Part 7 out of 11
things as one who had never been a blessed inhabitant of the kingdom of
Fine Shades. She spoke of 'Cornelia's chances;' of 'Wilfrid's headstrong
infatuation--or worse;' and of 'Papa's position,' remarking that she
could both laugh and cry.
Arabella, glad to see her refreshed, was pained by her rampant tone; and
when Adela, who had fallen into one of her reflective 'long-shot' moods,
chanced to say, "What a number of different beings there are in the
world!" her reply was, "I was just then thinking we are all less unlike
than we suppose."
"Oh, my goodness!" cried Adela. "What! am I at all--at all--in the
remotest degree--like that creature we have got rid of?"
The negative was not decisively enunciated or immediate; that is, it did
not come with the vehemence and volume that could alone have satisfied
The "We are all of one family" was an offensive truism, of which Adela
might justly complain.
That night the ladies received their orders from Wilfrid--they were to
express no alarm before their father as to the state of his health, or to
treat him ostensibly as an invalid; they were to marvel publicly at Mrs.
Chump's continued absence, and a letter requesting her to return was to
be written. At the sign of an expostulation, Wilfrid smote them down by
saying that the old man's life hung on a thread, and it was for them to
cut it or not.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A marriage without love is dishonour
Bear in mind that we are sentimentalists--The eye is our servant
I am not ashamed
Love that shrieks at a mortal wound, and bleeds humanly
Love the poor devil
My mistress! My glorious stolen fruit! My dark angel of love
Poor mortals are not in the habit of climbing Olympus to ask
Revived for them so much of themselves
Solitude is pasturage for a suspicion
Victims of the modern feminine 'ideal'
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXXIV. INDICATES THE DEGRADATION OF BROOKFIELD, TOGETHER
WITH CERTAIN PROCEEDINGS OF THE YACHT
XXXV. MRS. CHUMP'S EPISTLE
XXXVI. ANOTHER PITFALL OF SENTIMENT
XXXVII. EMILIA'S FLIGHT.
XXXVIII. SHE CLINGS TO HER VOICE
XXXIX. HER VOICE FAILS
Lady Charlotte was too late for Emilia, when she went forth to her to
speak for Wilfrid. She found the youth Braintop resting heavily against
a tree, muttering to himself that he had no notion where he was, as an
excuse for his stationary posture, while the person he presumed he should
have detained was being borne away. Near him a scrap of paper lay on the
ground, struck out of darkness by long slips of light from the upper
windows. Thinking this might be something purposely dropped, she took
possession of it; but a glance subsequently showed her that the writing
was too fervid for a female hand. "Or does the girl write in that way?"
she thought. She soon decided that it was Wilfrid who had undone her
work in the line of thirsty love-speech. "How can a little fool read
them and not believe any lie that he may tell!" she cried to herself.
She chose to say contemptuously: "It's like a child proclaiming he is
hungry." That it was couched in bad taste she positively conceived--
taking the paper up again and again to correct her memory. The
termination, "Your lover," appeared to her, if not laughable, revolting.
She was uncertain in her sentiments at this point.
Was it amusing? or simply execrable? Some charity for the unhappy
document Lady Charlotte found when she could say: "I suppose this is the
general run of the kind of again." "Was it?" she reflected; and drank at
the words again. "No," she came to think; "men don't commonly write as
he does, whoever wrote this." She had no doubt that it was Wilfrid. By
fits her wrath was directed against him. "It's villany," she said. But
more and more frequently a crouching abject longing to call the words her
own--to have them poured into her heart and brain--desire for the
intoxication of the naked speech of love usurped her spirit of pride,
until she read with envious tears, half loathing herself, but fascinated
and subdued: "Mine! my angel! You will see me to-morrow.--Your Lover."
Of jealousy she felt very little--her chief thought coming like a wave
over her: "Here is a man that can love!"
She was a woman of chaste blood, which spoke to her as shyly as a girl's,
now that it was in tumult: so indeed that, pressing her heart, she
thought youth to have come back, and feasted on the exultation we have
when, at an odd hour, we fancy we have cheated time. The sensation of
youth and strength seemed to set a seal of lawfulness and naturalness,
hitherto wanting, on her feeling for Wilfrid. "I can help him," she
thought. "I know where he fails, and what he can do. I can give him
position, and be worth as much as any woman can be to a man." Thus she
justified the direction taken by the new force in her.
Two days later Wilfrid received a letter from Lady Charlotte, saying that
she, with a chaperon, had started to join her brother at the yacht-
station, according to appointment. Amazed and utterly discomfited, he
looked about for an escape; but his father, whose plea of sickness had
kept him from pursuing Emilia, petulantly insisted that he should go down
to Lady Charlotte. Adela was ready to go. There were numbers either
going or now on the spot, and the net was around him. Cornelia held
back, declaring that her place was by her father's side. Fine Shades
were still too dominant at Brookfield for anyone to tell her why she
With anguish so deep that he could not act indifference, Wilfrid went on
his miserable expedition--first setting a watch over Mr. Pericles, the
which, in connection with the electric telegraph, was to enable him to
join that gentleman speedily, whithersoever he might journey. He was not
one to be deceived by the Greek's mask in running down daily to
Brookfield. A manoeuvre like that was poor; and besides, he had seen the
sallow eyes give a twinkle more than once.
Now, on the Besworth night, Georgiana Ford had studied her brother
Merthyr's face when Emilia's voice called for Wilfrid. Her heart was
touched; and, in the midst of some little invidious wonder at the power
of a girl to throw her attraction upon such a man, she thought, as she
hoped, that probably it was due to the girl's Italian blood. Merthyr was
not unwilling to speak of her, and say what he feared and desired for
Emilia's sake; and Georgiana read, by this mark of confidence, how
sincerely she was loved and trusted by him. "One never can have more
than half of a man's heart," she thought--adding, "It's our duty to
deserve that, nevertheless."
She was mystified. Say that Merthyr loved a girl, whom he certainly
distinguished with some visible affection, what sort of man must he be
that was preferred to Merthyr? And this set Georgiana at work thinking
of Wilfrid. "He has at times the air of a student. He is one who trusts
his own light too exclusively. Is he godless?" She concluded: "He is a
soldier, and an officer with brains--a good class:" Rare also.
Altogether, though Emilia did not elevate herself in this lady's mind by
choosing Wilfrid when she might have had Merthyr, the rivalry of the two
men helped to dignify the one of whom she thought least. Might she have
had Merthyr? Georgiana would not believe it--that is to say, she shut
the doors and shot the bolts, the knocking outside went on.
Her brother had told her the whole circumstances of Emilia's life and
position. When he said, "Do what you can for her," she knew that it was
not the common empty phrase. Young as she was, simple in habits, clear
in mind, open in all practices of daily life, she was no sooner brought
into an active course than astuteness and impetuosity combined
wonderfully in her. She did not tell Merthyr that she had done anything
to discover Emilia, and only betrayed that she was moving at all in a
little conversation they had about a meeting at the house of his friend
Marini, an Italian exile.
"Possibly Belloni goes there," said Merthyr. "I wonder whether Marini
knows anything of him. They have a meeting every other night."
Georgiana replied: "He went there and took his daughter the night after
we were at Besworth. He took her to be sworn in."
"Still that old folly of Marini's!" cried Merthyr, almost wrathfully. He
had some of the English objection to the mixing-up of women in political
Georgiana instantly addressed herself to it: "He thinks that the country
must be saved by its women as well as its men; and if they have not
brains and steadfast devotion, he concludes that the country will not be
saved. But he gives them their share of the work; and, dearest, has he
had reason to repent it?"
"No," Merthyr was forced to admit--taking shelter in his antipathy to the
administration of an oath to women. And consider that this is a girl!"
"The oaths of girls are sometimes more binding on them than the oaths of
"True, it affects their imaginations vividly; but it seems childish.
Does she have to kiss a sword and a book?"
Merthyr made a gesture like a shrug, with a desponding grimace.
"You know," answered Georgiana, smiling, "that I was excused any formula,
by special exemption. I have no idea of what is done. Water, salt,
white thorns, and other Carbonaro mysteries may be in use or not: I think
no worse of the cause, whatever is done."
"I love the cause," said Merthyr. "I dislike this sort of conspiratorial
masque Marini and his Chief indulge in. I believe it sustains them, and
there's its only use."
"I," said Georgiana, "love the cause only from association with it; but
in my opinion Marini is right. He deals with young and fervent minds,
that require a ceremony to keep them fast--yes, dear, and women more than
others do. After that, they cease to have to rely upon themselves--a
reliance their good instinct teaches them is frail. There, now; have I
put my sex low enough?"
She slid her head against her brother's shoulder. If he had ever met a
man worthy of her, Merthyr would have sighed to feel that all her
precious love was his own.
"Is there any likelihood that Belloni will be there tonight?" he asked.
She shook her head. "He has not been there since. He went for that
"Perhaps Marini is right, after all," said Merthyr, smiling.
Georgiana knew what he meant, and looked at him fondly.
"But I have never bound you to an oath," he resumed, in the same tone.
"I dare say you consider me a little different from most," said
Georgiana. She had as small reserve with her brother as vanity, and
could even tell him what she thought of her own worth without
depreciating it after the fashion of chartered hypocrites.
Mr. Powys wrote to Marini to procure him an interview with Belloni as
early as possible, and then he and Georgiana went down to Lady Charlotte.
Letters from Adela kept the Brookfield public informed of the doings on
board the yacht. Before leaving home, Wilfrid with Arabella's
concurrence certainly--at her instigation, as he thought--had led his
father to imagine, on tolerably good grounds, that Mrs. Chump had quitted
Brookfield to make purchases for her excursion on lively waters, and was
then awaiting him at the appointed station. One of the old man's
intermittent nervous fits had frightened them into the quasi-fabrication
of this little innocent tale. The doctor's words were that Mr. Pole was
to be crossed in nothing--"Not even if it should appear to be of imminent
necessity that I should see him, and he refuses." The man of science
stated that the malady originated in some long continued pressure of
secret apprehension. Both Wilfrid and Arabella conceived that persuasion
alone was wanted to send Mrs. Chump flying to the yacht; so they had less
compunction in saying, "She is there."
And here began a terrible trial for the children of Nine Shades. To save
a father they had to lie grievously--to continue the lie from day to day-
-to turn it from a lie extensive and inappreciable to the lie minute and
absolute. Then, to get a particle of truth out of this monstrous lie,
they had to petition in utter humiliation the woman they had scorned,
that she would return among them and consider their house her own. No
answer came from Mrs. Chump; and as each day passed, the querulous
invalid, still painfully acting the man in health, had to be fed with
fresh lies; until at last, writing of one of the scenes in Brookfield,
Arabella put down the word in all its unblessed aboriginal bluntness, and
did not ask herself whether she shrank from it. "Lies!" she wrote.
"What has happened to Bella?" thought Adela, in pure wonder. Salt-air
and dazzling society kept all idea of penance from this vivacious young
person. It was queer that Sit Twickenham should be at the seaside,
instead of at Brookfield, wooing; but a man's physical condition should
be an excuse for any intermission of attentions. "Now that I know him
better," wrote Adela, "I think him the pink of chivalry; and of this I am
sure I can convince you, Bella, C. will be blessed indeed; for a delicate
nature in a man of the world is a treasure. He has a beautiful little
vessel of his own sailing beside us."
