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DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
By George Meredith
XVIII. THE AUTHORESS
XIX. A DRIVE IN SUNLIGHT AND A DRIVE IN MOONLIGHT
XX. DIANA'S NIGHT-WATCH IN THE CHAMBER OF DEATH
XXI. THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE
XXII. BETWEEN DIANA AND DACIER : THE WIND EAST OVER BLEAK LAND
XXIII. RECORDS A VISIT TO DIANA FROM ONE OF THE WORLD'S GOOD WOMEN
XXIV. INDICATES A SOUL PREPARED FOR DESPERATION
XXV. ONCE MORE THE CROSSWAYS AND A CHANGE OF TURNINGS
XXVI. IN WHICH A DISAPPOINTED LOVER RECEIVES A MULTITUDE OF LESSONS
The effect of a great success upon Diana, at her second literary venture,
was shown in the transparent sedateness of a letter she wrote to Emma
Dunstane, as much as in her immediate and complacent acceptance of the
magical change of her fortunes. She spoke one thing and acted another,
but did both with a lofty calm that deceived the admiring friend who
clearly saw the authoress behind her mask, and feared lest she should be
too confidently trusting to the powers of her pen to support an
'If the public were a perfect instrument to strike on, I should be
tempted to take the wonderful success of my PRINCESS at her first
appearance for a proof of natural aptitude in composition, and might
think myself the genius. I know it to be as little a Stradivarius as I
am a Paganini. It is an eccentric machine, in tune with me for the
moment, because I happen to have hit it in the ringing spot. The book is
a new face appealing to a mirror of the common surface emotions; and the
kitchen rather than the dairy offers an analogy for the real value of
that "top-skim." I have not seen what I consider good in the book once
mentioned among the laudatory notices--except by your dear hand, my Emmy.
Be sure I will stand on guard against the "vaporous generalizations," and
other "tricks" you fear. Now that you are studying Latin for an
occupation--how good and wise it was of Mr. Redworth to propose it!--
I look upon you with awe as a classic authority and critic. I wish I had
leisure to study with you. What I do is nothing like so solid and
'THE PRINCESS EGERIA' originally (I must have written word of it to you--
I remember the evening off Palermo!) was conceived as a sketch; by
gradations she grew into a sort of semi-Scudery romance, and swelled to
her present portliness. That was done by a great deal of piecing, not to
say puffing, of her frame. She would be healthier and have a chance of
living longer if she were reduced by a reversal of the processes. But
how would the judicious clippings and prickings affect our "pensive
public"? Now that I have furnished a house and have a fixed address,
under the paws of creditors, I feel I am in the wizard-circle of my
popularity and subscribe to its laws or waken to incubus and the desert.
Have I been rash? You do not pronounce. If I have bound myself to pipe
as others please, it need not be entirely; and I can promise you it shall
not be; but still I am sensible when I lift my "little quill" of having
forced the note of a woodland wren into the popular nightingale's--which
may end in the daw's, from straining; or worse, a toy-whistle.
'That is, in the field of literature. Otherwise, within me deep,
I am not aware of any transmutation of the celestial into coined gold.
I sound myself, and ring clear. Incessant writing is my refuge, my
solace--escape out of the personal net. I delight in it, as in my early
morning walks at Lugano, when I went threading the streets and by the
lake away to "the heavenly mount," like a dim idea worming upward in a
sleepy head to bright wakefulness.
'My anonymous critic, of whom I told you, is intoxicating with eulogy.
The signature "Apollonius" appears to be of literary-middle indication.
He marks passages approved by you. I have also had a complimentary
letter from Mr. Dacier:
'For an instance of this delight I have in writing, so strong is it that
I can read pages I have written, and tear the stuff to strips (I did
yesterday), and resume, as if nothing had happened. The waves within are
ready for any displacement. That must be a good sign. I do not doubt of
excelling my PRINCESS; and if she received compliments, the next may hope
for more. Consider, too, the novel pleasure of earning money by the
labour we delight in. It is an answer to your question whether I am
happy. Yes, as the savage islander before the ship entered the bay with
the fire-water. My blood is wine, and I have the slumbers of an infant.
I dream, wake, forget my dream, barely dress before the pen is galloping;
barely breakfast; no toilette till noon. A savage in good sooth! You
see, my Emmy, I could not house with the "companionable person" you hint
at. The poles can never come together till the earth is crushed. She
would find my habits intolerable, and I hers contemptible, though we
might both be companionable persons. My dear, I could not even live with
myself. My blessed little quill, which helps me divinely to live out of
myself, is and must continue to be my one companion. It is my mountain
height, morning light, wings, cup from the springs, my horse, my goal,
my lancet and replenisher, my key of communication with the highest,
grandest, holiest between earth and heaven-the vital air connecting them.
'In justice let me add that I have not been troubled by hearing of any of
the mysterious legal claims, et caetera. I am sorry to hear bad reports
of health. I wish him entire felicity--no step taken to bridge division!
The thought of it makes me tigrish.
'A new pianist playing his own pieces (at Lady Singleby's concert) has
given me exquisite pleasure' and set me composing songs--not to his
music, which could be rendered only by sylphs moving to "soft recorders"
in the humour of wildness, languor, bewitching caprices, giving a new
sense to melody. How I wish you had been with me to hear him! It was
the most AEolian thing ever caught from a night-breeze by the soul of a
'But do not suppose me having headlong tendencies to the melting mood.
(The above, by the way, is a Pole settled in Paris, and he is to be
introduced to me at Lady Pennon's.)--What do you say to my being invited
by Mr. Whitmonby to aid him in writing leading articles for the paper he
is going to conduct! "write as you talk and it will do," he says. I am
choosing my themes. To write--of politics--as I talk, seems to me like
an effort to jump away from my shadow. The black dog of consciousness
declines to be shaken off. If some one commanded me to talk as I write!
I suspect it would be a way of winding me up to a sharp critical pitch
'Not good news of Lord D. I have had messages. Mr. Dacier conceals his
alarm. The PRINCESS gave great gratification. She did me her best
service there. Is it not cruel that the interdict of the censor should
force me to depend for information upon such scraps as I get from a
gentleman passing my habitation on his way to the House? And he is not,
he never has been, sympathetic in that direction. He sees my grief, and
assumes an undertakerly air, with some notion of acting in concert, one
supposes little imagining how I revolt from that crape-hatband formalism
'One word of her we call our inner I. I am not drawing upon her
resources for my daily needs; not wasting her at all, I trust; certainly
not walling her up, to deafen her voice. It would be to fall away from
you. She bids me sign myself, my beloved, ever, ever your Tony.'
The letter had every outward show of sincereness in expression, and was
endowed to wear that appearance by the writer's impulse to protest with
so resolute a vigour as to delude herself. Lady Dunstane heard of Mr.
Dacier's novel attendance at concerts. The world made a note of it;
for the gentleman was notoriously without ear for music.
Diana's comparison of her hours of incessant writing to her walks under
the dawn at Lugano, her boast of the similarity of her delight in both,
deluded her uncorrupted conscience to believe that she was now
spiritually as free: as in that fair season of the new spring in her
veins. She, was not an investigating physician, nor was Lady Dunstane,
otherwise they would have examined the material points of her conduct--
indicators of the spiritual secret always. What are the patient's acts?
The patient's, mind was projected too far beyond them to see the fore
finger they stretched at her; and the friend's was not that of a prying
doctor on the look out for betraying symptoms. Lady Dunstane did ask
herself why Tony should have incurred the burden of a costly household--
a very costly: Sir Lukin had been at one of Tony's little' dinners: but
her wish to meet the world on equal terms, after a long dependency,
accounted for it in seeming to excuse. The guests on the occasion were
Lady Pennon. Lady Singleby, Mr. Whitmonby, Mr. Percy Dacier, Mr. Tonans;
--'Some other woman,' Sir Lukin said, and himself. He reported the
cookery as matching the: conversation, and that was princely; the wines
not less--an extraordinary fact to note of a woman. But to hear
Whitmonby and Diana Warwick! How he told a story, neat as a postman's
knock, and she tipped it with a remark and ran to a second, drawing in
Lady Pennon, and then Dacier, 'and me!' cried Sir Lukin; 'she made us all
toss the ball from hand to hand, and all talk up to the mark; and none of
us noticed that we all went together to the drawing-room, where we talked
for another hour, and broke up fresher than we began.'
'That break between the men and the women after dinner was Tony's
aversion, and I am glad she has instituted a change,' said Lady Dunstane.
She heard also from Redworth of the unexampled concert of the guests at
Mrs. Warwick's dinner parties. He had met on one occasion the Esquarts,
the Pettigrews, Mr. Percy Dacier, and a Miss Paynham. Redworth had not
a word to say of the expensive household. Whatever Mrs. Warwick did was
evidently good to him. On another evening the party was composed of Lady
Pennon, Lord Larrian, Miss Paynham, a clever Mrs. Wollasley, Mr. Henry
Wilmers, and again Mr. Percy Dacier.
When Diana came to Copsley, Lady Dunstane remarked on the recurrence of
the name of Miss Paynham in the list of her guests.
'And Mr. Percy Dacier's too,' said Diana, smiling. 'They are invited
each for specific reasons. It pleases Lord Dannisburgh to hear that a
way has been found to enliven his nephew; and my little dinners are
effective, I think. He wakes. Yesterday evening he capped flying jests
with Mr. Sullivan Smith. But you speak of Miss. Paynham.' Diana
lowered her voice on half a dozen syllables, till the half-tones dropped
into her steady look. 'You approve, Emmy?'
The answer was: 'I do--true or not.'
'Between us two, dear, I fear! . . . In either case, she has been
badly used. Society is big engine enough to protect itself. I incline
with British juries to do rough justice to the victims. She has neither
father nor brother. I have had no confidences: but it wears the look of a
cowardly business. With two words in his ear, I could arm an Irishman to
do some work of chastisement: he would select the rascal's necktie for a
cause of quarrel and lords have to stand their ground as well as
commoners. They measure the same number of feet when stretched their
length. However, vengeance with the heavens! though they seem tardy.
Lady Pennon has been very kind about it; and the Esquarts invite her to
Lockton. Shoulder to shoulder, the tide may be stemmed.'
