Part 1 out of 2
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US
unless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we usually do not
keep etexts in compliance with any particular paper edition.
The "legal small print" and other information about this book
may now be found at the end of this file. Please read this
important information, as it gives you specific rights and
tells you about restrictions in how the file may be used.
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
ONE OF OUR CONQUERORS
By George Meredith
XIX. TREATS OF NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCE AND THE DISSENSION BETWEEN
THEM AND OF A SATIRIST'S MALIGNITY IN THE DIRECTION OF HIS
XX. THE GREAT ASSEMBLY AT LAKELAND
XXI. DARTREY FENELLAN
XXII. CONCERNS THE INTRUSION OF JARNIMAN
XXIII. TREATS OF THE LADIES' LAPDOG TASSO FOR AN INSTANCE OF MOMENTOUS
EFFECTS PRODUCED BY VERY MINOR CAUSES
XXIV. NESTA'S ENGAGEMENT
TREATS OF NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCE AND THE DISSENSION BETWEEN THEM AND OF
A SATIRIST'S MALIGNITY IN THE DIRECTION OF HIS COUNTRY
There is at times in the hearts of all men of active life a vivid wild
moment or two of dramatic dialogue between the veteran antagonists,
Nature and Circumstance, when they, whose business it should be to be
joyfully one, furiously split; and the Dame is up with her shrillest
querulousness to inquire of her offspring, for the distinct original
motive of his conduct. Why did he bring her to such a pass! And what is
the gain? If he be not an alienated issue of the great Mother, he will
strongly incline to her view, that he put himself into harness to join
with a machine going the dead contrary way of her welfare; and thereby
wrote himself donkey, for his present reading. Soldiers, heroes, even
the braided, even the wearers of the gay cock's feathers, who get the
honours and the pocket-pieces, know the moment of her electrical
eloquence. They have no answer for her, save an index at the machine
pushing them on yet farther under the enemy's line of fire, where they
pluck the golden wreath or the livid, and in either case listen no more.
They glorify her topping wisdom while on the march to confound it. She
is wise in her way. But, it is asked by the disputant, If we had
followed her exclusively, how far should we have travelled from our
starting-point? We of the world and its prizes and duties must do her an
injury to make her tongue musical to us, and her argument worthy of
attention. So it seems. How to keep the proper balance between those
two testy old wranglers, that rarely pull the right way together, is as
much the task for men in the grip of the world, as for the wanton
youthful fry under dominion of their instincts; and probably, when it is
done, man will have attained the golden age of his retirement from
Why be scheming? Victor asked. Unlike the gallant soldiery, his
question was raised in the blush of a success, from an examination of the
quality of the thing won; although it had not changed since it was first
coveted; it was demonstrably the same: and an astonishing dry stick he
held, as a reward for perpetual agitations and perversions of his natural
tastes. Here was a Dudley Sowerby, the direct issue of the conception of
Lakelands; if indeed they were not conceived together in one; and the
young gentleman had moral character, good citizen substance, and station,
rank, prospect of a title; and the grasp of him was firm. Yet so far was
it from hearty, that when hearing a professed satirist like Colney
Durance remark on the decorous manner of Dudley's transparent courtship
of the girl, under his look of an awakened approval of himself, that he
appeared to be asking everybody:--Do you not think I bid fair for an
excellent father of Philistines?--Victor had a nip of spite at the
thought of Dudley's dragging him bodily to be the grandfather. Poor
Fredi, too!--necessarily the mother: condemned by her hard fate to feel
proud of Philistine babies! Though women soon get reconciled to it! Or
do they? They did once. What if his Fredi turned out one of the modern
young women, who have drunk of ideas? He caught himself speculating on
that, as on a danger. The alliance with Dudley really seemed to set him
Colney might not have been under prompting of Nataly when he derided
Dudley; but Victor was at war with the picture of her, in her compression
of a cruel laugh, while her eyelids were hard shut, as if to exclude the
young patriarch of Philistines' ridiculous image.
He hearkened to the Nature interrogating him, why had he stepped on a
path to put division between himself and his beloved?--the smallest of
gaps; and still the very smallest between nuptial lovers is a division--
and that may become a mortal wound to their one-life. Why had he roused
a slumbering world? Glimpses of the world's nurse-like, old-fashioned,
mother-nightcap benevolence to its kicking favourites; its long-suffering
tolerance for the heroic breakers of its rough-cast laws, while the
decent curtain continues dropped, or lifted only ankle-high; together
with many scenes, lively suggestions, of the choice of ways he liked
best, told of things, which were better things, incomprehensibly
forfeited. So that the plain sense of value insisted on more than one
weighing of the gain in hand: a dubious measure.
He was as little disposed to reject it as to stop his course at a goal of
his aim. Nevertheless, a gain thus poorly estimated, could not command
him to do a deed of humiliation on account of it. The speaking to this
dry young Dudley was not imperative at present. A word would do in the
day to come.
Nataly was busy with her purchases of furniture, and the practise for the
great August Concert. He dealt her liberal encouragements, up to the
verge of Dr. Themison's latest hummed words touching Mrs. Burman, from
which he jumped in alarm lest he should paralyze her again: the dear
soul's dreaded aspect of an earthy pallor was a spectre behind her
cheeks, ready to rush forth. Fenellan brought Carling to dine with him;
and Themison was confirmed by Carting, with incidents in proof; Caning by
Jarniman, also with incidents; one very odd one--or so it seemed, in the
fury of the first savour of it:--she informed Jarniman, Skepsey said his
friend Jarniman said, that she had dreamed of making her appearance to
him on the night of the 23rd August, and of setting the date on the
calendar over his desk, when she entered his room: 'Sitting-room, not
bedroom; she was always quite the lady,' Skepsey reported his Jarniman.
Mrs. Burman, as a ghost, would respect herself; she would keep to her
character. Jarniman quite expected the dream to be verified; she was a
woman of her word: he believed she had received a revelation of the
approaching fact: he was preparing for the scene.
Victor had to keep silent and discourse of general prosperity. His happy
vivaciousness assisted him to feel it by day. Nataly heard him at night,
on a moan: 'Poor soul!' and loudly once while performing an abrupt demi-
vault from back to side: 'Perhaps now!' in a voice through doors. She
schooled herself to breathe equably.
Not being allowed to impart the distressing dose of comfort he was
charged with, he swallowed it himself; and these were the consequences.
And an uneasy sleep was traditionally a matter for grave debate in the
Radnor family. The Duvidney ladies, Dorothea and Virginia, would have
cited ancestral names, showing it to be the worst of intimations. At
night, lying on his back beneath a weight of darkness, one heavily craped
figure, distinguishable through the gloom, as a blot on a black pad,
accused the answering darkness within him, until his mind was dragged to
go through the whole case by morning light; and the compassionate man
appealed to common sense, to stamp and pass his delectable sophistries;
as, that it was his intense humaneness, which exposed him to an
accusation of inhumanity; his prayer for the truly best to happen, which
anticipated Mrs. Burman's expiry. They were simple sophistries,
fabricated to suit his needs, readily taking and bearing the imprimatur
of common sense. They refreshed him, as a chemical scent a crowded room.
All because he could not open his breast to Nataly, by reason of her
feebleness; or feel enthusiasm in the possession of young Dudley! A dry
stick indeed beside him on the walk Westward. Good quality wood, no
doubt, but dry, varnished for conventional uses. Poor dear Fredi would
have to crown it like the May-day posy of the urchins of Craye Farm and
Dudley wished the great City-merchant to appreciate him as a diligent
student of commercial matters: rivalries of Banks; Foreign and Municipal
Loans, American Rails, and Argentine; new Companies of wholesome
appearance or sinister; or starting with a dram in the stomach, or born
to bleat prostrate, like sheep on their backs in a ditch; Trusts and
Founders; Breweries bursting vats upon the markets, and England prone
along the gutters, gobbling, drunk for shares, and sober in the
possession of certain of them. But when, as Colney says, a grateful
England has conferred the Lordship on her Brewer, he gratefully hands-
over the establishment to his country; and both may disregard the howls
of a Salvation Army of shareholders.--Beaten by the Germans in Brewery,
too! Dr. Schlesien has his right to crow. We were ahead of them, and
they came and studied us, and they studied Chemistry as well; while we
went on down our happy-go-lucky old road; and then had to hire their
young Professors, and then to import their beer.
Have the Germans more brains than we English? Victor's blood up to the
dome of his cranium knocked the patriotic negative. But, as old Colney
says (and bother him, for constantly intruding!), the comfortably
successful have the habit of sitting, and that dulls the brain yet more
than it eases the person: hence are we outpaced; we have now to know we
are racing. Victor scored a mark for one of his projects. A well-
conducted Journal of the sharpest pens in the land might, at a sacrifice
of money grandly sunk, expose to his English how and to what degree their
sports, and their fierce feastings, and their opposition to ideas, and
their timidity in regard to change, and their execration of criticism
applied to themselves, and their unanimous adoption of it for a weapon
against others, are signs of a prolonged indulgence in the cushioned
seat. Victor saw it. But would the people he loved? He agreed with
Colney, forgetting the satirist's venom: to-wit; that the journalists
should be close under their editor's rod to put it in sound bold
English;--no metaphors, no similes, nor flowery insubstantiality: but
honest Saxon manger stuff: and put it repeatedly, in contempt of the
disgust of iteration; hammering so a soft place on the Anglican skull,
which is rubbed in consequence, and taught at last through soreness to
reflect.--A Journal?--with Colney Durance for Editor?--and called
conformably THE WHIPPING-TOP? Why not, if it exactly hits the
signification of the Journal and that which it would have the country do
to itself, to keep it going and truly topping? For there is no vulgarity
in a title strongly signifying the intent. Victor wrote it at night,
naming Colney for Editor, with a sum of his money to be devoted to the
publication, in a form of memorandum; and threw it among the papers in
Young Dudley had a funny inquisitiveness about Dartrey Fenellan; owing to
Fredi's reproduction or imitation of her mother's romantic sentiment for
Dartrey, doubtless: a bit of jealousy, indicating that the dry fellow had
his feelings. Victor touched--off an outline of Dartrey's history and
character:--the half-brother of Simeon, considerably younger, and totally
different. 'Dartrey's mother was Lady Charlotte Kiltorne, one of the
Clanconans; better mother than wife, perhaps; and no reproach on her, not
a shadow; only she made the General's Bank-notes fly black paper. And--
if you 're for heredity--the queer point is, that Simeon, whose mother
was a sober-minded woman, has always been the spendthrift. Dartrey
married one of the Hennen women, all an odd lot, all handsome. I met her
once. Colney said, she came up here with a special commission from the
Prince of Darkness. There are women who stir the unholy in men--whether
they mean it or not, you know.'
Dudley pursed to remark, that he could not say he did know. And good for
Fredi if he did not know, and had his objections to the knowledge! But
he was like the men who escape colds by wrapping in comforters instead of
trusting to the spin of the blood.
'She played poor Dartrey pranks before he buried--he, behaved well to
her; and that says much for him; he has: a devil of a temper. I 've seen
the blood in his veins, mount to cracking. But there's the man: because
she was a woman, he never let it break out with her. And, by heaven, he
had cause. She couldn't be left. She tricked him, and she loved him-
passionately, I believe. You don't understand women loving the husband
they drag through the mire?'
Dudley did not. He sharpened his mouth.
'Buried, you said, sir?--a widower?'
'I've no positive information; we shall hear when he: comes back,' Victor
replied hurriedly. 'He got a drenching of all the damns in the British
service from his. Generalissimo one day at a Review, for a trooper's
negligence-button or stock missing, or something; and off goes Dartrey to
his hut, and breaks his sword, and sends in his resignation. Good
soldier lost. And I can't complain; he has been a right-hand man to me
over in Africa. But a man ought to have some control of his temper,
especially a soldier.'
Dudley put emphasis into his acquiescence.
'Worse than that temper of Dartrey's, he can't forgive an injury. He
bears a grudge against his country. You've heard Colney Durance abuse
old England. It's three parts factitious-literary exercise. It 's milk
beside the contempt of Dartrey's shrug. He thinks we're a dead people,
if a people; "subsisting on our fat," as Colney says.'
