Part 4 out of 9
predispose us to submit to soft occasion; and in our youth occasion
is always coming.
He heard her voice. She had risen up the grass-mound, and he hung
brooding half-way down. She was dressed in some texture of the hue of
lavender. A violet scarf loosely knotted over the bosom opened on her
throat. The loop of her black hair curved under a hat of gray beaver.
Memorably radiant was her face.
They met, exchanged greetings, praised the beauty of the morning, and
struck together on the Bell. She laughed: 'I heard it at ten; I slept
till four. I never wake later. I was out in the air by half-past. Were
He alluded to his troubles with the Bell.
'It sounded like a felon's heart in skeleton ribs,' he said.
'Or a proser's tongue in a hollow skull,' said she.
He bowed to her conversible readiness, and at once fell into the
background, as he did only with her, to perform accordant bass in their
dialogue; for when a woman lightly caps our strained remarks, we
gallantly surrender the leadership, lest she should too cuttingly
assert her claim.
Some sweet wild cyclamen flowers were at her breast. She held in her
left hand a bunch of buds and blown cups of the pale purple meadow-
crocus. He admired them. She told him to look round. He confessed to
not having noticed them in the grass: what was the name? Colchicum, in
Botany, she said.
'These are plucked to be sent to a friend; otherwise I'm reluctant to
take the life of flowers for a whim. Wild flowers, I mean. I am not
sentimental about garden flowers: they are cultivated for decoration,
grown for clipping.'
'I suppose they don't carry the same signification,' said Dacier, in the
tone of a pupil to such themes.
'They carry no feeling,' said she. 'And that is my excuse for plucking
these, where they seem to spring like our town-dream of happiness. I
believe they are sensible of it too; but these must do service to my
invalid friend, who cannot travel. Are you ever as much interested in
the woes of great ladies as of country damsels? I am not--not unless
they have natural distinction. You have met Lady Dunstane?'
The question sounded artless. Dacier answered that he thought he had
seen her somewhere once, and Diana shut her lips on a rising under-smile.
'She is the coeur d'or of our time; the one soul I would sacrifice these
'A bit of a blue-stocking, I think I have heard said.'
'She might have been admitted to the Hotel Rambouillet, without being
anything of a Precieuse. She is the woman of the largest heart now
'Mr. Redworth talked of her.'
'As she deserved, I am sure.'
'He told me you were the Damon and Pythias of women.'
'Her one fault is an extreme humility that makes her always play second
to me; and as I am apt to gabble, I take the lead; and I am froth in
comparison. I can reverence my superiors even when tried by intimacy
with them. She is the next heavenly thing to heaven that I know. Court
her, if ever you come across her. Or have you a man's horror of women
'Am I expressing it?' said he.
'Do not breathe London or Paris here on me.' She fanned the crocuses
under her chin. 'The early morning always has this--I wish I had a
word!--touch . . . whisper . . . gleam . . . beat of wings--I envy
poets now more than ever!--of Eden, I was going to say. Prose can paint
evening and moonlight, but poets are needed to sing the dawn. That is
because prose is equal to melancholy stuff. Gladness requires the finer
language. Otherwise we have it coarse--anything but a reproduction.
You politicians despise the little distinctions "twixt tweedledum and
tweedledee," I fancy.'
Of the poetic sort, Dacier's uncle certainly did. For himself he
confessed to not having thought much on them.
'But how divine is utterance!' she said. 'As we to the brutes, poets are
He listened somewhat with the head of the hanged. A beautiful woman
choosing to rhapsodize has her way, and is not subjected to the critical
commentary within us. He wondered whether she had discoursed in such a
fashion to his uncle.
'I can read good poetry,' said he.
'If you would have this valley--or mountain-cleft, one should call it--
described, only verse could do it for you,' Diana pursued, and stopped,
glanced at his face, and smiled. She had spied the end of a towel
peeping out of one of his pockets. 'You came out for a bath! Go back,
by all means, and mount that rise of grass where you first saw me; and
down on the other side, a little to the right, you will find the very
place for a bath, at a corner of the rock--a natural fountain; a bubbling
pool in a ring of brushwood, with falling water, so tempting that I could
have pardoned a push: about five feet deep. Lose no time.'
He begged to assure her that he would rather stroll with her: it had been
only a notion of bathing by chance when he pocketed the towel.
'Dear me,' she cried, 'if I had been a man I should have scurried off at
a signal of release, quick as a hare I once woke up in a field with my
foot on its back.'
Dacier's eyebrows knotted a trifle over her eagerness to dismiss him: he
was not used to it, but rather to be courted by women, and to condescend.
'I shall not long, I'm afraid, have the pleasure of walking beside you
and hearing you. I had letters at Lugano. My uncle is unwell, I hear.'
The name sprang from her lips unhesitatingly.
His nodded affirmative altered her face and her voice.
'It is not a grave illness?'
'They rather fear it.'
'You had the news at Lugano?'
He answered the implied reproach: 'I can be of no, service.'
'It's even doubtful that he would be bothered to receive me. We hold no
views in common--excepting one.'
'Could I?' she exclaimed. 'O that I might! If he is really ill ! But
if it is actually serious he would perhaps have a wish . . . I can
nurse. I know I have the power to cheer him. You ought indeed to be in
Dacier said he had thought it better to wait for later reports. 'I shall
drive to Lugano this afternoon, and act on the information I get there.
Probably it ends my holiday.'
'Will you do me the favour to write me word?--and especially tell me if
you think he would like to have me near him,' said Diana. 'And let him
know that if he wants nursing or cheerful companionship, I am at any
moment ready to come.'
The flattery of a beautiful young woman to wait on him would be very
agreeable to Lord Dannisburgh, Dacier conceived. Her offer to go was
possibly purely charitable. But the prudence of her occupation of the
post obscured whatever appeared admirable in her devotedness. Her choice
of a man like Lord Dannisburgh for the friend to whom she could sacrifice
her good name less falteringly than she gathered those field-flowers was
inexplicable; and she herself a darker riddle at each step of his
He promised curtly to write. 'I will do my best to hit a flying
'Your Club enables me to hit a permanent one that will establish the
communication,' said Diana. 'We shall not sleep another night at Rovio.
Lady Esquart is the lightest of sleepers, and if you had a restless time,
she and her husband must have been in purgatory. Besides, permit me to
say, you should be with your party. The times are troublous--not for
holidays! Your holiday has had a haunted look, creditably to your
conscience as a politician. These Corn Law agitations!'
'Ah, but no politics here!' said Dacier.
'Politics everywhere!--in the Courts of Faery! They are not discord to
'But not the last day--the last hour!' he pleaded.
'Well! only do not forget your assurance to me that you would give some
thoughts to Ireland--and the cause of women. Has it slipped from your
'If I see the chance of serving you, you may trust to me.'
She sent up an interjection on the misfortune of her not having been born
It was to him the one smart of sourness in her charm as a woman.
Among the boulder-stones of the ascent to the path, he ventured to
propose a little masculine assistance in a hand stretched mutely.
Although there was no great need for help, her natural kindliness checked
the inclination to refuse it. When their hands disjoined she found
herself reddening. She cast it on the exertion. Her heart was
throbbing. It might be the exertion likewise.
He walked and talked much more airily along the descending pathway,
as if he had suddenly become more intimately acquainted with her.
She listened, trying to think of the manner in which he might be taught
to serve that cause she had at heart; and the colour deepened on her
cheeks till it set fire to her underlying consciousness: blood to spirit.
A tremour of alarm ran through her.
His request for one of the crocuses to keep as a souvenir of the morning
was refused. 'They are sacred; they were all devoted to my friend when I
He pointed to a half-open one, with the petals in disparting pointing to
junction, and compared it to the famous tiptoe ballet-posture, arms above
head and fingers like swallows meeting in air, of an operatic danseuse of
'I do not see it, because I will not see it,' she said, and she found a
personal cooling and consolement in the phrase.--We have this power of
resisting invasion of the poetic by the commonplace, the spirit by the
blood, if we please, though you men may not think that we have! Her
alarmed sensibilities bristled and made head against him as an enemy.
She fancied (for the aforesaid reason--because she chose) that it was on
account of the offence to her shy morning pleasure by his Londonizing.
At any other moment her natural liveliness and trained social ease would
have taken any remark on the eddies of the tide of converse; and so she
told herself, and did not the less feel wounded, adverse, armed. He
seemed somehow--to have dealt a mortal blow to the happy girl she had
become again. The woman she was protested on behalf of the girl, while
the girl in her heart bent lowered sad eyelids to the woman; and which of
them was wiser of the truth she could not have said, for she was honestly
not aware of the truth, but she knew she was divided in halves, with one
half pitying the other, one rebuking: and all because of the incongruous
comparison of a wild flower to an opera dancer! Absurd indeed. We human
creatures are the silliest on earth, most certainly.
Dacier had observed the blush, and the check to her flowing tongue did
not escape him as they walked back to the inn down the narrow street of
black rooms, where the women gossiped at the fountain and the cobbler
threaded on his doorstep. His novel excitement supplied the deficiency,
sweeping him past minor reflections. He was, however, surprised to hear
her tell Lady Esquart, as soon as they were together at the breakfast-
table, that he had the intention of starting for England; and further
surprised, and slightly stung too, when on the poor lady's, moaning over
her recollection of the midnight Bell, and vowing she could not attempt
to sleep another night in the place, Diana declared her resolve to stay
there one day longer with her maid, and explore the neighbourhood for the
wild flowers in which it abounded. Lord and Lady Esquart agreed to
anything agreeable to her, after excusing themselves for the necessitated
flight, piteously relating the story of their sufferings. My lord could
have slept, but he had remained awake to comfort my lady.
'True knightliness!' Diana said, in praise of these long married lovers;
and she asked them what they had talked of during the night.
'You, my dear, partly,' said Lady Esquart.
'For an opiate?'
'An invocation of the morning,' said Dacier.
Lady Esquart looked at Diana and, at him. She thought it was well that
her fair friend should stay. It was then settled for Diana to rejoin
them the next evening at Lugano, thence to proceed to Luino on the
'I fear it is good-bye for me,' Dacier said to her, as he was about to
step into the carriage with the Esquarts.
'If you have not better news of your uncle, it must be,' she replied, and
gave him her hand promptly and formally, hardly diverting her eyes from
Lady Esquart to grace the temporary gift with a look. The last of her he
saw was a waving of her arm and finger pointing triumphantly at the Bell
in the tower. It said, to an understanding unpractised in the feminine
mysteries: 'I can sleep through anything.' What that revealed of her
state of conscience and her nature, his efforts to preserve the lovely
optical figure blocked his guessing. He was with her friends, who liked
her the more they knew her, and he was compelled to lean to their view of
the perplexing woman.
