Part 5 out of 11
"Dang 'un, he do maak a chap laugh!" Well, Harrington, that sort of
homage isn't much, I admit.'
Raikes pursued: 'There's something in a pastoral life, after all.'
'Pastoral!' muttered Evan. 'I was speaking of you at Beckley, and hope
when you're there you won't make me regret my introduction of you. Keep
your mind on old Cudford's mutton-bone.'
'I perfectly understood you,' said Jack. 'I 'm Presumed to be in luck.
Ingratitude is not my fault--I'm afraid ambition is!'
'Console yourself with it or what you can get till we meet--here or in
London. But the Dragon shall be the address for both of us,' Evan said,
and nodded, trotting off.
IN WHICH EVAN CALLS HIMSELF GENTLEMAN
The young cavalier perused that letter again in memory. Genuine, or a
joke of the enemy, it spoke wakening facts to him. He leapt from the
spell Rose had encircled him with. Strange that he should have rushed
into his dream with eyes open! But he was fully awake now. He would
speak his last farewell to her, and so end the earthly happiness he paid
for in deep humiliation, and depart into that gray cold mist where his
duty lay. It is thus that young men occasionally design to burst from
the circle of the passions, and think that they have done it, when indeed
they are but making the circle more swiftly. Here was Evan mouthing his
farewell to Rose, using phrases so profoundly humble, that a listener
would have taken them for bitter irony. He said adieu to her,--
pronouncing it with a pathos to melt scornful princesses. He tried
to be honest, and was as much so as his disease permitted.
The black cloud had swallowed the sun; and turning off to the short cut
across the downs, Evan soon rode between the wind and the storm. He
could see the heavy burden breasting the beacon-point, round which curled
leaden arms, and a low internal growl saluted him advancing. The horse
laid back his ears. A last gust from the opposing quarter shook the
furzes and the clumps of long pale grass, and straight fell columns of
rattling white rain, and in a minute he was closed in by a hissing ring.
Men thus pelted abandon without protest the hope of retaining a dry
particle of clothing on their persons. Completely drenched, the track
lost, everything in dense gloom beyond the white enclosure that moved
with him, Evan flung the reins to the horse, and curiously watched him
footing on; for physical discomfort balanced his mental perturbation, and
he who had just been chafing was now quite calm.
Was that a shepherd crouched under the thorn? The place betokened a
shepherd, but it really looked like a bundle of the opposite sex; and it
proved to be a woman gathered up with her gown over her head.
Apparently, Mr. Evan Harrington was destined for these encounters. The
thunder rolled as he stopped by her side and called out to her. She
heard him, for she made a movement, but without sufficiently disengaging
her head of its covering to show him a part of her face.
Bellowing against the thunder, Evan bade her throw back her garment, and
stand and give him up her arms, that he might lift her on the horse
There came a muffled answer, on a big sob, as it seemed. And as if
heaven paused to hear, the storm was mute.
Could he have heard correctly? The words he fancied he had heard sobbed
The elements hereupon crashed deep and long from end to end, like a table
of Titans passing a jest.
Rain-drops, hard as hail, were spattering a pool on her head. Evan
stooped his shoulder, seized the soaked garment, and pulled it back,
revealing the features of Polly Wheedle, and the splendid bonnet in
ruins--all limp and stained.
Polly blinked at him penitentially.
'Oh, Mr. Harrington; oh, ain't I punished!' she whimpered.
In truth, the maid resembled a well-watered poppy.
Evan told her to stand up close to the horse, and Polly stood up close,
looking like a creature that expected a whipping. She was suffering,
poor thing, from that abject sense of the lack of a circumference, which
takes the pride out of women more than anything. Note, that in all
material fashions, as in all moral observances, women demand a
circumference, and enlarge it more and more as civilization advances.
Respect the mighty instinct, however mysterious it seem.
'Oh, Mr. Harrington, don't laugh at me,' said Polly.
Evan assured her that he was seriously examining her bonnet.
'It 's the bonnet of a draggletail,' said Polly, giving up her arms, and
biting her under-lip for the lift.
With some display of strength, Evan got the lean creature up behind him,
and Polly settled there, and squeezed him tightly with her arms, excusing
the liberty she took.
They mounted the beacon, and rode along the ridge whence the West became
visible, and a washed edge of red over Beckley Church spire and the woods
of Beckley Court.
'And what have you been doing to be punished? What brought you here?'
'Somebody drove me to Fallow field to see my poor sister Susan,' returned
Polly, half crying.
'Well, did he bring you here and leave you?
'No: he wasn't true to his appointment the moment I wanted to go back;
and I, to pay him out, I determined I'd walk it where he shouldn't
overtake me, and on came the storm . . . And my gown spoilt, and such
'Who was the somebody?'
'He's a Mr. Nicholas Frim, sir.'
'Mr. Nicholas Frim will be very unhappy, I should think.'
'Yes, that's one comfort,' said Polly ruefully, drying her eyes.
Closely surrounding a young man as a young woman must be when both are on
the same horse, they, as a rule, talk confidentially together in a very
short time. His 'Are you cold?' when Polly shivered, and her 'Oh, no;
not very,' and a slight screwing of her body up to him, as she spoke, to
assure him and herself of it, soon made them intimate.
'I think Mr. Nicholas Frim mustn't see us riding into Beckley,' said
'Oh, my gracious! Ought I to get down, sir?' Polly made no move,
'Is he jealous?'
'Only when I make him, he is.'
'That's very naughty of you.'
'Yes, I know it is--all the Wheedles are. Mother says, we never go right
till we 've once got in a pickle.'
'You ought to go right from this hour,' said Evan.
'It's 'dizenzy--[?? D.W.]--does it,' said Polly. 'And then we're
ashamed to show it. My poor Susan went to stay with her aunt at Bodley,
and then at our cousin's at Hillford, and then she was off to Lymport to
drown her poor self, I do believe, when you met her. And all because we
can't bear to be seen when we 're in any of our pickles. I wish you
wouldn't look at me, Mr. Harrington.'
'You look very pretty.'
'It 's quite impossible I can now,' said Polly, with a wretched effort to
spread open her collar. 'I can see myself a fright, like my Miss Rose
did, making a face in the looking-glass when I was undressing her last
night. But, do you know, I would much rather Nicholas saw us than
'Miss Bonner. She'd never forgive me.'
'Is she so strict?'
'She only uses servants for spies,' said Polly. 'And since my Miss Rose
come--though I'm up a step--I'm still a servant, and Miss Bonner 'd be in
a fury to see my--though I'm sure we're quite respectable, Mr.
Harrington--my having hold of you as I'm obliged to, and can't help
myself. But she'd say I ought to tumble off rather than touch her
engaged with a little finger.'
'Her engaged?' cried Evan.
'Ain't you, sir?' quoth Polly. 'I understand you were going to be, from
my lady, the Countess. We all think so at Beckley. Why, look how Miss
Bonner looks at you, and she's sure to have plenty of money.'
This was Polly's innocent way of bringing out a word about her own young
Evan controlled any denial of his pretensions to the hand of Miss Bonner.
He said: 'Is it your mistress's habit to make faces in the looking-
'I'll tell you how it happened,' said Polly. 'But I'm afraid I'm in your
way, sir. Shall I get off now?'
'Not by any means,' said Evan. 'Make your arm tighter.'
'Will that do?' asked Polly.
Evan looked round and met her appealing face, over which the damp locks
of hair straggled. The maid was fair: it was fortunate that he was
thinking of the mistress.
'Speak on,' said Evan, but Polly put the question whether her face did
not want washing, and so earnestly that he had to regard it again, and
compromised the case by saying that it wanted kissing by Nicholas Frim,
which set Polly's lips in a pout.
'I 'm sure it wants kissing by nobody,' she said, adding with a spasm of
passion: 'Oh! I know the colours of my bonnet are all smeared over it,
and I'm a dreadful fright.'
Evan failed to adopt the proper measures to make Miss Wheedle's mind easy
with regard to her appearance, and she commenced her story rather
'My Miss Rose--what was it I was going to tell? Oh!--my Miss Rose. You
must know, Mr. Harrington, she's very fond of managing; I can see that,
though I haven't known her long before she gave up short frocks; and she
said to Mr. Laxley, who's going to marry her some day, "She didn't like
my lady, the Countess, taking Mr. Harry to herself like that." I can't
a-bear to speak his name, but I suppose he's not a bit more selfish than
the rest of men. So Mr. Laxley said--just like the jealousy of men--they
needn't talk of women! I'm sure nobody can tell what we have to put up
with. We mustn't look out of this eye, or out of the other, but they're
up and--oh, dear me! there's such a to-do as never was known--all for
'My good girl!' said Evan, recalling her to the subject-matter with all
the patience he could command.
'Where was I?' Polly travelled meditatively back. 'I do feel a little
'Come closer,' said Evan. 'Take this handkerchief--it 's the only dry
thing I have--cover your chest with it.'
'The shoulders feel wettest,' Polly replied, 'and they can't be helped.
I'll tie it round my neck, if you'll stop, sir. There, now I'm warmer.'
To show how concisely women can narrate when they feel warmer, Polly
'So, you know, Mr. Harrington, Mr. Laxley said--he said to Miss Rose,
"You have taken her brother, and she has taken yours." And Miss Rose
said, "That was her own business, and nobody else's." And Mr. Laxley
said, "He was glad she thought it a fair exchange." I heard it all!
And then Miss Rose said--for she can be in a passion about some things"--
What do you mean, Ferdinand," was her words, "I insist upon your speaking
out." Miss Rose always will call gentlemen by their Christian names when
she likes them; that's always a sign with her. And he wouldn't tell her.
And Miss Rose got awful angry, and she's clever, is my Miss Rose, for
what does she do, Mr. Harrington, but begins praising you up so that she
knew it must make him mad, only because men can't abide praise of another
man when it's a woman that says it--meaning, young lady; for my Miss Rose
has my respect, however familiar she lets herself be to us that she
likes. The others may go and drown themselves. Are you took ill, sir?'
'No,' said Evan, 'I was only breathing.'
'The doctors say it's bad to take such long breaths,' remarked artless
Polly. 'Perhaps my arms are pressing you?'
It 's the best thing they can do,' murmured Evan, dejectedly.
'Go and drown themselves.'
Polly screwed her lips, as if she had a pin between them, and continued:
'Miss Rose was quite sensible when she praised you as her friend; she
meant it--every word; and then sudden what does Mr. Laxley do, but say
you was something else besides friend--worse or better; and she was
silent, which made him savage, I could hear by his voice. And he said,
Mr. Harrington, "You meant it if she did not." "No," says she, "I know
better; he's as honest as the day." Out he flew and said such things: he
said, Mr. Harrington, you wasn't fit to be Miss Rose's friend, even.
