Part 8 out of 11
'Oh, indeed, yes! With reason, alas! All our visitors have by this time
arrived, I presume?'
'They come all day.'
The Countess hastened away from one who, when roused, could be almost as
clever as herself, and again stood in meditation near the joyful Harry.
This time she did not signal so discreetly. Harry could not but see it,
and the Conley girls accused him of cruelty to the beautiful dame, which
novel idea stung Harry with delight, and he held out to indulge in it a
little longer. His back was half turned, and as he talked noisily, he
could not observe the serene and resolute march of the Countess toward
him. The youth gaped when he found his arm taken prisoner by the
insertion of a small deliciously-gloved and perfumed hand through it.
'I must claim you for a few moments,' said the Countess, and took the
startled Conley girls one and all in her beautiful smile of excuse.
'Why do you compromise me thus, sir?'
These astounding words were spoken out of the hearing of the Conley
'Compromise you!' muttered Harry.
Masterly was the skill with which the Countess contrived to speak angrily
and as an injured woman, while she wore an indifferent social
'I repeat, compromise me. No, Mr. Harry Jocelyn, you are not the
jackanapes you try to make people think you: you understand me.'
The Countess might accuse him, but Harry never had the ambition to make
people think him that: his natural tendency was the reverse: and he
objected to the application of the word jackanapes to himself, and was
ready to contest the fact of people having that opinion at all. However,
all he did was to repeat: 'Compromise!'
'Is not open unkindness to me compromising me?'
'How?' asked Harry.
'Would you dare to do it to a strange lady? Would you have the impudence
to attempt it with any woman here but me? No, I am innocent; it is my
consolation; I have resisted you, but you by this cowardly behaviour
place me--and my reputation, which is more--at your mercy. Noble
behaviour, Mr. Harry Jocelyn! I shall remember my young English
The view was totally new to Harry.
'I really had no idea of compromising you,' he said. 'Upon my honour, I
can't see how I did it now!'
'Oblige me by walking less in the neighbourhood of those fat-faced
glaring farm-girls,' the Countess spoke under her breath; 'and don't look
as if you were being whipped. The art of it is evident--you are but
carrying on the game.--Listen. If you permit yourself to exhibit an
unkindness to me, you show to any man who is a judge, and to every woman,
that there has been something between us. You know my innocence--yes!
but you must punish me for having resisted you thus long.'
Harry swore he never had such an idea, and was much too much of a man and
a gentleman to behave in that way.--And yet it seemed wonderfully clever!
And here was the Countess saying:
'Take your reward, Mr. Harry Jocelyn. You have succeeded; I am your
humble slave. I come to you and sue for peace. To save my reputation I
endanger myself. This is generous of you.'
'Am I such a clever fellow?' thought the young gentleman. 'Deuced lucky
with women': he knew that: still a fellow must be wonderfully,
miraculously, clever to be able to twist and spin about such a woman as
this in that way. He did not object to conceive that he was the fellow
to do it. Besides, here was the Countess de Saldar-worth five hundred of
the Conley girls--almost at his feet!
Mollified, he said: 'Now, didn't you begin it?'
'Evasion!' was the answer. 'It would be such pleasure to you so see a
proud woman weep! And if yesterday, persecuted as I am, with dreadful
falsehoods abroad respecting me and mine, if yesterday I did seem cold to
your great merits, is it generous of you to take this revenge?'
Harry began to scent the double meaning in her words. She gave him no
time to grow cool over it. She leaned, half abandoned, on his arm. Arts
feminine and irresistible encompassed him. It was a fatal mistake of
Juliana's to enlist Harry Jocelyn against the Countess de Saldar. He
engaged, still without any direct allusion to the real business, to move
heaven and earth to undo all that he had done, and the Countess implied
an engagement to do--what? more than she intended to fulfil.
Ten minutes later she was alone with Caroline.
'Tie yourself to the Duke at the dinner,' she said, in the forcible
phrase she could use when necessary. 'Don't let them scheme to separate
you. Never mind looks--do it!'
Caroline, however, had her reasons for desiring to maintain appearances.
The Countess dashed at her hesitation.
'There is a plot to humiliate us in the most abominable way. The whole
family have sworn to make us blush publicly. Publicly blush! They have
written to Mama to come and speak out. Now will you attend to me,
Caroline? You do not credit such atrocity? I know it to be true.'
'I never can believe that Rose would do such a thing,' said Caroline.'
We can hardly have to endure more than has befallen us already.'
Her speech was pensive, as of one who had matter of her own to ponder
over. A swift illumination burst in the Countess's mind.
'No? Have you, dear, darling Carry? not that I intend that you should!
but to-day the Duke would be such ineffable support to us. May I deem
you have not been too cruel to-day? You dear silly English creature,
"Duck," I used to call you when I was your little Louy. All is not yet
lost, but I will save you from the ignominy if I can. I will!'
Caroline denied nothing--confirmed nothing, just as the Countess had
stated nothing. Yet they understood one another perfectly. Women have a
subtler language than ours: the veil pertains to them morally as bodily,
and they see clearer through it.
The Countess had no time to lose. Wrath was in her heart. She did not
lend all her thoughts to self-defence.
Without phrasing a word, or absolutely shaping a thought in her head, she
slanted across the sun to Mr. Raikes, who had taken refreshment, and in
obedience to his instinct, notwithstanding his enormous pretensions, had
commenced a few preliminary antics.
'Dear Mr. Raikes!' she said, drawing him aside, 'not before dinner!'
'I really can't contain the exuberant flow!' returned that gentleman.
'My animal spirits always get the better of me,' he added confidentially.
'Suppose you devote your animal spirits to my service for half an hour.'
'Yours, Countess, from the 'os frontis' to the chine!' was the exuberant
The Countess made a wry mouth.
'Your curricle is in Beckley?'
'Behold!' said Jack. 'Two juveniles, not half so blest as I, do from the
seat regard the festive scene o'er yon park palings. They are there,
even Franko and Fred. I 'm afraid I promised to get them in at a later
period of the day. Which sadly sore my conscience doth disturb! But
what is to be done about the curricle, my Countess?'
'Mr. Raikes,' said the Countess, smiling on him fixedly, 'you are
amusing; but in addressing me, you must be precise, and above all things
accurate. I am not your Countess!'
He bowed profoundly. 'Oh, that I might say my Queen!'
The Countess replied: 'A conviction of your lunacy would prevent my
taking offence, though I might wish you enclosed and guarded.'
Without any further exclamations, Raikes acknowledged a superior.
'And, now, attend to me,' said the Countess. 'Listen:
You go yourself, or send your friends instantly to Fallow field. Bring
with you that girl and her child. Stop: there is such a person. Tell
her she is to be spoken to about the prospects of the poor infant. I
leave that to your inventive genius. Evan wishes her here. Bring her,
and should you see the mad captain who behaves so oddly, favour him with
a ride. He says he dreams his wife is here, and he will not reveal his
name! Suppose it should be my own beloved husband! I am quite anxious.'
The Countess saw him go up to the palings and hold a communication with
his friends Franko and Fred. One took the whip, and after mutual
flourishes, drove away.
'Now!' mused the Countess, 'if Captain Evremonde should come!' It would
break up the pic-nic. Alas! the Countess had surrendered her humble
hopes of a day's pleasure. But if her mother came as well, what a
diversion that would be! If her mother came before the Captain, his
arrival would cover the retreat; if the Captain preceded her, she would
not be noticed. Suppose her mother refrained from coming? In that case
it was a pity, but the Jocelyns had brought it on themselves.
This mapping out of consequences followed the Countess's deeds, and did
not inspire them. Her passions sharpened her instincts, which produced
her actions. The reflections ensued: as in nature, the consequences were
all seen subsequently! Observe the difference between your male and
On reflection, too, the Countess praised herself for having done all that
could be done. She might have written to her mother: but her absence
would have been remarked: her messenger might have been overhauled and,
lastly, Mrs. Mel--'Gorgon of a mother!' the Countess cried out: for Mrs.
Mel was like a Fate to her. She could remember only two occasions in her
whole life when she had been able to manage her mother, and then by lying
in such a way as to distress her conscience severely.
'If Mama has conceived this idea of coming, nothing will impede her. My
prayers will infuriate her!' said the Countess, and she was sure that she
had acted both rightly and with wisdom.
She put on her armour of smiles: she plunged into the thick of the enemy.
Since they would not allow her to taste human happiness--she had asked
but for the pic-nic! a small truce! since they denied her that, rather
than let them triumph by seeing her wretched, she took into her bosom the
joy of demons. She lured Mr. George Uplift away from Miss Carrington,
and spoke to him strange hints of matrimonial disappointments, looking
from time to time at that apprehensive lady, doating on her terrors.
And Mr. George seconded her by his clouded face, for he was ashamed not
to show that he did not know Louisa Harrington in the Countess de Saldar,
and had not the courage to declare that he did. The Countess spoke
familiarly, but without any hint of an ancient acquaintance between them.
'What a post her husband's got!' thought Mr. George, not envying the
Count. He was wrong: she was an admirable ally. All over the field the
Countess went, watching for her mother, praying that if she did come,
Providence might prevent her from coming while they were at dinner. How
clearly Mrs. Shorne and Mrs. Melville saw her vulgarity now! By the new
light of knowledge, how certain they were that they had seen her ungentle
training in a dozen little instances.
'She is not well-bred, 'cela se voit',' said Lady Jocelyn.
'Bred! it's the stage! How could such a person be bred?' said Mrs.
Accept in the Countess the heroine who is combating class-prejudices, and
surely she is pre-eminently noteworthy. True, she fights only for her
family, and is virtually the champion of the opposing institution
misplaced. That does not matter: the Fates may have done it purposely:
by conquering she establishes a principle. A Duke adores her sister, the
daughter of the house her brother, and for herself she has many
protestations in honour of her charms: nor are they empty ones. She can
confound Mrs. Melville, if she pleases to, by exposing an adorer to lose
a friend. Issuing out of Tailordom, she, a Countess, has done all this;
and it were enough to make her glow, did not little evils, and angers,
and spites, and alarms so frightfully beset her.
The sun of the pic-nic system is dinner. Hence philosophers may deduce
that the pic-nic is a British invention. There is no doubt that we do
not shine at the pic-nic until we reflect the face of dinner. To this,
then, all who were not lovers began seriously to look forward, and the
advance of an excellent county band, specially hired to play during the
entertainment, gave many of the guests quite a new taste for sweet music;
and indeed we all enjoy a thing infinitely more when we see its meaning.
