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Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, v4 by George Meredith

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"There--all right--quite right--quite well," Mr. Pole repeated. "Glad to
see you all: go away."

He tried to look kindly out of the nervous fit into which a word, in a
significant tone, from one of his daughters had instantly plunged him.
Mrs. Chump admonished her: "Will ye undo all that I've been doin' this
blessed day?"

"Glad you haven't missed the day altogether, sir," Wilfrid greeted his
father in an offhand way.

"Ah, my boy!" went the old man, returning him what was meant for a bluff
nod.

Lady Charlotte gave Wilfrid an open look. It meant: "If you can act like
that, and know as much as I know, you are worth more than I reckoned."
He talked evenly and simply, and appeared on the surface as composed as
any of the guests present. Nor was he visibly disturbed when Mrs. Chump,
catching his eye, addressed him aloud:--

"Ye'd have been more grateful to me to have brought little Belloni as
well now, I know, Mr. Wilfrid. But I was just obliged to leave her at
the hotel; for Pole can't endure her. He 'bomunates the sight of 'r. If
ye aver saw a dog burnt by the fire, Pole's second to 'm, if onnly ye
speak that garl's name."

The head of a strange musician, belonging to the band stationed outside,
was thrust through one of the window apertures. Mr. Pericles beckoned
him imperiously to retire, and perform. He objected, and an altercation
in bad English diverted the company. It was changed to Italian. "Mia
figlia," seized Wilfrid's ear. Mr. Pericles bellowed, "Allegro." Two
minutes after Braintop felt a touch on his shoulder; and Wilfrid,
speaking in a tone of friend to friend, begged him to go to town by the
last train and remove Miss Belloni to an hotel, which he named.
"Certainly," said Braintop; "but if I meet her father..?" Wilfrid
summoned champagne for him; whereupon Mrs. Chump cried out, "Ye're kind
to wait upon the young man, Mr. Wilfrid; and that Mr. Braintop's an
invalu'ble young man. And what do ye want with the hotel, when we've
left it, Mr. Paricles?"

The Greek raised his head from Mr. Pole, shrugging at her openly. He and
Wilfrid then measured eyes a moment. "Some champagne togezer?" said Mr.
Pericles. "With all my heart," was the reply; and their glasses were
filled, and they bowed, and drank. Wilfrid took his seat, drew forth his
pocket-book; and while talking affably to Lady Charlotte beside him, and
affecting once or twice to ponder over her remarks, or to meditate a
fitting answer, wrote on a slip of paper under the table:--

"Mine! my angel! You will see me to-morrow.

"YOUR LOVER."

This, being inserted in an envelope, with zig-zag letters of address to
form Emilia's name, he contrived to pass to Braintop's hands, and resumed
his conversation with Lady Charlotte, who said, when there was nothing
left to discover, "But what is it you concoct down there?" "I!" cried
Wilfrid, lifting his hands, and so betraying himself after the fashion of
the very innocent. She despised any reading of acts not on the surface,
and nodded to the explanation he gave--to wit: "By the way, do you mean--
have you noticed my habit of touching my fingers' ends as I talk? I
count them backwards and forwards."

"Shows nervousness," said Lady Charlotte; "you are a boy!"

"Exceedingly a boy."

"Now I put a finger on his vanity," said she; and thought indeed that she
had played on him.

"Mr. Pole," (Lady Gosstre addressed that gentleman,) "I must hope that
you will leave this dining-hall as it is; there is nothing in the
neighbourhood to match it!"

"Delightful!" interposed Laura Tinley; "but is it settled?"

Mr. Pole leaned forward to her ladyship; and suddenly catching the sense
of her words, "Ah, why not?" he said, and reached his hand to some
champagne, which he raised to his mouth, but drank nothing of.
Reflection appeared to tell him that his safety lay in drinking, and he
drained the glass at a gulp. Mrs. Chump had it filled immediately, and
explained to a wondering neighbour, "It's that that keeps 'm on his
legs."

"We shall envy you immensely," said Laura Tinley to Arabella; who
replied, "I assure you that no decision has been come to."

"Ah, you want to surprise us with cards on a sudden from Besworth!"

"That is not the surprise I have in store," returned Arabella sedately.

"Then you have a surprise? Do tell me."

"How true to her sex is the lady who seeks to turn 'what it is' into
'what it isn't!'" said Freshfield, trusty lieutenant.

"I think a little peeping makes surprises sweeter; I'm weak enough to
think that," Lady Charlotte threw in.

"That is so true!" exclaimed Laura.

"Well; and a secret shared is a fact uncommonly well aired--that is also
true. But, remember, you do not desire the surprise; you are a
destroying force to it;" and Freshfield bowed.

"Curiosity!" sighed some one, relieving Freshfield from a sense of the
guilt of heaviness.

"I am a Pandora," Laura smilingly said.

"To whom?" Tracy Runningbrook's shout was heard.

"With champagne in the heads of the men, and classics in the heads of the
women, we shall come; to something," remarked Lady Gosstre half to
herself and Georgiana near her.