'She would have gone under, but for you, dear Tony!' said Emma' folding
arms round her darling's neck anal kissing her. 'Bring her here some
Diana did not promise it. She had her vision of Sir Lukin in his fit of
'I am too weak for London now,' Emma resumed. 'I should like to be
useful. Is she pleasant?'
'Sprightly by nature. She has worn herself with fretting.'
'Then bring her to stay with me, if I cannot keep you. She will talk of
you to me.'
'I will bring her for a couple of days,' Diana said. 'I am too busy to
remain longer. She paints portraits to amuse herself. She ought to be
pushed, wherever she is received about London, while the season is warm.
One season will suffice to establish her. She is pretty, near upon six
and twenty: foolish, of course:--she pays for having had a romantic head.
Heavy payment, Emmy! I drive at laws, but hers is an instance of the
creatures wanting simple human kindness.'
'The good law will come with a better civilization; but before society
can be civilized it has to be debarbarized,' Emma remarked, and Diana
sighed over the task and the truism.
I should have said in younger days, because it will not look plainly on
our nature and try to reconcile it with our conditions. But now I see
that the sin is cowardice. The more I know of the world the more clearly
I perceive that its top and bottom sin is cowardice, physically and
morally alike. Lord Larrian owns to there being few heroes in an army.
We must fawn in society. What is the meaning of that dread of one
example of tolerance? O my dear! let us give it the right name.
Society is the best thing we have, but it is a crazy vessel worked by a
crew that formerly practised piracy, and now, in expiation, professes
piety, fearful of a discovered Omnipotence, which is in the image of
themselves and captain. Their old habits are not quite abandoned, and
their new one is used as a lash to whip the exposed of us for a
propitiation of the capricious potentate whom they worship in the place
of the true God.'
Lady Dunstane sniffed. 'I smell the leading article.'
Diana joined with her smile, 'No, the style is rather different.'
'Have you not got into a trick of composing in speaking, at times?'
Diana confessed, 'I think I have at times. Perhaps the daily writing of
all kinds and the nightly talking . . . I may be getting strained.'
'No, Tony; but longer visits in the country to me would refresh you.
I miss your lighter touches. London is a school, but, you know it,
not a school for comedy nor for philosophy; that is gathered on my hills,
with London distantly in view, and then occasional descents on it well
'I wonder whether it is affecting me !' said Diana, musing.
'A metropolitan hack! and while thinking myself free, thrice harnessed;
and all my fun gone. Am I really as dull as a tract, my dear? I must
be, or I should be proving the contrary instead of asking. My pitfall is
to fancy I have powers equal to the first look-out of the eyes of the.
morning. Enough of me. We talked of Mary Paynham. If only some right
good man would marry her!'
Lady Dunstane guessed at the right good man in Diana's mind. 'Do you
bring them together?'
Diana nodded, and then shook doleful negatives to signify no hope.
'None whatever--if we mean the same person,' said Lady Dunstane,
bethinking her, in the spirit of wrath she felt at such a scheme being
planned by Diana to snare the right good man, that instead of her own
true lover Redworth, it might be only Percy Dacier. So filmy of mere
sensations are these little ideas as they flit in converse, that she did
not reflect on her friend's ignorance of Redworth's love of her, or on
the unlikely choice of one in Dacier's high station to reinstate a
They did not name the person.
'Passing the instance, which is cruel, I will be just to society thus
far,' said Diana. 'I was in a boat at Richmond last week, and Leander
was revelling along the mud-banks, and took it into his head to swim out
to me, and I was moved to take him on board. The ladies in the boat
objected, for he was not only wet but very muddy. I was forced to own
that their objections were reasonable. My sentimental humaneness had no
argument against muslin dresses, though my dear dog's eyes appealed
pathetically, and he would keep swimming after us. The analogy excuses
the world for protecting itself in extreme cases; nothing, nothing
excuses its insensibility to cases which may be pleaded. You see the
pirate crew turned pious-ferocious in sanctity.' She added, half
laughing: 'I am reminded by the boat, I have unveiled my anonymous
critic, and had a woeful disappointment. He wrote like a veteran; he is
not much more than a boy. I received a volume of verse, and a few lines
begging my acceptance. I fancied I knew the writing, and wrote asking
him whether I had not to thank him, and inviting him to call. He seems
a nice lad of about two and twenty, mad for literature; and he must have
talent. Arthur Rhodes by name. I may have a chance of helping him.
He was an articled clerk of Mr. Braddock's, the same who valiantly came
to my rescue once. He was with us in the boat.'
'Bring him to me some day,' said Lady Dunstane.
Miss Paynham's visit to Copsley was arranged, and it turned out a
failure. The poor young lady came in a flutter, thinking that the friend
of Mrs. Warwick would expect her to discourse cleverly. She attempted
it, to Diana's amazement. Lady Dunstane's opposingly corresponding
stillness provoked Miss Paynham to expatiate, for she had sprightliness
and some mental reserves of the common order. Clearly, Lady Dunstane
mused while listening amiably, Tony never could have designed this
gabbler for the mate of Thomas Redworth!
Percy Dacier seemed to her the more likely one, in that light, and she
thought so still, after Sir Lukin had introduced him at Copsley for a
couple of days of the hunting season. Tony's manner with him suggested
it; she had a dash of leadership. They were not intimate in look or
But Percy Dacier also was too good for Miss Paynham, if that was Tony's
plan for him, Lady Dunstane thought, with the relentlessness of an
invalid and recluse's distaste. An aspect of penitence she had not
demanded, but the silly gabbier under a stigma she could not pardon.
Her opinion of Miss Paynham was diffused in her silence.
Speaking of Mr. Dacier, she remarked, 'As you say of him, Tony, he can
brighten, and when you give him a chance he is entertaining. He has fine
gifts. If I were a member of his family I should beat about for a match
for him. He strikes me as one of the young men who would do better
'He is doing very well, but the wonder is that he doesn't marry,'
said Diana. 'He ought to be engaged. Lady Esquart told me that he was.
A Miss Asper--great heiress; and the Daciers want money. However, there
Not many weeks later Diana could not have spoken of Mr. Percy Dacier with
this air of indifference without corruption of her inward guide.
A DRIVE IN SUNLIGHT AND A DRIVE IN MOONLIGHT
The fatal time to come for her was in the Summer of that year.
Emma had written her a letter of unwonted bright spirits, contrasting
strangely with an inexplicable oppression of her own that led her to
imagine her recent placid life the pause before thunder, and to sharp the
mood of her solitary friend she flew to Copsley, finding Sir Lukin
absent, as usual. They drove out immediately after breakfast, on one of
those high mornings of the bared bosom of June when distances are given
to our eyes, and a soft air fondles leaf and grass-blade, and beauty and
peace are overhead, reflected, if we will. Rain had fallen in the night.
Here and there hung a milk-white cloud with folded sail. The South-west
left it in its bay of blue, and breathed below. At moments the fresh
scent of herb and mould swung richly in warmth. The young beech-leaves
glittered, pools of rain-water made the roadways laugh, the grass-banks
under hedges rolled their interwoven weeds in cascades of many-shaded
green to right and left of the pair of dappled ponies, and a squirrel
crossed ahead, a lark went up a little way to ease his heart, closing his
wings when the burst was over, startled black-birds, darting with a
clamour like a broken cockcrow, looped the wayside woods from hazel to
oak-scrub; short flights, quick spirts everywhere, steady sunshine above.
Diana held the reins. The whip was an ornament, as the plume of feathers
to the general officer. Lady Dunstane's ponies were a present from
Redworth, who always chose the pick of the land for his gifts. They
joyed in their trot, and were the very love-birds of the breed for their
pleasure of going together, so like that Diana called them the Dromios.
Through an old gravel-cutting a gateway led to the turf of the down,
springy turf bordered on a long line, clear as a racecourse, by golden
gorse covers, and leftward over the gorse the dark ridge of the fir and
heath country ran companionably to the Southwest, the valley between,
with undulations of wood and meadow sunned or shaded, clumps, mounds,
promontories, away to broad spaces of tillage banked by wooded hills, and
dimmer beyond and farther, the faintest shadowiness of heights, as a veil
to the illimitable. Yews, junipers, radiant beeches, and gleams of the
service-tree or the white-beam spotted the semicircle of swelling green
Down black and silver. The sun in the valley sharpened his beams on
squares of buttercups, and made a pond a diamond.
'You see, Tony,' Emma said, for a comment on the scene, 'I could envy
Italy for having you, more than you for being in Italy.'
'Feature and colour!' said Diana. 'You have them here, and on a scale
that one can embrace. I should like to build a hut on this point, and
wait for such a day to return. It brings me to life.' She lifted her
eyelids on her friend's worn sweet face, and knowing her this friend up
to death, past it in her hopes, she said bravely, 'It is the Emma of days
and scenes to me! It helps me to forget myself, as I do when I think of
you, dearest; but the subject has latterly been haunting me, I don't know
why, and ominously, as if my nature were about to horrify my soul. But I
am not sentimentalizing, you are really this day and scene in my heart.'
Emma smiled confidingly. She spoke her reflection: 'The heart must be
troubled a little to have the thought. The flower I gather here tells me
that we may be happy in privation and suffering if simply we can accept
beauty. I won't say expel the passions, but keep passion sober, a
trotter in harness.'
Diana caressed the ponies' heads with the droop of her whip: 'I don't
think I know him!' she said.
Between sincerity and a suspicion so cloaked and dull that she did not
feel it to be the opposite of candour, she fancied she was passionless
because she could accept the visible beauty, which was Emma's
prescription and test; and she forced herself to make much of it, cling
to it, devour it; with envy of Emma's contemplative happiness, through
whose grave mind she tried to get to the peace in it, imagining that she
succeeded. The cloaked and dull suspicion weighed within her
nevertheless. She took it for a mania to speculate on herself. There
are states of the crimson blood when the keenest wits are childish,
notably in great-hearted women aiming at the majesty of their sex and
fearful of confounding it by the look direct and the downright word.
Yet her nature compelled her inwardly to phrase the sentence: 'Emma is
a wife!' The character of her husband was not considered, nor was the
meaning of the exclamation pursued.
They drove through the gorse into wild land of heath and flowering
hawthorn, and along by tracts of yew and juniper to another point,
jutting on a furzy sand-mound, rich with the mild splendour of English
scenery, which Emma stamped on her friend's mind by saying: 'A cripple
has little to envy in you who can fly when she has feasts like these at
They had an inclination to boast on the drive home of the solitude they
had enjoyed; and just then, as the road in the wood wound under great
beeches, they beheld a London hat. The hat was plucked from its head.
