Part 2 out of 3
'You do not, propose to enter this place until--until it is over?'
'We enter this place, my love, without any sort of ceremony. We live
there independently, and we can we have quarters there for our friends.
Our one neighbour is London--there! And at Lakelands we are able to
entertain London and wife;--our friends, in short; with some, what we
have to call, satellites. You inspect the house and grounds to-morrow
--sure to be fair. Put aside all but the pleasant recollections of Craye
and Creckholt. We start on a different footing. Really nothing can be
simpler. Keeping your town-house, you are now and then in residence at
Lakelands, where you entertain your set, teach them to feel the charm of
country life: we have everything about us; could have had our own milk
and cream up to London the last two months. Was it very naughty?--
I should have exploded my surprise! You will see, you will see
Nataly nodded, as required. 'Good news from the mines?' she said.
He answered: 'Dartrey is--yes, poor fellow! Dartrey is confident, from
the yield of stones, that the value of our claim counts in a number of
millions. The same with the gold. But gold-mines are lodgeings, not
'Oh, Victor! if money . . . ! But why did you say "poor fellow" of
'You know how he's . . .'
'Yes, yes,' she said hastily. 'But has that woman been causing fresh
'And Natata's chief hero on earth is not to be named a poor fellow,' said
he, after a negative of the head on a subject they neither of them liked
Then he remembered that Dartrey Fenellan was actually a lucky fellow;
and he would have mentioned the circumstance confided to him by Simeon,
but for a downright dread of renewing his painful fit of envy. He had
also another, more distant, very faint idea, that it had better not be
mentioned just yet, for a reason entirely undefined.
He consulted his watch. The maid had come in for the robeing of her
mistress. Nataly's mind had turned to the little country cottage which
would have given her such great happiness. She raised her eyes to him;
she could not check their filling; they were like a river carrying
moonlight on the smooth roll of a fall.
He loved the eyes, disliked the water in them. With an impatient,
'There, there!' and a smart affectionate look, he retired, thinking in
our old satirical vein of the hopeless endeavour to satisfy a woman's
mind without the intrusion of hard material statements, facts. Even the
best of women, even the most beautiful, and in their moments of supremest
beauty, have this gross ravenousness for facts. You must not expect to
appease them unless you administer solids. It would almost appear that
man is exclusively imaginative and poetical; and that his mate, the fair,
the graceful, the bewitching, with the sweetest and purest of natures,
cannot help being something of a groveller.
Nataly had likewise her thoughts.
BETWEEN A GENERAL MAN OF THIN WORLD AND A PROFESSIONAL
Rather earlier in the afternoon of that day, Simeon Fenellan, thinking
of the many things which are nothing, and so melancholy for lack of
amusements properly to follow Old Veuve, that he could ask himself
whether he had not done a deed of night, to be blinking at his fellow-men
like an owl all mad for the reveller's hoots and flights and mice and
moony roundels behind his hypocritical judex air of moping composure,
chanced on Mr. Carling, the solicitor, where Lincoln's Inn pumps lawyers
into Fleet Street through the drain-pipe of Chancery Lane. He was in the
state of the wine when a shake will rouse the sluggish sparkles to foam.
Sight of Mrs. Burman's legal adviser had instantly this effect upon him:
his bubbling friendliness for Victor Radnor, and the desire of the voice
in his bosom for ears to hear, combined like the rush of two waves
together, upon which he may be figured as the boat: he caught at Mr.
Carling's hand more heartily than their acquaintanceship quite
sanctioned; but his grasp and his look of overflowing were immediately
privileged; Mr. Carling, enjoying this anecdotal gentleman's conversation
as he did, liked the warmth, and was flattered during the squeeze with a
prospect of his wife and friends partaking of the fun from time to time.
'I was telling my wife yesterday your story of the lady contrabandist: I
don't think she has done laughing since,' Mr. Calling said.
Fenellan fluted: 'Ah?' He had scent, in the eulogy of a story grown flat
as Election hats, of a good sort of man in the way of men, a step or two
behind the man of the world. He expressed profound regret at not having
heard the silvery ring of the lady's laughter.
Carling genially conceived a real gratification to be conferred on his
wife. 'Perhaps you will some day honour us?'
'You spread gold-leaf over the days to come, sir.'
'Now, if I might name the day?'
'You lump the gold and make it current coin;--says the blushing bride,
who ought not to have delivered herself so boldly, but she had forgotten
her bashful part and spoilt the scene, though, luckily for the damsel,
her swain was a lover of nature, and finding her at full charge, named
the very next day of the year, and held her to it, like the complimentary
tyrant he was.'
'To-morrow, then!' said Carling intrepidly, on a dash of enthusiasm,
through a haggard thought of his wife and the cook and the netting of
friends at short notice. He urged his eagerness to ask whether he might
indeed have the satisfaction of naming to-morrow.
'With happiness,' Fenellan responded.
Mrs. Carling was therefore in for it.
'To-morrow, half-past seven: as for company to meet you, we will do what
we can. You go Westward?'
'To bed with the sun,' said the reveller.
'Perhaps by Covent Garden? I must give orders there.'
'Orders given in Covent Garden, paint a picture for bachelors of the
domestic Paradise an angel must help them to enter! Ah, dear me! Is
there anything on earth to compare with the pride of a virtuous life?'
'I was married at four and twenty,' said Carling, as one taking up
the expository second verse of a poem; plain facts, but weighty and
necessary: 'my wife was in her twentieth year: we have five children; two
sons, three daughters, one married, with a baby. So we are grandfather
and mother, and have never regretted the first step, I may say for both
'Think of it! Good luck and sagacity joined hands overhead on the day
you proposed to the lady: and I'd say, that all the credit is with her,
but that it would seem to be at the expense of her sex.'
'She would be the last to wish it, I assure you.'
'True of all good women! You encourage me, touching a matter of deep
interest, not unknown to you. The lady's warm heart will be with us.
Probably she sees Mrs. Burman?'
'Mrs. Burman Radnor receives no one.'
A comic severity in the tone of the correction was deferentially accepted
'Pardon. She flies her flag, with her captain wanting; and she has,
queerly, the right. So, then, the worthy dame who receives no one, might
be treated, it struck us, conversationally, as a respectable harbour-
hulk, with more history than top-honours. But she has the indubitable
legal right to fly them--to proclaim it; for it means little else.'
'You would have her, if I follow you, divest herself of the name?'
'Pin me to no significations, if you please, O shrewdest of the legal
sort! I have wit enough to escape you there. She is no doubt an
'Well, she is; she is in her way a very good woman.'
'Ah. You see, Mr. Carling, I cannot bring myself to rank her beside
another lady, who has already claimed the title of me; and you will
forgive me if I say, that your word "good" has a look of being stuck upon
the features we know of her, like a coquette's naughty patch; or it's
a jewel of an eye in an ebony idol: though I've heard tell she performs
'I believe she gives away three parts of her income and that is large.'
'Leaving the good lady a fine fat fourth.'
'Compare her with other wealthy people.'
'And does she outshine the majority still with her personal attractions.
Carling was instigated by the praise he had bestowed on his wife to
separate himself from a female pretender so ludicrous; he sought
Fenellan's nearest ear, emitting the sound of 'hum.'
'In other respects, unimpeachable!'
'There was a fishfag of classic Billingsgate, who had broken her
husband's nose with a sledgehammer fist, and swore before the magistrate,
that the man hadn't a crease to complain of in her character. We are
condemned, Mr. Carling, sometimes to suffer in the flesh for the
assurance we receive of the inviolability of those moral fortifications.'
'Character, yes, valuable--I do wish you had named to-night for doing me
the honour of dining with me!' said the lawyer impulsively, in a rapture
of the appetite for anecdotes. 'I have a ripe Pichon Longueville, '65.'
'A fine wine. Seductive to hear of. I dine with my friend Victor
Radnor. And he knows wine.--There are good women in the world, Mr.
Carling, whose characters . . .'
'Of course,'of course there are; and I could name you some.
We lawyers . . . . !
'You encounter all sorts.'
'Between ourselves,' Carling sank his tones to the indiscriminate, where
it mingled with the roar of London.
'You do?' Fenellan hazarded a guess at having heard enlightened liberal
opinions regarding the sex. 'Right!'
'I back you, Mr. Carling.'
The lawyer pushed to yet more confidential communication, up to the verge
of the clearly audible: he spoke of examples, experiences. Fenellan
backed him further.
'Acting on behalf of clients, you understand, Mr. Fenellan.'
'Professional, but charitable; I am with you.'
'Poor things! we--if we have to condemn--we owe them something.'
'A kind word for poor Polly Venus, with all the world against her! She
doesn't hear it often.'
'A real service,' Carling's voice deepened to the legal 'without
prejudice,'--'I am bound to say it--a service to Society.'
'Ah, poor wench! And the kind of reward she gets?'
'We can hardly examine . . . mysterious dispensations . . . here we
are to make the best we can of it.'
'For the creature Society's indebted to? True. And am I to think
there's a body of legal gentlemen to join with you, my friend, in
founding an Institution to distribute funds to preach charity over the
country, and win compassion for her, as one of the principal persons of
her time, that Society's indebted to for whatever it's indebted for?'
'Scarcely that,' said Carling, contracting.
'But you 're for great Reforms?'
'Then it's for Reformatories, mayhap.'
'They would hardly be a cure.'
'You 're in search of a cure?'
'It would be a blessed discovery.'
'But what's to become of Society?'
'It's a puzzle to the cleverest.'
'All through History, my dear Mr. Carling, we see that.
'Establishments must have their sacrifices. Beware of interfering: eh?'
'By degrees, we may hope . . . .'
'Society prudently shuns the topic; and so 'll we. For we might tell of
one another, in a fit of distraction, that t' other one talked of it, and
we should be banished for an offence against propriety. You should read
my friend Durance's Essay on Society. Lawyers are a buttress of Society.
But, come: I wager they don't know what they support until they read that
Carling had a pleasant sense of escape, in not being personally asked to
read the Essay, and not hearing that a copy of it should be forwarded to
He said: 'Mr. Radnor is a very old friend?'
'Our fathers were friends; they served in the same regiment for years.
I was in India when Victor Radnor took the fatal!'
'Followed by a second, not less . . . ?'
'In the interpretation of a rigid morality arming you legal gentlemen to
make it so!'
'The Law must be vindicated.'
'The law is a clumsy bludgeon.'
'We think it the highest effort of human reason--the practical
'You may compare it to a rustic's finger on a fiddlestring, for the
murdered notes you get out of the practical instrument.
'I am bound to defend it, clumsy bludgeon or not.'
'You are one of the giants to wield it, and feel humanly, when, by
chance, down it comes on the foot an inch off the line.--Here's a peep
of Old London; if the habit of old was not to wash windows. I like these
'Hum,' Carling hesitated. 'I can remember when the dirt at the windows
'Appealing to the same kind of stuff in the passing youngster's green-
scum eye: it was. And there your Law did good work.--You're for
Bordeaux. What is your word on Burgundy?'
'Victor Radnor has the oldest in the kingdom. But he will have the best
of everything. A Romanee! A Musigny! Sip, my friend, you embrace the
Goddess of your choice above. You are up beside her at a sniff of that
wine.--And lo, venerable Drury! we duck through the court, reminded a bit
by our feelings of our first love, who hadn't the cleanest of faces or
nicest of manners, but she takes her station in memory because we were
boys then, and the golden halo of youth is upon her.'
