Part 5 out of 9
the potentate, as an apathetic beast of power, who will neither show the
power nor woo the graces; pretending all the while to be eminently above
the beast, and posturing in an inefficient mimicry of the civilized,
excites to satire. Colney Durance had his excuses. He could point to
the chief creative minds of the country for generations, as beginning
their survey genially, ending venomously, because of an exasperating
unreason and scum in the bubble of the scenes, called social, around
them. Viola under his chin, he gazed along the crowded hall, which was
to him a rich national pudding of the sycophants, the hypocrites, the
burlies, the idiots; dregs of the depths and froth of the surface; bowing
to one, that they may scorn another; instituting a Charity, for their
poorer fawning fellows to relieve their purses and assist them in
tricking the world and their Maker: and so forth, a tiresome tirade: and
as it was not on his lips, but in the stomach of the painful creature,
let him grind that hurdy-gurdy for himself. His friend Victor set it
stirring: Victor had here what he aimed at!
How Success derides Ambition! And for this he imperilled the happiness
of the worthy woman he loved! Exposed her to our fen-fogs and foul
snakes--of whom one or more might be in the assembly now: all because of
his insane itch to be the bobbing cork on the wave of the minute!
Colney's rapid interjections condensed upon the habitual shrug at human
folly, just when Victor, fronting the glassy stare of Colonel Corfe,
tapped to start his orchestra through the lively first bars of the
overture to Zampa.
We soon perceive that the post Mr. Radnor fills he thoroughly fills,
whatever it may be. Zampa takes horse from the opening. We have no
amateur conductor riding ahead: violins, 'cellos, piano, wind-stops:
Peridon, Catkin, Pempton, Yatt, Cormyn, Colney, Mrs. Cormyn, Dudley
Sowerby: they are spirited on, patted, subdued, muted, raised, rushed
anew, away, held in hand, in both hands. Not earnestness worn as a
cloak, but issuing, we see; not simply a leader of musicians, a leader of
men. The halo of the millionaire behind, assures us of a development in
the character of England's merchant princes. The homage we pay him
flatters us. A delightful overture, masterfully executed; ended too
soon; except that the programme forbids the ordinary interpretation of
prolonged applause. Mr. Radnor is one of those who do everything
consummately. And we have a monition within, that a course of spiritual
enjoyment will rouse the call for bodily refreshment. His genial nod and
laugh and word of commendation to his troop persuade us oddly, we know
not how, of provision to come. At the door of the retiring-room, see,
he is congratulated by Luciani and Durandarte. Miss Priscilla Graves is
now to sing a Schumann. Down later, it is a duet with the Rev. Septimus
Barmby. We have nothing to be ashamed of in her, before an Italian
Operatic singer! Ices after the first part is over.
Had Nataly and Nesta known who was outside helping Skepsey to play ball
with the boys, they would not have worked through their share of the
performance with so graceful a composure. Even Simeon Fenellan was
unaware that his half-brother Dartrey had landed in England. Dartrey
went first to Victor's office, where he found Skepsey packing the day's
letters and circulars into the bag for the delivery of them at Lakelands.
They sprang a chatter, and they missed the last of the express trains
which did, not greatly signify, Skepsey said, 'as it was a Concert.' To
hear his hero talk, was the music for him; and he richly enjoyed the
pacing along the railway-platform.
Arrived on the grounds, they took opposite sides in a game of rounders,
at that moment tossing heads or tails for innings. These boys were
slovenly players, and were made unhappy by Skepsey's fussy instructions
to them in smartness. They had a stupid way of feeding the stick, and
they ran sprawling; it concerned Great Britain for them to learn how to
use their legs. It was pitiful for the country to see how lumpish her
younger children were. Dartrey knew his little man and laughed, after
warning him that his English would want many lessons before they
stomached the mixture of discipline and pleasure. So it appeared: the
pride of the boys in themselves, their confidence, enjoyment of the game,
were all gone; and all were speedily out but Skepsey; who ran for the
rounder, with his coat off, sharp as a porpoise, and would have got it,
he had it in his grasp, when, at the jump, just over the line of the
goal, a clever fling, if ever was, caught him a crack on that part of the
human frame where sound is best achieved. Then were these young lumps
transformed to limber, lither, merry fellows. They rejoiced Skepsey's
heart; they did everything better, ran and dodged and threw in a style to
win the nod from the future official inspector of Games and Amusements of
the common people; a deputy of the Government, proposed by Skepsey to his
hero with a deferential eagerness. Dartrey clapped him on the shoulder,
'System--Mr. Durance is right--they must have system, if they are to
appreciate a holiday,' Skepsey said; and he sent a wretched gaze around,
at the justification of some of the lurid views of Mr. Durance, in signs
of the holiday wasted;--impoverishing the country's manhood in a small
degree, it may be argued, but we ask, can the country afford it, while
foreign nations are drilling their youth, teaching them to be ready to
move in squads or masses, like the fist of a pugilist. Skepsey left it
to his look to speak his thought. He saw an enemy in tobacco. The
drowsiness of beer had stretched various hulks under trees. Ponderous
cricket lumbered half-alive. Flabby fun knocked-up a yell. And it was
rather vexatious to see girls dancing in good time to the band-music.
One had a male-partner, who hopped his loutish burlesque of the thing he
could not do.
Apparently, too certainly, none but the girls had a notion of orderly
muscular exercise. Of what use are girls! Girls have their one mission
on earth; and let them be healthy by all means, for the sake of it; only,
they should not seem to prove that old England is better represented on
the female side. Skepsey heard, with a nip of spite at his bosom, a
small body of them singing in chorus as they walked in step, arm in arm,
actually marched: and to the rearward, none of these girls heeding; there
were the louts at their burlesque of jigs and fisticuffs! 'Cherry Ripe,'
was the song.
'It's delightful to hear them!' said Dartrey.
Skepsey muttered jealously of their having been trained.
The song, which drew Dartrey Fenellan to the quick of an English home,
planted him at the same time in Africa to hear it. Dewy on a parched
forehead it fell, England the shedding heaven.
He fetched a deep breath, as of gratitude for vital refreshment. He had
his thoughts upon the training of our English to be something besides the
machinery of capitalists, and upon the country as a blessed mother
instead of the most capricious of maudlin step-dames.
He flicked his leg with the stick he carried, said: 'Your master's the
man to make a change among them, old friend!' and strolled along to a
group surrounding two fellows who shammed a bout at single-stick.
Vacuity in the attack on either side, contributed to the joint success of
the defense. They paused under inspection; and Dartrey said: 'You're
burning to give them a lesson, Skepsey.'
Skepsey had no objection to his hero's doing so, though at his personal
The sticks were handed to them; the crowd increased; their rounders boys
had spied them, and came trooping to the scene. Skepsey was directed to
hit in earnest. His defensive attitude flashed, and he was at head and
right and left leg, and giving point, recovering, thrusting madly, and
again at shoulder and thigh, with bravos for reward of a man meaning
business; until a topper on his hat, a cut over the right thigh, and the
stick in his middlerib, told the spectators of a scientific adversary;
and loudly now the gentleman was cheered. An undercurrent of warm
feeling ran for the plucky little one at it hot again in spite of the
strokes, and when he fetched his master a handsome thud across the
shoulder, and the gentleman gave up and complimented him, Skepsey had
He then begged his hero to put the previous couple in position, through
a few of the opening movements. They were horribly sheepish at first.
Meantime two boys had got hold of sticks, and both had gone to work in
Skepsey's gallant style; and soon one was howling. He excused himself,
because of the funny-bone, situated, in his case, higher than usual up
the arm. And now the pair of men were giving and taking cuts to make a
'Very well; begin that way; try what you can bear,' said Dartrey.
Skepsey watched them, in felicity for love of the fray, pained by the
disregard of science.
Comments on the pretty play, indicating a reminiscent acquaintance with
it, and the capacity for critical observations, were started. Assaults,
wonderful tricks of a slashing Life-Guardsman, one spectator had
witnessed at an exhibition in a London hall. Boxing too. You may see
displays of boxing still in places. How about a prizefight?--With money
on it?--Eh, but you don't expect men to stand up to be knocked into
rumpsteaks for nothing?--No, but it's they there bets!--Right, and that's
a game gone to ruin along of outsiders.--But it always was and it always
will be popular with Englishmen!
Great English names of young days, before the wintry shadow of the Law
had blighted them, received their withered laurels. Emulous boys were
in the heroic posture. Good! sparring does no hurt: Skepsey seized a
likely lad, Dartrey another. Nature created the Ring for them. Now
then, arms and head well up, chest hearty, shoulders down, out with the
right fist, just below the level of the chin; out with the left fist
farther, right out, except for that bit of curve; so, and draw it
slightly back for wary-pussy at the spring. Firm you stand, feeling
the muscles of both legs, left half a pace ahead, right planted, both
stringy. None of your milk-pail looks; show us jaw, you bulldogs. Now
then, left from the shoulder, straight at right of head.--Good, and
alacrity called on vigour in Skepsey's pupil; Dartrey's had the fist on
his mouth before he could parry right arm up. 'Foul blow!' Dartrey
cried. Skepsey vowed to the contrary. Dartrey reiterated his charge.
Skepsey was a figure of negation, gesticulating and protesting. Dartrey
appealed tempestuously to the Ring; Skepsey likewise, in a tone of
injury. He addressed a remonstrance to Captain Dartrey.
'Hang your captain, sir! I call you a coward; come on,' said the
resolute gentleman, already in ripe form for the attack. His blue eyes
were like the springing sunrise over ridges of the seas; and Skepsey
jumped to his meaning.
Boys and men were spectators of a real scientific set-to, a lovely show.
They were half puzzled, it seemed so deadly. And the little one got in
his blows at the gentleman, who had to be hopping. Only, the worse the
gentleman caught it, the friendlier his countenance became. That was the
wonder, and that gave them the key. But it was deliciously near to the
Dartrey and Skepsey shook hands.
'And now, you fellows, you're to know, that this is one of the champions;
and you take your lesson from him and thank him,' Dartrey said, as he
turned on his heel to strike and greet the flow from the house.
'Dartrey come!' Victor, Fenellan, Colney, had him by the hand in turn.
Pure sweetness of suddenly awakened joy sat in Nataly's eyes as she swam
to welcome him, Nesta moved a step, seemed hesitating, and she tripped
forward. 'Dear Captain Dartrey!'
He did not say: 'But what a change in you!'
'It is blue-butterfly, all the same,' Nataly spoke to his look.
Victor hurriedly pronounced the formal introduction between the Hon.
Dudley Sowerby and Captain Dartrey Fenellan. The bronze face and the
milky bowed to one another ceremoniously; the latter faintly flushing.
'So here you are at last,' Victor said. 'You stay with us.'
'To-morrow or later, if you'll have me. I go down to my people to-
'But you stay in England now?' Nataly's voice wavered on the question.
'There's a chance of my being off to Upper Burmah before the week's
'Ah, dear, dear!' sighed Fenellan; 'and out of good comes evil!--as
grandfather Deucalion exclaimed, when he gallantly handed up his dripping
wife from the mud of the Deluge waters. Do you mean to be running and
Dewing it on for ever, with only a nod for friends, Dart?'
'Lord, Simmy, what a sound of home there is in your old nonsense!'