A clear-faced youth, rather flushed, dusty at the legs, addressed Diana.
'Mr. Rhodes!' she said, not discouragingly.
She was petitioned to excuse him; he thought she would wish to hear the
news in town last night as early as possible; he hesitated and murmured
Diana turned to Emma: 'Lord Dannisburgh!' her paleness told the rest.
Hearing from Mr. Rhodes that he had walked the distance from town,
and had been to Copsley, Lady Dunstane invited him to follow the pony-
carriage thither, where he was fed and refreshed by a tea-breakfast,
as he preferred walking on tea, he said. 'I took the liberty to call
at Mrs. Warwick's house,' he informed her; 'the footman said she was
at Copsley. I found it on the map--I knew the directions--and started
about two in the morning. I wanted a walk.'
It was evident to her that he was one of the young squires bewitched whom
beautiful women are constantly enlisting. There was no concealment of
it, though he stirred a sad enviousness in the invalid lady by descanting
on the raptures of a walk out of London in the youngest light of day, and
on the common objects he had noticed along the roadside, and through the
woods, more sustaining, closer with nature than her compulsory feeding on
the cream of things.
'You are not fatigued?' she inquired, hoping for that confession at
least; but she pardoned his boyish vaunting to walk the distance back
without any fatigue at all.
He had a sweeter reward for his pains; and if the business of the
chronicler allowed him to become attached to pure throbbing felicity
wherever it is encountered, he might be diverted by the blissful
unexpectedness of good fortune befalling Mr. Arthur Rhodes in having
the honour to conduct Mrs. Warwick to town. No imagined happiness,
even in the heart of a young man of two and twenty, could have matched
it. He was by her side, hearing and seeing her, not less than four
hours. To add to his happiness, Lady Dunstane said she would be glad to
welcome him again. She thought him a pleasant specimen of the self-vowed
Diana was sure that there would be a communication for her of some sort
at her house in London; perhaps a message of farewell from the dying
lord, now dead. Mr. Rhodes had only the news of the evening journals,
to the effect that Lord Dannisburgh had expired at his residence, the
Priory, Hallowmere, in Hampshire. A message of farewell from him, she
hoped for: knowing him as she did, it seemed a certainty; and she
hungered for that last gleam of life in her friend. She had no
anticipation of the burden of the message awaiting her.
A consultation as to the despatching of the message, had taken place
among the members of Lord Dannisburgh's family present at his death.
Percy Dacier was one of them, and he settled the disputed point, after
some time had been spent in persuading his father to take the plain view
of obligation in the matter, and in opposing the dowager countess, his
grandmother, by stating that he had already sent a special messenger to
London. Lord Dannisburgh on his death-bed had expressed a wish that Mrs.
Warwick would sit with him for an hour one night before the nails were
knocked in his coffin. He spoke of it twice, putting it the second time
to Percy as a formal request to be made to her, and Percy had promised
him that Mrs. Warwick should have the message. He had done his best to
keep his pledge, aware of the disrelish of the whole family for the
lady's name, to say nothing of her presence.
'She won't come,' said the earl.
'She'll come,' said old Lady Dacier.
'If the woman respects herself she'll hold off it,' the earl insisted
because of his desire that way. He signified in mutterings that the
thing was improper and absurd, a piece of sentiment, sickly senility,
unlike Lord Dannisburgh. Also that Percy had been guilty of excessive
To which Lady Dacier nodded her assent, remarking, 'The woman is on her
mettle. From what I've heard of her, she's not a woman to stick at
trifles. She'll take it as a sort of ordeal by touch, and she 'll come.'
They joined in abusing Percy, who had driven away to another part of the
country. Lord Creedmore, the heir of the house, was absent, hunting in
America, or he might temporarily have been taken into favour by contrast.
Ultimately they agreed that the woman must be allowed to enter the house,
but could not be received. The earl was a widower; his mother managed
the family, and being hard to convince, she customarily carried her
point, save when it involved Percy's freedom of action. She was one of
the veterans of her sex that age to toughness; and the 'hysterical fuss'
she apprehended in the visit of this woman to Lord Dannisburgh's death-
bed and body, did not alarm her. For the sake of the household she
determined to remain, shut up in her room. Before night the house was
empty of any members of the family excepting old Lady Dacier and the
outstretched figure on the bed.
Dacier fled to escape the hearing of the numberless ejaculations re-
awakened in the family by his uncle's extraordinary dying request. They
were an outrage to the lady, of whom he could now speak as a privileged
champion; and the request itself had an air of proving her stainless, a
white soul and efficacious advocate at the celestial gates (reading the
mind of the dying man). So he thought at one moment: he had thought so
when charged with the message to her; had even thought it a natural wish
that she should look once on the face she would see no more, and say
farewell to it, considering that in life it could not be requested. But
the susceptibility to sentimental emotion beside a death-bed, with a
dying man's voice in the ear, requires fortification if it is to be
maintained;' and the review of his uncle's character did not tend to make
this very singular request a proof that the lady's innocence was honoured
in it. His epicurean uncle had no profound esteem for the kind of
innocence. He had always talked of Mrs. Warwick--with warm respect for
her: Dacier knew that he had bequeathed her a sum of money. The
inferences were either way. Lord Dannisburgh never spoke evilly of any
woman, and he was perhaps bound to indemnify her materially as well as he
could for what she had suffered.--On the other hand, how easy it was to
be the dupe of a woman so handsome and clever.--Unlikely too that his
uncle would consent to sit at the Platonic banquet with her.--Judging by
himself, Dacier deemed it possible for man. He was not quick to kindle,
and had lately seen much of her, had found her a Lady Egeria, helpful in
counsel, prompting, inspiriting, reviving as well-waters, and as
temperately cool: not one sign of native slipperiness. Nor did she stir
the mud in him upon which proud man is built. The shadow of the scandal
had checked a few shifty sensations rising now and then of their own
accord, and had laid them, with the lady's benign connivance. This was
good proof in her favour, seeing that she must have perceived of late the
besetting thirst he had for her company; and alone or in the medley
equally. To see her, hear, exchange ideas with her; and to talk of new
books, try to listen to music at the opera and at concerts, and admire
her playing of hostess, were novel pleasures, giving him fresh notions of
life, and strengthening rather than disturbing the course of his life's
At any rate, she was capable of friendship. Why not resolutely believe
that she had been his uncle's true and simple friend! He adopted the
resolution, thanking her for one recognized fact:--he hated marriage, and
would by this time have been in the yoke, but for the agreeable deviation
of his path to her society. Since his visit to Copsley, moreover, Lady
Dunstane's idolizing, of her friend had influenced him. Reflecting on
it, he recovered from the shock which his uncle's request had caused.
Certain positive calculations were running side by side with the
speculations in vapour. His messenger would reach her house at about
four of the afternoon. If then at home, would she decide to start
immediately?--Would she come? That was a question he did not delay to
answer. Would she defer the visit? Death replied to that. She would
not delay it.
She would be sure to come at once. And what of the welcome she would
meet? Leaving the station at London at six in the evening, she might
arrive at the Priory, all impediments counted, between ten and eleven at
night. Thence, coldly greeted, or not greeted, to the chamber of death.
A pitiable and cruel reception for a woman upon such a mission!
His mingled calculations and meditations reached that exclamatory
terminus in feeling, and settled on the picture of Diana, about as clear
as light to blinking eyes, but enough for him to realize her being there
and alone, woefully alone. The supposition of an absolute loneliness was
most possible. He had intended to drive back the next day, when the
domestic storm would be over, and take the chances of her coming. It
seemed now a piece of duty to return at night, a traverse of twenty rough
up and down miles from Itchenford to the heath-land rolling on the chalk
wave of the Surrey borders, easily done after the remonstrances of his
host were stopped.
Dacier sat in an open carriage, facing a slip of bright moon. Poetical
impressions, emotions, any stirrings of his mind by the sensational stamp
on it, were new to him, and while he swam in them, both lulled and
pricked by his novel accessibility to nature's lyrical touch, he asked
himself whether, if he were near the throes of death, the thought of
having Diana Warwick to sit beside his vacant semblance for an hour at
night would be comforting. And why had his uncle specified an hour of
the night? It was a sentiment, like the request: curious in a man so
little sentimental. Yonder crescent running the shadowy round of the
hoop roused comparisons. Would one really wish to have her beside one
in death? In life--ah! But suppose her denied to us in life. Then the
desire for her companionship appears passingly comprehensible. Enter
into the sentiment, you see that the hour of darkness is naturally
chosen. And would even a grand old Pagan crave the presence beside his
dead body for an hour of the night of a woman he did not esteem? Dacier
answered no. The negative was not echoed in his mind. He repeated it,
and to the same deadness.
He became aware that he had spoken for himself, and he had a fit of
sourness. For who can say he is not a fool before he has been tried by a
woman! Dacier's wretched tendency under vexation to conceive grotesque
analogies, anti-poetic, not to say cockney similes, which had slightly
chilled Diana at Rovio, set him looking at yonder crescent with the hoop,
as at the shape of a white cat climbing a wheel. Men of the northern
blood will sometimes lend their assent to poetical images, even to those
that do not stun the mind lie bludgeons and imperatively, by much
repetition, command their assent; and it is for a solid exchange and
interest in usury with soft poetical creatures when they are so
condescending; but they are seized by the grotesque. In spite of efforts
to efface or supplant it, he saw the white cat, nothing else, even to
thinking that she had jumped cleverly to catch the wheel. He was a true
descendant of practical hard-grained fighting Northerners, of gnarled
dwarf imaginations, chivalrous though they were, and heroes to have
serviceable and valiant gentlemen for issue. Without at all tracing back
to its origin his detestable image of the white cat on the dead circle,
he kicked at the links between his uncle and Diana Warwick, whatever they
had been; particularly at the present revival of them. Old Lady Dacier's
blunt speech, and his father's fixed opinion, hissed in his head.
