Part 4 out of 9
It might not be to-day or next week or month: but so much testimony
pointed to a day within the horizon, surely!
She bowed her head to heaven for forgiveness. The murderous hope stood
up, stood out in forms and pictures. There was one of a woman at her
ease at last in the reception of guests; contrasting with an ironic
haunting figure of the woman of queenly air and stature under a finger of
scorn for a bold-faced impostor. Nataly's lips twitched at the
remembrance of quaint whimpers of complaint to the Fates, for directing
that a large instead of a rather diminutive woman should be the social
offender fearing exposure. Majesty in the criminal's dock, is a
confounding spectacle. To the bosom of the majestic creature, all her
glorious attributes have become the executioner's implements. She must
for her soul's health believe that a day of release and exoneration
'Barmby!--if my dear girl would like him best,' Victor said, in tenderest
undertones, observing the shadowing variations of her face; and pierced
her cruelly, past explanation or understanding;--not that she would have
objected to the Rev. Septimus as officiating clergyman.
She nodded. Down rolled the first big tear.
We cry to women; Land, ho!--a land of palms after storms at sea; and at
once they inundate us with a deluge of eye-water.
'Half a minute, dear Victor, not longer,' Nataly said, weeping, near on
laughing over his look of wanton abandonment to despair at sight of her
tears. 'Don't mind me. I am rather like Fenellan's laundress, the
tearful woman whose professional apparatus was her soft heart and a cake
of soap. Skepsey has made his peace with you?'
Victor answered: 'Yes, yes; I see what he has been about. We're a mixed
lot, all of us-the best! You've noticed, Skepsey has no laugh: however
absurd the thing he tells you, not a smile!'
'But you trust his eyes; you look fathoms into them. Captain Dartrey
thinks him one of the men most in earnest of any of his country.'
'So Nataly of course thinks the same. And he's a worthy little
velocipede, as Fenellan calls him. One wishes Colney had been with us.
Only Colney!--pity one can't cut his talons for the space before they
Ay, and in the presence of Colney Durance, Victor would not have been so
encouraging, half boyishly caressing, with Dudley Sowerby! It was the
very manner to sow seed of imitativeness in the girl, devoted as she was
to her father. Nataly sighed, foreseeing evil, owning it a superstition,
feeling it a certainty. We are easily prophets, sure of being justified,
when the cleverness of schemes devoted to material ends appears most
delicately perfect. History, the tales of households, the tombstone, are
with us to inspire. In Nataly's bosom, the reproof of her inefficiency
for offering counsel where Victor for his soul's sake needed it, was
beginning to thunder at whiles as a reproach of unfittingness in his
mate, worse than a public denunciation of the sin against Society.
It might be decreed that she and Society were to come to reconcilement.
A pain previously thought of, never previously so realized, seized her at
her next sight of Nesta. She had not taken in her front mind the
contrast of the innocent one condemned to endure the shadow from which
the guilty was by a transient ceremony released. Nature could at a push
be eloquent to defend the guilty. Not a word of vindicating eloquence
rose up to clear the innocent. Nothing that she could do; no
devotedness, not any sacrifice, and no treaty of peace, no possible joy
to come, nothing could remove the shadow from her child. She dreamed of
the succour in eloquence, to charm the ears of chosen juries while a fact
spoke over the population, with a relentless rolling out of its one hard
word. But eloquence, powerful on her behalf, was dumb when referred to
Nesta. It seemed a cruel mystery. How was it permitted by the Merciful
Disposer! . . . Nataly's intellect and her reverence clashed. They
clash to the end of time if we persist in regarding the Spirit of Life as
a remote Externe, who plays the human figures, to bring about this or
that issue, instead of being beside us, within us, our breath, if we
will; marking on us where at each step we sink to the animal, mount to
the divine, we and ours who follow, offspring of body or mind. She was
in her error, from judgeing of the destiny of man by the fate of
individuals. Chiefly her error was, to try to be thinking at all amid
the fevered tangle of her sensations.
A darkness fell upon the troubled woman, and was thicker overhead when
her warm blood had drawn her to some acceptance of the philosophy of
existence, in a savour of gratification at the prospect of her equal
footing with the world while yet she lived. She hated herself for taking
pleasure in anything to be bestowed by a world so hap-hazard, ill-
balanced, unjust; she took it bitterly, with such naturalness as not to
be aware that it was irony and a poisonous irony moving her to welcome
the restorative ceremony because her largeness of person had a greater
than common need of the protection.
CHIEFLY UPON THE THEME OF A YOUNG MAID'S IMAGININGS
That Mausoleum at Dreux may touch to lift us. History, pleads for the
pride of the great discrowned Family giving her illumination there. The
pride is reverently postured, the princely mourning-cloak it wears
becomingly braided at the hem with fair designs of our mortal humility in
the presence of the vanquisher; against whom, acknowledgeing a visible
conquest of the dust, it sustains a placid contention in coloured glass
Mademoiselle de Seilles, a fervid Orleanist, was thanked for having
advised the curvature of the route homeward to visit 'the spot of so
impressive a monument': as it, was phrased by the Rev. Septimus Barmby;
whose exposition to Nesta of the beautiful stained-glass pictures of
incidents in the life of the crusading St. Louis, was toned to be
likewise impressive:--Colney Durance not being at hand to bewail the
pathos of his exhaustless 'whacking of the platitudes'; which still
retain their tender parts, but cry unheard when there is no cynic near.
Mr. Barmby laid-on solemnly.
Professional devoutness is deemed more righteous on such occasions than
poetic fire. It robes us in the cloak of the place, as at a funeral.
Generally, Mr. Barmby found, and justly, that it is in superior
estimation among his countrymen of all classes. They are shown by
example how to look, think, speak; what to do. Poets are disturbing;
they cannot be comfortably imitated, they are unsafe, not certainly the
metal, unless you have Laureates, entitled to speak by their pay and
decorations; and these are but one at a time-and a quotation may remind
us of a parody, to convulse the sacred dome! Established plain prose
officials do better for our English. The audience moved round with heads
Victor called to recollection Fenellan's 'Rev. Glendoveer' while Mr.
Barmby pursued his discourse, uninterrupted by tripping wags. And those
who have schemes, as well as those who are startled by the criticism in
laughter to discover that they have cause for shunning it, rejoice when
wits are absent. Mr. Sowerby and Nesta interchanged a comment on Mr.
Barmby's remarks: The Fate of Princes! The Paths of Glory! St. Louis
was a very distant Roman Catholic monarch; and the young gentleman of
Evangelical education could admire him as a Crusader. St. Louis was for
Nesta a figure in the rich hues of royal Saintship softened to homeliness
by tears. She doated on a royalty crowned with the Saint's halo, that
swam down to us to lift us through holy human showers. She listened to
Mr. Barmby, hearing few sentences, lending his eloquence all she felt:
he rolled forth notes of a minster organ, accordant with the devotional
service she was holding mutely. Mademoiselle upon St. Louis: 'Worthy to
be named King of Kings!' swept her to a fount of thoughts, where the
thoughts are not yet shaped, are yet in the breast of the mother
emotions. Louise de Seilles had prepared her to be strangely and deeply
moved. The girl had a heart of many strings, of high pitch, open to be
musical to simplest wandering airs or to the gales. This crypt of the
recumbent sculptured figures and the coloured series of acts in the
passage of the crowned Saint thrilled her as with sight of flame on an
altar-piece of History. But this King in the lines of the Crucifixion
leading, gave her a lesson of life, not a message from death. With such
a King, there would be union of the old order and the new, cessation to
political turmoil: Radicalism, Socialism, all the monster names of things
with heads agape in these our days to gobble-up the venerable, obliterate
the beautiful, leave a stoniness of floods where field and garden were,
would be appeased, transfigured. She hoped, she prayed for that glorious
On one subject, conceived by her only of late, and not intelligibly, not
communicably: a subject thickly veiled; one which struck at her through
her sex and must, she thought, ever be unnamed (the ardent young creature
saw it as a very thing torn by the winds to show hideous gleams of a body
rageing with fire behind the veil): on this one subject, her hopes and
prayers were dumb in her bosom. It signified shame. She knew not the
how, for she had no power to contemplate it: there was a torment of earth
and a writhing of lurid dust-clouds about it at a glimpse. But if the
new crusading Hero were to come attacking that--if some born prince nobly
man would head the world to take away the withering scarlet from the face
of women, she felt she could kiss the print of his feet upon the ground.
Meanwhile she had enjoyment of her plunge into the inmost forest-well of
mediaeval imaginativeness, where youthful minds of good aspiration
through their obscurities find much akin to them.
She had an eye for little Skepsey too: unaware that these French Princes
had hurried him off to Agincourt, for another encounter with them and the
old result--poor dear gentlemen, with whom we do so wish to be friendly!
What amused her was, his evident fatigue in undergoing the slow parade,
and sheer deference to his betters, as to the signification of a holiday
on arrested legs. Dudley Sowerby's attention to him, in elucidating the
scenes with historical scraps, greatly pleased her. The Rev. Septimus of
course occupied her chiefly.
Mademoiselle was always near, to receive his repeated expressions of
gratitude for the route she had counselled. Without personal objections
to a well-meaning orderly man, whose pardonable error it was to be aiming
too considerably higher than his head, she did but show him the voluble
muteness of a Frenchwoman's closed lips; not a smile at all, and
certainly no sign of hostility; when bowing to his reiterated compliment
in the sentence of French. Mr. Barmby had noticed (and a strong
sentiment rendered him observant, unwontedly) a similar alert immobility
of her lips, indicating foreign notions of this kind or that, in England:
an all but imperceptible shortening or loss of corners at the mouth, upon
mention of marriages of his clergy: particularly once, at his reading of
a lengthy report in a newspaper of a Wedding Ceremony involving his
favourite Bishop for bridegroom: a report to make one glow like Hymen
rollicking the Torch after draining the bumper to the flying slipper.
He remembered the look, and how it seemed to intensify on the slumbering
features, at a statement, that his Bishop was a widower, entering into
nuptials in his fifty-fourth year. Why not? But we ask it of Heaven and
Man, why not? Mademoiselle was pleasant: she was young or youngish; her
own clergy were celibates, and--no, he could not argue the matter with a
young or youngish person of her sex. Could it be a reasonable woman--
a woman!--who, disapproved the holy nuptials of the pastors of the
flocks? But we are forbidden to imagine the conducting of an argument
thereon with a lady.
Luther . . . but we are not in Luther's time:--Nature . . . no,
nor can there possibly be allusions to Nature. Mr. Barmby wondered at
Protestant parents taking a Papistical governess for their young flower
of English womanhood. However, she venerated St. Louis; he cordially
also; there they met; and he admitted, that she had, for a Frenchwoman,
a handsome face, and besides an agreeably artificial ingenuousness in
the looks which could be so politely dubious as to appear only dubiously
The spell upon Nesta was not blown away on English ground; and when her
father and mother were comparing their impressions, she could not but
keep guard over the deeper among her own. At the Chateau de Gisors,
leftward off Vernon on Seine, it had been one of romance and wonderment,
with inquisitive historic soundings of her knowledge and mademoiselle's,
a reverence for the prisoner's patient holy work, and picturings of his
watchful waiting daily, Nail in hand, for the heaven-sent sunlight on the
circular dungeon-wall through the slits of the meurtrieres. But the
Mausoleum at Dreux spake religiously; it enfolded Mr. Barmby, his voice
re-edified it. The fact that he had discoursed there, though not a word
of the discourse was remembered, allied him to the spirit of a day rather
increasing in sacredness as it receded and left her less the possessor of
it, more the worshipper.
Mademoiselle had to say to herself: 'Impossible!' after seeing the drift
of her dear Nesta's eyes in the wake of the colossal English clergyman.
She fed her incredulousness indignantly on the evidence confounding it.
Nataly was aware of unusual intonations, treble-stressed, in the Bethesda
and the Galilee of Mr. Barmby on Concert evenings: as it were, the
towering wood-work of the cathedral organ in quake under emission of its
multitudinous outroar. The 'Which?' of the Rev. Septimus, addressed to
Nesta, when song was demanded of him; and her 'Either'; and his gentle
hesitation, upon a gaze at her for the directing choice, could not be
unnoticed by women.
Did he know a certain thing?--and dream of urging the suit, as an
indulgent skipper of parental pages?
