Part 7 out of 9
comfortable. And I would rather meet your usual set of guests.'
'The reason why I have been entertaining at night is, that Percy is
harassed and requires enlivening,' said Diana. 'He brings his friends.
My house is open to them, if it amuses him. What the world says, is past
a thought. I owe him too much.'
Emma murmured that the world would soon be pacified.
Diana shook her head. 'The poor man is better; able to go about his
affairs; and I am honestly relieved. It lays a spectre. As for me, I do
not look ahead. I serve as a kind of secretary to Percy. I labour at
making abstracts by day, and at night preside at my suppertable. You
would think it monotonous; no incident varies the course we run. I have
no time to ask whether it is happiness. It seems to bear a resemblance.'
Emma replied: 'He may be everything you tell me. He should not have
chosen the last night of the Opera to go to your box and sit beside you
till the fall of the curtain. The presence at the Opera of a man
notoriously indifferent to music was enough in itself.'
Diana smiled with languor. 'You heard of that? But the Opera was The
Puritani, my favourite. And he saw me sitting in Lady Pennon's box
alone. We were compromised neck-deep already. I can kiss you, my own
Emmy, till I die; 'but what the world says, is what the wind says.
Besides he has his hopes.... If I am blackened ever so thickly, he can
make me white. Dear me! if the world knew that he comes here almost
nightly! It will; and does it matter? I am his in soul; the rest is
waste-paper--a half-printed sheet.'
'Provided he is worthy of such devotion!'
'He is absolute worthiness. He is the prince of men: I dread to say,
mine! for fear. But Emmy will not judge him to-morrow by contrast with
more voluble talkers.--I can do anything but read poetry now. That kills
me!--See him through me. In nature, character, intellect, he has no
rival. Whenever I despond--and it comes now and then--I rebuke myself
with this one admonition.
Simply to have known him! Admit that for a woman to find one who is
worthy among the opposite creatures, is a happy termination of her quest,
and in some sort dismisses her to the Shades, an uncomplaining ferry-
bird. If my end were at hand I should have no cause to lament it. We
women miss life only when we have to confess we have never met the man to
Emma had to hear a very great deal of Mr. Percy. Diana's comparison of
herself to 'the busy bee at a window-pane,' was more in her old manner;
and her friend would have hearkened to the marvels of the gentle man less
unrefreshed, had it not appeared to her that her Tony gave in excess for
what was given in return. She hinted her view. . .
'It is expected of our sex,' Diana said.
The work of busy bee at a window-pane had at any rate not spoilt her
beauty, though she had voluntarily, profitlessly, become this man's
drudge, and her sprightly fancy, her ready humour and darting look all
round in discussion, were rather deadened.
But the loss was not perceptible in the circle of her guests. Present
at a dinner little indicating the last, were Whitmonby, in lively trim
for shuffling, dealing, cutting, trumping or drawing trumps; Westlake,
polishing epigrams under his eyelids; Henry Wilmers, who timed an
anecdote to strike as the passing hour without freezing the current;
Sullivan Smith, smoked, cured and ready to flavour; Percy Dacier,
pleasant listener, measured speaker; and young Arthur Rhodes, the
neophyte of the hostess's training; of whom she had said to Emma, 'The
dear boy very kindly serves to frank an unlicenced widow'; and whom she
prompted and made her utmost of, with her natural tact. These she mixed
and leavened. The talk was on high levels and low; an enchantment to
Emma Dunstane: now a story; a question opening new routes, sharp sketches
of known personages; a paradox shot by laughter as soon as uttered; and
all so smoothly; not a shadow of the dominant holder-forth or a momentary
prospect of dead flats; the mellow ring of appositeness being the
concordant note of deliveries running linked as they flashed, and a
tolerant philosophy of the sage in the world recurrently the keynote.
Once only had Diana to protect her nurseling. He cited a funny line
from a recent popular volume of verse, in perfect A propos, looking at
Sullivan Smith; who replied, that the poets had become too many for him,
and he read none now. Diana said: 'There are many Alexanders, but
Alexander of Macedon is not dwarfed by the number.' She gave him an
opening for a smarter reply, but he lost it in a comment--against
Whitmonby's cardinal rule: 'The neatest turn of the wrist that ever swung
a hero to crack a crown!' and he bowed to young Rhodes: 'I 'll read your
versicler to-morrow morning early.' The latter expressed a fear that the
hour was too critical for poetry.
'I have taken the dose at a very early hour,' said Whitmonby, to bring
conversation to the flow again, 'and it effaced the critical mind
'But did not silence the critical nose,' observed Westlake.
Wilmers named the owner of the longest nose in Europe.
'Potentially, indeed a critic!' said Diana.
'Nights beside it must be fearful, and good matter for a divorce, if the
poor dear lady could hale it to the doors of the Vatican!' Sullivan Smith
exclaimed. 'But there's character in noses.'
'Calculable by inches?' Dacier asked.
'More than in any other feature,' said Lady Dunstane. 'The Riffords are
all prodigiously gifted and amusing: suspendens omnia naso. It should be
prayed for in families.'
'Totum ut to faciant, Fabulle, nasum,' rejoined Whitmonby. 'Lady
Isabella was reading the tale of the German princess, who had a sentinel
stationed some hundred yards away to whisk off the flies, and she owned
to me that her hand instinctively travelled upward.'
'Candour is the best concealment, when one has to carry a saddle of
absurdity,' said Diana. 'Touchstone's "poor thing, but mine own," is
godlike in its enveloping fold.'
'The most comforting sermon ever delivered on property in poverty,' said
Westlake assented. 'His choice of Audrey strikes me as an exhibition of
the sure instinct for pasture of the philosophical jester in a forest.'
' With nature's woman, if he can find her, the urban seems equally at
home,' said Lady Dunstane.
'Baron Pawle is an example,' added Whitmonby. 'His cook is a pattern
wife to him. I heard him say at table that she was responsible for all
except the wines. "I wouldn't have them on my conscience, with a Judge!"
my lady retorted.'
'When poor Madame de Jacquieres was dying,' said Wilmers, 'her confessor
sat by her bedside, prepared for his ministrations. "Pour commencer, mon
ami, jamais je n'ai fait rien hors nature."'
Lord Wadaster had uttered something tolerably similar: 'I am a sinner,
and in good society.' Sir Abraham Hartiston, a minor satellite of the
Regent, diversified this: 'I am a sinner, and go to good society.'
Madame la Comtesse de la Roche-Aigle, the cause of many deaths, declared
it unwomanly to fear anything save 'les revenants.' Yet the countess
could say the pretty thing: 'Foot on a flower, then think of me!'
'Sentimentality puts up infant hands for absolution,' said Diana.
'But tell me,' Lady Dunstane inquired generally, 'why men are so much
happier than women in laughing at their spouses?'
They are humaner, was one dictum; they are more frivolous, ironically
'It warrants them for blowing the bugle-horn of masculine superiority
night and morning from the castle-walls,' Diana said.
'I should imagine it is for joy of heart that they still have cause to
laugh!' said Westlake.
On the other hand, are women really pained by having to laugh at their
lords? Curious little speeches flying about the great world, affirmed
the contrary. But the fair speakers were chartered libertines, and their
laugh admittedly had a biting acid. The parasite is concerned in the
majesty of the tree.
'We have entered Botany Bay,' Diana said to Emma; who answered: 'A
metaphor is the Deus ex machine, of an argument'; and Whitmonby, to
lighten a shadow of heaviness, related allusively an anecdote of the Law
Courts. Sullivan Smith begged permission to 'black cap' it with Judge
FitzGerald's sentence upon a convicted criminal: 'Your plot was perfect
but for One above.' Dacier cited an execrable impromptu line of the
Chief of the Opposition in Parliament. The Premier, it was remarked,
played him like an angler his fish on the hook; or say, Mr. Serjeant
Rufus his witness in the box.
'Or a French journalist an English missionary,' said Westlake; and as the
instance was recent it was relished.
The talk of Premiers offered Whitmonby occasion for a flight to the Court
of Vienna and Kaunitz. Wilmers told a droll story of Lord Busby's
missing the Embassy there. Westlake furnished a sample of the tranquil
sententiousness of Busby's brother Robert during a stormy debate in the
House of Commons.
'I remember,' Dacier was reminded, 'hearing him say, when the House
resembled a Chartist riot, "Let us stand aside and meditate on Life. If
Youth could know, in the season of its reaping of the Pleasures, that it
is but sowing Doctor's bills!"'
Latterly a malady had supervened, and Bob Busby had retired from the
universal to the special;--his mysterious case.
'Assure him, that is endemic. He may be cured of his desire for the
exposition of it,' said Lady Dunstane.
Westlake chimed with her: 'Yes, the charm in discoursing of one's case is
over when the individual appears no longer at odds with Providence.'
'But then we lose our Tragedy,' said Whitmonby.
'Our Comedy too,' added Diana. 'We must consent to be Busbied for the
sake of the instructive recreations.'
'A curious idea, though,' said Sullivan Smith, 'that some of the grand
instructive figures were in their day colossal bores!'
'So you see the marvel of the poet's craft at last?' Diana smiled on him,
and he vowed: 'I'll read nothing else for a month!' Young Rhodes bade him
beware of a deluge in proclaiming it.
They rose from table at ten, with the satisfaction of knowing that
they had not argued, had not wrangled, had never stagnated, and were
digestingly refreshed; as it should be among grown members of the
civilized world, who mean to practise philosophy, making the hour of
the feast a balanced recreation and a regeneration of body and mind.