They were ignorant of his autumnal visit to the Italian Lakes, after the
winter's Nile-boat expedition; and also of the degree of his recent
intimacy with Mrs. Warwick; or else, as he knew, he would have heard more
hissing things. Her patronage of Miss Paynham exposed her to attacks
where she was deemed vulnerable; Lady Dacier muttered old saws as to the
flocking of birds; he did not accurately understand it, thought it
indiscreet, at best. But in regard to his experience, he could tell
himself that a woman more guileless of luring never drew breath. On the
contrary, candour said it had always been he who had schemed and pressed
for the meeting. He was at liberty to do it, not being bound in honour
elsewhere. Besides, despite his acknowledgement of her beauty, Mrs.
Warwick was not quite his ideal of the perfectly beautiful woman.
Constance Asper came nearer to it. He had the English taste for red and
white, and for cold outlines: he secretly admired a statuesque demeanour
with a statue's eyes. The national approbation of a reserved haughtiness
in woman, a tempered disdain in her slightly lifted small upperlip and
drooped eyelids, was shared by him; and Constance Asper, if not exactly
aristocratic by birth, stood well for that aristocratic insular type,
which seems to promise the husband of it a casket of all the trusty
virtues, as well as the security of frigidity in the casket. Such was
Dacier's native taste; consequently the attractions of Diana Warwick for
him were, he thought, chiefly mental, those of a Lady Egeria. She might
or might not be good, in the vulgar sense. She was an agreeable woman,
an amusing companion, very suggestive, inciting, animating; and her past
history must be left as her own. Did it matter to him? What he saw was
bright, a silver crescent on the side of the shadowy ring. Were it a
question of marrying her!--That was out of the possibilities. He
remembered, moreover, having heard from a man, who professed to know,
that Mrs. Warwick had started in married life by treating her husband
cavalierly to an intolerable degree: 'Such as no Englishman could stand,'
the portly old informant thundered, describing it and her in racy
vernacular. She might be a devil of a wife. She was a pleasant friend;
just the soft bit sweeter than male friends which gave the flavour of sex
without the artful seductions. He required them strong to move him.
He looked at last on the green walls of the Priory, scarcely supposing a
fair watcher to be within; for the contrasting pale colours of dawn had
ceased to quicken the brilliancy of the crescent, and summer daylight
drowned it to fainter than a silver coin in water. It lay dispieced like
a pulled rag. Eastward, over Surrey, stood the full rose of morning.
The Priory clock struck four. When the summons of the bell had gained
him admittance, and he heard that Mrs. Warwick had come in the night,
he looked back through the doorway at the rosy colour, and congratulated
himself to think that her hour of watching was at an end. A sleepy
footman was his informant. Women were in my lord's dressing-room, he
said. Upstairs, at the death-chamber, Dacier paused. No sound came to
him. He hurried to his own room, paced about, and returned. Expecting
to see no one but the dead, he turned the handle, and the two circles of
a shaded lamp, on ceiling and on table, met his gaze.
DIANA A NIGHT-WATCH IN THE CHAMBER OF DEATH
He stepped into the room, and thrilled to hear the quiet voice beside the
bed: 'Who is it?'
Apologies and excuses were on his tongue. The vibration of those grave
tones checked them.
'It is you,' she said.
She sat in shadow, her hands joined on her lap. An unopened book was
under the lamp.
He spoke in an underbreath: 'I have just come. I was not sure I should
find you here. Pardon.'
'There is a chair.'
He murmured thanks and entered into the stillness, observing her.
'You have been watching . . . . You must be tired.'
'An hour was asked, only one.'
'I could not leave him.'
'Watchers are at hand to relieve you'
'It is better for him to have me.'
The chord of her voice told him of the gulf she had sunk in during the
night. The thought of her endurance became a burden.
He let fall his breath for patience, and tapped the floor with his foot.
He feared to discompose her by speaking. The silence grew more fearful,
as the very speech of Death between them.
'You came. I thought it right to let you know instantly. I hoped you
would come to-morrow'
'I could not delay.'
'You have been sitting alone here since eleven!'
'I have not found it long.'
'You must want some refreshment . . . tea?'
'I need nothing.'
'It can be made ready in a few minutes.'
'I could not eat or drink.'
He tried to brush away the impression of the tomb in the heavily-
curtained chamber by thinking of the summer-morn outside; he spoke of it,
the rosy sky, the dewy grass, the piping birds. She listened, as one
hearing of a quitted sphere.
Their breathing in common was just heard if either drew a deeper breath.
At moments his eyes wandered and shut. Alternately in his mind Death had
vaster meanings and doubtfuller; Life cowered under the shadow or
outshone it. He glanced from her to the figure in the bed, and she
He said: 'It is time for you to have rest. You know your room. I will
stay till the servants are up.'
She replied: 'No, let this night with him be mine.'
'I am not intruding . . .?'
'If you wish to remain . . .'
No traces of weeping were on her face. The lampshade revealed it
colourless, and lustreless her eyes. She was robed in black. She held
her hands clasped.
'You have not suffered?'
She said it without sighing: nor was her speech mournful, only brief.
'You have seen death before?'
'I sat by my father four nights. I was a girl then. I cried till I had
no more tears.'
He felt a burning pressure behind his eyeballs.
'Death is natural,' he said.
'It is natural to the aged. When they die honoured . . .'
She looked where the dead man lay. 'To sit beside the young, cut off
from their dear opening life . . . !' A little shudder swept over
her. 'Oh! that!'
'You were very good to come. We must all thank you for fulfilling his
'He knew it would be my wish.'
Her hands pressed together.
'He lies peacefully!'
'I have raised the lamp on him, and wondered each time. So changeless he
lies. But so like a sleep that will wake. We never see peace but in the
features of the dead. Will you look? They are beautiful. They have a
The desire to look was evidently recurrent with her. Dacier rose.
Their eyes fell together on the dead man, as thoughtfully as Death allows
to the creatures of sensation.
'And after?' he said in low tones.
'I trust to my Maker,' she replied. 'Do you see a change since he
breathed his last?'
'You were with him?'
'Not in the room. Two minutes later.'
'Who . . .?'
'My father. His niece, Lady Cathairn.'
'If our lives are lengthened we outlive most of those we would have to
close our eyes. He had a dear sister.'
'She died some years back.'
'I helped to comfort him for that loss.'
'He told me you did.'
The lamp was replaced on the table.
'For a moment, when I withdraw the light from him, I feel sadness.
As if the light we lend to anything were of value to him now!'
She bowed her head deeply. Dacier left her meditation undisturbed.
The birds on the walls outside were audible, tweeting, chirping.
He went to the window-curtains and tried the shutter-bars. It seemed to
him that daylight would be cheerfuller for her. He had a thirst to
behold her standing bathed in daylight.
'Shall I open them?' he asked her.
'I would rather the lamp,' she said.
They sat silently until she drew her watch from her girdle. 'My train
starts at half-past six. It is a walk of thirty-five minutes to the
station. I did it last night in that time.'
'You walked here in the dark alone?'
'There was no fly to be had. The station-master sent one of his porters
with me. We had a talk on the road. I like those men.'
Dacier read the hour by the mantelpiece clock. 'If you must really go by
the early train, I will drive you.'
'No, I will walk; I prefer it.'
'I will order your breakfast at once.'
He turned on his heel. She stopped him. 'No, I have no taste for eating
'Pray . . .' said he, in visible distress.
She shook her head. 'I could not. I have twenty minutes longer. I can
find my way to the station; it is almost a straight road out of the park-
His heart swelled with anger at the household for they treatment she had
been subjected to, judging by her resolve not to break bread in the
They resumed their silent sitting. The intervals for a word to pass
between them were long, and the ticking of the time-piece fronting the
death-bed ruled the chamber, scarcely varied.
The lamp was raised for the final look, the leave-taking.
Dacier buried his face, thinking many things--the common multitude in
'A servant should be told to come now,' she said. 'I have only to put on
my bonnet and I am ready.'
'You will take no . . . ?'
'It is not too late for a carriage to be ordered.'
He roused the two women in the dressing-room, asleep with heads against
the wall. Thence he sped to his own room for hat and overcoat, and a
sprinkle of cold water. Descending the stairs, he beheld his companion
issuing from the chamber of death. Her lips were shut, her eyelids
They were soon in the warm sweet open air, and they walked without an
interchange of a syllable through the park into the white hawthorn lane,
glad to breathe. Her nostrils took long draughts of air, but of the
change of, scene she appeared scarcely sensible.
At the park-gates, she said: 'There is no necessity four your coming.'
His answer was: 'I think of myself. I gain something every step I walk
'To-day is Thursday,' said she. 'The funeral is . . . ?'
'Monday has been fixed. According to his directions, he will lie in the
churchyard of his village--not in the family vault.'
'I know,' she said hastily. 'They are privileged who follow him and see
the coffin lowered. He spoke of this quiet little resting-place.'
'Yes, it's a good end. I do not wonder at his wish for the honour you
have done him. I could wish it too. But more living than dead--that is
a natural wish.'
'It is not to be called an honour.'
'I should feel it so-an honour to me.'
'It is a friend's duty. The word is too harsh; it was his friend's
desire. He did not ask it so much as he sanctioned it. For to him what
has my sitting beside him been!'
'He had the prospective happiness.'
'He knew well that my soul would be with him--as it was last night.
But he knew it would be my poor human happiness to see him with my eyes,
touch him with my hand, before he passed from our sight.'
Dacier exclaimed: 'How you can love!'
'Is the village church to be seen?' she asked.
'To the right of those elms; that is the spire. The black spot below is
a yew. You love with the whole heart when you love.'
'I love my friends,' she replied.
'You tempt me to envy those who are numbered among them.'
'They are not many.'
'They should be grateful.!
'You have some acquaintance with them all.'
'And an enemy? Had you ever one? Do you know of one?'
'Direct and personal designedly? I think not. We give that title to
those who are disinclined to us and add a dash of darker colour to our
errors. Foxes have enemies in the dogs; heroines of melodramas have
their persecuting villains. I suppose that conditions of life exist
where one meets the original complexities. The bad are in every rank.
The inveterately malignant I have not found. Circumstances may combine
to make a whisper as deadly as a blow, though not of such evil design.
Perhaps if we lived at a Court of a magnificent despot we should learn
that we are less highly civilized than we imagine ourselves; but that is
a fire to the passions, and the extreme is not the perfect test. Our
civilization counts positive gains--unless you take the melodrama for the
truer picture of us. It is always the most popular with the English.--
And look, what a month June is! Yesterday morning I was with Lady
Dunstane on her heights, and I feel double the age. He was fond of
this wild country. We think it a desert, a blank, whither he has gone,
because we will strain to see in the utter dark, and nothing can come of
that but the bursting of the eyeballs.'