Carling, as a man of the world, acquiesced in souvenirs he did not share.
He said urgently: 'Understand me; you speak of Mr. Radnor; pray, believe
I have the greatest respect for Mr. Radnor's abilities. He is one of our
foremost men . . . proud of him. Mr. Radnor has genius; I have
watched him; it is genius; he shows it in all he does; one of the
memorable men of our times. I can admire him, independent of--well,
misfortune of that kind . . . a mistaken early step. Misfortune,
it is to be named. Between ourselves--we are men of the world--if one
could see the way! She occasionally . . . as I have told you. I have
ventured suggestions. As I have mentioned, I have received an impression
. . .'
'But still, Mr. Carling, if the lady doesn't release him and will keep
his name, she might stop her cowardly persecutions.'
'Can you trace them?'
'Mrs. Burman Radnor is devout. I should not exactly say revengeful.
We have to discriminate. I gather, that her animus is, in all honesty,
directed at the--I quote--state of sin. We are mixed, you know.'
The Winegod in the blood of Fenellan gave a leap. 'But, fifty thousand
times more mixed, she might any moment stop the state of sin, as she
calls it, if it pleased her.'
'She might try. Our Judges look suspiciously on long delayed actions.
And there are, too, women who regard the marriage-tie as indissoluble.
She has had to combat that scruple.'
'Believer in the renewing of the engagement overhead!--well. But put a
by-word to Mother Nature about the state of sin. Where, do you imagine,
she would lay it? You'll say, that Nature and Law never agreed. They
'The latter deferring to the former?'
'Moulding itself on her swelling proportions. My dear dear sir, the
state of sin was the continuing to live in defiance of, in contempt of,
in violation of, in the total degradation of, Nature.'
'He was under no enforcement to take the oath at the altar.'
'He was a small boy tempted by a varnished widow, with pounds of barley
sugar in her pockets;--and she already serving as a test-vessel or mortar
for awful combinations in druggery! Gilt widows are equal to decrees of
Fate to us young ones. Upon my word, the cleric who unites, and the Law
that sanctions, they're the criminals. Victor Radnor is the noblest of
fellows, the very best friend a man can have. I will tell you: he saved
me, after I left the army, from living on the produce of my pen--which
means, if there is to be any produce, the prostrating of yourself to the
level of the round middle of the public: saved me from that! Yes, Mr.
Carling, I have trotted our thoroughfares a poor Polly of the pen; and it
is owing to Victor Radnor that I can order my thoughts as an individual
man again before I blacken paper. Owing to him, I have a tenderness for
mercenaries; having been one of them and knowing how little we can help
it. He is an Olympian--who thinks of them below. The lady also is an
admirable woman at all points. The pair are a mated couple, such as you
won't find in ten households over Christendom. Are you aware of the
Carling replied: 'A story under shadow of the Law, has generally two very
'Hear mine.--And, by Jove! a runaway cab. No, all right. But a crazy
cab it is, and fit to do mischief in narrow Drury. Except that it's
sheer riff-raff here to knock over.'
'Hulloa?--come!' quoth the wary lawyer.
'There's the heart I wanted to rouse to hear me! One may be sure that
the man for old Burgundy has it big and sound, in spite of his legal
practices; a dear good spherical fellow! Some day, we'll hope, you will
be sitting with us over a magnum of Victor Radnor's Romance Conti aged
thirty-one: a wine, you'll say at the second glass, High Priest for the
celebration of the uncommon nuptials between the body and the soul of
'You hit me rightly,'said Carting, tickled and touched; sensually excited
by the bouquet of Victor Radnor's hospitality and companionship, which
added flavour to Fenellan's compliments. These came home to him through
his desire to be the 'good spherical fellow'; for he, like modern
diplomatists in the track of their eminent Berlinese New Type of the
time, put on frankness as an armour over wariness, holding craft in
reserve: his aim was at the refreshment of honest fellowship: by no means
to discover that the coupling of his native bias with his professional
duty was unprofitable nowadays. Wariness, however, was not somnolent,
even when he said: 'You know, I am never the lawyer out of my office.
Man of the world to men of the world; and I have not lost by it. I am
Mrs. Barman Radnor's legal adviser: you are Mr. Victor Radnor's friend.
They are, as we see them, not on the best of terms. I would rather--at
its lowest, as a matter of business--be known for having helped them to
some kind of footing than send in a round bill to my client--or another.
I gain more in the end. Frankly, I mean to prove, that it's a lawyer's
interest to be human.'
'Because, now, see!' said Fenellan, 'here's the case. Miss Natalia
Dreighton, of a good Yorkshire family--a large one, reads an
advertisement for the post of companion to a lady, and answers it,
and engages herself, previous to the appearance of the young husband.
Miss Dreighton is one of the finest young women alive. She has a
glorious contralto voice. Victor and she are encouraged by Mrs. Barman
to sing duets together. Well?
Why, Euclid would have theorem'd it out for you at a glance at the trio.
You have only to look on them, you chatter out your three Acts of a Drama
without a stop. If Mrs. Barman cares to practise charity, she has only
to hold in her Fury-forked tongue, or her Jarniman I think 's the name.'
'Let her keep from striking, if she's Christian,' pursued Fenetlan, 'and
if kind let her resume the name of her first lord, who did a better thing
for himself than for her, when he shook off his bars of bullion, to rise
the lighter, and left a wretched female soul below, with the devil's own
testimony to her attractions--thousands in the Funds, houses in the City.
She threw the young couple together. And my friend Victor Radnor is of a
particularly inflammable nature. Imagine one of us in such a situation,
'Trying!' said the lawyer.
'The dear fellow was as nigh death as a man can be and know the sweetness
of a woman's call to him to live. And here's London's garden of pines,
bananas, oranges; all the droppings of the Hesperides here! We don't
reflect on it, Mr. Carling.'
'Not enough, not enough.'
'I feel such a spout of platitudes that I could out With a Leading
Article on a sheet of paper on your back while you're bending over the
baskets. I seem to have got circularly round again to Eden when I enter
a garden. Only, here we have to pay for the fruits we pluck. Well, and
just the same there; and no end to the payment either. We're always
paying! By the way, Mrs. Victor Radnor's dinner-table's a spectacle.
Her taste in flowers equals her lord's in wine. But age improves the
wine and spoils the flowers, you'll say. Maybe you're for arguing that
lovely women show us more of the flower than the grape, in relation to
the course of time. I pray you not to forget the terrible intoxicant
she is. We reconcile it, Mr. Carling, with the notion that the grape's
her spirit, the flower her body. Or is it the reverse? Perhaps an
intertwining. But look upon bouquets and clusters, and the idea of
woman springs up at once, proving she's composed of them. I was about
to remark, that with deference to the influence of Mrs. Burman's legal
adviser, an impenitent or penitent sinner's pastor, the Reverend
gentleman ministering to her spiritual needs, would presumptively
exercise it, in this instance, in a superior degree.'
Carling murmured: 'The Rev. Groseman Buttermore'; and did so for
something of a cover, to continue a run of internal reflections: as, that
he was assuredly listening to vinous talk in the streets by day; which
impression placed him on a decorous platform above the amusing gentleman;
to whom, however, he grew cordial, in recognizing consequently, that his
exuberant flow could hardly be a mask; and that an indication here and
there of a trap in his talk, must have been due rather to excess of
wariness, habitual in the mind of a long-headed man, whose incorrigibly
impulsive fits had necessarily to be rectified by a vigilant dexterity.
'Buttermore!' ejaculated Fenellan: 'Groseman Buttermore! Mrs. Victor's
Father Confessor is the Rev. Septimus Barmby. Groseman Buttermore--
Septimus Barmby. Is there anything in names? Truly, unless these
clerical gentlemen take them up at the crossing of the roads long
after birth, the names would appear the active parts of them, and
themselves mere marching supports, like the bearers of street placard-
advertisements. Now, I know a Septimus Barmby, and you a Groseman
Buttermore, and beyond the fact that Reverend starts up before their
names without mention, I wager it's about all we do know of them.
They're Society's trusty rock-limpets, no doubt.'
'My respect for the cloth is extreme.' Carling's short cough prepared the
way for deductions. 'Between ourselves, they are men of the world.'
Fenellan eyed benevolently the worthy attorney, whose innermost imp burst
out periodically, like a Dutch clocksentry, to trot on his own small
grounds for thinking himself of the community of the man of the world.
'You lawyers dress in another closet,' he said. 'The Rev. Groseman has
the ear of the lady?'
'He has:--one ear.'
'Ah? She has the other open for a man of the world, perhaps.'
'Listens to him, listens to me, listens to Jarniman; and we neither of
us guide her. She's very curious--a study. You think you know her--next
day she has eluded you. She's emotional, she's hard; she's a woman,
she's a stone. Anything you like; but don't count on her. And another
thing--I'm bound to say it of myself,' Carling claimed close hearing of
Fenellan over a shelf of saladstuff, 'no one who comes near her has any
real weight with her in this matter.'
'Probably you mix cream in your salad of the vinegar and oil,' said
Fenellan. 'Try jelly of mutton.'--'You give me a new idea. Latterly,
fond as I am of salads, I've had rueful qualms. We'll try it.'
'You should dine with Victor Radnor.'
'French cook, of course!'
'I like to be sure of my cutlet.'
'I like to be sure of a tastiness in my vegetables.'
'And good sauces!'
'And pretty pastry. I said, Cordon bleu. The miracle is, it 's a woman
that Victor Radnor has trained: French, but a woman; devoted to him, as
all who serve him are. Do I say "but" a woman? There's not a Frenchman
alive to match her. Vatel awaits her in Paradise with his arms extended;
and may he wait long!'
Carling indulged his passion for the genuine by letting a flutter of real
envy be seen. 'My wife would like to meet such a Frenchwoman. It must
be a privilege to dine with him--to know him. I know what he has done
for English Commerce, and to build a colossal fortune: genius, as I said:
and his donations to Institutions. Odd, to read his name and Mrs. Burman
Radnor's at separate places in the lists! Well, we'll hope. It's a case
for a compromise of sentiments and claims.'
'A friend of mine, spiced with cynic, declares that there's always an
amicable way out of a dissension, if we get rid of Lupus and Vulpus.'
Carling spied for a trap in the citation of Lupus and Vulpus; he saw
none, and named the square of his residence on the great Russell
property, and the number of the house, the hour of dinner next day.
He then hung silent, breaking the pause with his hand out and a sharp
'Well?' that rattled a whirligig sound in his head upward. His leave of
people was taken in this laughing falsetto, as of one affected by the
curious end things come to.
Fenellan thought of him for a moment or two, that he was a better than
the common kind of lawyer; who doubtless knew as much of the wrong side
of the world as lawyers do, and held his knowledge for the being a man of
the world:--as all do, that have not Alpine heights in the mind to mount
for a look out over their own and the world's pedestrian tracks. I could
spot the lawyer in your composition, my friend, to the exclusion of the
man he mused. But you're right in what you mean to say of yourself:
you're a good fellow, for a lawyer, and together we may manage somehow
to score a point of service to Victor Radnor.