'She is a riddle to the world,' Lady Esquart said, 'but I know that she
is good. It is the best of signs when women take to her and are proud to
be her friend.'
My lord echoed his wife. She talked in this homely manner to stop any
notion of philandering that the young gentleman might be disposed to
entertain in regard to a lady so attractive to the pursuit as Diana's
beauty and delicate situation might make her seem.
'She is an exceedingly clever person, and handsomer than report, which is
uncommon,' said Dacier, becoming voluble on town-topics, Miss Asper
incidentally among them. He denied Lady Esquart's charge of an
engagement; the matter hung.
His letters at Lugano summoned him to England instantly.
'I have taken leave of Mrs. Warwick, but tell her I regret, et caetera,'
he said; 'and by the way, as my uncle's illness appears to be serious,
the longer she is absent the better, perhaps.'
'It would never do,' said Lady Esquart, understanding his drift
immediately. 'We winter in Rome. She will not abandon us--I have her
word for it. Next Easter we are in Paris; and so home, I suppose. There
will be no hurry before we are due at Cowes. We seem to have become
confirmed wanderers; for two of us at least it is likely to be our last
Dacier informed her that he had pledged his word to write to Mrs. Warwick
of his uncle's condition, and the several appointed halting-places of the
Esquarts between the lakes and Florence were named to him. Thus all
things were openly treated; all had an air of being on the surface; the
communications passing between Mrs. Warwick and the Hon. Percy Dacier
might have been perused by all the world. None but that portion of it,
sage in suspiciousness, which objects to such communications under any
circumstances, could have detected in their correspondence a spark of
coming fire or that there was common warmth. She did not feel it, nor
did he. The position of the two interdicted it to a couple honourably
sensible of social decencies; and who were, be it added, kept apart.
The blood is the treacherous element in the story of the nobly civilized,
of which secret Diana, a wife and no wife, a prisoner in liberty, a
blooming woman imagining herself restored to transcendent maiden
ecstacies--the highest youthful poetic--had received some faint
intimation when the blush flamed suddenly in her cheeks and her heart
knelled like the towers of a city given over to the devourer. She had no
wish to meet him again. Without telling herself why, she would have
shunned the meeting. Disturbers that thwarted her simple happiness in
sublime scenery were best avoided. She thought so the more for a fitful
blur to the simplicity of her sensations, and a task she sometimes had in
restoring and toning them, after that sweet morning time in Rovio.
'THE PRINCESS EGERIA'
London, say what we will of it, is after all the head of the British
giant, and if not the liveliest in bubbles, it is past competition the
largest broth-pot of brains anywhere simmering on the hob: over the
steadiest of furnaces too. And the oceans and the continents, as you
know, are perpetual and copious contributors, either to the heating
apparatus or to the contents of the pot. Let grander similes besought.
This one fits for the smoky receptacle cherishing millions, magnetic to
tens of millions more, with its caked outside of grime, and the inward
substance incessantly kicking the lid, prankish, but never casting it
off. A good stew, you perceive; not a parlous boiling. Weak as we may
be in our domestic cookery, our political has been sagaciously adjusted
as yet to catch the ardours of the furnace without being subject to their
That the social is also somewhat at fault, we have proof in occasional
outcries over the absence of these or those particular persons famous for
inspiriting. It sticks and clogs. The improvising songster is missed,
the convivial essayist, the humorous Dean, the travelled cynic, and he,
the one of his day, the iridescent Irishman, whose remembered repartees
are a feast, sharp and ringing, at divers tables descending from the
upper to the fat citizen's, where, instead of coming in the sequence of
talk, they are exposed by blasting, like fossil teeth of old Deluge
sharks in monotonous walls of our chalk-quarries. Nor are these the less
welcome for the violence of their introduction among a people glad to be
set burning rather briskly awhile by the most unexpected of digs in the
ribs. Dan Merion, to give an example. That was Dan Merion's joke with
the watchman: and he said that other thing to the Marquis of Kingsbury,
when the latter asked him if he had ever won a donkey-race. And old Dan
is dead, and we are the duller for it! which leads to the question: Is
genius hereditary? And the affirmative and negative are respectively
maintained, rather against the Yes is the dispute, until a member of the
audience speaks of Dan Merion's having left a daughter reputed for a
sparkling wit not much below the level of his own. Why, are you unaware
that the Mrs. Warwick of that scandal case of Warwick versus Dannisburgh
was old Dan Merion's girl--and his only child? It is true; for a friend
had it from a man who had it straight from Mr. Braddock, of the firm of
Braddock, Thorpe and Simnel, her solicitors in the action, who told him
he could sit listening to her for hours, and that she was as innocent as
day; a wonderful combination of a good woman and a clever woman and a
real beauty. Only her misfortune was to have a furiously jealous
husband, and they say he went mad after hearing the verdict.
Diana was talked of in the London circles. A witty woman is such salt
that where she has once been tasted she must perforce be missed more than
any of the absent, the dowering heavens not having yet showered her like
very plentifully upon us. Then it was first heard that Percy Dacier had
been travelling with her. Miss Asper heard of it. Her uncle, Mr.
Quintin Manx, the millionnaire, was an acquaintance of the new Judge
and titled dignitary, Sir Cramborne Wathin, and she visited Lady Wathin,
at whose table the report in the journals of the Nile-boat party was
mentioned. Lady Wathin's table could dispense with witty women, and,
for that matter, witty men. The intrusion of the spontaneous on the
stereotyped would have clashed. She preferred, as hostess, the old legal
anecdotes sure of their laugh, and the citations from the manufactories
of fun in the Press, which were current and instantly intelligible to all
her guests. She smiled suavely on an impromptu pun, because her
experience of the humorous appreciation of it by her guests bade her
welcome the upstart. Nothing else impromptu was acceptable. Mrs.
Warwick therefore was not missed by Lady Wathin. 'I have met her,' she
said. 'I confess I am not one of the fanatics about Mrs. Warwick. She
has a sort of skill in getting men to clamour. If you stoop to tickle
them, they will applaud. It is a way of winning a reputation.' When the
ladies were separated from the gentlemen by the stream of Claret, Miss
Asper heard Lady Wathin speak of Mrs. Warwick again. An allusion to Lord
Dannisburgh's fit of illness in the House of Lords led to her saying that
there was no doubt he had been fascinated, and that, in her opinion, Mrs.
Warwick was a dangerous woman. Sir Cramborne knew something of Mr.
Warwick; 'Poor man!' she added. A lady present put a question concerning
Mrs. Warwick's beauty. 'Yes,' Lady Wathin said, 'she has good looks to
aid her. Judging from what I hear and have seen, her thirst is for
notoriety. Sooner or later we shall have her making a noise, you may be
certain. Yes, she has the secret of dressing well--in the French style.'
A simple newspaper report of the expedition of a Nileboat party could
stir the Powers to take her up and turn her on their wheel in this
But others of the sons and daughters of London were regretting her
prolonged absence. The great and exclusive Whitmonby, who had dined once
at Lady Wathin's table, and vowed never more to repeat that offence to
his patience, lamented bitterly to Henry Wilmers that the sole woman
worthy of sitting at a little Sunday evening dinner with the cream of the
choicest men of the time was away wasting herself in that insane modern
chase of the picturesque! He called her a perverted Celimene.
Redworth had less to regret than the rest of her male friends, as he was
receiving at intervals pleasant descriptive letters, besides manuscript
sheets of ANTONIA'S new piece of composition, to correct the proofs for
the press, and he read them critically, he thought. He read them with a
watchful eye to guard them from the critics. ANTONIA, whatever her
faults as a writer, was not one of the order whose Muse is the Public
Taste. She did at least draw her inspiration from herself, and there was
much to be feared in her work, if a sale was the object. Otherwise
Redworth's highly critical perusal led him flatly to admire. This was
like her, and that was like her, and here and there a phrase gave him the
very play of her mouth, the flash of her eyes. Could he possibly wish,
or bear, to, have anything altered? But she had reason to desire an
extended sale of the work. Her aim, in the teeth of her independent
style, was at the means of independence--a feminine method of attempting
to conciliate contraries; and after despatching the last sheets to the
printer, he meditated upon the several ways which might serve to, assist
her; the main way running thus in his mind:--We have a work of genius.
Genius is good for the public. What is good for the public should be
recommended by the critics. It should be. How then to come at them to,
get it done? As he was not a member of the honourable literary craft,
and regarded its arcana altogether externally, it may be confessed of him
that he deemed the Incorruptible corruptible;--not, of course, with
filthy coin slid into sticky palms. Critics are human, and exceedingly,
beyond the common lot, when touched; and they are excited by mysterious
hints of loftiness in authorship; by rumours of veiled loveliness;
whispers, of a general anticipation; and also Editors can jog them.
Redworth was rising to be a Railway King of a period soon to glitter with
rails, iron in the concrete, golden in the visionary. He had already his
Court, much against his will. The powerful magnetic attractions of those
who can help the world to fortune, was exercised by him in spite of his
disgust of sycophants. He dropped words to right and left of a coming
work by ANTONIA. And who was ANTONIA?--Ah! there hung the riddle.--An
exalted personage?--So much so that he dared not name her even in
confidence to ladies; he named the publishers. To men he said he was at
liberty to speak of her only as the most beautiful woman of her time.
His courtiers of both sexes were recommended to read the new story, THE
Oddly, one great lady of his Court had heard a forthcoming work of this
title spoken of by Percy Dacier, not a man to read silly fiction, unless
there was meaning behind the lines: that is, rich scandal of the
aristocracy, diversified by stinging epigrams to the address of
discernible personages. She talked of THE PRINCESS EGERIA: nay, laid her
finger on the identical Princess. Others followed her. Dozens were soon
flying with the torch: a new work immediately to be published from the
pen of the Duchess of Stars!--And the Princess who lends her title to the
book is a living portrait of the Princess of Highest Eminence, the Hope
of all Civilization.--Orders for copies of THE PRINCESS EGERIA reached
the astonished publishers before the book was advertized.
Speaking to editors, Redworth complimented them with friendly intimations
of the real authorship of the remarkable work appearing. He used a
certain penetrative mildness of tone in saying that 'he hoped the book
would succeed': it deserved to; it was original; but the originality
might tell against it. All would depend upon a favourable launching of
such a book. 'Mrs. Warwick? Mrs. Warwick?' said the most influential of
editors, Mr. Marcus Tonans; 'what! that singularly handsome woman? . .
The Dannisburgh affair? . . . She's Whitmonby's heroine. If she
writes as cleverly as she talks, her work is worth trumpeting.' He
promised to see that it went into good hands for the review, and a prompt
review--an essential point; none of your long digestions of the contents.