Such haunting interrogations were the conspirators' daggers out at any
instant, or leaping in sheath, against Nataly's peace of mind. But she
trusted her girl's laughing side to rectify any little sentimental
overbalancing. She left the ground where maternal meditations are
serious, at an image of Mr. Barmby knocking at Nesta's heart as a lover.
Was it worth inquiry?
A feminine look was trailed across the eyes of mademoiselle, with mention
of Mr. Barmby's name.
Mademoiselle rippled her shoulders. 'We are at present much enamoured of
That watchfullest showing no alarm, the absurdity of the suspicion
Nataly had moreover to receive startling new guests:
Lady Rodwell Blachington: Mrs. Fanning, wife of the General: young Mrs.
Blathenoy, wife of the great bill-broker: ladies of Wrensham and about.
And it was a tasking of her energies equal to the buffeting of recurrent
waves on deep sea. The ladies were eager for her entry into Lakelands.
She heard that Victor had appointed Lady Blachington's third son to the
coveted post of clerk in the Indian house of Inchling and Radnor. These
are the deluge days when even aristocracy will cry blessings on the man
who procures a commercial appointment for one of its younger sons
offended and rebutted by the barrier of Examinations for the Civil
Service. 'To have our Adolphus under Mr. Victor Radnor's protection, is
a step!' Lady Blachington said. Nataly was in an atmosphere of hints and
revealings. There were City Dinners, to which one or other of the
residents about Lakelands had been taken before he sat at Victor's London
table. He was already winning his way, apparently without effort, to be
the popular man of that neighbourhood. A subterranean tide or a slipping
of earth itself seemed bearing her on. She had his promise indeed, that
he would not ask of her to enter Lakelands until the day of his freedom
had risen; but though she could trust to his word, the heart of the word
went out of it when she heard herself thanked by Lady Blachington (who
could so well excuse her at such a time of occupation for not returning
her call, that she called in a friendly way a second time, warmly to
thank her) for throwing open the Concert room at Lakelands in August, to
an Entertainment in assistance of the funds for the purpose of erecting
an East of London Clubhouse, where the children of the poor by day could
play, and their parents pass a disengaged evening. Doubtless a worthy
Charity. Nataly was alive to the duties of wealth. Had it been simply a
demand for a donation, she would not have shown that momentary pucker of
the brows, which Lady Blachington read as a contrast with the generous
vivacity of the husband.
Nataly read a leaf of her fate in this announcement. Nay, she beheld
herself as the outer world wexedly beholds a creature swung along to the
doing of things against the better mind. An outer world is thoughtless
of situations which prepare us to meet the objectionable with a will
benumbed;--if we do not, as does that outer world, belong to the party of
the readily heroical. She scourged her weakness: and the intimation of
the truth stood over her, more than ever manifest, that the deficiency
affecting her character lay in her want of language. A tongue to speak
and contend, would have helped her to carve a clearer way. But then
again, the tongue to speak must be one which could reproach, and strike
at errors; fence, and continually summon resources to engage the
electrical vitality of a man like Victor. It was an exultation of their
life together, a mark of his holiness for them both, that they had never
breathed a reproach upon one another.
She dropped away from ideas of remonstrance; faintly seeing, in her sigh
of submission, that the deficiency affecting her character would have
been supplied by a greater force of character, pressing either to speech
or acts. The confession of a fated inevitable in the mind, is weakness
prostrate. She knew it: but she could point to the manner of man she was
matched with; and it was not a poor excuse.
Mr. Barmby, she thought, deserved her gratitude in some degree for
stepping between Mr. Sowerby and Nesta. The girl not having
inclinations, and the young gentleman being devoid of stratagem, they
were easily kept from the dangerous count of two.
Mademoiselle would have said, that the shepherd also had rarely if ever a
minute quite alone with her lamb. Incredulously she perceived signs of a
shock. The secret following the signs was betrayed by Nesta in return
for a tender grasp of hands and a droll flutter of eyelids. Out it came,
on a nod first; then a dreary mention of a date, and an incident, to
bring it nearer to comprehension. Mr. Barmby--and decide who will
whether it is that Love was made to elude or that curates impelled by his
fires are subtle as nether--had outwitted French watchfulness by stealing
minutes enough on a day at Lakelands to declare himself. And no wonder
the girl looked so forlorn: he had shivered her mediaeval forest-palace
of illuminated glass, to leave her standing like a mountain hind, that
sniffs the tainted gale off the crag of her first quick leap from hounds;
her instincts alarmed, instead of rich imagination colouring and
She had no memory for his words; so, and truly, she told her Louise:
meaning that she had only a spiceless memory; especially for the word
love in her ears from the mouth of a man.
There had been a dream of it; with the life-awakening marvel it would be,
the humbleness it would bring to her soul beneath the golden clothing of
her body: one of those faint formless dreams, which are as the bend of
grasses to the breath of a still twilight. She lived too spiritedly to
hang on any dream; and had moreover a muffled dread-shadow-sister to the
virginal desire--of this one, as of a fateful power that might drag her
down, disorder, discolour. But now she had heard it: the word, the very
word itself! in her own ears! addressed to her! in a man's voice! The
first utterance had been heard, and it was over; the chapter of the book
of bulky promise of the splendours and mysteries;--the shimmering woods
and bushy glades, and the descent of the shape celestial, and the
recognition--the mutual cry of affinity; and overhead the crimson
outrolling of the flag of beneficent enterprises hand in hand, all was at
an end. These, then, are the deceptions our elders tell of! That
masculine voice should herald a new world to the maiden. The voice she
had heard did but rock to ruin the world she had been living in.
Mademoiselle prudently forbore from satirical remarks on his person or on
his conduct. Nesta had nothing to defend: she walked in a bald waste.
'Can I have been guilty of leading him to think . . .?' she said, in a
tone that writhed, at a second discussion of this hapless affair.
'They choose to think,' mademoiselle replied. 'It is he or another. My
dear and dearest, you have entered the field where shots fly thick, as
they do to soldiers in battle; and it is neither your fault nor any
one's, if you are hit.'
Nesta gazed at her, with a shy supplicating cry of 'Louise.'
Mademoiselle immediately answered the tone of entreaty. 'Has it happened
to me? I am of the age of eight and twenty; passable, to look at: yes,
my dear, I have gone through it. To spare you the questions tormenting
you, I will tell you, that perhaps our experience of our feelings comes
nigh on a kind of resemblance. The first gentleman who did me the honour
to inform me of his passion, was a hunchback.'
Nesta cried 'Oh!' in a veritable pang of sympathy, and clapped hands to
her ears, to shut out Mr. Barmby's boom of the terrific word attacking
Louise from that deformed one.
Her disillusionment became of the sort which hears derision. A girl of
quick blood and active though unregulated intellect, she caught at the
comic of young women's hopes and experiences, in her fear of it.
'My own precious poor dear Louise! what injustice there is in the world
for one like my Louise to have a hunchback to be the first . . . !'
'But, my dear, it did me no harm.'
'But if it had been known!'
'But it was known!'
Nesta controlled a shuddering: 'It is the knowledge of it in ourselves--
that it has ever happened;--you dear Louise, who deserve so much better!
And one asks--Oh, why are we not left in peace! And do look at the
objects it makes of us!' Mademoiselle: could see, that the girl's
desperation had got hold of her humour for a life-buoy. 'It is really
worse to have it unknown--when you are compelled to be his partner in
sharing the secret, and feel as if it were a dreadful doll you conceal
for fear that everybody will laugh at its face.'
She resumed her seriousness: 'I find it so hard to be vexed with him and
really really like him. For he is a good man; but he will not let one
shake him off. He distresses: because we can't quite meet as we did.
Last Wednesday Concert evening, he kept away; and I am annoyed that I was
'Moths have to pass through showers, and keep their pretty patterns from
damage as best they can,' said mademoiselle.
Nesta transformed herself into a disciple of Philosophy on the spot.
'Yes, all these feelings of ours are moth-dust! One feels them. I
suppose they pass. They must. But tell me, Louise, dear soul, was your
poor dear good little afflicted suitor--was he kindly pitied?'
'Conformably with the regulations prescribed to young damsels who are in
request to surrender the custody of their hands. It is easy to commit a
dangerous excess in the dispensing of that article they call pity of
'And he--did he?--vowed to you he could not take No for an answer?'
At this ingenuous question, woefully uttered, mademoiselle was pricked,
to smile pointedly. Nesta had a tooth on her under-lip. Then, shaking
vapours to the winds, she said: 'It is an honour, to be asked; and we
cannot be expected to consent. So I shall wear through it.--Only I do
wish that Mr. Fenellan would not call him The Inchcape Bell!' She
murmured this to herself.
Mr. Barmby was absent for two weeks. 'Can anything have offended him?'
Victor inquired, in some consternation, appreciating the man's worth, and
the grand basso he was; together with the need for him at the Lakelands
Concert in August.
Nataly wrote Mr. Barmby a direct invitation. She had no reply. Her
speculations were cut short by Victor, who handed her a brief note
addressed to him and signed by the Rev. Septimus, petitioning for a
The formality of the request incensed Victor. 'Now, dear love, you see
Colney's meaning, when he says, there are people who have no intimacy in
them. Here's a man who visits me regularly once a week or more, has been
familiar for years--four, at least; and he wants to speak to me, and must
obtain the "privilege" by special appointment! What can be the meaning
'You will hear to-morrow afternoon,' Nataly said, seeing one paved way to
the meaning--a too likely meaning. . . 'He hasn't been . . . nothing
about Fredi, surely!'
'I have had no information.'
'Impossible! Barmby has good sense; Bottesini can't intend to come
scraping on that string. But we won't lose him; he's one of us. Barmby
counts for more at a Charity Concert than all the catalogue, and
particularly in the country. But he's an excellent fellow--eh?'
'That he is,' Nataly agreed.
Victor despatched a cheerful curt consent to see Mr. Barmby privately on
the late afternoon of the day to follow.
Nesta, returning home from the park at that hour of the interview,
ignorant of Mr. Barmby's purpose though she was, had her fires
extinguished by the rolling roar of curfew along the hall-passage,
out of the library.
SUITORS FOR THE HAND OF NESTA VICTORIA
When, upon the well-known quest, the delightful singer Orpheus took that
downward way, coming in sight of old Cerberus centiceps, he astutely
feigned inattention to the hostile appearances of the multiple beast, and
with a wave of his plectrum over the responsive lyre, he at the stroke
raised voice. This much you know. It may be communicated to you, that
there was then beheld the most singular spectacle ever exhibited on the
dizzy line of division between the living and the dead. For those
unaccustomed musical tones in the last thin whiff of our sustaining air
were so smartingly persuasive as to pierce to the vitals of the faithful
Old Dog before his offended sentiments had leisure to rouse their heads
against a beggar of a mortal. The terrible sugariness which poured into
him worked like venom to cause an encounter and a wrestling: his battery
of jaws expressed it. They gaped. At the same time, his eyeballs gave
up. All the Dog, that would have barked the breathing intruder an
hundredfold back to earth, was one compulsory centurion yawn. Tears,
issue of the frightful internal wedding of the dulcet and the sour
(a ravishing rather of the latter by the former), rolled off his muzzles.
Now, if you are not for insisting that a magnificent simile shall be
composed of exactly the like notes in another octave, you will catch the
fine flavour of analogy and be wafted in a beat of wings across the scene
of the application of the Rev. Septimus Barmby to Mr. Victor Radnor, that
he might enter the house in the guise of suitor for the hand of Nesta
Victoria. It is the excelling merit of similes and metaphors to spring
us to vault over gaps and thickets and dreary places. But, as with the
visits of Immortals, we must be ready to receive them. Beware, moreover,
of examining them too scrupulously: they have a trick of wearing to
vapour if closely scanned. Let it be gratefully for their aid.
So far the comparison is absolute, that Mr. Barmby passed: he was at
liberty to pursue his quest.
Victor could not explain how he had been brought to grant it. He was at
pains to conceal the bewilderment Mr. Barmby had cast on him, and make
Nataly see the smallness of the grant:--both of them were unwilling to
lose Barmby; there was not the slightest fear about Fredi, he said; and
why should not poor Barmby have his chance with the others in the race!
--and his Nataly knew that he hated to speak unkindly: he could cry the
negative like a crack of thunder in the City. But such matters as these!
and a man pleading merely for the right to see the girl!--and pleading in
a tone . . . 'I assure you, my love, he touched chords.'
