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LORD ORMONT AND HIS AMINTA.
By George Meredith
I. LOVE AT A SCHOOL
II. LADY CHARLOTTE
III. THE TUTOR
V. IN WHICH THE SHADES OF BROWNY AND MATEY ADVANCE AND RETIRE
VI. IN A MOOD OF LANGUOR
VII. EXHIBITS EFFECTS OF A PRATTLER'S DOSES
VIII. MRS. LAWRENCE FINCHLEY
IX. A FLASH OF THE BRUISED WARRIOR
X. A SHORT PASSAGE IN THE GAME PLAYED BY TWO
XI. THE SECRETARY TAKEN AS AN ANTIDOTE
XII. MORE OF CUPER'S BOYS
XIII. WAR AT OLMER
XIV. OLD LOVERS NEW FRIENDS
XV. SHOWING A SECRET FISHED WITHOUT ANGLING
XVI. ALONG TWO ROADS TO STEIGNTON
XVII. LADY CHARLOTTE'S TRIUMPH
XVIII. A SCENE ON THE ROAD BACK
XIX. THE PURSUERS
XX. AT THE SIGN OF THE JOLLY CRICKETERS
XXI. UNDER-CURRENTS IN THE MINDS OF LADY CHARLOTTE AND LORD ORMONT
XXII. TREATS OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE CONTENTION OF BROTHER AND SISTER
XXIII. THE ORMONT JEWELS
XXIV. LOVERS MATED
XXXV. PREPARATIONS FOR A RESOLVE
XXVI. VISITS OF FAREWELL
XXVII. A MARINE DUET
XXVIII. THE PLIGHTING
XXIX. AMINTA TO HER LORD
LORD ORMONT AND HIS AMINTA.
I. LOVE AT A SCHOOL
II. LADY CHARLOTTE
III. THE TUTOR
LOVE AT A SCHOOL
A procession of schoolboys having to meet a procession of schoolgirls on
the Sunday's dead march, called a walk, round the park, could hardly go
by without dropping to a hum in its chatter, and the shot of incurious
half-eyes the petticoated creatures--all so much of a swarm unless you
stare at them like lanterns. The boys cast glance because it relieved
their heaviness; things were lumpish and gloomy that day of the week.
The girls, who sped their peep of inquisition before the moment of
transit, let it be seen that they had minds occupied with thoughts of
Our gallant fellows forgot the intrusion of the foreign as soon as it had
passed. A sarcastic discharge was jerked by chance at the usher and the
governess--at the old game, it seemed; or why did they keep steering
columns to meet? There was no fun in meeting; it would never be
happening every other Sunday, and oftener, by sheer toss-penny accident.
They were moved like pieces for the pleasure of these two.
Sometimes the meeting occurred twice during the stupid march-out, when it
became so nearly vexatious to boys almost biliously oppressed by the
tedium of a day merely allowing them to shove the legs along, ironically
naming it animal excise, that some among them pronounced the sham
variation of monotony to be a bothering nuisance if it was going to
happen every Sunday, though Sunday required diversions. They hated the
absurdity in this meeting and meeting; for they were obliged to
anticipate it, as a part of their ignominious weekly performance; and
they could not avoid reflecting on it, as a thing done over again: it had
them in front and in rear; and it was a kind of broadside mirror,
flashing at them the exact opposite of themselves in an identically
similar situation, that forced a resemblance.
Touching the old game, Cuper's fold was a healthy school, owing to the
good lead of the head boy, Matey Weyburn, a lad with a heart for games
to bring renown, and no thought about girls. His emulation, the fellows
fancied, was for getting the school into a journal of the Sports. He
used to read one sent him by a sporting officer of his name, and talk
enviously of public schools, printed whatever they did--a privilege and
dignity of which, they had unrivalled enjoyment in the past, days, when
wealth was more jealously exclusive; and he was always prompting for
challenges and saving up to pay expenses; and the fellows were to laugh
at kicks and learn the art of self-defence--train to rejoice in whipcord
muscles. The son of a tradesman, if a boy fell under the imputation,
was worthy of honour with him, let the fellow but show grip and
toughness. He loathed a skulker, and his face was known for any boy who
would own to fatigue or confess himself beaten. "Go to bed," was one of
his terrible stings. Matey was good at lessons, too--liked them; liked
Latin and Greek; would help a poor stumbler.
Where he did such good work was in sharpening the fellows to excel. He
kept them to the grindstone, so that they had no time for rusty brooding;
and it was fit done by exhortations off a pedestal, like St. Paul at the
Athenians, it breathed out of him every day of the week. He carried a
light for followers. Whatever he demanded of them, he himself did it
easily. He would say to boys, "You're going to be men," meaning
something better than women. There was a notion that Matey despised
girls. Consequently, never much esteemed, they were in disfavour. The
old game was mentioned only because of a tradition of an usher and
governess leering sick eyes until they slunk away round a corner and
married, and set up a school for themselves--an emasculate ending.
Comment on it came of a design to show that the whole game had been
examined dismissed as uninteresting and profitless.
One of the boys alluded in Matey's presence to their general view upon
the part played by womankind on the stage, confident of a backing; and he
had it, in a way: their noble chief whisked the subject, as not worth a
discussion; but he turned to a younger chap, who said he detested girls,
and asked him how about a sister at home; and the youngster coloured, and
Matey took him and spun him round, with a friendly tap on the shoulder.
Odd remarks at intervals caused it to be suspected that he had ideas
concerning girls. They were high as his head above the school; and there
they were left, with Algebra and Homer, for they were not of a sort to
inflame; until the boys noticed how he gave up speaking, and fell to hard
looking, though she was dark enough to get herself named Browny. In the
absence of a fair girl of equal height to set beside her, Browny shone.
She had a nice mouth, ready for a smile at the corners, or so it was
before Matey let her see that she was his mark. Now she kept her mouth
asleep and her eyes half down, up to the moment of her nearing to pass,
when the girl opened on him, as if lifting her eyelids from sleep to the
window, a full side--look, like a throb, and no disguise--no slyness or
boldness either, not a bit of languishing. You might think her heart
came quietly out.
The look was like the fall of light on the hills from the first of
morning. It lasted half a minute, and left a ruffle for a good half-
hour. Even the younger fellows, without knowing what affected them, were
moved by the new picture of a girl, as if it had been a frontispiece of a
romantic story some day to be read. She looked compelled to look, but
consenting and unashamed; at home in submission; just the look that wins
observant boys, shrewd as dogs to read by signs, if they are interested
in the persons. They read Browny's meaning: that Matey had only to come
and snatch her; he was her master, and she was a brave girl, ready to go
all over the world with him; had taken to him as he to her, shot for
shot. Her taking to the pick of the school was a capital proof that she
was of the right sort. To be sure, she could not much help herself.
Some of the boys regretted her not being fair. But, as they felt, and
sought to explain, in the manner of the wag of a tail, with elbows and
eyebrows to one another's understanding, fair girls could never have let
fly such look; fair girls are softer, woollier, and when they mean to
look serious, overdo it by craping solemn; or they pinafore a jigging
eagerness, or hoist propriety on a chubby flaxen grin; or else they dart
an eye, or they mince and prim and pout, and are sigh-away and dying-
ducky, given to girls' tricks. Browny, after all, was the girl for
She won a victory right away and out of hand, on behalf of her cloud-and-
moon sisters, as against the sunny-meadowy; for slanting intermediates
are not espied of boys in anything: conquered by Browny; they went over
to her colour, equal to arguing, that Venus at her mightiest must have
been dark, or she would not have stood a comparison with the forest
Goddess of the Crescent, swanning it through a lake--on the leap for run
of the chase--watching the dart, with her humming bow at breast. The
fair are simple sugary thing's, prone to fat, like broad-sops in milk;
but the others are milky nuts, good to bite, Lacedaemonian virgins, hard
to beat, putting us on our mettle; and they are for heroes, and they can
be brave. So these boys felt, conquered by Browny. A sneaking native
taste for the forsaken side, known to renegades, hauled at them if her
image waned during the week; and it waned a little, but Sunday restored
and stamped it.
By a sudden turn the whole upper-school had fallen to thinking of girls,
and the meeting on the Sunday was a prospect. One of the day-boarders
had a sister in the seminary of Miss Vincent. He was plied to obtain
information concerning Browny's name and her parents. He had it pat to
hand in answer. No parents came to see her; an aunt came now and then.
Her aunt's name was not wanted. Browny's name was Aminta Farrell.
Farrell might pass; Aminta was debated. This female Christian name had
a foreign twang; it gave dissatisfaction. Boy after boy had a try at it,
with the same effect: you could not speak the name without a pursing of
the month and a puckering of the nose, beastly to see, as one little
fellow reminded them on a day when Matey was in more than common favour,
topping a pitch of rapture, for clean bowling, first ball, middle stump
on the kick, the best bat of the other eleven in a match; and, says this
youngster, drawling, soon after the cheers and claps had subsided to
He made it funny by saying it as if to himself and the ground, in a
subdued way, while he swung his leg on a half-circle, like a skater,
hands in pockets. He was a sly young rascal, innocently precocious
enough, and he meant no disrespect either to Browny or to Matey; but he
had to run for it, his delivery of the name being so like what was in the
breasts of the senior fellows, as to the inferiority of any Aminta to old
Matey, that he set them laughing; and Browny was on the field, to reprove
them, left of the tea-booth, with her school-mates, part of her head
under a scarlet parasol.
A girl with such a name as Aminta might not be exactly up to the standard
of old Matey, still, if he thought her so and she had spirit, the school
was bound to subscribe; and that look of hers warranted her for taking
her share in the story, like the brigand's wife loading gnus for him
while he knocks over the foremost carabineer on the mountain-ledge below,
who drops on his back with a hellish expression.
Browny was then clearly seen all round, instead of only front-face,
as on the Sunday in the park, when fellows could not spy backward after
passing. The pleasure they had in seeing her all round involved no fresh
stores of observation, for none could tell how she tied her back-hair,
which was the question put to them by a cynic of a boy, said to be queasy
with excess of sisters. They could tell that she was tall for a girl,
or tallish--not a maypole. She drank a cup of tea, and ate a slice of
bread-and-butter; no cake.
She appeared undisturbed when Matey, wearing his holiday white ducks,
and all aglow, entered the booth. She was not expected to faint, only
she stood for the foreign Aminta more than for their familiar Browny in
his presence. Not a sign of the look which had fired the school did she
throw at him. Change the colour and you might compare her to a lobster
fixed on end, with a chin and no eyes. Matey talked to Miss Vincent up
to the instant of his running to bat. She would have liked to guess how
he knew she had a brother on the medical staff of one of the regiments in
India: she asked him twice, and his cheeks were redder than cricket in
the sun. He said he read all the reports from India, and asked her
whether she did not admire Lord Ormont, our general of cavalry, whose
charge at the head of fifteen hundred horse in the last great battle
shattered the enemy's right wing, and gave us the victory--rolled him up
and stretched him out like a carpet for dusting. Miss Vincent exclaimed
that it was really strange, now, he should speak of Lord Ormont, for she
had been speaking of him herself in morning to one of her young ladies,
whose mind was bent on his heroic deeds. Matey turned his face to the
group of young ladies, quite pleased that one of them loved his hero; and
he met a smile here and there--not from Miss Aminta Farrell. She was a
complete disappointment to the boys that day. "Aminta" was mouthed at
any allusions to her.
So, she not being a match for Matey, they let her drop. The flush that
had swept across the school withered to a dry recollection, except when
on one of their Sunday afternoons she fanned the desert. Lord Ormont
became the subject of inquiry and conversation; and for his own sake--not
altogether to gratify Matey. The Saturday autumn evening's walk home,
after the race out to tea at a distant village, too late in the year for
cricket, too early for regular football, suited Matey, going at long
strides, for the story of his hero's adventures; and it was nicer than
talk about girls, and puzzling. Here lay a clear field; for he had the
right to speak of a cavalry officer: his father died of wounds in the
service, and Matey naturally intended to join the Dragoons; if he could
get enough money to pay for mess, he said, laughing. Lord Ormont was his
pattern of a warrior. We had in him a lord who cast off luxury to live
like a Spartan when under arms, with a passion to serve his country and
sustain the glory of our military annals. He revived respect for the
noble class in the hearts of Englishmen. He was as good an authority on
horseflesh as any Englishman alive; the best for the management of
cavalry: there never was a better cavalry leader. The boys had come to
know that Browny admired Lord Ormont, so they saw a double reason why
Matey should; and walking home at his grand swing in the October dusk,
their school hero drew their national hero closer to them.
Every fellow present was dead against the usher, Mr. Shalders, when he
took advantage of a pause to strike in with his "Murat!"
He harped on Murat whenever he had a chance. Now he did it for the
purpose of casting eclipse upon Major-General Lord Ormont, the son and
grandson of English earls; for he was an earl by his title, and Murat was
the son of an innkeeper. Shalders had to admit that Murat might have
served in the stables when a boy. Honour to Murat, of course, for
climbing the peaks! Shalders, too, might interest him in military
affairs and Murat; he did no harm, and could be amusing. It rather added
to his amount of dignity. It was rather absurd, at the same time, for an
English usher to be spouting and glowing about a French general, who had
been a stable-boy and became a king, with his Murat this, Murat that, and
hurrah Murat in red and white and green uniform, tunic and breeches, and
a chimney-afire of feathers; and how the giant he was charged at the head
of ten thousand horse, all going like a cataract under a rainbow over the
rocks, right into the middle of the enemy and through; and he a spark
ahead, and the enemy streaming on all sides flat away, as you see puffed
smoke and flame of a bonfire. That was fun to set boys jigging. No
wonder how in Russia the Cossacks feared him, and scampered from the
shadow of his plumes--were clouds flying off his breath! That was a
fine warm picture for the boys on late autumn or early winter evenings,
Shalders warming his back at the grate, describing bivouacs in the snow.
They liked well enough to hear him when he was not opposing Matey and
Lord Ormont. He perked on his toes, and fetched his hand from behind him
to flourish it when his Murat came out. The speaking of his name clapped
him on horseback--the only horseback he ever knew. He was as fond of
giving out the name Murat as you see in old engravings of tobacco-shops
men enjoying the emission of their whiff of smoke.
Matey was not inclined to class Lord Ormont alongside Murat, a first-rate
horseman and an eagle-eye, as Shalders rightly said; and Matey agreed
that forty thousand cavalry under your orders is a toss above fifteen
hundred; but the claim for a Frenchman of a superlative merit to swallow
and make nothing of the mention of our best cavalry generals irritated
him to call Murat a mountebank.
Shalders retorted, that Lord Ormont was a reprobate.
Matey hoped he would some day write us an essay on the morale of
illustrious generals of cavalry; and Shalders told him he did not advance
his case by talking nonsense.