'Evenings like these are worth a pilgrimage,' Emma said, embracing Tony
outside the drawing-room door. 'I am so glad I came: and if I am strong
enough, invite me again in the Spring. To-morrow early I start for
Copsley, to escape this London air. I shall hope to have you there
She was pleased by hearing Tony ask her whether she did not think that
Arthur Rhodes had borne himself well; for it breathed of her simply
The gentlemen followed Lady Dunstane in a troop, Dacier yielding perforce
the last adieu to young Rhodes.
Five minutes later Diana was in her dressing-room, where she wrote at
night, on the rare occasions now when she was left free for composition.
Beginning to dwell on THE MAN OF TWO MINDS, she glanced at the woman
likewise divided, if not similarly; and she sat brooding. She did not
accuse her marriage of being the first fatal step: her error was the step
into Society without the wherewithal to support her position there.
Girls of her kind, airing their wings above the sphere of their birth,
are cryingly adventuresses. As adventuresses they are treated.
Vain to be shrewish with the world! Rather let us turn and scold our
nature for irreflectively rushing to the cream and honey! Had she
subsisted on her small income in a country cottage, this task of writing
would have been holiday. Or better, if, as she preached to Mary Paynham,
she had apprenticed herself to some productive craft. The simplicity of
the life of labour looked beautiful. What will not look beautiful
contrasted with the fly in the web? She had chosen to be one of the
flies of life.
Instead of running to composition, her mind was eloquent with a sermon
to Arthur Rhodes, in Redworth's vein; more sympathetically, of course.
'For I am not one of the lecturing Mammonites!' she could say.
She was far from that. Penitentially, in the thick of her disdain of the
arrogant money-Betters, she pulled out a drawer where her bank-book lay,
and observed it contemplatively; jotting down a reflection before the
dread book of facts was opened: 'Gaze on the moral path you should have
taken, you are asked for courage to commit a sanctioned suicide, by
walking back to it stripped--a skeleton self.' She sighed forth: 'But I
have no courage: I never had!' The book revealed its tale in a small
pencilled computation of the bank-clerk's; on the peccant side. Credit
presented many pages blanks. She seemed to have withdrawn from the
struggle with such a partner.
It signified an immediate appeal to the usurers, unless the publisher
could be persuaded, with three parts of the book in his hands, to come to
the rescue. Work! roared old Debit, the sinner turned slavedriver.
Diana smoothed her wrists, compressing her lips not to laugh at the
simulation of an attitude of combat. She took up her pen.
And strange to think, she could have flowed away at once on the stuff
that Danvers delighted to read!--wicked princes, rogue noblemen, titled
wantons, daisy and lily innocents, traitorous marriages, murders, a
gallows dangling a corpse dotted by a moon, and a woman bowed beneath.
She could have written, with the certainty that in the upper and the
middle as well as in the lower classes of the country, there would be a
multitude to read that stuff, so cordially, despite the gaps between
them, are they one in their literary tastes. And why should they not
read it? Her present mood was a craving for excitement; for incident,
wild action, the primitive machinery of our species; any amount of
theatrical heroics, pathos, and clown-gabble. A panorama of scenes came
sweeping round her.
She was, however, harnessed to a different kind of vehicle, and had to
drag it. The sound of the house-door shutting, imagined perhaps, was a
fugitive distraction. Now to animate The Man of Two Minds!
He is courting, but he is burdened with the task of tasks. He has an
ideal of womanhood and of the union of couples: a delicacy extreme as his
attachment: and he must induce the lady to school herself to his ideal,
not allowing her to suspect him less devoted to her person; while she,
an exacting idol, will drink any quantity of idealization as long as he
starts it from a full acceptance of her acknowledged qualities. Diana
could once have tripped the scene along airily. She stared at the
opening sentence, a heavy bit of moralized manufacture, fit to yoke
beside that on her view of her bank-book.
'It has come to this--I have no head,' she cried.
And is our public likely to muster the slightest taste for comic analysis
that does not tumble to farce? The doubt reduced her whole MS. to a
leaden weight, composed for sinking. Percy's addiction to burlesque was
a further hindrance, for she did not perceive how her comedy could be
strained to gratify it.
There was a knock, and Danvers entered. 'You have apparently a liking
for late hours,' observed her mistress. 'I told you to go to bed.' 'It
is Mr. Dacier,' said Danvers. 'He wishes to see me?' 'Yes, ma'am. He
apologized for disturbing you.' 'He must have some good reason.' What
could it be! Diana's glass approved her appearance. She pressed the
black swell of hair above her temples, rather amazed, curious, inclined
to a beating of the heart.
A CHAPTER CONTAINING GREAT POLITICAL NEWS AND THEREWITH AN INTRUSION OF
Dacier was pacing about the drawing-room, as in a place too narrow for
Diana stood at the door. 'Have you forgotten to tell me anything I ought
He came up to her and shut the door softly behind her, holding her hand.
'You are near it. I returned . . But tell me first:--You were slightly
under a shadow this evening, dejected.'
'Did I show it?'
She was growing a little suspicious, but this cunning touch of lover-like
interest dispersed the shade.
'To me you did.'
'It was unpardonable to let it be seen.'
'No one else could have observed it.'
Her woman's heart was thrilled; for she had concealed the dejection from
'It was nothing,' she said; 'a knot in the book I am writing. We poor
authors are worried now and then. But you?'
His face rippled by degrees brightly, to excite a reflection in hers.
'Shall I tune you with good news? I think it will excuse me for coming
'Very good news?'
'Brave news, as far as it goes.'
'Then it concerns you!'
'Me, you, the country.'
'Oh! do I guess?' cried Diana. 'But speak, pray; I burn.'
'What am I to have for telling it?'
'Put no price. You know my heart. I guess--or fancy. It relates to
Dacier smiled in a way to show the lock without the key; and she was
insensibly drawn nearer to him, speculating on the smile.
'Try again,' said he, keenly appreciating the blindness to his motive of
her studious dark eyes, and her open-lipped breathing.
'Percy! I must be right.'
'Well, you are. He has decided!'
'Oh! that is the bravest possible. When did you hear?'
'He informed me of his final decision this afternoon.'
'And you were charged with the secret all the evening, and betrayed not a
sign! I compliment the diplomatic statesman. But when will it be
'He calls Parliament together the first week of next month.'
'The proposal is--? No more compromises!'
Diana clapped hands; and her aspect of enthusiasm was intoxicating.
'He is a wise man and a gallant Minister! And while you were reading me
through, I was blind to you,' she added meltingly.
'I have not made too much of it?' said he.
'Indeed you have not.'
She was radiant with her dark lightnings, yet visibly subject to him
under the spell of the news he had artfully lengthened out to excite and
overbalance her:--and her enthusiasm was all pointed to his share in the
altered situation, as he well knew and was flattered in knowing.
'So Tony is no longer dejected? I thought I could freshen you and get my
'Oh! a high wind will make a dead leaf fly like a bird. I soar. Now I
do feel proud. I have longed for it--to have you leading the country:
not tugged at like a waggon with a treble team uphill. We two are a
month in advance of all England. You stand by him?--only to hear it, for
I am sure of it!'
'We stand or fall together.'
Her glowing look doated on the faithful lieutenant.
'And if the henchman is my hero, I am but a waiting-woman. But I must
admire his leader.'
'Ah! no,' she joined her hands, wondering whither her armed majesty had
fled; 'no softness! no payments! Flatter me by letting me think you
came to a head not a silly woman's heart, with one name on it, as it has
not to betray. I have been frank; you need no proofs . . .' The
supplicating hands left her figure an easy prey to the storm, and were
crushed in a knot on her bosom. She could only shrink. 'Ah! Percy . .
you undo my praise of you--my pride in receiving you.'
They were speechless perforce.
'You see, Tony, my dearest, I am flesh and blood after all.'
'You drive me to be ice and door-bolts!'
Her eyes broke over him reproachfully.
'It is not so much to grant,' he murmured.
'It changes everything between us.'
'Not me. It binds me the faster.'
'It makes me a loathsome hypocrite.'
'But, Tony! is it so much?'
'Not if you value it low.'
'But how long do you keep me in this rag-puppet's state of suspension?'
'Dangling and swinging day and night!'
'The rag-puppet shall be animated and repaid if I have life. I wish to
respect my hero. Have a little mercy. Our day will come: perhaps as
wonderfully as this wonderful news. My friend, drop your hands. Have
you forgotten who I am? I want to think, Percy!'
'But you are mine.'
'You are abasing your own.'
'No, by heaven!'
'Worse, dear friend; you are lowering yourself to the woman who loves
'You must imagine me superhuman.'
'I worship you--or did.'
'Be reasonable, Tony. What harm! Surely a trifle of recompense? Just
to let me feel I live! You own you love me. Then I am your lover.'
'My dear friend Percy, when I have consented to be your paramour, this
kind of treatment of me will not want apologies.'
The plain speaking from the wound he dealt her was effective with a
gentleman who would never have enjoyed his privileges had he been of a
nature unsusceptible to her distinct wish and meaning.
He sighed. 'You know how my family bother me. The woman I want, the
only woman I could marry, I can't have.'
'You have her in soul.'
'Body and soul, it must be! I believe you were made without fire.'
'Perhaps. The element is omitted with some of us happily, some think.
Now we can converse. There seems to be a measurement of distances
required before men and women have a chance with their brains:--or before
a man will understand that he can be advised and seconded. When will the
Cabinet be consulted?'
'Oh, a few days. Promise me . . .'
'Any honourable promise!'
'You will not keep me waiting longer than the end of the Session?'
'Probably there will be an appeal to the country.'
'In any case, promise me: have some compassion.'
'Ah, the compassion! You do not choose your words, Percy, or forget who
is the speaker.'
'It is Tony who forgets the time she has kept her lover dangling.
Promise, and I will wait.'
'You hurt my hand, sir.'
'I could crack the knuckles. Promise!'