Dacier assented: 'There's no use in peering beyond the limits.'
'No,' said she; 'the effect is like the explaining of things to a dull
head--the finishing stroke to the understanding! Better continue to
brood. We get to some unravelment if we are left to our own efforts.
I quarrel with no priest of any denomination. That they should quarrel
among themselves is comprehensible in their wisdom, for each has the
specific. But they show us their way of solving the great problem, and
we ought to thank them, though one or the other abominate us. You are
advised to talk with Lady Dunstane on these themes.
She is perpetually in the antechamber of death, and her soul is
perennially sunshine.--See the pretty cottage under the laburnum curls!
Who lives there?'
'His gamekeeper, Simon Rofe.'
'And what a playground for the children, that bit of common by their
garden-palings! and the pond, and the blue hills over the furzes. I
hope those people will not be turned out.'
Dacier could not tell. He promised to do his best for them.
'But,' said she, 'you are the lord here now.'
'Not likely to be the tenant. Incomes are wanted to support even small
'The reason is good for courting the income.'
He disliked the remark; and when she said presently:
'Those windmills make the landscape homely,' he rejoined: 'They remind
one of our wheeling London gamins round the cab from the station.'
'They remind you,' said she, and smiled at the chance discordant trick he
had, remembering occasions when it had crossed her.
'This is homelier than Rovio,' she said; 'quite as nice in its way.'
'You do not gather flowers here.'
'Because my friend has these at her feet.'
'May one petition without a rival, then, for a souvenir?'
'Certainly, if you care to have a common buttercup.'
They reached the station, five minutes in advance of the train. His
coming manoeuvre was early detected, and she drew from her pocket the
little book he had seen lying unopened on the table, and said: 'I shall
have two good hours for reading.'
'You will not object? . . . I must accompany you to town. Permit it,
I beg. You shall not be worried to talk.'
'No; I came alone and return alone.'
'Fasting and unprotected! Are you determined to take away the worst
impression of us? Do not refuse me this favour.'
'As to fasting, I could not eat: and unprotected no woman is in England,
if she is a third-class traveller. That is my experience of the class;
and I shall return among my natural protectors--the most unselfishly
chivalrous to women in the whole world.'
He had set his heart on going with her, and he attempted eloquence in
pleading, but that exposed him to her humour; he was tripped.
'It is not denied that you belong to the knightly class,' she said; 'and
it is not necessary that you should wear armour and plumes to proclaim
it; and your appearance would be ample protection from the drunken
sailors travelling, you say, on this line; and I may be deplorably
mistaken in imagining that I could tame them. But your knightliness is
due elsewhere; and I commit myself to the fortune of war. It is a battle
for women everywhere; under the most favourable conditions among my dear
common English. I have not my maid with me, or else I should not dare.'
She paid for a third-class ticket, amused by Dacier's look of entreaty
'Of course I obey,' he murmured.
'I have the habit of exacting it in matters concerning my independence,'
she said; and it arrested some rumbling notions in his head as to a piece
of audacity on the starting of the train. They walked up and down the
platform till the bell rang and the train came rounding beneath an arch.
'Oh, by the way, may I ask?'--he said: 'was it your article in
Whitmonby's journal on a speech of mine last week?'
'The guilty writer is confessed.'
'Let me thank you.'
'Don't. But try to believe it written on public grounds--if the task is
not too great.'
'I may call?'
'You will be welcome.'
'To tell you of the funeral--the last of him.'
'Do not fail to come.'
She could have laughed to see him jumping on the steps of the third-class
carriages one after another to choose her company for her. In those pre-
democratic blissful days before the miry Deluge, the opinion of the
requirements of poor English travellers entertained by the Seigneur
Directors of the class above them, was that they differed from cattle in
stipulating for seats. With the exception of that provision to suit
their weakness, the accommodation extended to them resembled pens, and
the seats were emphatically seats of penitence, intended to grind the
sitter for his mean pittance payment and absence of aspiration to a
higher state. Hard angular wood, a low roof, a shabby square of window
aloof, demanding of him to quit the seat he insisted on having, if he
would indulge in views of the passing scenery,--such was the furniture of
dens where a refinement of castigation was practised on villain poverty
by denying leathers to the windows, or else buttons to the leathers, so
that the windows had either to be up or down, but refused to shelter and
Dacier selected a compartment occupied by two old women, a mother and
babe and little maid, and a labouring man. There he installed her, with
an eager look that she would not notice.
'You will want the window down,' he said.
She applied to her fellow-travellers for the permission; and struggling
to get the window down, he was irritated to animadvert on 'these
carriages' of the benevolent railway Company.
'Do not forget that the wealthy are well treated, or you may be unjust,'
said she, to pacify him.
His mouth sharpened its line while he tried arts and energies on the
refractory window. She told him to leave it. 'You can't breathe this
atmosphere!' he cried, and called to a porter, who did the work,
remarking that it was rather stiff.
The door was banged and fastened. Dacier had to hang on the step to see
her in the farewell. From the platform he saw the top of her bonnet; and
why she should have been guilty of this freak of riding in an unwholesome
carriage, tasked his power of guessing. He was too English even to have
taken the explanation, for he detested the distinguishing of the races in
his country, and could not therefore have comprehended her peculiar
tenacity of the sense of injury as long as enthusiasm did not arise to
obliterate it. He required a course of lessons in Irish.
Sauntering down the lane, he called at Simon Rofe's cottage, and spoke
very kindly to the gamekeeper's wife. That might please Diana. It was
all he could do at present.
'THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE'
Descriptions in the newspapers of the rural funeral of Lord Dannisburgh
had the effect of rousing flights of tattlers with a twittering of the
disused name of Warwick; our social Gods renewed their combat, and the
verdict of the jury was again overhauled, to be attacked and maintained,
the carpers replying to the champions that they held to their view of it:
as heads of bull-dogs are expected to do when they have got a grip of
one. It is a point of muscular honour with them never to relax their
hold. They will tell you why:--they formed that opinion from the first.
And but for the swearing of a particular witness, upon whom the plaintiff
had been taught to rely, the verdict would have been different--to prove
their soundness of judgement. They could speak from private positive
information of certain damnatory circumstances, derived from authentic
sources. Visits of a gentleman to the house of a married lady in the
absence of the husband? Oh!--The British Lucretia was very properly not
legally at home to the masculine world of that day. She plied her
distaff in pure seclusion, meditating on her absent lord; or else a fair
proportion of the masculine world, which had not yet, has not yet,
'doubled Cape Turk,' approved her condemnation to the sack.
There was talk in the feminine world, at Lady Wathin's assemblies. The
elevation of her husband had extended and deepened her influence on the
levels where it reigned before, but without, strange as we may think it
now, assisting to her own elevation, much aspired for, to the smooth and
lively upper pavement of Society, above its tumbled strata. She was near
that distinguished surface, not on it. Her circle was practically the
same as it was previous to the coveted nominal rank enabling her to
trample on those beneath it. And women like that Mrs. Warwick, a woman
of no birth, no money, not even honest character, enjoyed the entry
undisputed, circulated among the highest:--because people took her rattle
for wit!--and because also our nobility, Lady Wathin feared, had no due
regard for morality. Our aristocracy, brilliant and ancient though it
was, merited rebuke. She grew severe upon aristocratic scandals, whereof
were plenty among the frolicsome host just overhead, as vexatious as the
drawing-room party to the lodger in the floor below, who has not received
an invitation to partake of the festivities and is required to digest the
noise. But if ambition is oversensitive, moral indignation is ever
consolatory, for it plants us on the Judgement Seat. There indeed we
may, sitting with the very Highest, forget our personal disappointments
in dispensing reprobation for misconduct, however eminent the offenders.
She was Lady Wathin, and once on an afternoon's call to see poor Lady
Dunstane at her town-house, she had been introduced to Lady Pennon, a
patroness of Mrs. Warwick, and had met a snub--an icy check-bow of the
aristocratic head from the top of the spinal column, and not a word, not
a look; the half-turn of a head devoid of mouth and eyes! She practised
that forbidding checkbow herself to perfection, so the endurance of it
was horrible. A noli me tangere, her husband termed it, in his
ridiculous equanimity; and he might term it what he pleased--it was
insulting. The solace she had was in hearing that hideous Radical
Revolutionary things were openly spoken at Mrs. Warwick's evenings with
her friends:--impudently named 'the elect of London.' Pleasing to
reflect upon Mrs. Warwick as undermining her supporters, to bring them
some day down with a crash! Her 'elect of London' were a queer
gathering, by report of them! And Mr. Whitmonby too, no doubt a
celebrity, was the right-hand man at these dinner-parties of Mrs.
Warwick. Where will not men go to be flattered by a pretty woman! He
had declined repeated, successive invitations to Lady Wathin's table.
But there of course he would not have had 'the freedom': that is, she
rejoiced in thinking defensively and offensively, a moral wall enclosed
her topics. The Hon. Percy Dacier had been brought to her Thursday
afternoon by. Mr. Quintin Manx, and he had one day dined with her; and
he knew Mrs. Warwick--a little, he said. The opportunity was not lost to
convey to him, entirely in the interest of sweet Constance Asper, that
the moral world entertained a settled view of the very clever woman Mrs.
Warwick certainly was. He had asked Diana, on their morning walk to the
station, whether she had an enemy: so prone are men, educated by the
Drama and Fiction in the belief that the garden of civilized life must be
at the mercy of the old wild devourers, to fancy 'villain whispers' an
indication of direct animosity. Lady Wathin had no sentiment of the
But she had become acquainted with the other side of the famous
Dannisburgh case--the unfortunate plaintiff; and compassion as well as
morality moved her to put on a speaking air when Mr. Warwick's name was
mentioned. She pictured him to the ladies of her circle as 'one of our
true gentlemen in his deportment and his feelings.' He was, she would
venture to say, her ideal of an English gentleman. 'But now,' she added
commiseratingly, 'ruined; ruined in his health and in his prospects.'
A lady inquired if it was the verdict that had thus affected him. Lady
Wathin's answer was reported over moral, or substratum, London: 'He is
the victim of a fatal passion for his wife; and would take her back to-
morrow were she to solicit his forgiveness.' Morality had something to
say against this active marital charity, attributable, it was to be
feared, to weakness of character on the part of the husband. Still Mrs.