Then she said, she heard he had told lies about you to her Mama, and her
aunts; but her Mama, my lady, laughed at him, and she at her aunts. Then
he said you--oh, abominable of him!'
'What did he say?' asked Evan, waking up.
'Why, if I were to tell my Miss Rose some things of him,' Polly went on,
'she'd never so much as speak to him another instant.'
'What did he say?' Evan repeated.
'I hate him!' cried Polly. 'It's Mr. Laxley that misleads Mr. Harry, who
has got his good nature, and means no more harm than he can help. Oh, I
didn't hear what he said of you, sir. Only I know it was abominable,
because Miss Rose was so vexed, and you were her dearest friend.'
'Well, and about the looking-glass?'
'That was at night, Mr. Harrington, when I was undressing of her. Miss
Rose has a beautiful figure, and no need of lacing. But I'd better get
'For heaven's sake, stay where you are.'
'I tell her she stands as if she'd been drilled for a soldier,' Polly
quietly continued. 'You're squeezing my arm with your elbow, Mr.
Harrington. It didn't hurt me. So when I had her nearly undressed, we
were talking about this and that, and you amongst 'em--and I, you know,
rather like you, sir, if you'll not think me too bold--she started off by
asking me what was the nickname people gave to tailors. It was one of
her whims. I told her they were called snips--I'm off!'
Polly gave a shriek. The horse had reared as if violently stung.
'Go on,' said Evan. 'Hold hard, and go on.'
'Snips--Oh! and I told her they were called snips. It is a word that
seems to make you hate the idea. I shouldn't like to hear my intended
called snip. Oh, he's going to gallop!'
And off in a gallop Polly was borne.
'Well,' said Evan, 'well?'
'I can't, Mr. Harrington; I have to press you so,' cried Polly; 'and I'm
bounced so--I shall bite my tongue.'
After a sharp stretch, the horse fell to a canter, and then trotted
slowly, and allowed Polly to finish.
'So Miss Rose was standing sideways to the glass, and she turned her
neck, and just as I'd said "snip," I saw her saying it in the glass; and
you never saw anything so funny. It was enough to make anybody laugh;
but Miss Rose, she seemed as if she couldn't forget how ugly it had made
her look. She covered her face with her hands, and she shuddered! It is
a word-snip! that makes you seem to despise yourself.'
Beckley was now in sight from the edge of the downs, lying in its foliage
dark under the grey sky backed by motionless mounds of vapour. Miss
Wheedle to her great surprise was suddenly though safely dropped; and on
her return to the ground the damsel instantly 'knew her place,' and
curtseyed becoming gratitude for his kindness; but he was off in a fiery
gallop, the gall of Demogorgon in his soul.
What 's that the leaves of the proud old trees of Beckley Court hiss as
he sweeps beneath them? What has suddenly cut him short? Is he
diminished in stature? Are the lackeys sneering? The storm that has
passed has marvellously chilled the air.
His sister, the Countess, once explained to him what Demogorgon was, in
the sensation it entailed. 'You are skinned alive!' said the Countess.
Evan was skinned alive. Fly, wretched young man! Summon your pride, and
fly! Fly, noble youth, for whom storms specially travel to tell you that
your mistress makes faces in the looking-glass! Fly where human lips and
noses are not scornfully distorted, and get thee a new skin, and grow and
attain to thy natural height in a more genial sphere! You, ladies and
gentlemen, who may have had a matter to conceal, and find that it is
oozing out: you, whose skeleton is seen stalking beside you, you know
what it is to be breathed upon: you, too, are skinned alive: but this
miserable youth is not only flayed, he is doomed calmly to contemplate
the hideous image of himself burning on the face of her he loves; making
beauty ghastly. In vain--for he is two hours behind the dinner-bell--
Mr. Burley, the butler, bows and offers him viands and wine. How can he
eat, with the phantom of Rose there, covering her head, shuddering,
loathing him? But he must appear in company: he has a coat, if he has
not a skin. Let him button it, and march boldly. Our comedies are
frequently youth's tragedies. We will smile reservedly as we mark Mr.
Evan Harrington step into the midst of the fair society of the drawing-
room. Rose is at the piano. Near her reclines the Countess de Saldar,
fanning the languors from her cheeks, with a word for the diplomatist on
one side, a whisper for Sir John Loring on the other, and a very quiet
pair of eyes for everybody. Providence, she is sure, is keeping watch to
shield her sensitive cuticle; and she is besides exquisitely happy,
albeit outwardly composed: for, in the room sits his Grace the Duke of
Belfield, newly arrived. He is talking to her sister, Mrs. Strike,
masked by Miss Current. The wife of the Major has come this afternoon,
and Andrew Cogglesby, who brought her, chats with Lady Jocelyn like an
Evan shakes the hands of his relatives. Who shall turn over the leaves
of the fair singer's music-book? The young men are in the billiard-room:
Drummond is engaged in converse with a lovely person with Giorgione hair,
which the Countess intensely admires, and asks the diplomatist whether he
can see a soupcon of red in it. The diplomatist's taste is for dark
beauties: the Countess is dark.
Evan must do duty by Rose. And now occurred a phenomenon in him.
Instead of shunning her, as he had rejoiced in doing after the Jocasta
scene, ere she had wounded him, he had a curious desire to compare her
with the phantom that had dispossessed her in his fancy. Unconsciously
when he saw her, he transferred the shame that devoured him, from him to
her, and gazed coldly at the face that could twist to that despicable
He was in love, and subtle love will not be shamed and smothered. Love
sits, we must remember, mostly in two hearts at the same time, and the
one that is first stirred by any of the passions to wakefulness, may know
more of the other than its owner. Why had Rose covered her head and
shuddered? Would the girl feel that for a friend? If his pride
suffered, love was not so downcast; but to avenge him for the cold she
had cast on him, it could be critical, and Evan made his bearing to her a
This somehow favoured him with Rose. Sheep's eyes are a dainty dish for
little maids, and we know how largely they indulge in it; but when they
are just a bit doubtful of the quality of the sheep, let the good animal
shut his lids forthwith, for a time. Had she not been a little unkind to
him in the morning? She had since tried to help him, and that had
appeased her conscience, for in truth he was a good young man. Those
very words she mentally pronounced, while he was thinking, 'Would she
feel it for a friend?' We dare but guess at the puzzle young women
present now and then, but I should say that Evan was nearer the mark, and
that the 'good young man' was a sop she threw to that within her which
wanted quieting, and was thereby passably quieted. Perhaps the good
young man is offended? Let us assure him of our disinterested
'Is your friend coming?' she asked, and to his reply said, 'I'm glad';
and pitched upon a new song-one that, by hazard, did not demand his
attentions, and he surveyed the company to find a vacant seat with a
neighbour. Juley Bonner was curled up on the sofa, looking like a damsel
who has lost the third volume of an exciting novel, and is divining the
climax. He chose to avoid Miss Bonner. Drummond was leaving the side of
the Giorgione lady. Evan passed leisurely, and Drummond said
'You know Mrs. Evremonde? Let me introduce you.'
He was soon in conversation with the glorious-haired dame.
'Excellently done, my brother!' thinks the Countess de Saldar.
Rose sees the matter coolly. What is it to her? But she had finished
with song. Jenny takes her place at the piano; and, as Rose does not
care for instrumental music, she naturally talks and laughs with
Drummond, and Jenny does not altogether like it, even though she is not
playing to the ear of William Harvey, for whom billiards have such
attractions; but, at the close of the performance, Rose is quiet enough,
and the Countess observes her sitting, alone, pulling the petals of a
flower in her lap, on which her eyes are fixed. Is the doe wounded? The
damsel of the disinterested graciousness is assuredly restless. She
starts up and goes out upon the balcony to breathe the night-air, mayhap
regard the moon, and no one follows her.
Had Rose been guiltless of offence, Evan might have left Beckley Court
the next day, to cherish his outraged self-love. Love of woman is
strongly distinguished from pure egoism when it has got a wound: for it
will not go into a corner complaining, it will fight its duel on the
field or die. Did the young lady know his origin, and scorn him? He
resolved to stay and teach her that the presumption she had imputed to
him was her own mistake. And from this Evan graduated naturally enough
the finer stages of self-deception downward.
A lover must have his delusions, just as a man must have a skin. But
here was another singular change in Evan. After his ale-prompted speech
in Fallow field, he was nerved to face the truth in the eyes of all save
Rose. Now that the truth had enmeshed his beloved, he turned to battle
with it; he was prepared to deny it at any moment; his burnt flesh was as
sensitive as the Countess's.
Let Rose accuse him, and he would say, 'This is true, Miss Jocelyn--what
then?' and behold Rose confused and dumb! Let not another dare suspect
it. For the fire that had scorched him was in some sort healing, though
horribly painful; but contact with the general air was not to be endured
--was death! This, I believe, is common in cases of injury by fire.
So it befell that Evan, meeting Rose the next morning was playfully asked
by her what choice he had made between the white and the red; and he,
dropping on her the shallow eyes of a conventional smile, replied, that
unable to decide and form a choice, he had thrown both away; at which
Miss Jocelyn gave him a look in the centre of his brows, let her head
slightly droop, and walked off.
'She can look serious as well as grimace,' was all that Evan allowed
himself to think, and he strolled out on the lawn with the careless
serenity of lovers when they fancy themselves heart-free.
Rose, whipping the piano in the drawing-room, could see him go to sit by
Mrs. Evremonde, till they were joined by Drummond, when he left her and
walked with Harry, and apparently shadowed the young gentleman's
unreflective face; after which Harry was drawn away by the appearance of
that dark star, the Countess de Saldar, whom Rose was beginning to
detest. Jenny glided by William Harvey's side, far off. Rose, the young
Queen of Friendship, was left deserted on her music-stool for a throne,
and when she ceased to hammer the notes she was insulted by a voice that
cried from below:
'Go on, Rose, it's nice in the sun to hear you,' causing her to close her
performances and the instrument vigorously.
Rose was much behind her age: she could not tell what was the matter with
her. In these little torments young people have to pass through they
gain a rapid maturity. Let a girl talk with her own heart an hour, and
she is almost a woman. Rose came down-stairs dressed for riding. Laxley
was doing her the service of smoking one of her rose-trees. Evan stood
disengaged, prepared for her summons. She did not notice him, but
beckoned to Laxley drooping over a bud, while the curled smoke floated
from his lips.