Diana's indefatigable friend had fair assurances that her book would be
noticed before it dropped dead to the public appetite for novelty. He
was anxious next, notwithstanding his admiration of the originality of
the conception and the cleverness of the writing, lest the Literary
Reviews should fail 'to do it justice': he used the term; for if they
wounded her, they would take the pleasure out of success; and he had
always present to him that picture of the beloved woman kneeling at the
fire-grate at The Crossways, which made the thought of her suffering any
wound his personal anguish, so crucially sweet and saintly had her image
then been stamped on him. He bethought him, in consequence, while
sitting in the House of Commons; engaged upon the affairs of the nation,
and honestly engaged, for he was a vigilant worker--that the Irish
Secretary, Charles Raiser, with whom he stood in amicable relations,
had an interest, to the extent of reputed ownership, in the chief of the
Literary Reviews. He saw Raiser on the benches, and marked him to speak
for him. Looking for him shortly afterward, the man was gone. 'Off to
the Opera, if he's not too late for the drop,' a neighbour said, smiling
queerly, as though he ought to know; and then Redworth recollected
current stories of Raiser's fantastical devotion to the popular prima
donna of the angelical voice.--He hurried to the Opera and met the vomit,
and heard in the crushroom how divine she had been that night. A fellow
member of the House, tolerably intimate with Raiser, informed him,
between frightful stomachic roulades of her final aria, of the likeliest
place where Raiser might be found when the Opera was over: not at his
Club, nor at his chambers: on one of the bridges--Westminster,
There was no need for Redworth to run hunting the man at so late an hour,
but he was drawn on by the similarity in dissimilarity of this devotee of
a woman, who could worship her at a distance, and talk of her to
everybody. Not till he beheld Raiser's tall figure cutting the bridge-
parapet, with a star over his shoulder, did he reflect on the views the
other might entertain of the nocturnal solicitation to see 'justice done'
to a lady's new book in a particular Review, and the absurd outside of
the request was immediately smothered by the natural simplicity and
pressing necessity of its inside.
He crossed the road and said, 'Ah?' in recognition. 'Were you at the
Opera this evening?'
'Oh, just at the end,' said Raiser, pacing forward. 'It's a fine night.
Did you hear her?'
'No; too late.'
Raiser pressed ahead, to meditate by himself, as was his wont. Finding
Redworth beside him, he monologuized in his depths: 'They'll kill her.
She puts her soul into it, gives her blood. There 's no failing of the
voice. You see how it wears her. She's doomed. Half a year's rest on
Como . . . somewhere . . . she might be saved! She won't refuse to
'Have you spoken to her?' said Redworth.
'And next to Berlin! Vienna! A horse would be . . . .
I? I don't know her,' Raiser replied. 'Some of their women stand it.
She's delicately built. You can't treat a lute like a drum without
destroying the instrument. We look on at a murder!'
The haggard prospect from that step of the climax checked his delivery.
Redworth knew him to be a sober man in office, a man with a head for
statecraft: he had made a weighty speech in the House a couple of hours
back. This Opera cantatrice, no beauty, though gentle, thrilling,
winning, was his corner of romance.
'Do you come here often?' he asked.
'Yes, I can't sleep.'
'London at night, from the bridge, looks fine. By the way . . .'
'It 's lonely here, that's the advantage,' said Rainer; 'I keep silver in
my pocket for poor girls going to their homes, and I'm left in peace. An
hour later, there's the dawn down yonder.'
'By the way,' Redworth interposed, and was told that after these nights
of her singing she never slept till morning. He swallowed the fact,
sympathized, and resumed: 'I want a small favour.'
'No business here, please!'
'Not a bit of it. You know Mrs. Warwick. . . . You know of her.
She 's publishing a book. I want you to use your influence to get it
noticed quickly, if you can.'
'Warwick? Oh, yes, a handsome woman. Ah, yes; the Dannisburgh affair,
yes. What did I hear!--They say she 's thick with Percy Dacier at
present. Who was talking of her! Yes, old Lady Dacier. So she 's a
friend of yours?'
'She's an old friend,' said Redworth, composing himself; for the dose he
had taken was not of the sweetest, and no protestations could be uttered
by a man of the world to repel a charge of tattlers. 'The truth is, her
book is clever. I have read the proofs. She must have an income, and
she won't apply to her husband, and literature should help her, if she 's
fairly treated. She 's Irish by descent; Merion's daughter, witty as her
father. It's odd you haven't met her. The mere writing of the book is
extraordinarily good. If it 's put into capable hands for review!
that's all it requires. And full of life . . . bright dialogue . .
capital sketches. The book's a piece of literature. Only it must have
So he talked while Rainer ejaculated: 'Warwick? Warwick?' in the
irritating tone of dozens of others. 'What did I hear of her husband?
He has a post . . . . Yes, yes. Some one said the verdict in that
case knocked him over--heart disease, or something.'
He glanced at the dark Thames water. 'Take my word for it, the groves of
Academe won't compare with one of our bridges at night, if you seek
philosophy. You see the London above and the London below: round us the
sleepy city, and the stars in the water looking like souls of suicides.
I caught a girl with a bad fit on her once. I had to lecture her!
It's when we become parsons we find out our cousinship with these poor
peripatetics, whose "last philosophy" is a jump across the parapet. The
bridge at night is a bath for a public man. But choose another; leave me
Redworth took the hint. He stated the title of Mrs. Warwick's book, and
imagined from the thoughtful cast of Rainer's head, that he was
impressing THE PRINCESS EGERIA On his memory.
Rainer burst out, with clenched fists: 'He beats her! The fellow lives
on her and beats her; strikes that woman! He drags her about to every
Capital in Europe to make money for him, and the scoundrel pays her with
In the course of a heavy tirade against the scoundrel, Redworth
apprehended that it was the cantatrice's husband. He expressed his
horror and regret; paused, and named THE PRINCESS EGERIA and a certain
Critical Review. Another outburst seemed to be in preparation. Nothing
further was to be done for the book at that hour. So, with a blunt 'Good
night,' he left Charles Rainer pacing, and thought on his walk home of
the strange effects wrought by women unwittingly upon men (Englishmen);
those women, or some of them, as little knowing it as the moon her
traditional influence upon the tides. He thought of Percy Dacier too.
In his bed he could have wished himself peregrinating a bridge.
The PRINCESS EGERIA appeared, with the reviews at her heels, a pack of
clappers, causing her to fly over editions clean as a doe the gates and
hedges--to quote Mr. Sullivan Smith, who knew not a sentence of the work
save what he gathered of it from Redworth, at their chance meeting on
Piccadilly pavement, and then immediately he knew enough to blow his
huntsman's horn in honour of the sale. His hallali rang high. 'Here's
another Irish girl to win their laurels! 'Tis one of the blazing
successes. A most enthralling work, beautifully composed. And where is
she now, Mr. Redworth, since she broke away from that husband of hers,
that wears the clothes of the worst tailor ever begotten by a thread
on a needle, as I tell every soul of 'em in my part of the country?'
'You have seen him?' said Redworth.
'Why, sir, wasn't he on show at the Court he applied to for relief and
damages? as we heard when we were watching the case daily, scarce
drawing our breath for fear the innocent--and one of our own blood, would
be crushed. Sure, there he stood; ay, and looking the very donkey for a
woman to flip off her fingers, like the dust from my great uncle's prise
of snuff! She's a glory to the old country. And better you than
another, I'd say, since it wasn't an Irishman to have her: but what
induced the dear lady to take him, is the question we 're all of us
asking! And it's mournful to think that somehow you contrive to get the
pick of us in the girls! If ever we 're united, 'twill be by a trick of
circumvention of that sort, pretty sure. There's a turn in the market
when they shut their eyes and drop to the handiest: and London's a vortex
that poor dear dull old Dublin can't compete with. I 'll beg you for the
address of the lady her friend, Lady Dunstane.'
Mr. Sullivan Smith walked with Redworth through the park to the House of
Commons, discoursing of Rails and his excellent old friend's rise to the
top rung of the ladder and Beanstalk land, so elevated that one had to
look up at him with watery eyes, as if one had flung a ball at the
meridian sun. Arrived at famed St. Stephen's, he sent in his compliments
to the noble patriot and accepted an invitation to dinner.
'And mind you read THE PRINCESS EGERIA,' said Redworth.
'Again and again, my friend. The book is bought.' Sullivan Smith
slapped his breastpocket.
'There's a bit of Erin in it.'
'It sprouts from Erin.'
'Loud as cavalry to the charge!'
Once with the title stamped on his memory, the zealous Irishman might be
trusted to become an ambulant advertizer. Others, personal friends,
adherents, courtiers of Redworth's, were active. Lady Pennon and Henry
Wilmers, in the upper circle; Whitmonby and Westlake, in the literary;
spread the fever for this new book. The chief interpreter of public
opinion caught the way of the wind and headed the gale.
Editions of the book did really run like fires in summer furze; and to
such an extent that a simple literary performance grew to be respected in
Great Britain, as representing Money.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A kindly sense of superiority
By resisting, I made him a tyrant
Carry explosives and must particularly guard against sparks
Depending for dialogue upon perpetual fresh supplies of scandal
Dose he had taken was not of the sweetest
Friendship, I fancy, means one heart between two
He was the maddest of tyrants--a weak one
He, by insisting, made me a rebel
Her feelings--trustier guides than her judgement in this crisis
I do not see it, because I will not see it
Inducement to act the hypocrite before the hypocrite world
Insistency upon there being two sides to a case--to every case
Intrusion of the spontaneous on the stereotyped would clash
Irony that seemed to spring from aversion
It is the best of signs when women take to her
Mistaking of her desires for her reasons
Never fell far short of outstripping the sturdy pedestrian Time
Observation is the most, enduring of the pleasures of life
One might build up a respectable figure in negatives
Openly treated; all had an air of being on the surface
Owner of such a woman, and to lose her!