Warwick undoubtedly was one of those women (of Satanic construction) who
have the art of enslaving the men unhappy enough to cross their path.
The nature of the art was hinted, with the delicacy of dainty feet which
have to tread in mire to get to safety. Men, alas! are snared in this
way. Instances too numerous for the good repute of the swinish sex,
were cited, and the question of how Morality was defensible from their
grossness passed without a tactical reply. There is no defence: Those
women come like the Cholera Morbus--and owing to similar causes. They
will prevail until the ideas of men regarding women are purified.
Nevertheless the husband who could forgive, even propose to forgive, was
deemed by consent generous, however weak. Though she might not have been
wholly guilty, she had bitterly offended. And he despatched an emissary
to her?--The theme, one may, in their language, 'fear,' was relished as a
sugared acid. It was renewed in the late Autumn of the year, when
ANTONIA published her new book, entitled THE YOUNG MINISTER of STATE.
The signature of the authoress was now known; and from this resurgence of
her name in public, suddenly a radiation of tongues from the circle of
Lady Wathin declared that the repentant Mrs. Warwick had gone back to her
husband's bosom and forgiveness! The rumour spread in spite of sturdy
denials at odd corners, counting the red-hot proposal of Mr. Sullivan
Smith to eat his head and boots for breakfast if it was proved correct.
It filled a yawn of the Clubs for the afternoon. Soon this wanton rumour
was met and stifled by another of more morbific density, heavily charged
as that which led the sad Eliza to her pyre.
ANTONIA's hero was easily identified. THE YOUNG MINISTER of STATE could
be he only who was now at all her parties, always meeting her; had been
spied walking with her daily in the park near her house, on his march
down to Westminster during the session; and who positively went to
concerts and sat under fiddlers to be near her. It accounted moreover
for his treatment of Constance Asper. What effrontery of the authoress,
to placard herself with him in a book! The likeness of the hero to Percy
Dacier once established became striking to glaringness--a proof of her
ability, and more of her audacity; still more of her intention to flatter
him up to his perdition. By the things written of him, one would imagine
the conversations going on behind the scenes. She had the wiles of a
Cleopatra, not without some of the Nilene's experiences. A youthful
Antony Dacier would be little likely to escape her toils. And so
promising a young man! The sigh, the tear for weeping over his
destruction, almost fell, such vivid realizing of the prophesy
appeared in its pathetic pronouncement.
This low rumour, or malaria, began blowing in the winter, and did not
travel fast; for strangely, there was hardly a breath of it in the
atmosphere of Dacier, none in Diana's. It rose from groups not so
rapidly and largely mixing, and less quick to kindle; whose crazy
sincereness battened on the smallest morsel of fact and collected the
fictitious by slow absorption. But as guardians of morality, often doing
good duty in their office, they are persistent. When Parliament
assembled, Mr. Quintin Manx, a punctual member of the House, if nothing
else, arrived in town. He was invited to dine with Lady Wathin. After
dinner she spoke to him of the absent Constance, and heard of her being
well, and expressed a great rejoicing at that. Whereupon the burly old
shipowner frowned and puffed. Constance, he said, had plunged into these
new spangle, candle and high singing services; was all for symbols,
harps, effigies, what not. Lady Wathin's countenance froze in hearing of
it. She led Mr. Quintin to a wall-sofa, and said: 'Surely the dear child
must have had a disappointment, for her to have taken to those foolish
displays of religion! It is generally a sign.'
'Well, ma'am-my lady--I let girls go their ways in such things. I don't
interfere. But it's that fellow, or nobody, with her. She has fixed her
girl's mind on him, and if she can't columbine as a bride, she will as a
nun. Young people must be at some harlequinade.'
'But it is very shocking. And he?'
'He plays last and loose, warm and cold. I'm ready to settle twenty
times a nobleman's dowry on my niece and she's a fine girl, a handsome
girl, educated up to the brim, fit to queen it in any drawing-room. He
holds her by some arts that don't hold him, it seems. He's all for
'Constance can scarcely be his dupe so far, I should think.'
'How do you mean?'
'Everything points to one secret of his conduct.'
Lady Wathin's head shook for her sex's pained affirmative.
Mr. Quintin in the same fashion signified the downright negative. 'The
fellow's as cold as a fish.'
'Flattery will do anything. There is, I fear, one.'
'Widow? wife? maid?'
'Married, I regret to say.'
'Well, if he'd get over with it,' said Quintin, in whose notions the
seductiveness of a married woman could be only temporary, for all the
reasons pertaining to her state. At the same time his view of Percy
Dacier was changed in thinking it possible that a woman could divert him
from his political and social interests. He looked incredulous.
'You have heard of a Mrs. Warwick?' said Lady Wathin.
'Warwick! I have. I've never seen her. At my broker's in the City
yesterday I saw the name on a Memorandum of purchase of Shares in a
concern promising ten per cent., and not likely to carry the per annum
into the plural. He told me she was a grand kind of woman, past
'For what amount'
'Some thousands, I think it was.'
'She has no money': Lady Wathin corrected her emphasis: 'or ought to have
'She can't have got it from him.'
'Did you notice her Christian name?'
'I don't recollect it, if I did. I thought the woman a donkey.'
'Would you consider me a busybody were I to try to mitigate this woman's
evil influence? I love dear Constance, and should be happy to serve
'I want my girl married,' said old Quintin. 'He's one of my
Parliamentary chiefs, with first-rate prospects; good family, good
sober fellow--at least I thought so; by nature, I mean; barring your
incantations. He suits me, she liking him.'
'She admires him, I am sure.'
'She's dead on end for the fellow!'
Lady Wathin felt herself empowered by Quintin Manx to undertake the
release of sweet Constance Asper's knight from the toils of his
enchantress. For this purpose she had first an interview with Mr.
Warwick, and next she hurried to Lady Dunstane at Copsley. There, after
jumbling Mr. Warwick's connubial dispositions and Mrs. Warwick's last
book, and Mr. Percy Dacier's engagement to the great heiress in a gossipy
hotch-potch, she contrived to gather a few items of fact, as that THE
YOUNG MINISTER was probably modelled upon Mr. Percy Dacier. Lady
Dunstane made no concealment of it as soon as she grew sensible of the
angling. But she refused her help to any reconciliation between Mr. and
Mrs. Warwick. She declined to listen to Lady Wathin's entreaties. She
declined to give her reasons.--These bookworm women, whose pride it is to
fancy that they can think for themselves, have a great deal of the
heathen in them, as morality discovers when it wears the enlistment
ribands and applies yo them to win recruits for a service under the
direct blessing of Providence.
Lady Wathin left some darts behind her, in the form of moral
exclamations; and really intended morally. For though she did not like
Mrs. Warwick, she had no wish to wound, other than by stopping her
further studies of the Young Minister, and conducting him to the young
lady loving him, besides restoring a bereft husband to his own. How
sadly pale and worn poor Mr. Warwick appeared? The portrayal of his
withered visage to Lady Dunstane had quite failed to gain a show of
sympathy. And so it is ever with your book-worm women pretending to be
philosophical! You sound them vainly for a manifestation of the
commonest human sensibilities, They turn over the leaves of a Latin book
on their laps while you are supplicating them to assist in a work of
Lady Wathin's interjectory notes haunted Emma's ear. Yet she had seen
nothing in Tony to let her suppose that there was trouble of her heart
below the surface; and her Tony when she came to Copsley shone in the
mood of the day of Lord Dannisburgh's drive down from London with her.
She was running on a fresh work; talked of composition as a trifle.
'I suppose the YOUNG MINISTER is Mr. Percy Dacier?' said Emma.
'Between ourselves he is,' Diana replied, smiling at a secret guessed.
'You know my model and can judge of the likeness.'
'You write admiringly of him, Tony.'
'And I do admire him. So would you, Emmy, if you knew him as well as I
do now. He pairs with Mr. Redworth; he also is the friend of women. But
he lifts us to rather a higher level of intellectual friendship. When
the ice has melted--and it is thick at first--he pours forth all his
ideas without reserve; and they are deep and noble. Ever since Lord
Dannisburgh's death and our sitting together, we have been warm friends
--intimate, I would say, if it could be said of one so self-contained.
In that respect, no young man was ever comparable with him. And I am
encouraged to flatter myself that he unbends to me more than to others.'
'He is engaged, or partly, I hear; why does he not marry?'
'I wish he would!' Diana said, with a most brilliant candour of aspect.
Emma read in it, that it would complete her happiness, possibly by
fortifying her sense of security; and that seemed right. Her own
meditations, illumined by the beautiful face in her presence, referred to
the security of Mr. Dacier.
'So, then, life is going smoothly,' said Emma.
'Yes, at a good pace and smoothly: not a torrent--Thames-like, "without
o'erflowing full." It is not Lugano and the Salvatore. Perhaps it is
better: as action is better than musing.'
'No troubles whatever?'
'None. Well, except an "adorer" at times. I have to take him as my
portion. An impassioned Caledonian has a little bothered me. I met him
at Lady Pennon's, and have been meeting him, as soon as I put foot out of
my house, ever since. If I could impress and impound him to marry Mary
Paynham, I should be glad. By the way, I have consented to let her try
at a portrait of me. No, I have no troubles. I have friends, the
choicest of the nation; I have health, a field for labour, fairish
success with it; a mind alive, such as it is. I feel like that midsummer
morning of our last drive out together, the sun high, clearish, clouded
enough to be cool. And still I envy Emmy on her sofa, mastering Latin,
biting at Greek. What a wise recommendation that was of Mr. Redworth's!
He works well in the House. He spoke excellently the other night.'
'He runs over to Ireland this Easter.'
'He sees for himself, and speaks with authority. He sees and feels.
Englishmen mean well, but they require an extremity of misery to waken
'It is coming, he says; and absit omen!'
'Mr. Dacier says he is the one Englishman who may always be sure of an
Irish hearing; and he does not cajole them, you know. But the English
defect is really not want of feeling so much as want of foresight. They
will not look ahead. A famine ceasing, a rebellion crushed, they jog on
as before, with their Dobbin trot and blinker confidence in "Saxon
energy." They should study the Irish: I think it was Mr. Redworth who
compared the governing of the Irish to the management of a horse: the
rider should not grow restive when the steed begins to kick: calmer;
firm, calm, persuasive.'
