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DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
By George Meredith
I. OF DIARIES AND DIARISTS TOUCHING THE HEROINE
II. AN IRISH BALL
III. THE INTERIOR OF MR. REDWORTH AND THE EXTERIOR OF MR. SULLIVAN
IV. CONTAINING HINTS OF DIANA'S EXPERIENCES AND OF WHAT THEY LED TO
V. CONCERNING THE SCRUPULOUS GENTLEMAN WHO CAME TOO LATE .
VI. THE COUPLE
VII. THE CRISIS
VIII. IN WHICH IS EXHIBITED HOW A PRACTICAL MAN AND A DIVINING WOMAN
LEARN TO RESPECT ONE ANOTHER
IX. SHOWS HOW A POSITION OF DELICACY FOR A LADY AND GENTLEMAN WAS
MET IN SIMPLE FASHION WITHOUT HURT TO EITHER.
X. THE CONFLICT OF THE NIGHT
XI. RECOUNTS THE JOURNEY IN A CHARIOT, WITH A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF
DIALOGUE, AND A SMALL INCIDENT ON THE ROAD
XII. BETWEEN EMMA AND DIANA
XIII. TOUCHING THE FIRST DAYS OF HER PROBATION
XIV. GIVING GLIMPSES OF DIANA UNDER HER CLOUD BEFORE THE WORLD AND
OF HER FURTHER APPRENTICESHIP
XV. INTRODUCES THE HON. PERCY DACIER
XVI. TREATS OF A MIDNIGHT BELL, AND OF A SCENE OF EARLY MORNING
XVII. THE PRINCESS EGERIA
XVIII. THE AUTHORESS
XIX. A DRIVE IN SUNLIGHT AND A DRIVE IN MOONLIGHT
XX. DIANA'S NIGHT-WATCH IN THE CHAMBER OF DEATH
XXI. THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE
XXII. BETWEEN DIANA AND DACIER : THE WIND EAST OVER BLEAK LAND
XXIII. RECORDS A VISIT TO DIANA FROM ONE OF THE WORLD'S GOOD WOMEN
XXIV. INDICATES A SOUL PREPARED FOR DESPERATION
XXV. ONCE MORE THE CROSSWAYS AND A CHANGE OF TURNINGS
XXVI. IN WHICH A DISAPPOINTED LOVER RECEIVES A MULTITUDE OF LESSONS
XXXVI. IS CONCLUSIVE AS TO THE HEARTLESSNESS OF WOMEN WITH BRAINS
XXXVII. AN EXHIBITION OF SOME CHAMPIONS OF THE STRICKEN LADY
XXXVIII. CONVALESCENCE OF A HEALTHY MIND DISTRAUGHT
XXXIX. OF NATURE WITH ONE OF HER CULTIVATED DAUGHTERS AND A SHORT
EXCURSION IN ANTI-CLIMAX
XL. IN WHICH WE SEE NATURE MAKING OF A WOMAN A MAID AGAIN, AND A
XLI. CONTAINS A REVELATION OF THE ORIGIN OF THE TIGRESS IN DIANA
XLII. THE PENULTIMATE : SHOWING A FINAL STRUGGLE FOR LIBERTY AND RUN
XLIII. NUPTIAL CHAPTER: AND OF HOW A BARELY WILLING WOMAN WAS LED TO
BLOOM WITH NUPTIAL SENTIMENT
A lady of high distinction for wit and beauty,
the daughter of an illustrious Irish House,
came under the shadow of a calumny. It has
latterly been examined and exposed as baseless.
The story of Diana of the Crossways is to be read
DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
BY GEORGE MEREDITH
I. OF DIARIES AND DIARISTS TOUCHING THE HEROINE
II. AN IRISH BALL
III. THE INTERIOR OF MR. REDWORTH AND THE EXTERIOR OF MR. SULLIVAN
IV. CONTAINING HINTS OF DIANA'S EXPERIENCES AND OF WHAT THEY LED TO
V. CONCERNING THE SCRUPULOUS GENTLEMAN WHO CAME TOO LATE
VI. THE COUPLE
VII. THE CRISIS
VIII. IN WHICH IS EXHIBITED HOW A PRACTICAL MAN AND A DIVINING WOMAN
LEARN TO RESPECT ONE ANOTHER
OF DIARIES AND DIARISTS TOUCHING THE HEROINE
Among the Diaries beginning with the second quarter of our century, there
is frequent mention of a lady then becoming famous for her beauty and her
wit: 'an unusual combination,' in the deliberate syllables of one of the
writers, who is, however, not disposed to personal irony when speaking of
her. It is otherwise in his case and a general fling at the sex we may
deem pardonable, for doing as little harm to womankind as the stone of an
urchin cast upon the bosom of mother Earth; though men must look some day
to have it returned to them, which is a certainty; and indeed full surely
will our idle-handed youngster too, in his riper season; be heard
complaining of a strange assault of wanton missiles, coming on him he
knows not whence; for we are all of us distinctly marked to get back
what we give, even from the thing named inanimate nature.
The 'LEAVES FROM THE DIARY OF HENRY WILMERS' are studded with examples of
the dinner-table wit of the time, not always worth quotation twice; for
smart remarks have their measured distances, many requiring to be a brule
pourpoint, or within throw of the pistol, to make it hit; in other words,
the majority of them are addressed directly to our muscular system, and
they have no effect when we stand beyond the range. On the contrary,
they reflect sombrely on the springs of hilarity in the generation
preceding us; with due reserve of credit, of course, to an animal
vivaciousness that seems to have wanted so small an incitement. Our old
yeomanry farmers--returning to their beds over ferny commons under bright
moonlight from a neighbour's harvest-home, eased their bubbling breasts
with a ready roar not unakin to it. Still the promptness to laugh is an
excellent progenitorial foundation for the wit to come in a people; and
undoubtedly the diarial record of an imputed piece of wit is witness to
the spouting of laughter. This should comfort us while we skim the
sparkling passages of the 'Leaves.' When a nation has acknowledged that
it is as yet but in the fisticuff stage of the art of condensing our
purest sense to golden sentences, a readier appreciation will be extended
to the gift: which is to strike not the dazzled eyes, the unanticipating
nose, the ribs, the sides, and stun us, twirl us, hoodwink, mystify,
tickle and twitch, by dexterities of lingual sparring and shuffling, but
to strike roots in the mind, the Hesperides of good things. We shall
then set a price on the 'unusual combination.' A witty woman is a
treasure; a witty Beauty is a power. Has she actual beauty, actual wit?
--not simply a tidal material beauty that passes current any pretty
flippancy or staggering pretentiousness? Grant. the combination, she
will appear a veritable queen of her period, fit for homage; at least
meriting a disposition to believe the best of her, in the teeth of foul
rumour; because the well of true wit is truth itself, the gathering of
the precious drops of right reason, wisdom's lightning; and no soul
possessing and dispensing it can justly be a target for the world,
however well armed the world confronting her. Our temporary world, that
Old Credulity and stone-hurling urchin in one, supposes it possible for a
woman to be mentally active up to the point of spiritual clarity and also
fleshly vile; a guide to life and a biter at the fruits of death; both
open mind and hypocrite. It has not yet been taught to appreciate a
quality certifying to sound citizenship as authoritatively as acres of
land in fee simple, or coffers of bonds, shares and stocks, and a more
imperishable guarantee. The multitudes of evil reports which it takes
for proof, are marshalled against her without question of the nature of
the victim, her temptress beauty being a sufficiently presumptive
delinquent. It does not pretend to know the whole, or naked body of the
facts; it knows enough for its furry dubiousness; and excepting the
sentimental of men, a rocket-headed horde, ever at the heels of fair
faces for ignition, and up starring away at a hint of tearfulness;
excepting further by chance a solid champion man, or some generous woman
capable of faith in the pelted solitary of her sex, our temporary world
blows direct East on her shivering person. The scandal is warrant for
that; the circumstances of the scandal emphasize the warrant. And how
clever she is! Cleverness is an attribute of the selecter missionary
lieutenants of Satan. We pray to be defended from her cleverness: she
flashes bits of speech that catch men in their unguarded corner. The
wary stuff their ears, the stolid bid her best sayings rebound on her
reputation. Nevertheless the world, as Christian, remembers its
professions, and a portion of it joins the burly in morals by extending
to her a rough old charitable mercifulness; better than sentimental
ointment, but the heaviest blow she has to bear, to a character swimming
That the lady in question was much quoted, the Diaries and Memoirs
testify. Hearsay as well as hearing was at work to produce the
abundance; and it was a novelty in England, where (in company) the men
are the pointed talkers, and the women conversationally fair Circassians.
They are, or they know that they should be; it comes to the same.
Happily our civilization has not prescribed the veil to them. The mutes
have here and there a sketch or label attached to their names: they are
'strikingly handsome'; they are 'very good-looking'; occasionally they
are noted as 'extremely entertaining': in what manner, is inquired by a
curious posterity, that in so many matters is left unendingly to jump the
empty and gaping figure of interrogation over its own full stop. Great
ladies must they be, at the web of politics, for us to hear them cited
discoursing. Henry Wilmers is not content to quote the beautiful Mrs.
Warwick, he attempts a portrait. Mrs. Warwick is 'quite Grecian.' She
might 'pose for a statue.' He presents her in carpenter's lines, with a
dab of school-box colours, effective to those whom the Keepsake fashion
can stir. She has a straight nose, red lips, raven hair, black eyes,
rich complexion, a remarkably fine bust, and she walks well, and has an
agreeable voice; likewise 'delicate extremities.' The writer was created
for popularity, had he chosen to bring his art into our literary market.
Perry Wilkinson is not so elaborate: he describes her in his
'Recollections' as a splendid brune, eclipsing all the blondes coming
near her: and 'what is more, the beautiful creature can talk.' He
wondered, for she was young, new to society. Subsequently he is rather
ashamed of his wonderment, and accounts for it by 'not having known she
was Irish.' She 'turns out to be Dan Merion's daughter.'
We may assume that he would have heard if she had any whiff of a brogue.
Her sounding of the letter R a trifle scrupulously is noticed by Lady
Pennon: 'And last, not least, the lovely Mrs. Warwick, twenty minutes
behind the dinner-hour, and r-r-really fearing she was late.'
After alluding to the soft influence of her beauty and ingenuousness on
the vexed hostess, the kindly old marchioness adds, that it was no wonder
she was late, 'for just before starting from home she had broken loose
from her husband for good, and she entered the room absolutely
houseless!' She was not the less 'astonishingly brilliant.' Her
observations were often 'so unexpectedly droll I laughed till I cried.'
Lady Pennon became in consequence one of the stanch supporters of Mrs.
Others were not so easily won. Perry Wilkinson holds a balance when it
goes beyond a question of her wit and beauty. Henry Wilmers puts the
case aside, and takes her as he finds her. His cousin, the clever and
cynical Dorset Wilmers, whose method of conveying his opinions without
stating them was famous, repeats on two occasions when her name appears
in his pages, 'handsome, lively, witty'; and the stressed repetition of
calculated brevity while a fiery scandal was abroad concerning the lady,
implies weighty substance--the reservation of a constable's truncheon,
that could legally have knocked her character down to the pavement. We
have not to ask what he judged. But Dorset Wilmers was a political
opponent of the eminent Peer who yields the second name to the scandal,
and politics in his day flushed the conceptions of men. His short
references to 'that Warwick-Dannisburgh affair' are not verbally
malicious. He gets wind of the terms of Lord Dannisburgh's will and
testament, noting them without comment. The oddness of the instrument
in one respect may have served his turn; we have no grounds for thinking
him malignant. The death of his enemy closes his allusions to Mrs.
