Part 3 out of 9
heart to hate her kind, so she resigned herself to pardon, and to the
recognition of the state of duel between the sexes-active enough in her
sphere of society. The circle hummed with it; many lived for it. Could
she pretend to ignore it? Her personal experience might have instigated
a less clear and less intrepid nature to take advantage of the
opportunity for playing the popular innocent, who runs about with
astonished eyes to find herself in so hunting a world, and wins general
compassion, if not shelter in unsuspected and unlicenced places. There
is perpetually the inducement to act the hypocrite before the hypocrite
world, unless a woman submits to be the humbly knitting housewife,
unquestioningly worshipful of her lord; for the world is ever gracious to
an hypocrisy that pays homage to the mask of virtue by copying it; the
world is hostile to the face of an innocence not conventionally simpering
and quite surprised; the world prefers decorum to honesty. 'Let me be
myself, whatever the martyrdom!' she cried, in that phase of young
sensation when, to the blooming woman; the putting on of a mask appears
to wither her and reduce her to the show she parades. Yet, in common
with her sisterhood, she owned she had worn a sort of mask; the world
demands it of them as the price of their station. That she had never
worn it consentingly, was the plea for now casting it off altogether,
showing herself as she was, accepting martyrdom, becoming the first
martyr of the modern woman's cause--a grand position! and one imaginable
to an excited mind in the dark, which does not conjure a critical humour,
as light does, to correct the feverish sublimity. She was, then, this
martyr, a woman capable of telling the world she knew it, and of,
confessing that she had behaved in disdain of its rigider rules,
according to her own ideas of her immunities. O brave!
But was she holding the position by flight? It involved the challenge
of consequences, not an evasion of them.
She moaned; her mental steam-wheel stopped; fatigue brought sleep.
She had sensationally led her rebellious wits to The Crossways,
distilling much poison from thoughts on the way; and there, for the
luxury of a still seeming indecision, she sank into oblivion.
RECOUNTS THE JOURNEY IN A CHARIOT, WITH A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF DIALOGUE, AND
A SMALL INCIDENT ON THE ROAD
In the morning the fight was over. She looked at the signpost of The
Crossways whilst dressing, and submitted to follow, obediently as a
puppet, the road recommended by friends, though a voice within, that she
took for the intimations of her reason, protested that they were wrong,
that they were judging of her case in the general, and unwisely--
disastrously for her.
The mistaking of her desires for her reasons was peculiar to her
'So I suppose I shall some day see The Crossways again,' she said, to
conceive a compensation in the abandonment of freedom. The night's red
vision of martyrdom was reserved to console her secretly, among the
unopened lockers in her treasury of thoughts. It helped to sustain her;
and she was too conscious of things necessary for her sustainment to
bring it to the light of day and examine it. She had a pitiful bit of
pleasure in the gratification she imparted to Danvers, by informing her
that the journey of the day was backward to Copsley.
'If I may venture to say so, ma'am, I am very glad,' said her maid.
'You must be prepared for the questions of lawyers, Danvers.'
'Oh, ma'am! they'll get nothing out of me, and their wigs won't frighten
'It is usually their baldness that is most frightening, my poor Danvers.'
'Nor their baldness, ma'am,' said the literal maid; 'I never cared for
their heads, or them. I've been in a Case before.'
'Indeed!' exclaimed her mistress; and she had a chill.
Danvers mentioned a notorious Case, adding, 'They got nothing out of me.'
'In my Case you will please to speak the truth,' said Diana, and beheld
in the looking-glass the primming of her maid's mouth. The sight shot a
'Understand that there is to be no hesitation about telling the truth of
what you know of me,' said Diana; and the answer was, 'No, ma'am.'
For Danvers could remark to herself that she knew little, and was not a
person to hesitate. She was a maid of the world, with the quality of
faithfulness, by nature, to a good mistress.
Redworth's further difficulties were confined to the hiring of a
conveyance for the travellers, and hot-water bottles, together with a
postillion not addicted to drunkenness. He procured a posting-chariot,
an ancient and musty, of a late autumnal yellow unrefreshed by paint;
the only bottles to be had were Dutch Schiedam. His postillion,
inspected at Storling, carried the flag of habitual inebriation on his
nose, and he deemed it adviseable to ride the mare in accompaniment as
far as Riddlehurst, notwithstanding the postillion's vows upon his honour
that he was no drinker. The emphasis, to a gentleman acquainted with his
countrymen, was not reassuring. He had hopes of enlisting a trustier
fellow at Riddlehurst, but he was disappointed; and while debating upon
what to do, for he shrank from leaving two women to the conduct of that
inflamed troughsnout, Brisby, despatched to Storling by an afterthought
of Lady Dunstane's, rushed out of the Riddlehurst inn taproom, and
relieved him of the charge of the mare. He was accommodated with a seat
on a stool in the chariot. 'My triumphal car,' said his captive. She
was very amusing about her postillion; Danvers had to beg pardon for
laughing. 'You are happy,' observed her mistress. But Redworth laughed
too, and he could not boast of any happiness beyond the temporary
satisfaction, nor could she who sprang the laughter boast of that little.
She said to herself, in the midst of the hilarity, 'Wherever I go now, in
all weathers, I am perfectly naked!' And remembering her readings of a
certain wonderful old quarto book in her father's library, by an
eccentric old Scottish nobleman, wherein the wearing of garments and
sleeping in houses is accused as the cause of human degeneracy, she took
a forced merry stand on her return to the primitive healthful state of
man and woman, and affected scorn of our modern ways of dressing and
thinking. Whence it came that she had some of her wildest seizures of
iridescent humour. Danvers attributed the fun to her mistress's gladness
in not having pursued her bent to quit the country. Redworth saw deeper,
and was nevertheless amazed by the airy hawk-poise and pounce-down of her
wit, as she ranged high and low, now capriciously generalizing, now
dropping bolt upon things of passage--the postillion jogging from rum to
gin, the rustics baconly agape, the horse-kneed ostlers. She touched
them to the life in similes and phrases; and next she was aloft,
derisively philosophizing, but with a comic afflatus that dispersed the
sharpness of her irony in mocking laughter. The afternoon refreshments
at the inn of the county market-town, and the English idea of public
hospitality, as to manner and the substance provided for wayfarers, were
among the themes she made memorable to him. She spoke of everything
tolerantly, just naming it in a simple sentence, that fell with a ring
and chimed: their host's ready acquiescence in receiving, orders, his
contemptuous disclaimer of stuff he did not keep, his flat indifference
to the sheep he sheared, and the phantom half-crown flickering in one eye
of the anticipatory waiter; the pervading and confounding smell of stale
beer over all the apartments; the prevalent, notion of bread, butter,
tea, milk, sugar, as matter for the exercise of a native inventive
genius--these were reviewed in quips of metaphor.
'Come, we can do better at an inn or two known to me,' said Redworth.
'Surely this is the best that can be done for us, when we strike them
with the magic wand of a postillion?' said she.
'It depends, as elsewhere, on the individuals entertaining us.'
'Yet you admit that your railways are rapidly "polishing off" the
'They will spread the metropolitan idea of comfort.'
'I fear they will feed us on nothing but that big word. It booms--
a curfew bell--for every poor little light that we would read by.'
Seeing their beacon-nosed postillion preparing too mount and failing in
his jump, Redworth was apprehensive, and questioned the fellow concerning
'Lord, sir, they call me half a horse, but I can't 'bids water,' was the
reply, with the assurance that he had not 'taken a pailful.'
Habit enabled him to gain his seat.
'It seems to us unnecessary to heap on coal when the chimney is afire;
but he may know the proper course,' Diana said, convulsing Danvers; and
there was discernibly to Redworth, under the influence of her phrases, a
likeness of the flaming 'half-horse,' with the animals all smoking in the
frost, to a railway engine. 'Your wrinkled centaur,' she named the man.
Of course he had to play second to her, and not unwillingly; but he
reflected passingly on the instinctive push of her rich and sparkling
voluble fancy to the initiative, which women do not like in a woman, and
men prefer to distantly admire. English women and men feel toward the
quick-witted of their species as to aliens, having the demerits of
aliens-wordiness, vanity, obscurity, shallowness, an empty glitter, the
sin of posturing. A quick-witted woman exerting her wit is both a
foreigner and potentially a criminal. She is incandescent to a breath of
rumour. It accounted for her having detractors; a heavy counterpoise to
her enthusiastic friends. It might account for her husband's discontent-
the reduction of him to a state of mere masculine antagonism. What is
the husband of a vanward woman? He feels himself but a diminished man.
The English husband of a voluble woman relapses into a dreary mute. Ah,
for the choice of places! Redworth would have yielded her the loquent
lead for the smallest of the privileges due to him who now rejected all,
except the public scourging of her. The conviction was in his mind that
the husband of this woman sought rather to punish than be rid of her.
But a part of his own emotion went to form the judgement.
Furthermore, Lady Dunstane's allusion to her 'enemies' made him set down
her growing crops of backbiters to the trick she had of ridiculing things
English. If the English do it themselves, it is in a professionally
robust, a jocose, kindly way, always with a glance at the other things,
great things, they excel in; and it is done to have the credit of doing
it. They are keen to catch an inimical tone; they will find occasion to
chastise the presumptuous individual, unless it be the leader of a party,
therefore a power; for they respect a power. Redworth knew their
quaintnesses; without overlooking them he winced at the acid of an irony
that seemed to spring from aversion, and regretted it, for her sake. He
had to recollect that she was in a sharp-strung mood, bitterly
surexcited; moreover he reminded himself of her many and memorable
phrases of enthusiasm for England--Shakespeareland, as she would
sometimes perversely term it, to sink the country in the poet. English
fortitude, English integrity, the English disposition to do justice to
dependents, adolescent English ingenuousness, she was always ready to
laud. Only her enthusiasm required rousing by circumstances; it was less
at the brim than her satire. Hence she made enemies among a placable
He felt that he could have helped her under happier conditions. The
beautiful vision she had been on the night of the Irish Ball swept before
him, and he looked at her, smiling.
'Why do you smile?' she said.
'I was thinking of Mr. Sullivan Smith.'
'Ah! my dear compatriot! And think, too, of Lord Larrian.'
She caught her breath. Instead of recreation, the names brought on a
fit of sadness. It deepened; shy neither smiled nor rattled any more.
She gazed across the hedgeways at the white meadows and bare-twigged
copses showing their last leaves in the frost.
'I remember your words: "Observation is the most, enduring of the
pleasures of life"; and so I have found it,' she said. There was a
brightness along her under-eyelids that caused him to look away.
The expected catastrophe occurred on the descent of a cutting in the
sand, where their cordial postillion at a trot bumped the chariot against
the sturdy wheels of a waggon, which sent it reclining for support upon a
beech-tree's huge intertwisted serpent roots, amid strips of brown
bracken and pendant weeds, while he exhibited one short stump of leg, all
boot, in air. No one was hurt. Diana disengaged herself from the
shoulder of Danvers, and mildly said:
'That reminds me, I forgot to ask why we came in a chariot.'
Redworth was excited on her behalf, but the broken glass had done no
damage, nor had Danvers fainted. The remark was unintelligible to him,
apart from the comforting it had been designed to give. He jumped out,
and held a hand for them to do the same. 'I never foresaw an event more
positively,' said he.
'And it was nothing but a back view that inspired you all the way,' said
A waggoner held the horses, another assisted Redworth to right the
chariot. The postillion had hastily recovered possession of his official
seat, that he might as soon as possible feel himself again where he was
most intelligent, and was gay in stupidity, indifferent to what happened
behind him. Diana heard him counselling the waggoner as to the common
sense of meeting small accidents with a cheerful soul.
'Lord!' he cried, 'I been pitched a Somerset in my time, and taken up for
dead, and that didn't beat me!'
Disasters of the present kind could hardly affect such a veteran. But he
was painfully disconcerted by Redworth's determination not to entrust the
ladies any farther to his guidance. Danvers had implored for permission
to walk the mile to the town, and thence take a fly to Copsley. Her
mistress rather sided with the postillion; who begged them to spare him
the disgrace of riding in and delivering a box at the Red Lion.
'What'll they say? And they know Arthur Dance well there,' he groaned.