SOME FAMILIAR GUESTS
Nesta read her mother's face when Mrs. Victor entered the drawing-room to
receive the guests. She saw a smooth fair surface, of the kind as much
required by her father's eyes as innocuous air by his nostrils: and it
was honest skin, not the deceptive feminine veiling, to make a dear man
happy over his volcano. Mrs. Victor was to meet the friends with whom
her feelings were at home, among whom her musical gifts gave her station:
they liked her for herself; they helped her to feel at home with herself
and be herself: a rarer condition with us all than is generally supposed.
So she could determine to be cheerful in the anticipation of an evening
that would at least be restful to the outworn sentinel nerve of her
heart, which was perpetually alert and signalling to the great organ;
often colouring the shows and seems of adverse things for an apeing of
reality with too cruel a resemblance. One of the scraps of practical
wisdom gained by hardened sufferers is, to keep from spying at horizons
when they drop into a pleasant dingle. Such is the comfort of it, that
we can dream, and lull our fears, and half think what we wish: and it is
a heavenly truce with the fretful mind divided from our wishes.
Nesta wondered at her mother's complacent questions concerning this
Lakelands: the house, the county, the kind of people about, the features
of the country. Physically unable herself to be regretful under a burden
three parts enrapturing her, the girl expected her mother to display a
shadowy vexation, with a proud word or two, that would summon her
thrilling sympathy in regard to the fourth part: namely, the aristocratic
iciness of country magnates, who took them up and cast them off; as they
had done, she thought, at Craye Farm and at Creckholt: she remembered it,
of the latter place, wincingly, insurgently, having loved the dear home
she had been expelled from by her pride of the frosty surrounding people
--or no, not all, but some of them. And what had roused their pride?
Striking for a reason, her inexperience of our modern England,
supplemented by readings in the England of a preceding generation,
had hit on her father's profession of merchant. It accounted to her
for the behaviour of the haughty territorial and titled families. But
certain of the minor titles headed City Firms, she had heard; certain of
the families were avowedly commercial. 'They follow suit,' her father
said at Creckholt, after he had found her mother weeping, and decided
instantly to quit and fly once more. But if they followed suit in such
a way, then Mr. Durance must be right when he called the social English
the most sheepy of sheep:--and Nesta could not consent to the cruel
verdict, she adored her compatriots. Incongruities were pacified for
her by the suggestion of her quick wits, that her father, besides being
a merchant, was a successful speculator; and perhaps the speculator is
not liked by merchants; or they were jealous of him; or they did not like
his being both.
She pardoned them with some tenderness, on a suspicion that a quaint old
high-frilled bleached and puckered Puritanical rectitude (her thoughts
rose in pictures) possibly condemned the speculator as a description of
gambler. An erratic severity in ethics is easily overlooked by the
enthusiast for things old English. She was consciously ahead of them
in the knowledge that her father had been, without the taint of gambling,
a beneficent speculator. The Montgomery colony in South Africa, and his
dealings with the natives in India, and his Railways in South America,
his establishment of Insurance Offices, which were Savings Banks, and the
Stores for the dispensing of sound goods to the poor, attested it. O and
he was hospitable, the kindest, helpfullest of friends, the dearest, the
very brightest of parents: he was his girl's playmate. She could be
critic of him, for an induction to the loving of him more justly: yet if
he had an excessive desire to win the esteem of people, as these keen
young optics perceived in him, he strove to deserve it; and no one could
accuse him of laying stress on the benefits he conferred. Designedly,
frigidly to wound a man so benevolent, appeared to her as an
incomprehensible baseness. The dropping of acquaintanceship with him,
after the taste of its privileges, she ascribed, in the void of any
better elucidation, to a mania of aristocratic conceit. It drove her,
despite her youthful contempt of politics, into a Radicalism that could
find food in the epigrams of Mr. Colney Durance, even when they passed
her understanding; or when he was not too distinctly seen by her to be
shooting at all the parties of her beloved England, beneath the wicked
semblance of shielding each by turns.
The young gentleman introduced to the Radnor Concert-parties by Lady
Grace Halley as the Hon. Dudley Sowerby, had to bear the sins of his
class. Though he was tall, straight-featured, correct in costume,
appearance, deportment, second son of a religious earl and no scandal to
the parentage, he was less noticed by Nesta than the elderly and the
commoners. Her father accused her of snubbing him. She reproduced her
famous copy of the sugared acid of Mr. Dudley Sowerby's closed mouth:
a sort of sneer in meekness, as of humility under legitimate compulsion;
deploring Christianly a pride of race that stamped it for this cowled
exhibition: the wonderful mimicry was a flash thrown out by a born
mistress of the art, and her mother was constrained to laugh, and so was
her father; but he wilfully denied the likeness. He charged her with
encouraging Colney Durance to drag forth the sprig of nobility, in the
nakedness of evicted shell-fish, on themes of the peril to England,
possibly ruin, through the loss of that ruling initiative formerly
possessed, in the days of our glory, by the titular nobles of the land.
Colney spoke it effectively, and the Hon. Dudley's expressive lineaments
showed print of the heaving word Alas, as when a target is penetrated,
centrally. And he was not a particularly dull fellow 'for his class and
country,' Colney admitted; adding: 'I hit his thought and out he came.'
One has, reluctantly with Victor Radnor, to grant, that when a man's
topmost unspoken thought is hit, he must be sharp on his guard to keep
from coming out:--we have won a right to him.
'Only, it's too bad; it 's a breach of hospitality,' Victor said, both
to Nesta and to Nataly, alluding to several instances of Colney's ironic
handling of their guests, especially of this one, whom Nesta would
attack, and Nataly would not defend.
They were alive at a signal to protect the others. Miss Priscilla
Graves, an eater of meat, was ridiculous in her ant'alcoholic
exclusiveness and scorn: Mr. Pempton, a drinker of wine, would laud
extravagantly the more transparent purity of vegetarianism. Dr. Peter
Yatt jeered at globules: Dr. John Cormyn mourned over human creatures
treated as cattle by big doses. The Rev. Septimus Barmby satisfactorily
smoked: Mr. Peridon traced mortal evil to that act. Dr. Schlesien had
his German views, Colney Durance his ironic, Fenellan his fanciful and
free-lance. And here was an optimist, there a pessimist; and the rank
Radical, the rigid Conservative, were not wanting. All of them were
pointedly opposed, extraordinarily for so small an assembly: absurdly,
it might be thought: but these provoked a kind warm smile, with the
exclamation: 'They are dears!' They were the dearer for their fads
Music harmonized them. Music, strangely, put the spell on Colney
Durance, the sayer of bitter things, manufacturer of prickly balls,
in the form of Discord's apples of whom Fenellan remarked, that he took
to his music like an angry little boy to his barley-sugar, with a growl
and a grunt. All these diverse friends could meet and mix in Victor's
Concert-room with an easy homely recognition of one another's musical
qualities, at times enthusiastic; and their natural divergencies and
occasional clashes added a salient tastiness to the group of whom Nesta
could say: 'Mama, was there ever such a collection of dear good souls
with such contrary minds?' Her mother had the deepest of reasons for
loving them, so as not to wish to see the slightest change in their
minds, that the accustomed features making her nest of homeliness and
real peace might be retained, with the humour of their funny silly
antagonisms and the subsequent march in concord; excepting solely as
regarded the perverseness of Priscilla Graves in her open contempt of Mr.
Pempton's innocent two or three wine-glasses. The vegetarian gentleman's
politeness forbore to direct attention to the gobbets of meat Priscilla
consumed, though he could express disapproval in general terms; but he
entertained sentiments as warlike to the lady's habit of 'drinking the
blood of animals.' The mockery of it was, that Priscilla liked Mr.
Pempton and admired his violoncello-playing, and he was unreserved in
eulogy of her person and her pure soprano tones. Nataly was a poetic
match-maker. Mr. Peridon was intended for Mademoiselle de Seilles,
Nesta's young French governess; a lady of a courtly bearing, with placid
speculation in the eyes she cast on a foreign people, and a voluble
muteness shadowing at intervals along the line of her closed lips.
The one person among them a little out of tune with most, was Lady Grace
Halley. Nataly's provincial gentlewoman's traditions of the manners
indicating conduct, reproved unwonted licences assumed by Lady Grace;
who, in allusion to Hymen's weaving of a cousinship between the earldom
of Southweare and that of Cantor, of which Mr. Sowerby sprang, set her
mouth and fan at work to delineate total distinctions, as it were from
the egg to the empyrean. Her stature was rather short, all of it
conversational, at the eyebrows, the shoulders, the finger-tips, the
twisting shape; a ballerina's expressiveness; and her tongue dashed half
sentences through and among these hieroglyphs, loosely and funnily
candid. Anybody might hear that she had gone gambling into the City,
and that she had got herself into a mess, and that by great good luck
she had come across Victor Radnor, who, with two turns of the wrist,
had plucked her out of the mire, the miraculous man! And she had vowed
to him, never again to run doing the like without his approval.
The cause of her having done it, was related with the accompaniments;
brows twitching, flitting smiles, shrugs, pouts, shifts of posture: she
was married to a centaur; out of the saddle a man of wood, 'an excellent
man.' For the not colloquial do not commit themselves. But one wants a
little animation in a husband. She called on bell-motion of the head to
toll forth the utter nightcap negative. He had not any: out of the
saddle, he was asleep:--'next door to the Last Trump,' Colney Durance
assisted her to describe the soundest of sleep in a husband, after wooing
her to unbosom herself. She was awake to his guileful arts, and sailed
along with him, hailing his phrases, if he shot a good one; prankishly
exposing a flexible nature, that took its holiday thus in a grinding
world, among maskers, to the horrification of the prim. So to refresh
ourselves, by having publicly a hip-bath in the truth while we shock our
hearers enough to be discredited for what we reveal, was a dexterous
merry twist, amusing to her; but it was less a cynical malice than her
nature that she indulged, 'A woman must have some excitement.' The most
innocent appeared to her the Stock Exchange. The opinions of husbands
who are not summoned to pay are hardly important; they vary.
Colney helped her now and then to step the trifle beyond her stride,
but if he was humorous, she forgave; and if together they appalled the
decorous, it was great gain. Her supple person, pretty lips, the style
she had, gave a pass to the wondrous confidings, which were for masculine
ears, whatever the sex. Nataly might share in them, but women did not
lead her to expansiveness; or not the women of the contracted class:
Miss Graves, Mrs. Cormyn, and others at the Radnor Concerts. She had a
special consideration for Mademoiselle de Seilles, owing to her exquisite
French, as she said; and she may have liked it, but it was the young
Frenchwoman's air of high breeding that won her esteem. Girls were
spring frosts to her. Fronting Nesta, she put on her noted smile, or
wood-cut of a smile, with its label of indulgence; except when the girl
sang. Music she loved. She said it was the saving of poor Dudley. It
distinguished him in the group of the noble Evangelical Cantor Family;
and it gave him a subject of assured discourse in company; and oddly, it
contributed to his comelier air. Flute [This would be the German
Blockeflute or our Recorder. D.W.] in hand, his mouth at the blow-stop
was relieved of its pained updraw by the form for puffing; he preserved a
gentlemanly high figure in his exercises on the instrument, out of ken of
all likeness to the urgent insistency of Victor Radnor's punctuating
trunk of the puffing frame at almost every bar--an Apollo brilliancy in
energetic pursuit of the nymph of sweet sound. Too methodical one, too
fiery the other.