About this time Evan entered the lower park-gates with Andrew. The first
object he encountered was John Raikes in a state of great depression. He
explained his case:
'Just look at my frill! Now, upon my honour, you know, I'm good-
tempered; I pass their bucolic habits, but this is beyond bearing. I was
near the palings there, and a fellow calls out, "Hi! will you help the
lady over?" Holloa! thinks I, an adventure! However, I advised him to
take her round to the gates. The beast burst out laughing. "Now, then,"
says he, and I heard a scrambling at the pales, and up came the head of a
dog. "Oh! the dog first," says I. "Catch by the ears," says he. I did
so. "Pull," says he. "'Gad, pull indeed!", The beast gave a spring and
came slap on my chest, with his dirty wet muzzle on my neck! I felt
instantly it was the death of my frill, but gallant as you know me, I
still asked for the lady. "If you will please, or an it meet your
favour, to extend your hand to me!" I confess I did think it rather odd,
the idea of a lady coming in that way over the palings! but my curst
love of adventure always blinds me. It always misleads my better sense,
Harrington. Well, instead of a lady, I see a fellow--he may have been a
lineal descendant of Cedric the Saxon. "Where's the lady?" says I.
"Lady?" says he, and stares, and then laughs: "Lady! why," he jumps
over, and points at his beast of a dog, "don't you know a bitch when you
see one?" I was in the most ferocious rage! If he hadn't been a big
burly bully, down he'd have gone. "Why didn't you say what it was?" I
roared. "Why," says he, "the word isn't considered polite!" I gave him
a cut there. I said, "I rejoice to be positively assured that you uphold
the laws and forms of civilization, sir." My belief is he didn't feel
'The thrust sinned in its shrewdness,' remarked Evan, ending a laugh.
'Hem!' went Mr. Raikes, more contentedly: 'after all, what are
appearances to the man of wit and intellect? Dress, and women will
approve you: but I assure you they much prefer the man of wit in his
slouched hat and stockings down. I was introduced to the Duke this
morning. It is a curious thing that the seduction of a Duchess has
always been one of my dreams.'
At this Andrew Cogglesby fell into a fit of laughter.
'Your servant,' said Mr. Raikes, turning to him. And then he muttered
'Extraordinary likeness! Good Heavens! Powers!'
From a state of depression, Mr. Raikes--changed into one of bewilderment.
Evan paid no attention to him, and answered none of his hasty undertoned
questions. Just then, as they were on the skirts of the company, the
band struck up a lively tune, and quite unconsciously, the legs of
Raikes, affected, it may be, by supernatural reminiscences, loosely
hornpiped. It was but a moment: he remembered himself the next: but in
that fatal moment eyes were on him. He never recovered his dignity in
Beckley Court: he was fatally mercurial.
'What is the joke against this poor fellow?' asked Evan of Andrew.
'Never mind, Van. You'll roar. Old Tom again. We 'll see by-and-by,
after the champagne. He--this young Raikes-ha! ha!--but I can't tell
you.' And Andrew went away to Drummond, to whom he was more
communicative. Then he went to Melville, and one or two others, and the
eyes of many became concentrated on Raikes, and it was observed as a
singular sign that he was constantly facing about, and flushing the
fiercest red. Once he made an effort to get hold of Evan's arm and drag
him away, as one who had an urgent confession to be delivered of,
but Evan was talking to Lady Jocelyn, and other ladies, and quietly
disengaged his arm without even turning to notice the face of his friend.
Then the dinner was announced, and men saw the dinner. The Countess went
to shake her brother's hand, and with a very gratulatory visage, said
through her half-shut teeth.
'If Mama appears, rise up and go away with her, before she has time to
speak a word.' An instant after Evan found himself seated between Mrs.
Evremonde and one of the Conley girls. The dinner had commenced. The
first half of the Battle of the Bull-dogs was as peaceful as any ordinary
pic-nic, and promised to the general company as calm a conclusion.
THE BATTLE OF THE BULL-DOGS. PART II.
If it be a distinct point of wisdom to hug the hour that is, then does
dinner amount to a highly intellectual invitation to man, for it
furnishes the occasion; and Britons are the wisest of their race, for
more than all others they take advantage of it. In this Nature is
undoubtedly our guide, seeing that he who, while feasting his body allows
to his soul a thought for the morrow, is in his digestion curst, and
becomes a house of evil humours. Now, though the epicure may complain of
the cold meats, a dazzling table, a buzzing company, blue sky, and a band
of music, are incentives to the forgetfulness of troubles past and
imminent, and produce a concentration of the faculties. They may not
exactly prove that peace is established between yourself and those who
object to your carving of the world, but they testify to an armistice.
Aided by these observations, you will understand how it was that the
Countess de Saldar, afflicted and menaced, was inspired, on taking her
seat, to give so graceful and stately a sweep to her dress that she was
enabled to conceive woman and man alike to be secretly overcome by it.
You will not refuse to credit the fact that Mr. Raikes threw care to the
dogs, heavy as was that mysterious lump suddenly precipitated on his
bosom; and you will think it not impossible that even the springers of
the mine about to explode should lose their subterranean countenances.
A generous abandonment to one idea prevailed. As for Evan, the first
glass of champagne rushed into reckless nuptials with the music in his
head, bringing Rose, warm almost as life, on his heart. Sublime are the
visions of lovers! He knew he must leave her on the morrow; he feared he
might never behold her again; and yet he tasted bliss, for it seemed
within the contemplation of the Gods that he should dance with his
darling before dark-haply waltz with her! Oh, heaven! he shuts his
eyes, blinded. The band wheels off meltingly in a tune all cadences, and
twirls, and risings and sinkings, and passionate outbursts trippingly
consoled. Ah! how sweet to waltz through life with the right partner.
And what a singular thing it is to look back on the day when we thought
something like it! Never mind: there may be spheres where it is so
managed--doubtless the planets have their Hanwell and Bedlam.
I confess that the hand here writing is not insensible to the effects of
that first glass of champagne. The poetry of our Countess's achievements
waxes rich in manifold colours: I see her by the light of her own pleas
to Providence. I doubt almost if the hand be mine which dared to make a
hero play second fiddle, and to his beloved. I have placed a bushel over
his light, certainly. Poor boy! it was enough that he should have
tailordom on his shoulders: I ought to have allowed him to conquer
Nature, and so come out of his eclipse. This shall be said of him:
that he can play second fiddle without looking foolish, which, for my
part, I call a greater triumph than if he were performing the heroics we
are more accustomed to. He has steady eyes, can gaze at the right level
into the eyes of others, and commands a tongue which is neither struck
dumb nor set in a flutter by any startling question. The best instances
to be given that he does not lack merit are that the Jocelyns, whom he
has offended by his birth, cannot change their treatment of him, and that
the hostile women, whatever they may say, do not think Rose utterly
insane. At any rate, Rose is satisfied, and her self-love makes her a
keen critic. The moment Evan appeared, the sickness produced in her by
the Countess passed, and she was ready to brave her situation. With no
mock humility she permitted Mrs. Shorne to place her in a seat where
glances could not be interchanged. She was quite composed, calmly
prepared for conversation with any one. Indeed, her behaviour since the
hour of general explanation had been so perfectly well-contained, that
Mrs. Melville said to Lady Jocelyn:
'I am only thinking of the damage to her. It will pass over--this fancy.
You can see she is not serious. It is mere spirit of opposition. She
eats and drinks just like other girls. You can see that the fancy has
not taken such very strong hold of her.'
'I can't agree with you,' replied her ladyship. 'I would rather have her
sit and sigh by the hour, and loathe roast beef. That would look nearer
'She has the notions of a silly country girl,' said Mrs. Shorne.
'Exactly,' Lady Jocelyn replied. 'A season in London will give her
So the guests were tolerably happy, or at least, with scarce an
exception, open to the influences of champagne and music. Perhaps
Juliana was the wretchedest creature present. She was about to smite on
both cheeks him she loved, as well as the woman she despised and had been
foiled by. Still she had the consolation that Rose, seeing the vulgar
mother, might turn from Evan: a poor distant hope, meagre and shapeless
like herself. Her most anxious thoughts concerned the means of getting
money to lockup Harry's tongue. She could bear to meet the Countess's
wrath, but not Evan's offended look. Hark to that Countess!
'Why do you denominate this a pic-nic, Lady Jocelyn? It is in verity a
'I suppose we ought to lie down 'A la Grecque' to come within the term,'
was the reply. 'On the whole, I prefer plain English for such matters.'
'But this is assuredly too sumptuous for a pic-nic, Lady Jocelyn. From
what I can remember, pic-nic implies contribution from all the guests.
It is true I left England a child!'
Mr. George Uplift could not withhold a sharp grimace: The Countess had
throttled the inward monitor that tells us when we are lying, so
grievously had she practised the habit in the service of her family.
'Yes,' said Mrs. Melville, 'I have heard of that fashion, and very stupid
'Extremely vulgar,' murmured Miss Carrington.
'Possibly,' Lady Jocelyn observed; 'but good fun. I have been to pic-
nics, in my day. I invariably took cold pie and claret. I clashed with
half-a-dozen, but all the harm we did was to upset the dictum that there
can be too much of a good thing. I know for certain that the bottles
were left empty.'
'And this woman,' thought the Countess, 'this woman, with a soul so
essentially vulgar, claims rank above me!' The reflection generated
contempt of English society, in the first place, and then a passionate
desire for self-assertion.
She was startled by a direct attack which aroused her momentarily lulled
A lady, quite a stranger, a dry simpering lady, caught the Countess's
benevolent passing gaze, and leaning forward, said: 'I hope her ladyship
bears her affliction as well as can be expected?'
In military parlance, the Countess was taken in flank. Another would
have asked--What ladyship? To whom do you allude, may I beg to inquire?
The Countess knew better. Rapid as light it shot through her that the
relict of Sir Abraham was meant, and this she divined because she was
aware that devilish malignity was watching to trip her.
A little conversation happening to buzz at the instant, the Countess
merely turned her chin to an angle, agitated her brows very gently, and
crowned the performance with a mournful smile. All that a woman must
feel at the demise of so precious a thing as a husband, was therein
eloquently expressed: and at the same time, if explanations ensued, there
were numerous ladyships in the world, whom the Countess did not mind
afflicting, should she be hard pressed.