'I am not of opinion that we show it,' observed Dudley.
'We don't,' Victor agreed. He disrelished his companion's mincing tone
of a monumental security, and yearned for Dartrey or Simeon or Colney to
be at his elbow rather than this most commendable of orderly citizens,
who little imagined the treacherous revolt from him in the bosom of the
gentleman cordially signifying full agreement. But Dudley was not gifted
to read behind words and looks.
They were in the Park of the dwindling press of carriages, and here was
this young Dudley saying, quite commendably: 'It's a pity we seem to have
no means of keeping our parks select.'
Victor flung Simeon Fenellan at him in thought. He remembered a fable of
Fenellan's, about a Society of the Blest, and the salt it was to them to
discover an intruder from below, and the consequent accelerated measure
in their hymning.
'Have you seen anything offensive to you?' he asked.
'One sees notorious persons.'
Dudley spoke aloof from them--'out of his cold attics,' Fenellan would
Victor approved: with the deadened feeling common to us when first in sad
earnest we consent to take life as it is.
He perceived, too, the comicality of his having to resign himself to the
fatherly embrace of goodness.
Lakelands had him fast, and this young Dudley was the kernel of
Lakelands. If he had only been intellectually a little flexible in his
morality! But no; he wore it cap a pie, like a mediaeval knight his
armour. One had to approve. And there was no getting away from him. He
was good enough to stay in town for the practise of the opening overture
of the amateurs, and the flute-duet, when his family were looking for him
at Tunbridge Wells; and almost every day Victor was waylaid by him at a
corner of the Strand.
Occasionally, Victor appeared at the point of interception armed with
Colney Durance, for whom he had called in the Temple, bent on self-
defence, although Colney was often as bitter to his taste as to Dudley's.
Latterly the bitter had become a tonic. We rejoice in the presence of
goodness, let us hope; and still an impersonation of conventional,
goodness perpetually about us depresses. Dudley drove him to Colney for
relief. Besides it pleased Nataly that he should be bringing Colney
home; it looked to her as if he were subjecting Dudley to critical
inspection before he decided a certain question much, and foolishly,
dreaded by the dear soul. That quieted her. And another thing, she
liked him to be with Colney, for a clog on him; as it were, a tuning-fork
for the wild airs he started. A little pessimism, also, she seemed to
like; probably as an appeasement after hearing, and having to share, high
flights. And she was, in her queer woman's way, always reassured by his
endurance of Colney's company:--she read it to mean, that he could bear
Colney's perusal of him, and satiric stings. Victor had seen these petty
matters among the various which were made to serve his double and treble
purposes; now, thanks to the operation of young Dudley within him, he
felt them. Preferring Fenellan's easy humour to Colney's acid, he was
nevertheless braced by the latter's antidote to Dudley, while reserving
his entire opposition in the abstract.
For Victor Radnor and Colney Durance were the Optimist and Pessimist of
their society. They might have headed those tribes in the country. At a
period when the omnibus of the world appears to its quaint occupants to
be going faster, men are shaken into the acceptation, if not performance,
of one part or the other as it is dictated to them by their temperaments.
Compose the parts, and you come nigh to the meaning of the Nineteenth
Century: the mother of these gosling affirmatives and negatives divorced
from harmony and awakened by the slight increase of incubating motion to
vitality. Victor and Colney had been champion duellists for the rosy and
the saturnine since the former cheerfully slaved for a small stipend in
the City of his affection, and the latter entered on an inheritance
counted in niggard hundreds, that withdrew a briefless barrister disposed
for scholarship from the forlornest of seats in the Courts. They had
foretold of one another each the unfulfilled; each claimed the actual as
the child of his prediction. Victor was to have been ruined long back;
Colney the prey of independent bachelors. Colney had escaped his harpy,
and Victor could be called a millionaire and more. Prophesy was crowned
by Colney's dyspepsia, by Victor's ticklish domestic position. Their
pity for one another, their warm regard, was genuine; only, they were of
different temperaments; and we have to distinguish, that in many
estimable and some gifted human creatures, it is the quality of the blood
which directs the current of opinion.
Victor played-off Colney upon Dudley, for his internal satisfaction, and
to lull Nataly and make her laugh; but he could not, as she hoped he was
doing, take Colney into his confidence; inasmuch as the Optimist,
impelled by his exuberant anticipatory trustfulness, is an author, and
does things; whereas the Pessimist is your chaired critic, with the
delivery of a censor, generally an undoer of things. Our Optimy has his
instinct to tell him of the cast of Pessimy's countenance at the
confession of a dilemma-foreseen! He hands himself to Pessimy, as it
were a sugar-cane, for the sour brute to suck the sugar and whack with
the wood. But he cannot perform his part in return; he gets no
compensation: Pessimy is invulnerable. You waste your time in hurling a
common 'tu-quoque' at one who hugs the worst.
The three walking in the park, with their bright view, and black view,
and neutral view of life, were a comical trio. They had come upon the
days of the unfanned electric furnace, proper to London's early August
when it is not pipeing March. Victor complacently bore heat as well as
cold: but young Dudley was a drought, and Colney a drug to refresh it;
and why was he stewing in London? It was for this young Dudley, who
resembled a London of the sparrowy roadways and wearisome pavements and
blocks of fortress mansions, by chance a water-cart spirting a stale
water: or a London of the farewell dinner-parties, where London's
professed anecdotist lays the dust with his ten times told: Why was not
Nataly relieved of her dreary round of the purchases of furniture! They
ought all now to be in Switzerland or Tyrol. Nesta had of late been
turning over leaves of an Illustrated book of Tyrol, dear to her after a
run through the Innthal to the Dolomites one splendid August; and she and
Nataly had read there of Hofer, Speckbacker, Haspinger; and wrath had
filled them at the meanness of the Corsican, who posed after it as victim
on St. Helena's rock; the scene in grey dawn on Mantua's fortress-walls
blasting him in the Courts of History, when he strikes for his pathetic
Victor remembered how he had been rhetorical, as the mouthpiece of his
darlings. But he had in memory prominently now the many glorious
pictures of that mountain-land beckoning to him, waving him to fly forth
from the London oven:--lo, the Tyrolese limestone crags with livid peaks
and snow lining shelves and veins of the crevices; and folds of pinewood
undulations closed by a shoulder of snow large on the blue; and a
dazzling pinnacle rising over green pasture-Alps, the head of it shooting
aloft as the blown billow, high off a broken ridge, and wide-armed in its
pure white shroud beneath; tranced, but all motion in immobility, to the
heart in the eye; a splendid image of striving, up to crowned victory.
And see the long valley-sweeps of the hanging meadows and maize, and
lower vineyards and central tall green spires! Walking beside young
Dudley, conversing, observing too, Victor followed the trips and twists
of a rill, that was lured a little further down through scoops, ducts,
and scaffolded channels to serve a wainwright.
He heard the mountain-song of the joyful water: a wren-robin-thrush on
the dance down of a faun; till it was caught and muted, and the silver
foot slid along the channel, swift as moonbeams through a cloud, with an
air of 'Whither you will, so it be on'; happy for service as in freedom.
Then the yard of the inn below, and the rillwater twirling rounded
through the trout-trough, subdued, still lively for its beloved onward:
dues to business, dues to pleasure; a wedding of the two, and the wisest
on earth:-eh? like some one we know, and Nataly has made the comparison.
Fresh forellen for lunch: rhyming to Fenellan, he had said to her; and
that recollection struck the day to blaze; for his friend was a ruined
military captain living on a literary quill at the time; and Nataly's
tender pleading, 'Could you not help to give him another chance, dear
Victor?'--signifying her absolute trust in his ability to do that or more
or anything, had actually set him thinking of the Insurance Office; which
he started to prosperity, and Fenellan in it, previously an untutored
rill of the mountains, if ever was one.
Useless to be dwelling on holiday pictures: Lakelands had hold of him!
Colney or somebody says, that the greater our successes, the greater the
slaves we become.--But we must have an aim, my friend, and success must
be the aim of any aim!--Yes, and, says Colney, you are to rejoice in the
disappointing miss, which saved you from being damned by your bullet on
the centre.--You're dead against Nature, old Colney.--That is to carry
the flag of Liberty.--By clipping a limb!
Victor overcame the Pessimist in his own royal cranium-Court. He
entertained a pronounced dissension with bachelors pretending to
independence. It could not be argued publicly, and the more the pity:--
for a slight encouragement, he would have done it: his outlook over the
waves of bachelors and (by present conditions mostly constrained)
spinsters--and another outlook, midnight upon Phlegethon to the thoughts
of men, made him deem it urgent. And it helped the plea in his own
excuse, as Colney pointed out to the son of Nature. That, he had to
admit, was true. He charged it upon Mrs. Burman, for twisting the most
unselfish and noblest of his thoughts; and he promised himself it was to
cease on the instant when the circumstance, which Nature was remiss in
not bringing about to-day or to-morrow, had come to pass. He could see
his Nataly's pained endurance beneath her habitual submission. Her
effort was a poor one, to conceal her dread of the day of the gathering
On the Sunday previous to the day, Dr. Themison accompanied the amateurs
by rail to Wrensham, to hear 'trial of the acoustics' of the Concert-
hall. They were a goodly company; and there was fun in the railway-
carriage over Colney's description of Fashionable London's vast octopus
Malady-monster, who was letting the doctor fly to the tether of its
longest filament for an hour, plying suckers on him the while. He had
the look, to general perception, of a man but half-escaped: and as when
the notes of things taken by the vision in front are being set down upon
tablets in the head behind. Victor observed his look at Nataly. The
look was like a door aswing, revealing in concealing. She was not or did
not appear struck by it; perhaps, if observant, she took it for a busy
professional gentleman's holiday reckoning of the hours before the return
train to his harness, and his arrangements for catching it. She was, as
she could be on a day of trial, her enchanting majestic self again--
defying suspicions. She was his true mate for breasting a world honoured
in uplifting her.
Her singing of a duet with Nesta, called forth Dr. Themison's very warm
applause. He named the greatest of contraltos. Colney did better
service than Fenellan at the luncheon-table: he diverted Nataly and
captured Dr. Themison's ear with the narrative of his momentous
expedition of European Emissaries, to plead the cause of their several
languages at the Court of Japan: a Satiric Serial tale, that hit
incidentally the follies of the countries of Europe, and intentionally,
one had to think, those of Old England. Nesta set him going. Just when
he was about to begin, she made her father laugh by crying out in a
rapture, 'Oh! Delphica!' For she was naughtily aware of Dudley
Sowerby's distaste for the story and disgust with the damsel Delphica.
Nesta gave Dr. Themison the preliminary sketch of the grand object of the
expedition: indeed one of the eminent ones of the world; matter for an
Epic; though it is to be feared, that our part in it will not encourage a
Cis-Atlantic bard. To America the honours from beginning to end belong.
So, then, Japan has decided to renounce its language, for the adoption of
the language it may choose among the foremost famous European tongues.
Japan becomes the word for miraculous transformations of a whole people
at the stroke of a wand; and let our English enrol it as the most
precious of the powerful verbs. An envoy visits the principal Seats of
Learning in Europe. He is of a gravity to match that of his unexampled
and all but stupefying mission. A fluent linguist, yet an Englishman,
the slight American accent contracted during a lengthened residence in
the United States is no bar to the patriotism urging him to pay his visit
of exposition and invitation from the Japanese Court to the distinguished
Doctor of Divinity Dr. Bouthoin. The renown of Dr. Bouthoin among the
learned of Japan has caused the special invitation to him; a scholar
endowed by an ample knowledge and persuasive eloquence to cite and
instance as well as illustrate the superior advantages to Japan and
civilization in the filial embrace of mother English. 'For to this it
must come predestinated,' says the astonishing applicant. 'We seem to
see a fitness in it,' says the cogitative Rev. Doctor. 'And an Island
England in those waters, will do wonders for Commerce,' adds the former.
