of questions
he poured out. "She looked very well and very pretty," I replied.
"I played two sets of tennis with her. She asked after you directly
she saw me, seeming to think that we always hunted in couples. I
told her you were living here, taking care of an invalid father; but
just then up came the others to arrange the game. She and I got the
best courts, and as we crossed over to them she told me she had met
your brother several times last autumn, when she had been staying
near Aldershot. Odd that he never mentioned her here; but I don't
suppose she made much impression on him. She is not at all his
"Did you have much more talk with her?" he asked.
"No, nothing to be called talk. She told me they were leaving
London next week, and she was longing to get back to the country to
her beloved animals--rabbits, poultry, an aviary, and all that kind
of thing. I should gather that they had kept her rather in the
background this season, but I understand that the eldest sister is
to be married in the winter, and then no doubt Miss Freda will be
He seemed wonderfully cheered by this opportune meeting, and though
there was so little to tell he appeared to be quite content. I left
him on Monday in fairly good spirits, and did not come across him
again till September, when his arm was well, and his novel finished
and revised. He never made two copies of his work, and I fancy this
was perhaps because he spent so short a time each day in actual
writing, and lived so continually in his work; moreover, as I said
before, he detested penmanship.
The last part of 'Lynwood' far exceeded my expectations; perhaps--
yet I don't really think so--I viewed it too favourably. But I owed
the book a debt of gratitude, since it certainly helped me through
the worst part of my life.
"Don't you feel flat now it is finished?" I asked.
"I felt so miserable that I had to plunge into another story three
days after," he replied; and then and there he gave me the sketch of
his second novel, 'At Strife,' and told me how he meant to weave in
his childish fancies about the defence of the bridge in the Civil
"And about 'Lynwood?' Are you coming up to town to hawk him round?"
"I can't do that," he said; "you see I am tied here. No, I must
send him off by rail, and let him take his chance."
"No such thing!" I cried. "If you can't leave Bath I will take him
round for you."
And Derrick, who with the oddest inconsistency would let his MS. lie
about anyhow at home, but hated the thought of sending it out alone
on its travels, gladly accepted my offer. So next week I set off
with the huge brown paper parcel; few, however, will appreciate my
good nature, for no one but an author or a publisher knows the
fearful weight of a three volume novel in MS.! To my intense
satisfaction I soon got rid of it, for the first good firm to which
I took it received it with great politeness, to be handed over to
their 'reader' for an opinion; and apparently the 'reader's' opinion
coincided with mine, for a month later Derrick received an offer for
it with which he at once closed--not because it was a good one, but
because the firm was well thought of, and because he wished to lose
no time, but to have the book published at once. I happened to be
there when his first 'proofs' arrived. The Major had had an attack
of jaundice, and was in a fiendish humour. We had a miserable time
of it at dinner, for he badgered Derrick almost past bearing, and I
think the poor old fellow minded it more when there was a third
person present. Somehow through all he managed to keep his
extraordinary capacity for reverencing mere age--even this degraded
and detestable old age of the Major's. I often thought that in this
he was like my own ancestor, Hugo Wharncliffe, whose deference and
respectfulness and patience had not descended to me, while
unfortunately the effects of his physical infirmities had. I
sometimes used to reflect bitterly enough on the truth of Herbert
Spencer's teaching as to heredity, so clearly shown in my own case.
In the year 1683, through the abominable cruelty and harshness of
his brother Randolph, this Hugo Wharncliffe, my great-great-great-
great-great grandfather, was immured in Newgate, and his
constitution was thereby so much impaired and enfeebled that, two
hundred years after, my constitution is paying the penalty, and my
whole life is thereby changed and thwarted. Hence this childless
Randolph is affecting the course of several lives in the 19th
century to their grievous hurt.
But revenons a nos moutons--that is to say, to our lion and lamb--
the old brute of a Major and his long-suffering son.
While the table was being cleared, the Major took forty winks on the
sofa, and we two beat a retreat, lit up our pipes in the passage,
and were just turning out when the postman's double knock came, but
no showers of letters in the box. Derrick threw open the door, and
the man handed him a fat, stumpy-looking roll in a pink wrapper.
"I say!" he exclaimed, "PROOFS!"