'The very gracefullest of chimney-pots-is he not?' says the Countess to
Harry, whose immense guffaw fails not to apprise Laxley that something
has been said of him, for in his dim state of consciousness absence of
the power of retort is the prominent feature, and when he has the
suspicion of malicious tongues at their work, all he can do is silently
to resent it. Probably this explains his conduct to Evan. Some youths
have an acute memory for things that have shut their mouths.
The Countess observed to Harry that his dear friend Mr. Laxley appeared,
by the cast of his face, to be biting a sour apple.
'Grapes, you mean?' laughed Harry. 'Never mind! she'll bite at him when
he comes in for the title.'
'Anything crude will do,' rejoined the Countess. 'Why are you not
courting Mrs. Evremonde, naughty Don?'
'Oh! she's occupied--castle's in possession. Besides--!' and Harry
tried hard to look sly.
'Come and tell me about her,' said the Countess.
Rose, Laxley, and Evan were standing close together.
'You really are going alone, Rose?' said Laxley.
'Didn't I say so?--unless you wish to join us?' She turned upon Evan.
'I am at your disposal,' said Evan.
Rose nodded briefly.
'I think I'll smoke the trees,' said Laxley, perceptibly huffing.
'You won't come, Ferdinand?'
'I only offered to fill up the gap. One does as well as another.'
Rose flicked her whip, and then declared she would not ride at all, and,
gathering up her skirts, hurried back to the house.
As Laxley turned away, Evan stood before him.
The unhappy fellow was precipitated by the devil of his false position.
'I think one of us two must quit the field; if I go I will wait for you,'
'Oh; I understand,' said Laxley. 'But if it 's what I suppose you to
mean, I must decline.'
'I beg to know your grounds.'
'You have tied my hands.'
'You would escape under cover of superior station?'
'Escape! You have only to unsay--tell me you have a right to demand it.'
The battle of the sophist victorious within him was done in a flash, as
Evan measured his qualities beside this young man's, and without a sense
of lying, said: 'I have.'
He spoke firmly. He looked the thing he called himself now. The
Countess, too, was a dazzling shield to her brother. The beautiful Mrs.
Strike was a completer vindicator of him; though he had queer associates,
and talked oddly of his family that night in Fallow field.
'Very well, sir: I admit you manage to annoy me,' said Laxley. 'I can
give you a lesson as well as another, if you want it.'
Presently the two youths were seen bowing in the stiff curt style of
those cavaliers who defer a passage of temper for an appointed
settlement. Harry rushed off to them with a shout, and they separated;
Laxley speaking a word to Drummond, Evan--most judiciously, the Countess
thought--joining his fair sister Caroline, whom the Duke held in
Drummond returned laughing to the side of Mrs. Evremonde, nearing whom,
the Countess, while one ear was being filled by Harry's eulogy of her
brother's recent handling of Laxley, and while her intense gratification
at the success of her patient management of her most difficult subject
made her smiles no mask, heard, 'Is it not impossible to suppose such a
thing?' A hush ensued--the Countess passed.
In the afternoon, the Jocelyns, William Harvey, and Drummond met together
to consult about arranging the dispute; and deputations went to Laxley
and to Evan. The former demanded an apology for certain expressions that
day; and an equivalent to an admission that Mr. Harrington had said, in
Fallow field, that he was not a gentleman, in order to escape the
consequences. All the Jocelyns laughed at his tenacity, and 'gentleman'
began to be bandied about in ridicule of the arrogant lean-headed
adolescent. Evan was placable enough, but dogged; he declined to make
any admission, though within himself he admitted that his antagonist was
not in the position of an impostor; which he for one honest word among
them would be exposed as being, and which a simple exercise of resolution
to fly the place would save him from being further.
Lady Jocelyn enjoyed the fun, and still more the serious way in which her
relatives regarded it.
'This comes of Rose having friends, Emily,' said Mrs. Shorne.
There would have been a dispute to arrange between Lady Jocelyn and Mrs.
Shorne, had not her ladyship been so firmly established in her phlegmatic
philosophy. She said: 'Quelle enfantillage! I dare say Rose was at the
bottom of it: she can settle it best. Defer the encounter between the
boys until they see they are in the form of donkeys. They will; and then
they'll run on together, as long as their goddess permits.'
'Indeed, Emily,' said Mrs. Shorne, 'I desire you, by all possible means,
to keep the occurrence secret from Rose. She ought not to hear of it.'
'No; I dare say she ought not,' returned Lady Jocelyn; 'but I wager you
she does. You can teach her to pretend not to, if you like. Ecce
Her ladyship pointed through the library window at Rose, who was walking
with Laxley, and showing him her pearly teeth in return for one of his
jokes: an exchange so manifestly unfair, that Lady Jocelyn's womanhood,
indifferent as she was, could not but feel that Rose had an object in
view; which was true, for she was flattering Laxley into a consent to
meet Evan half way.
The ladies murmured and hummed of these proceedings, and of Rose's
familiarity with Mr. Harrington; and the Countess in trepidation took
Evan to herself, and spoke to him seriously; a thing she had not done
since her residence in Beckley. She let him see that he must be on a
friendly footing with everybody in the house, or go which latter
alternative Evan told her he had decided on. 'Yes,' said the Countess,
'and then you give people full warrant to say it was jealousy drove you
hence; and you do but extinguish yourself to implicate dear Rose. In
love, Evan, when you run away, you don't live to fight another day.'
She was commanded not to speak of love.
'Whatever it may be, my dear,' said the Countess, 'Mr. Laxley has used
you ill. It may be that you put yourself at his feet'; and his sister
looked at him, sighing a great sigh. She had, with violence, stayed her
mouth concerning what she knew of the Fallow field business, dreading to
alarm his sensitiveness; but she could not avoid giving him a little
slap. It was only to make him remember by the smart that he must always
suffer when he would not be guided by her.
Evan professed to the Jocelyns that he was willing to apologize to Laxley
for certain expressions; determining to leave the house when he had done
it. The Countess heard and nodded. The young men, sounded on both
sides, were accordingly lured to the billiard-room, and pushed together:
and when he had succeeded in thrusting the idea of Rose from the dispute,
it did seem such folly to Evan's common sense, that he spoke with
pleasant bonhommie about it. That done, he entered into his acted part,
and towered in his conceit considerably above these aristocratic boors,
who were speechless and graceless, but tigers for their privileges and
It will not be thought that the Countess intended to permit her brother's
departure. To have toiled, and yet more, to have lied and fretted her
conscience, for nothing, was as little her principle, as to quit the
field of action till she is forcibly driven from it is that of any woman.
'Going, my dear,' she said coolly. 'To-morrow? Oh! very well. You are
the judge. And this creature--the insolvent to the apple-woman, who is
coming, whom you would push here--will expose us, without a soul to guide
his conduct, for I shall not remain. And Carry will not remain.
Carry---!' The Countess gave a semisob. 'Carry must return to her
brute--' meaning the gallant Marine, her possessor.
And the Countess, knowing that Evan loved his sister Caroline,
incidentally related to him an episode in the domestic life of Major and
'Greatly redounding to the credit of the noble martinet for the
discipline he upholds,' the Countess said, smiling at the stunned youth.
'I would advise you to give her time to recover from one bruise,' she
added. 'You will do as it pleases you.'
Evan was sent rushing from the Countess to Caroline, with whom the
Countess was content to leave him.
The young man was daintily managed. Caroline asked him to stay, as she
did not see him often, and (she brought it in at the close) her home was
not very happy. She did not entreat him, but looking resigned, her
lovely face conjured up the Major to Evan, and he thought, 'Can I drive
her back to her tyrant?' For so he juggled with himself to have but
another day in the sunshine of Rose.
Andrew, too, threw out genial hints about the Brewery. Old Tom intended
to retire, he said, and then they would see what they would see! He
silenced every word about Lymport; called him a brewer already, and made
absurd jokes, that were serviceable stuff nevertheless to the Countess,
who deplored to this one and to that the chance existing that Evan might,
by the urgent solicitations of his brother-in-law, give up diplomacy and
its honours for a brewery and lucre!
Of course Evan knew that he was managed. The memoirs of a managed man
have yet to be written; but if he be sincere he will tell you that he
knew it all the time. He longed for the sugar-plum; he knew it was
naughty to take it: he dared not for fear of the devil, and he shut his
eyes while somebody else popped it into his mouth, and assumed his
responsibility. Being man-driven or chicaned, is different from being
managed. Being managed implies being led the way this other person
thinks you should go: altogether for your own benefit, mind: you are to
see with her eyes, that you may not disappoint your own appetites: which
does not hurt the flesh, certainly; but does damage the conscience; and
from the moment you have once succumbed, that function ceases to perform
its office of moral strainer so well.
After all, was he not happier when he wrote himself tailor, than when he
declared himself gentleman?
So he now imagined, till Rose, wishing him 'Good night' on the balcony,
and abandoning her hand with a steady sweet voice and gaze, said: 'How
generous of you to forgive my friend, dear Evan!' And the ravishing
little glimpse of womanly softness in her, set his heart beating. If he
thought at all, it was that he would have sacrificed body and soul for
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A lover must have his delusions, just as a man must have a skin
A woman rises to her husband. But a man is what he is
Abject sense of the lack of a circumference
Amiable mirror as being wilfully ruffled to confuse
Because men can't abide praise of another man
Brief negatives are not re-assuring to a lover's uneasy mind
But a woman must now and then ingratiate herself
Can you not be told you are perfect without seeking to improve
Command of countenance the Countess possessed
Damsel who has lost the third volume of an exciting novel
English maids are domesticated savage animals
Every woman that's married isn't in love with her husband
Eyes of a lover are not his own; but his hands and lips are
Good nature, and means no more harm than he can help
Graduated naturally enough the finer stages of self-deception
Have her profile very frequently while I am conversing with her
He was in love, and subtle love will not be shamed and smothered
I did, replied Evan. 'I told a lie.'
Is he jealous? 'Only when I make him, he is.'