'Come to me to-morrow.'
'To-morrow you are in your armour-triple brass! All creation cries out
for now. We are mounted on barbs and you talk of ambling.'
'Arthur Rhodes might have spoken that.'
'Rhodes!' he shook off the name in disgust. 'Pet him as much as you
like; don't . . .' he was unable to phrase his objection.
She cooled him further with eulogies of the chevaleresque manner of
speaking which young Mr. Rhodes could assume; till for very wrath of
blood--not jealousy: he had none of any man, with her; and not passion;
the little he had was a fitful gust--he punished her coldness by taking
what hastily could be gathered.
Her shape was a pained submission; and she thought: Where is the woman
who ever knows a man!--as women do think when one of their artifices of
evasion with a lover, or the trick of imposingness, has apparently been
subduing him. But the pain was less than previously, for she was now
mistress of herself, fearing no abysses.
Dacier released her quickly, saying: 'If I come tomorrow, shall I have
She answered: 'Be sure I shall not lie.'
'Why not let me have it before I go?'
'My friend, to tell you the truth, you have utterly distracted me.'
'Forgive me if I did hurt your hand.'
'The hand? You might strike it off.'
'I can't be other than a mortal lover, Tony. There's the fact.'
'No; the fault is mine when I am degraded. I trust you: there's the
The trial for Dacier was the sight of her quick-lifting; bosom under the
mask of cold language: an attraction and repulsion in union; a delirium
to any lover impelled to trample on weak defences. But the evident pain
he inflicted moved his pity, which helped to restore his conception of
the beauty of her character. She stood so nobly meek. And she was never
prudish, only self-respecting. Although the great news he imparted had
roused an ardent thirst for holiday and a dash out of harness, and he
could hardly check it, he yielded her the lead.
'Trust me you may,' he said. 'But you know--we are one. The world has
given you to me, me to you. Why should we be asunder? There's no reason
She replied: 'But still I wish to burn a little incense in honour of
myself, or else I cannot live. It is the truth. You make Death my truer
friend, and at this moment I would willingly go out. You would respect
me more dead than alive. I could better pardon you too.'
He pleaded for the red mouth's pardon, remotely irritated by the
suspicion that she swayed him overmuch: and he had deserved the small
benevolences and donations of love, crumbs and heavenly dews!
'Not a word of pardon,' said Diana. 'I shall never count an iota against
you "in the dark backward and abysm of Time." This news is great, and I
have sunk beneath it. Come tomorrow. Then we will speak upon whatever
you can prove rational. The hour is getting late.'
Dacier took a draught of her dark beauty with the crimson he had kindled
over the cheeks. Her lips were firmly closed, her eyes grave; dry, but
seeming to waver tearfully in their heavy fulness. He could not doubt
her love of him; and although chafing at the idea that she swayed him
absurdly--beyond the credible in his world of wag-tongues--he resumed his
natural soberness, as a garment, not very uneasily fitting: whence it
ensued--for so are we influenced by the garb we put on us--that his manly
sentiment of revolt in being condemned to play second, was repressed by
the refreshment breathed on him from her lofty character, the pure jewel
proffered to his, inward ownership.
'Adieu for the night,' he said, and she smiled. He pressed for a
pressure of her hand. She brightened her smile instead, and said only:
'Good night, Percy.'
WHEREIN WE BEHOLD A GIDDY TURN AT THE SPECTRAL CROSSWAYS
Danvers accompanied Mr. Dacier to the house-door. Climbing the stairs,
she found her mistress in the drawing-room still.
'You must be cold, ma'am,' she said, glancing at the fire-grate.
'Is it a frost?' said Diana.
'It's midnight and midwinter, ma'am.'
'Has it struck midnight?'
The mantel-piece clock said five minutes past.
'You had better go to bed, Danvers, or you will lose your bloom. Stop;
you are a faithful soul. Great things are happening and I am agitated.
Mr. Dacier has told me news. He came back purposely.'
'Yes, ma'am,' said Danvers. 'He had a great deal to tell?'
'Well, he had.' Diana coloured at the first tentative impertinence she
had heard from her maid. 'What is the secret of you, Danvers? What
attaches you to me?'
'I'm sure I don't know, ma'am. I'm romantic.'
'And you think me a romantic object?'
'I'm sure I can't say, ma'am. I'd rather serve you than any other lady;
and I wish you was happy.'
'Do you suppose I am unhappy?'
'I'm sure--but if I may speak, ma'am: so handsome and clever a lady!
and young! I can't bear to see it.'
'Tush, you silly woman. You read your melting tales, and imagine.
I must go and write for money: it is my profession. And I haven't an
idea in my head. This news disturbs me. Ruin if I don't write; so I
Diana beheld the ruin. She clasped the great news for succour. Great
indeed: and known but to her of all the outer world. She was ahead of
all--ahead of Mr. Tonans!
The visionary figure of Mr. Tonans petrified by the great news, drinking
it, and confessing her ahead of him in the race for secrets, arose
toweringly. She had not ever seen the Editor in his den at midnight.
With the rumble of his machinery about him, and fresh matter arriving
and flying into the printing-press, it must be like being in the very
furnace-hissing of Events: an Olympian Council held in Vulcan's smithy.
Consider the bringing to the Jove there news of such magnitude as to
stupefy him! He, too, who had admonished her rather sneeringly for
staleness in her information. But this news, great though it was,
and throbbing like a heart plucked out of a breathing body, throbbed but
for a brief term, a day or two; after which, great though it was,
immense, it relapsed into a common organ, a possession of the multitude,
merely historically curious.
'You are not afraid of the streets at night?' Diana said to her maid, as
they were going upstairs.
'Not when we're driving, ma'am,' was the answer.
THE MAN OF TWO MINDS faced his creatrix in the dressing-room, still
delivering that most ponderous of sentences--a smothering pillow!
I have mistaken my vocation, thought Diana: I am certainly the flattest
proser who ever penned a line.
She sent Dangers into the bedroom on a trifling errand, unable to bear
the woman's proximity, and oddly unwilling to dismiss her.
She pressed her hands on her eyelids. Would Percy have humiliated her
so if he had respected her? He took advantage of the sudden loss of her
habitual queenly initiative at the wonderful news to debase and stain
their intimacy. The lover's behaviour was judged by her sensations: she
felt humiliated, plucked violently from the throne where she had long
been sitting securely, very proudly. That was at an end. If she was to
be better than the loathsomest of hypocrites, she must deny him his
admission to the house. And then what was her life!
Something that was pressing her low, she knew not how, and left it
unquestioned, incited her to exaggerate the indignity her pride had
suffered. She was a dethroned woman. Deeper within, an unmasked
actress, she said. Oh, she forgave him! But clearly he took her for
the same as other women consenting to receive a privileged visitor.
And sounding herself to the soul, was she so magnificently better?
Her face flamed. She hugged her arms at her breast to quiet the beating,
and dropped them when she surprised herself embracing the memory. He had
brought political news, and treated her as--name the thing! Not
designedly, it might be: her position invited it. 'The world had given
her to him.' The world is always a prophet of the mire; but the world is
no longer an utterly mistaken world. She shook before it.
She asked herself why Percy or the world should think highly of an
adventuress, who was a denounced wife, a wretched author, and on the
verge of bankruptcy. She was an adventuress. When she held The
Crossways she had at least a bit of solid footing: now gone. An
adventuress without an idea in her head: witness her dullard,
The Man of Two Minds, at his work of sermonizing his mistress.
The tremendous pressure upon our consciousness of the material cause,
when we find ourselves cast among the breakers of moral difficulties and
endeavour to elude that mudvisaged monster, chiefly by feigning
unconsciousness, was an experience of Diana's, in the crisis to which she
was wrought. Her wits were too acute, her nature too direct, to permit
of a lengthened confusion. She laid the scourge on her flesh smartly.
--I gave him these privileges because I am weak as the weakest, base as
my enemies proclaim me. I covered my woman's vile weakness with an air
of intellectual serenity that he, choosing his moment, tore away,
exposing me to myself, as well as to him, the most ordinary of reptiles.
I kept up a costly household for the sole purpose of seeing him and
having him near me. Hence this bitter need of money!--Either it must be
money or disgrace. Money would assist her quietly to amend and complete
her work. Yes, and this want of money, in a review of the last two
years, was the material cause of her recklessness. It was, her revived
and uprising pudency declared, the principal; the only cause. Mere want
And she had a secret worth thousands! The secret of a day, no more:
anybody's secret after some four and twenty hours.
She smiled at the fancied elongation and stare of the features of Mr.
Tonans in his editorial midnight den.
What if he knew it and could cap it with something novel and stranger?
Hardly. But it was an inciting suggestion.
She began to tremble as a lightning-flash made visible her fortunes
recovered, disgrace averted, hours of peace for composition stretching
before her: a summer afternoon's vista.
It seemed a duel between herself and Mr. Tonans, and she sure of her
'Danvers!' she called.
'Is it to undress, ma'am?' said the maid, entering to her.
'You are not afraid of the streets, you tell me. I have to go down to
the City, I think. It is urgent. Yes, I must go. If I were to impart
the news to you, your head would be a tolling bell for a month.'
'You will take a cab, ma'am.'
'We must walk out to find one. I must go, though I should have to go on
foot. Quick with bonnet and shawl; muffle up warmly. We have never been
out so late: but does it matter? You're a brave soul, I'm sure, and you
shall have your fee.'
'I don't care for money, ma'am.'
'When we get home you shall kiss me.'