Each then repeated to the boys a famous exploit of his hero. Their
verdict was favourable to Lord Ormont. Our English General learnt riding
before he was ten years old, on the Pampas, where you ride all day, and
cook your steak for your dinner between your seat and your saddle. He
rode with his father and his uncle, Muncastle, the famous traveller, into
Paraguay. He saw fighting before he was twelve. Before he was twenty he
was learning outpost duty in the Austrian frontier cavalry. He served in
the Peninsula, served in Canada, served in India, volunteered for any
chance of distinction. No need to say much of his mastering the picked
Indian swordsmen in single combat: he knew their trick, and was quick to
save his reins when they made a dash threatening the headstroke--about
the same as disabling sails in old naval engagements.
That was the part for the officer; we are speaking of the General. For
that matter, he had as keen an eye for the field and the moment for his
arm to strike as any Murat. One world have liked to see Murat matched
against the sabre of a wily Rajpoot! As to campaigns and strategy, Lord
Ormont's head was a map. What of Murat and Lord Ormont horse to horse
and sword to sword? Come, imagine that, if you are for comparisons. And
if Lord Ormont never headed a lot of thousands, it does not prove he was
unable. Lord Ormont was as big as Murat. More, he was a Christian to
his horses. How about Murat in that respect? Lord Ormont cared for his
men: did Murat so particularly much? And he was as cunning fronting
odds, and a thunderbolt at the charge. Why speak of him in the past?
He is an English lord, a lord by birth, and he is alive; things may be
expected of him to-morrow or next day.
Shalders here cut Matey short by meanly objecting to that.
"Men are mortal," he said, with a lot of pretended stuff, deploring our
human condition in the elegy strain; and he fell to reckoning the English
hero's age--as that he, Lord Ormont, had been a name in the world for the
last twenty-five years or more. The noble lord could be no chicken. We
are justified in calculating, by the course of nature, that his term of
activity is approaching, or has approached, or, in fact, has drawn to its
"If your estimate, sir, approaches to correctness," rejoined Matey--
tellingly, his comrades thought.
"Sixty, as you may learn some day, is a serious age, Matthew Weyburn."
Matey said he should be happy to reach it with half the honours Lord
Ormont had won.
"Excepting the duels," Shalders had the impudence to say.
"If the cause is a good one!" cried Matey.
"The cause, or Lord Ormont has been maligned, was reprehensible in the
extremest degree." Shalders cockhorsed on his heels to his toes and back
with a bang.
"What was the cause, if you please, sir?" a boy, probably naughty,
inquired; and as Shalders did not vouchsafe a reply, the bigger boys
They revelled in the devilish halo of skirts on the whirl encircling Lord
Ormont's laurelled head.
That was a spark in their blood struck from a dislike of the tone assumed
by Mr. Shalders to sustain his argument; with his "men are mortal," and
talk of a true living champion as "no chicken," and the wordy drawl over
"justification for calculating the approach of a close to a term of
activity"--in the case of a proved hero!
Guardians of boys should make sure that the boys are on their side before
they raise the standard of virtue. Nor ought they to summon morality for
support of a polemic. Matey Weyburn's object of worship rode superior to
a morality puffing its phrasy trumpet. And, somehow, the sacrifice of an
enormous number of women to Lord Ormont's glory seemed natural; the very
thing that should be, in the case of a first-rate military hero and
commander--Scipio notwithstanding. It brightens his flame, and it is
agreeable to them. That is how they come to distinction: they have no
other chance; they are only women; they are mad to be singed, and they
rush pelf-mall, all for the honour of the candle.
Shortly after this discussion Matey was heard informing some of the
bigger fellows he could tell them positively that Lord Ormont's age was
under fifty-four--the prime of manhood, and a jolly long way off death!
The greater credit to him, therefore, if he bad been a name in the world
for anything like the period Shalders insinuated, "to get himself out of
a sad quandary." Matey sounded the queer word so as to fix it sticking
to the usher, calling him Mr. Peter Bell Shalders, at which the boys
roared, and there was a question or two about names, which belonged to
verses, for people caring to read poems.
To the joy of the school he displayed a greater knowledge of Murat than
Shalders had: named the different places in Europe where Lord Ormont and
Murat were both springing to the saddle at the same time--one a Marshal,
the other a lieutenant; one a king, to be off his throne any day, the
other a born English nobleman, seated firm as fate. And he accused Murat
of carelessness of his horses, ingratitude to his benefactor, circussy
style. Shalders went so far as to defend Murat for attending to the
affairs of his kingdom, instead of galloping over hedges and ditches to
swell Napoleon's ranks in distress. Matey listened to him there; he
became grave; he nodded like a man saying, "I suppose we must examine
it in earnest." The school was damped to hear him calling it a nice
question. Still, he said he thought he should have gone; and that
The boys inclined to speak contemptuously of Shalders. Matey world
not let them; he contrasted Shalders with the other ushers, who had
no enthusiasms. He said enthusiasms were salt to a man; and he liked
Shalders for spelling at his battles and thinking he understood them, and
admiring Murat, and leading Virgil and parts of Lucan for his recreation.
He said he liked the French because they could be splendidly
enthusiastic. He almost lost his English flavour when he spoke in
downright approval of a small French fellow, coming from Orthez, near the
Pyrenees, for senselessly dashing and kicking at a couple of English who
jeered to hear Orthez named--a place trampled under Wellington's heels,
on his march across conquered France. The foreign little cockerel was a
clever lad, learning English fast, and anxious to show he had got hold of
the English trick of not knowing when he was beaten. His French vanity
insisted on his engaging the two, though one of them stood aside, and the
other let him drive his nose all the compass round at a poker fist. What
was worse, Matey examined these two, in the interests of fair play, as if
Little Emile Grenat set matters right with his boast to vindicate his
country against double the number, and Matey praised him, though he knew
Emile had been floored without effort by the extension of a single fist.
He would not hear the French abused; he said they were chivalrous, they
were fine fellows, topping the world in some things; his father had
fought them and learnt to respect them. Perhaps his father had learnt to
respect Jews, for there was a boy named Abner, he protected, who smelt
Jewish; he said they ran us Gentiles hard, and carried big guns.
Only a reputation like Matey's could have kept his leadership from a
challenge. Joseph Masner, formerly a rival, went about hinting and
shrugging; all to no purpose, you find boys born to be chiefs. On the
day of the snow-fight Matey won the toss, and chose J. Masner first pick;
and Masner, aged seventeen and some months, big as a navvy, lumbered
across to him and took his directions, proud to stand in the front
centre, at the head of the attack, and bear the brunt--just what he was
fit for, Matey gave no offence by choosing, half-way down the list, his
little French friend, whom he stationed beside himself, rather off his
battle-front, as at point at cricket, not quite so far removed. Two boys
at his heels piled ammunition. The sides met midway of a marshy ground,
where a couple of flat and shelving banks, formed for a broad new road,
good for ten abreast--counting a step of the slopes--ran transverse; and
the order of the game was to clear the bank and drive the enemy on to the
frozen ditch-water. Miss Vincent heard in the morning from the sister
of little Collett of the great engagement coming off; she was moved by
curiosity, and so the young ladies of her establishment beheld the young
gentlemen of Mr. Cuper's in furious division, and Matey's sore aim and
hard fling, equal to a slinger's, relieving J. Masner of a foremost
assailant with a spanker on the nob. They may have fancied him clever
for selecting a position rather comfortable, as things went, until they
had sight of him with his little French ally and two others, ammunition
boys to rear, descending one bank and scaling another right into the
flank of the enemy, when his old tower of a Masner was being heavily
pressed by numbers. Then came a fight hand to hand, but the enemy stood
in a clamp; not to split like a nut between crackers, they gave way and
rolled, backing in lumps from bank to ditch.
The battle was over before the young ladies knew. They wondered to see
Matey shuffling on his coat and hopping along at easy bounds to pay his
respects to Miss Vincent, near whom was Browny; and this time he and
Browny talked together. He then introduced little Emile to her. She
spoke of Napoleon at Brienne, and complimented Matey. He said he was
cavalry, not artillery, that day. They talked to hear one another's
voices. By constantly appealing to Miss Vincent he made their
conversation together seem as under her conduct; and she took a slide on
some French phrases with little Emile. Her young ladies looked shrinking
and envious to see the fellows wet to the skin, laughing, wrestling,
linking arms; and some, who were clown-faced with a wipe of scarlet,
getting friends to rub their cheeks with snow, all of them happy as
larks in air, a big tea steaming for them at the school. Those girls
had a leap and a fail of the heart, glad to hug themselves in their dry
clothes, and not so warm as the dripping boys were, nor so madly fond of
their dress-circle seats to look on at a play they were not allowed even
to desire to share. They looked on at blows given and taken in good
temper, hardship sharpening jollity. The thought of the difference
between themselves and the boys must have been something like the tight
band--call it corset--over the chest, trying to lift and stretch for
draughts of air. But Browny's feeling naturally was, that all this
advantage for the boys came of Matey Weyburn's lead.
Miss Vincent with her young ladies walked off in couples, orderly chicks,
the usual Sunday march of their every day. The school was coolish to
them; one of the fellows hummed bars of some hymn tune, rather faster
than church. And next day there was a murmur of letters passing between
Matey and Browny regularly, little Collett for postman. Anybody might
have guessed it, but the report spread a feeling that girls are not the
entirely artificial beings or flat targets we suppose. The school began
to brood, like air deadening on oven-heat. Winter is hen-mother to the
idea of love in schools, if the idea has fairly entered. Various girls of
different colours were selected by boys for animated correspondence, that
never existed and was vigorously prosecuted, with efforts to repress
contempt of them in courtship for their affections. They found their
part of it by no means difficult when they imagined the lines without
the words, or, better still, the letter without the lines. A holy
satisfaction belonged to the sealed thing; the breaking of the seal and
inspection of the contents imposed perplexity on that sentiment. They
thought of certain possible sentences Matey and Browny would exchange;
but the plain, conceivable, almost visible, outside of the letter had a
stronger spell for them than the visionary inside. This fancied
contemplation of the love-letter was reversed in them at once by the
startling news of Miss Vincent's discovery and seizure of the sealed
thing, and her examination of the burden it contained. Then their thirst
was for drama--to see, to drink every wonderful syllable those lovers had
Miss Vincent's hand was upon one of Matey's letters. She had come across
the sister of little Collett, Selina her name was, carrying it. She saw
nothing of the others. Aminta was not the girl to let her. Nor did Mr.
Cuper dare demand from Matey a sight or restitution of the young lady's
half of the correspondence. He preached heavily at Matey; deplored that
the boy he most trusted, etc.--the school could have repeated it without
hearing. We know the master's lecture in tones--it sings up to sing
down, and touches nobody. As soon as he dropped to natural talk, and
spoke of his responsibility and Miss Vincent's, Matey gave the word of
a man of honour that he would not seek to communicate farther with Miss
Farrell at the school.
Now there was a regular thunder-hash among the boys on the rare occasions
when they met the girls. All that Matey and Browny were forbidden to
write they looked--much like what it had been before the discovery;
and they dragged the boys back from promised instant events. It was,
nevertheless, a heaving picture, like the sea in the background of a
marine piece at the theatre, which rouses anticipations of storm, and
shows readiness. Browny's full eyebrow sat on her dark eye like a cloud
of winter noons over the vanishing sun. Matey was the prisoner gazing at
light of a barred window and measuring the strength of the bars. She
looked unhappy, but looked unbeaten more. Her look at him fed the school
on thoughts of what love really is, when it is not fished out of books
and poetry. For though she was pale, starved and pale, they could see
she was never the one to be sighing; and as for him, he looked ground
dower all to edge. However much they puzzled over things, she made them
feel they were sure, as to her, that she drove straight and meant blood,
the life or death of it: all her own, if need be, and confidence in the
captain she had chosen. She could have been imagined saying, There is a
storm, but I am ready to embark with you this minute.
That sign of courage in real danger ennobled her among girls. The name
Browny was put aside for a respectful Aminta. Big and bright events to
come out in the world were hinted, from the love of such a couple. The
boys were not ashamed to speak the very word love. How he does love that
girl! Well, and how she loves him! She did, but the boys had to be
seeing her look at Matey if they were to put the girl on some balanced
equality with a fellow she was compelled to love. It seemed to them that
he gave, and that she was a creature carried to him, like driftwood along
the current of the flood, given, in spite of herself. When they saw
those eyes of hers they were impressed with an idea of her as a voluntary
giver too; pretty well the half to the bargain; and it confused their
notion of feminine inferiority. They resolved to think her an
exceptional girl, which, in truth, they could easily do, for none
but an exceptional girl could win Matey to love her.
Since nothing appeared likely to happen at the school, they speculated
upon what would occur out in the world, and were assisted to conjecture,
by a rumour, telling of Aminta Farrell's aunt as a resident at Dover.
Those were days when the benevolently international M. de Porquet had
begun to act as interpreter to English schools in the portico of the
French language; and under his guidance it was asked, in contempt of the
answer, Combien de postes d'ici a Douvres? But, accepting the rumour as
a piece of information, the answer became important. Ici was twenty
miles to the north-west of London. How long would it take Matey to reach
Donvres? Or at which of the combien did he intend to waylay and away
with Aminta? The boys went about pounding at the interrogative French
phrase in due sincerity, behind the burlesque of traveller bothering
coachman. Matey's designs could be finessed only by a knowledge of his
character: that he was not the fellow to give up the girl he had taken
to; and impediments might multiply, but he would bear them down.
Three days before the break-up of the school another rumour came tearing
through it: Aminta's aunt had withdrawn her from Miss Vincent's. And now
rose the question, two-dozen-mouthed, Did Matey know her address at
Douvres? His face grew stringy and his voice harder, and his eyes ready
to burst from a smother of fire. All the same, he did his work: he was
the good old fellow at games, considerate in school affairs, kind to the
youngsters; he was heard to laugh. He liked best the company of his
little French friend from Orthez, over whose shoulder his hand was laid
sometimes as they strolled and chatted in two languages. He really went
a long way to make French fellows popular, and the boys were sorry that
little Emile was off to finish his foreign education in Germany. His
English was pretty good, thanks to Matey. He went away, promising to
remember Old England, saying he was French first, and a Briton next.
He had lots of plunk; which accounted for Matey's choice of him as a
friend among the juniors.
Love-passages at a school must produce a ringing crisis if they are to
leave the rosy impression which spans the gap of holidays. Neither Matey
nor Browny returned to their yoke, and Cuper's boys recollected the
couple chiefly on Sundays. They remembered several of Matey's doings and
sayings: his running and high leaping, his bowling, a maxim or two of
his, and the tight strong fellow he was; also that the damsel's colour
distinctly counted for dark. She became nearly black in their minds.