An observer of Mr. Pole might have seen that he was fretting at a
restriction on his tongue. Occasionally he would sit forward erect in
his chair, shake his coat-collar, frown, and sound a preparatory 'hem;
but it ended in his rubbing his hair away on the back of his head. Mrs.
Chump, who was herself perceiving new virtues in champagne with every
glass, took the movements as indicative of a companion exploration of the
spiritual resources of this vintage. She no longer called for it, but
lifted a majestic finger (a Siddons or tenth-Muse finger, as Freshfield
named it) behind the row of heads; upon which champagne speedily bubbled
in the glasses. Laughter at the performance had fairly set in. Arabella
glanced nervously round for Mr. Pericles, who looked at his watch and
spread the fingers of one hand open thrice--an act that telegraphed
fifteen minutes. In fifteen minutes an opera troupe, with three famous
chiefs and a renowned prima-donna were to arrive. The fact was known
solely to Arabella and Mr. Pericles. It was the Surprise of the evening.
But within fifteen minutes, what might not happen, with heads going at
champagne-pace?

Arabella proposed to Freshfield to rise. "Don't the ladies go first?"
the wit turned sensualist stammered; and incurred that worse than frown,
a cold look of half-comprehension, which reduces indefinitely the
proportions of the object gazed at. There were probably a dozen very
young men in the room waiting to rise with their partners at a signal for
dancing; and these could not be calculated upon to take an initiative, or
follow one--as ladies, poor slaves! will do when the electric hostess
rustles. The men present were non-conductors. Arabella knew that she
could carry off the women, but such a proceeding would leave her father
at the mercy of the wine; and, moreover, the probability was that Mrs.
Chump would remain by him, and, sole in a company of males, explode her
sex with ridicule, Brookfield in the bargain. So Arabella, under a
prophetic sense of evil, waited; and this came of it. Mr. Pole patted
Mrs. Chump's hand publicly. In spite of the steady hum of small-talk--in
spite of Freshfield Sumner's circulation of a crisp anecdote--in spite of
Lady Gosstre's kind effort to stop him by engaging him in conversation,
Mr. Pole forced on for a speech. He said that he had not been the thing
lately. It might be his legs, as his dear friend Martha, on his right,
insisted; but he had felt it in his head, though as strong as any man
present.

"Harrk at 'm!" cried Mrs. Chump, letting her eyes roll fondly away from
him into her glass.

"Business, my lady!" Mr. Pole resumed. "Ah, you don't know what that is.
We've got to work hard to keep our heads up equal with you. We don't
swim with corks. And my old friend, Ralph Tinley--he sells iron, and
has got a mine. That's simple. But, my God, ma'am, when a man has his
eye on the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic, and the Baltic, and the Black
Sea, and half-a-dozen colonies at once, he--you--"

"Well, it's a precious big eye he's got, Pole," Mrs. Chump came to his
relief.

"--he don't know whether he's a ruined dog, or a man to hold up his head
in any company."

"Oh, Lord, Pole, if ye're going to talk of beggary!" Mrs. Chump threw up
her hands. "My lady, I naver could abide the name of 't. I'm a kind
heart, ye know, but I can't bear a ragged friend. I hate 'm! He seems
to give me a pinch."

Having uttered this, it struck her that it was of a kind to convulse Mrs.
Lupin, for whose seizures she could never accurately account; and looking
round, she perceived, sure enough, that little forlorn body agitated,
with a handkerchief to her mouth.

"As to Besworth," Mr. Pole had continued, "I might buy twenty Besworths.
If--if the cut shows the right card. If--" Sweat started on his
forehead, and he lifted his eyebrows, blinking. "But none!" (he smote
the table) "none can say I haven't been a good father! I've educated my
girls to marry the best the land can show. I bought a house to marry
them out of; it was their own idea." He caught Arabella's eyes. I
thought so, at all events; for why should I have paid the money if I
hadn't thought so? when then--yes, that sum..." (was he choking!) saved
me!--saved me!"

A piteous desperate outburst marked the last words, that seemed to
struggle from a tightened cord.

"Not that there's anything the matter," he resumed, with a very brisk
wink. "I'm quite sound: heart's sound, lungs sound, stomach regular. I
can see, and smell, and hear. Sense of touch is rather lumpy at times, I
know; but the doctor says it's nothing--nothing at all; and I should be
all right, if I didn't feel that I was always wearing a great leaden
hat."

"My gracious, Pole, if ye're not talkin' pos'tuv nonsense!" exclaimed
Mrs. Chump.

"Well, my dear Martha" (Mr. Pole turned to her argumentatively), "how do
you account for my legs? I feel it at top. I declare I've felt the edge
of the brim half a yard out. Now, my lady, a man in that state--sound
and strong as the youngest--but I mean a vexed man--worried man bothered
man, he doesn't want a woman to look after him;--I mean, he does--he
does! And why won't young girls--oh! they might, they might--see that?
And when she's no extra expense, but brings him--helps him to face--and
no one has said the world's a jolly world so often as I have. It's
jolly!" He groaned.

Lady Charlotte saw Wilfrid gazing at one spot on the table without a
change of countenance. She murmured to him, "What hits you hits me."

Mr. Pole had recommenced, on the evident instigation of Laura Tinley,
though Lady Gosstre and Freshfield Sumner had both sought to check the
current. In Chump's lifetime, it appeared, he (Mr. Pole) had thought of
Mrs. Chump with a respectful ardour; and albeit she was no longer what
she was when Chump brought her over, a blooming Irish girl--"her hair
exactly as now, the black curl half over the cheek, and a bright laugh,
and a white neck, fat round arms, and--"

A shout of "Oh, Pole! ye seem to be undressin' of me before them all,"
diverted the neighbours of the Beauty.

"Who would not like such praise?" Laura Tinley, to keep alive the
subject, laid herself open to Freshfield by a remark.

"At the same personal peril?" he inquired smoothly.