Warwick. He was growing ancient, and gout narrowed the circle he whirled
in. Had he known this 'handsome, lively, witty' apparition as a woman
having political and social views of her own, he would not, one fancies,
have been so stingless. Our England exposes a sorry figure in his
Reminiscences. He struck heavily, round and about him, wherever he
moved; he had by nature a tarnishing eye that cast discolouration. His
unadorned harsh substantive statements, excluding the adjectives, give
his Memoirs the appearance of a body of facts, attractive to the historic
Muse, which has learnt to esteem those brawny sturdy giants marching club
on shoulder, independent of henchman, in preference to your panoplied
knights with their puffy squires, once her favourites, and wind-filling
to her columns, ultimately found indigestible.
His exhibition of his enemy Lord Dannisburgh, is of the class of noble
portraits we see swinging over inn-portals, grossly unlike in likeness.
The possibility of the man's doing or saying this and that adumbrates the
improbability: he had something of the character capable of it, too much
good sense for the performance. We would think so, and still the shadow
is round our thoughts. Lord Dannisburgh was a man of ministerial tact,
official ability, Pagan morality; an excellent general manager, if no
genius in statecraft. But he was careless of social opinion, unbuttoned,
and a laugher. We know that he could be chivalrous toward women,
notwithstanding the perplexities he brought on them, and this the Dorset-
Diary does not show.
His chronicle is less mischievous as regards Mrs. Warwick than the
paragraphs of Perry Wilkinson, a gossip presenting an image of perpetual
chatter, like the waxen-faced street advertizements of light and easy
dentistry. He has no belief, no disbelief; names the pro-party and the
con; recites the case, and discreetly, over-discreetly; and pictures the
trial, tells the list of witnesses, records the verdict: so the case
went, and some thought one thing, some another thing: only it is reported
for positive that a miniature of the incriminated lady was cleverly
smuggled over to the jury, and juries sitting upon these eases, ever
since their bedazzlement by Phryne, as you know . . . . And then he
relates an anecdote of the husband, said to have been not a bad fellow
before he married his Diana; and the naming of the Goddess reminds him
that the second person in the indictment is now everywhere called 'The
elderly shepherd';--but immediately after the bridal bells this husband
became sour and insupportable, and either she had the trick of putting
him publicly in the wrong, or he lost all shame in playing the churlish
domestic tyrant. The instances are incredible of a gentleman. Perry
Wilkinson gives us two or three; one on the authority of a personal
friend who witnessed the scene; at the Warwick whist-table, where the
fair Diana would let loose her silvery laugh in the intervals. She was
hardly out of her teens, and should have been dancing instead of fastened
to a table. A difference of fifteen years in the ages of the wedded pair
accounts poorly for the husband's conduct, however solemn a business the
game of whist. We read that he burst out at last, with bitter mimicry,
'yang--yang--yang!' and killed the bright laugh, shot it dead. She had
outraged the decorum of the square-table only while the cards were
making. Perhaps her too-dead ensuing silence, as of one striving to
bring back the throbs to a slain bird in her bosom, allowed the gap
between the wedded pair to be visible, for it was dated back to prophecy
as soon as the trumpet proclaimed it.
But a multiplication of similar instances, which can serve no other
purpose than that of an apology, is a miserable vindication of innocence.
The more we have of them the darker the inference. In delicate
situations the chatterer is noxious. Mrs. Warwick had numerous
apologists. Those trusting to her perfect rectitude were rarer. The
liberty she allowed herself in speech and action must have been trying to
her defenders in a land like ours; for here, and able to throw its shadow
on our giddy upper-circle, the rigour of the game of life, relaxed though
it may sometimes appear, would satisfy the staidest whist-player. She
did not wish it the reverse, even when claiming a space for laughter:
'the breath of her soul,' as she called it, and as it may be felt in the
early youth of a lively nature. She, especially, with her multitude of
quick perceptions and imaginative avenues, her rapid summaries, her sense
of the comic, demanded this aerial freedom.
We have it from Perry Wilkinson that the union of the divergent couple
was likened to another union always in a Court of Law. There was a
distinction; most analogies will furnish one; and here we see England and
Ireland changeing their parts, until later, after the breach, when the
Englishman and Irishwoman resumed a certain resemblance to the yoked
Henry Wilmers, I have said, deals exclusively with the wit and charm of
the woman. He treats the scandal as we might do in like manner if her
story had not to be told. But these are not reporting columns; very
little of it shall trouble them. The position is faced, and that is all.
The position is one of the battles incident to women, their hardest. It
asks for more than justice from men, for generosity, our civilization not
being yet of the purest. That cry of hounds at her disrobing by Law is
instinctive. She runs, and they give tongue; she is a creature of the
chase. Let her escape unmangled, it will pass in the record that she did
once publicly run, and some old dogs will persist in thinking her
cunninger than the virtuous, which never put themselves in such
positions, but ply the distaff at home. Never should reputation of
woman trail a scent! How true! and true also that the women of waxwork
never do; and that the women of happy marriages do not; nor the women of
holy nunneries; nor the women lucky in their arts. It is a test of the
civilized to see and hear, and add no yapping to the spectacle.
Thousands have reflected on a Diarist's power to cancel our Burial
Service. Not alone the cleric's good work is upset by him; but the
sexton's as well. He howks the grave, and transforms the quiet worms,
busy on a single poor peaceable body, into winged serpents that disorder
sky and earth with a deadly flight of zig-zags, like military rockets,
among the living. And if these are given to cry too much, to have their
tender sentiments considered, it cannot be said that History requires the
flaying of them. A gouty Diarist, a sheer gossip Diarist, may thus,
in the bequest of a trail of reminiscences, explode our temples (for our
very temples have powder in store), our treasuries, our homesteads, alive
with dynamitic stuff; nay, disconcert our inherited veneration, dislocate
the intimate connexion between the tugged flaxen forelock and a title.
No similar blame is incurred by Henry Wilmers. No blame whatever,
one would say, if he had been less, copious, or not so subservient,
in recording the lady's utterances; for though the wit of a woman may be
terse, quite spontaneous, as this lady's assuredly was here and there,
she is apt to spin it out of a museful mind, at her toilette, or by the
lonely fire, and sometimes it is imitative; admirers should beware of
holding it up to the withering glare of print: she herself, quoting an
obscure maximmonger, says of these lapidary sentences, that they have
merely 'the value of chalk-eggs, which lure the thinker to sit,' and
tempt the vacuous to strain for the like, one might add; besides
flattering the world to imagine itself richer than it is in eggs that are
golden. Henry Wilmers notes a multitude of them. 'The talk fell upon
our being creatures of habit, and how far it was good: She said:--
It is there that we see ourselves crutched between love grown old
and indifference ageing to love.' Critic ears not present at the
conversation catch an echo of maxims and aphorisms overchannel,
notwithstanding a feminine thrill in the irony of 'ageing to love.'
The quotation ranks rather among the testimonies to her charm.
She is fresher when speaking of the war of the sexes. For one sentence
out of many, though we find it to be but the clever literary clothing of
a common accusation: 'Men may have rounded Seraglio Point: they have not
yet doubled Cape Turk.'
It is war, and on the male side, Ottoman war: her experience reduced her
to think so positively. Her main personal experience was in the social
class which is primitively venatorial still, canine under its polish.
She held a brief for her beloved Ireland. She closes a discussion upon
Irish agitation by saying rather neatly: 'You have taught them it is
English as well as common human nature to feel an interest in the dog
that has bitten you.'
The dog periodically puts on madness to win attention; we gather then
that England, in an angry tremour, tries him with water-gruel to prove
Of the Irish priest (and she was not of his retinue), when he was deemed
a revolutionary, Henry Wilmers notes her saying: 'Be in tune with him;
he is in the key-note for harmony. He is shepherd, doctor, nurse,
comforter, anecdotist and fun-maker to his poor flock; and you wonder
they see the burning gateway of their heaven in him? Conciliate the
It has been partly done, done late, when the poor flock have found their
doctoring and shepherding at other hands: their 'bulb-food and fiddle,'
that she petitioned for, to keep them from a complete shaving off their
patch of bog and scrub soil, without any perception of the tremulous
transatlantic magnification of the fiddle, and the splitting discord of
its latest inspiriting jig.
And she will not have the consequences of the 'weariful old Irish duel
between Honour and Hunger judged by bread and butter juries.'
She had need to be beautiful to be tolerable in days when Englishmen
stood more openly for the strong arm to maintain the Union. Her troop
of enemies was of her summoning.
Ordinarily her topics were of wider range, and those of a woman who mixed
hearing with reading, and observation with her musings. She has no
doleful ejaculatory notes, of the kind peculiar to women at war,
containing one-third of speculative substance to two of sentimental--
a feminine plea for comprehension and a squire; and it was probably the
reason (as there is no reason to suppose an emotional cause) why she
exercised her evident sway over the mind of so plain and straightforward
an Englishman as Henry Wilmers. She told him that she read rapidly, 'a
great deal at one gulp,' and thought in flashes--a way with the makers of
phrases. She wrote, she confessed, laboriously. The desire to prune,
compress, overcharge, was a torment to the nervous woman writing under a
sharp necessity for payment. Her songs were shot off on the impulsion;
prose was the heavy task. 'To be pointedly rational,' she said, 'is a
greater difficulty for me than a fine delirium.' She did not talk as if
it would have been so, he remarks. One is not astonished at her
appearing an 'actress' to the flat-minded. But the basis of her woman's
nature was pointed flame: In the fulness of her history we perceive
nothing histrionic. Capricious or enthusiastic in her youth, she never
trifled with feeling; and if she did so with some showy phrases and
occasionally proffered commonplaces in gilt, as she was much excited to
do, her moods of reflection were direct, always large and honest,
universal as well as feminine.
Her saying that 'A woman in the pillory restores the original bark of
brotherhood to mankind,' is no more than a cry of personal anguish. She
has golden apples in her apron. She says of life: 'When I fail to
cherish it in every fibre the fires within are waning,' and that drives
like rain to the roots. She says of the world, generously, if with
tapering idea: 'From the point of vision of the angels, this ugly
monster, only half out of slime, must appear our one constant hero.'
It can be read maliciously, but abstain.
She says of Romance: 'The young who avoid that region escape the title of
Fool at the cost of a celestial crown.' Of Poetry: 'Those that have
souls meet their fellows there.'
But she would have us away with sentimentalism. Sentimental people, in
her phrase, 'fiddle harmonics on the strings of sensualism,' to the
delight of a world gaping for marvels of musical execution rather than
for music. For our world is all but a sensational world at present, in
maternal travail of a soberer, a braver, a brighter-eyed. Her
reflections are thus to be interpreted, it seems to me. She says,
'The vices of the world's nobler half in this day are feminine.' We have
to guard against 'half-conceptions of wisdom, hysterical goodness, an
impatient charity'--against the elementary state of the altruistic
virtues, distinguishable as the sickness and writhings of our egoism to
cast its first slough. Idea is there. The funny part of it is our
finding it in books of fiction composed for payment. Manifestly this
lady did not 'chameleon' her pen from the colour of her audience: she was
not of the uniformed rank and file marching to drum and fife as gallant
interpreters of popular appetite, and going or gone to soundlessness and
the icy shades.
Touches inward are not absent: 'To have the sense of the eternal in life
is a short flight for the soul. To have had it, is the soul's vitality.'
And also: 'Palliation of a sin is the hunted creature's refuge and final
temptation. Our battle is ever between spirit and flesh. Spirit must
brand the flesh, that it may live.'
You are entreated to repress alarm. She was by preference light-handed;
and her saying of oratory, that 'It is always the more impressive for the
spice of temper which renders it untrustworthy,' is light enough.