Well, and Englishmen have been known to marry Indian princesses: some
have a liking for negresses. There are Nubians rather pretty in
pictures, if you can stand thick lips. Her colour does not matter,
provided the girl is of the right sort. The exchange of letters between
the lovers was mentioned. The discovery by Miss Vincent of their cool
habit of corresponding passed for an incident; and there it remained,
stiff as a poet, not being heated by a story to run. So the foregone
excitement lost warmth, and went out like a winter sun at noon or a match
lighted before the candle is handy.
Lord Ormont continued to be a subject of discussion from time to time,
for he was a name in the newspapers; and Mr. Shalders had been worked by
Matey Weyburn into a state of raw antagonism at the mention of the
gallant General; he could not avoid sitting in judgement on him.
According to Mr. Shalders, the opinion of all thoughtful people in
England was with John Company and the better part of the Press to condemn
Lord Ormont in his quarrel with the Commissioner of one of the Indian
provinces, who had the support of the Governor of his Presidency and of
the Viceroy; the latter not unreservedly, yet ostensibly inclined to
condemn a too prompt military hand. The Gordian knot of a difficulty cut
is agreeable in the contemplation of an official chief hesitating to use
the sword and benefiting by having it done for him. Lord Ormont
certainly cut the knot.
Mr. Shalders was cornered by the boys, coming at him one after another
without a stop, vowing it was the exercise of a military judgement upon
a military question at a period of urgency, which had brought about the
quarrel with the Commissioner and the reproof of the Governor. He
betrayed the man completely cornered by generalizing. He said--
"We are a civilian people; we pride ourselves on having civilian
"How can that be if we have won India with guns and swords?"
"But that splendid jewel for England's tiara won," said he (and he might
as well have said crown), "we are bound to sheathe the sword and govern
by the Book of the Law."
"But if they won't have the Book of the Law!"
"They knew the power behind it."
"Not if we knock nothing harder than the Book of the Law upon their
"Happily for the country, England's councils are not directed by boys!"
"Ah, but we're speaking of India, Mr. Shalders."
"You are presuming to speak of an act of insubordination committed by a
military officer under civilian command."
"What if we find an influential prince engaged in conspiracy?"
"We look for proof."
"Suppose we have good proof?"
"We summon him to exonerate himself."
"No; we mount and ride straight away into his territory, spot the
treason, deport him, and rule in his place!"
It was all very well for Mr. Shalders to say he talked to boys; he was
cornered again, as his shrug confessed.
The boys asked among themselves whether he would have taken the same view
if his Murat had done it!
These illogical boys fought for Matey Weyburn in their defence of Lord
Ormont. Somewhere, they wee sure, old Matey was hammering to the same
end--they could hear him. Thought of him inspired them to unwonted
argumentative energy, that they might support his cause; and scatter the
gloomy prediction of the school, as going to the dogs now Matey had left.
The subject provoked everywhere in Great Britain a division similar to
that between master and boys at Cuper's establishment: one party for our
modern English magisterial methods with Indians, the other for the
decisive Oriental at the early time, to suit their native tastes; and the
Book of the Law is to be conciliatingly addressed to their sentiments by
a benign civilizing Power, or the sword is out smartly at the hint of a
warning to protect the sword's conquests. Under one aspect we appear
potteringly European; under another, drunk of the East.
Lord Ormont's ride at the head of two hundred horsemen across a stretch
of country including hill and forest, to fall like a bolt from the blue
on the suspected Prince in the midst of his gathering warriors, was a
handsome piece of daring, and the high-handed treatment of the Prince was
held by his advocates to be justified by the provocation, and the result.
He scattered an unprepared body of many hundreds, who might have
enveloped him, and who would presumptively have stood their ground, had
they not taken his handful to be the advance of regiments. These are the
deeds that win empires! the argument in his favour ran. Are they of a
character to maintain empires? the counter-question was urged. Men of a
deliberative aspect were not wanting in approval of the sharp and summary
of the sword in air when we have to deal with Indians. They chose to
regard it as a matter of the dealing with Indians, and put aside the
question of the contempt of civil authority.
Counting the cries, Lord Ormont won his case. Festival aldermen, smoking
clubmen, buckskin squires, obsequious yet privately excitable tradesmen,
sedentary coachmen and cabmen, of Viking descent, were set to think like
boys about him: and the boys, the women, and the poets formed a tipsy
chorea. Journalists, on the whole, were fairly halved, as regarded
numbers. In relation to weight, they were with the burgess and the
presbyter; they preponderated heavily in the direction of England's
burgess view of all cases disputed between civilian and soldier.
But that was when the peril was over.
Admirers of Lord Ormont enjoyed a perusal of a letter addressed by him to
the burgess's journal; and so did his detractors. The printing of it was
an act of editorial ruthlessness. The noble soldier had no mould in his
intellectual or educational foundry for the casting of sentences; and the
editor's leading type to the letter, without further notice of the
writer--who was given a prominent place or scaffolding for the execution
of himself publicly, if it pleased him to do that thing--tickled the
critical mind. Lord Ormont wrote intemperately.
His Titanic hurling of blocks against critics did no harm to an enemy
skilled in the use of trimmer weapons, notably the fine one of letting
big missiles rebound. He wrote from India, with Indian heat--"curry and
capsicums," it was remarked. He dared to claim the countenance of the
Commander-in-chief of the Army of India for an act disapproved by the
India House. Other letters might be on their way, curryer than the
preceding, his friends feared; and might also be malevolently printed,
similarly commissioning the reverberation of them to belabour his name
before the public. Admirers were still prepared to admire; but aldermen
not at the feast, squire-archs not in the saddle or at the bottle, some
few of the juvenile and female fervent, were becoming susceptible to a
frosty critical tone in the public pronunciation of Lord Ormont's name
since the printing of his letter and the letters it called forth. None
of them doubted that his case was good. The doubt concerned the effect
on it of his manner of pleading it. And if he damaged his case, he
compromised his admirers. Why, the case of a man who has cleverly won a
bold stroke for his country must be good, as long as he holds his tongue.
A grateful country will right him in the end: he has only to wait, and
not so very long. "This I did: now examine it." Nothing more needed to
be said by him, if that.
True, he has a temper. It is owned that he is a hero. We take him with
his qualities, impetuosity being one, and not unsuited to his arm of the
service, as be has shown. If his temper is high, it is an element of a
character proved heroical. So has the sun his blotches, and we believe
that they go to nourish the luminary, rather than that they are a disease
of the photosphere.
Lord Ormont's apologists had to contend with anecdotes and dicta now
pouring in from offended Britons, for illustration of an impetuosity
fit to make another Charley XII. of Sweden--a gratuitous Coriolanus
haughtiness as well, new among a people accustomed socially to bow the
head to their nobles, and not, of late, expecting a kick for their pains.
Newspapers wrote of him that, "a martinet to subordinates, he was known
for the most unruly of lieutenants." They alluded to current sayings,
as that he "habitually took counsel of his horse on the field when a
movement was entrusted to his discretion." Numerous were the
journalistic sentences running under an air of eulogy of the lordly
warrior purposely to be tripped, and producing their damnable effect,
despite the obvious artifice. The writer of the letter from Bombay,
signed Ormont, was a born subject for the antithetical craftsmen's
He was, additionally, of infamous repute for morale in burgess
estimation, from his having a keen appreciation of female beauty and
a prickly sense of masculine honour. The stir to his name roused
pestilential domestic stories. In those days the aristocrat still
claimed licence, and eminent soldier-nobles, comporting themselves as
imitative servants of their god Mars, on the fields of love and war,
stood necessarily prepared to vindicate their conduct as the field of the
measured paces, without deeming themselves bounden to defend the course
they took. Our burgess, who bowed head to his aristocrat, and hired the
soldier to fight for him, could not see that such mis-behaviour
necessarily ensued. Lord Ormont had fought duels at home and abroad.
His readiness to fight again, and against odds, and with a totally unused
weapon, was exhibited by his attack on the Press in the columns of the
Press. It wore the comical face to the friends deploring it, which
belongs to things we do that are so very like us. They agreed with his
devoted sister, Lady Charlotte Eglett, as to the prudence of keeping him
out of England for a time, if possible.
At the first perusal of the letter, Lady Charlotte quitted her place in
Leicestershire, husband, horses, guests, the hunt, to scour across a
vacant London and pick up acquaintances under stress to be spots there in
the hunting season, with them to gossip for counsel on the subject of
"Ormont's hand-grenade," and how to stop and extinguish a second. She
was a person given to plain speech. "Stinkpot" she called it, when
acknowledging foul elements in the composition and the harm it did to
the unskilful balist. Her view of the burgess English imaged a mighty
monster behind bars, to whom we offer anything but our hand. As soon as
he gets held of that he has you; he won't let it loose with flesh on the
bones. We must offend him--we can't be man or woman without offending
his tastes and his worships; but while we keep from contact (i.e.
intercommunication) he may growl, he is harmless. Witness the many
occasions when her brother offended worse, and had been unworried, only
growled at, and distantly, not in a way to rouse concern; and at the neat
review, or procession into the City, or public display of any sort,
Ormont had but to show himself, he was the popular favourite immediately.
He had not committed the folly of writing a letter to a newspaper then.
Lady Charlotte paid an early visit to the office of the great London
solicitor, Arthur Abner, who wielded the law as an instrument of
protection for countless illustrious people afflicted by what they stir
or attract in a wealthy metropolis. She went simply to gossip of her
brother's affairs with a refreshing man of the world, not given to
circumlocutions, and not afraid of her: she had no deeper object;
but fancying she heard the clerk, on his jump from the stool, inform her
that Mr. Abner was out, "Out?" she cried, and rattled the room, thumping,
under knitted brows. "Out of town?" For a man of business taking
holidays, when a lady craves for gossip, disappointed her faith in him as
cruelly as the shut-up, empty inn the broken hunter knocking at a hollow
door miles off home.
Mr. Abner, hatted and gloved and smiling, came forth. "Going out, the
man meant, Lady Charlotte. At your service for five minutes."
She complimented his acuteness, in the remark, "You see I've only come to
chat," and entered his room.
He led her to her theme: "The excitement is pretty well over."
"My brother's my chief care--always was. I'm afraid he'll be
pitchforking at it again, and we shall have another blast. That letter
ought never to have been printed. That editor deserves the horsewhip for
letting it appear. If he prints a second one I shall treat him as a
"Better make a friend of him."
"Meet him at my table."
She jumped an illumined half-about on her chair. "So I will, then. What
are the creature's tastes?"
"Hunts, does he?" The editor rose in her mind from the state of neuter
to something of a man. "I recollect an article in that paper on the
Ormont duel. I hate duelling, but I side with my brother. I had to
laugh, though. Luckily, there's no woman on hand at present, as far as
I know. Ormont's not likely to be hooked by garrison women or blacks.
Those coloured women--some of ours too--send the nose to the clouds;
not a bad sign for health. And there are men like that old Cardinal
Guicciardini tells of...hum! Ormont's not one of them. I hope he'll
stay in India till this blows over, or I shall be hearing of
"You have seen the Duke?"
She nodded. Her reserve was a summary of the interview. "Kind, as he
always is," she said. "Ormont has no chance of employment unless there's
a European war. They can't overlook him in case of war. He'll have to
pray for that."
"Let us hope we shan't get it."
"My wish; but I have to think of my brother. If he's in England with no
employment, he's in a mess with women and men both. He kicks if he's
laid aside to rust. He has a big heart. That's what I said: all he
wants is to serve his country. If you won't have war, give him Gibraltar
or Malta, or command of one of our military districts. The South-eastern
'll be vacant soon. He'd like to be Constable of the Castle, and have an
eye on France."
"I think he's fond of the French?"
"Loves the French. Expects to have to fight them all the same. He loves
his country best. Here's the man everybody's abusing!"
"I demur, my lady. I was dining the other day with a client of mine, and
a youngster was present who spoke of Lord Ormont in a way I should like
you to have heard. He seemed to know the whole of Lord Ormont's career,
from the time of the ride to Paraguay up to the capture of the plotting
Rajah. He carried the table."
"Good boy! We must turn to the boys for justice, then. Name your day
for this man, this editor."
"I will see him. You shall have the day to-night."
Lady Charlotte and the editor met. She was racy, he anecdotal. Stag,
fox, and hare ran before them, over fields and through drawing-rooms: the
scent was rich. They found that they could talk to one another as they
thought; that he was not the Isle-bound burgess, nor she the postured
English great lady; and they exchanged salt, without which your current
scandal is of exhausted savour. They enjoyed the peculiar novel relish
of it, coming from a social pressman and a dame of high society. The
different hemispheres became known as one sphere to these birds of broad
wing convening in the upper blue above a quartered carcase earth.
A week later a letter, the envelope of a bulky letter in Lord Ormont's
handwriting, reached Lady Charlotte. There was a line from the editor:
"Would it please your ladyship to have this printed?"
She read the letter, and replied:
"Come to me for six days; you shall have the best mount in the
An editor devoid of malice might probably have forborne to print a letter
that appealed to Lady Charlotte, or touched her sensations, as if a
glimpse of the moon, on the homeward ride in winter on a nodding horse,
had suddenly bared to view a precipitous quarry within two steps. There
is no knowing: few men can forbear to tell a spicy story of their
friends; and an editor, to whom an exhibition of the immensely
preposterous on the part of one writing arrogantly must be provocative,
would feel the interests of his Journal, not to speak of the claims of
readers, pluck at him when he meditated the consignment of such a
precious composition to extinction. Lady Charlotte withheld a sight of
the letter from Mr. Eglett. She laid it in her desk, understanding well
that it was a laugh lost to the world. Poets could reasonably feign it
to shake the desk inclosing it. She had a strong sense of humour; her
mind reverted to the desk in a way to make her lips shut grimly. She
sided with her brother.
Only pen in hand did he lay himself open to the enemy. In his personal
intercourse he was the last of men to be taken at a disadvantage. Lady
Charlotte was brought round to the distasteful idea of some help coming
from a legitimate adjunct at his elbow: a restraining woman--wife, it had
to be said. And to name the word wife for Thomas Rowsley, Earl of
Ormont, put up the porcupine quills she bristled with at the survey of a
sex thirsting, and likely to continue thirsting, for such honour. What
woman had she known fit to bear the name? She had assumed the judicial
seat upon the pretensions of several, and dismissed them to their limbo,
after testifying against them. Who is to know the fit one in these mines
of deception? Women of the class offering wives decline to be taken on
trial; they are boxes of puzzles--often dire surprises. Her brother knew
them well enough to shy at the box. Her brother Rowsley had a funny
pride, like a boy at a game, at the never having been caught by one among
the many he made captive. She let him have it all to himself.