Arabella was critic enough to smile at this last. On the whole she was
passably content for the moment, in a severe fashion, save to feel
herself the dreadful lying engine and fruitlessly abject person that she
We imagine that when souls have had a fall, they immediately look up and
contrast their present with their preceding position. This does not
occur. The lower their fall, the less, generally, their despair, for
despair is a business of the Will, and when they come heavily upon their
humanity, they get something of the practical seriousness of nature. If
they fall very low, the shock and the sense that they are still on their
feet make them singularly earnest to set about the plain plan of
existence--getting air for their lungs and elbow-room. Contrast, that
mother of melancholy, comes when they are some way advanced upon the
upward scale. The Poles did not look up to their lost height, but merely
exerted their faculties to go forward; and great as their ambition had
been in them, now that it was suddenly blown to pieces, they did not sit
and weep, but strove in a stunned way to work ahead. The truth is, that
we rarely indulge in melancholy until we can take it as a luxury: little
people never do, and they, when we have not put them on their
guard, are humankind naked.
The yachting excursions were depicted vividly by Adela, and were
addressed as a sort of reproach to the lugubrious letters of her sister.
She said pointedly once: "Really, if we are to be miserable, I turn
Catholic and go into a convent." The strange thing was that Arabella
imagined her letters to be rather of a cheerful character. She related
the daily events at Brookfield:--the change in her father's soups, and
his remarks on them, and which he preferred; his fight with his medicine,
and declaration that he was as sound as any man on shore; the health of
the servants; Mr. Marter the curate's call with a Gregorian chant; doubts
of his orthodoxy; Cornelia's lonely walks and singular appetite; the
bills, and so forth--ending, "What is to be said further of her?"
In return, Adela's delight was to date each day from a different port, to
which, catching the wind, the party had sailed, and there slept. The
ladies were under the protecting wing of the Hon. Mrs. Bayruffle, a
smooth woman of the world. "You think she must have sinned in her time,
but are certain it will never be known," wrote Adela. "I do confess,
kind as she is, she does me much harm; for when she is near me I begin to
think that Society is everything. Her tact is prodigious; it is never
seen--only felt. I cannot describe her influence; yet it leads to
nothing. I cannot absolutely respect her; but I know I shall miss her
acutely when we part. What charm does she possess? I call her the Hon.
Mrs. Heathen--Captain G., the Hon. Mrs. Balm. I know you hate nicknames.
Be merciful to people yachting. What are we to do? I would look through
a telescope all day and calculate the number of gulls and gannets we see;
but I am not so old as Sir T., and that occupation could not absorb me.
I begin to understand Lady Charlotte and her liking for Mr. Powys better.
He is ready to play or be serious, as you please; but in either
case 'Merthyr is never a buffoon nor a parson'--Lady C. remarked this
morning; and that describes him, if it were not for the detestable fling
at the clergy, which she never misses. It seems in her blood to think
that all priests are hypocrites. What a little boat to be in on a stormy
sea, Bella! She appears to have no concern about it. Whether she adores
Wilfrid or not I do not pretend to guess. She snubs him--a thing he
would bear from nobody but her. I do believe he feels flattered by it.
He is chiefly attentive to Miss Ford, whom I like and do not like, and
like and do not like--but do like. She is utterly cold, and has not an
affection on earth. Sir T.--I have not a dictionary--calls her a fair
clictic, I think. (Let even Cornelia read hard, or woe to her in their
hours of privacy!--his vocabulary grows distressingly rich the more you
know him. I am not uneducated, but he introduces me to words that seem
monsters; I must pretend to know them intimately.) Well, whether a
clictic or not--and pray, burn this letter, lest I should not have the
word correct--she has the air of a pale young princess above any creature
I have seen in the world. I know it has struck Wilfred also; my darling
and I are ever twins in sentiment. He converses with Miss Ford a great
deal. Lady C. is peculiarly civil to Captain G. We scud along, and are
becalmed. 'Having no will of our own, we have no knowledge of contrary
winds,' as Mr. Powys says.--The word is 'eclictic,' I find. I ventured
on it, and it was repeated; and I heard that I had missed a syllable.
Ask C. to look it out--I mean, to tell me they mining on a little slip of
paper in your next. I would buy a pocket-dictionary at one of the ports,
but you are never alone. "Aesthetic," we know. Mr. Barrett used to be
of service for this sort of thing. I admit I am inferior to Mrs.
Bayruffle, who, if men talk difficult words in her presence, holds her
chin above the conversation, and seems to shame them. I love to learn--I
love the humility of learning. And there is something divine in the idea
of a teacher. I listen to Sir T. on Parliament and parties, and chide
myself if my interest flags. His algebra-puzzles, or Euclid-puzzles in
figures--sometimes about sheep-boys and sheep, and hurdles or geese, oxen
or anything--are delicious: he quite masters the conversation with them.
I disagree with Mrs. Bayruffle when she complains that they are posts in
the way of speech. There is a use in all men; and though she is an
acknowledged tactician materially, she cannot see she has in Sir T. a
quality necessary to intellectual conversation, if she knew how to employ
Remarks of this nature read very oddly to Arabella, insomuch that she
would question herself at times, in forced seriousness, whether she had
dreamed that an evil had befallen Brookfield, or whether Adela were
forgetting that it had, in a dream. One day she enclosed a letter from
her father to Mrs. Chump. Adela did not forge a reply; but she had the
audacity to give the words of a message from the woman (in which Mrs.
Chump was supposed to say that she could not write while she was being
tossed about.) "We must carry it on," Adela told her sister, with
horrible bluntness. The message savoured strongly of Mrs. Chump. It was
wickedly clever. Arabella resolved to put it by; but morning after
morning she saw her father's anxiety for the reply mounting to a pitch of
fever. She consulted with Cornelia, who said, "No; never do such a
thing!" and subsequently, with a fainter firmness, repeated the negative
monosyllable. Arabella, in her wretchedness, became endued with
remorseless discernment. "It means that Cornelia would never do it
herself," she thought; and, comforted haply by reflecting that for their
common good she could do it, she did it. She repeated an Irish message.
Her father calmed immediately, making her speak it over twice. He
smiled, and blinked his bird's-eyes pleasurably: "Ah! that's Martha," he
said, and fell into a state of comparative repose. For some hours a
sensation of bubbling hot-water remained about the sera of Arabella.
Happily Mrs. Chump in person did not write.
A correspondence now commenced between the fictitious Mrs. Chump on sea
and Mr. Pole, dyspeptic, in his armchair. Arabella took the doctor aside
to ask him, if in a hypothetical instance, it would really be dangerous
to thwart or irritate her father. She asked the curate if he deemed it
wicked to speak falsely to an invalid for the invalid's benefit. The
spiritual and bodily doctors agreed that occasion altered and necessity
justified certain acts. So far there was comfort. But the task of
assisting in this correspondence, and yet more, the contemplation of
Adela's growing delight in it (she would now use Irish words, vulgar
words, words expressive of physical facts; airing her natural wit in
Irish as if she had found a new weapon), became a bitter strain on
Arabella's mind, and she was compelled to make Cornelia take her share of
the burden. "But I cannot conceal--I cannot feign," said Cornelia.
Arabella looked at her, whom she knew to be feigning, thinking, "Must I
lose my high esteem of both my sisters?" Action alone saved her from
denuding herself of this garment."
"That night!" was now the allusion to the scene at Besworth. It stood
for all the misery they suffered; nor could they see that they had since
made any of their own.
A letter with the Dover postmark brought exciting news.
A debate had been held on board the yacht. Wilfrid and Lady Charlotte
gave their votes for the Devon coast. All were ready to be off, when
Miss Ford received a telegram from shore, and said, "No; it must be
Dover." Now, Mrs. Chump's villa was on the Devon coast. Lady Charlotte
had talked to Wilfrid about her, and in the simplest language had said
that she must be got on board. This was the reason of their deciding for
Devon. But Georgiana stood for Dover; thither Merthyr said that he must
go, whether be sailed or went on land. By a simultaneous reading of
Georgiana's eyes, both Wilfrid and Lady Charlotte saw what was meant by
her decision. Wilfrid at once affected to give way, half-protestingly.
"And this," wrote Adela, "taught me that he was well pleased to abandon
the West for the East. Lady C. favoured him with a look such as I could
not have believed I should ever behold off the stage. There was a
perfect dagger in her eyes. She fought against Dover: do men feel such
compliments as these? They are the only true ones! She called the
captain to witness that the wind was not for Dover she called the mate:
she was really eloquent--yes, and handsome. I think Wilfrid thought so;
or the reason far the opposition to Dover impressed my brother. I like
him to be made to look foolish, for then he retrieves his character so
dashingly--always. His face was red, and he seemed undecided--was--until
one taunt (it must have been a taunt), roused him up. They exchanged
about six sentences--these two. I cannot remember them, unhappily; but
for neatness and irony, never was anything so delicious heard. They came
sharp as fencing-thrusts; and you could really believe, if you liked,
that they were merely stating grounds for diverse opinions. Of course we
sailed East, reaching Dover at ten; and the story is this--I knew Emilia
was in it:--Tracy Runningbrook had been stationed at Dover ten days by
Miss Ford, to intercept Emilia's father, if he should be found taking her
to the Continent by that route. He waited, and met them at last on the
Esplanade. He telegraphed to Miss Ford and a Signor Marini (we were
wrong in not adding illustrious exiles to our list), while he invited
them to dine, and detained them till the steamboat was starting; and
Signor Marini came down by rail in a great hurry, and would not let
Emilia be taken away. There was a quarrel; but, by some mysterious power
that he possesses, this Signor Marini actually prevented the father from
taking his child. Mysterious? But is anything more mysterious than
Emilia's influence? I cannot forget what she was ere we trained her; and
when I think that we seem to be all--all who come near her--connected
with her fortunes! Explain it if you can. I know it is not her singing;
I know it is not her looks. Captivations she does not deal in. Is it
the magic of indifference? No; for then some one whom you know and who
longs to kiss her bella Bella now would be dangerous! She is very little
so, believe me!
"Emilia is (am I chronicling a princess?)--she is in London with Signor
Marini; and Wilfrid has not seen her. Lady Charlotte managed to get the
first boat full, and pushed off as he was about to descend. I pitied his
poor trembling hand I went on shore in the second boat with him. We did
not find the others for an hour, when we heard that Emilia had gone with
Signor M. The next day, whom should we sea but Mr. Pericles. "He (I have
never seen him so civil)--he shook Wilfrid by the hand almost like an
Englishman; and Wilfrid too, though he detests him, was civil to him, and
even laughed when he said: 'Here it is dull; ze Continent for a week. I
follow Philomela--ze nightingales." I was just going to say, 'Well then,
you are running away from one.' Wilfrid pressed my fingers, and taught
me to be still; and I did not know why till I reflected. Poor Mr.