'What! Arthur! chariotin' a box! And me a better man to his work now
than I been for many a long season, fit for double the journey! A bit of
a shake always braces me up. I could read a newspaper right off, small
print and all. Come along, sir, and hand the ladies in.'
Danvers vowed her thanks to Mr. Redworth for refusing. They walked
ahead; the postillion communicated his mixture of professional and human
feelings to the waggoners, and walked his horses in the rear, meditating
on the weak-heartedness of gentryfolk, and the means for escaping being
chaffed out of his boots at the Old Red Lion, where he was to eat, drink,
and sleep that night. Ladies might be fearsome after a bit of a shake;
he would not have supposed it of a gentleman. He jogged himself into an
arithmetic of the number of nips of liquor he had taken to soothe him on
the road, in spite of the gentleman. 'For some of 'em are sworn enemies
of poor men, as yonder one, ne'er a doubt.'
Diana enjoyed her walk beneath the lingering brown-red of the frosty
November sunset, with the scent of sand-earth strong in the air.
'I had to hire a chariot because there was no two-horse carriage,' said
Redworth, 'and I wished to reach Copsley as early as possible.'
She replied, smiling, that accidents were fated. As a certain marriage
had been! The comparison forced itself on her reflections.
'But this is quite an adventure,' said she, reanimated by the brisker
flow of her blood. 'We ought really to be thankful for it, in days when
Redworth accused her of getting that idea from the perusal of romances.
'Yes, our lives require compression, like romances, to be interesting,
and we object to the process,' she said. 'Real happiness is a state of
dulness. When we taste it consciously it becomes mortal--a thing of the
Seasons. But I like my walk. How long these November sunsets burn, and
what hues they have! There is a scientific reason, only don't tell it
me. Now I understand why you always used to choose your holidays in
She thrilled him with her friendly recollection of his customs.
'As to happiness, the looking forward is happiness,' he remarked.
'Oh, the looking back! back!' she cried.
'Forward! that is life.'
'And backward, death, if you will; and still at is happiness. Death, and
'Ay; I wonder why the fellow hangs to the rear,' said Redworth, turning
'It's his cunning strategy, poor creature, so that he may be thought to
have delivered us at the head of the town, for us to make a purchase or
two, if we go to the inn on foot,' said Diana. 'We 'll let the manoeuvre
Redworth declared that she had a head for everything, and she was
flattered to hear him.
So passing from the southern into the western road, they saw the town-
lights beneath an amber sky burning out sombrely over the woods of
Copsley, and entered the town, the postillion following.
BETWEEN EMMA AND DIANA
Diana was in the arms of her friend at a late hour of the evening, and
Danvers breathed the amiable atmosphere of footmen once more, professing
herself perished. This maid of the world, who could endure hardships and
loss of society for the mistress to whom she was attached, no sooner saw
herself surrounded by the comforts befitting her station, than she
indulged in the luxury of a wailful dejectedness, the better to
appreciate them. She was unaffectedly astonished to find her outcries
against the cold and the journeyings to and fro interpreted as a serving-
woman's muffled comments on her mistress's behaviour. Lady Dunstane's
maid Bartlett, and Mrs. Bridges the housekeeper, and Foster the butler,
contrived to let her know that they could speak an if they would; and
they expressed their pity of her to assist her to begin the speaking.
She bowed in acceptance of Fosters offer of a glass of wine after supper,
but treated him and the other two immediately as though they had been
'They wormed nothing out of me,' she said to her mistress at night,
undressing her. 'But what a set they are! They've got such comfortable
places, they've all their days and hours for talk of the doings of their
superiors. They read the vilest of those town papers, and they put their
two and two together of what is happening in and about. And not one of
the footmen thinks of staying, because it 's so dull; and they and the
maids object--did one ever hear?--to the three uppers retiring, when they
've done dining, to the private room to dessert.'
'That is the custom?' observed her mistress.
'Foster carries the decanter, ma'am, and Mrs. Bridges the biscuits, and
Bartlett the plate of fruit, and they march out in order.'
'The man at the head of the procession, probably.'
'Oh yes. And the others, though they have everything except the wine and
dessert, don't like it. When I was here last they were new, and hadn't a
word against it. Now they say it's invidious! Lady Dunstane will be
left without an under-servant at Copsley soon. I was asked about your
boxes, ma'am, and the moment I said they were at Dover, that instant all
three peeped. They let out a mouse to me. They do love to talk!'
Her mistress could have added, 'And you too, my good Danvers!'
trustworthy though she knew the creature to be in the main.
'Now go, and be sure you have bedclothes enough before you drop asleep,'
she said; and Danvers directed her steps to gossip with Bartlett.
Diana wrapped herself in a dressing-gown Lady Dunstane had sent her, and
sat by the fire, thinking of the powder of tattle stored in servants'
halls to explode beneath her: and but for her choice of roads she might
have been among strangers. The liking of strangers best is a curious
exemplification of innocence.
'Yes, I was in a muse,' she said, raising her head to Emma, whom she
expected and sat armed to meet, unaccountably iron-nerved. 'I was
questioning whether I could be quite as blameless as I fancy, if I sit
and shiver to be in England. You will tell me I have taken the right
road. I doubt it. But the road is taken, and here I am. But any road
that leads me to you is homeward, my darling!' She tried to melt,
determining to be at least open with her.
'I have not praised you enough for coming,' said Emma, when they had
'Praise a little your "truest friend of women." Your letter gave the
tug. I might have resisted it.'
'He came straight from heaven! But, cruel Tony where is your love?'
'It is unequal to yours, dear, I see. I could have wrestled with
anything abstract and distant, from being certain. But here I am.'
'But, my own dear girl, you never could have allowed this infamous charge
to be undefended?'
'I think so. I've an odd apathy as to my character; rather like death,
when one dreams of flying the soul. What does it matter? I should have
left the flies and wasps to worry a corpse. And then-good-bye gentility!
I should have worked for my bread. I had thoughts of America. I fancy I
can write; and Americans, one hears, are gentle to women.'
'Ah, Tony! there's the looking back. And, of all women, you!'
'Or else, dear-well, perhaps once on foreign soil, in a different air,
I might--might have looked back, and seen my whole self, not shattered,
as I feel it now, and come home again compassionate to the poor
persecuted animal to defend her. Perhaps that was what I was running
away for. I fled on the instinct, often a good thing to trust.'
'I saw you at The Crossways.'
'I remembered I had the dread that you would, though I did not imagine
you would reach me so swiftly. My going there was an instinct, too.
I suppose we are all instinct when we have the world at our heels.
Forgive me if I generalize without any longer the right to be included in
the common human sum. "Pariah" and "taboo" are words we borrow from
barbarous tribes; they stick to me.'
'My Tony, you look as bright as ever, and you speak despairingly.'
'Call me enigma. I am that to myself, Emmy.'
'You are not quite yourself to your friend.'
'Since the blow I have been bewildered; I see nothing upright. It came
on me suddenly; stunned me. A bolt out of a clear sky, as they say. He
spared me a scene: There had been threats, and yet the sky was clear, or
seemed. When we have a man for arbiter, he is our sky.'
Emma pressed her Tony's unresponsive hand, feeling strangely that her
friend ebbed from her.
'Has he . . . to mislead him?' she said, colouring at the breach in
'Proofs? He has the proofs he supposes.'
'Not to justify suspicion?'
'He broke open my desk and took my letters.'
'Horrible! But the letters?' Emma shook with a nervous revulsion.
'You might read them.'
'Basest of men! That is the unpardonable cowardice!', exclaimed Emma.
'The world will read them, dear,' said Diana, and struck herself to ice.
She broke from the bitter frigidity in fury. 'They are letters--none
very long--sometimes two short sentences--he wrote at any spare moment.
On my honour, as a woman, I feel for him most. The letters--I would bear
any accusation rather than that exposure. Letters of a man of his age to
a young woman he rates too highly!
The world reads them. Do you hear it saying it could have excused her
for that fiddle-faddle with a younger--a young lover? And had I thought
of a lover! . . . I had no thought of loving or being loved. I
confess I was flattered. To you, Emma, I will confess . . . . You
see the public ridicule!--and half his age, he and I would have appeared
a romantic couple! Confess, I said. Well, dear, the stake is lighted
for a trial of its effect on me. It is this: he was never a
dishonourable friend; but men appear to be capable of friendship with
women only for as long as we keep out of pulling distance of that line
where friendship ceases. They may step on it; we must hold back a
league. I have learnt it. You will judge whether he disrespects me.
As for him, he is a man; at his worst, not one of the worst; at his best,
better than very many. There, now, Emma, you have me stripped and
burning; there is my full confession. Except for this--yes, one thing
further--that I do rage at the ridicule, and could choose, but for you,
to have given the world cause to revile me, or think me romantic.
Something or somebody to suffer for would really be agreeable. It is a
singular fact, I have not known what this love is, that they talk about.
And behold me marched into Smithfield!--society's heretic, if you please.
I must own I think it hard.'
Emma chafed her cold hand softly.
'It is hard; I understand it,' she murmured. 'And is your Sunday visit
to us in the list of offences?'
'You gave me a happy day.'
'Then it counts for me in heaven.'
'He set spies on you?'
'So we may presume.'
Emma went through a sphere of tenuious reflections in a flash.
'He will rue it. Perhaps now . . . he may now be regretting his
wretched frenzy. And Tony could pardon; she has the power of pardoning
in her heart.'
'Oh! certainly, dear. But tell me why it is you speak to-night rather
unlike the sedate, philosophical Emma; in a tone-well, tolerably
'I am unaware of it,' said Emma, who could have retorted with a like
reproach. 'I am anxious, I will not say at present for your happiness,
for your peace; and I have a hope that possibly a timely word from some
friend--Lukin or another--might induce him to consider.'
'To pardon me, do you mean?' cried Diana, flushing sternly.
'Not pardon. Suppose a case of faults on both sides.'
'You address a faulty person, my dear. But do you know that you are
hinting at a reconcilement?'
'Might it not be?'
'Open your eyes to what it involves. I trust I can pardon. Let him go
his ways, do his darkest, or repent. But return to the roof of the
"basest of men," who was guilty of "the unpardonable cowardice"? You
expect me to be superhuman. When I consent to that, I shall be out of my
woman's skin, which he has branded. Go back to him!' She was taken with
a shudder of head and limbs. 'No; I really have the power of pardoning,
and I am bound to; for among my debts to him, this present exemption,
that is like liberty dragging a chain, or, say, an escaped felon wearing
his manacles, should count. I am sensible of my obligation. The price I
pay for it is an immovable patch-attractive to male idiots, I have heard,
and a mark of scorn to females. Between the two the remainder of my days
will be lively. "Out, out, damned spot!" But it will not. And not on
the hand--on the forehead! We'll talk of it no longer. I have sent a
note, with an enclosure, to my lawyers. I sell The Crossways, if I have
the married woman's right to any scrap of property, for money to scatter
'My purse, dear Tony!' exclaimed Emma. 'My house! You will stay with
me? Why do you shake your head? With me you are safe.' She spied at
the shadows in her friend's face. 'Ever since your marriage, Tony, you
have been strange in your trick of refusing to stay with me. And you and
I made our friendship the pledge of a belief in eternity! We vowed it.
Come, I do talk sentimentally, but my heart is in it. I beg you--all the
reasons are with me--to make my house your home. You will. You know I
am rather lonely.'
Diana struggled to keep her resolution from being broken by tenderness.
And doubtless poor Sir Lukin had learnt his lesson; still, her defensive
instincts could never quite slumber under his roof; not because of any
further fear that they would have to be summoned; it was chiefly owing to
the consequences of his treacherous foolishness. For this half-home with
her friend thenceforward denied to her, she had accepted a protector,
called husband--rashly, past credence, in the retrospect; but it had been
her propelling motive; and the loathings roused by her marriage helped to
sicken her at the idea of a lengthened stay where she had suffered the
shock precipitating her to an act of insanity.
'I do not forget you were an heiress, Emmy, and I will come to you if I
need money to keep my head up. As for staying, two reasons are against
it. If I am to fight my battle, I must be seen; I must go about--
wherever I am received. So my field is London. That is obvious.
And I shall rest better in a house where my story is not known.'
Two or three questions ensued. Diana had to fortify her fictitious
objection by alluding to her maid's prattle of the household below;
and she excused the hapless, overfed, idle people of those regions.