Danvers clothed her mistress in furs and rich wrappings: Not paid for!
was Diana's desperate thought, and a wrong one; but she had to seem the
precipitated bankrupt and succeeded. She was near being it. The boiling
of her secret carried her through the streets rapidly and unobservantly
except of such small things as the glow of the lights on the pavements
and the hushed cognizance of the houses, in silence to a thoroughfare
where a willing cabman was met. The destination named, he nodded alertly
he had driven gentlemen there at night from the House of Commons, he
'Our Parliament is now sitting, and you drive ladies,' Diana replied.
'I hope I know one, never mind the hour,' said he of the capes.
He was bidden to drive rapidly.
'Complexion a tulip: you do not often see a pale cabman,' she remarked to
Danvers, who began laughing, as she always expected to do on an excursion
with her mistress.
'Do you remember, ma'am, the cabman taking us to the coach, when you
thought of going to the continent?'
'And I went to The Crossways? I have forgotten him.'
'He declared you was so beautiful a lady he would drive you to the end of
England for nothing.'
'It must have been when I was paying him. Put it out of your mind,
Danvers, that there are individual cabmen. They are the painted flowers
of our metropolitan thoroughfares, and we gather them in rows.'
'They have their feelings, ma'am.'
'Brandied feelings are not pathetic to me.'
'I like to think kindly of them,' Danvers remarked, in reproof of her
inhumanity; adding: 'They may overturn us!' at which Diana laughed.
Her eyes were drawn to a brawl of women and men in the street. 'Ah!
that miserable sight!' she cried. 'It is the everlasting nightmare of
Danvers humped, femininely injured by the notice of it. She wondered her
mistress should deign to.
Rolling on between the blind and darkened houses, Diana transferred her
sensations to them, and in a fit of the nerves imagined them beholding a
funeral convoy without followers.
They came in view of the domed cathedral, hearing, in a pause of the
wheels, the bell of the hour. 'Faster--faster! my dear man,' Diana
murmured, and they entered a small still square of many lighted windows.
'This must be where the morrow is manufactured,' she said. 'Tell the man
to wait.--Or rather it's the mirror of yesterday: we have to look
backward to see forward in life.'
She talked her cool philosophy to mask her excitement from herself.
Her card, marked: 'Imperative-two minutes,' was taken up to Mr. Tonans.
They ascended to the editorial ante-room. Doors opened and shut, hasty
feet traversed the corridors, a dull hum in dumbness told of mighty
business at work. Diana received the summons to the mighty head of the
establishment. Danvers was left to speculate. She heard the voice of
Mr. Tonans: 'Not more than two!' This was not a place for compliments.
Men passed her, hither and yonder, cursorily noticing the presence of a
woman. She lost, very strangely to her, the sense of her sex and became
an object--a disregarded object. Things of more importance were about.
Her feminine self-esteem was troubled; all idea of attractiveness
expired. Here was manifestly a spot where women had dropped from the
secondary to the cancelled stage of their extraordinary career in a world
either blowing them aloft like soap-bubbles or quietly shelving them as
supernumeraries. A gentleman--sweet vision!--shot by to the editor's
door, without even looking cursorily. He knocked. Mr. Tonans appeared
and took him by the arm, dictating at a great rate; perceived Danvers,
frowned at the female, and requested him to wait in the room, which the
gentleman did, not once casting eye upon a woman. At last her mistress
returned to her, escorted so far by Mr. Tonans, and he refreshingly bent
his back to bow over her hand: so we have the satisfaction of knowing
that we are not such poor creatures after all! Suffering in person,
Danvers was revived by the little show of homage to her sex.
They descended the stairs.
'You are not an Editor of a paper, but you may boast that you have been
near the nest of one,' Diana said, when they resumed their seats in the
cab. She breathed deeply from time to time, as if under a weight, or
relieved of it, but she seemed animated, and she dropped now and again a
funny observation of the kind that tickled Danvers and caused the maid to
boast of her everywhere as better than a Play.
At home, Danvers busied her hands to supply her mistress a cup of
refreshing tea and a plate of biscuits.
Diana had stunned herself with the strange weight of the expedition, and
had not a thought. In spite of tea at that hour, she slept soundly
through the remainder of the night, dreamlessly till late into the
EXHIBITS THE SPRINGING OF A MINE IN A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE
The powers of harmony would seem to be tried to their shrewdest pitch
when Politics and Love are planted together in a human breast. This
apparently opposite couple can nevertheless chant a very sweet accord,
as was shown by Dacier on his homeward walk from Diana's house. Let Love
lead, the God will make music of any chamber-comrade. He was able to
think of affairs of State while feeling the satisfied thirst of the lover
whose pride, irritated by confidential wild eulogies of the beautiful
woman, had recently clamoured for proofs of his commandership. The
impression she stamped on him at Copsley remained, but it could not
occupy the foreground for ever. He did not object to play second to her
sprightly wits in converse, if he had some warm testimony to his mastery
over her blood. For the world had given her to him, enthusiastic friends
had congratulated him: she had exalted him for true knightliness; and he
considered the proofs well earned, though he did not value them low.
They were little by comparison. They lighted, instead of staining, her
unparalleled high character.
She loved him. Full surely did she love him, or such a woman would never
have consented to brave the world; once in their project of flight, and
next, even more endearingly when contemplated, in the sacrifice of her
good name; not omitting that fervent memory of her pained submission,
but a palpitating submission, to his caress. She was in his arms again
at the thought of it. He had melted her, and won the confession of her
senses by a surprise, and he owned that never had woman been so
vigilantly self-guarded or so watchful to keep her lover amused and
aloof. Such a woman deserved long service. But then the long service
deserved its time of harvest. Her surging look of reproach in submission
pointed to the golden time, and as he was a man of honour, pledged to her
for life, he had no remorse, and no scruple in determining to exact her
dated promise, on this occasion deliberately. She was the woman to be
his wife; she was his mind's mate: they had hung apart in deference to
mere scruples too long. During the fierce battle of the Session she
would be his help, his fountain of counsel; and she would be the rosy
gauze-veiled more than cold helper and adviser, the being which would
spur her womanly intelligence to acknowledge, on this occasion
deliberately, the wisdom of the step. They had been so close to it!
She might call it madness then: now it was wisdom. Each had complete
experience of the other, and each vowed the step must be taken.
As to the secret communicated, he exulted in the pardonable cunning of
the impulse turning him back to her house after the guests had gone, and
the dexterous play of his bait on the line, tempting her to guess and
quit her queenly guard. Though it had not been distinctly schemed, the
review of it in that light added to the enjoyment. It had been dimly and
richly conjectured as a hoped result. Small favours from her were really
worth, thrice worth, the utmost from other women. They tasted the
sweeter for the winning of them artfully--an honourable thing in love.
Nature, rewarding the lover's ingenuity and enterprise, inspires him
with old Greek notions of right and wrong: and love is indeed a fluid
mercurial realm, continually shifting the principles of rectitude and
larceny. As long as he means nobly, what is there to condemn him? Not
she in her heart. She was the presiding divinity.
And she, his Tony, that splendid Diana, was the woman the world abused!
Whom will it not abuse?
The slough she would have to plunge in before he could make her his own
with the world's consent, was already up to her throat. She must, and
without further hesitation, be steeped, that he might drag her out,
washed of the imputed defilement, and radiant, as she was in character.
Reflection now said this; not impulse. Her words rang through him.
At every meeting she said things to confound his estimate of the wits of
women, or be remembered for some spirited ring they had: A high wind will
make a dead leaf fly like a bird. He murmured it and flew with her.
She quickened a vein of imagination that gave him entrance to a strangely
brilliant sphere, above his own, where, she sustaining, he too could
soar; and he did, scarce conscious of walking home, undressing, falling
The act of waking was an instantaneous recovery of his emotional rapture
of the overnight; nor was it a bar to graver considerations. His Chief
had gone down to a house in the country; his personal business was to see
and sound the followers of their party--after another sight of his Tony.
She would be sure to counsel sagaciously; she always did. She had a
marvellous intuition of the natures of the men he worked with, solely
from his chance descriptions of them; it was as though he started the
bird and she transfixed it. And she should not have matter to rule her
smooth brows: that he swore to. She should sway him as she pleased, be
respected after her prescribed manner. The promise must be exacted;
nothing besides, promise.--You see, Tony, you cannot be less than Tony to
me now, he addressed the gentle phantom of her. Let me have your word,
and I am your servant till the Session ends.--Tony blushes her swarthy
crimson: Diana, fluttering, rebukes her; but Diana is the appeasable
Goddess; Tony is the woman, and she loves him. The glorious Goddess need
not cut them adrift; they can show her a book of honest pages.
Dacier could truthfully say he had worshipped, done knightly service to
the beloved woman, homage to the aureole encircling her. Those friends
of his, covertly congratulating him on her preference, doubtless thought
him more privileged than he was; but they did not know Diana; and they
were welcome, if they would only believe, to the knowledge that he was
at the feet of this most sovereign woman. He despised the particular
Satyr-world which, whatever the nature or station of the woman, crowns
the desecrator, and bestows the title of Fool on the worshipper. He
could have answered veraciously that she had kept him from folly.
Nevertheless the term to service must come. In the assurance of the
approaching term he stood braced against a blowing world; happy as men
are when their muscles are strung for a prize they pluck with the energy
and aim of their whole force.
Letters and morning papers were laid for him to peruse in his dressing-
room. He read his letters before the bath. Not much public news was
expected at the present season. While dressing, he turned over the
sheets of Whitmonby's journal. Dull comments on stale things. Foreign
news. Home news, with the leaders on them, identically dull. Behold the
effect of Journalism: a witty man, sparkling overnight, gets into his
pulpit and proses; because he must say something, and he really knows
Journalists have an excessive overestimate of their influence. They
cannot, as Diana said, comparing them with men on the Parliamentary
platform, cannot feel they are aboard the big vessel; they can only
strive to raise a breeze, or find one to swell; and they cannot measure
the stoutness or the greatness of the good ship England. Dacier's
personal ambition was inferior to his desire to extend and strengthen his
England. Parliament was the field, Government the office. How many
conversations had passed between him and Diana on that patriotic dream!
