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DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
By George Meredith
IX. SHOWS HOW A POSITION OF DELICACY FOR A LADY AND GENTLEMAN WAS
MET IN SIMPLE FASHION WITHOUT HURT TO EITHER.
X. THE CONFLICT OF THE NIGHT
XI. RECOUNTS THE JOURNEY IN A CHARIOT, WITH A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF
DIALOGUE, AND A SMALL INCIDENT ON THE ROAD
XII. BETWEEN EMMA AND DIANA
XIII. TOUCHING THE FIRST DAYS OF HER PROBATION
XIV. GIVING GLIMPSES OF DIANA UNDER HER CLOUD BEFORE THE WORLD AND
OF HER FURTHER APPRENTICESHIP
XV. INTRODUCES THE HON. PERCY DACIER
XVI. TREATS OF A MIDNIGHT BELL, AND OF A SCENE OF EARLY MORNING
XVII. THE PRINCESS EGERIA
SHOWS HOW A POSITION OF DELICACY FOR A LADY AND GENTLEMAN WAS MET IN
SIMPLE FASHION WITHOUT HURT TO EITHER
Redworth's impulse was to laugh for very gladness of heart, as he
proffered excuses for his tremendous alarums and in doing so, the worthy
gentleman imagined he must have persisted in clamouring for admission
because he suspected, that if at home, she would require a violent
summons to betray herself. It was necessary to him to follow his
abashed sagacity up to the mark of his happy animation.
'Had I known it was you!' said Diana, bidding him enter the passage.
She wore a black silk mantilla and was warmly covered.
She called to her maid Danvers, whom Redworth remembered: a firm woman of
about forty, wrapped, like her mistress, in head-covering, cloak, scarf
and shawl. Telling her to scour the kitchen for firewood, Diana led into
a sitting-room. 'I need not ask--you have come from Lady Dunstane,' she
said. 'Is she well?'
'She is deeply anxious.'
'You are cold. Empty houses are colder than out of doors. You shall
soon have a fire.'
She begged him to be seated.
The small glow of candle-light made her dark rich colouring orange in
'House and grounds are open to a tenant,' she resumed. 'I say good-bye
to them to-morrow morning. The old couple who are in charge sleep in the
village to-night. I did not want them here. You have quitted the
Government service, I think?'
'A year or so since.'
'When did you return from America?'
'Two days back.'
'And paid your visit to Copsley immediately?'
'As early as I could.'
'That was true friendliness. You have a letter for me?'
He put his hand to his pocket for the letter.
'Presently,' she said. She divined the contents, and nursed her
resolution to withstand them. Danvers had brought firewood and coal.
Orders were given to her, and in spite of the opposition of the maid
and intervention of the gentleman, Diana knelt at the grate, observing:
'Allow me to do this. I can lay and light a fire.'
He was obliged to look on: she was a woman who spoke her meaning. She
knelt, handling paper, firewood and matches, like a housemaid. Danvers
proceeded on her mission, and Redworth eyed Diana in the first fire-glow.
He could have imagined a Madonna on an old black Spanish canvas.
The act of service was beautiful in gracefulness, and her simplicity in
doing the work touched it spiritually. He thought, as she knelt there,
that never had he seen how lovely and how charged with mystery her
features were; the dark large eyes full on the brows; the proud line of
a straight nose in right measure to the bow of the lips; reposeful red
lips, shut, and their curve of the slumber-smile at the corners. Her
forehead was broad; the chin of a sufficient firmness to sustain: that
noble square; the brows marked by a soft thick brush to the temples; her
black hair plainly drawn along her head to the knot, revealed by the
mantilla fallen on her neck.
Elegant in plainness, the classic poet would have said of her hair and
dress. She was of the women whose wits are quick in everything they do.
That which was proper to her position, complexion, and the hour, surely
marked her appearance. Unaccountably this night, the fair fleshly
presence over-weighted her intellectual distinction, to an observer bent
on vindicating her innocence. Or rather, he saw the hidden in the
Owner of such a woman, and to lose her! Redworth pitied the husband.
The crackling flames reddened her whole person. Gazing, he remembered
Lady Dunstane saying of her once, that in anger she had the nostrils of a
war-horse. The nostrils now were faintly alive under some sensitive
impression of her musings. The olive cheeks, pale as she stood in the
doorway, were flushed by the fire-beams, though no longer with their
swarthy central rose, tropic flower of a pure and abounding blood, as it
had seemed. She was now beset by battle. His pity for her, and his
eager championship, overwhelmed the spirit of compassion for the foolish
wretched husband. Dolt, the man must be, Redworth thought; and he asked
inwardly, Did the miserable tyrant suppose of a woman like this, that
she would be content to shine as a candle in a grated lanthorn?
The generosity of men speculating upon other men's possessions is known.
Yet the man who loves a woman has to the full the husband's jealousy
of her good name. And a lover, that without the claims of the alliance,
can be wounded on her behalf, is less distracted in his homage by the
personal luminary, to which man's manufacture of balm and incense is
mainly drawn when his love is wounded. That contemplation of her
incomparable beauty, with the multitude of his ideas fluttering round it,
did somewhat shake the personal luminary in Redworth. He was conscious
of pangs. The question bit him: How far had she been indiscreet or
wilful? and the bite of it was a keen acid to his nerves. A woman
doubted by her husband, is always, and even to her champions in the first
hours of the noxious rumour, until they had solidified in confidence
through service, a creature of the wilds, marked for our ancient running.
Nay, more than a cynical world, these latter will be sensible of it. The
doubt casts her forth, the general yelp drags her down; she runs like the
prey of the forest under spotting branches; clear if we can think so, but
it has to be thought in devotedness: her character is abroad. Redworth
bore a strong resemblance to, his fellowmen, except for his power of
faith in this woman. Nevertheless it required the superbness of her
beauty and the contrasting charm of her humble posture of kneeling by the
fire, to set him on his right track of mind. He knew and was sure of
her. He dispersed the unhallowed fry in attendance upon any stirring of
the reptile part of us, to look at her with the eyes of a friend. And if
. . . !--a little mouse of a thought scampered out of one of the
chambers of his head and darted along the passages, fetching a sweat to
his brows. Well, whatsoever the fact, his heart was hers! He hoped he
could be charitable to women.
She rose from her knees and said: 'Now, please, give me the letter.'
He was entreated to excuse her for consigning him to firelight when she
left the room.
Danvers brought in a dismal tallow candle, remarking that her mistress
had not expected visitors: her mistress had nothing but tea and bread and
butter to offer him. Danvers uttered no complaint of her sufferings;
happy in being the picture of them. 'I'm not hungry,' said he.
A plate of Andrew Hedger's own would not have tempted him. The foolish
frizzle of bacon sang in his ears as he walked from end to end of the
room; an illusion of his fancy pricked by a frost-edged appetite. But
the anticipated contest with Diana checked and numbed the craving.
Was Warwick a man to proceed to extremities on a mad suspicion?--What
kind of proof had he?
Redworth summoned the portrait of Mr. Warwick before him, and beheld a
sweeping of close eyes in cloud, a long upper lip in cloud; the rest of
him was all cloud. As usual with these conjurations of a face, the index
of the nature conceived by him displayed itself, and no more; but he took
it for the whole physiognomy, and pronounced of the husband thus
delineated, that those close eyes of the long upper lip would both
suspect and proceed madly.
He was invited by Danvers to enter the dining-room.
There Diana joined him.
'The best of a dinner on bread and butter is, that one is ready for
supper soon after it,' she said, swimming to the tea-tray. 'You have
'At the inn,' he replied.
'The Three Ravens! When my father's guests from London flooded The
Crossways, The Three Ravens provided the overflow with beds. On nights
like this I have got up and scraped the frost from my window-panes to see
them step into the old fly, singing some song of his. The inn had a good
reputation for hospitality in those days. I hope they treated you well?'
'Excellently,' said Redworth, taking an enormous mouthful, while his
heart sank to see that she who smiled to encourage his eating had been
weeping. But she also consumed her bread and butter.
'That poor maid of mine is an instance of a woman able to do things
against the grain,' she said. 'Danvers is a foster-child of luxury.
She loves it; great houses, plentiful meals, and the crowd of twinkling
footmen's calves. Yet you see her here in a desolate house, consenting
to cold, and I know not what, terrors of ghosts! poor soul. I have some
mysterious attraction for her. She would not let me come alone.
I should have had to hire some old Storling grannam, or retain the
tattling keepers of the house. She loves her native country too, and
disdains the foreigner. My tea you may trust.'
Redworth had not a doubt of it. He was becoming a tea-taster. The merit
of warmth pertained to the beverage. 'I think you get your tea from
Scoppin's, in the City,' he said.
That was the warehouse for Mrs. Warwick's tea. They conversed of Teas;
the black, the green, the mixtures; each thinking of the attack to come,
and the defence. Meantime, the cut bread and butter having flown,
Redwerth attacked the loaf. He apologized.
'Oh! pay me a practical compliment,' Diana said, and looked really happy
at his unfeigned relish of her simple fare.
She had given him one opportunity in speaking of her maid's love of
native country. But it came too early.
'They say that bread and butter is fattening,' he remarked.
'You preserve the mean,' said she.
He admitted that his health was good. For some little time, to his
vexation at the absurdity, she kept him talking of himself. So flowing
was she, and so sweet the motion of her mouth in utterance, that he
followed her lead, and he said odd things and corrected them. He had to
describe his ride to her.
'Yes! the view of the Downs from Dewhurst,' she exclaimed. 'Or any point
along the ridge. Emma and I once drove there in Summer, with clotted
cream from her dairy, and we bought fresh-plucked wortleberries, and
stewed them in a hollow of the furzes, and ate them with ground biscuits
and the clotted cream iced, and thought it a luncheon for seraphs. Then
you dropped to the road round under the sand-heights--and meditated
'Just a notion or two.'
'You have been very successful in America?'
'Successful; perhaps; we exclude extremes in our calculations of the
'I am sure,' said she, 'you always have faith in your calculations.'
Her innocent archness dealt him a stab sharper than any he had known
since the day of his hearing of her engagement. He muttered of his
calculations being human; he was as much of a fool as other men--more!
'Oh! no,' said she.
'I cannot think it.'
'I know it.'
'Mr. Redworth, you will never persuade me to believe it.'
He knocked a rising groan on the head, and rejoined 'I hope I may not
have to say so to-night.'
Diana felt the edge of the dart. 'And meditating railways, you scored
our poor land of herds and flocks; and night fell, and the moon sprang
up, and on you came. It was clever of you to find your way by the
'That's about the one thing I seem fit for!'
'But what delusion is this, in the mind of a man succeeding in everything
he does!' cried Diana, curious despite her wariness. 'Is there to be the
revelation of a hairshirt ultimately?--a Journal of Confessions? You
succeeded in everything you aimed at, and broke your heart over one
'My heart is not of the stuff to break,' he said, and laughed off her
fortuitous thrust straight into it. 'Another cup, yes. I came . . .'
'By night,' said she, 'and cleverly found your way, and dined at The
Three Ravens, and walked to The Crossways, and met no ghosts.'
'On the contrary--or at least I saw a couple.'
