Part 6 out of 11
Again Mel returned to his peace, and again he had to come forth.
'Who was this singular man you were speaking about just now?' Mrs.
Lady Jocelyn answered her: 'The light of his age. The embodied protest
against our social prejudice. Combine--say, Mirabeau and Alcibiades, and
the result is the Lymport Tailor:--he measures your husband in the
morning: in the evening he makes love to you, through a series of
pantomimic transformations. He was a colossal Adonis, and I'm sorry he's
'But did the man get into society?' said Mrs. Evremonde. 'How did he
'Yes, indeed! and what sort of a society!' the dowager Copping
interjected. 'None but bachelor-tables, I can assure you. Oh! I
remember him. They talked of fetching him to Dox Hall. I said, No,
thank you, Tom; this isn't your Vauxhall.'
'A sharp retort,' said Lady Jocelyn, 'a most conclusive rhyme; but you're
mistaken. Many families were glad to see him, I hear. And he only
consented to be treated like a footman when he dressed like one. The
fellow had some capital points. He fought two or three duels, and
behaved like a man. Franks wouldn't have him here, or I would have
received him. I hear that, as a conteur, he was inimitable. In short,
he was a robust Brummel, and the Regent of low life.'
This should have been Mel's final epitaph.
Unhappily, Mrs. Melville would remark, in her mincing manner, that the
idea of the admission of a tailor into society seemed very unnatural;
and Aunt Bel confessed that her experience did not comprehend it.
'As to that,' said Lady Jocelyn, 'phenomena are unnatural. The rules of
society are lightened by the exceptions. What I like in this Mel is,
that though he was a snob, and an impostor, he could still make himself
respected by his betters. He was honest, so far; he acknowledged his
tastes, which were those of Franks, Melville, Seymour, and George--the
tastes of a gentleman. I prefer him infinitely to your cowardly
democrat, who barks for what he can't get, and is generally beastly.
In fact, I'm not sure that I haven't a secret passion for the great
'After all, old Mel wasn't so bad,' Mr. George Uplift chimed in.
'Granted a tailor--you didn't see a bit of it at table. I've known him
taken for a lord. And when he once got hold of you, you couldn't give
him up. The squire met him first in the coach, one winter. He took him
for a Russian nobleman--didn't find out what he was for a month or so.
Says Mel, "Yes, I make clothes. You find the notion unpleasant; guess
how disagreeable it is to me." The old squire laughed, and was glad to
have him at Croftlands as often as he chose to come. Old Mel and I used
to spar sometimes; but he's gone, and I should like to shake his fist
Then Mr. George told the 'Bath' story, and episodes in Mel's career as
Marquis; and while he held the ear of the table, Rose, who had not spoken
a word, and had scarcely eaten a morsel during dinner, studied the
sisters with serious eyes. Only when she turned them from the Countess
to Mrs. Strike, they were softened by a shadowy drooping of the eyelids,
as if for some reason she deeply pitied that lady.
Next to Rose sat Drummond, with a face expressive of cynical enjoyment.
He devoted uncommon attention to the Countess, whom he usually shunned
and overlooked. He invited her to exchange bows over wine, in the
fashion of that day, and the Countess went through the performance with
finished grace and ease. Poor Andrew had all the time been brushing back
his hair, and making strange deprecatory sounds in his throat, like a man
who felt bound to assure everybody at table he was perfectly happy and
'Material enough for a Sartoriad,' said Drummond to Lady Jocelyn.
'Excellent. Pray write it forthwith, Drummond', replied her ladyship;
and as they exchanged talk unintelligible to the Countess, this lady
observed to the Duke:
'It is a relief to have buried that subject.'
The Duke smiled, raising an eyebrow; but the persecuted Countess
perceived she had been much too hasty when Drummond added,
'I'll make a journey to Lymport in a day or two, and master his history.'
'Do,' said her ladyship; and flourishing her hand, '"I sing the Prince of
'Oh, if it's about old Mel, I 'll sing you material enough,' said Mr.
George. 'There! you talk of it's being unnatural, his dining out at
respectable tables. Why, I believe--upon my honour, I believe it's a
fact--he's supped and thrown dice with the Regent.'
Lady Jocelyn clapped her hands. 'A noble culmination, Drummond!
The man's an Epic!'
'Well, I think old Mel was equal to it,' Mr. George pursued. 'He gave me
pretty broad hints; and this is how it was, if it really happened, you
know. Old Mel had a friend; some say he was more. Well, that was a
fellow, a great gambler. I dare say you 've heard of him--Burley Bennet
--him that won Ryelands Park of one of the royal dukes--died worth
upwards of L100,000; and old Mel swore he ought to have had it, and would
if he hadn't somehow offended him. He left the money to Admiral
Harrington, and he was a relation of Mel's.'
'But are we then utterly mixed up with tailors?' exclaimed Mrs.
'Well, those are the facts,' said Mr. George.
The wine made the young squire talkative. It is my belief that his
suspicions were not awake at that moment, and that, like any other young
country squire, having got a subject he could talk on, he did not care to
discontinue it. The Countess was past the effort to attempt to stop him.
She had work enough to keep her smile in the right place.
Every dinner may be said to have its special topic, just as every age has
its marked reputation. They are put up twice or thrice, and have to
contend with minor lights, and to swallow them, and then they command the
tongues of men and flow uninterruptedly. So it was with the great Mel
upon this occasion. Curiosity was aroused about him. Aunt Bel agreed
with Lady Jocelyn that she would have liked to know the mighty tailor.
Mrs. Shorne but very imperceptibly protested against the notion, and from
one to another it ran. His Grace of Belfield expressed positive approval
of Mel as one of the old school.
'Si ce n'est pas le gentilhomme, au moins, c'est le gentilhomme manque,'
said Lady Jocelyn. 'He is to be regretted, Duke. You are right. The
stuff was in him, but the Fates were unkind. I stretch out my hand to
the pauvre diable.'
'I think one learns more from the mock magnifico than from anything
else,' observed his Grace.
'When the lion saw the donkey in his own royal skin, said Aunt Bel, 'add
the rhyme at your discretion--he was a wiser lion, that's all.'
'And the ape that strives to copy one--he's an animal of judgement,' said
Lady Jocelyn. 'We will be tolerant to the tailor, and the Countess must
not set us down as a nation of shopkeepers: philosophically tolerant.'
The Countess started, and ran a little broken 'Oh!' affably out of her
throat, dipped her lips to her tablenapkin, and resumed her smile.
'Yes,' pursued her ladyship; 'old Mel stamps the age gone by. The
gallant adventurer tied to his shop! Alternate footman and marquis, out
of intermediate tailor! Isn't there something fine in his buffoon
imitation of the real thing? I feel already that old Mel belongs to me.
Where is the great man buried? Where have they, set the funeral brass
that holds his mighty ashes?'
Lady Jocelyn's humour was fully entered into by the men. The women
smiled vacantly, and had a common thought that it was ill-bred of her to
hold forth in that way at table, and unfeminine of any woman to speak
'Oh, come!' cried Mr. George, who saw his own subject snapped away from
him by sheer cleverness; 'old Mel wasn't only a buffoon, my lady, you
know. Old Mel had his qualities. He was as much a "no-nonsense" fellow,
in his way, as a magistrate, or a minister.'
'Or a king, or a constable,' Aunt Bel helped his illustration.
'Or a prince, a poll-parrot, a Perigord-pie,' added Drummond, whose
gravity did not prevent Mr. George from seeing that he was laughed at.
'Well, then, now, listen to this,' said Mr. George, leaning his two hands
on the table resolutely. Dessert was laid, and, with a full glass beside
him, and a pear to peel, he determined to be heard.
The Countess's eyes went mentally up to the vindictive heavens. She
stole a glance at Caroline, and was alarmed at her excessive pallor.
Providence had rescued Evan from this!
'Now, I know this to be true,' Mr. George began. 'When old Mel was
alive, he and I had plenty of sparring, and that--but he's dead, and I'll
do him justice. I spoke of Burley Bennet just now. Now, my lady, old
Burley was, I think, Mel's half-brother, and he came, I know, somewhere
out of Drury Lane-one of the courts near the theatre--I don't know much
of London. However, old Mel wouldn't have that. Nothing less than being
born in St. James's Square would content old Mel, and he must have a
Marquis for his father. I needn't be more particular. Before ladies--
ahem! But Burley was the shrewd hand of the two. Oh-h-h! such a card!
He knew the way to get into company without false pretences. Well, I
told you, he had lots more than L100,000--some said two--and he gave up
Ryelands; never asked for it, though he won it. Consequence was, he
commanded the services of somebody pretty high. And it was he got
Admiral Harrington made a captain, posted, commodore, admiral, and
K.C.B., all in seven years! In the Army it 'd have been half the time,
for the H.R.H. was stronger in that department. Now, I know old Burley
promised Mel to leave him his money, and called the Admiral an ungrateful
dog. He didn't give Mel much at a time--now and then a twenty-pounder or
so--I saw the cheques. And old Mel expected the money, and looked over
his daughters like a turkey-cock. Nobody good enough for them. Whacking
handsome gals--three! used to be called the Three Graces of Lymport. And
one day Burley comes and visits Mel, and sees the girls. And he puts his
finger on the eldest, I can tell you. She was a spanker! She was the
handsomest gal, I think, ever I saw. For the mother's a fine woman, and
what with the mother, and what with old Mel--'
'We won't enter into the mysteries of origin,' quoth Lady Jocelyn.
'Exactly, my lady. Oh, your servant, of course. Before ladies. A Burley
Bennet, I said. Long and short was, he wanted to take her up to London.
Says old Mel: "London 's a sad place."--" Place to make money," says
Burley. "That's not work for a young gal," says Mel. Long and short
was, Burley wanted to take her, and Mel wouldn't let her go.' Mr. George
lowered his tone, and mumbled, 'Don't know how to explain it very well
before ladies. What Burley wanted was--it wasn't quite honourable, you
know, though there was a good deal of spangles on it, and whether a real
H.R.H., or a Marquis, or a Viscount, I can't say, but--the offer was
tempting to a tradesman. "No," says Mel; like a chap planting his
flagstaff and sticking to it. I believe that to get her to go with him,
Burley offered to make a will on the spot, and to leave every farthing of
his money and property--upon my soul, I believe it to be true--to Mel and
his family, if he'd let the gal go. "No," says Mel. I like the old
bird! And Burley got in a rage, and said he'd leave every farthing to
the sailor. Says Mel: "I'm a poor tradesman; but I have and I always
will have the feelings of a gentleman, and they're more to me than hard
cash, and the honour of my daughter, sir, is dearer to me than my blood.
Out of the house!" cries Mel. And away old Burley went, and left every
penny to the sailor, Admiral Harrington, who never noticed 'em an inch.