To Emma it seemed a not unnatural sensitiveness. She came to a settled
resolve in her thoughts, as she said, 'They want a change. London is
Feeling that she deceived this true heart, however lightly and
necessarily, Diana warmed to her, forgiving her at last for having netted
and dragged her back to front the enemy; an imposition of horrors, of
which the scene and the travelling with Redworth, the talking of her case
with her most intimate friend as well, had been a distempering foretaste.
They stood up and kissed, parting for the night.
An odd world, where for the sin we have not participated in we must fib
and continue fibbing, she reflected. She did not entirely cheat her
clearer mind, for she perceived that her step in flight had been urged
both by a weak despondency and a blind desperation; also that the world
of a fluid civilization is perforce artificial. But her mind was in the
background of her fevered senses, and when she looked in the glass and
mused on uttering the word, 'Liar!' to the lovely image, her senses were
refreshed, her mind somewhat relieved, the face appeared so sovereignly
defiant of abasement.
Thus did a nature distraught by pain obtain some short lull of repose.
Thus, moreover, by closely reading herself, whom she scourged to excess
that she might in justice be comforted, she gathered an increasing
knowledge of our human constitution, and stored matter for the brain.
TOUCHING THE FIRST DAYS OF HER PROBATION
The result of her sleeping was, that Diana's humour, locked up overnight,
insisted on an excursion, as she lay with half-buried head and open
eyelids, thinking of the firm of lawyers she had to see; and to whom,
and to the legal profession generally, she would be, under outward
courtesies, nothing other than 'the woman Warwick.' She pursued the
woman Warwick unmercifully through a series of interviews with her
decorous and crudely-minded defenders; accurately perusing them behind
their senior staidness. Her scorching sensitiveness sharpened her
intelligence in regard to the estimate of discarded wives entertained by
men of business and plain men of the world, and she drove the woman
Warwick down their ranks, amazed by the vision of a puppet so unlike to
herself in reality, though identical in situation. That woman, reciting
her side of the case, gained a gradual resemblance to Danvers; she spoke
primly; perpetually the creature aired her handkerchief; she was bent on
softening those sugarloaves, the hard business-men applying to her for
facts. Facts were treated as unworthy of her; mere stuff of the
dustheap, mutton-bones, old shoes; she swam above them in a cocoon of her
spinning, sylphidine, unseizable; and between perplexing and mollifying
the slaves of facts, she saw them at their heels, a tearful fry, abjectly
imitative of her melodramatic performances. The spectacle was presented
of a band of legal gentlemen vociferating mightily for swords and the
onset, like the Austrian empress's Magyars, to vindicate her just and
holy cause. Our Law-courts failing, they threatened Parliament, and for
a last resort, the country! We are not going to be the woman Warwick
without a stir, my brethren.
Emma, an early riser that morning, for the purpose of a private
consultation with Mr. Redworth, found her lying placidly wakeful, to
judge by appearances.
'You have not slept, my dear child?'
'Perfectly,' said Diana, giving her hand and offering the lips. 'I'm
only having a warm morning bath in bed,' she added, in explanation of a
chill moisture that the touch of her exposed skin betrayed; for whatever
the fun of the woman Warwick, there had been sympathetic feminine horrors
in the frame of the sentient woman.
Emma fancied she kissed a quiet sufferer. A few remarks very soon set
her wildly laughing. Both were laughing when Danvers entered the room,
rather guilty, being late; and the sight of the prim-visaged maid she had
been driving among the lawyers kindled Diana's comic imagination to such
a pitch that she ran riot in drolleries, carrying her friend headlong on
'I have not laughed so much since you were married,' said Emma.
'Nor I, dear; proving that the bar to it was the ceremony,' said Diana.
She promised to remain at Copsley three days. 'Then for the campaign in
Mr. Redworth's metropolis. I wonder whether I may ask him to get me
lodgings: a sitting-room and two bedrooms. The Crossways has a board up
for letting. I should prefer to be my own tenant; only it would give me
a hundred pounds more to get a substitute's money. I should like to be
at work writing instantly. Ink is my opium, and the pen my nigger, and
he must dig up gold for me. It is written. Danvers, you can make ready
to dress me when I ring.'
Emma helped the beautiful woman to her dressing-gown and the step from
her bed. She had her thoughts, and went down to Redworth at the
breakfast-table, marvelling that any husband other than a madman could
cast such a jewel away. The material loveliness eclipses intellectual
qualities in such reflections.
'He must be mad,' she said, compelled to disburden herself in a congenial
atmosphere; which, however, she infrigidated by her overflow of
exclamatory wonderment--a curtain that shook voluminous folds, luring
Redworth to dreams of the treasure forfeited. He became rigidly
'Provision will have to be made for her. Lukin must see Mr. Warwick.
She will do wisely to stay with friends in town, mix in company. Women
are the best allies for such cases. Who are her solicitors?'
'They are mine: Braddock, Thorpe, and Simnel.'
'A good firm. She is in safe hands with them. I dare say they may come
to an arrangement.'
'I should wish it. She will never consent.'
Redworth shrugged. A woman's 'never' fell far short of outstripping the
sturdy pedestrian Time, to his mind.
Diana saw him drive off to catch the coach in the valley, regulated to
meet the train, and much though she liked him, she was not sorry that he
had gone. She felt the better clad for it. She would have rejoiced to
witness the departure on wings of all her friends, except Emma, to whom
her coldness overnight had bound her anew warmly in contrition. And yet
her friends were well-beloved by her; but her emotions were distraught.
Emma told her that Mr. Redworth had undertaken to hire a suite of
convenient rooms, and to these she looked forward, the nest among
strangers, where she could begin to write, earning bread: an idea that,
with the pride of independence, conjured the pleasant morning smell of a
bakery about her.
She passed three peaceable days at Copsley, at war only with the luxury
of the house. On the fourth, a letter to Lady Dunstane from Redworth
gave the address of the best lodgings he could find, and Diana started
She had during a couple of weeks, besides the first fresh exercising of
her pen, as well as the severe gratification of economy, a savage
exultation in passing through the streets on foot and unknown. Save for
the plunges into the office of her solicitors, she could seem to herself
a woman who had never submitted to the yoke. What a pleasure it was,
after finishing a number of pages, to start Eastward toward the lawyer-
regions, full of imaginary cropping incidents, and from that churchyard
Westward, against smoky sunsets, or in welcome fogs, an atom of the
crowd! She had an affection for the crowd. They clothed her. She
laughed at the gloomy forebodings of Danvers concerning the perils
environing ladies in the streets after dark alone. The lights in the
streets after dark and the quick running of her blood, combined to strike
sparks of fancy and inspirit the task of composition at night. This new,
strange, solitary life, cut off from her adulatory society, both by the
shock that made the abyss and by the utter foreignness, threw her in upon
her natural forces, recasting her, and thinning away her memory of her
past days, excepting girlhood, into the remote. She lived with her
girlhood as with a simple little sister. They were two in one, and she
corrected the dreams of the younger, protected and counselled her very
sagely, advising her to love Truth and look always to Reality for her
refreshment. She was ready to say, that no habitable spot on our planet
was healthier and pleasanter than London. As to the perils haunting the
head of Danvers, her experiences assured her of a perfect immunity from
them; and the maligned thoroughfares of a great city, she was ready to
affirm, contrasted favourably with certain hospitable halls.
The long-suffering Fates permitted her for a term to enjoy the generous
delusion. Subsequently a sweet surprise alleviated the shock she had
sustained. Emma Dunstane's carriage was at her door, and Emma entered
her sitting-room, to tell her of having hired a house in the
neighbourhood, looking on the park. She begged to have her for guest,
sorrowfully anticipating the refusal. At least they were to be near one
'You really like this life in lodgings?' asked Emma, to whom the stiff
furniture and narrow apartments were a dreariness, the miserably small
fire of the sitting-room an aspect of cheerless winter.
'I do,' said Diana; 'yes,' she added with some reserve, and smiled at her
damped enthusiasm, 'I can eat when I like, walk, work--and I am working!
My legs and my pen demand it. Let me be independent! Besides, I begin
to learn something of the bigger world outside the one I know, and I
crush my mincing tastes. In return for that, I get a sense of strength
I had not when I was a drawing-room exotic. Much is repulsive. But I am
taken with a passion for reality.'
They spoke of the lawyers, and the calculated period of the trial; of the
husband too, in his inciting belief in the falseness of his wife. 'That
is his excuse,' Diana said, her closed mouth meditatively dimpling the
comers over thoughts of his grounds for fury. He had them, though none
for the incriminating charge. The Sphinx mouth of the married woman at
war and at bay must be left unriddled. She and the law differed in their
interpretation of the dues of wedlock.
But matters referring to her case were secondary with Diana beside the
importance of her storing impressions. Her mind required to hunger for
something, and this Reality which frequently she was forced to loathe,
she forced herself proudly to accept, despite her youthfulness. Her
philosophy swallowed it in the lump, as the great serpent his meal; she
hoped to digest it sleeping likewise. Her visits of curiosity to the Law
Courts, where she stood spying and listening behind a veil, gave her a
great deal of tough substance to digest. There she watched the process
of the tortures to be applied to herself, and hardened her senses for the
ordeal. She saw there the ribbed and shanked old skeleton world on which
our fair fleshly is moulded. After all, your Fool's Paradise is not a
garden to grow in. Charon's ferry-boat is not thicker with phantoms.
They do not live in mind or soul. Chiefly women people it: a certain
class of limp men; women for the most part: they are sown there. And put
their garden under the magnifying glass of intimacy, what do we behold?
A world not better than the world it curtains, only foolisher.
Her conversations with Lady Dunstane brought her at last to the point of
her damped enthusiasm. She related an incident or two occurring in her
career of independence, and they discussed our state of civilization
plainly and gravely, save for the laughing peals her phrases occasionally
provoked; as when she named the intruders and disturbers of solitarily-
faring ladies, 'Cupid's footpads.' Her humour was created to swim on
waters where a prescribed and cultivated prudery should pretend to be
'I was getting an exalted idea of English gentlemen, Emmy. "Rich and
rare were the gems she wore." I was ready to vow that one might traverse
the larger island similarly respected. I praised their chivalry.
I thought it a privilege to live in such a land. I cannot describe to
you how delightful it was to me to walk out and home generally protected.
I might have been seriously annoyed but that one of the clerks-
"articled," he called himself--of our lawyers happened to be by.
He offered to guard me, and was amusing with his modest tiptoe air.
No, I trust to the English common man more than ever. He is a man of
honour. I am convinced he is matchless in any other country, except
Ireland. The English gentleman trades on his reputation.'
He was condemned by an afflicted delicacy, the sharpest of critical
Emma bade her not to be too sweeping from a bad example.
'It is not a single one,' said Diana. 'What vexes me and frets me is,
that I must be a prisoner, or allow Danvers to mount guard. And I can't
see the end of it. And Danvers is no magician. She seems to know her
countrymen, though. She warded one of them off, by saying to me: "This
is the crossing, my lady." He fled.'
Lady Dunstane affixed the popular title to the latter kind of gentleman.
She was irritated on her friend's behalf, and against the worrying of her
sisterhood, thinking in her heart, nevertheless, that the passing of a
face and figure like Diana's might inspire honourable emotions, pitiable
for being hapless.
'If you were with me, dear, you would have none of these annoyances,' she
said, pleading forlornly.
Diana smiled to herself. 'No! I should relapse into softness. This
life exactly suits my present temper. My landlady is respectful and
attentive; the little housemaid is a willing slave; Danvers does not
despise them pugnaciously; they make a home for me, and I am learning
daily. Do you know, the less ignorant I become, the more considerate I
am for the ignorance of others--I love them for it.' She squeezed Emma's
hand with more meaning than her friend apprehended. 'So I win my
advantage from the trifles I have to endure. They are really trifles,
and I should once have thought them mountains!'