On Politics she is rhetorical and swings: she wrote to spur a junior
politician: 'It is the first business of men, the school to mediocrity,
to the covetously ambitious a sty, to the dullard his amphitheatre, arms
of Titans to the desperately enterprising, Olympus to the genius.'
What a woman thinks of women, is the test of her nature. She saw their
existing posture clearly, yet believed, as men disincline to do, that
they grow. She says, that 'In their judgements upon women men are
females, voices of the present (sexual) dilemma.' They desire to have
'a still woman; who can make a constant society of her pins and needles.'
They create by stoppage a volcano, and are amazed at its eruptiveness.
'We live alone, and do not much feel it till we are visited.' Love is
presumably the visitor. Of the greater loneliness of women, she says:
'It is due to the prescribed circumscription of their minds, of which
they become aware in agitation. Were the walls about them beaten down,
they would understand that solitariness is a common human fate and the
one chance of growth, like space for timber.' As to the sensations of
women after the beating down of the walls, she owns that the multitude of
the timorous would yearn in shivering affright for the old prison-nest,
according to the sage prognostic of men; but the flying of a valiant few
would form a vanguard. And we are informed that the beginning of a
motive life with women must be in the head, equally with men (by no means
a truism when she wrote). Also that 'men do not so much fear to lose the
hearts of thoughtful women as their strict attention to their graces.'
The present market is what men are for preserving: an observation of
still reverberating force. Generally in her character of the feminine
combatant there is a turn of phrase, like a dimple near the lips showing
her knowledge that she was uttering but a tart measure of the truth. She
had always too much lambent humour to be the dupe of the passion
wherewith, as she says, 'we lash ourselves into the persuasive speech
distinguishing us from the animals.'
The instances of her drollery are rather hinted by the Diarists for the
benefit of those who had met her and could inhale the atmosphere at a
word. Drolleries, humours, reputed witticisms, are like odours of roast
meats, past with the picking of the joint. Idea is the only vital
breath. They have it rarely, or it eludes the chronicler. To say of the
great erratic and forsaken Lady A****, after she had accepted the
consolations of Bacchus, that her name was properly signified in
asterisks 'as she was now nightly an Ariadne in heaven through her God,'
sounds to us a roundabout, with wit somewhere and fun nowhere. Sitting
at the roast we might have thought differently. Perry Wilkinson is not
happier in citing her reply to his compliment on the reviewers' unanimous
eulogy of her humour and pathos:--the 'merry clown and poor pantaloon
demanded of us in every work of fiction,' she says, lamenting the
writer's compulsion to go on producing them for applause until it is
extremest age that knocks their knees. We are informed by Lady Pennon of
'the most amusing description of the first impressions of a pretty
English simpleton in Paris'; and here is an opportunity for ludicrous
contrast of the French and English styles of pushing flatteries--'piping
to the charmed animal,' as Mrs. Warwick terms it in another place: but
Lady Pennon was acquainted with the silly woman of the piece, and found
her amusement in the 'wonderful truth' of that representation.
Diarists of amusing passages are under an obligation to paint us a
realistic revival of the time, or we miss the relish. The odour of the
roast, and more, a slice of it is required, unless the humorous thing be
preternaturally spirited to walk the earth as one immortal among a number
less numerous than the mythic Gods. 'He gives good dinners,' a candid
old critic said, when asked how it was that he could praise a certain
poet. In an island of chills and fogs, coelum crebris imbribus ac
nebulis foedum, the comic and other perceptions are dependent on the
stirring of the gastric juices. And such a revival by any of us would be
impolitic, were it a possible attempt, before our systems shall have been
fortified by philosophy. Then may it be allowed to the Diarist simply to
relate, and we can copy from him.
Then, ah! then, moreover, will the novelist's Art, now neither blushless
infant nor executive man, have attained its majority. We can then be
veraciously historical, honestly transcriptive. Rose-pink and dirty drab
will alike have passed away. Philosophy is the foe of both, and their
silly cancelling contest, perpetually renewed in a shuffle of extremes,
as it always is where a phantasm falseness reigns, will no longer baffle
the contemplation of natural flesh, smother no longer the soul issuing
out of our incessant strife. Philosophy bids us to see that we are not
so pretty as rose-pink, not so repulsive as dirty drab; and that instead
of everlastingly shifting those barren aspects, the sight of ourselves is
wholesome, bearable, fructifying, finally a delight. Do but perceive
that we are coming to philosophy, the stride toward it will be a giant's
--a century a day. And imagine the celestial refreshment of having a
pure decency in the place of sham; real flesh; a soul born active, wind-
beaten, but ascending. Honourable will fiction then appear; honourable,
a fount of life, an aid to life, quick with our blood. Why, when you
behold it you love it--and you will not encourage it?--or only when
presented by dead hands? Worse than that alternative dirty drab, your
recurring rose-pink is rebuked by hideous revelations of the filthy foul;
for nature will force her way, and if you try to stifle her by drowning,
she comes up, not the fairest part of her uppermost! Peruse your
Realists--really your castigators for not having yet embraced Philosophy.
As she grows in the flesh when discreetly tended, nature is
unimpeachable, flower-eke, yet not too decoratively a flower; you must
have her with the stem, the thorns, the roots, and the fat bedding of
roses. In this fashion she grew, says historical fiction; thus does she
flourish now, would say the modern transcript, reading the inner as well
as exhibiting the outer.
And how may you know that you have reached to Philosophy? You touch her
skirts when you share her hatred of the sham decent, her derision of
sentimentalism. You are one with her when--but I would not have you a
thousand years older! Get to her, if in no other way, by the sentimental
route:--that very winding path, which again and again brings you round to
the point of original impetus, where you have to be unwound for another
whirl; your point of original impetus being the grossly material, not at
all the spiritual. It is most true that sentimentalism springs from the
former, merely and badly aping the latter,--fine flower, or pinnacle
flame-spire, of sensualism that it is, could it do other? and
accompanying the former it traverses tracts of desert here and there
couching in a garden, catching with one hand at fruits, with another at
colours; imagining a secret ahead, and goaded by an appetite, sustained
by sheer gratifications. Fiddle in harmonics as it may, it will have
these gratifications at all costs. Should none be discoverable, at once
you are at the Cave of Despair, beneath the funereal orb of Glaucoma, in
the thick midst of poniarded, slit-throat, rope-dependant figures,
placarded across the bosom Disillusioned, Infidel, Agnostic, Miserrimus.
That is the sentimental route to advancement. Spirituality does not
light it; evanescent dreams: are its oil-lamps, often with wick askant in
A thousand years! You may count full many a thousand by this route
before you are one with divine Philosophy. Whereas a single flight of
brains will reach and embrace her; give you the savour of Truth, the
right use of the senses, Reality's infinite sweetness; for these things
are in philosophy; and the fiction which is the summary of actual Life,
the within and without of us, is, prose or verse, plodding or soaring,
philosophy's elect handmaiden. To such an end let us bend our aim to
work, knowing that every form of labour, even this flimsiest, as you
esteem it, should minister to growth. If in any branch of us we fail in
growth, there is, you are aware, an unfailing aboriginal democratic old
monster that waits to pull us down; certainly the branch, possibly the
tree; and for the welfare of Life we fall. You are acutely conscious of
yonder old monster when he is mouthing at you in politics. Be wary of
him in the heart; especially be wary of the disrelish of brainstuff. You
must feed on something. Matter that is not nourishing to brains can help
to constitute nothing but the bodies which are pitched on rubbish heaps.
Brainstuff is not lean stuff;--the brainstuff of fiction is internal
history, and to suppose it dull is the profoundest of errors; how deep,
you will understand when I tell you that it is the very football of the
holiday-afternoon imps below. They kick it for pastime; they are
intelligences perverted. The comic of it, the adventurous, the tragic,
they make devilish, to kindle their Ogygian hilarity. But--sharply
comic, adventurous, instructively tragic, it is in the interwinding with
human affairs, to give a flavour of the modern day reviving that of our
Poet, between whom and us yawn Time's most hollow jaws. Surely we owe a
little to Time, to cheer his progress; a little to posterity, and to our
country. Dozens of writers will be in at yonder yawning breach, if only
perusers will rally to the philosophic standard. They are sick of the
woodeny puppetry they dispense, as on a race-course to the roaring
frivolous. Well, if not dozens, half-dozens; gallant pens are alive;
one can speak of them in the plural. I venture to say that they would
be satisfied with a dozen for audience, for a commencement. They would
perish of inanition, unfed, unapplauded, amenable to the laws perchance
for an assault on their last remaining pair of ears or heels, to hold
them fast. But the example is the thing; sacrifices must be expected.
The example might, one hopes, create a taste. A great modern writer, of
clearest eye and head, now departed, capable in activity of presenting
thoughtful women, thinking men, groaned over his puppetry, that he dared
not animate them, flesh though they were, with the fires of positive
brainstuff. He could have done it, and he is of the departed! Had he
dared, he would (for he was Titan enough) have raised the Art in dignity
on a level with History; to an interest surpassing the narrative of
public deeds as vividly as man's heart and brain in their union excel his
plain lines of action to eruption. The everlasting pantomime, suggested
by Mrs. Warwick in her exclamation to Perry Wilkinson, is derided, not
unrighteously, by our graver seniors. They name this Art the pasture of
idiots, a method for idiotizing the entire population which has taken to
reading; and which soon discovers that it can write likewise, that sort
of stuff at least. The forecast may be hazarded, that if we do not
speedily embrace Philosophy in fiction, the Art is doomed to extinction,
under the shining multitude of its professors. They are fast capping the
candle. Instead, therefore, of objurgating the timid intrusions of
Philosophy, invoke her presence, I pray you. History without her is the
skeleton map of events: Fiction a picture of figures modelled on no
skeleton-anatomy. But each, with Philosophy in aid, blooms, and is
humanly shapely. To demand of us truth to nature, excluding Philosophy,
is really to bid a pumpkin caper. As much as legs are wanted for the
dance, Philosophy is required to make our human nature credible and
acceptable. Fiction implores you to heave a bigger breast and take her
in with this heavenly preservative helpmate, her inspiration and her
essence. You have to teach your imagination of the feminine image you
have set up to bend your civilized knees to, that it must temper its
fastidiousness, shun the grossness of the over-dainty. Or, to speak in
the philosophic tongue, you must turn on yourself, resolutely track and
seize that burrower, and scrub and cleanse him; by which process, during
the course of it, you will arrive at the conception of the right heroical
woman for you to worship: and if you prove to be of some spiritual
stature, you may reach to an ideal of the heroical feminine type for the
worship of mankind, an image as yet in poetic outline only, on our upper
'So well do we know ourselves, that we one and all determine to know a
purer,' says the heroine of my columns. Philosophy in fiction tells,
among various other matters, of the perils of this intimate acquaintance
with a flattering familiar in the 'purer'--a person who more than ceases
to be of else to us after his ideal shall have led up men from their
flint and arrowhead caverns to intercommunicative daylight. For when the
fictitious creature has performed that service of helping to civilize the
world, it becomes the most dangerous of delusions, causing first the
individual to despise the mass, and then to join the mass in crushing the
individual. Wherewith let us to our story, the froth being out of the
AN IRISH BALL
In the Assembly Rooms of the capital city of the Sister Island there was
a public Ball, to celebrate the return to Erin of a British hero of Irish
blood, after his victorious Indian campaign; a mighty struggle splendidly
ended; and truly could it be said that all Erin danced to meet him; but
this was the pick of the dancing, past dispute the pick of the supping.
Outside those halls the supping was done in Lazarus fashion, mainly
through an excessive straining of the organs of hearing and vision, which
imparted the readiness for more, declared by physicians to be the state
inducing to sound digestion. Some one spied the figure of the hero at
the window and was fed; some only to hear the tale chewed the cud of it;
some told of having seen him mount the steps; and sure it was that at an
hour of the night, no matter when, and never mind a drop or two of cloud,
he would come down them again, and have an Irish cheer to freshen his
pillow. For 'tis Ireland gives England her soldiers, her generals too.