Make no effort to amuse him. He is always occupied
Married a wealthy manufacturer--bartered her blood for his money
Notoriously been above the honours of grammar
Our comedies are frequently youth's tragedies
Rebukes which give immeasurable rebounds
Recalling her to the subject-matter with all the patience
Remarked that the young men must fight it out together
Rose was much behind her age
Rose! what have I done? 'Nothing at all,' she said
Says you're so clever you ought to be a man
She believed friendship practicable between men and women
The Countess dieted the vanity according to the nationality
The letter had a smack of crabbed age hardly counterfeit
Took care to be late, so that all eyes beheld her
Tried to be honest, and was as much so as his disease permitted
Virtuously zealous in an instant on behalf of the lovely dame
When you run away, you don't live to fight another day
With good wine to wash it down, one can swallow anything
You do want polish
You talk your mother with a vengeance
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XIX. SECOND DESPATCH OF THE COUNTESS
XX. BREAK-NECK LEAP
XXI. TRIBULATIONS AND TACTICS OF THE COUNTESS
XXII. IN WHICH THE DAUGHTERS OF THE GREAT MEL HAVE TO
DIGEST HIM AT DINNER
XXIII. TREATS OF A HANDKERCHIEF
XXIV. THE COUNTESS MAKES HERSELF FELT
XXV. IN WHICH THE STREAM FLOWS MUDDY AND CLEAR
SECOND DESPATCH OF THE COUNTESS
We do not advance very far in this second despatch, and it will be found
chiefly serviceable for the indications it affords of our General's skill
in mining, and addiction to that branch of military science. For the
moment I must beg that a little indulgence be granted to her.
'Purely business. Great haste. Something has happened. An event? I
know not; but events may flow from it.
'A lady is here who has run away from the conjugal abode, and Lady
Jocelyn shelters her, and is hospitable to another, who is more concerned
in this lady's sad fate than he should be. This may be morals, my dear:
but please do not talk of Portugal now. A fine-ish woman with a great
deal of hair worn as if her maid had given it one comb straight down and
then rolled it up in a hurry round one finger. Malice would say carrots.
It is called gold. Mr. Forth is in a glass house, and is wrong to cast
his sneers at perfectly inoffensive people.
'Perfectly impossible we can remain at Beckley Court together--if not
dangerous. Any means that Providence may designate, I would employ. It
will be like exorcising a demon. Always excuseable. I only ask a little
more time for stupid Evan. He might have little Bonner now. I should
not object; but her family is not so good.
'Now, do attend. At once obtain a copy of Strike's Company people. You
understand--prospectuses. Tell me instantly if the Captain Evremonde in
it is Captain Lawson Evremonde. Pump Strike. Excuse vulgar words.
Whether he is not Lord Laxley's half-brother. Strike shall be of use to
us. Whether he is not mad. Captain E----'s address. Oh! when I think
of Strike--brute! and poor beautiful uncomplaining Carry and her
shoulder! But let us indeed most fervently hope that his Grace may be
balm to it. We must not pray for vengeance. It is sinful. Providence
will inflict that. Always know that Providence is quite sure to. It
'Oh, that Strike were altogether in the past tense! No knowing what the
Duke might do--a widower and completely subjugated. It makes my bosom
bound. The man tempts me to the wickedest Frenchy ideas. There!
We progress with dear venerable Mrs. Bonner. Truly pious--interested in
your Louisa. She dreads that my husband will try to convert me to his
creed. I can but weep and say--never!
'I need not say I have my circle. To hear this ridiculous boy Harry
Jocelyn grunt under my nose when he has led me unsuspectingly away from
company--Harriet! dearest! He thinks it a sigh! But there is no time
'My maxim in any house is--never to despise the good opinion of the
nonentities. They are the majority. I think they all look up to me.
But then of course you must fix that by seducing the stars. My
diplomatist praises my abilities--Sir John Loring my style--the rest
follow and I do not withhold my smiles, and they are happy, and I should
be but that for ungrateful Evan's sake I sacrificed my peace by binding
myself to a dreadful sort of half-story. I know I did not quite say it.
It seems as if Sir A.'s ghost were going to haunt me. And then I have
the most dreadful fears that what I have done has disturbed him in the
other world. Can it be so? It is not money or estates we took at all,
dearest! And these excellent young curates--I almost wish it was
Protestant to speak a word behind a board to them and imbibe comfort.
For after all it is nothing: and a word even from this poor thin mopy Mr.
Parsley might be relief to a poor soul in trouble. Catholics tell you
that what you do in a good cause is redeemable if not exactly right. And
you know the Catholic is the oldest Religion of the two. I would listen
to the Pope, staunch Protestant as I am, in preference to King Henry the
Eighth. Though, as a woman, I bear him no rancour, for his wives were--
fools, point blank. No man was ever so manageable. My diplomatist is
getting liker and liker to him every day. Leaner, of course, and does
not habitually straddle. Whiskers and morals, I mean. We must be silent
before our prudish sister. Not a prude? We talk diplomacy, dearest.
He complains of the exclusiveness of the port of Oporto, and would have
strict alliance between Portugal and England, with mutual privileges.
I wish the alliance, and think it better to maintain the exclusiveness.
Very trifling; but what is life!
'Adieu. One word to leave you laughing. Imagine her situation! This
stupid Miss Carrington has offended me. She has tried to pump Conning,
who, I do not doubt, gave her as much truth as I chose she should have in
her well. But the quandary of the wretched creature! She takes Conning
into her confidence--a horrible malady just covered by high-neck dress!
Skin! and impossible that she can tell her engaged--who is--guess--Mr.
George Up------! Her name is Louisa Carrington. There was a Louisa
Harrington once. Similarity of names perhaps. Of course I could not let
her come to the house; and of course Miss C. is in a state of wonderment
and bad passions, I fear. I went straight to Lady Racial, my dear.
There was nothing else for it but to go and speak. She is truly a noble
woman--serves us in every way. As she should!--much affected by sight of
Evan, and keeps aloof from Beckley Court. The finger of Providence is in
all. Adieu! but do pray think of Miss Carrington!
It was foolish of her to offend me. Drives and walks-the Duke attentive.
Description of him when I embrace you. I give amiable Sir Franks
Portuguese dishes. Ah, my dear, if we had none but men to contend
against, and only women for our tools! But this is asking for the world,
and nothing less.
'Open again,' she pursues. 'Dear Carry just come in. There are fairies,
I think, where there are dukes! Where could it have come from? Could
any human being have sent messengers post to London, ordered, and had it
despatched here within this short time? You shall not be mystified! I
do not think I even hinted; but the afternoon walk I had with his Grace,
on the first day of his arrival, I did shadow it very delicately how much
it was to be feared our poor Carry could not, that she dared not, betray
her liege lord in an evening dress. Nothing more, upon my veracity! And
Carry has this moment received the most beautiful green box, containing
two of the most heavenly old lace shawls that you ever beheld. We divine
it is to hide poor Carry's matrimonial blue mark! We know nothing. Will
you imagine Carry is for not accepting it! Priority of birth does not
imply superior wits, dear--no allusion to you. I have undertaken all.
Arch looks, but nothing pointed. His Grace will understand the exquisite
expression of feminine gratitude. It is so sweet to deal with true
nobility. Carry has only to look as she always does. One sees Strike
sitting on her. Her very pliability has rescued her from being utterly
squashed long ere this! The man makes one vulgar. It would have been
not the slightest use asking me to be a Christian had I wedded Strike.
But think of the fairy presents! It has determined me not to be expelled
by Mr. Forth--quite. Tell Silva he is not forgotten. But, my dear,
between us alone, men are so selfish, that it is too evident they do not
care for private conversations to turn upon a lady's husband: not to be
risked, only now and then.
'I hear that the young ladies and the young gentlemen have been out
riding a race. The poor little Bonner girl cannot ride, and she says to
Carry that Rose wishes to break our brother's neck. The child hardly
wishes that, but she is feelingless. If Evan could care for Miss Bonner,
he might have B. C.! Oh, it is not so very long a shot, my dear. I am
on the spot, remember. Old Mrs. Bonner is a most just-minded spirit.
Juliana is a cripple, and her grandmother wishes to be sure that when she
departs to her Lord the poor cripple may not be chased from this home of
hers. Rose cannot calculate--Harry is in disgrace--there is really no
knowing. This is how I have reckoned; L10,000 extra to Rose; perhaps
L1000 or nothing to H.; all the rest of ready-money--a large sum--
no use guessing--to Lady Jocelyn; and B. C. to little Bonner--it is worth
L40,000 Then she sells, or stops--permanent resident. It might be so
soon, for I can see worthy Mrs. Bonner to be breaking visibly. But young
men will not see with wiser eyes than their own. Here is Evan risking
his neck for an indifferent--there's some word for "not soft." In short,
Rose is the cold-blooded novice, as I have always said, the most selfish
of the creatures on two legs.
'Adieu! Would you have dreamed that Major Nightmare's gallantry to his
wife would have called forth a gallantry so truly touching and delicate?
Can you not see Providence there? Out of Evil--the Catholics again!
'Address. If Lord Lax---'s half-brother. If wrong in noddle. This I
know you will attend to scrupulously. Ridiculous words are sometimes the
most expressive. Once more, may Heaven bless you all! I thought of you
in church last Sunday.
'I may tell you this: young Mr. Laxley is here. He--but it was Evan's
utter madness was the cause, and I have not ventured a word to him. He
compelled Evan to assert his rank, and Mr. Forth's face has been one
concentrated sneer since THEN. He must know the origin of the
Cogglesbys, or something. Now you will understand the importance. I
cannot be more explicit. Only--the man must go.
'P.S. I have just ascertained that Lady Jocelyn is quite familiar with
Andrew's origin!! She must think my poor Harriet an eccentric woman. Of
course I have not pretended to rank here, merely gentry. It is gentry in
reality, for had poor Papa been legitimized, he would have been a
nobleman. You know that; and between the two we may certainly claim
gentry. I twiddle your little good Andrew to assert it for us twenty
times a day. Of all the dear little manageable men! It does you
infinite credit that you respect him as you do. What would have become
of me I do not know.
'P.S. I said two shawls--a black and a white. The black not so costly--
very well. And so delicate of him to think of the mourning! But the
white, my dear, must be family--must! Old English point. Exquisitely
chaste. So different from that Brussels poor Andrew surprised you with.
I know it cost money, but this is a question of taste. The Duke
reconciles me to England and all my troubles! He is more like poor Papa
than any one of the men I have yet seen. The perfect gentleman! I do
praise myself for managing an invitation to our Carry. She has been a
Admire the concluding stroke. The Countess calls this letter a purely
business communication. Commercial men might hardly think so; but
perhaps ladies will perceive it. She rambles concentrically, if I may so
expound her. Full of luxurious enjoyment of her position, her mind is
active, and you see her at one moment marking a plot, the next, with a
light exclamation, appeasing her conscience, proud that she has one;
again she calls up rival forms of faith, that she may show the Protestant
its little shortcomings, and that it is slightly in debt to her (like
Providence) for her constancy, notwithstanding. The Protestant you see,
does not confess, and she has to absolve herself, and must be doing it
internally while she is directing outer matters. Hence her slap at King
Henry VIII. In fact, there is much more business in this letter than I
dare to indicate; but as it is both impertinent and unpopular to dive for
any length of time beneath the surface (especially when there are few
pearls to show for it), we will discontinue our examination.
