Part 2 out of 2
'M-m-m-m rascal!' hummed the squire. 'There's three, and that's not
enough for him. Six months back a man comes over from Surreywards, a
farm he calls Dipwell, and asks after you, Harry; rigmaroles about a
handsome lass gone off . . . some scoundrel ! You and I'll talk it
over by-and-by, Harry.'
Janet raised and let fall her eyebrows. The fiction, that so much having
been said, an immediate show of reserve on such topics preserved her in
ignorance of them, was one she subscribed to merely to humour the squire.
I was half in doubt whether I disliked or admired her want of decent
hypocrisy. She allowed him to suppose that she did not hear, but spoke
as a party to the conversation. My aunt Dorothy blamed Julia. The
squire thundered at Heriot; Janet, liking both, contented herself with
'I always think in these cases that the women must be the fools,' she
said. Her affectation was to assume a knowledge of the world and all
things in it. We rode over to Julia's cottage, on the outskirts of the
estate now devolved upon her husband. Irish eyes are certainly
bewitching lights. I thought, for my part, I could not do as the captain
was doing, serving his country in foreign parts, while such as these were
shining without a captain at home. Janet approved his conduct, and was
right. 'What can a wife think the man worth who sits down to guard his
house-door?' she answered my slight innuendo. She compared the man to a
kennel-dog. 'This,' said I, 'comes of made-up matches,' whereat she was
Julia took her own view of her position. She asked me whether it was not
dismal for one who was called a grass widow, and was in reality a salt-
water one, to keep fresh, with a lapdog, a cook, and a maid-servant, and
a postman that passed the gate twenty times for twice that he opened it,
and nothing to look for but this disappointing creature day after day!
At first she was shy, stole out a coy line of fingers to be shaken, and
lisped; and out of that mood came right-about-face, with an exclamation
of regret that she supposed she must not kiss me now. I projected, she
drew back. 'Shall Janet go?' said I. 'Then if nobody's present I 'll be
talked of,' said she, moaning queerly. The tendency of her hair to creep
loose of its bands gave her handsome face an aspect deliriously wild. I
complimented her on her keeping so fresh, in spite of her salt-water
widowhood. She turned the tables on me for looking so powerful, though I
was dying for a foreign princess.
'Oh! but that'll blow over,' she said; 'anything blows over as long as
you don't go up to the altar'; and she eyed her ringed finger, woebegone,
and flashed the pleasantest of smiles with the name of her William.
Heriot, whom she always called Walter Heriot, was, she informed me,
staying at Durstan Hall, the new great house, built on a plot of ground
that the Lancashire millionaire had caught up, while the squire and the
other landowners of the neighbourhood were sleeping. 'And if you get
Walter Heriot to come to you, Harry Richmond, it'll be better for him,
I'm sure,' she added, and naively:
'I 'd like to meet him up at the Grange.' Temple, she said, had left the
Navy and was reading in London for the Bar--good news to me.
'You have not told us anything about your princess, Harry,' Janet
observed on the ride home.
'Do you take her for a real person, Janet?'
'One thinks of her as a snow-mountain you've been admiring.'
'Very well; so let her be.'
'Is she kind and good?'
'Does she ride well?'
'She rides remarkably well.'
'She 's fair, I suppose?'
'Janet, if I saw you married to Temple, it would be the second great wish
of my heart.'
'Harry, you're a bit too cruel, as Julia would say.'
'Have you noticed she gets more and more Irish?'
'Perhaps she finds it is liked. Some women can adapt themselves . . .
they 're the happiest. All I meant to ask you is, whether your princess
is like the rest of us?'
'Not at all,' said I, unconscious of hurting.
'Never mind. Don't be hard on Julia. She has the making of a good
woman--a girl can see that; only she can't bear loneliness, and doesn't
understand yet what it is to be loved by a true gentleman. Persons of
that class can't learn it all at once.'
I was pained to see her in tears. Her figure was straight, and she spoke
without a quaver of her voice.
'Heriot's an excellent fellow,' I remarked.
