Part 12 out of 12
'He was refused once at these doors. Do you refuse him a second time?'
'You mean that?'
'I am obliged to.'
'You won't yield a step to me?'
The spirit of an armed champion was behind those mild features, soft
almost to supplication to me, that I might know her to be under a
constraint. The nether lip dropped in breathing, the eyes wavered: such
was her appearance in open war with me, but her will was firm.
Of course I was not so dense as to be unable to perceive her grounds for
She would not throw the burden on her grandada, even to propitiate me--
the man she still loved.
But that she should have a reason, and think it good, in spite of me, and
cling to it, defying me, and that she should do hurt to a sentient human
creature, who was my father, for the sake of blindly obeying to the
letter the injunction of the dead, were intolerable offences to me and
common humanity. I, for my own part, would have forgiven her, as I
congratulated myself upon reflecting. It was on her account--to open her
mind, to enlighten her concerning right and wrong determination, to bring
her feelings to bear upon a crude judgement--that I condescended to argue
the case. Smarting with admiration, both of the depths and shallows of
her character, and of her fine figure, I began:--She was to consider how
young she was to pretend to decide on the balance of duties, how little
of the world she had seen; an oath sworn at the bedside of the dead was a
solemn thing, but was it Christian to keep it to do an unnecessary
cruelty to the living? if she had not studied philosophy, she might at
least discern the difference between just resolves and insane--between
those the soul sanctioned, and those hateful to nature; to bind oneself
to carry on another person's vindictiveness was voluntarily to adopt
slavery; this was flatly-avowed insanity, and so forth, with an emphatic
display of patience.
The truth of my words could not be controverted. Unhappily I confounded
right speaking with right acting, and conceived, because I spoke so
justly, that I was specially approved in pressing her to yield.
She broke the first pause to say, 'It's useless, Harry. I do what I
think I am bound to do.'
'Then I have spoken to no purpose!'
'If you will only be kind, and wait two or three days?'
'I am, as much as I can be.'
'Hard as a flint--you always were! The most grateful woman alive, I
admit. I know not another, I assure you, Janet, who, in return for
millions of money, would do such a piece of wanton cruelty. What! You
think he was not punished enough when he was berated and torn to shreds
in your presence? They would be cruel, perhaps--we will suppose it of
your sex--but not so fond of their consciences as to stamp a life out to
keep an oath. I forget the terms of the Will. Were you enjoined in it
to force him away?'
My father had stationed himself in the background. Mention of the Will
caught his ears, and he commenced shaking my aunt Dorothy's note,
blinking and muttering at a great rate, and pressing his temples.
'I do not read a word of this,' he said,--'upon my honour, not a word;
and I know it is her handwriting. That Will!--only, for the love of
heaven, madam,'--he bowed vaguely to Janet 'not a syllable of this to the
princess, or we are destroyed. I have a great bell in my head, or I
would say more. Hearing is out of the question.'
Janet gazed piteously from him to me.
To kill the deer and be sorry for the suffering wretch is common.
I begged my father to walk along the carriage-drive. He required that
the direction should be pointed out accurately, and promptly obeyed me,
saying: 'I back you, remember. I should certainly be asleep now but for
this extraordinary bell.' After going some steps, he turned to shout
'Gong,' and touched his ear. He walked loosely, utterly unlike the walk
habitual to him even recently in Paris.
'Has he been ill?' Janet asked.
'He won't see the doctor; the symptoms threaten apoplexy or paralysis,
I 'm told. Let us finish. You were aware that you were to inherit
'Yes, Riversley, Harry; I knew that; I knew nothing else.'
'The old place was left to you that you might bar my father out?'
'I gave my word.'
'You pledged it--swore?'
'Well, you've done your worst, my dear. If the axe were to fall on your
neck for it, you would still refuse, would you not?'
Janet answered softly: 'I believe so.'
'Then, good-bye,' said I.
That feminine softness and its burden of unalterable firmness pulled me
two ways, angering me all the more that I should feel myself susceptible
to a charm which came of spiritual rawness rather than sweetness; for she
needed not to have made the answer in such a manner; there was pride in
it; she liked the soft sound of her voice while declaring herself
invincible: I could see her picturing herself meek but fixed.
'Will you go, Harry? Will you not take Riversley?' she said.
'To spare you the repetition of the dilemma?'
'No, Harry; but this might be done.'
'But--my fullest thanks to you for your generosity: really! I speak in
earnest: it would be decidedly against your grandada's wishes, seeing
that he left the Grange to you, and not to me.'
'Grandada's wishes! I cannot carry out all his wishes,' she sighed.
'Are you anxious to?'
We were on the delicate ground, as her crimson face revealed to me that
she knew as well as I.
I, however, had little delicacy in leading her on it. She might well
feel that she deserved some wooing.
I fancied she was going to be overcome, going to tremble and show herself
ready to fall on my bosom, and I was uncertain of the amount of
magnanimity in store there.
She replied calmly, 'Not immediately.'
'You are not immediately anxious to fulfil his wishes?'
'Harry, I find it hard to do those that are thrust on me.'
'But, as a matter of serious obligation, you would hold yourself bound by
and by to perform them all?'
'I cannot speak any further of my willingness, Harry.'
'The sense of duty is evidently always sufficient to make you act upon
the negative--to deny, at least?'
'Yes, I daresay,' said Janet.
We shook hands like a pair of commercial men.
I led my father to Bulsted. He was too feverish to remain there. In the
evening, after having had a fruitless conversation with my aunt Dorothy
upon the event of the day, I took him to London that he might visit his
lawyers, who kindly consented to treat him like doctors, when I had
arranged to make over to them three parts of my annuity, and talked of
his Case encouragingly; the effect of which should not have astonished
me. He closed a fit of reverie resembling his drowsiness, by exclaiming:
'Richie will be indebted to his dad for his place in the world after
all!' Temporarily, he admitted, we must be fugitives from creditors, and
as to that eccentric tribe, at once so human and so inhuman, he imparted
many curious characteristics gained of his experience. Jorian DeWitt had
indeed compared them to the female ivy that would ultimately kill its
tree, but inasmuch as they were parasites, they loved their debtor; he
was life and support to them, and there was this remarkable fact about
them: by slipping out of their clutches at critical moments when they
would infallibly be pulling you down, you were enabled to return to them
fresh, and they became inspired with another lease of lively faith in
your future: et caetera. I knew the language. It was a flash of
himself, and a bad one, but I was not the person whom he meant to deceive
with it. He was soon giving me other than verbal proof out of England
that he was not thoroughly beaten. We had no home in England. At an
hotel in Vienna, upon the close of the aristocratic season there, he
renewed an acquaintance with a Russian lady, Countess Kornikoff, and he
and I parted. She disliked the Margravine of Rippau, who was in Vienna,
and did not recognize us. I heard that it was the Margravine who had
despatched Prince Hermann to England as soon as she discovered Ottilia's
flight thither. She commissioned him to go straightway to Roy in London,
and my father's having infatuatedly left his own address for Prince
Ernest's in the island, brought Hermann down: he only met Eckart in the
morning train. I mention it to show the strange working of events.
Janet sent me a letter by the hands of Temple in August. It was
moderately well written for so blunt a writer, and might have touched me
but for other news coming simultaneously that shook the earth under my
She begged my forgiveness for her hardness, adding characteristically
that she could never have acted in any other manner. The delusion, that
what she was she must always be, because it was her nature, had mastered
her understanding, or rather it was one of the doors of her understanding
not yet opened: she had to respect her grandada's wishes. She made it
likewise appear that she was ready for further sacrifices to carry out
'At least you will accept a division of the property, Harry. It should
be yours. It is an excess, and I feel it a snare to me. I was a selfish
child: I may not become an estimable woman. You have not pardoned my
behaviour at the island last year, and I cannot think I was wrong:
perhaps I might learn: I want your friendship and counsel. Aunty will
live with me: she says that you would complete us. At any rate I
transfer Riversley to you. Send me your consent. Papa will have it
before the transfer is signed.'