'I knew him so well!' resumed the horrid woman, addressing anybody.
'It was so sad! so unexpected! but he was so subject to affection of
the throat. And I was so sorry I could not get down to him in time. I
had not seen him since his marriage, when I was a girl!--and to meet one
of his children!--But, my dear, in quinsey, I have heard that there is
nothing on earth like a good hearty laugh.'
Mr. Raikes hearing this, sucked down the flavour of a glass of champagne,
and with a look of fierce jollity, interposed, as if specially charged by
Providence to make plain to the persecuted Countess his mission and
business there: 'Then our vocation is at last revealed to us! Quinsey-
doctor! I remember when a boy, wandering over the paternal mansion, and
envying the life of a tinker, which my mother did not think a good omen
in me. But the traps of a Quinsey-doctor are even lighter. Say twenty
good jokes, and two or three of a practical kind. A man most enviable!'
'It appears,' he remarked aloud to one of the Conley girls, 'that quinsey
is needed before a joke is properly appreciated.'
'I like fun,' said she, but had not apparently discovered it.
What did that odious woman mean by perpetually talking about Sir Abraham?
The Countess intercepted a glance between her and the hated Juliana. She
felt it was a malignant conspiracy: still the vacuous vulgar air of the
woman told her that most probably she was but an instrument, not a
confederate, and was only trying to push herself into acquaintance with
the great: a proceeding scorned and abominated by the Countess, who
longed to punish her for her insolent presumption. The bitterness of her
situation stung her tenfold when she considered that she dared not.
Meantime the champagne became as regular in its flow as the Bull-dogs,
and the monotonous bass of these latter sounded through the music, like
life behind the murmur of pleasure, if you will. The Countess had a not
unfeminine weakness for champagne, and old Mr. Bonner's cellar was well
and choicely stocked. But was this enjoyment to the Countess?--this
dreary station in the background! 'May I emerge?' she as much as
The petition was infinitely tender. She thought she might, or it may be
that nature was strong, and she could not restrain herself.
Taking wine with Sir John, she said:
'This bowing! Do you know how amusing it is deemed by us Portuguese?
Why not embrace? as the dear Queen used to say to me.'
'I am decidedly of Her Majesty's opinion,' observed Sir John, with
emphasis, and the Countess drew back into a mingled laugh and blush.
Her fiendish persecutor gave two or three nods. 'And you know the
Queen!' she said.
She had to repeat the remark: whereupon the Countess murmured,
'Ah, we have lost a staunch old Tory in Sir Abraham,' said the lady,
What did it mean? Could design lodge in that empty-looking head with its
crisp curls, button nose, and diminishing simper? Was this pic-nic to be
made as terrible to the Countess by her putative father as the dinner had
been by the great Mel? The deep, hard, level look of Juliana met the
Countess's smile from time to time, and like flimsy light horse before a
solid array of infantry, the Countess fell back, only to be worried
afresh by her perfectly unwitting tormentor.
'His last days?--without pain? Oh, I hope so!' came after a lapse of
'Aren't we getting a little funereal, Mrs. Perkins?' Lady Jocelyn asked,
and then rallied her neighbours.
Miss Carrington looked at her vexedly, for the fiendish Perkins was
checked, and the Countess in alarm, about to commit herself, was a
pleasant sight to Miss Carrington.
'The worst of these indiscriminate meetings is that there is no
conversation,' whispered the Countess, thanking Providence for the
Just then she saw Juliana bend her brows at another person. This was
George Uplift, who shook his head, and indicated a shrewd-eyed, thin,
middle-aged man, of a lawyer-like cast; and then Juliana nodded, and
George Uplift touched his arm, and glanced hurriedly behind for
champagne. The Countess's eyes dwelt on the timid young squire most
affectionately. You never saw a fortress more unprepared for dread
'Hem!' was heard, terrific. But the proper pause had evidently not yet
come, and now to prevent it the Countess strained her energies and tasked
her genius intensely. Have you an idea of the difficulty of keeping up
the ball among a host of ill-assorted, stupid country people, who have no
open topics, and can talk of nothing continuously but scandal of their
neighbours, and who, moreover, feel they are not up to the people they
are mixing with? Darting upon Seymour Jocelyn, the Countess asked
touchingly for news of the partridges. It was like the unlocking of a
machine. Seymour was not blythe in his reply, but he was loud and
forcible; and when he came to the statistics--oh, then you would have
admired the Countess!--for comparisons ensued, braces were enumerated,
numbers given were contested, and the shooting of this one jeered at, and
another's sure mark respectfully admitted. And how lay the coveys? And
what about the damage done by last winter's floods? And was there good
hope of the pheasants? Outside this latter the Countess hovered. Twice
the awful 'Hem!' was heard. She fought on. She kept them at it. If it
flagged she wished to know this or that, and finally thought that,
really, she should like herself to try one shot. The women had
previously been left behind. This brought in the women. Lady Jocelyn
proposed a female expedition for the morrow.
'I believe I used to be something of a shot, formerly,' she said.
'You peppered old Tom once, my lady,' remarked Andrew, and her ladyship
laughed, and that foolish Andrew told the story, and the Countess, to
revive her subject, had to say: 'May I be enrolled to shoot?' though she
detested and shrank from fire-arms.
'Here are two!' said the hearty presiding dame. 'Ladies, apply
immediately to have your names put down.'
The possibility of an expedition of ladies now struck Seymour vividly,
and said he: 'I 'll be secretary'; and began applying to the ladies for
permission to put down their names. Many declined, with brevity,
muttering, either aloud or to themselves, 'unwomanly'; varied by
'unladylike': some confessed cowardice; some a horror of the noise close
to their ears; and there was the plea of nerves. But the names of half-
a-dozen ladies were collected, and then followed much laughter, and
musical hubbub, and delicate banter. So the ladies and gentlemen fell
one and all into the partridge pit dug for them by the Countess: and that
horrible 'Hem!' equal in force and terror to the roar of artillery
preceding the charge of ten thousand dragoons, was silenced--the pit
appeared impassable. Did the Countess crow over her advantage? Mark
her: the lady's face is entirely given up to partridges. 'English sports
are so much envied abroad,' she says: but what she dreads is a
reflection, for that leads off from the point. A portion of her mind she
keeps to combat them in Lady Jocelyn and others who have the tendency:
the rest she divides between internal-prayers for succour, and casting
about for another popular subject to follow partridges. Now, mere
talent, as critics say when they are lighting candles round a genius,
mere talent would have hit upon pheasants as the natural sequitur, and
then diverged to sports--a great theme, for it ensures a chorus of sneers
at foreigners, and so on probably to a discussion of birds and beasts
best adapted to enrapture the palate of man. Stories may succeed, but
they are doubtful, and not to be trusted, coming after cookery. After an
exciting subject which has made the general tongue to wag, and just
enough heated the brain to cause it to cry out for spiced food--then
start your story: taking care that it be mild; for one too marvellous
stops the tide, the sense of climax being strongly implanted in all
bosoms. So the Countess told an anecdote--one of Mel's. Mr. George
Uplift was quite familiar with it, and knew of one passage that would
have abashed him to relate 'before ladies.' The sylph-like ease with
which the Countess floated over this foul abysm was miraculous. Mr.
George screwed his eye-lids queerly, and closed his jaws with a report,
completely beaten. The anecdote was of the character of an apologue, and
pertained to game. This was, as it happened, a misfortune; for Mr.
Raikes had felt himself left behind by the subject; and the stuff that
was in this young man being naturally ebullient, he lay by to trip it,
and take a lead. His remarks brought on him a shrewd cut from the
Countess, which made matters worse; for a pun may also breed puns, as
doth an anecdote. The Countess's stroke was so neat and perfect that it
was something for the gentlemen to think over; and to punish her for
giving way to her cleverness and to petty vexation, 'Hem!' sounded once
more, and then: 'May I ask you if the present Baronet is in England?'
Now Lady Jocelyn perceived that some attack was directed against her
guest. She allowed the Countess to answer:
'The eldest was drowned in the Lisbon waters'
And then said: 'But who is it that persists in serving up the funeral
baked meats to us?'
Mrs. Shorne spoke for her neighbour: 'Mr. Farnley's cousin was the
steward of Sir Abraham Harrington's estates.'
The Countess held up her head boldly. There is a courageous exaltation
of the nerves known to heroes and great generals in action when they feel
sure that resources within themselves will spring up to the emergency,
and that over simple mortals success is positive.
'I had a great respect for Sir Abraham,' Mr. Farnley explained, 'very
great. I heard that this lady' (bowing to the Countess) 'was his
Lady Jocelyn's face wore an angry look, and Mrs. Shorne gave her the
shade of a shrug and an expression implying, 'I didn't!'
Evan was talking to Miss Jenny Graine at the moment rather earnestly.
With a rapid glance at him, to see that his ears were closed, the
'Not the elder branch!--Cadet!'
The sort of noisy silence produced by half-a-dozen people respirating
deeply and moving in their seats was heard. The Countess watched Mr.
Farnley's mystified look, and whispered to Sir John: 'Est-ce qu'il
comprenne le Francais, lui?'
It was the final feather-like touch to her triumph. She saw safety and a
clear escape, and much joyful gain, and the pleasure of relating her
sufferings in days to come. This vista was before her when, harsh as an
execution bell, telling her that she had vanquished man, but that
Providence opposed her, 'Mrs. Melchisedec Harrington!' was announced to
Perfect stillness reigned immediately, as if the pic-nic had heard its
'Oh! I will go to her,' said her ladyship, whose first thought was to
spare the family. 'Andrew, come and give me your arm.'
But when she rose Mrs. Mel was no more than the length of an arm from her
In the midst of the horrible anguish she was enduring, the Countess could
not help criticizing her mother's curtsey to Lady Jocelyn. Fine, but a
shade too humble. Still it was fine; all might not yet be lost.
'Mama!' she softly exclaimed, and thanked heaven that she had not denied
Mrs. Mel did not notice her or any of her children. There was in her
bosom a terrible determination to cast a devil out of the one she best
loved. For this purpose, heedless of all pain to be given, or of
impropriety, she had come to speak publicly, and disgrace and humiliate,
that she might save him from the devils that had ruined his father.