And, in hot haste, he began tearing away the pink paper, till out
came the clean, folded bits of printing and the dirty and
dishevelled blue foolscap, the look of which I knew so well. It is
an odd feeling, that first seeing one's self in print, and I could
guess, even then, what a thrill shot through Derrick as he turned
over the pages. But he would not take them into the sitting-room,
no doubt dreading another diatribe against his profession; and we
solemnly played euchre, and patiently endured the Major's withering
sarcasms till ten o'clock sounded our happy release.
However, to make a long story short, a month later--that is, at the
end of November--'Lynwood's Heritage' was published in three volumes
with maroon cloth and gilt lettering. Derrick had distributed among
his friends the publishers' announcement of the day of publication;
and when it was out I besieged the libraries for it, always
expressing surprise if I did not find it in their lists. Then began
the time of reviews. As I had expected, they were extremely
favourable, with the exception of the Herald, the Stroller, and the
Hour, which made it rather hot for him, the latter in particular
pitching into his views and assuring its readers that the book was
'dangerous,' and its author a believer in--various thing especially
repugnant to Derrick, at it happened.
I was with him when he read these reviews. Over the cleverness of
the satirical attack in the Weekly Herald he laughed heartily,
though the laugh was against himself; and as to the critic who wrote
in the Stroller it was apparent to all who knew 'Lynwood' that he
had not read much of the book; but over this review in the Hour he
was genuinely angry--it hurt him personally, and, as it afterwards
turned out, played no small part in the story of his life. The good
reviews, however, were many, and their recommendation of the book
hearty; they all prophesied that it would be a great success. Yet,
spite of this, 'Lynwood's Heritage' didn't sell. Was it, as I had
feared, that Derrick was too devoid of the pushing faculty ever to
make a successful writer? Or was it that he was handicapped by
being down in the provinces playing keeper to that abominable old
bear? Anyhow, the book was well received, read with enthusiasm by
an extremely small circle, and then it dropped down to the bottom
among the mass of overlooked literature, and its career seemed to be
over. I can recall the look in Derrick's face when one day he
glanced through the new Mudie and Smith lists and found 'Lynwood's
Heritage' no longer down. I had been trying to cheer him up about
the book and quoting all the favourable remarks I had heard about
it. But unluckily this was damning evidence against my optimist
He sighed heavily and put down the lists.
"It's no use to deceive one's self," he said, drearily, "'Lynwood'
Something in the deep depression of look and tone gave me a
momentary insight into the author's heart. He thought, I know, of
the agony of mind this book had cost him; of those long months of
waiting and their deadly struggle, of the hopes which had made all
he passed through seem so well worth while; and the bitterness of
the disappointment was no doubt intensified by the knowledge that
the Major would rejoice over it.
We walked that afternoon along the Bradford Valley, a road which
Derrick was specially fond of. He loved the thickly-wooded hills,
and the glimpses of the Avon, which, flanked by the canal and the
railway, runs parallel with the high road; he always admired, too, a
certain little village with grey stone cottages which lay in this
direction, and liked to look at the site of the old hall near the
road: nothing remained of it but the tall gate posts and rusty iron
gates looking strangely dreary and deserted, and within one could
see, between some dark yew trees, an old terrace walk with stone
steps and balustrades--the most ghostly-looking place you can
"I know you'll put this into a book some day," I said, laughing.
"Yes," he said, "it is already beginning to simmer in my brain."
Apparently his deep disappointment as to his first venture had in no
way affected his perfectly clear consciousness that, come what
would, he had to write.
As we walked back to Bath he told me his 'Ruined Hall' story as far
as it had yet evolved itself in his brain, and we were still
discussing it when in Milsom Street we met a boy crying evening
papers, and details of the last great battle at Saspataras Hill.
Derrick broke off hastily, everything but anxiety for Lawrence
driven from his mind.
"Say not, O Soul, thou art defeated,
Because thou art distressed;
If thou of better thing art cheated,
Thou canst not be of best."
T. T. Lynch.
"Good heavens, Sydney!" he exclaimed in great excitement and with
his whole face aglow with pleasure, "look here!"
He pointed to a few lines in the paper which mentioned the heroic
conduct of Lieutenant L. Vaughan, who at the risk of his life had
rescued a brother officer when surrounded by the enemy and
completely disabled. Lieutenant Vaughan had managed to mount the
wounded man on his own horse and had miraculously escaped himself
with nothing worse than a sword-thrust in the left arm.