'We think of things more pregnant,' concludes the latter, with a dry
gleam of ecclesiastical knowingness. And let the Editor of the Review
upon his recent pamphlet, and let the prelate reprimanding him, and let
the newspapers criticizing his pure Saxon, have a care!
Funds, universally the most convincing of credentials, are placed at Dr.
Bouthoin's disposal: only it is requested, that for the present the
expedition be secret. 'Better so,' says pure Saxon's champion. On a day
patented for secresy, and swearing-in the whole American Continent
through the cables to keep the secret by declaring the patent, the Rev.
Dr. Bouthoin, accompanied by his curate, the Rev. Mancate Semhians,
stumbling across portmanteaux crammed with lexicons and dictionaries and
other tubes of the voice of Hermes, takes possession of berths in the
ship Polypheme, bound, as they mutually conceive, for the biggest
adventure ever embarked on by a far-thoughted, high-thoughted, patriotic
pair speaking pure Saxon or other.
Colney, with apologies to his hearers, avoided the custom of our period
(called the Realistic) to create, when casual opportunity offers, a
belief in the narrative by promoting nausea in the audience. He passed
under veil the Rev. Doctor's acknowledgement of Neptune's power, and the
temporary collapse of Mr. Semhians. Proceeding at once to the comments
of these high-class missionaries on the really curious inquisitiveness of
certain of the foreign passengers on board, he introduced to them the
indisputably learned, the very argumentative, crashing, arrogant,
pedantic, dogmatic, philological German gentleman, Dr. Gannius, reeking
of the Teutonic Professor, as a library volume of its leather. With him
is his fairhaired artless daughter Delphica. An interesting couple for
the beguilement of a voyage: she so beautifully moderates his irascible
incisiveness! Yet there is a strange tone that they have. What, then,
of the polite, the anecdotic Gallic M. Falarique, who studiously engages
the young lady in colloquy when Mr. Semhians is agitating outside them to
say a word? What of that outpouring, explosive, equally voluble,
uncontrolled M. Bobinikine, a Mongol Russian, shaped, featured, hued like
the pot-boiled, round and tight young dumpling of our primitive boyhood,
which smokes on the dish from the pot? And what of another, hitherto
unnoticed, whose nose is of the hooked vulturine, whose name transpires
as Pisistratus Mytharete? He hears Dr. Bouthoin declaim some lines of
Homer, and beseeches him for the designation of that language. Greek,
is it? Greek of the Asiatic ancient days of the beginning of the poetic
chants? Dr. Gannius crashes cachinnation. Dr. Bouthoin caps himself
with the offended Don. Mr. Semhians opens half an eye and a whole mouth.
There must be a mystery, these two exclaim to one another in privacy.
Delphica draws Mr. Semhians aside.
Blushing over his white necktie, like the coast of Labrador at the
transient wink of its Jack-in-the-box Apollo, Mr. Semhians faintly tells
of a conversation he has had with the ingenuous fair one; and she ardent
as he for the throning of our incomparable Saxon English in the mouths of
the races of mankind. Strange!--she partly suspects the Frenchman, the
Russian, the attentive silent Greek, to be all of them bound for the
Court of Japan. Concurrents? Can it be? We are absolutely to enter on
a contention with rivals? Dr. Bouthoin speaks to Dr. Gannius. He is
astonished, he says; he could not have imagined it
'Have you ever imagined anything?' Dr. Gannius asks him. Entomologist,
botanist, palaeontologist, philologist, and at sound of horn a ready
regimental corporal, Dr. Gannius wears good manners as a pair of bath-
slippers, to rally and kick his old infant of an Englishman; who, in awe
of his later renown and manifest might, makes it a point of discretion to
be ultra-amiable; for he certainly is not in training, he has no
alliances, and he must diplomatize; and the German is a strong one; a
relative too; he is the Saxon's cousin, to say the least. This German
has the habit of pushing past politeness to carry his argumentative war
into the enemy's country: and he presents on all sides a solid rampart
of recent great deeds done, and mailed readiness for the doing of more,
if we think of assailing him in that way. We are really like the poor
beasts which have cast their shells or cases, helpless flesh to his beak.
So we are cousinly.
Whether more amused than amazed, we know not, Dr. Gannius hears from 'our
simpleton of the pastures,' as he calls the Rev. Doctor to his daughter,
that he and Mr. Semhians have absolutely pushed forth upon this most
mighty of enterprises naked of any backing from their Government! Babes
in the Wood that they are! 'a la grace de dieu' at every turn that cries
for astutia, they show no sign or symbol of English arms behind them, to
support--and with the grandest of national prizes in view!--the pleading
oration before the Court of the elect, erudites, we will call them, of an
intelligent, yet half barbarous, people; hesitating, these, between
eloquence and rival eloquence, cunning and rival cunning. Why, in such a
case, the shadow-nimbus of Force is needed to decide the sinking of the
scale. But have these English never read their Shakespeare, that they
show so barren an acquaintance with human, to say nothing of semi-
barbaric, nature? But it is here that we Germans prove our claim to
being the sons of his mind.--Dr. Gannius, in contempt, throws off the
mask: he also is a concurrent. And not only is he the chosen by election
of the chief Universities of his land, he has behind him, as Athene
dilating Achilles, the clenched fist of the Prince of thunder and
lightning of his time. German, Japan shall be! he publicly swears
before them all. M. Falarique damascenes his sharpest smile;
M. Bobinikine double-dimples his puddingest; M. Mytharete rolls a
forefinger over his beak; Dr. Bouthoin enlarges his eye on a sunny mote.
And such is the masterful effect of a frank diplomacy, that when one
party shows his hand, the others find the reverse of concealment in
hiding their own.
Dr. Bouthoin and Mr. Semhians are compelled to suspect themselves to be
encompassed with rivals, presumptively supported by their Governments.
The worthy gentlemen had hoped to tumble into good fortune, as in the
blessed old English manner. 'It has even been thus with us: unhelped we
do it!' exclaims the Rev. Doctor. He is roused from dejection by hearing
Mr. Semhians shyly (he has published verse) tell of the fairtressed
Delphica's phosphorial enthusiasm for our galaxy of British Poets.
Assisted by Mr. Semhians, he begins to imagine, that he has, in the
person of this artless devotee an ally, who will, through her worship of
our poets (by treachery to her sire-a small matter) sacrifice her
guttural tongue, by enabling him (through the exercise of her arts,
charms, intrigues--also a small matter) to obtain the first audience of
the Japanese erudites. Delphica, with each of the rivals in turn, is
very pretty Comedy. She is aware that M. Falarique is her most
redoubtable adversary, by the time that the vast fleet of steamboats
(containing newspaper reporters) is beheld from the decks of the
Polypheme puffing past Sandy Hook.
There Colney left them, for the next instalment of the serial.
Nesta glanced at Dudley Sowerby. She liked him for his pained frown at
the part his countrymen were made to play, but did wish that he would
keep from expressing it in a countenance that suggested a worried knot;
and mischievously she said: 'Do you take to Delphica?'
He replied, with an evident sincerity, 'I cannot say I do.'
Had Mr. Semhians been modelled on him?
'One bets on the German, of course--with Colney Durance,' Victor said to
Dr. Themison, leading him over the grounds of Lakelands.
'In any case, the author teaches us to feel an interest in the rivals.
I want to know what comes of it,' said the doctor.
'There's a good opportunity, one sees. But, mark me, it will all end in
satire upon poor Old England. According to Colney, we excel in nothing.'
'I do not think there is a country that could offer the entertainment for
which I am indebted to you to-day.'
'Ah, my friend, and you like their voices? The contralto?'
Dr. Themison had not spoken the name of Radnor.
'Shall we see you at our next Concert-evening in town?' said Victor; and
hearing 'the privilege' mentioned, his sharp bright gaze cleared to
limpid. 'You have seen how it stands with us here!' At once he related
what indeed Dr. Themison had begun speculatively to think might be the
Mrs. Burman Radnor had dropped words touching a husband, and of her
desire to communicate with him, in the event of her being given over to
the surgeons: she had said, that her husband was a greatly gifted man;
setting her head in a compassionate swing. This revelation of the
husband soon after, was filling. And this Mr. Radnor's comrade's manner
of it, was winning: a not too self-justifying tone; not void of feeling
for the elder woman; with a manly eulogy of the younger, who had flung
away the world for him and borne him their one dear child. Victor took
the blame wholly upon himself. 'It is right that you should know,' he
said to the doctor's thoughtful posture; and he stressed the blame; and a
flame shot across his eyeballs. He brought home to his hearer the
hurricane of a man he was in the passion: indicating the subjection of
such a temperament as this Victor Radnor's to trials of the moral
restraints beyond his human power.
Dr. Themison said: 'Would you--we postpone that as long as we can: but
supposing the poor lady . . . ?'
Victor broke in: 'I see her wish: I will.'
The clash of his answer rang beside Dr. Themison's faltering query.
We are grateful when spared the conclusion of a sentence born to stammer.
If for that only, the doctor pressed Victor's hand warmly.
'I may, then, convey some form of assurance, that a request of the kind
will be granted?' he said.
'She has but to call me to her,' said Victor, stiffening his back.
THE GREAT ASSEMBLY AT LAKELANDS
Round the neighbourhood of Lakelands it was known that the day of the
great gathering there had been authoritatively foretold as fine, by Mr.
Victor Radnor; and he delivered his prophecy in the teeth of the South-
western gale familiar to our yachting month; and he really inspired
belief or a kind of trust; some supposing him to draw from reserves of
observation, some choosing to confide in the singularly winged sparkle of
his eyes. Lady Rodwell Blachington did; and young Mrs. Blathenoy; and
Mrs. Fanning; they were enamoured of it. And when women stand for Hope,
and any worshipped man for Promise, nothing less than redoubled confusion
of him dissolves the union. Even then they cling to it, under an
ejaculation, that it might and should have been otherwise; fancy partly
has it otherwise, in her caerulean home above the weeping. So it is good
at all points to prophecy with the aspect of the radiant day foretold.
A storm, bearing battle overhead, tore the night to pieces. Nataly's
faith in the pleasant prognostic wavered beneath the crashes. She had
not much power of heart to desire anything save that which her bosom
disavowed. Uproar rather appeased her, calmness agitated. She wished
her beloved to be spared from a disappointment, thinking he deserved all
successes, because of the rigours inflicted by her present tonelessness
of blood and being. Her unresponsive manner with him was not due to lack
of fire in the blood or a loss of tenderness. The tender feeling, under
privations unwillingly imposed, though willingly shared, now suffused her
reflections, owing to a gratitude induced by a novel experience of him;
known, as it may chance, and as it does not always chance, to both sexes
in wedded intimacy here and there; known to women whose mates are proved
quick to compliance with delicate intuitions of their moods of nature.
A constant, almost visible, image of the dark thing she desired, and was
bound not to desire, and was remorseful for desiring, oppressed her; a
perpetual consequent warfare of her spirit and the nature subject to the
thousand sensational hypocrisies invoked for concealment of its reviled
brutish baseness, held the woman suspended from her emotions. She coldly
felt that a caress would have melted her, would have been the temporary
rapture. Coldly she had the knowledge that the considerate withholding
of it helped her spirit to escape a stain. Less coldly, she thanked at
heart her beloved, for being a gentleman in their yoke. It plighted them
He talked to her on the pillow, just a few sentences; and, unlike
himself, a word of City affairs: 'That fellow Blathenoy, with his
increasing multitude of bills at the Bank: must watch him there, sit
there regularly. One rather likes his wife. By the way, if you see him
near me to-morrow, praise the Spanish climate; don't forget. He heads
the subscription list of Lady Blachington's Charity.'