'Tell me of them; we breed them here. We sell them periodically to the
'Well, I started them in their natal locality. I saw them, going down
the churchyard, and bellowed after them with all my lungs. I wanted
directions to The Crossways; I had missed my way at some turning. In an
instant they were vapour.'
Diana smiled. 'It was indeed a voice to startle delicate apparitions!
So do roar Hyrcanean tigers. Pyramus and Thisbe--slaying lions! One
of your ghosts carried a loaf of bread, and dropped it in fright; one
carried a pound of fresh butter for home consumption. They were in the
churchyard for one in passing to kneel at her father's grave and kiss his
She bowed her head, forgetful of her guard.
The pause presented an opening. Redworth left his chair and walked to
the mantelpiece. It was easier to him to speak, not facing her.
'You have read Lady Dunstane's letter,' he began.
She nodded. 'I have.'
'Can you resist her appeal to you?'
'She is not in a condition to bear it well. You will pardon me, Mrs.
Warwick . . .'
'I venture to offer merely practical advice. You have thought of it all,
but have not felt it. In these cases, the one thing to do is to make a
stand. Lady Dunstane has a clear head. She sees what has to be endured
by you. Consider: she appeals to me to bring you her letter. Would she
have chosen me, or any man, for her messenger, if it had not appeared to
her a matter of life and death? You count me among your friends.'
'One of the truest.'
'Here are two, then, and your own good sense. For I do not believe it
to be a question of courage.'
'He has commenced. Let him carry it out,' said Diana.
Her desperation could have added the cry--And give me freedom! That was
the secret in her heart. She had struck on the hope for the detested
yoke to be broken at any cost.
'I decline to meet his charges. I despise them. If my friends have
faith in me--and they may!--I want nothing more.'
'Well, I won't talk commonplaces about the world,' said Redworth.
'We can none of us afford to have it against us. Consider a moment: to
your friends you are the Diana Merion they knew, and they will not suffer
an injury to your good name without a struggle. But if you fly? You
leave the dearest you have to the whole brunt of it.
'They will, if they love me.'
'They will. But think of the shock to her. Lady Dunstane reads you--'
'Not quite. No, not if she even wishes me to stay!' said Diana.
He was too intent on his pleading to perceive a signification.
'She reads you as clearly in the dark as if you were present with her.'
'Oh! why am I not ten years older!' Diana cried, and tried to face
round to him, and stopped paralyzed. 'Ten years older, I could discuss
my situation, as an old woman of the world, and use my wits to defend
'And then you would not dream of flight before it!'
'No, she does not read me: no! She saw that I might come to The
Crossways. She--no one but myself can see the wisdom of my holding
aloof, in contempt of this baseness.'
'And of allowing her to sink under that which your presence would arrest.
Her strength will not support it.'
'Emma! Oh, cruel!' Diana sprang up to give play to her limbs. She
dropped on another chair. 'Go I must, I cannot turn back. She saw my
old attachment to this place. It was not difficult to guess . . .
Who but I can see the wisest course for me!'
'It comes to this, that the blow aimed at you in your absence will strike
her, and mortally,' said Redworth.
'Then I say it is terrible to have a friend,' said Diana, with her bosom
'Friendship, I fancy, means one heart between two.'
His unstressed observation hit a bell in her head, and set it
reverberating. She and Emma had spoken, written, the very words. She
drew forth her Emma's letter from under her left breast, and read some
Redworth immediately prepared to leave her to her feelings--trustier
guides than her judgement in this crisis.
'Adieu, for the night, Mrs. Warwick,' he said, and was guilty of
eulogizing the judgement he thought erratic for the moment. 'Night is a
calm adviser. Let me presume to come again in the morning. I dare not
go back without you.'
She looked up. As they faced together each saw that the other had passed
through a furnace, scorching enough to him, though hers was the delicacy
exposed. The reflection had its weight with her during the night.
'Danvers is getting ready a bed for you; she is airing linen,' Diana,
said. But the bed was declined, and the hospitality was not pressed.
The offer of it seemed to him significant of an unwary cordiality and
thoughtlessness of tattlers that might account possibly for many things--
supposing a fool or madman, or malignants, to interpret them.
'Then, good night,' said she.
They joined hands. He exacted no promise that she would be present in
the morning to receive him; and it was a consolation to her desire for
freedom, until she reflected on the perfect confidence it implied, and
felt as a quivering butterfly impalpably pinned.
THE CONFLICT OF THE NIGHT
Her brain was a steam-wheel throughout the night; everything that could
be thought of was tossed, nothing grasped.
The unfriendliness of the friends who sought to retain her recurred. For
look--to fly could not be interpreted as a flight. It was but a stepping
aside, a disdain of defending herself, and a wrapping herself in her
dignity. Women would be with her. She called on the noblest of them to
justify the course she chose, and they did, in an almost audible murmur.
And O the rich reward. A black archway-gate swung open to the glittering
fields of freedom.
Emma was not of the chorus. Emma meditated as an invalid. How often had
Emma bewailed to her that the most, grievous burden of her malady was her
fatal tendency to brood sickly upon human complications! She could not
see the blessedness of the prospect of freedom to a woman abominably
yoked. What if a miserable woman were dragged through mire to reach it!
Married, the mire was her portion, whatever she might do. That man--but
And that other--the dear, the kind, careless, high-hearted old friend.
He could honestly protest his guiltlessness, and would smilingly leave
the case to go its ways. Of this she was sure, that her decision and her
pleasure would be his. They were tied to the stake. She had already
tasted some of the mortal agony. Did it matter whether the flames
Reflecting on the interview with Redworth, though she had performed her
part in it placidly, her skin burned. It was the beginning of tortures
if she stayed in England.
By staying to defend herself she forfeited her attitude of dignity and
lost all chance of her reward. And name the sort of world it is, dear
friends, for which we are to sacrifice our one hope of freedom, that we
may preserve our fair fame in it!
Diana cried aloud, 'My freedom!' feeling as a butterfly flown out of a
box to stretches of sunny earth beneath spacious heavens. Her bitter
marriage, joyless in all its chapters, indefensible where the man was
right as well as where insensately wrong, had been imprisonment. She
excused him down to his last madness, if only the bonds were broken.
Here, too, in this very house of her happiness with her father, she had
bound herself to the man voluntarily, quite inexplicably. Voluntarily,
as we say. But there must be a spell upon us at times. Upon young women
there certainly is.
The wild brain of Diana, armed by her later enlightenment as to the laws
of life and nature, dashed in revolt at the laws of the world when she
thought of the forces, natural and social, urging young women to marry
and be bound to the end.
It should be a spotless world which is thus ruthless.
But were the world impeccable it would behave more generously.
The world is ruthless, dear friends, because the world is hypocrite!
The world cannot afford to be magnanimous, or even just.
Her dissensions with her husband, their differences of opinion, and puny
wranglings, hoistings of two standards, reconciliations for the sake of
decency, breaches of the truce, and his detested meanness, the man behind
the mask; and glimpses of herself too, the half-known, half-suspected,
developing creature claiming to be Diana, and unlike her dreamed Diana,
deformed by marriage, irritable, acerb, rebellious, constantly
justifiable against him, but not in her own mind, and therefore accusing
him of the double crime of provoking her and perverting her--these were
the troops defiling through her head while she did battle with the
One painful sting was caused by the feeling that she could have loved--
whom? An ideal. Had he, the imagined but unvisioned, been her yoke-
fellow, would she now lie raising caged-beast cries in execration of the
yoke? She would not now be seeing herself as hare, serpent, tigress!
The hypothesis was reviewed in negatives: she had barely a sense of
softness, just a single little heave of the bosom, quivering upward and
leadenly sinking, when she glanced at a married Diana heartily mated.
The regrets of the youthful for a life sailing away under medical
sentence of death in the sad eyes of relatives resemble it. She could
have loved. Good-bye to that!
A woman's brutallest tussle with the world was upon her. She was in the
arena of the savage claws, flung there by the man who of all others
should have protected her from them. And what had she done to deserve
it? She listened to the advocate pleading her case; she primed him to
admit the charges, to say the worst, in contempt of legal prudence, and
thereby expose her transparent honesty. The very things awakening a mad
suspicion proved her innocence. But was she this utterly simple person?
Oh, no! She was the Diana of the pride in her power of fencing with
evil--by no means of the order of those ninny young women who realize the
popular conception of the purely innocent. She had fenced and kept her
guard. Of this it was her angry glory to have the knowledge. But she
had been compelled to fence. Such are men in the world of facts, that
when a woman steps out of her domestic tangle to assert, because it is a
tangle, her rights to partial independence, they sight her for their
prey, or at least they complacently suppose her accessible. Wretched at
home, a woman ought to bury herself in her wretchedness, else may she be
assured that not the cleverest, wariest guard will cover her character.
Against the husband her cause was triumphant. Against herself she
decided not to plead it, for this reason, that the preceding Court, which
was the public and only positive one, had entirely and justly exonerated
her. But the holding of her hand by the friend half a minute too long
for friendship, and the over-friendliness of looks, letters, frequency of
visits, would speak within her. She had a darting view of her husband's
estimation of them in his present mood. She quenched it; they were
trifles, things that women of the world have to combat. The revelation
to a fair-minded young woman of the majority of men being naught other
than men, and some of the friendliest of men betraying confidence under
the excuse of temptation, is one of the shocks to simplicity which leave
her the alternative of misanthropy or philosophy. Diana had not the
heart to hate her kind, so she resigned herself to pardon, and to the
recognition of the state of duel between the sexes-active enough in her
sphere of society. The circle hummed with it; many lived for it. Could
she pretend to ignore it? Her personal experience might have instigated
a less clear and less intrepid nature to take advantage of the
opportunity for playing the popular innocent, who runs about with
astonished eyes to find herself in so hunting a world, and wins general
compassion, if not shelter in unsuspected and unlicenced places. There
is perpetually the inducement to act the hypocrite before the hypocrite
world, unless a woman submits to be the humbly knitting housewife,
unquestioningly worshipful of her lord; for the world is ever gracious to
an hypocrisy that pays homage to the mask of virtue by copying it; the
world is hostile to the face of an innocence not conventionally simpering
and quite surprised; the world prefers decorum to honesty. 'Let me be
myself, whatever the martyrdom!' she cried, in that phase of young
sensation when, to the blooming woman; the putting on of a mask appears
to wither her and reduce her to the show she parades. Yet, in common
with her sisterhood, she owned she had worn a sort of mask; the world
demands it of them as the price of their station. That she had never
worn it consentingly, was the plea for now casting it off altogether,
showing herself as she was, accepting martyrdom, becoming the first
martyr of the modern woman's cause--a grand position! and one imaginable
to an excited mind in the dark, which does not conjure a critical humour,
as light does, to correct the feverish sublimity. She was, then, this
martyr, a woman capable of telling the world she knew it, and of,
confessing that she had behaved in disdain of its rigider rules,
according to her own ideas of her immunities. O brave!
But was she holding the position by flight? It involved the challenge
of consequences, not an evasion of them.
She moaned; her mental steam-wheel stopped; fatigue brought sleep.
She had sensationally led her rebellious wits to The Crossways,
distilling much poison from thoughts on the way; and there, for the
luxury of a still seeming indecision, she sank into oblivion.