'Did he allude to advantages in the alliance with him?' Nataly asked
'His passion--nothing else. Candid enough. And he had a tone--he has a
tone, you know. It 's not what he said. Some allusion to belief in a
favourable opinion of him . . . encouragement . . . on the part of
the mama. She would have him travelling with us! I foresaw it.'
'You were astonished when it came.'
'We always are.'
Victor taunted her softly with having encouraged Mr. Barmby.
She had thought in her heart--not seriously; on a sigh of despondency--
that Mr. Barmby espousing the girl would smooth a troubled prospect: and
a present resentment at her weakness rendered her shrewd to detect
Victor's cunning to cover his own: a thing imaginable of him previously
in sentimental matters, yet never accurately and so legibly printed on
her mind. It did not draw her to read him with a novel familiarity; it
drew her to be more sensible of foregone intimations of the man he was
--irresistible in attack, not impregnably defensive. Nor did he seem in
this instance humanely considerate: if mademoiselle's estimate of the
mind of the girl was not wrong, then Mr. Barmby's position would be both
a ridiculous and a cruel one. She had some silly final idea that the
poor man might now serve permanently to check the more dreaded applicant:
a proof that her ordinary reflectiveness was blunted.
Nataly acknowledged, after rallying Victor for coming to have his
weakness condoned, a justice in his counter-accusation, of a loss of her
natural cheerfulness, and promised amendment, with a steely smile, that
his lips mimicked fondly; and her smile softened. To strengthen the dear
soul's hopes, he spoke, as one who had received the latest information,
of Dr. Themison and surgeons; little conscious of the tragic depths he
struck or of the burden he gave her heart to bear. Her look alarmed him.
She seemed to be hugging herself up to the tingling scalp, and was in a
moment marble to sight and touch. She looked like the old engravings of
martyrs taking the bite of the jaws of flame at the stake.
He held her embraced, feeling her body as if it were in the awful grip of
fingers from the outside of life.
The seizure was over before it could be called ominous. When it was once
over, and she had smiled again and rebuked him for excessive anxiety, his
apprehensions no longer troubled him, but subsided sensationally in wrath
at the crippled woman who would not obey the dictate of her ailments
instantly to perish and spare this dear one annoyance.
Subsequently, later than usual, he performed his usual mental penance for
it. In consequence, the wrath, and the wish, and the penitence, haunted
him, each swelling to possession of him in turn; until they united to
head a plunge into retrospects; which led to his reviewing the army of
charges against Mrs. Burman.
And of this he grew ashamed, attributing it to the morbid indulgence in
reflection: a disease never afflicting him anterior to the stupid fall on
London Bridge. He rubbed instinctively for the punctilio-bump, and could
cheat his fancy to think a remainder of it there, just below, half an
inch to the right of, the spot where a phrenologist, invited by Nataly in
old days, had marked philo-progenitiveness on his capacious and enviable
cerebrum. He knew well it was a fancy. But it was a fact also, that
since the day of the fall (never, save in merest glimpses, before that
day), he had taken to look behind him, as though an eye had been knocked
in the back of his head.
Then, was that day of the announcement of Lakelands to Nataly, to be
accounted a gloomy day? He would not have it so.
She was happily occupied with her purchases of furniture, Fredi with her
singing lessons, and he with his business; a grasp of many ribands,
reining-in or letting loose; always enjoyable in the act. Recently only
had he known when at home, a relaxation, a positive pleasure in looking
forward to the hours of the City office. This was odd, but so it was;
and looking homeward from the City, he had a sense of disappointment when
it was not Concert evening. The Cormyns, the Yatts, and Priscilla
Graves, and Pempton, foolish fellow, and that bothering Barmby, and
Peridon and Catkin, were the lineing of his nest. Well, and so they had
been before Lakelands rose. What had induced! . . . he suddenly felt
foreign to himself. The shrouded figure of his lost Idea on London
Bridge went by.
A peep into the folds of the shroud was granted him:--Is it a truth, that
if we are great owners of money, we are so swollen with a force not
native to us, as to be precipitated into acts the downright contrary of
He inquired it of his tastes, which have the bad habit of unmeasured
phrasing when they are displeased, and so they yield no rational answer.
Still he gave heed to violent extraneous harpings against money.
Epigrams of Colney's; abuse of it and the owners of it by Socialist
orators reported in some newspaper corner; had him by the ears.
They ceased in the presence of Lady Grace Halley, who entered his office
to tell him she was leaving town for Whinfold, her husband's family-seat,
where the dear man lay in evil case. She signified her resignation to
the decrees from above, saying generously:
'You look troubled, my friend. Any bad City news?'
'I look troubled?' Victor said laughing, and bethought him of what the
trouble might be. 'City news would not cause the look. Ah, yes;--I was
talking in the street to a friend of mine on horseback the other day, and
he kept noticing his horse's queer starts. We spied half a dozen
children in the gutter, at the tail of the horse, one of them plucking at
a hair. "Please, sir, may I have a hair out of your horse's tail?" said
the mite. We patted the poor horse that grew a tail for urchins to pluck
at. Men come to the fathers about their girls. It's my belief that
mothers more easily say no. If they learn the word as maids, you'll say!
However, there's no fear about my girl. Fredi's hard to snare. And what
brings you Cityward?'
'I want to know whether I shall do right in selling out of the Tiddler
'You have multiplied your investment by ten.'
'If it had been thousands!'
'Clearly, you sell; always jump out of a mounted mine, unless you're at
the bottom of it.'
'There are City-articles against the mine this morning--or I should have
been on my way to Whinfold at this moment. The shares are lower.'
'The merry boys are at work to bring your balloon to the ground, that you
may quit it for them to ascend. Tiddler has enemies, like the best of
mines: or they may be named lovers, if you like. And mines that have
gone up, go down for a while before they rise again; it's an affair of
undulations; rocket mines are not so healthy. The stories are false, for
the time. I had the latest from Dartrey Fenellan yesterday. He's here
next month; some time in August.'
'He is married, is he not?'
Victor's brevity sounded oddly to Lady Grace.
'Is he not a soldier?' she said.
'Soldiers and parsons!' Victor interjected.
Now she saw. She understood the portent of Mr. Barmby's hovering offer
of the choice of songs, and the recent tremulousness of the welling
But she had come about her own business; and after remarking, that when
there is a prize there must be competition, or England will have to lower
her flag, she declared her resolve to stick to Tiddler, exclaiming: 'It's
only in mines that twenty times the stake is not a dream of the past!'
'The Riviera green field on the rock is always open to you,' said Victor.
She put out her hand to be taken. 'Not if you back me here. It really
is not gambling when yours is the counsel I follow. And if I'm to be a
widow, I shall have to lean on a friend, gifted like you. I love
adventure, danger;--well, if we two are in it; just to see my captain in
a storm. And if the worst happens, we go down together. It 's the
detestation of our deadly humdrum of modern life; some inherited love of
'Does not Mr. Durance accuse you of an addiction to the brandy novel?'
'Colney may call it what he pleases. If I read fiction, let it be
fiction; airier than hard fact. If I see a ballet, my troop of short
skirts must not go stepping like pavement policemen. I can't read dull
analytical stuff or "stylists" when I want action--if I'm to give my mind
to a story. I can supply the reflections. I'm English--if Colney 's
right in saying we always come round to the story with the streak of
I don't ask for bloodshed: that's what his "brandy" means.'
'But Mr. Durance is right, we require a shedding; I confess I expect it
where there's love; it's part of the balance, and justifies one's
excitement. How otherwise do you get any real crisis? I must read and
live something unlike this flat life around us.'
'There's the Adam life and the Macadam life, Fenellan says. Pass it in
books, but in life we can have quite enough excitement coming out of our
thoughts. No brandy there! And no fine name for personal predilections
or things done in domino!' Victor said, with his very pleasant face,
pressing her hand, to keep the act of long holding it in countenance and
bring it to a well-punctuated conclusion: thinking involuntarily of the
other fair woman, whose hand was his, and who betrayed a beaten visage
despite--or with that poor kind of--trust in her captain. But the
thought was not guilty of drawing comparisons. 'This is one that I could
trust, as captain or mate,' he pressed the hand again before dropping it.
'You judge entirely by the surface, if you take me for a shifty person at
the trial,' said Lady Grace.
Skepsey entered the room with one of his packets, and she was reminded of
trains and husbands.
She left Victor uncomfortably rufed: and how? for she had none of the
physical charms appealing peculiarly to the man who was taken with
grandeur of shape. She belonged rather to the description physically
distasteful to him.
It is a critical comment on a civilization carelessly distilled from the
jealous East, when visits of fair women to City offices can have this
effect. If the sexes are separated for an hour, the place where one is
excluded or not common to see, becomes inflammable to that appearing
spark. He does outrage to a bona Dea: she to the monasticism of the
Court of Law: and he and she awaken unhallowed emotions. Supposing,
however, that western men were to de-orientalize their gleeful notions of
her, and dis-Turk themselves by inviting the woman's voluble tongue to
sisterly occupation there in the midst of the pleading Court, as in the
domestic circle: very soon would her eyes be harmless: unless directed
upon us with intent.
That is the burning core of the great Question, our Armageddon in
Morality: Is she moral? Does she mean to be harmless? Is she not
untamable Old Nature? And when once on an equal footing with her lordly
half, would not the spangled beauty, in a turn, like the realistic
transformation-trick of a pantomime, show herself to be that wanton old
thing--the empress of disorderliness? You have to recollect, as the
Conservative acutely suggests, that her timidities, at present urging her
to support Establishments, pertain to her state of dependence. The party
views of Conservatism are, must be, founded, we should remember, on an
intimate acquaintance with her in the situations where she is almost
unrestrictedly free and her laughter rings to confirm the sentences of
classical authors and Eastern sages. Conservatives know what they are
about when they refuse to fling the last lattice of an ancient harem open
to air and sun-the brutal dispersers of mystery, which would despoil an
ankle of its flying wink.
Victor's opinions were those of the entrenched majority; objecting to the
occult power of women, as we have the women now, while legislating to
maintain them so; and forbidding a step to a desperately wicked female
world lest the step should be to wickeder. His opinions were in the
background, rarely stirred; but the lady had brought them forward; and he
fretted at his restlessness, vexed that it should be due to the intrusion
of the sex instead of to the charms of the individual. No sting of the
sort had bothered him, he called to mind, on board the Channel boat-
nothing to speak of. 'Why does she come here! Why didn't she go to her
husband! She gets into the City scramble blindfold, and catches at the
nearest hand to help her out! Nice woman enough.' Yes, but he was
annoyed with her for springing sensations that ran altogether heartless
to the object, at the same time that they were disloyal to the dear woman
their natural divinity. And between him and that dear woman, since the
communication made by Skepsey in the town of Dreux, nightly the dividing
spirit of Mrs. Burman lay cold as a corpse. They both felt her there.
They kissed coldly, pressed a hand, said good night.
Next afternoon the announcement by Skepsey of the Hon. Dudley Sowerby,
surprised Victor's eyebrows at least, and caused him genially to review
the visit of Lady Grace.
Whether or not Colney Durance drew his description of a sunken nobility
from the 'sick falcon' distinguishing the handsome features of Mr.
Sowerby, that beaked invalid was particularly noticeable to Victor during
the statement of his case, although the young gentleman was far from
being one, in Colney's words, to enliven the condition of domestic fowl
with an hereditary turn for 'preying'; eminently the reverse; he was of
good moral repute, a worker, a commendable citizen. But there was the
obligation upon him to speak--it is expected in such cases, if only as a
formality--of his 'love': hard to do even in view and near to the
damsel's reddening cheeks: it perplexed him. He dropped a veil on the
bashful topic; his tone was the same as when he reverted to the material
points; his present income, his position in the great Bank of Shotts and
Co., his prospects, the health of the heir to the Cantor earldom. He
considered that he spoke to a member of the City merchants, whose
preference for the plain positive, upon the question of an alliance
between families by marriage, lends them for once a resemblance to lords.
When a person is not read by character, the position or profession is
called on to supply raised print for the finger-ends to spell.
Hard on poor Fredi! was Victor's thought behind the smile he bent on this
bald Cupid. She deserved a more poetical lover! His paternal sympathies
for the girl besought in love, revived his past feelings as a wooer;
nothing but a dread of the influence of Mr. Barmby's toned eloquence upon
the girl, after her listening to Dudley Sowerby's addresses, checked his
contempt for the latter. He could not despise the suitor he sided with
against another and seemingly now a more dangerous. Unable quite to
repress the sentiment, he proceeded immediately to put it to his uses.