All had listened to Mr. George attentively, and he had slurred the
apologetic passages, and emphasized the propitiatory 'before ladies' in a
way to make himself well understood a generation back.
'Bravo, old Mel!' rang the voice of Lady Jocelyn, and a murmur ensued, in
the midst of which Rose stood up and hurried round the table to Mrs.
Strike, who was seen to rise from her chair; and as she did so, the ill-
arranged locks fell from their unnatural restraint down over her
shoulders; one great curl half forward to the bosom, and one behind her
right ear. Her eyes were wide, her whole face, neck, and fingers, white
as marble. The faintest tremor of a frown on her brows, and her shut
lips, marked the continuation of some internal struggle, as if with her
last conscious force she kept down a flood of tears and a wild outcry
which it was death to hold. Sir Franks felt his arm touched, and looked
up, and caught her, as Rose approached. The Duke and other gentlemen
went to his aid, and as the beautiful woman was borne out white and still
as a corpse, the Countess had this dagger plunged in her heart from the
mouth of Mr. George, addressing Miss Carrington:
'I swear I didn't do it on purpose. She 's Carry Harrington, old Mel's
daughter, as sure as she 's flesh and blood!'
TREATS OF A HANDKERCHIEF
Running through Beckley Park, clear from the chalk, a little stream gave
light and freshness to its pasturage. Near where it entered, a bathing-
house of white marble had been built, under which the water flowed, and
the dive could be taken to a paved depth, and you swam out over a pebbly
bottom into sun-light, screened by the thick-weeded banks, loose-strife
and willow-herb, and mint, nodding over you, and in the later season
long-plumed yellow grasses. Here at sunrise the young men washed their
limbs, and here since her return home English Rose loved to walk by
night. She had often spoken of the little happy stream to Evan in
Portugal, and when he came to Beckley Court, she arranged that he should
sleep in a bed-room overlooking it. The view was sweet and pleasant to
him, for all the babbling of the water was of Rose, and winding in and
out, to East, to North, it wound to embowered hopes in the lover's mind,
to tender dreams; and often at dawn, when dressing, his restless heart
embarked on it, and sailed into havens, the phantom joys of which
coloured his life for him all the day. But most he loved to look across
it when the light fell. The palest solitary gleam along its course spoke
to him rich promise. The faint blue beam of a star chained all his
longings, charmed his sorrows to sleep. Rose like a fairy had breathed
her spirit here, and it was a delight to the silly luxurious youth to lie
down, and fix some image of a flower bending to the stream on his brain,
and in the cradle of fancies that grew round it, slide down the tide of
From the image of a flower bending to the stream, like his own soul to
the bosom of Rose, Evan built sweet fables. It was she that exalted him,
that led him through glittering chapters of adventure. In his dream of
deeds achieved for her sake, you may be sure the young man behaved
worthily, though he was modest when she praised him, and his limbs
trembled when the land whispered of his great reward to come. The longer
he stayed at Beckley the more he lived in this world within world, and if
now and then the harsh outer life smote him, a look or a word from Rose
encompassed him again, and he became sensible only of a distant pain.
At first his hope sprang wildly to possess her, to believe, that after he
had done deeds that would have sent ordinary men in the condition of
shattered hulks to the hospital, she might be his. Then blow upon blow
was struck, and he prayed to be near her till he died: no more. Then
she, herself, struck him to the ground, and sitting in his chamber, sick
and weary, on the evening of his mishap, Evan's sole desire was to obtain
the handkerchief he had risked his neck for. To have that, and hold it
to his heart, and feel it as a part of her, seemed much.
Over a length of the stream the red round harvest-moon was rising, and
the weakened youth was this evening at the mercy of the charm that
encircled him. The water curved, and dimpled, and flowed flat, and the
whole body of it rushed into the spaces of sad splendour. The clustered
trees stood like temples of darkness; their shadows lengthened
supernaturally; and a pale gloom crept between them on the sward. He had
been thinking for some time that Rose would knock at his door, and give
him her voice, at least; but she did not come; and when he had gazed out
on the stream till his eyes ached, he felt that he must go and walk by
it. Those little flashes of the hurrying tide spoke to him of a secret
rapture and of a joy-seeking impulse; the pouring onward of all the blood
of life to one illumined heart, mournful from excess of love.
Pardon me, I beg. Enamoured young men have these notions. Ordinarily
Evan had sufficient common sense and was as prosaic as mankind could wish
him; but he has had a terrible fall in the morning, and a young woman
rages in his brain. Better, indeed, and 'more manly,' were he to strike
and raise huge bosses on his forehead, groan, and so have done with it.
We must let him go his own way.
At the door he was met by the Countess. She came into the room without a
word or a kiss, and when she did speak, the total absence of any euphuism
gave token of repressed excitement yet more than her angry eyes and eager
step. Evan had grown accustomed to her moods, and if one moment she was
the halcyon, and another the petrel, it no longer disturbed him, seeing
that he was a stranger to the influences by which she was affected. The
Countess rated him severely for not seeking repose and inviting sympathy.
She told him that the Jocelyns had one and all combined in an infamous
plot to destroy the race of Harrington, and that Caroline had already
succumbed to their assaults; that the Jocelyns would repent it, and
sooner than they thought for; and that the only friend the Harringtons
had in the house was Miss Bonner, whom Providence would liberally reward.
Then the Countess changed to a dramatic posture, and whispered aloud,
'Hush: she is here. She is so anxious. Be generous, my brother, and let
her see you!'
'She?' said Evan, faintly. 'May she come, Louisa?' He hoped for Rose.
'I have consented to mask it,' returned the Countess. 'Oh, what do I not
sacrifice for you!'
She turned from him, and to Evan's chagrin introduced Juliana Bonner.
'Five minutes, remember!' said the Countess. ' I must not hear of more.'
And then Evan found himself alone with Miss Bonner, and very uneasy.
This young lady had restless brilliant eyes, and a contraction about the
forehead which gave one the idea of a creature suffering perpetual
headache. She said nothing, and when their eyes met she dropped hers in
a manner that made silence too expressive. Feeling which, Evan began:
'May I tell you that I think it is I who ought to be nursing you, not you
Miss Bonner replied by lifting her eyes and dropping them as before,
murmuring subsequently, 'Would you do so?'
'Most certainly, if you did me the honour to select me.'
The fingers of the young lady commenced twisting and intertwining on her
lap. Suddenly she laughed:
'It would not do at all. You won't be dismissed from your present
service till you 're unfit for any other.'
'What do you mean?' said Evan, thinking more of the unmusical laugh than
of the words.
He received no explanation, and the irksome silence caused him to look
through the window, as an escape for his mind, at least. The waters
streamed on endlessly into the golden arms awaiting them. The low moon
burnt through the foliage. In the distance, over a reach of the flood,
one tall aspen shook against the lighted sky.
'Are you in pain?' Miss Bonner asked, and broke his reverie.
'No; I am going away, and perhaps I sigh involuntarily.'
'You like these grounds?'
'I have never been so happy in any place.'
'With those cruel young men about you?'
Evan now laughed. 'We don't call young men cruel, Miss Bonner.'
'But were they not? To take advantage of what Rose told them--it was
She had said more than she intended, possibly, for she coloured under his
inquiring look, and added: 'I wish I could say the same as you of
Beckley. Do you know, I am called Rose's thorn?'
'Not by Miss Jocelyn herself, certainly!'
'How eager you are to defend her. But am I not--tell me--do I not look
like a thorn in company with her?'
'There is but the difference that ill health would make.'
'Ill health? Oh, yes! And Rose is so much better born.'
'To that, I am sure, she does not give a thought.'
'Not Rose? Oh!'
An exclamation, properly lengthened, convinces the feelings more
satisfactorily than much logic. Though Evan claimed only the hand-
kerchief he had won, his heart sank at the sound. Miss Bonner watched
him, and springing forward, said sharply:
'May I tell you something?'
'You may tell me what you please.'
'Then, whether I offend you or not, you had better leave this.'
'I am going,' said Evan. 'I am only waiting to introduce your tutor to
She kept her eyes on him, and in her voice as well there was a depth, as
'Mr. Laxley, Mr. Forth, and Harry, are going to Lymport to-morrow.'
Evan was looking at a figure, whose shadow was thrown towards the house
from the margin of the stream.
He stood up, and taking the hand of Miss Bonner, said:
'I thank you. I may, perhaps, start with them. At any rate, you have
done me a great service, which I shall not forget.'
The figure by the stream he knew to be that of Rose. He released Miss
Bonner's trembling moist hand, and as he continued standing, she moved to
the door, after once following the line of his eyes into the moonlight.
Outside the door a noise was audible. Andrew had come to sit with his
dear boy, and the Countess had met and engaged and driven him to the
other end of the passage, where he hung remonstrating with her.
'Why, Van,' he said, as Evan came up to him, 'I thought you were in a
profound sleep. Louisa said--'
'Silly Andrew!' interposed the Countess, 'do you not observe he is sleep-
walking now?' and she left them with a light laugh to go to Juliana, whom
she found in tears. The Countess was quite aware of the efficacy of a
little bit of burlesque lying to cover her retreat from any petty
Evan soon got free from Andrew. He was under the dim stars, walking to
the great fire in the East. The cool air refreshed him. He was simply
going to ask for his own, before he went, and had no cause to fear what
would be thought by any one. A handkerchief! A man might fairly win
that, and carry it out of a very noble family, without having to blush
I cannot say whether he inherited his feeling for rank from Mel, his
father, or that the Countess had succeeded in instilling it, but Evan
never took Republican ground in opposition to those who insulted him,
and never lashed his 'manhood' to assert itself, nor compared the
fineness of his instincts with the behaviour of titled gentlemen.
Rather he seemed to admit the distinction between his birth and that
of a gentleman, admitting it to his own soul, as it were, and struggled
simply as men struggle against a destiny. The news Miss Bonner had given
him sufficed to break a spell which could not have endured another week;
and Andrew, besides, had told him of Caroline's illness. He walked to
meet Rose, honestly intending to ask for his own, and wish her good-bye.
Rose saw him approach, and knew him in the distance. She was sitting on
a lower branch of the aspen, that shot out almost from the root, and
stretched over the intervolving rays of light on the tremulous water.
She could not move to meet him. She was not the Rose whom we have
hitherto known. Love may spring in the bosom of a young girl, like
Helper in the evening sky, a grey speck in a field of grey, and not be
seen or known, till surely as the circle advances the faint planet
gathers fire, and, coming nearer earth, dilates, and will and must be
seen and known. When Evan lay like a dead man on the ground, Rose turned
upon herself as the author of his death, and then she felt this presence
within her, and her heart all day had talked to her of it, and was
throbbing now, and would not be quieted. She could only lift her eyes
and give him her hand; she could not speak. She thought him cold, and he
was; cold enough to think that she and her cousin were not unlike in
their manner, though not deep enough to reflect that it was from the same
She was the first to find her wits: but not before she spoke did she
feel, and start to feel, how long had been the silence, and that her hand
was still in his.