In duets of Hauptmann's, with Nesta at the piano, the contrast of dull
smoothness and overstressed significance was very noticeable beside the
fervent accuracy of her balanced fingering; and as she could also flute,
she could criticize; though latterly, the flute was boxed away from lips
that had devoted themselves wholly to song: song being one of the
damsel's present pressing ambitions. She found nothing to correct in Mr.
Sowerby, and her father was open to all the censures; but her father
could plead vitality, passion. He held his performances cheap after the
vehement display; he was a happy listener, whether to the babble of his
'dear old Corelli,' or to the majesty of the rattling heavens and swaying
forests of Beethoven.
His air of listening was a thing to see; it had a look of disembodiment;
the sparkle conjured up from deeps, and the life in the sparkle, as of a
soul at holiday. Eyes had been given this man to spy the pleasures and
reveal the joy of his pasture on them: gateways to the sunny within,
issues to all the outer Edens. Few of us possess that double
significance of the pure sparkle. It captivated Lady Grace. She said
a word of it to Fenellan: 'There is a man who can feel rapture!' He had
not to follow the line of her sight: she said so on a previous evening,
in a similar tone; and for a woman to repeat herself, using the very
emphasis, was quaint. She could feel rapture; but her features and limbs
were in motion to designate it, between simply and wilfully; she had the
instinct to be dimpling, and would not for a moment control it, and
delighted in its effectiveness: only when observing that winged sparkle
of eyes did an idea of envy, hardly a consciousness, inform her of being
surpassed; and it might be in the capacity to feel besides the gift to
express. Such a reflection relating to a man, will make women mortally
sensible that they are the feminine of him.
'His girl has the look,' Fenellan said in answer.
She cast a glance at Nesta, then at Nataly.
And it was true, that the figure of a mother, not pretending to the
father's vividness, eclipsed it somewhat in their child. The mother gave
richness of tones, hues and voice, and stature likewise, and the thick
brown locks, which in her own were threads of gold along the brush from
the temples: she gave the girl a certain degree of the composure of
manner which Victor could not have bestowed; she gave nothing to clash
with his genial temper; she might be supposed to have given various
qualities, moral if you like. But vividness was Lady Grace's admirable
meteor of the hour: she was unable to perceive, so as to compute, the
value of obscurer lights. Under the charm of Nataly's rich contralto
during a duet with Priscilla Graves, she gesticulated ecstasies, and
uttered them, and genuinely; and still, when reduced to meditations,
they would have had no weight, they would hardly have seemed an apology
for language, beside Victor's gaze of pleasure in the noble forthroll of
Nataly heard the invitation of the guests of the evening to Lakelands
Her anxieties were at once running about to gather provisions for the
baskets. She spoke of them at night. But Victor had already put the
matter in the hands of Madame Callet; and all that could be done, would
be done by Armandine, he knew. 'If she can't muster enough at home,
she'll be off to her Piccadilly shop by seven A.M. Count on plenty for
twice the number.'
Nataly was reposing on the thought that they were her friends, when
Victor mentioned his having in the afternoon despatched a note to his
relatives, the Duvidney ladies, inviting them to join him at the station
to-morrow, for a visit of inspection to the house of his building on his
new estate. He startled her. The Duvidney ladies were, to his
knowledge, of the order of the fragile minds which hold together by
the cement of a common trepidation for the support of things established,
and have it not in them to be able to recognize the unsanctioned. Good
women, unworldly of the world, they were perforce harder than the world,
from being narrower and more timorous.
'But, Victor, you were sure they would refuse!'
He answered: 'They may have gone back to Tunbridge Wells. By the way,
they have a society down there I want for Fredi. Sure, do you say, my
dear? Perfectly sure. But the accumulation of invitations and refusals
in the end softens them, you will see. We shall and must have them for
She was used to the long reaches of his forecasts, his burning activity
on a project; she found it idle to speak her thought, that his ingenuity
would have been needless in a position dictated by plain prudence, and so
much happier for them.
They talked of Mrs. Burman until she had to lift a prayer to be saved
from darker thoughts, dreadfully prolific, not to be faced. Part of her
prayer was on behalf of Mrs. Burman, for life to be extended to her, if
the poor lady clung to life--if it was really humane to wish it for her:
and heaven would know: heaven had mercy on the afflicted.
Nataly heard the snuffle of hypocrisy in her prayer. She had to cease to
AN INSPECTION OF LAKELANDS
One may not have an intention to flourish, and may be pardoned for a
semblance of it, in exclaiming, somewhat royally, as creator and owner
of the place: 'There you see Lakelands.'
The conveyances from the railway station drew up on a rise of road
fronting an undulation, where our modern English architect's fantasia
in crimson brick swept from central gables to flying wings, over pents,
crooks, curves, peaks, cowled porches, balconies, recesses, projections,
away to a red village of stables and dependent cottages; harmonious in
irregularity; and coloured homely with the greensward about it, the pines
beside it, the clouds above it. Not many palaces would be reckoned as
larger. The folds and swells and stream of the building along the roll
of ground, had an appearance of an enormous banner on the wind. Nataly
looked. Her next look was at Colney Durance. She sent the expected nods
to Victor's carriage. She would have given the whole prospect for the
covering solitariness of her chamber. A multitude of clashing
sensations, and a throat-thickening hateful to her, compelled her to
summon so as to force herself to feel a groundless anger, directed
against none, against nothing, perfectly crazy, but her only resource
for keeping down the great wave surgent at her eyes.
Victor was like a swimmer in morning sea amid the exclamations encircling
him. He led through the straight passage of the galleried hall, offering
two fair landscapes at front door and at back, down to the lake, Fredi's
lake; a good oblong of water, notable in a district not abounding in the
commodity. He would have it a feature of the district; and it had been
deepened and extended; up rose the springs, many ran the ducts. Fredi's
pretty little bathshed or bower had a space of marble on the three-feet
shallow it overhung with a shade of carved woodwork; it had a diving-
board for an eight-feet plunge; a punt and small row-boat of elegant
build hard by. Green ran the banks about, and a beechwood fringed with
birches curtained the Northward length: morning sun and evening had a
fair face of water to paint. Saw man ever the like for pleasing a
poetical damsel? So was Miss Fredi, the coldest of the party hitherto,
and dreaming a preference of 'old places' like Creckholt and Craye Farm,
'captured to be enraptured,' quite according to man's ideal of his
beneficence to the sex. She pressed the hand of her young French
governess, Louise de Seilles. As in everything he did for his girl,
Victor pointed boastfully to his forethought of her convenience and her
tastes: the pine-panels of the interior, the shelves for her books, pegs
to hang her favourite drawings, and the couch-bunk under a window to
conceal the summerly recliner while throwing full light on her book; and
the hearth-square for logs, when she wanted fire: because Fredi bathed in
any weather: the oaken towel-coffer; the wood-carvings of doves, tits,
fishes; the rod for the flowered silken hangings she was to choose, and
have shy odalisque peeps of sunny water from her couch.
'Fredi's Naiad retreat, when she wishes to escape Herr Strauscher or
Signor Ruderi,' said Victor, having his grateful girl warm in an arm;
'and if they head after her into the water, I back her to leave them
puffing; she's a dolphin. That water has three springs and gets all the
drainage of the upland round us. I chose the place chiefly on account of
it and the pines. I do love pines!'
'But, excellent man! what do you not love?' said Lady Grace, with the
timely hit upon the obvious, which rings.
'It saves him from accumulation of tissue,' said Colney.
'What does?' was eagerly asked by the wife of the homoeopathic Dr. John
Cormyn, a sentimental lady beset with fears of stoutness.
Victor cried: 'Tush; don't listen to Colney, pray.'
But she heard Colney speak of a positive remedy; more immediately
effective than an abjuration of potatoes and sugar. She was obliged by
her malady to listen, although detesting the irreverent ruthless man, who
could direct expanding frames, in a serious tone, to love; love
everybody, everything; violently and universally love; and so without
intermission pay out the fat created by a rapid assimilation of
nutriment. Obeseness is the most sensitive of our ailments: probably as
being aware, that its legitimate appeal to pathos is ever smothered in
its pudding-bed of the grotesque. She was pained, and showed it, and was
ashamed of herself for showing it; and that very nearly fetched the tear.
'Our host is an instance in proof,' Colney said. He waved hand at the
house. His meaning was hidden; evidently he wanted victims. Sight of
Lakelands had gripped him with the fell satiric itch; and it is a passion
to sting and tear, on rational grounds. His face meanwhile, which had
points of the handsome, signified a smile asleep, as if beneath a cloth.
Only those who knew him well were aware of the claw-like alertness under
the droop of eyelids.
Admiration was the common note, in the various keys. The station
selected for the South-eastward aspect of the dark-red gabled pile on
its white shell-terrace, backed by a plantation of tall pines, a mounded
and full-plumed company, above the left wing, was admired, in files and
in volleys. Marvellous, effectively miraculous, was the tale of the vow
to have the great edifice finished within one year: and the strike of
workmen, and the friendly colloquy with them, the good reasoning, the
unanimous return to duty; and the doubling, the trebling of the number
of them; and the most glorious of sights-0the grand old English working
with a will! as Englishmen do when they come at last to heat; and they
conquer, there is then nothing that they cannot conquer. So the
conqueror said.--And admirable were the conservatories running three long
lines, one from the drawing-room, to a central dome for tropical growths.
And the parterres were admired; also the newly-planted Irish junipers
bounding the West-walk; and the three tiers of stately descent from the
three green terrace banks to the grassy slopes over the lake. Again the
lake was admired, the house admired. Admiration was evoked for great
orchid-houses 'over yonder,' soon to be set up.
Off we go to the kitchen-garden. There the admiration is genial,
practical. We admire the extent of the beds marked out for asparagus,
and the French disposition of the planting at wide intervals; and the
French system of training peach, pear, and plum trees on the walls to win
length and catch sun, we much admire. We admire the gardener. We are
induced temporarily to admire the French people. They are sagacious in
fruit-gardens. They have not the English Constitution, you think
rightly; but in fruit-gardens they grow for fruit, and not, as Victor
quotes a friend, for wood, which the valiant English achieve. We hear
and we see examples of sagacity; and we are further brought round to the
old confession, that we cannot cook; Colney Durance has us there; we have
not studied herbs and savours; and so we are shocked backward step by
step until we retreat precipitately into the nooks where waxen tapers,
carefully tended by writers on the Press, light-up mysterious images of
our national selves for admiration. Something surely we do, or we should
not be where we are. But what is it we do (excepting cricket, of course)
which others cannot do? Colney asks; and he excludes cricket and
An acutely satiric man in an English circle, that does not resort to the
fist for a reply to him, may almost satiate the excessive fury roused in
his mind by an illogical people of a provocative prosperity, mainly
tongueless or of leaden tongue above the pressure of their necessities,
as he takes them to be. They give him so many opportunities. They are
angry and helpless as the log hissing to the saw. Their instinct to make
use of the downright in retort, restrained as it is by a buttoned coat of
civilization, is amusing, inviting. Colney Durance allured them to the
quag's edge and plunged them in it, to writhe patriotically; and although
it may be said, that they felt their situation less than did he the venom
they sprang in his blood, he was cruel; he caused discomfort. But these
good friends about him stood for the country, an illogical country; and
as he could not well attack his host Victor Radnor, an irrational man,
he selected the abstract entity for the discharge of his honest spite.