Pericles, seeing him friendly for the first time, rubbed his hands and it
was most painful to me to see him shake hands with Wilfrid again and
again, till he was on board the vessel chuckling. Wilfrid suddenly
laughed with all his might--a cruel laugh; and Mr. Pericles tried to be
as loud, but commenced coughing and tapping his chest, to explain that
his intention was good. Bella! the passion of love must be judged by the
person who inspires it; and I cannot even go so far as to feel pity for
Wilfrid if he has stooped to the humiliation of--there is another way of
regarding it, know. Let him be sincere and noble; but not his own
victim. He scarcely holds up his head. We are now for Devon. Tracy is
with us; and we never did a wiser thing than when we decided to patronize
poets. If kept in order--under--they are the aristocracy of light
conversationalists. Adieu! We speed for beautiful Devon. 'Me love to
Pole, and I'm just,' etc. That will do this time; next, she will speak
herself. That I should wish it! But the world is full of change, as I
begin to learn. What will ensue?"
When Mrs. Chump had turned her back on Brookfield, the feelings of the
outcast woman were too deep for much distinctly acrimonious sensation
toward the ladies; but their letters soon lifted and revived her, until,
being in a proper condition of prickly wrath, she sat down to compose a
reply that should bury them under a mountain of shame. The point,
however, was to transfer this mountain from her bosom, which laboured
heavily beneath it, to their heads. Nothing could appear simpler. Here
is the mountain; the heads are yonder. Accordingly, she prepared to
commence. In a moment the difficulty yawned monstrous. For the mountain
she felt was not a mountain of shame; yet that was the character of
mountain she wished to cast. If she crushed them, her reputation as a
forgiving soul might suffer: she could not pardon without seeing them
abased. Thus shaken at starting, she found herself writing: "I know that
your father has been hearing tales told of me, or he would have written,
and he has not; so you shall never see me, not if you cried to me from
the next world--the hot part."
Perusing this, it was too tremendous. "Oh, that's awful!" she said,
getting her body a little away from the manuscript. "Ye couldn't curse
A fresh trial found her again rounding the fact that Mr. Pole had not
written to her, and again flying into consequent angers. She had some
dim conception of the sculpture of an offended Goddess. "I look so," she
said before the glass "I'm above ye, and ye can't hurt me, and don't come
anigh me: but here's a cheque--and may ye be haunted in your dreams!--but
here's a cheque."
There was pain in her heart, for she had felt faith in Mr. Pole's
affection for her. "And he said," she cried out in her lonely room--"he
said, 'Martha, ye've onnly to come and be known to 'm, and then they'll
take to the ideea.' And wasn't I a patient creature! And it's Pole
Varied with the frequent 'Oh!' and 'Augh!' these dramatic monologues
occupied her time while the yacht was sailing for her Devon bay.
At last the thought struck her that she would send for Braintop--
telegraphing that expenses would be paid, and that he must come with a
good quill. "It goes faster," she whispered, suggesting the pent-up
torrent, as it were, of blackest ink in her breast that there was to pour
forth. A very cunning postscript to the telegram brought Braintop almost
as quick to her as a return message. It was merely 'Little Belloni.'
She had forgotten this piece of artifice: but when she saw him start at
the opening of the door, keeping a sheepish watch in that direction,
"By'n-by," she said, with a nod; and shortly afterward unfolded her
object in summoning him from his London labours: "A widde-woman ought to
get marrud, Mr. Braintop, if onnly to have a husband to write letters for
'rr. Now, that's a task! But sup to-night, and mind ye say yer prayers
before gettin' into bed; and no tryin' to flatter your Maker with your
knees cuddled up to your chin under the counterpane. I do 't myself
sometimes, and I know one prayer out of bed's worrth ten of 'm in. Then
I'll pray too; and mayhap we'll get permission and help to write our
letter to-morrow, though Sunday, as ye say."
On the morrow Braintop's spirits were low, he having perceived that the
'Little Belloni' postscript had been but an Irish chuckle and nudge in
his ribs, by way of sly insinuation or reminder. He looked out on the
sea, and sighed to be under certain white sails visible in the offing.
Mrs. Chump had received by the morning's post another letter from
Arabella, enclosing one for Wilfrid. A dim sense of approaching mastery,
and that she might soon be melted, combined with the continued silence of
Mr. Pole to make her feel yet more spiteful. She displayed no
commendable cunning when, to sharpen and fortify Braintop's wits, she
plumped him at breakfast with all things tempting to the appetite of man.
"I'll help ye to 'rr," she said from time to time, finding that no
encouragement made him potent in speech.
Fronting the sea a desk was laid open. On it were the quills faithfully
brought down by Braintop.
"Pole's own quills," she said, having fixed Braintop in this official
seat, while she took hers at a station half-commanding the young clerk's
face. The mighty breakfast had given Braintop intolerable desire to
stretch his limbs by the sounding shore, and enjoy life in semi-oblivion.
He cheered himself with the reflection that there was only one letter to
write, so he remarked politely that he was at his hostess's disposal.
Thereat Mrs. Chump questioned him closely whether Mr. Pole had spoken her
name aloud; and whether he did it somehow, now and then by accident, and
whether he had looked worse of late. Braintop answered the latter
question first, assuring her that Mr. Pole was improving.
"Then there's no marcy from me," said Mrs. Chump; and immediately
discharged an exclamatory narrative of her recent troubles, and the
breach between herself and Brookfield, at Braintop's ears. This done,
she told him that he was there to write the reply to the letters of the
ladies, in her name. "Begin," she said. "Ye've got head enough to guess
my feelin's. I'm invited, and I won't go--till I'm fetched. But don't
say that. That's their guess ye know. 'And I don't care for ye enough
to be angry at all, but it's pity I feel at a parcel of fine garls'--so
on, Mr. Braintop."
The perplexities of epistolary correspondence were assuming the like
proportions to the recruited secretary that they had worn to Mrs. Chump.
Steadily watching his countenance; she jogged him thus: "As if ye
couldn't help ut, ye know, ye begin. Jest like wakin' in the mornin'
after dancin' all night. Ye make the garls seem to hear me seemin' to
say--Oooo! I was so comfortable before your disturbin' me with your
horrud voices. Ye understand, Mr. Braintop? 'I'm in bed, and you're a
cold bath.' Begin like that, ye know. 'Here's clover, and you're
nettles.' D'ye see? Here from my glass o' good Porrt to your tumbler
of horrud acud vin'gar.' Bless the boy! he don't begin."
She stamped her foot. Braintop, in desperation, made a plunge at the
paper. Looking over his shoulder in a delighted eagerness, she suddenly
gave it a scornful push. "'Dear!'" she exclaimed. "You're dearin' them,
absurd young man I'm not the woman to I dear 'em--not at the starrt! I'm
indignant--I'm hurrt. I come round to the 'dear' by-and-by, after I have
whipped each of the proud sluts, and their brother Mr. Wilfrid, just as
if by accident. Ye'll promus to forget avery secret I tell ye; but our
way is always to pretend to believe the men can't help themselves. So
the men look like fools, ye sly laughin' fella! and the women horrud
scheming spiders. Now, away, with ye, and no dearin'."
The Sunday-bells sounded mockingly in Braintop's ears, appearing to ask
him how he liked his holiday; and the white sails on the horizon line
have seldom taunted prisoner more. He spread out another sheet of
notepaper and wrote "My," and there he stopped.
Mrs. Chump was again at his elbow. "But, they aren't 'my,' she
remonstrated, "when I've nothin' to do with 'm. And a 'my' has a 'dear'
to 't always. Ye're not awake, Mr. Braintop; try again."
"Shall I begin formally, "Mrs. Chump presents her compliments,' ma'am?"
said Braintop stiffly.
"And I stick myself up on a post, and talk like a parrot, sir! Don't you
see, I'm familiar, and I'm woundud? Go along; try again."
Braintop's next effort was, "Ladies."
"But they don't behave to me like ladus; and it's against my conscience
to call 'em!" said Mrs. Chump, with resolution.
Braintop wrote down "Women," in the very irony of disgust.
"And avery one of 'em unmarred garls!" exclaimed Mrs. Chump, throwing up
her hands. "Mr. Braintop! Mr. Braintop! ye're next to an ejut!"
Braintop threw dawn the pen. "I really do not know what to say," he
remarked, rising in distress.
"I naver had such a desire to shake anny man in all my life," said Mrs.
Chump, dropping to her chair.
The posture of affairs was chimed to by the monotonous bell. After
listening to it for some minutes, Mrs. Chump was struck with a notion
that Braintop's sinfulness in working on a Sunday, or else the shortness
of the prayer he had put up to gain absolution, was the cause of his lack
of ready wit. Hearing that he had gloves, she told him to go to church,
listen devoutly, and return to luncheon. Braintop departed, with a
sensation of relief in the anticipation of a sermon, quite new to him.
When he next made his bow to his hostess, he was greeted by a pleasant
sparkle of refreshments. Mrs. Chump herself primed him with Sherry,
thinking in the cunning of her heart that it might haply help the
inspiration derived from his devotional exercise. After this, pen and
paper were again produced.
"Well, now, Mr. Braintop, and what have ye thought of?" said Mrs. Chump,
Braintop thought rapidly over what he might possibly have been thinking
of; and having put a file of ideas into the past, said, with the air of a
man who delicately suggests a subtlety: "It has struck me, ma'am, that
perhaps 'Girls' might begin very well. To be sure 'Dear girls' is the
best, if you would consent to it."
"Take another glass of wine, Mr. Braintop," Mrs. Chump nodded. "Ye're
nearer to ut now. 'Garls' is what they are, at all events. But don't
you see, my dear your man, it isn't the real thing we want so much as a
sort of a proud beginnin', shorrt of slappin' their faces. Think of
dinner. Furrst soup; that prepares ye for what's comin'. Then fish,
which is on the road to meat, dye see?--we pepper 'em. Then joint, Mr.
Braintop--out we burrst: (Oh, and what ins'lent hussies ye've been to me,
and yell naver see annything of me but my back!) Then the sweets,--But
I'm a forgivin' woman, and a Christian in the bargain, ye ungrateful
minxes; and if ye really are sorrowful! And there, Mr. Braintop, ye've
got it all laid out as flat as a pancake."
Mrs. Chump gave the motion of a lightning scrawl of the pen. Braintop
looked at the paper, which now appeared to recede from his eyes, and
flourish like a descending kite. The nature of the task he had
undertaken became mountainous in his imagination, till at last he fixed
his forehead in his thumbs and fingers, and resolutely counted a number
of meaningless words one hundred times. As this was the attitude of a
severe student, Mrs. Chump remained in expectation. Aware of the fearful
confidence he had excited in her, Braintop fell upon a fresh hundred,
"The truth is, I think better in church," he said, disclosing at last as
ingenuous a face as he could assume. He scarcely ventured to hope for a
To his joy, Mrs. Chump responded with a sigh: "There, go again; and the
Lord forgive ye for directin' your mind to temporal matters when ye're
there! It's none of my doin', remember that; and don't be tryin' to make
me a partic'pator in your wickudness."
"This is so difficult, ma'am, because you won't begin with Dear," he
observed snappishly, as he was retiring.
"Of coorse it's difficult if it bothers me," retorted Mrs. Chump, divided
between that view of the case and contempt of Braintop for being on her
"Do you see, we are not to say 'Dear' anything, or 'Ladies,' or--in
short, really, if you come to think, ma'am!"
"Is that a woman's business, Mr. Braintop?" said Mrs. Chump, as from a
height; and the youth retired in humiliation.