Victor chuckled at Colney's humping of shoulders and mouth, while the
tempest seemed echoing a sulphurous pessimist. 'If old Colney had
listened to me, when India gave proof of the metal and South Africa began
heaving, he'd have been a fairly wealthy man by now . . . ha! it
would have genialized him. A man may be a curmudgeon with money: the
rule is for him to cuddle himself and take a side, instead of dashing at
his countrymen all round and getting hated. Well, Colney popular, can't
be imagined; but entertaining guests would have diluted his acid. He has
the six hundred or so a year he started old bachelor on; add his
miserable pay for Essays. Literature! Of course, he sours. But don't
let me hear of bachelors moralists. There he sits at his Temple Chambers
hatching epigrams . . . pretends to have the office of critic! Honest
old fellow, as far as his condition permits. I tell him it will be fine
'You are generally right, dear,' Nataly said.
Her dropping breath was audible.
Victor smartly commended her to slumber, with heaven's blessing on her
and a dose of soft nursery prattle.
He squeezed her hand. He kissed her lips by day. She heard him sigh
settling himself into the breast of night for milk of sleep, like one of
the world's good children. She could have turned to him, to show him she
was in harmony with the holy night and loving world, but for the fear
founded on a knowledge of the man he was; it held her frozen to the
semblance of a tombstone lady beside her lord, in the aisle where horror
kindles pitchy blackness with its legions at one movement. Verily it was
the ghost of Mrs. Burman come to the bed, between them.
Meanwhile the sun of Victor Radnor's popularity was already up over the
extended circle likely to be drenched by a falsification of his daring
augury, though the scud flew swift, and the beeches raved, and the oaks
roared and snarled, and pine-trees fell their lengths. Fine tomorrow, to
a certainty! he had been heard to say. The doubt weighed for something;
the balance inclined with the gentleman who had become so popular: for he
had done the trick so suddenly, like a stroke of the wizard; and was a
real man, not one of your spangled zodiacs selling for sixpence and
hopping to a lucky hit, laughed at nine times out of ten. The reasoning
went--and it somewhat affected the mansion as well as the cottage,--that
if he had become popular in this astonishing fashion, after making one of
the biggest fortunes of modern times, he might, he must, have secret
gifts. 'You can't foretell weather!' cried a pothouse sceptic. But the
workmen at Lakelands declared that he had foretold it. Sceptics among
the common folk were quaintly silenced by other tales of him, being a
whiff from the delirium attending any mention of his name.
How had he become suddenly so popular as to rouse in the mind of Mr.
Caddis, the sitting Member for the division of the county (said to have
the seat in his pocket), a particular inquisitiveness to know the bearing
of his politics? Mr. Radnor was rich, true: but these are days when
wealthy men, ambitious of notoriety, do not always prove faithful to
their class; some of them are cunning to bid for the suffrages of the
irresponsible, recklessly enfranchised, corruptible masses. Mr. Caddis,
if he had the seat in his pocket, had it from the support of a class
trusting him to support its interests: he could count on the landowners,
on the clergy, on the retired or retiring or comfortably cushioned
merchants resident about Wrensham, on the many obsequious among electoral
shopmen; annually he threw open his grounds, and he subscribed,
patronized, did what was expected; and he was not popular; he was
unpopular. Why? But why was the sun of this 23rd August, shining from
its rise royally upon pacified, enrolled and liveried armies of cloud,
more agreeable to earth's populations than his pinched appearance of the
poor mopped red nose and melancholic rheumy eyelets on a January day!
Undoubtedly Victor Radnor risked his repute of prophet. Yet his
popularity would have survived the continuance of the storm and deluge.
He did this:--and the mystery puzzling the suspicious was nothing
wonderful: in addition to a transparent benevolence, he spread a sort of
assurance about him, that he thought the better of the people for their
thinking well of themselves. It came first from the workmen at his
house. 'The right sort, and no humbug: likes you to be men.' Such a
report made tropical soil for any new seed.
Now, it is a postulate, to strengthen all poor commoners, that not even
in comparison with the highest need we be small unless we yield to think
it of ourselves. Do but stretch a hand to the touch of earth in you, and
you spring upon combative manhood again, from the basis where all are
equal. Humanity's historians, however, tell us, that the exhilaration
bringing us consciousness of a stature, is gas which too frequently has
to be administered. Certes the cocks among men do not require the
process; they get it off the sight of the sun arising or a simple hen
submissive: but we have our hibernating bears among men, our yoked oxen,
cab horses, beaten dogs; we have on large patches of these Islands, a
Saxon population, much wanting assistance, if they are not to feel
themselves beaten, driven, caught by the neck, yoked and heavyheaded.
Blest, then, is he who gives them a sense of the pride of standing on
legs. Beer, ordinarily their solitary helper beneath the iron canopy of
wealth, is known to them as a bitter usurer; it knocks them flat in their
persons and their fortunes, for the short spell of recreative exaltation.
They send up their rough glory round the name of the gentleman--a
stranger, but their friend: and never is friend to be thought of as a
stranger--who manages to get the holiday for Wrensham and thereabout,
that they may hurl away for one jolly day the old hat of a doddered
humbleness, and trip to the strains of the internal music he has unwound.
Says he: Is it a Charity Concert? Charity begins at home, says he: and
if I welcome you gentry on behalf of the poor of London, why, it follows
you grant me the right to make a beginning with the poor of our parts
down here. He puts it so, no master nor mistress neither could refuse
him. Why, the workmen at his house were nigh pitching the contractors
all sprawling on a strike, and Mr. Radnor takes train, harangues 'em and
rubs 'em smooth; ten minutes by the clock, they say; and return train to
his business in town; by reason of good sense and feeling, it was; poor
men don't ask for more. A working man, all the world over, asks but
justice and a little relaxation--just a collar of fat to his lean.
Mr. Caddis, M.P., pursuing the riddle of popularity, which irritated and
repelled as constantly as it attracted him, would have come nearer to an
instructive presentment of it, by listening to these plain fellows, than
he was in the line of equipages, at a later hour of the day. The remarks
of the comfortably cushioned and wheeled, though they be eulogistic to
extravagance, are vapourish when we court them for nourishment;
substantially, they are bones to the cynical. He heard enumerations of
Mr. Radnor's riches, eclipsing his own past compute. A merchant, a
holder of mines, Director of a mighty Bank, projector of running rails,
a princely millionaire, and determined to be popular--what was the aim of
the man? It is the curse of modern times, that we never can be sure of
our Parliamentary seat; not when we have it in our pockets! The Romans
have left us golden words with regard to the fickleness of the populace;
we have our Horace, our Juvenal, we have our Johnson; and in this vaunted
age of reason it is, that we surrender ourselves into the hands of the
populace! Panem et circenses! Mr. Caddis repeated it, after his
fathers; his fathers and he had not headed them out of that original
voracity. There they were, for moneyed legislators to bewail their
appetites. And it was an article of his legislation, to keep them there.
Pedestrian purchasers of tickets for the Charity Concert, rather openly,
in an envelope of humour, confessed to the bait of the Radnor bread with
bit of fun. Savoury rumours were sweeping across Wrensham. Mr. Radnor
had borrowed footmen of the principal houses about. Cartloads of
provisions had been seen to come. An immediate reward of a deed of
benevolence, is a thing sensibly heavenly; and the five-shilling tickets
were paid for as if for a packet on the counter. Unacquainted with Mr.
Radnor, although the reports of him struck a summons to their gastric
juices, resembling in its effect a clamorous cordiality, they were
chilled, on their steps along the halfrolled new gravel-roads to the
house, by seeing three tables of prodigious length, where very evidently
a feast had raged: one to plump the people--perhaps excessively courted
by great gentlemen of late; shopkeepers, the villagers, children. These
had been at it for two merry hours. They had risen. They were beef and
pudding on legs; in some quarters, beer amiably manifest, owing to the
flourishes of a military band. Boys, who had shaken room through their
magical young corporations for fresh stowage, darted out of a chasing
circle to the crumbled cornucopia regretfully forsaken fifteen minutes
back, and buried another tart. Plenty still reigned: it was the will of
the Master that it should.
We divert our attention, resigned in stoic humour, to the bill of the
Concert music, handed us with our tickets at the park-gates: we have no
right to expect refreshment; we came for the music, to be charitable.
Signora Bianca Luciani: of whom we have read almost to the hearing her;
enough to make the mistake at times. The grand violinist Durandarte:
forcibly detained on his way to America. Mr. Radnor sent him a blank
cheque:--no!--so Mr. Radnor besought him in person: he is irresistible;
a great musician himself; it is becoming quite the modern style. We have
now English noblemen who play the horn, the fife--the drum, some say! We
may yet be Merrie England again, with our nobles taking the lead.
England's nobles as a musical band at the head of a marching and dancing
population, pictured happily an old Conservative country, that retained
its members of aristocracy in the foremost places while subjecting them
to downright uses. Their ancestors, beholding them there, would be
satisfied on the point of honour; perhaps enlivened by hearing them at
fife and drum.
But middle-class pedestrians, having paid five shillings for a ticket to
hear the music they love, and not having full assurance of refreshment,
are often, latterly, satirical upon their superiors; and, over this
country at least, require the refreshment, that the democratic sprouts in
them may be reconciled with aristocracy. Do not listen to them further
on the subject. They vote safely enough when the day comes, if there is
no praetematurally strong pull the other way.
They perceive the name of the Hon. Dudley Sowerby, fourth down the
Concert-bill; marked for a flute-duet with Mr. Victor Radnor, Miss Nesta
Victoria Radnor accompanying at the piano. It may mean? . . . do you
want a whisper to suggest to you what it may mean? The father's wealth
is enormous; the mother is a beautiful majestic woman in her prime. And
see, she sings: a wonderful voice. And lower down, a duet with her
daughter: violins and clarionet; how funny; something Hungarian. And in
the Second Part, Schubert's Ave Maria--Oh! when we hear that, we
dissolve. She was a singer before he married her, they say: a lady by
birth one of the first County families. But it was a gift, and she could
not be kept from it, and was going, when they met--and it was love! the
most perfect duet. For him she abandoned the Stage. You must remember,
that in their young days the Stage was many stages beneath the esteem
entertained for it now. Domestic Concerts are got up to gratify her: a
Miss Fredericks: good old English name. Mr. Radnor calls his daughter,
Freddy; so Mr. Taplow, the architect, says. They are for modern music
and ancient. Tannhauser, Wagner, you see. Pergolese.
Flute-duet, Mercadante. Here we have him! O--Durandarte: Air Basque,
variations--his own. Again, Senor Durandarte, Mendelssohn. Encore him,
and he plays you a national piece. A dark little creature a Life-
guardsman could hold-up on his outstretched hand for the fifteen minutes
of the performance; but he fills the hall and thrills the heart, wafts
you to heaven; and does it as though he were conversing with his
Andalusian lady-love in easy whispers about their mutual passion for
Spanish chocolate all the while: so the musical critic of the Tirra-Lirra
says. Express trains every half hour from London; all the big people of
the city. Mr. Radnor commands them, like Royalty. Totally different
from that old figure of the wealthy City merchant; young, vigorous,
elegant, a man of taste, highest culture, speaks the languages of Europe,
patron of the Arts, a perfect gentleman. His mother was one of the
Montgomerys, Mr. Taplow says.
And it was General Radnor, a most distinguished officer, dying knighted.
But Mr. Victor Radnor would not take less than a Barony--and then only
with descent of title to his daughter, in her own right.
Mr. Taplow had said as much as Victor Radnor chose that he should say.
Carriages were in flow for an hour: pedestrians formed a wavy coil.
Judgeing by numbers, the entertainment was a success; would the hall
contain them? Marvels were told of the hall. Every ticket entered and
was enfolded; almost all had a seat. Chivalry stood. It is a breeched
abstraction, sacrificeing voluntarily and genially to the Fair, for a
restoring of the balance between the sexes, that the division of good
things be rather in the fair ones' favour, as they are to think: with the
warning to them, that the establishment of their claim for equality puts
an end to the priceless privileges of petticoats. Women must be mad, to
provoke such a warning; and the majority of them submissively show their
good sense. They send up an incense of perfumery, all the bouquets of
the chemist commingled; most nourishing to the idea of woman in the nose
of man. They are a forest foliage--rustle of silks and muslins, magic
interweaving, or the mythology, if you prefer it. See, hear, smell, they
are Juno, Venus, Hebe, to you. We must have poetry with them; otherwise
they are better in the kitchen. Is there--but there is not; there is not
present one of the chivalrous breeched who could prefer the shocking
emancipated gristly female, which imposes propriety on our sensations and
inner dreams, by petrifying in the tender bud of them.