We went home in triumph to the Major, and Derrick read the whole
account aloud. With all his detestation of war, he was nevertheless
greatly stirred by the description of the gallant defence of the
attacked position--and for a time we were all at one, and could talk
of nothing but Lawrence's heroism, and Victoria Crosses, and the
prospects of peace. However, all too soon, the Major's fiendish
temper returned, and he began to use the event of the day as a
weapon against Derrick, continually taunting him with the contrast
between his stay-at-home life of scribbling and Lawrence's life of
heroic adventure. I could never make out whether he wanted to goad
his son into leaving him, in order that he might drink himself to
death in peace, or whether he merely indulged in his natural love of
tormenting, valuing Derrick's devotion as conducive to his own
comfort, and knowing that hard words would not drive him from what
he deemed to be his duty. I rather incline to the latter view, but
the old Major was always an enigma to me; nor can I to this day make
out his raison-d'etre, except on the theory that the training of a
novelist required a course of slow torture, and that the old man was
sent into the world to be a sort of thorn in the flesh of Derrick.
What with the disappointment about his first book, and the
difficulty of writing his second, the fierce craving for Freda's
presence, the struggle not to allow his admiration for Lawrence's
bravery to become poisoned by envy under the influence of the
Major's incessant attacks, Derrick had just then a hard time of it.
He never complained, but I noticed a great change in him; his
melancholy increased, his flashes of humour and merriment became
fewer and fewer--I began to be afraid that he would break down.
"For God's sake!" I exclaimed one evening when left alone with the
Doctor after an evening of whist, "do order the Major to London.
Derrick has been mewed up here with him for nearly two years, and I
don't think he can stand it much longer."
So the Doctor kindly contrived to advise the Major to consult a
well-known London physician, and to spend a fortnight in town,
further suggesting that a month at Ben Rhydding might be enjoyable
before settling down at Bath again for the winter. Luckily the
Major took to the idea, and just as Lawrence returned from the war
Derrick and his father arrived in town. The change seemed likely to
work well, and I was able now and then to release my friend and play
cribbage with the old man for an hour or two while Derrick tore
about London, interviewed his publisher, made researches into
seventeenth century documents at the British Museum, and somehow
managed in his rapid way to acquire those glimpses of life and
character which he afterwards turned to such good account. All was
grist that came to his mill, and at first the mere sight of his old
home, London, seemed to revive him. Of course at the very first
opportunity he called at the Probyns', and we both of us had an
invitation to go there on the following Wednesday to see the march
past of the troops and to lunch. Derrick was nearly beside himself
at the prospect, for he knew that he should certainly meet Freda at
last, and the mingled pain and bliss of being actually in the same
place with her, yet as completely separated as if seas rolled
between them, was beginning to try him terribly.
Meantime Lawrence had turned up again, greatly improved in every way
by all that he had lived through, but rather too ready to fall in
with his father's tone towards Derrick. The relations between the
two brothers--always a little peculiar--became more and more
difficult, and the Major seemed to enjoy pitting them against each
At length the day of the review arrived. Derrick was not looking
well, his eyes were heavy with sleeplessness, and the Major had been
unusually exasperating at breakfast that morning, so that he started
with a jaded, worn-out feeling that would not wholly yield even to
the excitement of this long-expected meeting with Freda. When he
found himself in the great drawing-room at Lord Probyn's house, amid
a buzz of talk and a crowd of strange faces, he was seized with one
of those sudden attacks of shyness to which he was always liable.
In fact, he had been so long alone with the old Major that this
plunge into society was too great a reaction, and the very thing he
had longed for became a torture to him.
Freda was at the other end of the room talking to Keith Collins, the
well-known member for Codrington, whose curious but attractive face
was known to all the world through the caricatures of it in 'Punch.'
I knew that she saw Derrick, and that he instantly perceived her,
and that a miserable sense of separation, of distance, of
hopelessness overwhelmed him as he looked. After all, it was
natural enough. For two years he had thought of Freda night and
day; in his unutterably dreary life her memory had been his
refreshment, his solace, his companion. Now he was suddenly brought
face to face, not with the Freda of his dreams, but with a
fashionable, beautifully dressed, much-sought girl, and he felt that
a gulf lay between them; it was the gulf of experience. Freda's
life in society, the whirl of gaiety, the excitement and success
which she had been enjoying throughout the season, and his miserable
monotony of companionship with his invalid father, of hard work and
weary disappointment, had broken down the bond of union that had
once existed between them. From either side they looked at each
other--Freda with a wondering perplexity, Derrick with a dull
grinding pain at his heart.
Of course they spoke to each other; but I fancy the merest
platitudes passed between them. Somehow they had lost touch, and a
crowded London drawing-room was hardly the place to regain it.