The letter ended with an adieu, a petition for an answer, and ' yours
On the day of its date, a Viennese newspaper lying on the Salzburg Hotel
table chronicled Ottilia's marriage with Prince Hermann.
I turned on Temple to walk him off his legs if I could.
Carry your fever to the Alps, you of minds diseased not to sit down in
sight of them ruminating, for bodily ease and comfort will trick the soul
and set you measuring our lean humanity against yonder sublime and
infinite; but mount, rack the limbs, wrestle it out among the peaks;
taste danger, sweat, earn rest: learn to discover ungrudgingly that
haggard fatigue is the fair vision you have run to earth, and that rest
is your uttermost reward. Would you know what it is to hope again, and
have all your hopes at hand?--hang upon the crags at a gradient: that
makes your next step a debate between the thing you are and the thing you
may become. There the merry little hopes grow for the climber like
flowers and food, immediate, prompt to prove their uses, sufficient: if
just within the grasp, as mortal hopes should be. How the old lax life
closes in about you there! You are the man of your faculties, nothing
more. Why should a man pretend to more? We ask it wonderingly when we
are healthy. Poetic rhapsodists in the vales below may tell you of the
joy and grandeur of the upper regions, they cannot pluck you the medical
herb. He gets that for himself who wanders the marshy ledge at nightfall
to behold the distant Sennhiittchen twinkle, who leaps the green-eyed
crevasses, and in the solitude of an emerald alp stretches a salt hand to
the mountain kine.
MY RETURN TO ENGLAND
I passed from the Alps to the desert, and fell in love with the East,
until it began to consume me. History, like the air we breathe, must be
in motion to keep us uncorrupt: otherwise its ancient homes are
infectious. My passion for the sun and his baked people lasted awhile,
the drudgery of the habit of voluntary exile some time longer, and then,
quite unawares, I was seized with a thirst for England, so violent that I
abandoned a correspondence of several months, lying for me both at
Damascus and Cairo, to catch the boat for Europe. A dream of a rainy
morning, in the midst of the glowing furnace, may have been the origin of
the wild craving I had for my native land and Janet. The moist air of
flying showers and drenched spring buds surrounded her; I saw her plainly
lifting a rose's head; was it possible I had ever refused to be her
yokefellow? Could so noble a figure of a fair young woman have been
offered and repudiated again and again by a man in his senses? I spurned
the intolerable idiot, to stop reflection. Perhaps she did likewise now.
There was nothing to alarm me save my own eagerness.
The news of my father was perplexing, leading me to suppose him
re-established in London, awaiting the coming on of his Case. Whence the
Money and my father, I knew, met as they divided, fortuitously; in
illustration of which, I well remembered, while passing in view of the
Key of the Adige along the Lombard plain, a circumstance during my Alpine
tour with Temple, of more importance to him than to me, when my emulous
friend, who would never be beaten, sprained his ankle severely on the
crags of a waterfall, not far from Innsbruck, and was invited into a
house by a young English lady, daughter of a retired Colonel of Engineers
of our army. The colonel was an exile from his country for no grave
crime: but, as he told us, as much an exile as if he had committed a
capital offence in being the father of nine healthy girls. He had been,
against his judgement, he averred, persuaded to fix on his Tyrolese spot
of ground by the two elder ones. Five were now married to foreigners;
thus they repaid him, by scattering good English blood on the race of
Counts and Freiherrs! 'I could understand the decrees of Providence
before I was a parent,' said this dear old Colonel Heddon. 'I was
looking up at the rainbow when I heard your steps, asking myself whether
it was seen in England at that instant, and why on earth I should be out
of England!' He lived abroad to be able to dower his girls. His sons-
in-law were gentlemen; so far he was condemned to be satisfied, but
supposing all his girls married foreigners? His primitive frankness
charmed us, and it struck me that my susceptible Temple would have liked
to be in a position to reassure him with regard to the Lucy of the four.
We were obliged to confess that she was catching a foreign accent. The
old colonel groaned. He begged us to forgive him for not treating us as
strangers; his heart leapt out to young English gentlemen.
My name, he said, reminded him of a great character at home, in the old
days: a certain Roy-Richmond, son of an actress and somebody, so the
story went: and there was an old Lord Edbury who knew more about it than
most. 'Now Roy was an adventurer, but he had a soul of true chivalry, by
gad, he had! Plenty of foreign whiffmajigs are to be found, but you
won't come upon a fellow like that. Where he got his money from none
knew: all I can say is, I don't believe he ever did a dirty action for
it. And one matter I'll tell you of: pardon me a moment, Mr. Richmond,
I haven't talked English for half a century, or, at least, a quarter.
Old Lord Edbury put him down in his will for some thousands, and he
risked it to save a lady, who hated him for his pains. Lady Edbury was
of the Bolton blood, none of the tamest; they breed good cavalry men.
She ran away from her husband once. The old lord took her back. "It 's
at your peril, mind!" says she. Well, Roy hears by-and-by of afresh
affair. He mounted horse; he was in the saddle, I've been assured, a
night and a day, and posted himself between my lady's park-gates, and the
house, at dusk. The rumour ran that he knew of the marquis playing spy
on his wife. However, such was the fact; she was going off again, and
the marquis did play the mean part. She walked down the parkroad, and,
seeing the cloaked figure of a man, she imagined him to be her Lothario,
and very naturally, you will own, fell into his arms. The gentleman in
question was an acquaintance of mine; and the less you follow our example
the better for you. It was a damnable period in morals! He told me that
he saw the scene from the gates, where he had his carriage-and-four
ready. The old lord burst out of an ambush on his wife and her supposed
paramour; the lady was imprisoned in her rescuer's arms, and my friend
retired on tiptoe, which was, I incline to think, the best thing he could
do. Our morals were abominable. Lady Edbury would never see Roy-
Richmond after that, nor the old lord neither. He doubled the sum he had
intended to leave him, though. I heard that he married a second young
wife. Roy, I believe, ended by marrying a great heiress, and reforming.
He was an eloquent fellow, and stood like a general in full uniform,
cocked hat and feathers; most amusing fellow at table; beat a Frenchman
I spared Colonel Heddon the revelation of my relationship to his hero,
thanking his garrulity for interrupting me.
How I pitied him when I drove past the gates of the main route to
Innsbruck! For I was bound homeward: I should soon see England, green
cloudy England, the white cliffs, the meadows, the heaths! And I thanked
the colonel again in my heart for having done something to reconcile me
to the idea of that strange father of mine.
A banner-like stream of morning-coloured smoke rolled North-eastward as I
entered London, and I drove to Temple's chambers. He was in Court,
engaged in a case as junior to his father. Temple had become that
radiant human creature, a working man, then? I walked slowly to the
Court, and saw him there, hardly recognising him in his wig. All that he
had to do was to prompt his father in a case of collision at sea; the
barque Priscilla had run foul of a merchant brig, near the mouth of the
Thames, and though I did not expect it on hearing the vessel's name, it
proved to be no other than the barque Priscilla of Captain Jasper Welsh.
Soon after I had shaken Temple's hand, I was going through the same
ceremony with the captain himself, not at all changed in appearance, who
blessed his heart for seeing me, cried out that a beard and mustachios
made a foreign face of a young Englishman, and was full of the
'providential' circumstance of his having confided his case to Temple and
'Ay, ay, Captain Welsh,' said Temple, 'we have pulled you through, only
another time mind you keep an eye on that look-out man of yours. Some of
your men, I suspect, see double with an easy conscience. A close net
makes slippery eels.'
'Have you anything to say against my men?' the captain inquired.
Temple replied that he would talk to him about it presently, and laughed
as he drew me away.