'Why did you come out, Evan? It was not right.'
'I came to speak to you. I shall leave early to-morrow, and may not see
'You are going----?'
She checked her voice, and left the thrill of it wavering in him.
'Yes, Rose, I am going; I should have gone before.'
'Evan!' she grasped his hand, and then timidly retained it. 'You have
not forgiven me? I see now. I did not think of any risk to you. I only
wanted you to beat. I wanted you to be first and best. If you knew how
I thank God for saving you! What my punishment would have been!'
Till her eyes were full she kept them on him, too deep in emotion to be
conscious of it.
He could gaze on her tears coldly.
'I should be happy to take the leap any day for the prize you offered.
I have come for that.'
'For what, Evan?' But while she was speaking the colour mounted in her
cheeks, and she went on rapidly:
'Did you think it unkind of me not to come to nurse you. I must tell
you, to defend myself. It was the Countess, Evan. She is offended with
me--very justly, I dare say. She would not let me come. What could I
do? I had no claim to come.'
Rose was not aware of the import of her speech. Evan, though he felt
more in it, and had some secret nerves set tingling and dancing, was not
to be moved from his demand.
'Do you intend to withhold it, Rose?'
'Withhold what, Evan? Anything that you wish for is yours.'
'The handkerchief. Is not that mine?'
Rose faltered a word. Why did he ask for it? Because he asked for
nothing else, and wanted no other thing save that.
Why did she hesitate? Because it was so poor a gift, and so unworthy of
And why did he insist? Because in honour she was bound to surrender it.
And why did she hesitate still? Let her answer.
'Oh, Evan! I would give you anything but that; and if you are going
away, I should beg so much to keep it.'
He must have been in a singular state not to see her heart in the
refusal, as was she not to see his in the request. But Love is blindest
just when the bandage is being removed from his forehead.
'Then you will not give it me, Rose? Do you think I shall go about
boasting "This is Miss Jocelyn's handkerchief, and I, poor as I am, have
The taunt struck aslant in Rose's breast with a peculiar sting. She
'I will give it you, Evan.'
Turning from him she drew it forth, and handed it to him hurriedly.
It was warm. It was stained with his blood. He guessed where it had
been nestling, and, now, as if by revelation, he saw that large sole star
in the bosom of his darling, and was blinded by it and lost his senses.
Like the flower of his nightly phantasy bending over the stream, he
looked and saw in her sweet face the living wonders that encircled his
image; she murmuring: 'No, you must hate me.'
'I love you, Rose, and dare to say it--and it 's unpardonable. Can you
She raised her face to him.
'Forgive you for loving me?' she said.
Holy to them grew the stillness: the ripple suffused in golden moonlight:
the dark edges of the leaves against superlative brightness. Not a chirp
was heard, nor anything save the cool and endless carol of the happy
waters, whose voices are the spirits of silence. Nature seemed
consenting that their hands should be joined, their eyes intermingling.
And when Evan, with a lover's craving, wished her lips to say what her
eyes said so well, Rose drew his fingers up, and, with an arch smile and
a blush, kissed them. The simple act set his heart thumping, and from
the look of love, she saw an expression of pain pass through him. Her
fealty--her guileless, fearless truth--which the kissing of his hand
brought vividly before him, conjured its contrast as well in this that
was hidden from her, or but half suspected. Did she know--know and love
him still? He thought it might be: but that fell dead on her asking:
'Shall I speak to Mama to-night?'
A load of lead crushed him.
'Rose!' he said; but could get no farther.
Innocently, or with well-masked design, Rose branched off into little
sweet words about his bruised shoulder, touching it softly, as if she
knew the virtue that was in her touch, and accusing her selfish self as
she caressed it:
'Dearest Evan! you must have been sure I thought no one like you. Why
did you not tell me before? I can hardly believe it now! Do you know,'
she hurried on, 'they think me cold and heartless,--am I? I must be, to
have made you run such risk; but yet I'm sure I could not have survived
Dropping her voice, Rose quoted Ruth. As Evan listened, the words were
like food from heaven poured into his spirit.
'To-morrow,' he kept saying to himself, 'to-morrow I will tell her all.
Let her think well of me a few short hours.'
But the passing minutes locked them closer; each had a new link--in a
word, or a speechless breath, or a touch: and to break the marriage of
their eyes there must be infinite baseness on one side, or on the other
disloyalty to love.
The moon was a silver ball, high up through the aspen-leaves. Evan
kissed the hand of Rose, and led her back to the house. He had appeased
his conscience by restraining his wild desire to kiss her lips.
In the hall they parted. Rose whispered, 'Till death!' giving him her
THE COUNTESS MAKES HERSELF FELT
There is a peculiar reptile whose stroke is said to deprive men of
motion. On the day after the great Mel had stalked the dinner-table of
Beckley Court, several of the guests were sensible of the effect of this
creature's mysterious touch, without knowing what it was that paralyzed
them. Drummond Forth had fully planned to go to Lymport. He had special
reasons for making investigations with regard to the great Mel. Harry,
who was fond of Drummond, offered to accompany him, and Laxley, for the
sake of a diversion, fell into the scheme. Mr. George Uplift was also to
be of the party, and promised them fun. But when the time came to start,
not one could be induced to move: Laxley was pressingly engaged by Rose:
Harry showed the rope the Countess held him by; Mr. George made a
singular face, and seriously advised Drummond to give up the project.
'Don't rub that woman the wrong way,' he said, in a private colloquy they
had. 'By Jingo, she's a Tartar. She was as a gal, and she isn't
changed, Lou Harrington. Fancy now: she knew me, and she faced me out,
and made me think her a stranger! Gad, I'm glad I didn't speak to the
others. Lord's sake, keep it quiet. Don't rouse that woman, now, if you
want to keep a whole skin.'
Drummond laughed at his extreme earnestness in cautioning him, and
appeared to enjoy his dread of the Countess. Mr. George would not tell
how he had been induced to change his mind. He repeated his advice with
a very emphatic shrug of the shoulder.
'You seem afraid of her,' said Drummond.
'I am. I ain't ashamed to confess it. She's a regular viper, my boy!'
said Mr. George. 'She and I once were pretty thick--least said soonest
mended, you know. I offended her. Wasn't quite up to her mark--a
tailor's daughter, you know. Gad, if she didn't set an Irish Dragoon
Captain on me!--I went about in danger of my life. The fellow began to
twist his damned black moustaches the moment he clapped eyes on me--
bullied me till, upon my soul, I was almost ready to fight him! Oh, she
was a little tripping Tartar of a bantam hen then. She's grown since
she's been countessed, and does it peacocky. Now, I give you fair
warning, you know. She's more than any man's match.'
'I dare say I shall think the same when she has beaten me,' quoth cynical
Drummond, and immediately went and gave orders for his horse to be
saddled, thinking that he would tread on the head of the viper.
But shortly before the hour of his departure, Mrs. Evremonde summoned him
to her, and showed him a slip of paper, on which was written, in an
uncouth small hand:
'Madam: a friend warns you that your husband is coming here. Deep
interest in your welfare is the cause of an anonymous communication. The
writer wishes only to warn you in time.'
Mrs. Evremonde told Drummond that she had received it from one of the
servants when leaving the breakfast-room. Beyond the fact that a man on
horseback had handed it to a little boy, who had delivered it over to the
footman, Drummond could learn nothing. Of course, all thought of the
journey to Lymport was abandoned. If but to excogitate a motive for the
origin of the document, Drummond was forced to remain; and now he had it,
and now he lost it again; and as he was wandering about in his maze, the
Countess met him with a 'Good morning, Mr., Forth. Have I impeded your
expedition by taking my friend Mr. Harry to cavalier me to-day?'
Drummond smilingly assured her that she had not in any way disarranged
his projects, and passed with so absorbed a brow that the Countess could
afford to turn her head and inspect him, without fear that he would
surprise her in the act. Knocking the pearly edge of her fan on her
teeth, she eyed him under her joined black lashes, and deliberately read
his thoughts in the mere shape of his back and shoulders. She read him
through and through, and was unconscious of the effective attitude she
stood in for the space of two full minutes, and even then it required one
of our unhappy sex to recall her. This was Harry Jocelyn.
'My friend,' she said to him, with a melancholy smile, 'my one friend
Harry went through the form of kissing her hand, which he had been
taught, and practised cunningly as the first step of the ladder.
'I say, you looked so handsome, standing as you did just now,' he
remarked; and she could see how far beneath her that effective attitude
had precipitated the youth.
'Ah!' she sighed, walking on, with the step of majesty in exile.
'What the deuce is the matter with everybody to-day?' cried Harry.
'I 'm hanged if I can make it out. There's the Carrington, as you call
her, I met her with such a pair of eyes, and old George looking as if
he'd been licked, at her heels; and there's Drummond and his lady fair
moping about the lawn, and my mother positively getting excited--there's
a miracle! and Juley 's sharpening her nails for somebody, and if
Ferdinand don't look out, your brother 'll be walking off with Rosey--
that 's my opinion.'
'Indeed,' said the Countess. 'You really think so?'
'Well, they come it pretty strong together.'
'And what constitutes the "come it strong," Mr. Harry?'
'Hold of hands; you know,' the young gentleman indicated.
'Alas, then! must not we be more discreet?'
'Oh! but it's different. With young people one knows what that means.'
'Deus!' exclaimed the Countess, tossing her head weariedly, and Harry
perceived his slip, and down he went again.
What wonder that a youth in such training should consent to fetch and
carry, to listen and relate, to play the spy and know no more of his
office than that it gave him astonishing thrills of satisfaction, and now
and then a secret sweet reward?
The Countess had sealed Miss Carrington's mouth by one of her most
dexterous strokes. On leaving the dinner-table over-night, and seeing
that Caroline's attack would preclude their instant retreat, the gallant
Countess turned at bay. A word aside to Mr. George Uplift, and then the
Countess took a chair by Miss Carrington. She did all the conversation,
and supplied all the smiles to it, and when a lady has to do that she.
is justified in striking, and striking hard, for to abandon the pretence
of sweetness is a gross insult from one woman to another.