The Countess, when she had dropped the letter in the bag, returned to her
chamber, and deputed Dorothy Loring, whom she met on the stairs, to run
and request Rose to lend her her album to beguile the afternoon with; and
Dorothy dances to Rose, saying, 'The Countess de Lispy-Lispy would be
delighted to look at your album all the afternoon.'
'Oh what a woman that is!' says Rose. 'Countess de Lazy-Lazy, I think.'
The Countess, had she been listening, would have cared little for
accusations on that head. Idlesse was fashionable: exquisite languors
were a sign of breeding; and she always had an idea that she looked more
interesting at dinner after reclining on a couch the whole of the
afternoon. The great Mel and his mate had given her robust health, and
she was able to play the high-born invalid without damage to her
constitution. Anything amused her; Rose's album even, and the
compositions of W. H., E. H., D. F., and F. L. The initials F. L. were
diminutive, and not unlike her own hand, she thought. They were appended
to a piece of facetiousness that would not have disgraced the abilities
of Mr. John Raikes; but we know that very stiff young gentlemen betray
monkey-minds when sweet young ladies compel them to disport. On the
whole, it was not a lazy afternoon that the Countess passed, and it was
not against her wish that others should think it was.
The August sun was in mid-sky, when a troop of ladies and cavaliers
issued from the gates of Beckley Court, and winding through the
hopgardens, emerged on the cultivated slopes bordering the downs.
Foremost, on her grey cob, was Rose, having on her right her uncle
Seymour, and on her left Ferdinand Laxley. Behind came Mrs. Evremonde,
flanked by Drummond and Evan. Then followed Jenny Graine, supported by
Harry and William Harvey. In the rear came an open carriage, in which
Miss Carrington and the Countess de Saldar were borne, attended by Lady
Jocelyn and Andrew Cogglesby on horseback. The expedition had for its
object the selection of a run of ground for an amateur steeple-chase: the
idea of which had sprung from Laxley's boasts of his horsemanship: and
Rose, quick as fire, had backed herself, and Drummond and Evan, to beat
him. The mention of the latter was quite enough for Laxley.
'If he follows me, let him take care of his neck,' said that youth.
'Why, Ferdinand, he can beat you in anything!' exclaimed Rose,
But the truth was, she was now more restless than ever. She was not
distant with Evan, but she had a feverish manner, and seemed to thirst to
make him show his qualities, and excel, and shine. Billiards, or
jumping, or classical acquirements, it mattered not--Evan must come
first. He had crossed the foils with Laxley, and disarmed him; for Mel
his father had seen him trained for a military career. Rose made a noise
about the encounter, and Laxley was eager for his opportunity, which he
saw in the proposed mad gallop.
Now Mr. George Uplift, who usually rode in buckskins whether he was after
the fox or fresh air, was out on this particular morning; and it happened
that, as the cavalcade wound beneath the down, Mr. George trotted along
the ridge. He was a fat-faced, rotund young squire--a bully where he
might be, and an obedient creature enough where he must be--good-humoured
when not interfered with; fond of the table, and brimful of all the jokes
of the county, the accent of which just seasoned his speech. He had
somehow plunged into a sort of half-engagement with Miss Carrington.
At his age, and to ladies of Miss Carrington's age, men unhappily do not
plunge head-foremost, or Miss Carrington would have had him long before.
But he was at least in for it half a leg; and a desperate maiden, on the
criminal side of thirty, may make much of that. Previous to the visit of
the Countess de Saldar, Mr. George had been in the habit of trotting over
to Beckley three or four times a week. Miss Carrington had a little
money: Mr. George was heir to his uncle. Miss Carrington was lean and
Mr. George was black-eyed and obese. By everybody, except Mr. George, the
match was made: but that exception goes for little in the country, where
half the population are talked into marriage, and gossips entirely devote
themselves to continuing the species. Mr. George was certain that he had
not been fighting shy of the fair Carrington of late, nor had he been
unfaithful. He had only been in an extraordinary state of occupation.
Messages for Lady Racial had to be delivered, and he had become her
cavalier and escort suddenly. The young squire was bewildered; but as
he was only one leg in love--if the sentiment may be thus spoken of
figuratively--his vanity in his present office kept him from remorse or
He rode at an easy pace within sight of the home of his treasure, and his
back turned to it. Presently there rose a cry from below. Mr. George
looked about. The party of horsemen hallooed: Mr. George yoicked. Rose
set her horse to gallop up; Seymour Jocelyn cried 'fox,' and gave the
view; hearing which Mr. George shouted, and seemed inclined to surrender;
but the fun seized him, and, standing up in his stirrups, he gathered his
coat-tails in a bunch, and waggled them with a jolly laugh, which was
taken up below, and the clamp of hoofs resounded on the turf as Mr.
George led off, after once more, with a jocose twist in his seat, showing
them the brush mockingly. Away went fox, and a mad chase began. Seymour
acted as master of the hunt. Rose, Evan, Drummond, and Mrs. Evremonde
and Dorothy, skirted to the right, all laughing, and full of excitement.
Harry bellowed the direction from above. The ladies in the carriage,
with Lady Jocelyn and Andrew, watched them till they flowed one and all
over the shoulder of the down.
'And who may the poor hunted animal be?' inquired the Countess.
'George Uplift,' said Lady Jocelyn, pulling out her watch. 'I give him
'Providence speed him!' breathed the Countess, with secret fervour.
'Oh, he hasn't a chance,' said Lady Jocelyn. 'The squire keeps wretched
'Is there not an attraction that will account for his hasty capture?'
said the Countess, looking tenderly at Miss Carrington, who sat a little
straighter, and the Countess, hating manifestations of stiff-backedness,
could not forbear adding: 'I am at war with my sympathies, which should
be with the poor brute flying from his persecutors.'
She was in a bitter state of trepidation, or she would have thought twice
before she touched a nerve of the enamoured lady, as she knew she did in
calling her swain a poor brute, and did again by pertinaciously pursuing:
'Does he then shun his captivity?'
'Touching a nerve' is one of those unforgivable small offences which, in
our civilized state, produce the social vendettas and dramas that, with
savage nations, spring from the spilling of blood. Instead of an eye for
an eye, a tooth for a tooth, we demand a nerve for a nerve. 'Thou hast
touched me where I am tender thee, too, will I touch.'
Miss Carrington had been alarmed and hurt at the strange evasion of Mr.
George; nor could she see the fun of his mimicry of the fox and his
flight away from instead of into her neighbourhood. She had also, or she
now thought it, remarked that when Mr. George had been spoken of
casually, the Countess had not looked a natural look. Perhaps it was her
present inflamed fancy. At any rate the Countess was offensive now. She
was positively vulgar, in consequence, to the mind of Miss Carrington,
and Miss Carrington was drawn to think of a certain thing Ferdinand
Laxley had said he had heard from the mouth of this lady's brother when
ale was in him. Alas! how one seed of a piece of folly will lurk and
sprout to confound us; though, like the cock in the eastern tale, we peck
up zealously all but that one!
The carriage rolled over the turf, attended by Andrew, and Lady Jocelyn,
and the hunt was seen; Mr. George some forty paces a-head; Seymour
gaining on him, Rose next.
'Who's that breasting Rose?' said Lady Jocelyn, lifting her glass.
'My brother-in-law, Harrington,' returned Andrew.
'He doesn't ride badly,' said Lady Jocelyn. 'A little too military.
He must have been set up in England.'
'Oh, Evan can do anything,' said Andrew enthusiastically. 'His father
was a capital horseman, and taught him fencing, riding, and every
accomplishment. You won't find such a young fellow, my lady--'
'The brother like him at all?' asked Lady Jocelyn, still eyeing the
'Brother? He hasn't got a brother,' said Andrew.
Lady Jocelyn continued: 'I mean the present baronet.'
She was occupied with her glass, and did not observe the flush that took
hold of Andrew's ingenuous cheeks, and his hurried glance at and off the
quiet eye of the Countess. Miss Carrington did observe it.
Mr. Andrew dashed his face under the palm of his hand, and murmured:
'Oh-yes! His brother-in-law isn't much like him--ha! ha!'
And then the poor little man rubbed his hands, unconscious of the
indignant pity for his wretched abilities in the gaze of the Countess;
and he must have been exposed--there was a fear that the ghost of Sir
Abraham would have darkened this day, for Miss Carrington was about to
speak, when Lady Jocelyn cried: 'There's a purl! Somebody's down.'
The Countess was unaware of the nature of a purl, but she could have
sworn it to be a piece of Providence.
'Just by old Nat Hodges' farm, on Squire Copping's ground,' cried Andrew,
much relieved by the particular individual's misfortune. 'Dear me, my
lady! how old Tom and I used to jump the brook there, to be sure! and
when you were no bigger than little Miss Loring--do you remember old Tom?
We're all fools one time in our lives!'
'Who can it be?' said Lady Jocelyn, spying at the discomfited horseman.
'I'm afraid it's poor Ferdinand.'
They drove on to an eminence from which the plain was entirely laid open.
'I hope my brother will enjoy his ride this day,' sighed the Countess.
'It will be his limit of enjoyment for a lengthened period!'
She perceived that Mr. George's capture was inevitable, and her heart
sank; for she was sure he would recognize her, and at the moment she
misdoubted her powers. She dreamed of flight.
'You're not going to leave us?' said Lady Jocelyn. 'My dear Countess,
what will the future member do without you? We have your promise to stay
till the election is over.'
'Thanks for your extreme kind courtesy, Lady Jocelyn,' murmured the
Countess: 'but my husband--the Count.'
'The favour is yours,' returned her ladyship. 'And if the Count cannot
come, you at least are at liberty?'
'You are most kind,' said the Countess.
'Andrew and his wife I should not dare to separate for more than a week,'
said Lady Jocelyn. 'He is the great British husband. The proprietor!
"My wife" is his unanswerable excuse.'
'Yes,' Andrew replied cheerily. 'I don't like division between man and
wife, I must say.'
The Countess dared no longer instance the Count, her husband. She was
heard to murmur that citizen feelings were not hers:
'You suggested Fallow field to Melville, did you not?' asked Lady
'It was the merest suggestion,' said the Countess, smiling.
'Then you must really stay to see us through it,' said her ladyship.