'My lady,' said the terrible woman, thanking her in reply to an
invitation that she should be seated, 'I have come for my son. I hear he
has been playing the lord in your house, my lady. I humbly thank your
ladyship for your kindness to him, but he is nothing more than a tailor's
son, and is bound a tailor himself that his father may be called an
honest man. I am come to take him away.'
Mrs. Mel seemed to speak without much effort, though the pale flush of
her cheeks showed that she felt what she was doing. Juliana was pale as
death, watching Rose. Intensely bright with the gem-like light of her
gallant spirit, Rose's eyes fixed on Evan. He met them. The words of
Ruth passed through his heart. But the Countess, who had given Rose to
Evan, and the Duke to Caroline, where was her supporter? The Duke was
entertaining Caroline with no less dexterity, and Rose's eyes said to
Evan: 'Feel no shame that I do not feel!' but the Countess stood alone.
It is ever thus with genius! to quote the numerous illustrious authors
who have written of it.
What mattered it now that in the dead hush Lady Jocelyn should assure her
mother that she had been misinformed, and that Mrs. Mel was presently
quieted, and made to sit with others before the fruits and wines? All
eyes were hateful--the very thought of Providence confused her brain.
Almost reduced to imbecility, the Countess imagined, as a reality, that
Sir Abraham had borne with her till her public announcement of
relationship, and that then the outraged ghost would no longer be
restrained, and had struck this blow.
The crushed pic-nic tried to get a little air, and made attempts at
conversation. Mrs. Mel sat upon the company with the weight of all
And now a messenger came for Harry. Everybody was so zealously employed
in the struggle to appear comfortable under Mrs. Mel, that his departure
was hardly observed. The general feeling for Evan and his sisters, by
their superiors in rank, was one of kindly pity. Laxley, however, did
not behave well. He put up his glass and scrutinized Mrs. Mel, and then
examined Evan, and Rose thought that in his interchange of glances with
any one there was a lurking revival of the scene gone by. She signalled
with her eyebrows for Drummond to correct him, but Drummond had another
occupation. Andrew made the diversion. He whispered to his neighbour,
and the whisper went round, and the laugh; and Mr. Raikes grew extremely
uneasy in his seat, and betrayed an extraordinary alarm. But he also was
soon relieved. A messenger had come from Harry to Mrs. Evremonde,
bearing a slip of paper. This the lady glanced at, and handed it to
Drummond. A straggling pencil had traced these words:
'Just running by S.W. gates--saw the Captain coming in--couldn't stop to
stop him--tremendous hurry--important. Harry J.'
Drummond sent the paper to Lady Jocelyn. After her perusal of it a scout
was despatched to the summit of Olympus, and his report proclaimed the
advance in the direction of the Bull-dogs of a smart little figure of a
man in white hat and white trousers, who kept flicking his legs with a
Mrs. Evremonde rose and conferred with her ladyship an instant, and then
Drummond took her arm quietly, and passed round Olympus to the East, and
Lady Jocelyn broke up the sitting.
Juliana saw Rose go up to Evan, and make him introduce her to his mother.
She turned lividly white, and went to a corner of the park by herself,
and cried bitterly.
Lady Jocelyn, Sir Franks, and Sir John, remained by the tables, but
before the guests were out of ear-shot, the individual signalled from
Olympus presented himself.
'There are times when one can't see what else to do but to lie,' said her
ladyship to Sir Franks, 'and when we do lie the only way is to lie
Turning from her perplexed husband, she exclaimed:
Captain Evremonde lifted his hat, declining an intimacy.
'Where is my wife, madam?'
'Have you just come from the Arctic Regions?'
'I have come for my wife, madam!'
His unsettled grey eyes wandered restlessly on Lady Jocelyn's face. The
Countess standing near the Duke, felt some pity for the wife of that
cropped-headed, tight-skinned lunatic at large, but deeper was the
Countess's pity for Lady Jocelyn, in thinking of the account she would
have to render on the Day of Judgement, when she heard her ladyship reply
'Evelyn is not here.'
Captain Evremonde bowed profoundly, trailing his broad white hat along
'Do me the favour to read this, madam,' he said, and handed a letter to
Lady Jocelyn raised her brows as she gathered the contents of the letter.
'Ferdinand's handwriting!' she exclaimed.
'I accuse no one, madam,--I make no accusation. I have every respect for
you, madam,--you have my esteem. I am sorry to intrude, madam, an
intrusion is regretted. My wife runs away from her bed, madam, and I
have the law, madam, the law is with the husband. No force!' He lashed
his cane sharply against his white legs. 'The law, madam. No brute
force!' His cane made a furious whirl, cracking again on his legs, as he
reiterated, 'The law!'
'Does the law advise you to strike at a tangent all over the country in
search for her?' inquired Lady Jocelyn.
Captain Evremonde became ten times more voluble and excited.
Mrs. Mel was heard by the Countess to say: 'Her ladyship does not know
how to treat madmen.'
Nor did Sir Franks and Sir John. They began expostulating with him.
'A madman gets madder when you talk reason to him,' said Mrs. Mel.
And now the Countess stepped forward to Lady Jocelyn, and hoped she would
not be thought impertinent in offering her opinion as to how this frantic
person should be treated. The case indeed looked urgent. Many gentlemen
considered themselves bound to approach and be ready in case of need.
Presently the Countess passed between Sir Franks and Sir John, and with
her hand put up, as if she feared the furious cane, said:
'You will not strike me?'
'Strike a lady, madam?' The cane and hat were simultaneously lowered.
'Lady Jocelyn permits me to fetch for you a gentleman of the law. Or
will you accompany me to him?'
In a moment, Captain Evremonde's manners were subdued and civilized, and
in perfectly sane speech he thanked the Countess and offered her his arm.
The Countess smilingly waved back Sir John, who motioned to attend on
her, and away she went with the Captain, with all the glow of a woman who
feels that she is heaping coals of fire on the heads of her enemies.
Was she not admired now?
'Upon my honour,' said Lady Jocelyn, 'they are a remarkable family,'
meaning the Harringtons.
What farther she thought she did not say, but she was a woman who looked
to natural gifts more than the gifts of accidents; and Evan's chance
stood high with her then. So the battle of the Bull-dogs was fought, and
cruelly as the Countess had been assailed and wounded, she gained a
victory; yea, though Demogorgon, aided by the vindictive ghost of Sir
Abraham, took tangible shape in the ranks opposed to her. True, Lady
Jocelyn, forgetting her own recent intrepidity, condemned her as a liar;
but the fruits of the Countess's victory were plentiful. Drummond Forth,
fearful perhaps of exciting unjust suspicions in the mind of Captain
Evremonde, disappeared altogether. Harry was in a mess which threw him
almost upon Evan's mercy, as will be related. And, lastly, Ferdinand
Laxley, that insufferable young aristocrat, was thus spoken to by Lady
'This 'letter addressed to Lawson, telling him that his wife is here, is
in your handwriting, Ferdinand. I don't say you wrote it--I don't think
you could have written it. But, to tell you the truth, I have an
unpleasant impression about it, and I think we had better shake hands and
not see each other for some time.'
Laxley, after one denial of his guilt, disdained to repeat it. He met
her ladyship's hand haughtily, and, bowing to Sir Franks, turned on his
So, then, in glorious complete victory, the battle of the Bull-dogs
Of the close of the pic-nic more remains to be told.
For the present I pause, in observance of those rules which demand that
after an exhibition of consummate deeds, time be given to the spectator
to digest what has passed before him.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A madman gets madder when you talk reason to him
Ah! how sweet to waltz through life with the right partner
And not any of your grand ladies can match my wife at home
Any man is in love with any woman
Believed in her love, and judged it by the strength of his own
Eating, like scratching, only wants a beginning
Feel no shame that I do not feel!
Feel they are not up to the people they are mixing with
Found it difficult to forgive her his own folly
Good and evil work together in this world
Hated one thing alone--which was 'bother'
He has been tolerably honest, Tom, for a man and a lover
I cannot live a life of deceit. A life of misery--not deceit
If we are to please you rightly, always allow us to play First
It is no insignificant contest when love has to crush self-love
Listened to one another, and blinded the world
Maxims of her own on the subject of rising and getting the worm
My belief is, you do it on purpose. Can't be such rank idiots
No conversation coming of it, her curiosity was violent
One fool makes many, and so, no doubt, does one goose
Play second fiddle without looking foolish
Second fiddle; he could only mean what she meant
Sense, even if they can't understand it, flatters them so
The commonest things are the worst done
The thrust sinned in its shrewdness
Those numerous women who always know themselves to be right
Two people love, there is no such thing as owing between them
Waited serenely for the certain disasters to enthrone her
What will be thought of me? not a small matter to any of us
When testy old gentlemen could commit slaughter with ecstasy
Why, he'll snap your head off for a word
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXXII. IN WHICH EVAN'S LIGHT BEGINS TO TWINKLE AGAIN
XXXIII. THE HERO TAKES HIS RANK IN THE ORCHESTRA
XXXIV. A PAGAN SACRIFICE
XXXV. ROSE WOUNDED
XXXVI. BEFORE BREAKFAST
XXXVII. THE RETREAT FROM BECKLEY
XXXVIII. IN WHICH WE HAVE TO SEE IN THE DARK
IN WHICH EVANS LIGHT BEGINS TO TWINKLE AGAIN
The dowagers were now firmly planted on Olympus. Along the grass lay the
warm strong colours of the evening sun, reddening the pine-stems and
yellowing the idle aspen-leaves. For a moment it had hung in doubt
whether the pic-nic could survive the two rude shocks it had received.
Happily the youthful element was large, and when the band, refreshed by
chicken and sherry, threw off half-a-dozen bars of one of those
irresistible waltzes that first catch the ear, and then curl round the
heart, till on a sudden they invade and will have the legs, a rush up
Parnassus was seen, and there were shouts and laughter and commotion, as
over other great fields of battle the corn will wave gaily and mark the
reestablishment of nature's reign.
How fair the sight! Approach the twirling couples. They talk as they
whirl. 'Fancy the run-away tailor!' is the male's remark, and he expects
to be admired for it, and is.
'That make-up Countess--his sister, you know--didn't you see her? she
turned green,' says Creation's second effort, almost occupying the place
of a rib.
'Isn't there a run-away wife, too?'
'Now, you mustn't be naughty!'
They laugh and flatter one another. The power to give and take flattery
to any amount is the rare treasure of youth.
Undoubtedly they are a poetical picture; but some poetical pictures talk
dreary prose; so we will retire.