The Countess then led circuitously, but with all the ease in the world,
to the story of a Portuguese lady, of a marvellous beauty, and who was
deeply enamoured of the Chevalier Miguel de Rasadio, and engaged to be
married to him: but, alas for her! in the insolence of her happiness she
wantonly made an enemy in the person of a most unoffending lady, and she
repented it. While sketching the admirable Chevalier, the Countess drew
a telling portrait of Mr. George Uplift, and gratified her humour and her
wrath at once by strong truth to nature in the description and animated
encomiums on the individual. The Portuguese lady, too, a little
resembled Miss Carrington, in spite of her marvellous beauty. And it was
odd that Miss Carrington should give a sudden start and a horrified
glance at the Countess just when the Countess was pathetically relating
the proceeding taken by the revengeful lady on the beautiful betrothed of
the Chevalier Miguel de Rasadio: which proceeding was nothing other than
to bring to the Chevalier's knowledge that his beauty had a defect
concealed by her apparel, and that the specks in his fruit were not one,
or two, but, Oh! And the dreadful sequel to the story the Countess could
not tell: preferring ingeniously to throw a tragic veil over it. Miss
Carrington went early to bed that night.
The courage that mounteth with occasion was eminently the attribute of
the Countess de Saldar. After that dreadful dinner she (since the
weaknesses of great generals should not be altogether ignored), did pray
for flight and total obscurity, but Caroline could not be left in her
hysteric state, and now that she really perceived that Evan was
progressing and on the point of sealing his chance, the devoted lady
resolved to hold her ground. Besides, there was the pic-nic. The
Countess had one dress she had not yet appeared in, and it was for the
picnic she kept it. That small motives are at the bottom of many
illustrious actions is a modern discovery; but I shall not adopt the
modern principle of magnifying the small motive till it overshadows my
noble heroine. I remember that the small motive is only to be seen by
being borne into the range of my vision by a powerful microscope; and if
I do more than see--if I carry on my reflections by the aid of the glass,
I arrive at conclusions that must be false. Men who dwarf human nature
do this. The gods are juster. The Countess, though she wished to remain
for the pic-nic, and felt warm in anticipation of the homage to her new
dress, was still a gallant general and a devoted sister, and if she said
to herself, 'Come what may, I will stay for that pic-nic, and they shall
not brow-beat me out of it,' it is that trifling pleasures are noisiest
about the heart of human nature: not that they govern us absolutely.
There is mob-rule in minds as in communities, but the Countess had her
appetites in excellent drill. This pic-nic surrendered, represented to
her defeat in all its ignominy. The largest longest-headed of schemes
ask occasionally for something substantial and immediate. So the
Countess stipulated with Providence for the pic-nic. It was a point to
be passed: 'Thorough flood, thorough fire.'
In vain poor Andrew Cogglesby, to whom the dinner had been torture, and
who was beginning to see the position they stood in at Beckley, begged to
be allowed to take them away, or to go alone. The Countess laughed him
into submission. As a consequence of her audacious spirits she grew more
charming and more natural, and the humour that she possessed, but which,
like her other faculties, was usually subordinate to her plans, gave
spontaneous bursts throughout the day, and delighted her courtiers. Nor
did the men at all dislike the difference of her manner with them, and
with the ladies. I may observe that a woman who shows a marked
depression in the presence of her own sex will be thought very superior
by ours; that is, supposing she is clever and agreeable. Manhood
distinguishes what flatters it. A lady approaches. 'We must be proper,'
says the Countess, and her hearty laugh dies with suddenness and is
succeeded by the maturest gravity. And the Countess can look a profound
merriment with perfect sedateness when there appears to be an equivoque
in company. Finely secret are her glances, as if under every eye-lash
there lurked the shade of a meaning. What she meant was not so clear.
All this was going on, and Lady Jocelyn was simply amused, and sat as at
'She seems to have stepped out of a book of French memoirs,' said her
ladyship. 'La vie galante et devote--voila la Comtesse.'
In contradistinction to the other ladies, she did not detest the Countess
because she could not like her.
'Where 's the harm in her?' she asked. 'She doesn't damage the men, that
I can see. And a person you can laugh at and with, is inexhaustible.'
'And how long is she to stay here?' Mrs. Shorne inquired. Mrs. Melville
remarking: 'Her visit appears to be inexhaustible.'
'I suppose she'll stay till the Election business is over,' said Lady
The Countess had just driven with Melville to Fallow field in Caroline's
black lace shawl.
'Upwards of four weeks longer!' Mrs. Melville interjected.
Lady Jocelyn chuckled.
Miss Carrington was present. She had been formerly sharp in her
condemnation of the Countess--her affectedness, her euphuism, and her
vulgarity. Now she did not say a word, though she might have done it
'I suppose, Emily, you see what Rose is about?' said Mrs. Melville.
'I should not have thought it adviseable to have that young man here,
myself. I think I let you know that.'
'One young man's as good as another,' responded her ladyship. 'I 've my
doubts of the one that's much better. I fancy Rose is as good a judge by
this time as you or I.'
Mrs. Melville made an effort or two to open Lady Jocelyn's eyes, and then
relapsed into the confident serenity inspired by evil prognostications.
'But there really does seem some infatuation about these people!'
exclaimed Mrs. Shorne, turning to Miss Current. 'Can you understand it?
The Duke, my dear! Things seem to be going on in the house, that really
--and so openly.'
'That's one virtue,' said Miss Current, with her imperturbable metallic
voice, and face like a cold clear northern sky. 'Things done in secret
throw on the outsiders the onus of raising a scandal.'
'You don't believe, then?' suggested Mrs. Shorne.
Miss Current replied: 'I always wait for a thing to happen first.'
'But haven't you seen, my dear?'
'I never see anything, my dear.'
'Then you must be blind, my dear.'
'On the contrary, that 's how I keep my sight, my dear.'
'I don't understand you,' said Mrs. Shorne.
'It's a part of the science of optics, and requires study,' said Miss
Neither with the worldly nor the unworldly woman could the ladies do
anything. But they were soon to have their triumph.
A delicious morning had followed the lovely night. The stream flowed
under Evan's eyes, like something in a lower sphere, now. His passion
took him up, as if a genie had lifted him into mid-air, and showed him
the world on a palm of a hand; and yet, as he dressed by the window,
little chinks in the garden wall, and nectarines under their shiny
leaves, and the white walks of the garden, were stamped on his hot brain
accurately and lastingly. Ruth upon the lips of Rose: that voice of
living constancy made music to him everywhere. 'Thy God shall be my
God.' He had heard it all through the night. He had not yet broken the
tender charm sufficiently to think that he must tell her the sacrifice
she would have to make. When partly he did, the first excuse he clutched
at was, that he had not even kissed her on the forehead. Surely he had
been splendidly chivalrous? Just as surely he would have brought on
himself the scorn of the chivalrous or of the commonly balanced if he had
been otherwise. The grandeur of this or of any of his proceedings, then,
was forfeited, as it must needs be when we are in the false position: we
can have no glory though martyred. The youth felt it, even to the seeing
of why it was; and he resolved, in justice to the dear girl, that he
would break loose from his fetters, as we call our weakness. Behold,
Rose met him descending the stairs, and, taking his hand, sang,
unabashed, by the tell-tale colour coming over her face, a stave of a
little Portuguese air that they had both been fond of in Portugal; and
he, listening to it, and looking in her eyes, saw that his feelings in--
the old time had been hers. Instantly the old time gave him its breath,
the present drew back.
Rose, now that she had given her heart out, had no idea of concealment.
She would have denied nothing to her aunts: she was ready to confide it
to her mother. Was she not proud of the man she loved? When Evan's hand
touched hers she retained it, and smiled up at him frankly, as it were to
make him glad in her gladness. If before others his eyes brought the
blood to her cheeks, she would perhaps drop her eye-lids an instant,
and then glance quickly level again to reassure him. And who would have
thought that this boisterous, boyish creature had such depths of eye!
Cold, did they call her? Let others think her cold. The tender
knowledge of her--the throbbing secret they held in common sang at his
heart. Rose made no confidante, but she attempted no mystery. Evan
should have risen to the height of the noble girl. But the dearer and
sweeter her bearing became, the more conscious he was of the dead weight
he was dragging: in truth her behaviour stamped his false position to
hard print the more he admired her for it, and he had shrinkings from the
feminine part it imposed on him to play.
IN WHICH THE STREAM FLOWS MUDDY AND CLEAR
An Irish retriever-pup of the Shannon breed, Pat by name, was undergoing
tuition on the sward close by the kennels, Rose's hunting-whip being
passed through his collar to restrain erratic propensities. The
particular point of instruction which now made poor Pat hang out his
tongue, and agitate his crisp brown curls, was the performance of the
'down-charge'; a ceremony demanding implicit obedience from the animal in
the midst of volatile gambadoes, and a simulation of profound repose when
his desire to be up and bounding was mighty. Pat's Irish eyes were
watching Rose, as he lay with his head couched between his forepaws in
the required attitude. He had but half learnt his lesson; and something
in his half-humorous, half-melancholy look talked to Rose more eloquently
than her friend Ferdinand at her elbow. Laxley was her assistant dog-
breaker. Rose would not abandon her friends because she had accepted a
lover. On the contrary, Rose was very kind to Ferdinand, and perhaps
felt bound to be so to-day. To-day, also, her face was lighted; a
readiness to colour, and an expression of deeper knowledge, which she now
had, made the girl dangerous to friends. This was not Rose's fault but
there is no doubt among the faculty that love is a contagious disease,
and we ought not to come within miles of the creatures in whom it lodges.
Pat's tail kept hinting to his mistress that a change would afford him
satisfaction. After a time she withdrew her wistful gaze from him, and
listened entirely to Ferdinand: and it struck her that he spoke
particularly well to-day, though she did not see so much in his eyes as
in Pat's. The subject concerned his departure, and he asked Rose if she
should be sorry. Rose, to make him sure of it, threw a music into her
voice dangerous to friends. For she had given heart and soul to Evan,
and had a sense, therefore, of being irredeemably in debt to her old
associates, and wished to be doubly kind to them.
Pat took advantage of the diversion to stand up quietly and have a shake.
He then began to kiss his mistress's hand, to show that all was right on
both sides; and followed this with a playful pretence at a bite, that
there might be no subsequent misunderstanding, and then a bark and a
whine. As no attention was paid to this amount of plain-speaking, Pat
made a bolt. He got no farther than the length of the whip, and all he
gained was to bring on himself the terrible word of drill once more. But
Pat had tasted liberty. Irish rebellion against constituted authority
was exhibited. Pat would not: his ears tossed over his head, and he
jumped to right and left, and looked the raggedest rapparee that ever his
ancestry trotted after. Rose laughed at his fruitless efforts to get
free; but Ferdinand meditatively appeared to catch a sentiment in them.
'Down-charge, Sir, will you? Ah, Pat! Pat! You'll have to obey me, my
boy. Now, down-charge!'
While Rose addressed the language of reason to Pat, Ferdinand slipped in
a soft word or two. Presently she saw him on one knee.
'Pat won't, and I will,' said he.