He boasted it to a sister sharing the pride exultant in the cry of the
hawk, scornful of ambitions poultry, a passed finger-post to the plucked,
and really regretful that no woman had been created fit for him. When
she was not aiding with her brother, women, however contemptible for
their weakness, appeared to her as better than barn-door fowl, or vermin
in their multitudes gnawing to get at the cheese-trap. She could be
humane, even sisterly, with women whose conduct or prattle did not
outrage plain sense, just as the stickler for the privileges of her class
was large-heartedly charitable to the classes flowing in oily orderliness
round about below it--if they did so flow. Unable to read woman's
character, except upon the broadest lines as it were the spider's main
threads of its web, she read men minutely, from the fact that they were
neither mysteries nor terrors to her; but creatures of importunate
appetites, humorous objects; very manageable, if we leave the road to
their muscles, dress their wounds, smoothe their creases, plume their
vanity; and she had an unerring eye for the man to be used when a blow
was needed, methods for setting him in action likewise. She knew how
much stronger than ordinary men the woman who can put them in motion.
They can be set to serve as pieces of cannon, under compliments on their
superior powers, which were not all undervalued by her on their own
merits, for she worshipped strength. But the said, with a certain amount
of truth, that the women unaware of the advantage Society gave them (as
to mastering men) were fools.
Tender, is not a word coming near to Lady Charlotte. Thoughtful on
behalf of the poor foolish victims of men she was. She had saved some,
avenged others. It should be stated, that her notion of saving was the
saving of them from the public: she had thrown up a screen. The saving
of them from themselves was another matter--hopeless, to her thinking.
How preach at a creature on the bend of passion's rapids! One might as
well read a chapter from the Bible to delirious patients. When once a
woman is taken with the love-passion, we must treat her as bitten; hide
her antics from the public: that is the principal business. If she
recovers, she resumes her place, and horrid old Nature, who drove her to
the frenzy, is unlikely to bother or, at least, overthrow her again,
unless she is one of the detestable wantons, past compassion or
consideration. In the case reviewed, the woman has gone through fire,
and is none the worse for her experiences: worth ten times what she was,
to an honest man, if men could be got to see it. Some do. Of those men
who do not, Lady Charlotte spoke with the old family-nurse humour, which
is familiar with the tricks and frailties of the infants; and it is a
knife to probe the male, while seemingly it does the part of the napkin--
pities and pats. They expect a return of much for the little that is
next to nothing. They are fall of expectations: and of what else?
They are hard bargainers.
She thought this of men; and she liked men by choice. She had old
nurse's preference for the lustier male child. The others are puling
things, easier to rear, because they bend better; and less esteemed,
though they give less trouble, rouse less care. But when it came to the
duel between the man and the woman, her sense of justice was moved to
join her with the party of her unfairly handled sisters--a strong party,
if it were not so cowardly, she had to think.
Mr. Eglett, her husband, accepted her--accepted the position into which
he naturally fell beside her, and the ideas she imposed on him; for she
never went counter to his principles. These were the fixed principles of
a very wealthy man, who abhorred debt, and was punctilious in veracity,
scrupulous in cleanliness of mind and body, devoted to the honour of his
country, the interests of his class. She respected the high landmark
possessing such principles; and she was therefore enabled to lead without
the wish to rule. As it had been between them at the beginning, so it
was now, when they were grandparents running on three lines of progeny
from two daughters and a son: they were excellent friends. Few couples
can say more. The union was good English grey--that of a prolonged
November, to which we are reconciled by occasions for the hunt and the
gun. She was, nevertheless, an impassioned woman. The feeling for her
brother helped to satisfy her heart's fires, though as little with her
brother as with her husband was she demonstrative. Lord Ormont
disrelished the caresses of relatives.
She, for her part, had so strong a sympathy on behalf of poor gentlemen
reduced to submit to any but a young woman's hug, that when, bronzed from
India, he quitted the carriage and mounted her steps at Olmer, the desire
to fling herself on his neck and breast took form in the words: "Here you
are home again, Rowsley; glad to have you." They shook hands firmly.
He remained three days at Olmer. His temper was mild, his frame of mind
bad as could be. Angry evaporations had left a residuum of solid scorn
for these "English," who rewarded soldierly services as though it were a
question of damaged packages of calico. He threatened to take the first
offer of a foreign State "not in insurrection." But clear sky was
overhead. He was the Rowsley of the old boyish delight in field sports,
reminiscences of prowlings and trappings in the woods, gropings along
water-banks, enjoyment of racy gossip. He spoke wrathfully of "one of
their newspapers" which steadily persisted in withholding from
publication every letter he wrote to it, after printing the first.
And if it printed one, why not the others?
Lady Charlotte put it on the quaintness of editors.
He had found in London, perhaps, reason for saying that he should do
well to be "out of this country" as early as he could; adding, presently,
that he meant to go, though "it broke his heart to keep away from a six
months' rest at Steignton," his Wiltshire estate.
No woman was in the field. Lady Charlotte could have submitted to the
intrusion of one of those at times wholesome victims, for the sake of the
mollification the unhappy proud thing might bring to a hero smarting
under injustice at the hands of chiefs and authorities.
He passed on to Steignton, returned to London, and left England for
Spain, as he wrote word, saying he hoped to settle at Steignton neat
year. He was absent the next year, and longer. Lady Charlotte had the
surprising news that Steignton was let, shooting and all, for five years;
and he had no appointment out of England or at home. When he came to
Olmer again he was under one of his fits of reserve, best undisturbed.
Her sympathy with a great soldier snubbed, an active man rusting, kept
her from remonstrance.
Three years later she was made meditative by the discovery of a woman's
being absolutely in the field, mistress of the field; and having been
there for a considerable period, dating from about the time when he
turned his back on England to visit a comrade-in-arms condemned by the
doctors to pass the winter in Malaga; and it was a young woman, a girl
in her teens, a handsome girl. Handsome was to be expected; Ormont
bargained for beauty. But report said the girl was very handsome, and
showed breeding: she seemed a foreigner, walked like a Goddess, sat her
horse the perfect Amazon. Rumour called her a Spaniard.
"Not if she rides!" Lady Charlotte cut that short.
Rumour had subsequently more to say. The reporter in her ear did not
confirm it, and she was resolutely deaf to a story incredible of her
brother--the man, of all men living, proudest of his name, blood,
station. So proud was he by nature, too, that he disdained to complain
of rank injustice; he maintained a cheerful front against adversity and
obloquy. And this man of complete self-command, who has every form of
noble pride, gets cajoled like a twenty-year-old yahoo at college! Do
you imagine it? To suppose of a man cherishing the name of Ormont, that
he would bestow it legally on a woman, a stranger, and imperil his race
by mixing blood with a creature of unknown lineage, was--why, of course,
it was to suppose him struck mad, and there never had been madness among
the Ormonts: they were too careful of the purity of the strain. Lady
Charlotte talked. She was excited, and ran her sentences to blanks, a
cunning way for ministering consolation to her hearing, where the
sentence intended a question, and the blank ending caught up the query
tone and carried it dwindling away to the most distant of throttled
interrogatives. She had, in this manner, only to ask,--her hearing
received the comforting answer it desired; for she could take that thin
far sound as a travelling laughter of incredulity, triumphant derision.
This meant to her--though she scarcely knew it, though the most wilful of
women declined to know it--a state of alarm. She had said of her brother
in past days that he would have his time of danger after striking sixty.
The dangerous person was to be young.
But, then, Ormont had high principles with regard to the dues to his
family. His principles could always be trusted. The dangerous young
person would have to be a person of lineage, of a certain station at
least: no need for a titled woman, only for warranted good blood. Is
that to be found certificated out of the rolls of Society? It may just
possibly be found, without certificate, however, in those muddled caverns
where the excluded intermingle. Here and there, in a peasant family,
or a small country tradesman's just raised above a peasant, honest
regenerating blood will be found. Nobles wanting refreshment from the
soil might do worse than try a slip of one of those juicy weeds; ill-
fated, sickly Royalties would be set-up striding through another half-
century with such invigoration, if it could be done for them! There are
tales. The tales are honourably discredited by the crazy constitutions
of the heirs to the diadem.
Yes, but we are speculating on the matter seriously, as though it were
one of intimate concern to the family. What is there to make us think
that Ormont would marry? Impossible to imagine him intimidated.
Unlikely that he, a practised reader of women, having so little of the
woman in him, would be melted by a wily girl; as women in the twilight
situation have often played the trick to come into the bright beams.
How? They do a desperate thing, and call it generosity, and then they
appeal from it to my lord's generosity; and so the two generosities drive
off in a close carriage with a friend and a professional landlady for the
blessing of the parson, and are legitimately united. Women have won
round fools to give way in that way. And quite right too! thought Lady
Charlotte, siding with nature and justice, as she reflected that no woman
created would win round her brother to give way in that way. He was too
acute. The moment the woman showed sign of becoming an actress, her doom
was written. "Poor idiot!" was not uncharitably inscribed by the
sisterly lady on the tombstone of hopes aimed with scarce pardonable
ambition at her brother.
She blew away the rumour. Ormont, she vowed, had not entitled any woman
to share and bear his title. And this was her interpretation of the
report: he permitted (if he did permit) the woman to take his name,
that he might have a scornful fling at the world maltreating him.
Besides, the name was not published, it was not to be seen in the papers;
it passed merely among male friends, tradesmen, servants: no great harm
Listen further. Here is an unknown girl: why should he marry her?
A girl consenting to the place beside a man of his handsome ripe age,
is either bought, or she is madly enamoured; she does not dictate terms.
Ormont is not of the brute buyers in that market. One sees it is the
girl who leads the dance. A girl is rarely so madly enamoured as when
she falls in love with her grandfather; she pitches herself at his head.
This had not happened for the first time in Ormont's case; and he had
never proposed marriage. Why should he do it now?
But again, if the girl has breeding to some extent, he might think it her
due that she should pass under the safeguard of his name, out of sight.
Then, so far the report is trustworthy. We blow the rumour out of
belief. A young woman there is: she is not a wife. Lady Charlotte
allowed her the fairly respectable post of Hecate of the Shades, as long
as the girl was no pretender to the place and name in the upper sphere.
Her deductions were plausible, convincing to friends shaken by her
vehement manner of coming at them. She convinced herself by means of her
multitude of reasons for not pursuing inquiry. Her brother said nothing.
There was no need for him to speak. He seemed on one or two occasions in
the act of getting himself together for the communication of a secret;
and she made ready to listen hard, with ears, eyebrows, shut month, and a
gleam at the back of her eyes, for a signification of something she would
refer him to after he had spoken. He looked at her and held his peace,
or virtually held it,--that is, he said not one word on the subject she
was to have told him she had anticipated. Lady Charlotte ascribed it to
his recollection of the quick blusher, the pained blusher, she was in her
girlhood at mention or print of the story of men and women. Who, not
having known her, could conceive it! But who could conceive that, behind
the positive, plain-dealing, downright woman of the world, there was at
times, when a nerve was touched or an old blocked path of imagination
thrown open, a sensitive youthfulness; still quick to blush as far as the
skin of a grandmother matron might show it!
There was no counting now on Lord Ormont's presence in the British
gathering seasons, when wheatears wing across our fields or swallows
return to their eaves. He forsook the hunt to roam the Continent, one of
the vulgar band of tourists, honouring town only when Mayflies had flown,
and London's indiscriminate people went about without their volatile
Lady Charlotte put these changed conditions upon the behaviour of the
military authorities to her brother, saying that the wonder was he did
not shake the dust of his country from his feet. In her wise head she
rejoiced to think he was not the donkey she sketched for admiration; and
she was partly consoled, or played at the taking of a comfort needed in
her perpetual struggle with a phantom of a fact, by the reflection that a
young woman on his arm would tense him to feel himself more at home
abroad. Her mind's habit of living warmly beside him in separation was
vexed by the fixed intrusion of a female third person, who checked the
run of intimate chatter, especially damped the fancied talk over early
days--of which the creature was ignorant; and her propinquity to him
arrested or broke the dialogue Lady Charlotte invented and pressed to
renew. But a wife, while letting him be seen, would have insisted on
appropriating the thought of him--all his days, past as well as present.
An impassioned sister's jealousy preferred that it should not be a wife
reigning to dispute her share of her brother in imagination.
Then came a rumour, telling of him as engaged upon the composition of his
Lady Charlotte's impulsive outcry: "Writing them?" signified her grounds
Happily, Memoirs are not among the silly deeds done in a moment; they
were somewhere ahead and over the hills: a band of brigands rather than a
homely shining mansion, it was true; but distant; and a principal
question shrieked to know whether he was composing them for publication.
She could look forward with a girl's pleasure to the perusal of them in
manuscript, in a woody nook, in a fervour of partizanship, easily
avoiding sight of errors, grammatical or moral. She chafed at the
possible printing and publishing of them. That would be equivalent to an
exhibition of him clean-stripped for a run across London--brilliant in
himself, spotty in the offence. Published Memoirs indicate the end of a
man's activity, and that he acknowledges the end; and at a period of Lord
Ormont's life when the denial of it should thunder. They are his final
chapter, making mummy of the grand figure they wrap in the printed stuff.
They are virtually his apology. Can those knowing Lord Ormont hear him
apologize? But it is a craven apology if we stoop to expound: we are
seen as pleading our case before the public. Call it by any name you
please, and under any attitude, it is that. And set aside the writing:
it may be perfect; the act is the degradation. It is a rousing of
swarms. His friends and the public will see the proudest nobleman of his
day, pleading his case in mangled English, in the headlong of an out-
poured, undrilled, rabble vocabulary, doubling the ridicule by his
imperturbability over the ridicule he excites: he who is no more
ridiculous, cried the partizan sister, conjuring up the scene, not an ace
more ridiculous, than a judge of assize calling himself miserable sinner
on Sunday before the parson, after he has very properly condemned half a
score of weekday miserable sinners to penal servitude or the rope.
Nobody laughs at the judge. Everybody will be laughing at the scornful
man down half-way to his knee-cape with a stutter of an apology for
having done his duty to his country, after stigmatizing numbers for
inability or ill-will to do it. But Ormont's weapon is the sword, not a
pen! Lady Charlotte hunted her simile till the dogs had it or it ran to
She struck at the conclusion, that the young woman had been persuading
him. An adoring young woman is the person to imagine and induce to the
commission of such folly. "What do you think? You have seen her, you
say?" she asked of a man she welcomed for his flavour of the worldling's
Lord Adderwood made answer: "She may be having a hand in it. She
worships, and that is your way of pulling gods to the ground."
"Does she understand good English?"
"Can she write?"
"I have never had a letter from her."
"You tell me Morsfield admires the woman--would marry her to-morrow,
if he could get her."
"He would go through the ceremony Ormont has performed, I do not doubt."
"I don't doubt all of you are ready. She doesn't encourage one?"
"On the contrary, all."
"She's clever. This has been going on for now seven years, and, as far
as I know, she has my brother fast."
"She may have done the clever trick of having him fast from the
"She'd like people to think it."
"She has an aunt to advertise it."
"Ormont can't swallow the woman, I'm told."
"Trying, if one is bound to get her down!"
"Boasts of the connection everywhere she's admitted, Randeller says."
"Randeller procures the admission to various parti-coloured places."