Paint themselves pure white, to the obliteration of minor spots
Quixottry is agreeable reading, a silly performance
Real happiness is a state of dulness
Reluctant to take the life of flowers for a whim
Rewards, together with the expectations, of the virtuous
Smoky receptacle cherishing millions
Terrible decree, that all must act who would prevail
Vowed never more to repeat that offence to his patience
Was not one of the order whose Muse is the Public Taste
Wife and no wife, a prisoner in liberty
Women are taken to be the second thoughts of the Creator
World is ruthless, dear friends, because the world is hypocrite
World prefers decorum to honesty
Yawns coming alarmingly fast, in the place of ideas
DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XVIII. THE AUTHORESS
XIX. A DRIVE IN SUNLIGHT AND A DRIVE IN MOONLIGHT
XX. DIANA'S NIGHT-WATCH IN THE CHAMBER OF DEATH
XXI. THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE
XXII. BETWEEN DIANA AND DACIER : THE WIND EAST OVER BLEAK LAND
XXIII. RECORDS A VISIT TO DIANA FROM ONE OF THE WORLD'S GOOD WOMEN
XXIV. INDICATES A SOUL PREPARED FOR DESPERATION
XXV. ONCE MORE THE CROSSWAYS AND A CHANGE OF TURNINGS
XXVI. IN WHICH A DISAPPOINTED LOVER RECEIVES A MULTITUDE OF LESSONS
The effect of a great success upon Diana, at her second literary venture,
was shown in the transparent sedateness of a letter she wrote to Emma
Dunstane, as much as in her immediate and complacent acceptance of the
magical change of her fortunes. She spoke one thing and acted another,
but did both with a lofty calm that deceived the admiring friend who
clearly saw the authoress behind her mask, and feared lest she should be
too confidently trusting to the powers of her pen to support an
'If the public were a perfect instrument to strike on, I should be
tempted to take the wonderful success of my PRINCESS at her first
appearance for a proof of natural aptitude in composition, and might
think myself the genius. I know it to be as little a Stradivarius as I
am a Paganini. It is an eccentric machine, in tune with me for the
moment, because I happen to have hit it in the ringing spot. The book is
a new face appealing to a mirror of the common surface emotions; and the
kitchen rather than the dairy offers an analogy for the real value of
that "top-skim." I have not seen what I consider good in the book once
mentioned among the laudatory notices--except by your dear hand, my Emmy.
Be sure I will stand on guard against the "vaporous generalizations," and
other "tricks" you fear. Now that you are studying Latin for an
occupation--how good and wise it was of Mr. Redworth to propose it!--
I look upon you with awe as a classic authority and critic. I wish I had
leisure to study with you. What I do is nothing like so solid and
'THE PRINCESS EGERIA' originally (I must have written word of it to you--
I remember the evening off Palermo!) was conceived as a sketch; by
gradations she grew into a sort of semi-Scudery romance, and swelled to
her present portliness. That was done by a great deal of piecing, not to
say puffing, of her frame. She would be healthier and have a chance of
living longer if she were reduced by a reversal of the processes. But
how would the judicious clippings and prickings affect our "pensive
public"? Now that I have furnished a house and have a fixed address,
under the paws of creditors, I feel I am in the wizard-circle of my
popularity and subscribe to its laws or waken to incubus and the desert.
Have I been rash? You do not pronounce. If I have bound myself to pipe
as others please, it need not be entirely; and I can promise you it shall
not be; but still I am sensible when I lift my "little quill" of having
forced the note of a woodland wren into the popular nightingale's--which
may end in the daw's, from straining; or worse, a toy-whistle.
'That is, in the field of literature. Otherwise, within me deep,
I am not aware of any transmutation of the celestial into coined gold.
I sound myself, and ring clear. Incessant writing is my refuge, my
solace--escape out of the personal net. I delight in it, as in my early
morning walks at Lugano, when I went threading the streets and by the
lake away to "the heavenly mount," like a dim idea worming upward in a
sleepy head to bright wakefulness.
'My anonymous critic, of whom I told you, is intoxicating with eulogy.
The signature "Apollonius" appears to be of literary-middle indication.
He marks passages approved by you. I have also had a complimentary
letter from Mr. Dacier:
'For an instance of this delight I have in writing, so strong is it that
I can read pages I have written, and tear the stuff to strips (I did
yesterday), and resume, as if nothing had happened. The waves within are
ready for any displacement. That must be a good sign. I do not doubt of
excelling my PRINCESS; and if she received compliments, the next may hope
for more. Consider, too, the novel pleasure of earning money by the
labour we delight in. It is an answer to your question whether I am
happy. Yes, as the savage islander before the ship entered the bay with
the fire-water. My blood is wine, and I have the slumbers of an infant.
I dream, wake, forget my dream, barely dress before the pen is galloping;
barely breakfast; no toilette till noon. A savage in good sooth! You
see, my Emmy, I could not house with the "companionable person" you hint
at. The poles can never come together till the earth is crushed. She
would find my habits intolerable, and I hers contemptible, though we
might both be companionable persons. My dear, I could not even live with
myself. My blessed little quill, which helps me divinely to live out of
myself, is and must continue to be my one companion. It is my mountain
height, morning light, wings, cup from the springs, my horse, my goal,
my lancet and replenisher, my key of communication with the highest,
grandest, holiest between earth and heaven-the vital air connecting them.
'In justice let me add that I have not been troubled by hearing of any of
the mysterious legal claims, et caetera. I am sorry to hear bad reports
of health. I wish him entire felicity--no step taken to bridge division!
The thought of it makes me tigrish.
'A new pianist playing his own pieces (at Lady Singleby's concert) has
given me exquisite pleasure' and set me composing songs--not to his
music, which could be rendered only by sylphs moving to "soft recorders"
in the humour of wildness, languor, bewitching caprices, giving a new
sense to melody. How I wish you had been with me to hear him! It was
the most AEolian thing ever caught from a night-breeze by the soul of a
'But do not suppose me having headlong tendencies to the melting mood.
(The above, by the way, is a Pole settled in Paris, and he is to be
introduced to me at Lady Pennon's.)--What do you say to my being invited
by Mr. Whitmonby to aid him in writing leading articles for the paper he
is going to conduct! "write as you talk and it will do," he says. I am
choosing my themes. To write--of politics--as I talk, seems to me like
an effort to jump away from my shadow. The black dog of consciousness
declines to be shaken off. If some one commanded me to talk as I write!
I suspect it would be a way of winding me up to a sharp critical pitch
'Not good news of Lord D. I have had messages. Mr. Dacier conceals his
alarm. The PRINCESS gave great gratification. She did me her best
service there. Is it not cruel that the interdict of the censor should
force me to depend for information upon such scraps as I get from a
gentleman passing my habitation on his way to the House? And he is not,
he never has been, sympathetic in that direction. He sees my grief, and
assumes an undertakerly air, with some notion of acting in concert, one
supposes little imagining how I revolt from that crape-hatband formalism
'One word of her we call our inner I. I am not drawing upon her
resources for my daily needs; not wasting her at all, I trust; certainly
not walling her up, to deafen her voice. It would be to fall away from
you. She bids me sign myself, my beloved, ever, ever your Tony.'
The letter had every outward show of sincereness in expression, and was
endowed to wear that appearance by the writer's impulse to protest with
so resolute a vigour as to delude herself. Lady Dunstane heard of Mr.
Dacier's novel attendance at concerts. The world made a note of it;
for the gentleman was notoriously without ear for music.
Diana's comparison of her hours of incessant writing to her walks under
the dawn at Lugano, her boast of the similarity of her delight in both,
deluded her uncorrupted conscience to believe that she was now
spiritually as free: as in that fair season of the new spring in her
veins. She, was not an investigating physician, nor was Lady Dunstane,
otherwise they would have examined the material points of her conduct--
indicators of the spiritual secret always. What are the patient's acts?
The patient's, mind was projected too far beyond them to see the fore
finger they stretched at her; and the friend's was not that of a prying
doctor on the look out for betraying symptoms. Lady Dunstane did ask
herself why Tony should have incurred the burden of a costly household--
a very costly: Sir Lukin had been at one of Tony's little' dinners: but
her wish to meet the world on equal terms, after a long dependency,
accounted for it in seeming to excuse. The guests on the occasion were
Lady Pennon. Lady Singleby, Mr. Whitmonby, Mr. Percy Dacier, Mr. Tonans;
--'Some other woman,' Sir Lukin said, and himself. He reported the
cookery as matching the: conversation, and that was princely; the wines
not less--an extraordinary fact to note of a woman. But to hear
Whitmonby and Diana Warwick! How he told a story, neat as a postman's
knock, and she tipped it with a remark and ran to a second, drawing in
Lady Pennon, and then Dacier, 'and me!' cried Sir Lukin; 'she made us all
toss the ball from hand to hand, and all talk up to the mark; and none of
us noticed that we all went together to the drawing-room, where we talked
for another hour, and broke up fresher than we began.'
'That break between the men and the women after dinner was Tony's
aversion, and I am glad she has instituted a change,' said Lady Dunstane.
She heard also from Redworth of the unexampled concert of the guests at
Mrs. Warwick's dinner parties. He had met on one occasion the Esquarts,
the Pettigrews, Mr. Percy Dacier, and a Miss Paynham. Redworth had not
a word to say of the expensive household. Whatever Mrs. Warwick did was
evidently good to him. On another evening the party was composed of Lady
Pennon, Lord Larrian, Miss Paynham, a clever Mrs. Wollasley, Mr. Henry
Wilmers, and again Mr. Percy Dacier.
When Diana came to Copsley, Lady Dunstane remarked on the recurrence of
the name of Miss Paynham in the list of her guests.
'And Mr. Percy Dacier's too,' said Diana, smiling. 'They are invited
each for specific reasons. It pleases Lord Dannisburgh to hear that a
way has been found to enliven his nephew; and my little dinners are
effective, I think. He wakes. Yesterday evening he capped flying jests
with Mr. Sullivan Smith. But you speak of Miss. Paynham.' Diana
lowered her voice on half a dozen syllables, till the half-tones dropped
into her steady look. 'You approve, Emmy?'
The answer was: 'I do--true or not.'
'Between us two, dear, I fear! . . . In either case, she has been
badly used. Society is big engine enough to protect itself. I incline
with British juries to do rough justice to the victims. She has neither
father nor brother. I have had no confidences: but it wears the look of a
cowardly business. With two words in his ear, I could arm an Irishman to
do some work of chastisement: he would select the rascal's necktie for a
cause of quarrel and lords have to stand their ground as well as
commoners. They measure the same number of feet when stretched their
length. However, vengeance with the heavens! though they seem tardy.
Lady Pennon has been very kind about it; and the Esquarts invite her to
Lockton. Shoulder to shoulder, the tide may be stemmed.'
'She would have gone under, but for you, dear Tony!' said Emma' folding
arms round her darling's neck anal kissing her. 'Bring her here some
Diana did not promise it. She had her vision of Sir Lukin in his fit of
'I am too weak for London now,' Emma resumed. 'I should like to be
useful. Is she pleasant?'
'Sprightly by nature. She has worn herself with fretting.'
'Then bring her to stay with me, if I cannot keep you. She will talk of
you to me.'
'I will bring her for a couple of days,' Diana said. 'I am too busy to
remain longer. She paints portraits to amuse herself. She ought to be
pushed, wherever she is received about London, while the season is warm.