Mr. Pericles stood up, crying "Enfin!" as the doors were flung open, and
a great Signora of operatic fame entered the hall, supported on one side
by a charming gentleman (a tenore), who shared her fame and more with
her. In the rear were two working baritones; and behind them, outside,
Italian heads might be discerned.

The names of the Queen of Song and Prince of Singers flew round the room;
and Laura uttered words of real gratitude, for the delightful surprise,
to Arabella, as the latter turned from her welcome of them. "She is
exactly like Emilia--young," was uttered. The thought went with a pang
through Wilfrid's breast. When the Signora was asked if she would sup or
take champagne, and she replied that she would sup by-and-by, and drink
porter now, the likeness to Emilia was established among the Poles.

Meantime the unhappy Braintop received an indication that he must depart.
As he left the hall he brushed past the chief-clerk of his office, who
soon appeared bowing and elbowing among the guests. "What a substitute
for me!" thought Braintop bitterly; and in the belief that this old clerk
would certainly go back that night, and might undertake his commission,
he lingered near the band on the verge of the lawn. A touch at his elbow
startled him. In the half-light he discerned Emilia. "Don't say you
have seen me," were her first words. But when he gave her the letter,
she drew him aside, and read it by the aid of lighted matches held in
Braintop's hat drawing in her fervent breath to a "Yes! yes!" at the
close, while she pressed the letter to her throat. Presently the singing
began in an upper room, that had shortly before flashed with sudden
light. Braintop entreated Emilia to go in, and then rejoiced that she
had refused. They stood in a clear night-air, under a yellowing
crescent, listening to the voice of an imperial woman. Impressed as he
was, Braintop had, nevertheless, leisure to look out of his vinous mist
and notice, with some misgiving, a parading light at a certain distance--
apparently the light of cigarettes being freshly kindled. He was too
much elated to feel alarm: but "If her father were to catch me again," he
thought. And with Emilia on his arm!

Mr. Pole's chief-clerk had brought discomposing news. He was received by
an outburst of "No business, Payne; I won't have business!"

Turning to Mr. Pericles, the old clerk said: "I came rather for you, sir,
not expecting to find Mr. Pole." He was told by Mr. Pericles to speak
what he had to say: and then the guests, who had fallen slightly back,
heard a cavernous murmur; and some, whose eyes where on Mr. Pole,
observed a sharp conflict of white and red in his face.

"There, there, there, there!" went Mr. Pole. "'Hem, Pericles!" His
handkerchief was drawn out; and he became engaged, as it were, in wiping
a moisture from the palm of his hand. "Pericles, have you got pluck now?
Eh?"

Mr. Pericles had leaned down his ear for the whole of the news.

"Ten sossand," he said, smoothing his waistbands, and then inserting his
thumbs into the pits of his waistcoat. "Also a chance of forty. Let us
not lose time for ze music."

He walked away.

"I don't believe in that d---d coolness, ma'am," said Mr. Pole, wheeling
round on Freshfield Sumner. "It's put on. That wears a mask; he's one
of those confounded humbugs who wear a mask. Ten-forty! and all for a
shrug; it's not human. I tell you, he does that just out of a sort of
jealousy to rival me as an Englishman. Because I'm cool, he must be. Do
you think a mother doesn't feel the loss of her children?"

"I fear that I must grow petticoats before I can answer purely feminine
questions," said Freshfield.

"Of course--of course," assented Mr. Pole; "and a man feels like a mother
to his money. For the moment, he does--for the moment. What are those
fellows--Spartans--women who cut off their breasts--?"

Freshfield suggested, "Amazons."

"No; they were women," Mr. Pole corrected him; "and if anything hurt
them, they never cried out. That's what--ha!--our friend Pericles is
trying at. He's a fool. He won't sleep to-night. He'll lie till he
gets cold in the feet, and then tuck them up like a Dutch doll, and
perspire cold till his heart gives a bound, and he'll jump up and think
his last hour's come. Wind on the stomach, do ye call it? I say it's
wearing a mask!"

The bird's-eye of the little merchant shot decisive meaning.

Two young ladies had run from his neighbourhood, making as if to lift
hands to ears. The sight of them brought Mrs. Chump to his side. "Pole!
Pole!" she said, "is there annything wrong?"

"Wrong, Martha?" He bent to her, attempting Irish--"Arrah, now! and
mustn't all be right if you're here?"

She smote his cheek fondly. "Ye're not a bit of an Irish-man, ye deer
little fella."

"Come along and dance," cried he imperiously.

"A pretty spectacle--two fandangoes, when there's singing, ye silly!"
Mrs. Chump led him upstairs, chafing one of his hands, and remarking
loudly on the wonder it was to see his knees constantly 'give' as he
walked.

On the dark lawn, pressing Wilfrid's written words for fiery nourishment
to her heart, Emilia listened to the singing.

"Why do people make a noise, and not be satisfied to feel?" she said
angrily to Braintop, as a great clapping of hands followed a divine aria.
Her ideas on this point would have been different in the room.

By degrees a tender delirium took hold of her sense; and then a subtle
emotion--which was partly prompted by dim rivalry with the voice that
seemed to be speaking so richly to the man she loved--set her bosom
rising and falling. She translated it to herself thus: "What a joy it
will be to him to hear me now!" And in a pause she sang clear out--

"Prima d'Italia amica;"

and hung on the last note, to be sure that she would be heard by him.

Braintop saw the cigarette dash into sparks on the grass. At the same
moment a snarl of critical vituperation told Emilia that she had offended
taste and her father. He shouted her name, and, striding up to her,
stumbled over Braintop, whom he caught with one hand, while the other
fell firmly on Emilia.