"She must be a blinking moll-owl! And I ask any sane Christian or Pagan-
-proof enough!--would my brother Rowsley let his wife visit those places,
those people? Monstrous to have the suspicion that he would, you know
him! Mrs. Lawrence Finchley, for example. I say nothing to hurt the
poor woman; I back her against her imbecile of a husband. He brings a
charge he can't support; she punishes him by taking three years' lease of
independence and kicks up the grass all over the paddock, and then comes
cuckoo, barking his name abroad to have her home again. You can win the
shyest filly to corn at last. She goes, and he digests ruefully the
hotch-potch of a dish the woman brings him. Only the world spies a side-
head at her, husbanded or not, though the main fault was his, and she had
a right to insist that he should be sure of his charge before he smacked
her in the face with it before the world. In dealing with a woman, a man
commonly prudent--put aside chivalry, justice, and the rest--should bind
himself to disbelieve what he can't prove. Otherwise, let him expect his
whipping, with or without ornament. My opinion is, Lawrence Finchley had
no solid foundation for his charge, except his being an imbecile. She
wasn't one of the adventurous women to jump the bars,--the gate had to be
pushed open, and he did it. There she is; and I ask you, would my
brother Rowsley let his wife be intimate with her? And there are others.
And, sauf votre respect, the men--Morsfield for one, Randeller another!"
"They have a wholesome dread of the lion."
"If they smell a chance with the lion's bone--it's the sweeter for being
the lion's. These metaphors carry us off our ground. I must let these
Ormont Memoirs run and upset him, if they get to print. I've only to
oppose, printed they'll be. The same if I say a word of this woman, he
marries her to-morrow morning. You speak of my driving men. Why can't I
drive Ormont? Because I'm too fond of him. There you have the secret of
the subjection of women: they can hold their own, and a bit more, when
they've no enemy beating inside."
"Hearts!--ah, well, it's possible. I don't say no; I've not discovered
them," Lord Adderwood observed.
They are rarely discovered in the haunts he frequented.
Her allusion to Mrs. Lawrence Finchley rapped him smartly, and she
admired his impassiveness under the stroke. Such a spectacle was one of
Lady Charlotte mentioned incidentally her want of a tutor for her
grandson Leo during the winter holidays. He suggested an application to
the clergyman of her parish. She was at feud with the Rev. Stephen
Hampton-Evey, and would not take, she said, a man to be a bootblack in
her backyard or a woman a scullery-wench in her kitchen upon his
recommendation. She described the person of Mr. Hampton-Evey, his manner
of speech, general opinions, professional doctrines; rolled him into a
ball and bowled him, with a shrug for lamentation, over the decay of the
good old order of manly English Protestant clergymen, who drank their
port, bothered nobody about belief, abstained from preaching their
sermon, if requested; were capital fellows in the hunting-field, too; for
if they came, they had the spur to hunt in the devil's despite. Now we
are going to have a kind of bitter, clawed, forked female, in vestments
over breeches. "How do you like that bundling of the sexes?"
Lord Adderwood liked the lines of division to be strictly and invitingly
definite. He was thinking, as he reviewed the frittered appearance of
the Rev. Stephen Hampton-Evey in Lady Charlotte's hinds, of the
possibility that Lord Ormont, who was reputed to fear nobody, feared her.
In which case, the handsome young woman passing among his associates as
the pseudo Lady Ormont might be the real one after all, and Isabella
Lawrence Finchley prove right in the warning she gave to dogs of chase.
The tutor required by Lady Charlotte was found for her by Mr. Abner.
Their correspondence on the subject filled the space of a week, and then
the gentleman hired to drive a creaky wheel came down from London to
Olmer, arriving late in the evening.
Lady Charlotte's blunt "Oh!" when he entered her room and bowed upon the
announcement of his name, was caused by an instantaneous perception and
refection that it would be prudent to keep her grand-daughter Philippa,
aged between seventeen and eighteen, out of his way.
"You are friend of Mr. Abner's, are you?"
He was not disconcerted. He replied, in an assured and pleasant voice,
"I have hardly the pretension to be called a friend, madam."
"Are you a Jew?"
Her abruptness knocked something like a laugh almost out of him, but he
restrained the signs of it.
"I am not."
"You wouldn't be ashamed to tell me you were one if you were?"
"Not at all."
"You like the Jews?"
"Those I know I like."
"Not many Christians have the good sense and the good heart of Arthur
Abner. Now go and eat. Come back to me when you've done. I hope you
are hungry. Ask the butler for the wine you prefer."
She had not anticipated the enrolment in her household of a man so young
and good-looking. These were qualifications for Cupid's business, which
his unstrained self-possession accentuated to a note of danger to her
chicks, because she liked the taste of him. Her grand-daughter Philippa
was in the girl's waxen age; another, Beatrice, was coming to it. Both
were under her care; and she was a vigilant woman, with an intuition and
a knowledge of sex. She did not blame Arthur Abner for sending her a
good-looking young man; she had only a general idea that tutors in a
house, and even visiting tutors, should smell of dust and wear a snuffy
appearance. The conditions will not always insure the tutors from
foolishness, as her girl's experience reminded her, but they protect the
"Your name is Weyburn; your father was an officer in the army, killed on
the battle-field, Arthur Abner tells me," was her somewhat severely-toned
greeting to the young tutor on his presenting himself the second time.
It had the sound of the preliminary of an indictment read in a Court of
"My father died of his wounds in hospital," he said.
"Why did you not enter the service?"
"Want of an income, my lady."
"Bad look-out. Army or Navy for gentlemen, if they stick to the school
of honour. The sedentary professions corrupt men: bad for the blood.
Those monastery monks found that out. They had to birch the devil out of
them three times a day and half the night, howling like full-moon dogs
all through their lives, till the flesh was off them. That was their
exercise, if they were for holiness. My brother, Lord Ormont, has never
been still in his youth or his manhood. See him now. He counts his
years by scores; and be has about as many wrinkles as you when you're
smiling. His cheeks are as red as yours now you're blushing. You ought
to have left off that trick by this time. It's well enough in a boy."
Against her will she was drawn to the young man, and her consciousness of
it plucked her back to caution with occasional jerks--quaint alternations
of the familiar and the harshly formal, in the stranger's experience.
"If I have your permission, Lady Charlotte," said he, "the reason why I
mount red a little--if I do it--is, you mention Lord Ormont, and I have
followed his career since I was the youngest of boys."
"Good to begin with the worship of a hero. He can't sham, can't deceive
--not even a woman; and you're old enough to understand the temptation:
they're so silly. All the more, it's a point of honour with a man of
honour to shield her from herself. When it's a girl--"
The young man's eyebrows bent.
"Chapters of stories, if you want to hear them," she resumed; "and I can
vouch some of them true. Lord Ormont was never one of the wolves in a
hood. Whatever you hear of him; you may be sure he laid no trap. He's
just the opposite to the hypocrite; so hypocrites date him. I've heard
them called high-priests of decency. Then we choose to be indecent and
honest, if there's a God to worship. Fear, they're in the habit of
saying--we are to fear God. A man here, a Rev. Hampton-Evey, you'll hear
him harp on 'fear God.' Hypocrites may: honest sinners have no fear.
And see the cause: they don't deceive themselves--that is why. Do you
think we call love what we fear? They love God, or they disbelieve.
And if they believe in Him, they know they can't conceal anything from
Him. Honesty means piety: we can't be one without the other. And here
are people--parsons--who talk of dying as going into the presence of our
Maker, as if He had been all the while outside the world He created.
Those parsons, I told the Rev. Hampton-Evey here, make infidels--they
make a puzzle of their God. I'm for a rational Deity. They preach up
a supernatural eccentric. I don't say all: I've heard good sermons,
and met sound-headed clergymen--not like that gaping Hampton-Evey,
when a woman tells him she thinks for herself. We have him sitting on
our pariah. A free-thinker startles him as a kind of demon; but a female
free-thinker is one of Satan's concubines. He took it upon himself to
reproach me--flung his glove at my feet, because I sent a cheque to a
poor man punished for blasphemy. The man had the right to his opinions,
and he had the courage of his opinions. I doubt whether the Rev.
Hampton-Evey would go with a willing heart to prison for his. All the
better for him if he comes head-up out of a trial. But now see: all
these parsons and judges and mobcaps insist upon conformity. A man with
common manly courage comes before them, and he's cast in penalties. Yet
we know from history, in England, France, Germany, that the time of
nonconformity brought out the manhood of the nation. Now, I say, a
nation, to be a nation, must have men--I mean brave men. That's what
those hosts of female men combine to try to stifle. They won't succeed,
but we shall want a war to teach the country the value of courage. You
catch what I am driving at? They accuse my brother of immorality because
he makes no pretence to be better than the men of his class."
Weyburn's eyelids fluttered. Her kite-like ascent into the general, with
the sudden drop on her choice morsel, switched his humour at the moment
when he was respectfully considering that her dartings and gyrations had
motive as mach as the flight of the swallow for food. They had meaning;
and here was one of the great ladies of the land who thought for herself,
and was thoughtful for the country. If she came down like a bird winged,
it was her love of her brother that did it. His look at Lady Charlotte
She raised her defences against the basilisk fascinating Philippa; and
with a vow to keep them apart and deprive him of his chance, she relapsed
upon the stiff frigidity which was not natural to her. It lasted long
enough to put him on his guard under the seductions of a noble dame's
condescension to a familiar tone. But, as he was too well bred to show
the change in his mind for her change of manner, and as she was the
sister of his boyhood's hero, and could be full of flavour, his eyes
retained something of their sparkle. They were ready to lighten again,
in the way peculiar to him, when she, quite forgetting her defence of
Philippa, disburdened herself of her antagonisms and enthusiasms, her
hates and her loves all round the neighbourhood and over the world, won
to confidential communication by this young man's face. She confessed as
much, had he been guided to perceive it. She said, "Arthur Abner's a
reader of men: I can trust his word about them."
Presently, it is true, she added: "No man's to be relied upon where
there's a woman." She refused her implicit trust to saints--"if ever a
man really was a saint before he was canonized!"
Her penetrative instinct of sex kindled the scepticism. Sex she saw at
play everywhere, dogging the conduct of affairs, directing them at times;
she saw it as the animation of nature, senselessly stigmatized,
hypocritically concealed, active in our thoughts where not in our deeds;
and the declining of the decorous to see it, or admit the sight, got them
abhorred bad names from her, after a touch at the deadly poison coming of
that blindness, or blindfoldedness, and a grimly melancholy shrug over
the cruelties resulting--cruelties chiefly affecting women.
"You're too young to have thought upon such matters," she said, for a
finish to them.
That was hardly true.
"I have thought," said Weyburn, and his head fell to reckoning of the
small sum of his thoughts upon them.
He was pulled up instantly for close inspection by the judge. "What is
"I am in my twenty-sixth year."
"You have been among men: have you studied women?"
"Not largely, Lady Charlotte. Opportunity has been wanting at French and
"It's only a large and a close and a pretty long study of them that can
teach you anything; and you must get rid of the poetry about them, and be
sure you haven't lost it altogether. That's what is called the golden
mean. I'm not for the golden mean in every instance; it's a way of
exhorting to brutal selfishness. I grant it's the right way in those
questions. You'll learn in time." Her scanning gaze at the young man's
face drove him along an avenue of his very possible chances of learning.
"Certain to. But don't tell me that at your age you have thought about
women. You may say you have felt. A young man's feelings about women
are better reading for him six or a dozen chapters farther on. Then he
can sift and strain. It won't be perfectly clear, but it will do."
Mr. Eglett hereupon threw the door open, and ushered in Master Leo.
Lady Charlotte noticed that the tutor shook the boy's hand offhandedly,
with not a whit of the usual obtrusive geniality, and merely dropped him
a word. Soon after, he was talking to Mr. Eglett of games at home and
games abroad. Poor fun over there! We head the world in field games, at
all events. He drew a picture of a foreigner of his acquaintance looking
on at football. On the other hand, French boys and German, having passed
a year or two at an English school, get the liking for our games, and do
a lot of good when they go home. The things we learn from them are to
dance, to sing, and to study:--they are more in earnest than we about
study. They teach us at fencing too. The tutor praised fencing as an
exercise and an accomplishment. He had large reserves of eulogy for
boxing. He knew the qualities of the famous bruisers of the time, cited
fisty names, whose owners were then to be seen all over an admiring land
in prints; in the glorious defensive-offensive attitude, England's own--
Touch me, if you dare! with bullish, or bull-dog, or oak-bole fronts for
the blow, handsome to pugilistic eyes.
The young tutor had lighted on a pet theme of Mr. Eglett's--the excelling
virtues of the practice of pugilism in Old England, and the school of
honour that it is to our lower population. "Fifty times better for them
than cock-fighting," he exclaimed, admitting that he could be an
interested spectator at a ring or the pit cock-fighting or ratting.
"Ratting seems to have more excuse," the tutor said, and made no sign of
a liking for either of those popular pastimes. As he disapproved without
squeamishness, the impulsive but sharply critical woman close by nodded;
and she gave him his dues for being no courtier.
Leo had to be off to bed. The tutor spared him any struggle over
the shaking of hands, and saying, "Goodnight, Leo," continued the
conversation. The boy went away, visibly relieved of the cramp that
seizes on a youngster at the formalities pertaining to these chilly
and fateful introductions.
"What do you think of the look of him?" Mr. Eglett asked.
The tutor had not appeared to inspect the boy. "Big head," he remarked.
"Yes, Leo won't want pushing at books when he's once in harness. He will
have six weeks of me. It's more than the yeomanry get for drill per
annum, and they're expected to know something of a soldier's duties.
There's a chance of putting him on the right road in certain matters.
We'll walk, or ride, or skate, if the frost holds to-morrow: no lessons
the first day."
"Do as you think fit," said lady Charlotte.
The one defect she saw in the tutor did not concern his pupil. And a
girl, if hit, would be unable to see that this tutor, judged as a man,
was to some extent despicable for accepting tutorships, and, one might
say, dishonouring the family of a soldier of rank and distinction, by
coming into houses at the back way, with footing enough to air his graces
when once established there. He ought to have knocked at every door in
the kingdom for help, rather than accept tutorships, and disturb
households (or providently-minded mistresses of them) with all sorts of
probably groundless apprehensions, founded naturally enough on the good
looks he intrudes.
This tutor committed the offence next day of showing he had a firm and
easy seat in the saddle, which increased Lady Charlotte's liking for him
and irritated her watchful forecasts. She rode with the young man after
lunch, "to show him the country," and gave him a taste of what he took
for her variable moods. He misjudged her. Like a swimmer going through
warm and cold springs of certain lake waters, he thought her a capricious
ladyship, dangerous for intimacy, alluring to the deeps and gripping with
She pushed him to defend his choice of the tutor's profession.