For we have no need to be scrupulously formal and precise in the
exposition of circumstances to a fellow who may thank the stars if such a
girl condescends to give him a hearing. He had this idea through the
conception of his girl's generosity. And furthermore, the cognizant eye
of a Lucretian Alma Mater having seat so strongly in Victor, demanded as
a right an effusion of the promising amorous graces on the part of the
acceptable applicant to the post of husband of that peerless. These
being absent, evidently non-existent, it seemed sufficient for the
present, after the fashion of the young gentleman, to capitulate the few
material matters briefly.
They were dotted along with a fine disregard of the stateliness of the
sum to be settled on Nesta Victoria, and with a distant but burning wish
all the while, that the suitor had been one to touch his heart and open
it, inspiriting it--as could have been done--to disclose for good and all
the things utterable. Victor loved clear honesty, as he loved light: and
though he hated to be accused of not showing a clean face in the light,
he would have been moved and lifted to confess to a spot by the touch at
his heart. Dudley Sowerby's deficiencies, however, were outweighed by
the palpable advantages of his birth, his prospects, and his good repute
for conduct; add thereto his gentlemanly manners. Victor sighed again
over his poor Fredi; and in telling Mr. Sowerby that the choice must be
left to her, he had the regrets of a man aware of his persuasive arts and
how they would be used, to think that he was actually making the choice.
Observe how fatefully he who has a scheme is the engine of it; he is no
longer the man of his tastes or of his principles; he is on a line of
rails for a terminus; and he may cast languishing eyes across waysides to
right and left, he has doomed himself to proceed, with a self-devouring
hunger for the half desired; probably manhood gone at the embrace of it.
This may be or not, but Nature has decreed to him the forfeit of
pleasure. She bids us count the passage of a sober day for the service
of the morrow; that is her system; and she would have us adopt it, to
keep in us the keen edge for cutting, which is the guarantee of
enjoyment: doing otherwise, we lose ourselves in one or other of the
furious matrix instincts; we are blunt to all else.
Young Dudley fully agreed that the choice must be with Miss Radnor; he
alluded to her virtues, her accomplishments. He was waxing to
fervidness. He said he must expect competitors; adding, on a start, that
he was to say, from his mother, she, in the case of an intention to
present Miss Radnor at Court . . . .
Victor waved hand for a finish, looking as though, his head had come out
of hot water. He sacrificed Royalty to his necessities, under a kind of
sneer at its functions: 'Court! my girl? But the arduous duties are
over for the season. We are a democratic people retaining the seductions
of monarchy, as a friend says; and of course a girl may like to count
among the flowers of the kingdom for a day, in the list of Court
presentations; no harm. Only there's plenty of time . . . very young
girls have their heads turned--though I don't say, don't imagine, my girl
would. By and by perhaps.'
Dudley was ushered into Mr. Inchling's room and introduced to the figure-
head of the Firm of Inchling, Pennergate, and Radnor: a respectable City
merchant indeed, whom Dudley could read-off in a glimpse of the downright
contrast to his partner. He had heard casual remarks on the respectable
City of London merchant from Colney Durance. A short analytical gaze at
him, helped to an estimate of the powers of the man who kept him up. Mr.
Inchling was a florid City-feaster, descendant of a line of City
merchants, having features for a wife to identify; as drovers, they tell
us, can single one from another of their round-bellied beasts. Formerly
the leader of the Firm, he was now, after dreary fits of restiveness,
kickings, false prophecies of ruin, Victor's obedient cart-horse. He
sighed in set terms for the old days of the Firm, when, like trouts in
the current, the Firm had only to gape for shoals of good things to
fatten it: a tale of English prosperity in quiescence; narrated
interjectorily among the by-ways of the City, and wanting only metre to
make it our national Poem.
Mr. Inchling did not deny that grand mangers of golden oats were still
somehow constantly allotted to him. His wife believed in Victor, and
deemed the loss of the balancing Pennergate a gain. Since that
lamentable loss, Mr. Inchling, under the irony of circumstances the Tory
of Commerce, had trotted and gallopped whither driven, racing like mad
against his will and the rival nations now in the field to force the
pace; a name for enterprise; the close commercial connection of a man who
speculated--who, to put it plainly, lived on his wits; hurried onward and
onward; always doubting, munching, grumbling at satisfaction, in
perplexity of the gratitude which is apprehensive of black Nemesis at a
turn of the road,--to confound so wild a whip as Victor Radnor. He had
never forgiven the youth's venture in India of an enormous purchase of
Cotton many years back, and which he had repudiated, though not his share
of the hundreds of thousands realized before the refusal to ratify the
bargain had come to Victor. Mr. Inchling dated his first indigestion
from that disquieting period. He assented to the praise of Victor's
genius, admitting benefits; his heart refused to pardon, and consequently
his head wholly to trust, the man who robbed him of his quondam
comfortable feeling of security. And if you will imagine the sprite of
the aggregate English Taxpayer personifying Steam as the malignant who
has despoiled him of the blessed Safety-Assurance he once had from his
God Neptune against invaders, you will comprehend the state of Mr.
Inchling's mind in regard to his terrific and bountiful, but very
He thanked heaven to his wife often, that he had nothing to do with North
American or South American mines and pastures or with South Africa and,
gold and diamonds: and a wife must sometimes listen, mastering her inward
comparisons. Dr. Schlesien had met and meditated on this example of the
island energy. Mr. Inchling was not permitted by his wife to be much the
guest of the Radnor household, because of the frequent meeting there with
Colney Durance; Colney's humour for satire being instantly in bristle at
sight of his representative of English City merchants: 'over whom,' as he
wrote of the venerable body, 'the disciplined and instructed Germans not
deviously march; whom acute and adventurous Americans, with half a cock
of the eye in passing, compassionately outstrip.' He and Dr. Schlesien
agreed upon Mr. Inchling. Meantime the latter gentleman did his part at
the tables of the wealthier City Companies, and retained his appearance
of health; he was beginning to think, upon a calculation of the increased
treasures of those Companies and the country, that we, the Taxpayer,
ought not to leave it altogether to Providence to defend them;
notwithstanding the watchful care of us hitherto shown by our briny
Providence, to save us from anxiety and expense. But there are, he said,
'difficulties'; and the very word could stop him, as commonly when our
difficulty lies in the exercise of thinking.
Victor's African room, containing large wall-maps of auriferous regions,
was inspected; and another, where clerks were busy over miscellaneous
Continents. Dudley Sowerby hoped he might win the maiden.
He and Victor walked in company Westward. The shop of Boyle and
Luckwort, chemists, was not passed on this occasion. Dudley grieved that
he had to be absent from the next Concert for practise, owing to his
engagement to his mother to go down to the family seat near Tunbridge
Wells. Victor mentioned his relatives, the Duvidney maiden ladies,
residing near the Wells. They measured the distance between Cronidge and
Moorsedge, the two houses, as for half an hour on horseback.
Nesta told her father at home that the pair of them had been observed
confidentially arm in arm, and conversing so profoundly.
'Who, do you think, was the topic?' Victor asked.
She would not chase the little blue butterfly of a guess.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Ask not why, where reason never was
Cover of action as an escape from perplexity
Honest creatures who will not accept a lift from fiction
Judgeing of the destiny of man by the fate of individuals
Memory inspired by the sensations
Nature could at a push be eloquent to defend the guilty
Satirist too devotedly loves his lash to be a persuasive teacher
Slave of existing conventions
Startled by the criticism in laughter
The impalpable which has prevailing weight
There is little to be learnt when a little is known
They kissed coldly, pressed a hand, said good night
Who enjoyed simple things when commanding the luxuries
ONE OF OUR CONQUERORS
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XIX. TREATS OF NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCE AND THE DISSENSION BETWEEN
THEM AND OF A SATIRIST'S MALIGNITY IN THE DIRECTION OF HIS
XX. THE GREAT ASSEMBLY AT LAKELAND
XXI. DARTREY FENELLAN
XXII. CONCERNS THE INTRUSION OF JARNIMAN
XXIII. TREATS OF THE LADIES' LAPDOG TASSO FOR AN INSTANCE OF MOMENTOUS
EFFECTS PRODUCED BY VERY MINOR CAUSES
XXIV. NESTA'S ENGAGEMENT
TREATS OF NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCE AND THE DISSENSION BETWEEN THEM AND OF
A SATIRIST'S MALIGNITY IN THE DIRECTION OF HIS COUNTRY
There is at times in the hearts of all men of active life a vivid wild
moment or two of dramatic dialogue between the veteran antagonists,
Nature and Circumstance, when they, whose business it should be to be
joyfully one, furiously split; and the Dame is up with her shrillest
querulousness to inquire of her offspring, for the distinct original
motive of his conduct. Why did he bring her to such a pass! And what is
the gain? If he be not an alienated issue of the great Mother, he will
strongly incline to her view, that he put himself into harness to join
with a machine going the dead contrary way of her welfare; and thereby
wrote himself donkey, for his present reading. Soldiers, heroes, even
the braided, even the wearers of the gay cock's feathers, who get the
honours and the pocket-pieces, know the moment of her electrical
eloquence. They have no answer for her, save an index at the machine
pushing them on yet farther under the enemy's line of fire, where they
pluck the golden wreath or the livid, and in either case listen no more.
They glorify her topping wisdom while on the march to confound it. She
is wise in her way. But, it is asked by the disputant, If we had
followed her exclusively, how far should we have travelled from our
starting-point? We of the world and its prizes and duties must do her an
injury to make her tongue musical to us, and her argument worthy of
attention. So it seems. How to keep the proper balance between those
two testy old wranglers, that rarely pull the right way together, is as
much the task for men in the grip of the world, as for the wanton
youthful fry under dominion of their instincts; and probably, when it is
done, man will have attained the golden age of his retirement from
Why be scheming? Victor asked. Unlike the gallant soldiery, his
question was raised in the blush of a success, from an examination of the
quality of the thing won; although it had not changed since it was first
coveted; it was demonstrably the same: and an astonishing dry stick he
held, as a reward for perpetual agitations and perversions of his natural
tastes. Here was a Dudley Sowerby, the direct issue of the conception of
Lakelands; if indeed they were not conceived together in one; and the
young gentleman had moral character, good citizen substance, and station,
rank, prospect of a title; and the grasp of him was firm. Yet so far was
it from hearty, that when hearing a professed satirist like Colney
Durance remark on the decorous manner of Dudley's transparent courtship
of the girl, under his look of an awakened approval of himself, that he
appeared to be asking everybody:--Do you not think I bid fair for an
excellent father of Philistines?--Victor had a nip of spite at the
thought of Dudley's dragging him bodily to be the grandfather. Poor
Fredi, too!--necessarily the mother: condemned by her hard fate to feel
proud of Philistine babies! Though women soon get reconciled to it! Or
do they? They did once. What if his Fredi turned out one of the modern
young women, who have drunk of ideas? He caught himself speculating on
that, as on a danger. The alliance with Dudley really seemed to set him
Colney might not have been under prompting of Nataly when he derided
Dudley; but Victor was at war with the picture of her, in her compression
of a cruel laugh, while her eyelids were hard shut, as if to exclude the
young patriarch of Philistines' ridiculous image.
He hearkened to the Nature interrogating him, why had he stepped on a
path to put division between himself and his beloved?--the smallest of
gaps; and still the very smallest between nuptial lovers is a division--
and that may become a mortal wound to their one-life. Why had he roused
a slumbering world? Glimpses of the world's nurse-like, old-fashioned,
mother-nightcap benevolence to its kicking favourites; its long-suffering
tolerance for the heroic breakers of its rough-cast laws, while the
decent curtain continues dropped, or lifted only ankle-high; together
with many scenes, lively suggestions, of the choice of ways he liked
best, told of things, which were better things, incomprehensibly
forfeited. So that the plain sense of value insisted on more than one
weighing of the gain in hand: a dubious measure.
He was as little disposed to reject it as to stop his course at a goal of
his aim. Nevertheless, a gain thus poorly estimated, could not command
him to do a deed of humiliation on account of it. The speaking to this
dry young Dudley was not imperative at present. A word would do in the
day to come.