Now, while the dancers carried on their business, and distance lent them
enchantment, Rose stood by Juliana, near an alder which hid them from the
'I don't accuse you,' she was saying; 'but who could have done this but
you? Ah, Juley! you will never get what you want if you plot for it.
I thought once you cared for Evan. If he had loved you, would I not have
done all that I could for you both? I pardon you with all my heart.'
'Keep your pardon!' was the angry answer. 'I have done more for you,
Rose. He is an adventurer, and I have tried to open your eyes and make
you respect your family. You may accuse me of what you like, I have my
'And the friendship of the Countess,' added Rose.
Juliana's figure shook as if she had been stung.
'Go and be happy--don't stay here and taunt me,' she said, with a ghastly
look. 'I suppose he can lie like his sister, and has told you all sorts
'Not a word--not a word!' cried Rose. 'Do you think my lover could tell
The superb assumption of the girl, and the true portrait of Evan's
character which it flashed upon Juliana, were to the latter such intense
pain, that she turned like one on the rack, exclaiming:
'You think so much of him? You are so proud of him? Then, yes! I love
him too, ugly, beastly as I am to look at! Oh, I know what you think!
I loved him from the first, and I knew all about him, and spared him
pain. I did not wait for him to fall from a horse. I watched every
chance of his being exposed. I let them imagine he cared for me.
Drummond would have told what he knew long before--only he knew there
would not be much harm in a tradesman's son marrying me. And I have
played into your hands, and now you taunt me!'
Rose remembered her fretful unkindness to Evan on the subject of his
birth, when her feelings toward him were less warm. Dwelling on that
alone, she put her arms round Juliana's stiffening figure, and said:
'I dare say I am much more selfish than you. Forgive me, dear.'
Staring at her, Juliana replied, 'Now you are acting.'
'No,' said Rose, with a little effort to fondle her; 'I only feel that I
love you better for loving him.'
Generous as her words sounded, and were, Juliana intuitively struck to
the root of them, which was comfortless. For how calm in its fortune,
how strong in its love, must Rose's heart be, when she could speak in
this unwonted way!
'Go, and leave me, pray,' she said.
Rose kissed her burning cheek. 'I will do as you wish, dear. Try and
know me better, and be sister Juley as you used to be. I know I am
thoughtless, and horribly vain and disagreeable sometimes. Do forgive
me. I will love you truly.'
Half melting, Juliana pressed her hand.
'We are friends?' said Rose. 'Good-bye'; and her countenance lighted,
and she moved away, so changed by her happiness! Juliana was jealous of
a love strong as she deemed her own to overcome obstacles. She called to
her: 'Rose! Rose, you will not take advantage of what I have told you,
and repeat it to any one?'
Instantly Rose turned with a glance of full contempt over her shoulder.
'To whom?' she asked.
'To any one.'
'To him? He would not love me long if I did!'
Juliana burst into fresh tears, but Rose walked into the sunbeams and the
circle of the music.
Mounting Olympus, she inquired whether Ferdinand was within hail, as they
were pledged to dance the first dance together. A few hints were given,
and then Rose learnt that Ferdinand had been dismissed.
'And where is he?' she cried with her accustomed impetuosity. 'Mama!--of
course you did not accuse him--but, Mama! could you possibly let him go
with the suspicion that you thought him guilty of writing an anonymous
'Not at all,' Lady Jocelyn replied. 'Only the handwriting was so
extremely like, and he was the only person who knew the address and the
circumstances, and who could have a motive--though I don't quite see what
it is--I thought it as well to part for a time.'
'But that's sophistry!' said Rose. 'You accuse or you exonerate. Nobody
can be half guilty. If you do not hold him innocent you are unjust!'
Lady Jocelyn rejoined: 'Yes? It's singular what a stock of axioms young
people have handy for their occasions.'
Rose loudly announced that she would right this matter.
'I can't think where Rose gets her passion for hot water,' said her
mother, as Rose ran down the ledge.
Two or three young gentlemen tried to engage her for a dance. She gave
them plenty of promises, and hurried on till she met Evan, and, almost
out of breath, told him the shameful injustice that had been done to her
'Mama is such an Epicurean! I really think she is worse than Papa. This
disgraceful letter looks like Ferdinand's writing, and she tells him so;
and, Evan! will you believe that instead of being certain it's
impossible any gentleman could do such a thing, she tells Ferdinand she
shall feel more comfortable if she doesn't see him for some time? Poor
Ferdinand! He has had so much to bear!'
Too sure of his darling to be envious now of any man she pitied, Evan
said, 'I would forfeit my hand on his innocence!'
'And so would I,' echoed Rose. 'Come to him with me, dear. Or no,' she
added, with a little womanly discretion, 'perhaps it would not be so
well--you're not very much cast down by what happened at dinner?'
'My darling! I think of you.'
'Of me, dear? Concealment is never of any service. What there is to be
known people may as well know at once. They'll gossip for a month, and
then forget it. Your mother is dreadfully outspoken, certainly; but she
has better manners than many ladies--I mean people in a position: you
understand me? But suppose, dear, this had happened, and I had said
nothing to Mama, and then we had to confess? Ah, you'll find I'm wiser
than you imagine, Mr. Evan.'
'Haven't I submitted to somebody's lead?'
'Yes, but with a sort of "under protest." I saw it by the mouth. Not
quite natural. You have been moody ever since--just a little. I suppose
it's our manly pride. But I'm losing time. Will you promise me not to
brood over that occurrence.? Think of me. Think everything of me. I am
yours; and, dearest, if I love you, need you care what anybody else
thinks? We will soon change their opinion.'
'I care so little,' said Evan, somewhat untruthfully, 'that till you
return I shall go and sit with my mother.'
'Oh, she has gone. She made her dear old antiquated curtsey to Mama and
the company. "If my son has not been guilty of deception, I will leave
him to your good pleasure, my lady." That's what she said. Mama likes
her, I know. But I wish she didn't mouth her words so precisely: it
reminds me of--' the Countess, Rose checked herself from saying. 'Good-
bye. Thank heaven! the worst has happened. Do you know what I should
do if I were you, and felt at all distressed? I should keep repeating,'
Rose looked archly and deeply up under his eyelids, "'I am the son of a
tradesman, and Rose loves me," over and over, and then, if you feel
ashamed, what is it of?'
She nodded adieu, laughing at her own idea of her great worth; an idea
very firmly fixed in her fair bosom, notwithstanding. Mrs. Melville said
of her, 'I used to think she had pride.' Lady Jocelyn answered, 'So she
has. The misfortune is that it has taken the wrong turning.'
Evan watched the figure that was to him as that of an angel--no less!
She spoke so frankly to them as she passed: or here and there went on
with a light laugh. It seemed an act of graciousness that she should
open her mouth to one! And, indeed, by virtue of a pride which raised
her to the level of what she thought it well to do, Rose was veritably on
higher ground than any present. She no longer envied her friend Jenny,
who, emerging from the shades, allured by the waltz, dislinked herself
from William's arm, and whispered exclamations of sorrow at the scene
created by Mr. Harrington's mother. Rose patted her hand, and said:
'Thank you, Jenny dear but don't be sorry. I'm glad. It prevents a
number of private explanations.'
'Still, dear!' Jenny suggested.
'Oh! of course, I should like to lay my whip across the shoulders of the
person who arranged the conspiracy,' said Rose. 'And afterwards I don't
mind returning thanks to him, or her, or them.'
William cried out, 'I 'm always on your side, Rose.'
'And I'll be Jenny's bridesmaid,' rejoined Rose, stepping blithely away
Evan debated whither to turn when Rose was lost to his eyes. He had no
heart for dancing. Presently a servant approached, and said that Mr.
Harry particularly desired to see him. From Harry's looks at table, Evan
judged that the interview was not likely to be amicable. He asked the
direction he was to take, and setting out with long strides, came in
sight of Raikes, who walked in gloom, and was evidently labouring under
one of his mountains of melancholy. He affected to be quite out of the
world; but finding that Evan took the hint in his usual prosy manner, was
reduced to call after him, and finally to run and catch him.
'Haven't you one single spark of curiosity?' he began.
'What about?' said Evan.
'Why, about my amazing luck! You haven't asked a question. A matter of
Evan complimented him by asking a question: saying that Jack's luck
certainly was wonderful.
'Wonderful, you call it,' said Jack, witheringly. 'And what's more
wonderful is, that I'd give up all for quiet quarters in the Green
Dragon. I knew I was prophetic. I knew I should regret that peaceful
hostelry. Diocletian, if you like. I beg you to listen. I can't walk
so fast without danger.'
'Well, speak out, man. What's the matter with you?' cried Evan,
Jack shook his head: 'I see a total absence of sympathy,' he remarked.
'Then stand out of the way.'
Jack let him pass, exclaiming, with cold irony, 'I will pay homage to a
Mr. Raikes could not in his soul imagine that Evan was really so little
inquisitive concerning a business of such importance as the trouble that
possessed him. He watched his friend striding off, incredulously, and
then commenced running in pursuit.
'Harrington, I give in; I surrender; you reduce me to prose. Thy nine
have conquered my nine!--pardon me, old fellow. I'm immensely upset.
This is the first day in my life that I ever felt what indigestion is.
Egad, I've got something to derange the best digestion going!
'Look here, Harrington. What happened to you today, I declare I think
nothing of. You owe me your assistance, you do, indeed; for if it hadn't
been for the fearful fascinations of your sister--that divine Countess--
I should have been engaged to somebody by this time, and profited by the
opportunity held out to me, and which is now gone. I 'm disgraced. I 'm
known. And the worst of it is, I must face people. I daren't turn tail.
Did you ever hear of such a dilemma?'
'Ay,' quoth Evan, 'what is it?'
Raikes turned pale. 'Then you haven't heard of it?' 'Not a word.'
'Then it's all for me to tell. I called on Messrs. Grist. I dined at
the Aurora afterwards. Depend upon it, Harrington, we're led by a star.
I mean, fellows with anything in them are. I recognized our Fallow field
host, and thinking to draw him out, I told our mutual histories. Next
day I went to these Messrs. Grist. They proposed the membership for
Fallow field, five hundred a year, and the loan of a curricle, on
condition. It 's singular, Harrington; before anybody knew of the
condition I didn't care about it a bit. It seemed to me childish. Who
would think of minding wearing a tin plate? But now!--the sufferings of
Orestes--what are they to mine? He wasn't tied to his Furies. They did
hover a little above him; but as for me, I'm scorched; and I mustn't say
where: my mouth is locked; the social laws which forbid the employment of
obsolete words arrest my exclamations of despair. What do you advise?'