'Does Mr. Dacier agree?'
'Not always. He has the inveterate national belief that Celtic blood
is childish, and the consequently illogical disregard of its hold of
impressions. The Irish--for I have them in my heart, though I have not
been among them for long at a time--must love you to serve you, and will
hate you if you have done them injury and they have not wiped it out--
they with a treble revenge, or you with cordial benefits. I have told
him so again and again: ventured to suggest measures.'
'He listens to you, Tony?'
'He says I have brains. It ends in a compliment.'
'You have inspired Mr. Redworth.'
'If I have, I have lived for some good.'
Altogether her Tony's conversation proved to Emma that her perusal of the
model of THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE was an artist's, free, open, and not
discoloured by the personal tincture. Her heart plainly was free and
undisturbed. She had the same girl's love of her walks where wildflowers
grew; if possible, a keener pleasure. She hummed of her happiness in
being at Copsley, singing her Planxty Kelly and The Puritani by turns.
She stood on land: she was not on the seas. Emma thought so with good
She stood on land, it was true, but she stood on a cliff of the land,
the seas below and about her; and she was enabled to hoodwink her friend
because the assured sensation of her firm footing deceived her own soul,
even while it took short flights to the troubled waters. Of her firm
footing she was exultingly proud. She stood high, close to danger,
without giddiness. If at intervals her soul flew out like lightning
from the rift (a mere shot of involuntary fancy, it seemed to her),
the suspicion of instability made her draw on her treasury of impressions
of the mornings at Lugano--her loftiest, purest, dearest; and these
reinforced her. She did not ask herself why she should have to seek
them for aid. In other respects her mind was alert and held no sly
covers, as the fiction of a perfect ignorant innocence combined with
common intelligence would have us to suppose that the minds of women can
do. She was honest as long as she was not directly questioned, pierced
to the innermost and sanctum of the bosom. She could honestly summon
bright light to her eyes in wishing the man were married. She did not
ask herself why she called it up. The remorseless progressive
interrogations of a Jesuit Father in pursuit of the bosom's verity might
have transfixed it and shown her to herself even then a tossing vessel as
to the spirit, far away from that firm land she trod so bravely.
Descending from the woody heights upon London, Diana would have said that
her only anxiety concerned young Mr. Arthur Rhodes, whose position she
considered precarious, and who had recently taken a drubbing for
venturing to show a peep of his head, like an early crocus, in the
literary market. Her ANTONIA'S last book had been reviewed obediently
to smart taps from the then commanding baton of Mr. Tonans, and Mr.
Whitmonby's choice picking of specimens down three columns of his paper.
A Literary Review (Charles Rainer's property) had suggested that perhaps
'the talented authoress might be writing too rapidly'; and another,
actuated by the public taste of the period for our 'vigorous homely
Saxon' in one and two syllable words, had complained of a 'tendency to
polysyllabic phraseology.' The remainder, a full majority, had sounded
eulogy with all their band-instruments, drum, trumpet, fife, trombone.
Her foregoing work had raised her to Fame, which is the Court of a Queen
when the lady has beauty and social influence, and critics are her
dedicated courtiers, gaping for the royal mouth to be opened, and
reserving the kicks of their independent manhood for infamous outsiders,
whom they hoist in the style and particular service of pitchforks. They
had fallen upon a little volume of verse, 'like a body of barn-door hens
on a stranger chick,' Diana complained; and she chid herself angrily for
letting it escape her forethought to propitiate them on the author's
behalf. Young Rhodes was left with scarce a feather; and what remained
to him appeared a preposterous ornament for the decoration of a shivering
and welted poet. He laughed, or tried the mouth of laughter. ANTONIA's
literary conscience was vexed at the different treatment she had met and
so imperatively needed that the reverse of it would have threatened the
smooth sailing of her costly household. A merry-go-round of creditors
required a corresponding whirligig of receipts.
She felt mercenary, debased by comparison with the well-scourged verse-
mason, Orpheus of the untenanted city, who had done his publishing
ingenuously for glory: a good instance of the comic-pathetic. She wrote
to Emma, begging her to take him in at Copsley for a few days: 'I told
you I had no troubles. I am really troubled about this poor boy. He has
very little money and has embarked on literature. I cannot induce any of
my friends to lend him a hand. Mr. Redworth gruffly insists on his going
back to his law-clerk's office and stool, and Mr. Dacier says that no
place is vacant. The reality of Lord Dannisburgh's death is brought
before me by my helplessness. He would have made him an assistant
private Secretary, pending a Government appointment, rather than let me
plead in vain.'
Mr. Rhodes with his travelling bag was packed off to Copsley, to enjoy a
change of scene after his run of the gauntlet. He was very heartily
welcomed by Lady Dunstane, both for her Tony's sake and his own modest
worship of that luminary, which could permit of being transparent; but
chiefly she welcomed him as the living proof of Tony's disengagement
from anxiety, since he was her one spot of trouble, and could easily be
comforted by reading with her, and wandering through the Spring woods
along the heights. He had a happy time, midway in air between his
accomplished hostess and his protecting Goddess. His bruises were soon
healed. Each day was radiant to him, whether it rained or shone; and by
his looks and what he said of himself Lady Dunstane understood that he
was in the highest temper of the human creature tuned to thrilling accord
with nature. It was her generous Tony's work. She blessed it, and liked
the youth the better.
During the stay of Mr. Arthur Rhodes at Copsley, Sir Lukin came on a
visit to his wife. He mentioned reports in the scandal-papers: one, that
Mr. P. D. would shortly lead to the altar the lovely heiress Miss A.,
Percy Dacier and Constance Asper:--another, that a reconciliation was to
be expected between the beautiful authoress Mrs. W. and her husband.
'Perhaps it's the best thing she can do,' Sir Lukin added.
Lady Dunstane pronounced a woman's unforgiving: 'Never.' The revolt
of her own sensations assured her of Tony's unconquerable repugnance.
In conversation subsequently with Arthur Rhodes, she heard that he knew
the son of Mr. Warwick's attorney, a Mr. Fern; and he had gathered from
him some information of Mr. Warwick's condition of health. It had been
alarming; young Fern said it was confirmed heart-disease. His father
frequently saw Mr. Warwick, and said he was fretting himself to death.
It seemed just a possibility that Tony's natural compassionateness had
wrought on her to immolate herself and nurse to his end the man who had
wrecked her life. Lady Dunstane waited for the news. At last she wrote,
touching the report incidentally. There was no reply. The silence
ensuing after such a question responded forcibly.
BETWEEN DIANA AND DACIER: THE WIND EAST OVER BLEAK LAND
On the third day of the Easter recess Percy Dacier landed from the Havre
steamer at Caen and drove straightway for the sandy coast, past fields of
colza to brine-blown meadows of coarse grass, and then to the low dunes
and long stretching sands of the ebb in semicircle: a desolate place at
that season; with a dwarf fishing-village by the shore; an East wind
driving landward in streamers every object that had a scrap to fly.
He made head to the inn, where the first person he encountered in the
passage was Diana's maid Danvers, who relaxed from the dramatic
exaggeration of her surprise at the sight of a real English gentleman in
these woebegone regions, to inform him that her mistress might be found
walking somewhere along the sea-shore, and had her dog to protect her.
They were to stay here a whole week, Danvers added, for a conveyance of
her private sentiments. Second thoughts however whispered to her
shrewdness that his arrival could only be by appointment. She had been
anticipating something of the sort for some time.
Dacier butted against the stringing wind, that kept him at a rocking
incline to his left for a mile. He then discerned in what had seemed a
dredger's dot on the sands, a lady's figure, unmistakably she, without
the corroborating testimony of Leander paw-deep in the low-tide water.
She was out at a distance on the ebb-sands, hurtled, gyred, beaten to all
shapes, in rolls, twists, volumes, like a blown banner-flag, by the
pressing wind. A kerchief tied her bonnet under her chin. Bonnet and
breast-ribands rattled rapidly as drummer-sticks. She stood near the
little running ripple of the flat sea-water, as it hurried from a long
streaked back to a tiny imitation of spray. When she turned to the shore
she saw him advancing, but did not recognize; when they met she merely
looked with wide parted lips. This was no appointment.
'I had to see you,' Dacier said.
She coloured to a deeper red than the rose-conjuring wind had whipped in
her cheeks. Her quick intuition of the reason of his coming barred a
mental evasion, and she had no thought of asking either him or herself
what special urgency had brought him.
'I have been here four days.'
'Lady Esquart spoke of the place.'
'Lady Esquart should not have betrayed me.'
'She did it inadvertently, without an idea of my profiting by it.'
Diana indicated the scene in a glance. 'Dreary country, do you think?'
They walked up the sand-heap. The roaring Easter with its shrieks and
whistles at her ribands was not favourable to speech. His 'Anywhere!'
had a penetrating significance, the fuller for the break that left it
Speech between them was commanded; he could not be suffered to remain.
She descended upon a sheltered pathway running along a ditch, the border
of pastures where cattle cropped, raised heads, and resumed their one
Diana gazed on them, smarting from the buffets of the wind she had met.
'No play of their tails to-day'; she said, as she slackened her steps.
'You left Lady Esquart well?'
'Lady Esquart . . . I think was well. I had to see you. I thought
you would be with her in Berkshire. She told me of a little sea-side
place close to Caen.'
'You had to see me?'
'I miss you now if it's a day!'
'I heard a story in London . . .'
'In London there are many stories. I heard one. Is there a foundation
He breathed relieved. 'I wanted to see you once before . . . if it
was true. It would have made a change in my life-a gap.'
'You do me the honour to like my Sunday evenings?'
'Beyond everything London can offer.'
'A letter would have reached me.'
'I should have had to wait for the answer. There is no truth in it?'
Her choice was to treat the direct assailant frankly or imperil her
defence by the ordinary feminine evolutions, which might be taken for
inviting: poor pranks always.
'There have been overtures,' she said.
'Forgive me; I have scarcely the right to ask . . . speak of it.!
'My friends may use their right to take an interest in my fortunes.'
'I thought I might, on my way to Paris, turn aside . . . coming by
'If you determined not to lose much of your time.'
The coolness of her fencing disconcerted a gentleman conscious of his
madness. She took instant advantage of any circuitous move; she gave him
no practicable point. He was little skilled in the arts of attack, and
felt that she checked his impetuousness; respected her for it, chafed at
it, writhed with the fervours precipitating him here, and relapsed on his
pleasure in seeing her face, hearing her voice.