Braintop was not destitute of the ambition of his time of life, and
yearned to be what he believed himself--something better than a clerk.
If he had put forth no effort to compose Mrs. Chump's letter, he would
not have felt that he was the partner of her stupidity; but he had
thoughtlessly attempted the impossible thing, and now, contemplating his
utter failure, he was in so low a state of mind that he would have taken
pen and written himself down, with ordinary honesty, good-for-nothing.
He returned to his task, and found the dinner spread. Mrs. Chump gave
him champagne, and drank to him, requesting him to challenge her. "We
won't be beaten," she said; and at least they dined.
The 'we' smote Braintop's swelling vanity. It signified an alliance, and
that they were yoked to a common difficulty.
"Oh! let's finish it and have it over," he remarked, with a complacent
roll in his chair.
"Naver stop a good impulse," said Mrs. Chump, herself removing the lamp
to light him.
Braintop sat in the chair of torture, and wrote flowingly, while his
taskmistress looked over him, "Ladies of Brookfield." He read it out:
"Ladies of Brookfield."
"I'll be vary happy to represent ye at the forthcomin' 'lection," Mrs.
Chump gave a continuation in his tone.
"Why, won't that do, ma'am?" Braintop asked in wonderment.
"Cap'tal for a circular, Mr. Braintop. And ye'll allow me to say that I
don't think ye've been to church at all."
This accusation containing a partial truth (that is, true if it referred
to the afternoon, but not as to the morning), it was necessary for
Braintop's self-vindication that he should feel angry. The two were very
soon recriminating, much in the manner of boy and girl shut up on a sunny
afternoon; after which they, in like manner, made it up--the fact of both
having a habit of consulting the glass, and the accident of their doing
it at the same time, causing an encounter of glances there that could
hardly fail to be succeeded by some affability. For a last effort, Mrs.
Chump laid before Braintop a prospect of advancement in his office, if he
so contrived as to write a letter that should land her in Brookfield
among a scourged, repentant, and forgiven people. That he might
understand the position, she went far modestly to reveal her weakness for
Mr. Pole. She even consented to let 'Ladies' be the opening apostrophe,
provided the word 'Young' went before it: "They'll feel that sting," she
said. Braintop stipulated that she should not look till the letter was
done; and, observing his pen travelling the lines in quick succession,
Mrs. Chump became inspired by a great but uneasy hope. She was only to
be restrained from peeping, by Braintop's petulant "Pray, ma'am!" which
sent her bouncing back to her chair, with a face upon one occasion too
solemn for Braintop's gravity. He had written himself into excellent
spirits; and happening to look up as Mrs. Chump retreated from his
shoulder, the woman's comic reverence for his occupation--the prim
movement of her lips while she repeated mutely the words she supposed he
might be penning--touched him to laughter. At once Mrs. Chump seized on
the paper. "Young ladus," she read aloud, "yours of the 2nd, the 14th,
and 21st ulto. The 'ffection I bear to your onnly remaining parent."
Her enunciation waxed slower and significantly staccato toward a pause.
The composition might undoubtedly have issued from a merchant's office,
and would have done no discredit to the establishment. When the pause
came, Braintop, half for an opinion, and to encourage progress, said,
"Yes, ma'am;" and with "There, sir!" Mrs. Chump crumpled up the paper and
flung it at him. "And there, sir!" she tossed a pen. Hearing Braintop
mutter, "Lady-like behaviour," Mrs. Chump came out in a fiery bloom. "Ye
detestable young fella! Oh, ye young deceiver! Ye cann't do the work of
a man! Oh! and here's another woman dis'pointed, and when she thought
she'd got a man to write her letters!"
Braintop rose and retorted.
"Ye're false, Mr. Braintop--ye're offensuv, sir!" said Mrs. Chump; and
Braintop instantly retired upon an expressive bow. When he was out of
the room, Mrs. Chump appealed spitefully to an audience of chairs; but
when she heard the front-door shut with a report, she jumped up in
terror, crying incredulously, "Is the young man pos'tively one? Oh! and
me alone in a rage!--the contemplated horrors of which position set her
shouting vociferously. "Mr. Braintop!" sounded over the stairs, and "Mr.
Braintop!" into the street. The maid brought Mrs. Chump her bonnet.
Night had fallen; and nothing but the greatest anxiety to recover
Braintop would have tempted her from her house. She made half-a-dozen
steps, and then stopped to mutter, "Oh! if ye'd onnly come, I'd forgive
ye--indeed I would!"
"Well, here I am," was instantaneously answered; her waist was clasped,
and her forehead was kissed.
The madness of Braintop's libertinism petrified her.
"Ye've taken such a liberty, sir 'deed ye've forgotten yourself!"
While she was speaking; she grew confused with the thought that Braintop
had mightily altered both his voice and shape. When on the doorstep he
said; "Come out of the darkness or, upon my honour, I shall behave
worse," she recognized Wilfrid, and understood by his yachting costume in
what manner he had come. He gave her no time to think of her dignity or
her wrath. "Lady Charlotte is with me. I sleep at the hotel; but you
have no objection to receive her, have you?" This set her mind upon her
best bedroom, her linen, and the fitness of her roof to receive a title.
Then, in a partial fit of gratitude for the honour, and immense
thankfulness at being spared the task of the letter, she fell on
Wilfrid's shoulder, beginning to sob--till he, in alarm at his absurd
position, suggested that Lady Charlotte awaited a welcome. Mrs. Chump
immediately flew to her drawing-room and rang bells, appearing presently
with a lamp, which she set on a garden-pillar. Together they stood by
the lamp, a spectacle to ocean: but no Lady Charlotte drew near.
Though Mrs. Chump and Wilfrid, as they stood by the light of the lamp,
saw no one, they themselves were seen. Lady Charlotte had arranged to
give him a moment in advance to make his peace. She had settled it with
that air of practical sense which her title made graceful to him. "I
will follow; and I dare say I can complete what you leave unfinished,"
she said. Her humorous sense of the aristocratic prestige was conveyed
to him in a very taking smile. He scarcely understood why she should
have planned so decisively to bring about a reconciliation between Mrs.
Chump and his family; still, as it now chimed perfectly with his own
views and wishes, he acquiesced in her scheme, giving her at the same
time credit for more than common wisdom.
While Lady Charlotte lingered on the beach, she became aware of a figure
that hung about her; as she was moving away, a voice of one she knew well
enough asked to be directed to the house inhabited by Mrs. Chump. The
lady was more startled than it pleased her to admit to herself.
"Don't you know me?" she said, bluntly.
"You!" went Emilia's voice.
"Why on earth are you here? What brings you here? Are you alone?"
returned the lady.
Emilia did not answer.
"What extraordinary expedition are you making? But, tell me one thing:
are you here of your own accord, or at somebody else's bidding?"
Impatient at the prospect of a continuation of silences, Lady Charlotte
added, "Come with me."
Emilia seemed to be refusing.
"The appointment was made at that house, I know," said the lady; "but if
you come with me, you will see him just as readily."
At this instant, the lamp was placed on the pillar, showing Wilfrid, in
his sailor's hat and overcoat, beside the fluttering Irishwoman.
"Come, I must speak to you first," said Lady Charlotte hurriedly,
thinking that she saw Emilia's hands stretch out. "Pray, don't go into
attitudes. There he is, as you perceive; and I don't use witchcraft.
Come with me; I will send for him. Haven't you learnt by this time that
there's nothing he detests so much as a public display of the kind you're
trying to provoke?"
Emilia half comprehended her.
"He changes when he's away from me," she said, low toneless voice.
"Less than I fancied," the lady thought.
Then she told Emilia that there was really no necessity for her to whine
and be miserable; she was among friends, and so forth. The simplicity of
her manner of speech found its way to Emilia's reason quicker than her
arguments; and, in the belief that Wilfrid was speaking to Mrs. Chump on
urgent private matters (she had great awe of the word 'business'), Emilia
suffered herself to be led away. She uttered twice a little exclamation,
as she looked back, that sounded exceedingly comical to Lady Charlotte's
ears. They were the repressions of a poignant outcry. "Doggies make
that noise," thought the lady, and succeeded in feeling contemptuous.
Wilfrid, when he found that Lady Charlotte was not coming, bestowed a
remark upon her sex, and went indoors for his letter. He considered it
politic not to read it there, Mrs. Chump having grown so friendly, and
even motherly, that she might desire, out of pure affection, to share the
contents. He put it by and talked gaily, till Mrs. Chump, partly to
account for the defection of the lady, observed that she knew they had a
quarrel. She was confirmed in this idea on a note being brought in to
him, over which, before opening it, he frowned and flushed. Aware of the
treachery of his countenance, he continued doing so after his eyes had
taken in the words, though there was no special ground furnished by them
for any such exhibition. Mrs. Chump immediately, with a gaze of
mightiest tribulation, burst out: "I'll help ye; 'pon my honour, I'll
help ye. Oh! the arr'stocracy! Oh, their pride! But if I say, my dear,
when I die (which it's so horrud to think of), you'll have a share, and
the biggest--this vary cottage, and a good parrt o' the Bank property--
she'll come down at that. And if ye marry a lady of title, I'll be 's
good as my word, I will."
Wilfrid pressed her fingers. "Can you ever believe that, I have called
you a 'simmering pot of Emerald broth'?"
"My dear! annything that's lots o' words, Ye may call me," returned Mrs.
Chump, "as long as it's no name. Ye won't call me a name, will ye? Lots
o' words--it's onnly as if ye peppered me, and I sneeze, and that's all;
but a name sticks to yer back like a bit o' pinned paper. Don't call me
a name," and she wriggled pathetically.
"Yes," said Wilfrid, "I shall call you Pole."
"Oh! ye sweetest of young fellas!"
Mrs. Chump threw out her arms. She was on the point of kissing him, but
he fenced with the open letter; and learning that she might read it, she
gave a cry of joy.
"Dear W.!" she begins; and it's twice dear from a lady of title. She's
just a multiplication-table for annything she says and touches. "Dear
W.!" and the shorter time a single you the better. I'll have my joke,
Mr. Wilfrud. "Dear W.!" Bless her heart now! I seem to like her next
best to the Queen already.--"I have another plan." Ye'd better keep to
the old; but it's two paths, I suppose, to one point.--"Another plan.
Come to me at the Dolphin, where I am alone." Oh, Lord! 'Alone,' with a
line under it, Mr. Wilfrud! But there--the arr'stocracy needn't matter a
"It's a very singular proceeding not the less," said Wilfrid. "Why
didn't she go to the hotel where the others are, if she wouldn't come
"But the arr'stocracy, Mr.Wilfrud! And alone--alone! d'ye see? which
couldn't be among the others; becas of sweet whisperin'. 'Alone,'" Mrs.
Chump read on; "'and to-morrow I'll pay my respects to what you call your
simmering pot of Emerald broth.' Oh ye hussy! I'd say, if ye weren't a
borrn lady. And signs ut all, 'Your faithful Charlotte.' Mr. Wilfrud,
I'd give five pounds for this letter if I didn't know ye wouldn't part
with it under fifty. And 'deed I am a simmerin' pot; for she'll be a
relation, my dear! Go to 'r. I'll have your bed ready for ye here at
the end of an hour; and to-morrrow perhaps, if Lady Charlotte can spare
me, I'll condescend to see Ad'la."