Colonel Corfe is the man to hear on such a theme. He is a colonel of
Companies. But those are his diversion, as the British Army has been to
the warrior. Puellis idoneus, he is professedly a lady's man, a rose-
beetle, and a fine specimen of a common kind: and he has been that thing,
that shining delight of the lap of ladies, for a spell of years,
necessitating a certain sparkle of the saccharine crystals preserving
him, to conceal the muster. He has to be fascinating, or he would look
outworn, forlorn. On one side of him is Lady Carmine; on the other, Lady
Swanage; dames embedded in the blooming maturity of England's
conservatory. Their lords (an Earl, a Baron) are of the lords who go
down to the City to sow a title for a repair of their poor incomes, and
are to be commended for frankly accepting the new dispensation while they
retain the many advantages of the uncancelled ancient. Thus gently does
a maternal Old England let them down. Projectors of Companies,
Directors, Founders; Railway magnates, actual kings and nobles (though
one cannot yet persuade old reverence to do homage with the ancestral
spontaneity to the uncrowned, uncoroneted, people of our sphere); holders
of Shares in gold mines, Shares in Afric's blue mud of the glittering
teeth we draw for English beauty to wear in the ear, on the neck, at the
wrist; Bankers and wives of Bankers. Victor passed among them, chatting
right and left.
Lady Carmine asked him: 'Is Durandarte counted on?'
He answered: 'I made sure of the Luciani.'
She serenely understood. Artistes are licenced people, with a Bohemian
instead of the titular glitter for the bewildering of moralists; as paste
will pass for diamonds where the mirror is held up to Nature by bold
He wished to introduce Nesta. His girl was on the raised orchestral
flooring. Nataly held her fast to a music-scroll.
Mr. Peridon, sad for the absence and cause of absence of Louise de
Seilles,--summoned in the morning abruptly to Bourges, where her brother
lay with his life endangered by an accident at Artillery practise,--
Mr. Peridon was generally conductor. Victor was to lead the full force
of amateurs in the brisk overture to Zampa. He perceived a movement of
Nataly, Nesta, and Peridon. 'They have come,' he said; he jumped on the
orchestra boards and hastened to greet the Luciani with Durandarte in the
His departure raised the whisper that he would wield the baton. An
opinion was unuttered. His name for the flute-duet with the Hon. Dudley
Sowerby had not provoked the reserve opinion; it seemed, on the whole, a
pretty thing in him to condescend to do: the sentiment he awakened was
not flustered by it. But the act of leading, appeared as an official
thing to do. Our soufe of sentiment will be seen subsiding under a
breath, without a repressive word to send it down. Sir Rodwell
Blachington would have preferred Radnor's not leading or playing either.
Colonel Corfe and Mr. Caddis declined to consider such conduct English,
in a man of station . . . notwithstanding Royal Highnesses, who are at
least partly English: partly, we say, under our breath, remembering our
old ideal of an English gentleman, in opposition to German tastes. It is
true, that the whole country is changeing, decomposing!
The colonel fished for Lady Carmine's view. And Lady Swanage too? Both
of the distinguished ladies approved of Mr. Radnor's leading--for a
leading off. Women are pleased to see their favourite in the place of
prominence--as long as Fortune swims him unbuffeted, or one should say,
unbattered, up the mounting wave. Besides these ladies had none of the
colonel's remainder of juvenile English sense of the manly, his
adolescent's intolerance of the eccentric, suspicion and contempt of any
supposed affectation, which was not ostentatiously, stalkingly practised
to subdue the sex. And you cannot wield a baton without looking
affected. And at one of the Colonel's Clubs in town, only five years
back, an English musical composer, who had not then made his money--now
by the mystery of events knighted!--had been (he makes now fifteen
thousand a year) black-balled. 'Fiddler? no; can't admit a Fiddler to
associate on equal terms with gentlemen.' Only five years back: and at
present we are having the Fiddler everywhere.
A sprinkling of the minor ladies also would have been glad if Mr. Radnor
had kept himself somewhat more exclusive. Dr. Schlesien heard remarks,
upon which his weighty Teutonic mind sat crushingly. Do these English
care one bit for music?--for anything finer than material stuffs?--what
that man Durance calls, 'their beef, their beer, and their pew in
eternity'? His wrath at their babble and petty brabble doubted that they
But they do. Art has a hold of them. They pay for it; and the thing
purchased grapples. It will get to their bosoms to breathe from them in
time: entirely overcoming the taste for feudalism, which still a little
objects to see their born gentleman acting as leader of musicians. A
people of slow movement, developing tardily, their country is wanting in
the distincter features, from being always in the transitional state,
like certain sea-fish rolling head over-you know not head from tail.
Without the Welsh, Irish, Scot; in their composition, there would not be
much of the yeasty ferment: but it should not be forgotten that Welsh,
Irish, Scot, are now largely of their numbers; and the taste for
elegance, and for spiritual utterance, for Song, nay, for Ideas, is there
among them, though it does not everywhere cover a rocky surface to
bewitch the eyes of aliens;--like Louise de Seilles and Dr. Schlesien,
for example; aliens having no hostile disposition toward the people they
were compelled to criticize; honourably granting, that this people has a
great history. Even such has the Lion, with Homer for the transcriber of
his deeds. But the gentle aliens would image our emergence from wildness
as the unsocial spectacle presented by the drear menagerie Lion, alone or
mated; with hardly an animated moment save when the raw red joint is
beneath his paw, reminding him of the desert's pasture.
Nevertheless, where Strength is, there is hope:--it may be said more
truly than of the breath of Life; which is perhaps but the bucket of
breath, muddy with the sediment of the well: whereas we have in Strength
a hero, if a malefactor; whose muscles shall haul him up to the light he
will prove worthy of, when that divinity has shown him his uncleanness.
And when Strength is not exercising, you are sure to see Satirists jump
on his back. Dozens, foreign and domestic, are on the back of Old
England; a tribute to our quality if at the same time an irritating
scourge. The domestic are in excess; and let us own that their view of
the potentate, as an apathetic beast of power, who will neither show the
power nor woo the graces; pretending all the while to be eminently above
the beast, and posturing in an inefficient mimicry of the civilized,
excites to satire. Colney Durance had his excuses. He could point to
the chief creative minds of the country for generations, as beginning
their survey genially, ending venomously, because of an exasperating
unreason and scum in the bubble of the scenes, called social, around
them. Viola under his chin, he gazed along the crowded hall, which was
to him a rich national pudding of the sycophants, the hypocrites, the
burlies, the idiots; dregs of the depths and froth of the surface; bowing
to one, that they may scorn another; instituting a Charity, for their
poorer fawning fellows to relieve their purses and assist them in
tricking the world and their Maker: and so forth, a tiresome tirade: and
as it was not on his lips, but in the stomach of the painful creature,
let him grind that hurdy-gurdy for himself. His friend Victor set it
stirring: Victor had here what he aimed at!
How Success derides Ambition! And for this he imperilled the happiness
of the worthy woman he loved! Exposed her to our fen-fogs and foul
snakes--of whom one or more might be in the assembly now: all because of
his insane itch to be the bobbing cork on the wave of the minute!
Colney's rapid interjections condensed upon the habitual shrug at human
folly, just when Victor, fronting the glassy stare of Colonel Corfe,
tapped to start his orchestra through the lively first bars of the
overture to Zampa.
We soon perceive that the post Mr. Radnor fills he thoroughly fills,
whatever it may be. Zampa takes horse from the opening. We have no
amateur conductor riding ahead: violins, 'cellos, piano, wind-stops:
Peridon, Catkin, Pempton, Yatt, Cormyn, Colney, Mrs. Cormyn, Dudley
Sowerby: they are spirited on, patted, subdued, muted, raised, rushed
anew, away, held in hand, in both hands. Not earnestness worn as a
cloak, but issuing, we see; not simply a leader of musicians, a leader of
men. The halo of the millionaire behind, assures us of a development in
the character of England's merchant princes. The homage we pay him
flatters us. A delightful overture, masterfully executed; ended too
soon; except that the programme forbids the ordinary interpretation of
prolonged applause. Mr. Radnor is one of those who do everything
consummately. And we have a monition within, that a course of spiritual
enjoyment will rouse the call for bodily refreshment. His genial nod and
laugh and word of commendation to his troop persuade us oddly, we know
not how, of provision to come. At the door of the retiring-room, see,
he is congratulated by Luciani and Durandarte. Miss Priscilla Graves is
now to sing a Schumann. Down later, it is a duet with the Rev. Septimus
Barmby. We have nothing to be ashamed of in her, before an Italian
Operatic singer! Ices after the first part is over.
Had Nataly and Nesta known who was outside helping Skepsey to play ball
with the boys, they would not have worked through their share of the
performance with so graceful a composure. Even Simeon Fenellan was
unaware that his half-brother Dartrey had landed in England. Dartrey
went first to Victor's office, where he found Skepsey packing the day's
letters and circulars into the bag for the delivery of them at Lakelands.
They sprang a chatter, and they missed the last of the express trains
which did, not greatly signify, Skepsey said, 'as it was a Concert.' To
hear his hero talk, was the music for him; and he richly enjoyed the
pacing along the railway-platform.
Arrived on the grounds, they took opposite sides in a game of rounders,
at that moment tossing heads or tails for innings. These boys were
slovenly players, and were made unhappy by Skepsey's fussy instructions
to them in smartness. They had a stupid way of feeding the stick, and
they ran sprawling; it concerned Great Britain for them to learn how to
use their legs. It was pitiful for the country to see how lumpish her
younger children were. Dartrey knew his little man and laughed, after
warning him that his English would want many lessons before they
stomached the mixture of discipline and pleasure. So it appeared: the
pride of the boys in themselves, their confidence, enjoyment of the game,
were all gone; and all were speedily out but Skepsey; who ran for the
rounder, with his coat off, sharp as a porpoise, and would have got it,
he had it in his grasp, when, at the jump, just over the line of the
goal, a clever fling, if ever was, caught him a crack on that part of the
human frame where sound is best achieved. Then were these young lumps
transformed to limber, lither, merry fellows. They rejoiced Skepsey's
heart; they did everything better, ran and dodged and threw in a style to
win the nod from the future official inspector of Games and Amusements of
the common people; a deputy of the Government, proposed by Skepsey to his
hero with a deferential eagerness. Dartrey clapped him on the shoulder,
'System--Mr. Durance is right--they must have system, if they are to
appreciate a holiday,' Skepsey said; and he sent a wretched gaze around,
at the justification of some of the lurid views of Mr. Durance, in signs
of the holiday wasted;--impoverishing the country's manhood in a small
degree, it may be argued, but we ask, can the country afford it, while
foreign nations are drilling their youth, teaching them to be ready to
move in squads or masses, like the fist of a pugilist. Skepsey left it
to his look to speak his thought. He saw an enemy in tobacco. The
drowsiness of beer had stretched various hulks under trees. Ponderous
cricket lumbered half-alive. Flabby fun knocked-up a yell. And it was
rather vexatious to see girls dancing in good time to the band-music.
One had a male-partner, who hopped his loutish burlesque of the thing he
could not do.
Apparently, too certainly, none but the girls had a notion of orderly
muscular exercise. Of what use are girls! Girls have their one mission
on earth; and let them be healthy by all means, for the sake of it; only,
they should not seem to prove that old England is better represented on
the female side. Skepsey heard, with a nip of spite at his bosom, a
small body of them singing in chorus as they walked in step, arm in arm,
actually marched: and to the rearward, none of these girls heeding; there
were the louts at their burlesque of jigs and fisticuffs! 'Cherry Ripe,'
was the song.
'It's delightful to hear them!' said Dartrey.
Skepsey muttered jealously of their having been trained.