His eyes of strong dark blue colour and the foreign swarthiness of his
brows and cheeks and neck mixed the familiar and the strange, in the
sight of the women who knew him.
The bill-broker's fair-tressed young wife whispered of curiosity
concerning him to Nataly. He dressed like a sailor, he stood like a
soldier: and was he married? Yes, he was married.
Mrs. Blathenoy imagined a something in Mrs. Radnor's tone. She could
account for it; not by the ordinary reading of the feminine in the
feminine, but through a husband who professed to know secrets. She was
young in years and experience, ten months wedded, disappointedly
awakened, enlivened by the hour, kindled by a novel figure of man,
fretful for a dash of imprudence. This Mrs. Radnor should be the one
to second her very innocent turn for a galopade; her own position allowed
of any little diverting jig or reel, or plunge in a bath--she required
it, for the domestic Jacob Blathenoy was a dry chip: proved such, without
a day's variation during the whole of the ten wedded months. Nataly
gratified her spoken wish. Dartrey Fenellan bowed to the lady, and she
withdrew him, seeing composedly that other and greater ladies had the
wish ungratified. Their husbands were not so rich as hers, and their
complexions would hardly have pleased the handsome brown-faced officer so
Banquet, equal to a blast of trumpet, was the detaining word for the
multitude. It circulated, one knows not how. Eloquent as the whiffs to
the sniffs (and nowhere is eloquence to match it, when the latter are
sharpened from within to without), the word was very soon over the field.
Mr. Carling may have helped; he had it from Fenellan; and he was among
the principal groups, claiming or making acquaintances, as a lawyer
should do. The Concert was complimentarily a topic: Durandarte divine!--
did not everybody think so? Everybody did, in default of a term for
overtopping it. Our language is poor at hyperbole; our voices are
stronger. Gestures and heaven-sent eyeballs invoke to display the
ineffable. Where was Durandarte now? Gone; already gone; off with the
Luciani for evening engagements; he came simply to oblige his dear friend
Mr. Radnor. Cheque fifty guineas: hardly more on both sides than an
exchange of smiles. Ah, these merchant-princes! What of Mr. Radnor's
amateur instrumentalists? Amateurs, they are not to be named: perfect
musicians. Mr. Radnor is the perfection of a host. Yes, yes; Mrs.
Radnor; Miss Radnor too: delicious voices; but what is it about Mr.
Radnor so captivating! He is not quite English, yet he is not at all
foreign. Is he very adventurous in business, as they say?
'Soundest head in the City of London,' Mr. Blathenoy remarked.
Sir Rodwell Blachington gave his nod.
The crowd interjected, half-sighing. We ought to be proud of such a man!
Perhaps we are a trifle exaggerating, says its heart. But that we are
wholly grateful to him, is a distinct conclusion. And he may be one of
the great men of his time: he has a quite individual style of dress.
Lady Rodwell Blachington observed to Colney Durance:
'Mr. Radnor bids fair to become the idol of the English people.'
'If he can prove himself to be sufficiently the dupe of the English
people,' said Colney.
'Idol--dupe?' interjected Sir Rodwell, and his eyebrows fixed at the
perch of Colney's famous 'national interrogation' over vacancy of
understanding, as if from the pull of a string. He had his audience with
him; and the satirist had nothing but his inner gush of acids at sight of
a planted barb.
Colney was asked to explain. He never explained. He performed a series
of astonishing leaps, like the branchy baboon above the traveller's head
in the tropical forest, and led them into the trap they assisted him to
prepare for them. 'No humour, do you say? The English have no humour?'
a nephew of Lady Blachington's inquired of him, with polite pugnacity,
and was cordially assured, that 'he vindicated them.'
'And Altruistic! another specimen of the modern coinage,' a classical
Church dignitary, in grammarian disgust, remarked to a lady, as they
Colney pricked-up his ears. It struck him that he might fish for
suggestions in aid of the Grand Argument before the Elders of the Court
of Japan. Dr. Wardan, whose recognition he could claim, stated to him,
that the lady and he were enumerating words of a doubtfully legitimate
quality now being inflicted upon the language.
'The slang from below is perhaps preferable?' said Colney.
'But a pirate-tongue, cut-off from its roots, must continue to practise
piracy, surely, or else take reinforcements in slang, otherwise it is
inexpressive of new ideas.'
'Possibly the new ideas are best expressed in slang.'
'If insular. They will consequently be incommunicable to foreigners.
You would, then, have us be trading with tokens instead of a precious
currency? Yet I cannot perceive the advantage of letting our ideas be
clothed so racy of the obscener soil; considering the pretensions of the
English language to become the universal. If we refuse additions from
above, they force themselves on us from below.'
Dr. Wardan liked the frame of the observations, disliked the substance.
'One is to understand that the English language has these pretensions?'
he said:--he minced in his manner, after the well-known mortar-board and
tassel type; the mouthing of a petrifaction: clearly useless to the
pleadings of the patriotic Dr. Bouthoin and his curate.
He gave no grip to Colney, who groaned at cheap Donnish sarcasm, and let
him go, after dealing him a hard pellet or two in a cracker-covering.
There was Victor all over the field netting his ephemerae! And he who
feeds on them, to pay a price for their congratulations and flatteries,
he is one of them himself!
Nesta came tripping from the Rev. Septimus Barmby. 'Dear Mr. Durance,
where is Captain Dartrey?'
Mrs. Blathenoy had just conducted her husband through a crowd, for an
introduction of him to Captain Dartrey. That was perceptible.
Dudley Sowerby followed Nesta closely: he struck across the path of the
Rev. Septimus: again he had the hollow of her ear at his disposal.
'Mr. Radnor was excellent. He does everything consummately: really, we
are all sensible of it. I am. He must lead us in a symphony. These
light "champagne overtures" of French composers, as Mr. Fenellan calls
them, do not bring out his whole ability:--Zampa, Le Pre aux clercs,
Masaniello, and the like.'
'Your duet together went well.'
'Thanks to you--to you. You kept us together.'
'Papa was the runaway or strain-the-leash, if there was one.'
'He is impetuous, he is so fervent. But, Miss Radnor, I could not be the
runaway-with you . . . with you at the piano. Indeed, I . . .
shall we stroll down? I love the lake.'
'You will hear the bell for your cold dinner very soon.'
'I am not hungry. I would so much rather talk--hear you. But you are
hungry? You have been singing twice: three times! Opera singers, they
say, eat hot suppers; they drink stout. And I never heard your voice
more effective. Yours is a voice that . . . something of the feeling
one has in hearing cathedral voices: carry one up. I remember, in
Dresden, once, a Fraulein Kuhnstreich, a prodigy, very young, considering
her accomplishments. But it was not the same.'
Nesta wondered at Dartrey Fenellan for staying so long with Mr. and Mrs.
'Ah, Mr. Sowerby, if I am to have flattery, I cannot take it as a
milliner's dumb figure wears the beautiful dress; I must point out my
view of some of my merits.'
'Oh! do, I beg, Miss . . . You have a Christian name and I too: and
once . . . not Mr. Sowerby: yes, it was Dudley!,
'Quite accidentally, and a world of pardons entreated.'
'And Dudley begged Dudley might be Dudley always !'
He was deepening to the Barmby intonation--apparently Cupid's; but a
shade more airily Pagan, not so fearfully clerical.
Her father had withdrawn Dartrey Fenellan from Mr. and Mrs. Blathenoy.
Dr. Schlesien was bowing with Dartrey.
'And if Durandarte would only--but you are one with Miss Graves to
depreciate my Durandarte, in favour of the more classical Jachimo; whom
we all admire; but you shall be just,' said she, and she pouted. She had
seen her father plant Dartrey Fenellan in the midst of a group of City
Simeon touched among them to pluck at his brother. He had not a chance;
he retired, and swam into the salmon-net of seductive Mrs. Blathenoy's
broad bright smile.
'It's a matter of mines, and they're hovering in the attitude of the
query, like corkscrews over a bottle, profoundly indifferent to blood-
relationships,' he said to her.
'Pray, stay and be consoled by me,' said the fair young woman. 'You are
to point me out all the distinguished people. Is it true, that your
brother has left the army?'
'Dartrey no longer wears the red. Here comes Colonel Corfe, who does.
England has her army still!'
'His wife persuaded him?'
'You see he is wearing the black.'
'For her? How very very sad! Tell me--what a funnily dressed woman
meeting that gentleman!'
'Hush--a friend of the warrior. Splendid weather, Colonel Corfe.'
'Superb toilettes!' The colonel eyed Mrs. Blathenoy dilatingly, advanced,
bowed, and opened the siege.
She decided a calculation upon his age, made a wall of it, smilingly
agreed with his encomium of the Concert, and toned her voice to
Fenellan's comprehension: 'Did it occur recently?'
'Months; in Africa; I haven't the date.'
'Such numbers of people one would wish to know! Who are those ladies
holding a Court, where Mr. Radnor is?'
'Lady Carmine, Lady Swanage--if it is your wish?' interposed the colonel.
She dealt him a forgiving smile. 'And that pleasant-looking old
Colonel Corfe drew-up. Fenellan said: 'Are we veterans at forty or so?'
'Well, it 's the romance, perhaps!' She raised her shoulders.
The colonel's intelligence ran a dog's nose for a lady's interjections.
'The romance? . . . at forty, fifty? gone? Miss Julinks, the great
heiress and a beauty; has chosen him over the heads of all the young men
of his time. Cranmer Lotsdale. Most romantic history!'
'She's in love with that, I suppose.'
'Now you direct my attention to him,' said Fenellan, 'the writing of the
romantic history has made the texture look a trifle thready. You have a
It was thrown to where the person stood who had first within a few
minutes helped her to form critical estimates of men, more consciously to
'Your brother stays in England?'
'The fear is, that he's off again.'
'Annoying for you. If I had a brother, I would not let him go.'
'How would you detain him?'
'Locks and bolts, clock wrong, hands and arms, kneeling--the fourth act
of the Huguenots!'
'He went by way of the window, I think. But that was a lover.'
'Oh! well!' she flushed. She did not hear the 'neglected and astonished
colonel speak, and she sought diversion in saying to Fenellan: 'So many
people of distinction are assembled here to-day! Tell me, who is that
pompous gentleman, who holds his arms up doubled, as he walks?'
'Like flappers of a penguin: and advances in jerks: he is head of the
great Firm of Quatley Brothers: Sir Abraham: finances or farms one of the
South American Republics: we call him, Pride of Port. He consumes it and
he presents it.'
'And who is that little man, who stops everybody?'
'People of distinction indeed! That little man--is your upper lip
underrateing him? . . . When a lady's lip is erratically disdainful,
it suggests a misuse of a copious treasury, deserving to be mulcted,
punished--how?--who can say?--that little man, now that little man, with
a lift of his little finger, could convulse the Bacon Market!'
Mrs. Blathenoy shook. Hearing Colonel Corfe exclaim:
'Bacon Market!' she let fly a peal. Then she turned to a fresh
satellite, a round and a ruddy, 'at her service ever,' Mr. Beaves
Urmsing, and repeated Fenellan's words. He, in unfeigned wonderment at
such unsuspected powers, cried: 'Dear me!' and stared at the little man,
making the pretty lady's face a twinkling dew.