The irrational friend was deeper at the source of his irritation than the
illogical old motherland. This house of Lakelands, the senselessness of
his friend in building it and designing to live in it, after experiences
of an incapacity to stand in a serene contention with the world he
challenged, excited Colney's wasp. He was punished, half way to frenzy
behind his placable demeanour, by having Dr. Schlesien for chorus. And
here again, it was the unbefitting, not the person, which stirred his
wrath. A German on English soil should remember the dues of a guest.
At the same time, Colney said things to snare the acclamation of an
observant gentleman of that race, who is no longer in his first
enthusiasm for English beef and the complexion of the women. 'Ah, ya,
it is true, what you say: "The English grow as fast as odders, but they
grow to corns instead of brains." They are Bull. Quaat true.' He
bellowed on a laugh the last half of the quotation.
Colney marked him. His encounters with Fenellan were enlivening
engagements and left no malice; only a regret, when the fencing passed
his guard, that Fenellan should prefer to flash for the minute. He would
have met a pert defender of England, in the person of Miss Priscilla
Graves, if she had not been occupied with observation of the bearing of
Lady Grace Halley toward Mr. Victor Radnor; which displeased her on
behalf of Mrs. Victor; she was besides hostile by race and class to
an aristocratic assumption of licence. Sparing Colney, she with some
scorn condemned Mr. Pempton for allowing his country to be ridiculed
without a word. Mr. Pempton believed that the Vegetarian movement was
more progressive in England than in other lands, but he was at the
disadvantage with the fair Priscilla, that eulogy of his compatriots
on this account would win her coldest approval. 'Satire was never an
argument,' he said, too evasively.
The Rev. Septimus Barmby received the meed of her smile, for saying in
his many-fathom bass, with an eye on Victor: 'At least we may boast of
breeding men, who are leaders of men.'
The announcement of luncheon, by Victor's butler Arlington, opportunely
followed and freighted the remark with a happy recognition of that which
comes to us from the hands of conquerors. Dr. Schlesien himself, no
antagonist to England, but like Colney Durance, a critic, speculated in
view of the spread of pic-nic provision beneath the great glass dome, as
to whether it might be, that these English were on another start out of
the dust in vigorous commercial enterprise, under leadership of one of
their chance masterly minds-merchant, in this instance: and be debated
within, whether Genius, occasionally developed in a surprising superior
manner by these haphazard English, may not sometimes wrest the prize from
Method; albeit we count for the long run, that Method has assurance of
success, however late in the race to set forth.
Luncheon was a merry meal, with Victor and Nataly for host and hostess;
Fenellan, Colney Durance, and Lady Grace Halley for the talkers. A gusty
bosom of sleet overhung the dome, rattled on it, and rolling Westward,
became a radiant mountain-land, partly worthy of Victor's phrase: 'A
range of Swiss Alps in air.'
'With periwigs Louis Quatorze for peaks,' Colney added.
And Fenellan improved on him: 'Or a magnified Bench of Judges at the
trial of your caerulean Phryne.'
The strip of white cloud flew on a whirl from the blue, to confirm it.
But Victor and Lady Grace rejected any play of conceits upon nature.
Violent and horrid interventions of the counterfeit, such mad similes
appeared to them, when pure coin was offered. They loathed the Rev.
Septimus Barmby for proclaiming, that he had seen 'Chapters of Hebrew
History in the grouping of clouds.'
His gaze was any one of the Chapters upon Nesta. The clerical
gentleman's voice was of a depth to claim for it the profoundest which
can be thought or uttered; and Nesta's tender youth had taken so strong
an impression of sacredness from what Fenellan called 'his chafer tones,'
that her looks were often given him in gratitude, for the mere sound.
Nataly also had her sense of safety in acquiescing to such a voice coming
from such a garb. Consequently, whenever Fenellan and Colney were at
him, drawing him this way and that for utterances cathedral in sentiment
and sonorousness, these ladies shed protecting beams; insomuch that he
was inspired to the agreeable conceptions whereof frequently rash
projects are an issue.
Touching the neighbours of Lakelands, they were principally enriched
merchants, it appeared; a snippet or two of the fringe of aristocracy lay
here and there among them; and one racy-of-the-soil old son of Thames,
having the manners proper to last century's yeoman. Mr. Pempton knew
something of this quaint Squire of Hefferstone, Beaves Urmsing by name;
a ruddy man, right heartily Saxon; a still glowing brand amid the ashes
of the Heptarchy hearthstone; who had a song, The Marigolds, which he
would troll out for you anywhere, on any occasion. To have so near to
the metropolis one from the centre of the venerable rotundity of the
country, was rare. Victor exclaimed 'Come!' in ravishment over the
picturesqueness of a neighbour carrying imagination away to the founts
of England; and his look at Nataly proposed. Her countenance was
inapprehensive. He perceived resistance, and said: 'I have met two or
three of them in the train: agreeable men: Gladding, the banker;
a General Fanning; that man Blathenoy, great billbroker. But the fact
is, close on London, we're independent of neighbours; we mean to be.
Lakelands and London practically join.'
'The mother city becoming the suburb,' murmured Colney, in report of the
'You must expect to be invaded, sir,' said Mr. Sowerby; and Victor
shrugged: 'We are pretty safe.'
'The lock of a door seems a potent security until some one outside is
heard fingering the handle nigh midnight,' Fenellan threw out his airy
nothing of a remark.
It struck on Nataly's heart. 'So you will not let us be lonely here,'
she said to her guests.
The Rev. Septimus Barmby was mouthpiece for congregations. Sound of a
subterranean roar, with a blast at the orifice, informed her of their
'very deep happiness in the privilege.'
He comforted her. Nesta smiled on him thankfully.
'Don't imagine, Mrs. Victor, that you can be shut off from neighbours,
in a house like this; and they have a claim,' said Lady Grace, quitting
Fenellan and Colney thought so:
'Like mice at a cupboard.'
'Beetles in a kitchen.'
'No, no-no, no !' Victor shook head, pitiful over the good people likened
to things unclean, and royally upraising them: in doing which, he
scattered to vapour the leaden incubi they had been upon his flatter
moods of late. 'No, but it's a rapture to breathe the air here!' His
lifted chest and nostrils were for the encouragement of Nataly to soar
She summoned her smile and nodded.
He spoke aside to Lady Grace: 'The dear soul wants time to compose
herself after a grand surprise.'
She replied: 'I think I could soon be reconciled. How much land?'
'In treaty for some hundred and eighty or ninety acres . . . in all
at present three hundred and seventy, including plantations, lake,
'Large enough; land paying as it does--that is, not paying. We shall be
having to gamble in the City systematically for subsistence.'
'You will not so much as jest on the subject.'
Coming from such a man, that was clear sky thunder. The lady played
it off in a shadowy pout and shrug while taking a stamp of his
masterfulness, not so volatile.
She said to Nataly: 'Our place in Worcestershire is about half the size,
if as much. Large enough when we're not crowded out with gout and can
open to no one. Some day you will visit us, I hope.'
'You we count on here, Lady Grace.'
It was an over-accentuated response; unusual with this well-bred woman;
and a bit of speech that does not flow, causes us to speculate. The lady
resumed: 'I value the favour. We're in a horsey-doggy-foxy circle down
there. We want enlivening. If we had your set of musicians and
Nataly smiled in vacuous kindness, at a loss for the retort of a
compliment to a person she measured. Lady Grace also was an amiable
hostile reviewer. Each could see, to have cited in the other, defects
common to the lower species of the race, admitting a superior personal
quality or two; which might be pleaded in extenuation; and if the apology
proved too effective, could be dispersed by insistence upon it, under an
implied appeal to benevolence. When we have not a liking for the
creature whom we have no plain cause to dislike, we are minutely just.
During the admiratory stroll along the ground-floor rooms, Colney
Durance found himself beside Dr. Schlesien; the latter smoking, striding,
emphasizing, but bearable, as the one of the party who was not
perpetually at the gape in laudation. Colney was heard to say: 'No
doubt: the German is the race the least mixed in Europe: it might
challenge aboriginals for that. Oddly, it has invented the Cyclopaedia
for knowledge, the sausage for nutrition! How would you explain it?'
Dr. Schlesien replied with an Atlas shrug under fleabite to the
insensately infantile interrogation.
He in turn was presently heard.
'But, my good sir! you quote me your English Latin. I must beg of you
you write it down. It is orally incomprehensible to Continentals.'
'We are Islanders!' Colney shrugged in languishment.
'Oh, you do great things . . .' Dr. Schlesien rejoined in kindness,
making his voice a musical intimation of the smallness of the things.
'We build great houses, to employ our bricks'
'No, Colney, to live in,' said Victor.
'Scarcely long enough to warm them.'
'What do you . . . fiddle!'
'They are not Hohenzollerns !'
'It is true,' Dr. Schlesien called. 'No, but you learn discipline; you
build. I say wid you, not Hohenzollerns you build! But you shall look
above: Eyes up. Ire necesse est. Good, but mount; you come to
something. Have ideas.'
'Good, but when do we reach your level?'
'Sir, I do not say more than that we do not want instruction from
'Pupil to paedagogue indeed. You have the wreath in Music, in
Jurisprudence, Chemistry, Scholarship, Beer, Arms, Manners.'
Dr. Schlesien puffed a tempest of tobacco and strode.
'He is chiselling for wit in the Teutonic block,' Colney said, falling
back to Fenellan.
Fenellan observed: 'You might have credited him with the finished
'They're ahead of us in sticking at the charge of wit.'
'They've a widening of their swallow since Versailles.'
'Well, that's a tight cravat for the Teutonic thrapple! But he's off by
himself to loosen it.'
Victor came on the couple testily. 'What are you two concocting!
I say, do keep the peace, please. An excellent good fellow; better up
in politics than any man I know; understands music; means well, you can
see. You two hate a man at all serious. And he doesn't bore with his
knowledge. A scholar too.'
'If he'll bring us the atmosphere of the groves of Academe, he may swing
his ferule pickled in himself, and welcome,' said Fenellan.
'Yes!' Victor nodded at a recognized antagonism in Fenellan; 'but
Colney's always lifting the Germans high above us.'
'It's to exercise his muscles.'
Victor headed to the other apartments, thinking that the Rev. Septimus
and young Sowerby, Old England herself, were spared by the diversion of
these light skirmishing shots from their accustomed victims to the
'masculine people of our time. His friends would want a drilling to be
of aid to him in his campaign to come. For it was one, and a great one.
He remembered his complete perception of the plan, all the elements of
it, the forward whirling of it, just before the fall on London Bridge.