Evan stared a moment at the wretched object, whose dream of meeting a
beneficent old gentleman had brought him to be the sport of a cynical
farceur. He had shivers on his own account, seeing something of himself
magnified, and he loathed the fellow, only to feel more acutely what a
stigma may be.
'It 's a case I can't advise in,' he said, as gently as he could.
'I should be off the grounds in a hurry.'
'And then I'm where I was before I met the horrid old brute!' Raikes
'I told him over a pint of port-and noble stuff is that Aurora port!--
I told him--I amused him till he was on the point of bursting--I told him
I was such a gentleman as the world hadn't seen--minus money. So he
determined to launch me. He said I should lead the life of such a
gentleman as the world had not yet seen--on that simple condition, which
appeared to me childish, a senile whim; rather an indulgence of his.'
Evan listened to the tribulations of his friend as he would to those of a
doll--the sport of some experimental child. By this time he knew
something of old Tom Cogglesby, and was not astonished that he should
have chosen John Raikes to play one of his farces on. Jack turned off
abruptly the moment he saw they were nearing human figures, but soon
returned to Evan's side, as if for protection.
'Hoy! Harrington!' shouted Harry, beckoning to him. 'Come, make haste!
I'm in a deuce of a mess.'
The two Wheedles--Susan and Polly--were standing in front of him, and
after his call to Evan, he turned to continue some exhortation or appeal
to the common sense of women, largely indulged in by young men when the
mischief is done.
'Harrington, do speak to her. She looks upon you as a sort of parson.
I can't make her believe I didn't send for her. Of course, she knows
I 'm fond of her. My dear fellow,' he whispered, 'I shall be ruined if
my grandmother hears of it. Get her away, please. Promise anything.'
Evan took her hand and asked for the child.
'Quite well, sir,' faltered Susan.
'You should not have come here.'
Susan stared, and commenced whimpering: 'Didn't you wish it, sir?'
'Oh, she's always thinking of being made a lady of,' cried Polly. 'As if
Mr. Harry was going to do that. It wants a gentleman to do that.'
'The carriage came for me, sir, in the afternoon,' said Susan,
plaintively, 'with your compliments, and would I come. I thought--'
'What carriage?' asked Evan.
Raikes, who was ogling Polly, interposed grandly, 'Mine!'
'And you sent in my name for this girl to come here?' Evan turned
wrathfully on him.
'My dear Harrington, when you hit you knock down. The wise require but
one dose of experience. The Countess wished it, and I did dispatch.'
'The Countess!' Harry exclaimed; 'Jove! do you mean to say that the
'De Saldar,' added Jack. 'In Britain none were worthy found.'
Harry gave a long whistle.
'Leave at once,' said Evan to Susan. 'Whatever you may want send to me
for. And when you think you can meet your parents, I will take you to
them. Remember that is what you must do.'
'Make her give up that stupidness of hers, about being made a lady of,
Mr. Harrington,' said the inveterate Polly.
Susan here fell a-weeping.
'I would go, sir,' she said. 'I 'm sure I would obey you: but I can't.
I can't go back to the inn. They 're beginning to talk about me,
because--because I can't--can't pay them, and I'm ashamed.'
Evan looked at Harry.
'I forgot,' the latter mumbled, but his face was crimson. He put his
hands in his pockets. 'Do you happen to have a note or so?' he asked.
Evan took him aside and gave him what he had; and this amount, without
inspection or reserve, Harry offered to Susan. She dashed his hand
impetuously from her sight.
'There, give it to me,' said Polly. 'Oh, Mr. Harry! what a young man
Whether from the rebuff, or the reproach, or old feelings reviving, Harry
was moved to go forward, and lay his hand on Susan's shoulder and mutter
something in her ear that softened her.
Polly thrust the notes into her bosom, and with a toss of her nose, as
who should say, 'Here 's nonsense they 're at again,' tapped Susan on the
other shoulder, and said imperiously: 'Come, Miss!'
Hurrying out a dozen sentences in one, Harry ended by suddenly kissing
Susan's cheek, and then Polly bore her away; and Harry, with great
solemnity, said to Evan:
''Pon my honour, I think I ought to! I declare I think I love that girl.
What's one's family? Why shouldn't you button to the one that just suits
you? That girl, when she's dressed, and in good trim, by Jove! nobody
'd know her from a born lady. And as for grammar, I'd soon teach her
Harry began to whistle: a sign in him that he was thinking his hardest.
'I confess to being considerably impressed by the maid Wheedle,' said
'Would you throw yourself away on her?' Evan inquired.
Apparently forgetting how he stood, Mr. Raikes replied:
'You ask, perhaps, a little too much of me. One owes consideration to
one's position. In the world's eyes a matrimonial slip outweighs a
peccadillo. No. To much the maid might wheedle me, but to Hymen! She's
decidedly fresh and pert--the most delicious little fat lips and cocky
nose; but cease we to dwell on her, or of us two, to! one will be
Harry burst into a laugh: 'Is this the T.P. for Fallow field?'
'M.P. I think you mean,' quoth Raikes, serenely; but a curious glance
being directed on him, and pursuing him pertinaciously, it was as if the
pediment of the lofty monument he topped were smitten with violence. He
stammered an excuse, and retreated somewhat as it is the fashion to do
from the presence of royalty, followed by Harry's roar of laughter, in
which Evan cruelly joined.
'Gracious powers!' exclaimed the victim of ambition, 'I'm laughed at by
the son of a tailor!' and he edged once more into the shade of trees.
It was a strange sight for Harry's relatives to see him arm-in-arm with
the man he should have been kicking, challenging, denouncing, or whatever
the code prescribes: to see him talking to this young man earnestly,
clinging to him affectionately, and when he separated from him, heartily
wringing his hand. Well might they think that there was something
extraordinary in these Harringtons. Convicted of Tailordom, these
Harringtons appeared to shine with double lustre. How was it? They were
at a loss to say. They certainly could say that the Countess was
egregiously affected and vulgar; but who could be altogether complacent
and sincere that had to fight so hard a fight? In this struggle with
society I see one of the instances where success is entirely to be
honoured and remains a proof of merit. For however boldly antagonism may
storm the ranks of society, it will certainly be repelled, whereas
affinity cannot be resisted; and they who, against obstacles of birth,
claim and keep their position among the educated and refined, have that
affinity. It is, on the whole, rare, so that society is not often
invaded. I think it will have to front Jack Cade again before another
Old Mel and his progeny shall appear. You refuse to believe in Old Mel?
You know not nature's cunning.
Mrs. Shorne, Mrs. Melville, Miss Carrington, and many of the guests who
observed Evan moving from place to place, after the exposure, as they
called it, were amazed at his audacity. There seemed such a quietly
superb air about him. He would not look out of his element; and this,
knowing what they knew, was his offence. He deserved some commendation
for still holding up his head, but it was love and Rose who kept the
fires of his heart alive.
The sun had sunk. The figures on the summit of Parnassus were seen
bobbing in happy placidity against the twilight sky. The sun had sunk,
and many of Mr. Raikes' best things were unspoken. Wandering about in
his gloom, he heard a feminine voice:
'Yes, I will trust you.'
'You will not repent it,' was answered.
Recognizing the Duke, Mr. Raikes cleared his throat.
'A-hem, your Grace! This is how the days should pass. I think we should
diurnally station a good London band on high, and play his Majesty to
bed--the sun. My opinion is, it would improve the crops. I'm not, as
yet, a landed proprietor--'
The Duke stepped aside with him, and Raikes addressed no one for the next
twenty minutes. When he next came forth Parnassus was half deserted. It
was known that old Mrs. Bonner had been taken with a dangerous attack,
and under this third blow the pic-nic succumbed. Simultaneously with the
messenger that brought the news to Lady Jocelyn, one approached Evan, and
informed him that the Countess de Saldar urgently entreated him to come
to the house without delay. He also wished to speak a few words to her,
and stepped forward briskly. He had no prophetic intimations of the
change this interview would bring upon him.
THE HERO TAKES HIS RANK IN THE ORCHESTRA
The Countess was not in her dressing-room when Evan presented himself.
She was in attendance on Mrs. Bonner, Conning said; and the primness of
Conning was a thing to have been noticed by any one save a dreamy youth
in love. Conning remained in the room, keeping distinctly aloof. Her
duties absorbed her, but a presiding thought mechanically jerked back her
head from time to time: being the mute form of, 'Well, I never!' in
Conning's rank of life and intellectual capacity. Evan remained quite
still in a chair, and Conning was certainly a number of paces beyond
suspicion, when the Countess appeared, and hurling at the maid one of
those feminine looks which contain huge quartos of meaning, vented the
'Pray, why did you not come to me, as you were commanded?'
'I was not aware, my lady,' Conning drew up to reply, and performed with
her eyes a lofty rejection of the volume cast at her, and a threat of
several for offensive operations, if need were.
The Countess spoke nearer to what she was implying 'You know I object to
this: it is not the first time.'
'Would your ladyship please to say what your ladyship means?'
In return for this insolent challenge to throw off the mask, the Countess
felt justified in punishing her by being explicit. 'Your irregularities
are not of yesterday,' she said, kindly making use of a word of double
'Thank you, my lady.' Conning accepted the word in its blackest meaning.
'I am obliged to you. If your ladyship is to be believed, my character
is not worth much. But I can make distinctions, my lady.'
Something very like an altercation was continued in a sharp, brief
undertone; and then Evan, waking up to the affairs of the hour, heard
'I shall not ask your ladyship to give me a character.'
The Countess answering with pathos: 'It would, indeed, be to give you
He was astonished that the Countess should burst into tears when Conning
had departed, and yet more so that his effort to console her should bring
a bolt of wrath upon himself.
'Now, Evan, now see what you have done for us-do, and rejoice at it. The
very menials insult us. You heard what that creature said? She can make
distinctions. Oh! I could beat her. They know it: all the servants know
it: I can see it in their faces. I feel it when I pass them. The
insolent wretches treat us as impostors; and this Conning--to defy me!
Oh! it comes of my devotion to you. I am properly chastized. I passed
Rose's maid on the stairs, and her reverence was barely perceptible.'