Nataly was busy with her purchases of furniture, and the practise for the
great August Concert. He dealt her liberal encouragements, up to the
verge of Dr. Themison's latest hummed words touching Mrs. Burman, from
which he jumped in alarm lest he should paralyze her again: the dear
soul's dreaded aspect of an earthy pallor was a spectre behind her
cheeks, ready to rush forth. Fenellan brought Carling to dine with him;
and Themison was confirmed by Carting, with incidents in proof; Caning by
Jarniman, also with incidents; one very odd one--or so it seemed, in the
fury of the first savour of it:--she informed Jarniman, Skepsey said his
friend Jarniman said, that she had dreamed of making her appearance to
him on the night of the 23rd August, and of setting the date on the
calendar over his desk, when she entered his room: 'Sitting-room, not
bedroom; she was always quite the lady,' Skepsey reported his Jarniman.
Mrs. Burman, as a ghost, would respect herself; she would keep to her
character. Jarniman quite expected the dream to be verified; she was a
woman of her word: he believed she had received a revelation of the
approaching fact: he was preparing for the scene.
Victor had to keep silent and discourse of general prosperity. His happy
vivaciousness assisted him to feel it by day. Nataly heard him at night,
on a moan: 'Poor soul!' and loudly once while performing an abrupt demi-
vault from back to side: 'Perhaps now!' in a voice through doors. She
schooled herself to breathe equably.
Not being allowed to impart the distressing dose of comfort he was
charged with, he swallowed it himself; and these were the consequences.
And an uneasy sleep was traditionally a matter for grave debate in the
Radnor family. The Duvidney ladies, Dorothea and Virginia, would have
cited ancestral names, showing it to be the worst of intimations. At
night, lying on his back beneath a weight of darkness, one heavily craped
figure, distinguishable through the gloom, as a blot on a black pad,
accused the answering darkness within him, until his mind was dragged to
go through the whole case by morning light; and the compassionate man
appealed to common sense, to stamp and pass his delectable sophistries;
as, that it was his intense humaneness, which exposed him to an
accusation of inhumanity; his prayer for the truly best to happen, which
anticipated Mrs. Burman's expiry. They were simple sophistries,
fabricated to suit his needs, readily taking and bearing the imprimatur
of common sense. They refreshed him, as a chemical scent a crowded room.
All because he could not open his breast to Nataly, by reason of her
feebleness; or feel enthusiasm in the possession of young Dudley! A dry
stick indeed beside him on the walk Westward. Good quality wood, no
doubt, but dry, varnished for conventional uses. Poor dear Fredi would
have to crown it like the May-day posy of the urchins of Craye Farm and
Dudley wished the great City-merchant to appreciate him as a diligent
student of commercial matters: rivalries of Banks; Foreign and Municipal
Loans, American Rails, and Argentine; new Companies of wholesome
appearance or sinister; or starting with a dram in the stomach, or born
to bleat prostrate, like sheep on their backs in a ditch; Trusts and
Founders; Breweries bursting vats upon the markets, and England prone
along the gutters, gobbling, drunk for shares, and sober in the
possession of certain of them. But when, as Colney says, a grateful
England has conferred the Lordship on her Brewer, he gratefully hands-
over the establishment to his country; and both may disregard the howls
of a Salvation Army of shareholders.--Beaten by the Germans in Brewery,
too! Dr. Schlesien has his right to crow. We were ahead of them, and
they came and studied us, and they studied Chemistry as well; while we
went on down our happy-go-lucky old road; and then had to hire their
young Professors, and then to import their beer.
Have the Germans more brains than we English? Victor's blood up to the
dome of his cranium knocked the patriotic negative. But, as old Colney
says (and bother him, for constantly intruding!), the comfortably
successful have the habit of sitting, and that dulls the brain yet more
than it eases the person: hence are we outpaced; we have now to know we
are racing. Victor scored a mark for one of his projects. A well-
conducted Journal of the sharpest pens in the land might, at a sacrifice
of money grandly sunk, expose to his English how and to what degree their
sports, and their fierce feastings, and their opposition to ideas, and
their timidity in regard to change, and their execration of criticism
applied to themselves, and their unanimous adoption of it for a weapon
against others, are signs of a prolonged indulgence in the cushioned
seat. Victor saw it. But would the people he loved? He agreed with
Colney, forgetting the satirist's venom: to-wit; that the journalists
should be close under their editor's rod to put it in sound bold
English;--no metaphors, no similes, nor flowery insubstantiality: but
honest Saxon manger stuff: and put it repeatedly, in contempt of the
disgust of iteration; hammering so a soft place on the Anglican skull,
which is rubbed in consequence, and taught at last through soreness to
reflect.--A Journal?--with Colney Durance for Editor?--and called
conformably THE WHIPPING-TOP? Why not, if it exactly hits the
signification of the Journal and that which it would have the country do
to itself, to keep it going and truly topping? For there is no vulgarity
in a title strongly signifying the intent. Victor wrote it at night,
naming Colney for Editor, with a sum of his money to be devoted to the
publication, in a form of memorandum; and threw it among the papers in
Young Dudley had a funny inquisitiveness about Dartrey Fenellan; owing to
Fredi's reproduction or imitation of her mother's romantic sentiment for
Dartrey, doubtless: a bit of jealousy, indicating that the dry fellow had
his feelings. Victor touched--off an outline of Dartrey's history and
character:--the half-brother of Simeon, considerably younger, and totally
different. 'Dartrey's mother was Lady Charlotte Kiltorne, one of the
Clanconans; better mother than wife, perhaps; and no reproach on her, not
a shadow; only she made the General's Bank-notes fly black paper. And--
if you 're for heredity--the queer point is, that Simeon, whose mother
was a sober-minded woman, has always been the spendthrift. Dartrey
married one of the Hennen women, all an odd lot, all handsome. I met her
once. Colney said, she came up here with a special commission from the
Prince of Darkness. There are women who stir the unholy in men--whether
they mean it or not, you know.'
Dudley pursed to remark, that he could not say he did know. And good for
Fredi if he did not know, and had his objections to the knowledge! But
he was like the men who escape colds by wrapping in comforters instead of
trusting to the spin of the blood.
'She played poor Dartrey pranks before he buried--he, behaved well to
her; and that says much for him; he has: a devil of a temper. I 've seen
the blood in his veins, mount to cracking. But there's the man: because
she was a woman, he never let it break out with her. And, by heaven, he
had cause. She couldn't be left. She tricked him, and she loved him-
passionately, I believe. You don't understand women loving the husband
they drag through the mire?'
Dudley did not. He sharpened his mouth.
'Buried, you said, sir?--a widower?'
'I've no positive information; we shall hear when he: comes back,' Victor
replied hurriedly. 'He got a drenching of all the damns in the British
service from his. Generalissimo one day at a Review, for a trooper's
negligence-button or stock missing, or something; and off goes Dartrey to
his hut, and breaks his sword, and sends in his resignation. Good
soldier lost. And I can't complain; he has been a right-hand man to me
over in Africa. But a man ought to have some control of his temper,
especially a soldier.'
Dudley put emphasis into his acquiescence.
'Worse than that temper of Dartrey's, he can't forgive an injury. He
bears a grudge against his country. You've heard Colney Durance abuse
old England. It's three parts factitious-literary exercise. It 's milk
beside the contempt of Dartrey's shrug. He thinks we're a dead people,
if a people; "subsisting on our fat," as Colney says.'
'I am not of opinion that we show it,' observed Dudley.
'We don't,' Victor agreed. He disrelished his companion's mincing tone
of a monumental security, and yearned for Dartrey or Simeon or Colney to
be at his elbow rather than this most commendable of orderly citizens,
who little imagined the treacherous revolt from him in the bosom of the
gentleman cordially signifying full agreement. But Dudley was not gifted
to read behind words and looks.
They were in the Park of the dwindling press of carriages, and here was
this young Dudley saying, quite commendably: 'It's a pity we seem to have
no means of keeping our parks select.'
Victor flung Simeon Fenellan at him in thought. He remembered a fable of
Fenellan's, about a Society of the Blest, and the salt it was to them to
discover an intruder from below, and the consequent accelerated measure
in their hymning.
'Have you seen anything offensive to you?' he asked.
'One sees notorious persons.'
Dudley spoke aloof from them--'out of his cold attics,' Fenellan would
Victor approved: with the deadened feeling common to us when first in sad
earnest we consent to take life as it is.
He perceived, too, the comicality of his having to resign himself to the
fatherly embrace of goodness.
Lakelands had him fast, and this young Dudley was the kernel of
Lakelands. If he had only been intellectually a little flexible in his
morality! But no; he wore it cap a pie, like a mediaeval knight his
armour. One had to approve. And there was no getting away from him. He
was good enough to stay in town for the practise of the opening overture
of the amateurs, and the flute-duet, when his family were looking for him
at Tunbridge Wells; and almost every day Victor was waylaid by him at a
corner of the Strand.
Occasionally, Victor appeared at the point of interception armed with
Colney Durance, for whom he had called in the Temple, bent on self-
defence, although Colney was often as bitter to his taste as to Dudley's.
Latterly the bitter had become a tonic. We rejoice in the presence of
goodness, let us hope; and still an impersonation of conventional,
goodness perpetually about us depresses. Dudley drove him to Colney for
relief. Besides it pleased Nataly that he should be bringing Colney
home; it looked to her as if he were subjecting Dudley to critical
inspection before he decided a certain question much, and foolishly,
dreaded by the dear soul. That quieted her. And another thing, she
liked him to be with Colney, for a clog on him; as it were, a tuning-fork
for the wild airs he started. A little pessimism, also, she seemed to
like; probably as an appeasement after hearing, and having to share, high
flights. And she was, in her queer woman's way, always reassured by his
endurance of Colney's company:--she read it to mean, that he could bear
Colney's perusal of him, and satiric stings. Victor had seen these petty
matters among the various which were made to serve his double and treble
purposes; now, thanks to the operation of young Dudley within him, he
felt them. Preferring Fenellan's easy humour to Colney's acid, he was
nevertheless braced by the latter's antidote to Dudley, while reserving
his entire opposition in the abstract.
For Victor Radnor and Colney Durance were the Optimist and Pessimist of
their society. They might have headed those tribes in the country. At a
period when the omnibus of the world appears to its quaint occupants to
be going faster, men are shaken into the acceptation, if not performance,
of one part or the other as it is dictated to them by their temperaments.
Compose the parts, and you come nigh to the meaning of the Nineteenth
Century: the mother of these gosling affirmatives and negatives divorced
from harmony and awakened by the slight increase of incubating motion to
vitality. Victor and Colney had been champion duellists for the rosy and
the saturnine since the former cheerfully slaved for a small stipend in
the City of his affection, and the latter entered on an inheritance
counted in niggard hundreds, that withdrew a briefless barrister disposed
for scholarship from the forlornest of seats in the Courts. They had
foretold of one another each the unfulfilled; each claimed the actual as
the child of his prediction. Victor was to have been ruined long back;
Colney the prey of independent bachelors. Colney had escaped his harpy,
and Victor could be called a millionaire and more. Prophesy was crowned
by Colney's dyspepsia, by Victor's ticklish domestic position. Their
pity for one another, their warm regard, was genuine; only, they were of
different temperaments; and we have to distinguish, that in many
estimable and some gifted human creatures, it is the quality of the blood
which directs the current of opinion.
Victor played-off Colney upon Dudley, for his internal satisfaction, and
to lull Nataly and make her laugh; but he could not, as she hoped he was
doing, take Colney into his confidence; inasmuch as the Optimist,
impelled by his exuberant anticipatory trustfulness, is an author, and
does things; whereas the Pessimist is your chaired critic, with the
delivery of a censor, generally an undoer of things. Our Optimy has his
instinct to tell him of the cast of Pessimy's countenance at the
confession of a dilemma-foreseen! He hands himself to Pessimy, as it
were a sugar-cane, for the sour brute to suck the sugar and whack with
the wood. But he cannot perform his part in return; he gets no
compensation: Pessimy is invulnerable. You waste your time in hurling a
common 'tu-quoque' at one who hugs the worst.