The greatness of his enterprise laid such hold of him that the smallest
of obstacles had a villanous aspect; and when, as anticipated, Colney and
Fenellan were sultry flies for whomsoever they could fret, he was blind
to the reading of absurdities which caused Fredi's eyes to stream and
Lady Grace beside him to stand awhile and laugh out her fit. Young
Sowerby appeared forgiving enough--he was a perfect gentleman: but
Fredi's appalling sense of fun must try him hard. And those young
fellows are often more wounded by a girl's thoughtless laughter than
by a man's contempt. Nataly should have protected him. Her face had
the air of a smiling general satisfaction; sign of a pleasure below the
mark required; sign too of a sleepy partner for a battle. Even in the
wonderful kitchen, arched and pillared (where the explanation came to
Nesta of Madame Callet's frequent leave of absence of late, when an
inferior dinner troubled her father in no degree), even there his Nataly
listened to the transports of the guests with benign indulgence.
'Mama!' said Nesta, ready to be entranced by kitchens in her bubbling
animation: she meant the recalling of instances of the conspirator her
father had been.
'You none of you guessed Armandine's business!' Victor cried, in a glee
that pushed to make the utmost of this matter and count against chagrin.
'She was off to Paris; went to test the last inventions:--French brains
are always alert:--and in fact, those kitchen-ranges, gas and coal, and
the apparatus for warming plates and dishes, the whole of the battery is
on the model of the Duc d'Ariane's--finest in Europe. Well,' he agreed
with Colney, 'to say France is enough.'
Mr. Pempton spoke to Miss Graves of the task for a woman to conduct a
command so extensive. And, as when an inoffensive wayfarer has chanced
to set foot near a wasp's nest, out on him came woman and her champions,
the worthy and the sham, like a blast of powder.
Victor ejaculated: 'Armandine !' Whoever doubted her capacity, knew not
Armandine; or not knowing Armandine, knew not the capacity in women.
With that utterance of her name, he saw the orangey spot on London
Bridge, and the sinking Tower and masts and funnels, and the rising of
them, on his return to his legs; he recollected, that at the very edge of
the fall he had Armandine strongly in his mind. She was to do her part:
Fenellan and Colney on the surface, she below: and hospitality was to do
its part, and music was impressed--the innocent Concerts; his wealth, all
his inventiveness were to serve;--and merely to attract and win the
tastes of people, for a social support to Lakelands! Merely that? Much
more:--if Nataly's coldness to the place would but allow him to form an
estimate of how much. At the same time, being in the grasp of his
present disappointment, he perceived a meanness in the result, that was
astonishing and afflicting. He had not ever previously felt imagination
starving at the vision of success. Victor had yet to learn, that the man
with a material object in aim, is the man of his object; and the nearer
to his mark, often the farther is he from a sober self; he is more the
arrow of his bow than bow to his arrow. This we pay for scheming: and
success is costly; we find we have pledged the better half of ourselves
to clutch it; not to be redeemed with the whole handful of our prize!
He was, however, learning after his leaping fashion. Nataly's defective
sympathy made him look at things through the feelings she depressed.
A shadow of his missed Idea on London Bridge seemed to cross him from the
close flapping of a wing within reach. He could say only, that it would,
if caught, have been an answer to the thought disturbing him.
Nataly drew Colney Durance with her eyes to step beside her, on the
descent to the terrace. Little Skepsey hove in sight, coming swift as
the point of an outrigger over the flood.
SKEPSEY IN MOTION
The bearer of his master's midday letters from London shot beyond Nataly
as soon as seen, with an apparent snap of his body in passing. He
steamed to the end of the terrace and delivered the packet, returning at
the same rate of speed, to do proper homage to the lady he so much
respected. He had left the railway-station on foot instead of taking a
fly, because of a calculation that he would save three minutes; which he
had not lost for having to come through the raincloud. 'Perhaps the
contrary,' Skepsey said: it might be judged to have accelerated his
course: and his hat dripped, and his coat shone, and he soaped his hands,
cheerful as an ouzel-cock when the sun is out again.
'Many cracked crowns lately, in the Manly Art?' Colney inquired of him.
And Skepsey answered with precision of statement: 'Crowns, no, sir; the
nose, it may happen; but it cannot be said to be the rule.'
'You are of opinion, that the practice of Scientific Pugilism offers us
compensation for the broken bridge of a nose?'
'In an increase of manly self-esteem: I do, sir, yes.'
Skepsey was shy of this gentleman's bite; and he fancied his defence had
been correct. Perceiving a crumple of the lips of Mr. Durance, he took
the attitude of a watchful dubiety.
'But, my goodness, you are wet through!' cried Nataly, reproaching
herself for the tardy compassion; and Nesta ran up to them and heaped a
thousand pities on her 'poor dear Skip,' and drove him in beneath the
glass-dome to the fragments of pic-nic, and poured champagne for him,
'lest his wife should have to doctor him for a cold,' and poured afresh,
when he had obeyed her: 'for the toasting of Lakelands, dear Skepsey !'
impossible to resist: so he drank, and blinked; and was then told, that
before using his knife and fork he must betake himself to some fire of
shavings and chips, where coffee was being made, for the purpose of
drying his clothes. But this he would not hear of: he was pledged to
business, to convey his master's letters, and he might have to catch a
train by the last quarter-minute, unless it was behind the time-tables;
he must hold himself ready to start. Entreated, adjured, commanded,
Skepsey commiseratingly observed to Colney Durance, 'The ladies do not
understand, sir!' For Turk of Constantinople had never a more haremed
opinion of the unfitness of women in the brave world of action. The
persistence of these ladies endeavouring to obstruct him in the course of
his duty, must have succeeded save that for one word of theirs he had
two, and twice the promptitude of motion. He explained to them, as to
good children, that the loss of five minutes might be the loss of a Post,
the loss of thousands of pounds, the loss of the character of a Firm;
and he was away to the terrace. Nesta headed him and waved him back.
She and her mother rebuked him: they called him unreasonable; wherein
they resembled the chief example of the sex to him, in a wife he had at
home, who levelled that charge against her husband when most she needed
discipline: the woman laid hand on the very word legitimately his own
for the justification of his process with her.
'But, Skips! if you are ill and we have to nurse you!' said Nesta.
She forgot the hospital, he told her cordially, and laughed at the notion
of a ducking producing a cold or a cold a fever, or anything consumption,
with him. So the ladies had to keep down their anxious minds and allow
him to stand in wet clothing to eat his cold pie and salad.
Miss Priscilla Graves entering to them, became a witness that they were
seductresses for inducing him to drink wine--and a sparkling wine.
'It is to warm him,' they pleaded; and she said: 'He must be warm from
his walk'; and they said: 'But he is wet'; and said she, without a show
of feeling: 'Warm water, then'; and Skepsey writhed, as if in the grasp
of anatomists, at being the subject of female contention or humane
consideration. Miss Graves caught signs of the possible proselyte in
him; she remarked encouragingly:
'I am sure he does not like it; he still has a natural taste.'
She distressed his native politeness, for the glass was in his hand, and
he was fully aware of her high-principled aversion; and he profoundly
bowed to principles, believing his England to be pillared on them; and
the lady looked like one who bore the standard of a principle; and if we
slap and pinch and starve our appetites, the idea of a principle seems
entering us to support. Subscribing to a principle, our energies are
refreshed; we have a faith in the country that was not with us before the
act; and of a real well-founded faith come the glowing thoughts which we
have at times: thoughts of England heading the nations; when the smell of
an English lane under showers challenges Eden, and the threading of a
London crowd tunes discords to the swell of a cathedral organ. It may
be, that by the renunciation of any description of alcohol, a man will
stand clearer-headed to serve his country. He may expect to have a
clearer memory, for certain: he will not be asking himself, unable to
decide, whether his master named a Mr. Journeyman or a Mr. Jarniman, as
the person he declined to receive. Either of the two is repulsed upon
his application, owing to the guilty similarity of sounds but what we are
to think of is, our own sad state of inefficiency in failing to remember;
which accuses our physical condition, therefore our habits.--Thus the
little man debated, scarcely requiring more than to hear the right word,
to be a convert and make him a garland of the proselyte's fetters.
Destructively for the cause she advocated, Miss Priscilla gestured the
putting forth of an abjuring hand, with the recommendation to him, so to
put aside temptation that instant; and she signified in a very ugly jerk
of her features, the vilely filthy stuff Morality thought it, however
pleasing it might be to a palate corrupted by indulgence of the sensual
But the glass had been handed to him by the lady he respected, who looked
angelical in offering it, divinely other than ugly; and to her he could
not be discourteous; not even to pay his homage to the representative of
a principle. He bowed to Miss Graves, and drank, and rushed forth;
hearing shouts behind him.
His master had a packet of papers ready, easy for the pocket.
'By the way, Skepsey,' he said, 'if a man named Jarniman should call at
the office, I will see him.'
Skepsey's grey eyes came out.
Or was it Journeyman, that his master would not see; and Jarniman that he
His habit of obedience, pride of apprehension, and the time to catch the
train, forbade inquiry. Besides he knew of himself of old, that his
puzzles were best unriddled running.
The quick of pace are soon in the quick of thoughts.
Jarniman, then, was a man whom his master, not wanting to see, one day,
and wanting to see, on another day, might wish to conciliate: a case of
policy. Let Jarniman go. Journeyman, on the other hand, was nobody at
all, a ghost of the fancy. Yet this Journeyman was as important an
individual, he was a dread reality; more important to Skepsey in the
light of patriot: and only in that light was he permitted of a scrupulous
conscience and modest mind to think upon himself when the immediate
subject was his master's interests. For this Journeyman had not an
excuse for existence in Mr. Radnor's pronunciation: he was born of the
buzz of a troubled ear, coming of a disordered brain, consequent
necessarily upon a disorderly stomach, that might protest a degree of
comparative innocence, but would be shamed utterly under inspection of
the eye of a lady of principle.
What, then, was the value to his country of a servant who could not
accurately recollect his master's words! Miss Graves within him asked
the rapid little man, whether indeed his ideas were his own after
draughts of champagne.
The ideas, excited to an urgent animation by his racing trot, were a
quiverful in flight over an England terrible to the foe and dancing on
the green. Right so: but would we keep up the dance, we must be red iron
to touch: and the fighter for conquering is the one who can last and has
the open brain;--and there you have a point against alcohol. Yes, and
Miss Graves, if she would press it, with her natural face, could be
pleasant and persuasive: and she ought to be told she ought to marry, for
the good of the country. Women taking liquor: Skepsey had a vision of
his wife with rheumy peepers and miauly mouth, as he had once beheld the
creature:--Oh! they need discipline not such would we have for the
mothers of our English young. Decidedly the women of principle are bound
to enter wedlock; they should be bound by law. Whereas, in the opposing
case--the binding of the unprincipled to a celibate state--such a law
would have saved Skepsey from the necessitated commission of deeds of
discipline with one of the female sex, and have rescued his progeny from
a likeness to the corn-stalk reverting to weed. He had but a son for
England's defence; and the frame of his boy might be set quaking by a
thump on the wind of a drum; the courage of William Barlow Skepsey would
not stand against a sheep; it would wind-up hares to have a run at him
out in the field. Offspring of a woman of principle! . . . but there
is no rubbing out in life: why dream of it? Only that one would not have
one's country the loser!
Dwell a moment on the reverse--and first remember the lesson of the
Captivity of the Jews and the outcry of their backsliding and
repentance:--see a nation of the honourably begotten; muscular men
disdaining the luxuries they will occasionally condescend to taste,
like some tribe in Greece; boxers, rowers, runners, climbers; braced,
indomitable; magnanimous, as only the strong can be; an army at word,
winning at a stroke the double battle of the hand and the heart: men who
can walk the paths through the garden of the pleasures. They receive
fitting mates, of a build to promise or aid in ensuring depth of chest
and long reach of arm for their progeny.