RECOUNTS THE JOURNEY IN A CHARIOT, WITH A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF DIALOGUE, AND
A SMALL INCIDENT ON THE ROAD
In the morning the fight was over. She looked at the signpost of The
Crossways whilst dressing, and submitted to follow, obediently as a
puppet, the road recommended by friends, though a voice within, that she
took for the intimations of her reason, protested that they were wrong,
that they were judging of her case in the general, and unwisely--
disastrously for her.
The mistaking of her desires for her reasons was peculiar to her
'So I suppose I shall some day see The Crossways again,' she said, to
conceive a compensation in the abandonment of freedom. The night's red
vision of martyrdom was reserved to console her secretly, among the
unopened lockers in her treasury of thoughts. It helped to sustain her;
and she was too conscious of things necessary for her sustainment to
bring it to the light of day and examine it. She had a pitiful bit of
pleasure in the gratification she imparted to Danvers, by informing her
that the journey of the day was backward to Copsley.
'If I may venture to say so, ma'am, I am very glad,' said her maid.
'You must be prepared for the questions of lawyers, Danvers.'
'Oh, ma'am! they'll get nothing out of me, and their wigs won't frighten
'It is usually their baldness that is most frightening, my poor Danvers.'
'Nor their baldness, ma'am,' said the literal maid; 'I never cared for
their heads, or them. I've been in a Case before.'
'Indeed!' exclaimed her mistress; and she had a chill.
Danvers mentioned a notorious Case, adding, 'They got nothing out of me.'
'In my Case you will please to speak the truth,' said Diana, and beheld
in the looking-glass the primming of her maid's mouth. The sight shot a
'Understand that there is to be no hesitation about telling the truth of
what you know of me,' said Diana; and the answer was, 'No, ma'am.'
For Danvers could remark to herself that she knew little, and was not a
person to hesitate. She was a maid of the world, with the quality of
faithfulness, by nature, to a good mistress.
Redworth's further difficulties were confined to the hiring of a
conveyance for the travellers, and hot-water bottles, together with a
postillion not addicted to drunkenness. He procured a posting-chariot,
an ancient and musty, of a late autumnal yellow unrefreshed by paint;
the only bottles to be had were Dutch Schiedam. His postillion,
inspected at Storling, carried the flag of habitual inebriation on his
nose, and he deemed it adviseable to ride the mare in accompaniment as
far as Riddlehurst, notwithstanding the postillion's vows upon his honour
that he was no drinker. The emphasis, to a gentleman acquainted with his
countrymen, was not reassuring. He had hopes of enlisting a trustier
fellow at Riddlehurst, but he was disappointed; and while debating upon
what to do, for he shrank from leaving two women to the conduct of that
inflamed troughsnout, Brisby, despatched to Storling by an afterthought
of Lady Dunstane's, rushed out of the Riddlehurst inn taproom, and
relieved him of the charge of the mare. He was accommodated with a seat
on a stool in the chariot. 'My triumphal car,' said his captive. She
was very amusing about her postillion; Danvers had to beg pardon for
laughing. 'You are happy,' observed her mistress. But Redworth laughed
too, and he could not boast of any happiness beyond the temporary
satisfaction, nor could she who sprang the laughter boast of that little.
She said to herself, in the midst of the hilarity, 'Wherever I go now, in
all weathers, I am perfectly naked!' And remembering her readings of a
certain wonderful old quarto book in her father's library, by an
eccentric old Scottish nobleman, wherein the wearing of garments and
sleeping in houses is accused as the cause of human degeneracy, she took
a forced merry stand on her return to the primitive healthful state of
man and woman, and affected scorn of our modern ways of dressing and
thinking. Whence it came that she had some of her wildest seizures of
iridescent humour. Danvers attributed the fun to her mistress's gladness
in not having pursued her bent to quit the country. Redworth saw deeper,
and was nevertheless amazed by the airy hawk-poise and pounce-down of her
wit, as she ranged high and low, now capriciously generalizing, now
dropping bolt upon things of passage--the postillion jogging from rum to
gin, the rustics baconly agape, the horse-kneed ostlers. She touched
them to the life in similes and phrases; and next she was aloft,
derisively philosophizing, but with a comic afflatus that dispersed the
sharpness of her irony in mocking laughter. The afternoon refreshments
at the inn of the county market-town, and the English idea of public
hospitality, as to manner and the substance provided for wayfarers, were
among the themes she made memorable to him. She spoke of everything
tolerantly, just naming it in a simple sentence, that fell with a ring
and chimed: their host's ready acquiescence in receiving, orders, his
contemptuous disclaimer of stuff he did not keep, his flat indifference
to the sheep he sheared, and the phantom half-crown flickering in one eye
of the anticipatory waiter; the pervading and confounding smell of stale
beer over all the apartments; the prevalent, notion of bread, butter,
tea, milk, sugar, as matter for the exercise of a native inventive
genius--these were reviewed in quips of metaphor.
'Come, we can do better at an inn or two known to me,' said Redworth.
'Surely this is the best that can be done for us, when we strike them
with the magic wand of a postillion?' said she.
'It depends, as elsewhere, on the individuals entertaining us.'
'Yet you admit that your railways are rapidly "polishing off" the
'They will spread the metropolitan idea of comfort.'
'I fear they will feed us on nothing but that big word. It booms--
a curfew bell--for every poor little light that we would read by.'
Seeing their beacon-nosed postillion preparing too mount and failing in
his jump, Redworth was apprehensive, and questioned the fellow concerning
'Lord, sir, they call me half a horse, but I can't 'bids water,' was the
reply, with the assurance that he had not 'taken a pailful.'
Habit enabled him to gain his seat.
'It seems to us unnecessary to heap on coal when the chimney is afire;
but he may know the proper course,' Diana said, convulsing Danvers; and
there was discernibly to Redworth, under the influence of her phrases, a
likeness of the flaming 'half-horse,' with the animals all smoking in the
frost, to a railway engine. 'Your wrinkled centaur,' she named the man.
Of course he had to play second to her, and not unwillingly; but he
reflected passingly on the instinctive push of her rich and sparkling
voluble fancy to the initiative, which women do not like in a woman, and
men prefer to distantly admire. English women and men feel toward the
quick-witted of their species as to aliens, having the demerits of
aliens-wordiness, vanity, obscurity, shallowness, an empty glitter, the
sin of posturing. A quick-witted woman exerting her wit is both a
foreigner and potentially a criminal. She is incandescent to a breath of
rumour. It accounted for her having detractors; a heavy counterpoise to
her enthusiastic friends. It might account for her husband's discontent-
the reduction of him to a state of mere masculine antagonism. What is
the husband of a vanward woman? He feels himself but a diminished man.
The English husband of a voluble woman relapses into a dreary mute. Ah,
for the choice of places! Redworth would have yielded her the loquent
lead for the smallest of the privileges due to him who now rejected all,
except the public scourging of her. The conviction was in his mind that
the husband of this woman sought rather to punish than be rid of her.
But a part of his own emotion went to form the judgement.
Furthermore, Lady Dunstane's allusion to her 'enemies' made him set down
her growing crops of backbiters to the trick she had of ridiculing things
English. If the English do it themselves, it is in a professionally
robust, a jocose, kindly way, always with a glance at the other things,
great things, they excel in; and it is done to have the credit of doing
it. They are keen to catch an inimical tone; they will find occasion to
chastise the presumptuous individual, unless it be the leader of a party,
therefore a power; for they respect a power. Redworth knew their
quaintnesses; without overlooking them he winced at the acid of an irony
that seemed to spring from aversion, and regretted it, for her sake. He
had to recollect that she was in a sharp-strung mood, bitterly
surexcited; moreover he reminded himself of her many and memorable
phrases of enthusiasm for England--Shakespeareland, as she would
sometimes perversely term it, to sink the country in the poet. English
fortitude, English integrity, the English disposition to do justice to
dependents, adolescent English ingenuousness, she was always ready to
laud. Only her enthusiasm required rousing by circumstances; it was less
at the brim than her satire. Hence she made enemies among a placable
He felt that he could have helped her under happier conditions. The
beautiful vision she had been on the night of the Irish Ball swept before
him, and he looked at her, smiling.
'Why do you smile?' she said.
'I was thinking of Mr. Sullivan Smith.'
'Ah! my dear compatriot! And think, too, of Lord Larrian.'
She caught her breath. Instead of recreation, the names brought on a
fit of sadness. It deepened; shy neither smiled nor rattled any more.
She gazed across the hedgeways at the white meadows and bare-twigged
copses showing their last leaves in the frost.
'I remember your words: "Observation is the most, enduring of the
pleasures of life"; and so I have found it,' she said. There was a
brightness along her under-eyelids that caused him to look away.
The expected catastrophe occurred on the descent of a cutting in the
sand, where their cordial postillion at a trot bumped the chariot against
the sturdy wheels of a waggon, which sent it reclining for support upon a
beech-tree's huge intertwisted serpent roots, amid strips of brown
bracken and pendant weeds, while he exhibited one short stump of leg, all
boot, in air. No one was hurt. Diana disengaged herself from the
shoulder of Danvers, and mildly said:
'That reminds me, I forgot to ask why we came in a chariot.'
Redworth was excited on her behalf, but the broken glass had done no
damage, nor had Danvers fainted. The remark was unintelligible to him,
apart from the comforting it had been designed to give. He jumped out,
and held a hand for them to do the same. 'I never foresaw an event more
positively,' said he.
'And it was nothing but a back view that inspired you all the way,' said
A waggoner held the horses, another assisted Redworth to right the
chariot. The postillion had hastily recovered possession of his official
seat, that he might as soon as possible feel himself again where he was
most intelligent, and was gay in stupidity, indifferent to what happened
behind him. Diana heard him counselling the waggoner as to the common
sense of meeting small accidents with a cheerful soul.
'Lord!' he cried, 'I been pitched a Somerset in my time, and taken up for
dead, and that didn't beat me!'
Disasters of the present kind could hardly affect such a veteran. But he
was painfully disconcerted by Redworth's determination not to entrust the
ladies any farther to his guidance. Danvers had implored for permission
to walk the mile to the town, and thence take a fly to Copsley. Her
mistress rather sided with the postillion; who begged them to spare him
the disgrace of riding in and delivering a box at the Red Lion.
'What'll they say? And they know Arthur Dance well there,' he groaned.
'What! Arthur! chariotin' a box! And me a better man to his work now
than I been for many a long season, fit for double the journey! A bit of
a shake always braces me up. I could read a newspaper right off, small
print and all. Come along, sir, and hand the ladies in.'
Danvers vowed her thanks to Mr. Redworth for refusing. They walked
ahead; the postillion communicated his mixture of professional and human
feelings to the waggoners, and walked his horses in the rear, meditating
on the weak-heartedness of gentryfolk, and the means for escaping being
chaffed out of his boots at the Old Red Lion, where he was to eat, drink,
and sleep that night. Ladies might be fearsome after a bit of a shake;
he would not have supposed it of a gentleman. He jogged himself into an
arithmetic of the number of nips of liquor he had taken to soothe him on
the road, in spite of the gentleman. 'For some of 'em are sworn enemies
of poor men, as yonder one, ne'er a doubt.'