She had often filled his drooping sails; he owned it proudly:--and while
the world, both the hoofed and the rectilinear portions, were biting at
her character! Had he fretted her self-respect? He blamed himself, but
a devoted service must have its term.
The paper of Mr. Tonans was reserved for perusal at breakfast. He
reserved it because Tonans was an opponent, tricksy and surprising now
and then, amusing too; unlikely to afford him serious reflections. The
recent endeavours of his journal to whip the Government-team to a right-
about-face were annoying, preposterous. Dacier had admitted to Diana
that Tonans merited the thanks of the country during 'the discreditable
Railway mania, when his articles had a fine exhortative and prophetic
twang, and had done marked good. Otherwise, as regarded the Ministry,
the veering gusts of Tonans were objectionable: he 'raised the breeze'
wantonly as well as disagreeably. Any one can whip up the populace if he
has the instruments; and Tonans frequently intruded on the Ministry's
prerogative to govern. The journalist was bidding against the statesman.
But such is the condition of a rapidly Radicalizing country! We must
take it as it is.
With a complacent, What now, Dacier fixed his indifferent eyes on the
first column of the leaders. He read, and his eyes grew horny. He
jerked back at each sentence, electrified, staring. The article was
shorter than usual. Total Repeal was named; the precise date when the
Minister intended calling Parliament together to propose it. The 'Total
Repeal' might be guess-work--an Editor's bold stroke; but the details,
the date, were significant of positive information. The Minister's
definite and immediate instructions were exactly stated.
Where could the fellow have got hold of that? Dacier asked the blank
He frowned at vacant corners of the room in an effort to conjure some
speculation indicative of the source.
Had his Chief confided the secret to another and a traitor? Had they
been overheard in his library when the project determined on was put in
The answer was no, impossible, to each question.
He glanced at Diana. She? But it was past midnight when he left her.
And she would never have betrayed him, never, never. To imagine it a
moment was an injury to her.
Where else could he look? It had been specially mentioned in the
communication as a secret by his Chief, who trusted him and no others.
Up to the consultation with the Cabinet, it was a thing to be guarded
like life itself. Not to a soul except Diana would Dacier have breathed
syllable of any secret--and one of this weight!
He ran down the article again. There were the facts; undeniable facts;
and they detonated with audible roaring and rounding echoes of them over
England. How did they come there? As well inquire how man came on the,
face of the earth.
He had to wipe his forehead perpetually. Think as he would in exaltation
of Diana to shelter himself, he was the accused. He might not be the
guilty, but he had opened his mouth; and though it was to her only, and
she, as Dunstane had sworn, true as steel, he could not escape
condemnation. He had virtually betrayed his master. Diana would never
betray her lover, but the thing was in the air as soon as uttered: and
off to the printing-press! Dacier's grotesque fancy under annoyance
pictured a stream of small printer's devils in flight from his babbling
He consumed bits of breakfast, with a sour confession that a newspaper-
article had hit him at last, and stunningly.
Hat and coat were called for. The state of aimlessness in hot perplexity
demands a show of action. Whither to go first was as obscure as what to
do. Diana said of the Englishman's hat and coat, that she supposed they
were to make him a walking presentment of the house he had shut up behind
him. A shot of the eye at the glass confirmed the likeness, but with a
ruefully wry-faced repudiation of it internally:--Not so shut up! the
reverse of that-a common babbler.
However, there was no doubt of Diana. First he would call on her. The
pleasantest dose in perturbations of the kind is instinctively taken
first. She would console, perhaps direct him to guess how the secret had
leaked. But so suddenly, immediately! It was inexplicable.
Sudden and immediate consequences were experienced. On the steps of his
house his way was blocked by the arrival of Mr. Quintin Manx, who jumped
out of a cab, bellowing interjections and interrogations in a breath.
Was there anything in that article? He had read it at breakfast, and it
had choked him. Dacier was due at a house and could not wait: he said,
rather sharply, he was not responsible for newspaper articles. Quintin
Manx, a senior gentleman and junior landowner, vowed that no Minister
intending to sell the country should treat him as a sheep. The shepherd
might go; he would not carry his flock with him. But was there a twinkle
of probability in the story? . . . that article! Dacier was unable
to inform him; he was very hurried, had to keep an appointment.
'If I let you go, will you come and lunch with me at two?' said Quintin.
To get rid of him, Dacier nodded and agreed.
'Two o'clock, mind!' was bawled at his heels as he walked off with his
long stride, unceremoniously leaving the pursy gentleman of sixty to
settle with his cabman far to the rear.
IN WHICH IT IS DARKLY SEEN HOW THE CRIMINAL'S JUDGE MAY BE LOVE'S
When we are losing balance on a precipice we do not think much of the
thing we have clutched for support. Our balance is restored and we have
not fallen; that is the comfortable reflection: we stand as others do,
and we will for the future be warned to avoid the dizzy stations which
cry for resources beyond a common equilibrium, and where a slip
precipitates us to ruin.
When, further, it is a woman planted in a burning blush, having to
idealize her feminine weakness, that she may not rebuke herself for
grovelling, the mean material acts by which she sustains a tottering
position are speedily swallowed in the one pervading flame. She sees
but an ashen curl of the path she has traversed to safety, if anything.
Knowing her lover was to come in the morning, Diana's thoughts dwelt
wholly upon the way to tell him, as tenderly as possible without danger
to herself, that her time for entertaining was over until she had
finished her book; indefinitely, therefore. The apprehension of his
complaining pricked the memory that she had something to forgive. He had
sunk her in her own esteem by compelling her to see her woman's softness.
But how high above all other men her experience of him could place him
notwithstanding! He had bowed to the figure of herself, dearer than
herself, that she set before him: and it was a true figure to the world;
a too fictitious to any but the most knightly of lovers. She forgave;
and a shudder seized her.--Snake! she rebuked the delicious run of fire
through her veins; for she vas not like the idol women of imperishable
type, who are never for a twinkle the prey of the blood: statues created
by man's common desire to impress upon the sex his possessing pattern of
them as domestic decorations.
When she entered the room to Dacier and they touched hands, she rejoiced
in her coolness, without any other feeling or perception active. Not to
be unkind, not too kind: this was her task. She waited for the passage
'You slept well, Percy?'
'Yes; and you?'
'I don't think I even dreamed.'
They sat. She noticed the cloud on him and waited for his allusion to
it, anxious concerning him simply.
Dacier flung the hair off his temples. Words of Titanic formation were
hurling in his head at journals and journalists. He muttered his disgust
'Is there anything to annoy you in the papers to-day?' she asked, and
thought how handsome his face was in anger.
The paper of Mr. Tonans was named by him. 'You have not seen it?
'I have not opened it yet.'
He sprang up. 'The truth is, those fellows can now afford to buy right
and left, corrupt every soul alive! There must have been a spy at the
keyhole. I'm pretty certain--I could swear it was not breathed to any
ear but mine; and there it is this morning in black and white.'
'What is?' cried Diana, turning to him on her chair.
'The thing I told you last night.'
Her lips worked, as if to spell the thing. 'Printed, do you say?' she
'Printed. In a leading article, loud as a trumpet; a hue and cry running
from end to end of the country. And my Chief has already had the
satisfaction of seeing the secret he confided to me yesterday roared in
all the thoroughfares this morning. They've got the facts: his decision
to propose it, and the date--the whole of it! But who could have
For the first time since her midnight expedition she felt a sensation of
the full weight of the deed. She heard thunder.
She tried to disperse the growing burden by an inward summons to contempt
of the journalistic profession, but nothing would come. She tried to
minimize it, and her brain succumbed. Her views of the deed last night
and now throttled reason in two contending clutches. The enormity
swelled its dimensions, taking shape, and pointing magnetically at her.
She stood absolutely, amazedly, bare before it.
'Is it of such very great importance?' she said, like one supplicating
him to lessen it.
'A secret of State? If you ask whether it is of great importance to me,
relatively it is of course. Nothing greater. Personally my conscience
is clear. I never mentioned it--couldn't have mentioned it--to any one
but you. I'm not the man to blab secrets. He spoke to me because he
knew he could trust me. To tell you the truth, I'm brought to a dead
stop. I can't make a guess.
I'm certain, from what he said, that he trusted me only with it:
perfectly certain. I know him well. He was in his library, speaking in
his usual conversational tone, deliberately, nor overloud. He stated
that it was a secret between us.'
'Will it affect him?'
'This article? Why, naturally it will. You ask strange questions. A
Minister coming to a determination like that! It affects him vitally.
The members of the Cabinet are not so devoted . . . . It affects us
all--the whole Party; may split it to pieces! There's no reckoning the
upset right and left. If it were false, it could be refuted; we could
despise it as a trick of journalism. It's true. There's the mischief.
Tonans did not happen to call here last night?--absurd! I left later
'No, but let me hear,' Diana said hurriedly, for the sake of uttering the
veracious negative and to slur it over. 'Let me hear . . .' She could
not muster an idea.
Her delicious thrilling voice was a comfort to him. He lifted his breast
high and thumped it, trying to smile. 'After all, it's pleasant being
with you, Tony. Give me your hand--you may: I 'm bothered--confounded by
this morning surprise. It was like walking against the muzzle of a
loaded cannon suddenly unmasked. One can't fathom the mischief it will
do. And I shall be suspected, and can't quite protest myself the
spotless innocent. Not even to my heart's mistress! to the wife of the
bosom! I suppose I'm no Roman. You won't give me your hand? Tony, you
might, seeing I am rather . . .'