"'Amica--amica-a-a,'" he burlesqued her stress of the luckless note-
lowing it at her, and telling her in triumphant Italian that she was
found at last. Braintop, after a short struggle, and an effort at
speech, which was loosely shaken in his mouth, heard that he stood a
prisoner. "Eh! you have not lost your cheeks," insulted his better
acquaintance with English slang.

Alternately in this queer tongue and in Italian the pair of victims were
addressed.

Emilia knew her father's temper. He had a habit of dallying with an evil
passion till it boiled over and possessed him. Believing Braintop to be
in danger of harm, she beckoned to some of the faces crowding the
windows; but the movement was not seen, as none of the circumstances were
at all understood. Wilfrid, however, knew well who had sung those three
bars, concerning which the 'Prima donna' questioned Mr. Pericles, and
would not be put off by hearing that it was a startled jackdaw, or an
owl, and an ole nightingale. The Greek rubbed his hands. "Now to
recommence," he said; "and we shall not notice a jackdaw again." His eye
went sideways watchfully at Wilfrid. "You like zat piece of opera?"

"Immensely," said Wilfrid, half bowing to the Signora--to whom, as to
Majesty, Mr. Pericles introduced him, and fixed him.

"Now! To seats!"

Mr. Pericles' mandates was being obeyed, when a cry of "Wilfrid!" from
Emilia below, raised a flutter.

Mr. Pole had been dozing in his chair. He rose at the cry, looking hard,
with a mechanical jerk of the neck, at two or three successive faces, and
calling, "Somebody--somebody" to take his outstretched hand trembling in
a paroxysm of nervous terror.

Hearing his son's name again, but more faintly, he raised his voice for
Martha. "Don't let that girl come near me! I--I can't get on with
foreign girls!"

His eyes went among the curious faces surrounding him. "Wilfrid!" he
shouted. To the second summons, "Sir" was replied, in the silence.
Neither saw the other as they spoke.

"Are you going out to her, Wilfrid?"

"Someone called me, sir."

"He's got the cunning of hell," said Mr. Pole, baffled by his own
agitation.

"Oh! don't talk o' that place," moaned Mrs. Chump.

"Stop!" cried the old man. "Are you going? Stop! you shan't do
mischief. I mean--there--stop! Don't go. You're not to go. I say
you're not to go out."

Emphasis and gesticulations gave their weight to the plain words.

But rage at the upset of all sentiments and dignity that day made Wilfrid
reckless, and he now felt his love to be all he had. He heard his Emilia
being dragged away to misery--perhaps to be sold to shame. Maddened, he
was incapable of understanding his father's state, or caring for what the
world thought. His sisters gathered near him, but were voiceless.

"Is he gone?" Mr. Pole burst forward. "You're gone, sir? Wilfrid, have
you gone to that girl? I ask you whether...(there's one shot at my
heart," he added in a swift undertone to one of the heads near him, while
he caught at his breast with both hands). "Wilfrid, will you stay here?"

"For God's sake, go to him, Wilfrid," murmured Adela. "I can't."

"Because if you do--if you don't--I mean, if you go..." The old man
gasped at the undertone. "Now I have got it in my throat."

A quick physical fear caught hold of him. In a moment his voice changed
to entreaty. "I beg you won't go, my dear boy. Wilfrid, I tell you,
don't go. Because, you wouldn't act like a d--d--I'm not angry; but it
is like acting like a--Here's company, Wilfrid; come to me, my boy; do
come here. You mayn't ha--have your poor old father long, now he's got
you u--up in the world. I mean accidents, for I'm sound enough; only a
little nervous from brain--Is he gone?"

Wilfrid was then leaving the room.

Lady Gosstre had been speaking to Mr. Powys. She was about to say a word
to Lady Charlotte, when the latter walked to the doorway, and. In a
manner that smote his heart with a spasm of gratitude, said; "Don't heed
these people. He will bring on a fit if you don't stop. His nerves are
out, and the wine they have given him... Go to him: I will go to Emilia,
and do as much for her as you could."

Wilfrid reached his father in time to see him stagger back into the arms
of Mrs. Chump, whose supplication was for the female stimulant known as
'something.'

CHAPTER XXXIII

On reaching home that night, Arabella surprised herself thinking, in the
midst of her anguish: "Whatever is said of us, it cannot be said that
there is a house where the servants have been better cared for." And
this reflection continued to burn with an astounding brilliancy through
all the revolutions of a mind contemplating the dread of a fallen
fortune, the fact of a public exposure, and what was to her an ambition
destroyed. Adela had no such thoughts. "I have been walking on a
plank," she gasped from time to time, as she gave startled glances into
the abyss of poverty, and hurried to her bedchamber--a faint whisper of
self-condemnation in her ears at the 'I' being foremost. The sisters
were too proud to touch upon one another's misery in complaints, or to be
common by holding debate on it. They had not once let their eyes meet at
Besworth, as the Tinleys wonderingly noticed. They said good night to
their papa, who was well enough to reply, adding peremptorily,
"Downstairs at half-past eight,"--an intimation that he would be at the
break-fast table and read prayers as usual. Inexperienced in nervous
disease, they were now filled with the idea that he was possibly acting--
a notion that had never been kindled in them before; or, otherwise, how
came these rapid, almost instantaneous, recoveries?

