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One of Our Conquerors, v4 by George Meredith

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More than most girls, she was the girl-Sphinx to him because of her
having ideas--or what he deemed ideas. She struck a toneing warmth
through his intelligence, not dissimilar to the livelier circulation of
the blood in the frame breathing mountain air. She really helped him,
incited him to go along with this windy wild modern time more cheerfully,
if not quite hopefully. For she had been the book of Romance he despised
when it appeared as a printed volume: and which might have educated the
young man to read some among our riddles in the book of humanity. The
white he was ready to take for silver the black were all black; the
spotted had received corruption's label. Her youthful French governess
Mademoiselle de Seilles was also peculiarly enigmatic at the mouth
conversant, one might expect, with the disintegrating literature of her
country. In public, the two talked of St. Louis. One of them in secret
visits a Mrs. Marsett. The Southweare women, the Hennen women, and Lady
Evelina Reddish, were artless candid creatures in their early days, not
transgressing in a glance. Lady Grace Halley had her fit of the
devotional previous to marriage. No girl known to Dudley by report or
acquaintance had committed so scandalous an indiscretion as Miss
Radnor's: it pertained to the insolently vile.

And on that ground, it started the voluble defence. For certain
suspected things will dash suspicion to the rebound, when they are very
dark. As soon as the charge against her was moderated, the defence
expired. He heard the world delivering its judgement upon her; and he
sorrowfully acquiesced. She passed from him.

When she was cut off, she sang him in the distance a remembered saying
of hers, with the full melody of her voice. One day, treating of modern
pessimism, he had draped a cadaverous view of our mortal being in a
quotation of the wisdom of the Philosopher Emperor: 'To set one's love
upon the swallow is a futility.' And she, weighing it, nodded, and
replied: 'May not the pleasure for us remain if we set our love upon the
beauty of the swallow's flight?'

There was, for a girl, a bit of idea, real idea, in that meaning, of
course, the picture we are to have of the bird's wings in motion, it has
often been admired. Oh! not much of an idea in itself: feminine and
vague. But it was pertinent, opportune; in this way she stimulated.
And the girl who could think it, and call on a Mrs. Marsett, was of the
class of mixtures properly to be handed over to chemical experts for

She had her aspirations on behalf of her sex: she and Mademoiselle de
Seilles discussed them; women were to do this, do that:--necessarily a
means of instructing a girl to learn what they did do. If the lower part
of her face had been as reassuring to him as the upper, he might have put
a reluctant faith in the pure-mindedness of these aspirations, without
reverting to her origin, and also to recent rumours of her father and
Lady Grace Halley. As it was, he inquired of the cognizant, whether an
intellectual precocity, devoted by preference to questions affecting the
state of women, did not rather more than suggest the existence of urgent
senses likewise. She, a girl under twenty, had an interest in public
matters, and she called on a Mrs. Marsett. To plead her simplicity, was
to be absolutely ignorant of her.

He neighboured sagacity when he pointed that interrogation relating to
Nesta's precociousness of the intelligence. For, as they say in
dactylomancy, the 'psychical' of women are not disposed in their
sensitive early days to dwell upon the fortunes of their sex: a thought
or two turns them facing away, with the repugnant shiver. They worship
at a niche in the wall. They cannot avoid imputing some share of
foulness to them that are for scouring the chamber; and the civilized
male, keeping his own chamber locked, quite shares their pale taper's
view. The full-blooded to the finger-tips, on the other hand, are likely
to be drawn to the subject, by noble inducement as often as by base:
Nature at flood being the cause in either instance. This young Nature of
the good and the bad, is the blood which runs to power of heart as well
as to thirsts of the flesh. Then have men to sound themselves, to
discover how much of Nature their abstract honourable conception or
representative eidolon of young women will bear without going to pieces;
and it will not be much, unless they shall have taken instruction from
the poet's pen: for a view possibly of Nature at work to cast the slough,
when they see her writhing as in her ugliest old throes. If they have
learnt of Nature's priest to respect her, they will less distrust those
rare daughters of hers who are moved by her warmth to lift her out of
slime. It is by her own live warmth that it has to be done: cold worship
at a niche in the wall will not do it.--Well, there is an index, for the
enlargement of your charity.