'His men will get him into a deuce of a scrape some day, Richie. I shall
put him on his guard. Have you had all my letters? You look made of
iron. I'm beginning capitally, not afraid of the Court a bit, and I hope
I'm not pert. I wish your father had taken it better!'
'Taken what?' said I.
'Haven't you heard from him?'
'Two or three times: a mass of interjections.'
'You know he brought his Case forward at last? Of course it went as we
all knew it would.'
'Where is he? Have you seen Janet lately?'
'He is at Miss Ilchester's house in London.'
'Write the address on a card.'
Temple wrote it rather hesitatingly, I thought.
We talked of seeing one another in the evening, and I sprang off to
Janet's residence, forgetting to grasp my old friend's hand at parting.
I was madly anxious to thank her for the unexpected tenderness to my
father. And now nothing stood between us!
My aunt Dorothy was the first to welcome me. 'He must be prepared for
the sight of you, Harry. The doctors say that a shock may destroy him.
Janet treats him so wonderfully.'
I pressed her on my heart and cheered her, praising Janet. She wept.
'Is there anything new the matter?' I said.
'It 's not new to us, Harry. I'm sure you're brave?'
'Brave! what am I asked to bear?'
'Much, if you love her, Harry!'
'It is better you should hear it from me, Harry. I wrote you word of it.
We all imagined it would not be disagreeable to you. Who could foresee
this change in you? She least of all!'
'She's in love with some one?'
'I did not say in love.'
'Tell me the worst.'
'She is engaged to be married.'
Janet came into the room--another Janet for me. She had engaged herself
to marry the Marquis of Edbury. At the moment when she enslaved me with
gratitude and admiration she was lost to me. I knew her too well to see
a chance of her breaking her pledged word.
My old grandfather said of Janet, 'She's a compassionate thing.' I felt
now the tears under his speech, and how late I was in getting wisdom.
Compassion for Edbury in Janet's bosom was the matchmaker's chief engine
of assault, my aunt Dorothy told me. Lady Ilchester had been for this
suitor, Sir Roderick for the other, up to the verge of a quarrel between
the most united of wedding couples. Janet was persecuted. She heard
that Edbury's life was running to waste; she liked him for his cricketing
and hunting, his frankness, seeming manliness, and general native English
enthusiasm. I permitted myself to comprehend the case as far as I could
allow myself to excuse her.
Dorothy Beltham told me something of Janet that struck me to the dust.
'It is this, dear Harry; bear to hear it! Janet and I and his good true
woman of a housekeeper, whose name is Waddy, we are, I believe, the only
persons that know it. He had a large company to dine at a City tavern,
she told us, on the night after the decision--when the verdict went
against him. The following morning I received a note from this good Mrs.
Waddy addressed to Sir Roderick's London house, where I was staying with
Janet; it said that he was ill; and Janet put on her bonnet at once to go
'The lady didn't fear contagion any longer?'
'She went, walking fast. He was living in lodgings, and the people of
the house insisted on removing him, Mrs. Waddy told us. She was cowering
in the parlour. I had not the courage to go upstairs. Janet went by
My heart rose on a huge swell.
'She was alone with him, Harry. We could hear them.'
Dorothy Beltham looked imploringly on me to waken my whole comprehension.
'She subdued him. When I saw him he was white as death, but quiet, not
dangerous at all.'
'Do you mean she found him raving?' I cried out on our Maker's name, in
grief and horror.
'Yes, dear Harry, it was so.'
'She stepped between him and an asylum?'
'She quitted Sir Roderick's house to lodge your father safe in one that
she hired, and have him under her own care. She watched him day and
night for three weeks, and governed him, assisted only at intervals by
the poor frightened woman, Mrs. Waddy, and just as frightened me. And I
am still subject to the poor woman's way of pressing her hand to her
heart at a noise. It 's over now. Harry, Janet wished that you should
never hear of it. She dreads any excitement for him. I think she is
right in fancying her own influence the best: he is used to it. You know
how gentle she is though she is so firm.'
'Oh! don't torture me, ma'am, for God's sake,' I called aloud.
I MEET MY FIRST PLAYFELLOW AND TAKE MY PUNISHMENT
There came to me a little note on foreign paper, unaddressed, an
enclosure forwarded by Janet, and containing merely one scrap from the
playful XENIEN of Ottilia's favourite brotherly poets, of untranslatable
Who shuns true friends flies fortune in the concrete:
Would he see what he aims at? let him ask his heels.
It filled me with a breath of old German peace.
From this I learnt that Ottilia and Janet corresponded. Upon what
topics? to what degree of intimacy?
Janet now confessed to me that their intimacy had never known reserve.
The princess had divined her attachment for Harry Richmond when their
acquaintance was commenced in the island, and knew at the present moment
that I had travelled round to the recognition of Janet's worth.
Thus encouraged by the princess's changeless friendship, I wrote to her,
leaving little to be guessed of my state of mind, withholding nothing of
the circumstances surrounding me. Imagination dealt me all my sharpest
misery, and now that Ottilia resumed her place there, I became infinitely
peacefuller, and stronger to subdue my hungry nature. It caused me no
pang, strangely though it read in my sight when written, to send warm
greetings and respects to the prince her husband.
Is it any waste of time to write of love? The trials of life are in it,
but in a narrow ring and a fierier. You may learn to know yourself
through love, as you do after years of life, whether you are fit to lift
them that are about you, or whether you are but a cheat, and a load on
the backs of your fellows. The impure perishes, the inefficient
languishes, the moderate comes to its autumn of decay--these are of the
kinds which aim at satisfaction to die of it soon or late. The love that
survives has strangled craving; it lives because it lives to nourish and
succour like the heavens.
But to strangle craving is indeed to go through a death before you reach
But again, to write of a love perverted by all the elements contributing
to foolishness, and foredoomed to chastisement, would be a graceless
business. Janet and I went through our trial, she, you may believe, the
braver under the most to bear.
I was taken by Temple down to the ship--smelling East of London, for the
double purpose of trying to convince Captain Welsh of the extravagance of
a piece of chivalry he was about to commit, and of seeing a lady with a
history, who had recently come under his guardianship. Temple thought I
should know her, but he made a mystery of it until the moment of our
introduction arrived, not being certain of her identity, and not wishing
to have me disappointed. It appeared that Captain Welsh questioned his
men closely after he had won his case, and he arrived at the conclusion
that two or three of them had been guilty of false swearing in his
interests. He did not dismiss them, for, as he said, it was twice a bad
thing to turn sinners loose: it was to shove them out of the direct road
of amendment, and it was a wrong to the population. He insisted,
however, on paying the legal costs and an indemnity for the collision at
sea; and Temple was in great distress about it, he having originally
suggested the suspicion of his men to Captain Welsh. 'I wanted to put
him on his guard against those rascals,' Temple said, 'and I suppose,'
he sighed, 'I wanted the old captain to think me enormously clever all
round.' He shook himself, and assumed a bearish aspect, significant of
disgust and recklessness. 'The captain 'll be ruined, Richie; and he's
not young, you know, to go on sailing his barque Priscilla for ever. If
he pays, why, I ought to pay, and then you ought to pay, for I shouldn't
have shown off before him alone, and then the wind that fetched you ought
to pay. Toss common sense overboard, there's no end to your fine-
drawings; that's why it's always safest to swear by the Judge.'
We rolled down to the masts among the chimneys on the top of an omnibus.
The driver was eloquent on cricket-matches. Now, cricket, he said, was
fine manly sport; it might kill a man, but it never meant mischief:
foreigners themselves had a bit of an idea that it was the best game in
the world, though it was a nice joke to see a foreigner playing at it!
None of them could stand to be bowled at. Hadn't stomachs for it; they'd
have to train for soldiers first. On one occasion he had seen a
Frenchman looking on at a match. 'Ball was hit a shooter twixt the
slips: off starts Frenchman, catches it, heaves it up, like his head,
half-way to wicket, and all the field set to bawling at him, and sending
him, we knew where. He tripped off: "You no comprong politeness in dis
country." Ha! ha!'