Diana enjoyed her walk beneath the lingering brown-red of the frosty
November sunset, with the scent of sand-earth strong in the air.
'I had to hire a chariot because there was no two-horse carriage,' said
Redworth, 'and I wished to reach Copsley as early as possible.'
She replied, smiling, that accidents were fated. As a certain marriage
had been! The comparison forced itself on her reflections.
'But this is quite an adventure,' said she, reanimated by the brisker
flow of her blood. 'We ought really to be thankful for it, in days when
Redworth accused her of getting that idea from the perusal of romances.
'Yes, our lives require compression, like romances, to be interesting,
and we object to the process,' she said. 'Real happiness is a state of
dulness. When we taste it consciously it becomes mortal--a thing of the
Seasons. But I like my walk. How long these November sunsets burn, and
what hues they have! There is a scientific reason, only don't tell it
me. Now I understand why you always used to choose your holidays in
She thrilled him with her friendly recollection of his customs.
'As to happiness, the looking forward is happiness,' he remarked.
'Oh, the looking back! back!' she cried.
'Forward! that is life.'
'And backward, death, if you will; and still at is happiness. Death, and
'Ay; I wonder why the fellow hangs to the rear,' said Redworth, turning
'It's his cunning strategy, poor creature, so that he may be thought to
have delivered us at the head of the town, for us to make a purchase or
two, if we go to the inn on foot,' said Diana. 'We 'll let the manoeuvre
Redworth declared that she had a head for everything, and she was
flattered to hear him.
So passing from the southern into the western road, they saw the town-
lights beneath an amber sky burning out sombrely over the woods of
Copsley, and entered the town, the postillion following.
BETWEEN EMMA AND DIANA
Diana was in the arms of her friend at a late hour of the evening, and
Danvers breathed the amiable atmosphere of footmen once more, professing
herself perished. This maid of the world, who could endure hardships and
loss of society for the mistress to whom she was attached, no sooner saw
herself surrounded by the comforts befitting her station, than she
indulged in the luxury of a wailful dejectedness, the better to
appreciate them. She was unaffectedly astonished to find her outcries
against the cold and the journeyings to and fro interpreted as a serving-
woman's muffled comments on her mistress's behaviour. Lady Dunstane's
maid Bartlett, and Mrs. Bridges the housekeeper, and Foster the butler,
contrived to let her know that they could speak an if they would; and
they expressed their pity of her to assist her to begin the speaking.
She bowed in acceptance of Fosters offer of a glass of wine after supper,
but treated him and the other two immediately as though they had been
'They wormed nothing out of me,' she said to her mistress at night,
undressing her. 'But what a set they are! They've got such comfortable
places, they've all their days and hours for talk of the doings of their
superiors. They read the vilest of those town papers, and they put their
two and two together of what is happening in and about. And not one of
the footmen thinks of staying, because it 's so dull; and they and the
maids object--did one ever hear?--to the three uppers retiring, when they
've done dining, to the private room to dessert.'
'That is the custom?' observed her mistress.
'Foster carries the decanter, ma'am, and Mrs. Bridges the biscuits, and
Bartlett the plate of fruit, and they march out in order.'
'The man at the head of the procession, probably.'
'Oh yes. And the others, though they have everything except the wine and
dessert, don't like it. When I was here last they were new, and hadn't a
word against it. Now they say it's invidious! Lady Dunstane will be
left without an under-servant at Copsley soon. I was asked about your
boxes, ma'am, and the moment I said they were at Dover, that instant all
three peeped. They let out a mouse to me. They do love to talk!'
Her mistress could have added, 'And you too, my good Danvers!'
trustworthy though she knew the creature to be in the main.
'Now go, and be sure you have bedclothes enough before you drop asleep,'
she said; and Danvers directed her steps to gossip with Bartlett.
Diana wrapped herself in a dressing-gown Lady Dunstane had sent her, and
sat by the fire, thinking of the powder of tattle stored in servants'
halls to explode beneath her: and but for her choice of roads she might
have been among strangers. The liking of strangers best is a curious
exemplification of innocence.
'Yes, I was in a muse,' she said, raising her head to Emma, whom she
expected and sat armed to meet, unaccountably iron-nerved. 'I was
questioning whether I could be quite as blameless as I fancy, if I sit
and shiver to be in England. You will tell me I have taken the right
road. I doubt it. But the road is taken, and here I am. But any road
that leads me to you is homeward, my darling!' She tried to melt,
determining to be at least open with her.
'I have not praised you enough for coming,' said Emma, when they had
'Praise a little your "truest friend of women." Your letter gave the
tug. I might have resisted it.'
'He came straight from heaven! But, cruel Tony where is your love?'
'It is unequal to yours, dear, I see. I could have wrestled with
anything abstract and distant, from being certain. But here I am.'
'But, my own dear girl, you never could have allowed this infamous charge
to be undefended?'
'I think so. I've an odd apathy as to my character; rather like death,
when one dreams of flying the soul. What does it matter? I should have
left the flies and wasps to worry a corpse. And then-good-bye gentility!
I should have worked for my bread. I had thoughts of America. I fancy I
can write; and Americans, one hears, are gentle to women.'
'Ah, Tony! there's the looking back. And, of all women, you!'
'Or else, dear-well, perhaps once on foreign soil, in a different air,
I might--might have looked back, and seen my whole self, not shattered,
as I feel it now, and come home again compassionate to the poor
persecuted animal to defend her. Perhaps that was what I was running
away for. I fled on the instinct, often a good thing to trust.'
'I saw you at The Crossways.'
'I remembered I had the dread that you would, though I did not imagine
you would reach me so swiftly. My going there was an instinct, too.
I suppose we are all instinct when we have the world at our heels.
Forgive me if I generalize without any longer the right to be included in
the common human sum. "Pariah" and "taboo" are words we borrow from
barbarous tribes; they stick to me.'
'My Tony, you look as bright as ever, and you speak despairingly.'
'Call me enigma. I am that to myself, Emmy.'
'You are not quite yourself to your friend.'
'Since the blow I have been bewildered; I see nothing upright. It came
on me suddenly; stunned me. A bolt out of a clear sky, as they say. He
spared me a scene: There had been threats, and yet the sky was clear, or
seemed. When we have a man for arbiter, he is our sky.'
Emma pressed her Tony's unresponsive hand, feeling strangely that her
friend ebbed from her.
'Has he . . . to mislead him?' she said, colouring at the breach in
'Proofs? He has the proofs he supposes.'
'Not to justify suspicion?'
'He broke open my desk and took my letters.'
'Horrible! But the letters?' Emma shook with a nervous revulsion.
'You might read them.'
'Basest of men! That is the unpardonable cowardice!', exclaimed Emma.
'The world will read them, dear,' said Diana, and struck herself to ice.
She broke from the bitter frigidity in fury. 'They are letters--none
very long--sometimes two short sentences--he wrote at any spare moment.
On my honour, as a woman, I feel for him most. The letters--I would bear
any accusation rather than that exposure. Letters of a man of his age to
a young woman he rates too highly!
The world reads them. Do you hear it saying it could have excused her
for that fiddle-faddle with a younger--a young lover? And had I thought
of a lover! . . . I had no thought of loving or being loved. I
confess I was flattered. To you, Emma, I will confess . . . . You
see the public ridicule!--and half his age, he and I would have appeared
a romantic couple! Confess, I said. Well, dear, the stake is lighted
for a trial of its effect on me. It is this: he was never a
dishonourable friend; but men appear to be capable of friendship with
women only for as long as we keep out of pulling distance of that line
where friendship ceases. They may step on it; we must hold back a
league. I have learnt it. You will judge whether he disrespects me.
As for him, he is a man; at his worst, not one of the worst; at his best,
better than very many. There, now, Emma, you have me stripped and
burning; there is my full confession. Except for this--yes, one thing
further--that I do rage at the ridicule, and could choose, but for you,
to have given the world cause to revile me, or think me romantic.
Something or somebody to suffer for would really be agreeable. It is a
singular fact, I have not known what this love is, that they talk about.
And behold me marched into Smithfield!--society's heretic, if you please.
I must own I think it hard.'
Emma chafed her cold hand softly.
'It is hard; I understand it,' she murmured. 'And is your Sunday visit
to us in the list of offences?'
'You gave me a happy day.'
'Then it counts for me in heaven.'
'He set spies on you?'
'So we may presume.'
Emma went through a sphere of tenuious reflections in a flash.
'He will rue it. Perhaps now . . . he may now be regretting his
wretched frenzy. And Tony could pardon; she has the power of pardoning
in her heart.'
'Oh! certainly, dear. But tell me why it is you speak to-night rather
unlike the sedate, philosophical Emma; in a tone-well, tolerably
'I am unaware of it,' said Emma, who could have retorted with a like
reproach. 'I am anxious, I will not say at present for your happiness,
for your peace; and I have a hope that possibly a timely word from some
friend--Lukin or another--might induce him to consider.'
'To pardon me, do you mean?' cried Diana, flushing sternly.
'Not pardon. Suppose a case of faults on both sides.'
'You address a faulty person, my dear. But do you know that you are
hinting at a reconcilement?'
'Might it not be?'
'Open your eyes to what it involves. I trust I can pardon. Let him go
his ways, do his darkest, or repent. But return to the roof of the
"basest of men," who was guilty of "the unpardonable cowardice"? You
expect me to be superhuman. When I consent to that, I shall be out of my
woman's skin, which he has branded. Go back to him!' She was taken with
a shudder of head and limbs. 'No; I really have the power of pardoning,
and I am bound to; for among my debts to him, this present exemption,
that is like liberty dragging a chain, or, say, an escaped felon wearing
his manacles, should count. I am sensible of my obligation. The price I
pay for it is an immovable patch-attractive to male idiots, I have heard,
and a mark of scorn to females. Between the two the remainder of my days
will be lively. "Out, out, damned spot!" But it will not. And not on
the hand--on the forehead! We'll talk of it no longer. I have sent a
note, with an enclosure, to my lawyers. I sell The Crossways, if I have
the married woman's right to any scrap of property, for money to scatter
'My purse, dear Tony!' exclaimed Emma. 'My house! You will stay with
me? Why do you shake your head? With me you are safe.' She spied at
the shadows in her friend's face. 'Ever since your marriage, Tony, you
have been strange in your trick of refusing to stay with me. And you and
I made our friendship the pledge of a belief in eternity! We vowed it.
Come, I do talk sentimentally, but my heart is in it. I beg you--all the
reasons are with me--to make my house your home. You will. You know I
am rather lonely.'
Diana struggled to keep her resolution from being broken by tenderness.
And doubtless poor Sir Lukin had learnt his lesson; still, her defensive
instincts could never quite slumber under his roof; not because of any
further fear that they would have to be summoned; it was chiefly owing to
the consequences of his treacherous foolishness. For this half-home with
her friend thenceforward denied to her, she had accepted a protector,
called husband--rashly, past credence, in the retrospect; but it had been
her propelling motive; and the loathings roused by her marriage helped to
sicken her at the idea of a lengthened stay where she had suffered the
shock precipitating her to an act of insanity.