For the moment Diana stipulated that she might not have to encounter
friends or others at Lady Dunstane's dinner-table, and the season not
being favourable to those gatherings planned by Lady Dunstane in her
project of winning supporters, there was a respite, during which Sir
Lukin worked manfully at his three Clubs to vindicate Diana's name from
the hummers and hawers, gaining half a dozen hot adherents, and a body of
lukewarm, sufficiently stirred to be desirous to see the lady. He worked
with true champion zeal, although an interview granted him by the husband
settled his opinion as to any possibility of the two ever coming to
terms. Also it struck him that if he by misadventure had been a woman
and the wife of such a fellow, by Jove! . . .his apostrophe to the
father of the gods of pagandom signifying the amount of matter Warwick
would have had reason to complain of in earnest. By ricochet his
military mind rebounded from his knowledge of himself to an ardent, faith
in Mrs. Warwick's innocence; for, as there was no resemblance between
them, there must, he deduced, be a difference in their capacity for
enduring the perpetual company of a prig, a stick, a petrified poser.
Moreover, the novel act of advocacy, and the nature of the advocacy, had
effect on him. And then he recalled the scene in the winter beech-woods,
and Diana's wild-deer eyes; her, perfect generosity to a traitor and
fool. How could he have doubted her? Glimpses of the corrupting cause
for it partly penetrated his density: a conqueror of ladies, in mid-
career, doubts them all. Of course he had meant no harm, nothing worse
than some petty philandering with the loveliest woman of her time. And,
by Jove! it was worth the rebuff to behold the Beauty in her wrath.
The reflections of Lothario, however much tending tardily to do justice
to a particular lady, cannot terminate wholesomely. But he became a
gallant partisan. His portrayal of Mr. Warwick to his wife and his
friends was fine caricature. 'The fellow had his hand up at my first
word--stood like a sentinel under inspection. "Understand, Sir Lukin,
that I receive you simply as an acquaintance. As an intermediary,
permit me to state that you are taking superfluous trouble. The case
must proceed. It is final. She is at liberty, in the meantime, to draw
on my bankers for the provision she may need, at the rate of five hundred
pounds per annum." He spoke of "the lady now bearing my name." He was
within an inch of saying "dishonouring." I swear I heard the "dis,"
and he caught himself up. He "again declined any attempt towards
reconciliation." It could "only be founded on evasion of the truth to
be made patent on the day of trial." Half his talk was lawyers' lingo.
The fellow's teeth looked like frost. If Lot's wife had a brother, his
name's Warwick. How Diana Merion, who could have had the pick of the
best of us, ever came to marry a fellow like that, passes my
comprehension, queer creatures as women are! He can ride; that's about
all he can do. I told him Mrs. Warwick had no thought of reconciliation.
"Then, Sir Lukin, you will perceive that we have no standpoint for a
discussion." I told him the point was, for a man of honour not to drag
his wife before the public, as he had no case to stand on--less than
nothing. You should have seen the fellow's face. He shot a sneer up to
his eyelids, and flung his head back. So I said, "Good-day." He marches
me to the door, "with his compliments to Lady Dunstane." I could have
floored him for that. Bless my soul, what fellows the world is made of,
when here's a man, calling himself a gentleman, who, just because he
gets in a rage with his wife for one thing or another--and past all
competition the handsomest woman of her day, and the cleverest, the
nicest, the best of the whole boiling--has her out for a public
horsewhipping, and sets all the idiots of the kingdom against her!
I tried to reason with him. He made as if he were going to sleep
Sir Lukin gratified Lady Dunstane by his honest championship of Diana.
And now, in his altered mood (the thrice indebted rogue was just cloudily
conscious of a desire to propitiate his dear wife by serving her friend),
he began a crusade against the scandal-newspapers, going with an Irish
military comrade straight to the editorial offices, and leaving his card
and a warning that the chastisement for print of the name of the lady in
their columns would be personal and condign. Captain Carew Mahony,
albeit unacquainted with Mrs. Warwick, had espoused her cause. She was
a woman, she was an Irishwoman, she was a beautiful woman. She had,
therefore, three positive claims on him as a soldier and a man. Other
Irish gentlemen, animated by the same swelling degrees, were awaking to
the intimation that they might be wanted. Some words were dropped here
and there by General Lord Larrian: he regretted his age and infirmities.
A goodly regiment for a bodyguard might have been selected to protect her
steps in the public streets; when it was bruited that the General had
sent her a present of his great Newfoundland dog, Leander, to attend on
her and impose a required respect. But as it chanced that her address
was unknown to the volunteer constabulary, they had to assuage their
ardour by thinking the dog luckier than they.
The report of the dog was a fact. He arrived one morning at Diana's
lodgings, with a soldier to lead him, and a card to introduce:--the
Hercules of dogs, a very ideal of the species, toweringly big,
benevolent, reputed a rescuer of lives, disdainful of dog-fighting,
devoted to his guardian's office, with a majestic paw to give and the
noblest satisfaction in receiving caresses ever expressed by mortal male
enfolded about the head, kissed, patted, hugged, snuggled, informed that
he was his new mistress's one love and darling.
She despatched a thrilling note of thanks to Lord Larrian, sure of her
touch upon an Irish heart.
The dog Leander soon responded to the attachment of a mistress enamoured
of him. 'He is my husband,' she said to Emma, and started a tear in the
eyes of her smiling friend; 'he promises to trust me, and never to have
the law of me, and to love my friends as his own; so we are certain to
agree.' In rain, snow, sunshine, through the parks and the streets, he
was the shadow of Diana, commanding, on the whole, apart from some
desperate attempts to make him serve as introducer, a civilized behaviour
in the legions of Cupid's footpads. But he helped, innocently enough, to
create an enemy.
GIVING GLIMPSES OF DIANA UNDER HER CLOUD BEFORE THE WORLD AND OF HER
As the day of her trial became more closely calculable, Diana's
anticipated alarms receded with the deadening of her heart to meet the
shock. She fancied she had put on proof-armour, unconscious that it was
the turning of the inward flutterer to steel, which supplied her cuirass
and shield. The necessity to brave society, in the character of honest
Defendant, caused but a momentary twitch of the nerves. Her heart beat
regularly, like a serviceable clock; none of her faculties abandoned her
save songfulness, and none belied her, excepting a disposition to
tartness almost venomous in the sarcastic shafts she let fly at friends
interceding with Mr. Warwick to spare his wife, when she had determined
to be tried. A strange fit of childishness overcame her powers of
thinking, and was betrayed in her manner of speaking, though--to herself
her dwindled humour allowed her to appear the towering Britomart. She
pouted contemptuously on hearing that a Mr. Sullivan Smith (a remotely
recollected figure) had besought Mr. Warwick for an interview, and gained
it, by stratagem, 'to bring the man to his senses': but an ultra-Irishman
did not compromise her battle-front, as the busybody supplications of a
personal friend like Mr. Redworth did; and that the latter, without
consulting her, should be 'one of the plaintive crew whining about the
heels of the Plaintiff for a mercy she disdained and rejected' was bitter
to her taste.
'He does not see that unless I go through the fire there is no
justification for this wretched character of mine!' she exclaimed.
Truce, treaty, withdrawal, signified publicly pardon, not exoneration by
any means; and now that she was in armour she had no dread of the public.
So she said. Redworth's being then engaged upon the canvass of a
borough, added to the absurdity of his meddling with the dilemmas of a
woman. 'Dear me, Emma! think of stepping aside from the parliamentary
road to entreat a husband to relent, and arrange the domestic alliance of
a contrary couple! Quixottry is agreeable reading, a silly performance.'
Lady Dunstane pleaded his friendship. She had to quit the field where
such darts were showering.
The first dinner-party was aristocratic, easy to encounter. Lord and
Lady Crane, Lady Pennon, Lord and Lady Esquart, Lord Larrian, Mr. and
Mrs. Montvert of Halford Manor, Lady Singleby, Sir Walter Capperston
friends, admirers of Diana; patrons, in the phrase of the time, of her
father, were the guests. Lady Pennon expected to be amused, and was
gratified, for Diana had only to open her mouth to set the great lady
laughing. She petitioned to have Mrs. Warwick at her table that day
week, because the marquis was dying to make her acquaintance, and begged
to have all her sayings repeated to him; vowed she must be salt in the
desert. 'And remember, I back you through thick and thin,' said Lady
Pennon. To which Diana replied: 'If I am salt in the desert, you are the
spring'; and the old lady protested she must put that down for her book.
The witty Mrs. Warwick, of whom wit was expected, had many incitements to
be guilty of cheap wit; and the beautiful Mrs. Warwick, being able to
pass anything she uttered, gave good and bad alike, under the impulsion
to give out something, that the stripped and shivering Mrs. Warwick might
find a cover in applause. She discovered the social uses of cheap wit;
she laid ambushes for anecdotes, a telling form of it among a people of
no conversational interlocution, especially in the circles depending for
dialogue upon perpetual fresh supplies of scandal; which have plentiful
crops, yet not sufficient. The old dinner and supper tables at The
Crossways furnished her with an abundant store; and recollection failing,
she invented. Irish anecdotes are always popular in England, as
promoting, besides the wholesome shake of the sides, a kindly sense of
superiority. Anecdotes also are portable, unlike the lightning flash,
which will not go into the pocket; they can be carried home, they are
disbursable at other tables. These were Diana's weapons. She was
perforce the actress of her part.
In happier times, when light of heart and natural, her vogue had not been
so enrapturing. Doubtless Cleopatra in her simple Egyptian uniform would
hardly have won such plaudits as her stress of barbaric Oriental
splendours evoked for her on the swan and serpent Nile-barge--not from
posterity at least. It is a terrible decree, that all must act who would
prevail; and the more extended the audience, the greater need for the
mask and buskin.
From Lady Pennon's table Diana passed to Lady Crane's, Lady Esquart's,
Lady Singleby's, the Duchess of Raby's, warmly clad in the admiration she
excited. She appeared at Princess Therese Paryli's first ball of the
season, and had her circle, not of worshippers only. She did not dance.
The princess, a fair Austrian, benevolent to her sisterhood, an admirer
of Diana's contrasting complexion, would have had her dance once in a
quadrille of her forming, but yielded to the mute expression of the
refusal. Wherever Mrs. Warwick went, her arts of charming were addressed
to the women. Men may be counted on for falling bowled over by a
handsome face and pointed tongue; women require some wooing from their
ensphered and charioted sister, particularly if she is clouded; and old
women--excellent buttresses--must be suavely courted. Now, to woo the
swimming matron and court the settled dowager, she had to win forgiveness
for her beauty; and this was done, easily done, by forbearing to angle
with it in the press of nibblers. They ranged about her, individually
unnoticed. Seeming unaware of its effect where it kindled, she smote a
number of musical female chords, compassion among them. A general grave
affability of her eyes and smiles was taken for quiet pleasure in the
scene. Her fitful intentness of look when conversing with the older
ladies told of the mind within at work upon what they said, and she was
careful that plain dialogue should make her comprehensible to them.
Nature taught her these arts, through which her wit became extolled
entirely on the strength of her reputation, and her beauty did her
service by never taking aim abroad. They are the woman's arts of self-
defence, as legitimately and honourably hers as the manful use of the
fists with a coarser sex. If it had not been nature that taught her the
practice of them in extremity, the sagacious dowagers would have seen
brazenness rather than innocence--or an excuseable indiscretion--in the
part she was performing. They are not lightly duped by one of their sex.
Few tasks are more difficult than for a young woman under a cloud to
hoodwink old women of the world. They are the prey of financiers, but
Time has presented them a magic ancient glass to scan their sex in.
At Princess Paryli's Ball two young men of singular elegance were
observed by Diana, little though she concentered her attention on any
figures of the groups. She had the woman's faculty (transiently bestowed
by perfervid jealousy upon men) of distinguishing minutely in the calmest
of indifferent glances. She could see without looking; and when her eyes
were wide they had not to dwell to be detective. It did not escape her
that the Englishman of the two hurried for the chance of an introduction,
nor that he suddenly, after putting a question to a man beside him,
retired. She spoke of them to Emma as they drove home. 'The princess's
partner in the first quadrille . . . Hungarian, I suppose? He was
like a Tartar modelled by a Greek: supple as the Scythian's bow, braced
as the string! He has the air of a born horseman, and valses perfectly.
I won't say he was handsomer than a young Englishman there, but he had
the advantage of soldierly training. How different is that quick springy
figure from our young men's lounging style! It comes of military
exercise and discipline.'
'That was Count Jochany, a cousin of the princess, and a cavalry
officer,' said Emma. 'You don't know the other? I am sure the one you
mean must be Percy Dacier.'