To prove the aforesaid Frenchman wrong, we nodded to the driver's
laughter at his exquisite imitation.
He informed us that he had backed the Surrey Eleven last year, owing to
the report of a gentleman-bowler, who had done things in the way of
tumbling wickets to tickle the ears of cricketers. Gentlemen-batters
were common: gentlemen-bowlers were quite another dish. Saddlebank was
the gentleman's name.
'Old Nandrew Saddle?' Temple called to me, and we smiled at the
supposition of Saddlebank's fame, neither of us, from what we had known
of his bowling, doubting that he deserved it.
'Acquainted with him, gentlemen?' the driver inquired, touching his hat.
'Well, and I ask why don't more gentlemen take to cricket? 'stead of
horses all round the year! Now, there's my notion of happiness,' said
the man condemned to inactivity, in the perpetual act of motion; 'cricket
in cricket season! It comprises--count: lots o' running; and that's
good: just enough o' taking it easy; that's good: a appetite for your
dinner, and your ale or your Port, as may be the case; good, number
three. Add on a tired pipe after dark, and a sound sleep to follow, and
you say good morning to the doctor and the parson; for you're in health
body and soul, and ne'er a parson 'll make a better Christian of ye, that
As if anxious not to pervert us, he concluded: 'That's what I think,
Temple and I talked of the ancient raptures of a first of May cricketing-
day on a sunny green meadow, with an ocean of a day before us, and well-
braced spirits for the match. I had the vision of a matronly, but not
much altered Janet, mounted on horseback, to witness the performance of
some favourite Eleven of youngsters with her connoisseur's eye; and then
the model of an English lady, wife, and mother, waving adieu to the field
and cantering home to entertain her husband's guests. Her husband!
Temple was aware of my grief, but saw no remedy. I knew that in his
heart he thought me justly punished, though he loved me.
We had a long sitting with Captain Welsh, whom I found immoveable, as I
expected I should. His men, he said, had confessed their sin similarly
to the crab in a hole, with one claw out, as the way of sinners was. He
blamed himself mainly. 'Where you have accidents, Mr. Richmond, you have
faults; and where you have faults aboard a ship you may trace a line to
the captain. I should have treated my ship's crew like my conscience,
and gone through them nightly. As it is, sir, here comes round one of
your accidents to tell me I have lived blinded by conceit. That is my
affliction, my young friend. The payment of the money is no more so than
to restore money held in trust.'
Temple and I argued the case with him, as of old on our voyage, on board
the barque Priscilla, quite unavailingly.
'Is a verdict built on lies one that my Maker approves of?' said he.
'If I keep possession of that money, my young friends, will it clothe me?
Ay, with stings! Will it feed me? Ay, with poison. And they that
should be having it shiver and want!'
He was emphatic, as he would not have been, save to read us an example,
owing to our contention with him. 'The money is Satan in my very hands!'
When he had dismissed the subject he never returned to it.
His topic of extreme happiness, to which Temple led him, was the rescue
of a beautiful sinner from a life of shame. It appeared that Captain
Welsh had the habit between his voyages of making one holiday expedition
to the spot of all creation he thought the fairest, Richmond Hill,
overlooking the Thames; and there, one evening, he espied a lady in
grief, and spoke to her, and gave her consolation. More, he gave her a
blameless home. The lady's name was Mabel Bolton. She was in distress
of spirit rather than of circumstances, for temptation was thick about
one so beautiful, to supply the vanities and luxuries of the father of
sin. He described her.
She was my first playfellow, the miller's daughter of Dipwell, Mabel
Sweetwinter, taken from her home by Lord Edbury during my German
university career, and now put away by him upon command of his family on
the eve of his marriage.
She herself related her history to me, after telling me that she had seen
me once at the steps of Edbury's Club. Our meeting was no great surprise
to either of us. She had heard my name as that of an expected visitor;
she had seen Temple, moreover, and he had prompted me with her Christian
name and the praise of her really glorious hair, to anticipate the person
who was ushered into the little cabin-like parlour by Captain Welsh's
good old mother.
Of Edbury she could not speak for grief, believing that he loved her
still and was acting under compulsion. Her long and faithful attachment
to the scapegrace seemed to preserve her from the particular regrets
Captain Welsh supposed to occupy her sinner's mind; so that, after some
minutes of the hesitation and strangeness due to our common
recollections, she talked of him simply and well--as befitted her
situation, a worldling might say. But she did not conceal her relief in
escaping to this quaint little refuge (she threw a kindly-comical look,
not overtoned, at the miniature ships on the mantelpiece, and the picture
of Joseph leading Mary with her babe on the ass) from the temptations I
could imagine a face like hers would expose her to. The face was
splendid, the figure already overblown. I breathed some thanks to my
father while she and I conversed apart. The miller was dead, her brother
in America. She had no other safe home than the one Captain Welsh had
opened to her. When I asked her (I had no excuse for it) whether she
would consent to go to Edbury again, she reddened and burst into tears.
I cursed my brutality. 'Let her cry,' said Captain Welsh on parting with
us at his street door. 'Tears are the way of women and their comfort.'
To our astonishment he told us he intended to take her for a voyage in
the Priscilla. 'Why?' we asked.
'I take her,' he said, 'because not to do things wholly is worse than not
to do things at all, for it 's waste of time and cause for a chorus
below, down in hell, my young friends. The woman is beautiful as
Solomon's bride. She is weak as water. And the man is wicked. He has
written to her a letter. He would have her reserved for himself, a
wedded man: such he is, or is soon to be. I am searching, and she is not
deceitful; and I am a poor man again and must go the voyage. I wrestled
with her, and by grace I conquered her to come with me of a free will,
and be out of his snares. Aboard I do not fear him, and she shall know
the mercy of the Lord on high seas.'
We grimaced a little on her behalf, but had nothing to reply.
Seeing Janet after Mabel was strange. In the latter one could perceive
the palpably suitable mate for Edbury.
I felt that my darling was insulted--no amends for it I had to keep
silent and mark the remorseless preparations going forward. Not so
Heriot. He had come over from the camp in Ireland on leave at this
juncture. His talk of women still suggested the hawk with the downy
feathers of the last little plucked bird sticking to his beak; but his
appreciation of Janet and some kindness for me made him a vehement
opponent of her resolve. He took licence of his friendship to lay every
incident before her, to complete his persuasions. She resisted his
attacks, as I knew she would, obstinately, and replied to his entreaties
with counter-supplications that he should urge me to accept old
Riversley. The conflicts went on between those two daily, and I heard of
them from Heriot at night. He refused to comprehend her determination
under the head of anything save madness. Varied by reproaches of me for
my former inveterate blindness, he raved upon Janet's madness
incessantly, swearing that he would not be beaten. I told him his
efforts were useless, but thought them friendly, and so they were, only
Janet's resistance had fired his vanity, and he stalked up and down my
room talking a mixture of egregious coxcombry and hearty good sense that
might have shown one the cause he meant to win had become personal to
him. Temple, who was sometimes in consultation with him, and was always
amused by his quasi-fanfaronade, assured me that Herriot was actually
scheming. The next we heard of him was, that he had been seen at a
whitebait hotel down the river drunk with Edbury. Janet also heard of
that, and declined to see Heriot again.
Our last days marched frightfully fast. Janet had learnt that any the
most distant allusion to her marriage day was an anguish to the man who
was not to marry her, so it was through my aunt Dorothy that I became
aware of Julia Bulsted's kindness in offering to take charge of my father
for a term. Lady Sampleman undertook to be hostess to him for one night,
the eve of Janet's nuptials. He was quiet, unlikely to give annoyance to
persons not strongly predisposed to hear sentences finished and
exclamations fall into their right places.