"Think you understand boys?" she caught up his words; "you can't. You
can humour them, as you humour women. They're just as hard to read. And
don't tell me a young man can read women. Boys and women go on their
instincts. Egyptologists can spell you hieroglyphs; they'd be stumped,
as Leo would say, to read a spider out of an ink-pot over a sheet of
"One gets to interpret by degrees, by observing their habits," the tutor
said, and vexed her with a towering complacency under provocation that
went some way further to melt the woman she was, while her knowledge of
the softness warned her still more of the duty of playing dragon round
such a young man in her house. The despot is alert at every issue, to
every chance; and she was one, the wakefuller for being benevolent; her
mind had no sleep by day.
For a month she subjected Mr. Matthew Weyburn to the microscope of her
observation and the probe of her instinct. He proved that he could
manage without cajoling a boy. The practical fact established, by
agreement between herself and the unobservant gentleman who was her
husband, Lady Charlotte allowed her meditations to drop an indifferent
glance at the speculative views upon education entertained by this young
tutor. To her mind they were flighty; but she liked him, and as her
feelings dictated to her mind when she had not to think for others, she
spoke of his views toleratingly, almost with an implied approval, after
passing them through the form of burlesque to which she customarily
treated things failing to waft her enthusiasm. In regard to Philippa, he
behaved well: he bestowed more of his attention on Beatrice, nearer Leo's
age, in talk about games and story-books and battles; nothing that he did
when the girls were present betrayed the strutting plumed cock, bent to
attract, or the sickly reptile, thirsty for a prize above him and meaning
to have it, like Satan in Eden. Still, of course, he could not help his
being a handsome fellow, having a vivid face and eyes transparent,
whether blue or green, to flame of the brain exciting them; and that
becomes a picture in the dream of girls--a picture creating the dream
often. And Philippa had asked her grandmother, very ingenuously indeed,
with a most natural candour, why "they saw so little of Leo's hero."
Simple female child!
However, there was no harm done, and Lady Charlotte liked him. She liked
few. Forthwith, in the manner of her particular head, a restless head,
she fell to work at combinations.
Thus:--he is a nice young fellow, well bred, no cringing courtier,
accomplished, good at classics, fairish at mathematics, a scholar in
French, German, Italian, with a shrewd knowledge of the different races,
and with sound English sentiment too, and the capacity for writing good
English, although in those views of his the ideas are unusual, therefore
un-English, profoundly so. But his intentions are patriotic; they would
not displease Lord Ormont. He has a worship of Lord Ormont. All we can
say on behalf of an untried inferior is in that,--only the valiant admire
devotedly. Well, he can write grammatical, readable English. What if
Lord Ormont were to take him as a secretary while the Memoirs are in
hand? He might help to chasten the sentences laughed at by those
newspapers. Or he might, being a terrible critic of writing, and funny
about styles, put it in an absurd light, that would cause the Memoirs to
be tossed into the fire. He was made for the post of secretary! The
young man's good looks would be out of harm's way then. If any sprig of
womankind come across him there, it will, at any rate, not be a girl.
Women must take care of themselves. Only the fools among them run to
mischief in the case of a handsome young fellow.
Supposing a certain woman to be one of the fools? Lady Charlotte merely
suggested it in the dashing current of her meditations--did not strike it
out interrogatively. The woman would be a fine specimen among her class;
that was all. For the favourite of Lord Ormont to stoop from her place
beside him--ay, but women do; heroes have had the woeful experience of
that fact. First we see them aiming themselves at their hero; next they
are shooting an eye at the handsome man. The thirst of nature comes
after that of their fancy, in conventional women. Sick of the hero
tried, tired of their place in the market, no longer ashamed to
acknowledge it, they begin to consult their own taste for beauty--they
have it quite as much as the men have it; and when their worshipped
figure of manliness, in a romantic sombrero, is a threadbare giant,
showing bruises, they sink on their inherent desire for a dance with the
handsome man. And the really handsome man is the most extraordinary of
the rarities. No wonder that when he appears he slays them, walks over
them like a pestilence!
This young Weyburn would touch the fancy of a woman of a romantic turn.
Supposing her enthusiastic in her worship of the hero, after a number of
years--for anything may be imagined where a woman is concerned--why,
another enthusiasm for the same object, and on the part of a stranger, a
stranger with effective eyes, rapidly leads to sympathy. Suppose the
reverse--the enthusiasm gone to dust, or become a wheezy old bellows, as
it does where there's disparity of age, or it frequently does--then the
sympathy with a good-looking stranger comes more rapidly still.
These were Lady Charlotte's glances right and left--idle flights of the
eye of a mounted Amazon across hedges at the canter along the main road
of her scheme; which was to do a service to the young man she liked and
to the brother she loved, for the marked advantage of both equally;
perhaps for the chance of a little gossip to follow about that tenacious
woman by whom her brother was held hard and fast, kept away from friends
and relatives, isolated, insomuch as to have given up living on his
estate--the old home!--because he would not disgrace it or incur odium by
taking her there.
In consequence of Lord Ormont's resistance to pressure from her on two or
three occasions, she chose to nurse and be governed by the maxim for
herself: Never propose a plan to him, if you want it adopted. That was
her way of harmlessly solacing love's vindictiveness for an injury.
She sent Arthur Abner a letter, thanking him for his recommendation of
young Mr. Weyburn, stating her benevolent wishes as regarded the young
man and "those hateful Memoirs," requesting that her name should not be
mentioned in the affair, because she was anxious on all grounds to have
the proposal accepted by her brother. She could have vowed to herself
that she wrote sincerely.
"He must want a secretary. He would be shy at an offer of one from me.
Do you hint it, if you get a chance. You gave us Mr. Weyburn, and Mr.
Eglett and I like him. Ormont would too, I am certain. You have obliged
him before; this will be better than anything you have done for us. It
will stop the Memoirs, or else give them a polish. Your young friend has
made me laugh over stuff taken for literature until we put on our
spectacles. Leo jogs along in harness now, and may do some work at
Having posted her letter, she left the issue to chance, as we may when
conscience is easy. An answer came the day before Weyburn's departure.
Arthur Abner had met Lord Ormont in the street, had spoken of the rumour
of Memoirs promised to the world, hinted at the possible need for a
secretary; "Lord Ormont would appoint a day to see Mr. Weyburn."
Lady Charlotte considered that to be as good as the engagement.
"So we keep you in the family," she said. "And now look here: you ought
to know my brother's ways, if you're going to serve him. You'll have to
guess at half of everything he tells you; he'll expect you to know the
whole. There's no man so secret. Why? He fears nothing; I can't tell
why. And what his mouth shuts on, he exposes as if in his hand. Of
course he's proud, and good reason. You'll see when you mustn't offend.
A lady's in the house--I hear of it. She takes his name, they say. She
may be a respectable woman--I've heard no scandal. We have to hear of a
Lady Ormont out of Society! We have to suppose it means there's not to
be a real one. He can't marry if he has allowed her to go about bearing
his name. She has a fool of an aunt, I'm told; as often in the house as
not. Good proof of his fondness for the woman, if he swallows half a
year of the aunt! Well, you won't, unless you've mere man's eyes, be
able to help seeing him trying to hide what he suffers from that aunt.
He bears it, like the man he is; but woe to another betraying it! She
has a tongue that goes like the reel of a rod, with a pike bolting out of
the shallows to the snag he knows--to wind round it and defy you to pull.
Often my brother Rowsley and I have fished the day long, and in hard
weather, and brought home a basket; and he boasted of it more than of
anything he has ever done since. That woman holds him away from me now.
I say no harm of her. She may be right enough from her point of view; or
it mayn't be owing to her. I wouldn't blame a woman. Well, but my point
with you is, you swallow the woman's aunt--the lady's aunt--without
betraying you suffer at all. Lord Ormont has eyes of an eagle for a
speck above the surface. All the more because the aunt is a gabbling
idiot does he--I say it seeing it--fire up to defend her from the sneer
of the lip or half a sign of it! No, you would be an your guard; I can
trust you. Of course you'd behave like the gentleman you are where any
kind of woman's concerned; but you mustn't let a shadow be seen, think
what you may. The woman--lady--calling herself Lady Ormont,--poor woman,
I should do the same in her place,--she has a hard game to play; I have
to be for my family: she has manners, I'm told; holds herself properly.
She fancies she brings him up to the altar, in the end, by decent
behaviour. That's a delusion. It's creditable to her, only she can't
understand the claims of the family upon a man like my brother. When you
have spare time--'kick-ups,' he need to call it, writing to me from
school--come here; you're welcome, after three days' notice. I shall be
glad to see you again. You've gone some way to make a man of Leo."
He liked her well: he promised to come. She was a sinewy bite of the
gentle sex, but she had much flavour, and she gave nourishment.
"Let me have three days' notice," she repeated.
"Not less, Lady Charlotte," said he.
Weyburn received intimation from Arthur Abner of the likely day Lord
Ormont would appoint, and he left Olmer for London to hold himself in
readiness. Lady Charlotte and Leo drove him to meet the coach.
Philippa, so strangely baffled in her natural curiosity, begged for a
seat; she begged to be allowed to ride. Petitions were rejected. She
stood at the window seeing "Grandmama's tutor," as she named him, carried
off by grandmama. Her nature was avenged on her tyrant grandmama: it
brought up almost to her tongue thoughts which would have remained
subterranean, under control of her habit of mind, or the nursery's
modesty, if she had been less tyrannically treated. They were
subterranean thoughts, Nature's original, such as the sense of injustice
will rouse in young women; and they are better unstirred, for they ripen
girls over-rapidly when they are made to revolve near the surface. It
flashed on the girl why she had been treated tyrannically.
"Grandmama has good taste in tutors," was all that she said while the
thoughts rolled over.
Our applicant for the post of secretary entered the street of Lord
Ormont's London house, to present himself to his boyhood's hero by
He was to see, perhaps to serve, the great soldier. Things had come to
this; and he thought it singular. But for the previous introduction to
Lady Charlotte, he would have thought it passing wonderful. He ascribed
it to the whirligig.
The young man was not yet of an age to gather knowledge of himself and of
life from his present experience of the fact, that passionate devotion to
an object strikes a vein through circumstances, as a travelling run of
flame darts the seeming haphazard zigzags to catch at the dry of dead
wood amid the damp; and when passion has become quiescent in the admirer,
there is often the unsubsided first impulsion carrying it on. He will
almost sorely embrace his idol with one or other of the senses.
Weyburn still read the world as it came to him, by bite, marvelling at
this and that, after the fashion of most of us. He had not deserted his
adolescent's hero, or fallen upon analysis of a past season. But he was
now a young man, stoutly and cognizantly on the climb, with a good aim
overhead, axed green youth's enthusiasms a step below his heels: one of
the lovers of life, beautiful to behold, when we spy into them; generally
their aspect is an enlivenment, whatever may be the carving of their
features. For the sake of holy unity, this lover of life, whose gaze
was to the front in hungry animation, held fast to his young dreams,
perceiving a soul of meaning in them, though the fire might have gone
out; and he confessed to a past pursuit of delusions. Young men of this
kind will have, for the like reason, a similar rational sentiment on
behalf of our world's historic forward march, while admitting that
history has to be taken from far backward if we would gain assurance
of man's advance. It nerves an admonished ambition.
He was ushered into a London house's library, looking over a niggard
enclosure of gravel and dull grass, against a wall where ivy dribbled.
An armchair was beside the fireplace. To right and left of it a floreate
company of books in high cases paraded shoulder to shoulder, without a
gap; grenadiers on the line. Weyburn read the titles on their scarlet-
and-blue facings. They were approved English classics; honoured
veterans, who have emerged from the conflict with contemporary opinion,
stamped excellent, or have been pushed by the roar of contemporaneous
applauses to wear the leather-and-gilt uniform of our Immortals, until a
more qualmish posterity disgorges them. The books had costly bindings.
Lord Ormont's treatment of Literature appeared to resemble Lady
Charlotte's, in being reverential and uninquiring. The books she bought
to read were Memoirs of her time by dead men and women once known to her.
These did fatigue duty in cloth or undress. It was high drill with all
of Lord Ormont's books, and there was not a modern or a minor name among
the regiments. They smelt strongly of the bookseller's lump lots by
order; but if a show soldiery, they were not a sham, like a certain row
of venerably-titled backs, that Lady Charlotte, without scruple, left
standing to blow an ecclesiastical trumpet of empty contents; any one
might have his battle of brains with them, for the twining of an absent
The door opened. Weyburn bowed to his old star in human shape: a grey
head on square shoulders, filling the doorway. He had seen at Olmer Lady
Charlotte's treasured miniature portrait of her brother; a perfect
likeness, she said--complaining the neat instant of injustice done to
the fire of his look.
Fire was low down behind the eyes at present. They were quick to scan
and take summary of their object, as the young man felt while observing
for himself. Height and build of body were such as might be expected in
the brother of Lady Charlotte and from the tales of his prowess. Weyburn
had a glance back at Cuper's boys listening to the tales.
The soldier-lord's manner was courteously military--that of an
established superior indifferent to the deferential attitude he must
needs enact. His curt nick of the head, for a response to the visitor's
formal salutation, signified the requisite acknowledgment, like a city
creditor's busy stroke of the type-stamp receipt upon payment.
The ceremony over, he pitched a bugle voice to fit the contracted area:
"I hear from Mr. Abner that you have made acquaintance with Olmer. Good
hunting country there."
"Lady Charlotte kindly gave me a mount, my lord."
"I knew your father by name--Colonel Sidney Weyburn. You lost him at
Toulouse. We were in the Peninsula; I was at Talavera with him. Bad day
for our cavalry."
"Our officers were young at their work then."
"They taught the Emperor's troops to respect a charge of English horse.
It was teaching their fox to set traps for them."
Lord Ormont indicated a chair. He stood.
"The French had good cavalry leaders," Weyburn said, for cover to a
continued study of the face,
"Montbrun, yes: Murat, Lassalle, Bessieres. Under the Emperor they had."
"You think them not at home in the saddle, my lord?"
"Frenchmen have nerves; horses are nerves. They pile excitement too
high. When cool, they're among the best. None of them had head for
command of all the arms."
"One might say the same of Seidlitz and Ziethen?"
"Of Ziethen. Seidlitz had a wider grasp, I suppose." He pursed his
month, pondering. "No; and in the Austrian service, too; generals of
cavalry are left to whistle for an independent command. There's a
jealousy of our branch!" The injured warrior frowned and hummed.
He spoke his thought mildly: "Jealousy of the name of soldier in this
country! Out of the service, is the place to recommend. I'd have
advised a son of mine to train for a jockey rather than enter it. We
deal with that to-morrow, in my papers. You come to me? Mr. Abner has
arranged the terms? So I see you at ten in the morning. I am glad to
meet a young man--Englishman--who takes an interest in the service."
Weyburn fancied the hearing of a step; he heard the whispering dress. It
passed him; a lady went to the armchair. She took her seat, as she had
moved, with sedateness, the exchange of a toneless word with my lord.