He had missed the Concert. Was it first-rate? Ecstasy answered in the
'Hem'd fool I am to keep appointments!' he muttered.
She reproved him: 'Fie, Mr. Urmsing; it's the making of them, not the
'Ah, my dear ma'am, if I'd had Blathenoy's luck when he made a certain
appointment. And he was not so much older than me? The old ones get the
Mr. Beaves Urmsing prompted Colonel Corfe to laugh in triumph. The
colonel's eyebrows were up in fixity over sleepy lids. He brightened to
propose the conducting of the pretty woman to the banquet.
'We shall see them going in,' said she. 'Mr. Radnor has a French cook,
who does wonders. But I heard him asking for Mr. Beaves Urmsing. I'm
sure he expected The Marigolds at his Concert.'
'Anything to oblige the company,' said the rustic ready chorister,
clearing his throat.
The lady's feet were bent in the direction of a grassy knoll, where
sunflowers, tulips, dahlias, peonies, of the sex eclipsed at a distance
its roses and lilies. Fenellan saw Dartrey, still a centre of the
merchantmen, strolling thither.
'And do you know, your brother is good enough to dine with us next week,
Thursday, down here,' she murmured. 'I could venture to command?--if you
are not induced.'
'Whichever word applies to a faithful subject.'
'I do so wish your brother had not left the army!'
'You have one son of Mars.'
Her eyes took the colonel up to cast him down: he was not the antidote.
She said to him: 'Luciani's voice wears better than her figure.'
The colonel replied: 'I remember,' and corrected himself, 'at Eton, in
jackets: she was not so particularly slim; never knew how to dress. You
beat Italians there! She moved one as a youngster.'
'Eton boys are so susceptible!'
'Why, hulloa, don't I remember her coming out!--and do you mean to tell
me,' Mr. Beaves Urmsing brutally addressed the colonel, 'that you were at
Eton when . . . why, what age do you give the poor woman, then!'
He bellowed, 'Eh?' as it were a bull crowing.
The colonel retreated to one of his defensive corners. 'I am not aware
that I meant to tell you anything.'
Mr. Beaves Urmsing turned square-breasted on Fenellan: 'Fellow's a born
'And the mother lived?' said Fenellan.
Mr. Beaves Urmsing puffed with wrath at the fellow.
Five minutes later, in the midst of the group surrounding and
felicitating Victor, he had sight of Fenellan conversing with fair ones,
and it struck a light in him; he went three steps backward, with shouts.
'Dam funny fellow! eh? who is he? I must have that man at my table.
Worth fifty Colonel Jackasses! And I 've got a son in the Guards: and as
much laugh in him, he 's got, as a bladder. But we'll make a party, eh,
Radnor? with that friend o' yours. Dam funny fellow! and precious
little of it going on now among the young lot. They're for seeing ghosts
and gaping their jaws; all for the quavers instead of the capers.'
He sounded and thrummed his roguish fling-off for the capers. A second
glimpse of Fenellan agitated the anecdote, as he called it, seizing
Victor's arm, to have him out of earshot of the ladies. Delivery,
not without its throes, was accomplished, but imperfectly, owing to
sympathetic convulsions, under which Mr. Beaves Urmsing's countenance was
crinkled of many colours, as we see the Spring rhubarb-leaf. Unable to
repeat the brevity of Fenellan's rejoinder, he expatiated on it to convey
it, swearing that it was the kind of thing done in the old days, when men
were witty dogs:--'pat! and pat back! as in the pantomime.'
'Repartee !' said Victor. 'He has it. You shall know him. You're the
man for him.'
'He for me, that he is!--"Hope the mother's doing well? My card":--eh?
Grave as an owl! Look, there goes the donkey, lady to right and left,
all ears for him--ha! ha! I must have another turn with your friend.
"Mother lived, did she?" Dam funny fellow, all of the olden time! And a
dinner, bachelor dinner, six of us, at my place, next week, say
Wednesday, half-past six, for a long evening--flowing bowl--eh, shall it
Nesta came looking to find her Captain Dartrey.
Mr. Beaves Urmsing grew courtly of the olden time. He spied Colonel
Corfe anew, and 'Donkey!' rose to split the roar at his mouth, and full
of his anecdote, he pursued some congenial acquaintances, crying to his
host: 'Wednesday, mind! eh? by George, your friend's gizzarded me for
Plumped with the rich red stream of life, this last of the squires of old
England thumped along among the guests, a very tuning-fork to keep them
at their pitch of enthusiasm. He encountered Mr. Caddis, and it was an
encounter. Mr. Caddis represented his political opinions; but here was
this cur of a Caddis whineing his niminy note from his piminy nob, when
he was asked for his hearty echo of the praises of this jolly good fellow
come to waken the neighbourhood, to be a blessing, a blazing hearth, a
fall of manna:--and thank the Lord for him, you desertdog! 'He 's a
merchant prince, and he's a prince of a man, if you're for titles. Eh?
you "assent to my encomiums." You'll be calling me Mr. Speaker next.
Hang me, Caddis, if those Parliamentary benches of yours aren't freezing
you from your seat up, and have got to your jaw--my belief!'
Mr. Caddis was left reflecting, that we have, in the dispensations of
Providence, when we have a seat, to submit to castigations from butcherly
men unaccountably commissioned to solidify the seat. He could have
preached a discourse upon Success, to quiet the discontentment of the
unseated. And our world of seats oddly gained, quaintly occupied,
maliciously beset, insensately envied, needs the discourse. But it was
not delivered, else would it have been here written down without mercy,
as a medical prescript, one of the grand specifics. He met Victor, and,
between his dread of him and the counsels of a position subject to
stripes, he was a genial thaw. Victor beamed; for Mr. Caddis had
previously stood eminent as an iceberg of the Lakelands' party. Mr.
Inchling and Mr. Caddis were introduced. The former in Commerce, the
latter in Politics, their sustaining boast was, the being our stable
Englishmen; and at once, with cousinly minds, they fell to chatting upon
the nothings agreeably and seriously. Colney Durance forsook a set of
ladies for fatter prey, and listened to them. What he said, Victor did
not hear. The effect was always to be seen, with Inchling under Colney.
Fenellan did better service, really good service.
Nataly played the heroine she was at heart. Why think of her as having
to act a character! Twice had Carling that afternoon, indirectly and
directly, stated Mrs. Burman to be near the end we crape a natural, a
defensible, satisfaction to hear of:--not wishing it--poor woman!--but
pardonably, before man and all the angels, wishing, praying for the
beloved one to enter into her earthly peace by the agency of the other's
exit into her heavenly.
Fenellan and Colney came together, and said a word apiece of their
'In his element! The dear old boy has the look of a goldfish, king of
'The dear old boy has to me the look of a pot on the fire, with a loose
I may have the summons from Themison to-morrow, Victor thought. The
success of the day, was a wine that rocked the soberest of thoughts.
For, strange to confess, ever since the fall on London Bridge, his heart,
influenced in some degree by Nataly's depression perhaps, had been
shadowed by doubts of his infallible instinct for success. Here, at a
stroke, and before entering the house, he had the whole neighbourhood
about him: he could feel that he and Nataly stood in the minds of the
worthy people variously with the brightness if not with the warmth
distinguishable in the bosom of Beaves Urmsing--the idea of whom gave
Lakelands an immediate hearth-glow.
Armandine was thirteen minutes, by his watch, behind the time she had
named. Small blame to her. He excused her to Lady Carmine, Lady
Swanage, Lady Blachington, Mrs. Fanning, Sir Abraham Quatley, Mr. Danny
(of Bacon fame) and the rest of the group surrounding Nataly on the mound
leftward of the white terraces descending to the lake; where she stood
beating her foot fretfully at the word brought by Nesta, that Dartrey
Fenellan had departed. It was her sunshine departed. But she went
through her task of conversing amiably. Colney, for a wonder, consented
to be useful in assisting Fenellan to relate stories of French Cooks;
which were, like the Royal Hanoverian oyster, of an age for offering
acceptable flavour to English hearers. Nesta drew her mother's attention
to Priscilla Graves and Skepsey; the latter bending head and assenting.
Nataly spoke of the charm of Priscilla's voice that day, in her duet with
the Rev. Septimus. Mr. Pempton looked; he saw that Priscilla was
proselytizing. She was perfection to him but for one blotting thing.
With grief on his eyelids, he said to Nataly or to himself: 'Meat!'
'Dear friend, don't ride your hobby over us,' she replied.
'But it's with that object they mount it,' said Victor.
The greater ladies of the assembly were quite ready to accuse the
sections, down to the individuals, of the social English (reserving our
elect) of an itch to be tyrants.
Colney was apologizing for them, with his lash: 'It's merely the sensible
effect of a want of polish of the surface when they rub together.'
And he heard Carling exclaim to Victor: 'How comes the fellow here!'
Skepsey had rushed across an open space to intercept a leisurely
progressive man, whose hat was of the shape Victor knew; and the man wore
the known black gaiters. In appearance, he had the likeness of a fallen
Carling and Victor crossed looks that were questions carrying their
Nataly's eyes followed Victor's. 'Who is the man?' she said; and she got
no reply beyond a perky sparkle in his gaze.
Others were noticing the man, who was trying to pass by Skepsey, now on
his right side, now on his left.
'There'll be no stopping him,' Carling said, and he slipped to the rear.'
At this juncture, Armandine's mellow bell proclaimed her readiness.
Victor rubbed the back of his head. Nataly asked him: 'Dear, is it that
He nodded scantly: 'Expected, expected. I think we have our summons from
Armandine. One moment--poor soul! poor soul! Lady Carmine--Sir Abraham
Quatley. Will you lead? Lady Blachington, I secure you. One moment.'
He directed Nataly to pair a few of the guests; he hurried down the slope
Nataly applied to Colney Durance. 'Do you know the man?--is it that
Colney rejoined: 'The man's name is Jarniman.'
Armandine's bell swung melodiously. The guests had grouped, thickening
for the stream to procession. Mrs. Blathenoy claimed Fenellan; she
requested him to tell her whether he had known Mrs. Victor Radnor many
years. She mused. 'You like her?'
'One likes one's dearest of friends among women, does one not?'
The lady nodded to his response. 'And your brother?'
'Dartrey is devoted to her.'
'I am sure,' said she, 'your brother is a chivalrous gentleman. I like
her too.' She came to her sentiment through the sentiment of the
chivalrous gentleman. Sinking from it, she remarked that Mr. Radnor was
handsome still. Fenellan commended the subject to her, as one to
discourse of when she met Dartrey. A smell of a trap-hatch, half-open,
afflicted and sharpened him. It was Blathenoy's breath: husbands of
young wives do these villanies, for the sake of showing their knowledge.
Fenellan forbore to praise Mrs. Victor: he laid his colours on Dartrey.
The lady gave ear till she reddened. He meant no harm, meant nothing but
good; and he was lighting the most destructive of our lower fires.