Evan murmured that he was very sorry, adding, foolishly: 'Do you really
care, Louisa, for what servants think and say?'
The Countess sighed deeply: 'Oh! you are too thickskinned! Your mother
from top to toe! It is too dreadful! What have I done to deserve it?
Oh, Evan, Evan!'
Her head dropped in her lap. There was something ludicrous to Evan in
this excess of grief on account of such a business; but he was tender-
hearted and wrought upon to declare that, whether or not he was to blame
for his mother's intrusion that afternoon, he was ready to do what he
could to make up to the Countess for her sufferings: whereat the Countess
sighed again: asked him what he possibly could do, and doubted his
willingness to accede to the most trifling request.
'No; I do in verity believe that were I to desire you to do aught for
your own good alone, you would demur, Van.'
He assured her that she was mistaken.
'We shall see,' she said.
'And if once or twice, I have run counter to you, Louisa--'
'Abominable language!' cried the Countess, stopping her ears like a
child. 'Do not excruciate me so. You laugh! My goodness! what will
you come to!'
Evan checked his smile, and, taking her hand, said:
'I must tell you; that, on the whole, I see nothing to regret in what has
happened to-day. You may notice a change in the manners of the servants
and some of the country squiresses, but I find none in the bearing of the
real ladies, the true gentlemen, to me.'
'Because the change is too fine for you to perceive it,' interposed the
'Rose, then, and her mother, and her father!' Evan cried impetuously.
'As for Lady Jocelyn!' the Countess shrugged:
'And Sir Franks!' her head shook: 'and Rose, Rose is, simply self-willed;
a "she will" or "she won't" sort of little person. No criterion!
Henceforth the world is against us. We have to struggle with it: it does
not rank us of it!'
'Your feeling on the point is so exaggerated, my dear Louisa', said Evan,
'one can't bring reason to your ears. The tattle we shall hear we shall
outlive. I care extremely for the good opinion of men, but I prefer my
own; and I do not lose it because my father was in trade.'
'And your own name, Evan Harrington, is on a shop,' the Countess struck
in, and watched him severely from under her brow, glad to mark that he
could still blush.
'Oh, heaven!' she wailed to increase the effect, 'on a shop! a brother
'Yes, Louisa. It may not last . . . I did it--is it not better that a
son should blush, than cast dishonour on his father's memory?'
'Rose has pardoned it, Louisa--cannot you? I find that the naturally
vulgar and narrow-headed people, and cowards who never forego mean
advantages, are those only who would condemn me and my conduct in that.'
'And you have joy in your fraction of the world left to you!' exclaimed
Changeing her manner to a winning softness, she said:
'Let me also belong to the very small party! You have been really
romantic, and most generous and noble; only the shop smells! But, never
mind, promise me you will not enter it.'
'I hope not,' said Evan.
'You do hope that you will not officiate? Oh, Evan the eternal
contemplation of gentlemen's legs! think of that! Think of yourself
sculptured in that attitude!' Innumerable little prickles and stings
shot over Evan's skin.
'There--there, Louisa!' he said, impatiently; 'spare your ridicule. We
go to London to-morrow, and when there I expect to hear that I have an
appointment, and that this engagement is over.' He rose and walked up
and down the room.
'I shall not be prepared to go to-morrow,' remarked the Countess, drawing
her figure up stiffly.
'Oh! well, if you can stay, Andrew will take charge of you, I dare say.'
'No, my dear, Andrew will not--a nonentity cannot--you must.'
'Impossible, Louisa,' said Evan, as one who imagines he is uttering a
thing of little consequence. 'I promised Rose.'
'You promised Rose that you would abdicate and retire? Sweet, loving
Evan made no answer.
'You will stay with me, Evan.'
'I really can't,' he said in his previous careless tone.
'Come and sit down,' cried the Countess, imperiously.
'The first trifle is refused. It does not astonish me. I will honour
you now by talking seriously to you. I have treated you hitherto as a
child. Or, no--' she stopped her mouth; 'it is enough if I tell you,
dear, that poor Mrs. Bonner is dying, and that she desires my attendance
on her to refresh her spirit with readings on the Prophecies, and
Scriptural converse. No other soul in the house can so soothe her.'
'Then, stay,' said Evan.
'Unprotected in the midst of enemies! Truly!'
'I think, Louisa, if you can call Lady Jocelyn an enemy, you must read
the Scriptures by a false light.'
'The woman is an utter heathen!' interjected the Countess. 'An infidel
can be no friend. She is therefore the reverse. Her opinions embitter
her mother's last days. But now you will consent to remain with me, dear
An implacable negative responded to the urgent appeal of her eyes.
'By the way,' he said, for a diversion, 'did you know of a girl stopping
at an inn in Fallow field?'
'Know a barmaid?' the Countess's eyes and mouth were wide at the
'Did you send Raikes for her to-day?'
'Did Mr. Raikes--ah, Evan! that creature reminds me, you have no sense
of contrast. For a Brazilian ape--he resembles, if he is not truly one
--what contrast is he to an English gentleman! His proximity and
acquaintance--rich as he may be--disfigure you. Study contrast!'
Evan had to remind her that she had not answered him: whereat she
exclaimed: 'One would really think you had never been abroad. Have you
not evaded me, rather?'
The Countess commenced fanning her languid brows, and then pursued: 'Now,
my dear brother, I may conclude that you will acquiesce in my moderate
wishes. You remain. My venerable. friend cannot last three days. She
is on the brink of a better world! I will confide to you that it is of
the utmost importance we should be here, on the spot, until the sad
termination! That is what I summoned you for. You are now at liberty.
Ta-ta, as soon as you please.'
She had baffled his little cross-examination with regard to Raikes, but
on the other point he was firm. She would listen to nothing: she
affected that her mandate had gone forth, and must be obeyed; tapped with
her foot, fanned deliberately, and was a consummate queen, till he turned
the handle of the door, when her complexion deadened, she started up,
trembling, and tripping towards him, caught him by the arm, and said:
'Stop! After all that I have sacrificed for you! As well try to raise
the dead as a Dawley from the dust he grovels in! Why did I consent to
visit this place? It was for you. I came, I heard that you had
disgraced yourself in drunkenness at Fallow field, and I toiled to
eclipse that, and I did. Young Jocelyn thought you were what you are I
could spit the word at you! and I dazzled him to give you time to win
this minx, who will spin you like a top if you get her. That Mr. Forth
knew it as well, and that vile young Laxley. They are gone! Why are
they gone? Because they thwarted me--they crossed your interests--I said
they should go. George Uplift is going to-day. The house is left to us;
and I believe firmly that Mrs. Bonner's will contains a memento of the
effect of our frequent religious conversations. So you would leave now?
I suspect nobody, but we are all human, and Wills would not have been
tampered with for the first time. Besides, and the Countess's
imagination warmed till she addressed her brother as a confederate, 'we
shall then see to whom Beckley Court is bequeathed. Either way it may be
yours. Yours! and you suffer their plots to drive you forth. Do you
not perceive that Mama was brought here to-day on purpose to shame us and
cast us out? We are surrounded by conspiracies, but if our faith is pure
who can hurt us? If I had not that consolation--would that you had it,
too!--would it be endurable to me to see those menials whispering and
showing their forced respect? As it is, I am fortified to forgive them.
I breathe another atmosphere. Oh, Evan! you did not attend to Mr.
Parsley's beautiful last sermon. The Church should have been your
From vehemence the Countess had subsided to a mournful gentleness. She
had been too excited to notice any changes in her brother's face during
her speech, and when he turned from the door, and still eyeing her
fixedly, led her to a chair, she fancied from his silence that she had
subdued and convinced him. A delicious sense of her power, succeeded by
a weary reflection that she had constantly to employ it, occupied her
mind, and when presently she looked up from the shade of her hand, it was
to agitate her head pitifully at her brother.
'All this you have done for me, Louisa,' he said.
'Yes, Evan,--all!' she fell into his tone.
'And you are the cause of Laxley's going? Did you know anything of that
He was squeezing her hand-with grateful affection, as she was deluded to
'Perhaps, dear,--a little,' her conceit prompted her to admit.
'Did you write it?'
He gazed intently into her eyes, and as the question shot like a javelin,
she tried ineffectually to disengage her fingers; her delusion waned; she
took fright, but it was too late; he had struck the truth out of her
before she could speak. Her spirit writhed like a snake in his hold.
Innumerable things she was ready to say, and strove to; the words would
not form on her lips.
'I will be answered, Louisa.'
The stern manner he had assumed gave her no hope of eluding him. With an
inward gasp, and a sensation of nakedness altogether new to her, dismal,
and alarming, she felt that she could not lie. Like a creature forsaken
of her staunchest friend, she could have flung herself to the floor. The
next instant her natural courage restored her. She jumped up and stood
'Yes. I did.'
And now he was weak, and she was strong, and used her strength.
'I wrote it to save you. Yes. Call on your Creator, and be my judge, if
you dare. Never, never will you meet a soul more utterly devoted to you,
Evan. This Mr. Forth, this Laxley, I said, should go, because they were
resolved to ruin you, and make you base. They are gone. The
responsibility I take on myself. Nightly--during the remainder of my
days--I will pray for pardon.'
He raised his head to ask sombrely: 'Is your handwriting like Laxley's?'
'It seems so,' she answered, with a pitiful sneer for one who could
arrest her exaltation to inquire about minutiae. 'Right or wrong, it is
done, and if you choose to be my judge, think whether your own conscience
is clear. Why did you come here? Why did you stay? You have your free
will,--do you deny that? Oh, I will take the entire blame, but you must
not be a hypocrite, Van. You know you were aware. We had no
confidences. I was obliged to treat you like a child; but for you to
pretend to suppose that roses grow in your path--oh, that is paltry!
You are a hypocrite or an imbecile, if that is your course.'
Was he not something of the former? The luxurious mist in which he had
been living, dispersed before his sister's bitter words, and, as she
designed he should, he felt himself her accomplice. But, again, reason
struggled to enlighten him; for surely he would never have done a thing
so disproportionate to the end to be gamed! It was the unconnected
action of his brain that thus advised him. No thoroughly-fashioned,
clear-spirited man conceives wickedness impossible to him: but wickedness
so largely mixed with folly, the best of us may reject as not among our
temptations. Evan, since his love had dawned, had begun to talk with his
own nature, and though he knew not yet how much it would stretch or
contract, he knew that he was weak and could not perform moral wonders
without severe struggles. The cynic may add, if he likes--or without
Could he be his sister's judge? It is dangerous for young men to be too
good. They are so sweeping in their condemnations, so sublime in their
conceptions of excellence, and the most finished Puritan cannot out-do
their demands upon frail humanity. Evan's momentary self-examination
saved him from this, and he told the Countess, with a sort of cold
compassion, that he himself dared not blame her.