Wilfrid fanned her cheek with the note, and then dropped it on her neck
and left the room. He was soon hurrying on his way to the Dolphin:
midway he stopped. "There may be a bad shot in Bella's letter," he
thought. Shop-lights were ahead: a very luminous chemist sent a green
ray into the darkness. Wilfrid fixed himself under it. "Confoundedly
appropriate for a man reading that his wife has run away from him!" he
muttered, and hard quickly plunged into matter quite as absorbing. When
he had finished it he shivered. Thus it ran:
"My beloved brother,
"I bring myself to plain words. Happy those who can trifle with human
language! Papa has at last taken us into his confidence. He has not
spoken distinctly; he did us the credit to see that it was not necessary.
If in our abyss of grief we loss delicacy, what is left?--what!
"The step he desired to take, Which We Opposed, he has anticipated, And
"Oh, Wilfrid! you see it, do you not? You comprehend me I am surf! I
should have said 'had anticipated.' How to convey to you! (but it would
be unjust to him--to ourselves--were I to say emphatically what I have
not yet a right to think). What I have hinted above is, after all;
nothing but Cornelia's conjecture, I wish I could not say confirmed by
mine. We sat with Papa two hours before any idea of his meaning dawned
upon us. He first scolded us. We both saw from this that more was to
"I hope there are not many in this world to whom the thought of honour
being tied to money ever appears possible. If it is so there is wide
suffering--deep, for it, must be silent. Cornelia suggests one comfort
for them that they will think less of poverty.
"Why was Brookfield ever bought? Our old peaceful City-life--the vacant
Sundays!--my ears are haunted by their bells for Evening Service. I
said 'There they go, the dowdy population of heaven!' I remember it now.
It should be almost punishment enough to be certain that of all those
people going to church, there cannot be one more miserable than we who
stood at the old window ridiculing them. They at least do not feel that
everything they hope for in human life is dependent upon one human will--
the will of a mortal weather-vane! It is the case, and it must be
conciliated. There is no half-measure--no choice. Feel that nothing you
have ever dreamed of can be a disgrace if it is undergone to forestall
what positively impends, and act immediately. I shall expect to see you
in three days. She is to have the South-west bedroom (mine), for which
she expressed a preference. Prepare every mind for the ceremony:--an old
man's infatuation--money--we submit. It will take place in town. To
have the Tinleys in the church! But this is certainly my experience,
that misfortune makes me feel more and more superior to those whom I
despise. I have even asked myself--was I so once? And, Apropos of
Laura! We hear that their evenings are occupied in performing the scene
at Besworth. They are still as distant as ever from Richford. Let me
add that Albert Tinley requested my hand in marriage yesterday. I agree
with Cornelia that this is the first palpable sign that we have sunk.
Consequent upon the natural consequences came the interview with Papa.
"Dearest, dearest Wilfrid! can you, can I, can any one of us settle--that
is, involve another life in doubt while doubt exists? Papa insists; his
argument is, "Now, now, and no delay." I accuse nothing but his love.
Excessive love is perilous for principle!
"You have understood me, I know, and forgiven me for writing so nakedly.
I dare not reperuse it. You must satisfy him that Lady C. has fixed a
date. Adela is incomprehensible. One day she sees a friend in Lady C.,
and again it is an enemy. Papa's immediate state of health is not
alarming. Above all things, do not let the girl come near him. Papa
will send the cheque you required."
"When?" Wilfrid burst out upon Arabella's affectionate signature. "When
will he send it? He doesn't do me the honour to mention the time. And
this is his reply to a third application!"
The truth was that Wilfrid was in dire want of tangible cash simply to
provision his yacht. The light kindled in him by this unsatisfied need
made him keen to comprehend all that Arabella's attempt at plain writing
designed to unfold.
"Good God, my father's the woman's trustee!" shaped itself in Wilfrid's
And next: "If he marries her we may all be as poor as before." That is
to say, "Honour may be saved without ruin being averted."
His immediate pressing necessity struck like a pulse through all the
chords of dismal conjecture. His heart flying about for comfort, dropped
at Emilia's feet.
"Bella's right," he said, reverting to the green page in his hand; "we
can't involve others in our scrape, whatever it may be."
He ceased on the spot to be at war with himself, as he had been for many
a day; by which he was taught to imagine that he had achieved a mental
indifference to misfortune. This lightened his spirit considerably. "So
there's an end of that," he emphasized, as the resolve took form to tell
Lady Charlotte flatly that his father was ruined, and that the son,
therefore, renounced his particular hope and aspiration.
"She will say, in the most matter-of-fact way in the world, "Oh, very
well, that quite alters the case," said Wilfrid aloud, with the smallest
infusion of bitterness. Then he murmured, "Poor old governor!" and
wondered whether Emilia would come to this place according to his desire.
Love, that had lain crushed in him for the few recent days, sprang up and
gave him the thought, "She may be here now;" but, his eyes not being
satiated instantly with a sight of her, the possibility of such happiness
"Blessed little woman!" he cried openly, ashamed to translate in tenderer
terms the soft fresh blossom of love that his fancy conjured forth at the
recollection of her. He pictured to himself hopefully, moreover, that
she would be shy when they met. A contradictory vision of her eyes
lifted hungry for his first words, or the pressure of his arm displeased
him slightly. It occurred to him that they would be characterized as a
singular couple. To combat this he drew around him all the mysteries of
sentiment that had issued from her voice and her eyes. She had made
Earth lovely to him and heaven human. She--what a grief for ever that
her origin should be what it was! For this reason:--lovers must live
like ordinary people outwardly; and say, ye Fates, how had she been
educated to direct a gentlemen's household?
"I can't exist on potatoes," he pronounced humorously.
But when his thoughts began to dwell with fitting seriousness on the
woman-of-the-world tone to be expected from Lady Charlotte, he folded the
mental image of Emilia closely to his breast, and framed a misty idea of
a little lighted cottage wherein she sat singing to herself while he was
campaigning. "Two or three fellows--Lumley and Fredericks--shall see
her," he thought. The rest of his brother officers were not even to know
that he was married.
His yacht was lying in a strip of moonlight near Sir Twickenham's
companion yawl. He gave one glance at it as at a history finished, and
sent up his name to Lady Charlotte.
"Ah! you haven't brought the good old dame with you?" she said, rising to
meet him. "I thought it better not to see her to-night."
He acquiesced, mentioning the lateness of the hour, and adding, "You are
She stared, and let fall "Certainly," and then laughed. "I had forgotten
your regard for the proprieties. I have just sent my maid for Georgiana;
she will sleep here. I preferred to come here, because those people at
the hotel tire me; and, besides, I said I should sleep at the villa, and
I never go back to people who don't expect me."
Wilfrid looked about the room perplexed, and almost suspicious because of
his unexplained perplexity. Her (as he deemed it--not much above the
level of Mrs. Chump in that respect) aristocratic indifference to opinion
and conventional social observances would have pleased him by daylight,
but it fretted him now.
Lady Charlotte's maid came in to say that Miss Ford would join her. The
maid was dismissed to her bed. "There's nothing to do there," said her
mistress, as she was moving to the folding-doors. The window facing
seaward was open. He went straight to it and closed it. Next, in an
apparent distraction, he went to the folding-doors. He was about to
press the handle, when Lady Charlotte's quiet remark, "My bedroom,"
brought him back to his seat, crying pardon.
"Have you had news?" she inquired. "You thought that a letter might be
there. Bad, is it?"
"It is not good," he replied, briefly.
"I am sorry."
"That is--it tells me--" (Wilfrid disciplined his tongue) "that I--we
are--a lieutenant on half-pay may say that he is ruined, I suppose, when
his other supplies are cut off!..."
"I can excuse him for thinking it," said Lady Charlotte. She exhibited
no sign of eagerness for his statement of facts.
Her outward composure and a hard animation of countenance (which, having
ceased the talking within himself, he had now leisure to notice)
humiliated him. The sting helped him to progress.
"I may try to doubt it as much as I please, to avoid seeing what must
follow.... I may shut my eyes in the dark, but when the light stares me
in the face...I give you my word that I have not been justified even in
imagining such a catastrophe."
"The preamble is awful," said Lady Charlotte, rising from her recumbent
"Pardon me; I have no right to intrude my feelings. I learn to-day, for
the first time, that we are--are ruined."
She did not lift her eyebrows, or look fixedly; but without any change at
all, said, "Is there no doubt about it?"
"None whatever." This was given emphatically. Resentment at the perfect
realization of her anticipated worldly indifference lent him force.
"Ruined?" she said.
"You I'll be more so than you were a month ago. I mean, you tell me
nothing new, I have known it."
Amid the crush and hurry in his brain, caused by this strange
communication, pressed the necessity to vindicate his honour.
"I give you the word of a gentleman, Lady Charlotte, that I came to you
the first moment it has been made known to me. I never suspected it
before this day."
"Nothing would prompt me to disbelieve that." She reached him her hand.
"You have known it!" he broke from a short silence.
"Yes--never mind how. I could not allude to it. Of course I had to wait
till you took the initiative."
The impulse to think the best of what we are on the point of renouncing
is spontaneous. If at the same time this object shall exhibit itself in
altogether new, undreamt-of, glorious colours, others besides a
sentimentalist might waver, and be in some danger of clutching it a
little tenderly ere it is cast off.
"My duty was to tell you the very instant it came to my knowledge," he
said, fascinated in his heart by the display of greatness of mind which
he now half divined to be approaching, and wished to avoid.
"Well, I suppose that is a duty between friends?" said she.
"Between friends! Shall we still--always be friends?"
"I think I have said more than once that it won't be my fault if we are
"Because, the greater and happier ambition to which I aspired..." This
was what he designed to say, sentimentally propelled, by way of graceful
exit, and what was almost printed on a scroll in his head for the tongue
to read off fluently. He stopped at 'the greater,' beginning to stumble
--to flounder; and fearing that he said less than was due as a compliment
to the occasion, he said more.
By no means a quick reader of character, Lady Charlotte nevertheless
perceived that the man who spoke in this fashion, after what she had
confessed, must be sentimentally, if not actually, playing double.
Thus she came to his assistance: "Are you begging permission to break our
"At least, whatever I do get I must beg for now!" He took refuge
adroitly in a foolish reply, and it served him. That he had in all
probability lost his chance by the method he had adopted, and by
sentimentalizing at the wrong moment, was becoming evident,
notwithstanding. In a sort of despair he attempted comfort by critically
examining her features, and trying to suit them to one or other of the
numerous models of Love that a young man carries about with him. Her
eyes met his, and even as he was deciding against her on almost every
point, the force of their frankness held his judgement in suspense.
"The world is rather harsh upon women in these cases," she said, turning
her head a lithe, with a conscious droop of the eyelids. "I will act as
if we had an equal burden between us. On my side, what you have to tell
me does not alter me. I have known it.... You see that I am just the
same to you. For your part, you are free, if you please. That is fair
dealing, is it not?"
The gentleman's mechanical assent provoked the lady's smile.