'I do not forget you were an heiress, Emmy, and I will come to you if I
need money to keep my head up. As for staying, two reasons are against
it. If I am to fight my battle, I must be seen; I must go about--
wherever I am received. So my field is London. That is obvious.
And I shall rest better in a house where my story is not known.'
Two or three questions ensued. Diana had to fortify her fictitious
objection by alluding to her maid's prattle of the household below;
and she excused the hapless, overfed, idle people of those regions.
To Emma it seemed a not unnatural sensitiveness. She came to a settled
resolve in her thoughts, as she said, 'They want a change. London is
Feeling that she deceived this true heart, however lightly and
necessarily, Diana warmed to her, forgiving her at last for having netted
and dragged her back to front the enemy; an imposition of horrors, of
which the scene and the travelling with Redworth, the talking of her case
with her most intimate friend as well, had been a distempering foretaste.
They stood up and kissed, parting for the night.
An odd world, where for the sin we have not participated in we must fib
and continue fibbing, she reflected. She did not entirely cheat her
clearer mind, for she perceived that her step in flight had been urged
both by a weak despondency and a blind desperation; also that the world
of a fluid civilization is perforce artificial. But her mind was in the
background of her fevered senses, and when she looked in the glass and
mused on uttering the word, 'Liar!' to the lovely image, her senses were
refreshed, her mind somewhat relieved, the face appeared so sovereignly
defiant of abasement.
Thus did a nature distraught by pain obtain some short lull of repose.
Thus, moreover, by closely reading herself, whom she scourged to excess
that she might in justice be comforted, she gathered an increasing
knowledge of our human constitution, and stored matter for the brain.
TOUCHING THE FIRST DAYS OF HER PROBATION
The result of her sleeping was, that Diana's humour, locked up overnight,
insisted on an excursion, as she lay with half-buried head and open
eyelids, thinking of the firm of lawyers she had to see; and to whom,
and to the legal profession generally, she would be, under outward
courtesies, nothing other than 'the woman Warwick.' She pursued the
woman Warwick unmercifully through a series of interviews with her
decorous and crudely-minded defenders; accurately perusing them behind
their senior staidness. Her scorching sensitiveness sharpened her
intelligence in regard to the estimate of discarded wives entertained by
men of business and plain men of the world, and she drove the woman
Warwick down their ranks, amazed by the vision of a puppet so unlike to
herself in reality, though identical in situation. That woman, reciting
her side of the case, gained a gradual resemblance to Danvers; she spoke
primly; perpetually the creature aired her handkerchief; she was bent on
softening those sugarloaves, the hard business-men applying to her for
facts. Facts were treated as unworthy of her; mere stuff of the
dustheap, mutton-bones, old shoes; she swam above them in a cocoon of her
spinning, sylphidine, unseizable; and between perplexing and mollifying
the slaves of facts, she saw them at their heels, a tearful fry, abjectly
imitative of her melodramatic performances. The spectacle was presented
of a band of legal gentlemen vociferating mightily for swords and the
onset, like the Austrian empress's Magyars, to vindicate her just and
holy cause. Our Law-courts failing, they threatened Parliament, and for
a last resort, the country! We are not going to be the woman Warwick
without a stir, my brethren.
Emma, an early riser that morning, for the purpose of a private
consultation with Mr. Redworth, found her lying placidly wakeful, to
judge by appearances.
'You have not slept, my dear child?'
'Perfectly,' said Diana, giving her hand and offering the lips. 'I'm
only having a warm morning bath in bed,' she added, in explanation of a
chill moisture that the touch of her exposed skin betrayed; for whatever
the fun of the woman Warwick, there had been sympathetic feminine horrors
in the frame of the sentient woman.
Emma fancied she kissed a quiet sufferer. A few remarks very soon set
her wildly laughing. Both were laughing when Danvers entered the room,
rather guilty, being late; and the sight of the prim-visaged maid she had
been driving among the lawyers kindled Diana's comic imagination to such
a pitch that she ran riot in drolleries, carrying her friend headlong on
'I have not laughed so much since you were married,' said Emma.
'Nor I, dear; proving that the bar to it was the ceremony,' said Diana.
She promised to remain at Copsley three days. 'Then for the campaign in
Mr. Redworth's metropolis. I wonder whether I may ask him to get me
lodgings: a sitting-room and two bedrooms. The Crossways has a board up
for letting. I should prefer to be my own tenant; only it would give me
a hundred pounds more to get a substitute's money. I should like to be
at work writing instantly. Ink is my opium, and the pen my nigger, and
he must dig up gold for me. It is written. Danvers, you can make ready
to dress me when I ring.'
Emma helped the beautiful woman to her dressing-gown and the step from
her bed. She had her thoughts, and went down to Redworth at the
breakfast-table, marvelling that any husband other than a madman could
cast such a jewel away. The material loveliness eclipses intellectual
qualities in such reflections.
'He must be mad,' she said, compelled to disburden herself in a congenial
atmosphere; which, however, she infrigidated by her overflow of
exclamatory wonderment--a curtain that shook voluminous folds, luring
Redworth to dreams of the treasure forfeited. He became rigidly
'Provision will have to be made for her. Lukin must see Mr. Warwick.
She will do wisely to stay with friends in town, mix in company. Women
are the best allies for such cases. Who are her solicitors?'
'They are mine: Braddock, Thorpe, and Simnel.'
'A good firm. She is in safe hands with them. I dare say they may come
to an arrangement.'
'I should wish it. She will never consent.'
Redworth shrugged. A woman's 'never' fell far short of outstripping the
sturdy pedestrian Time, to his mind.
Diana saw him drive off to catch the coach in the valley, regulated to
meet the train, and much though she liked him, she was not sorry that he
had gone. She felt the better clad for it. She would have rejoiced to
witness the departure on wings of all her friends, except Emma, to whom
her coldness overnight had bound her anew warmly in contrition. And yet
her friends were well-beloved by her; but her emotions were distraught.
Emma told her that Mr. Redworth had undertaken to hire a suite of
convenient rooms, and to these she looked forward, the nest among
strangers, where she could begin to write, earning bread: an idea that,
with the pride of independence, conjured the pleasant morning smell of a
bakery about her.
She passed three peaceable days at Copsley, at war only with the luxury
of the house. On the fourth, a letter to Lady Dunstane from Redworth
gave the address of the best lodgings he could find, and Diana started
She had during a couple of weeks, besides the first fresh exercising of
her pen, as well as the severe gratification of economy, a savage
exultation in passing through the streets on foot and unknown. Save for
the plunges into the office of her solicitors, she could seem to herself
a woman who had never submitted to the yoke. What a pleasure it was,
after finishing a number of pages, to start Eastward toward the lawyer-
regions, full of imaginary cropping incidents, and from that churchyard
Westward, against smoky sunsets, or in welcome fogs, an atom of the
crowd! She had an affection for the crowd. They clothed her. She
laughed at the gloomy forebodings of Danvers concerning the perils
environing ladies in the streets after dark alone. The lights in the
streets after dark and the quick running of her blood, combined to strike
sparks of fancy and inspirit the task of composition at night. This new,
strange, solitary life, cut off from her adulatory society, both by the
shock that made the abyss and by the utter foreignness, threw her in upon
her natural forces, recasting her, and thinning away her memory of her
past days, excepting girlhood, into the remote. She lived with her
girlhood as with a simple little sister. They were two in one, and she
corrected the dreams of the younger, protected and counselled her very
sagely, advising her to love Truth and look always to Reality for her
refreshment. She was ready to say, that no habitable spot on our planet
was healthier and pleasanter than London. As to the perils haunting the
head of Danvers, her experiences assured her of a perfect immunity from
them; and the maligned thoroughfares of a great city, she was ready to
affirm, contrasted favourably with certain hospitable halls.
The long-suffering Fates permitted her for a term to enjoy the generous
delusion. Subsequently a sweet surprise alleviated the shock she had
sustained. Emma Dunstane's carriage was at her door, and Emma entered
her sitting-room, to tell her of having hired a house in the
neighbourhood, looking on the park. She begged to have her for guest,
sorrowfully anticipating the refusal. At least they were to be near one
'You really like this life in lodgings?' asked Emma, to whom the stiff
furniture and narrow apartments were a dreariness, the miserably small
fire of the sitting-room an aspect of cheerless winter.
'I do,' said Diana; 'yes,' she added with some reserve, and smiled at her
damped enthusiasm, 'I can eat when I like, walk, work--and I am working!
My legs and my pen demand it. Let me be independent! Besides, I begin
to learn something of the bigger world outside the one I know, and I
crush my mincing tastes. In return for that, I get a sense of strength
I had not when I was a drawing-room exotic. Much is repulsive. But I am
taken with a passion for reality.'
They spoke of the lawyers, and the calculated period of the trial; of the
husband too, in his inciting belief in the falseness of his wife. 'That
is his excuse,' Diana said, her closed mouth meditatively dimpling the
comers over thoughts of his grounds for fury. He had them, though none
for the incriminating charge. The Sphinx mouth of the married woman at
war and at bay must be left unriddled. She and the law differed in their
interpretation of the dues of wedlock.
But matters referring to her case were secondary with Diana beside the
importance of her storing impressions. Her mind required to hunger for
something, and this Reality which frequently she was forced to loathe,
she forced herself proudly to accept, despite her youthfulness. Her
philosophy swallowed it in the lump, as the great serpent his meal; she
hoped to digest it sleeping likewise. Her visits of curiosity to the Law
Courts, where she stood spying and listening behind a veil, gave her a
great deal of tough substance to digest. There she watched the process
of the tortures to be applied to herself, and hardened her senses for the
ordeal. She saw there the ribbed and shanked old skeleton world on which
our fair fleshly is moulded. After all, your Fool's Paradise is not a
garden to grow in. Charon's ferry-boat is not thicker with phantoms.
They do not live in mind or soul. Chiefly women people it: a certain
class of limp men; women for the most part: they are sown there. And put
their garden under the magnifying glass of intimacy, what do we behold?
A world not better than the world it curtains, only foolisher.
Her conversations with Lady Dunstane brought her at last to the point of
her damped enthusiasm. She related an incident or two occurring in her
career of independence, and they discussed our state of civilization
plainly and gravely, save for the laughing peals her phrases occasionally
provoked; as when she named the intruders and disturbers of solitarily-
faring ladies, 'Cupid's footpads.' Her humour was created to swim on
waters where a prescribed and cultivated prudery should pretend to be
'I was getting an exalted idea of English gentlemen, Emmy. "Rich and
rare were the gems she wore." I was ready to vow that one might traverse
the larger island similarly respected. I praised their chivalry.
I thought it a privilege to live in such a land. I cannot describe to
you how delightful it was to me to walk out and home generally protected.
I might have been seriously annoyed but that one of the clerks-
"articled," he called himself--of our lawyers happened to be by.
He offered to guard me, and was amusing with his modest tiptoe air.
No, I trust to the English common man more than ever. He is a man of
honour. I am convinced he is matchless in any other country, except
Ireland. The English gentleman trades on his reputation.'
He was condemned by an afflicted delicacy, the sharpest of critical
Emma bade her not to be too sweeping from a bad example.