Down goes the world before them.
And we see how much would be due for this to a corps of ladies like Miss
Graves, not allowed to remain too long on the stalk of spinsterhood. Her
age might count twenty-eight: too long! She should be taught that men
can, though truly ordinary women cannot, walk these orderly paths through
the garden. An admission to women, hinting restrictions, on a ticket
marked 'in moderation' (meaning, that they may pluck a flower or fruit
along the pathway border to which they are confined), speedily, alas,
exhibits them at a mad scramble across the pleasure-beds. They know not
moderation. Neither for their own sakes nor for the sakes of Posterity
will they hold from excess, when they are not pledged to shun it.
The reason is, that their minds cannot conceive the abstract, as men do.
But there are grounds for supposing that the example before them of a sex
exercising self-control in freedom, would induce women to pledge
themselves to a similar abnegation, until they gain some sense of touch
upon the impalpable duty to the generations coming after us thanks to the
voluntary example we set them.
The stupendous task, which had hitherto baffled Skepsey in the course of
conversational remonstrances with his wife;--that of getting the Idea of
Posterity into the understanding of its principal agent, might then be
Therefore clearly men have to begin the salutary movement: it manifestly
devolves upon them. Let them at once take to rigorous physical training.
Women under compulsion, as vessels: men in their magnanimity,
Miss Graves must have had an intimation for him; he guessed it; and it
plunged him into a conflict with her, that did not suffer him to escape
without ruefully feeling the feebleness of his vocabulary: and
consequently he made a reluctant appeal to figures, and it hung upon
the bolder exhibition of lists and tables as to whether he was beaten;
and if beaten, he was morally her captive; and this being the case,
nothing could be more repulsive to Skepsey; seeing that he, unable of
his nature passively or partially to undertake a line of conduct, beheld
himself wearing a detestable 'ribbon,' for sign of an oath quite
needlessly sworn (simply to satisfy the lady overcoming him with nimbler
tongue), and blocking the streets, marching in bands beneath banners,
Statistics, upon which his master and friends, after exchanging opinions
in argument, always fell back, frightened him. As long as they had
no opponents of their own kind, they swept the field, they were
intelligible, as the word 'principle' had become. But the appearance
of one body of Statistics invariably brought up another; and the strokes
and counterstrokes were like a play of quarter-staff on the sconce,
to knock all comprehension out of Skepsey. Otherwise he would not
unwillingly have inquired to-morrow into the Statistics of the
controversy between the waters of the wells and of the casks, prepared
to walk over to the victorious, however objectionable that proceeding.
He hoped to question his master some day except that his master would
very naturally have a tendency to sum-up in favour of wine--good wine,
in moderation; just as Miss Graves for the cup of tea--not so
thoughtfully stipulating that it should be good and not too copious.
Statistics are according to their conjurors; they are not independent
bodies, with native colours; they needs must be painted by the different
hands they pass through, and they may be multiplied; a nought or so
counts for nothing with the teller. Skepsey saw that. Yet they can
overcome: even as fictitious battalions, they can overcome. He shrank
from the results of a ciphering match having him for object, and was
ashamed of feeling to Statistics as women to giants; nevertheless he
acknowledged that the badge was upon him, if Miss Graves should beat her
master in her array of figures, to insist on his wearing it, as she
would, she certainly would. And against his internal conviction perhaps;
with the knowledge that the figures were an unfortified display, and his
oath of bondage an unmanly servility, the silliest of ceremonies! He was
shockingly feminine to Statistics.
Mr. Durance despised them: he called them, arguing against Mr. Radnor,
'those emotional things,' not comprehensibly to Skepsey. But Mr.
Durance, a very clever gentleman, could not be right in everything. He
made strange remarks upon his country. Dr. Yatt attributed them to the
state of 'his digestion.
And Mr. Fenellan had said of Mr. Durance that, as 'a barrister wanting
briefs, the speech in him had been bottled too long and was an overripe
wine dripping sour drops through the rotten cork.' Mr. Fenellan said it
laughing, he meant no harm. Skepsey was sure he had the words. He heard
no more than other people hear; he remembered whole sentences, and many:
on one of his runs, this active little machine, quickened by motion to
fire, revived the audible of years back; whatever suited his turn of mind
at the moment rushed to the rapid wheels within him. His master's
business and friends, his country's welfare and advancement, these, with
records, items, anticipations, of the manlier sports to decorate, were
his current themes; all being chopped and tossed and mixed in salad
accordance by his fervour of velocity. And if you would like a further
definition of Genius, think of it as a form of swiftness. It is the
lively young great-grandson, in the brain, of the travelling force which
mathematicians put to paper, in a row of astounding ciphers, for the
motion of earth through space; to the generating of heat, whereof is
multiplication, whereof deposited matter, and so your chaos, your half-
lighted labyrinth, your, ceaseless pressure to evolvement; and then
Light, and so Creation, order, the work of Genius. What do you say?
Without having a great brain, the measure of it possessed by Skepsey was
alive under strong illumination. In his heart, while doing penance for
his presumptuousness, he believed that he could lead regiments of men.
He was not the army's General, he was the General's Lieutenant, now and
then venturing to suggest a piece of counsel to his Chief. On his own
particular drilled regiments, his Chief may rely; and on his knowledge
of the country of the campaign, roads, morasses, masking hills, dividing
rivers. He had mapped for himself mentally the battles of conquerors in
his favourite historic reading; and he understood the value of a plan,
and the danger of sticking to it, and the advantage of a big army for
flanking; and he manoeuvred a small one cunningly to make it a bolt at
the telling instant. Dartrey Fenellan had explained to him Frederick's
oblique attack, Napoleon's employment of the artillery arm preparatory to
the hurling of the cataract on the spot of weakness, Wellington's
parallel march with Marmont up to the hour of the decisive cut through
the latter at Salamanca; and Skepsey treated his enemy to the like,
deferentially reporting the engagement to a Chief whom his modesty kept
in eminence, for the receiving of the principal honours. As to his men,
of all classes and sorts, they are so supple with training that they
sustain a defeat like the sturdy pugilist a knock off his legs, and up
smiling a minute after--one of the truly beautiful sights on this earth!
They go at the double half a day, never sounding a single pair of bellows
among them. They have their appetites in full control, to eat when they
can, or cheerfully fast. They have healthy frames, you see; and as the
healthy frame is not artificially heated, it ensues that, under any title
you like, they profess the principles--into the bog we go, we have got
round to it!--the principles of those horrible marching and chanting
Then, must our England, to be redoubtable to the enemy, be a detestable
country for habitation?
Here was a knot.
Skepsey's head dropped lower, he went as a ram. The sayings of Mr.
Durance about his dear England: that 'her remainder of life is in the
activity of her diseases'--that 'she has so fed upon Pap of Compromise
as to be unable any longer to conceive a muscular resolution': that
'she is animated only as the carcase to the blow-fly'; and so forth:--
charged on him during his wrestle with his problem. And the gentlemen
had said, had permitted himself to say, that our England's recent history
was a provincial apothecary's exhibition of the battle of bane and
antidote. Mr. Durance could hardly mean it. But how could one answer
him when he spoke of the torpor of the people, and of the succeeding
Governments as a change of lacqueys--or the purse-string's lacqueys?
He said, that Old England has taken to the arm-chair for good, and thinks
it her whole business to pronounce opinions and listen to herself;
and that, in the face of an armed Europe, this great nation is living
on sufferance. Oh!
Skepsey had uttered the repudiating exclamation.
'Feel quite up to it?' he was asked by his neighbour.
The mover of armed hosts for the defence of the country sat in a third-
class carriage of the train, approaching the first of the stations on the
way to town. He was instantly up to the level of an external world, and
fell into give and take with a burly broad communicative man; located in
London, but born in the North, in view of Durham cathedral, as he thanked
his Lord; who was of the order of pork-butcher; which succulent calling
had carried him down to near upon the borders of Surrey and Sussex, some
miles beyond the new big house of a Mister whose name he had forgotten,
though he had heard it mentioned by an acquaintance interested in the
gentleman's doings. But his object was to have a look at a rare breed of
swine, worth the journey; that didn't run to fat so much as to flavour,
had longer legs, sharp snouts to plump their hams; over from Spain, it
seemed; and the gentleman owning them was for selling them, finding them
wild past correction. But the acquaintance mentioned, who was down to
visit t' other gentleman's big new edifice in workmen's hands, had a
mother, who had been cook to a family, and was now widow of a cook's
shop; ham, beef, and sausages, prime pies to order; and a good specimen
herself; and if ever her son saw her spirit at his bedside, there
wouldn't be room for much else in that chamber--supposing us to keep our
shapes. But he was the right sort of son, anxious to push his mother's
shop where he saw a chance, and do it cheap; and those foreign pigs,
after a disappointment to their importer, might be had pretty cheap, and
were accounted tasty.
Skepsey's main thought was upon war: the man had discoursed of pigs.
He informed the man of his having heard from a scholar, that pigs had
been the cause of more bloody battles than any other animal.
How so? the pork-butcher asked, and said he was not much of a scholar,
and pigs might be provoking, but he had not heard they were a cause of
strife between man and man. For possession of them, Skepsey explained.
Oh! possession! Why, we've heard of bloody battles for the possession of
women! Men will fight for almost anything they care to get or call their
own, the pork-butcher said; and he praised Old England for avoiding war.
Skepsey nodded. How if war is forced on us? Then we fight. Suppose we
are not prepared?--We soon get that up. Skepsey requested him to state
the degree of resistance he might think he could bring against a pair of
skilful fists, in a place out of hearing of the police.
'Say, you!' said the pork-butcher, and sharply smiled, for he was a man
'I would give you two minutes,' rejoined Skepsey, eyeing him intently and
kindly: insomuch that it could be seen he was not in the conundrum vein.
'Rather short allowance, eh, master?' said the bigger man. 'Feel here';
he straightened out his arm and doubled it, raising a proud bridge of
Skepsey performed the national homage to muscle.
'Twice that, would not help without the science,' he remarked, and let
his arm be gripped in turn.
The pork-butcher's throat sounded, as it were, commas and colons,
punctuations in his reflections, while he tightened fingers along the
iron lump. 'Stringy. You're a wiry one, no mistake.' It was encomium.
With the ingrained contempt of size for a smallness that has not yet
taught it the prostrating lesson, he said: 'Weight tells.'
'In a wrestle,' Skepsey admitted. 'Allow me to say, you would not touch
'And how do you know I'm not a trifle handy with the maulers myself?'
'You will pardon me for saying, it would be worse for you if you were.'
The pork-butcher was flung backward. 'Are you a Professor, may I
Skepsey rejected the title. 'I can engage to teach young men, upon a
proper observance of first principles.'
'They be hanged!' cried the ruffled pork-butcher. 'Our best men never
got it out of books. Now, you tell me--you've got a spiflicating style
of talk about you--no brag, you tell me--course, the best man wins, if
you mean that: now, if I was one of 'em, and I fetches you a bit of a
flick, how then? Would you be ready to step out with a real Professor?'
'I should claim a fair field,' was the answer, made in modesty.