'But Pat shall, and you had better not,' said she. 'Besides, my dear
Ferdinand,' she added, laughing, 'you don't know how to do it.'
'Do you want me to prostrate on all fours, Rose?'
'No. I hope not. Do get up, Ferdinand. You'll be seen from the
Instead of quitting his posture, he caught her hand, and scared her with
'Of all men, you to be on your knees! and to me, Ferdinand!' she cried,
'Why shouldn't I, Rose?' was this youth's answer.
He had got the idea that foreign cavalier manners would take with her;
but it was not so easy to make his speech correspond with his posture,
and he lost his opportunity, which was pretty. However, he spoke plain
English. The interview ended by Rose releasing Pat from drill, and
running off in a hurry. Where was Evan? She must have his consent to
speak to her mother, and prevent a recurrence of these silly scenes.
Evan was with Caroline, his sister.
It was contrary to the double injunction of the Countess that Caroline
should receive Evan during her absence, or that he should disturb the
dear invalid with a visit. These two were not unlike both in
organization and character, and they had not sat together long before
they found each other out. Now, to further Evan's love-suit, the
Countess had induced Caroline to continue yet awhile in the Purgatory
Beckley Court had become to her; but Evan, in speaking of Rose, expressed
a determination to leave her, and Caroline caught at it.
'Can you?--will you? Oh, dear Van! have you the courage? I--look at
me--you know the home I go to, and--and I think of it here as a place to
be happy in. What have our marriages done for us? Better that we had
married simple stupid men who earn their bread, and would not have been
ashamed of us! And, my dearest, it is not only that. None can tell what
our temptations are. Louisa has strength, but I feel I have none; and
though, dear, for your true interest, I would indeed sacrifice myself--
I would, Van! I would!--it is not good for you to stay,--I know it is
not. For you have Papa's sense of honour--and oh! if you should learn
to despise me, my dear brother!'
She kissed him; her nerves were agitated by strong mental excitement.
He attributed it to her recent attack of illness, but could not help
asking, while he caressed her:
'What's that? Despise you?'
It may have been that Caroline felt then, that to speak of something was
to forfeit something. A light glimmered across the dewy blue of her
beautiful eyes. Desire to breathe it to him, and have his loving aid:
the fear of forfeiting it, evil as it was to her, and at the bottom of
all, that doubt we choose to encourage of the harm in a pleasant sin
unaccomplished; these might be read in the rich dim gleam that swept like
sunlight over sea-water between breaks of clouds.
'Dear Van! do you love her so much?'
Caroline knew too well that she was shutting her own theme with iron
clasps when she once touched on Evan's.
Love her? Love Rose? It became an endless carol with Evan. Caroline
sighed for him from her heart.
'You know--you understand me; don't you?' he said, after a breathless
excursion of his fancy.
'I believe you love her, dear. I think I have never loved any one but my
His love for Rose he could pour out to Caroline; when it came to Rose's
love for him his blood thickened, and his tongue felt guilty. He must
speak to her, he said,--tell her all.
'Yes, tell her all,' echoed Caroline. 'Do, do tell her. Trust a woman
utterly if she loves you, dear. Go to her instantly.'
'Could you bear it?' said Evan. He began to think it was for the sake of
his sisters that he had hesitated.
'Bear it? bear anything rather than perpetual imposture. What have I
not borne? Tell her, and then, if she is cold to you, let us go. Let us
go. I shall be glad to. Ah, Van! I love you so.' Caroline's voice
deepened. 'I love you so, my dear. You won't let your new love drive me
out? Shall you always love me?'
Of that she might be sure, whatever happened.
'Should you love me, Van, if evil befel me?'
Thrice as well, he swore to her.
'But if I--if I, Van Oh! my life is intolerable! Supposing I should
ever disgrace you in any way, and not turn out all you fancied me. I am
very weak and unhappy.'
Evan kissed her confidently, with a warm smile. He said a few words of
the great faith he had in her: words that were bitter comfort to
Caroline. This brother, who might save her, to him she dared not speak.
Did she wish to be saved? She only knew that to wound Evan's sense of
honour and the high and chivalrous veneration for her sex and pride in
himself and those of his blood, would be wicked and unpardonable, and
that no earthly pleasure could drown it. Thinking this, with her hands
joined in pale dejection, Caroline sat silent, and Evan left her to lay
bare his heart to Rose. On his way to find Rose he was stopped by the
announcement of the arrival of Mr. Raikes, who thrust a bundle of notes
into his hand, and after speaking loudly of 'his curricle,' retired on
important business, as he said, with a mysterious air. 'I 'm beaten in
many things, but not in the article Luck,' he remarked; 'you will hear of
me, though hardly as a tutor in this academy.'
Scanning the bundle of notes, without a reflection beyond the thought
that money was in his hand; and wondering at the apparition of the
curricle, Evan was joined by Harry Jocelyn, and Harry linked his arm in
Evan's and plunged with extraordinary spontaneity and candour into the
state of his money affairs. What the deuce he was to do for money he did
not know. From the impressive manner in which he put it, it appeared to
be one of Nature's great problems that the whole human race were bound to
set their heads together to solve. A hundred pounds--Harry wanted no
more, and he could not get it. His uncles? they were as poor as rats;
and all the spare money they could club was going for Mel's Election
expenses. A hundred and fifty was what Harry really wanted; but he could
do with a hundred. Ferdinand, who had plenty, would not even lend him
fifty. Ferdinand had dared to hint at a debt already unsettled, and he
called himself a gentleman!
'You wouldn't speak of money-matters now, would you, Harrington?'
'I dislike the subject, I confess,' said Evan.
'And so do I' Harry jumped at the perfect similarity between them. 'You
can't think how it bothers one to have to talk about it. You and I are
Evan might naturally suppose that a subject Harry detested, he would not
continue, but for a whole hour Harry turned it over and over with grim
glances at Jewry.
'You see,' he wound up, 'I'm in a fix. I want to help that poor girl,
and one or two things--'
'It 's for that you want it?' cried Evan, brightening to him. 'Accept it
It is a thing familiar to the experience of money-borrowers, that your
'last chance' is the man who is to accommodate you; but we are always
astonished, nevertheless; and Harry was, when notes to the amount of the
largest sum named by him were placed in his hand by one whom he looked
upon as the last to lend.
'What a trump you are, Harrington!' was all he could say; and then he was
for hurrying Evan into the house, to find pen and paper, and write down a
memorandum of the loan: but Evan insisted upon sparing him the trouble,
though Harry, with the admirable scruples of an inveterate borrower,
begged hard to be allowed to bind himself legally to repay the money.
''Pon my soul, Harrington, you make me remember I once doubted whether you
were one of us--rather your own fault, you know!' said Harry. 'Bury
that, won't you?'
''Till your doubts recur,' Evan observed; and Harry burst out, 'Gad, if
you weren't such a melancholy beggar, you'd be the jolliest fellow I
know! There, go after Rosey. Dashed if I don't think you're ahead of
Ferdinand, long chalks. Your style does for girls. I like women.'
With a chuckle and a wink, Harry swung-off. Evan had now to reflect that
he had just thrown away part of the price of his bondage to Tailordom;
the mention of Rose filled his mind. Where was she? Both were seeking
one another. Rose was in the cypress walk. He saw the star-like figure
up the length of it, between the swelling tall dark pillars, and was
hurrying to her, resolute not to let one minute of deception blacken
further the soul that loved so true a soul. She saw him, and stood
smiling, when the Countess issued, shadow-like, from a side path, and
declared that she must claim her brother for a few instants. Would her
sweet Rose pardon her? Rose bowed coolly. The hearts of the lovers were
chilled, not that they perceived any malice in the Countess, but their
keen instincts felt an evil fate.
The Countess had but to tell Evan that she had met the insolvent in
apples, and recognized him under his change of fortune, and had no doubt
that at least he would amuse the company. Then she asked her brother the
superfluous question, whether he loved her, which Evan answered
satisfactorily enough, as he thought; but practical ladies require
'Quick,' said Evan, seeing Rose vanish, 'what do you want? I'll do
'Anything? Ah, but this will be disagreeable to you.'
'Name it at once. I promise beforehand.'
The Countess wanted Evan to ask Andrew to be the very best brother-in-law
in the world, and win, unknown to himself, her cheerful thanks, by
lending Evan to lend to her the sum of one hundred pounds, as she was in
absolute distress for money.
'Really, Louisa, this is a thing you might ask him yourself,' Evan
'It would not become me to do so, dear,' said the Countess, demurely; and
inasmuch as she had already drawn on Andrew in her own person pretty
largely, her views of propriety were correct in this instance.
Evan had to consent before he could be released. He ran to the end of
the walk through the portal, into the park. Rose was not to be seen.
She had gone in to dress for dinner. The opportunity might recur, but
would his courage come with it? His courage had sunk on a sudden; or it
may have been that it was worst for this young man to ask for a loan of
money, than to tell his beloved that he was basely born, vile, and
unworthy, and had snared her into loving him; for when he and Andrew were
together, money was not alluded to. Andrew, however, betrayed remarkable
discomposure. He said plainly that he wanted to leave Beckley Court, and
wondered why he didn't leave, and whether he was on his head or his feet,
and how he had been such a fool as to come.
'Do you mean that for me?' said sensitive Evan.
'Oh, you! You're a young buck,' returned Andrew, evasively.
'We common-place business men-we 're out of our element; and there's poor
Carry can't sit down to their dinners without an upset. I thank God I'm
a Radical, Van; one man's the same as another to me, how he's born, as
long as he's honest and agreeable. But a chap like that George Uplift to
look down on anybody! 'Gad, I've a good mind to bring in a Bill for the
Abolition of the Squirearchy.'
Ultimately, Andrew somehow contrived to stick a hint or two about the
terrible dinner in Evan's quivering flesh. He did it as delicately as
possible, half begging pardon, and perspiring profusely. Evan grasped
his hand, and thanked him. Caroline's illness was now explained to him.
'I'll take Caroline with me to-morrow,' he said. 'Louisa wishes to stay
--there 's a pic-nic. Will you look to her, and bring her with you?'
'My dear Van,' replied Andrew, 'stop with Louisa? Now, in confidence,
it's as bad as a couple of wives; no disrespect to my excellent good
Harry at home; but Louisa--I don't know how it is--but Louisa, you lose
your head, you're in a whirl, you're an automaton, a teetotum! I haven't
a notion of what I've been doing or saying since I came here. My belief
is, I 've been lying right and left. I shall be found out to a
certainty: Oh! if she's made her mind up for the pic-nic, somebody must
stop. I can only tell you, Van, it's one perpetual vapour-bath to me.
There 'll be room for two in my trousers when I get back. I shall have
to get the tailor to take them in a full half.'
Here occurred an opening for one of those acrid pleasantries which
console us when there is horrid warfare within.