But facts were Dudley's teachers. Physically, morally, mentally,
he read the world through facts; that is to say, through the facts he
encountered: and he was in consequence foredoomed to a succession of
bumps; all the heavier from his being, unlike the horned kind, not
unimpressible by the hazy things outside his experience. Even at his
darkest over Nesta, it was his indigestion of the misconduct of her
parents, which denied to a certain still small advocate within him the
right to raise a voice: that good fellow struck the attitude for
pleading, and had to be silent; for he was Instinct; at best a stammering
speaker in the Court of the wigged Facts. Instinct of this Nesta
Radnor's character would have said a brave word, but for her deeds
bearing witness to her inheritance of a lawlessly adventurous

What to do? He was no nearer to an answer when the wintry dusk had
fallen on the promenading crowds. To do nothing, is the wisdom of those
who have seen fools perish. Facts had not taught him, that the doing
nothing, for a length of days after the first shock he sustained, was the
reason of how it came that Nesta knitted closer her acquaintance with the
'agreeable lady' she mentioned in her letter to Cronidge. Those
excellent counsellors of a mercantile community gave him no warnings,
that the 'masterly inactive' part, so greatly esteemed by him for the
conduct of public affairs, might be perilous in dealings with a vivid
girl: nor a hint, that when facts continue undigested, it is because the
sensations are as violent as hysterical females to block them from the
understanding. His Robin Goodfellow instinct tried to be serviceable at a
crux of his meditations, where Edith Averst's consumptive brothers waved
faded hands at her chances of inheriting largely. Superb for the
chances: but what of her offspring? And the other was a girl such as the
lusty Dame Dowager of fighting ancestors would have signalled to the heir
of the House's honours for the perpetuation of his race. No doubt: and
the venerable Dame (beautiful in her old-lace frame, or say foliage) of
the Ages backward, temp: Ed: III. inflated him with a thought of her: and
his readings in modern books on heredity, pure blood, physical
regeneration, pronounced approval of Nesta Radnor: and thereupon instinct
opened mouth to speak; and a lockjaw seized it under that scowl of his
presiding mistrust of Nature.

He clung to his mistrust the more because of a warning he had from the
silenced natural voice: somewhat as we may behold how the Conservatism of
a Class, in a world of all the evidences showing that there is no stay to
things, comes of the intuitive discernment of its finality. His mistrust
was his own; and Nesta was not; not yet; though a step would make her his
own. Instinct prompting to the step, was a worthless adviser. It
spurred him, nevertheless.

He called at the Club for his cousin Southweare, with whom he was not in
sympathy; and had information that, Southweare said, 'made the girl out
all right.' Girls in these days do things which the sainted stay-at-
homes preceding them would not have dreamed of doing. Something had
occurred, relating to Major Worrell: he withdrew Miss Radnor's name,
acknowledged himself mistaken or amended his report of her, in some way,
not quite intelligible. Dudley was accosted by Simeon Fenellan;
subsequently by Dartrey. There was gossip over the latter gentleman's
having been up before the magistrate, talk of a queer kind of stick, and
Dartrey said, laughing, to Simeon: 'Rather lucky I bled the rascal';--
whatever the meaning. She nursed one of her adorations for this man, who
had yesterday, apparently, joined in a street-fray; so she partook of the
stain of the turbid defacing all these disorderly people.

At his hotel at breakfast the next morning, a newspaper furnished an
account of Captain Dartrey Fenellan's participation in the strife, after
mention of him as nephew of the Earl of Clanconan, 'now a visitor to our
town'; and his deeds were accordant with his birth. Such writing was
enough to send Dudley an eager listener to Colney Durance. What a

Mr. Dartrey Fenellan's card compelled Dudley presently to receive him.

Dartrey, not debarred by considerations, that an allusion to Miss Radnor
could be conveyed only in the most delicately obscure manner, spared him
no more than the plain English of his relations with her. Requested to
come to the Club, at a certain hour of the afternoon, that he might hear
Major Worrell's personal contradiction of scandal involving the young
lady's name, together with his apology, etc., Dudley declined: and he was
obliged to do it curtly; words were wanting. They are hard to find for
wounded sentiments rendered complex by an infusion of policy. His
present mood, with the something new to digest, held the going to Major
Worrell a wrong step; he behaved as if the speaking to Dartrey Fenellan
pledged him hardly less. And besides he had a physical abhorrence, under
dictate of moral reprobation, of the broad-shouldered sinewy man, whose
look of wiry alertness pictured the previous day's gory gutters.

Dartrey set sharp eyes on him for an instant, bowed; and went.


All of us an ermined owl within us to sit in judgement
Cannot be any goodness unless it is a practiced goodness
Eminently servile is the tolerated lawbreaker
Half designingly permitted her trouble to be seen
Happy the woman who has not more to speak
If we are robbed, we ask, How came we by the goods?
Let but the throb be kept for others--That is the one secret
Love must needs be an egoism
Not to go hunting and fawning for alliances
Portrait of himself by the artist
Put into her woman's harness of the bit and the blinkers
Share of foulness to them that are for scouring the chamber
She disdained to question the mouth which had bitten her
The face of a stopped watch
The worst of it is, that we remember
To do nothing, is the wisdom of those who have seen fools perish
We have come to think we have a claim upon her gratitude
Whimpering fits you said we enjoy and must have in books

[The End]


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