Adieu to my darling! There have been women well won; here was an
adorable woman well lost. After twenty years of slighting her, did I
fancy she would turn to me and throw a man over in reward of my ultimate
recovery of my senses?--or fancy that one so tenacious as she had proved
would snap a tie depending on her pledged word? She liked Edbury; she
saw the best of him, and liked him. The improved young lord was her
handiwork. After the years of humiliation from me, she had found herself
courted by a young nobleman who clung to her for help, showed
improvement, and brought her many compliments from a wondering world.
She really felt that she was strength and true life to him. She resisted
Heriot: she resisted a more powerful advocate, and this was the princess
Ottilia. My aunt Dorothy told me that the princess had written. Janet
either did or affected to weigh the princess's reasonings; and she did
not evade the task of furnishing a full reply.
Her resolution was unchanged. Loss of colour, loss of light in her eyes,
were the sole signs of what it cost her to maintain it. Our task was to
transfer the idea of Janet to that of Julia in my father's whirling
brain, which at first rebelled violently, and cast it out like a stick
thrust between rapidly revolving wheels.
The night before I was to take him away, she gave me her hand with a
'good-bye, dear Harry.' My words were much the same. She had a ghastly
face, but could not have known it, for she smiled, and tried to keep the
shallow smile in play, as friends do. There was the end.
It came abruptly, and was schoolingly cold and short.
It had the effect on me of freezing my blood and setting what seemed to
be the nerves of my brain at work in a fury of calculation to reckon the
minutes remaining of her maiden days. I had expected nothing, but now we
had parted I thought that one last scene to break my heart on should not
have been denied to me. My aunt Dorothy was a mute; she wept when I
spoke of Janet, whatever it was I said.
The minutes ran on from circumstance to circumstance of the destiny Janet
had marked for herself, each one rounded in my mind of a blood colour
like the edge about prismatic hues. I lived through them a thousand
times before they occurred, as the wretch who fears death dies
Some womanly fib preserved my father from a shock on leaving Janet's
house. She left it herself at the same time that she drove him to Lady
Sampleman's, and I found him there soon after she had gone to her
bridesmaids. A letter was for me:--
'DEAR HARRY,--I shall not live at Riversley, never go there again;
do not let it be sold to a stranger; it will happen unless you go
there. For the sake of the neighbourhood and poor people, I cannot
allow it to be shut up. I was the cause of the chief misfortune.
You never blamed me. Let me think that the old place is not dead.
I tore the letter to pieces, and kept them.
The aspect of the new intolerable world I was to live in after to-morrow,
paralyzed sensation. My father chattered, Lady Sampleman hushed him; she
said I might leave him to her, and I went down to Captain Welsh to bid
him good-bye and get such peace as contact with a man clad in armour
proof against earthly calamity could give.
I was startled to see little Kiomi in Mabel's company.
They had met accidentally at the head of the street, and had been friends
in childhood, Captain Welsh said, adding: 'She hates men.'
'Good reason, when they're beasts,' said Kiomi.
Amid much weeping of Mabel and old Mrs. Welsh, Kiomi showed as little
trouble as the heath when the woods are swept.
Captain Welsh wanted Mabel to be on board early, owing, he told me, to
information. Kiomi had offered to remain on board with her until the
captain was able to come. He had business to do in the City.
We saw them off from the waterside.
'Were I to leave that young woman behind me, on shore, I should be giving
the devil warrant to seize upon his prey,' said Captain Welsh, turning
his gaze from the boat which conveyed Kiomi and Mabel to the barque
Priscilla. He had information that the misleader of her youth was
He and I parted, and for ever, at a corner of crossways in the central
city. There I saw the last of one who deemed it as simple a matter to
renounce his savings for old age, to rectify an error of justice, as to
plant his foot on the pavement; a man whose only burden was the folly of
I thought to myself in despair, under what protest can I also escape from
England and my own intemperate mind? It seemed a miraculous answer:--
There lay at my chambers a note written by Count Kesensky; I went to the
embassy, and heard of an Austrian ship of war being at one of our ports
upon an expedition to the East, and was introduced to the captain, a
gentlemanly fellow, like most of the officers of his Government. Finding
in me a German scholar, and a joyful willingness, he engaged me to take
the post of secretary to the expedition in the place of an invalided
Freiherr von Redwitz. The bargain was struck immediately: I was to be
ready to report myself to the captain on board not later than the
following day. Count Kesensky led me aside: he regretted that he could
do nothing better for me: but I thought his friendliness extreme and
astonishing, and said so; whereupon the count assured me that his
intentions were good, though he had not been of great use hitherto--an
allusion to the borough of Chippenden he had only heard of von Redwitz's
illness that afternoon. I thanked him cordially, saying I was much in
his debt, and he bowed me out, letting me fancy, as my father had fancied
before me, and as though I had never observed and reflected in my life,
that the opportuneness of this intervention signified a special action of
The flattery of the thought served for an elixir. But with whom would my
father abide during my absence? Captain Bulsted and Julia saved me from
a fit of remorse; they had come up to town on purpose to carry him home
with them, and had left a message on my table, and an invitation to
dinner at their hotel, where the name of Janet was the Marino Faliero of
our review of Riversley people and old times. The captain and his wife
were indignant at her conduct. Since, however, I chose to excuse it,
they said they would say nothing more about her, and she was turned face
to the wall. I told them how Janet had taken him for months. 'But I 'll
take him for years,' said Julia. 'The truth is, Harry, my old dear!
William and I are never so united--for I'm ashamed to quarrel with him--
as when your father's at Bulsted. He belongs to us, and other people
shall know you 're not obliged to depend on your family for help, and
your aunt Dorothy can come and see him whenever she likes.'
That was settled. Captain Bulsted went with me to Lady Sampleman's to
prepare my father for the change of nurse and residence. We were
informed that he had gone down with Alderman Duke Saddlebank to dine at
one of the great City Companies' halls. I could hardly believe it. 'Ah!
my dear Mr. Harry,' said Lady Sampleman, 'old friends know one another
best, believe that, now. I treated him as if he was as well as ever he
was, gave him his turtle and madeira lunch; and Alderman Saddlebank, who
lunched here--your father used to say, he looks like a robin hopping out
of a larderquite jumped to dine him in the City like old times; and he
will see a great spread of plate!'
She thought my father only moderately unwell, wanting novelty. Captain
Bulsted agreed with me that it would be prudent to go and fetch him. At
the door of the City hall stood Andrew Saddlebank, grown to be simply a
larger edition of Rippenger's head boy, and he imparted to us that my
father was 'on his legs' delivering a speech: It alarmed me. With
Saddlebank's assistance I pushed in.
'A prince! a treacherous lover! an unfatherly man!'
Those were the words I caught: a reproduction of many of my phrases
employed in our arguments on this very subject.
He bade his audience to beware of princes, beware of idle princes; and
letting his florid fancy loose on these eminent persons, they were at one
moment silver lamps, at another poising hawks, and again sprawling
pumpkins; anything except useful citizens. How could they be? They had
the attraction of the lamp, the appetite of the hawk, the occupation of
the pumpkin: nothing was given them to do but to shine, destroy, and
fatten. Their hands were kept empty: a trifle in their heads would
topple them over; they were monuments of the English system of
compromise. Happy for mankind if they were monuments only! Happy for
them! But they had the passions of men. The adulation of the multitude
was raised to inflate them, whose self-respect had not one prop to rest
an, unless it were contempt for the flatterers and prophetic foresight of
their perfidy. They were the monuments of a compromise between the past
and terror of the future; puppets as princes, mannikins as men, the
snares of frail women, stop-gaps of the State, feathered nonentities!
So far (but not in epigram) he marshalled the things he had heard to his
sound of drum and trumpet, like one repeating a lesson off-hand.