'You must give me the work,' said Evan, partly pleased with his hated
self for being able to jest on the subject, as a piece of preliminary
'Aha!' went Andrew, as if the joke were too good to be dwelt on; 'Hem';
and by way of diverting from it cleverly and naturally, he remarked that
the weather was fine. This made Evan allude to his letter written from
Lymport, upon which Andrew said: 'tush! pish! humbug! nonsense! won't
hear a word. Don't know anything about it. Van, you're going to be a
brewer. I say you are. You're afraid you can't? I tell you, sir, I've
got a bet on it. You're not going to make me lose, are you--eh? I have,
and a stiff bet, too. You must and shall, so there's an end. Only we
can't make arrangements just yet, my boy. Old Tom--very good old fellow
--but, you know--must get old Tom out of the way, first. Now go and
dress for dinner. And Lord preserve us from the Great Mel to-day!'
Andrew mumbled as he turned away.
Evan could not reach his chamber without being waylaid by the Countess.
Had he remembered the sister who sacrificed so much for him? 'There,
there!' cried Evan, and her hand closed on the delicious golden whispers
of bank-notes. And, 'Oh, generous Andrew! dear good Evan!' were the
exclamations of the gratified lady.
There remained nearly another hundred. Evan laid out the notes, and eyed
them while dressing. They seemed to say to him, 'We have you now.' He
was clutched by a beneficent or a most malignant magician. The former
seemed due to him, considering the cloud on his fortunes. This enigma
might mean, that by submitting to a temporary humiliation, for a trial of
him--in fact, by his acknowledgement of the fact, loathed though it was,
--he won a secret overlooker's esteem, gained a powerful ally. Here was
the proof, he held the proof. He had read Arabian Tales and could
believe in marvels; especially could he believe in the friendliness of a
magical thing that astounded without hurting him.
He, sat down in his room at night and wrote a fairly manful letter to
Rose; and it is to be said of the wretch he then saw himself, that he
pardoned her for turning from so vile a pretender. He heard a step in
the passage. It was Polly Wheedle. Polly had put her young mistress to
bed, and was retiring to her own slumbers. He made her take the letter
and promise to deliver it immediately. Would not to-morrow morning do,
she asked, as Miss Rose was very sleepy. He seemed to hesitate--he was
picturing how Rose looked when very sleepy. Why should he surrender this
darling? And subtler question--why should he make her unhappy? Why
disturb her at all in her sweet sleep?
'Well,' said Evan. 'To-morrow will do.--No, take it to-night, for God's
sake!' he cried, as one who bursts the spell of an opiate. 'Go at once.'
The temptation had almost overcome him.
Polly thought his proceedings queer. And what could the letter contain?
A declaration, of course. She walked slowly along the passage,
meditating on love, and remotely on its slave, Mr. Nicholas Frim.
Nicholas had never written her a letter; but she was determined that he
should, some day. She wondered what love-letters were like? Like
valentines without the Cupids. Practical valentines, one might say. Not
vapoury and wild, but hot and to the point. Delightful things! No harm
in peeping at a love-letter, if you do it with the eye of a friend.
Polly spelt just a word when a door opened at her elbow. She dropped her
candle and curtsied to the Countess's voice. The Countess desired her to
enter, and all in a tremble Polly crept in. Her air of guilt made the
Countess thrill. She had merely called her in to extract daily gossip.
The corner of the letter sticking up under Polly's neck attracted her
strangely, and beginning with the familiar, 'Well, child,' she talked of
things interesting to Polly, and then exhibited the pic-nic dress. It
was a lovely half-mourning; airy sorrows, gauzy griefs, you might imagine
to constitute the wearer. White delicately striped, exquisitely trimmed,
and of a stuff to make the feminine mouth water!
Could Polly refuse to try it on, when the flattering proposal met her
ears? Blushing, shame-faced, adoring the lady who made her look
adorable, Polly tried it on, and the Countess complimented her, and made
a doll of her, and turned her this way and that way, and intoxicated her.
'A rich husband, Polly, child! and you are a lady ready made.'
Infamous poison to poor Polly; but as the thunder destroys small insects,
exalted schemers are to be excused for riding down their few thousands.
Moreover, the Countess really looked upon domestics as being only half-
Dressed in her own attire again, Polly felt in her pockets, and at her
bosom, and sang out: 'Oh, my--Oh, where! Oh!'
The letter was lost. The letter could not be found. The Countess grew
extremely fatigued, and had to dismiss Polly, in spite of her eager
petitions to be allowed to search under the carpets and inside the bed.
In the morning came Evan's great trial. There stood Rose. She turned to
him, and her eyes were happy and unclouded.
'You are not changed?' he said.
'Changed? what could change me?'
The God of true hearts bless her! He could hardly believe it.
'You are the Rose I knew yesterday?'
'Yes, Evan. But you--you look as if you had not slept.'
'You will not leave me this morning, before I go, Rose? Oh, my darling!
this that you do for me is the work of an angel-nothing less! I have
been a coward. And my beloved! to feel vile is agony to me--it makes me
feel unworthy of the hand I press. Now all is clear between us. I go: I
Rose repeated his last words, and then added hurriedly:
'All is clear between us? Shall I speak to Mama this morning? Dear
Evan! it will be right that I should.'
For the moment he could not understand why, but supposing a scrupulous
honesty in her, said: 'Yes, tell Lady Jocelyn all.'
'And then, Evan, you will never need to go.'
They separated. The deep-toned sentence sang in Evan's heart. Rose and
her mother were of one stamp. And Rose might speak for her mother. To
take the hands of such a pair and be lifted out of the slough, he thought
no shame: and all through the hours of the morning the image of two
angels stooping to touch a leper, pressed on his brain like a reality,
and went divinely through his blood.
Toward mid-day Rose beckoned to him, and led him out across the lawn into
the park, and along the borders of the stream.
'Evan,' she said, 'shall I really speak to Mama?'
'You have not yet?' he answered.
'No. I have been with Juliana and with Drummond. Look at this, Evan.'
She showed a small black speck in the palm of her hand, which turned out,
on your viewing it closely, to be a brand of the letter L. 'Mama did
that when I was a little girl, because I told lies. I never could
distinguish between truth and falsehood; and Mama set that mark on me,
and I have never told a lie since. She forgives anything but that. She
will be our friend; she will never forsake us, Evan, if we do not deceive
her. Oh, Evan! it never is of any use. But deceive her, and she cannot
forgive you. It is not in her nature.'
Evan paused before he replied: 'You have only to tell her what I have
told you. You know everything.'
Rose gave him a flying look of pain: 'Everything, Evan? What do I know?'
'Ah, Rose! do you compel me to repeat it?'
Bewildered, Rose thought: 'Have I slept and forgotten it?'
He saw the persistent grieved interrogation of her eyebrows.
'Well!' she sighed resignedly: 'I am yours; you know that, Evan.'
But he was a lover, and quarrelled with her sigh.
'It may well make you sad now, Rose.'
'Sad? no, that does not make me sad. No; but my hands are tied.
I cannot defend you or justify myself; and induce Mama to stand by us.
Oh, Evan! you love me! why can you not open your heart to me entirely,
and trust me?'
'More?' cried Evan: 'Can I trust you more?' He spoke of the letter: Rose
caught his hand.
'I never had it, Evan. You wrote it last night? and all was written in
it? I never saw it--but I know all.'
Their eyes fronted. The gates of Rose's were wide open, and he saw no
hurtful beasts or lurking snakes in the happy garden within, but Love,
like a fixed star.
'Then you know why I must leave, Rose.'
'Leave? Leave me? On the contrary, you must stay by me, and support me.
Why, Evan, we have to fight a battle.'
Much as he worshipped her, this intrepid directness of soul startled him-
almost humbled him. And her eyes shone with a firm cheerful light, as
she exclaimed: 'It makes me so happy to think you were the first to
mention this. You meant to be, and that's the same thing. I heard it
this morning: you wrote it last night. It's you I love, Evan. Your
birth, and what you were obliged to do--that's nothing. Of course I'm
sorry for it, dear. But I'm more sorry for the pain I must have
sometimes put you to. It happened through my mother's father being a
merchant; and that side of the family the men and women are quite sordid
and unendurable; and that's how it came that I spoke of disliking
tradesmen. I little thought I should ever love one sprung from that
She turned to him tenderly.
'And in spite of what my birth is, you love me, Rose?'
'There's no spite in it, Evan. I do.'
Hard for him, while his heart was melting to caress her, the thought that
he had snared this bird of heaven in a net! Rose gave him no time for
reflection, or the moony imagining of their raptures lovers love to dwell
'You gave the letter to Polly, of course?'
'Oh, naughty Polly! I must punish you,' Rose apostrophized her. 'You
might have divided us for ever. Well, we shall have to fight a battle,
you understand that. Will you stand by me?'
Would he not risk his soul for her?
'Very well, Evan. Then--but don't be sensitive. Oh, how sensitive you
are! I see it all now. This is what we shall have to do. We shall have
to speak to Mama to-day--this morning. Drummond has told me he is going
to speak to her, and we must be first. That 's decided. I begged a
couple of hours. You must not be offended with Drummond. He does it out
of pure affection for us, and I can see he's right--or, at least, not
quite wrong. He ought, I think, to know that he cannot change me. Very
well, we shall win Mama by what we do. My mother has ten times my wits,
and yet I manage her like a feather. I have only to be honest and
straightforward. Then Mama will gain over Papa. Papa, of course, won't
like it. He's quiet and easy, but he likes blood, but he also likes
peace better; and I think he loves Rosey--as well as somebody--almost?
Look, dear, there is our seat where we--where you would rob me of my
handkerchief. I can't talk any more.'
Rose had suddenly fallen from her prattle, soft and short-breathed.
'Then, dear,' she went on, 'we shall have to fight the family. Aunt
Shorne will be terrible. My poor uncles! I pity them. But they will
come round. They always have thought what I did was right, and why
should they change their minds now? I shall tell them that at their time
of life a change of any kind is very unwise and bad for them. Then there
is Grandmama Bonner. She can hurt us really, if she pleases. Oh, my
dear Evan! if you had only been a curate! Why isn't your name Parsley?
Then my Grandmama the Countess of Elburne. Well, we have a Countess on
our side, haven't we? And that reminds me, Evan, if we're to be happy
and succeed, you must promise one thing: you will not tell the Countess,
your sister. Don't confide this to her. Will you promise?'
Evan assured her he was not in the habit of pouring secrets into any
bosom, the Countess's as little as another's.
'Very well, then, Evan, it's unpleasant while it lasts, but we shall gain
the day. Uncle Melville will give you an appointment, and then?'
'Yes, Rose,' he said, 'I will do this, though I don't think you can know
what I shall have to endure-not in confessing what I am, but in feeling
that I have brought you to my level.'