'Where are they now? They must be making straight for break-neck fence.
They'll have him there. George hasn't pluck for that.'
It was the Countess who requested to know the name of this other piece of
Providence Mr. George Uplift was deficient in.
'Pluck-go,' said her ladyship hastily, and telling the coachman to drive
to a certain spot, trotted on with Andrew, saying to him: 'I'm afraid we
are thought vulgar by the Countess.'
Andrew considered it best to reassure her gravely.
'The young man, her brother, is well-bred,' said Lady Jocelyn, and Andrew
was very ready to praise Evan.
Lady Jocelyn, herself in slimmer days a spirited horsewoman, had
correctly estimated Mr. George's pluck. He was captured by Harry and
Evan close on the leap, in the act of shaking his head at it; and many
who inspected the leap would have deemed it a sign that wisdom weighted
the head that would shake long at it; for it consisted of a post and
rails, with a double ditch.
Seymour Jocelyn, Mrs. Evremonde, Drummond, Jenny Graine, and William
Harvey, rode with Mr. George in quest of the carriage, and the captive
was duly delivered over.
'But where's the brush?' said Lady Jocelyn, laughing, and introducing him
to the Countess, who dropped her head, and with it her veil.
'Oh! they leave that on for my next run,' said Mr. George, bowing
'You are going to run again?'
Miss Carrington severely asked this question; and Mr. George protested.
'Secure him, Louisa,' said Lady Jocelyn. 'See here: what's the matter
with poor Dorothy?'
Dorothy came slowly trotting up to them along the green lane, and thus
expressed her grief, between sobs:
'Isn't it a shame? Rose is such a tyrant. They're going to ride a race
and a jump down in the field, and it's break-neck leap, and Rose won't
allow me to stop and see it, though she knows I'm just as fond of Evan as
she is; and if he's killed I declare it will be her fault; and it's all
for her stupid, dirty old pocket handkerchief!'
'Break-neck fence!' said Lady Jocelyn; 'that's rather mad.'
'Do let's go and see it, darling Aunty Joey,' pleaded the little maid.
Lady Jocelyn rode on, saying to herself: 'That girl has a great deal of
devil in her.' The lady's thoughts were of Rose.
'Black Lymport'd take the leap,' said Mr. George, following her with the
rest of the troop. 'Who's that fellow on him?'
'His name's Harrington,' quoth Drummond.
'Oh, Harrington!' Mr. George responded; but immediately laughed--
'Harrington? 'Gad, if he takes the leap it'll be odd--another of the
name. That's where old Mel had his spill.'
'Who?' Drummond inquired.
'Old Mel Harrington--the Lymport wonder. Old Marquis Mel,' said Mr.
George. 'Haven't ye heard of him?'
'What! the gorgeous tailor!' exclaimed Lady Jocelyn. 'How I regret
never meeting that magnificent snob! that efflorescence of sublime
imposture! I've seen the Regent; but one's life doesn't seem complete
without having seen his twin-brother. You must give us warning when you
have him down at Croftlands again, Mr. George.'
'Gad, he'll have to come a long distance--poor old Mel!' said Mr. George;
and was going on, when Seymour Jocelyn stroked his moustache to cry,
'Look! Rosey 's starting 'em, by Jove!'
The leap, which did not appear formidable from where they stood, was four
fields distant from the point where Rose, with a handkerchief in her
hand, was at that moment giving the signal to Laxley and Evan.
Miss Carrington and the Countess begged Lady Jocelyn to order a shout to
be raised to arrest them, but her ladyship marked her good sense by
saying: 'Let them go, now they're about it'; for she saw that to make a
fuss now matters had proceeded so far, was to be uncivil to the
The start was given, and off they flew. Harry Jocelyn, behind them, was
evidently caught by the demon, and clapped spurs to his horse to have his
fling as well, for the fun of the thing; but Rose, farther down the
field, rode from her post straight across him, to the imminent peril of a
mutual overset; and the party on the height could see Harry fuming, and
Rose coolly looking him down, and letting him understand what her will
was; and her mother, and Drummond, and Seymour who beheld this, had a
common sentiment of admiration for the gallant girl. But away went the
rivals. Black Lymport was the favourite, though none of the men thought
he would be put at the fence. The excitement became contagious. The
Countess threw up her veil. Lady Jocelyn, and Seymour, and Drummond,
galloped down the lane, and Mr. George was for accompanying them, till
the line of Miss Carrington's back gave him her unmistakeable opinion of
such a course of conduct, and he had to dally and fret by her side.
Andrew's arm was tightly grasped by the Countess. The rivals were
crossing the second field, Laxley a little a-head.
'He 's holding in the black mare--that fellow!' said Mr. George. 'Gad,
it looks like going at the fence. Fancy Harrington!'
They were now in the fourth field, a smooth shorn meadow. Laxley was two
clear lengths in advance, but seemed riding, as Mr. George remarked, more
for pace than to take the jump. The ladies kept plying random queries
and suggestions: the Countess wishing to know whether they could not be
stopped by a countryman before they encountered any danger. In the midst
of their chatter, Mr. George rose in his stirrups, crying:
'Bravo, the black mare!'
'Has he done it?' said Andrew, wiping his poll.
'He? No, the mare!' shouted Mr. George, and bolted off, no longer to be
The Countess, doubly relieved, threw herself back in the carriage, and
Andrew drew a breath, saying: 'Evan has beat him--I saw that! The
other's horse swerved right round.'
'I fear,' said Mrs. Evremonde, 'Mr. Harrington has had a fall. Don't be
alarmed--it may not be much.'
'A fall!' exclaimed the Countess, equally divided between alarms of
sisterly affection and a keen sense of the romance of the thing.
Miss Carrington ordered the carriage to be driven round. They had not
gone far when they were met by Harry Jocelyn riding in hot haste, and he
bellowed to the coachman to drive as hard as he could, and stop opposite
The scene on the other side of the fence would have been a sweet one to
the central figure in it had his eyes then been open. Surrounded by Lady
Jocelyn, Drummond, Seymour, and the rest, Evan's dust-stained body was
stretched along the road, and his head was lying in the lap of Rose, who,
pale, heedless of anything spoken by those around her, and with her lips
set and her eyes turning wildly from one to the other, held a gory
handkerchief to his temple with one hand, and with the other felt for the
motion of his heart.
But heroes don't die, you know.
TRIBULATIONS AND TACTICS OF THE COUNTESS
'You have murdered my brother, Rose Jocelyn!'
'Don't say so now.'
Such was the interchange between the two that loved the senseless youth,
as he was being. lifted into the carriage.
Lady Jocelyn sat upright in her saddle, giving directions about what was
to be done with Evan and the mare, impartially.
'Stunned, and a good deal shaken, I suppose; Lymport's knees are terribly
cut,' she said to Drummond, who merely nodded. And Seymour remarked,
'Fifty guineas knocked off her value!' One added, 'Nothing worse, I
should think'; and another, 'A little damage inside, perhaps.' Difficult
to say whether they spoke of Evan or the brute.
No violent outcries; no reproaches cast on the cold-blooded coquette;
no exclamations on the heroism of her brother! They could absolutely
spare a thought for the animal! And Evan had risked his life for this,
and might die unpitied. The Countess diversified her grief with a deadly
bitterness against the heartless Jocelyns.
Oh, if Evan dies! will it punish Rose sufficiently?
Andrew expressed emotion, but not of a kind the Countess liked a relative
to be seen exhibiting; for in emotion worthy Andrew betrayed to her his
'Go away and puke, if you must,' she said, clipping poor Andrew's word
about his 'dear boy.' She could not help speaking in that way--he was so
vulgar. A word of sympathy from Lady Jocelyn might have saved her from
the sourness into which her many conflicting passions were resolving; and
might also have saved her ladyship from the rancour she had sown in the
daughter of the great Mel by her selection of epithets to characterize
Will it punish Rose at all, if Evan dies?
Rose saw that she was looked at. How could the Countess tell that Rose
envied her the joy of holding Evan in the carriage there? Rose, to judge
by her face, was as calm as glass. Not so well seen through, however.
Mrs. Evremonde rode beside her, whose fingers she caught, and twined her
own with them tightly once for a fleeting instant. Mrs. Evremonde wanted
no further confession of her state.
Then Rose said to her mother, 'Mama, may I ride to have the doctor
Ordinarily, Rose would have clapped heel to horse the moment the thought
came. She waited for the permission, and flew off at a gallop, waving
back Laxley, who was for joining her.
'Franks will be a little rusty about the mare,' the Countess heard Lady
Jocelyn say; and Harry just then stooped his head to the carriage, and
said, in his blunt fashion, 'After all, it won't show much.'
'We are not cattle!' exclaimed the frenzied Countess, within her bosom.
Alas! it was almost a democratic outcry they made her guilty of; but she
was driven past patience. And as a further provocation, Evan would open
his eyes. She laid her handkerchief over them with loving delicacy,
remembering in a flash that her own face had been all the while exposed
to Mr. George Uplift; and then the terrors of his presence at Beckley
Court came upon her, and the fact that she had not for the last ten
minutes been the serene Countess de Saldar; and she quite hated Andrew,
for vulgarity in others evoked vulgarity in her, which was the reason why
she ranked vulgarity as the chief of the deadly sins. Her countenance
for Harry and all the others save poor Andrew was soon the placid heaven-
confiding sister's again; not before Lady Jocelyn had found cause to
observe to Drummond:
'Your Countess doesn't ruffle well.'
But a lady who is at war with two or three of the facts of Providence,
and yet will have Providence for her ally, can hardly ruffle well.
Do not imagine that the Countess's love for her brother was hollow. She
was assured when she came up to the spot where he fell, that there was no
danger; he had but dislocated his shoulder, and bruised his head a
little. Hearing this, she rose out of her clamorous heart, and seized
the opportunity for a small burst of melodrama. Unhappily, Lady Jocelyn,
who gave the tone to the rest, was a Spartan in matters of this sort; and
as she would have seen those dearest to her bear the luck of the field,
she could see others. When the call for active help reached her, you
beheld a different woman.
The demonstrativeness the Countess thirsted for was afforded her by Juley
Bonner, and in a measure by her sister Caroline, who loved Evan
passionately. The latter was in riding attire, about to mount to ride
and meet them, accompanied by the Duke. Caroline had hastily tied up her
hair; a rich golden brown lump of it hung round her cheek; her limpid
eyes and anxiously-nerved brows impressed the Countess wonderfully as she
ran down the steps and bent her fine well-filled bust forward to ask the
first hurried question.