Steering on a sudden completely round, he gave his audience an outline of
the changes he would have effected had he but triumphed in his cause; and
now came the lashing of arms, a flood of eloquence. Princes with brains,
princes leaders, princes flowers of the land, he had offered them!
princes that should sway assemblies, and not stultify the precepts of a
decent people 'by making you pay in the outrage of your morals for what
you seem to gain in policy.' These or similar words. The whole scene
was too grotesque and afflicting. But his command of his hearers was
extraordinary, partly a consolation I thought, until, having touched the
arm of one of the gentlemen of the banquet and said, ' I am his son; I
wish to remove him,' the reply enlightened me: 'I 'm afraid there's
danger in interrupting him; I really am.'
They were listening obediently to one whom they dared not interrupt for
fear of provoking an outburst of madness.
I had to risk it. His dilated eyes looked ready to seize on me for an
illustration. I spoke peremptorily, and he bowed his head low, saying,
'My son, gentlemen,' and submitted himself to my hands. The feasters
showed immediately that they felt released by rising and chatting in
groups. Alderman Saddlebank expressed much gratitude to me for the
service I had performed. 'That first half of your father's speech was
the most pathetic thing I ever heard!' I had not shared his privilege,
and could not say. The remark was current that a great deal was true of
what had been said of the Fitzs. My father leaned heavily on my arm with
the step and bent head of an ancient pensioner of the Honourable City
Company. He was Julia Bulsted's charge, and I was on board the foreign
vessel weighing anchor from England before dawn of Janet's marriage-day.
The wind was high that morning. The rain came in gray rings, through
which we worked on the fretted surface of crumbling seas, heaving up and
plunging, without an outlook.
I remember having thought of the barque Priscilla as I watched our lithe
Dalmatians slide along the drenched decks of the Verona frigate. At
night it blew a gale. I could imagine it to have been sent
providentially to brush the torture of the land from my mind, and make me
feel that men are trifles.
What are their passions, then? The storm in the clouds--even more short-
lived than the clouds.
I philosophized, but my anguish was great.
Janet's 'Good-bye, Harry,' ended everything I lived for, and seemed to
strike the day, and bring out of it the remorseless rain. A featureless
day, like those before the earth was built; like night under an angry
moon; and each day the same until we touched the edge of a southern
circle and saw light, and I could use my brain.
The matter most present to me was my injustice regarding my poor father's
speech in the City hall. He had caused me to suffer so much that I
generally felt for myself when he appealed for sympathy, or provoked some
pity: but I was past suffering, and letting kindly recollection divest
the speech of its verbiage, I took it to my heart. It was true that he
had in his blind way struck the keynote of his position, much as I myself
had conceived it before. Harsh trials had made me think of my own
fortunes more than of his. This I felt, and I thought there never had
been so moving a speech. It seemed to make the world in debt to us.
What else is so consolatory to a ruined man?
In reality the busy little creature within me, whom we call self, was
digging pits for comfort to flow in, of any kind, in any form; and it
seized on every idea, every circumstance, to turn it to that purpose, and
with such success, that when by-and-by I learnt how entirely inactive
special Providence had been in my affairs, I had to collect myself before
I could muster the conception of gratitude toward the noble woman who
clothed me in the illusion. It was to the Princess Ottilia, acting
through Count Kesensky, that I owed both my wafting away from England at
a wretched season, and that chance of a career in Parliament! The
captain of the Verona hinted as much when, after a year of voyaging, we
touched at an East Indian seaport, and von Redwitz joined the vessel to
resume the post I was occupying. Von Redwitz (the son of Prince Ernest's
Chancellor, I discovered) could have told me more than he did, but he
handed me a letter from the princess, calling me home urgently, and even
prescribing my route, and bidding me come straight to Germany and to
Sarkeld. The summons was distasteful, for I had settled into harness
under my scientific superiors, and had proved to my messmates that I was
neither morose nor over-conceited. Captain Martinitz persuaded me to
return, and besides, there lay between the lines of Ottilia's letter a
signification of welcome things better guessed at than known. Was I not
bound to do her bidding? Others had done it: young von Redwitz, for
instance, in obeying the telegraph wires and feigning sickness to
surrender his place to me, when she wished to save me from misery by
hurrying me to new scenes with a task for my hand and head;--no mean
stretch of devotion on his part. Ottilia was still my princess; she my
providence. She wrote:
'Come home, my friend Harry: you have been absent too long. He who
intercepts you to displace you has his career before him in the vessel,
and you nearer home. The home is always here where I am, but it may now
take root elsewhere, and it is from Ottilia you hear that delay is now
really loss of life. I tell you no more. You know me, that when I say
come, it is enough.'
A simple adieu and her name ended the mysterious letter. Not a word of
Prince Hermann. What had happened? I guessed at it curiously and
incessantly and only knew the nature of my suspicion by ceasing to hope
as soon as I seemed to have divined it. I did not wrong my soul's high
mistress beyond the one flash of tentative apprehension which in
perplexity struck at impossibilities. Ottilia would never have summoned
me to herself. But was Janet free? The hope which refused to live in
that other atmosphere of purest calm, sprang to full stature at the bare
thought, and would not be extinguished though all the winds beset it.
Had my girl's courage failed, to spare her at the last moment? I fancied
it might be: I was sure it was not so. Yet the doubt pressed on me with
the force of a world of unimagined shifts and chances, and just kept the
little flame alive, at times intoxicating me, though commonly holding me
back to watch its forlorn conflict with probabilities known too well. It
cost me a struggle to turn aside to Germany from the Italian highroad.
I chose the line of the Brenner, and stopped half a day at Innsbruck to
pay a visit to Colonel Heddon, of whom I had the joyful tidings that two
of his daughters were away to go through the German form of the betrothal
of one of them to an Englishman. The turn of the tide had come to him.
And it comes to me, too, in a fresh spring tide whenever I have to speak
of others instead of this everlastingly recurring I of the
autobiographer, of which the complacent penman has felt it to be his duty
to expose the mechanism when out of action, and which, like so many of
our sins of commission, appears in the shape of a terrible offence when
the occasion for continuing it draws to a close. The pleasant narrator
in the first person is the happy bubbling fool, not the philosopher who
has come to know himself and his relations toward the universe. The
words of this last are one to twenty; his mind is bent upon the causes of
events rather than their progress. As you see me on the page now, I
stand somewhere between the two, approximating to the former, but with
sufficient of the latter within me to tame the delightful expansiveness
proper to that coming hour of marriage-bells and bridal-wreaths. It is a
sign that the end, and the delivery of reader and writer alike, should
not be dallied with.
The princess had invited Lucy Heddon to Sarkeld to meet Temple, and
Temple to meet me. Onward I flew. I saw the old woods of the lake-
palace, and, as it were, the light of my past passion waning above them.
I was greeted by the lady of all nobility with her gracious warmth, and
in his usual abrupt manful fashion by Prince Hermann. And I had no time
to reflect on the strangeness of my stepping freely under the roof where
a husband claimed Ottilia, before she led me into the library, where sat
my lost and recovered, my darling; and, unlike herself, for a moment, she
faltered in rising and breathing my name.
We were alone. I knew she was no bondwoman. The question how it had
come to pass lurked behind everything I said and did; speculation on the
visible features, and touching of the unfettered hand, restrained me from
uttering or caring to utter it. But it was wonderful. It thrust me back
on Providence again for the explanation--humbly this time. It was
wonderful and blessed, as to loving eyes the first-drawn breath of a
drowned creature restored to life. I kissed her hand. 'Wait till you
have heard everything, Harry,' she said, and her voice was deeper,
softer, exquisitely strange in its known tones, as her manner was, and
her eyes. She was not the blooming, straight-shouldered, high-breathing
girl of other days, but sister to the day of her 'Good-bye, Harry,' pale
and worn. The eyes had wept. This was Janet, haply widowed. She wore
no garb nor a shade of widowhood. Perhaps she had thrown it off, not to
offend an implacable temper in me. I said, 'I shall hear nothing that
can make you other than my own Janet--if you will?'