Visibly, that man Jarniman was disposed of with ease. As in the street-
theatres of crowing Punch, distance enlisted pantomime to do the
effective part of the speeches. Jarniman's hat was off, he stood bent,
he delivered his message. He was handed over to Skepsey's care for the
receiving of meat and drink. Victor returned; he had Lady Blachington's
hand on his arm; he was all hers, and in the heart of his company of
guests at the same time. Eyes that had read him closely for years, were
unable to spell a definite signification on his face, below the
overflowing happiness of the hospitable man among contented guests. He
had in fact something within to enliven him; and that was the more than
suspicion, amounting to an odour of certainty, that Armandine intended
one of her grand surprises for her master, and for the hundred and fifty
or so to be seated at her tables in the unwarmed house of Lakelands.
CONCERNS THE INTRUSION OF JARNIMAN
Armandine did her wonders. There is not in the wide range of the Muses a
more responsive instrument than man to his marvellous cook; and if his
notes were but as flowing as his pedals are zealous, we should be carried
on the tale of the enthusiasm she awakened, away from the rutted
highroad, where History now thinks of tightening her girdle for an
The wonders were done: one hundred and seventy guests plenteously fed at
tables across the great Concert Hall, down a length of the conservatory-
glass, on soups, fish, meats, and the kitchen-garden, under play of
creative sauces, all in the persuasive steam of savouriness; every dish,
one may say, advancing, curtseying, swimming to be your partner, instead
of passively submitting to the eye of appetite, consenting to the teeth,
as that rather melancholy procession of the cold, resembling established
spinsters thrice-corseted in decorum, will appear to do. Whether
Armandine had the thought or that she simply acted in conformity with
a Frenchwoman's direct good sense, we do require to smell a sort of
animation in the meats we consume. We are still perhaps traceably
related to the Adamite old-youngster just on his legs, who betrayed at
every turn his Darwinian beginnings, and relished a palpitating
unwillingness in the thing refreshing him; only we young-oldsters cherish
the milder taste for willingness, with a throb of the vanquished in it.
And a seeming of that we get from the warm roast. The banquet to be
fervently remembered, should smoke, should send out a breath to meet us.
Victor's crowded saloon-carriage was one voice of eulogy, to raise
Armandine high as the finale rockets bursting over Wrensham Station at
the start Londonward. How had she managed? We foolishly question the
arts of magicians.
Mr. Pempton was an apparent dissentient, as the man must be who is half a
century ahead of his fellows in humaneness, and saddened by the display
of slaughtered herds and their devourers. He had picked out his
vegetable and farinaceous morsels, wherever he could get them
uncontaminated; enough for sustenance; and the utmost he could show was,
that he did not complain. When mounted and ridden by the satirist, in
wrath at him for systematically feasting the pride of the martyr on the
maceration of his animal part, he put on his martyr's pride, which
assumed a perfect contentment in the critical depreciation of opposing
systems: he was drawn to state, as he had often done, that he considered
our animal part shamefully and dangerously over nourished, and that much
of the immorality of the world was due to the present excessive
indulgence in meats. 'Not in drink?' Miss Graves inquired. 'No,' he said
boldly; 'not equally; meats are more insidious. I say nothing of taking
life--of fattening for that express purpose: diseases of animals: bad
blood made: cruelty superinduced: it will be seen to be, it will be
looked back on, as a form of, a second stage of, cannibalism. Let that
pass. I say, that for excess in drinking, the penalty is paid instantly,
or at least on the morrow.'
'Paid by the drunkard's wife, you should say.'
'Whereas intemperance in eating, corrupts constitutionally, more
spiritually vitiates, we think: on the whole, gluttony is the least-
generous of the vices.'
Colney lured Mr. Pempton through a quagmire of the vices to declare,
that it brutalized; and stammeringly to adopt the suggestion, that our
breeding of English ladies--those lights of the civilized world--can
hardly go with a feeding upon flesh of beasts. Priscilla regretted that
champagne should have to be pleaded in excuse of impertinences to her
sex. They were both combative, nibbed for epigram, edged to inflict
wounds; and they were set to shudder openly at one another's practises;
they might have exposed to Colney which of the two maniacal sections of
his English had the vaster conceit of superiority in purity; they were
baring themselves, as it were with a garment flung-off at each retort.
He reproached them for undermineing their countrymen; whose Falstaff
panics demanded blood of animals to restore them; and their periods of
bragging, that they should brandify their wits to imagine themselves
Nataly interposed. She was vexed with him. He let his eyelids drop: but
the occasion for showing the prickliness of the bristly social English,
could not be resisted. Dr. Peter Yatt was tricked to confess, that small
annoyances were, in his experience, powerful on the human frame; and Dr.
John Cormyn was very neatly brought round to assure him he was mistaken
if he supposed the homoeopathic doctor who smoked was exercising a
destructive influence on the efficacy of the infinitesimal doses he
prescribed; Dr. Yatt chuckled a laugh at globules; Dr. Cormyn at patients
treated as horses; while Mr. Catkin was brought to praise the smoke of
tobacco as our sanctuary from the sex; and Mr. Peridon quietly denied,
that the taking of it into his nostrils from the puffs of his friend
caused him sad silences: Nesta flew to protect the admirer of her beloved
Louise. Her subsiding young excitement of the day set her Boating on
that moony melancholy in Mr. Peridon.
No one could understand the grounds for Colney's more than usual
waspishness. He trotted out the fulgent and tonal Church of the Rev.
Septimus; the skeleton of worship, so truly showing the spirit, in that
of Dudley Sowerby's family; maliciously admiring both; and he had a spar
with Fenellan, ending in a snarl and a shout. Victor said to him: 'Yes,
here, as much as you like, old Colney, but I tell you, you've staggered
that poor woman Lady Blachington to-day, and her husband too; and I don't
know how many besides. What the pleasure of it can be, I can't guess.'
'Nor I,' said Fenellan, 'but I'll own I feel envious; like the girl among
a family of boys I knew, who were all of them starved in their infancy by
a miserly father, that gave them barely a bit of Graves to eat and not a
drop of Pempton to drink; and on the afternoon of his funeral, I found
them in the drawing-room, four lank fellows, heels up, walking on their
hands, from long practice; and the girl informed me, that her brothers
were able so to send the little blood they had in their bodies to their
brains, and always felt quite cheerful for it, happy, and empowered to
deal with the problems of the universe; as they couldn't on their legs;
but she, poor thing, was forbidden to do the same! And I'm like her. I
care for decorum too much to get the brain to act on Colney's behaviour;
but I see it enraptures him and may be comprehensible to the topsy-
Victor rubbed hands. It was he who filled Colney's bag of satiric spite.
In addition to the downright lunacy of the courting of country society,
by means of the cajolements witnessed this day, a suspicion that Victor
was wearing a false face over the signification--of Jarniman's visit and
meant to deceive the trustful and too-devoted loving woman he seemed
bound to wreck, irritated the best of his nature. He had a resolve to
pass an hour with the couple, and speak and insist on hearing plain words
before the night had ended. But Fenellan took it out of him. Victor's
show of a perfect contentment emulating Pempton's, incited Colney to some
of his cunning rapier-thrusts with his dancing adversary; and the heat
which is planted in us for the composition: of those cool epigrams, will
not allow plain words to follow. Or, handing him over to the police of
the Philistines, you may put it, that a habit of assorting spices will
render an earnest simplicity distasteful. He was invited by Nataly to
come home with them; her wish for his presence, besides personal, was
moved by an intuition, that his counsel might specially benefit them.
He shrugged; he said he had work at his chambers.
'Work!' Victor ejaculated: he never could reach to a right comprehension
of labour, in regard to the very unremunerative occupation of literature.
Colney he did not want, and he let him go, as Nataly noticed, without a
sign of the reluctance he showed when the others, including Fenellan,
'So! we're alone?' he said, when the door of the hall had closed on them.
He kept Nesta talking of the success of the day until she, observing her
mother's look, simulated the setting-in of a frenzied yawn. She was
kissed, and she tripped to her bed.
'Now we are alone,' Nataly said.
'Well, dear, and the day was, you must own . . . ' he sought to trifle
with her heavy voice; but she recalled him: 'Victor!' and the naked
anguish in her cry of his name was like a foreign world threatening the
one he filled.
'Ah, yes; that man, that Jarniman. You saw him, I remember. You
recollected him?--stouter than he was. In her service ever since. Well,
a little drop of bitter, perhaps: no harm, tonic.'
'Victor, is she very ill?'
'My love, don't feel at your side: she is ill, ill, not the extreme case:
not yet: old and ill. I told Skepsey to give the man refreshment: he had
to do his errand.'
'What? why did he come?'
'Curious; he made acquaintance with Skepsey, and appears to have
outwitted poor Skepsey, as far as I see it. But if that woman thinks of
intimidating me now--!' His eyes brightened; he had sprung from
evasions. 'Living in flagrant sin, she says: you and I! She will not
have it; warns me. Heard this day at noon of company at Lakelands.
Jarniman off at once. Are to live in obscurity;--you and I! if
together! Dictates from her death-bed-I suppose her death-bed.'
'Dearest,' Nataly pressed hand on her left breast, 'may we not think that
she may be right?'
'An outrageous tyranny of a decrepit woman naming herself wife when she
is only a limpet of vitality, with drugs for blood, hanging-on to blast
the healthy and vigorous! I remember old Colney's once, in old days,
calling that kind of marriage a sarcophagus. It was to me. There I lay
--see myself lying! wasting! Think what you can good of her, by all
means! From her bed! despatches that Jarniman to me from her bedside,
with the word, that she cannot in her conscience allow--what imposition
was it I practised? . . . flagrant sin?--it would have been an
infinitely viler . . . . She is the cause of suffering enough: I bear
no more from her; I've come to the limit. She has heard of Lakelands:
she has taken one of her hatreds to the place. She might have written,
might have sent me a gentleman, privately. No: it must be done in
dramatic style-for effect: her confidential--lawyer?--doctor?--butler!
Perhaps to frighten me:--the boy she knew, and--poor soul! I don't mean
to abuse her: but such conduct as this is downright brutal. I laugh at
it, I snap my fingers. I can afford to despise it. Only I do say it
deserves to be called abominable.'
'Victor, has she used a threat?'
'Am I brought to listen to any of her threats!--Funny thing, I 'm certain
that woman never can think of me except as the boy she knew. I saw her
first when she was first a widow. She would keep talking to me of the
seductions of the metropolis--kept informing me I was a young man . . .
shaking her head. I 've told you. She--well, I know we are mixtures,
women as well as men. I can, I hope, grant the same--I believe I can--
allowances to women as to men; we are poor creatures, all of using one
sense: though I won't give Colney his footing; there's a better way of
reading us. I hold fast to Nature. No violation of Nature, my good
Colney! We can live the lives of noble creatures; and I say that
happiness was meant for us:--just as, when you sit down to your dinner,
you must do it cheerfully, and you make good blood: otherwise all's
wrong. There's the right answer to Colney! But when a woman like that
. . . . and marries a boy: well, twenty-one--not quite that: and an
innocent, a positive innocent--it may seem incredible, after a term of
school-life: it was a fact: I can hardly understand it myself when I look
back. Marries him! And then sets to work to persecute him, because he
has blood in his veins, because he worships beauty; because he seeks a
real marriage, a real mate. And, I say it! let the world take its own
view, the world is wrong! because he preferred a virtuous life to the
kind of life she would, she must--why, necessarily!--have driven him
to, with a mummy's grain of nature in his body. And I am made of flesh,
I admit it.'