Farther away, over field and bogland, the whiskies did their excellent
ancient service of watering the dry and drying the damp, to the toast of
'Lord Larrian, God bless him! he's an honour to the old country!' and a
bit of a sigh to follow, hints of a story, and loud laughter, a drink, a
deeper sigh, settling into conversation upon the brave Lord Larrian's
deeds, and an Irish regiment he favoured--had no taste for the enemy
without the backing of his 'boys.' Not he. Why, he'd never march to
battle and they not handy; because when he struck he struck hard, he
said. And he has a wound on the right hip and two fingers off his left
hand; has bled for England, to show her what Irishmen are when they're
The fine old warrior standing at the upper end of the long saloon, tall,
straight, grey-haired, martial in his aspect and decorations, was worthy
to be the flag-pole for enthusiasm. His large grey eyes lightened from
time to time as he ranged them over the floating couples, and dropped a
word of inquiry to his aide, Captain Sir Lukin Dunstane, a good model of
a cavalry officer, though somewhat a giant, equally happy with his chief
in passing the troops of animated ladies under review. He named as many
as were known to him. Reviewing women exquisitely attired for
inspection, all variously and charmingly smiling, is a relief after the
monotonous regiments of men. Ireland had done her best to present the
hero of her blood an agreeable change; and he too expressed a patriotic
satisfaction on hearing that the faces most admired by him were of the
native isle. He looked upon one that came whirling up to him on a young
officer's arm and swept off into the crowd of tops, for a considerable
while before he put his customary question. She was returning on the
spin when he said,
'Who is she?'
Sir Lukin did not know. 'She 's a new bird; she nodded to my wife;
He manoeuvred a few steps cleverly to where his wife reposed. The
information he gathered for the behoof of his chief was, that the
handsome creature answered to the name of Miss Merion; Irish; aged
somewhere between eighteen and nineteen; a dear friend of his wife's,
and he ought to have remembered her; but she was a child when he saw
'Dan Merion died, I remember, about the day of my sailing for India,'
said the General. 'She may be his daughter.'
The bright cynosure rounded up to him in the web of the waltz, with her
dark eyes for Lady Dunstane, and vanished again among the twisting
He made his way, handsomely bumped by an apologetic pair, to Lady
Dunstane, beside whom a seat was vacated for him; and he trusted she had
not over-fatigued herself.
'Confess,' she replied, 'you are perishing to know more than Lukin has
been able to tell you. Let me hear that you admire her: it pleases me;
and you shall hear what will please you as much, I promise you, General.'
'I do. Who wouldn't?' said he frankly.
'She crossed the Channel expressly to dance here tonight at the public
Ball in honour of you.'
'Where she appears, the first person falls to second rank, and accepts it
'That is grandly spoken.'
'She makes everything in the room dust round a blazing jewel.'
'She makes a poet of a soldier. Well, that you may understand how
pleased I am, she is my dearest friend, though she is younger than I,
as may be seen; she is the only friend I have. I nursed her when she was
an infant; my father and Mr. Dan Merion were chums. We were parted by my
marriage and the voyage to India. We have not yet exchanged a syllable:
she was snapped up, of course, the moment she entered the room. I knew
she would be a taking girl: how lovely, I did not guess. You are right,
she extinguishes the others. She used to be the sprightliest of living
creatures, and to judge by her letters, that has not faded. She 's in
the market, General.'
Lord Larrian nodded to everything he heard, concluding with a mock
doleful shake of the head. 'My poorest subaltern!' he sighed, in the
theatrical but cordially melancholy style of green age viewing Cytherea's
His poorest subaltern was richer than he in the wherewithal to bid for
'What is her name in addition to Merion?'
'Diana Antonia Merion. Tony to me, Diana to the world.'
'She lives over there?'
'In England, or anywhere; wherever she is taken in. She will live,
I hope, chiefly with me.'
'And honest Irish?'
'Oh, she's Irish.'
'Ah!' the General was Irish to the heels that night.
Before further could be said the fair object of the dialogue came darting
on a trip of little runs, both hands out, all her face one tender sparkle
of a smile; and her cry proved the quality of her blood: 'Emmy! Emmy!
'My dear Tony!
I should not have come but for the hope of seeing you here.'
Lord Larrian rose and received a hurried acknowledgement of his courtesy
from the usurper of his place.
'Emmy! we might kiss and hug; we're in Ireland. I burn to! But you're
not still ill, dear? Say no! That Indian fever must have gone. You do
look a dash pale, my own; you're tired.'
'One dance has tired me. Why were you so late?'
'To give the others a chance? To produce a greater impression by
suspense? No and no. I wrote you I was with the Pettigrews. We caught
the coach, we caught the boat, we were only two hours late for the Ball;
so we did wonders. And good Mrs. Pettigrew is, pining somewhere to
complete her adornment. I was in the crush, spying for Emmy, when Mr.
Mayor informed me it was the duty of every Irishwoman to dance her toes
off, if she 'd be known for what she is. And twirl! a man had me by the
waist, and I dying to find you.'
'Who was the man?'
'Not to save these limbs from the lighted stake could I tell you!'
'You are to perform a ceremonious bow to Lord Larrian.'
'Chatter first! a little!'
The plea for chatter was disregarded. It was visible that the hero of
the night hung listening and in expectation. He and the Beauty were
named to one another, and they chatted through a quadrille. Sir Lukin
introduced a fellow-Harrovian of old days, Mr. Thomas Redworth, to his
'Our weather-prophet, meteorologist,' he remarked, to set them going;
'you remember, in India, my pointing to you his name in a newspaper--
letter on the subject. He was generally safe for the cricketing days.'
Lady Dunstane kindly appeared to call it to mind, and she led upon the
them-queried at times by an abrupt 'Eh?' and 'I beg pardon,' for
manifestly his gaze and one of his ears, if not the pair, were given to
the young lady discoursing with Lord Larrian. Beauty is rare; luckily is
it rare, or, judging from its effect on men, and the very stoutest of
them, our world would be internally more distracted planet than we see,
to the perversion of business, courtesy, rights of property, and the
rest. She perceived an incipient victim, of the hundreds she
anticipated, and she very tolerantly talked on: 'The weather and women
have some resemblance they say. Is it true that he who reads the one can
read the other?'
Lord Larrian here burst into a brave old laugh, exclaiming, 'Oh! good!'
Mr. Redworth knitted his thick brows. 'I beg pardon? Ah! women!
Weather and women? No; the one point more variable in women makes all
'Can you tell me what the General laughed at?'
The honest Englishman entered the trap with promptitude. 'She said:--who
is she, may I ask you?'
Lady Dunstane mentioned her name.
Daughter of the famous Dan Merion? The young lady merited examination
for her father's sake. But when reminded of her laughter-moving speech,
Mr. Redworth bungled it; he owned he spoilt it, and candidly stated his
inability to see the fun. 'She said, St. George's Channel in a gale
ought to be called St. Patrick's--something--I missed some point. That
quadrille-tune, the Pastourelle, or something . . .'
'She had experience of the Channel last night,' Lady Dunstane pursued,
and they both, while in seeming converse, caught snatches from their
neighbours, during a pause of the dance.
The sparkling Diana said to Lord Larrian, 'You really decline to make any
of us proud women by dancing to-night?'
The General answered: 'I might do it on two stilts; I can't on one.' He
touched his veteran leg.
'But surely,' said she, 'there's always an inspiration coming to it from
its partner in motion, if one of them takes the step.'
He signified a woeful negative. 'My dear young lady, you say dark things
to grey hairs!'
She rejoined: 'If we were over in England, and you fixed on me the stigma
of saying dark things, I should never speak without being thought
'It's because you flash too brightly for them.'
'I think it is rather the reminiscence of the tooth that received a stone
when it expected candy.'
Again the General laughed; he looked pleased and warmed. 'Yes, that 's
their way, that 's their way!' and he repeated her words to himself,
diminishing their importance as he stamped them on his memory, but so
heartily admiring the lovely speaker, that he considered her wit an
honour to the old country, and told her so. Irish prevailed up to
Lady Dunstane, not less gratified, glanced up at Mr. Redworth, whose
brows bore the knot of perplexity over a strong stare. He, too, stamped
the words on his memory, to see subsequently whether they had a vestige
of meaning. Terrifically precocious, he thought her. Lady Dunstane, in
her quick sympathy with her friend, read the adverse mind in his face.
And her reading of the mind was right, wrong altogether her deduction of
the corresponding sentiment.
Music was resumed to confuse the hearing of the eavesdroppers.
They beheld a quaint spectacle: a gentleman, obviously an Englishman,
approached, with the evident intention of reminding the Beauty of the
night of her engagement to him, and claiming her, as it were, in the
lion's jaws. He advanced a foot, withdrew it, advanced, withdrew; eager
for his prize, not over-enterprising; in awe of the illustrious General
she entertained--presumeably quite unaware of the pretender's presence;
whereupon a voice was heard: 'Oh! if it was minuetting you meant before
the lady, I'd never have disputed your right to perform, sir.' For it
seemed that there were two claimants in the field, an Irishman and an
Englishman; and the former, having a livelier sense of the situation,
hung aloof in waiting for her eye; the latter directed himself to strike
bluntly at his prey; and he continued minuetting, now rapidly blinking,
flushed, angry, conscious of awkwardness and a tangle, incapable of
extrication. He began to blink horribly under the raillery of his rival.
The General observed him, but as an object remote and minute, a fly or
gnat. The face of the brilliant Diana was entirely devoted to him she
Lady Dunstane had the faint lines of a decorous laugh on her lips, as she
said: 'How odd it is that our men show to such disadvantage in a Ball-
room. I have seen them in danger, and there they shine first of any, and
one is proud of them. They should always be facing the elements or in
action.' She glanced at the minuet, which had become a petrified figure,
still palpitating, bent forward, an interrogative reminder.
Mr. Redworth reserved his assent to the proclamation of any English
disadvantage. A whiff of Celtic hostility in the atmosphere put him on
his mettle. 'Wherever the man is tried,' he said.
'My lady!' the Irish gentleman bowed to Lady Dunstane. 'I had the honour
. . . Sullivan Smith . . . at the castle . . .'
She responded to the salute, and Mr. Sullivan Smith proceeded to tell
her, half in speech, half in dots most luminous, of a civil contention
between the English gentleman and himself, as to the possession of the
loveliest of partners for this particular ensuing dance, and that they
had simultaneously made a rush from the Lower Courts, namely, their
cards, to the Upper, being the lady; and Mr. Sullivan Smith partly
founded his preferable claim on her Irish descent, and on his
acquaintance with her eminent defunct father--one of the ever-radiating
stars of his quenchless country.
Lady Dunstane sympathized with him for his not intruding his claim when
the young lady stood pre-engaged, as well as in humorous appreciation of
his imaginative logic.
'There will be dancing enough after supper,' she said.
'If I could score one dance with her, I'd go home supperless and
feasted,' said he. 'And that's not saying much among the hordes of
hungry troopers tip-toe for the signal to the buffet. See, my lady, the
gentleman, as we call him; there he is working his gamut perpetually up
to da capo. Oh! but it's a sheep trying to be wolf; he 's sheep-eyed and
he 's wolf-fanged, pathetic and larcenous! Oh, now! who'd believe it!--
the man has dared . . . I'd as soon think of committing sacrilege in a
The man was actually; to quote his indignant rival, 'breaching the
fortress,' and pointing out to Diana Merion 'her name on his dirty scrap
of paper': a shocking sight when the lady's recollection was the sole
point to be aimed at, and the only umpire. 'As if all of us couldn't
have written that, and hadn't done it!' Mr. Sullivan Smith groaned
disgusted. He hated bad manners, particularly in cases involving ladies;
and the bad manners of a Saxon fired his antagonism to the race;
individual members of which he boasted of forgiving and embracing,
honouring. So the man blackened the race for him, and the race was
excused in the man. But his hatred of bad manners was vehement, and
would have extended to a fellow-countryman. His own were of the
antecedent century, therefore venerable.