The Countess patted her shoulder. 'Safe, dear,' she said aloud, as one
who would not make much of it. And in a whisper, 'You look superb.'
I must charge it to Caroline's beauty under the ducal radiance, that a
stream of sweet feelings entering into the Countess made her forget to
tell her sister that George Uplift was by. Caroline had not been abroad,
and her skin was not olive-hued; she was a beauty, and a majestic figure,
little altered since the day when the wooden marine marched her out of
The Countess stepped from the carriage to go and cherish Juliana's
petulant distress; for that unhealthy little body was stamping with
impatience to have the story told to her, to burst into fits of pathos;
and while Seymour and Harry assisted Evan to descend, trying to laugh off
the pain he endured, Caroline stood by, soothing him with words and
Lady Jocelyn passed him, and took his hand, saying, 'Not killed this
'At your ladyship's service to-morrow,' he replied, and his hand was
'My darling Evan, you will not ride again?' Caroline cried, kissing him
on the steps; and the Duke watched the operation, and the Countess
observed the Duke.
That Providence should select her sweetest moments to deal her wounds,
was cruel; but the Countess just then distinctly heard Mr. George Uplift
ask Miss Carrington
'Is that lady a Harrington?'
'You perceive a likeness?' was the answer.
Mr. George went 'Whew!--tit-tit-tit!' with the profound expression of a
very slow mind.
The scene was quickly over. There was barely an hour for the ladies to
dress for dinner. Leaving Evan in the doctor's hand, and telling
Caroline to dress in her room, the Countess met Rose, and gratified her
vindictiveness, while she furthered her projects, by saying:
'Not till my brother is quite convalescent will it be adviseable that you
should visit him. I am compelled to think of him entirely now. In his
present state he is not fit to be, played with.'
Rose, stedfastly eyeing her, seemed to swallow down something in her
throat, and said:
'I will obey you, Countess. I hoped you would allow me to nurse him.'
'Quiet above all things, Rose Jocelyn!' returned the Countess, with the
suavity of a governess, who must be civil in her sourness. 'If you would
not complete this morning's achievement--stay away.'
The Countess declined to see that Rose's lip quivered. She saw an
unpleasantness in the bottom of her eyes; and now that her brother's
decease was not even remotely to be apprehended, she herself determined
to punish the cold, unimpressionable coquette of a girl. Before
returning to Caroline, she had five minutes' conversation with. Juliana,
which fully determined her to continue the campaign at Beckley Court,
commence decisive movements, and not to retreat, though fifty George
Uplofts menaced her. Consequently, having dismissed Conning on a message
to Harry Jocelyn, to ask him for a list of the names of the new people
they were to meet that day at dinner, she said to Caroline:
'My dear, I think it will be incumbent on us to depart very quickly.'
Much to the Countess's chagrin and astonishment, Caroline replied:
'I shall hardly be sorry.'
'Not sorry? Why, what now, dear one? Is it true, then, that a
flagellated female kisses the rod? Are you so eager for a repetition of
Caroline, with some hesitation, related to her more than the Countess had
ventured to petition for in her prayers.
'Oh! how exceedingly generous!' the latter exclaimed. How very
refreshing to think that there are nobles in your England as romantic,
as courteous, as delicate as our own foreign ones! But his Grace is
quite an exceptional nobleman. Are you not touched, dearest Carry?'
Caroline pensively glanced at the reflection of her beautiful arm in the
glass, and sighed, pushing back the hair from her temples.
'But, for mercy's sake!' resumed the Countess, in alarm at the sigh,
'do not be too--too touched. Do, pray, preserve your wits. You weep!
Caroline, Caroline! O my goodness; it is just five-and-twenty minutes to
the first dinner-bell, and you are crying! For God's sake, think of your
face! Are you going to be a Gorgon? And you show the marks twice as
long as any other, you fair women. Squinnying like this! Caroline, for
your Louisa's sake, do not!'
Hissing which, half angrily and half with entreaty, the Countess dropped
on her knees. Caroline's fit of tears subsided. The eldest of the
sisters, she was the kindest, the fairest, the weakest.
'Not,' said the blandishing Countess, when Caroline's face was clearer,
'not that my best of Carrys does not look delicious in her shower. Cry,
with your hair down, and you would subdue any male creature on two legs.
And that reminds me of that most audacious Marquis de Remilla. He saw a
dirty drab of a fruit-girl crying in Lisbon streets one day, as he was
riding in the carriage of the Duchesse de Col da Rosta, and her husband
and duena, and he had a letter for her--the Duchesse. They loved! How
deliver the letter? "Save me!" he cried to the Duchesse, catching her
hand, and pressing his heart, as if very sick. The Duchesse felt the
paper--turned her hand over on her knee, and he withdrew his. What does
my Carry think was the excuse he tendered the Duke? This--and this gives
you some idea of the wonderful audacity of those dear Portuguese--that he
--he must precipitate himself and marry any woman he saw weep, and be her
slave for the term of his natural life, unless another woman's hand at
the same moment restrained him! There!' and the Countess's eyes shone
'How excessively imbecile!' Caroline remarked, hitherto a passive
listener to these Lusitanian contes.
It was the first sign she had yet given of her late intercourse with a
positive Duke, and the Countess felt it, and drew back. No more
anecdotes for Caroline, to whom she quietly said:
'You are very English, dear!'
'But now, the Duke--his Grace,' she went on, 'how did he inaugurate?'
'I spoke to him of Evan's position. God forgive me!--I said that was the
cause of my looks being sad.'
'You could have thought of nothing better,' interposed the Countess.
'He said, if he might clear them he should be happy!
'In exquisite language, Carry, of course.'
'No; just as others talk.'
'Hum!' went the Countess, and issued again brightly from a cloud of
reflection, with the remark: 'It was to seem business-like--the
commerciality of the English mind. To the point--I know. Well, you
perceive, my sweetest, that Evan's interests are in your hands. You dare
not quit the field. In one week, I fondly trust, he will be secure.
What more did his Grace say? May we not be the repository of such
Caroline gave tremulous indications about the lips, and the Countess
jumped to the bell and rang it, for they were too near dinner for the
trace of a single tear to be permitted. The bell and the appearance of
Conning effectually checked the flood.
While speaking to her sister, the Countess had hesitated to mention
George Uplift's name, hoping that, as he had no dinner-suit, he would not
stop to dinner that day, and would fall to the charge of Lady Racial once
more. Conning, however, brought in a sheet of paper on which the names
of the guests were written out by Harry, a daily piece of service he
performed for the captivating dame, and George Uplift's name was in the
'We will do the rest, Conning-retire,' she said, and then folding
Caroline in her arms, murmured, the moment they were alone, 'Will my
Carry dress her hair plain to-day, for the love of her Louisa?'
'Goodness! what a request!' exclaimed Caroline, throwing back her head
to see if her Louisa could be serious.
'Most inexplicable--is it not? Will she do it?'
'Flat, dear? It makes a fright of me.'
'Possibly. May I beg it?'
'But why, dearest, why? If I only knew why!'
'For the love of your Louy.'
'Plain along the temples?'
'And a knot behind.'
'And a band along the forehead?'
'Gems, if they meet your favour.'
'But my cheek-bones, Louisa?'
'They are not too prominent, Carry.'
'Curls relieve them.'
'The change will relieve the curls, dear one.'
Caroline looked in the glass, at the Countess, as polished a reflector,
and fell into a chair. Her hair was accustomed to roll across her
shoulders in heavy curls. The Duke would find a change of the sort
singular. She should not at all know herself with her hair done
differently: and for a lovely woman to be transformed to a fright is hard
to bear in solitude, or in imagination.
'Really!' she petitioned.
'Really--yes, or no?' added the Countess.
'So unaccountable a whim!' Caroline looked in the glass dolefully, and
pulled up her thick locks from one cheek, letting them fall on the
'She will?' breathed the Countess.
'I really cannot,' said Caroline, with vehemence.
The Countess burst into laughter, replying: 'My poor child! it is not my
whim--it is your obligation. George Uplift dines here to-day. Now do
you divine it? Disguise is imperative for you.'
Mrs. Strike, gazing in her sister's face, answered slowly, 'George? But
how will you meet him?' she hurriedly asked.
'I have met him,' rejoined the Countess, boldly. 'I defy him to know me.
I brazen him! You with your hair in my style are equally safe. You see
there is no choice. Pooh! contemptible puppy!'
'But I never,'--Caroline was going to say she never could face him.
'I will not dine. I will nurse Evan.'
'You have faced him, my dear,' said the Countess, 'and you are to change
your head-dress simply to throw him off his scent.'
As she spoke the Countess tripped about, nodding her head like a girl.
Triumph in the sense of her power over all she came in contact with,
rather elated the lady.
Do you see why she worked her sister in this roundabout fashion? She
would not tell her George Uplift was in the house till she was sure he
intended to stay, for fear of frightening her. When the necessity became
apparent, she put it under the pretext of a whim in order to see how far
Caroline, whose weak compliance she could count on, and whose reticence
concerning the Duke annoyed her, would submit to it to please her sister;
and if she rebelled positively, why to be sure it was the Duke she
dreaded to shock: and, therefore, the Duke had a peculiar hold on her:
and, therefore, the Countess might reckon that she would do more than she
pleased to confess to remain with the Duke, and was manageable in that
quarter. All this she learnt without asking. I need not add, that
Caroline sighingly did her bidding.
'We must all be victims in our turn, Carry,' said the Countess. 'Evan's
prospects--it may be, Silva's restoration--depend upon your hair being
dressed plain to-day. Reflect on that!'
Poor Caroline obeyed; but she was capable of reflecting only that her
face was unnaturally lean and strange to her.
The sisters tended and arranged one another, taking care to push their
mourning a month or two ahead and the Countess animadverted on the vulgar
mind of Lady Jocelyn, who would allow a 'gentleman to sit down at a
gentlewoman's table, in full company, in pronounced undress': and
Caroline, utterly miserable, would pretend that she wore a mask and kept
grimacing as they do who are not accustomed to paint on the cheeks, till
the Countess checked her by telling her she should ask her for that
before the Duke.
After a visit to Evan, the sisters sailed together into the drawing-room.