'And you'd expect to whop me with they there principles of yours?'
'I should expect to.'
'Bang me!' was roared. After a stare at the mild little figure with the
fitfully dead-levelled large grey eyes in front of him, the pork-butcher
resumed: 'Take you for the man you say you be, you're just the man for my
friend Jam and me. He dearly loves to see a set-to, self the same. What
prettier? And if you would be so obliging some day as to favour us with
a display, we'd head a cap conformably, whether you'd the best of it,
according to your expectations, or t' other way:--For there never was
shame in a jolly good licking as the song says: that is, if you take it
and make it appear jolly good. And find you an opponent meet and fit,
never doubt. Ever had the worse of an encounter, sir?'
'Well, that's good. And it didn't destroy your confidence?'
'Added to it, I hope.'
At this point, it became a crying necessity for Skepsey to escape from
an area of boastfulness, into which he had fallen inadvertently; and he
hastened to apologize 'for his personal reference,' that was intended for
an illustration of our country caught unawares by a highly trained picked
soldiery, inferior in numbers to the patriotic levies, but sharp at the
edge and knowing how to strike. Measure the axe, measure the tree; and
which goes down first?
'Invasion, is it?--and you mean, we're not to hit back?' the pork-butcher
bellowed, and presently secured a murmured approbation from an audience
of three, that had begun to comprehend the dialogue, and strengthened him
in a manner to teach Skepsey the foolishness of ever urging analogies of
too extended a circle to close sharply on the mark. He had no longer a
chance, he was overborne, identified with the fated invader, rolled away
into the chops of the Channel, to be swallowed up entire, and not a rag
left of him, but John Bull tucking up his shirtsleeves on the shingle
beach, ready for a second or a third; crying to them to come on.
Warmed by his Bullish victory, and friendly to the vanquished, the pork-
butcher told Skepsey he should like to see more of him, and introduced
himself on a card Benjamin Shaplow, not far from the Bank.
They parted at the Terminus, where three shrieks of an engine, sounding
like merry messages of the damned to their congeners in the anticipatory
stench of the cab-droppings above, disconnected sane hearing; perverted
it, no doubt. Or else it was the stamp of a particular name on his mind,
which impressed Skepsey, as he bored down the street and across the
bridge, to fancy in recollection, that Mr. Shaplow, when reiterating the
wish for self and friend to witness a display of his cunning with the
fists, had spoken the name of Jarniman. An unusual name yet more than
one Jarniman might well exist. And unlikely that a friend of the pork-
butcher would be the person whom Mr. Radnor first prohibited and then
desired to receive. It hardly mattered:--considering that the Dutch Navy
did really, incredible as it seems now, come sailing a good way up the
River Thames, into the very main artery of Old England. And what thought
the Tower of it? Skepsey looked at the Tower in sympathy, wondering
whether the Tower had seen those impudent Dutch a nice people at home,
he had heard. Mr. Shaplow's Jarniman might actually be Mr. Radnor's,
he inclined to think. At any rate he was now sure of the name.
WHEREIN WE BEHOLD THE COUPLE JUSTIFIED OF LOVE HAVING SIGHT OF THEIR
Fenellan, in a musing exclamation, that was quite spontaneous, had put a
picture on the departing Skepsey, as observed from an end of the
Lakelands upper terrace-walk.
'Queer little water-wagtail it is!' And Lady Grace Halley and Miss
Graves and Mrs. Cormyn, snugly silken dry ones, were so taken with the
pretty likeness after hearing Victor call the tripping dripping creature
the happiest man in England, that they nursed it in their minds for a
Bewick tailpiece to the chapter of a pleasant rural day. It imbedded the
day in an idea that it had been rural.
We are indebted almost for construction to those who will define us
briefly: we are but scattered leaves to the general comprehension of us
until such a work of binding and labelling is done. And should the
definition be not so correct as brevity pretends to make it at one
stroke, we are at least rendered portable; thus we pass into the
conceptions of our fellows, into the records, down to posterity.
Anecdotes of England's happiest man were related, outlines of his
personal history requested. His nomination in chief among the
traditionally very merry Islanders was hardly borne out by the tale of
his enchainment with a drunken yokefellow--unless upon the Durance
version of the felicity of his countrymen; still, the water-wagtail
carried it, Skepsey trotted into memories. Heroes conducted up Fame's
temple-steps by ceremonious historians, who are studious, when the
platform is reached, of the art of setting them beneath the flambeau
of a final image, before thrusting them inside to be rivetted on their
pedestals, have an excellent chance of doing the same, let but the
provident narrators direct that image to paint the thing a moth-like
humanity desires, in the thing it shrinks from. Miss Priscilla Graves
now fastened her meditations upon Skepsey; and it was important to him.
Tobacco withdrew the haunting shadow of the Rev. Septimus Barmby from
Nesta. She strolled beside Louise de Seilles, to breathe sweet-sweet in
the dear friend's ear and tell her she loved her. The presence of the
German had, without rousing animosity, damped the young Frenchwoman, even
to a revulsion when her feelings had been touched by hearing praise of
her France, and wounded by the subjects of the praise. She bore the
national scar, which is barely skin-clothing of a gash that will not heal
since her country was overthrown and dismembered. Colney Durance could
excuse the unreasonableness in her, for it had a dignity, and she
controlled it, and quietly suffered, trusting to the steady, tireless,
concentrated aim of her France. In the Gallic mind of our time, France
appears as a prematurely buried Glory, that heaves the mound oppressing
breath and cannot cease; and calls hourly, at times keenly, to be
remembered, rescued from the pain and the mould-spots of that foul
sepulture. Mademoiselle and Colney were friends, partly divided by her
speaking once of revanche; whereupon he assumed the chair of the
Moralist, with its right to lecture, and went over to the enemy; his talk
savoured of a German. Our holding of the balance, taking two sides, is
incomprehensible to a people quivering with the double wound to body and
soul. She was of Breton blood. Cymric enough was in Nesta to catch any
thrill from her and join to her mood, if it hung out a colour sad or gay,
and was noble, as any mood of this dear Louise would surely be.
Nataly was not so sympathetic. Only the Welsh and pure Irish are quick
at the feelings of the Celtic French. Nataly came of a Yorkshire stock;
she had the bravery, humaneness and generous temper of our civilized
North, and a taste for mademoiselle's fine breeding, with a distaste for
the singular air of superiority in composure which it was granted to
mademoiselle to wear with an unassailable reserve when the roughness of
the commercial boor was obtrusive. She said of her to Colney, as they
watched the couple strolling by the lake below: 'Nesta brings her out of
her frosts. I suppose it's the presence of Dr. Schlesien. I have known
it the same after an evening of Wagner's music.'
'Richard Wagner Germanized ridicule of the French when they were down,'
said Colney. 'She comes of a blood that never forgives.'
'"Never forgives" is horrible to think of! I fancied you liked your
"Kelts," as you call them.'
Colney seized on a topic that shelved a less agreeable one that he saw
coming. 'You English won't descend to understand what does not resemble
you. The French are in a state of feverish patriotism. You refuse to
treat them for a case of fever. They are lopped of a limb: you tell them
to be at rest!'
'You know I am fond of them.'
'And the Kelts, as they are called, can't and won't forgive injuries;
look at Ireland, look at Wales, and the Keltic Scot. Have you heard them
talk? It happened in the year 1400: it's alive to them as if it were
yesterday. Old History is as dead to the English as their first father.
They beg for the privilege of pulling the forelock to the bearers of the
titles of the men who took their lands from them and turn them to the
uses of cattle. The Saxon English had, no doubt, a heavier thrashing
than any people allowed to subsist ever received: you see it to this day;
the crick of the neck at the name of a lord is now concealed and denied,
but they have it and betray the effects; and it's patent in their
Journals, all over their literature. Where it's not seen, another
blood's at work. The Kelt won't accept the form of slavery. Let him
be servile, supple, cunning, treacherous, and to appearance time-serving,
he will always remember his day of manly independence and who robbed him:
he is the poetic animal of the races of modern men.'
'You give him Pagan colours.'
'Natural colours. He does not offer the other cheek or turn his back to
be kicked after a knock to the ground. Instead of asking him to forgive,
which he cannot do, you must teach him to admire. A mercantile community
guided by Political Economy from the ledger to the banquet presided over
by its Dagon Capital, finds that difficult. However, there 's the secret
of him; that I respect in him. His admiration of an enemy or oppressor
doing great deeds, wins him entirely. He is an active spirit, not your
negative passive letter-of-Scripture Insensible. And his faults, short
of ferocity, are amusing.'
'But the fits of ferocity!'
'They are inconscient, real fits. They come of a hot nerve. He is
manageable, sober too, when his mind is charged. As to the French
people, they are the most mixed of any European nation; so they are
packed with contrasts: they are full of sentiment, they are sharply
logical; free-thinkers, devotees; affectionate, ferocious; frivolous,
tenacious; the passion of the season operating like sun or moon on these
qualities; and they can reach to ideality out of sensualism. Below your
level, they're above it: a paradox is at home with them!'
'My friend, you speak seriously--an unusual compliment,' Nataly said,
and ungratefully continued: 'You know what is occupying me. I want your
opinion. I guess it. I want to hear--a mean thirst perhaps, and you
would pay me any number of compliments to avoid the subject; but let me
Colney shrugged in resignation. 'Victor works himself out,' he replied.
'We are to go through it all again?'
'If you have not the force to contain him.'
'How contain him?'
Up went Colney's shoulders.
'You may see it all before you,' he said, 'straight as the Seine chaussee
from the hill of La Roche Guyon.'
He looked for her recollection of the scene.
'Ah, the happy ramble that year!' she cried. 'And my Nesta just seven.
We had been six months at Craye. Every day of our life together looks
happy to me, looking back, though I know that every day had the same
troubles. I don't think I'm deficient in courage; I think I could meet
.... But the false position so cruelly weakens me. I am no woman's
equal when I have to receive or visit. It seems easier to meet the worst
in life-danger, death, anything. Pardon me for talking so. Perhaps we
need not have left Craye or Creckholt . . . ?' she hinted an
interrogation. 'Though I am not sorry; it is not good to be where one
tastes poison. Here it may be as deadly, worse. Dear friend, I am so
glad you remember La Roche Guyon. He was popular with the dear French
'In spite of his accent.'
'It is not so bad?'
'And that you'll defend!'
'Consider: these neighbours we come among; they may have heard . . .'
'Act on the assumption.'
'You forget the principal character. Victor promises; he may have learnt
a lesson at Creckholt. But look at this house he has built. How can I--
any woman--contain him! He must have society.'
'He must be in the front. He has talked of Parliament.'
Colney's liver took the thrust of a skewer through it. He spoke as in
meditative encomium: 'His entry into Parliament would promote himself and
family to a station of eminence naked over the Clock Tower of the House.'
She moaned. 'At the vilest, I cannot regret my conduct--bear what I may.
I can bear real pain: what kills me is, the suspicion. And I feel it
like a guilty wretch! And I do not feel the guilt! I should do the same
again, on reflection. I do believe it saved him. I do; oh! I do, I do.
I cannot expect my family to see with my eyes. You know them--my brother
and sisters think I have disgraced them; they put no value on my saving
him. It sounds childish; it is true. He had fallen into a terrible
'He had an hour of gloom.'