'Victor, dearest, her threat concerns only your living at Lakelands.'
'Pray, don't speak excitedly, my love,' he replied to the woman whose
tones had been subdued to scarce more than waver. 'You see how I meet
it: water off a duck's back, or Indian solar beams on the skin of a
Hindoo! I despise it hardly worth contempt;--But, come: our day was a
good one. Fenellan worked well. Old Colney was Colney Durance, of
course. He did no real mischief.'
'And you will not determine to enter Lakelands--not yet, dear?' said
'My own girl, leave it all to me.'
'But, Victor, I must, must know.'
'See the case. You have lots of courage. We can't withdraw. Her
intention is mischief. I believe the woman keeps herself alive for it:
we've given her another lease!--though it can only be for a very short
time; Themison is precise; Carling too. If we hold back--I have great
faith in Themison--the woman's breath on us is confirmed. We go down,
then; complete the furnishing, quite leisurely; accept--listen--accept
one or two invitations: impossible to refuse!--but they are accepted!
--and we defy her: a crazy old creature: imagines herself the wife of the
ex-Premier, widow of Prince Le Boo, engaged to the Chinese Ambassador, et
caetera. Leave the tussle with that woman to me. No, we don't repeat
the error of Crayc Farm and Creckholt. And here we have stout friends.
Not to speak of Beaver Urmsing: a picture of Old Christmas England! You
took to him?--must have taken to Beaver Urmsing! The Marigolds! And Sir
Rodwell and Lady Blachington are altogether above the mark of Sir
Humphrey and Lady Pottil, and those half and half Mountneys. There's a
warm centre of home in Lakelands. But I know my Nataly: she is thinking
of our girl. Here is the plan: we stand our ground: my dear soul won't
forsake me only there's the thought of Fredi, in the event . . .
improbable enough. I lift Fredi out of the atmosphere awhile; she goes
to my cousins the Duvidney ladies.'
Nataly was hit by a shot. 'Can you imagine it, Victor?'
'Regard it as done.'
'They will surely decline!'
'Their feeling for General Radnor is a worship.'
'All the more . . . ?'
'The son inherits it. He goes to them personally. Have you ever known
me personally fail? Fredi stays at Moorsedge for a month or two.
Dorothea and Virginia Duvidney will give her a taste of a new society;
good for the girl. All these little shiftings can be turned to good.
Meantime, I say, we stand our ground: but you are not to be worried; for
though we have gone too far to recede, we need not and we will not make
the entry into Lakelands until--you know: that is, auspiciously, to suit
you in every way. Thus I provide to meet contingencies. What one may
really fancy is, that the woman did but threaten. There's her point of
view to be considered: silly, crazy; but one sees it. We are not sure
that she struck a blow at Craye or Creckholt. I wonder she never wrote.
She was frightened, when she came to manage her property, of signing her
name to anything. Absurd, that sending of Jarniman! However, it's her
move; we make a corresponding disposition of our chessmen.'
'And I am to lose my Nesta for a month?' Nataly said, after catching here
and there at the fitful gleams of truce or comfort dropped from his
words. And simultaneously, the reproach of her mind to her nature for
again and so constantly yielding to the domination of his initiative:
unable to find the words, even the ideas, to withstand him,--brought big
tears. Angry at herself both for the internal feebleness and the
exhibition of it, she blinked and begged excuse. There might be nothing
that should call her to resist him. She could not do much worse than she
had done to-day. The reflection, that to-day she had been actually
sustained by the expectation of a death to come, diminished her estimate
of to-morrow's burden on her endurance, in making her seem a less
criminal woman, who would have no such expectation: which was virtually
a stab at a fellow creature's future. Her head was acute to work in the
direction of the casuistries and the sensational webs and films. Facing
Victor, it was a block.
But the thought came: how could she meet those people about Lakelands,
without support of the recent guilty whispers! She said coldly, her
heart shaking her: 'You think there has been a recovery?'
'Invalids are up and down. They are--well, no; I should think she dreads
the . . .' he kept 'surgeon' out of hearing. 'Or else she means this
for the final stroke: "though I'm lying here, I can still make him feel."
That, or--poor woman--she has her notions of right and wrong.'
'Could we not now travel for a few weeks, Victor?'
'Certainly, dear; we will, after we have kept our engagements to dine--
I accepted--with the Blathenoys, the Blachingtons, Beaver Urmsing.'
Nataly's vision of the peaceful lost little dairy cottage swelled to
brilliance, like the large tear at the fall; darkening under her present
effort to comprehend the necessity it was for him to mix and be foremost
with the world. Unable to grasp it perfectly in mind, her compassionate
love embraced it: she blamed herself, for being the obstruction to him.
'Very well,' she said on a sigh. 'Then we shall not have to let our girl
go from us?'
'Just a few weeks. In the middle of dinner, I scribbled a telegram to
the Duvidneys, for Skepsey to take.'
'Speaking of Nesta?'
'Of my coming to-morrow. They won't stop me. I dine with them, sleep at
the Wells; hotel for a night. We are to be separated for a night.'
She laid her hand in his and gave him a passing view of her face: 'For
two, dear. I am . . . that man's visit--rather shaken: I shall have a
better chance of sleeping if I know I am not disturbing you.'
She was firm; and they kissed and parted. Each had an unphrased
speculation upon the power of Mrs. Burman to put division between them.
TREATS OF THE LADIES' LAPDOG TASSO FOR AN INSTANCE OF MOMENTOUS EFFECTS
PRODUCED BY VERY MINOR CAUSES
The maiden ladies Dorothea and Virginia Duvidney were thin--sweet old-
fashioned grey gentlewomen, demurely conscious of their excellence and
awake to the temptation in the consciousness, who imposed a certain
reflex primness on the lips of the world when addressing them or when
alluding to them. For their appearance was picturesque of the ancestral
time, and their ideas and scrupulousness of delivery suggested the
belated in ripeness; orchard apples under a snow-storm; or any image that
will ceremoniously convey the mind's profound appreciation together with
the tooth's panic dread of tartness. They were by no means tart; only,
as you know, the tooth is apprehensively nervous; an uninviting sign will
set it on edge. Even the pen which would sketch them has a spell on it
and must don its coat of office, walk the liveried footman behind them.
Their wealth, their deeds of charity, their modesty, their built grey
locks, their high repute; a 'Chippendale elegance' in a quaintly formal
correctness, that they had, as Colney Durance called it; gave them some
queenliness, and allowed them to claim the ear as an oracle and banish
rebellious argument. Intuitive knowledge, assisted by the Rev. Stuart
Rem and the Rev. Abram Posterley, enabled them to pronounce upon men and
things; not without effect; their country owned it; the foreigner beheld
it. Nor were they corrupted by the servility of the surrounding ear.
They were good women, striving to be humbly good. They might, for all
the little errors they nightly unrolled to then perceptions, have stood
before the world for a study in the white of our humanity. And this may
be but a washed wall, it is true: revolutionary sceptics are measuring
the depths of it. But the hue refreshes, the world admires; and we know
it an object of aim to the bettermost of the wealthy. If, happily,
complacent circumstances have lifted us to the clean paved platform out
of grip of puddled clay and bespattering wheeltracks, we get our chance
of coming to it.
Possessing, for example, nine thousand pounds per annum in Consols, and
not expending the whole of it upon our luxuries, we are, without further
privation, near to kindling the world's enthusiasm for whiteness. Yet
there, too, we find, that character has its problems to solve; there are
shades in salt. We must be charitable, but we should be just; we give to
the poor of the land, but we are eminently the friends of our servants;
duty to mankind diverts us not from the love we bear to our dog; and with
a pathetic sorrow for silt, we discard it from sight and hearing. We
hate dirt. Having said so much, having shown it, by sealing the mouth of
Mr. Stuart Rem and iceing the veins of Mr. Abram Posterley, in relation
to a dreadful public case and a melancholy private, we have a pleased
sense of entry into the world's ideal.
At the same time, we protest our unworthiness. Acknowledgeing that they
were not purely spotless, these ladies genuinely took the tiny fly-spot
for a spur to purification; and they viewed it as a patch to raise in
relief their goodness. They gazed on it, saw themselves in it, and
veiled it: warned of the cunning of an oft-defeated Tempter.
To do good and sleep well, was their sowing and their reaping. Uneasy
consciences could not have slept. The sleeping served for proof of an
accurate reckoning and an expungeing of the day's debits. They differed
in opinion now and then, as we see companion waves of the river, blown by
a gust, roll a shadow between them; and almost equally transient were
their differences with a world that they condemned when they could not
feel they (as an embodiment of their principles) were leading it. The
English world at times betrayed a restiveness in the walled pathway of
virtue; for, alas, it closely neighbours the French; only a Channel,
often dangerously smooth, to divide: but it is not perverted for long;
and the English Funds are always constant and a tower. Would they be
suffered to be so, if libertinism were in the ascendant?
Colney Durance was acquainted with the Duvidney ladies. Hearing of the
journey to them and the purport of it, he said, with the mask upon glee:
'Then Victor has met his match!' Nataly had sent for him to dine with
her in Victor's absence: she was far from grieved, as to the result, by
his assurance to her, that Victor had not a chance. Colney thought so.
'Just like him! to be off gaily to try and overcome or come over the
greatest power in England.' They were England herself; the squat old
woman she has become by reason of her overlapping numbers of the
comfortable fund-holder annuitants: a vast body of passives and
negatives, living by precept, according to rules of precedent,
and supposing themselves to be righteously guided because of their
continuing undisturbed. Them he branded, as hypocritical materialists,
and the country for pride in her sweetmeat plethora of them:--mixed with
an ancient Hebrew fear of offence to an inscrutable Lord, eccentrically
appeasable through the dreary iteration of the litany of sinfulness.
He was near a truth; and he had the heat of it on him.
Satirists in their fervours might be near it to grasp it, if they could
be moved to moral distinctness, mental intention, with a preference of
strong plain speech over the crack of their whips. Colney could not or
would not praise our modern adventurous, experimental, heroic, tramping
active, as opposed to yonder pursy passives and negatives; he had
occasions for flicking the fellow sharply: and to speak of the Lord as
our friend present with us, palpable to Reason, perceptible to natural
piety solely through the reason, which justifies punishment; that would
have stopped his mouth upon the theme of God-forsaken creatures. Our
satirist is an executioner by profession, a moralist in excuse, or at the
tail of it; though he thinks the position reversed, when he moralizes
angrily to have his angry use of the scourge condoned. Nevertheless, he
fills a serviceable place; and certainly he is not happy in his business.
Colney suffered as heavily as he struck. If he had been no more than a
mime in the motley of satire, he would have sucked compensation from the
acid of his phrases, for the failure to prick and goad, and work
He dramatized to Nataly some of the scene going on at the Wells: Victor's
petition; his fugue in urgency of it; the brief reply of Miss Dorothea
and her muted echo Miss Virginia. He was rather their apologist for
refusing. But, as when, after himself listening to their 'views,' he had
deferentially withdrawn from the ladies of Moorsedge, and had then beheld
their strangely-hatted lieutenants and the regiments of the toneless
respectable on the pantiles and the mounts, the curse upon the satirist
impelled him to generalize. The quiet good ladies were multiplied: they
were 'the thousands of their sisters, petticoated or long-coated or buck-
skinned; comfortable annuitants under clerical shepherding, close upon
outnumbering the labourers they paralyze at home and stultify abroad.'