One season will suffice to establish her. She is pretty, near upon six
and twenty: foolish, of course:--she pays for having had a romantic head.
Heavy payment, Emmy! I drive at laws, but hers is an instance of the
creatures wanting simple human kindness.'
'The good law will come with a better civilization; but before society
can be civilized it has to be debarbarized,' Emma remarked, and Diana
sighed over the task and the truism.
I should have said in younger days, because it will not look plainly on
our nature and try to reconcile it with our conditions. But now I see
that the sin is cowardice. The more I know of the world the more clearly
I perceive that its top and bottom sin is cowardice, physically and
morally alike. Lord Larrian owns to there being few heroes in an army.
We must fawn in society. What is the meaning of that dread of one
example of tolerance? O my dear! let us give it the right name.
Society is the best thing we have, but it is a crazy vessel worked by a
crew that formerly practised piracy, and now, in expiation, professes
piety, fearful of a discovered Omnipotence, which is in the image of
themselves and captain. Their old habits are not quite abandoned, and
their new one is used as a lash to whip the exposed of us for a
propitiation of the capricious potentate whom they worship in the place
of the true God.'
Lady Dunstane sniffed. 'I smell the leading article.'
Diana joined with her smile, 'No, the style is rather different.'
'Have you not got into a trick of composing in speaking, at times?'
Diana confessed, 'I think I have at times. Perhaps the daily writing of
all kinds and the nightly talking . . . I may be getting strained.'
'No, Tony; but longer visits in the country to me would refresh you.
I miss your lighter touches. London is a school, but, you know it,
not a school for comedy nor for philosophy; that is gathered on my hills,
with London distantly in view, and then occasional descents on it well
'I wonder whether it is affecting me !' said Diana, musing.
'A metropolitan hack! and while thinking myself free, thrice harnessed;
and all my fun gone. Am I really as dull as a tract, my dear? I must
be, or I should be proving the contrary instead of asking. My pitfall is
to fancy I have powers equal to the first look-out of the eyes of the.
morning. Enough of me. We talked of Mary Paynham. If only some right
good man would marry her!'
Lady Dunstane guessed at the right good man in Diana's mind. 'Do you
bring them together?'
Diana nodded, and then shook doleful negatives to signify no hope.
'None whatever--if we mean the same person,' said Lady Dunstane,
bethinking her, in the spirit of wrath she felt at such a scheme being
planned by Diana to snare the right good man, that instead of her own
true lover Redworth, it might be only Percy Dacier. So filmy of mere
sensations are these little ideas as they flit in converse, that she did
not reflect on her friend's ignorance of Redworth's love of her, or on
the unlikely choice of one in Dacier's high station to reinstate a
They did not name the person.
'Passing the instance, which is cruel, I will be just to society thus
far,' said Diana. 'I was in a boat at Richmond last week, and Leander
was revelling along the mud-banks, and took it into his head to swim out
to me, and I was moved to take him on board. The ladies in the boat
objected, for he was not only wet but very muddy. I was forced to own
that their objections were reasonable. My sentimental humaneness had no
argument against muslin dresses, though my dear dog's eyes appealed
pathetically, and he would keep swimming after us. The analogy excuses
the world for protecting itself in extreme cases; nothing, nothing
excuses its insensibility to cases which may be pleaded. You see the
pirate crew turned pious-ferocious in sanctity.' She added, half
laughing: 'I am reminded by the boat, I have unveiled my anonymous
critic, and had a woeful disappointment. He wrote like a veteran; he is
not much more than a boy. I received a volume of verse, and a few lines
begging my acceptance. I fancied I knew the writing, and wrote asking
him whether I had not to thank him, and inviting him to call. He seems
a nice lad of about two and twenty, mad for literature; and he must have
talent. Arthur Rhodes by name. I may have a chance of helping him.
He was an articled clerk of Mr. Braddock's, the same who valiantly came
to my rescue once. He was with us in the boat.'
'Bring him to me some day,' said Lady Dunstane.
Miss Paynham's visit to Copsley was arranged, and it turned out a
failure. The poor young lady came in a flutter, thinking that the friend
of Mrs. Warwick would expect her to discourse cleverly. She attempted
it, to Diana's amazement. Lady Dunstane's opposingly corresponding
stillness provoked Miss Paynham to expatiate, for she had sprightliness
and some mental reserves of the common order. Clearly, Lady Dunstane
mused while listening amiably, Tony never could have designed this
gabbler for the mate of Thomas Redworth!
Percy Dacier seemed to her the more likely one, in that light, and she
thought so still, after Sir Lukin had introduced him at Copsley for a
couple of days of the hunting season. Tony's manner with him suggested
it; she had a dash of leadership. They were not intimate in look or
But Percy Dacier also was too good for Miss Paynham, if that was Tony's
plan for him, Lady Dunstane thought, with the relentlessness of an
invalid and recluse's distaste. An aspect of penitence she had not
demanded, but the silly gabbier under a stigma she could not pardon.
Her opinion of Miss Paynham was diffused in her silence.
Speaking of Mr. Dacier, she remarked, 'As you say of him, Tony, he can
brighten, and when you give him a chance he is entertaining. He has fine
gifts. If I were a member of his family I should beat about for a match
for him. He strikes me as one of the young men who would do better
'He is doing very well, but the wonder is that he doesn't marry,'
said Diana. 'He ought to be engaged. Lady Esquart told me that he was.
A Miss Asper--great heiress; and the Daciers want money. However, there
Not many weeks later Diana could not have spoken of Mr. Percy Dacier with
this air of indifference without corruption of her inward guide.
A DRIVE IN SUNLIGHT AND A DRIVE IN MOONLIGHT
The fatal time to come for her was in the Summer of that year.
Emma had written her a letter of unwonted bright spirits, contrasting
strangely with an inexplicable oppression of her own that led her to
imagine her recent placid life the pause before thunder, and to sharp the
mood of her solitary friend she flew to Copsley, finding Sir Lukin
absent, as usual. They drove out immediately after breakfast, on one of
those high mornings of the bared bosom of June when distances are given
to our eyes, and a soft air fondles leaf and grass-blade, and beauty and
peace are overhead, reflected, if we will. Rain had fallen in the night.
Here and there hung a milk-white cloud with folded sail. The South-west
left it in its bay of blue, and breathed below. At moments the fresh
scent of herb and mould swung richly in warmth. The young beech-leaves
glittered, pools of rain-water made the roadways laugh, the grass-banks
under hedges rolled their interwoven weeds in cascades of many-shaded
green to right and left of the pair of dappled ponies, and a squirrel
crossed ahead, a lark went up a little way to ease his heart, closing his
wings when the burst was over, startled black-birds, darting with a
clamour like a broken cockcrow, looped the wayside woods from hazel to
oak-scrub; short flights, quick spirts everywhere, steady sunshine above.
Diana held the reins. The whip was an ornament, as the plume of feathers
to the general officer. Lady Dunstane's ponies were a present from
Redworth, who always chose the pick of the land for his gifts. They
joyed in their trot, and were the very love-birds of the breed for their
pleasure of going together, so like that Diana called them the Dromios.
Through an old gravel-cutting a gateway led to the turf of the down,
springy turf bordered on a long line, clear as a racecourse, by golden
gorse covers, and leftward over the gorse the dark ridge of the fir and
heath country ran companionably to the Southwest, the valley between,
with undulations of wood and meadow sunned or shaded, clumps, mounds,
promontories, away to broad spaces of tillage banked by wooded hills, and
dimmer beyond and farther, the faintest shadowiness of heights, as a veil
to the illimitable. Yews, junipers, radiant beeches, and gleams of the
service-tree or the white-beam spotted the semicircle of swelling green
Down black and silver. The sun in the valley sharpened his beams on
squares of buttercups, and made a pond a diamond.
'You see, Tony,' Emma said, for a comment on the scene, 'I could envy
Italy for having you, more than you for being in Italy.'
'Feature and colour!' said Diana. 'You have them here, and on a scale
that one can embrace. I should like to build a hut on this point, and
wait for such a day to return. It brings me to life.' She lifted her
eyelids on her friend's worn sweet face, and knowing her this friend up
to death, past it in her hopes, she said bravely, 'It is the Emma of days
and scenes to me! It helps me to forget myself, as I do when I think of
you, dearest; but the subject has latterly been haunting me, I don't know
why, and ominously, as if my nature were about to horrify my soul. But I
am not sentimentalizing, you are really this day and scene in my heart.'
Emma smiled confidingly. She spoke her reflection: 'The heart must be
troubled a little to have the thought. The flower I gather here tells me
that we may be happy in privation and suffering if simply we can accept
beauty. I won't say expel the passions, but keep passion sober, a
trotter in harness.'
Diana caressed the ponies' heads with the droop of her whip: 'I don't
think I know him!' she said.
Between sincerity and a suspicion so cloaked and dull that she did not
feel it to be the opposite of candour, she fancied she was passionless
because she could accept the visible beauty, which was Emma's
prescription and test; and she forced herself to make much of it, cling
to it, devour it; with envy of Emma's contemplative happiness, through
whose grave mind she tried to get to the peace in it, imagining that she
succeeded. The cloaked and dull suspicion weighed within her
nevertheless. She took it for a mania to speculate on herself. There
are states of the crimson blood when the keenest wits are childish,
notably in great-hearted women aiming at the majesty of their sex and
fearful of confounding it by the look direct and the downright word.
Yet her nature compelled her inwardly to phrase the sentence: 'Emma is
a wife!' The character of her husband was not considered, nor was the
meaning of the exclamation pursued.
They drove through the gorse into wild land of heath and flowering
hawthorn, and along by tracts of yew and juniper to another point,
jutting on a furzy sand-mound, rich with the mild splendour of English
scenery, which Emma stamped on her friend's mind by saying: 'A cripple
has little to envy in you who can fly when she has feasts like these at
They had an inclination to boast on the drive home of the solitude they
had enjoyed; and just then, as the road in the wood wound under great
beeches, they beheld a London hat. The hat was plucked from its head.
A clear-faced youth, rather flushed, dusty at the legs, addressed Diana.
'Mr. Rhodes!' she said, not discouragingly.
She was petitioned to excuse him; he thought she would wish to hear the
news in town last night as early as possible; he hesitated and murmured
Diana turned to Emma: 'Lord Dannisburgh!' her paleness told the rest.
Hearing from Mr. Rhodes that he had walked the distance from town,
and had been to Copsley, Lady Dunstane invited him to follow the pony-
carriage thither, where he was fed and refreshed by a tea-breakfast,
as he preferred walking on tea, he said. 'I took the liberty to call
at Mrs. Warwick's house,' he informed her; 'the footman said she was
at Copsley. I found it on the map--I knew the directions--and started
about two in the morning. I wanted a walk.'