Cornelia alone sounded near the keynote. Since the night that she had
met him in the passage, and the next morning when Mrs. Chump had raised
the hubbub about her loss, Cornelia's thoughts had been troubled by some
haunting spectral relationship with money. It had helped to make her
reckless in granting interviews to Purcell Barrett. "If we are poor, I
am free;" and that she might then give herself to whomever she pleased,
was her logical deduction. The exposure at Besworth, and the partial
confirmation of her suspicions, were not without their secret comfort to
her. In the carriage, coming home, Wilfrid had touched her hand by
chance, and pressed it with good heart. She went to the library,
imagining that if he wished to see her he would appear, and by exposing
his own weakness learn to excuse hers. She was right in her guess;
Wilfrid came. He came sauntering into the room with "Ah! you here?"
Cornelia consented to play into his hypocrisy. "Yes, I generally think
better here," she replied.

"And what has this pretty head got to do with thinking?"

"Not much, I suppose, my lord," she replied, affecting nobly to
acknowledge the weakness of the female creature.

Wilfrid kissed her with an unaccustomed fervour. This delicate mumming
was to his taste. It was yet more so when she spoke playfully to him of
his going soon to be a married man. He could answer to that in a smiling
negative, playing round the question, until she perceived that he really
desired to have his feeling for the odd dark girl who had recently shot
across their horizon touched, if only it were led to by the muffled ways
of innuendo.

As a dog, that cannot ask you verbally to scratch his head, but wishes
it, will again and again thrust his head into your hand, petitioning
mutely that affection may divine him, so:--but we deal with a
sentimentalist, and the simile is too gross to be exact. For no sooner
was Wilfrid's head scratched, than the operation stuck him as
humiliating; in other words, the moment he felt his sisters fingers in
the ticklish part, he flew to another theme, then returned, and so
backward and forward--mystifying her not slightly, and making her think,
"Then he has no heart." She by no means intended to encourage love for
Emilia, but she hoped for his sake, that the sentiment he had indulged
was sincere. By-and-by he said, that though he had no particular
affection for Lady Charlotte, he should probably marry her.

"Without loving her, Wilfrid? It is unfair to her; it is unfair to
yourself."

Wilfrid understood perfectly who it was for whom she pleaded thus
vehemently. He let her continue: and when she had dwelt on the horrors
of marriages without love, and the supreme duty of espousing one who has
our 'heart's loyalty,' he said, "You may be right. A man must not play
with a girl. He must consider that he owes a duty to one who is more
dependent;"--implying that a woman s duty was distinct and different in
such a case.

Cornelia could not rise and plead for her sex. Had she pushed forth the
'woman,' she must have stood for her.

This is the game of Fine Shades and Nice Feelings, under whose empire you
see this family, and from which they are to emerge considerably shorn,
but purified--examples of One present passage of our civilization.

"At least, dear, if" (Cornelia desperately breathed the name)
"--if Emilia were forced to give her hand...loving...you...we should be
right in pitying her?"

The snare was almost too palpable. Wilfrid fell into it, from the simple
passion that the name inspired; and now his hand tightened. "Poor
child!" he moaned.

She praised his kind heart: "You cannot be unjust and harsh, I know that.
You could not see her--me--any of us miserable. Women feel, dear. Ah! I
need not tell you that. Their tears are not the witnesses. When they do
not weep, but the hot drops stream inwardly:--and, oh! Wilfrid, let this
never happen to me. I shall not disgrace you, because I intend to see
you happy with...with her, whoever she is; and I would leave you happy.
But I should not survive it. I can look on Death. A marriage without
love is dishonour."

Sentiment enjoys its splendid moods. Wilfrid having had the figure of
his beloved given to him under nuptial benediction, cloaked, even as he
wished it to be, could afford now to commiserate his sister, and he
admired her at the same time. "I'll take care you are not made a
sacrifice of when the event is fixed," he said--as if it had never been
in contemplation.

"Oh! I have not known happiness for years, till this hour," Cornelia
whispered to him bashfully; and set him wondering why she should be happy
when she had nothing but his sanction to reject a man.

On the other hand, her problem was to gain lost ground by letting him
know that, of the pair, it was not she who would marry beneath her
station. She tried it mentally in various ways. In the end she thought
it best to give him this positive assurance. "No," he rejoined, "a woman
never should." There was no admission of equality to be got out of him,
so she kissed him. Of their father's health a few words were said--of
Emilia nothing further. She saw that Wilfrid's mind was resolved upon
some part to play, but shrank from asking his confidence, lest facts
should be laid bare.

At the breakfast-table Mr. Pole was a little late. He wore some of his
false air of briskness on a hazy face, and read prayers--drawing breath
between each sentence and rubbing his forehead; but the work was done by
a man in ordinary health, if you chose to think so, as Mrs. Chump did.
She made favourable remarks on his appearance, begging the ladies to
corroborate her. They were silent.

"Now take a chop, Pole, and show your appetite," she said. "'A Chump-
chop, my love?' my little man used to invite me of a mornin'; and that
was the onnly joke he had, so it's worth rememberin'."

A chop was placed before Mr. Pole. He turned it in his plate, and
wonderingly called to mind that he had once enjoyed chops. At a loss to
account for the distressing change, he exclaimed to himself, "Chump! I
wish the woman wouldn't thrust her husband between one's teeth. An egg!"

The chop was displaced for an egg, which he tapped until Mrs. Chump cried
out, "Oh! if ye're not like a postman, Pole; and d'ye think ye've got a
letter for a chick inside there?"

This allusion scared Mr. Pole from the egg. He quitted the table,
muttering, "Business! business!" and went to the library.