His retiring was explained: the Hon. Percy Dacier was the nephew of Lord
Dannisburgh, often extolled to her as the promising youngster of his day,
with the reserve that he wasted his youth: for the young gentleman was
decorous and studious; ambitious, according to report; a politician
taking to politics much too seriously and exclusively to suit his uncle's
pattern for the early period of life. Uncle and nephew went their
separate ways, rarely meeting, though their exchange of esteem was
Thinking over his abrupt retirement from the crowded semicircle, Diana
felt her position pinch her, she knew not why.
Lady Dunstane was as indefatigable by day as by night in the business of
acting goddess to her beloved Tony, whom she assured that the service,
instead of exhausting, gave her such healthfulness as she had imagined
herself to have lost for ever. The word was passed, and invitations
poured in to choice conversational breakfasts, private afternoon
concerts, all the humming season's assemblies. Mr. Warwick's treatment
of his wife was taken by implication for lunatic; wherever she was heard
or seen, he had no case; a jury of some hundreds of both sexes, ready to
be sworn, pronounced against him. Only the personal enemies of the lord
in the suit presumed to doubt, and they exercised the discretion of a
But there is an upper middle class below the aristocratic, boasting an
aristocracy of morals, and eminently persuasive of public opinion, if not
commanding it. Previous to the relaxation, by amendment, of a certain
legal process, this class was held to represent the austerity of the
country. At present a relaxed austerity is represented; and still the
bulk of the members are of fair repute, though not quite on the level of
their pretensions. They were then, while more sharply divided from the
titular superiors they are socially absorbing, very powerful to brand a
woman's character, whatever her rank might be; having innumerable
agencies and avenues for that high purpose, to say nothing of the
printing-press. Lady Dunstane's anxiety to draw them over to the cause
of her friend set her thinking of the influential Mrs. Cramborne Wathin,
with whom she was distantly connected; the wife of a potent serjeant-at-
law fast mounting to the Bench and knighthood; the centre of a circle,
and not strangely that, despite her deficiency in the arts and graces,
for she had wealth and a cook, a husband proud of his wine-cellar, and
the ambition to rule; all the rewards, together with the expectations, of
the virtuous. She was a lady of incisive features bound in stale
parchment. Complexion she had none, but she had spotlessness of skin,
and sons and daughters just resembling her, like cheaper editions of a
precious quarto of a perished type. You discerned the imitation of the
type, you acknowledged the inferior compositor. Mr. Cramborne Wathin was
by birth of a grade beneath his wife; he sprang (behind a curtain of
horror) from tradesmen. The Bench was in designation for him to wash out
the stain, but his children suffered in large hands and feet, short legs,
excess of bone, prominences misplaced. Their mother inspired them
carefully with the religion she opposed to the pretensions of a nobler
blood, while instilling into them that the blood they drew from her was
territorial, far above the vulgar. Her appearance and her principles
fitted her to stand for the Puritan rich of the period, emerging by the
aid of an extending wealth into luxurious worldliness, and retaining the
maxims of their forefathers for the discipline of the poor and erring.
Lady Dunstane called on her, ostensibly to let her know she had taken a
house in town for the season, and in the course of the chat Mrs.
Cramborne Wathin was invited to dinner. 'You will meet my dear friend,
Mrs. Warwick,' she said, and the reply was: 'Oh, I have heard of her.'
The formal consultation with Mr. Cramborne Wathin ended in an agreement
to accept Lady Dunstane's kind invitation.
Considering her husband's plenitude of old legal anecdotes, and her own
diligent perusal of the funny publications of the day, that she might be
on the level of the wits and celebrities she entertained, Mrs. Cramborne
Wathin had a right to expect the leading share in the conversation to
which she was accustomed. Every honour was paid to them; they met
aristocracy in the persons of Lord Larrian, of Lady Rockden, Colonel
Purlby, the Pettigrews, but neither of them held the table for a moment;
the topics flew, and were no sooner up than down; they were unable to get
a shot. They had to eat in silence, occasionally grinning, because a
woman labouring under a stigma would rattle-rattle, as if the laughter of
the company were her due, and decency beneath her notice. Some one
alluded to a dog of Mrs. Warwick's, whereupon she trips out a story of
her dog's amazing intelligence.
'And pray,' said Mrs. Cramborne Wathin across the table, merely to slip
in a word, 'what is the name of this wonderful dog?'
'His name is Leander,' said Diana.
'Oh, Leander. I don't think I hear myself calling to a dog in a name of
three syllables. Two at the most.'
No, so I call Hero! if I want him to come immediately,' said Diana, and
the gentlemen, to Mrs. Cramborne Wathin's astonishment, acclaimed it.
Mr. Redworth, at her elbow, explained the point, to her disgust. . .
That was Diana's offence.
If it should seem a small one, let it be remembered that a snub was
intended, and was foiled; and foiled with an apparent simplicity, enough
to exasperate, had there been no laughter of men to back the countering
stroke. A woman under a cloud, she talked, pushed to shine; she would be
heard, would be applauded. Her chronicler must likewise admit the error
of her giving way to a petty sentiment of antagonism on first beholding
Mrs. Cramborne Wathin, before whom she at once resolved to be herself,
for a holiday, instead of acting demurely to conciliate. Probably it was
an antagonism of race, the shrinking of the skin from the burr. But when
Tremendous Powers are invoked, we should treat any simple revulsion of
our blood as a vice. The Gods of this world's contests demand it of us,
in relation to them, that the mind, and not the instincts, shall be at
work. Otherwise the course of a prudent policy is never to invoke them,
The upper class was gained by her intrepidity, her charm, and her
elsewhere offending wit, however the case might go. It is chivalrous,
but not, alas, inflammable in support of innocence. The class below it
is governed in estimates of character by accepted patterns of conduct;
yet where innocence under persecution is believed to exist, the members
animated by that belief can be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is a heaven-sent
steeplechaser, and takes a flying leap of the ordinary barriers; it is
more intrusive than chivalry, and has a passion to communicate its
ardour. Two letters from stranger ladies reached Diana, through her
lawyers and Lady Dunstane. Anonymous letters, not so welcome, being male
effusions, arrived at her lodgings, one of them comical almost over the
verge to pathos in its termination: 'To me you will ever be the Goddess
Diana--my faith in woman!'
He was unacquainted with her!
She had not the heart to think the writers donkeys. How they obtained
her address was a puzzle; they stole in to comfort her slightly. They
attached her to her position of Defendant by the thought of what would
have been the idea of her character if she had flown--a reflection
emanating from inexperience of the resources of sentimentalists.
If she had flown! She was borne along by the tide like a butterfly that
a fish may gobble unless a friendly hand shall intervene. And could it
in nature? She was past expectation of release. The attempt to imagine
living with any warmth of blood in her vindicated character, for the sake
of zealous friends, consigned her to a cold and empty house upon a
foreign earth. She had to set her mind upon the mysterious enshrouded
Twelve, with whom the verdict would soon be hanging, that she might
prompt her human combativeness to desire the vindication at such a price
as she would have to pay for it. When Emma Dunstane spoke to her of the
certainty of triumphing, she suggested a possible dissentient among the
fateful Twelve, merely to escape the drumming sound of that hollow big
word. The irreverent imp of her humour came to her relief by calling
forth the Twelve, in the tone of the clerk of the Court, and they
answered to their names of trades and crafts after the manner of
Titania's elves, and were questioned as to their fitness, by education,
habits, enlightenment, to pronounce decisively upon the case in dispute,
the case being plainly stated. They replied, that the long habit of
dealing with scales enabled them to weigh the value of evidence the most
delicate. Moreover, they were Englishmen, and anything short of
downright bullet facts went to favour the woman. For thus we light the
balance of legal injustice toward the sex: we conveniently wink, ma'am.
A rough, old-fashioned way for us! Is it a Breach of Promise?--She may
reckon on her damages: we have daughters of our own. Is it a suit for
Divorce?--Well, we have wives of our own, and we can lash, or we can
spare; that's as it may be; but we'll keep the couple tied, let 'em hate
as they like, if they can't furnish pork-butchers' reasons for sundering;
because the man makes the money in this country.--My goodness! what a
funny people, sir!--It 's our way of holding the balance, ma'am.--But
would it not be better to rectify the law and the social system, dear
sir?--Why, ma'am, we find it comfortabler to take cases as they come, in
the style of our fathers.--But don't you see, my good man, that you are
offering scapegoats for the comfort of the majority?--Well, ma'am, there
always were scapegoats, and always will be; we find it comes round pretty
square in the end.
'And I may be the scapegoat, Emmy! It is perfectly possible. The
grocer, the pork-butcher, drysalter, stationer, tea-merchant, et caetera
--they sit on me. I have studied the faces of the juries, and Mr.
Braddock tells me of their composition. And he admits that they do
justice roughly--a rough and tumble country! to quote him--though he says
they are honest in intention.'
'More shame to the man who drags you before them--if he persists!' Emma
'He will. I know him. I would not have him draw back now,' said Diana,
catching her breath. 'And, dearest, do not abuse him; for if you do, you
set me imagining guiltiness. Oh, heaven!--suppose me publicly pardoned!
No, I have kinder feelings when we stand opposed. It is odd, and rather
frets my conscience, to think of the little resentment I feel. Hardly
any! He has not cause to like his wife. I can own it, and I am sorry
for him, heartily. No two have ever come together so naturally
antagonistic as we two. We walked a dozen steps in stupefied union, and
hit upon crossways. From that moment it was tug and tug; he me, I him.
By resisting, I made him a tyrant; and he, by insisting, made me a rebel.
And he was the maddest of tyrants--a weak one. My dear, he was also a
double-dealer. Or no, perhaps not in design. He was moved at one time
by his interests; at another by his idea of his honour. He took what I
could get for him, and then turned and drubbed me for getting it.'
'This is the creature you try to excuse!' exclaimed indignant Emma.
'Yes, because--but fancy all the smart things I said being called my
"sallies"!--can a woman live with it?--because I behaved . . . I
despised him too much, and I showed it. He is not a contemptible man
before the world; he is merely a very narrow one under close inspection.
I could not--or did not--conceal my feeling. I showed it not only to
him, to my friend. Husband grew to mean to me stifler, lung-contractor,
iron mask, inquisitor, everything anti-natural. He suffered under my
"sallies": and it was the worse for him when he did not perceive their
drift. He is an upright man; I have not seen marked meanness. One might
build up a respectable figure in negatives. I could add a row of noughts
to the single number he cherishes, enough to make a millionnaire of him;
but strike away the first, the rest are wind. Which signifies, that if
you do not take his estimate of himself, you will think little of his:
negative virtues. He is not eminently, that is to say, not saliently,
selfish; not rancorous, not obtrusive--tata-ta-ta. But dull!--dull as a
woollen nightcap over eyes and ears and mouth. Oh! an executioner's
black cap to me. Dull, and suddenly staring awake to the idea of his
honour. I "rendered" him ridiculous--I had caught a trick of "using
men's phrases." Dearest, now that the day of trial draws nigh--you have
never questioned me, and it was like you to spare me pain--but now I can
speak of him and myself.' Diana dropped her voice. Here was another
confession. The proximity of the trial acted like fire on her faded
recollection of incidents. It may be that partly the shame of alluding
to them had blocked her woman's memory. For one curious operation of the
charge of guiltiness upon the nearly guiltless is to make them paint
themselves pure white, to the obliteration of minor spots, until the
whiteness being acknowledged, or the ordeal imminent, the spots recur and
press upon their consciences. She resumed, in a rapid undertone: 'You
know that a certain degree of independence had been, if not granted by
him, conquered by me. I had the habit of it. Obedience with him is
imprisonment--he is a blind wall. He received a commission, greatly to
his advantage, and was absent. He seems to have received information of
some sort. He returned unexpectedly, at a late hour, and attacked me at
once, middling violent. My friend--and that he is! was coming from the
House for a ten minutes' talk, as usual, on his way home, to refresh him
after the long sitting and bear-baiting he had nightly to endure. Now
let me confess: I grew frightened; Mr. Warwick was "off his head," as
they say-crazy, and I could not bear the thought of those two meeting.