The three walking in the park, with their bright view, and black view,
and neutral view of life, were a comical trio. They had come upon the
days of the unfanned electric furnace, proper to London's early August
when it is not pipeing March. Victor complacently bore heat as well as
cold: but young Dudley was a drought, and Colney a drug to refresh it;
and why was he stewing in London? It was for this young Dudley, who
resembled a London of the sparrowy roadways and wearisome pavements and
blocks of fortress mansions, by chance a water-cart spirting a stale
water: or a London of the farewell dinner-parties, where London's
professed anecdotist lays the dust with his ten times told: Why was not
Nataly relieved of her dreary round of the purchases of furniture! They
ought all now to be in Switzerland or Tyrol. Nesta had of late been
turning over leaves of an Illustrated book of Tyrol, dear to her after a
run through the Innthal to the Dolomites one splendid August; and she and
Nataly had read there of Hofer, Speckbacker, Haspinger; and wrath had
filled them at the meanness of the Corsican, who posed after it as victim
on St. Helena's rock; the scene in grey dawn on Mantua's fortress-walls
blasting him in the Courts of History, when he strikes for his pathetic
Victor remembered how he had been rhetorical, as the mouthpiece of his
darlings. But he had in memory prominently now the many glorious
pictures of that mountain-land beckoning to him, waving him to fly forth
from the London oven:--lo, the Tyrolese limestone crags with livid peaks
and snow lining shelves and veins of the crevices; and folds of pinewood
undulations closed by a shoulder of snow large on the blue; and a
dazzling pinnacle rising over green pasture-Alps, the head of it shooting
aloft as the blown billow, high off a broken ridge, and wide-armed in its
pure white shroud beneath; tranced, but all motion in immobility, to the
heart in the eye; a splendid image of striving, up to crowned victory.
And see the long valley-sweeps of the hanging meadows and maize, and
lower vineyards and central tall green spires! Walking beside young
Dudley, conversing, observing too, Victor followed the trips and twists
of a rill, that was lured a little further down through scoops, ducts,
and scaffolded channels to serve a wainwright.
He heard the mountain-song of the joyful water: a wren-robin-thrush on
the dance down of a faun; till it was caught and muted, and the silver
foot slid along the channel, swift as moonbeams through a cloud, with an
air of 'Whither you will, so it be on'; happy for service as in freedom.
Then the yard of the inn below, and the rillwater twirling rounded
through the trout-trough, subdued, still lively for its beloved onward:
dues to business, dues to pleasure; a wedding of the two, and the wisest
on earth:-eh? like some one we know, and Nataly has made the comparison.
Fresh forellen for lunch: rhyming to Fenellan, he had said to her; and
that recollection struck the day to blaze; for his friend was a ruined
military captain living on a literary quill at the time; and Nataly's
tender pleading, 'Could you not help to give him another chance, dear
Victor?'--signifying her absolute trust in his ability to do that or more
or anything, had actually set him thinking of the Insurance Office; which
he started to prosperity, and Fenellan in it, previously an untutored
rill of the mountains, if ever was one.
Useless to be dwelling on holiday pictures: Lakelands had hold of him!
Colney or somebody says, that the greater our successes, the greater the
slaves we become.--But we must have an aim, my friend, and success must
be the aim of any aim!--Yes, and, says Colney, you are to rejoice in the
disappointing miss, which saved you from being damned by your bullet on
the centre.--You're dead against Nature, old Colney.--That is to carry
the flag of Liberty.--By clipping a limb!
Victor overcame the Pessimist in his own royal cranium-Court. He
entertained a pronounced dissension with bachelors pretending to
independence. It could not be argued publicly, and the more the pity:--
for a slight encouragement, he would have done it: his outlook over the
waves of bachelors and (by present conditions mostly constrained)
spinsters--and another outlook, midnight upon Phlegethon to the thoughts
of men, made him deem it urgent. And it helped the plea in his own
excuse, as Colney pointed out to the son of Nature. That, he had to
admit, was true. He charged it upon Mrs. Burman, for twisting the most
unselfish and noblest of his thoughts; and he promised himself it was to
cease on the instant when the circumstance, which Nature was remiss in
not bringing about to-day or to-morrow, had come to pass. He could see
his Nataly's pained endurance beneath her habitual submission. Her
effort was a poor one, to conceal her dread of the day of the gathering
On the Sunday previous to the day, Dr. Themison accompanied the amateurs
by rail to Wrensham, to hear 'trial of the acoustics' of the Concert-
hall. They were a goodly company; and there was fun in the railway-
carriage over Colney's description of Fashionable London's vast octopus
Malady-monster, who was letting the doctor fly to the tether of its
longest filament for an hour, plying suckers on him the while. He had
the look, to general perception, of a man but half-escaped: and as when
the notes of things taken by the vision in front are being set down upon
tablets in the head behind. Victor observed his look at Nataly. The
look was like a door aswing, revealing in concealing. She was not or did
not appear struck by it; perhaps, if observant, she took it for a busy
professional gentleman's holiday reckoning of the hours before the return
train to his harness, and his arrangements for catching it. She was, as
she could be on a day of trial, her enchanting majestic self again--
defying suspicions. She was his true mate for breasting a world honoured
in uplifting her.
Her singing of a duet with Nesta, called forth Dr. Themison's very warm
applause. He named the greatest of contraltos. Colney did better
service than Fenellan at the luncheon-table: he diverted Nataly and
captured Dr. Themison's ear with the narrative of his momentous
expedition of European Emissaries, to plead the cause of their several
languages at the Court of Japan: a Satiric Serial tale, that hit
incidentally the follies of the countries of Europe, and intentionally,
one had to think, those of Old England. Nesta set him going. Just when
he was about to begin, she made her father laugh by crying out in a
rapture, 'Oh! Delphica!' For she was naughtily aware of Dudley
Sowerby's distaste for the story and disgust with the damsel Delphica.
Nesta gave Dr. Themison the preliminary sketch of the grand object of the
expedition: indeed one of the eminent ones of the world; matter for an
Epic; though it is to be feared, that our part in it will not encourage a
Cis-Atlantic bard. To America the honours from beginning to end belong.
So, then, Japan has decided to renounce its language, for the adoption of
the language it may choose among the foremost famous European tongues.
Japan becomes the word for miraculous transformations of a whole people
at the stroke of a wand; and let our English enrol it as the most
precious of the powerful verbs. An envoy visits the principal Seats of
Learning in Europe. He is of a gravity to match that of his unexampled
and all but stupefying mission. A fluent linguist, yet an Englishman,
the slight American accent contracted during a lengthened residence in
the United States is no bar to the patriotism urging him to pay his visit
of exposition and invitation from the Japanese Court to the distinguished
Doctor of Divinity Dr. Bouthoin. The renown of Dr. Bouthoin among the
learned of Japan has caused the special invitation to him; a scholar
endowed by an ample knowledge and persuasive eloquence to cite and
instance as well as illustrate the superior advantages to Japan and
civilization in the filial embrace of mother English. 'For to this it
must come predestinated,' says the astonishing applicant. 'We seem to
see a fitness in it,' says the cogitative Rev. Doctor. 'And an Island
England in those waters, will do wonders for Commerce,' adds the former.
'We think of things more pregnant,' concludes the latter, with a dry
gleam of ecclesiastical knowingness. And let the Editor of the Review
upon his recent pamphlet, and let the prelate reprimanding him, and let
the newspapers criticizing his pure Saxon, have a care!
Funds, universally the most convincing of credentials, are placed at Dr.
Bouthoin's disposal: only it is requested, that for the present the
expedition be secret. 'Better so,' says pure Saxon's champion. On a day
patented for secresy, and swearing-in the whole American Continent
through the cables to keep the secret by declaring the patent, the Rev.
Dr. Bouthoin, accompanied by his curate, the Rev. Mancate Semhians,
stumbling across portmanteaux crammed with lexicons and dictionaries and
other tubes of the voice of Hermes, takes possession of berths in the
ship Polypheme, bound, as they mutually conceive, for the biggest
adventure ever embarked on by a far-thoughted, high-thoughted, patriotic
pair speaking pure Saxon or other.
Colney, with apologies to his hearers, avoided the custom of our period
(called the Realistic) to create, when casual opportunity offers, a
belief in the narrative by promoting nausea in the audience. He passed
under veil the Rev. Doctor's acknowledgement of Neptune's power, and the
temporary collapse of Mr. Semhians. Proceeding at once to the comments
of these high-class missionaries on the really curious inquisitiveness of
certain of the foreign passengers on board, he introduced to them the
indisputably learned, the very argumentative, crashing, arrogant,
pedantic, dogmatic, philological German gentleman, Dr. Gannius, reeking
of the Teutonic Professor, as a library volume of its leather. With him
is his fairhaired artless daughter Delphica. An interesting couple for
the beguilement of a voyage: she so beautifully moderates his irascible
incisiveness! Yet there is a strange tone that they have. What, then,
of the polite, the anecdotic Gallic M. Falarique, who studiously engages
the young lady in colloquy when Mr. Semhians is agitating outside them to
say a word? What of that outpouring, explosive, equally voluble,
uncontrolled M. Bobinikine, a Mongol Russian, shaped, featured, hued like
the pot-boiled, round and tight young dumpling of our primitive boyhood,
which smokes on the dish from the pot? And what of another, hitherto
unnoticed, whose nose is of the hooked vulturine, whose name transpires
as Pisistratus Mytharete? He hears Dr. Bouthoin declaim some lines of
Homer, and beseeches him for the designation of that language. Greek,
is it? Greek of the Asiatic ancient days of the beginning of the poetic
chants? Dr. Gannius crashes cachinnation. Dr. Bouthoin caps himself
with the offended Don. Mr. Semhians opens half an eye and a whole mouth.
There must be a mystery, these two exclaim to one another in privacy.
Delphica draws Mr. Semhians aside.
Blushing over his white necktie, like the coast of Labrador at the
transient wink of its Jack-in-the-box Apollo, Mr. Semhians faintly tells
of a conversation he has had with the ingenuous fair one; and she ardent
as he for the throning of our incomparable Saxon English in the mouths of
the races of mankind. Strange!--she partly suspects the Frenchman, the
Russian, the attentive silent Greek, to be all of them bound for the
Court of Japan. Concurrents? Can it be? We are absolutely to enter on
a contention with rivals? Dr. Bouthoin speaks to Dr. Gannius. He is
astonished, he says; he could not have imagined it
'Have you ever imagined anything?' Dr. Gannius asks him. Entomologist,
botanist, palaeontologist, philologist, and at sound of horn a ready
regimental corporal, Dr. Gannius wears good manners as a pair of bath-
slippers, to rally and kick his old infant of an Englishman; who, in awe
of his later renown and manifest might, makes it a point of discretion to
be ultra-amiable; for he certainly is not in training, he has no
alliances, and he must diplomatize; and the German is a strong one; a
relative too; he is the Saxon's cousin, to say the least. This German
has the habit of pushing past politeness to carry his argumentative war
into the enemy's country: and he presents on all sides a solid rampart
of recent great deeds done, and mailed readiness for the doing of more,
if we think of assailing him in that way. We are really like the poor
beasts which have cast their shells or cases, helpless flesh to his beak.
So we are cousinly.
Whether more amused than amazed, we know not, Dr. Gannius hears from 'our
simpleton of the pastures,' as he calls the Rev. Doctor to his daughter,
that he and Mr. Semhians have absolutely pushed forth upon this most
mighty of enterprises naked of any backing from their Government! Babes
in the Wood that they are! 'a la grace de dieu' at every turn that cries
for astutia, they show no sign or symbol of English arms behind them, to
support--and with the grandest of national prizes in view!--the pleading
oration before the Court of the elect, erudites, we will call them, of an
intelligent, yet half barbarous, people; hesitating, these, between
eloquence and rival eloquence, cunning and rival cunning. Why, in such a
case, the shadow-nimbus of Force is needed to decide the sinking of the
scale. But have these English never read their Shakespeare, that they
show so barren an acquaintance with human, to say nothing of semi-
barbaric, nature? But it is here that we Germans prove our claim to
being the sons of his mind.--Dr. Gannius, in contempt, throws off the
mask: he also is a concurrent. And not only is he the chosen by election
of the chief Universities of his land, he has behind him, as Athene
dilating Achilles, the clenched fist of the Prince of thunder and
lightning of his time. German, Japan shall be! he publicly swears
before them all. M. Falarique damascenes his sharpest smile;
M. Bobinikine double-dimples his puddingest; M. Mytharete rolls a
forefinger over his beak; Dr. Bouthoin enlarges his eye on a sunny mote.