'It is not a single one,' said Diana. 'What vexes me and frets me is,
that I must be a prisoner, or allow Danvers to mount guard. And I can't
see the end of it. And Danvers is no magician. She seems to know her
countrymen, though. She warded one of them off, by saying to me: "This
is the crossing, my lady." He fled.'
Lady Dunstane affixed the popular title to the latter kind of gentleman.
She was irritated on her friend's behalf, and against the worrying of her
sisterhood, thinking in her heart, nevertheless, that the passing of a
face and figure like Diana's might inspire honourable emotions, pitiable
for being hapless.
'If you were with me, dear, you would have none of these annoyances,' she
said, pleading forlornly.
Diana smiled to herself. 'No! I should relapse into softness. This
life exactly suits my present temper. My landlady is respectful and
attentive; the little housemaid is a willing slave; Danvers does not
despise them pugnaciously; they make a home for me, and I am learning
daily. Do you know, the less ignorant I become, the more considerate I
am for the ignorance of others--I love them for it.' She squeezed Emma's
hand with more meaning than her friend apprehended. 'So I win my
advantage from the trifles I have to endure. They are really trifles,
and I should once have thought them mountains!'
For the moment Diana stipulated that she might not have to encounter
friends or others at Lady Dunstane's dinner-table, and the season not
being favourable to those gatherings planned by Lady Dunstane in her
project of winning supporters, there was a respite, during which Sir
Lukin worked manfully at his three Clubs to vindicate Diana's name from
the hummers and hawers, gaining half a dozen hot adherents, and a body of
lukewarm, sufficiently stirred to be desirous to see the lady. He worked
with true champion zeal, although an interview granted him by the husband
settled his opinion as to any possibility of the two ever coming to
terms. Also it struck him that if he by misadventure had been a woman
and the wife of such a fellow, by Jove! . . .his apostrophe to the
father of the gods of pagandom signifying the amount of matter Warwick
would have had reason to complain of in earnest. By ricochet his
military mind rebounded from his knowledge of himself to an ardent, faith
in Mrs. Warwick's innocence; for, as there was no resemblance between
them, there must, he deduced, be a difference in their capacity for
enduring the perpetual company of a prig, a stick, a petrified poser.
Moreover, the novel act of advocacy, and the nature of the advocacy, had
effect on him. And then he recalled the scene in the winter beech-woods,
and Diana's wild-deer eyes; her, perfect generosity to a traitor and
fool. How could he have doubted her? Glimpses of the corrupting cause
for it partly penetrated his density: a conqueror of ladies, in mid-
career, doubts them all. Of course he had meant no harm, nothing worse
than some petty philandering with the loveliest woman of her time. And,
by Jove! it was worth the rebuff to behold the Beauty in her wrath.
The reflections of Lothario, however much tending tardily to do justice
to a particular lady, cannot terminate wholesomely. But he became a
gallant partisan. His portrayal of Mr. Warwick to his wife and his
friends was fine caricature. 'The fellow had his hand up at my first
word--stood like a sentinel under inspection. "Understand, Sir Lukin,
that I receive you simply as an acquaintance. As an intermediary,
permit me to state that you are taking superfluous trouble. The case
must proceed. It is final. She is at liberty, in the meantime, to draw
on my bankers for the provision she may need, at the rate of five hundred
pounds per annum." He spoke of "the lady now bearing my name." He was
within an inch of saying "dishonouring." I swear I heard the "dis,"
and he caught himself up. He "again declined any attempt towards
reconciliation." It could "only be founded on evasion of the truth to
be made patent on the day of trial." Half his talk was lawyers' lingo.
The fellow's teeth looked like frost. If Lot's wife had a brother, his
name's Warwick. How Diana Merion, who could have had the pick of the
best of us, ever came to marry a fellow like that, passes my
comprehension, queer creatures as women are! He can ride; that's about
all he can do. I told him Mrs. Warwick had no thought of reconciliation.
"Then, Sir Lukin, you will perceive that we have no standpoint for a
discussion." I told him the point was, for a man of honour not to drag
his wife before the public, as he had no case to stand on--less than
nothing. You should have seen the fellow's face. He shot a sneer up to
his eyelids, and flung his head back. So I said, "Good-day." He marches
me to the door, "with his compliments to Lady Dunstane." I could have
floored him for that. Bless my soul, what fellows the world is made of,
when here's a man, calling himself a gentleman, who, just because he
gets in a rage with his wife for one thing or another--and past all
competition the handsomest woman of her day, and the cleverest, the
nicest, the best of the whole boiling--has her out for a public
horsewhipping, and sets all the idiots of the kingdom against her!
I tried to reason with him. He made as if he were going to sleep
Sir Lukin gratified Lady Dunstane by his honest championship of Diana.
And now, in his altered mood (the thrice indebted rogue was just cloudily
conscious of a desire to propitiate his dear wife by serving her friend),
he began a crusade against the scandal-newspapers, going with an Irish
military comrade straight to the editorial offices, and leaving his card
and a warning that the chastisement for print of the name of the lady in
their columns would be personal and condign. Captain Carew Mahony,
albeit unacquainted with Mrs. Warwick, had espoused her cause. She was
a woman, she was an Irishwoman, she was a beautiful woman. She had,
therefore, three positive claims on him as a soldier and a man. Other
Irish gentlemen, animated by the same swelling degrees, were awaking to
the intimation that they might be wanted. Some words were dropped here
and there by General Lord Larrian: he regretted his age and infirmities.
A goodly regiment for a bodyguard might have been selected to protect her
steps in the public streets; when it was bruited that the General had
sent her a present of his great Newfoundland dog, Leander, to attend on
her and impose a required respect. But as it chanced that her address
was unknown to the volunteer constabulary, they had to assuage their
ardour by thinking the dog luckier than they.
The report of the dog was a fact. He arrived one morning at Diana's
lodgings, with a soldier to lead him, and a card to introduce:--the
Hercules of dogs, a very ideal of the species, toweringly big,
benevolent, reputed a rescuer of lives, disdainful of dog-fighting,
devoted to his guardian's office, with a majestic paw to give and the
noblest satisfaction in receiving caresses ever expressed by mortal male
enfolded about the head, kissed, patted, hugged, snuggled, informed that
he was his new mistress's one love and darling.
She despatched a thrilling note of thanks to Lord Larrian, sure of her
touch upon an Irish heart.
The dog Leander soon responded to the attachment of a mistress enamoured
of him. 'He is my husband,' she said to Emma, and started a tear in the
eyes of her smiling friend; 'he promises to trust me, and never to have
the law of me, and to love my friends as his own; so we are certain to
agree.' In rain, snow, sunshine, through the parks and the streets, he
was the shadow of Diana, commanding, on the whole, apart from some
desperate attempts to make him serve as introducer, a civilized behaviour
in the legions of Cupid's footpads. But he helped, innocently enough, to
create an enemy.
GIVING GLIMPSES OF DIANA UNDER HER CLOUD BEFORE THE WORLD AND OF HER
As the day of her trial became more closely calculable, Diana's
anticipated alarms receded with the deadening of her heart to meet the
shock. She fancied she had put on proof-armour, unconscious that it was
the turning of the inward flutterer to steel, which supplied her cuirass
and shield. The necessity to brave society, in the character of honest
Defendant, caused but a momentary twitch of the nerves. Her heart beat
regularly, like a serviceable clock; none of her faculties abandoned her
save songfulness, and none belied her, excepting a disposition to
tartness almost venomous in the sarcastic shafts she let fly at friends
interceding with Mr. Warwick to spare his wife, when she had determined
to be tried. A strange fit of childishness overcame her powers of
thinking, and was betrayed in her manner of speaking, though--to herself
her dwindled humour allowed her to appear the towering Britomart. She
pouted contemptuously on hearing that a Mr. Sullivan Smith (a remotely
recollected figure) had besought Mr. Warwick for an interview, and gained
it, by stratagem, 'to bring the man to his senses': but an ultra-Irishman
did not compromise her battle-front, as the busybody supplications of a
personal friend like Mr. Redworth did; and that the latter, without
consulting her, should be 'one of the plaintive crew whining about the
heels of the Plaintiff for a mercy she disdained and rejected' was bitter
to her taste.
'He does not see that unless I go through the fire there is no
justification for this wretched character of mine!' she exclaimed.
Truce, treaty, withdrawal, signified publicly pardon, not exoneration by
any means; and now that she was in armour she had no dread of the public.
So she said. Redworth's being then engaged upon the canvass of a
borough, added to the absurdity of his meddling with the dilemmas of a
woman. 'Dear me, Emma! think of stepping aside from the parliamentary
road to entreat a husband to relent, and arrange the domestic alliance of
a contrary couple! Quixottry is agreeable reading, a silly performance.'
Lady Dunstane pleaded his friendship. She had to quit the field where
such darts were showering.
The first dinner-party was aristocratic, easy to encounter. Lord and
Lady Crane, Lady Pennon, Lord and Lady Esquart, Lord Larrian, Mr. and
Mrs. Montvert of Halford Manor, Lady Singleby, Sir Walter Capperston
friends, admirers of Diana; patrons, in the phrase of the time, of her
father, were the guests. Lady Pennon expected to be amused, and was
gratified, for Diana had only to open her mouth to set the great lady
laughing. She petitioned to have Mrs. Warwick at her table that day
week, because the marquis was dying to make her acquaintance, and begged
to have all her sayings repeated to him; vowed she must be salt in the
desert. 'And remember, I back you through thick and thin,' said Lady
Pennon. To which Diana replied: 'If I am salt in the desert, you are the
spring'; and the old lady protested she must put that down for her book.
The witty Mrs. Warwick, of whom wit was expected, had many incitements to
be guilty of cheap wit; and the beautiful Mrs. Warwick, being able to
pass anything she uttered, gave good and bad alike, under the impulsion
to give out something, that the stripped and shivering Mrs. Warwick might
find a cover in applause. She discovered the social uses of cheap wit;
she laid ambushes for anecdotes, a telling form of it among a people of
no conversational interlocution, especially in the circles depending for
dialogue upon perpetual fresh supplies of scandal; which have plentiful
crops, yet not sufficient. The old dinner and supper tables at The
Crossways furnished her with an abundant store; and recollection failing,
she invented. Irish anecdotes are always popular in England, as
promoting, besides the wholesome shake of the sides, a kindly sense of
superiority. Anecdotes also are portable, unlike the lightning flash,
which will not go into the pocket; they can be carried home, they are
disbursable at other tables. These were Diana's weapons. She was
perforce the actress of her part.
In happier times, when light of heart and natural, her vogue had not been
so enrapturing. Doubtless Cleopatra in her simple Egyptian uniform would
hardly have won such plaudits as her stress of barbaric Oriental
splendours evoked for her on the swan and serpent Nile-barge--not from
posterity at least. It is a terrible decree, that all must act who would
prevail; and the more extended the audience, the greater need for the
mask and buskin.
From Lady Pennon's table Diana passed to Lady Crane's, Lady Esquart's,
Lady Singleby's, the Duchess of Raby's, warmly clad in the admiration she
excited. She appeared at Princess Therese Paryli's first ball of the
season, and had her circle, not of worshippers only. She did not dance.