But Wilfrid was torn between a profound admiration of her and the galling
reflection that until she had named the engagement, none had virtually
existed which diplomacy, aided by time and accident, might not have
"You must be aware that I am portionless," she continued. "I have--let
me name the sum--a thousand pounds. It is some credit to me that I have
had it five years and not spent it. Some men would think that a quality
worth double the amount. Well, you will make up your mind to my bringing
you no money;--I have a few jewels. En revanche, my habits are not
expensive. I like a horse, but I can do without one. I like a large
house, and can live in a small one. I like a French cook, and can dine
comfortably off a single dish. Society is very much to my taste; I shall
indulge it when I am whipped at home."
Wilfrid took her hand and pressed his lips to the fingers, keeping his
face ponderingly down. He was again so divided that the effort to find
himself absorbed all his thinking faculties.
At last he muttered: "A lieutenant's pay!"--expecting her to reply, "We
can wait," as girls do that find it pleasant to be adored by curates,
Then might follow a meditative pause--a short gaze at her, from which she
could have the option of reflecting that to wait is not the privilege of
those who have lived to acquire patience. The track he marked out was
clever in a poor way; perhaps it was not positively unkind to instigate
her to look at her age: but though he read character shrewdly, and knew
hers pretty accurately, he was himself too much of a straw at the moment
to be capable of leading-moves.
"We can make up our minds, without great difficulty, to regard the
lieutenant's pay as nothing at all," was Lady Charlotte's answer. "You
will enter the Diplomatic Service. My interest alone could do that. If
we are married, there would be plenty to see the necessity for pushing
us. I don't know whether you could keep the lieutenancy; you might. I
should not like you to quit the Army: an opening might come in it.
There's the Indian Staff--the Persian Mission: they like soldiers for
those Eastern posts. But we must take what we can get. We should,
anyhow, live abroad, where in the matter of money society is more
sensible. We should be able to choose our own, and advertize tea,
brioche, and conversation in return for the delicacies of the season."
"But you, Charlotte--you could never live that life!" Wilfrid broke in,
the contemplation of her plain sincerity diminishing him to himself. "It
would drag you down too horribly!"
"Remorse at giving tea in return for dinners and balls?"
"Ah! there are other things to consider."
She blushed unwontedly.
Something, lighted by the blush, struck him as very feminine and noble.
"Then I may flatter myself that you love me?" he whispered.
"Do you not see?" she rejoined. "My project is nothing but a whim--a
The divided man saw himself whole, if not happy in the ranks of
Diplomacy, with a resolute, frank, faithful woman (a lady of title)
loving him, to back him. Fortune shone ahead, and on the road he saw
where his deficiencies would be filled up by her. She was firm and open
--he irresolute and self-involved. Animal courage both possessed. Their
differences were so extreme that they met where they differed. It struck
him specially now that she would be like Day to his spirit in continued
intercourse. Young as he was he had wisdom to know the right meaning of
the word "helpmate." It was as if the head had dealt the heart a blow,
saying, "See here the lady thou art to serve." But the heart was a surly
rebel. Lady Charlotte was fully justified in retorting upon his last
question: "I think I also should ask, do you love me? It is not
absolutely imperative for the occasion or for the catastrophe, I merely
ask for what is called information."
And yet, despite her flippancy, which was partly designed to relieve his
embarrassment, her hand was moist and her eyes were singularly watchful.
"You who sneer at love!" He gave a musical murmur.
"Not at all. I think it a very useful part of the capital to begin the
married business upon."
"You unsay your own words."
"Not 'absolutely imperative,' I think I said, if I remember rightly."
"But I take the other view, Charlotte."
"You imagine that there must be a little bit of love."
"There should be no marriage without it."
"On both sides?"
"At least, if not on both sides, one should bring such a love."
"Enough for two! So, then, we are not to examine your basket?"
Touched by the pretty thing herein implied, he squeezed her hand.
"This is the answer?" said she.
"Can you doubt me?"
She rose from her seat. "Oh! if you talk in that style, I really am
tempted to say that I do. Are there men--women and women--men? My dear
Wilfrid, have we changed parts to-night?"
His quickness in retrieving a false position, outwardly, came to his aid.
He rose likewise, and, while perfecting the minor details of an easy
attitude against the mantelpiece, said: "I am so constituted, Charlotte,
that I can't talk of my feelings in a business tone; and I avoid that
subject unless... You spoke of a basket just now. Well, I confess I
can't bring mine into the market and bawl out that I have so many pounds'
weight of the required material. Would a man go to the market at all if
he had nothing to dispose of? In plain words--since my fault appears to
be, according to your reading, in the opposite direction--should I be
here if my sentiments could not reply eloquently to your question?"
This very common masterpiece of cunning from a man in a corner, which
suggests with so persuasive an air that he has ruled his actions up to
the very moment when he faces you, and had almost preconceived the
present occasion, rather won Lady Charlotte; or it seemed to, or the
scene had been too long for her vigilance.
"In the affirmative?" she whispered, coming nearer to him.
She knew that she had only to let her right shoulder slip under his left
arm, and he would very soon proclaim himself her lover as ardently as
might be wished. Why did she hesitate to touch the blood of the man? It
was her fate never to have her great heart read aright. Wilfrid could
not know that generosity rather than iciness restrained her from yielding
that one unknown kiss which would have given the final spring to passion
in his breast. He wanted the justification of his senses, and to run
headlong blindly. Had she nothing of a woman's instinct?
"In the affirmative!" was his serene reply.
"That means "Yes." Her tone had become pleasantly soft.
"Yes, that means 'Yes,'" said he.
She shut her eyes, murmuring, "How happy are those who hear that they are
loved!" and opening them, all her face being red, "Say it!" she pleaded.
Her fingers fell upon his wrist. "I have this weakness, Wilfrid; I wish
to hear you say it."
The flush of her face, and tremour of her fingers, told of an unimagined
agitation hardly to be believed, though seen and felt. Yet, still some
sign, some shade of a repulsion in her figure, kept him as far from her
as any rigid rival might have stipulated for.
The interrogation to the attentive heavens was partially framed in his
mind, "How can I tell this woman I love her, without..." without putting
his arm about her waist, and demonstrating it satisfactorily to himself
as well as to her? In other words, not so framed, "How, without that
frenzy which shall make me forget whether it be so or not?"
He remained in his attitude, incapable of moving or speaking, but
fancying, that possibly he was again to catch a glimpse of the vanished
mountain nymph, sweet Liberty. Her woman's instinct warmed more and
more, until, if she did not quite apprehend his condition, she at least
understood that the pause was one preliminary to a man's feeling himself
"Dear Wilfrid," she whispered, "you think you are doubted. I want to be
certain that you think you have met the right woman to help you, in me."
He passed through the loophole here indicated, and breathed.
"Yes, Charlotte, I am sure of that. If I could be only half as worthy!
You are full of courage and unselfishness, and, I could swear, faithful
"Thank you--not dogs," she laughed. "I like steel. I hope to be a good
sword in your hand, my knight--or shield, or whatever purpose you put me
She went on smiling, and seeming to draw closer to him and throw down
"After all, Wilfrid, the task of loving your good piece of steel won't be
less thoroughly accomplished because you find it difficult. Sir, I do
not admit any protestation. Handsome faces, musical voices, sly manners,
and methods that I choose not to employ, make the business easy to men."
"Who discover that the lady is not steel," said Wilfrid. "Need she, in
any case, wear so much there?"
He pointed, flittingly as it were, with his little finger to the slope of
She turned her wrist, touching the spot: "Here? You have seen, then,
that it is something worn?"
There followed a delicious interplay of eyes. Who would have thought
that hers could be sweet and mean so much?
"It is something worn, then? And thrown aside for me only, Charlotte?"
"For him who loves me," she said.
"For him who loves me," she repeated.
"Then it is for me!"
She had moved back, showing a harder figure, or the "I love you, love
you!" would have sounded with force. It came, though not so vehemently
as might have been, to the appeal of a soft fixed look.
"Yes, I love you, Charlotte; you know that I do."
"You love me?"
"I love you! Dead, inanimate Charlotte, I love you!"
She threw out her hand as one would throw a bone to a dog.
"My living, breathing, noble Charlotte," he cried, a little bewitched, "I
love you with all my heart!"
It surprised him that her features should be gradually expressing less
"With all your heart?"
"Could I give you a part?"
"It is done, sometimes," she said, mock-sadly. Then, in her original
voice: "Good. I never credited that story of you and the girl Emilia.
I suppose what people say is a lie?"
Her eyes, in perfect accordance with the tone she had adopted, set a
quiet watch on him.
"Who says it?" he thundered, just as she anticipated.
"It's not true?"
"Not true!--how can it be true?"
"You never loved Emilia Belloni?--don't love her now?--do not love her
now? If you have ever said that you love Emilia Belloni, recant, and you
are forgiven; and then go, for I think I hear Georgiana below. Quick! I
am not acting. It's earnest. The word, if you please, as you are a
gentleman. Tell me, because I have heard tales. I have been perplexed
about you. I am sure you're a manly fellow, who would never have played
tricks with a girl you were bound to protect; but you might have--pardon
the slang--spooned,--who knows? You might have been in love with her
downright. No harm, even if a trifle foolish; but in the present case,
set my mind at rest. Quick! There are both my hands. Take them, press
them, and speak."
The two hands were taken, but his voice was not so much at command. No
image of Emilia rose in his mind to reproach him with the casting over of
his heart's dear mistress, but a blind struggle went on. It seemed that
he could do what he dared not utter. The folly of lips more loyal than
the spirit touched his lively perception; and as the hot inward struggle,
masked behind his softly-playing eyes, had reduced his personal
consciousness so that if he spoke from his feeling there was a chance of
his figuring feebly, he put on his ever-ready other self:--
"Categorically I reply: Have I loved Miss Emilia Belloni?--No. Do I?--
No. Do I love Charlotte Chillingworth?--Yes, ten thousand times! And
now let Britomart disarm."
He sought to get his reward by gentle muscular persuasion. Her arms
alone yielded: and he judged from the angle of the neck, ultra-sharp
though it was, that her averted face might be her form of exhibiting
maidenly reluctance, feminine modesty. Suddenly the fingers in his grasp
twisted, and not being at once released, she turned round to him.
"For God's sake, spare the girl!"
Emilia stood in the doorway.
A knock at Merthyr's chamber called him out while he sat writing to
Marini on the national business. He heard Georgiana's voice begging him
to come to her quickly. When he saw her face the stain of tears was
"Anything the matter with Charlotte?" was his first question.
"No. But, come: I will tell you on the way. Do not look at me."
"No personal matter of any kind?"
"Oh, no! I can have none;" and she took his hand for a moment.
They passed into the dark windy street smelling of the sea.
"Emilia is here," said Georgiana. "I want you to persuade her--you will
have influence with her. Oh, Merthyr! my darling brother! I thank God I
love my brother with all my love! What a dreadful thing it is for a
woman to love a man:"
"I suppose it is, while she has nothing else to do," said Merthyr. "How
did she come?--why?"
"If you had seen Emilia to-night, you would have felt that the difference
is absolute." Georgiana dealt first with the general case. "she came, I
think, by some appointment."
"Also just as absolute between her and her sex," he rejoined, controlling
himself, not to be less cool. "What has happened?"
Georgiana pointed to the hotel whither their steps were bent. "That is
where Charlotte sleeps. Her going there was not a freak; she had an
object. She wished to cure Emilia of her love for Mr. Wilfrid Pole.