And such is the masterful effect of a frank diplomacy, that when one
party shows his hand, the others find the reverse of concealment in
hiding their own.
Dr. Bouthoin and Mr. Semhians are compelled to suspect themselves to be
encompassed with rivals, presumptively supported by their Governments.
The worthy gentlemen had hoped to tumble into good fortune, as in the
blessed old English manner. 'It has even been thus with us: unhelped we
do it!' exclaims the Rev. Doctor. He is roused from dejection by hearing
Mr. Semhians shyly (he has published verse) tell of the fairtressed
Delphica's phosphorial enthusiasm for our galaxy of British Poets.
Assisted by Mr. Semhians, he begins to imagine, that he has, in the
person of this artless devotee an ally, who will, through her worship of
our poets (by treachery to her sire-a small matter) sacrifice her
guttural tongue, by enabling him (through the exercise of her arts,
charms, intrigues--also a small matter) to obtain the first audience of
the Japanese erudites. Delphica, with each of the rivals in turn, is
very pretty Comedy. She is aware that M. Falarique is her most
redoubtable adversary, by the time that the vast fleet of steamboats
(containing newspaper reporters) is beheld from the decks of the
Polypheme puffing past Sandy Hook.
There Colney left them, for the next instalment of the serial.
Nesta glanced at Dudley Sowerby. She liked him for his pained frown at
the part his countrymen were made to play, but did wish that he would
keep from expressing it in a countenance that suggested a worried knot;
and mischievously she said: 'Do you take to Delphica?'
He replied, with an evident sincerity, 'I cannot say I do.'
Had Mr. Semhians been modelled on him?
'One bets on the German, of course--with Colney Durance,' Victor said to
Dr. Themison, leading him over the grounds of Lakelands.
'In any case, the author teaches us to feel an interest in the rivals.
I want to know what comes of it,' said the doctor.
'There's a good opportunity, one sees. But, mark me, it will all end in
satire upon poor Old England. According to Colney, we excel in nothing.'
'I do not think there is a country that could offer the entertainment for
which I am indebted to you to-day.'
'Ah, my friend, and you like their voices? The contralto?'
Dr. Themison had not spoken the name of Radnor.
'Shall we see you at our next Concert-evening in town?' said Victor; and
hearing 'the privilege' mentioned, his sharp bright gaze cleared to
limpid. 'You have seen how it stands with us here!' At once he related
what indeed Dr. Themison had begun speculatively to think might be the
Mrs. Burman Radnor had dropped words touching a husband, and of her
desire to communicate with him, in the event of her being given over to
the surgeons: she had said, that her husband was a greatly gifted man;
setting her head in a compassionate swing. This revelation of the
husband soon after, was filling. And this Mr. Radnor's comrade's manner
of it, was winning: a not too self-justifying tone; not void of feeling
for the elder woman; with a manly eulogy of the younger, who had flung
away the world for him and borne him their one dear child. Victor took
the blame wholly upon himself. 'It is right that you should know,' he
said to the doctor's thoughtful posture; and he stressed the blame; and a
flame shot across his eyeballs. He brought home to his hearer the
hurricane of a man he was in the passion: indicating the subjection of
such a temperament as this Victor Radnor's to trials of the moral
restraints beyond his human power.
Dr. Themison said: 'Would you--we postpone that as long as we can: but
supposing the poor lady . . . ?'
Victor broke in: 'I see her wish: I will.'
The clash of his answer rang beside Dr. Themison's faltering query.
We are grateful when spared the conclusion of a sentence born to stammer.
If for that only, the doctor pressed Victor's hand warmly.
'I may, then, convey some form of assurance, that a request of the kind
will be granted?' he said.
'She has but to call me to her,' said Victor, stiffening his back.
THE GREAT ASSEMBLY AT LAKELANDS
Round the neighbourhood of Lakelands it was known that the day of the
great gathering there had been authoritatively foretold as fine, by Mr.
Victor Radnor; and he delivered his prophecy in the teeth of the South-
western gale familiar to our yachting month; and he really inspired
belief or a kind of trust; some supposing him to draw from reserves of
observation, some choosing to confide in the singularly winged sparkle of
his eyes. Lady Rodwell Blachington did; and young Mrs. Blathenoy; and
Mrs. Fanning; they were enamoured of it. And when women stand for Hope,
and any worshipped man for Promise, nothing less than redoubled confusion
of him dissolves the union. Even then they cling to it, under an
ejaculation, that it might and should have been otherwise; fancy partly
has it otherwise, in her caerulean home above the weeping. So it is good
at all points to prophecy with the aspect of the radiant day foretold.
A storm, bearing battle overhead, tore the night to pieces. Nataly's
faith in the pleasant prognostic wavered beneath the crashes. She had
not much power of heart to desire anything save that which her bosom
disavowed. Uproar rather appeased her, calmness agitated. She wished
her beloved to be spared from a disappointment, thinking he deserved all
successes, because of the rigours inflicted by her present tonelessness
of blood and being. Her unresponsive manner with him was not due to lack
of fire in the blood or a loss of tenderness. The tender feeling, under
privations unwillingly imposed, though willingly shared, now suffused her
reflections, owing to a gratitude induced by a novel experience of him;
known, as it may chance, and as it does not always chance, to both sexes
in wedded intimacy here and there; known to women whose mates are proved
quick to compliance with delicate intuitions of their moods of nature.
A constant, almost visible, image of the dark thing she desired, and was
bound not to desire, and was remorseful for desiring, oppressed her; a
perpetual consequent warfare of her spirit and the nature subject to the
thousand sensational hypocrisies invoked for concealment of its reviled
brutish baseness, held the woman suspended from her emotions. She coldly
felt that a caress would have melted her, would have been the temporary
rapture. Coldly she had the knowledge that the considerate withholding
of it helped her spirit to escape a stain. Less coldly, she thanked at
heart her beloved, for being a gentleman in their yoke. It plighted them
He talked to her on the pillow, just a few sentences; and, unlike
himself, a word of City affairs: 'That fellow Blathenoy, with his
increasing multitude of bills at the Bank: must watch him there, sit
there regularly. One rather likes his wife. By the way, if you see him
near me to-morrow, praise the Spanish climate; don't forget. He heads
the subscription list of Lady Blachington's Charity.'
Victor chuckled at Colney's humping of shoulders and mouth, while the
tempest seemed echoing a sulphurous pessimist. 'If old Colney had
listened to me, when India gave proof of the metal and South Africa began
heaving, he'd have been a fairly wealthy man by now . . . ha! it
would have genialized him. A man may be a curmudgeon with money: the
rule is for him to cuddle himself and take a side, instead of dashing at
his countrymen all round and getting hated. Well, Colney popular, can't
be imagined; but entertaining guests would have diluted his acid. He has
the six hundred or so a year he started old bachelor on; add his
miserable pay for Essays. Literature! Of course, he sours. But don't
let me hear of bachelors moralists. There he sits at his Temple Chambers
hatching epigrams . . . pretends to have the office of critic! Honest
old fellow, as far as his condition permits. I tell him it will be fine
'You are generally right, dear,' Nataly said.
Her dropping breath was audible.
Victor smartly commended her to slumber, with heaven's blessing on her
and a dose of soft nursery prattle.
He squeezed her hand. He kissed her lips by day. She heard him sigh
settling himself into the breast of night for milk of sleep, like one of
the world's good children. She could have turned to him, to show him she
was in harmony with the holy night and loving world, but for the fear
founded on a knowledge of the man he was; it held her frozen to the
semblance of a tombstone lady beside her lord, in the aisle where horror
kindles pitchy blackness with its legions at one movement. Verily it was
the ghost of Mrs. Burman come to the bed, between them.
Meanwhile the sun of Victor Radnor's popularity was already up over the
extended circle likely to be drenched by a falsification of his daring
augury, though the scud flew swift, and the beeches raved, and the oaks
roared and snarled, and pine-trees fell their lengths. Fine tomorrow, to
a certainty! he had been heard to say. The doubt weighed for something;
the balance inclined with the gentleman who had become so popular: for he
had done the trick so suddenly, like a stroke of the wizard; and was a
real man, not one of your spangled zodiacs selling for sixpence and
hopping to a lucky hit, laughed at nine times out of ten. The reasoning
went--and it somewhat affected the mansion as well as the cottage,--that
if he had become popular in this astonishing fashion, after making one of
the biggest fortunes of modern times, he might, he must, have secret
gifts. 'You can't foretell weather!' cried a pothouse sceptic. But the
workmen at Lakelands declared that he had foretold it. Sceptics among
the common folk were quaintly silenced by other tales of him, being a
whiff from the delirium attending any mention of his name.
How had he become suddenly so popular as to rouse in the mind of Mr.
Caddis, the sitting Member for the division of the county (said to have
the seat in his pocket), a particular inquisitiveness to know the bearing
of his politics? Mr. Radnor was rich, true: but these are days when
wealthy men, ambitious of notoriety, do not always prove faithful to
their class; some of them are cunning to bid for the suffrages of the
irresponsible, recklessly enfranchised, corruptible masses. Mr. Caddis,
if he had the seat in his pocket, had it from the support of a class
trusting him to support its interests: he could count on the landowners,
on the clergy, on the retired or retiring or comfortably cushioned
merchants resident about Wrensham, on the many obsequious among electoral
shopmen; annually he threw open his grounds, and he subscribed,
patronized, did what was expected; and he was not popular; he was
unpopular. Why? But why was the sun of this 23rd August, shining from
its rise royally upon pacified, enrolled and liveried armies of cloud,
more agreeable to earth's populations than his pinched appearance of the
poor mopped red nose and melancholic rheumy eyelets on a January day!
Undoubtedly Victor Radnor risked his repute of prophet. Yet his
popularity would have survived the continuance of the storm and deluge.
He did this:--and the mystery puzzling the suspicious was nothing
wonderful: in addition to a transparent benevolence, he spread a sort of
assurance about him, that he thought the better of the people for their
thinking well of themselves. It came first from the workmen at his
house. 'The right sort, and no humbug: likes you to be men.' Such a
report made tropical soil for any new seed.
Now, it is a postulate, to strengthen all poor commoners, that not even
in comparison with the highest need we be small unless we yield to think
it of ourselves. Do but stretch a hand to the touch of earth in you, and
you spring upon combative manhood again, from the basis where all are
equal. Humanity's historians, however, tell us, that the exhilaration
bringing us consciousness of a stature, is gas which too frequently has
to be administered. Certes the cocks among men do not require the
process; they get it off the sight of the sun arising or a simple hen
submissive: but we have our hibernating bears among men, our yoked oxen,
cab horses, beaten dogs; we have on large patches of these Islands, a
Saxon population, much wanting assistance, if they are not to feel
themselves beaten, driven, caught by the neck, yoked and heavyheaded.
Blest, then, is he who gives them a sense of the pride of standing on
legs. Beer, ordinarily their solitary helper beneath the iron canopy of
wealth, is known to them as a bitter usurer; it knocks them flat in their
persons and their fortunes, for the short spell of recreative exaltation.
They send up their rough glory round the name of the gentleman--a
stranger, but their friend: and never is friend to be thought of as a
stranger--who manages to get the holiday for Wrensham and thereabout,
that they may hurl away for one jolly day the old hat of a doddered
humbleness, and trip to the strains of the internal music he has unwound.
Says he: Is it a Charity Concert? Charity begins at home, says he: and
if I welcome you gentry on behalf of the poor of London, why, it follows
you grant me the right to make a beginning with the poor of our parts
down here. He puts it so, no master nor mistress neither could refuse
him. Why, the workmen at his house were nigh pitching the contractors
all sprawling on a strike, and Mr. Radnor takes train, harangues 'em and
rubs 'em smooth; ten minutes by the clock, they say; and return train to
his business in town; by reason of good sense and feeling, it was; poor
men don't ask for more. A working man, all the world over, asks but
justice and a little relaxation--just a collar of fat to his lean.