She smiled a little. 'We expected Temple's arrival sooner than yours,
'Do you take to his Lucy?'
The perfect ring of Janet was there.
Mention of Riversley made her conversation lively, and she gave me
moderately good news of my father, quaint, out of Julia Bulsted's latest
letter to her.
'Then how long,' I asked astonished, 'how long have you been staying with
She answered, colouring, 'So long, that I can speak fairish German.'
'And read it easily?'
'I have actually taken to reading, Harry.'
Her courage must have quailed, and she must have been looking for me on
that morning of miserable aspect when I beheld the last of England
through wailful showers, like the scene of a burial. I did not speak of
it, fearing to hurt her pride, but said, 'Have you been here--months?'
'Yes, some months,' she replied.
'Yes,' she said, and dropped her eyelids, and then, with a quick look at
me, 'Wait for Temple, Harry. He is a day behind his time. We can't
account for it.'
I suggested, half in play, that perhaps he had decided, for the sake of a
sea voyage, to come by our old route to Germany on board the barque
Priscilla, with Captain Welsh.
A faint shudder passed over her. She shut her eyes and shook her head.
Our interview satisfied my heart's hunger no further. The Verona's
erratic voyage had cut me off from letters.
Janet might be a widow, for aught I knew. She was always Janet to me;
but why at liberty? why many months at Sarkeld, the guest of the
princess? Was she neither maid nor widow--a wife flown from a brutal
husband? or separated, and forcibly free? Under such conditions Ottilia
would not have commanded my return but what was I to imagine? A boiling
couple of hours divided me from the time for dressing, when, as I
meditated, I could put a chance question or two to the man commissioned
to wait on me, and hear whether the English lady was a Fraulein. The
Margravine and Prince Ernest were absent. Hermann worked in his museum,
displaying his treasures to Colonel Heddon. I sat with the ladies in the
airy look-out tower of the lake-palace, a prey to intense speculations,
which devoured themselves and changed from fire to smoke, while I
recounted the adventures of our ship's voyage, and they behaved as if
there were nothing to tell me in turn, each a sphinx holding the secret I
thirsted for. I should not certainly have thirsted much if Janet had met
me as far half-way as a delicate woman may advance. The mystery lay in
her evident affection, her apparent freedom and unfathomable reserve, and
her desire that I should see Temple before she threw off her feminine
armour, to which, judging by the indications, Ottilia seemed to me to
My old friend was spied first by his sweetheart Lucy, winding dilatorily
over the hill away from Sarkeld, in one of the carriages sent to meet
him. He was guilty of wasting a prodigious number of minutes with his
trumpery 'How d' ye do's,' and his glances and excuses, and then I had
him up in my room, and the tale was told; it was not Temple's fault if he
did not begin straightforwardly.
I plucked him from his narrator's vexatious and inevitable commencement:
'Temple, tell me, did she go to the altar?'
He answered 'Yes!'
'She did? Then she's a widow?'
'No, she isn't,' said Temple, distracting me by submitting to the lead I
distracted him by taking.
'Then her husband's alive?'
Temple denied it, and a devil seized him to perceive some comicality in
'Was she married?'
Temple said 'No,' with a lurking drollery about his lips. He added,
'It 's nothing to laugh over, Richie.'
'Am I laughing? Speak out. Did Edbury come to grief overnight in any
Again Temple pronounced a negative, this time wilfully enigmatical: he
confessed it, and accused me of the provocation. He dashed some laughter
with gravity to prepare for my next assault.
'Was Edbury the one to throw up the marriage? Did he decline it?'
'No,' was the answer once more.
Temple stopped my wrath by catching at me and begging me to listen.
'Edbury was drowned, Richie.'
'No, not overnight. I can tell it all in half-a-dozen words, if you'll
be quiet; and I know you're going to be as happy as I am, or I shouldn't
trifle an instant. He went overnight on board the barque Priscilla to
see Mabel Sweetwinter, the only woman he ever could have cared for, and
he went the voyage, just as we did. He was trapped, caged, and
transported; it's a repetition, except that the poor old Priscilla never
came to land. She foundered in a storm in the North Sea. That 's all we
know. Every soul perished, the captain and all. I knew how it would be
with that crew of his some day or other. Don't you remember my saying
the Priscilla was the kind of name of a vessel that would go down with
all hands, and leave a bottle to float to shore? A gin-bottle was found
on our East coast-the old captain must have discovered in the last few
moments that such things were on board--and in it there was a paper, and
the passengers' and crew's names in his handwriting, written as if he had
been sitting in his parlour at home; over them a line--"The Lord's will
is about to be done"; and underneath--"We go to His judgement resigned
and cheerful." You know the old captain, Richie?
Temple had tears in his eyes. We both stood blinking for a second or
I could not but be curious to hear the reason for Edbury's having
determined to sail.
'Don't you understand how it was, Richie?' said Temple. 'Edbury went to
persuade her to stay, or just to see her for once, and he came to
persuasions. He seems to have been succeeding, but the captain stepped
on board and he treated Edbury as he did us two: he made him take the
voyage for discipline's sake and "his soul's health."'
'How do you know all this, Temple?'
'You know your friend Kiomi was one of the party. The captain sent her
back on shore because he had no room for her. She told us Edbury offered
bribes of hundreds and thousands for the captain to let him and Mabel go
off in the boat with Kiomi, and then he took to begging to go alone. He
tried to rouse the crew. The poor fellow cringed, she says; he
threatened to swim off. The captain locked him up.'
My immediate reflections hit on the Bible lessons Edbury must have had to
swallow, and the gaping of the waters when its truths were suddenly and
tremendously brought home to him.
An odd series of accidents! I thought.
Temple continued: 'Heriot held his tongue about it next morning. He was
one of the guests, though he had sworn he wouldn't go. He said something
to Janet that betrayed him, for she had not seen him since.'
'How betrayed him?' said I.
'Why,' said Temple, 'of course it was Heriot who put Edbury in Kiomi's
hands. Edbury wouldn't have known of Mabel's sailing, or known the
vessel she was in, without her help. She led him down to the water and
posted him in sight before she went to Captain Welsh's; and when you and
Captain Welsh walked away, Edbury rowed to the Priscilla. Old Heriot is
not responsible for the consequences. What he supposed was likely
enough. He thought that Edbury and Mabel were much of a pair, and
thought, I suppose, that if Edbury saw her he'd find he couldn't leave
her, and old Lady Kane, who managed him, would stand nodding her plumes
for nothing at the altar. And so she did: and a pretty scene it was.
She snatched at the minutes as they slipped past twelve like fishes, and
snarled at the parson, and would have kept him standing till one P.M., if
Janet had not turned on her heel. The old woman got in front of her to
block her way. "Ah, Temple," she said to me, "it would be hard if I
could not think I had done all that was due to them." I didn't see her
again till she was starting for Germany. And, Richie, she thinks you can
never forgive her. She wrote me word that the princess is of another
mind, but her own opinion, she says, is based upon knowing you.'
'Good heaven! how little!' cried I.
Temple did me a further wrong by almost thanking me on Janet's behalf for
my sustained love for her, while he praised the very qualities of pride
and a spirited sense of obligation which had reduced her to dread my
unforgivingness. Yet he and Janet had known me longest. Supposing that
my idea of myself differed from theirs for the simple reason that I
thought of what I had grown to be, and they of what I had been through
the previous years? Did I judge by the flower, and they by root and
stem? But the flower is a thing of the season; the flower drops off: it
may be a different development next year. Did they not therefore judge
Ottilia was the keenest reader. Ottilia had divined what could be
wrought out of me. I was still subject to the relapses of a not
perfectly right nature, as I perceived when glancing back at my thought
of 'An odd series of accidents!' which was but a disguised fashion of
attributing to Providence the particular concern, in my fortunes: an
impiety and a folly! This is the temptation of those who are rescued and
made happy by circumstances. The wretched think themselves spited, and
are merely childish, not egregious in egoism. Thither on leads to a
chapter--already written by the wise, doubtless. It does not become an
atom of humanity to dwell on it beyond a point where students of the
human condition may see him passing through the experiences of the flesh
and the brain.