A rush of scalding tears flooded her eyes.
'Don't touch me,' she said, and forced her sight to look straight at him
through the fiery shower. 'I have done positive mischief?'
'You, my dear Tony?' He doated on her face. 'I don't blame you, I blame
myself. These things should never be breathed. Once in the air, the
devil has hold of them. Don't take it so much to heart. The thing's bad
enough to bear as it is. Tears! Let me have the hand. I came, on my
honour, with the most honest intention to submit to your orders: but if I
see you weeping in sympathy!'
'Oh! for heaven's sake,' she caught her hands away from him, 'don't be
generous. Whip me with scorpions. And don't touch me,' cried Diana.
'Do you understand? You did not name it as a secret. I did not imagine
it to be a secret of immense, immediate importance.'
'But--what?' shouted Dacier, stiffening.
He wanted her positive meaning, as she perceived, having hoped that it
was generally taken and current, and the shock to him over.
'I had . . . I had not a suspicion of doing harm, Percy.'
'But what harm have you done? No riddles!'
His features gave sign of the break in their common ground, the widening
'I went . . . it was a curious giddiness: I can't account for it. I
thought . . .'
'Went? You went where?'
'Last night. I would speak intelligibly: my mind has gone. Ah! you
look. It is not so bad as my feeling.'
'But where did you go last night? What!--to Tonans?'
She drooped her head: she saw the track of her route cleaving the
darkness in a demoniacal zig-zag and herself in demon's grip.
'Yes,' she confronted him. 'I went to Mr. Tonans.'
'I went to him--'
'You went alone?'
'I took my maid.'
'It was late when you left me . . .'
'I am trying: I will tell you all.'
'At once, if you please.'
'I went to him--why? There is no accounting for it. He sneered
constantly at my stale information.'
'You gave him constant information?'
'No: in our ordinary talk. He railed at me for being "out of it." I
must be childish: I went to show him--oh! my vanity! I think I must have
She watched the hardening of her lover's eyes. They penetrated, and
through them she read herself insufferably.
But it was with hesitation still that he said: 'Then you betrayed me?'
'Percy! I had not a suspicion of mischief.'
'You went straight to this man?'
'Not thinking . . .'
'You sold me to a journalist!'
'I thought it was a secret of a day. I don't think you--no, you did not
tell me to keep it secret. A word from you would have been enough. I
was in extremity.'
Dacier threw his hands up and broke away. He had an impulse to dash from
the room, to get a breath of different air. He stood at the window,
observing tradesmen's carts, housemaids, blank doors, dogs, a beggar
fifer. Her last words recurred to him. He turned: 'You were in
extremity, you said. What is the meaning of that? What extremity?'
Her large dark eyes flashed powerlessly; her shape appeared to have
narrowed; her tongue, too, was a feeble penitent.
'You ask a creature to recall her acts of insanity.'
'There must be some signification in your words, I suppose.'
'I will tell you as clearly as I can. You have the right to be my judge.
I was in extremity--that is, I saw no means . . . I could not write:
it was ruin coming.'
'Ah?--you took payment for playing spy?'
'I fancied I could retrieve . . . Now I see the folly, the baseness.
I was blind.'
'Then you sold me to a journalist for money?'
The intolerable scourge fetched a stifled scream from her and drove her
pacing, but there was no escape; she returned to meet it.
The room was a cage to both of them, and every word of either was a
'Percy, I did not imagine he would use it--make use of it as he has
'Not? And when he paid for it?'
'I fancied it would be merely of general service--if any.'
'Distributed; I see: not leading to the exposure of the communicant!'
'You are harsh; but I would not have you milder.'
The meekness of such a mischief-doer was revolting and called for the
'Do me the favour to name the sum. I am curious to learn what my
imbecility was counted worth.'
'No sum was named.'
'Have I been bought for a song?'
'It was a suggestion--no definite . . . nothing stipulated.'
'You were to receive money!'
'Leave me a bit of veiling! No, you shall behold me the thing I am.
Listen . . . I was poor . . .'
'You might have applied to me.'
'For money! That I could not do:
'Better than betraying me, believe me.'
'I had no thought of betraying. I hope I could have died rather than
'Money! My whole fortune was at your, disposal.'
'I was beset with debts, unable to write, and, last night when you left
me, abject. It seemed to me that you disrespected me . . .'
'Last night!' Dacier cried with lashing emphasis.
'It is evident to me that I have the reptile in me, Percy. Or else I am
subject to lose my reason. I went . . . I went like a bullet: I
cannot describe it; I was mad. I need a strong arm, I want help. I am
given to think that I do my best and can be independent; I break down.
I went blindly--now I see it--for the chance of recovering my position,
as the gambler casts; and he wins or loses. With me it is the soul that
is lost. No exact sum was named; thousands were hinted.'
'You are hardly practical on points of business.'
'I was insane.'
'I think you said you slept well after it,' Dacier remarked.
'I had so little the idea of having done evilly, that I slept without a
He shrugged:--the consciences of women are such smooth deeps, or running
'I have often wondered how your newspaper men got their information,' he
said, and muttered: 'Money-women!' adding: 'Idiots to prime them! And I
one of the leaky vessels! Well, we learn. I have been rather astonished
at times of late at the scraps of secret knowledge displayed by Tonans.
If he flourishes his thousands! The wonder is, he doesn't corrupt the
Ministers' wives. Perhaps he does. Marriage will become a danger-sign
to Parliamentary members. Foreign women do these tricks . . . women
of a well-known stamp. It is now a full year, I think, since I began to
speak to you of secret matters--and congratulated myself, I recollect,
on your thirst for them.'
'Percy, if you suspect that I have uttered one word before last night,
you are wrong. I cannot paint my temptation or my loss of sense last
night. Previously I was blameless. I thirsted, yes; but in the hope of
He looked at her. She perceived how glitteringly loveless his eyes had
grown. It was her punishment; and though the enamoured woman's heart
protested it excessive, she accepted it.
'I can never trust you again,' he said.
'I fear you will not,' she replied.
His coming back to her after the departure of the guests last night shone
on him in splendid colours of single-minded loverlike devotion. 'I came
to speak to my own heart. I thought it would give you pleasure; thought
I could trust you utterly. I had not the slightest conception I was
imperilling my honour . . . !'
He stopped. Her bloodless fixed features revealed an intensity of
anguish that checked him. Only her mouth, a little open for the sharp
breath, appeared dumbly beseeching. Her large eyes met his like steel to
steel, as of one who would die fronting the weapon.
He strangled a loathsome inclination to admire.
'So good bye,' he said.
She moved her lips.
He said no more. In half a minute he was gone.
To her it was the plucking of life out of her breast.
She pressed her hands where heart had been. The pallor and cold of death
took her body.
REVEALS HOW THE TRUE HEROINE OF ROMANCE COMES FINALLY TO HER, TIME OF
The shutting of her house-door closed for Dacier that woman's history in
connection with himself. He set his mind on the consequences of the act
of folly--the trusting a secret to a woman. All were possibly not so
bad: none should be trusted.
The air of the street fanned him agreeably as he revolved the horrible
project of confession to the man who had put faith in him. Particulars
might be asked. She would be unnamed, but an imagination of the effect
of naming her placarded a notorious woman in fresh paint: two members of
the same family her victims!
And last night, no later than last night, he had swung round at this very
corner of the street to give her the fullest proof of his affection. He
beheld a dupe trotting into a carefully-laid pitfall. She had him by the
generosity of his confidence in her. Moreover, the recollection of her
recent feeble phrasing, when she stood convicted of the treachery, when a
really clever woman would have developed her resources, led him to doubt
her being so finely gifted. She was just clever enough to hoodwink. He
attributed the dupery to a trick of imposing the idea of her virtue upon
men. Attracted by her good looks and sparkle, they entered the circle of
her charm, became delightfully intimate, suffered a rebuff, and were from
that time prepared to serve her purpose. How many other wretched dupes
had she dangling? He spied at Westlake, spied at Redworth, at old Lord
Larrian, at Lord Dannisburgh, at Arthur Rhodes, dozens. Old and young
were alike to her if she saw an end to be gained by keeping them hooked.
Tonans too, and Whitmonby. Newspaper editors were especially
serviceable. Perhaps 'a young Minister of State' held the foremost rank
in that respect: if completely duped and squeezeable, he produced more
The background of ice in Dacier's composition was brought to the front by
his righteous contempt of her treachery. No explanation of it would have
appeased him. She was guilty, and he condemned her. She stood condemned
by all the evil likely to ensue from her misdeed. Scarcely had he left
her house last night when she was away to betray him!--He shook her from
him without a pang. Crediting her with the one merit she had--that of
not imploring for mercy--he the more easily shook her off. Treacherous,
she had not proved theatrical. So there was no fuss in putting out her
light, and it was done. He was justified by the brute facts.
Honourable, courteous, kindly gentleman, highly civilized, an excellent
citizen and a patriot, he was icy at an outrage to his principles, and in
the dominion of Love a sultan of the bow-string and chopper period,
sovereignly endowed to stretch a finger for the scimitared Mesrour to
make the erring woman head and trunk with one blow: and away with those
remnants! This internally he did. Enough that the brute facts justified
St. James's park was crossed, and the grass of the Green park, to avoid
inquisitive friends. He was obliged to walk; exercise, action of any
sort, was imperative, and but for some engagement he would have gone to
his fencing-rooms for a bout with the master. He remembered his
engagement and grew doubly embittered. He had absurdly pledged himself
to lunch with Quintin Manx; that was, to pretend to eat while submitting
to be questioned by a political dullard strong on his present right to
overhaul and rail at his superiors. The house was one of a block along
the North-Western line of Hyde park. He kicked at the subjection to go
there, but a promise was binding, though he gave it when stunned. He
could have silenced Mr. Manx with the posing interrogation: Why have I so
long consented to put myself at the mercy of a bore? For him, he could
not answer it, though Manx, as leader of the Shipping interest, was
influential. The man had to be endured, like other doses in politics.