It was evident to her that he was one of the young squires bewitched whom
beautiful women are constantly enlisting. There was no concealment of
it, though he stirred a sad enviousness in the invalid lady by descanting
on the raptures of a walk out of London in the youngest light of day, and
on the common objects he had noticed along the roadside, and through the
woods, more sustaining, closer with nature than her compulsory feeding on
the cream of things.
'You are not fatigued?' she inquired, hoping for that confession at
least; but she pardoned his boyish vaunting to walk the distance back
without any fatigue at all.
He had a sweeter reward for his pains; and if the business of the
chronicler allowed him to become attached to pure throbbing felicity
wherever it is encountered, he might be diverted by the blissful
unexpectedness of good fortune befalling Mr. Arthur Rhodes in having
the honour to conduct Mrs. Warwick to town. No imagined happiness,
even in the heart of a young man of two and twenty, could have matched
it. He was by her side, hearing and seeing her, not less than four
hours. To add to his happiness, Lady Dunstane said she would be glad to
welcome him again. She thought him a pleasant specimen of the self-vowed
Diana was sure that there would be a communication for her of some sort
at her house in London; perhaps a message of farewell from the dying
lord, now dead. Mr. Rhodes had only the news of the evening journals,
to the effect that Lord Dannisburgh had expired at his residence, the
Priory, Hallowmere, in Hampshire. A message of farewell from him, she
hoped for: knowing him as she did, it seemed a certainty; and she
hungered for that last gleam of life in her friend. She had no
anticipation of the burden of the message awaiting her.
A consultation as to the despatching of the message, had taken place
among the members of Lord Dannisburgh's family present at his death.
Percy Dacier was one of them, and he settled the disputed point, after
some time had been spent in persuading his father to take the plain view
of obligation in the matter, and in opposing the dowager countess, his
grandmother, by stating that he had already sent a special messenger to
London. Lord Dannisburgh on his death-bed had expressed a wish that Mrs.
Warwick would sit with him for an hour one night before the nails were
knocked in his coffin. He spoke of it twice, putting it the second time
to Percy as a formal request to be made to her, and Percy had promised
him that Mrs. Warwick should have the message. He had done his best to
keep his pledge, aware of the disrelish of the whole family for the
lady's name, to say nothing of her presence.
'She won't come,' said the earl.
'She'll come,' said old Lady Dacier.
'If the woman respects herself she'll hold off it,' the earl insisted
because of his desire that way. He signified in mutterings that the
thing was improper and absurd, a piece of sentiment, sickly senility,
unlike Lord Dannisburgh. Also that Percy had been guilty of excessive
To which Lady Dacier nodded her assent, remarking, 'The woman is on her
mettle. From what I've heard of her, she's not a woman to stick at
trifles. She'll take it as a sort of ordeal by touch, and she 'll come.'
They joined in abusing Percy, who had driven away to another part of the
country. Lord Creedmore, the heir of the house, was absent, hunting in
America, or he might temporarily have been taken into favour by contrast.
Ultimately they agreed that the woman must be allowed to enter the house,
but could not be received. The earl was a widower; his mother managed
the family, and being hard to convince, she customarily carried her
point, save when it involved Percy's freedom of action. She was one of
the veterans of her sex that age to toughness; and the 'hysterical fuss'
she apprehended in the visit of this woman to Lord Dannisburgh's death-
bed and body, did not alarm her. For the sake of the household she
determined to remain, shut up in her room. Before night the house was
empty of any members of the family excepting old Lady Dacier and the
outstretched figure on the bed.
Dacier fled to escape the hearing of the numberless ejaculations re-
awakened in the family by his uncle's extraordinary dying request. They
were an outrage to the lady, of whom he could now speak as a privileged
champion; and the request itself had an air of proving her stainless, a
white soul and efficacious advocate at the celestial gates (reading the
mind of the dying man). So he thought at one moment: he had thought so
when charged with the message to her; had even thought it a natural wish
that she should look once on the face she would see no more, and say
farewell to it, considering that in life it could not be requested. But
the susceptibility to sentimental emotion beside a death-bed, with a
dying man's voice in the ear, requires fortification if it is to be
maintained;' and the review of his uncle's character did not tend to make
this very singular request a proof that the lady's innocence was honoured
in it. His epicurean uncle had no profound esteem for the kind of
innocence. He had always talked of Mrs. Warwick--with warm respect for
her: Dacier knew that he had bequeathed her a sum of money. The
inferences were either way. Lord Dannisburgh never spoke evilly of any
woman, and he was perhaps bound to indemnify her materially as well as he
could for what she had suffered.--On the other hand, how easy it was to
be the dupe of a woman so handsome and clever.--Unlikely too that his
uncle would consent to sit at the Platonic banquet with her.--Judging by
himself, Dacier deemed it possible for man. He was not quick to kindle,
and had lately seen much of her, had found her a Lady Egeria, helpful in
counsel, prompting, inspiriting, reviving as well-waters, and as
temperately cool: not one sign of native slipperiness. Nor did she stir
the mud in him upon which proud man is built. The shadow of the scandal
had checked a few shifty sensations rising now and then of their own
accord, and had laid them, with the lady's benign connivance. This was
good proof in her favour, seeing that she must have perceived of late the
besetting thirst he had for her company; and alone or in the medley
equally. To see her, hear, exchange ideas with her; and to talk of new
books, try to listen to music at the opera and at concerts, and admire
her playing of hostess, were novel pleasures, giving him fresh notions of
life, and strengthening rather than disturbing the course of his life's
At any rate, she was capable of friendship. Why not resolutely believe
that she had been his uncle's true and simple friend! He adopted the
resolution, thanking her for one recognized fact:--he hated marriage, and
would by this time have been in the yoke, but for the agreeable deviation
of his path to her society. Since his visit to Copsley, moreover, Lady
Dunstane's idolizing, of her friend had influenced him. Reflecting on
it, he recovered from the shock which his uncle's request had caused.
Certain positive calculations were running side by side with the
speculations in vapour. His messenger would reach her house at about
four of the afternoon. If then at home, would she decide to start
immediately?--Would she come? That was a question he did not delay to
answer. Would she defer the visit? Death replied to that. She would
not delay it.
She would be sure to come at once. And what of the welcome she would
meet? Leaving the station at London at six in the evening, she might
arrive at the Priory, all impediments counted, between ten and eleven at
night. Thence, coldly greeted, or not greeted, to the chamber of death.
A pitiable and cruel reception for a woman upon such a mission!
His mingled calculations and meditations reached that exclamatory
terminus in feeling, and settled on the picture of Diana, about as clear
as light to blinking eyes, but enough for him to realize her being there
and alone, woefully alone. The supposition of an absolute loneliness was
most possible. He had intended to drive back the next day, when the
domestic storm would be over, and take the chances of her coming. It
seemed now a piece of duty to return at night, a traverse of twenty rough
up and down miles from Itchenford to the heath-land rolling on the chalk
wave of the Surrey borders, easily done after the remonstrances of his
host were stopped.
Dacier sat in an open carriage, facing a slip of bright moon. Poetical
impressions, emotions, any stirrings of his mind by the sensational stamp
on it, were new to him, and while he swam in them, both lulled and
pricked by his novel accessibility to nature's lyrical touch, he asked
himself whether, if he were near the throes of death, the thought of
having Diana Warwick to sit beside his vacant semblance for an hour at
night would be comforting. And why had his uncle specified an hour of
the night? It was a sentiment, like the request: curious in a man so
little sentimental. Yonder crescent running the shadowy round of the
hoop roused comparisons. Would one really wish to have her beside one
in death? In life--ah! But suppose her denied to us in life. Then the
desire for her companionship appears passingly comprehensible. Enter
into the sentiment, you see that the hour of darkness is naturally
chosen. And would even a grand old Pagan crave the presence beside his
dead body for an hour of the night of a woman he did not esteem? Dacier
answered no. The negative was not echoed in his mind. He repeated it,
and to the same deadness.
He became aware that he had spoken for himself, and he had a fit of
sourness. For who can say he is not a fool before he has been tried by a
woman! Dacier's wretched tendency under vexation to conceive grotesque
analogies, anti-poetic, not to say cockney similes, which had slightly
chilled Diana at Rovio, set him looking at yonder crescent with the hoop,
as at the shape of a white cat climbing a wheel. Men of the northern
blood will sometimes lend their assent to poetical images, even to those
that do not stun the mind lie bludgeons and imperatively, by much
repetition, command their assent; and it is for a solid exchange and
interest in usury with soft poetical creatures when they are so
condescending; but they are seized by the grotesque. In spite of efforts
to efface or supplant it, he saw the white cat, nothing else, even to
thinking that she had jumped cleverly to catch the wheel. He was a true
descendant of practical hard-grained fighting Northerners, of gnarled
dwarf imaginations, chivalrous though they were, and heroes to have
serviceable and valiant gentlemen for issue. Without at all tracing back
to its origin his detestable image of the white cat on the dead circle,
he kicked at the links between his uncle and Diana Warwick, whatever they
had been; particularly at the present revival of them. Old Lady Dacier's
blunt speech, and his father's fixed opinion, hissed in his head.
They were ignorant of his autumnal visit to the Italian Lakes, after the
winter's Nile-boat expedition; and also of the degree of his recent
intimacy with Mrs. Warwick; or else, as he knew, he would have heard more
hissing things. Her patronage of Miss Paynham exposed her to attacks
where she was deemed vulnerable; Lady Dacier muttered old saws as to the
flocking of birds; he did not accurately understand it, thought it
indiscreet, at best. But in regard to his experience, he could tell
himself that a woman more guileless of luring never drew breath. On the
contrary, candour said it had always been he who had schemed and pressed
for the meeting. He was at liberty to do it, not being bound in honour
elsewhere. Besides, despite his acknowledgement of her beauty, Mrs.
Warwick was not quite his ideal of the perfectly beautiful woman.