Emilia had come down to see him. Charlotte put her in an adjoining room
to hear him say--what I presume they do say when the fit is on them! Was
it not singular folly?"
It was a folly that Merthyr could not understand in his friend Charlotte.
He said so, and then he gave a kindly sad exclamation of Emilia's name.
"You do pity her still!" cried Georgiana, her heart leaping to hear it
expressed so simply.
"Why, what other feeling can I have?" said he unsuspiciously.
"No, dear Merthyr," she replied; and only by her tone he read the guilty
little rejoicing in her heart, marvelling at jealousy that could twist so
straight a stem as his sister's spirit. This had taught her, who knew
nothing of love, that a man loving does not pity in such a ease."
"I hope you will find her here:" Georgiana hurried her steps. "Say
anything to comfort her. I will have her with me, and try and teach her
what self-control means, and how it is to be won. If ever she can act on
the stage as she spoke to-night, she will be a great dramatic genius.
She was transformed. She uses strange forcible expressions that one does
not hear in every-day life. She crushed Charlotte as if she had taken
her up in one hand, and without any display at all: no gesture, or spasm.
I noticed, as they stood together, that there is such a contrast between
animal courage and imaginative fire."
"Charlotte could meet a great occasion, I should think," said Merthyr;
and, taking his sister by the elbow: "You speak as if you had observed
very coolly. Did Emilia leave you so cold? Did she seem to speak from
head, not from heart?"
"No; she moved me--poor child! Only, how humiliating to hear her beg for
Merthyr smiled: "I thought it must be the woman's feeling that would
interfere to stop a natural emotion. Is it true--or did I not see that
certain eyes were red just now?"
"That was for him," said Georgiana, hastily. "I am sure that no man has
stood in such a position as he did. To see a man made publicly ashamed,
and bearing it. I have never had to endure so painful a sight."
"To stand between two women, claimed by both, like Solomon's babe! A man
might as well at once have Solomon's judgement put into execution upon
him. You wept for him! Do you know, Georgey, that charity of your sex,
which makes you cry at any 'affecting situation,' must have been
designed to compensate to us for the severities of Providence."
"No, Merthyr;" she arrested his raillery. "Do I ever cry? But I
thought--if it had been my brother! and almost at the thought I felt the
tears rush at my eyelids, as if the shame had been mine."
"The probability of its not being your brother seemed distant at the
moment," said Merthyr, with his half-melancholy smile. "Tell me--I can
conjure up the scene: but tell me whether you saw more passions than one
in her face?"
"Emilia's? No. Her face reminded me of the sombre--that dull glow of a
fire that you leave burning in the grate late on winter nights. Was that
natural? It struck me that her dramatic instinct was as much alive as
"Had she been clumsy, would you not have been less suspicious of her?
And if she had only shown the accustomed northern retenue, and merely
looked all that she had to say 'preserved her dignity'--our womanly
critic would have been completely satisfied."
"But, Merthyr, to parade her feelings, and then to go on appealing!"
"On the principle that she ought to be ashamed of them, she was wrong."
"If you had heard her utter abandonment!"
"I can believe that she did not blush."
"It seems to me to belong to those excesses that prompt--that are in
themselves a species of suicide."
"Love is said to be the death of self."
"No; but I must use cant words, Merthyr; I do wish to see modesty. Yes,
I know I must be right."
"There is very little of it to be had in a tropical storm."
"You admit, then, that this sort of love is a storm that passes?"
"It passes, I hope."
"But where is your defence of her now?"
"Have I defended her? I need not try. A man has deceived her, and she
doesn't think it possible; and has said so, I presume. When she sees it,
she will be quieter than most. She will not reproach him subsequently.
Here is the hotel, and that must be Charlotte's room, if I may judge by
the lights. What pranks will she always be playing! We seem to have
brought new elements into the little town. Do you remember Bergamo the
rainy night the Austrian trooped out of Milan?--one light that was a
thousand in the twinkling of an eye!"
Having arrived, he ran hastily up to the room, expecting to find the
three; but Lady Charlotte was alone, sitting in her chair with knotted
arms. "Ah, Merthyr!" she said, "I'm sorry you should have been
disturbed. I perceive what Georgey's leaving the room meant. I suppose
the hotel people are used to yachting-parties." And then, not seeing any
friendly demonstration on his part, she folded her arms in another knot.
Georgiana asked where Emilia was. Lady Charlotte replied that Emilia had
gone, and then Wilfrid had followed her, one minute later, to get her
into shelter somewhere. Or put penknives out of her way. "I am rather
fatigued with a scene, Merthyr. I never had an idea before of what your
Southern women were. One plays decidedly second to them while the fit
lasts. Of course, you have a notion that I planned the whole of the
absurd business. This is the case:--I found the girl on the beach: she
follows him everywhere, which is bad for her reputation, because in this
climate people suspect, positive reasons for that kind of female
devotedness. So, to put an end to it--really for her own sake, quite as
much as anything else--am I a monster of insensibility, Merthyr?--I made
her swear an oath: one must be a point above wild animals to feel that to
be binding, however! I made her swear to listen and remain there silent
till I opened the door to set her at liberty. She consented--gave her
word solemnly. I calculated that she might faint, and fixed her in an
arm-chair. Was that cruel? Merthyr, you have called me Austrian more
than once; but, upon my honour, I wanted her to get over her delusion
comfortably. I thought she would have kept the oath, I confess; she
looked up like a child when she was making it. You have heard the rest
from Georgey. I must say the situation was rather hard on Wilfrid. If
he blames me it will be excuseable, though what I did plan was to save
him from a situation somewhat worse. So now you know the whole, Merthyr.
Commence your lecture. Make me a martyr to the sorrows of Italy once
Merthyr took her wrist, feeling the quick pulse, and dropped it. She was
effectually humbled by this direct method of dealing with her secret
heart. After some commonplace remarks had passed, she herself urged him
to send out men in search for Emilia. Before he went, she murmured a
soft "Forgive me." The pressure of her fingers was replied to, but the
words were not spoken.
"There," she cried to Georgiana, "I have offended the only man for whose
esteem I care one particle! Devote yourself to your friends!"
"How? 'devote yourself!'" murmured Georgiana, astonished.
"Do you think I should have got into this hobble if I hadn't wished to
serve some one else? You must have seen that Merthyr has a sentimental
sort of fondness--call it passion--for this girl. She's his Italy in the
flesh. Is there a more civilized man in the world than Merthyr? So he
becomes fascinated by a savage. We all play the game of opposites--or
like to, and no woman in his class will ever catch him. I couldn't have
believed that he was touched by a girl, but for two or three recent
indications. You must have noticed that he has given up reading others,
and he objected the other day to a responsible office which would have
thrown him into her neighbourhood alone. These are unmistakeable signs
in Merthyr, though he has never been in love, and doesn't understand his
case a bit. Tell me, do you think it impossible?"
Georgiana answered dryly, "You have fallen into a fresh mistake."
Exactly. Then let me rescue you from a similar fatality, Georgey. If
your eyes are bandaged now..."
"Are you going to be devoted to me also, Charlotte?"
"I believe I'm a miracle of devotion," said the lady, retiring into
indifferent topics upon that phrase. She had at any rate partially
covered the figure of ridicule presented to her feminine imagination by
the aspect of her fair self exposed in public contention with one of her
sex--and for a man. It was enough to make her pulse and her brain
lively. On second thoughts, too, it had struck her that she might be
serving Merthyr in disengaging Emilia; and undoubtedly she served
Georgiana by giving her a warning. Through this silliness went the
current of a clear mind, nevertheless. The lady's heart was justified in
crying out: "What would I not abandon for my friend in his need?"
Meantime her battle in her own behalf looked less pleasing by the light
of new advantages. The question recurred: "Shall I care to win at all?"
She had to force the idea of a violent love to excuse her proceedings.
To get up any flame whatsoever, an occasional blast of jealousy had to be
called for. Jealousy was a quality she could not admit as possible to
her. So she acted on herself by an agent she repudiated, and there was
no help for it. Had Wilfrid loved her the woman's heart was ready. It
was ready with a trembling tenderness, softer and deeper than a girl's.
For Charlotte would have felt: "With this love that I have craved for,
you give me life." And she would have thanked him for both, exultingly,
to feel: "I can repay you as no girl could do;" though she had none of
the rage of love to give; as it was, she thought conscientiously that she
could help him. She liked him: his peculiar suppleness of a growing
mind, his shrouded sensibility, in conjunction with his reputation for an
evidently quite reliable prompt courage, and the mask he wore, which was
to her transparent, pleased her and touched her fancy.
Nor was he so vain of his person as to make him seem like a boy to her.
He affected maturity. He could pass a mirror on his right or his left
without an abstracted look over either shoulder;--a poor example, but
worth something to a judge of young men. Indeed, had she chosen from a
crowd, the choice would have been one of his age. She was too set for an
older man; but a youth aspiring to be older than he was; whose faults she
saw and forgave; whose merits supplied two or three of her own
deficiencies; whom her station might help to elevate; to whom she might
come as a benefactress; feeling so while she accomplished her own
desire;--such a youth was everything to her, as she awoke to discover
after having played with him a season. If she lost him, what became of
her? Even if she had rejoiced in a mother to plot and play,--to bait and
snare for her, her time was slipping, and the choosers among her class
were wary. Her spirit, besides, was high and elective. It was gradually
stooping to nature, but would never have bowed to a fool, or, save under
protest, to one who gave all. On Wilfrid she had fixed her mind: so,
therefore, she bore the remembrance of the recent scene without much
fretting at her burdens;--the more, that Wilfrid had in no way shamed
her; and the more, that the heat of Emilia's love played round him and
illumined him. This borrowing of the passion of another is not uncommon.
At daybreak Mrs. Chump was abroad. She had sat up for Wilfrid almost
through the night. "Oh! the arr'stocracy!" she breathed exclamations, as
she swept along the esplanade. "I'll be killed and murdered if I tell a
word." Meeting Captain Gambier, she fell into a great agitation, and
explained it as an anxiety she entertained for Wilfrid; when, becoming
entangled in the mesh of questions, she told all she knew, and nearly as
much as she suspected: which fatal step to retrieve, she entreated his
secresy. Adela was now seen fluttering hastily up the walk, fresh as a
creature of the sea-wave. Before Mrs. Chump could summon her old wrath
of yesterday, she was kissed, and to the arch interrogation as to what
she had done with this young lady's brother, replied by telling the tale
of the night again. Mrs. Chump was ostentatiously caressed into a more
comfortable opinion of the world's morality, for the nonce. Invited by
them to breakfast at the hotel, she hurried back to her villa for a
flounced dress and a lace cap of some pretensions, while they paced the
"See what may be said!" Adela's countenance changed as she muttered it.
"Thought, would be enough," she added, shuddering.
"Yes; if one is off guard--careless," the captain assented, flowingly.
"Can one in earnest be other than careless? I shall walk on that line up
to the end. Who makes me deviate is my enemy!"
The playful little person balanced herself to make one foot follow the
other along a piece of washed grey rope on the shingle. Soon she had to
stretch out her hand for help, and the captain at full arm's length
conducted her to the final knot.