Dacier did not once think of the great ship-owner's niece till Miss
Constance Asper stepped into her drawing-room to welcome him. She was an
image of repose to his mind. The calm pure outline of her white features
refreshed him as the Alps the Londoner newly alighted at Berne; smoke,
wrangle, the wrestling city's wickedness, behind him.
'My uncle is very disturbed,' she said. 'Is the news--if I am not very
indiscreet in inquiring?'
'I have a practice of never paying attention to newspaper articles,'
'I am only affected by living with one who does,' Miss Asper observed,
and the lofty isolation of her head above politics gave her a moral
attractiveness in addition to physical beauty. Her water-colour sketches
were on her uncle's walls: the beautiful in nature claimed and absorbed
her. She dressed with a pretty rigour, a lovely simplicity, picturesque
of the nunnery. She looked indeed a high-born young lady-abbess.
'It's a dusty game for ladies,' Dacier said, abhorring the women defiled
And when one thinks of the desire of men to worship women, there is a
pathos in a man's discovery of the fair young creature undefiled by any
interest in public affairs, virginal amid her bower's environments.
The angelical beauty of a virgin mind and person captivated him, by
contrast. His natural taste was to admire it, shunning the lures and
tangles of the women on high seas, notably the married: who, by the way,
contrive to ensnare us through wonderment at a cleverness caught from
their traffic with the masculine world: often--if we did but know!--
a parrot-repetition of the last male visitor's remarks. But that which
the fair maiden speaks, though it may be simple, is her own.
She too is her own: or vowed but to one. She is on all sides impressive
in purity. The world worships her as its perfect pearl: and we are
brought refreshfully to acknowledge that the world is right.
By contrast, the white radiation of Innocence distinguished Constance
Asper celestially. As he was well aware, she had long preferred him--
the reserved among many pleading pressing suitors. Her steady
faithfulness had fed on the poorest crumbs.
He ventured to express the hope that she was well.
'Yes,' she answered, with eyelids lifted softly to thank him for his
concern in so humble a person.
'You look a little pale,' he said.
She coloured like a sea-water shell. 'I am inclined to paleness by
Her uncle disturbed them. Lunch was ready. He apologized for the
absence of Mrs. Markland, a maternal aunt of Constance, who kept house
for them. Quintin Manx fell upon the meats, and then upon the Minister.
Dacier found himself happily surprised by the accession of an appetite.
He mentioned it, to escape from the worrying of his host, as unusual with
him at midday: and Miss Asper, supporting him in that effort, said
benevolently: 'Gentlemen should eat; they have so many fatigues and
troubles.' She herself did not like to be seen eating in public. Her
lips opened to the morsels, as with a bird's bill, though with none of
the pecking eagerness we complacently observe in poultry.
'But now, I say, positively, how about that article?' said Quintin.
Dacier visibly winced, and Constance immediately said 'Oh! spare us
politics, dear uncle.'
Her intercession was without avail, but by contrast with the woman
implicated in the horrible article, it was a carol of the seraphs.
'Come, you can say whether there's anything in it,' Dacier's host pushed
'I should not say it if I could,' he replied.
The mild sweetness of Miss Asper's look encouraged him.
He was touched to the quick by hearing her say: 'You ask for Cabinet
secrets, uncle. All secrets are holy, but secrets of State are under a
seal next to divine.'
Next to divine! She was the mouthpiece of his ruling principle.
'I 'm not, prying into secrets,' Quintin persisted; 'all I want to know
is, whether there 's any foundation for that article--all London's
boiling about it, I can tell you--or it's only newspaper's humbug.'
'Clearly the oracle for you is the Editor's office,' rejoined Dacier.
'A pretty sort of answer I should get.'
'It would at least be complimentary.'
'How do you mean?'
'The net was cast for you--and the sight of a fish in it!'
Miss Asper almost laughed. 'Have you heard the choir at St.
Catherine's?' she asked.
Dacier had not. He repented of his worldliness, and drinking persuasive
claret, said he would go to hear it next Sunday.
'Do,' she murmured.
'Well, you seem to be a pair against me,' her uncle grumbled. 'Anyhow I
think it's important. People have been talking for some time, and I
don't want to be taken unawares; I won't be a yoked ox, mind you.'
'Have you been sketching lately?' Dacier asked Miss Asper.
She generally filled a book in the autumn, she said.
'May I see it?'
'If you wish.'
They had a short tussle with her uncle and escaped. He was conducted to
a room midway upstairs: an heiress's conception of a saintly little room;
and more impresive in purity, indeed it was, than a saint's, with the
many crucifixes, gold and silver emblems, velvet prie-Dieu chairs, jewel-
clasped sacred volumes: every invitation to meditate in luxury on an
She depreciated her sketching powers. 'I am impatient with my
imperfections. I am therefore doomed not to advance.'
'On the contrary, that is the state guaranteeing ultimate excellence,'
he said, much disposed to drone about it.
She sighed: 'I fear not.'
He turned the leaves, comparing her modesty with the performance. The
third of the leaves was a subject instantly recognized by him. It
represented the place he had inherited from Lord Dannisburgh.
He named it.
She smiled: 'You are good enough to see a likeness? My aunt and I were
passing it last October, and I waited for a day, to sketch.'
'You have taken it from my favourite point of view.'
'I am glad.'
'How much I should like a copy!'
'If you will accept that?'
'I could not rob you.'
'I can make a duplicate.'
'The look of the place pleases you?'
'Oh! yes; the pines behind it; the sweet little village church; even
the appearance of the rustics;--it is all impressively old English.
I suppose you are very seldom there?'
'Does it look like a home to you?'
'No place more!'
'I feel the loneliness.'
'Where I live I feel no loneliness!'
'You have heavenly messengers near you.'
'They do not always come.'
'Would you consent to make the place less lonely to me?'
Her bosom rose. In deference to her maidenly understanding, she gazed
'If you love it!' said he.
'The place?' she said, looking soft at the possessor.
'Is it true?'
'As you yourself. Could it be other than true? This hand is mine?'
Borrowing the world's poetry to describe them, the long prayed-for Summer
enveloped the melting snows.
So the recollection of Diana's watch beside his uncle's death-bed was
wiped out. Ay, and the hissing of her treachery silenced. This maidenly
hand put him at peace with the world, instead of his defying it for a
worthless woman--who could not do better than accept the shelter of her
husband's house, as she ought to be told, if her friends wished her to
save her reputation.
Dacier made his way downstairs to Quintin Manx, by whom he was hotly
congratulated and informed of the extent of the young lady's fortune:
on the strength of which it was expected that he would certainly speak a
private word in elucidation of that newspaper article.
'I know nothing of it,' said Dacier, but promised to come and dine.
Alone in her happiness Constance Asper despatched various brief notes
under her gold-symbolled crest to sisterly friends; one to Lady Wathin,
containing the, single line:
'Your prophesy is confirmed.'
Dacier was comfortably able to face his Club after the excitement of a
proposal, with a bride on his hands. He was assaulted concerning the
article, and he parried capitally. Say that her lips were rather cold:
at any rate, they invigorated him. Her character was guaranteed--not the
hazy idea of a dupe. And her fortune would be enormous: a speculation
merely due to worldly prudence and prospective ambition.
At the dinner-table of four, in the evening, conversation would have
seemed dull to him, by contrast, had it not, been for the presiding grace
of his bride, whose habitually eminent feminine air of superiority to the
repast was throned by her appreciative receptiveness of his looks and
utterances. Before leaving her, he won her consent to a very early
marriage; on the plea of a possibly approaching Session, and also that
they had waited long. The consent, notwithstanding the hurry of
preparations, it involved, besides the annihilation of her desire to
meditate on so solemn a change in her life and savour the congratulations
of her friends and have the choir of St. Catherine's rigorously drilled
in her favourite anthems was beautifully yielded to the pressure of
There lay on his table at night a letter; a bulky letter. No need to
tear it open for sight of the signature: the superscription was redolent
of that betraying woman. He tossed it unopened into the fire.
As it was thick, it burned sullenly, discolouring his name on the
address, as she had done, and still offering him a last chance of viewing
the contents. She fought on the consuming fire to have her exculpation
But was she not a shameless traitor? She had caught him by his love of
his country and hope to serve it. She had wound into his heart to bleed
him of all he knew and sell the secrets for money. A wonderful sort of
eloquence lay there, on those coals, no doubt. He felt a slight movement
of curiosity to glance at two or three random sentences: very slight.
And why read them now? They were valueless to him, mere outcries. He
judged her by the brute facts. She and her slowly-consuming letter were
of a common blackness. Moreover, to read them when he was plighted to
another woman would be senseless. In the discovery of her baseness, she
had made a poor figure. Doubtless during the afternoon she had trimmed
her intuitive Belial art of making 'the worse appear the better cause':
queer to peruse, and instructive in an unprofitable department of
knowledge-the tricks of the sex.