The song, which drew Dartrey Fenellan to the quick of an English home,
planted him at the same time in Africa to hear it. Dewy on a parched
forehead it fell, England the shedding heaven.
He fetched a deep breath, as of gratitude for vital refreshment. He had
his thoughts upon the training of our English to be something besides the
machinery of capitalists, and upon the country as a blessed mother
instead of the most capricious of maudlin step-dames.
He flicked his leg with the stick he carried, said: 'Your master's the
man to make a change among them, old friend!' and strolled along to a
group surrounding two fellows who shammed a bout at single-stick.
Vacuity in the attack on either side, contributed to the joint success of
the defense. They paused under inspection; and Dartrey said: 'You're
burning to give them a lesson, Skepsey.'
Skepsey had no objection to his hero's doing so, though at his personal
The sticks were handed to them; the crowd increased; their rounders boys
had spied them, and came trooping to the scene. Skepsey was directed to
hit in earnest. His defensive attitude flashed, and he was at head and
right and left leg, and giving point, recovering, thrusting madly, and
again at shoulder and thigh, with bravos for reward of a man meaning
business; until a topper on his hat, a cut over the right thigh, and the
stick in his middlerib, told the spectators of a scientific adversary;
and loudly now the gentleman was cheered. An undercurrent of warm
feeling ran for the plucky little one at it hot again in spite of the
strokes, and when he fetched his master a handsome thud across the
shoulder, and the gentleman gave up and complimented him, Skepsey had
He then begged his hero to put the previous couple in position, through
a few of the opening movements. They were horribly sheepish at first.
Meantime two boys had got hold of sticks, and both had gone to work in
Skepsey's gallant style; and soon one was howling. He excused himself,
because of the funny-bone, situated, in his case, higher than usual up
the arm. And now the pair of men were giving and taking cuts to make a
'Very well; begin that way; try what you can bear,' said Dartrey.
Skepsey watched them, in felicity for love of the fray, pained by the
disregard of science.
Comments on the pretty play, indicating a reminiscent acquaintance with
it, and the capacity for critical observations, were started. Assaults,
wonderful tricks of a slashing Life-Guardsman, one spectator had
witnessed at an exhibition in a London hall. Boxing too. You may see
displays of boxing still in places. How about a prizefight?--With money
on it?--Eh, but you don't expect men to stand up to be knocked into
rumpsteaks for nothing?--No, but it's they there bets!--Right, and that's
a game gone to ruin along of outsiders.--But it always was and it always
will be popular with Englishmen!
Great English names of young days, before the wintry shadow of the Law
had blighted them, received their withered laurels. Emulous boys were
in the heroic posture. Good! sparring does no hurt: Skepsey seized a
likely lad, Dartrey another. Nature created the Ring for them. Now
then, arms and head well up, chest hearty, shoulders down, out with the
right fist, just below the level of the chin; out with the left fist
farther, right out, except for that bit of curve; so, and draw it
slightly back for wary-pussy at the spring. Firm you stand, feeling
the muscles of both legs, left half a pace ahead, right planted, both
stringy. None of your milk-pail looks; show us jaw, you bulldogs. Now
then, left from the shoulder, straight at right of head.--Good, and
alacrity called on vigour in Skepsey's pupil; Dartrey's had the fist on
his mouth before he could parry right arm up. 'Foul blow!' Dartrey
cried. Skepsey vowed to the contrary. Dartrey reiterated his charge.
Skepsey was a figure of negation, gesticulating and protesting. Dartrey
appealed tempestuously to the Ring; Skepsey likewise, in a tone of
injury. He addressed a remonstrance to Captain Dartrey.
'Hang your captain, sir! I call you a coward; come on,' said the
resolute gentleman, already in ripe form for the attack. His blue eyes
were like the springing sunrise over ridges of the seas; and Skepsey
jumped to his meaning.
Boys and men were spectators of a real scientific set-to, a lovely show.
They were half puzzled, it seemed so deadly. And the little one got in
his blows at the gentleman, who had to be hopping. Only, the worse the
gentleman caught it, the friendlier his countenance became. That was the
wonder, and that gave them the key. But it was deliciously near to the
Dartrey and Skepsey shook hands.
'And now, you fellows, you're to know, that this is one of the champions;
and you take your lesson from him and thank him,' Dartrey said, as he
turned on his heel to strike and greet the flow from the house.
'Dartrey come!' Victor, Fenellan, Colney, had him by the hand in turn.
Pure sweetness of suddenly awakened joy sat in Nataly's eyes as she swam
to welcome him, Nesta moved a step, seemed hesitating, and she tripped
forward. 'Dear Captain Dartrey!'
He did not say: 'But what a change in you!'
'It is blue-butterfly, all the same,' Nataly spoke to his look.
Victor hurriedly pronounced the formal introduction between the Hon.
Dudley Sowerby and Captain Dartrey Fenellan. The bronze face and the
milky bowed to one another ceremoniously; the latter faintly flushing.
'So here you are at last,' Victor said. 'You stay with us.'
'To-morrow or later, if you'll have me. I go down to my people to-
'But you stay in England now?' Nataly's voice wavered on the question.
'There's a chance of my being off to Upper Burmah before the week's
'Ah, dear, dear!' sighed Fenellan; 'and out of good comes evil!--as
grandfather Deucalion exclaimed, when he gallantly handed up his dripping
wife from the mud of the Deluge waters. Do you mean to be running and
Dewing it on for ever, with only a nod for friends, Dart?'
'Lord, Simmy, what a sound of home there is in your old nonsense!'
His eyes of strong dark blue colour and the foreign swarthiness of his
brows and cheeks and neck mixed the familiar and the strange, in the
sight of the women who knew him.
The bill-broker's fair-tressed young wife whispered of curiosity
concerning him to Nataly. He dressed like a sailor, he stood like a
soldier: and was he married? Yes, he was married.
Mrs. Blathenoy imagined a something in Mrs. Radnor's tone. She could
account for it; not by the ordinary reading of the feminine in the
feminine, but through a husband who professed to know secrets. She was
young in years and experience, ten months wedded, disappointedly
awakened, enlivened by the hour, kindled by a novel figure of man,
fretful for a dash of imprudence. This Mrs. Radnor should be the one
to second her very innocent turn for a galopade; her own position allowed
of any little diverting jig or reel, or plunge in a bath--she required
it, for the domestic Jacob Blathenoy was a dry chip: proved such, without
a day's variation during the whole of the ten wedded months. Nataly
gratified her spoken wish. Dartrey Fenellan bowed to the lady, and she
withdrew him, seeing composedly that other and greater ladies had the
wish ungratified. Their husbands were not so rich as hers, and their
complexions would hardly have pleased the handsome brown-faced officer so
Banquet, equal to a blast of trumpet, was the detaining word for the
multitude. It circulated, one knows not how. Eloquent as the whiffs to
the sniffs (and nowhere is eloquence to match it, when the latter are
sharpened from within to without), the word was very soon over the field.
Mr. Carling may have helped; he had it from Fenellan; and he was among
the principal groups, claiming or making acquaintances, as a lawyer
should do. The Concert was complimentarily a topic: Durandarte divine!--
did not everybody think so? Everybody did, in default of a term for
overtopping it. Our language is poor at hyperbole; our voices are
stronger. Gestures and heaven-sent eyeballs invoke to display the
ineffable. Where was Durandarte now? Gone; already gone; off with the
Luciani for evening engagements; he came simply to oblige his dear friend
Mr. Radnor. Cheque fifty guineas: hardly more on both sides than an
exchange of smiles. Ah, these merchant-princes! What of Mr. Radnor's
amateur instrumentalists? Amateurs, they are not to be named: perfect
musicians. Mr. Radnor is the perfection of a host. Yes, yes; Mrs.
Radnor; Miss Radnor too: delicious voices; but what is it about Mr.
Radnor so captivating! He is not quite English, yet he is not at all
foreign. Is he very adventurous in business, as they say?
'Soundest head in the City of London,' Mr. Blathenoy remarked.
Sir Rodwell Blachington gave his nod.
The crowd interjected, half-sighing. We ought to be proud of such a man!
Perhaps we are a trifle exaggerating, says its heart. But that we are
wholly grateful to him, is a distinct conclusion. And he may be one of
the great men of his time: he has a quite individual style of dress.
Lady Rodwell Blachington observed to Colney Durance:
'Mr. Radnor bids fair to become the idol of the English people.'
'If he can prove himself to be sufficiently the dupe of the English
people,' said Colney.
'Idol--dupe?' interjected Sir Rodwell, and his eyebrows fixed at the
perch of Colney's famous 'national interrogation' over vacancy of
understanding, as if from the pull of a string. He had his audience with
him; and the satirist had nothing but his inner gush of acids at sight of
a planted barb.
Colney was asked to explain. He never explained. He performed a series
of astonishing leaps, like the branchy baboon above the traveller's head
in the tropical forest, and led them into the trap they assisted him to
prepare for them. 'No humour, do you say? The English have no humour?'
a nephew of Lady Blachington's inquired of him, with polite pugnacity,
and was cordially assured, that 'he vindicated them.'
'And Altruistic! another specimen of the modern coinage,' a classical
Church dignitary, in grammarian disgust, remarked to a lady, as they
Colney pricked-up his ears. It struck him that he might fish for
suggestions in aid of the Grand Argument before the Elders of the Court
of Japan. Dr. Wardan, whose recognition he could claim, stated to him,
that the lady and he were enumerating words of a doubtfully legitimate
quality now being inflicted upon the language.
'The slang from below is perhaps preferable?' said Colney.
'But a pirate-tongue, cut-off from its roots, must continue to practise
piracy, surely, or else take reinforcements in slang, otherwise it is
inexpressive of new ideas.'
'Possibly the new ideas are best expressed in slang.'
'If insular. They will consequently be incommunicable to foreigners.
You would, then, have us be trading with tokens instead of a precious
currency? Yet I cannot perceive the advantage of letting our ideas be
clothed so racy of the obscener soil; considering the pretensions of the
English language to become the universal. If we refuse additions from
above, they force themselves on us from below.'
Dr. Wardan liked the frame of the observations, disliked the substance.
'One is to understand that the English language has these pretensions?'
he said:--he minced in his manner, after the well-known mortar-board and
tassel type; the mouthing of a petrifaction: clearly useless to the
pleadings of the patriotic Dr. Bouthoin and his curate.
He gave no grip to Colney, who groaned at cheap Donnish sarcasm, and let
him go, after dealing him a hard pellet or two in a cracker-covering.
There was Victor all over the field netting his ephemerae! And he who
feeds on them, to pay a price for their congratulations and flatteries,
he is one of them himself!
Nesta came tripping from the Rev. Septimus Barmby. 'Dear Mr. Durance,
where is Captain Dartrey?'
Mrs. Blathenoy had just conducted her husband through a crowd, for an
introduction of him to Captain Dartrey. That was perceptible.
Dudley Sowerby followed Nesta closely: he struck across the path of the
Rev. Septimus: again he had the hollow of her ear at his disposal.
'Mr. Radnor was excellent. He does everything consummately: really, we
are all sensible of it. I am. He must lead us in a symphony. These
light "champagne overtures" of French composers, as Mr. Fenellan calls
them, do not bring out his whole ability:--Zampa, Le Pre aux clercs,
Masaniello, and the like.'
'Your duet together went well.'
'Thanks to you--to you. You kept us together.'
'Papa was the runaway or strain-the-leash, if there was one.'
'He is impetuous, he is so fervent. But, Miss Radnor, I could not be the
runaway-with you . . . with you at the piano. Indeed, I . . .
shall we stroll down? I love the lake.'
'You will hear the bell for your cold dinner very soon.'
'I am not hungry. I would so much rather talk--hear you. But you are
hungry? You have been singing twice: three times! Opera singers, they
say, eat hot suppers; they drink stout. And I never heard your voice
more effective. Yours is a voice that . . . something of the feeling
one has in hearing cathedral voices: carry one up. I remember, in
Dresden, once, a Fraulein Kuhnstreich, a prodigy, very young, considering
her accomplishments. But it was not the same.'