She was a brune. He saw that when he rose to do homage.
Lord Ormont resumed: "Some are born to it, must be soldiers; and in peace
they are snubbed by the heads; in war they are abused by the country.
They don't understand in England how to treat an army; how to make one
"The gentleman--Mr. Weyburn: Mr. Arthur Abner's recommendation," he added
hurriedly, with a light wave of his hand and a murmur, that might be the
lady's title; continuing: "A young man of military tastes should take
service abroad. They're in earnest about it over there. Here they play
at it; and an army's shipped to land without commissariat, ambulances,
medical stores, and march against the odds, as usual--if it can march!
"Albuera, my lord?"
"Our men can spurt, for a flick o' the whip. They're expected to be
constantly ready for doing prodigies--to repair the country's omissions.
All the country cares for is to hope Dick Turpin may get to York. Our
men are good beasts; they give the best in 'em, and drop. More's the
scandal to a country that has grand material and overtasks it. A blazing
disaster ends the chapter!"
This was talk of an injured veteran. It did not deepen the hue of his
ruddied skin. He spoke in the tone of matter of fact. Weyburn had been
prepared for something of the sort by his friend, Arthur Abner. He noted
the speaker's heightened likeness under excitement to Lady Charlotte.
Excitement came at an early call of their voices to both; and both had
handsome, open features, bluntly cut, nothing of aquiline or the
supercilious; eyes bluish-grey, in arched recesses, horny between the
thick lids, lively to shoot their meaning when the trap-mouth was active;
effectively expressing promptitute for combat, pleasure in attack,
wrestle, tag, whatever pertained to strife; an absolute sense of their
As there was a third person present at this dissuasion of military
topics, the silence of the lady drew Weyburn to consult her opinion in
It was on him. Strange are the woman's eyes which can unoffendingly
assume the privilege to dwell on such a living object as a man without
become gateways for his return look, and can seem in pursuit of thoughts
while they enfold. They were large dark eyes, eyes of southern night.
They sped no shot; they rolled forth an envelopment. A child among toys,
caught to think of other toys, may gaze in that way. But these were a
He gave Lord Ormont his whole face, as an auditor should. He was
interested besides, as he told a ruffled conscience. He fell upon the
study of his old hero determinedly.
The pain of a memory waking under pillows, unable to do more than strain
for breath, distracted his attention. There was a memory: that was all
he knew. Or else he would have lashed himself for hanging on the
beautiful eyes of a woman. To be seeing and hearing his old hero was
Recollections of Lady Charlotte's plain hints regarding the lady present
resolved to the gross retort, that her eyes were beautiful. And be knew
them--there lay the strangeness. They were known beautiful eyes, in a
foreign land of night and mist.
Lord Ormont was discoursing with racy eloquence of our hold on India: his
views in which respect were those of Cuper's boys. Weyburn ventured a
dot-running description of the famous ride, and out flew an English
soldier's grievance. But was not the unjustly-treated great soldier
well rewarded, whatever the snubs and the bitterness, with these large
dark eyes in his house, for his own? Eyes like these are the beginning
of a young man's world; they nerve, inspire, arm him, colour his life; he
would labour, fight, die for them. It seemed to Weyburn a blessedness
even to behold them. So it had been with him at the early stage; and his
heart went swifter, memory fetched a breath. Memory quivered eyelids,
when the thought returned--of his having known eyes as lustrous. First
lights of his world, they had more volume, warmth, mystery--were sweeter.
Still, these in the room were sisters to them. They quickened throbs;
they seemed a throb of the heart made visible.
That was their endowment of light and lustre simply, and the mystical
curve of the lids. For so they could look only because the heart was
disengaged from them. They were but heavenly orbs.
The lady's elbow was on an arm of her chair, her forefinger at her left
temple. Her mind was away, one might guess; she could hardly be
interested in talk of soldiering and of foreign army systems, jealous
English authorities and officials, games, field-sports. She had personal
matters to think of.
Adieu until to-morrow to the homes she inhabited! The street was a
banishment and a relief when Weyburn's first interview with Lord Ormont
He rejoiced to tell his previous anticipations that he had not been
disappointed; and he bade hero-worshippers expect no gilded figure. We
gather heroes as we go, if we are among the growing: our constancy is
shown in the not discarding of our old ones. He held to his earlier
hero, though he had seen him, and though he could fancy he saw round him.
Another, too, had been a hero-lover. How did that lady of night's eyes
come to fall into her subjection?
He put no question as to the name she bore; it hung in a black suspense--
vividly at its blackest illuminated her possessor. A man is a hero to
some effect who wins a woman like this; and, if his glory bespells her,
so that she flings all to the winds for him, burns the world; if, for
solely the desperate rapture of belonging to him, she consents of her
free will to be one of the nameless and discoloured, he shines in a way
to make the marrow of men thrill with a burning envy. For that must be
the idolatrous devotion desired by them all.
Weyburn struck down upon his man's nature--the bad in us, when beauty of
woman is viewed; or say, the old original revolutionary, best kept
untouched; for a touch or a meditative pause above him, fetches him up to
roam the civilized world devouringly and lawlessly. It is the special
peril of the young lover of life, that an inflammability to beauty in
women is in a breath intense with him. He is, in truth, a thinly-sealed
volcano of our imperishable ancient father; and has it in him to be the
multitudinously-amorous of the mythologic Jove. Give him head, he can be
civilization's devil. Is she fair and under a shade?--then is she doubly
fair. The shadow about her secretes mystery, just as the forest breeds
romance: and mystery is a measureless realm. If we conceive it, we have
a mysterious claim on her who is the heart of it.
He marched on that road to the music of sonorous brass for some drunken
The question came, What of the man who takes advantage of her self-
It soon righted him, and he did Lord Ormont justice, and argued the case
against Lady Charlotte's naked hints.
This dark-eyed heroine's bearing was assured, beyond an air of
dependency. Her deliberate short nod to him at his leave-taking, and the
toneless few words she threw to my lord, signified sufficiently that she
did not stand defying the world or dreading it.
She had by miracle the eyes which had once charmed him--could again--
would always charm. She reminded him of Aminta Farrell's very eyes under
the couchant-dove brows--something of her mouth, the dimple running from
a corner. She had, as Aminta had, the self-collected and self-cancelled
look, a realm in a look, that was neither depth nor fervour, nor a
bestowal, nor an allurement; nor was it an exposure, though there seemed
no reserve. One would be near the meaning in declaring it to bewilder
men with the riddle of openhandedness. We read it--all may read it--as
we read inexplicable plain life; in which let us have a confiding mind,
despite the blows at our heart, and some understanding will enter us.
He shut the door upon picture and speculations, returning to them by
another door. The lady had not Aminta's freshness: she might be taken
for an elder sister of Aminta. But Weyburn wanted to have her position
defined before he set her beside Aminta. He writhed under Lady
Charlotte's tolerating scorn of "the young woman." It roused an uneasy
sentiment of semi-hostility in the direction of my lord; and he had no
personal complaint to make.
Lord Ormont was cordial on the day of the secretary's installation; as
if--if one might dare to guess it--some one had helped him to a friendly
The lady of Aminta's eyes was absent at the luncheon table. She came
into the room a step, to speak to Lord Ormont, dressed for a drive to pay
The secretary was unnoticed.
Lord Ormont put inquiries to him at table, for the why of his having
avoided the profession of arms; and apparently considered that the
secretary had made a mistake, and that he would have committed a greater
error in becoming a soldier--"in this country." A man with a grievance
is illogical under his burden. He mentioned the name "Lady Ormont"
distinctly during some remarks on travel. Lady Ormont preferred the
Two days later she came to the armchair, as before, met Weyburn's eyes
when he raised them; gave him no home in hers--not a temporary shelter
from the pelting of interrogations. She hardly spoke. Why did she come?
But how was it that he was drawn to think of her? Absent or present, she
was round him, like the hills of a valley. She was round his thoughts--
caged them; however high, however far they flew, they were conscious of
She took her place at the midday meal. She had Aminta's voice in some
tones; a mellower than Aminta's--the voice of one of Aminta's family.
She had the trick of Aminta's upper lip in speaking. Her look on him was
foreign; a civil smile as they conversed. She was very much at home with
my lord, whom she rallied for his addiction to his Club at a particular
hour of the afternoon. She conversed readily. She reminded him,
incidentally that her aunt would arrive early next day. He informed her,
some time after, of an engagement "to tiffin with a brother officer," and
They drove away together while the secretary was at his labour of sorting
the heap of autobiographical scraps in a worn dispatch-box, pen and
pencil jottings tossed to swell the mess when they had relieved an angry
reminiscence. He noticed, heedlessly at the moment, feminine handwriting
on some few clear sheets among them.
Next day he was alone in the library. He sat before the box, opened it
and searched, merely to quiet his annoyance for having left those sheets
of the fair amanuensis unexamined. They were not discoverable. They had
He stood up at the stir of the door. It was she, and she acknowledged
his bow; she took her steps to her chair.
He was informed that Lord Ormont had an engagement, and he remarked,
"I can do the work very well." She sat quite silent.
He read first lines of the scraps, laid them in various places, as in a
preparation for conjurer's tricks at cards; refraining from a glance,
lest he should disconcert the eyes he felt to be on him fitfully.
At last she spoke, and he knew Aminta in his hearing and sight.
"Is Emile Grenat still anglomane?"
An instant before her voice was heard he had been persuading himself
that the points of unlikeness between his young Aminta and this tall and
stately lady of the proud reserve in her bearing flouted the resemblance.
IN WHICH THE SHADES OF BROWNY AND MATEY ADVANCE AND RETIRE
"Emile is as anglomane as ever, and not a bit less a Frenchman," Weyburn
said, in a tone of one who muffles a shock at the heart.
"It would be the poorer compliment to us," she rejoined.
They looked at one another; she dropped her eyelids, he looked away.
She had the grand manner by nature. She was the woman of the girl once
"A soldier, is he?"
"Emile's profession and mine are much alike, or will be."
Her deadness of accent was not designed to carry her opinion of the post
It brought the reply: "We hope to be schoolmasters."
She drew in a breath; there was a thin short voice, hardly voice, as when
one of the unschooled minor feelings has been bruised. After a while she
"Does he think it a career?"
"He was formed for a soldier."
"He had to go as the road led."
"A young man renouncing ambition!"
"Considering what we can do best."
"It signifies the taste for what he does."
Weyburn had senses to read the word "schoolmaster" in repetition behind
her shut mouth. He was sharply sensible of a fall.
The task with his papers occupied him. If he had a wish, it was to sink
so low in her esteem as to be spurned. A kick would have been a
refreshment. Yet he was unashamed of the cause invoking it. We are
instruments to the touch of certain women, and made to play strange
"Mr. Cuper flourishes?"
"The school exists. I have not been down there. I met Mr. Shalders
yesterday. He has left the school."
"You come up from Olmer?"
"I was at Olmer last week, Lady Ormont."
An involuntary beam from her eyes thanked him for her title at that
juncture of the dialogue. She grew more spirited.
"Mr. Shalders has joined the Dragoons, has he?"
"The worthy man has a happy imagination. He goes through a campaign
"It seems to one to dignify his calling."
"I like his enthusiasm."
The lady withdrew into her thoughts; Weyburn fell upon his work.
Mention of the military cloak of enthusiasm covering Shalders, brought
the scarce credible old time to smite at his breast, in the presence of
these eyes. A ringing of her title of Lady Ormont rendered the present
time the incredible.
"I can hardly understand a young Frenchman's not entering the army," she
"The Napoleonic legend is weaker now," said he.
"The son of an officer!"
"It was his choice to be,--he gave it up without reluctance?"
"Emile obeyed the command of his parents," Weyburn answered; and he was
obedient to the veiled direction of her remark, in speaking of himself:
"I had a reason, too."
"It would have impoverished my mother's income to put aside a small
allowance for me for years. She would not have hesitated. I then set my
mind on the profession of schoolmaster."
"Emile Grenat was a brave boy. Has he no regrets?"
"Neither of us has a regret."
"He began ambitiously."
"It's the way at the beginning."
"It is not usually abjured."
"I'm afraid we neither of us 'dignify our calling' by discontent with
A dusky flash, worth seeing, came on her cheeks. "I respect
enthusiasms," she said; and it was as good to him to hear as the begging
pardon, though clearly she could not understand enthusiasm for the
Light of evidence was before him, that she had a friendly curiosity to
know what things had led to their new meeting under these conditions.
He sketched them cursorily; there was little to tell--little, that is;
appealing to a romantic mind for interest. Aware of it, by sympathy,
he degraded the narrative to a flatness about as cheering as a suburban
London Sunday's promenade. Sympathy caused the perverseness. He felt
her disillusionment; felt with it and spread a feast of it. She had to
hear of studies at Caen and at a Paris Lycee; French fairly mastered;
German, the same; Italian, the same; after studies at Heidelberg, Asti,
and Florence; between four and five months at Athens (he was needlessly
precise), in tutorship with a young nobleman: no events, nor a spot of
colour. Thus did he wilfully, with pain to himself, put an extinguisher
on the youth painted brilliant and eminent in a maiden's imagination.
"So there can no longer be thought of the army," she remarked; and the
remark had a sort of sigh, though her breathing was equable.
"Unless a big war knocks over all rules and the country comes praying us
to serve," he said.
"You would not refuse then?"
"Not in case of need. One may imagine a crisis when they would give
commissions to men of my age or older for the cavalry--heavy losses of
She spoke, as if urged by a sting to revert to the distasteful: "That
profession--must you not take...enter into orders if you aim at any
"And a member of the Anglican Church would not be allowed to exchange his
frock for a cavalry sabre," said he. "That is true. I do not propose to
settle as a schoolmaster in England."
"On the Continent."
"Would not America be better?"
"It would not so well suit the purpose in view for us."
"There are others besides?"
"Besides Emile, there is a German and an Italian and a Swiss."
"It is a Company?"
"A Company of schoolmasters! Companies of all kinds are forming.
Colleges are Companies. And they have their collegians. Our aim is at
pupils; we have no ambition for any title higher than School and
Schoolmaster; it is not a Company."
So, like Nature parading her skeleton to youthful adorers of her face, he
insisted on reducing to hideous material wreck the fair illusion, which
had once arrayed him in alluring promise.
She explained; "I said, America. You would be among Protestants in
"Catholics and Protestants are both welcome to us, according to our
scheme. And Germans, French, English, Americans, Italians, if they will
come; Spaniards and Portuguese, and Scandinavians, Russians as well. And
Jews; Mahommedans too, if only they will come! The more mixed, the more
it hits our object."
"You have not stated where on the Continent it is to be."
"The spot fixed on is in Switzerland."
"You will have scenery."
"I hold to that, as an influence."
A cool vision of the Bernese Alps encircled the young schoolmaster; and
she said, "It would influence girls; I dare say."