'Does it not raise me?' she cried.
He shook his head.
'But in reality, Evan--apart from mere appearances--in reality it does!
'Men will not think so, Rose, nor can I. Oh, my Rose! how different you
make me. Up to this hour I have been so weak! torn two ways! You give
me double strength.'
Then these lovers talked of distant days--compared their feelings on this
and that occasion with mutual wonder and delight. Then the old hours
lived anew. And--did you really think that, Evan? And--Oh, Rose! was
that your dream? And the meaning of that by-gone look: was it what they
fancied? And such and such a tone of voice; would it bear the wished
interpretation? Thus does Love avenge himself on the unsatisfactory Past
and call out its essence.
Could Evan do less than adore her? She knew all, and she loved him!
Since he was too shy to allude more than once to his letter, it was
natural that he should not ask her how she came to know, and how much the
'all' that she knew comprised. In his letter he had told all; the
condition of his parents, and his own. Honestly, now, what with his
dazzled state of mind, his deep inward happiness, and love's endless
delusions, he abstained from touching the subject further. Honestly,
therefore, as far as a lover can be honest.
So they toyed, and then Rose, setting her fingers loose, whispered: 'Are
you ready?' And Evan nodded; and Rose, to make him think light of the
matter in hand, laughed: 'Pluck not quite up yet?'
'Quite, my Rose!' said Evan, and they walked to the house, not quite
knowing what they were going to do.
On the steps they met Drummond with Mrs. Evremonde. Little imagining how
heart and heart the two had grown, and that Evan would understand him,
Drummond called to Rose playfully: 'Time's up.'
'Is it?' Rose answered, and to Mrs. Evremonde
'Give Drummond a walk. Poor Drummond is going silly.'
Evan looked into his eyes calmly as he passed.
'Where are you going, Rose?' said Mrs. Evremonde.
'Going to give my maid Polly a whipping for losing a letter she ought to
have delivered to me last night,' said Rose, in a loud voice, looking at
Drummond. 'And then going to Mama. Pleasure first--duty after. Isn't
that the proverb, Drummond?'
She kissed her fingers rather scornfully to her old friend.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Admirable scruples of an inveterate borrower
An obedient creature enough where he must be
Bound to assure everybody at table he was perfectly happy
Confident serenity inspired by evil prognostications
Enamoured young men have these notions
Gossip always has some solid foundation, however small
He kept saying to himself, 'to-morrow I will tell'
I always wait for a thing to happen first
I never see anything, my dear
Love is a contagious disease
Never to despise the good opinion of the nonentities
One seed of a piece of folly will lurk and sprout to confound us
Secrets throw on the outsiders the onus of raising a scandal
She did not detest the Countess because she could not like her
Thus does Love avenge himself on the unsatisfactory Past
Touching a nerve
Unfeminine of any woman to speak continuously anywhere
Vulgarity in others evoked vulgarity in her
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXVI. MRS. MEL MAKES A BED FOR HERSELF AND FAMILY
XXVII. EXHIBITS ROSE'S GENERALSHIP; EVAN'S PERFORMANCE ON THE SECOND
FIDDLE; AND THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THE COUNTESS
XXVIII. TOM COGGLESBY'S PROPOSITION
XXIX. PRELUDE TO AN ENGAGEMENT
XXX. THE BATTLE OF THE BULL-DOGS. PART I.
XXXI. THE BATTLE OF THE BULL-DOGS. PART II.
MRS. MEL MAKES A BED FOR HERSELF AND FAMILY
The last person thought of by her children at this period was Mrs. Mel:
nor had she been thinking much of them till a letter from Mr. Goren
arrived one day, which caused her to pass them seriously in review.
Always an early bird, and with maxims of her own on the subject of rising
and getting the worm, she was standing in a small perch in the corner of
the shop, dictating accounts to Mrs. Fiske, who was copying hurriedly,
that she might earn sweet intervals for gossip, when Dandy limped up and
delivered the letter. Mrs. Fiske worked hard while her aunt was occupied
in reading it, for a great deal of fresh talk follows the advent of the
post, and may be reckoned on. Without looking up, however, she could
tell presently that the letter had been read through. Such being the
case, and no conversation coming of it, her curiosity was violent. Her
aunt's face, too, was an index of something extraordinary. That
inflexible woman, instead of alluding to the letter in any way, folded it
up, and renewed her dictation. It became a contest between them which
should show her human nature first. Mrs. Mel had to repress what she
knew; Mrs. Fiske to control the passion for intelligence. The close
neighbourhood of one anxious to receive, and one capable of giving, waxed
too much for both.
'I think, Anne, you are stupid this morning,' said Mrs. Mel.
'Well, I am, aunt,' said Mrs. Fiske, pretending not to see which was the
first to unbend, 'I don't know what it is. The figures seem all dazzled
like. I shall really be glad when Evan comes to take his proper place.'
'Ah!' went Mrs. Mel, and Mrs. Fiske heard her muttering. Then she cried
out: 'Are Harriet and Caroline as great liars as Louisa?'
Mrs. Fiske grimaced. 'That would be difficult, would it not, aunt?'
'And I have been telling everybody that my son is in town learning his
business, when he's idling at a country house, and trying to play his
father over again! Upon my word, what with liars and fools, if you go to
sleep a minute you have a month's work on your back.'
'What is it, aunt?' Mrs. Fiske feebly inquired.
'A gentleman, I suppose! He wouldn't take an order if it was offered.
Upon my word, when tailors think of winning heiresses it's time we went
back to Adam and Eve.'
'Do you mean Evan, aunt?' interposed Mrs. Fiske, who probably did not see
the turns in her aunt's mind.
'There--read for yourself,' said Mrs. Mel, and left her with the letter.
Mrs. Fiske read that Mr. Goren had been astonished at Evan's non-
appearance, and at his total silence; which he did not consider
altogether gentlemanly behaviour, and certainly not such as his father
would have practised. Mr. Goren regretted his absence the more as he
would have found him useful in a remarkable invention he was about to
patent, being a peculiar red cross upon shirts--a fortune to the
patentee; but as Mr. Goren had no natural heirs of his body, he did not
care for that. What affected him painfully was the news of Evan's doings
at a noble house, Beckley Court, to wit, where, according to the report
of a rich young gentleman friend, Mr. Raikes (for whose custom Mr. Goren
was bound to thank Evan), the youth who should have been learning the
science of Tailoring, had actually passed himself off as a lord, or the
son of one, or something of the kind, and had got engaged to a wealthy
heiress, and would, no doubt, marry her if not found out. Where the
chances of detection were so numerous, Mr. Goren saw much to condemn in
the idea of such a marriage. But 'like father like son,' said Mr. Goren.
He thanked the Lord that an honest tradesman was not looked down upon in
this country; and, in fact, gave Mrs. Mel a few quiet digs to waken her
remorse in having missed the man that he was.
When Mrs. Fiske met her aunt again she returned her the letter, and
simply remarked: 'Louisa.'
Mrs. Mel nodded. She understood the implication.
The General who had schemed so successfully to gain Evan time at Beckley
Court in his own despite and against a hundred obstructions, had now
another enemy in the field, and one who, if she could not undo her work,
could punish her. By the afternoon coach, Mrs. Mel, accompanied by Dandy
her squire, was journeying to Fallow field, bent upon things. The
faithful squire was kept by her side rather as a security for others than
for, his particular services. Dandy's arms were crossed, and his
countenance was gloomy. He had been promised a holiday that afternoon to
give his mistress, Sally, Kilne's cook, an airing, and Dandy knew in his
soul that Sally, when she once made up her mind to an excursion, would
go, and would not go alone, and that her very force of will endangered
her constancy. He had begged humbly to be allowed to stay, but Mrs. Mel
could not trust him. She ought to have told him so, perhaps.
Explanations were not approved of by this well-intended despot, and
however beneficial her resolves might turn out for all parties, it was
natural that in the interim the children of her rule should revolt, and
Dandy, picturing his Sally flaunting on the arm of some accursed low
marine, haply, kicked against Mrs. Mel's sovereignty, though all that he
did was to shoot out his fist from time to time, and grunt through his
set teeth: 'Iron!' to express the character of her awful rule.
Mrs. Mel alighted at the Dolphin, the landlady of which was a Mrs.
Hawkshaw, a rival of Mrs. Sockley of the Green Dragon. She was welcomed
by Mrs. Hawkshaw with considerable respect. The great Mel had sometimes
slept at the Dolphin.
'Ah, that black!' she sighed, indicating Mrs. Mel's dress and the story
'I can't give you his room, my dear Mrs. Harrington, wishing I could!
I'm sorry to say it's occupied, for all I ought to be glad, I dare say,
for he's an old gentleman who does you a good turn, if you study him.
But there! I'd rather have had poor dear Mr. Harrington in my best bed
than old or young--Princes or nobodies, I would--he was that grand and
Mrs. Mel had her tea in Mrs. Hawkshaw's parlour, and was entertained
about her husband up to the hour of supper, when a short step and a
querulous voice were heard in the passage, and an old gentleman appeared
'Who's to carry up my trunk, ma'am? No man here?'
Mrs. Hawkshaw bustled out and tried to lay her hand on a man. Failing to
find the growth spontaneous, she returned and begged the old gentleman to
wait a few moments and the trunk would be sent up.
'Parcel o' women!' was his reply. 'Regularly bedevilled. Gets worse and
worse. I 'll carry it up myself.'
With a wheezy effort he persuaded the trunk to stand on one end, and then
looked at it. The exertion made him hot, which may account for the rage
he burst into when Mrs. Hawkshaw began flutteringly to apologize.
'You're sure, ma'am, sure--what are you sure of? I'll tell you what I am
sure of--eh? This keeping clear of men's a damned pretence. You don't
impose upon me. Don't believe in your pothouse nunneries--not a bit.
Just like you! when you are virtuous it's deuced inconvenient. Let one
of the maids try? No. Don't believe in 'em.'
Having thus relieved his spleen the old gentleman addressed himself to
further efforts and waxed hotter. He managed to tilt the trunk over, and
thus gained a length, and by this method of progression arrived at the
foot of the stairs, where he halted, and wiped his face, blowing lustily.
Mrs. Mel had been watching him with calm scorn all the while. She saw
him attempt most ridiculously to impel the trunk upwards by a similar
process, and thought it time to interfere.
'Don't you see you must either take it on your shoulders, or have a
The old gentleman sprang up from his peculiarly tight posture to blaze
round at her. He had the words well-peppered on his mouth, but somehow
he stopped, and was subsequently content to growl: 'Where 's the help in
a parcel of petticoats?'
Mrs. Mel did not consider it necessary to give him an answer. She went
up two or three steps, and took hold of one handle of the trunk, saying:
'There; I think it can be managed this way,' and she pointed for him to
seize the other end with his hand.