When he was gone Mrs. Chump gave a cry to know where Braintop was, but,
forgetting him immediately, turned to the ladies and ejaculated,
"Broth'm. It's just brothin' he wants. Broth, I say, for anny man that
won't eat his chop or his egg. And, my dears, now, what do ye say to me
for bringing him home to ye? I expect to be thanked, I do; and then
we'll broth Pole together, till he's lusty as a prize-ox, and capers like
a monkey."

Wretched woman! that could not see the ruin she had inflicted--that could
not imagine how her bitter breath cut against those sensitive skins!
During a short pause little Mrs. Lupin trotted to the door, and shot
through it, in a paroxysm.

Then Wilfrid's voice was heard. He leaned against a corner of the
window, and spoke without directly looking at Mrs. Chump; so that she was
some time in getting to understand the preliminary, "Madam, you must
leave this house." But presently her chin dropped; and after feeble
efforts to interpose an exclamation, she sat quiet--overcome by the
deliberate gravity of his manner, and motioning despairingly with her
head, to relieve the swarm of unborn figure-less ideas suggested by his
passing speech. The ladies were ranged like tribunal shapes. It could
not be said of souls so afflicted that they felt pleasure in the scene;
but to assist in the administration of a rigorous justice is sweet to
them that are smarting. They scarcely approved his naked statement of
things when he came to Mrs. Chump's particular aspiration in the
household--viz., to take a station and the dignity of their name. The
effect he produced satisfied them that the measure was correct. Her back
gave a sharp bend, as if an eternal support had snapped. "Oh! ye hit
hard," she moaned.

"I tell you kindly that we (who, you will acknowledge, must count for
something here) do not sanction any change that revolutionizes our
domestic relations," said Wilfrid; while Mrs. Chump heaved and rolled on
the swell of the big words like an overladen boat. "You have only to
understand so much, and this--that if we resist it, as we do, you, by
continuing to contemplate it, are provoking a contest which will probably
injure neither you nor me, but will be death to ham in his present
condition."

Mrs. Chump was heard to mumble that she alone knew the secret of
restoring him to health, and that he was rendered peaky and poky only by
people supposing him so.

"An astonishin' thing!" she burst out. "If I kiss 'm and say 'Poor
Pole!' he's poor Pole on the spot. And, if onnly I--"

But Wilfrid's stern voice flowed over her. "Listen, madam, and let this
be finished between us. You know well that when a man has children, he
may wish to call another woman wife--a woman not their mother; but the
main question is, will his children consent to let her take that place?
We are of one mind, and will allow no one--no one--to assume that
position. And now, there's an end. We'll talk like friends. I have
only spoken in that tone that you might clearly comprehend me on an
important point. I know you entertain a true regard for my father, and
it is that belief which makes me--"

"Friends!" cried Mrs. Chump, getting courage from the savour of cajolery
in these words. "Friends! Oh, ye fox! ye fox!"

And now commenced a curious duett. Wilfrid merely wished to terminate
his sentence; Mrs. Chump wantonly sought to prevent him. Each was
burdened with serious matter; but they might have struck hands here, had
not this petty accidental opposition interposed.

--"Makes me feel confident..." Wilfrid resumed.

"And Pole's promos, Mr. Wilfrud; ye're forgettin' that."

"Confident, ma'am."

"He was the firrst to be soft."

"I say, ma'am, for his sake--"

"An' it's for his sake. And weak as he is on 's legs, poor fells; which
marr'ge 'll cure, bein' a certain rem'dy."

"Mrs. Chump! I beg you to listen."

"Mr. Wilfrud! and I can see too, and it's three weeks and ye kissed
little Belloni in the passage, outside this vary door, and out in the
garden."

The blow was entirely unexpected, and took Wilfrid's breath, so that he
was not ready for his turn in this singular piece of harmony.

"Ye did!" Mrs. Chump rejoiced to behold how her chance spark kindled
flame in his cheeks. "It's pos'tuv ye did. And ye're the best blusher
of the two, my dear; and no shame to ye, though it is a garl's business.
That little Belloni takes to 't like milk; but you--"

Wilfrid strode up to her, saying imperiously, "I tell you to listen!"

She succumbed at once to a show of physical ascendency, murmuring, "It's
sure he was seen kissin' of her twice, and mayhap more; and hearty smacks
of the lips, too--likin' it."

The ladies rewarded Wilfrid for his service to their cause by absolutely
hearing nothing--a feat women can be capable of.

Wilfrid, however, was angered by the absurdity of the charge and the
scene, and also by the profane touch on Emilia's name.

"I must tell you, ma'am, that for my father's sake I must desire you to
quit this--you will see the advisability of quitting this house for a
time."

"Pole's promus! Pole's promus!" Mrs. Chump wailed again.

"Will you give me your assurance now that you will go, to be our guest
again subsequently?"

"In writin' and in words, Mr. Wilfrud!"

"Answer me, ma'am."

"I will, Mr. Wilfrud; and Mr. Braintop's a witness, knowin' the nature of
an oath. There naver was a more sacrud promus. Says Pole, 'Martha--'"

Wilfrid changed his tactics. Sitting down by her side, he said: "I am
sure you have an affection for my father."

"I'm the most lovin' woman, my dear! If it wasn't for my vartue I don't
know what'd become o' me. Ye could ask Chump, if he wasn't in his grave,
poor fella! I'll be cryin' like a squeezed orr'nge presently. What with
Chump and Pole, two's too many for a melanch'ly woman."