Nesta wondered at Dartrey Fenellan for staying so long with Mr. and Mrs.
'Ah, Mr. Sowerby, if I am to have flattery, I cannot take it as a
milliner's dumb figure wears the beautiful dress; I must point out my
view of some of my merits.'
'Oh! do, I beg, Miss . . . You have a Christian name and I too: and
once . . . not Mr. Sowerby: yes, it was Dudley!,
'Quite accidentally, and a world of pardons entreated.'
'And Dudley begged Dudley might be Dudley always !'
He was deepening to the Barmby intonation--apparently Cupid's; but a
shade more airily Pagan, not so fearfully clerical.
Her father had withdrawn Dartrey Fenellan from Mr. and Mrs. Blathenoy.
Dr. Schlesien was bowing with Dartrey.
'And if Durandarte would only--but you are one with Miss Graves to
depreciate my Durandarte, in favour of the more classical Jachimo; whom
we all admire; but you shall be just,' said she, and she pouted. She had
seen her father plant Dartrey Fenellan in the midst of a group of City
Simeon touched among them to pluck at his brother. He had not a chance;
he retired, and swam into the salmon-net of seductive Mrs. Blathenoy's
broad bright smile.
'It's a matter of mines, and they're hovering in the attitude of the
query, like corkscrews over a bottle, profoundly indifferent to blood-
relationships,' he said to her.
'Pray, stay and be consoled by me,' said the fair young woman. 'You are
to point me out all the distinguished people. Is it true, that your
brother has left the army?'
'Dartrey no longer wears the red. Here comes Colonel Corfe, who does.
England has her army still!'
'His wife persuaded him?'
'You see he is wearing the black.'
'For her? How very very sad! Tell me--what a funnily dressed woman
meeting that gentleman!'
'Hush--a friend of the warrior. Splendid weather, Colonel Corfe.'
'Superb toilettes!' The colonel eyed Mrs. Blathenoy dilatingly, advanced,
bowed, and opened the siege.
She decided a calculation upon his age, made a wall of it, smilingly
agreed with his encomium of the Concert, and toned her voice to
Fenellan's comprehension: 'Did it occur recently?'
'Months; in Africa; I haven't the date.'
'Such numbers of people one would wish to know! Who are those ladies
holding a Court, where Mr. Radnor is?'
'Lady Carmine, Lady Swanage--if it is your wish?' interposed the colonel.
She dealt him a forgiving smile. 'And that pleasant-looking old
Colonel Corfe drew-up. Fenellan said: 'Are we veterans at forty or so?'
'Well, it 's the romance, perhaps!' She raised her shoulders.
The colonel's intelligence ran a dog's nose for a lady's interjections.
'The romance? . . . at forty, fifty? gone? Miss Julinks, the great
heiress and a beauty; has chosen him over the heads of all the young men
of his time. Cranmer Lotsdale. Most romantic history!'
'She's in love with that, I suppose.'
'Now you direct my attention to him,' said Fenellan, 'the writing of the
romantic history has made the texture look a trifle thready. You have a
It was thrown to where the person stood who had first within a few
minutes helped her to form critical estimates of men, more consciously to
'Your brother stays in England?'
'The fear is, that he's off again.'
'Annoying for you. If I had a brother, I would not let him go.'
'How would you detain him?'
'Locks and bolts, clock wrong, hands and arms, kneeling--the fourth act
of the Huguenots!'
'He went by way of the window, I think. But that was a lover.'
'Oh! well!' she flushed. She did not hear the 'neglected and astonished
colonel speak, and she sought diversion in saying to Fenellan: 'So many
people of distinction are assembled here to-day! Tell me, who is that
pompous gentleman, who holds his arms up doubled, as he walks?'
'Like flappers of a penguin: and advances in jerks: he is head of the
great Firm of Quatley Brothers: Sir Abraham: finances or farms one of the
South American Republics: we call him, Pride of Port. He consumes it and
he presents it.'
'And who is that little man, who stops everybody?'
'People of distinction indeed! That little man--is your upper lip
underrateing him? . . . When a lady's lip is erratically disdainful,
it suggests a misuse of a copious treasury, deserving to be mulcted,
punished--how?--who can say?--that little man, now that little man, with
a lift of his little finger, could convulse the Bacon Market!'
Mrs. Blathenoy shook. Hearing Colonel Corfe exclaim:
'Bacon Market!' she let fly a peal. Then she turned to a fresh
satellite, a round and a ruddy, 'at her service ever,' Mr. Beaves
Urmsing, and repeated Fenellan's words. He, in unfeigned wonderment at
such unsuspected powers, cried: 'Dear me!' and stared at the little man,
making the pretty lady's face a twinkling dew.
He had missed the Concert. Was it first-rate? Ecstasy answered in the
'Hem'd fool I am to keep appointments!' he muttered.
She reproved him: 'Fie, Mr. Urmsing; it's the making of them, not the
'Ah, my dear ma'am, if I'd had Blathenoy's luck when he made a certain
appointment. And he was not so much older than me? The old ones get the
Mr. Beaves Urmsing prompted Colonel Corfe to laugh in triumph. The
colonel's eyebrows were up in fixity over sleepy lids. He brightened to
propose the conducting of the pretty woman to the banquet.
'We shall see them going in,' said she. 'Mr. Radnor has a French cook,
who does wonders. But I heard him asking for Mr. Beaves Urmsing. I'm
sure he expected The Marigolds at his Concert.'
'Anything to oblige the company,' said the rustic ready chorister,
clearing his throat.
The lady's feet were bent in the direction of a grassy knoll, where
sunflowers, tulips, dahlias, peonies, of the sex eclipsed at a distance
its roses and lilies. Fenellan saw Dartrey, still a centre of the
merchantmen, strolling thither.
'And do you know, your brother is good enough to dine with us next week,
Thursday, down here,' she murmured. 'I could venture to command?--if you
are not induced.'
'Whichever word applies to a faithful subject.'
'I do so wish your brother had not left the army!'
'You have one son of Mars.'
Her eyes took the colonel up to cast him down: he was not the antidote.
She said to him: 'Luciani's voice wears better than her figure.'
The colonel replied: 'I remember,' and corrected himself, 'at Eton, in
jackets: she was not so particularly slim; never knew how to dress. You
beat Italians there! She moved one as a youngster.'
'Eton boys are so susceptible!'
'Why, hulloa, don't I remember her coming out!--and do you mean to tell
me,' Mr. Beaves Urmsing brutally addressed the colonel, 'that you were at
Eton when . . . why, what age do you give the poor woman, then!'
He bellowed, 'Eh?' as it were a bull crowing.
The colonel retreated to one of his defensive corners. 'I am not aware
that I meant to tell you anything.'
Mr. Beaves Urmsing turned square-breasted on Fenellan: 'Fellow's a born
'And the mother lived?' said Fenellan.
Mr. Beaves Urmsing puffed with wrath at the fellow.
Five minutes later, in the midst of the group surrounding and
felicitating Victor, he had sight of Fenellan conversing with fair ones,
and it struck a light in him; he went three steps backward, with shouts.
'Dam funny fellow! eh? who is he? I must have that man at my table.
Worth fifty Colonel Jackasses! And I 've got a son in the Guards: and as
much laugh in him, he 's got, as a bladder. But we'll make a party, eh,
Radnor? with that friend o' yours. Dam funny fellow! and precious
little of it going on now among the young lot. They're for seeing ghosts
and gaping their jaws; all for the quavers instead of the capers.'
He sounded and thrummed his roguish fling-off for the capers. A second
glimpse of Fenellan agitated the anecdote, as he called it, seizing
Victor's arm, to have him out of earshot of the ladies. Delivery,
not without its throes, was accomplished, but imperfectly, owing to
sympathetic convulsions, under which Mr. Beaves Urmsing's countenance was
crinkled of many colours, as we see the Spring rhubarb-leaf. Unable to
repeat the brevity of Fenellan's rejoinder, he expatiated on it to convey
it, swearing that it was the kind of thing done in the old days, when men
were witty dogs:--'pat! and pat back! as in the pantomime.'
'Repartee !' said Victor. 'He has it. You shall know him. You're the
man for him.'
'He for me, that he is!--"Hope the mother's doing well? My card":--eh?
Grave as an owl! Look, there goes the donkey, lady to right and left,
all ears for him--ha! ha! I must have another turn with your friend.
"Mother lived, did she?" Dam funny fellow, all of the olden time! And a
dinner, bachelor dinner, six of us, at my place, next week, say
Wednesday, half-past six, for a long evening--flowing bowl--eh, shall it
Nesta came looking to find her Captain Dartrey.
Mr. Beaves Urmsing grew courtly of the olden time. He spied Colonel
Corfe anew, and 'Donkey!' rose to split the roar at his mouth, and full
of his anecdote, he pursued some congenial acquaintances, crying to his
host: 'Wednesday, mind! eh? by George, your friend's gizzarded me for
Plumped with the rich red stream of life, this last of the squires of old
England thumped along among the guests, a very tuning-fork to keep them
at their pitch of enthusiasm. He encountered Mr. Caddis, and it was an
encounter. Mr. Caddis represented his political opinions; but here was
this cur of a Caddis whineing his niminy note from his piminy nob, when
he was asked for his hearty echo of the praises of this jolly good fellow
come to waken the neighbourhood, to be a blessing, a blazing hearth, a
fall of manna:--and thank the Lord for him, you desertdog! 'He 's a
merchant prince, and he's a prince of a man, if you're for titles. Eh?
you "assent to my encomiums." You'll be calling me Mr. Speaker next.
Hang me, Caddis, if those Parliamentary benches of yours aren't freezing
you from your seat up, and have got to your jaw--my belief!'
Mr. Caddis was left reflecting, that we have, in the dispensations of
Providence, when we have a seat, to submit to castigations from butcherly
men unaccountably commissioned to solidify the seat. He could have
preached a discourse upon Success, to quiet the discontentment of the
unseated. And our world of seats oddly gained, quaintly occupied,
maliciously beset, insensately envied, needs the discourse. But it was
not delivered, else would it have been here written down without mercy,
as a medical prescript, one of the grand specifics. He met Victor, and,
between his dread of him and the counsels of a position subject to
stripes, he was a genial thaw. Victor beamed; for Mr. Caddis had
previously stood eminent as an iceberg of the Lakelands' party. Mr.
Inchling and Mr. Caddis were introduced. The former in Commerce, the
latter in Politics, their sustaining boast was, the being our stable
Englishmen; and at once, with cousinly minds, they fell to chatting upon
the nothings agreeably and seriously. Colney Durance forsook a set of
ladies for fatter prey, and listened to them. What he said, Victor did
not hear. The effect was always to be seen, with Inchling under Colney.
Fenellan did better service, really good service.
Nataly played the heroine she was at heart. Why think of her as having
to act a character! Twice had Carling that afternoon, indirectly and
directly, stated Mrs. Burman to be near the end we crape a natural, a
defensible, satisfaction to hear of:--not wishing it--poor woman!--but
pardonably, before man and all the angels, wishing, praying for the
beloved one to enter into her earthly peace by the agency of the other's
exit into her heavenly.
Fenellan and Colney came together, and said a word apiece of their
'In his element! The dear old boy has the look of a goldfish, king of
'The dear old boy has to me the look of a pot on the fire, with a loose
I may have the summons from Themison to-morrow, Victor thought. The
success of the day, was a wine that rocked the soberest of thoughts.
For, strange to confess, ever since the fall on London Bridge, his heart,
influenced in some degree by Nataly's depression perhaps, had been
shadowed by doubts of his infallible instinct for success. Here, at a
stroke, and before entering the house, he had the whole neighbourhood
about him: he could feel that he and Nataly stood in the minds of the
worthy people variously with the brightness if not with the warmth
distinguishable in the bosom of Beaves Urmsing--the idea of whom gave
Lakelands an immediate hearth-glow.