Colney thumped away. The country's annuitants had for type 'the figure
with the helmet of the Owl-Goddess and the trident of the Earth-shaker,
seated on a wheel, at the back of penny-pieces; in whom you see neither
the beauty of nakedness nor the charm of drapery; not the helmet's
dignity or the trident's power; but she has patently that which stops the
wheel; and poseing for representative of an imperial nation, she helps to
pass a penny.' So he passed his epigram, heedless of the understanding
or attention of his hearer; who temporarily misjudged him for a man
impelled by the vanity of literary point and finish, when indeed it was
hot satiric spite, justified of its aim, which crushed a class to extract
a drop of scathing acid, in the interests of the country, mankind as
well. Nataly wanted a picture painted, colours and details, that she
might get a vision of the scene at Moorsedge. She did her best to feel
an omen and sound it, in his question 'whether the yearly increasing army
of the orderly annuitants and their parasites does not demonstrate the
proud old country as a sheath for pith rather than of the vital run of
Perhaps it was patriotic to inquire; and doubtless she was the weakest of
women; she could follow no thought; her heart was beating blindly beside
Victor, hopeing for the refusal painful to her through his
'You think me foolish,' she made answer to one of Colney's shrugs; 'and
it has come to that pitch with me, that I cannot be sensible of a merit
except in being one with him--obeying, is the word. And I have never yet
known him fail. That terrible Lakelands wears a different look to me,
when I think of what he can do; though I would give half my days to
She harped on the chord of feverish extravagance; the more hateful to
Colney because of his perceiving, that she simulated a blind devotedness
to stupefy her natural pride; and he was divided between stamping on her
for an imbecile and dashing at Victor for a maniac. But her situation
rendered her pitiable. 'You will learn tomorrow what Victor has done,'
he said, and thought how the simple words carried the bitterness.
That was uttered within a few minutes of midnight, when the ladies of
Moorsedge themselves, after an exhausting resistance to their dearest
relative, were at the hall-door of the house with Victor, saying the
good-night, to which he responded hurriedly, cordially, dumbly, a baffled
man. They clasped hands. Miss Dorothea said:
'You, Victor, always.' Miss Virginia said: 'You will be sure of
welcome.' He walked out upon the moonless night; and for lack of any
rounded object in the smothering darkness to look at, he could nowhere
take moorings to gather himself together and define the man who had
undergone so portentous a defeat. He was glad of quarters at an hotel,
a solitary bed, absence from his Nataly.
For their parts, the ladies were not less shattered. They had no triumph
in their victory: the weight of it bore them down. They closed, locked,
shot the bolts and fastened the chain of the door. They had to be
reminded by the shaking of their darling dog Tasso's curly silky coat,
that he had not taken his evening's trot to notify malefactors of his
watchfulness and official wrath at sound of footfall or a fancied one.
Without consultation, they unbolted the door, and Tasso went forth, to
'compose his vesper hymn,' as Mr. Posterley once remarked amusingly.
Though not pretending to the Muse's crown so far, the little dog had
qualities to entrance the spinster sex. His mistresses talked of him;
of his readiness to go forth; of the audible first line of his hymn or
sonnet; of his instinct telling him that something was wrong in the
establishment. For most of the servants at Moorsedge were prostrated by
a fashionable epidemic; a slight attack, the doctor said; but Montague,
the butler, had withdrawn for the nursing of his wife; Perrin, the
footman, was confined to his chamber; Manton, the favourite maid, had
appeared in the morning with a face that caused her banishment to bed;
and the cook, Mrs. Bannister, then sighingly agreed to send up cold meat
for the ladies' dinner. Hence their melancholy inhospitality to their
cousin Victor, who had, in spite of his errors, the right to claim his
place at their table, was 'of the blood,' they said. He was recognized
as the living prince of it. His every gesture, every word, recalled the
General. The trying scene with him had withered them, they did not speak
of it; each had to the other the look of a vessel that has come out of a
gale. Would they sleep? They scarcely dared ask it of themselves. They
had done rightly; silence upon that reflection seemed best. It was the
silence of an inward agitation; still they knew the power of good
consciences to summon sleep.
Tasso was usually timed for five minutes. They were astonished to
discover by the clock, that they had given him ten. He was very quiet:
if so, and for whatever he did, he had his reason, they said: he was a
dog endowed with reason: endowed--and how they wished that Mr. Stuart Rem
would admit it!--with, their love of the little dog believed (and Mr.
Posterley acquiesced), a soul. Do but think it of dear animals, and any
form of cruelty to them becomes an impossibility, Mr. Stuart Rem! But he
would not be convinced: ungenerously indeed he named Mr. Posterley a
courtier. The ladies could have retorted, that Mr. Posterley had not a
brother who was the celebrated surgeon Sir Nicholas Rem.
Usually Tasso came running in when the hall-door was opened to him.
Not a sound of him could be heard. The ladies blew his familiar whistle.
He trotted back to a third appeal, and was, unfortunately for them, not
caressed; he received reproaches from two forefingers directed straight
at his reason. He saw it and felt it. The hug of him was deferred to
the tender good-night to him in his basket at the foot of the ladies'
On entering their spacious bed-chamber, they were so fatigued that sleep
appeared to their minds the compensating logical deduction. Miss
Dorothea suppressed a yawn, and inflicted it upon Miss Virginia, who
returned it, with an apology, and immediately had her sister's hand on
her shoulder, for, an attempted control of one of the irresistibles; a
specacle imparting bitter shudders and shots to the sympathetic jawbones
of an observer. Hand at mouth, for not in privacy would they have been
guilty of exposing a grimace, they signified, under an interim smile,
their maidenly submission to the ridiculous force of nature: after which,
Miss Virginia retired to the dressing-room, absorbed in woeful
recollection of the resolute No they had been compelled to reiterate,
in response to the most eloquent and, saving for a single instance,
admirable man, their cousin, the representative of 'the blood,'
supplicating them. A recreant thankfulness coiled within her bosom at
the thought, that Dorothea, true to her office of speaker, had tasked
herself with the cruel utterance and repetition of the word. Victor's
wonderful eyes, his voice, yet more than his urgent pleas; and also, in
the midst of his fiery flood of speech, his gentleness, his patience,
pathos, and a man's tone through it all; were present to her.
Disrobed, she knocked at the door.
'I have called to you twice,' Dorothea said; and she looked a motive for
'What is it?' said Virginia, with faltering sweetness, with a terrible
The movement of a sigh was made. 'Are you aware of anything, dear?'
Virginia was taken with the contrary movement of a sniff. But the fear
informing it prevented it from being venturesome. Doubt of the pure
atmosphere of their bed-chamber, appeared to her as too heretic even for
the positive essay. In affirming, that she was not aware of anything,
her sight fell on Tasso. His eyeballs were those of a little dog that
has been awfully questioned.
'It is more than a suspicion,' said Dorothea; and plainly now, while open
to the seductions of any pleasing infidel testimony, her nose in
repugnance convicted him absolutely.
Virginia's nose was lowered a few inches; it inhaled and stopped midway.
'You must be mistaken, dear. He never . . . '
'But are you insensible to the . . .' Dorothea's eyelids fainted.
Virginia dismissed the forlornest of efforts at incredulity. A whiff
of Tasso had smitten her. 'Ah!' she exclaimed and fell away. 'Is it
Tasso! How was it you noticed nothing before undressing, dear?'
'Thinking of what we have gone through to-night! I forgot him. At last
the very strange . . . The like of it I have not ever! . . . And
upon that thick coat! And, dear, it is late. We are in the morning
'But, my dear-Oh, dear, what is to be done with him?'
That was the crucial point for discussion. They had no servant to give
them aid; Manton, they could not dream of disturbing. And Tasso's
character wag in the estimate; he hated washing; it balefully depraved
his temper; and not only, creature of habit that he was, would he decline
to lie down anywhere save in their bedroom, he would lament, plead,
insist unremittingly, if excluded; terrifying every poor invalid of the
house. Then again, were they at this late hour to dress themselves, and
take him downstairs, and light a fire in the kitchen, and boil sufficient
water to give him a bath and scrubbing? Cold water would be death to
him. Besides, he would ring out his alarum for the house to hear, pour
out all his poetry, poor dear, as Mr. Posterley called it, at a touch of
cold water. The catastrophe was one to weep over, the dilemma a trial of
the strongest intelligences.
In addition to reviews of their solitary alternative-the having of a
befouled degraded little dog in their chamber through the night, they
were subjected to a conflict of emotions when eyeing him: and there came
to them the painful, perhaps irreverent, perhaps uncharitable, thought:--
that the sinner who has rolled in the abominable, must cleanse him and do
things to polish him and perfume before again embraced even by the mind:
if indeed we can ever have our old sentiment for him again! Mr. Stuart
Rem might decide it for them. Nay, before even the heart embraces him,
he must completely purify himself. That is to say, the ordinary human
sinner--save when a relative. Contemplating Tasso, the hearts of the
ladies gushed out in pity of an innocent little dog, knowing not evil,
dependent on his friends for help to be purified;--necessarily kept at a
distance: the very look of him prescribed extreme separation, as far as
practicable. But they had proof of a love almost greater than it was
previous to the offence, in the tender precautions they took to elude
He was rolling on the rug, communicating contagion. Flasks of treble-
distilled lavender water, and their favourite, traditional in the family,
eau d'Arquebusade, were on the toilet-table. They sprinkled his basket,
liberally sprinkled the rug and the little dog. Perfume-pastilles were
in one of the sitting-rooms below; and Virginia would have gone down
softly to fetch a box, but Dorothea restrained her, in pity for the
servants, with the remark: 'It would give us a nightmare of a Roman
Catholic Cathedral!' A bit of the window was lifted by Dorothea,
cautiously, that prowling outsiders might not be attracted. Tasso was
wooed to his basket. He seemed inquisitive; the antidote of his
naughtiness excited him; his tail circled after his muzzle several times;
then he lay. A silken scarf steeped in eau d'Arquebusade was flung
Their customary devout observances concluded, lights were extinguished,
and the ladies kissed, and entered their beds.
Their beds were not homely to them. Dorothea thought that Virginia was
long in settling herself. Virginia did not like the sound of Dorothea's
double sigh. Both listened anxiously for the doings of Tasso. He
He was uneasy; he was rounding his basket once more; unaware of the
exaggeration of his iniquitous conduct, poor innocent, he shook that
dreadful coat of his! He had displaced the prophylactic cover of the
He drove them in a despair to speculate on the contention between the
perfume and the stench in junction, with such a doubt of the victory of
which of the two, as drags us to fear our worst. It steals into our
nostrils, possesses them. As the History of Mankind has informed us,
we were led up to our civilization by the nose. But Philosophy warns us
on that eminence; to beware of trusting exclusively to our conductor,
lest the mind of us at least be plunged back into barbarism. The ladies
hated both the cause and the consequence, they had a revulsion from the
object, of the above contention. But call it not a contention: there is
nobility in that. This was a compromise, a degrading union, with very
sickening results. Whether they came of an excess of the sprinkling,
could not well be guessed. The drenching at least was righteously
Beneath their shut eyelids, they felt more and more the oppression of a
darkness not laden with slumber. They saw it insolidity; themselves as
restless billows, driven dashing to the despondent sigh. Sleep was
Tasso slept. He had sinned unknowingly, and that is not a spiritual sin;
the chastisement confers the pardon.