He was now in that unpleasant state of prickly heat when testy old
gentlemen could commit slaughter with ecstasy. Had it been the maid
holding a candle who had dared to advise, he would have overturned her
undoubtedly, and established a fresh instance of the impertinence, the
uselessness and weakness of women. Mrs. Mel topped him by half a head,
and in addition stood three steps above him; towering like a giantess.
The extreme gravity of her large face dispersed all idea of an assault.
The old gentleman showed signs of being horribly injured: nevertheless,
he put his hand to the trunk; it was lifted, and the procession ascended
the stairs in silence.
The landlady waited for Mrs. Mel to return, and then said:
'Really, Mrs. Harrington, you are clever. That lifting that trunk's as
good as a lock and bolt on him. You've as good as made him a Dolphin--
him that was one o' the oldest Green Dragons in Fallifield. My thanks to
you most sincere.'
Mrs. Mel sent out to hear where Dandy had got to after which, she said:
'Who is the man?'
'I told you, Mrs. Harrington--the oldest Green Dragon. His name, you
mean? Do you know, if I was to breathe it out, I believe he'd jump out
of the window. He 'd be off, that you might swear to. Oh, such a
whimsical! not ill-meaning--quite the contrary. Study his whims, and
you'll never want. There's Mrs. Sockley--she 's took ill. He won't go
there--that 's how I've caught him, my dear--but he pays her medicine,
and she looks to him the same. He hate a sick house: but he pity a sick
woman. Now, if I can only please him, I can always look on him as half a
Dolphin, to say the least; and perhaps to-morrow I'll tell you who he is,
and what, but not to-night; for there's his supper to get over, and that,
they say, can be as bad as the busting of one of his own vats. Awful!'
'What does he eat?' said Mrs. Mel.
'A pair o' chops. That seem simple, now, don't it? And yet they chops
make my heart go pitty-pat.'
'The commonest things are the worst done,' said Mrs. Mel.
'It ain't that; but they must be done his particular way, do you see,
Mrs. Harrington. Laid close on the fire, he say, so as to keep in the
juice. But he ups and bounces in a minute at a speck o' black. So, one
thing or the other, there you are: no blacks, no juices, I say.'
'Toast the chops,' said Mrs. Mel.
The landlady of the Dolphin accepted this new idea with much
enlightenment, but ruefully declared that she was afraid to go against
his precise instructions. Mrs. Mel then folded her hands, and sat in
quiet reserve. She was one of those numerous women who always know
themselves to be right. She was also one of those very few whom
Providence favours by confounding dissentients. She was positive the
chops would be ill-cooked: but what could she do? She was not in command
here; so she waited serenely for the certain disasters to enthrone her.
Not that the matter of the chops occupied her mind particularly: nor
could she dream that the pair in question were destined to form a part
of her history, and divert the channel of her fortunes. Her thoughts
were about her own immediate work; and when the landlady rushed in with
the chops under a cover, and said: 'Look at 'em, dear Mrs. Harrington!'
she had forgotten that she was again to be proved right by the turn of
'Oh, the chops!' she responded. 'Send them while they are hot.'
'Send 'em! Why you don't think I'd have risked their cooling? I have
sent 'em; and what do he do but send 'em travelling back, and here they
be; and what objections his is I might study till I was blind, and I
shouldn't see 'em.'
'No; I suppose not,' said Mrs. Mel. 'He won't eat 'em?'
'Won't eat anything: but his bed-room candle immediately. And whether
his sheets are aired. And Mary says he sniffed at the chops; and that
gal really did expect he 'd fling them at her. I told you what he was.
The bell was heard ringing in the midst of the landlady's lamentations.
'Go to him yourself,' said Mrs. Mel. 'No Christian man should go to
sleep without his supper.'
'Ah! but he ain't a common Christian,' returned Mrs. Hawkshaw.
The old gentleman was in a hurry to know when his bed-room candle was
coming up, or whether they intended to give him one at all that night;
if not, let them say so, as he liked plain-speaking. The moment Mrs.
Hawkshaw touched upon the chops, he stopped her mouth.
'Go about your business, ma'am. You can't cook 'em. I never expected
you could: I was a fool to try you. It requires at least ten years'
instruction before a man can get a woman to cook his chop as he likes
'But what was your complaint, sir?' said Mrs. Hawkshaw, imploringly.
'That's right!' and he rubbed his hands, and brightened his eyes
savagely. 'That's the way. Opportunity for gossip! Thing's well done
--down it goes: you know that. You can't have a word over it--eh?
Thing's done fit to toss on a dungheap, aha! Then there's a cackle! My
belief is, you do it on purpose. Can't be such rank idiots. You do it
on purpose. All done for gossip!'
'Oh, sir, no!' The landlady half curtsied.
'Oh, ma'am, yes!' The old gentleman bobbed his head.
'No, indeed, sir!' The landlady shook hers.
'Damn it, ma'am, I swear you do.'
Symptoms of wrath here accompanied the declaration; and, with a sigh and
a very bitter feeling, Mrs. Hawkshaw allowed him to have the last word.
Apparently this--which I must beg to call the lady's morsel--comforted
his irascible system somewhat; for he remained in a state of composure
eight minutes by the clock. And mark how little things hang together.
Another word from the landlady, precipitating a retort from him, and a
gesture or muttering from her; and from him a snapping outburst, and from
her a sign that she held out still; in fact, had she chosen to battle for
that last word, as in other cases she might have done, then would he have
exploded, gone to bed in the dark, and insisted upon sleeping: the
consequence of which would have been to change this history. Now while
Mrs. Hawkshaw was upstairs, Mrs. Mel called the servant, who took her to
the kitchen, where she saw a prime loin of mutton; off which she cut two
chops with a cunning hand: and these she toasted at a gradual distance,
putting a plate beneath them, and a tin behind, and hanging the chops
so that they would turn without having to be pierced. The bell rang
twice before she could say the chops were ready. The first time, the
maid had to tell the old gentleman she was taking up his water. Her next
excuse was, that she had dropped her candle. The chops ready--who was to
'Really, Mrs. Harrington, you are so clever, you ought, if I might be so
bold as say so; you ought to end it yourself,' said the landlady. 'I
can't ask him to eat them: he was all but on the busting point when I
'And that there candle did for him quite,' said Mary, the maid.
'I'm afraid it's chops cooked for nothing,' added the landlady.
Mrs. Mel saw them endangered. The maid held back: the landlady feared.
'We can but try,' she said.
'Oh! I wish, mum, you'd face him, 'stead o' me,' said Mary; 'I do dread
that old bear's den.'
'Here, I will go,' said Mrs. Mel. 'Has he got his ale? Better draw it
fresh, if he drinks any.'
And upstairs she marched, the landlady remaining below to listen for the
commencement of the disturbance. An utterance of something certainly
followed Mrs. Mel's entrance into the old bear's den. Then silence.
Then what might have been question and answer. Then--was Mrs. Mel
assaulted? and which was knocked down? It really was a chair being
moved to the table. The door opened.
'Yes, ma'am; do what you like,' the landlady heard. Mrs. Mel descended,
saying: 'Send him up some fresh ale.'
'And you have made him sit down obedient to those chops?' cried the
landlady. 'Well might poor dear Mr. Harrington--pleasant man as he was!
--say, as he used to say, "There's lovely women in the world, Mrs.
Hawkshaw," he'd say, "and there's Duchesses," he'd say, "and there's they
that can sing, and can dance, and some," he says, "that can cook." But
he'd look sly as he'd stoop his head and shake it. "Roll 'em into one,"
he says, "and not any of your grand ladies can match my wife at home."
And, indeed, Mrs. Harrington, he told me he thought so many a time in the
great company he frequented.'
Perfect peace reigning above, Mrs. Hawkshaw and Mrs. Mel sat down to
supper below; and Mrs. Hawkshaw talked much of the great one gone. His
relict did not care to converse about the dead, save in their practical
aspect as ghosts; but she listened, and that passed the time. By-and-by,
the old gentleman rang, and sent a civil message to know if the landlady
had ship's rum in the house.
'Dear! here's another trouble,' cried the poor woman. 'No--none!'
'Say, yes,' said Mrs. Mel, and called Dandy, and charged him to run down
the street to the square, and ask for the house of Mr. Coxwell, the
maltster, and beg of him, in her name, a bottle of his ship's rum.
'And don't you tumble down and break the bottle, Dandy. Accidents with
spirit-bottles are not excused.'
Dandy went on the errand, after an energetic grunt.
In due time he returned with the bottle, whole and sound, and Mr.
Coxwell's compliments. Mrs. Mel examined the cork to see that no process
of suction had been attempted, and then said:
'Carry it up to him, Dandy. Let him see there's a man in the house
'Why, my dear,' the landlady turned to her, 'it seems natural to you to
be mistress where you go. I don't at all mind, for ain't it my profit?
But you do take us off our legs.'
Then the landlady, warmed by gratitude, told her that the old gentleman
was the great London brewer, who brewed there with his brother, and
brewed for himself five miles out of Fallow field, half of which and a
good part of the neighbourhood he owned, and his name was Mr. Tom
'Oh!' said Mrs. Mel. 'And his brother is Mr. Andrew.'
'That 's it,' said the landlady. 'And because he took it into his head
to go and to choose for himself, and be married, no getting his brother,
Mr. Tom, to speak to him. Why not, indeed? If there's to be no
marrying, the sooner we lay down and give up, the better, I think. But
that 's his way. He do hate us women, Mrs. Harrington. I have heard he
was crossed. Some say it was the lady of Beckley Court, who was a
Beauty, when he was only a poor cobbler's son.'
Mrs. Mel breathed nothing of her relationship to Mr. Tom, but continued
from time to time to express solicitude about Dandy. They heard the door
open, and old Tom laughing in a capital good temper, and then Dandy came
down, evidently full of ship's rum.
'He's pumped me!' said Dandy, nodding heavily at his mistress.
Mrs. Mel took him up to his bed-room, and locked the door. On her way
back she passed old Tom's chamber, and his chuckles were audible to her.
'They finished the rum,' said Mrs. Hawkshaw.
'I shall rate him for that to-morrow,' said Mrs. Mel. 'Giving that poor
'Rate Mr. Tom! Oh! Mrs. Harrington! Why, he'll snap your head off for a
Mrs. Mel replied that her head would require a great deal of snapping to
During this conversation they had both heard a singular intermittent
noise above. Mrs. Hawkshaw was the first to ask:
'What can it be? More trouble with him? He's in his bed-room now.'
'Mad with drink, like Dandy, perhaps,' said Mrs. Mel.
'Hark!' cried the landlady. 'Oh!'
It seemed that Old Tom was bouncing about in an extraordinary manner.