Constance Asper came nearer to it. He had the English taste for red and
white, and for cold outlines: he secretly admired a statuesque demeanour
with a statue's eyes. The national approbation of a reserved haughtiness
in woman, a tempered disdain in her slightly lifted small upperlip and
drooped eyelids, was shared by him; and Constance Asper, if not exactly
aristocratic by birth, stood well for that aristocratic insular type,
which seems to promise the husband of it a casket of all the trusty
virtues, as well as the security of frigidity in the casket. Such was
Dacier's native taste; consequently the attractions of Diana Warwick for
him were, he thought, chiefly mental, those of a Lady Egeria. She might
or might not be good, in the vulgar sense. She was an agreeable woman,
an amusing companion, very suggestive, inciting, animating; and her past
history must be left as her own. Did it matter to him? What he saw was
bright, a silver crescent on the side of the shadowy ring. Were it a
question of marrying her!--That was out of the possibilities. He
remembered, moreover, having heard from a man, who professed to know,
that Mrs. Warwick had started in married life by treating her husband
cavalierly to an intolerable degree: 'Such as no Englishman could stand,'
the portly old informant thundered, describing it and her in racy
vernacular. She might be a devil of a wife. She was a pleasant friend;
just the soft bit sweeter than male friends which gave the flavour of sex
without the artful seductions. He required them strong to move him.
He looked at last on the green walls of the Priory, scarcely supposing a
fair watcher to be within; for the contrasting pale colours of dawn had
ceased to quicken the brilliancy of the crescent, and summer daylight
drowned it to fainter than a silver coin in water. It lay dispieced like
a pulled rag. Eastward, over Surrey, stood the full rose of morning.
The Priory clock struck four. When the summons of the bell had gained
him admittance, and he heard that Mrs. Warwick had come in the night,
he looked back through the doorway at the rosy colour, and congratulated
himself to think that her hour of watching was at an end. A sleepy
footman was his informant. Women were in my lord's dressing-room, he
said. Upstairs, at the death-chamber, Dacier paused. No sound came to
him. He hurried to his own room, paced about, and returned. Expecting
to see no one but the dead, he turned the handle, and the two circles of
a shaded lamp, on ceiling and on table, met his gaze.
DIANA A NIGHT-WATCH IN THE CHAMBER OF DEATH
He stepped into the room, and thrilled to hear the quiet voice beside the
bed: 'Who is it?'
Apologies and excuses were on his tongue. The vibration of those grave
tones checked them.
'It is you,' she said.
She sat in shadow, her hands joined on her lap. An unopened book was
under the lamp.
He spoke in an underbreath: 'I have just come. I was not sure I should
find you here. Pardon.'
'There is a chair.'
He murmured thanks and entered into the stillness, observing her.
'You have been watching . . . . You must be tired.'
'An hour was asked, only one.'
'I could not leave him.'
'Watchers are at hand to relieve you'
'It is better for him to have me.'
The chord of her voice told him of the gulf she had sunk in during the
night. The thought of her endurance became a burden.
He let fall his breath for patience, and tapped the floor with his foot.
He feared to discompose her by speaking. The silence grew more fearful,
as the very speech of Death between them.
'You came. I thought it right to let you know instantly. I hoped you
would come to-morrow'
'I could not delay.'
'You have been sitting alone here since eleven!'
'I have not found it long.'
'You must want some refreshment . . . tea?'
'I need nothing.'
'It can be made ready in a few minutes.'
'I could not eat or drink.'
He tried to brush away the impression of the tomb in the heavily-
curtained chamber by thinking of the summer-morn outside; he spoke of it,
the rosy sky, the dewy grass, the piping birds. She listened, as one
hearing of a quitted sphere.
Their breathing in common was just heard if either drew a deeper breath.
At moments his eyes wandered and shut. Alternately in his mind Death had
vaster meanings and doubtfuller; Life cowered under the shadow or
outshone it. He glanced from her to the figure in the bed, and she
He said: 'It is time for you to have rest. You know your room. I will
stay till the servants are up.'
She replied: 'No, let this night with him be mine.'
'I am not intruding . . .?'
'If you wish to remain . . .'
No traces of weeping were on her face. The lampshade revealed it
colourless, and lustreless her eyes. She was robed in black. She held
her hands clasped.
'You have not suffered?'
She said it without sighing: nor was her speech mournful, only brief.
'You have seen death before?'
'I sat by my father four nights. I was a girl then. I cried till I had
no more tears.'
He felt a burning pressure behind his eyeballs.
'Death is natural,' he said.
'It is natural to the aged. When they die honoured . . .'
She looked where the dead man lay. 'To sit beside the young, cut off
from their dear opening life . . . !' A little shudder swept over
her. 'Oh! that!'
'You were very good to come. We must all thank you for fulfilling his
'He knew it would be my wish.'
Her hands pressed together.
'He lies peacefully!'
'I have raised the lamp on him, and wondered each time. So changeless he
lies. But so like a sleep that will wake. We never see peace but in the
features of the dead. Will you look? They are beautiful. They have a
The desire to look was evidently recurrent with her. Dacier rose.
Their eyes fell together on the dead man, as thoughtfully as Death allows
to the creatures of sensation.
'And after?' he said in low tones.
'I trust to my Maker,' she replied. 'Do you see a change since he
breathed his last?'
'You were with him?'
'Not in the room. Two minutes later.'
'Who . . .?'
'My father. His niece, Lady Cathairn.'
'If our lives are lengthened we outlive most of those we would have to
close our eyes. He had a dear sister.'
'She died some years back.'
'I helped to comfort him for that loss.'
'He told me you did.'
The lamp was replaced on the table.
'For a moment, when I withdraw the light from him, I feel sadness.
As if the light we lend to anything were of value to him now!'
She bowed her head deeply. Dacier left her meditation undisturbed.
The birds on the walls outside were audible, tweeting, chirping.
He went to the window-curtains and tried the shutter-bars. It seemed to
him that daylight would be cheerfuller for her. He had a thirst to
behold her standing bathed in daylight.
'Shall I open them?' he asked her.
'I would rather the lamp,' she said.
They sat silently until she drew her watch from her girdle. 'My train
starts at half-past six. It is a walk of thirty-five minutes to the
station. I did it last night in that time.'
'You walked here in the dark alone?'
'There was no fly to be had. The station-master sent one of his porters
with me. We had a talk on the road. I like those men.'
Dacier read the hour by the mantelpiece clock. 'If you must really go by
the early train, I will drive you.'
'No, I will walk; I prefer it.'
'I will order your breakfast at once.'
He turned on his heel. She stopped him. 'No, I have no taste for eating
'Pray . . .' said he, in visible distress.
She shook her head. 'I could not. I have twenty minutes longer. I can
find my way to the station; it is almost a straight road out of the park-
His heart swelled with anger at the household for they treatment she had
been subjected to, judging by her resolve not to break bread in the
They resumed their silent sitting. The intervals for a word to pass
between them were long, and the ticking of the time-piece fronting the
death-bed ruled the chamber, scarcely varied.
The lamp was raised for the final look, the leave-taking.
Dacier buried his face, thinking many things--the common multitude in
'A servant should be told to come now,' she said. 'I have only to put on
my bonnet and I am ready.'
'You will take no . . . ?'
'It is not too late for a carriage to be ordered.'
He roused the two women in the dressing-room, asleep with heads against
the wall. Thence he sped to his own room for hat and overcoat, and a
sprinkle of cold water. Descending the stairs, he beheld his companion
issuing from the chamber of death. Her lips were shut, her eyelids
They were soon in the warm sweet open air, and they walked without an
interchange of a syllable through the park into the white hawthorn lane,
glad to breathe. Her nostrils took long draughts of air, but of the
change of, scene she appeared scarcely sensible.
At the park-gates, she said: 'There is no necessity four your coming.'
His answer was: 'I think of myself. I gain something every step I walk
'To-day is Thursday,' said she. 'The funeral is . . . ?'
'Monday has been fixed. According to his directions, he will lie in the
churchyard of his village--not in the family vault.'
'I know,' she said hastily. 'They are privileged who follow him and see
the coffin lowered. He spoke of this quiet little resting-place.'
'Yes, it's a good end. I do not wonder at his wish for the honour you
have done him. I could wish it too. But more living than dead--that is
a natural wish.'
'It is not to be called an honour.'
'I should feel it so-an honour to me.'
'It is a friend's duty. The word is too harsh; it was his friend's
desire. He did not ask it so much as he sanctioned it. For to him what
has my sitting beside him been!'
'He had the prospective happiness.'
'He knew well that my soul would be with him--as it was last night.
But he knew it would be my poor human happiness to see him with my eyes,
touch him with my hand, before he passed from our sight.'
Dacier exclaimed: 'How you can love!'
'Is the village church to be seen?' she asked.
'To the right of those elms; that is the spire. The black spot below is
a yew. You love with the whole heart when you love.'
'I love my friends,' she replied.
'You tempt me to envy those who are numbered among them.'
'They are not many.'
'They should be grateful.!
'You have some acquaintance with them all.'
'And an enemy? Had you ever one? Do you know of one?'
'Direct and personal designedly? I think not. We give that title to
those who are disinclined to us and add a dash of darker colour to our
errors. Foxes have enemies in the dogs; heroines of melodramas have
their persecuting villains. I suppose that conditions of life exist
where one meets the original complexities. The bad are in every rank.
The inveterately malignant I have not found. Circumstances may combine
to make a whisper as deadly as a blow, though not of such evil design.
Perhaps if we lived at a Court of a magnificent despot we should learn
that we are less highly civilized than we imagine ourselves; but that is
a fire to the passions, and the extreme is not the perfect test. Our
civilization counts positive gains--unless you take the melodrama for the
truer picture of us. It is always the most popular with the English.--
And look, what a month June is! Yesterday morning I was with Lady
Dunstane on her heights, and I feel double the age. He was fond of
this wild country. We think it a desert, a blank, whither he has gone,
because we will strain to see in the utter dark, and nothing can come of
that but the bursting of the eyeballs.'
Dacier assented: 'There's no use in peering beyond the limits.'
'No,' said she; 'the effect is like the explaining of things to a dull
head--the finishing stroke to the understanding! Better continue to
brood. We get to some unravelment if we are left to our own efforts.
I quarrel with no priest of any denomination. That they should quarrel
among themselves is comprehensible in their wisdom, for each has the
specific. But they show us their way of solving the great problem, and
we ought to thank them, though one or the other abominate us. You are
advised to talk with Lady Dunstane on these themes.
She is perpetually in the antechamber of death, and her soul is
perennially sunshine.--See the pretty cottage under the laburnum curls!
Who lives there?'
'His gamekeeper, Simon Rofe.'
'And what a playground for the children, that bit of common by their
garden-palings! and the pond, and the blue hills over the furzes. I
hope those people will not be turned out.'
Dacier could not tell. He promised to do his best for them.
'But,' said she, 'you are the lord here now.'
'Not likely to be the tenant. Incomes are wanted to support even small
'The reason is good for courting the income.'
He disliked the remark; and when she said presently:
'Those windmills make the landscape homely,' he rejoined: 'They remind
one of our wheeling London gamins round the cab from the station.'
'They remind you,' said she, and smiled at the chance discordant trick he
had, remembering occasions when it had crossed her.