"So your novel is really out," I heard her say to him in that deep,
clear voice of hers. "I like the design on the cover."
"Oh, have you read the book?" said Derrick, colouring.
"Well, no," she said truthfully. "I wanted to read it, but my
father wouldn't let me--he is very particular about what we read."
That frank but not very happily worded answer was like a stab to
poor Derrick. He had given to the world then a book that was not
fit for her to read! This 'Lynwood,' which had been written with
his own heart's blood, was counted a dangerous, poisonous thing,
from which she must be guarded!
Freda must have seen that she had hurt him, for she tried hard to
retrieve her words.
"It was tantalising to have it actually in the house, wasn't it? I
have a grudge against the Hour, for it was the review in that which
set my father against it." Then rather anxious to leave the
difficult subject--"And has your brother quite recovered from his
I think she was a little vexed that Derrick did not show more
animation in his replies about Lawrence's adventures during the war;
the less he responded the more enthusiastic she became, and I am
perfectly sure that in her heart she was thinking:
"He is jealous of his brother's fame--I am disappointed in him. He
has grown dull, and absent, and stupid, and he is dreadfully wanting
in small-talk. I fear that his life down in the provinces is
turning him into a bear."
She brought the conversation back to his book; but there was a
little touch of scorn in her voice, as if she thought to herself, "I
suppose he is one of those people who can only talk on one subject--
his own doings." Her manner was almost brusque.
"Your novel has had a great success, has it not?" she asked.
He instantly perceived her thought, and replied with a touch of
dignity and a proud smile:
"On the contrary, it has been a great failure; only three hundred
and nine copies have been sold."
"I wonder at that," said Freda, "for one so often heard it talked
He promptly changed the topic, and began to speak of the march past.
"I want to see Lord Starcross," he added. "I have no idea what a
hero is like."
Just then Lady Probyn came up, followed by an elderly harpy in
spectacles and false, much-frizzed fringe.
"Mrs. Carsteen wishes to be introduced to you, Mr. Vaughan; she is a
great admirer of your writings."
And poor Derrick, who was then quite unused to the species, had to
stand and receive a flood of the most fulsome flattery, delivered in
a strident voice, and to bear the critical and prolonged stare of
the spectacled eyes. Nor would the harpy easily release her prey.
She kept him much against his will, and I saw him looking wistfully
now and then towards Freda.
"It amuses me," I said to her, "that Derrick Vaughan should be so
anxious to see Lord Starcross. It reminds me of Charles Lamb's
anxiety to see Kosciusko, 'for,' said he, 'I have never seen a hero;
I wonder how they look,' while all the time he himself was living a
life of heroic self-sacrifice."
"Mr. Vaughan, I should think, need only look at his own brother,"
said Freda, missing the drift of my speech.
I longed to tell her what it was possible to tell of Derrick's life,
but at that moment Sir Richard Merrifield introduced to his daughter
a girl in a huge hat and great flopping sleeves, Miss Isaacson,
whose picture at the Grosvenor had been so much talked of. Now the
little artist knew no one in the room, and Freda saw fit to be
extremely friendly to her. She was introduced to me, and I did my
best to talk to her and set Freda at liberty as soon as the harpy
had released Derrick; but my endeavours were frustrated, for Miss
Isaacson, having looked me well over, decided that I was not at all
intense, but a mere commonplace, slightly cynical worldling, and
having exchanged a few lukewarm remarks with me, she returned to
Freda, and stuck to her like a bur for the rest of the time.
We stood out on the balcony to see the troops go by. It was a fine
sight, and we all became highly enthusiastic. Freda enjoyed the
mere pageant like a child, and was delighted with the horses. She
looked now more like the Freda of the yacht, and I wished that
Derrick could be near her; but, as ill-luck would have it, he was at
some distance, hemmed in by an impassable barrier of eager
Lawrence Vaughan rode past, looking wonderfully well in his uniform.
He was riding a spirited bay, which took Freda's fancy amazingly,
though she reserved her chief enthusiasm for Lord Starcross and his
steed. It was not until all was over, and we had returned to the
drawing-room, that Derrick managed to get the talk with Freda for
which I knew he was longing, and then they were fated, apparently,
to disagree. I was standing near and overheard the close of their
"I do believe you must be a member of the Peace Society!" said Freda
impatiently. "Or perhaps you have turned Quaker. But I want to
introduce you to my god-father, Mr. Fleming; you know it was his son
whom your brother saved."