"You have an affection for my father I know, ma'am. Now, see! he's ill.
If you press him to do what we certainly resist, you endanger his life."

Mrs. Chump started back from the man who bewildered her brain without
stifling her sense of justice. She knew that there was another way of
putting the case, whereby she was not stuck in the criminal box; but the
knowledge groped about blindly, and finding herself there, Mrs. Chump
lost all idea of a counter-accusation, and resorted to wriggling and
cajolery. "Ah! ye look sweeter when ye're kissin' us, Mr. Wilfrud; and I
wonder where the little Belloni has got to!"

"Tell me, that there maybe no misunderstanding." Wilfrid again tried to
fix her.

"A rosy rosy fresh bit of a mouth she's got! and pouts ut!"

Wilfrid took her hand. "Answer me."

"'Deed, and I'm modust, Mr. Wilfrud."

"You do him the honour to be very fond of him. I am to believe that?
Then you must consent to leave us at the end of a week. You abandon any
idea of an impossible ceremony, and of us you make friends and not
enemies."

At the concluding word, Mrs. Chump was no longer sustained by her
excursive fancy. She broke down, and wrung her hands, crying, "En'mies!
Pole's children my en'mies! Oh, Lord! that I should live to hear ut! and
Pole, that knew me a bride first blushin'!"

She wailed and wept so that the ladies exchanged compassionate looks, and
Arabella rose to press her hand and diminish her distress. Wilfrid saw
that his work would be undone in a moment, and waved her to her seat.
The action was perceived by Mrs. Chump.

"Oh, Mr. Wilfrud! my dear! and a soldier! and you that was my favourut!
If half my 'ffection for Pole wasn't the seein' of you so big and
handsome! And all my ideas to get ye marrud, avery one so snug in a
corner, with a neat little lawful ring on your fingers! And you that go
to keep me a lone woman, frightened of the darrk! I'm an awful coward,
that's the truth. And ye know that marr'ge is a holy thing! and it's
such a beaut'ful cer'mony! Oh, Mr. Wilfrud!--Lieuten't y' are! and I'd
have bought ye a captain, and made the hearts o' your sisters jump with
bonnuts and gowns and jools. Oh, Pole! Pole! why did you keep me so
short o' cash? It's been the roon of me! What did I care for your
brooches and your gifts? I wanted the good will of your daughters, sir--
your son, Pole!"

Mrs. Chump stopped her flow of tears. "Dear hearts!" she addressed her
silent judges, in mysterious guttural tones, "is it becas ye think
there's a bit of a fear of...?"

The ladies repressed a violent inclination to huddle together, like
cattle from the blowing East.

"I assure ye, 'taint poss'ble," pursued Mrs. Chump. "Why do I 'gree to
marry Pole? Just this, now. We sit chirpin' and chatterin' of times
that's gone, and live twice over, Pole and myself; and I'm used to 'm;
and I was soft to 'm when he was a merry buck, and you cradle lumber in
ideas, mind! for my vartue was always un'mpeach'ble. That's just the
reason. So, come, and let's all be friends, with money in our pockuts;
yell find me as much of a garl as army of ye. And, there! my weak time's
after my Porrt, my dears. So, now ye know when I can't be refusin' a
thing to ye. Are we friends?--say! are we?"

Even if the ladies had been disposed to pardon her vulgarity, they could
not by any effort summon a charitable sentiment toward one of their sex
who degraded it by a public petition for a husband. This was not to be
excused; and, moreover, they entertained the sentimentalist's abhorrence
of the second marriage of a woman; regarding the act as simply execrable;
being treason to the ideal of the sex--treason to Woman's purity--treason
to the mysterious sentiment which places Woman so high, that when a woman
slips there is no help for it but she must be smashed.

Seeing that each looked as implacable as the other, Mrs. Chump called
plaintively, "Arr'bella!"

The lady spoke:--

"We are willing to be your friends, Mrs. Chump, and we request that you
will consider us in that light. We simply do not consent to give you a
name...."

"But, we'll do without the name, my dear," interposed Mrs. Chump. "Ye'll
call me plain Martha, which is almost mother, and not a bit of 't.
There--Cornelia, my love! what do ye say?"

"I can only reiterate my sister's words, which demand no elucidation,"
replied Cornelia.

The forlorn woman turned her lap towards the youngest.

"Ad'la! ye sweet little cajoler! And don't use great cartwheels o' words
that leave a body crushed."

Adela was suffering from a tendency to levity, which she knew to be
unbefitting the occasion, and likely to defeat its significance. She
said: "I am sure, Mrs. Chump, we are very much attached to you as Mrs.
Chump; but after a certain period of life, marriage does make people
ridiculous, and, as much for your sake as our own, we would advise you to
discard a notion that cannot benefit anybody. Believe in our attachment;
and we shall see you here now and then, and correspond with you when you
are away. And..."

"Oh, ye puss! such an eel as y' are!" Mrs. Chump cried out. "What are ye
doin' but sugarin' the same dose, miss! Be qu't! It's a traitor that
makes what's nasty taste agree'ble. D'ye think my stomach's a fool? Ye
may wheedle the mouth, but not the stomach."

At this offence there fell a dead silence. Wilfrid gazed on them all
indifferently, waiting for the moment to strike a final blow.

When she had grasped the fact that Pity did not sit in the assembly, Mrs.
Chump rose.