The princess, a fair Austrian, benevolent to her sisterhood, an admirer
of Diana's contrasting complexion, would have had her dance once in a
quadrille of her forming, but yielded to the mute expression of the
refusal. Wherever Mrs. Warwick went, her arts of charming were addressed
to the women. Men may be counted on for falling bowled over by a
handsome face and pointed tongue; women require some wooing from their
ensphered and charioted sister, particularly if she is clouded; and old
women--excellent buttresses--must be suavely courted. Now, to woo the
swimming matron and court the settled dowager, she had to win forgiveness
for her beauty; and this was done, easily done, by forbearing to angle
with it in the press of nibblers. They ranged about her, individually
unnoticed. Seeming unaware of its effect where it kindled, she smote a
number of musical female chords, compassion among them. A general grave
affability of her eyes and smiles was taken for quiet pleasure in the
scene. Her fitful intentness of look when conversing with the older
ladies told of the mind within at work upon what they said, and she was
careful that plain dialogue should make her comprehensible to them.
Nature taught her these arts, through which her wit became extolled
entirely on the strength of her reputation, and her beauty did her
service by never taking aim abroad. They are the woman's arts of self-
defence, as legitimately and honourably hers as the manful use of the
fists with a coarser sex. If it had not been nature that taught her the
practice of them in extremity, the sagacious dowagers would have seen
brazenness rather than innocence--or an excuseable indiscretion--in the
part she was performing. They are not lightly duped by one of their sex.
Few tasks are more difficult than for a young woman under a cloud to
hoodwink old women of the world. They are the prey of financiers, but
Time has presented them a magic ancient glass to scan their sex in.
At Princess Paryli's Ball two young men of singular elegance were
observed by Diana, little though she concentered her attention on any
figures of the groups. She had the woman's faculty (transiently bestowed
by perfervid jealousy upon men) of distinguishing minutely in the calmest
of indifferent glances. She could see without looking; and when her eyes
were wide they had not to dwell to be detective. It did not escape her
that the Englishman of the two hurried for the chance of an introduction,
nor that he suddenly, after putting a question to a man beside him,
retired. She spoke of them to Emma as they drove home. 'The princess's
partner in the first quadrille . . . Hungarian, I suppose? He was
like a Tartar modelled by a Greek: supple as the Scythian's bow, braced
as the string! He has the air of a born horseman, and valses perfectly.
I won't say he was handsomer than a young Englishman there, but he had
the advantage of soldierly training. How different is that quick springy
figure from our young men's lounging style! It comes of military
exercise and discipline.'
'That was Count Jochany, a cousin of the princess, and a cavalry
officer,' said Emma. 'You don't know the other? I am sure the one you
mean must be Percy Dacier.'
His retiring was explained: the Hon. Percy Dacier was the nephew of Lord
Dannisburgh, often extolled to her as the promising youngster of his day,
with the reserve that he wasted his youth: for the young gentleman was
decorous and studious; ambitious, according to report; a politician
taking to politics much too seriously and exclusively to suit his uncle's
pattern for the early period of life. Uncle and nephew went their
separate ways, rarely meeting, though their exchange of esteem was
Thinking over his abrupt retirement from the crowded semicircle, Diana
felt her position pinch her, she knew not why.
Lady Dunstane was as indefatigable by day as by night in the business of
acting goddess to her beloved Tony, whom she assured that the service,
instead of exhausting, gave her such healthfulness as she had imagined
herself to have lost for ever. The word was passed, and invitations
poured in to choice conversational breakfasts, private afternoon
concerts, all the humming season's assemblies. Mr. Warwick's treatment
of his wife was taken by implication for lunatic; wherever she was heard
or seen, he had no case; a jury of some hundreds of both sexes, ready to
be sworn, pronounced against him. Only the personal enemies of the lord
in the suit presumed to doubt, and they exercised the discretion of a
But there is an upper middle class below the aristocratic, boasting an
aristocracy of morals, and eminently persuasive of public opinion, if not
commanding it. Previous to the relaxation, by amendment, of a certain
legal process, this class was held to represent the austerity of the
country. At present a relaxed austerity is represented; and still the
bulk of the members are of fair repute, though not quite on the level of
their pretensions. They were then, while more sharply divided from the
titular superiors they are socially absorbing, very powerful to brand a
woman's character, whatever her rank might be; having innumerable
agencies and avenues for that high purpose, to say nothing of the
printing-press. Lady Dunstane's anxiety to draw them over to the cause
of her friend set her thinking of the influential Mrs. Cramborne Wathin,
with whom she was distantly connected; the wife of a potent serjeant-at-
law fast mounting to the Bench and knighthood; the centre of a circle,
and not strangely that, despite her deficiency in the arts and graces,
for she had wealth and a cook, a husband proud of his wine-cellar, and
the ambition to rule; all the rewards, together with the expectations, of
the virtuous. She was a lady of incisive features bound in stale
parchment. Complexion she had none, but she had spotlessness of skin,
and sons and daughters just resembling her, like cheaper editions of a
precious quarto of a perished type. You discerned the imitation of the
type, you acknowledged the inferior compositor. Mr. Cramborne Wathin was
by birth of a grade beneath his wife; he sprang (behind a curtain of
horror) from tradesmen. The Bench was in designation for him to wash out
the stain, but his children suffered in large hands and feet, short legs,
excess of bone, prominences misplaced. Their mother inspired them
carefully with the religion she opposed to the pretensions of a nobler
blood, while instilling into them that the blood they drew from her was
territorial, far above the vulgar. Her appearance and her principles
fitted her to stand for the Puritan rich of the period, emerging by the
aid of an extending wealth into luxurious worldliness, and retaining the
maxims of their forefathers for the discipline of the poor and erring.
Lady Dunstane called on her, ostensibly to let her know she had taken a
house in town for the season, and in the course of the chat Mrs.
Cramborne Wathin was invited to dinner. 'You will meet my dear friend,
Mrs. Warwick,' she said, and the reply was: 'Oh, I have heard of her.'
The formal consultation with Mr. Cramborne Wathin ended in an agreement
to accept Lady Dunstane's kind invitation.
Considering her husband's plenitude of old legal anecdotes, and her own
diligent perusal of the funny publications of the day, that she might be
on the level of the wits and celebrities she entertained, Mrs. Cramborne
Wathin had a right to expect the leading share in the conversation to
which she was accustomed. Every honour was paid to them; they met
aristocracy in the persons of Lord Larrian, of Lady Rockden, Colonel
Purlby, the Pettigrews, but neither of them held the table for a moment;
the topics flew, and were no sooner up than down; they were unable to get
a shot. They had to eat in silence, occasionally grinning, because a
woman labouring under a stigma would rattle-rattle, as if the laughter of
the company were her due, and decency beneath her notice. Some one
alluded to a dog of Mrs. Warwick's, whereupon she trips out a story of
her dog's amazing intelligence.
'And pray,' said Mrs. Cramborne Wathin across the table, merely to slip
in a word, 'what is the name of this wonderful dog?'
'His name is Leander,' said Diana.
'Oh, Leander. I don't think I hear myself calling to a dog in a name of
three syllables. Two at the most.'
No, so I call Hero! if I want him to come immediately,' said Diana, and
the gentlemen, to Mrs. Cramborne Wathin's astonishment, acclaimed it.
Mr. Redworth, at her elbow, explained the point, to her disgust. . .
That was Diana's offence.
If it should seem a small one, let it be remembered that a snub was
intended, and was foiled; and foiled with an apparent simplicity, enough
to exasperate, had there been no laughter of men to back the countering
stroke. A woman under a cloud, she talked, pushed to shine; she would be
heard, would be applauded. Her chronicler must likewise admit the error
of her giving way to a petty sentiment of antagonism on first beholding
Mrs. Cramborne Wathin, before whom she at once resolved to be herself,
for a holiday, instead of acting demurely to conciliate. Probably it was
an antagonism of race, the shrinking of the skin from the burr. But when
Tremendous Powers are invoked, we should treat any simple revulsion of
our blood as a vice. The Gods of this world's contests demand it of us,
in relation to them, that the mind, and not the instincts, shall be at
work. Otherwise the course of a prudent policy is never to invoke them,
The upper class was gained by her intrepidity, her charm, and her
elsewhere offending wit, however the case might go. It is chivalrous,
but not, alas, inflammable in support of innocence. The class below it
is governed in estimates of character by accepted patterns of conduct;
yet where innocence under persecution is believed to exist, the members
animated by that belief can be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is a heaven-sent
steeplechaser, and takes a flying leap of the ordinary barriers; it is
more intrusive than chivalry, and has a passion to communicate its
ardour. Two letters from stranger ladies reached Diana, through her
lawyers and Lady Dunstane. Anonymous letters, not so welcome, being male
effusions, arrived at her lodgings, one of them comical almost over the
verge to pathos in its termination: 'To me you will ever be the Goddess
Diana--my faith in woman!'
He was unacquainted with her!
She had not the heart to think the writers donkeys. How they obtained
her address was a puzzle; they stole in to comfort her slightly. They
attached her to her position of Defendant by the thought of what would
have been the idea of her character if she had flown--a reflection
emanating from inexperience of the resources of sentimentalists.
If she had flown! She was borne along by the tide like a butterfly that
a fish may gobble unless a friendly hand shall intervene. And could it
in nature? She was past expectation of release. The attempt to imagine
living with any warmth of blood in her vindicated character, for the sake
of zealous friends, consigned her to a cold and empty house upon a
foreign earth. She had to set her mind upon the mysterious enshrouded
Twelve, with whom the verdict would soon be hanging, that she might
prompt her human combativeness to desire the vindication at such a price
as she would have to pay for it. When Emma Dunstane spoke to her of the
certainty of triumphing, she suggested a possible dissentient among the
fateful Twelve, merely to escape the drumming sound of that hollow big
word. The irreverent imp of her humour came to her relief by calling
forth the Twelve, in the tone of the clerk of the Court, and they
answered to their names of trades and crafts after the manner of
Titania's elves, and were questioned as to their fitness, by education,
habits, enlightenment, to pronounce decisively upon the case in dispute,
the case being plainly stated. They replied, that the long habit of
dealing with scales enabled them to weigh the value of evidence the most
delicate. Moreover, they were Englishmen, and anything short of
downright bullet facts went to favour the woman. For thus we light the
balance of legal injustice toward the sex: we conveniently wink, ma'am.
A rough, old-fashioned way for us! Is it a Breach of Promise?--She may
reckon on her damages: we have daughters of our own. Is it a suit for
Divorce?--Well, we have wives of our own, and we can lash, or we can
spare; that's as it may be; but we'll keep the couple tied, let 'em hate
as they like, if they can't furnish pork-butchers' reasons for sundering;
because the man makes the money in this country.--My goodness! what a
funny people, sir!--It 's our way of holding the balance, ma'am.--But
would it not be better to rectify the law and the social system, dear
sir?--Why, ma'am, we find it comfortabler to take cases as they come, in
the style of our fathers.--But don't you see, my good man, that you are
offering scapegoats for the comfort of the majority?--Well, ma'am, there
always were scapegoats, and always will be; we find it comes round pretty
square in the end.