While he raged I threw open the window and put the lamp near it, to
expose the whole interior--cunning as a veteran intriguer: horrible, but
it had to be done to keep them apart. He asked me what madness possessed
me, to sit by an open window at midnight, in view of the public, with a
damp wind blowing. I complained of want of air and fanned my forehead.
I heard the steps on the pavement; I stung him to retort loudly, and I
was relieved; the steps passed on. So the trick succeeded--the trick!
It was the worst I was guilty of, but it was a trick, and it branded me
trickster. It teaches me to see myself with an abyss in my nature full
of infernal possibilities. I think I am hewn in black rock. A woman who
can do as I did by instinct, needs to have an angel always near her, if
she has not a husband she reveres.'
'We are none of us better than you, dear Tony; only some are more
fortunate, and many are cowards,' Emma said. 'You acted prudently in a
wretched situation, partly of your own making, partly of the
circumstances. But a nature like yours could not sit still and moan.
That marriage was to blame! The English notion of women seems to be that
we are born white sheep or black; circumstances have nothing to do with
our colour. They dread to grant distinctions, and to judge of us
discerningly is beyond them. Whether the fiction, that their homes are
purer than elsewhere, helps to establish the fact, I do not know: there
is a class that does live honestly; and at any rate it springs from a
liking for purity; but I am sure that their method of impressing it on
women has the dangers of things artificial. They narrow their
understanding of human nature, and that is not the way to improve the
'I suppose we women are taken to be the second thoughts of the Creator;
human nature's fringes, mere finishing touches, not a part of the
texture,' said Diana; 'the pretty ornamentation. However, I fancy
I perceive some tolerance growing in the minds of the dominant sex.
Our old lawyer Mr. Braddock, who appears to have no distaste for
conversations with me, assures me he expects the day to come when
women will be encouraged to work at crafts and professions for their
independence. That is the secret of the opinion of us at present--our
dependency. Give us the means of independence, and we will gain it, and
have a turn at judging you, my lords! You shall behold a world reversed.
Whenever I am distracted by existing circumstances, I lay my finger on
the material conditions, and I touch the secret. Individually, it may be
moral with us; collectively, it is material-gross wrongs, gross hungers.
I am a married rebel, and thereof comes the social rebel. I was once a
dancing and singing girl: You remember the night of the Dublin Ball.
A Channel sea in uproar, stirred by witches, flows between.'
'You are as lovely as you were then--I could say, lovelier,' said Emma.
'I have unconquerable health, and I wish I could give you the half of it,
dear. I work late into the night, and I wake early and fresh in the
morning. I do not sing, that is all. A few days more, and my character
will be up before the Bull's Head to face him in the arena. The worst of
a position like mine is, that it causes me incessantly to think and talk
of myself. I believe I think less than I talk, but the subject is
growing stale; as those who are long dying feel, I dare say--if they
do not take it as the compensation for their departure.'
The Bull's Head, or British Jury of Twelve, with the wig on it, was faced
during the latter half of a week of good news. First, Mr. Thomas
Redworth was returned to Parliament by a stout majority for the Borough
of Orrybridge: the Hon. Percy Dacier delivered a brilliant speech in the
House of Commons, necessarily pleasing to his uncle: Lord Larrian
obtained the command of the Rock: the house of The Crossways was let
to a tenant approved by Mr. Braddock: Diana received the opening proof-
sheets of her little volume, and an instalment of the modest honorarium:
and finally, the Plaintiff in the suit involving her name was adjudged to
have not proved his charge.
She heard of it without a change of countenance.
She could not have wished it the reverse; she was exonerated. But she
was not free; far from that; and she revenged herself on the friends who
made much of her triumph and overlooked her plight, by showing no sign of
satisfaction. There was in her bosom a revolt at the legal consequences
of the verdict--or blunt acquiescence of the Law in the conditions
possibly to be imposed on her unless she went straight to the relieving
phial; and the burden of keeping it under, set her wildest humour alight,
somewhat as Redworth remembered of her on the journey from The Crossways
to Copsley. This ironic fury, coming of the contrast of the outer and
the inner, would have been indulged to the extent of permanent injury to
her disposition had not her beloved Emma, immediately after the tension
of the struggle ceased, required her tenderest aid. Lady Dunstane
chanted victory, and at night collapsed. By the advice of her physician
she was removed to Copsley, where Diana's labour of anxious nursing
restored her through love to a saner spirit. The hopefulness of life
must bloom again in the heart whose prayers are offered for a life dearer
than its own to be preserved. A little return of confidence in Sir Lukin
also refreshed her when she saw that the poor creature did honestly, in
his shaggy rough male fashion, reverence and cling to the flower of souls
he named as his wife. His piteous groans of self-accusation during the
crisis haunted her, and made the conduct and nature of men a bewilderment
to her still young understanding. Save for the knot of her sensations
(hardly a mental memory, but a sullen knot) which she did not disentangle
to charge him with his complicity in the blind rashness of her marriage,
she might have felt sisterly, as warmly as she compassionated him.
It was midwinter when Dame Gossip, who keeps the exotic world alive with
her fanning whispers, related that the lovely Mrs. Warwick had left
England on board the schooner-yacht Clarissa, with Lord and Lady Esquart,
for a voyage in the Mediterranean: and (behind her hand) that the reason
was urgent, inasmuch as she fled to escape the meshes of the terrific net
of the marital law brutally whirled to capture her by the man her
INTRODUCES THE HON. PERCY DACIER
The Gods of this world's contests, against whom our poor stripped
individual is commonly in revolt, are, as we know, not miners, they
are reapers; and if we appear no longer on the surface, they cease to
bruise us: they will allow an arena character to be cleansed and made
presentable while enthusiastic friends preserve discretion. It is
of course less than magnanimity; they are not proposed to you for your
worship; they are little Gods, temporary as that great wave, their parent
human mass of the hour. But they have one worshipful element in them,
which is, the divine insistency upon there being two sides to a case
--to every case. And the People so far directed by them may boast of
healthfulness. Let the individual shriek, the innocent, triumphant,
have in honesty to admit the fact. One side is vanquished, according
to decree of Law, but the superior Council does not allow it to be
Diana's battle was fought shadowily behind her for the space of a week
or so, with some advocates on behalf of the beaten man; then it became
a recollection of a beautiful woman, possibly erring, misvalued by a
husband, who was neither a man of the world nor a gracious yokefellow,
nor anything to match her. She, however, once out of the public flames,
had to recall her scorchings to be gentle with herself. Under a defeat,
she would have been angrily self-vindicated. The victory of the ashen
laurels drove her mind inward to gird at the hateful yoke, in compassion
for its pair of victims. Quite earnestly by such means, yet always
bearing a comical eye on her subterfuges, she escaped the extremes of
personal blame. Those advocates of her opponent in and out of court
compelled her honest heart to search within and own to faults. But were
they not natural faults? It was her marriage; it was marriage in the
abstract: her own mistake and the world's clumsy machinery of
civilization: these were the capital offenders: not the wife who would
laugh ringingly, and would have friends of the other sex, and shot her
epigrams at the helpless despot, and was at times--yes, vixenish;
a nature driven to it, but that was the word. She was too generous to
recount her charges against the vanquished. If his wretched jealousy had
ruined her, the secret high tribunal within her bosom, which judged her
guiltless for putting the sword between their marriage tie when they
stood as one, because a quarrelling couple could not in honour play the
embracing, pronounced him just pardonable. She distinguished that he
could only suppose, manlikely, one bad cause for the division.
To this extent she used her unerring brains, more openly than on her
night of debate at The Crossways. The next moment she was off in vapour,
meditating grandly on her independence of her sex and the passions.
Love! she did not know it, she was not acquainted with either the
criminal or the domestic God, and persuaded herself that she never could
be. She was a Diana of coldness, preferring friendship; she could be the
friend of men. There was another who could be the friend of women. Her
heart leapt to Redworth. Conjuring up his clear trusty face, at their
grasp of hands when parting, she thought of her visions of her future
about the period of the Dublin Ball, and acknowledged, despite the
erratic step to wedlock, a gain in having met and proved so true a
friend. His face, figure, character, lightest look, lightest word, all
were loyal signs of a man of honour, cold as she; he was the man to whom
she could have opened her heart for inspection. Rejoicing in her
independence of an emotional sex, the impulsive woman burned with a
regret that at their parting she had not broken down conventional
barriers and given her cheek to his lips in the antiinsular fashion with
a brotherly friend. And why not when both were cold? Spirit to spirit,
she did, delightfully refreshed by her capacity to do so without a throb.
He had held her hands and looked into her eyes half a minute, like a dear
comrade; as little arousing her instincts of defensiveness as the
clearing heavens; and sisterly love for it was his due, a sister's kiss.
He needed a sister, and should have one in her. Emma's recollected talk
of 'Tom Redworth' painted him from head to foot, brought the living man
over the waters to the deck of the yacht. A stout champion in the person
of Tom Redworth was left on British land; but for some reason past
analysis, intermixed, that is, among a swarm of sensations, Diana named
her champion to herself with the formal prefix: perhaps because she knew
a man's Christian name to be dangerous handling. They differed besides
frequently in opinion, when the habit of thinking of him as Mr. Redworth
would be best. Women are bound to such small observances, and especially
the beautiful of the sisterhood, whom the world soon warns that they
carry explosives and must particularly guard against the ignition of
petty sparks. She was less indiscreet in her thoughts than in her acts,
as is the way with the reflective daughter of impulse; though she had
fine mental distinctions: what she could offer to do 'spirit to spirit,'
for instance, held nothing to her mind of the intimacy of calling the
gentleman plain Tom in mere contemplation of him. Her friend and
champion was a volunteer, far from a mercenary, and he deserved the
reward, if she could bestow it unalarmed. They were to meet in Egypt.
Meanwhile England loomed the home of hostile forces ready to shock, had
she been a visible planet, and ready to secrete a virus of her past
history, had she been making new.
She was happily away, borne by a whiter than swan's wing on the sapphire
Mediterranean. Her letters to Emma were peeps of splendour for the
invalid: her way of life on board the yacht, and sketches of her host and
hostess as lovers in wedlock on the other side of our perilous forties;
sketches of the bays, the towns, the people-priests, dames, cavaliers,
urchins, infants, shifting groups of supple southerners-flashed across
the page like a web of silk, and were dashed off, redolent of herself,
as lightly as the silvery spray of the blue waves she furrowed; telling,
without allusions to the land behind her, that she had dipped in the
wells of blissful oblivion. Emma Dunstane, as is usual with those who
receive exhilarating correspondence from makers of books, condemned the
authoress in comparison, and now first saw that she had the gift of
writing. Only one cry: 'Italy, Eden of exiles!' betrayed the seeming of
a moan. She wrote of her poet and others immediately. Thither had they
fled; with adieu to England!
How many have waved the adieu! And it is England nourishing, England
protecting them, England clothing them in the honours they wear. Only
the posturing lower natures, on the level of their buskins, can pluck out
the pocket-knife of sentimental spite to cut themselves loose from her at
heart in earnest. The higher, bleed as they may, too pressingly feel
their debt. Diana had the Celtic vivid sense of country. In England she
was Irish, by hereditary, and by wilful opposition. Abroad, gazing along
the waters, observing, comparing, reflecting, above all, reading of the
struggles at home, the things done and attempted, her soul of generosity
made her, though not less Irish, a daughter of Britain. It is at a
distance that striving countries should be seen if we would have them in
the pure idea; and this young woman of fervid mind, a reader of public
speeches and speculator on the tides of politics (desirous, further, to
feel herself rather more in the pure idea), began to yearn for England
long before her term of holiday exile had ended. She had been flattered
by her friend, her 'wedded martyr at the stake,' as she named him, to
believe that she could exercise a judgement in politics--could think,
even speak acutely, on public affairs. The reports of speeches delivered
by the men she knew or knew of, set her thrilling; and she fancied the
sensibility to be as independent of her sympathy with the orators as her
political notions were sovereignty above a sex devoted to trifles,
and the feelings of a woman who had gone through fire. She fancied it
confidently, notwithstanding a peculiar intuition that the plunge into
the nobler business of the world would be a haven of safety for a woman
with blood and imagination, when writing to Emma: 'Mr. Redworth's great
success in Parliament is good in itself, whatever his views of present
questions; and I do not heed them when I look to what may be done by a
man of such power in striking at unjust laws, which keep the really
numerically better-half of the population in a state of slavery. If he
had been a lawyer! It must be a lawyer's initiative--a lawyer's Bill.