"Oh! if I haven't been sitting among three owls and a raven," she
exclaimed. Then she fussed at her gown. "I wish ye good day, young
ladus, and mayhap ye'd like to be interduced to No. 2 yourselves, some
fine mornin'? Prov'dence can wait. There's a patient hen on the eggs of
all of ye! I wouldn't marry Pole now--not if he was to fall flat and
howl for me. Mr. Wilfrud, I wish ye good-bye. Ye've done your work.
I'll be out of this house in half-an-hour."

This was not quite what Wilfrid had meant to effect. He proposed to her
that she should come to the yacht, and indeed leave Brookfield to go on
board. But Mrs. Chump was in that frame of mind when, shamefully wounded
by others, we find our comfort in wilfully wounding ourselves. "No," she
said (betraying a meagre mollification at every offer), "I'll not stop.
I won't go to the yacht--unless I think better of ut. But I won't stop.
Ye've hurrt me, and I'll say good-bye. I hope ye'll none of ye be
widows. It's a crool thing. And when ye've got no children of your own,
and feel, all your inside risin' to another person's, and they hate ye--
hate ye! Oh! Oh!--There, Mr. Wilfrud, ye needn't touch me elbow. Oh,
dear! look at me in the glass! and my hair! Annybody'd swear I'd been
drinkin'. I won't let Pole look at me. That'd cure 'm. And he must let
me have money, because I don't care for 'cumulations. Not now, when
there's no young--no garls and a precious boy, who'd say, when I'm gone,
'Bless her' Oh! 'Poor thing! Bless--' Oh! Augh!" A note of Sorrow's
own was fetched; and the next instant, with a figure of dignity, the
afflicted woman observed: "There's seven bottles of my Porrt, and there's
eleven of champagne, and some comut clar't I shall write where ut's to be
sent. And, if you please, look to the packing; for bits o' glass and a
red stain's not like your precious hope when you're undoin a hamper. And
that's just myself now, and I'm a broken woman; but naver mind, nobody!"

A very formal and stiff "Good-bye," succeeding a wheezy lamentation,
concluded the speech. Casting a look at the glass, Mrs. Chump retired,
with her fingers on the ornamental piece of hair.

The door having closed on her, Wilfrid said to his sisters: "I want one
of you to come with me to town immediately. Decide which will go."

His eyes questioned Cornelia. Hers were dropped.

"I have work to do," pleaded Adela.

"An appointment? You will break it."

"No, dear, not--"

"Not exactly an appointment. Then there's nothing to break. Put on your
bonnet."

Adela slipped from the room in a spirit of miserable obedience.

"I could not possibly leave papa," said Arabella, and Wilfrid nodded his
head. His sisters knew quite well what was his business in town, but
they felt that they were at his mercy, and dared not remonstrate.
Cornelia ventured to say, "I think she should not come back to us till
papa is in a better state."

"Perhaps not," replied Wilfrid, careless how much he betrayed by his
apprehension of the person indicated.

The two returned late that night, and were met by Arabella at the gate.

"Papa has been--don't be alarmed," she began. "He is better now. But
when he heard that she was not in the house, the blood left his hands and
feet. I have had to use a falsehood. I said, 'She left word that she
was coming back to-night or to-morrow.' Then he became simply angry.
Who could have believed that the sight of him so would ever have rejoiced
me!"

Adela, worn with fatigue, sobbed, "Oh! Oh!"

"By the way, Sir Twickenham called, and wished to see you," said Arabella
curiously.

"Oh! so weary!" the fair girl ejaculated, half-dreaming that she saw
herself as she threw back her head and gazed at stars and clouds. "We
met Captain Gambier in town." Here she pinched Arabella's arm.

The latter said, "Where?"

"In a miserable street, where he looked like a peacock in a quagmire."

Arabella entreated Wilfrid to be careful in his management of their
father. "Pray, do not thwart him. He has been anxious to know where you
have gone. He--he thinks you have conducted Mrs. Chump, and will bring
her back. I did not say it--I merely let him think so."

She added presently, "He has spoken of money."

"Yes?" went Adela, in a low breath.

"Cornelia imagines that--that we--he is perhaps in--in want of it.
Merchants are, sometimes."

"Did Sir Twickenham say he would call to-morrow?" asked Adela.

"He said that most probably he would."

Wilfrid had been silent. As he entered the house, Mr. Pole's bedroom-
bell rang, and word came that he was to go to his father. As soon as the
sisters were alone, Adela groaned: "We have been hunting that girl all
day in vile neighbourhoods. Wilfrid has not spoken more than a dozen
sentences. I have had to dine on buns and hideous soup. I am half-dead
with the smell of cabs. Oh! if ever I am poor it will kill me. That
damp hay and close musty life are too intolerable! Yes! You see I care
for what I eat. I seem to be growing an animal. And Wilfrid is going to
drag me over the same course to-morrow, if you don't prevent him. I
would not mind, only it is absolutely necessary that I should see Sir
Twickenham."

She gave a reason why, which appeared to Arabella so cogent that she said
at once: "If Cornelia does not take your place I will."

The kiss of thanks given by Adela was accompanied by a request for tea.
Arabella regretted that she had sent the servants to bed.

"To bed!" cried her sister. "But they are the masters, not we! Really,
if life were a round of sensual pleasure, I think our servants might
congratulate themselves."

Arabella affected to show that they had their troubles; but her statement
made it clear that the servants of Brookfield were peculiarly favoured
servants, as it was their mistress's pride to make them. Eventually
Adela consented to drink some sparkling light wine; and being thirsty she
drank eagerly, and her tongue was loosed, insomuch that she talked of
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
Adela's expectation.

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'

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