Meantime, Temple and I, at two hand-basins, soaped and towelled, and I
was more discreet toward him than I have been to you, for I reserved from
him altogether the pronunciation of the council of senators in the secret
chamber of my head. Whether, indeed, I have fairly painted the outer
part of myself waxes dubious when I think of his spluttering laugh and
shout; ' Richie, you haven't changed a bit--you're just like a boy!'
Certain indications of external gravity, and a sinking of the natural
springs within characterized Temple's approach to the responsible
position of a British husband and father. We talked much of Captain
Welsh, and the sedate practical irony of his imprisoning one like Edbury
to discipline him on high seas, as well as the singular situation of the
couple of culprits under his admonishing regimen, and the tragic end. My
next two minutes alone with Janet were tempered by it. Only my eagerness
for another term of privacy persuaded her that I was her lover instead of
judge, and then, having made the discovery that a single-minded gladness
animated me in the hope that she and I would travel together one in body
and soul, she surrendered, with her last bit of pride broken; except, it
may be, a fragment of reserve traceable in the confession that came
quaintly after supreme self-blame, when she said she was bound to tell me
that possibly--probably, were the trial to come over again, she should
again act as she had done.
Happily for us both, my wits had been sharpened enough to know that there
is more in men and women than the stuff they utter. And blessed
privilege now! if the lips were guilty of nonsense, I might stop them.
Besides, I was soon to be master upon such questions. She admitted it,
admitting with an unwonted emotional shiver, that absolute freedom could
be the worst of perils. 'For women?' said I. She preferred to say, 'For
girls,' and then 'Yes, for women, as they are educated at present.' Spice
of the princess's conversation flavoured her speech. The signs
unfamiliar about her for me were marks of the fire she had come out of;
the struggle, the torture, the determined sacrifice, through pride's
conception of duty. She was iron once. She had come out of the fire
'Riversley! Harry,' she murmured, and my smile, and word, and squeeze in
reply, brought back a whole gleam of the fresh English morning she had
been in face, and voice, and person.
Was it conceivable that we could go back to Riversley single?
Before that was answered she had to make a statement; and in doing it she
blushed, because it involved Edbury's name, and seemed to involve her
attachment to him; but she paid me the compliment of speaking it frankly.
It was that she had felt herself bound in honour to pay Edbury's debts.
Even by such slight means as her saying, 'Riversley, Harry,' and my kiss
of her fingers when a question of money was in debate, did we burst aside
the vestiges of mutual strangeness, and recognize one another, but with
an added warmth of love. When I pleaded for the marriage to be soon, she
said, 'I wish it, Harry.'
Sentiment you do not obtain from a Damascus blade. She most cordially
despised the ladies who parade and play on their sex, and are for ever
acting according to the feminine standard:--a dangerous stretch of
contempt for one less strong than she.
Riding behind her and Temple one day with the princess, I said, 'What
takes you most in Janet?'
She replied, 'Her courage. And it is of a kind that may knot up
every other virtue worth having. I have impulses, and am capable of
desperation, but I have no true courage: so I envy and admire, even if I
have to blame her; for I know that this possession of hers, which
identifies her and marks her from the rest of us, would bear the ordeal
of fire. I can imagine the qualities I have most pride in withering and
decaying under a prolonged trial. I cannot conceive her courage failing.
Perhaps because I have it not myself I think it the rarest of precious
gifts. It seems to me to imply one half, and to dispense with the
I have lived to think that Ottilia was right. As nearly right, too, in
the wording of her opinion as one may be in three or four sentences
designed to be comprehensive.
My Janet's readiness to meet calamity was shown ere we reached home upon
an evening of the late autumn, and set eye on a scene, for her the very
saddest that could have been devised to test her spirit of endurance,
when, driving up the higher heath-land, we saw the dark sky ominously
reddened over Riversley, and, mounting the ridge, had the funeral flames
of the old Grange dashed in our faces. The blow was evil, sudden,
unaccountable. Villagers, tenants, farm-labourers, groups of a
deputation that had gone to the railway station to give us welcome; and
returned, owing to a delay in our arrival, stood gazing from all
quarters. The Grange was burning in two great wings, that soared in
flame-tips and columns of crimson smoke, leaving the central hall and
chambers untouched as yet, but alive inside with mysterious ranges of
lights, now curtained, now made bare--a feeble contrast to the savage
blaze to right and left, save for the wonder aroused as to its
significance. These were soon cloaked. Dead sable reigned in them, and
at once a jet of flame gave the whole vast building to destruction. My
wife thrust her hand in mine. Fire at the heart, fire at the wings--our
old home stood in that majesty of horror which freezes the limbs of men,
bidding them look and no more.
'What has Riversley done to deserve this?' I heard Janet murmur to
herself. 'His room !' she said, when at the South-east wing, where my
old grandfather had slept, there burst a glut of flame. We dove down to
the park and along the carriage-road to the first red line of gazers.
They told us that no living creatures were in the house. My aunt Dorothy
was at Bulsted. I perceived my father's man Tollingby among the
servants, and called him to me; others came, and out of a clatter of
tongues, and all eyes fearfully askant at the wall of fire, we gathered
that a great reception had been prepared for us by my father: lamps,
lights in all the rooms, torches in the hall, illuminations along the
windows, stores of fireworks, such a display as only he could have
dreamed of. The fire had broken out at dusk, from an explosion of
fireworks at one wing and some inexplicable mismanagement at the other.
But the house must have been like a mine, what with the powder, the
torches, the devices in paper and muslin, and the extraordinary
decorations fitted up to celebrate our return in harmony with my father's
Gentlemen on horseback dashed up to us. Captain Bulsted seized my hand.
He was hot from a ride to fetch engines, and sang sharp in my ear, 'Have
you got him?' It was my father he meant. The cry rose for my father, and
the groups were agitated and split, and the name of the missing man,
without an answer to it, shouted. Captain Bulsted had left him bravely
attempting to quench the flames after the explosion of fireworks. He
rode about, interrogating the frightened servants and grooms holding
horses and dogs. They could tell us that the cattle were safe, not a
word of my father; and amid shrieks of women at fresh falls of timber and
ceiling into the pit of fire, and warnings from the men, we ran the
heated circle of the building to find a loophole and offer aid if a
living soul should be left; the night around us bright as day, busier
than day, and a human now added to elemental horror. Janet would not
quit her place. She sent her carriage-horses to Bulsted, and sat in the
carriage to see the last of burning Riversley. Each time that I came to
her she folded her arms on my neck and kissed me silently.
We gathered from the subsequent testimony of men and women of the
household who had collected their wits, that my father must have remained
in the doomed old house to look to the safety of my aunt Dorothy. He was
never seen again.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Absolute freedom could be the worst of perils
Add on a tired pipe after dark, and a sound sleep to follow
Allowed silly sensitiveness to prevent the repair
As little trouble as the heath when the woods are swept
Bade his audience to beware of princes
But the flower is a thing of the season; the flower drops off
But to strangle craving is indeed to go through a death
Is it any waste of time to write of love?
Not to do things wholly is worse than not to do things at all
Payment is no more so than to restore money held in trust
Self, was digging pits for comfort to flow in
Tears are the way of women and their comfort
The love that survives has strangled craving
The wretch who fears death dies multitudinously
There is more in men and women than the stuff they utter
Those who are rescued and made happy by circumstances
To kill the deer and be sorry for the suffering wretch is common
Twice a bad thing to turn sinners loose
What a man hates in adversity is to see 'faces'
What else is so consolatory to a ruined man?
Who shuns true friends flies fortune in the concrete
Would he see what he aims at? let him ask his heels
You may learn to know yourself through love