Mr. Caddis, M.P., pursuing the riddle of popularity, which irritated and
repelled as constantly as it attracted him, would have come nearer to an
instructive presentment of it, by listening to these plain fellows, than
he was in the line of equipages, at a later hour of the day. The remarks
of the comfortably cushioned and wheeled, though they be eulogistic to
extravagance, are vapourish when we court them for nourishment;
substantially, they are bones to the cynical. He heard enumerations of
Mr. Radnor's riches, eclipsing his own past compute. A merchant, a
holder of mines, Director of a mighty Bank, projector of running rails,
a princely millionaire, and determined to be popular--what was the aim of
the man? It is the curse of modern times, that we never can be sure of
our Parliamentary seat; not when we have it in our pockets! The Romans
have left us golden words with regard to the fickleness of the populace;
we have our Horace, our Juvenal, we have our Johnson; and in this vaunted
age of reason it is, that we surrender ourselves into the hands of the
populace! Panem et circenses! Mr. Caddis repeated it, after his
fathers; his fathers and he had not headed them out of that original
voracity. There they were, for moneyed legislators to bewail their
appetites. And it was an article of his legislation, to keep them there.
Pedestrian purchasers of tickets for the Charity Concert, rather openly,
in an envelope of humour, confessed to the bait of the Radnor bread with
bit of fun. Savoury rumours were sweeping across Wrensham. Mr. Radnor
had borrowed footmen of the principal houses about. Cartloads of
provisions had been seen to come. An immediate reward of a deed of
benevolence, is a thing sensibly heavenly; and the five-shilling tickets
were paid for as if for a packet on the counter. Unacquainted with Mr.
Radnor, although the reports of him struck a summons to their gastric
juices, resembling in its effect a clamorous cordiality, they were
chilled, on their steps along the halfrolled new gravel-roads to the
house, by seeing three tables of prodigious length, where very evidently
a feast had raged: one to plump the people--perhaps excessively courted
by great gentlemen of late; shopkeepers, the villagers, children. These
had been at it for two merry hours. They had risen. They were beef and
pudding on legs; in some quarters, beer amiably manifest, owing to the
flourishes of a military band. Boys, who had shaken room through their
magical young corporations for fresh stowage, darted out of a chasing
circle to the crumbled cornucopia regretfully forsaken fifteen minutes
back, and buried another tart. Plenty still reigned: it was the will of
the Master that it should.
We divert our attention, resigned in stoic humour, to the bill of the
Concert music, handed us with our tickets at the park-gates: we have no
right to expect refreshment; we came for the music, to be charitable.
Signora Bianca Luciani: of whom we have read almost to the hearing her;
enough to make the mistake at times. The grand violinist Durandarte:
forcibly detained on his way to America. Mr. Radnor sent him a blank
cheque:--no!--so Mr. Radnor besought him in person: he is irresistible;
a great musician himself; it is becoming quite the modern style. We have
now English noblemen who play the horn, the fife--the drum, some say! We
may yet be Merrie England again, with our nobles taking the lead.
England's nobles as a musical band at the head of a marching and dancing
population, pictured happily an old Conservative country, that retained
its members of aristocracy in the foremost places while subjecting them
to downright uses. Their ancestors, beholding them there, would be
satisfied on the point of honour; perhaps enlivened by hearing them at
fife and drum.
But middle-class pedestrians, having paid five shillings for a ticket to
hear the music they love, and not having full assurance of refreshment,
are often, latterly, satirical upon their superiors; and, over this
country at least, require the refreshment, that the democratic sprouts in
them may be reconciled with aristocracy. Do not listen to them further
on the subject. They vote safely enough when the day comes, if there is
no praetematurally strong pull the other way.
They perceive the name of the Hon. Dudley Sowerby, fourth down the
Concert-bill; marked for a flute-duet with Mr. Victor Radnor, Miss Nesta
Victoria Radnor accompanying at the piano. It may mean? . . . do you
want a whisper to suggest to you what it may mean? The father's wealth
is enormous; the mother is a beautiful majestic woman in her prime. And
see, she sings: a wonderful voice. And lower down, a duet with her
daughter: violins and clarionet; how funny; something Hungarian. And in
the Second Part, Schubert's Ave Maria--Oh! when we hear that, we
dissolve. She was a singer before he married her, they say: a lady by
birth one of the first County families. But it was a gift, and she could
not be kept from it, and was going, when they met--and it was love! the
most perfect duet. For him she abandoned the Stage. You must remember,
that in their young days the Stage was many stages beneath the esteem
entertained for it now. Domestic Concerts are got up to gratify her: a
Miss Fredericks: good old English name. Mr. Radnor calls his daughter,
Freddy; so Mr. Taplow, the architect, says. They are for modern music
and ancient. Tannhauser, Wagner, you see. Pergolese.
Flute-duet, Mercadante. Here we have him! O--Durandarte: Air Basque,
variations--his own. Again, Senor Durandarte, Mendelssohn. Encore him,
and he plays you a national piece. A dark little creature a Life-
guardsman could hold-up on his outstretched hand for the fifteen minutes
of the performance; but he fills the hall and thrills the heart, wafts
you to heaven; and does it as though he were conversing with his
Andalusian lady-love in easy whispers about their mutual passion for
Spanish chocolate all the while: so the musical critic of the Tirra-Lirra
says. Express trains every half hour from London; all the big people of
the city. Mr. Radnor commands them, like Royalty. Totally different
from that old figure of the wealthy City merchant; young, vigorous,
elegant, a man of taste, highest culture, speaks the languages of Europe,
patron of the Arts, a perfect gentleman. His mother was one of the
Montgomerys, Mr. Taplow says.
And it was General Radnor, a most distinguished officer, dying knighted.
But Mr. Victor Radnor would not take less than a Barony--and then only
with descent of title to his daughter, in her own right.
Mr. Taplow had said as much as Victor Radnor chose that he should say.
Carriages were in flow for an hour: pedestrians formed a wavy coil.
Judgeing by numbers, the entertainment was a success; would the hall
contain them? Marvels were told of the hall. Every ticket entered and
was enfolded; almost all had a seat. Chivalry stood. It is a breeched
abstraction, sacrificeing voluntarily and genially to the Fair, for a
restoring of the balance between the sexes, that the division of good
things be rather in the fair ones' favour, as they are to think: with the
warning to them, that the establishment of their claim for equality puts
an end to the priceless privileges of petticoats. Women must be mad, to
provoke such a warning; and the majority of them submissively show their
good sense. They send up an incense of perfumery, all the bouquets of
the chemist commingled; most nourishing to the idea of woman in the nose
of man. They are a forest foliage--rustle of silks and muslins, magic
interweaving, or the mythology, if you prefer it. See, hear, smell, they
are Juno, Venus, Hebe, to you. We must have poetry with them; otherwise
they are better in the kitchen. Is there--but there is not; there is not
present one of the chivalrous breeched who could prefer the shocking
emancipated gristly female, which imposes propriety on our sensations and
inner dreams, by petrifying in the tender bud of them.
Colonel Corfe is the man to hear on such a theme. He is a colonel of
Companies. But those are his diversion, as the British Army has been to
the warrior. Puellis idoneus, he is professedly a lady's man, a rose-
beetle, and a fine specimen of a common kind: and he has been that thing,
that shining delight of the lap of ladies, for a spell of years,
necessitating a certain sparkle of the saccharine crystals preserving
him, to conceal the muster. He has to be fascinating, or he would look
outworn, forlorn. On one side of him is Lady Carmine; on the other, Lady
Swanage; dames embedded in the blooming maturity of England's
conservatory. Their lords (an Earl, a Baron) are of the lords who go
down to the City to sow a title for a repair of their poor incomes, and
are to be commended for frankly accepting the new dispensation while they
retain the many advantages of the uncancelled ancient. Thus gently does
a maternal Old England let them down. Projectors of Companies,
Directors, Founders; Railway magnates, actual kings and nobles (though
one cannot yet persuade old reverence to do homage with the ancestral
spontaneity to the uncrowned, uncoroneted, people of our sphere); holders
of Shares in gold mines, Shares in Afric's blue mud of the glittering
teeth we draw for English beauty to wear in the ear, on the neck, at the
wrist; Bankers and wives of Bankers. Victor passed among them, chatting
right and left.
Lady Carmine asked him: 'Is Durandarte counted on?'
He answered: 'I made sure of the Luciani.'
She serenely understood. Artistes are licenced people, with a Bohemian
instead of the titular glitter for the bewildering of moralists; as paste
will pass for diamonds where the mirror is held up to Nature by bold
He wished to introduce Nesta. His girl was on the raised orchestral
flooring. Nataly held her fast to a music-scroll.
Mr. Peridon, sad for the absence and cause of absence of Louise de
Seilles,--summoned in the morning abruptly to Bourges, where her brother
lay with his life endangered by an accident at Artillery practise,--
Mr. Peridon was generally conductor. Victor was to lead the full force
of amateurs in the brisk overture to Zampa. He perceived a movement of
Nataly, Nesta, and Peridon. 'They have come,' he said; he jumped on the
orchestra boards and hastened to greet the Luciani with Durandarte in the
His departure raised the whisper that he would wield the baton. An
opinion was unuttered. His name for the flute-duet with the Hon. Dudley
Sowerby had not provoked the reserve opinion; it seemed, on the whole, a
pretty thing in him to condescend to do: the sentiment he awakened was
not flustered by it. But the act of leading, appeared as an official
thing to do. Our soufe of sentiment will be seen subsiding under a
breath, without a repressive word to send it down. Sir Rodwell
Blachington would have preferred Radnor's not leading or playing either.
Colonel Corfe and Mr. Caddis declined to consider such conduct English,
in a man of station . . . notwithstanding Royal Highnesses, who are at
least partly English: partly, we say, under our breath, remembering our
old ideal of an English gentleman, in opposition to German tastes. It is
true, that the whole country is changeing, decomposing!
The colonel fished for Lady Carmine's view. And Lady Swanage too? Both
of the distinguished ladies approved of Mr. Radnor's leading--for a
leading off. Women are pleased to see their favourite in the place of
prominence--as long as Fortune swims him unbuffeted, or one should say,
unbattered, up the mounting wave. Besides these ladies had none of the
colonel's remainder of juvenile English sense of the manly, his
adolescent's intolerance of the eccentric, suspicion and contempt of any
supposed affectation, which was not ostentatiously, stalkingly practised
to subdue the sex. And you cannot wield a baton without looking
affected. And at one of the Colonel's Clubs in town, only five years
back, an English musical composer, who had not then made his money--now
by the mystery of events knighted!--had been (he makes now fifteen
thousand a year) black-balled. 'Fiddler? no; can't admit a Fiddler to
associate on equal terms with gentlemen.' Only five years back: and at
present we are having the Fiddler everywhere.
A sprinkling of the minor ladies also would have been glad if Mr. Radnor
had kept himself somewhat more exclusive. Dr. Schlesien heard remarks,
upon which his weighty Teutonic mind sat crushingly. Do these English
care one bit for music?--for anything finer than material stuffs?--what
that man Durance calls, 'their beef, their beer, and their pew in
eternity'? His wrath at their babble and petty brabble doubted that they
But they do. Art has a hold of them. They pay for it; and the thing
purchased grapples. It will get to their bosoms to breathe from them in
time: entirely overcoming the taste for feudalism, which still a little
objects to see their born gentleman acting as leader of musicians. A
people of slow movement, developing tardily, their country is wanting in
the distincter features, from being always in the transitional state,
like certain sea-fish rolling head over-you know not head from tail.
Without the Welsh, Irish, Scot; in their composition, there would not be
much of the yeasty ferment: but it should not be forgotten that Welsh,
Irish, Scot, are now largely of their numbers; and the taste for
elegance, and for spiritual utterance, for Song, nay, for Ideas, is there
among them, though it does not everywhere cover a rocky surface to
bewitch the eyes of aliens;--like Louise de Seilles and Dr. Schlesien,
for example; aliens having no hostile disposition toward the people they
were compelled to criticize; honourably granting, that this people has a
great history. Even such has the Lion, with Homer for the transcriber of
his deeds. But the gentle aliens would image our emergence from wildness
as the unsocial spectacle presented by the drear menagerie Lion, alone or
mated; with hardly an animated moment save when the raw red joint is
beneath his paw, reminding him of the desert's pasture.
Nevertheless, where Strength is, there is hope:--it may be said more
truly than of the breath of Life; which is perhaps but the bucket of
breath, muddy with the sediment of the well: whereas we have in Strength
a hero, if a malefactor; whose muscles shall haul him up to the light he
will prove worthy of, when that divinity has shown him his uncleanness.
And when Strength is not exercising, you are sure to see Satirists jump
on his back. Dozens, foreign and domestic, are on the back of Old
England; a tribute to our quality if at the same time an irritating
scourge. The domestic are in excess; and let us own that their view of