Diana turned from her pursuer with a comic woeful lifting of the brows at
her friend. Lady Dunstane motioned her fan, and Diana came, bending
'Are you bound in honour?'
'I don't think I am. And I do want to go on talking with the General.
He is so delightful and modest--my dream of a true soldier!--telling me
of his last big battle, bit by bit, to my fishing.'
'Put off this person for a square dance down the list, and take out Mr.
Redworth--Miss Diana Merlon, Mr. Redworth: he will bring you back to the
General, who must not totally absorb you, or he will forfeit his
Diana instantly struck a treaty with the pertinacious advocate of his
claims, to whom, on his relinquishing her, Mr. Sullivan Smith remarked:
'Oh! sir, the law of it, where a lady's concerned! You're one for
evictions, I should guess, and the anti-human process. It's that letter
of the law that stands between you and me and mine and yours. But you've
got your congee, and my blessing on ye!'
'It was a positive engagement,' said the enemy.
Mr. Sullivan Smith derided him. 'And a pretty partner you've pickled for
yourself when she keeps her positive engagement!'
He besought Lady Dunstane to console him with a turn. She pleaded
weariness. He proposed to sit beside her and divert her. She smiled,
but warned him that she was English in every vein. He interjected:
'Irish men and English women! though it's putting the cart before the
horse--the copper pennies where the gold guineas should be. So here's
the gentleman who takes the oyster, like the lawyer of the fable.
English is he? But we read, the last shall be first. And English women
and Irish men make the finest coupling in the universe.'
'Well, you must submit to see an Irish woman led out by an English man,'
said Lady Dunstane, at the same time informing the obedient Diana, then
bestowing her hand on Mr. Redworth to please her friend, that he was a
schoolfellow of her husband's.
'Favour can't help coming by rotation, except in very extraordinary
circumstances, and he was ahead of me with you, and takes my due, and
'twould be hard on me if I weren't thoroughly indemnified.' Mr. Sullivan
Smith bowed. 'You gave them just the start over the frozen minute for
conversation; they were total strangers, and he doesn't appear a bad sort
of fellow for a temporary mate, though he's not perfectly sure of his
legs. And that we'll excuse to any man leading out such a fresh young
beauty of a Bright Eyes--like the stars of a winter's night in the frosty
season over Columkill, or where you will, so that's in Ireland, to be
sure of the likeness to her.'
'Her mother was half English.'
'Of course she was. And what was my observation about the coupling?
Dan Merion would make her Irish all over. And she has a vein of Spanish
blood in her; for he had; and she's got the colour.--But you spoke of
their coupling--or I did. Oh, a man can hold his own with an English
roly-poly mate: he's not stifled! But a woman hasn't his power of
resistance to dead weight. She's volatile, she's frivolous, a rattler
and gabbler--haven't I heard what they say of Irish girls over there?
She marries, and it's the end of her sparkling. She must choose at home
for a perfect harmonious partner.'
Lady Dunstane expressed her opinion that her couple danced excellently
'It'd be a bitter thing to see, if the fellow couldn't dance, after
leading her out!' sighed Mr. Sullivan Smith. 'I heard of her over there.
They, call her the Black Pearl, and the Irish Lily--because she's dark.
They rack their poor brains to get the laugh of us.'
'And I listen to you,' said Lady Dunstane.
'Ah! if all England, half, a quarter, the smallest piece of the land
were like you, my lady, I'd be loyal to the finger-nails. Now, is she
engaged?--when I get a word with her?'
'She is nineteen, or nearly, and she ought to have five good years of
freedom, I think.'
'And five good years of serfdom I'd serve to win her!'
A look at him under the eyelids assured Lady Dunstane that there would be
small chance for Mr. Sullivan Smith; after a life of bondage, if she knew
her Diana, in spite of his tongue, his tact, his lively features, and
breadth of shoulders.
Up he sprang. Diana was on Mr. Redworth's arm. 'No refreshments,' she
said; and 'this is my refreshment,' taking the seat of Mr. Sullivan
Smith, who ejaculated,
'I must go and have that gentleman's name.' He wanted a foe.
'You know you are ready to coquette with the General at any moment,
Tony,' said her friend.
'Yes, with the General!'
'He is a noble old man.'
'Superb. And don't say "old man." With his uniform and his height and
his grey head, he is like a glorious October day just before the brown
Diana hummed a little of the air of Planxty Kelly, the favourite of her
childhood, as Lady Dunstane well remembered, they smiled together at the
scenes and times it recalled.
'Do you still write verses, Tony?'
'I could about him. At one part of the fight he thought he would be
beaten. He was overmatched in artillery, and it was a cavalry charge he
thundered on them, riding across the field to give the word of command to
the couple of regiments, riddled to threads, that gained the day. That
is life--when we dare death to live! I wonder at men, who are men, being
anything but soldiers! I told you, madre, my own Emmy, I forgave you for
marrying, because it was a soldier.'
'Perhaps a soldier is to be the happy man. But you have not told me a
word of yourself. What has been done with the old Crossways?'
'The house, you know, is mine. And it's all I have: ten acres and the
house, furnished, and let for less than two hundred a year. Oh! how I
long to evict the tenants! They can't have my feeling for the place
where I was born. They're people of tolerably good connections, middling
wealthy, I suppose, of the name of Warwick, and, as far as I can
understand, they stick there to be near the Sussex Downs, for a nephew,
who likes to ride on them. I've a half engagement, barely legible, to
visit them on an indefinite day, and can't bear the idea of strangers
masters in the old house. I must be driven there for shelter, for a
roof, some month. And I could make a pilgrimage in rain or snow just to
doat on the outside of it. That's your Tony.'
'She's my darling.'
'I hear myself speak! But your voice or mine, madre, it's one soul. Be
sure I am giving up the ghost when I cease to be one soul with you, dear
and dearest! No secrets, never a shadow of a deception, or else I shall
feel I am not fit to live. Was I a bad correspondent when you were in
'Pretty well. Copious letters when you did write.'
'I was shy. I knew I should be writing, to Emmy and another, and only
when I came to the flow could I forget him. He is very finely built; and
I dare say he has a head. I read of his deeds in India and quivered.
But he was just a bit in the way. Men are the barriers to perfect
naturalness, at least, with girls, I think. You wrote to me in the same
tone as ever, and at first I had a struggle to reply. And I, who have
such pride in being always myself!'
Two staring semi-circles had formed, one to front the Hero; the other the
Beauty. These half moons imperceptibly dissolved to replenish, and
became a fixed obstruction.
'Yes, they look,' Diana made answer to Lady Dunstane's comment on the
curious impertinence. She was getting used to it, and her friend had a
gratification in seeing how little this affected her perfect naturalness.
'You are often in the world--dinners, dances?' she said.
'People are kind.'
Diana's unshadowed bright face defied all menace of an eclipse.
The block of sturdy gazers began to melt. The General had dispersed his
group of satellites by a movement with the Mayoress on his arm, construed
as the signal for procession to the supper-table.
THE INTERIOR OF MR. REDWORTH, AND THE EXTERIOR OF MR. SULLIVAN SMITH
'It may be as well to take Mr. Redworth's arm; you will escape the crush
for you,' said Lady Dunstane to Diana. 'I don't sup. Yes! go! You
must eat, and he is handiest to conduct you.'
Diana thought of her chaperon and the lateness of the hour. She
murmured, to soften her conscience, 'Poor Mrs. Pettigrew!'
And once more Mr. Redworth, outwardly imperturbable, was in the maelstrom
of a happiness resembling tempest. He talked, and knew not what he
uttered. To give this matchless girl the best to eat and drink was his
business, and he performed it. Oddly, for a man who had no loaded
design, marshalling the troops in his active and capacious cranium, he
fell upon calculations of his income, present and prospective, while she
sat at the table and he stood behind her. Others were wrangling for
places, chairs, plates, glasses, game-pie, champagne: she had them; the
lady under his charge to a certainty would have them; so far good; and he
had seven hundred pounds per annum--seven hundred and fifty, in a
favourable aspect, at a stretch . . . .
'Yes, the pleasantest thing to me after working all day is an opera of
Carini's,' she said, in full accord with her taste, 'and Tellio for
--A fair enough sum for a bachelor: four hundred personal income, and a
prospect of higher dividends to increase it; three hundred odd from his
office, and no immediate prospects of an increase there; no one died
there, no elderly martyr for the advancement of his juniors could be
persuaded to die; they were too tough to think of retiring. Say, seven
hundred and fifty . . . . eight hundred, if the commerce of the
country fortified the Bank his property was embarked in; or eight-fifty
or nine ten. . . .
'I could call him my poet also,' Mr. Redworth agreed with her taste in
poets. 'His letters are among the best ever written--or ever published:
the raciest English I know. Frank, straight out: capital descriptions.
The best English letter-writers are as good as the French--
You don't think so?--in their way, of course. I dare' say we don't
sufficiently cultivate the art. We require the supple tongue a closer
intercourse of society gives.'
--Eight or ten hundred. Comfortable enough for a man in chambers. To
dream of entering as a householder on that sum, in these days, would be
stark nonsense: and a man two removes from a baronetcy has no right to
set his reckoning on deaths:--if he does, he becomes a sort of meditative
assassin. But what were the Fates about when they planted a man of the
ability of Tom Redworth in a Government office! Clearly they intended
him to remain a bachelor for life. And they sent him over to Ireland on
inspection duty for a month to have sight of an Irish Beauty . . . .
'Think war the finest subject for poets?' he exclaimed. 'Flatly no: I
don't think it. I think exactly the reverse. It brings out the noblest
traits in human character? I won't own that even. It brings out some
but under excitement, when you have not always the real man.--Pray don't
sneer at domestic life. Well, there was a suspicion of disdain.--Yes, I
can respect the hero, military or civil; with this distinction, that the
military hero aims at personal reward--'
'He braves wounds and death,' interposed Diana.
'Whereas the civilian hero--'
'Pardon me, let me deny that the soldier-hero aims at a personal reward,'
she again interposed.
'He gets it.'
'If he is not beaten.'
'And then he is no longer a hero.'
'He is to me.'
She had a woman's inveterate admiration of the profession of aims.
Mr. Redworth endeavoured to render practicable an opening in her mind to
reason. He admitted the grandeur of the poetry of Homer. We are a few
centuries in advance of Homer. We do not slay damsels for a sacrifice
to propitiate celestial wrath; nor do we revel in details of slaughter.
He reasoned with her; he repeated stories known to him of civilian
heroes, and won her assent to the heroical title for their deeds, but it
was languid, or not so bright as the deeds deserved--or as the young lady
could look; and he insisted on the civilian hero, impelled by some
unconscious motive to make her see the thing he thought, also the thing
he was--his plain mind and matter-of-fact nature. Possibly she caught a
glimpse of that. After a turn of fencing, in which he was impressed by
the vibration of her tones when speaking of military heroes, she quitted
the table, saying: 'An argument between one at supper and another handing
plates, is rather unequal if eloquence is needed. As Pat said to the
constable, when his hands were tied, You beat me with the fists, but my
spirit is towering and kicks freely.'