His tone was distinctly wanting in admiration of her, but she was
somewhat over-wrought, and leaned her shoulder against him, and became
immediately his affectionate, only too-zealous, sister; dearly to be
loved, to be forgiven, to be prized: and on condition of inserting a
special petition for pardon in her orisons, to live with a calm
conscience, and to be allowed to have her own way with him during the
rest of her days.
It was a happy union--a picture that the Countess was lured to admire in
Sad that so small a murmur should destroy it for ever!
'What?' cried the Countess, bursting from his arm.
'Go?' she emphasized with the hardness of determined unbelief, as if
plucking the words, one by one, out of her reluctant ears. 'Go to Lady
Jocelyn, and tell her I wrote the letter?'
'You can do no less, I fear,' said Evan, eyeing the floor and breathing a
'Then I did hear you correctly? Oh, you must be mad-idiotic! There,
pray go away, Evan. Come in the morning. You are too much for my
Evan rose, putting out his hand as if to take hers and plead with her.
She rejected the first motion, and repeated her desire for him to leave
her; saying, cheerfully
'Good night, dear; I dare say we shan't meet till the morning.'
'You can't let this injustice continue a single night, Louisa?' said he.
She was deep in the business of arrangeing a portion of her attire.
'Go-go; please,' she responded.
Lingering, he said: 'If I go, it will be straight to Lady Jocelyn.'
She stamped angrily.
'Only go!' and then she found him gone, and she stooped lower to the
glass, to mark if the recent agitation were observable under her eyes.
There, looking at herself, her heart dropped heavily in her bosom. She
ran to the door and hurried swiftly after Evan, pulling him back
'Where are you going, Evan?'
'To Lady Jocelyn.'
The unhappy victim of her devotion stood panting.
'If you go, I--I take poison!' It was for him now to be struck; but he
was suffering too strong an anguish to be susceptible to mock tragedy.
The Countess paused to study him. She began to fear her brother.
'I will!' she reiterated wildly, without moving him at all. And the
quiet inflexibility of his face forbade the ultimate hope which lies in
giving men a dose of hysterics when they are obstinate. She tried by
taunts and angry vituperations to make him look fierce, if but an
instant, to precipitate her into an exhibition she was so well prepared
'Evan! what! after all my love, my confidence in you--I need not have
told you--to expose us! Brother? would you? Oh!'
'I will not let this last another hour,' said Evan, firmly, at the same
time seeking to caress her. She spurned his fruitless affection,
feeling, nevertheless, how cruel was her fate; for, with any other save a
brother, she had arts at her disposal to melt the manliest resolutions.
The glass showed her that her face was pathetically pale; the tones of
her voice were rich and harrowing. What did they avail with a brother?
'Promise me,' she cried eagerly, 'promise me to stop here--on this spot-
till I return.'
The promise was extracted. The Countess went to fetch Caroline.
Evan did not count the minutes. One thought was mounting in his brain-
the scorn of Rose. He felt that he had lost her. Lost her when he had
just won her! He felt it, without realizing it. The first blows of an
immense grief are dull, and strike the heart through wool, as it were.
The belief of the young in their sorrow has to be flogged into them, on
the good old educational principle. Could he do less than this he was
about to do? Rose had wedded her noble nature to him, and it was as much
her spirit as his own that urged him thus to forfeit her, to be worthy of
her by assuming unworthiness.
There he sat neither conning over his determination nor the cause for it,
revolving Rose's words about Laxley, and nothing else. The words were so
sweet and so bitter; every now and then the heavy smiting on his heart
set it quivering and leaping, as the whip starts a jaded horse.
Meantime the Countess was participating in a witty conversation in the
drawing-room with Sir John and the Duke, Miss Current, and others; and it
was not till after she had displayed many graces, and, as one or two
ladies presumed to consider, marked effrontery, that she rose and drew
Caroline away with her. Returning to her dressing-room, she found that
Evan had faithfully kept his engagement; he was on the exact spot where
she had left him.
Caroline came to him swiftly, and put her hand to his forehead that she
might the better peruse his features, saying, in her mellow caressing
voice: 'What is this, dear Van, that you will do? Why do you look so
'Has not Louisa told you?'
'She has told me something, dear, but I don't know what it is. That you
are going to expose us? What further exposure do we need? I'm sure,
Van, my pride--what I had--is gone. I have none left!'
Evan kissed her brows warmly. An explanation, full of the Countess's
passionate outcries of justification, necessity, and innocence in higher
than fleshly eyes, was given, and then the three were silent.
'But, Van,' Caroline commenced, deprecatingly, 'my darling! of what use
--now! Whether right or wrong, why should you, why should you, when the
thing is done, dear?--think!'
'And you, too, would let another suffer under an unjust accusation?' said
'But, dearest, it is surely your duty to think of your family first.
Have we not been afflicted enough? Why should you lay us under this
'Because it 's better to bear all now than a life of remorse,' answered
'But this Mr. Laxley--I cannot pity him; he has behaved so insolently to
you throughout! Let him suffer.'
'Lady Jocelyn,' said Evan, 'has been unintentionally unjust to him, and
after her kindness--apart from the right or wrong--I will not--I can't
allow her to continue so.'
'After her kindness!' echoed the Countess, who had been fuming at
Caroline's weak expostulations. 'Kindness! Have I not done ten times
for these Jocelyns what they have done for us? 0 mio Deus! why, I have
bestowed on them the membership for Fallow field: I have saved her from
being a convicted liar this very day. Worse! for what would have been
talked of the morals of the house, supposing the scandal. Oh! indeed I
was tempted to bring that horrid mad Captain into the house face to face
with his flighty doll of a wife, as I, perhaps, should have done, acting
by the dictates of my conscience. I lied for Lady Jocelyn, and handed
the man to a lawyer, who withdrew him. And this they owe to me!
Kindness? They have given us bed and board, as the people say. I have
repaid them for that.'
'Pray be silent, Louisa,' said Evan, getting up hastily, for the sick
sensation Rose had experienced came over him. His sister's plots, her
untruth, her coarseness, clung to him and seemed part of his blood. He
now had a personal desire to cut himself loose from the wretched
entanglement revealed to him, whatever it cost.
'Are you really, truly going?' Caroline exclaimed, for he was near the
'At a quarter to twelve at night!' sneered the Countess, still imagining
that he, like herself, must be partly acting.
'But, Van, is it--dearest, think! is it manly for a brother to go and
tell of his sister? And how would it look?'
Evan smiled. 'Is it that that makes you unhappy? Louisa's name will not
be mentioned--be sure of that.'
Caroline was stooping forward to him. Her figure straightened: 'Good
Heaven, Evan! you are not going to take it on yourself? Rose!--she will
'God help me!' he cried internally.
'Oh, Evan, darling! consider, reflect!' She fell on her knees, catching
his hand. 'It is worse for us that you should suffer, dearest! Think of
the dreadful meanness and baseness of what you will have to acknowledge.'
'Yes!' sighed the youth, and his eyes, in his extreme pain, turned to the
'Think, dear,' Caroline hurried on, 'he gains nothing for whom you do
this--you lose all. It is not your deed. You will have to speak an
untruth. Your ideas are wrong--wrong, I know they are. You will have to
lie. But if you are silent, the little, little blame that may attach to
us will pass away, and we shall be happy in seeing our brother happy.'
'You are talking to Evan as if he had religion,' said the Countess, with
steady sedateness. And at that moment, from the sublimity of his pagan
virtue, the young man groaned for some pure certain light to guide him:
the question whether he was about to do right made him weak. He took
Caroline's head between his two hands, and kissed her mouth. The act
brought Rose to his senses insufferably, and she--his Goddess of truth
and his sole guiding light-spurred him afresh.
'My family's dishonour is mine, Caroline. Say nothing more--don't think
of me. I go to Lady Jocelyn tonight. To-morrow we leave, and there's
the end. Louisa, if you have any new schemes for my welfare, I beg you
to renounce them.'
'Gratitude I never expected from a Dawley!' the Countess retorted.
'Oh, Louisa! he is going!' cried Caroline; 'kneel to him with me: stop
him: Rose loves him, and he is going to make her hate him.'
'You can't talk reason to one who's mad,' said the Countess, more like
the Dawley she sprang from than it would have pleased her to know.
'My darling! My own Evan! it will kill me,' Caroline exclaimed, and
passionately imploring him, she looked so hopelessly beautiful, that Evan
was agitated, and caressed her, while he said, softly: 'Where our honour
is not involved I would submit to your smallest wish.'
'It involves my life--my destiny!' murmured Caroline.
Could he have known the double meaning in her words, and what a saving
this sacrifice of his was to accomplish, he would not have turned to do
it feeling abandoned of heaven and earth.
The Countess stood rigidly as he went forth. Caroline was on her knees,
A PAGAN SACRIFICE
Three steps from the Countess's chamber door, the knot of Evan's
resolution began to slacken. The clear light of his simple duty grew
cloudy and complex. His pride would not let him think that he was
shrinking, but cried out in him, 'Will you be believed?' and whispered
that few would believe him guilty of such an act. Yet, while something
said that full surely Lady Jocelyn would not, a vague dread that Rose
might, threw him back on the luxury of her love and faith in him. He
found himself hoping that his statement would be laughed at. Then why
No: that was too blind a hope. Many would take him at his word; all--all
save Lady Jocelyn! Rose the first! Because he stood so high with her
now he feared the fall. Ah, dazzling pinnacle! our darlings shoot us up
on a wondrous juggler's pole, and we talk familiarly to the stars, and
are so much above everybody, and try to walk like creatures with two
legs, forgetting that we have but a pin's point to stand on up there.
Probably the absence of natural motion inspires the prophecy that we must
ultimately come down: our unused legs wax morbidly restless. Evan
thought it good that Rose should lift her head to look at him;
nevertheless, he knew that Rose would turn from him the moment he
descended from his superior station. Nature is wise in her young
children, though they wot not of it, and are always trying to rush away
from her. They escape their wits sooner than their instincts.