'Uniformity is sometimes a gain,' murmured the Countess, as they were
parting in the middle of the room. She saw that their fine figures, and
profiles, and resemblance in contrast, produced an effect. The Duke wore
one of those calmly intent looks by which men show they are aware of
change in the heavens they study, and are too devout worshippers to
presume to disapprove. Mr. George was standing by Miss Carrington, and
he also watched Mrs. Strike. To bewilder him yet more the Countess
persisted in fixing her eyes upon his heterodox apparel, and Mr. George
became conscious and uneasy. Miss Carrington had to address her question
to him twice before he heard. Melville Jocelyn, Sir John Loring, Sir
Franks, and Hamilton surrounded the Countess, and told her what they had
decided on with regard to the election during the day; for Melville was
warm in his assertion that they would not talk to the Countess five
minutes without getting a hint worth having.
'Call to us that man who is habited like a groom,' said the Countess,
indicating Mr. George. 'I presume he is in his right place up here?'
'Whew--take care, Countess--our best man. He's good for a dozen,' said
Mr. George was brought over and introduced to the Countess de Saldar.
'So the oldest Tory in the county is a fox?' she said, in allusion to the
hunt. Never did Caroline Strike admire her sister's fearful genius more
than at that moment.
Mr. George ducked and rolled his hand over his chin, with 'ah-um!' and
the like, ended by a dry laugh.
'Are you our supporter, Mr. Uplift?'
'Tory interest, ma--um--my lady.'
'And are you staunch and may be trusted?'
''Pon my honour, I think I have that reputation.'
'And you would not betray us if we give you any secrets? Say "'Pon my
honour," again. You launch it out so courageously.'
The men laughed, though they could not see what the Countess was driving
at. She had for two minutes spoken as she spoke when a girl, and George
--entirely off his guard and unsuspicious--looked unenlightened. If he
knew, there were hints enough for him in her words.
If he remained blind, they might pass as air. The appearance of the
butler cut short his protestation as to his powers of secresy.
The Countess dismissed him.
'You will be taken into our confidence when we require you.' And she
resumed her foreign air in a most elaborate and overwhelming bow.
She was now perfectly satisfied that she was safe from Mr. George, and,
as she thoroughly detested the youthful squire, she chose to propagate a
laugh at him by saying with the utmost languor and clearness of voice, as
they descended the stairs:
'After all, a very clever fox may be a very dull dog--don't you think?'
Gentlemen in front of her, and behind, heard it, and at Mr. George's
expense her reputation rose.
Thus the genius of this born general prompted her to adopt the principle
in tactics--boldly to strike when you are in the dark as to your enemy's
IN WHICH THE DAUGHTERS OF THE GREAT MEL HAVE TO DIGEST HIM AT DINNER
You must know, if you would form an estimate of the Countess's heroic
impudence, that a rumour was current in Lymport that the fair and well-
developed Louisa Harrington, in her sixteenth year, did advisedly, and
with the intention of rendering the term indefinite, entrust her
guileless person to Mr. George Uplift's honourable charge. The rumour,
unflavoured by absolute malignity, was such; and it went on to say, that
the sublime Mel, alive to the honour of his family, followed the
fugitives with a pistol, and with a horsewhip, that he might chastise the
offender according to the degree of his offence. It was certain that he
had not used the pistol: it was said that he had used the whip.
The details of the interview between Mel and Mr. George were numerous,
but at the same time various. Some declared that he put a pistol to Mr.
George's ear, and under pressure of that persuader got him into the
presence of a clergyman, when he turned sulky; and when the pistol was
again produced, the ceremony would have been performed, had not the
outraged Church cried out for help. Some vowed that Mr. George had
referred all questions implying a difference between himself and Mel to
their mutual fists for decision. At any rate, Mr. George turned up in
Fallow field subsequently; the fair Louisa, unhurt and with a quiet mind,
in Lymport; and this amount of truth the rumours can be reduced to--that
Louisa and Mr. George had been acquainted. Rumour and gossip know how to
build: they always have some solid foundation, however small. Upwards of
twelve years had run since Louisa went to the wife of the brewer--
a period quite long enough for Mr. George to forget any one in; and she
was altogether a different creature; and, as it was true that Mr. George
was a dull one, she was, after the test she had put him to, justified in
hoping that Mel's progeny might pass unchallenged anywhere out of
Lymport. So, with Mr. George facing her at table, the Countess sat down,
determined to eat and be happy.
A man with the education and tastes of a young country squire is not
likely to know much of the character of women; and of the marvellous
power they have of throwing a veil of oblivion between themselves and
what they don't want to remember, few men know much. Mr. George had
thought, when he saw Mrs. Strike leaning to Evan, and heard she was a
Harrington, that she was rather like the Lymport family; but the
reappearance of Mrs. Strike, the attention of the Duke of Belfield to
her, and the splendid tactics of the Countess, which had extinguished
every thought in the thought of himself, drove Lymport out of his mind.
There were some dinner guests at the table-people of Fallow field,
Beckley, and Bodley. The Countess had the diplomatist on one side, the
Duke on the other. Caroline was under the charge of Sir Franks. The
Countess, almost revelling in her position opposite Mr. George, was
ambitious to lead the conversation, and commenced, smiling at Melville:
'We are to be spared politics to-day? I think politics and cookery do
'I'm afraid you won't teach the true Briton to agree with you,' said
Melville, shaking his head over the sums involved by this British
'No,' said Seymour. 'Election dinners are a part of the Constitution':
and Andrew laughed: 'They make Radicals pay as well as Tories, so it's
The topic was taken up, flagged, fell, and was taken up again. And then
Harry Jocelyn said:
'I say, have you worked the flags yet? The great Mel must have his
The flags were in the hands of ladies, and ladies would look to the
rosettes, he was told.
Then a lady of the name of Barrington laughed lightly, and said:
'Only, pray, my dear Harry, don't call your uncle the "Great Mel" at the
'Oh! very well,' quoth Harry: 'why not?'
'You 'll get him laughed at--that 's all.'
'Oh! well, then, I won't,' said Harry, whose wits were attracted by the
Mrs. Barrington turned to Seymour, her neighbour, and resumed:
'He really would be laughed at. There was a tailor--he was called the
Great Mel--and he tried to stand for Fallow field once. I believe he had
the support of Squire Uplift--George's uncle--and others. They must have
done it for fun! Of course he did not get so far as the hustings; but I
believe he had flags, and principles, and all sorts of things worked
ready. He certainly canvassed.'
'A tailor--canvassed--for Parliament?' remarked an old Dowager, the
mother of Squire Copping. 'My what are we coming to next?'
'He deserved to get in,' quoth Aunt Bel: 'After having his principles
worked ready, to eject the man was infamous.'
Amazed at the mine she had sprung, the Countess sat through it, lamenting
the misery of owning a notorious father. Happily Evan was absent, on his
peaceful blessed bed!
Bowing over wine with the Duke, she tried another theme, while still,
like a pertinacious cracker, the Great Mel kept banging up and down the
'We are to have a feast in the open air, I hear. What you call pic-nic.'
The Duke believed there was a project of the sort.
'How exquisitely they do those things in Portugal! I suppose there would
be no scandal in my telling something now. At least we are out of Court-
'Scandal of the Court!' exclaimed his Grace, in mock horror.
'The option is yours to listen. The Queen, when young, was sweetly
pretty; a divine complexion; and a habit of smiling on everybody. I
presume that the young Habral, son of the first magistrate of Lisbon, was
also smiled on. Most innocently, I would swear! But it operated on the
wretched youth! He spent all his fortune in the purchase and decoration
of a fairy villa, bordering on the Val das Rosas, where the Court enjoyed
its rustic festivities, and one day a storm! all the ladies hurried
their young mistress to the house where the young Habral had been
awaiting her for ages. None so polished as he! Musicians started up,
the floors were ready, and torches beneath them!--there was a feast of
exquisite wines and viands sparkling. Quite enchantment. The girl-Queen
was in ecstasies. She deigned a dance with the young Habral, and then
all sat down to supper; and in the middle of it came the cry of Fire!
The Queen shrieked; the flames were seen all around; and if the arms of
the young Habral were opened to save her, or perish, could she cast a
thought on Royalty, and refuse? The Queen was saved the villa was burnt;
the young Habral was ruined, but, if I know a Portuguese, he was happy
till he died, and well remunerated! For he had held a Queen to his
heart! So that was a pic-nic!'
The Duke slightly inclined his head.
'Vrai Portughez derrendo,' he said. 'They tell a similar story in Spain,
of one of the Queens--I forget her name. The difference between us and
your Peninsular cavaliers is, that we would do as much for uncrowned
'Ah! your Grace!' The Countess swam in the pleasure of a nobleman's
'What's the story?' interposed Aunt Bel.
An outline of it was given her. Thank heaven, the table was now rid of
the Great Mel. For how could he have any, the remotest relation with
Queens and Peninsular pic-nics? You shall hear.
Lady Jocelyn happened to catch a word or two of the story.
'Why,' said she, 'that's English! Franks, you remember the ballet
divertissement they improvised at the Bodley race-ball, when the
magnificent footman fired a curtain and caught up Lady Racial, and
'Heaven knows where!' cried Sir Franks. 'I remember it perfectly. It
was said that the magnificent footman did it on purpose to have that
'Ay, of course,' Hamilton took him up. 'They talked of prosecuting the
'Ay,' followed Seymour, 'and nobody could tell where the magnificent
footman bolted. He vanished into thin air.'
'Ay, of course,' Melville struck in; 'and the magic enveloped the lady
for some time.'
At this point Mr. George Uplift gave a horse-laugh. He jerked in his
'Bodley race-ball!' he cried; and looking at Lady Jocelyn: 'Was your
ladyship there, then? Why--ha! ha! why, you have seen the Great Mel,
then! That tremendous footman was old Mel himself!'
Lady Jocelyn struck both her hands on the table, and rested her large
grey eyes, full of humorous surprise, on Mr. George.
There was a pause, and then the ladies and gentlemen laughed.
'Yes,' Mr. George went on, 'that was old Mel. I'll swear to him.'
'And that's how it began?' murmured Lady Jocelyn.
Mr. George nodded at his plate discreetly.
'Well,' said Lady Jocelyn, leaning back, and lifting her face upward in
the discursive fulness of her fancy, 'I feel I am not robbed. 'Il y a
des miracles, et j'en ai vu'. One's life seems more perfect when one has
seen what nature can do. The fellow was stupendous! I conceive him
present. Who'll fire a house for me? Is it my deficiency of attraction,
or a total dearth of gallant snobs?'
The Countess was drowned. The muscles of her smiles were horribly stiff
and painful. Caroline was getting pale. Could it be accident that thus
resuscitated Mel, their father, and would not let the dead man die? Was
not malice at the bottom of it? The Countess, though she hated Mr.
George infinitely, was clear-headed enough to see that Providence alone
was trying her. No glances were exchanged between him and Laxley, or