--Eight hundred? a thousand a year, two thousand, are as nothing in the
calculation of a householder who means that the mistress of the house
shall have the choicest of the fruits and flowers of the Four Quarters;
and Thomas Redworth had vowed at his first outlook on the world of women,
that never should one of the sisterhood coming under his charge complain
of not having them in profusion. Consequently he was a settled bachelor.
In the character of disengaged and unaspiring philosophical bachelor, he
reviewed the revelations of her character betrayed by the beautiful
virgin devoted to the sanguine coat. The thrill of her voice in speaking
of soldier-heroes shot him to the yonder side of a gulf. Not knowing
why, for he had no scheme, desperate or other, in his head, the least
affrighted of men was frightened by her tastes, and by her aplomb, her
inoffensiveness in freedom of manner and self-sufficiency--sign of purest
breeding: and by her easy, peerless vivacity, her proofs of descent from
the blood of Dan Merion--a wildish blood. The candour of the look of her
eyes in speaking, her power of looking forthright at men, and looking the
thing she spoke, and the play of her voluble lips, the significant repose
of her lips in silence, her weighing of the words he uttered, for a
moment before the prompt apposite reply, down to her simple quotation of
Pat, alarmed him; he did not ask himself why. His manly self was not
intruded on his cogitations. A mere eight hundred or thousand per annum
had no place in that midst. He beheld her quietly selecting the position
of dignity to suit her: an eminent military man, or statesman, or wealthy
nobleman: she had but to choose. A war would offer her the decorated
soldier she wanted. A war! Such are women of this kind! The thought
revolted him, and pricked his appetite for supper. He did service by
Mrs. Pettigrew, to which lady Miss Merion, as she said, promoted him, at
the table, and then began to refresh in person, standing.
'Malkin! that's the fellow's name' he heard close at his ear.
Mr. Sullivan Smith had drained a champagne-glass, bottle in hand, and was
priming the successor to it. He cocked his eye at Mr. Redworth's quick
stare. 'Malkin!' And now we'll see whether the interior of him is grey,
or black, or tabby, or tortoise-shell, or any other colour of the Malkin
He explained to Mr. Redworth that he had summoned Mr. Malkin to answer to
him as a gentleman for calling Miss Merion a jilt. 'The man, sir, said
in my hearing, she jilted him, and that's to call the lady a jilt.
There's not a point of difference, not a shade. I overheard him. I
happened by the blessing of Providence to be by when he named her
publicly jilt. And it's enough that she's a lady to have me for her
champion. The same if she had been an Esquimaux squaw. I'll never live
to hear a lady insulted.'
'You don't mean to say you're the donkey to provoke a duel!'
Mr. Redworth burst out gruffly, through turkey and stuffing.
'And an Irish lady, the young Beauty of Erin!' Mr. Sullivan Smith was
flowing on. He became frigid, he politely bowed: 'Two, sir, if you
haven't the grace to withdraw the offensive term before it cools and
can't be obliterated.'
'Fiddle! and go to the deuce!' Mr. Redworth cried.
'Would a soft slap o' the cheek persuade you, sir?'
'Try it outside, and don't bother me with nonsense of that sort at my
supper. If I'm struck, I strike back. I keep my pistols for bandits and
law-breakers. Here,' said Mr. Redworth, better inspired as to the way of
treating an ultra of the isle; 'touch glasses: you're a gentleman, and
won't disturb good company. By-and-by.'
The pleasing prospect of by-and-by renewed in Mr. Sullivan Smith his
composure. They touched the foaming glasses: upon which, in a friendly
manner, Mr. Sullivan Smith proposed that they should go outside as soon
as Mr. Redworth had finished supper-quite finished supper: for the reason
that the term 'donkey' affixed to him was like a minster cap of
schooldays, ringing bells on his topknot, and also that it stuck in his
Mr. Redworth declared the term to be simply hypothetical. 'If you fight,
you're a donkey for doing it. But you won't fight.'
'But I will fight.'
'He won't fight.'
'Then for the honour of your country you must. But I'd rather have him
first, for I haven't drunk with him, and it should be a case of necessity
to put a bullet or a couple of inches of steel through the man you've
drunk with. And what's in your favour, she danced with ye. She seemed
to take to ye, and the man she has the smallest sugar-melting for is
sacred if he's not sweet to me. If he retracts!'
'Then we grasp hands on it. It's Malkin or nothing!' said Mr. Sullivan
Smith, swinging his heel moodily to wander in search of the foe. How one
sane man could name another a donkey for fighting to clear an innocent
young lady's reputation, passed his rational conception.
Sir Lukin hastened to Mr. Redworth to have a talk over old schooldays and
'I'll tell you what,' said the civilian, 'There are Irishmen and
Irishmen. I've met cool heads and long heads among them, and you and I
knew Jack Derry, who was good at most things. But the burlesque Irishman
can't be caricatured. Nature strained herself in a 'fit of absurdity to
produce him, and all that Art can do is to copy.'
This was his prelude to an account of Mr. Sullivan Smith, whom, as a
specimen, he rejoiced to have met.
'There's a chance of mischief,' said Sir Lukin. 'I know nothing of the
man he calls Malkin. I'll inquire presently.'
He talked of his prospects, and of the women. Fair ones, in his opinion,
besides Miss Merion were parading; he sketched two or three of his
partners with a broad brush of epithets.
'It won't do for Miss Merion's name to be mixed up in a duel,' said
'Not if she's to make her fortune in England,' said Sir Lukin. 'It's
probably all smoke.'
The remark had hardly escaped him when a wreath of metaphorical smoke,
and fire, and no mean report, startled the company of supping gentlemen.
At the pitch of his voice, Mr. Sullivan Smith denounced Mr. Malkin in
presence for a cur masquerading as a cat.
'And that is not the scoundrel's prime offence. For what d' ye think?
He trumps up an engagement to dance with a beautiful lady, and because
she can't remember, binds her to an oath for a dance to come, and then,
holding her prisoner to 'm, he sulks, the dirty dogcat goes and sulks,
and he won't dance and won't do anything but screech up in corners that
he's jilted. He said the word. Dozens of gentlemen heard the word. And
I demand an apology of Misterr Malkin--or . . ! And none of your
guerrier nodding and bravado, Mister Malkin, at me, if you please. The
case is for settlement between gentlemen.'
The harassed gentleman of the name of Malkin, driven to extremity by the
worrying, stood in braced preparation for the English attitude of
defence. His tormentor drew closer to him.
'Mind, I give you warning, if you lay a finger on me I'll knock you
down,' said he.
Most joyfully Mr. Sullivan Smith uttered a low melodious cry. 'For a
specimen of manners, in an assembly of ladies and gentlemen . . . I
ask ye!' he addressed the ring about him, to put his adversary entirely
in the wrong before provoking the act of war. And then, as one intending
gently to remonstrate, he was on the point of stretching out his finger
to the shoulder of Mr. Malkin, when Redworth seized his arm, saying: 'I
'm your man: me first: you're due to me.'
Mr. Sullivan Smith beheld the vanishing of his foe in a cloud of faces.
Now was he wroth on patently reasonable grounds. He threatened Saxondom.
Man up, man down, he challenged the race of short-legged, thickset,
wooden-gated curmudgeons: and let it be pugilism if their white livers
shivered at the notion of powder and ball. Redworth, in the struggle to
haul him away, received a blow from him. 'And you've got it! you would
have it!' roared the Celt.
'Excuse yourself to the company for a misdirected effort,' Redworth said;
and he observed generally: 'No Irish gentleman strikes a blow in good
'But that's true as Writ! And I offer excuses--if you'll come along with
me and a couple of friends. The thing has been done before by
'Come along, and come alone,' said Redworth.
A way was cleared for them. Sir Lukin hurried up to Redworth, who had no
doubt of his ability to manage Mr. Sullivan Smith.
He managed that fine-hearted but purely sensational fellow so well that
Lady Dunstane and Diana, after hearing in some anxiety of the hubbub
below, beheld them entering the long saloon amicably, with the nods and
looks of gentlemen quietly accordant.
A little later, Lady Dunstane questioned Redworth, and he smoothed her
apprehensions, delivering himself, much to her comfort, thus: 'In no case
would any lady's name have been raised. The whole affair was
nonsensical. He's a capital fellow of a kind, capable of behaving like a
man of the world and a gentleman. Only he has, or thinks he has, like
lots of his countrymen, a raw wound--something that itches to be grazed.
Champagne on that! . . . Irishmen, as far as I have seen of them,
are, like horses, bundles of nerves; and you must manage them, as you do
with all nervous creatures, with firmness, but good temper. You must
never get into a fury of the nerves yourself with them. Spur and whip
they don't want; they'll be off with you in a jiffy if you try it.
They want the bridle-rein. That seems to me the secret of Irish
character. We English are not bad horsemen. It's a wonder we blunder so
in our management of such a people.'
'I wish you were in a position to put your method to the proof,' said
He shrugged. 'There's little chance of it !'
To reward him for his practical discretion, she contrived that Diana
should give him a final dance; and the beautiful gill smiled quickly
responsive to his appeal. He was, moreover, sensible in her look and
speech that he had advanced in her consideration to be no longer the mere
spinning stick, a young lady's partner. By which he humbly understood
that her friend approved him. A gentle delirium enfolded his brain.
A householder's life is often begun on eight hundred a year: on less: on
much less:--sometimes on nothing but resolution to make a fitting income,
carving out a fortune. Eight hundred may stand as a superior basis.
That sum is a distinct point of vantage. If it does not mean a carriage
and Parisian millinery and a station for one of the stars of society, it
means at any rate security; and then, the heart of the man being strong
and sound . . .
'Yes,' he replied to her, 'I like my experience of Ireland and the Irish;
and better than I thought I should. St. George's Channel ought to be
crossed oftener by both of us.'
'I'm always glad of the signal,' said Diana.
He had implied the people of the two islands. He allowed her
interpretation to remain personal, for the sake of a creeping
deliciousness that it carried through his blood.
'Shall you soon be returning to England?' he ventured to ask.
'I am Lady Dunstane's guest for some months.'
'Then you will. Sir Lukin has an estate in Surrey. He talks of quitting
'I can't believe it!'
His thrilled blood was chilled. She entertained a sentiment amounting to
adoration for the profession of arms!
Gallantly had the veteran General and Hero held on into the night, that
the festivity might not be dashed by his departure; perhaps, to a certain
degree, to prolong his enjoyment of a flattering scene. At last Sir
Lukin had the word from him, and came to his wife. Diana slipped across
the floor to her accommodating chaperon, whom, for the sake of another
five minutes with her beloved Emma, she very agreeably persuaded to walk
in the train of Lord Larrian, and forth they trooped down
a pathway of nodding heads and curtsies, resembling oak and birch-trees
under a tempered gale, even to the shedding of leaves, for here a turban
was picked up by Sir Lukin, there a jewelled ear-ring by the self-
constituted attendant, Mr. Thomas Redworth. At the portico rang a
wakening cheer, really worth hearing. The rain it rained, and hats were
formless,' as in the first conception of the edifice, backs were damp,
boots liquidly musical, the pipe of consolation smoked with difficulty,
with much pulling at the stem, but the cheer arose magnificently, and
multiplied itself, touching at the same moment the heavens and Diana's
heart-at least, drawing them together; for she felt exalted, enraptured,
as proud of her countrymen as of their hero.
'That's the natural shamrock, after the artificial !' she heard Mr.
Redworth say, behind her.
She turned and sent one of her brilliant glances flying over him, in
gratitude for a timely word well said. And she never forgot the remark,
nor he the look.
CONTAINING HINTS OF DIANA'S EXPERIENCES AND OF WHAT THEY LED TO
A fortnight after this memorable Ball the principal actors of both sexes
had crossed the Channel back to England, and old Ireland was left to her
rains from above and her undrained bogs below; her physical and her
mental vapours; her ailments and her bog-bred doctors; as to whom the
governing country trusted they would be silent or discourse humorously.