Armandine was thirteen minutes, by his watch, behind the time she had
named. Small blame to her. He excused her to Lady Carmine, Lady
Swanage, Lady Blachington, Mrs. Fanning, Sir Abraham Quatley, Mr. Danny
(of Bacon fame) and the rest of the group surrounding Nataly on the mound
leftward of the white terraces descending to the lake; where she stood
beating her foot fretfully at the word brought by Nesta, that Dartrey
Fenellan had departed. It was her sunshine departed. But she went
through her task of conversing amiably. Colney, for a wonder, consented
to be useful in assisting Fenellan to relate stories of French Cooks;
which were, like the Royal Hanoverian oyster, of an age for offering
acceptable flavour to English hearers. Nesta drew her mother's attention
to Priscilla Graves and Skepsey; the latter bending head and assenting.
Nataly spoke of the charm of Priscilla's voice that day, in her duet with
the Rev. Septimus. Mr. Pempton looked; he saw that Priscilla was
proselytizing. She was perfection to him but for one blotting thing.
With grief on his eyelids, he said to Nataly or to himself: 'Meat!'
'Dear friend, don't ride your hobby over us,' she replied.
'But it's with that object they mount it,' said Victor.
The greater ladies of the assembly were quite ready to accuse the
sections, down to the individuals, of the social English (reserving our
elect) of an itch to be tyrants.
Colney was apologizing for them, with his lash: 'It's merely the sensible
effect of a want of polish of the surface when they rub together.'
And he heard Carling exclaim to Victor: 'How comes the fellow here!'
Skepsey had rushed across an open space to intercept a leisurely
progressive man, whose hat was of the shape Victor knew; and the man wore
the known black gaiters. In appearance, he had the likeness of a fallen
Carling and Victor crossed looks that were questions carrying their
Nataly's eyes followed Victor's. 'Who is the man?' she said; and she got
no reply beyond a perky sparkle in his gaze.
Others were noticing the man, who was trying to pass by Skepsey, now on
his right side, now on his left.
'There'll be no stopping him,' Carling said, and he slipped to the rear.'
At this juncture, Armandine's mellow bell proclaimed her readiness.
Victor rubbed the back of his head. Nataly asked him: 'Dear, is it that
He nodded scantly: 'Expected, expected. I think we have our summons from
Armandine. One moment--poor soul! poor soul! Lady Carmine--Sir Abraham
Quatley. Will you lead? Lady Blachington, I secure you. One moment.'
He directed Nataly to pair a few of the guests; he hurried down the slope
Nataly applied to Colney Durance. 'Do you know the man?--is it that
Colney rejoined: 'The man's name is Jarniman.'
Armandine's bell swung melodiously. The guests had grouped, thickening
for the stream to procession. Mrs. Blathenoy claimed Fenellan; she
requested him to tell her whether he had known Mrs. Victor Radnor many
years. She mused. 'You like her?'
'One likes one's dearest of friends among women, does one not?'
The lady nodded to his response. 'And your brother?'
'Dartrey is devoted to her.'
'I am sure,' said she, 'your brother is a chivalrous gentleman. I like
her too.' She came to her sentiment through the sentiment of the
chivalrous gentleman. Sinking from it, she remarked that Mr. Radnor was
handsome still. Fenellan commended the subject to her, as one to
discourse of when she met Dartrey. A smell of a trap-hatch, half-open,
afflicted and sharpened him. It was Blathenoy's breath: husbands of
young wives do these villanies, for the sake of showing their knowledge.
Fenellan forbore to praise Mrs. Victor: he laid his colours on Dartrey.
The lady gave ear till she reddened. He meant no harm, meant nothing but
good; and he was lighting the most destructive of our lower fires.
Visibly, that man Jarniman was disposed of with ease. As in the street-
theatres of crowing Punch, distance enlisted pantomime to do the
effective part of the speeches. Jarniman's hat was off, he stood bent,
he delivered his message. He was handed over to Skepsey's care for the
receiving of meat and drink. Victor returned; he had Lady Blachington's
hand on his arm; he was all hers, and in the heart of his company of
guests at the same time. Eyes that had read him closely for years, were
unable to spell a definite signification on his face, below the
overflowing happiness of the hospitable man among contented guests. He
had in fact something within to enliven him; and that was the more than
suspicion, amounting to an odour of certainty, that Armandine intended
one of her grand surprises for her master, and for the hundred and fifty
or so to be seated at her tables in the unwarmed house of Lakelands.
CONCERNS THE INTRUSION OF JARNIMAN
Armandine did her wonders. There is not in the wide range of the Muses a
more responsive instrument than man to his marvellous cook; and if his
notes were but as flowing as his pedals are zealous, we should be carried
on the tale of the enthusiasm she awakened, away from the rutted
highroad, where History now thinks of tightening her girdle for an
The wonders were done: one hundred and seventy guests plenteously fed at
tables across the great Concert Hall, down a length of the conservatory-
glass, on soups, fish, meats, and the kitchen-garden, under play of
creative sauces, all in the persuasive steam of savouriness; every dish,
one may say, advancing, curtseying, swimming to be your partner, instead
of passively submitting to the eye of appetite, consenting to the teeth,
as that rather melancholy procession of the cold, resembling established
spinsters thrice-corseted in decorum, will appear to do. Whether
Armandine had the thought or that she simply acted in conformity with
a Frenchwoman's direct good sense, we do require to smell a sort of
animation in the meats we consume. We are still perhaps traceably
related to the Adamite old-youngster just on his legs, who betrayed at
every turn his Darwinian beginnings, and relished a palpitating
unwillingness in the thing refreshing him; only we young-oldsters cherish
the milder taste for willingness, with a throb of the vanquished in it.
And a seeming of that we get from the warm roast. The banquet to be
fervently remembered, should smoke, should send out a breath to meet us.
Victor's crowded saloon-carriage was one voice of eulogy, to raise
Armandine high as the finale rockets bursting over Wrensham Station at
the start Londonward. How had she managed? We foolishly question the
arts of magicians.
Mr. Pempton was an apparent dissentient, as the man must be who is half a
century ahead of his fellows in humaneness, and saddened by the display
of slaughtered herds and their devourers. He had picked out his
vegetable and farinaceous morsels, wherever he could get them
uncontaminated; enough for sustenance; and the utmost he could show was,
that he did not complain. When mounted and ridden by the satirist, in
wrath at him for systematically feasting the pride of the martyr on the
maceration of his animal part, he put on his martyr's pride, which
assumed a perfect contentment in the critical depreciation of opposing
systems: he was drawn to state, as he had often done, that he considered
our animal part shamefully and dangerously over nourished, and that much
of the immorality of the world was due to the present excessive
indulgence in meats. 'Not in drink?' Miss Graves inquired. 'No,' he said
boldly; 'not equally; meats are more insidious. I say nothing of taking
life--of fattening for that express purpose: diseases of animals: bad
blood made: cruelty superinduced: it will be seen to be, it will be
looked back on, as a form of, a second stage of, cannibalism. Let that
pass. I say, that for excess in drinking, the penalty is paid instantly,
or at least on the morrow.'
'Paid by the drunkard's wife, you should say.'
'Whereas intemperance in eating, corrupts constitutionally, more
spiritually vitiates, we think: on the whole, gluttony is the least-
generous of the vices.'
Colney lured Mr. Pempton through a quagmire of the vices to declare,
that it brutalized; and stammeringly to adopt the suggestion, that our
breeding of English ladies--those lights of the civilized world--can
hardly go with a feeding upon flesh of beasts. Priscilla regretted that
champagne should have to be pleaded in excuse of impertinences to her
sex. They were both combative, nibbed for epigram, edged to inflict
wounds; and they were set to shudder openly at one another's practises;
they might have exposed to Colney which of the two maniacal sections of
his English had the vaster conceit of superiority in purity; they were
baring themselves, as it were with a garment flung-off at each retort.
He reproached them for undermineing their countrymen; whose Falstaff
panics demanded blood of animals to restore them; and their periods of
bragging, that they should brandify their wits to imagine themselves
Nataly interposed. She was vexed with him. He let his eyelids drop: but
the occasion for showing the prickliness of the bristly social English,
could not be resisted. Dr. Peter Yatt was tricked to confess, that small
annoyances were, in his experience, powerful on the human frame; and Dr.
John Cormyn was very neatly brought round to assure him he was mistaken
if he supposed the homoeopathic doctor who smoked was exercising a
destructive influence on the efficacy of the infinitesimal doses he
prescribed; Dr. Yatt chuckled a laugh at globules; Dr. Cormyn at patients
treated as horses; while Mr. Catkin was brought to praise the smoke of
tobacco as our sanctuary from the sex; and Mr. Peridon quietly denied,
that the taking of it into his nostrils from the puffs of his friend
caused him sad silences: Nesta flew to protect the admirer of her beloved
Louise. Her subsiding young excitement of the day set her Boating on
that moony melancholy in Mr. Peridon.
No one could understand the grounds for Colney's more than usual
waspishness. He trotted out the fulgent and tonal Church of the Rev.
Septimus; the skeleton of worship, so truly showing the spirit, in that
of Dudley Sowerby's family; maliciously admiring both; and he had a spar
with Fenellan, ending in a snarl and a shout. Victor said to him: 'Yes,
here, as much as you like, old Colney, but I tell you, you've staggered
that poor woman Lady Blachington to-day, and her husband too; and I don't
know how many besides. What the pleasure of it can be, I can't guess.'
'Nor I,' said Fenellan, 'but I'll own I feel envious; like the girl among
a family of boys I knew, who were all of them starved in their infancy by
a miserly father, that gave them barely a bit of Graves to eat and not a
drop of Pempton to drink; and on the afternoon of his funeral, I found
them in the drawing-room, four lank fellows, heels up, walking on their
hands, from long practice; and the girl informed me, that her brothers
were able so to send the little blood they had in their bodies to their
brains, and always felt quite cheerful for it, happy, and empowered to
deal with the problems of the universe; as they couldn't on their legs;
but she, poor thing, was forbidden to do the same! And I'm like her. I
care for decorum too much to get the brain to act on Colney's behaviour;
but I see it enraptures him and may be comprehensible to the topsy-
Victor rubbed hands. It was he who filled Colney's bag of satiric spite.
In addition to the downright lunacy of the courting of country society,
by means of the cajolements witnessed this day, a suspicion that Victor
was wearing a false face over the signification--of Jarniman's visit and
meant to deceive the trustful and too-devoted loving woman he seemed
bound to wreck, irritated the best of his nature. He had a resolve to
pass an hour with the couple, and speak and insist on hearing plain words
before the night had ended. But Fenellan took it out of him. Victor's
show of a perfect contentment emulating Pempton's, incited Colney to some
of his cunning rapier-thrusts with his dancing adversary; and the heat
which is planted in us for the composition: of those cool epigrams, will
not allow plain words to follow. Or, handing him over to the police of
the Philistines, you may put it, that a habit of assorting spices will
render an earnest simplicity distasteful. He was invited by Nataly to
come home with them; her wish for his presence, besides personal, was
moved by an intuition, that his counsel might specially benefit them.
He shrugged; he said he had work at his chambers.
'Work!' Victor ejaculated: he never could reach to a right comprehension
of labour, in regard to the very unremunerative occupation of literature.
Colney he did not want, and he let him go, as Nataly noticed, without a
sign of the reluctance he showed when the others, including Fenellan,
'So! we're alone?' he said, when the door of the hall had closed on them.
He kept Nesta talking of the success of the day until she, observing her
mother's look, simulated the setting-in of a frenzied yawn. She was
kissed, and she tripped to her bed.
'Now we are alone,' Nataly said.
'Well, dear, and the day was, you must own . . . ' he sought to trifle
with her heavy voice; but she recalled him: 'Victor!' and the naked
anguish in her cry of his name was like a foreign world threatening the
one he filled.
'Ah, yes; that man, that Jarniman. You saw him, I remember. You
recollected him?--stouter than he was. In her service ever since. Well,
a little drop of bitter, perhaps: no harm, tonic.'
'Victor, is she very ill?'
'My love, don't feel at your side: she is ill, ill, not the extreme case:
not yet: old and ill. I told Skepsey to give the man refreshment: he had
to do his errand.'
'What? why did he come?'