Mr. Percy Dacier also spoke well, as might have been expected, and his
uncle's compliment to him was merited. Should you meet him sound him.
He has read for the Bar, and is younger than Mr. Redworth. The very
young men and the old are our hope. The middleaged are hard and fast for
existing facts. We pick our leaders on the slopes, the incline and
decline of the mountain--not on the upper table-land midway, where all
appears to men so solid, so tolerably smooth, save for a few
excrescences, roughnesses, gradually to be levelled at their leisure;
which induces one to protest that the middle-age of men is their time of
delusion. It is no paradox. They may be publicly useful in a small way.
I do not deny it at all. They must be near the gates of life--the
opening or the closing--for their minds to be accessible to the urgency
of the greater questions. Otherwise the world presents itself to them
under too settled an aspect--unless, of course, Vesuvian Revolution
shakes the land. And that touches only their nerves. I dream of some
old Judge! There is one--if having caught we could keep him. But I
dread so tricksy a pilot. You have guessed him--the ancient Puck!
We have laughed all day over the paper telling us of his worrying the
Lords. Lady Esquart congratulates her husband on being out of it. Puck
'biens ride' and bewigged might perhaps--except that at the critical
moment he would be sure to plead allegiance to Oberon. However, the work
will be performed by some one: I am prophetic:--when maidens are
grandmothers!--when your Tony is wearing a perpetual laugh in the
unhusbanded regions where there is no institution of the wedding-tie.'
For the reason that she was not to participate in the result of the old
Judge's or young hero's happy championship of the cause of her sex, she
conceived her separateness high aloof, and actually supposed she was a
contemplative, simply speculative political spirit, impersonal albeit a
woman. This, as Emma, smiling at the lines, had not to learn, was always
her secret pride of fancy--the belief in her possession of a disengaged
The strange illusion, so clearly exposed to her correspondent, was
maintained through a series of letters very slightly descriptive, dated
from the Piraeus, the Bosphorus, the coasts of the Crimea, all more or
less relating to the latest news of the journals received on board the
yacht, and of English visitors fresh from the country she now seemed fond
of calling 'home.' Politics, and gentle allusions to the curious
exhibition of 'love in marriage' shown by her amiable host and hostess:
'these dear Esquarts, who are never tired of one another, but courtly
courting, tempting me to think it possible that a fortunate selection
and a mutual deference may subscribe to human happiness:--filled the
paragraphs. Reviews of her first literary venture were mentioned once:
'I was well advised by Mr. Redworth in putting ANTONIA for authoress.
She is a buff jerkin to the stripes, and I suspect that the signature of
D. E. M., written in full, would have cawed woefully to hear that her
style is affected, her characters nullities, her cleverness forced, etc.,
etc. As it is, I have much the same contempt for poor Antonia's
performance. Cease penning, little fool! She writes, "with some
comprehension of the passion of love." I know her to be a stranger to
the earliest cry. So you see, dear, that utter ignorance is the mother
of the Art. Dialogues "occasionally pointed." She has a sister who may
do better.--But why was I not apprenticed to a serviceable profession or
a trade? I perceive now that a hanger-on of the market had no right to
expect a happier fate than mine has been.'
On the Nile, in the winter of the year, Diana met the Hon. Percy Dacier.
He was introduced to her at Cairo by Redworth. The two gentlemen had
struck up a House of Commons acquaintanceship, and finding themselves
bound for the same destination, had grown friendly. Redworth's arrival
had been pleasantly expected. She remarked on Dacier's presence to Emma,
without sketch or note of him as other than much esteemed by Lord and
Lady Esquart. These, with Diana, Redworth, Dacier, the German Eastern
traveller Schweizerbarth, and the French Consul and Egyptologist
Duriette, composed a voyaging party up the river, of which expedition
Redworth was Lady Dunstane's chief writer of the records. His novel
perceptiveness and shrewdness of touch made them amusing; and his
tenderness to the Beauty's coquettry between the two foreign rivals,
moved a deeper feeling. The German had a guitar, the Frenchman a voice;
Diana joined them in harmony. They complained apart severally of the
accompaniment and the singer. Our English criticized them apart; and
that is at any rate to occupy a post, though it contributes nothing to
entertainment. At home the Esquarts had sung duets; Diana had assisted
Redworth's manly chest-notes at the piano. Each of them declined to be
vocal. Diana sang alone for the credit of the country, Italian and
French songs, Irish also. She was in her mood of Planxty Kelly and
Garryowen all the way. 'Madame est Irlandaise?' Redworth heard the
Frenchman say, and he owned to what was implied in the answering tone
of the question. 'We should be dull dogs without the Irish leaven!'
So Tony in exile still managed to do something for her darling Erin.
The solitary woman on her heights at Copsley raised an exclamation of,
'Oh! that those two had been or could be united!' She was conscious
of a mystic symbolism in the prayer.
She was not apprehensive of any ominous intervention of another. Writing
from Venice, Diana mentioned Mr. Percy Dacier as being engaged to an
heiress; 'A Miss Asper, niece of a mighty shipowner, Mr. Quintin Manx,
Lady Esquart tells me: money fabulous, and necessary to a younger son
devoured with ambition. The elder brother, Lord Creedmore, is a common
Nimrod, always absent in Hungary, Russia, America, hunting somewhere.
Mr. Dacier will be in the Cabinet with the next Ministry.' No more of
him. A new work by ANTONIA was progressing.
The Summer in South Tyrol passed like a royal procession before young
eyes for Diana, and at the close of it, descending the Stelvio, idling
through the Valtelline, Como Lake was reached, Diana full of her work,
living the double life of the author. At Bellagio one afternoon Mr.
Percy Dacier appeared. She remembered subsequently a disappointment
she felt in not beholding Mr. Redworth either with him or displacing him.
If engaged to a lady, he was not an ardent suitor; nor was he a pointedly
complimentary acquaintance. His enthusiasm was reserved for Italian
scenery. She had already formed a sort of estimate of his character, as
an indifferent observer may do, and any woman previous to the inflaming
of her imagination, if that is in store for her; and she now fell to work
resetting the puzzle it became as soon her positive conclusions had to be
shaped again. 'But women never can know young men,' she wrote to Emma,
after praising his good repute as one of the brotherhood. 'He drops
pretty sentences now and then: no compliments; milky nuts. Of course he
has a head, or he would not be where he is--and that seems always to me
the most enviable place a young man can occupy.' She observed in him a
singular conflicting of a buoyant animal nature with a curb of
studiousness, as if the fardels of age were piling on his shoulders
before youth had quitted its pastures.
His build of limbs and his features were those of the finely-bred
English; he had the English taste for sports, games, manly diversions;
and in the bloom of life, under thirty, his head was given to bend. The
head bending on a tall upright figure, where there was breadth of chest,
told of weights working. She recollected his open look, larger than
inquiring, at the introduction to her; and it recurred when she uttered
anything specially taking. What it meant was past a guess, though
comparing it with the frank directness of Redworth's eyes, she saw the
difference between a look that accepted her and one that dilated on two
Her thought of the gentleman was of a brilliant young charioteer in the
ruck of the race, watchful for his chance to push to the front; and she
could have said that a dubious consort might spoil a promising career.
It flattered her to think that she sometimes prompted him, sometimes
illumined. He repeated sentences she had spoken. 'I shall be better
able to describe Mr. Dacier when you and I sit together, my Emmy, and a
stroke here and there completes the painting. Set descriptions are good
for puppets. Living men and women are too various in the mixture
fashioning them--even the "external presentment"--to be livingly rendered
in a formal sketch. I may tell you his eyes are pale blue, his features
regular, his hair silky, brownish, his legs long, his head rather
stooping (only the head), his mouth commonly closed; these are the facts,
and you have seen much the same in a nursery doll. Such literary craft
is of the nursery. So with landscapes. The art of the pen (we write on
darkness) is to rouse the inward vision, instead of labouring with a
Drop-scene brush, as if it were to the eye; because our flying minds
cannot contain a protracted description. That is why the poets, who
spring imagination with a word or a phrase, paint lasting pictures. The
Shakespearian, the Dantesque, are in a line, two at most. He lends an
attentive ear when I speak, agrees or has a quaint pucker of the eyebrows
dissenting inwardly. He lacks mental liveliness--cheerfulness, I should
say, and is thankful to have it imparted. One suspects he would be a
dull domestic companion. He has a veritable thirst for hopeful views of
the world, and no spiritual distillery of his own. He leans to
depression. Why! The broken reed you call your Tony carries a cargo,
all of her manufacture--she reeks of secret stills; and here is a young
man--a sapling oak--inclined to droop. His nature has an air of
imploring me que je d'arrose! I begin to perform Mrs. Dr. Pangloss on
purpose to brighten him--the mind, the views. He is not altogether
deficient in conversational gaiety, and he shines in exercise. But the
world is a poor old ball bounding down a hill--to an Irish melody in the
evening generally, by request. So far of Mr. Percy Dacier, of whom I
have some hopes--distant, perhaps delusive--that he may be of use to
our cause. He listens. It is an auspicious commencement.'
Lugano is the Italian lake most lovingly encircled by mountain arms, and
every height about it may be scaled with esce. The heights have their
nest of waters below for a home scene, the southern Swiss peaks, with
celestial Monta Rosa, in prospect. It was there that Diana reawakened,
after the trance of a deadly draught, to the glory of the earth and her
share in it. She wakened like the Princess of the Kiss; happily not to
kisses; to no sign, touch or call that she could trace backward. The
change befell her without a warning. After writing deliberately to her
friend Emma, she laid down her pen and thought of nothing; and into this
dreamfulness a wine passed, filling her veins, suffusing her mind,
quickening her soul: and coming whence? out of air, out of the yonder of
air. She could have imagined a seraphic presence in the room, that bade
her arise and live; take the cup of the wells of youth arrested at her
lips by her marriage; quit her wintry bondage for warmth, light, space,
the quick of simple being. And the strange pure ecstasy was not a
transient electrification; it came in waves on a continuous tide; looking
was living; walking flying. She hardly knew that she slept. The heights
she had seen rosy at eve were marked for her ascent in the dawn. Sleep
was one wink, and fresh as the dewy field and rockflowers on her way
upward, she sprang to more and more of heaven, insatiable, happily
chirruping over her possessions. The threading of the town among the
dear common people before others were abroad, was a pleasure and pleasant
her solitariness threading the gardens at the base of the rock, only she
astir; and the first rough steps of the winding footpath, the first
closed buds, the sharper air, the uprising of the mountain with her
ascent; and pleasant too was her hunger and the nibble at a little loaf
of bread. A linnet sang in her breast, an eagle lifted her feet. The
feet were verily winged, as they are in a season of youth when the blood
leaps to light from the pressure of the under forces, like a source at
the wellheads, and the whole creature blooms, vital in every energy as a
spirit. To be a girl again was magical. She could fancy her having
risen from the dead. And to be a girl, with a woman's broader vision and
receptiveness of soul, with knowledge of evil, and winging to ethereal
happiness, this was a revelation of our human powers.
She attributed the change to the influences of nature's beauty and
grandeur. Nor had her woman's consciousness to play the chrysalis in any
shy recesses of her heart; she was nowhere veiled or torpid; she was
illumined, like the Salvatore she saw in the evening beams and mounted in
the morning's; and she had not a spot of seeresy; all her nature flew and
bloomed; she was bird, flower, flowing river, a quivering sensibility
unweighted, enshrouded. Desires and hopes would surely have weighted and
shrouded her. She had none, save for the upper air, the eyes of the
Which was the dream--her past life or this ethereal existence? But this
ran spontaneously, and the other had often been stimulated--her
vivaciousness on the Nile-boat, for a recent example. She had not a
doubt that her past life was the dream, or deception: and for the reason
that now she was compassionate, large of heart toward all beneath her.
Let them but leave her free, they were forgiven, even to prayers for
their well-being! The plural number in the case was an involuntary
multiplying of the single, coming of her incapacity during this elevation
and rapture of the senses to think distinctly of that One who had
discoloured her opening life. Freedom to breathe, gaze, climb, grow with
the grasses, fly with the clouds, to muse, to sing, to be an unclaimed
self, dispersed upon earth, air, sky, to find a keener transfigured self
in that radiation--she craved no more.