The residence of Sir Lukin Dunstane, in the county of Surrey, inherited
by him during his recent term of Indian services, was on the hills, where
a day of Italian sky, or better, a day of our breezy South-west, washed
from the showery night, gives distantly a tower to view, and a murky web,
not without colour: the ever-flying banner of the metropolis, the smoke
of the city's chimneys, if you prefer plain language. At a first
inspection of the house, Lady Dunstane did not like it, and it was
advertized to be let, and the auctioneer proclaimed it in his dialect.
Her taste was delicate; she had the sensitiveness of an invalid: twice
she read the stalking advertizement of the attractions of Copsley, and
hearing Diana call it 'the plush of speech,' she shuddered; she decided
that a place where her husband's family had lived ought not to stand
forth meretriciously spangled and daubed, like a show-booth at a fair,
for a bait; though the grandiloquent man of advertizing letters assured
Sir Lukin that a public agape for the big and gaudy mouthful is in no
milder way to be caught; as it is apparently the case. She withdrew the
trumpeting placard. Retract we likewise 'banner of the metropolis.'
That plush of speech haunts all efforts to swell and illuminate citizen
prose to a princely poetic.
Yet Lady Dunstane herself could name the bank of smoke, when looking
North-eastward from her summerhouse, the flag of London: and she was a
person of the critical mind, well able to distinguish between the simple
metaphor and the superobese. A year of habitation induced her to conceal
her dislike of the place in love: cat's love, she owned. Here, she
confessed to Diana, she would wish to live to her end. It seemed remote,
where an invigorating upper air gave new bloom to her cheeks; but she
kept one secret from her friend.
Copsley was an estate of nearly twelve hundred acres, extending across
the ridge of the hills to the slopes North and South. Seven counties
rolled their backs under this commanding height, and it would have tasked
a pigeon to fly within an hour the stretch of country visible at the
Copsley windows. Sunrise to right, sunset leftward, the borders of the
grounds held both flaming horizons. So much of the heavens and of earth
is rarely granted to a dwelling. The drawback was the structure, which
had no charm, scarce a face. 'It is written that I should live in
barracks,' Lady Dunstane said. The colour of it taught white to impose a
sense of gloom. Her cat's love of the familiar inside corners was never
able to embrace the outer walls. Her sensitiveness, too, was racked by
the presentation of so pitiably ugly a figure to the landscape. She
likened it to a coarse-featured country wench, whose cleaning and
decorating of her countenance makes complexion grin and ruggedness yawn.
Dirty, dilapidated, hung with weeds and parasites, it would have been
more tolerable. She tried the effect of various creepers, and they were
as a staring paint. What it was like then, she had no heart to say.
One may, however, fall on a pleasurable resignation in accepting great
indemnities, as Diana bade her believe, when the first disgust began to
ebb. 'A good hundred over there would think it a Paradise for an
asylum': she signified London. Her friend bore such reminders meekly.
They were readers of books of all sorts, political, philosophical,
economical, romantic; and they mixed the diverse readings in thought,
after the fashion of the ardently youthful. Romance affected politics,
transformed economy, irradiated philosophy. They discussed the knotty
question, Why things were not done, the things being confessedly to do;
and they cut the knot: Men, men calling themselves statesmen, declined to
perform that operation, because, forsooth, other men objected to have it
performed on them. And common humanity declared it to be for the common
weal! If so, then it is clearly indicated as a course of action: we shut
our eyes against logic and the vaunted laws of economy. They are the
knot we cut; or would cut, had we the sword. Diana did it to the tune of
Garryowen or Planxty Kelly. O for a despot! The cry was for a
beneficent despot, naturally: a large-minded benevolent despot. In
short, a despot to obey their bidding. Thoughtful young people who think
through the heart soon come to this conclusion. The heart is the
beneficent despot they would be. He cures those miseries; he creates the
novel harmony. He sees all difficulties through his own sanguine hues.
He is the musical poet of the problem, demanding merely to have it solved
that he may sing: clear proof of the necessity for solving it
Thus far in their pursuit of methods for the government of a nation, to
make it happy, Diana was leader. Her fine ardour and resonance, and more
than the convincing ring of her voice, the girl's impassioned rapidity in
rushing through any perceptible avenue of the labyrinth, or beating down
obstacles to form one, and coming swiftly to some solution, constituted
her the chief of the pair of democratic rebels in questions that
clamoured for instant solution. By dint of reading solid writers, using
the brains they possessed, it was revealed to them gradually that their
particular impatience came perhaps of the most earnest desire to get to
a comfortable termination of the inquiry: the heart aching for mankind
sought a nest for itself. At this point Lady Dunstane took the lead.
Diana had to be tugged to follow. She could not accept a 'perhaps' that
cast dubiousness on her disinterested championship. She protested a
perfect certainty of the single aim of her heart outward. But she
reflected. She discovered that her friend had gone ahead of her.
The discovery was reached, and even acknowledged, before she could
persuade herself to swallow the repulsive truth. O self! self! self!
are we eternally masking in a domino that reveals your hideous old face
when we could be most positive we had escaped you? Eternally! the
desolating answer knelled. Nevertheless the poor, the starving, the
overtaxed in labour, they have a right to the cry of Now! now! They
have; and if a cry could conduct us to the secret of aiding, healing,
feeding, elevating them, we might swell the cry. As it is, we must lay
it on our wits patiently to track and find the secret; and meantime do
what the individual with his poor pittance can. A miserable
contribution! sighed the girl. Old Self was perceived in the sigh. She
After all, one must live one's life. Placing her on a lower pedestal in
her self-esteem, the philosophy of youth revived her; and if the
abatement of her personal pride was dispiriting, she began to see an
advantage in getting inward eyes.
'It's infinitely better I should know it, Emmy--I'm a reptile! Pleasure
here, pleasure there, I'm always thinking of pleasure. I shall give up
thinking and take to drifting. Neither of us can do more than open
purses; and mine's lean. If the old Crossways had no tenant, it would be
a purse all mouth. And charity is haunted, like everything we do. Only
I say with my whole strength yes, I am sure, in spite of the men
professing that they are practical, the rich will not move without a
goad. I have and hold--you shall hunger and covet, until you are strong
enough to force my hand:--that 's the speech of the wealthy. And they
are Christians. In name. Well, I thank heaven I'm at war, with myself.'
'You always manage to strike out a sentence worth remembering, Tony,'
said Lady Dunstane. 'At war with ourselves, means the best happiness we
It suited her, frail as her health was, and her wisdom striving to the
spiritual of happiness. War with herself was far from happiness in the
bosom of Diana. She wanted external life, action, fields for energies,
to vary the struggle. It fretted and rendered her ill at ease. In her
solitary rides with Sir Lukin through a long winter season, she appalled
that excellent but conventionally-minded gentleman by starting, nay
supporting, theories next to profane in the consideration of a land-
owner. She spoke of Reform: of the Repeal of the Corn Laws as the simple
beginning of the grants due to the people. She had her ideas, of course,
from that fellow Redworth, an occasional visitor at Copsley; and a man
might be a donkey and think what he pleased, since he had a vocabulary
to back his opinions. A woman, Sir Lukin held, was by nature a mute in
politics. Of the thing called a Radical woman, he could not believe that
she was less than monstrous: 'with a nose,' he said; and doubtless, horse
teeth, hatchet jaws, slatternly in the gown, slipshod, awful. As for a
girl, an unmarried, handsome girl, admittedly beautiful, her
interjections, echoing a man, were ridiculous, and not a little annoying
now and them, for she could be piercingly sarcastic. Her vocabulary in
irony was a quiverful. He admired her and liked her immensely;
complaining only of her turn for unfeminine topics. He pardoned her on
the score of the petty difference rankling between them in reference to
his abandonment of his Profession, for here she was patriotically wrong-
headed. Everybody knew that he had sold out in order to look after his
estates of Copsley and Dunena, secondly: and in the first place, to nurse
and be a companion to his wife. He had left her but four times in five
months; he had spent just three weeks of that time away from her in
London. No one could doubt of his having kept his pledge, although his
wife occupied herself with books and notions and subjects foreign to his
taste--his understanding, too, he owned. And Redworth had approved of
his retirement, had a contempt for soldiering. 'Quite as great as yours
for civilians, I can tell you,' Sir Lukin said, dashing out of politics
to the vexatious personal subject. Her unexpressed disdain was ruffling.
'Mr. Redworth recommends work: he respects the working soldier,' said
Sir Lukin exclaimed that he had been a working soldier; he was ready to
serve if his country wanted him. He directed her to anathematize Peace,
instead of scorning a fellow for doing the duties next about him: and the
mention of Peace fetched him at a bound back to politics. He quoted a
distinguished Tory orator, to the effect, that any lengthened term of
peace bred maggots in the heads of the people.
'Mr. Redworth spoke of it: he translated something from Aristophanes for
a retort,' said Diana.
'Well, we're friends, eh?' Sir Lukin put forth a hand.
She looked at him surprised at the unnecessary call for a show, of
friendship; she touched his hand with two tips of her fingers, remarking,
'I should think so, indeed.'
He deemed it prudent to hint to his wife that Diana Merion appeared to be
meditating upon Mr. Redworth.
'That is a serious misfortune, if true,' said Lady Dunstane. She thought
so for two reasons: Mr. Redworth generally disagreed in opinion with
Diana, and contradicted her so flatly as to produce the impression of his
not even sharing the popular admiration of her beauty; and, further, she
hoped for Diana to make a splendid marriage. The nibbles threatened to
be snaps and bites. There had been a proposal, in an epistle, a quaint
effusion, from a gentleman avowing that he had seen her, and had not
danced with her on the night of the Irish ball. He was rejected, but
Diana groaned over the task of replying to the unfortunate applicant, so
as not to wound him. 'Shall I have to do this often, I wonder?' she
'Unless you capitulate,' said her friend.
Diana's exclamation: 'May I be heart-free for another ten years!'
encouraged Lady Dunstane to suppose her husband quite mistaken.
In the Spring Diana, went on a first pilgrimage to her old home, The
Crossways, and was kindly entertained by the uncle and aunt of a
treasured nephew, Mr. Augustus Warwick. She rode with him on the Downs.
A visit of a week humanized her view of the intruders. She wrote almost
tenderly of her host and hostess to Lady Dunstane; they had but 'the one
fault--of spoiling their nephew.' Him she described as a 'gentlemanly
official,' a picture of him. His age was thirty-four. He seemed 'fond
of her scenery.' Then her pen swept over the Downs like a flying horse.
Lady Dunstane thought no more of the gentlemanly official. He was a
barrister who did not practise: in nothing the man for Diana. Letters
came from the house of the Pettigrews in Kent; from London; from Halford
Manor in Hertfordshire; from Lockton Grange in Lincolnshire: after which
they ceased to be the thrice weekly; and reading the latest of them, Lady
Dunstane imagined a flustered quill. The letter succeeding the omission
contained no excuse, and it was brief. There was a strange interjection,
as to the wearifulness of constantly wandering, like a leaf off the tree.
Diana spoke of looking for a return of the dear winter days at Copsley.
That was her station. Either she must have had some disturbing
experience, or Copsley was dear for a Redworth reason, thought the
anxious peruser; musing, dreaming, putting together divers shreds of
correspondence and testing them with her intimate knowledge of Diana's
character, Lady Dunstane conceived that the unprotected beautiful girl
had suffered a persecution, it might be an insult. She spelt over the
names of the guests at the houses. Lord Wroxeter was of evil report:
Captain Rampan, a Turf captain, had the like notoriety. And it is
impossible in a great house for the hostess to spread her aegis to cover
every dame and damsel present. She has to depend on the women being
discreet, the men civilized.