But why was this ineffable blessing denied to them? Was it that they
might have a survey of all the day's deeds and examine them under the
cruel black beams of Insomnia?
Virginia said: 'You are wakeful.'
'Thoughtful,' was the answer.
A century of the midnight rolled on.
Dorothea said: 'He behaved very beautifully.'
'I looked at the General's portrait while he besought us,' Virginia
'One sees him in Victor, at Victor's age. Try to sleep.'
'I do. I pray that you may.'
Silence courted slumber. Their interchange of speech from the posture
of bodies on their backs, had been low and deliberate, in the tone of
the vaults. Dead silence recalled the strangeness of it. The night was
breathless; their open window a peril bestowing no boon. They were
mutually haunted by sound of the gloomy query at the nostrils of each
when drawing the vital breath. But for that, they thought they might
Bed spake to bed:
'The words of Mr. Stuart Rem last Sunday!' 'He said: "Be just." Could
one but see direction!'
'In obscurity, feeling is a guide.'
'It may sometimes be followed.'
'When it concerns the family.'
'He would have the living, who are seeking peace, be just.'
'Not to assume the seat of justice.'
Again they lay as tombstone effigies, that have committed the passage of
affairs to another procession of the Ages.
There was a gentle sniff, in hopeless confirmation of the experience of
its predecessors. A sister to it ensued.
'Could Victor have spoken so, without assurance in his conscience, that
his entreaty was righteously addressed to us? that we . . .'
'And no others!'
'I think of his language. He loves the child.'
'In heart as in mind, he is eminently gifted; acknowledgeing error.'
'He was very young.'
The huge funereal minutes conducted their sonorous hearse, the hour.
It struck in the bed-room: Three.
No more than three of the clock, it was the voice telling of half the
precious restorative night-hours wasted.
Now, as we close our eyelids when we would go to sleep, so must we,
in expectation of the peace of mind granting us the sweet oblivion,
preliminarily do something which invokes, that we may obtain it.
'Dear,' Dorothea said.
'I know indeed,' said Virginia.
'We may have been!'
'Indeed not. But harsh it may be named, if the one innocent is to be the
'The child can in no sense be adjudged guilty.'
'It is Victor's child.'
'He adores the child.'
Wheels were in mute motion within them; and presently the remark was
'In his coming to us, it is possible to see paternal solicitude'
Thence came fruit of reflection:
'To be instrumental as guides to a tender young life!'
Reflection heated with visions:
'Once our dream!'
They had the happier feeling of composure, though Tasso possessed
the room. Not Tasso, but a sublimated offensiveness, issue of the
antagonistically combined, dispersed to be the more penetrating;
insomuch that it seemed to them they could not ever again make use of eau
d'Arquebusade without the vitiating reminder. So true were the words of
Mr. Stuart Rem: 'Half measures to purification are the most delusive of
our artifices.' Fatigue and its reflections helped to be peacefuller.
Their souls were mounting to a serenity above the nauseating degradation,
to which the poor little dog had dragged them.
'Victor gave his promise.'
'At least, concession would not imply contact with the guilty.'
Both sighed as they took up the burden of the vaporous Tasso to drop him;
with the greater satisfaction in the expelling of their breath.
'It might be said, dear, that concession to his entreaty does not in any
way countenance the sin.'
'I can see, dear, how it might be read as a reproof.'
Their exchange of sentences followed meditative pauses; Dorothea leading.
'To one so sensitive as Victor!'
'A month or two of our society for the child!'
'It is not the length of time.'
'The limitation assures against maternal claims.'
'She would not dare.'
'He used the words: "her serious respect" for us. I should not wish to
listen to him often.'
'We listen to a higher.'
'It may really be, that the child is like him.'
'Not resembling Mr. Stuart Rem's Clementina!'
'A week of that child gave us our totally sleepless night.' 'One thinks
more hopefully of a child of Victor's.'
'He would preponderate.'
They sighed; but it was now with the relief of a lightened oppression.
'If, dear, in truth the father's look is in the child, he has the greater
reason to desire for her a taste of our atmosphere.'
'Do not pursue it. Sleep.'
'Your mention of our atmosphere, dear, destroys my power to frame one.
Do you, for two. But I would cleanse my heart.'
'There is none purer.'
Virginia spoke a more fervent word of praise of her sister, and had not
the hushing response to it. She heard the soft regular breathing. Her
own was in downy fellowship with it a moment later.
At the hour of nine, in genial daylight, sitting over the crumbs of his
hotel breakfast, Victor received a little note that bore the handwriting
of Dorothea Duvidney.
'Dear Victor, we are prepared to receive the child for a month.
In haste, before your train. Our love. D. and V.'
His face flashed out of cloud.
A more precious document had never been handed to him. It chased back to
midnight the doubt hovering over his belief in himself;--phrased to say,
that he was no longer the Victor Radnor known to the world. And it
extinguished a corpse-like recollection of a baleful dream in the night.
Here shone radiant witness of his being the very man; save for the spot
of his recent confusion in distinguishing his identity or in feeling that
he stood whole and solid.--Because of two mature maiden ladies? Yes,
because of two maiden ladies, my good fellow. And friend Colney, you
know the ladies, and what the getting round them for one's purposes
The sprite of Colney Durance had struck him smartly overnight. Victor's
internal crow was over Colney now. And when you have the optimist and
pessimist acutely opposed in a mixing group, they direct lively
conversations at one another across the gulf of distance, even of time.
For a principle is involved, besides the knowledge of the other's triumph
or dismay. The couple are scales of a balance; and not before last night
had Victor ever consented to think of Colney ascending while he dropped
low to graze the pebbles.
He left his hotel for the station, singing the great aria of the fourth
Act of the Favorita: neglected since that mighty German with his Rienzi,
and Tannhauser, and Tristan and Isolda, had mastered him, to the
displacement of his boyhood's beloved sugary -inis and -antes and
-zettis; had clearly mastered, not beguiled, him; had wafted him up to a
new realm, invigorating if severer. But now his youth would have its
voice. He travelled up to town with Sir Abraham Quatley and talked, and
took and gave hints upon City and Commercial affairs, while the honeyed
Italian of the conventional, gloriously animal, stress and flutter had a
revel in his veins, now and then mutedly ebullient at the mouth: honeyed,
golden, rich in visions;--having surely much more of Nature's
encouragement to her children?
A word in his ear from Fenellan, touching that man Blathenoy,
set the wheels of Victor's brain at work upon his defences, for a minute,
on the walk Westward. Who knew?--who did not know! He had a torpid
consciousness that he cringed to the world, with an entreaty to the great
monster to hold off in ignorance; and the next instant, he had caught its
miserable spies by the lurcher neck and was towering. He dwelt on his
contempt of them, to curtain the power they could stir.
'The little woman, you say, took to Dartrey?'
Fenellan, with the usual apologetic moderation of a second statement,
thought 'there was the look of it.'
'Well, we must watch over her. Dartrey!--but Dartrey's an honest fellow
with women. But men are men. Very few men spare a woman when the mad
fit is on her. A little woman-pretty little woman!--wife to Jacob
Blathenoy! She mustn't at her age have any close choosing--under her
hand. And Dartrey's just the figure to strike a spark in a tinder-box
'With a husband who'd reduce Minerva's to tinder, after a month of him!'
'He spent his honeymoon at his place at Wrensham; told me so.' Blathenoy
had therefore then heard of the building of Lakelands by the Victor
Radnor of the City; and had then, we guess--in the usual honeymoon
boasting of a windbag with his bride--wheezed the foul gossip, to hide
his emptiness and do duty for amusement of the pretty little caged bird.
Probably so. But Victor knew that Blathenoy needed him and feared him.
Probably the wife had been enjoined to keep silence; for the
Blachingtons, Fannings and others were, it could be sworn, blank and
unscratched folio sheets on the subject:--as yet; unless Mrs. Burman had
'One pities the little woman, eh, Fenellan?'
'Dartrey won't be back for a week or so; and they're off to Switzerland,
after the dinner they give. I heard from him this morning; one of the
Clanconans is ill.
'Lucky. But wherever Blathenoy takes her, he must be the same "arid
bore," as old Colney says.'
'A domestic simoom,' said Fenellan, booming it: and Victor had a shudder.
'Awful thing, marriage, to some women! We chain them to that domestic
round; most of them haven't the means of independence or a chance of
winning it; and all that's open to them, if they've made a bad cast for a
mate--and good Lord! how are they to know before it's too late!--they
haven't a choice except to play tricks or jump to the deuce or sit and
"drape in blight," as Colney has it; though his notion of the optional
marriages, broken or renewed every seven years!--if he means it. You
never know, with him. It sounds like another squirt of savage irony.
It's donkey nonsense, eh?'
'The very hee-haw of nonsense,' Fenellan acquiesced.
'Come, come; read your Scriptures; donkeys have shown wisdom,' Victor
said, rather leaning to the theme of a fretfulness of women in the legal
yoke. 'They're donkeys till we know them for prophets. Who can tell!
Colney may be hailed for one fifty years hence.'
Fenellan was not invited to enter the house, although the loneliness of
his lodgeings was known, and also, that he played whist at his Club.
Victor had grounds for turning to him at the door and squeezing his hand
warmly, by way of dismissal. In ascribing them to a weariness at
Fenellan's perpetual acquiescence, he put the cover on them, and he
stamped it with a repudiation of the charge, that Colney's views upon the
great Marriage Question were the 'very hee-haw of nonsense.' They were
not the hee-haw; in fact, viewing the host of marriages, they were for
discussion; there was no bray about them. He could not feel them to be
absurd while Mrs. Burman's tenure of existence barred the ceremony.
Anything for a phrase! he murmured of Fenellan's talk; calling him, Dear
old boy, to soften the slight.
Nataly had not seen Fenellan or heard from Dartrey; so she continued to
be uninformed of her hero's release; and that was in the order of happy
accidents. She had hardly to look her interrogation for the news; it
radiated. But he stated such matter-of-course briefly. 'The good ladies
are ready to receive our girl.'
Her chagrin resolved to a kind of solace of her draggled pride, in the
idea, that he who tamed everybody to submission, might well have command
The note, signed D. and V., was shown.
There stood the words. And last night she had been partly of the opinion
of Colney Durance. She sank down among the unreasoning abject;--not this
time with her perfect love of him, but with a resistance and a dubiety
under compression. For she had not quite comprehended why Nesta should
go. This readiness of the Duvidney ladies to receive the girl, stopped
her mental inquiries.