"A harder matter with boys, of course--at first. We think we may make it
"And where is the spot? Is that fixed on?"
"Fifteen miles from Berne, on elevated land, neighbouring a water, not
quite to be called a lake, unless in an auctioneer's advertisement."
"I am glad of the lake. I could not look on a country home where there
was no swimming. You will be head of the school."
"There must be a head."
"Is the school likely to be established soon?"
He fell into her dead tone: "Money is required for establishments.
I have a Reversion coming some day; I don't dabble in post obits."
He waited for farther questions. They were at an end.
"You have your work to do, Mr. Weyburn."
Saying that, she bowed an implied apology for having kept him from it,
and rose. She bowed again as she passed through the doorway, in
acknowledgment of his politeness.
Here; then, was the end of the story of Browny and Matey. Such was his
thought under the truncheon-stroke of their colloquy. Lines of Browny's
letters were fiery waving ribands about him, while the coldly gracious
bow of the Lady wrote Finis.
The gulf between the two writings remained unsounded. It gave a heave to
the old passion; but stirred no new one; he had himself in hand now, and
he shut himself up when the questions bred of amazement buzzed and
threatened to storm. After all, what is not curious in this world? The
curious thing would be if curious things should fail to happen. Men have
been saying it since they began to count and turn corners. And let us
hold off from speculating when there is or but seems a shadow of
unholiness over that mole-like business. There shall be no questions;
and as to feelings, the same. They, if petted for a moment beneath the
shadow, corrupt our blood. Weyburn was a man to have them by the throat
at the birth.
Still they thronged; heavy work of strangling had to be done. Her tone
of disappointment with the schoolmaster bit him, and it flattered him.
The feelings leapt alive, equally venomous from the wound and the caress.
They pushed to see, had to be repelled from seeing, the girl Browny in
the splendid woman; they had lightning memories: not the pain of his grip
could check their voice on the theme touching her happiness or the
reverse. And this was an infernal cunning. He paused perforce to
inquire, giving them space for the breeding of their multitudes. Was she
happy? Did she not seem too meditative, enclosed, toneless, at her age?
Vainly the persecuted fellow said to himself: "But what is it to me
now?"--The Browny days were over. The passion for the younger Aminta was
over--buried; and a dream of power belonging to those days was not yet
more than visionary. It had moved her once, when it was a young
soldier's. She treated the schoolmaster's dream as vapour, and the old
days as dead and ghostless. She did rightly. How could they or she or
he be other than they were!
With that sage exclamation, he headed into the Browny days and breasted
them; and he had about him the living foamy sparkle of the very time,
until the Countess of Ormont breathed the word "Schoolmaster"; when, at
once, it was dusty land where buoyant waters had been, and the armies of
the facts, in uniform drab, with some feathers and laces, and a
significant surpliced figure, decorously covering the wildest of Cupids,
marched the standard of the winking gold-piece, which is their nourishing
sun and eclipser of all suns that foster dreams.
As you perceive, he was drawing swiftly to the vortex of the fools, and
round and round he went, lucky to float.
His view of the business of the schoolmaster plucked him from the whirl.
She despised it; he upheld it. He stuck to his view, finding their
antagonism on the subject wholesome for him. All that she succeeded in
doing was to rob it of the aurora colour clothing everything on which
Matey Weyburn set his aim. Her contempt of it, whether as a profession
in itself or as one suitable to the former young enthusiast for arms,
dwarfed it to appear like the starved plants under Greenland skies. But
those are of a sturdy genus; they mean to live; they live, perforce, of
the right to live; they will prove their right in a coming season, when
some one steps near and wonders at them, and from more closely observing;
gets to understand, learning that the significance and the charm of earth
will be as well shown by them as by her tropical fair flaunters or the
An unopened coffer of things to be said in defence of--no, on behalf of
--no, in honour of the Profession of Schoolmaster, perhaps to the
convincing of Aminta, Lady Ormont, was glanced at; a sentence or two
leapt out and stepped forward, and had to retire. He preferred to the
fathering of tricky, windy phrases, the being undervalued--even by her.
He was taught to see again how Rhetoric haunts, and Rhetoric bedevils,
the vindication of the clouded, especially in the case of a disesteemed
Profession requiring one to raise it and impose it upon the antagonistic
senses for the bewildering of the mind. One has to sound it loudly;
there is no treating it, as in the advocacy of the cases of flesh and
blood, with the masterly pathos of designed simplicity. And Weyburn was
Cuper's Matey Weyburn still in his loathing of artifice to raise emotion,
loathing of the affected, the stilted, the trumpet of speech--always
excepting school-exercises in the tongues, the unmasking of a Catiline,
the address of a General, Athenian or other, to troops.
He kept his coffer shut; and, for a consequence, he saw the contents as
an avenue of blossom leading to vistas of infinite harvest.
She was Lady Ormont: Aminta shared the title of his old hero! He refused
to speculate upon how it had come to pass, and let the curtain hang,
though dramas and romances, with the miracles involved in them, were
agitated by a transient glimpse at the curtain.
Well! and he hoped to be a member of the Profession she despised: hoped
it with all his heart. And one good effect of his giving his heart to
the hope was, that he could hold from speculating and from feeling, even
from pausing to wonder at the most wonderful turn of events. Blessed
antagonism drove him to be braced by thoughts upon the hardest of the
schoolmaster's tasks--bright winter thoughts, prescribing to him
satisfaction with a faith in the sowing, which may be his only reaping.
Away fly the boys in sheaves. After his toil with them, to instruct,
restrain, animate, point their minds, they leave him, they plunge into
the world and are gone. Will he see them again? It is a flickering
perhaps. To sustain his belief that he has done serviceable work, he
must be sore of his having charged them with good matter. How can the
man do it, if, during his term of apprenticeship, he has allowed himself
to dally here and there, down to moony dreamings over inscrutable
beautiful eyes of a married lady; for the sole reason that he meets her
unexpectedly, after an exchange of letters with her in long-past days at
school, when she was an inexperienced girl, who knew not what she vowed,
and he a flighty-headed youngster, crying out to be the arrow of any bow
that was handy? Yea, she was once that girl, named Browny by the boys.
Temptation threw warm light on the memory, and very artfully, by
conjuring up the faces, cries, characters, all the fun of the boys.
There was no possibility of forgetting her image in those days; he had,
therefore, to live with it and to live near the grown woman--Time's
present answer to the old riddle. It seemed to him, that instead of
sorting Lord Ormont's papers, he ought to be at sharp exercise.
According to his prescript, sharp exercise of lungs and limbs is a man's
moral aid against temptation. He knew it as the one trusty antidote for
him, who was otherwise the vessel of a temperament pushing to mutiny.
Certainly it is the best philosophy youth can pretend to practise; and
Lord Ormont kept him from it! Worse than that, the slips and sheets of
paper in the dispatch-box were not an exercise of the mind even; there
was nothing to grapple with--no diversion; criticism passed by them
indulgently, if not benevolently.
Quite apart from the subject inscribed on them, Weyburn had now and again
a blow at the breast, of untraceable origin. For he was well enough
aware that the old days when Browny imagined him a hero, in drinking his
praises of a brighter, were drowned. They were dead; but here was she
the bride of the proved hero. His praises might have helped in causing
her willingness--devotional readiness, he could fancy--to yield her hand.
Perhaps at the moment when the hero was penning some of the Indian slips
here, the boy at school was preparing Aminta; but he could not be
responsible for a sacrifice of the kind suggested by Lady Charlotte. And
no, there had been no such sacrifice, although Lord Ormont's inexplicable
treatment of his young countess, under cover of his notorious reputation
with women, conduced to the suspicion.
While the vagrant in Weyburn was thus engaged, his criticism of the
soldier-lord's field-English on paper let the stuff go tolerantly
unexamined, but with a degree of literary contempt at heart for the
writer who had that woman-scented reputation and expressed himself so
poorly. The sentiment was outside of reason. We do, nevertheless,
expect our Don Juans to deliver their minds a trifle elegantly; if not in
classic English, on paper; and when we find one of them inflicting
cruelty, as it appears, and the victim is a young woman, a beautiful
young woman, she pleads to us poetically against the bearish sentences of
his composition. We acknowledge, however, that a mere sentiment,
entertained possibly by us alone, should not be permitted to condemn him
Lady Ormont was not seen again. After luncheon at a solitary table, the
secretary worked till winter's lamps were lit; and then shone freedom,
with assurance to him that he would escape from the miry mental ditch he
had been floundering in since Aminta revealed herself. Sunday was the
glorious day to follow, with a cleansing bath of a walk along the
southern hills; homely English scenery to show to a German friend, one of
his "Company." Half a dozen good lads were pledged to the walk; bearing
which in view, it could be felt that this nonsensical puzzlement over his
relations to the moods and tenses of a married woman would be bounced out
of recollection before nightfall. The landscape given off any of the
airy hills of Surrey would suffice to do it.
A lady stood among her boxes below, as he descended the stairs to cross
the hall. He knew her for the person Lady Charlotte called "the woman's
aunt," whom Lord Ormont could not endure--a forgiven old enemy, Mrs.
He saluted. She stared, and corrected her incivility with "Ah, yes," and
a formal smile.
If not accidentally delayed on her journey, she had been needlessly the
cause why Lord Ormont hugged his Club during the morning and afternoon.
Weyburn was pushed to think of the matter by remembrance of his foregone
resentment at her having withdrawn Aminta from Miss Vincent's three days
earlier than the holiday time. The resentment was over; but a germ of it
must have sprang from the dust to prompt the kindling leap his memory
took, out of all due connection; like a lightning among the crags. It
struck Aminta smartly. He called to mind the conversation at table
yesterday. Had she played on Lord Ormont's dislike of the aunt to drive
him forth for some purpose of her own? If so, the little trick had been
done with deplorable spontaneity or adeptness of usage. What was the
purpose?--to converse with an old acquaintance, undisturbed by Lord
Ormont and her aunt? Neatly done, supposing the surmise correct.
But what was there in the purpose? He sifted rapidly for the gist of the
conversation; reviewed the manner of it, the words, the sound they had,
the feelings they touched; then owned that the question could not be
answered. Owning, further, that the recurrence of these idiotic
speculations, feelings, questions, wrote him down as both dull fellow and
impertinent, he was unabled to restore Aminta to the queenly place she
took above the schoolmaster, who was very soon laughing at his fever or
flash of the afternoon. The day had brought a great surprise, nothing
more. Twenty minutes of fencing in the a salle d'armes of an Italian
captain braced him to health, and shifted scenes of other loves, lighter
loves, following the Browny days--not to be called loves; in fact; hardly
beyond inclinations. Nevertheless, inclinations are an infidelity. To
meet a married woman, and be mooning over her because she gave him her
eyes and her handwriting when a girl, was enough to rouse an honest
fellow's laugh at himself, in the contemplation of his intermediate
amorous vagabondage. Had he ever known the veritable passion after
Browny sank from his ken? Let it be confessed, never. His first love
was his only true love, despite one shuddering episode, oddly humiliating
to recollect, though he had not behaved badly. So, then, by right of his
passion, thus did eternal justice rule it: that Browny belonged, to Matey
Weyburn, Aminta to Lord Ormont. Aminta was a lady blooming in the flesh,
Browny was the past's pale phantom; for which reason he could call her
his own, without harm done to any one, and with his usual appetite for
dinner, breakfast, lunch, whatever the meal supplied by the hour.
It would somewhat alarmingly have got to Mr. Weyburn's conscience through
a disturbance of his balance, telling him that he was on a perilous road,
if his relish for food had been blunted. He had his axiom on the
subject, and he was wrong in the general instance, for the appetites of
rogues and ogres are not known to fail. As regarded himself, he was
eminently right; and he could apply it to boys also, to all young people
--the unlaunched, he called them. He counted himself among the launched,
no doubt, and had breasted seas; but the boy was alive, a trencherman
lad, in the coming schoolmaster, and told him profitable facts concerning
his condition; besides throwing a luminous ray on the arcane of our
elusive youthful. If they have no stout zest for eating, put Query
His customary enjoyment of dinner convinced Mr. Weyburn that he had not
brooded morbidly over his phantom Browny, and could meet Aminta, Countess
of Ormont, on the next occasion with the sentiments proper to a common
official. Did she not set him a commendable example? He admired her for
not concealing her disdain of the aspirant schoolmaster, quite
comprehending, by sympathy, why the woman should reproach the girl who
had worshipped heroes, if this was a full-grown specimen; and the reply
of the shamed girl, that in her ignorance she could not know better. He
spared the girl, but he laughed at the woman he commended, laughed at
Aminta's humour was being stirred about the same time. She and her aunt
were at the dinner-table in the absence of my lord. The dinner had
passed with the stiff dialogue peculiar to couples under supervision of
their inferiors; and, as soon as the room was clear, she had asked her
aunt, touching the secretary: "Have you seen him?"
Mrs. Nargett Pagnell's answer could have been amusing only to one whose
intimate knowledge of her found it characteristically salt; for she was a
lady of speech addressed ever directly or roundabout to the chief point
of business between herself and her hearer, and the more she was brief,
oblique, far-shooting, the more comically intelligible she was to her
niece. She bent her head to signify that she had seen the secretary, and
struck the table with both hands, exclaiming:
"Well, to be sure, Lord Ormont!"
Their discussion, before they descended the stairs to dinner, concerned
his lordship's extraordinary indifference to the thronging of handsome
young men around his young countess.
Here, the implication ran, is one established in the house.
Aminta's thoughts could be phrased: "Yes, that is true, for one part of
As for the other part, the ascent of a Phoebus Apollo, with his golden
bow and quiver off the fairest of Eastern horizon skies, followed
suddenly by the sight of him toppling over in Mr. Cuper's long-skirted
brown coat, with spectacles and cane, is an image that hardly exceeds the
degradation she conceived. It was past ludicrous; yet admitted of no
woefulness, nothing soothingly pathetic. It smothered and barked at the
dreams of her blooming spring of life, to which her mind had latterly
been turning back, for an escape from sour, one may say cynical,
reflections, the present issue of a beautiful young woman's first savour
of battle with the world.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A female free-thinker is one of Satan's concubines
A free-thinker startles him as a kind of demon
All that Matey and Browny were forbidden to write they looked
Cajoled like a twenty-year-old yahoo at college
Could not understand enthusiasm for the schoolmaster's career
Curious thing would be if curious things should fail to happen
Few men can forbear to tell a spicy story of their friends
He began ambitiously--It's the way at the beginning
He loathed a skulker
I'm for a rational Deity
Loathing of artifice to raise emotion
Nevertheless, inclinations are an infidelity
Published Memoirs indicate the end of a man's activity
The despot is alert at every issue, to every chance
Things were lumpish and gloomy that day of the week
We shall want a war to teach the country the value of courage
You'll have to guess at half of everything he tells you
You're going to be men, meaning something better than women