'How brutal men can be!' was one of Diana's incidental remarks, in a
subsequent letter, relating simply to masculine habits. In those days
the famous ancestral plea of 'the passion for his charmer' had not been
altogether socially quashed down among the provinces, where the bottle
maintained a sort of sway, and the beauty which inflamed the sons of men
was held to be in coy expectation of violent effects upon their boiling
blood. There were, one hears that there still are, remnants of the
pristine male, who, if resisted in their suing, conclude that they are
scorned, and it infuriates them: some also whose 'passion for the
charmer' is an instinct to pull down the standard of the sex, by a bully
imposition of sheer physical ascendancy, whenever they see it flying with
an air of gallant independence: and some who dedicate their lives to a
study of the arts of the Lord Of Reptiles, until they have worked the
crisis for a display of him in person. Assault or siege, they have
achieved their triumphs; they have dominated a frailer system of nerves,
and a young woman without father, or brother, or husband, to defend her,
is cryingly a weak one, therefore inviting to such an order of heroes.
Lady Dunstane was quick-witted and had a talkative husband; she knew a
little of the upper social world of her time. She was heartily glad to
have Diana by her side again.
Not a word of any serious experience was uttered. Only on one occasion
while they conversed, something being mentioned of her tolerance, a flush
of swarthy crimson shot over Diana, and she frowned, with the outcry 'Oh!
I have discovered that I can be a tigress!'
Her friend pressed her hand, saying, 'The cause a good one!'
'Women have to fight.'
Diana said no more. There had been a bad experience of her isolated
position in the world.
Lady Dunstane now indulged a partial hope that Mr. Redworth might see in
this unprotected beautiful girl a person worthy of his esteem. He had
his opportunities, and evidently he liked her. She appeared to take more
cordially to him. She valued the sterling nature of the man. But they
were a hopeless couple, they were so friendly. Both ladies noticed in
him an abstractedness of look, often when conversing, as of a man in
calculation; they put it down to an ambitious mind. Yet Diana said then,
and said always, that it was he who had first taught her the art of
observing. On the whole, the brilliant marriage seemed a fairer prospect
for her; how reasonable to anticipate, Lady Dunstane often thought when
admiring the advance of Diana's beauty in queenliness, for never did
woman carry her head more grandly, more thrillingly make her presence
felt; and if only she had been an actress showing herself nightly on a
London stage, she would before now have met the superb appreciation,
melancholy to reflect upon!
Diana regained her happy composure at Copsley. She had, as she imagined,
no ambition. The dulness of the place conveyed a charm to a nature
recovering from disturbance to its clear smooth flow. Air, light, books,
and her friend, these good things she had; they were all she wanted. She
rode, she walked, with Sir Lukin or Mr. Redworth, for companion; or with
Saturday and Sunday guests, Lord Larrian, her declared admirer, among
them. 'Twenty years younger!' he said to her, shrugging, with a merry
smile drawn a little at the corners to sober sourness; and she vowed to
her friend that she would not have had the heart to refuse him.
'Though,' said she, 'speaking generally, I cannot tell you what a foreign
animal a husband would appear in my kingdom.' Her experience had wakened
a sexual aversion, of some slight kind, enough to make her feminine pride
stipulate for perfect independence, that she might have the calm out of
which imagination spreads wing. Imagination had become her broader life,
and on such an earth, under such skies, a husband who is not the fountain
of it, certainly is a foreign animal: he is a discordant note. He
contracts the ethereal world, deadens radiancy. He is gross fact, a
leash, a muzzle, harness, a hood; whatever is detestable to the free
limbs and senses. It amused Lady Dunstane to hear Diana say, one evening
when their conversation fell by hazard on her future, that the idea of a
convent was more welcome to her than the most splendid marriage. 'For,'
she added, 'as I am sure I shall never know anything of this love they
rattle about and rave about, I shall do well to keep to my good single
path; and I have a warning within me that a step out of it will be a
wrong one--for me, dearest!'
She wished her view of the yoke to be considered purely personal, drawn
from no examples and comparisons. The excellent Sir Lukin was passing a
great deal of his time in London. His wife had not a word of blame for
him; he was a respectful husband, and attentive when present; but so
uncertain, owing to the sudden pressure of engagements, that Diana, bound
on a second visit to The Crossways, doubted whether she would be able to
quit her friend, whose condition did not allow of her being left solitary
at Copsley. He came nevertheless a day before Diana's appointed
departure on her round of visits. She was pleased with him, and let him
see it, for the encouragement of a husband in the observance of his
duties. One of the horses had fallen lame, so they went out for a walk,
at Lady Dunstane's request. It was a delicious afternoon of Spring,
with the full red disk of sun dropping behind the brown beech-twigs.
She remembered long afterward the sweet simpleness of her feelings as she
took in the scent of wild flowers along the lanes and entered the woods
jaws of another monstrous and blackening experience. He fell into the
sentimental vein, and a man coming from that heated London life to these
glorified woods, might be excused for doing so, though it sounded to her
just a little ludicrous in him. She played tolerantly second to it; she
quoted a snatch of poetry, and his whole face was bent to her, with the
petition that she would repeat the verse. Much struck was this giant ex-
dragoon. Ah! how fine! grand! He would rather hear that than any opera:
it was diviner! 'Yes, the best poetry is,' she assented. 'On your
lips,' he said. She laughed. 'I am not a particularly melodious
reciter.' He vowed he could listen to her eternally, eternally. His
face, on a screw of the neck and shoulders, was now perpetually three-
quarters fronting. Ah! she was going to leave. 'Yes, and you will find
my return quite early enough,' said Diana, stepping a trifle more
briskly. His fist was raised on the length of the arm, as if in
invocation. 'Not in the whole of London is there a woman worthy to
fasten your shoe-buckles! My oath on it! I look; I can't spy one.'
Such was his flattering eloquence.
She told him not to think it necessary to pay her compliments. 'And
here, of all places!' They were in the heart of the woods. She found
her hand seized--her waist. Even then, so impossible is it to conceive
the unimaginable even when the apparition of it smites us, she expected
some protesting absurdity, or that he had seen something in her path.--
What did she hear? And from her friend's husband!
If stricken idiotic, he was a gentleman; the tigress she had detected in
her composition did not require to be called forth; half-a-dozen words,
direct, sharp as fangs and teeth, with the eyes burning over them,
sufficed for the work of defence. 'The man who swore loyalty to Emma!'
Her reproachful repulsion of eyes was unmistakeable, withering; as
masterful as a superior force on his muscles.--What thing had he been
taking her for?--She asked it within: and he of himself, in a reflective
gasp. Those eyes of hers appeared as in a cloud, with the wrath above:
she had: the look of a Goddess in anger. He stammered, pleaded across
her flying shoulder--Oh! horrible, loathsome, pitiable to hear! . . .
'A momentary aberration . . . her beauty . . . he deserved to be
shot! . . . could not help admiring . . . quite lost his head . .
on his honour! never again !'
Once in the roadway, and Copsley visible, she checked her arrowy pace for
breath, and almost commiserated the dejected wretch in her thankfulness
to him for silence. Nothing exonerated him, but at least he had the
grace not to beg secresy. That would have been an intolerable whine of a
poltroon, adding to her humiliation. He abstained; he stood at her mercy
She was not the woman to take poor vengeance. But, Oh! she was
profoundly humiliated, shamed through and through. The question, was I
guilty of any lightness--anything to bring this on me? would not be laid.
And how she pitied her friend! This house, her heart's home, was now a
wreck to her: nay, worse, a hostile citadel. The burden of the task of
meeting Emma with an open face, crushed her like very guilt. Yet she
succeeded. After an hour in her bedchamber she managed to lock up her
heart and summon the sprite of acting to her tongue and features: which
ready attendant on the suffering female host performed his liveliest
throughout the evening, to Emma's amusement, and to the culprit ex-
dragoon's astonishment; in whom, to tell the truth of him, her sparkle
and fun kindled the sense of his being less criminal than he had
supposed, with a dim vision of himself as the real proven donkey for not
having been a harmless dash more so. But, to be just as well as
penetrating, this was only the effect of her personal charm on his
nature. So it spurred him a moment, when it struck this doleful man that
to have secured one kiss of those fresh and witty sparkling lips he would
endure forfeits, pangs, anything save the hanging of his culprit's head
before his Emma. Reflection washed him clean. Secresy is not a medical
restorative, by no means a good thing for the baffled amorously-
adventurous cavalier, unless the lady's character shall have been firmly
established in or over his hazy wagging noddle. Reflection informed him
that the honourable, generous, proud girl spared him for the sake of the
house she loved. After a night of tossing, he rose right heartily
repentant. He showed it in the best manner, not dramatically. On her
accepting his offer to drive her down to the valley to meet the coach,
a genuine illumination of pure gratitude made a better man of him, both
to look at and in feeling. She did not hesitate to consent; and he had
half expected a refusal. She talked on the way quite as usual,
cheerfully, if not altogether so spiritedly. A flash of her matchless
wit now and then reduced him to that abject state of man beside the fair
person he has treated high cavalierly, which one craves permission to
describe as pulp. He was utterly beaten.
The sight of Redworth on the valley road was a relief to them both. He
had slept in one of the houses of the valley, and spoke of having had the
intention to mount to Copsley. Sir Lukin proposed to drive him back.
He glanced at Diana, still with that calculating abstract air of his; and
he was rallied. He confessed to being absorbed in railways, the new
lines of railways projected to thread the land and fast mapping it.
'You 've not embarked money in them?' said Sir Lukin.
The answer was: 'I have; all I possess.' And Redworth for a sharp
instant set his eyes on Diana, indifferent to Sir Lukin's bellow of
stupefaction at such gambling on the part of a prudent fellow.
He asked her where she was to be met, where written to, during the
Summer, in case of his wishing to send her news.
She replied: 'Copsley will be the surest. I am always in communication
with Lady Dunstane.' She coloured deeply. The recollection of the
change of her feeling for Copsley suffused her maiden mind.
The strange blush prompted an impulse in Redworth to speak to her at once
of his venture in railways. But what would she understand of them, as
connected with the mighty stake he was playing for? He delayed. The
coach came at a trot of the horses, admired by Sir Lukin, round a corner.
She entered it, her maid followed, the door banged, the horses trotted.
She was off.
Her destiny of the Crossways tied a knot, barred a gate, and pointed to a
new direction of the road on that fine spring morning, when beech-buds
were near the burst, cowslips yellowed the meadow-flats, and skylarks
For many long years Redworth had in his memory, for a comment on
procrastination and excessive scrupulousness in his calculating faculty,
the blue back of a coach.
He declined the vacated place beside Sir Lukin, promising to come and
spend a couple of days at Copsley in a fortnight--Saturday week. He
wanted, he said, to have a talk with Lady Dunstane. Evidently he had
railways on the brain, and Sir Lukin warned his wife to be guarded
against the speculative mania, and advise the man, if she could.
CONCERNING THE SCRUPULOUS GENTLEMAN WHO CAME TOO LATE
On the Saturday of his appointment Redworth arrived at Copsley, with a
shade deeper of the calculating look under his thick brows, habitual to
him latterly. He found Lady Dunstane at her desk, pen in hand, the paper
untouched; and there was an appearance of trouble about her somewhat
resembling his own, as he would have observed, had he been open-minded
enough to notice anything, except that she was writing a letter. He
begged her to continue it; he proposed to read a book till she was at
'I have to write, and scarcely know how,' said she, clearing her face to
make the guest at home, and taking a chair by the fire, 'I would rather
chat for half an hour.'
She spoke of the weather, frosty, but tonic; bad for the last days of
hunting, good for the farmer and the country, let us hope.