And I heard Derrick being introduced as the brother of the hero of
Saspataras Hill; and the next day he received a card for one of Mrs.
Fleming's receptions, Lawrence having previously been invited to
dine there on the same night.
What happened at that party I never exactly understood. All I could
gather was that Lawrence had been tremendously feted, that Freda had
been present, and that poor old Derrick was as miserable as he could
be when I next saw him. Putting two and two together, I guessed
that he had been tantalised by a mere sight of her, possibly
tortured by watching more favoured men enjoying long tete-a-tetes;
but he would say little or nothing about it, and when, soon after,
he and the Major left London, I feared that the fortnight had done
my friend harm instead of good.
"Then in that hour rejoice, since only thus
Can thy proud heart grow wholly piteous.
Thus only to the world thy speech can flow
Charged with the sad authority of woe.
Since no man nurtured in the shade can sing
To a true note one psalm of conquering;
Warriors must chant it whom our own eyes see
Red from the battle and more bruised than we,
Men who have borne the worst, have known the whole,
Have felt the last abeyance of the soul."
F. W. H. Myers.
About the beginning of August, I rejoined him at Ben Rhydding. The
place suited the Major admirably, and his various baths took up so
great a part of each day, that Derrick had more time to himself than
usual, and 'At Strife' got on rapidly. He much enjoyed, too, the
beautiful country round, while the hotel itself, with its huge
gathering of all sorts and conditions of people, afforded him
endless studies of character. The Major breakfasted in his own
room, and, being so much engrossed with his baths, did not generally
appear till twelve. Derrick and I breakfasted in the great dining-
hall; and one morning, when the meal was over, we, as usual,
strolled into the drawing-room to see if there were any letters
"One for you," I remarked, handing him a thick envelope.
"From Lawrence!" he exclaimed.
"Well, don't read it in here; the Doctor will be coming to read
prayers. Come out in the garden," I said.
We went out into the beautiful grounds, and he tore open the
envelope and began to read his letter as we walked. All at once I
felt the arm which was linked in mine give a quick, involuntary
movement, and, looking up, saw that Derrick had turned deadly pale.
"What's up?" I said. But he read on without replying; and, when I
paused and sat down on a sheltered rustic seat, he unconsciously
followed my example, looking more like a sleep-walker than a man in
the possession of all his faculties. At last he finished the
letter, and looked up in a dazed, miserable way, letting his eyes
wander over the fir-trees and the fragrant shrubs and the flowers by
"Dear old fellow, what is the matter?" I asked.
The words seemed to rouse him.
A dreadful look passed over his face--the look of one stricken to
the heart. But his voice was perfectly calm, and full of a ghastly
"Freda will be my sister-in-law," he said, rather as if stating the
fact to himself than answering my question.
"Impossible!" I said. "What do you mean? How could--"
As if to silence me he thrust the letter into my hand. It ran as
"Dear Derrick,--For the last few days I have been down in the
Flemings' place in Derbyshire, and fortune has favoured me, for the
Merrifields are here too. Now prepare yourself for a surprise.
Break the news to the governor, and send me your heartiest
congratulations by return of post. I am engaged to Freda
Merrifield, and am the happiest fellow in the world. They are
awfully fastidious sort of people, and I do not believe Sir Richard
would have consented to such a match had it not been for that lucky
impulse which made me rescue Dick Fleming. It has all been arranged
very quickly, as these things should be, but we have seen a good
deal of each other--first at Aldershot the year before last, and
just lately in town, and now these four days down here--and days in
a country house are equal to weeks elsewhere. I enclose a letter to
my father--give it to him at a suitable moment--but, after all, he's
sure to approve of a daughter-in-law with such a dowry as Miss
Merrifield is likely to have.
I gave him back the letter without a word. In dead silence we moved
on, took a turning which led to a little narrow gate, and passed out
of the grounds to the wild moorland country beyond.
After all, Freda was in no way to blame. As a mere girl she had
allowed Derrick to see that she cared for him; then circumstances
had entirely separated them; she saw more of the world, met
Lawrence, was perhaps first attracted to him by his very likeness to
Derrick, and finally fell in love with the hero of the season, whom
every one delighted to honour. Nor could one blame Lawrence, who
had no notion that he had supplanted his brother. All the blame lay
with the Major's slavery to drink, for if only he had remained out
in India I feel sure that matters would have gone quite differently.