Bear in mind her beauty, her charm of tongue, her present state of white
simplicity in fervour: was there ever so perilous a woman for the most
guarded and clearest-eyed of young men to meet at early morn upon a
TREATS OF A MIDNIGHT BELL, AND OF A SCENE OF EARLY MORNING
On a round of the mountains rising from Osteno, South eastward of Lugano,
the Esquart party rose from the natural grotto and headed their carriages
up and down the defiles, halting for a night at Rovio, a little village
below the Generoso, lively with waterfalls and watercourses; and they
fell so in love with the place, that after roaming along the flowery
borderways by moonlight, they resolved to rest there two or three days
and try some easy ascents. In the diurnal course of nature, being
pleasantly tired, they had the avowed intention of sleeping there; so
they went early to their beds, and carelessly wished one another good-
night, none of them supposing slumber to be anywhere one of the warlike
arts, a paradoxical thing you must battle for and can only win at last
when utterly beaten. Hard by their inn, close enough for a priestly
homily to have been audible, stood a church campanile, wherein hung a
Bell, not ostensibly communicating with the demons of the pit; in
daylight rather a merry comrade. But at night, when the children of
nerves lay stretched, he threw off the mask. As soon as they had fairly
nestled, he smote their pillows a shattering blow, loud for the retold
preluding quarters, incredibly clanging the number ten. Then he waited
for neighbouring campanili to box the ears of slumber's votaries in turn;
whereupon, under pretence of excessive conscientiousness, or else
oblivious of his antecedent, damnable misconduct, or perhaps in actual
league and trapdoor conspiracy with the surging goblin hosts beneath us,
he resumed his blaring strokes, a sonorous recapitulation of the number;
all the others likewise. It was an alarum fit to warn of Attila or
Alaric; and not, simply the maniacal noise invaded the fruitful provinces
of sleep like Hun and Vandal, the irrational repetition ploughed the
minds of those unhappy somnivolents, leaving them worse than sheared by
barbarians, disrupt, as by earthquake, with the unanswerable question to
Providence, Why!--Why twice?
Designing slumberers are such infants. When they have undressed and
stretched themselves, flat, it seems that they have really gone back to
their mothers' breasts, and they fret at whatsoever does not smack of
nature, or custom. The cause of a repetition so senseless in its
violence, and so unnecessary, set them querying and kicking until the
inevitable quarters recommenced. Then arose an insurgent rabble in their
bosoms, it might be the loosened imps of darkness, urging them to
speculate whether the proximate monster about to dole out the eleventh
hour in uproar would again forget himself and repeat his dreary
arithmetic a second time; for they were unaware of his religious
obligation, following the hour of the district, to inform them of the
tardy hour of Rome. They waited in suspense, curiosity enabling them to
bear the first crash callously. His performance was the same. And now
they took him for a crazy engine whose madness had infected the whole
neighbourhood. Now was the moment to fight for sleep in contempt of him,
and they began by simulating an entry into the fortress they were to
defend, plunging on their pillows, battening down their eyelids,
breathing with a dreadful regularity. Alas! it came to their knowledge
that the Bell was in possession and they the besiegers. Every resonant
quarter was anticipated up to the blow, without averting its murderous
abruptness; and an executioner Midnight that sounded, in addition to the
reiterated quarters, four and twenty ringing hammerstrokes, with the
aching pause between the twelves, left them the prey of the legions of
torturers which are summed, though not described, in the title of a
From that period the curse was milder, but the victims raged. They swam
on vasty deeps, they knocked at rusty gates, they shouldered all the
weapons of black Insomnia's armoury and became her soldiery, doing her
will upon themselves. Of her originally sprang the inspired teaching of
the doom of men to excruciation in endlessness. She is the fountain of
the infinite ocean whereon the exceedingly sensitive soul is tumbled
everlastingly, with the diversion of hot pincers to appease its appetite
Dacier was never the best of sleepers. He had taken to exercise his
brains prematurely, not only in learning, but also in reflection; and a
reflectiveness that is indulged before we have a rigid mastery of the
emotions, or have slain them, is apt to make a young man more than
commonly a child of nerves: nearly as much so as the dissipated, with the
difference that they are hilarious while wasting their treasury, which he
is not; and he may recover under favouring conditions, which is a point
of vantage denied to them. Physically he had stout reserves, for he had
not disgraced the temple. His intemperateness lay in the craving to rise
and lead: a precocious ambition. This apparently modest young man
started with an aim--and if in the distance and with but a slingstone,
like the slender shepherd fronting the Philistine, all his energies were
in his aim--at Government. He had hung on the fringe of an
Administration. His party was out, and he hoped for higher station on
its return to power. Many perplexities were therefore buzzing about his
head; among them at present one sufficiently magnified and voracious to
swallow the remainder. He added force to the interrogation as to why
that Bell should sound its inhuman strokes twice, by asking himself why
he was there to hear it! A strange suspicion of a bewitchment might have
enlightened him if he had been a man accustomed to yield to the peculiar
kind of sorcery issuing from that sex. He rather despised the power of
women over men: and nevertheless he was there, listening to that Bell,
instead of having obeyed the call of his family duties, when the latter
were urgent. He had received letters at Lugano, summoning him home,
before he set forth on his present expedition. The noisy alarum told him
he floundered in quags, like a silly creature chasing a marsh-lamp. But
was it so? Was it not, on the contrary, a serious pursuit of the secret
of a woman's character?--Oh, a woman and her character! Ordinary women
and their characters might set to work to get what relationship and
likeness they could. They had no secret to allure. This one had: she
had the secret of lake waters under rock, unfathomable in limpidness.
He could not think of her without shooting at nature, and nature's very
sweetest and subtlest, for comparison. As to her sex, his active man's
contempt of the petticoated secret attractive to boys and graylings, made
him believe that in her he hunted the mind and the spirit: perchance a
double mind, a twilighted spirit; but not a mere woman. She bore no
resemblance to the bundle of women. Well, she was worth studying; she
had ideas, and could give ear to ideas. Furthermore, a couple of the
members of his family inclined to do her injustice. At least, they
judged her harshly, owing, he thought, to an inveterate opinion they held
regarding Lord Dannisburgh's obliquity in relation to women. He shared
it, and did not concur in, their verdict upon the woman implicated. That
is to say, knowing something of her now, he could see the possibility of
her innocence in the special charm that her mere sparkle of features and
speech, and her freshness would have for a man like his uncle. The
possibility pleaded strongly on her behalf, while the darker possibility
weighted by his uncle's reputation plucked at him from below.
She was delightful to hear, delightful to see; and her friends loved her
and had faith in her. So clever a woman might be too clever for her
friends! . . .
The circle he moved in hummed of women, prompting novices as well as
veterans to suspect that the multitude of them, and notably the fairest,
yet more the cleverest, concealed the serpent somewhere.
She certainly had not directed any of her arts upon him. Besides he was
half engaged. And that was a burning perplexity; not because of abstract
scruples touching the necessity for love in marriage. The young lady,
great heiress though she was, and willing, as she allowed him to assume;
graceful too, reputed a beauty; struck him cold. He fancied her
transparent, only Arctic. Her transparency displayed to him all the
common virtues, and a serene possession of the inestimable and eminent
one outweighing all; but charm, wit, ardour, intercommunicative
quickness, and kindling beauty, airy grace, were qualities that a man,
it seemed, had to look for in women spotted by a doubt of their having
the chief and priceless.
However, he was not absolutely plighted. Nor did it matter to him
whether this or that woman concealed the tail of the serpent and trail,
excepting the singular interest this woman managed to excite, and so
deeply as set him wondering how that Resurrection Bell might be affecting
her ability to sleep. Was she sleeping?--or waking? His nervous
imagination was a torch that alternately lighted her lying asleep with
the innocent, like a babe, and tossing beneath the overflow of her dark
hair, hounded by haggard memories. She fluttered before him in either
aspect; and another perplexity now was to distinguish within himself
which was the aspect he preferred. Great Nature brought him thus to
drink of her beauty, under the delusion that the act was a speculation
on her character.
The Bell, with its clash, throb and long swoon of sound, reminded him of
her name: Diana!--An attribute? or a derision?
It really mattered nothing to him, save for her being maligned; and if
most unfairly, then that face of the varying expressions, and the rich
voice, and the remembered gentle and taking words coming from her,
appealed to him with a supplicating vividness that pricked his heart to
He was dozing when the Bell burst through the thin division between
slumber and wakefulness, recounting what seemed innumerable peals, hard
on his cranium. Gray daylight blanched the window and the bed: his watch
said five of the morning. He thought of the pleasure of a bath beneath
some dashing spray-showers; and jumped up to dress, feeling a queer
sensation of skin in his clothes, the sign of a feverish night; and
yawning he went into the air. Leftward the narrow village street led to
the footway along which he could make for the mountain-wall. He cast one
look at the head of the campanile, silly as an owlish roysterer's glazed
stare at the young Aurora, and hurried his feet to check the yawns coming
alarmingly fast, in the place of ideas.
His elevation above the valley was about the kneecap of the Generoso.
Waters of past rain-clouds poured down the mountain-sides like veins of
metal, here and there flinging off a shower on the busy descent; only
dubiously animate in the lack lustre of the huge bulk piled against a
yellow East that wafted fleets of pinky cloudlets overhead. He mounted
his path to a level with inviting grassmounds where water circled,
running from scoops and cups to curves and brook-streams, and in his
fancy calling to him to hear them. To dip in them was his desire. To
roll and shiver braced by the icy flow was the spell to break that
baleful incantation of the intolerable night; so he struck across a ridge
of boulders, wreck of a landslip from the height he had hugged, to the
open space of shadowed undulations, and soon had his feet on turf.
Heights to right and to left, and between them, aloft, a sky the rosy
wheelcourse of the chariot of morn, and below, among the knolls, choice
of sheltered nooks where waters whispered of secresy to satisfy Diana
herself. They have that whisper and waving of secresy in secret scenery;
they beckon to the bath; and they conjure classic visions of the pudency
of the Goddess irate or unsighted. The semi-mythological state of mind,
built of old images and favouring haunts, was known to Dacier. The name
of Diana, playing vaguely on his consciousness, helped to it. He had no
definite thought of the mortal woman when the highest grass-roll near the
rock gave him view of a bowered source and of a pool under a chain of
cascades, bounded by polished shelves and slabs. The very spot for him,
he decided at the first peep; and at the second, with fingers
instinctively loosening his waist-coat buttons for a commencement, he
shouldered round and strolled away, though not at a rapid pace, nor far
before he halted.
That it could be no other than she, the figure he had seen standing
beside the pool, he was sure. Why had he turned? Thoughts thick and
swift as a blush in the cheeks of seventeen overcame him; and queen of
all, the thought bringing the picture of this mountain-solitude to
vindicate a woman shamefully assailed.--She who found her pleasure in
these haunts of nymph and Goddess, at the fresh cold bosom of nature,
must be clear as day. She trusted herself to the loneliness here, and to
the honour of men, from a like irreflective sincereness. She was unable
to imagine danger where her own impelling thirst was pure. . .
The thoughts, it will be discerned, were but flashes of a momentary
vivid sensibility. Where a woman's charm has won half the battle, her
character is an advancing standard and sings victory, let her do no more
than take a quiet morning walk before breakfast.
But why had he turned his back on her? There was nothing in his presence
to alarm, nothing in her appearance to forbid. The motive and the
movement were equally quaint; incomprehensible to him; for after putting
himself out of sight, he understood the absurdity of the supposition that
she would seek the secluded sylvan bath for the same purpose as he. Yet
now he was, debarred from going to meet her. She might have an impulse
to bathe her feet. Her name was Diana . . . .
Yes, and a married woman; and a proclaimed one!
And notwithstanding those brassy facts, he was ready to side with the
evidence declaring her free from stain; and further, to swear that her
blood was Diana's!
Nor had Dacier ever been particularly poetical about women. The present
Diana had wakened his curiosity, had stirred his interest in her, pricked
his admiration, but gradually, until a sleepless night with its flock of
raven-fancies under that dominant Bell, ended by colouring her, the
moment she stood in his eyes, as freshly as the morning heavens. We
are much influenced in youth by sleepless nights: they disarm, they