She begged for a week's delay; 'before the parting'; as her dear old
silly mother's pathos whimpered it, of the separation for a month! and he
smiled and hummed pleasantly at any small petition, thinking her in error
to expect Dartrey's return to town before the close of a week; and then
wondering at women, mildly denouncing in his heart the mothers who ran
risk of disturbing their daughters' bosoms with regard to particular
heroes married or not. Dartrey attracted women: he was one of the men
who do it without effort. Victor's provident mind blamed the mother for
the indiscreetness of her wish to have him among them. But Dudley had
been making way bravely of late; he improved; he began to bloom, like a
Spring flower of the garden protected from frosts under glass; and Fredi
was the sheltering and nourishing bestower of the lessons. One could
see, his questions and other little points revealed, that he had a
certain lover's dread of Dartrey Fenellan; a sort of jealousy: Victor
understood the feeling. To love a girl, who has her ideal of a man
elsewhere in another; though she may know she never can wed the man, and
has not the hope of it; is torment to the lover quailing, as we do in
this terrible season of the priceless deliciousness, stripped against all
the winds that blow; skinless at times. One gets up a sympathy for the
poor shy dependent shivering lover. Nevertheless, here was young Dudley
waking, visibly becoming bolder. As in the flute-duets, he gained fire
from concert. The distance between Cronidge and Moorsedge was two miles
and a quarter.
Instead of the delay of a whole week, Victor granted four days, which
embraced a musical evening at Mrs. John Cormyn's on the last of the days,
when Nesta was engaged to sing with her mother a duet of her own
composition, the first public fruit of her lessons in counterpoint from
rigid Herr Strauscher, who had said what he had said, in letting it pass:
eulogy, coming from him. So Victor heard, and he doated am the surprise
to come for him, in a boyish anticipation. The girl's little French
ballads under tutelage of Louise de Seilles promised, though they were
imitative. If Strauscher let this pass . . . Victor saw Grand Opera
somewhere to follow; England's claim to be a creative musical nation
vindicated; and the genius of the fair sex as well.
He heard the duet at Mrs. Cormyn's; and he imagined a hearing of his
Fredi's Opera, and her godmother's delight in it; the once famed
Sanfredini's consent to be the diva at a rehearsal, and then her
compelling her hidalgo duque to consent further: an event not
inconceivable. For here was downright genius; the flowering aloe of the
many years in formation; and Colney admitted the song to have a streak of
genius; though he would pettishly and stupidly say, that our modern
newspaper Press is able now to force genius for us twenty or so to the
month, excluding Sundays-our short pauses for the incubation of it. Real
rare genius was in that song, nothing forced; and exquisite melody; one
of those melodies which fling gold chains about us and lead us off, lead
us back into Eden. Victor hummed at bars of it on the drive homeward.
His darlings had to sing it again in the half-lighted drawing-room. The
bubble-happiness of the three was vexed only by tidings heard from Colney
during the evening of a renewed instance of Skepsey's misconduct.
Priscilla Graves had hurried away to him at the close of Mr. John
Cormyn's Concert, in consequence; in grief and in sympathy. Skepsey was
to appear before the magistrate next morning, for having administered
physical chastisement to his wife during one of her fits of drunkenness.
Colney had seen him. His version of the story was given, however, in the
objectionable humorous manner: none could gather from it of what might be
pleaded for Skepsey. His 'lesson to his wife in the art of pugilism,
before granting her Captain's rank among the Defensive Amazons of Old
England,' was the customary patent absurdity. But it was odd, that
Skepsey always preferred his appeal for help to Colney Durance. Nesta
proposed following Priscilla that night. She had hinted her wish, on the
way home; she was urgent, beseeching, when her father lifted praises of
her: she had to start with her father by the train at seven in the
morning, and she could not hear of poor Skepsey for a number of hours.
She begged a day's delay; which would enable her, she said, to join them
in dining at the Blachingtons', and seeing dear Lakelands again. 'I was
invited, you know.' She spoke in childish style, and under her eyes she
beheld her father and mother exchange looks. He had a fear that Nataly
might support the girl's petition. Nataly read him to mean, possible
dangers among the people at Wrensham. She had seemed hesitating. After
meeting Victor's look, her refusal was firm. She tried to make it one of
distress for the use of the hard word to her own dear girl. Nesta spied
But what was it? There was a reason for her going! She had a right to
stay, and see and talk with Captain Dartrey, and she was to be deported!
So now she set herself to remember little incidents at Creckholt:
particularly a conversation in a very young girl's hearing, upon Sir
Humphrey and Lady Pottil's behaviour to the speakers, her parents.
She had then, and she now had, an extraordinary feeling, as from a wind
striking upon soft summer weather off regions of ice, that she was in her
parents' way. How? The feeling was irrational; it could give her no
reply, or only the multitudinous which are the question violently
repeated. She slept on it.
She and her father breakfasted by the London birds' first twitter. They
talked of Skepsey. She spoke of her going as exile. 'No,' said he,
'you're sure to meet friends.'
Her cheeks glowed. It came wholly through the suddenness of the
recollection, that the family-seat of one among the friends was near the
He was allowed to fancy, as it suited him to fancy, that a vivid secret
pleasure laid the colour on those ingenuous fair cheeks.
'A solitary flute for me, for a month! I shall miss my sober comrade:
got the habit of duetting: and he's gentle, bears with me.'
Tears lined her eyelids. 'Who would not be, dearest dada! But there is
nothing to bear except the honour.'
'You like him? You and I always have the same tastes, Fredi.'
Now there was a reddening of the sun at the mount; all the sky aflame.
How could he know that it was not the heart in the face! She reddened
because she had perused his wishes; had detected a scheme striking off
from them, and knew a man to be the object of it; and because she had at
the same time the sense of a flattery in her quick divination; and she
was responsively emotional, her blood virginal; often it was a tropical
It looked like the heart doing rich painter's work on maiden features.
Victor was naturally as deceived as he wished to be.
From his being naturally so, his remarks on Dudley had an air of
embracing him as one of the family. 'His manner to me just hits me.'
'I like to see him with you,' she said.
Her father let his tongue run: 'One of the few young men I feel perfectly
at home with! I do like dealing with a gentleman. I can confide in a
gentleman: honour, heart, whatever I hold dearest.'
There he stopped, not too soon. The girl was mute, fully agreeing,
slightly hardening. She had a painful sense of separation from her dear
Louise. And it was now to be from her mother as well: she felt the pain
when kissing her mother in bed. But this was moderated by the prospect
of a holiday away out of reach of Mr. Barmby's pursuing voice, whom her
mother favoured: and her mother was concealing something from her; so she
could not make the confidante of her mother. Nataly had no forewarnings.
Her simple regrets filled her bosom. All night she had been taking her
chastisement, and in the morning it seemed good to her, that she should
be denuded, for her girl to learn the felicity of having relatives.
For some reason, over which Nataly mused in the succeeding hours, the
girl had not spoken of any visit her mother was to pay to the Duvidney
ladies or they to her. Latterly she had not alluded to her mother's
family. It might mean, that the beloved and dreaded was laying finger on
a dark thing in the dark; reading syllables by touch; keeping silence
over the communications to a mind not yet actively speculative, as it is
a way with young women. 'With young women educated for the market, to be
timorous, consequently secretive, rather snaky,' Colney Durance had said.
Her Nesta was not one of the 'framed and glazed' description, cited by
him, for an example of the triumph of the product; 'exactly harmonious
with the ninny male's ideal of female innocence.' No; but what if the
mother had opened her heart to her girl? It had been of late her wish or
a dream, shaping hourly to a design, now positively to go through that
furnace. Her knowledge of Victor's objection, restrained an impulse that
had not won spring enough to act against his counsel or vivify an
intelligence grown dull in slavery under him, with regard to the one
seeming right course. The adoption of it would have wounded him--
therefore her. She had thought of him first; she had also thought of
herself, and she blamed herself now. She went so far as to think, that
Victor was guilty of the schemer's error of counting human creatures
arithmetically, in the sum, without the estimate of distinctive qualities
and value here and there. His return to a shivering sensitiveness on the
subject of his girl's enlightenment 'just yet,' for which Nataly pitied
and loved him, sharing it, with humiliation for doing so, became finally
her excuse. We must have some excuse, if we would keep to life.
Skepsey's case appeared in the evening papers. He confessed, 'frankly,'
he said, to the magistrate, that, 'acting under temporary exasperation,
he had lost for a moment a man's proper self-command.' He was as frank
in stating, that he 'occupied the prisoner's place before his Worship a
second time, and was a second time indebted to the gentleman, Mr. Colney
Durance, who so kindly stood by him.' There was hilarity in the Court at
his quaint sententious envelopment of the idiom of the streets, which he
delivered with solemnity: 'He could only plead, not in absolute
justification--an appeal to human sentiments--the feelings of a man of
the humbler orders, returning home in the evening, and his thoughts upon
things not without their importance, to find repeatedly the guardian of
his household beastly drunk, and destructive.' Colney made the case
quite intelligible to the magistrate; who gravely robed a strain of the
idiomatic in the officially awful, to keep in tune with his delinquent.
No serious harm had been done to the woman. Skepsey was admonished and
released. His wife expressed her willingness to forgive him, now he had
got his lesson; and she hoped he would understand, that there was no need
for a woman to learn pugilism. Skepsey would have explained; but the
case was over, he was hustled out.
However, a keen young reporter present smelt fun for copy; he followed
the couple; and in a particular evening Journal, laughable matter was
printed concerning Skepsey's view of the pugilism to be imparted to women
for their physical-protection in extremity, and the distinction of it
from the blow conveying the moral lesson to them; his wife having
objected to the former, because it annoyed her and he pestered her;
and she was never, she said, ready to stand up to him for practice,
as he called it, except when she had taken more than he thought wholesome
for her: he had no sense. There was a squabble between them, because he
chose to scour away to his master's office instead of conducting her home
with the honours. Nesta read the young reporter's version, with shrieks.
She led the ladies of Moorsedge to discover amusement in it.
At first, as her letter to her mother described them, they were like a
pair of pieces of costly China, with the settled smile, and cold. She
saw but the outside of them, and she continued reporting the variations,
which steadily determined the warmth. On the night of the third day,
they kissed her tenderly; they were human figures.
No one could be aware of the trial undergone by the good ladies in
receiving her: Victor's child; but, as their phrase would have run, had
they dared to give it utterance to one another, a child of sin. How
foreign to them, in that character, how strange, when she was looked on
as an inhabitant of their house, they hardly dared to estimate; until the
timorous estimation, from gradually swelling, suddenly sank; nature
invaded them; they could discard the alienating sense of the taint; and
not only did they no longer fear the moment when Mr. Stuart Rem or Mr.
Posterley might call for evening tea, but they consulted upon inviting
the married one of those gentlemen, to 'divert dear Nesta.' Every night
she slept well. In all she did, she proved she was 'of the blood.'
She had Victor's animated eyes; she might have, they dreaded to think,
his eloquence. They put it down to his eloquence entirely, that their
resistance to his petition had been overcome, for similarly with the
treatment of the private acts of royal personages by lacquey History,
there is, in the minds of the ultra-civilized, an insistance, that any
event having a consequence in matters personal to them, be at all hazards
recorded with the utmost nicety in decency. By such means, they preserve
the ceremonial self-respect, which is a necessity of their existence; and
so they maintain the regal elevation over the awe-struck subjects of
their interiors; who might otherwise revolt, pull down, scatter,
dishonour, expose for a shallow fiction the holiest, the most vital to
them. A democratic evil spirit is abroad, generated among congregations,
often perilously communicating its wanton laughter to the desperate
wickedness they know (not solely through the monition of Mr. Stuart Rem)
to lurk within. It has to be excluded: on certain points they must not