'Your happiness, I hope, is the chief thought in such a case,' he said.
'I am sure you would consider it.'
'I can't quite forget my own.'
'You compliment an ambitious hostess.'
Dacier glanced across the pastures, 'What was it that tempted you to this
'A poet would say it looks like a figure in the shroud. It has no
features; it has a sort of grandeur belonging to death. I heard of it as
the place where I might be certain of not meeting an acquaintance.'
'And I am the intruder.'
'An hour or two will not give you that title.'
'Am I to count the minutes by my watch?'
'By the sun. We will supply you an omelette and piquette, and send you
back sobered and friarly--to Caen for Paris at sunset.'
'Let the fare be Spartan. I could take my black broth with philosophy
every day of the year under your auspices. What I should miss . . .'
'You bring no news of the world or the House?'
'None. You know as much as I know. The Irish agitation is chronic.
The Corn-law threatens to be the same.'
'And your Chief--in personal colloquy?'
'He keeps a calm front. I may tell you: there is nothing I would not
confide to you: he has let fall some dubious words in private. I don't
know what to think of them.'
'But if he should waver?'
'It's not wavering. It's the openness of his mind.'
'Ah! the mind. We imagine it free. The House and the country are the
sentient frame governing the mind of the politician more than his ideas.
He cannot think independently of them:--nor I of my natural anatomy. You
will test the truth of that after your omelette and piquette, and marvel
at the quitting of your line of route for Paris. As soon as the mind
attempts to think independently, it is like a kite with the cord cut,
and performs a series of darts and frisks, that have the look of wildest
liberty till you see it fall flat to earth. The openness of his mind is
most honourable to him.'
'Ominous for his party.'
'Likely to be good for his country.'
'That is the question.'
'Prepare to encounter it. In politics I am with the active minority on
behalf of the inert but suffering majority. That is my rule. It leads,
unless you have a despotism, to the conquering side. It is always the
noblest. I won't say, listen to me; only do believe my words have some
weight. This is a question of bread.'
'It involves many other questions.'
'And how clearly those leaders put their case! They are admirable
debaters. If I were asked to write against them, I should have but to
quote them to confound my argument. I tried it once, and wasted a couple
of my precious hours.'
'They are cogent debaters,' Dacier assented. 'They make me wince now and
then, without convincing me: I own it to you. The confession is not
agreeable, though it's a small matter.'
'One's pride may feel a touch with the foils as keenly as the point of a
rapier,' said Diana.
The remark drew a sharp look of pleasure from him.
'Does the Princess Egeria propose to dismiss the individual she inspires,
when he is growing most sensible of her wisdom?'
'A young Minister of State should be gleaning at large when holiday is
Dacier coloured. 'May I presume on what is currently reported?'
'Parts, parts; a bit here, a bit there,' she rejoined. 'Authors find
their models where they can, and generally hit on the nearest.'
'Happy the nearest!'
'If you run to interjections I shall cite you a sentence, from your
latest speech in the House.'
He asked for it, and to school him she consented to flatter with her
recollection of his commonest words:
'"Dealing with subjects of this nature emotionally does, not advance us a
'I must have said that in relation to hard matter of business.'
'It applies. There is my hostelry, and the spectral form of Danvers,
utterly depaysee. Have you spoken to the poor soul? I can never
discover the links of her attachment to my service.'
'She knows a good mistress.--I have but a few minutes, if you are
relentless. May I . . ., shall I ever be privileged to speak your
'My Christian name! It is Pagan. In one sphere I am Hecate. Remember
'I am not among the people who so regard you.'
'The time may come.'
'I break no tie. I owe no allegiance whatever to the name.'
'Keep to the formal title with me. We are Mrs. Warwick and Mr. Dacier.
I think I am two years younger than you; socially therefore ten in
seniority; and I know how this flower of friendship is nourished and may
be withered. You see already what you have done? You have cast me on
the discretion of my maid. I suppose her trusty, but I am at her mercy,
and a breath from her to the people beholding me as Hecate queen of
Witches! . . . I have a sensation of the scirocco it would blow.'
'In that event, the least I can offer is my whole life.'
'We will not conjecture the event.'
'The best I could hope for!'
'I see I shall have to revise the next edition of THE YOUNG MINISTER, and
make an emotional curate of him. Observe Danvers. The woman is
wretched; and now she sees me coming she pretends to be using her wits
in studying the things about her, as I have directed. She is a riddle.
I have the idea that any morning she may explode; and yet I trust her and
sleep soundly. I must be free, though I vex the world's watchdogs.--So,
Danvers, you are noticing how thoroughly Frenchwomen do their work.'
Danvers replied with a slight mincing: 'They may, ma'am; but they chatter
'The result proves that it is not a waste of energy. They manage their
'They've no such thing as mutton, ma'am.'
Dacier patriotically laughed.
'She strikes the apology for wealthy and leisurely landlords,' Diana
Danvers remarked that the poor fed meagrely in France. She was not
convinced of its being good for them by hearing that they could work on
it sixteen hours out of the four and twenty.
Mr. Percy Dacier's repast was furnished to him half an hour later. At
sunset Diana, taking Danvers beside her, walked with him to the line of
the country road bearing on Caen. The wind had sunk. A large brown disk
paused rayless on the western hills.
'A Dacier ought to feel at home in Normandy; and you may have sprung from
this neighbourhood,' said she, simply to chat. 'Here the land is
poorish, and a mile inland rich enough to bear repeated crops of colza,
which tries the soil, I hear. As for beauty, those blue hills you see,
enfold charming valleys. I meditate an expedition to Harcourt before I
return. An English professor of his native tongue at the Lycee at Caen
told me on my way here that for twenty shillings a week you may live in
royal ease round about Harcourt. So we have our bed and board in
prospect if fortune fails us, Danvers!
'I would rather die in England, ma'am,' was the maid's reply.
Dacier set foot on his carriage-step. He drew a long breath to say a
short farewell, and he and Diana parted.
They parted as the plainest of sincere good friends, each at heart
respecting the other for the repression of that which their hearts
craved; any word of which might have carried them headlong, bound
together on a Mazeppa-race, with scandal for the hounding wolves, and
social ruin for the rocks and torrents.
Dacier was the thankfuller, the most admiring of the two; at the same
time the least satisfied. He saw the abyss she had aided him in
escaping; and it was refreshful to look abroad after his desperate
impulse. Prominent as he stood before the world, he could not think
without a shudder of behaving like a young frenetic of the passion.
Those whose aim is at the leadership of the English people know, that
however truly based the charges of hypocrisy, soundness of moral fibre
runs throughout the country and is the national integrity, which may
condone old sins for present service; but will not have present sins to
flout it. He was in tune with the English character. The passion was in
him nevertheless, and the stronger for a slow growth that confirmed its
union of the mind and heart. Her counsel fortified him, her suggestions
opened springs; her phrases were golden-lettered in his memory; and more,
she had worked an extraordinary change in his views of life and aptitude
for social converse: he acknowledged it with genial candour. Through her
he was encouraged, led, excited to sparkle with the witty, feel new
gifts, or a greater breadth of nature; and thanking her, he became
thirstily susceptible to her dark beauty; he claimed to have found the
key of her, and he prized it. She was not passionless: the blood flowed
warm. Proud, chaste, she was nobly spirited; having an intellectual
refuge from the besiegings of the blood; a rockfortress. The 'wife no
wife' appeared to him, striking the higher elements of the man, the
commonly masculine also.--Would he espouse her, had he the chance?--
to-morrow! this instant! With her to back him, he would be doubled in
manhood, doubled in brain and heart-energy. To call her wife, spring
from her and return, a man might accept his fate to fight Trojan or
Greek, sure of his mark on the enemy.
But if, after all, this imputed Helen of a decayed Paris passed,
submissive to the legitimate solicitor, back to her husband?
The thought shot Dacier on his legs for a look at the blank behind him.
He vowed she had promised it should not be. Could it ever be, after
the ruin the meanly suspicious fellow had brought upon her?--Diana
voluntarily reunited to the treacherous cur?
He sat, resolving sombrely that if the debate arose he would try what
force he had to save her from such an ignominy, and dedicate his life to
her, let the world wag its tongue. So the knot would be cut.
Men unaccustomed to a knot in their system find the prospect of cutting
it an extreme relief, even when they know that the cut has an edge to
wound mortally as well as pacify. The wound was not heavy payment for
the rapture of having so incomparable a woman his own. He reflected
wonderingly on the husband, as he had previously done, and came again to
the conclusion that it was a poor creature, abjectly jealous of a wife,
he could neither master, nor equal, nor attract. And thinking of
jealousy, Dacier felt none; none of individuals, only of facts: her
marriage, her bondage. Her condemnation to perpetual widowhood angered
him, as at an unrighteous decree. The sharp sweet bloom of her beauty,
fresh in swarthiness, under the whipping Easter, cried out against that
loathed inhumanity. Or he made it cry.
Being a stranger to the jealousy of men, he took the soft assurance that
he was preferred above them all. Competitors were numerous: not any won
her eyes as he did. She revealed nothing of the same pleasures in the
shining of the others touched by her magical wand. Would she have
pardoned one of them the 'Diana!' bursting from his mouth?
She was not a woman for trifling, still less for secresy. He was as
little the kind of lover. Both would be ready to take up their burden,
if the burden was laid on them. Diana had thus far impressed him.
Meanwhile he faced the cathedral towers of the ancient Norman city,
standing up in the smoky hues of the West; and a sentence out of her book
seemed fitting to the scene and what he felt. He rolled it over
luxuriously as the next of delights to having her beside him.--She wrote
of; 'Thoughts that are bare dark outlines, coloured by some odd passion
of the soul, like towers of a distant city seen in the funeral waste of
day.'--His bluff English anti-poetic training would have caused him to
shrug at the stuff coming from another pen: he might condescendingly have
criticized it, with a sneer embalmed in humour. The words were hers; she
had written them; almost by a sort of anticipation, he imagined; for he
at once fell into the mood they suggested, and had a full crop of the
'bare dark outlines' of thoughts coloured by his particular form of
Diana had impressed him powerfully when she set him swallowing and
assimilating a sentence ethereally thin in substance of mere sentimental