'And I may be the scapegoat, Emmy! It is perfectly possible. The
grocer, the pork-butcher, drysalter, stationer, tea-merchant, et caetera
--they sit on me. I have studied the faces of the juries, and Mr.
Braddock tells me of their composition. And he admits that they do
justice roughly--a rough and tumble country! to quote him--though he says
they are honest in intention.'
'More shame to the man who drags you before them--if he persists!' Emma
'He will. I know him. I would not have him draw back now,' said Diana,
catching her breath. 'And, dearest, do not abuse him; for if you do, you
set me imagining guiltiness. Oh, heaven!--suppose me publicly pardoned!
No, I have kinder feelings when we stand opposed. It is odd, and rather
frets my conscience, to think of the little resentment I feel. Hardly
any! He has not cause to like his wife. I can own it, and I am sorry
for him, heartily. No two have ever come together so naturally
antagonistic as we two. We walked a dozen steps in stupefied union, and
hit upon crossways. From that moment it was tug and tug; he me, I him.
By resisting, I made him a tyrant; and he, by insisting, made me a rebel.
And he was the maddest of tyrants--a weak one. My dear, he was also a
double-dealer. Or no, perhaps not in design. He was moved at one time
by his interests; at another by his idea of his honour. He took what I
could get for him, and then turned and drubbed me for getting it.'
'This is the creature you try to excuse!' exclaimed indignant Emma.
'Yes, because--but fancy all the smart things I said being called my
"sallies"!--can a woman live with it?--because I behaved . . . I
despised him too much, and I showed it. He is not a contemptible man
before the world; he is merely a very narrow one under close inspection.
I could not--or did not--conceal my feeling. I showed it not only to
him, to my friend. Husband grew to mean to me stifler, lung-contractor,
iron mask, inquisitor, everything anti-natural. He suffered under my
"sallies": and it was the worse for him when he did not perceive their
drift. He is an upright man; I have not seen marked meanness. One might
build up a respectable figure in negatives. I could add a row of noughts
to the single number he cherishes, enough to make a millionnaire of him;
but strike away the first, the rest are wind. Which signifies, that if
you do not take his estimate of himself, you will think little of his:
negative virtues. He is not eminently, that is to say, not saliently,
selfish; not rancorous, not obtrusive--tata-ta-ta. But dull!--dull as a
woollen nightcap over eyes and ears and mouth. Oh! an executioner's
black cap to me. Dull, and suddenly staring awake to the idea of his
honour. I "rendered" him ridiculous--I had caught a trick of "using
men's phrases." Dearest, now that the day of trial draws nigh--you have
never questioned me, and it was like you to spare me pain--but now I can
speak of him and myself.' Diana dropped her voice. Here was another
confession. The proximity of the trial acted like fire on her faded
recollection of incidents. It may be that partly the shame of alluding
to them had blocked her woman's memory. For one curious operation of the
charge of guiltiness upon the nearly guiltless is to make them paint
themselves pure white, to the obliteration of minor spots, until the
whiteness being acknowledged, or the ordeal imminent, the spots recur and
press upon their consciences. She resumed, in a rapid undertone: 'You
know that a certain degree of independence had been, if not granted by
him, conquered by me. I had the habit of it. Obedience with him is
imprisonment--he is a blind wall. He received a commission, greatly to
his advantage, and was absent. He seems to have received information of
some sort. He returned unexpectedly, at a late hour, and attacked me at
once, middling violent. My friend--and that he is! was coming from the
House for a ten minutes' talk, as usual, on his way home, to refresh him
after the long sitting and bear-baiting he had nightly to endure. Now
let me confess: I grew frightened; Mr. Warwick was "off his head," as
they say-crazy, and I could not bear the thought of those two meeting.
While he raged I threw open the window and put the lamp near it, to
expose the whole interior--cunning as a veteran intriguer: horrible, but
it had to be done to keep them apart. He asked me what madness possessed
me, to sit by an open window at midnight, in view of the public, with a
damp wind blowing. I complained of want of air and fanned my forehead.
I heard the steps on the pavement; I stung him to retort loudly, and I
was relieved; the steps passed on. So the trick succeeded--the trick!
It was the worst I was guilty of, but it was a trick, and it branded me
trickster. It teaches me to see myself with an abyss in my nature full
of infernal possibilities. I think I am hewn in black rock. A woman who
can do as I did by instinct, needs to have an angel always near her, if
she has not a husband she reveres.'
'We are none of us better than you, dear Tony; only some are more
fortunate, and many are cowards,' Emma said. 'You acted prudently in a
wretched situation, partly of your own making, partly of the
circumstances. But a nature like yours could not sit still and moan.
That marriage was to blame! The English notion of women seems to be that
we are born white sheep or black; circumstances have nothing to do with
our colour. They dread to grant distinctions, and to judge of us
discerningly is beyond them. Whether the fiction, that their homes are
purer than elsewhere, helps to establish the fact, I do not know: there
is a class that does live honestly; and at any rate it springs from a
liking for purity; but I am sure that their method of impressing it on
women has the dangers of things artificial. They narrow their
understanding of human nature, and that is not the way to improve the
'I suppose we women are taken to be the second thoughts of the Creator;
human nature's fringes, mere finishing touches, not a part of the
texture,' said Diana; 'the pretty ornamentation. However, I fancy
I perceive some tolerance growing in the minds of the dominant sex.
Our old lawyer Mr. Braddock, who appears to have no distaste for
conversations with me, assures me he expects the day to come when
women will be encouraged to work at crafts and professions for their
independence. That is the secret of the opinion of us at present--our
dependency. Give us the means of independence, and we will gain it, and
have a turn at judging you, my lords! You shall behold a world reversed.
Whenever I am distracted by existing circumstances, I lay my finger on
the material conditions, and I touch the secret. Individually, it may be
moral with us; collectively, it is material-gross wrongs, gross hungers.
I am a married rebel, and thereof comes the social rebel. I was once a
dancing and singing girl: You remember the night of the Dublin Ball.
A Channel sea in uproar, stirred by witches, flows between.'
'You are as lovely as you were then--I could say, lovelier,' said Emma.
'I have unconquerable health, and I wish I could give you the half of it,
dear. I work late into the night, and I wake early and fresh in the
morning. I do not sing, that is all. A few days more, and my character
will be up before the Bull's Head to face him in the arena. The worst of
a position like mine is, that it causes me incessantly to think and talk
of myself. I believe I think less than I talk, but the subject is
growing stale; as those who are long dying feel, I dare say--if they
do not take it as the compensation for their departure.'
The Bull's Head, or British Jury of Twelve, with the wig on it, was faced
during the latter half of a week of good news. First, Mr. Thomas
Redworth was returned to Parliament by a stout majority for the Borough
of Orrybridge: the Hon. Percy Dacier delivered a brilliant speech in the
House of Commons, necessarily pleasing to his uncle: Lord Larrian
obtained the command of the Rock: the house of The Crossways was let
to a tenant approved by Mr. Braddock: Diana received the opening proof-
sheets of her little volume, and an instalment of the modest honorarium:
and finally, the Plaintiff in the suit involving her name was adjudged to
have not proved his charge.
She heard of it without a change of countenance.
She could not have wished it the reverse; she was exonerated. But she
was not free; far from that; and she revenged herself on the friends who
made much of her triumph and overlooked her plight, by showing no sign of
satisfaction. There was in her bosom a revolt at the legal consequences
of the verdict--or blunt acquiescence of the Law in the conditions
possibly to be imposed on her unless she went straight to the relieving
phial; and the burden of keeping it under, set her wildest humour alight,
somewhat as Redworth remembered of her on the journey from The Crossways
to Copsley. This ironic fury, coming of the contrast of the outer and
the inner, would have been indulged to the extent of permanent injury to
her disposition had not her beloved Emma, immediately after the tension
of the struggle ceased, required her tenderest aid. Lady Dunstane
chanted victory, and at night collapsed. By the advice of her physician
she was removed to Copsley, where Diana's labour of anxious nursing
restored her through love to a saner spirit. The hopefulness of life
must bloom again in the heart whose prayers are offered for a life dearer
than its own to be preserved. A little return of confidence in Sir Lukin
also refreshed her when she saw that the poor creature did honestly, in
his shaggy rough male fashion, reverence and cling to the flower of souls
he named as his wife. His piteous groans of self-accusation during the
crisis haunted her, and made the conduct and nature of men a bewilderment
to her still young understanding. Save for the knot of her sensations
(hardly a mental memory, but a sullen knot) which she did not disentangle
to charge him with his complicity in the blind rashness of her marriage,
she might have felt sisterly, as warmly as she compassionated him.
It was midwinter when Dame Gossip, who keeps the exotic world alive with
her fanning whispers, related that the lovely Mrs. Warwick had left
England on board the schooner-yacht Clarissa, with Lord and Lady Esquart,
for a voyage in the Mediterranean: and (behind her hand) that the reason
was urgent, inasmuch as she fled to escape the meshes of the terrific net
of the marital law brutally whirled to capture her by the man her
INTRODUCES THE HON. PERCY DACIER
The Gods of this world's contests, against whom our poor stripped
individual is commonly in revolt, are, as we know, not miners, they
are reapers; and if we appear no longer on the surface, they cease to
bruise us: they will allow an arena character to be cleansed and made
presentable while enthusiastic friends preserve discretion. It is
of course less than magnanimity; they are not proposed to you for your
worship; they are little Gods, temporary as that great wave, their parent
human mass of the hour. But they have one worshipful element in them,
which is, the divine insistency upon there being two sides to a case
--to every case. And the People so far directed by them may boast of
healthfulness. Let the individual shriek, the innocent, triumphant,
have in honesty to admit the fact. One side is vanquished, according
to decree of Law, but the superior Council does not allow it to be
Diana's battle was fought shadowily behind her for the space of a week
or so, with some advocates on behalf of the beaten man; then it became
a recollection of a beautiful woman, possibly erring, misvalued by a
husband, who was neither a man of the world nor a gracious yokefellow,
nor anything to match her. She, however, once out of the public flames,
had to recall her scorchings to be gentle with herself. Under a defeat,
she would have been angrily self-vindicated. The victory of the ashen
laurels drove her mind inward to gird at the hateful yoke, in compassion
for its pair of victims. Quite earnestly by such means, yet always
bearing a comical eye on her subterfuges, she escaped the extremes of
personal blame. Those advocates of her opponent in and out of court
compelled her honest heart to search within and own to faults. But were
they not natural faults? It was her marriage; it was marriage in the
abstract: her own mistake and the world's clumsy machinery of
civilization: these were the capital offenders: not the wife who would
laugh ringingly, and would have friends of the other sex, and shot her
epigrams at the helpless despot, and was at times--yes, vixenish;
a nature driven to it, but that was the word. She was too generous to
recount her charges against the vanquished. If his wretched jealousy had
ruined her, the secret high tribunal within her bosom, which judged her
guiltless for putting the sword between their marriage tie when they
stood as one, because a quarrelling couple could not in honour play the
embracing, pronounced him just pardonable. She distinguished that he
could only suppose, manlikely, one bad cause for the division.
To this extent she used her unerring brains, more openly than on her
night of debate at The Crossways. The next moment she was off in vapour,