"Arrived safe!" she said, smiling.
"But not disengaged," he rejoined, in similar style.
"Please!" She doubled her elbow to give a little tug for her fingers.
"No." He pressed them tighter.
"Must I speak to somebody else to get me released?"
"Thank heaven, he is not yet in existence!"
'Husband' being implied. Games of this sweet sort are warranted to carry
little people as far as they may go swifter than any other invention of
The yachting party, including Mrs. Chump, were at the breakfast-table,
and that dumb guest had done all the blushing for Lady Charlotte, when
Wilfrid entered, neat, carefully brushed, and with ready answers, though
his face could put on no fresh colours. To Mrs. Chump he bent, passing,
and was pushed away and drawn back. "Your eyes!" she whispered.
"My--yeyes!" went Wilfrid, in schoolboy style; and she, who rarely
laughed, was struck by his humorous skill, saying to Sir Twickenham,
beside her: "He's as cunnin' as a lord!"
Sir Twickenham expressed his ignorance of lords having usurped priority
in that department. Frightened by his portentous parliamentary
phraseology, she remained tolerably demure till the sitting was over: now
sidling in her heart to the sins of the great, whom anon she angrily
reproached. Her principal idea was, that as the world was discovered to
be so wicked, they were all in a boat going to perdition, and it would be
as well to jump out immediately: but while so resolving, she hung upon
Lady Charlotte's looks and little speeches, altogether seduced by so
fresh and frank a sinner. If safe from temptation, here was the soul of
a woman in great danger of corruption.
"Among the aristocracy," thought Mrs. Chump, "it's just the male that
hangs his head, and the female struts and is sprightly." The contrast
between Lady Charlotte and Wilfrid (who when he ceased to set
outrageously, sat like a man stricken by a bolt), produced this
reflection: and in spite of her disastrous vision of the fate of the boat
they were in, Mrs. Chump owned to the intoxication of gliding smoothly--
gliding on the rapids.
The breakfast was coming to an end, when Braintop's name was sent in to
Mrs. Chump. She gave a cry of motherly compassion for Braintop, and
began to relate the little deficiencies of his temper, while, as it were,
simmering on her seat to go to him. Wilfrid sent out word for him to
appear, which he did, unluckily for himself, even as Mrs. Chump wound up
the public description of his character by remarking: "He's just the
opposite of a lord, now, in everything." Braintop stood bowing like the
most faithful confirmation of an opinion ever seen. He looked the victim
of fatigue, in the bargain. A light broke on Mrs. Chump.
"I'll never forgive myself, ye poor gentle heart, to throw pens and pen-
wipers at ye, that did your best, poor boy! What have ye been doin'? and
why didn't ye return, and not go hoppin' about about all night like a
young kangaroo, as they say they do? Have ye read the 'Arcana of Nature
and Science,' ma'am?"
The Hon. Mrs. Bayruffle, thus abruptly addressed, observed that she had
not, and was it an amusing book?
"Becas it'll open your mind," pursued Mrs. Chump; "and there, he's
eatin'! and when a man takes to eatin', ye'll never have any fear about
his abouts. And if ye read the 'Arcana of Nature and Science,' ma'am,
ye'll first feel that ye've gone half mad. For it contains averything in
the world; and ye'll read ut ten times all through, and not remember five
lines runnin'! Oh, it's a dreadful book: and that's the book to read to
your husband when he's got a fit o' the gout. He's got nothin' to do but
swallow knolludge then. Now, Mr. Braintop, don't stop, but tell me as ye
go on what ye did with yourself all night."
A slight hesitation in Braintop caused her to cross-examine him rigidly,
suggesting that he might not dare to tell, and he, exercising some self-
command, adopted narrative as the less ignominious form of confession.
No one save Mrs. Chump listened to him until he mentioned the name Miss
Belloni; and then it was curious to see the steadiness with which certain
eyes, feigning abstraction, fixed in his direction. He had met Emilia on
the outskirts of the town, and unable to persuade her to take shelter
anywhere, had walked on with her in dead silence through the night, to
the third station of the railway for London.
"Is this a mad person?" asked the Hon. Mrs. Bayruffle.
Adela shrugged. "A genius."
"Don't eat with the tips of your teeth, like a bird, Mr. Braintop, for no
company minds your eatin'," cried Mrs. Chump, angrily and encouragingly;
"and this little Belloni--my belief is that she came after you; and what
have ye done with her?"
It was queerly worried out of Braintop, who was trying his best all the
time to be obedient to Wilfrid's direct eye, that the two wanderers by
night had lost themselves in lanes, refreshed themselves with purloined
apples from the tree at dawn, obtained a draught of morning milk, with a
handful of damsons apiece, and that nothing would persuade Emilia to turn
back from the route to London. Braintop bit daintily at his toast,
unwilling to proceed under the discouraging expression of Wilfrid's face,
and the meditative silence of two or three others. The discovery was
forcibly extracted that Emilia had no money;--that all she had in her
possession was sevenpence and a thimble; and that he, Braintop, had but a
few shillings, which she would not accept.
"And what has become of her?" was asked.
Braintop stated that she had returned to London, and, blushing, confessed
that he had given her his return ticket.
Georgiana here interposed to save him from the awful encomiums of Mrs.
Chump, by desiring to know whether Emilia seemed unhappy or distressed.
Braintop's spirited reply, "Not at all," was corrected to: "She did not
cry;" and further modified: "That is, she called out sharply when I
whistled an opera tune."
Lady Charlotte put a stop to the subject by rising pointedly. Watch in
hand, she questioned the ladies as to their occupations, and told them
what time they had to dispose of. Then Baynes, captain of the yacht,
heard to be outside, was summoned in. He pronounced doubtfully about the
weather, but admitted that there was plenty of wind, and if the ladies
did not mind it a little fresh, he was sure he did not. Wind was
favourable for the island head-quarters of the yacht. "We'll see who
gets there first," she said to Wilfrid, and the company learnt that
Wilfrid was going to other head-quarters on special business, whereupon
there followed chatter and exclamations. Wilfrid quickly explained that
his father's condition called him away imperiously. To Adela and Mrs.
Chump, demanding peculiar personal explanations, he gave reassuring
reasons separately, aside. Mrs. Chump understood that this was merely
his excuse to get away, that he might see her safe to Brookfield. Adela
only required a look and a gesture. Merthyr and Georgiana likewise spoke
expected adieux, as did Sir Twickenham, who parted company in his own
little yawl. Lady Charlotte, with her head over a map, and one hand
arranging an eye-glass, hastily nodded them off, scarcely looking at
them. She allowed herself to be diverted from this study for an instant
by the unbefitting noise made by Adela for the loss of her brother; not
that she objected to the noise particularly (it was modulated and
delicate in tone), but that she could not understand it. Seeing Sir
Twickenham, however, in a leave-taking attitude, she uttered an easy
"Oh!" to herself, and diligently recommenced spying at ports and
harbours, and following the walnut thumb of Baynes on the map. All
seemed to be perfectly correct in the arrangements. To go to London was
Wilfrid's thought; and the rest were almost as much occupied with their
own ideas. Captain Gambier received their semi-ironical congratulations
and condolences incident to the man who is left alone in the charge of
sweet ladies; and the Hon. Mrs. Bayruffle remarked, that she supposed ten
hours not a long period of time, though her responsibility was onerous.
"Lady Gosstre is at the island," said Lady Charlotte, to show where it
might end, if she pleased. Within an hour the yacht was flying for the
island with a full Western breeze: and Mrs. Chump and Wilfrid were
speeding to Brookfield, as the latter permitted her to imagine. Braintop
realized the fruits of the sacrifice of his return ticket by facing Mrs.
Chump in the train. Merthyr had telegraphed to Marini to meet Emilia at
the station in London, and instructed Braintop to deliver a letter for
her at Marini's house. To Marini he wrote: "Let Giulia guard her as no
one but a woman can in such a case. By this time Giulia will know her
value. There is dangerous stuff in her now, and my anxiety is very
great. Have you seen what a nature it is? You have not alluded to her
beyond answers to instructions, but her character cannot have escaped
you. I am never mistaken in my estimates of Italian and Cymric blood.
Singularly, too, she is part Welsh on the mother's side, to judge by the
name. Leave her mind entirely free till it craves openly for some
counteraction. Her Italy and her music will not do. Let them be. My
fear is that you have seen too clearly what a daughter of Italy I have
found for you. But whatever you put up now to distract her, you
sacrifice. My good Marini! bear that in mind. It will be a disgust in
her memory, and I wish her to love her country and her Art when she
recovers. So we treat the disease, dear friend. Let your Italy have no
sorrows for her ears till the storm within is tranquil. I am with you
Marini's reply said: "Among all the things we have to thank our Merthyr
for, this treasure, if it is not the greatest he has given to us, makes
us grateful the most. We met her at the station. Ah! there was an elbow
when she gave her hand. She thought to be alone, and started, and hated,
till Giulia smothered her face. And there was dead fire in the eyes,
which is powder when you spring it. We go with her to her new lodging,
and the track is lost. This is your wish? It is pitching new camps to
avoid the enemy. But so! a man takes this disease and his common work at
once of a woman--she is all the disease, till it is extinct, or she!
What is this disease but a silly, a senseless waste? Giulia--woman that
she is!--will not call it so. See her eyes doze and her voice go a soft
buzz when she speaks it! As a dove of the woods! That it almost makes
it sweet to me! Yes, a daughter of Italy! So Giulia has been:--will be?
I know not! So will this your Emilia be in the time that comes to the
young people, she has this, as you say, malady very strong--ma, ogni male
ha la sua ricetta; I can say it of persons. Of nations to think my heart
is as an infidel--very heavy. Ah! till I turn to you--who revive to the
thought, as you were an army of deliverance. For you are Hope. You know
not Despair. You are Hope. And you love as myself a mother whose son
you are not! 'Oh!' is Giulia's cry, 'will our Italy reward him with a
daughter?'--the noblest that we have. Yes, for she would be Italian
always through you. We pray that you may not get old too soon, before
she grows for you and is found, only that you may know in her our love.
See! I am brought to talk this language. The woman is in me."
Merthyr said, as he read this, "I could wish no better." His feeling for
Emilia waxed toward a self-avowal as she advanced to womanhood; and the
last stage of it had struck among trembling strings in the inmost
chambers of his heart. That last stage of it--her passionate claiming of
Wilfrid before two women, one her rival--slept like a covered furnace
within him. "Can you remember none of her words?" he said more than once
to Georgiana, who replied: "I would try to give you an idea of what she
said, but I might as well try to paint lightning."
"'My lover'?" suggested Merthyr.
"Oh, yes; that she said."
"It sounded oddly to your ears?"
"--did she say, do you mean?"
"Is my poor sister ashamed to repeat it?"
"I would repeat anything that would give you pleasure to hear."
"Sometimes pain, you know, is sweet."
Little by little, and with a contest at each step, Georgiana coasted the
conviction that her undivided reign was over. Then she judged Emilia by
human nature's hardest standard: the measure of the qualities brought as
usurper and successor. Unconsciously she placed herself in the seat of
one who had fulfilled all the great things demanded of a woman for
Merthyr, and it seemed to her that Emilia exercised some fatal
fascination, girl though she was, to hurl her from that happy