He said to himself, with little intuition of the popular taste: She
wouldn't be a bad heroine of Romance! He said it derisively of the
Romantic. But the right worshipful heroine of Romance was the front-face
female picture he had won for his walls. Poor Diana was the flecked
heroine of Reality: not always the same; not impeccable; not an ignorant-
innocent, nor a guileless: good under good leading; devoted to the death
in a grave crisis; often wrestling with her terrestrial nature nobly; and
a growing soul; but not one whose purity was carved in marble for the
assurance to an Englishman that his possession of the changeless thing
defies time and his fellows, is the pillar of his home and universally
enviable. Your fair one of Romance cannot suffer a mishap without a
plotting villain, perchance many of them; to wreak the dread iniquity:
she cannot move without him; she is the marble block, and if she is to
have a feature, he is the sculptor; she depends on him for life, and her
human history at least is married to him far more than to the rescuing
lover. No wonder, then, that men should find her thrice cherishable
featureless, or with the most moderate possible indication of a
countenance. Thousands of the excellent simple creatures do; and every
reader of her tale. On the contrary, the heroine of Reality is that
woman whom you have met or heard of once in your course of years, and
very probably despised for bearing in her composition the motive
principle; at best, you say, a singular mixture of good and bad; anything
but the feminine ideal of man. Feature to some excess, you think,
distinguishes her. Yet she furnishes not any of the sweet sensual
excitement pertaining to her spotless rival pursued by villany. She
knocks at the doors of the mind, and the mind must open to be interested
in her. Mind and heart must be wide open to excuse her sheer descent
from the pure ideal of man.
Dacier's wandering reflections all came back in crowds to the judicial
Bench of the Black Cap. He felt finely, apart from the treason, that her
want of money degraded her: him too, by contact. Money she might have
had to any extent: upon application for it, of course. How was he to
imagine that she wanted money! Smilingly as she welcomed him and his
friends, entertaining them royally, he was bound to think she had means.
A decent propriety bound him not to think of the matter at all. He
naturally supposed she was capable of conducting her affairs. And--
money! It soiled his memory: though the hour at Rovio was rather pretty,
and the scene at Copsley touching: other times also, short glimpses of
the woman, were taking. The flood of her treachery effaced them. And
why reflect? Constance called to him to look her way.
Diana's letter died hard. The corners were burnt to black tissue, with
an edge or two of discoloured paper. A small frayed central heap still
resisted, and in kindness to the necessity for privacy, he impressed the
fire-tongs to complete the execution. After which he went to his desk
and worked, under the presidency of Constance.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A high wind will make a dead leaf fly like a bird
Beware the silent one of an assembly!
Brittle is foredoomed
Common sense is the secret of every successful civil agitation
Its glee at a catastrophe; its poor stock of mercy
Money is of course a rough test of virtue
Salt of earth, to whom their salt must serve for nourishment
Sentimentality puts up infant hands for absolution
She herself did not like to be seen eating in public
Slightest taste for comic analysis that does not tumble to farce
The greed of gain is our volcano
The man had to be endured, like other doses in politics
Vagrant compassionateness of sentimentalists
What might have been
What the world says, is what the wind says
Without those consolatory efforts, useless between men
DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXXVI. IS CONCLUSIVE AS TO THE HEARTLESSNESS OF WOMEN WITH BRAINS
XXXVII. AN EXHIBITION OF SOME CHAMPIONS OF THE STRICKEN LADY
XXXVIII. CONVALESCENCE OF A HEALTHY MIND DISTRAUGHT
XXXIX. OF NATURE WITH ONE OF HER CULTIVATED DAUGHTERS AND A SHORT
EXCURSION IN ANTI-CLIMAX
XL. IN WHICH WE SEE NATURE MAKING OF A WOMAN A MAID AGAIN, AND A
XLI. CONTAINS A REVELATION OF THE ORIGIN OF THE TIGRESS IN DIANA
XLII. THE PENULTIMATE : SHOWING A FINAL STRUGGLE FOR LIBERTY AND RUN
XLIII. NUPTIAL CHAPTER: AND OF HOW A BARELY WILLING WOMAN WAS LED TO
BLOOM WITH NUPTIAL SENTIMENT
IS CONCLUSIVE AS TO THE HEARTLESSNESS OF WOMEN WITH BRAINS
Hymenaeal rumours are those which might be backed to run a victorious
race with the tale of evil fortune; and clearly for the reason that man's
livelier half is ever alert to speed them. They travel with an
astonishing celerity over the land, like flames of the dry beacon-faggots
of old time in announcement of the invader or a conquest, gathering as
they go: wherein, to say nothing of their vastly wider range, they
surpass the electric wires. Man's nuptial half is kindlingly concerned
in the launch of a new couple; it is the business of the fair sex: and
man himself (very strangely, but nature quickens him still) lends a not
unfavouring eye to the preparations of the matrimonial vessel for its
oily descent into the tides, where billows will soon be rising, captain
and mate soon discussing the fateful question of who is commander. We
consent, it appears, to hope again for mankind; here is another chance!
Or else, assuming the happiness of the pair, that pomp of ceremonial,
contrasted with the little wind-blown candle they carry between them,
catches at our weaker fibres.
After so many ships have foundered, some keel up, like poisoned fish, at
the first drink of water, it is a gallant spectacle, let us avow; and
either the world perpetuating it is heroical or nature incorrigible in
the species. Marriages are unceasing. Friends do it, and enemies; the
unknown contractors of this engagement, or armistice, inspire an
interest. It certainly is both exciting and comforting to hear that man
and woman are ready to join in a mutual affirmative, say Yes together
again. It sounds like the end of the war.
The proclamation of the proximate marriage of a young Minister of State
and the greatest heiress of her day; notoriously 'The young Minister of
State' of a famous book written by the beautiful, now writhing, woman
madly enamoured of him--and the heiress whose dowry could purchase a
Duchy; this was a note to make the gossips of England leap from their
beds at the midnight hour and wag tongues in the market-place. It did
away with the political hubbub over the Tonans article, and let it noise
abroad like nonsense. The Hon. Percy Dacier espouses Miss Asper; and she
rescues him from the snares of a siren, he her from the toils of the
Papists. She would have gone over to them, she was going when, luckily
for the Protestant Faith, Percy Dacier intervened with his proposal.
Town and country buzzed the news; and while that dreary League trumpeted
about the business of the nation, a people suddenly become Oriental
chattered of nothing but the blissful union to be celebrated in princely
state, with every musical accessory, short of Operatic.
Lady Wathin was an active agent in this excitement. The excellent woman
enjoyed marriages of High Life: which, as there is presumably wealth to
support them, are manifestly under sanction: and a marriage that she
could consider one of her own contrivance, had a delicate flavour of a
marriage in the family; not quite equal to the seeing a dear daughter of
her numerous progeny conducted to the altar, but excelling it in the pomp
that bids the heavens open. She and no other spread the tidings of Miss
Asper's debating upon the step to Rome at the very instant of Percy
Dacier's declaration of his love; and it was a beautiful struggle, that
of the half-dedicated nun and her deep-rooted earthly passion, love
prevailing! She sent word to Lady Dunstane: 'You know the interest I
have always taken in dear Constance Aspen' etc.; inviting her to come on
a visit a week before the end of the month, that she might join in the
ceremony of a wedding 'likely to be the grandest of our time.' Pitiful
though it was, to think of the bridal pair having but eight or ten days
at the outside, for a honeymoon, the beauty of their 'mutual devotion to
duty' was urged by Lady Wathin upon all hearers.
Lady Dunstane declined the invitation. She waited to hear from her
friend, and the days went by; she could only sorrow for her poor Tony,
divining her state. However little of wrong in the circumstances, they
imposed a silence on her decent mind, and no conceivable shape of writing
would transmit condolences. She waited, with a dull heartache: by no
means grieving at Dacier's engagement to the heiress; until Redworth
animated her, as the bearer of rather startling intelligence, indirectly
relating to the soul she loved. An accident in the street had befallen
Mr. Warwick. Redworth wanted to know whether Diana should be told of it,
though he had no particulars to give; and somewhat to his disappointment,
Lady Dunstane said she would write. She delayed, thinking the accident
might not be serious; and the information of it to Diana surely would be
so. Next day at noon her visitor was Lady Wathin, evidently perturbed
and anxious to say more than she dared: but she received no assistance.
After beating the air in every direction, especially dwelling on the fond
reciprocal affection of the two devoted lovers, to be united within three
days' time, Lady Wathin said at last: 'And is it not shocking! I talk of
a marriage and am appalled by a death. That poor man died last night in
the hospital. I mean poor Mr. Warwick. He was recovering, getting
strong and well, and he was knocked down at a street-crossing and died
last night. It is a warning to us!'
'Mr. Redworth happened to hear of it at his Club, near which the accident
occurred, and he called at the hospital. Mr. Warwick was then alive,'
said Lady Dunstane; adding: 'Well, if prevention is better than cure, as
we hear! Accidents are the specific for averting the maladies of age,
which are a certain crop!'
Lady Wathin's eyelids worked and her lips shut fast at the cold-hearted
remark void of meaning.
She sighed. 'So ends a life of misery, my dear!'
'You are compassionate.'
'I hope so. But . . . Indeed I must speak, if you will let me. I
think of the living.'
Lady Dunstane widened her eyes. 'Of Mrs. Warwick?'
'She has now the freedom she desired. I think of others. Forgive me,
but Constance Asper is to me as a daughter. I have perhaps no grounds
for any apprehension. Love so ardent, so sincere, was never shown by
bridegroom elect: and it is not extraordinary to those acquainted with
dear Constance. But--one may be a worshipped saint and experience
defection. The terrible stories one hears of a power of fascination
almost . . . !' Lady Wathin hung for the word.
'Infernal,' said Lady Dunstane, whose brows had been bent inquiringly.
'Have no fear. The freedom you allude to will not be used to interfere
with any entertainment in prospect. It was freedom my friend desired.
Now that her jewel is restored to her, she is not the person to throw it
away, be sure. And pray, drop the subject.'
'One may rely . . . you think?'
'This release coming just before the wedding . . . !'
'I should hardly suppose the man to be the puppet you depict, or