'This is homelier than Rovio,' she said; 'quite as nice in its way.'
'You do not gather flowers here.'
'Because my friend has these at her feet.'
'May one petition without a rival, then, for a souvenir?'
'Certainly, if you care to have a common buttercup.'
They reached the station, five minutes in advance of the train. His
coming manoeuvre was early detected, and she drew from her pocket the
little book he had seen lying unopened on the table, and said: 'I shall
have two good hours for reading.'
'You will not object? . . . I must accompany you to town. Permit it,
I beg. You shall not be worried to talk.'
'No; I came alone and return alone.'
'Fasting and unprotected! Are you determined to take away the worst
impression of us? Do not refuse me this favour.'
'As to fasting, I could not eat: and unprotected no woman is in England,
if she is a third-class traveller. That is my experience of the class;
and I shall return among my natural protectors--the most unselfishly
chivalrous to women in the whole world.'
He had set his heart on going with her, and he attempted eloquence in
pleading, but that exposed him to her humour; he was tripped.
'It is not denied that you belong to the knightly class,' she said; 'and
it is not necessary that you should wear armour and plumes to proclaim
it; and your appearance would be ample protection from the drunken
sailors travelling, you say, on this line; and I may be deplorably
mistaken in imagining that I could tame them. But your knightliness is
due elsewhere; and I commit myself to the fortune of war. It is a battle
for women everywhere; under the most favourable conditions among my dear
common English. I have not my maid with me, or else I should not dare.'
She paid for a third-class ticket, amused by Dacier's look of entreaty
'Of course I obey,' he murmured.
'I have the habit of exacting it in matters concerning my independence,'
she said; and it arrested some rumbling notions in his head as to a piece
of audacity on the starting of the train. They walked up and down the
platform till the bell rang and the train came rounding beneath an arch.
'Oh, by the way, may I ask?'--he said: 'was it your article in
Whitmonby's journal on a speech of mine last week?'
'The guilty writer is confessed.'
'Let me thank you.'
'Don't. But try to believe it written on public grounds--if the task is
not too great.'
'I may call?'
'You will be welcome.'
'To tell you of the funeral--the last of him.'
'Do not fail to come.'
She could have laughed to see him jumping on the steps of the third-class
carriages one after another to choose her company for her. In those pre-
democratic blissful days before the miry Deluge, the opinion of the
requirements of poor English travellers entertained by the Seigneur
Directors of the class above them, was that they differed from cattle in
stipulating for seats. With the exception of that provision to suit
their weakness, the accommodation extended to them resembled pens, and
the seats were emphatically seats of penitence, intended to grind the
sitter for his mean pittance payment and absence of aspiration to a
higher state. Hard angular wood, a low roof, a shabby square of window
aloof, demanding of him to quit the seat he insisted on having, if he
would indulge in views of the passing scenery,--such was the furniture of
dens where a refinement of castigation was practised on villain poverty
by denying leathers to the windows, or else buttons to the leathers, so
that the windows had either to be up or down, but refused to shelter and
Dacier selected a compartment occupied by two old women, a mother and
babe and little maid, and a labouring man. There he installed her, with
an eager look that she would not notice.
'You will want the window down,' he said.
She applied to her fellow-travellers for the permission; and struggling
to get the window down, he was irritated to animadvert on 'these
carriages' of the benevolent railway Company.
'Do not forget that the wealthy are well treated, or you may be unjust,'
said she, to pacify him.
His mouth sharpened its line while he tried arts and energies on the
refractory window. She told him to leave it. 'You can't breathe this
atmosphere!' he cried, and called to a porter, who did the work,
remarking that it was rather stiff.
The door was banged and fastened. Dacier had to hang on the step to see
her in the farewell. From the platform he saw the top of her bonnet; and
why she should have been guilty of this freak of riding in an unwholesome
carriage, tasked his power of guessing. He was too English even to have
taken the explanation, for he detested the distinguishing of the races in
his country, and could not therefore have comprehended her peculiar
tenacity of the sense of injury as long as enthusiasm did not arise to
obliterate it. He required a course of lessons in Irish.
Sauntering down the lane, he called at Simon Rofe's cottage, and spoke
very kindly to the gamekeeper's wife. That might please Diana. It was
all he could do at present.
'THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE'
Descriptions in the newspapers of the rural funeral of Lord Dannisburgh
had the effect of rousing flights of tattlers with a twittering of the
disused name of Warwick; our social Gods renewed their combat, and the
verdict of the jury was again overhauled, to be attacked and maintained,
the carpers replying to the champions that they held to their view of it:
as heads of bull-dogs are expected to do when they have got a grip of
one. It is a point of muscular honour with them never to relax their
hold. They will tell you why:--they formed that opinion from the first.
And but for the swearing of a particular witness, upon whom the plaintiff
had been taught to rely, the verdict would have been different--to prove
their soundness of judgement. They could speak from private positive
information of certain damnatory circumstances, derived from authentic
sources. Visits of a gentleman to the house of a married lady in the
absence of the husband? Oh!--The British Lucretia was very properly not
legally at home to the masculine world of that day. She plied her
distaff in pure seclusion, meditating on her absent lord; or else a fair
proportion of the masculine world, which had not yet, has not yet,
'doubled Cape Turk,' approved her condemnation to the sack.
There was talk in the feminine world, at Lady Wathin's assemblies. The
elevation of her husband had extended and deepened her influence on the
levels where it reigned before, but without, strange as we may think it
now, assisting to her own elevation, much aspired for, to the smooth and
lively upper pavement of Society, above its tumbled strata. She was near
that distinguished surface, not on it. Her circle was practically the
same as it was previous to the coveted nominal rank enabling her to
trample on those beneath it. And women like that Mrs. Warwick, a woman
of no birth, no money, not even honest character, enjoyed the entry
undisputed, circulated among the highest:--because people took her rattle
for wit!--and because also our nobility, Lady Wathin feared, had no due
regard for morality. Our aristocracy, brilliant and ancient though it
was, merited rebuke. She grew severe upon aristocratic scandals, whereof
were plenty among the frolicsome host just overhead, as vexatious as the
drawing-room party to the lodger in the floor below, who has not received
an invitation to partake of the festivities and is required to digest the
noise. But if ambition is oversensitive, moral indignation is ever
consolatory, for it plants us on the Judgement Seat. There indeed we
may, sitting with the very Highest, forget our personal disappointments
in dispensing reprobation for misconduct, however eminent the offenders.
She was Lady Wathin, and once on an afternoon's call to see poor Lady
Dunstane at her town-house, she had been introduced to Lady Pennon, a
patroness of Mrs. Warwick, and had met a snub--an icy check-bow of the
aristocratic head from the top of the spinal column, and not a word, not
a look; the half-turn of a head devoid of mouth and eyes! She practised
that forbidding checkbow herself to perfection, so the endurance of it
was horrible. A noli me tangere, her husband termed it, in his
ridiculous equanimity; and he might term it what he pleased--it was
insulting. The solace she had was in hearing that hideous Radical
Revolutionary things were openly spoken at Mrs. Warwick's evenings with
her friends:--impudently named 'the elect of London.' Pleasing to
reflect upon Mrs. Warwick as undermining her supporters, to bring them
some day down with a crash! Her 'elect of London' were a queer
gathering, by report of them! And Mr. Whitmonby too, no doubt a
celebrity, was the right-hand man at these dinner-parties of Mrs.
Warwick. Where will not men go to be flattered by a pretty woman! He
had declined repeated, successive invitations to Lady Wathin's table.
But there of course he would not have had 'the freedom': that is, she
rejoiced in thinking defensively and offensively, a moral wall enclosed
her topics. The Hon. Percy Dacier had been brought to her Thursday
afternoon by. Mr. Quintin Manx, and he had one day dined with her; and
he knew Mrs. Warwick--a little, he said. The opportunity was not lost to
convey to him, entirely in the interest of sweet Constance Asper, that
the moral world entertained a settled view of the very clever woman Mrs.
Warwick certainly was. He had asked Diana, on their morning walk to the
station, whether she had an enemy: so prone are men, educated by the
Drama and Fiction in the belief that the garden of civilized life must be
at the mercy of the old wild devourers, to fancy 'villain whispers' an
indication of direct animosity. Lady Wathin had no sentiment of the
But she had become acquainted with the other side of the famous
Dannisburgh case--the unfortunate plaintiff; and compassion as well as
morality moved her to put on a speaking air when Mr. Warwick's name was
mentioned. She pictured him to the ladies of her circle as 'one of our
true gentlemen in his deportment and his feelings.' He was, she would
venture to say, her ideal of an English gentleman. 'But now,' she added
commiseratingly, 'ruined; ruined in his health and in his prospects.'
A lady inquired if it was the verdict that had thus affected him. Lady
Wathin's answer was reported over moral, or substratum, London: 'He is
the victim of a fatal passion for his wife; and would take her back to-
morrow were she to solicit his forgiveness.' Morality had something to
say against this active marital charity, attributable, it was to be
feared, to weakness of character on the part of the husband. Still Mrs.
Warwick undoubtedly was one of those women (of Satanic construction) who
have the art of enslaving the men unhappy enough to cross their path.
The nature of the art was hinted, with the delicacy of dainty feet which
have to tread in mire to get to safety. Men, alas! are snared in this
way. Instances too numerous for the good repute of the swinish sex,
were cited, and the question of how Morality was defensible from their
grossness passed without a tactical reply. There is no defence: Those
women come like the Cholera Morbus--and owing to similar causes. They
will prevail until the ideas of men regarding women are purified.
Nevertheless the husband who could forgive, even propose to forgive, was
deemed by consent generous, however weak. Though she might not have been
wholly guilty, she had bitterly offended. And he despatched an emissary
to her?--The theme, one may, in their language, 'fear,' was relished as a
sugared acid. It was renewed in the late Autumn of the year, when
ANTONIA published her new book, entitled THE YOUNG MINISTER of STATE.
The signature of the authoress was now known; and from this resurgence of
her name in public, suddenly a radiation of tongues from the circle of
Lady Wathin declared that the repentant Mrs. Warwick had gone back to her
husband's bosom and forgiveness! The rumour spread in spite of sturdy
denials at odd corners, counting the red-hot proposal of Mr. Sullivan
Smith to eat his head and boots for breakfast if it was proved correct.
It filled a yawn of the Clubs for the afternoon. Soon this wanton rumour
was met and stifled by another of more morbific density, heavily charged
as that which led the sad Eliza to her pyre.
ANTONIA's hero was easily identified. THE YOUNG MINISTER of STATE could
be he only who was now at all her parties, always meeting her; had been
spied walking with her daily in the park near her house, on his march
down to Westminster during the session; and who positively went to