'He is. I can't think ill of my friends,' said she.
'Dear girl, is it these two who make you unhappy?'
'No; but dear old grandada! . . .'
The course of her mind was obvious. I would rather have had her less
abrupt and more personal in revealing it. I stammered something.
'Heriot does not know you as I do,' she said, strangling a whimper.
'I was sure it was serious, though one's accustomed to associate
princesses with young men's dreams. I fear, Harry, it will half break
our dear old grandada's heart. He is rough, and you have often been
against him, for one unfortunate reason. If you knew him as I do you
would pity him sincerely. He hardly grumbled at all at your terribly
long absence. Poor old man! he hopes on.'
'He's incurably unjust to my father.'
'Your father has been with you all the time, Harry? I guessed it.'
'It generally bodes no good to the Grange. Do pardon me for saying that.
I know nothing of him; I know only that the squire is generous, and THAT
I stand for with all my might. Forgive me for what I said.'
'Forgive you--with all my heart. I like you all the better. You 're a
brave partisan. I don't expect women to be philosophers.'
'Well, Harry, I would take your side as firmly as anybody's.'
'Do, then; tell the squire how I am situated.'
'Ah!' she half sighed, 'I knew this was coming.'
'How could it other than come? You can do what you like with the squire.
I'm dependent on him, and I am betrothed to the Princess Ottilia. God
knows how much she has to trample down on her part. She casts off--to
speak plainly, she puts herself out of the line of succession, and for
whom? for me. In her father's lifetime she will hardly yield me her
hand; but I must immediately be in a position to offer mine. She may:
who can tell? she is above all women in power and firmness. You talk of
generosity; could there be a higher example of it?'
'I daresay; I know nothing of princesses,' Janet murmured. 'I don't
quite comprehend what she has done. The point is, what am I to do?'
'Prepare him for it. Soothe him in advance. Why, dear Janet, you can
reconcile him to anything in a minute.'
'Lie to him downright?'
'Now what on earth is the meaning of that, and why can't you speak
'I suppose I speak as I feel. I'm a plain speaker, a plain person. You
don't give me an easy task, friend Harry.'
'If you believe in his generosity, Janet, should you be afraid to put it
'Grandada's generosity, Harry? I do believe in it as I believe in my own
life. It happens to be the very thing I must keep myself from rousing in
him, to be of any service to you. Look at the old house!' She changed
her tone. 'Looking on old Riversley with the eyes of my head even, I
think I'm looking at something far away in the memory. Perhaps the deep
red brick causes it. There never was a house with so many beautiful
creepers. Bright as they are, you notice the roses on the wall. There's
a face for me forever from every window; and good-bye, Riversley !
Harry, I'll obey your wishes.'
So saying, she headed me, trotting down the heath-track.
JANET RENOUNCES ME
An illness of old Sewis, the butler,--amazingly resembling a sick monkey
in his bed,--kept me from paying a visit to Temple and seeing my father
for several weeks, during which time Janet loyally accustomed the squire
to hear of the German princess, and she did it with a decent and
agreeable cheerfulness that I quite approved of. I should have been
enraged at a martyr-like appearance on her part, for I demanded a
sprightly devotion to my interests, considering love so holy a thing,
that where it existed, all surrounding persons were bound to do it homage
and service. We were thrown together a great deal in attending on poor
old Sewis, who would lie on his pillows recounting for hours my father's
midnight summons of the inhabitants of Riversley, and his little Harry's
infant expedition into the world. Temple and Heriot came to stay at the
Grange, and assisted in some rough scene-painting--torrid colours
representing the island of Jamaica. We hung it at the foot of old
Sewis's bed. He awoke and contemplated it, and went downstairs the same
day, cured, he declared: the fact being that the unfortunate picture
testified too strongly to the reversal of all he was used to in life, in
having those he served to wait on him. The squire celebrated his
recovery by giving a servants' ball. Sewis danced with the handsomest
lass, swung her to supper, and delivered an extraordinary speech,
entirely concerning me, and rather to my discomposure, particularly so
when it was my fate to hear that the old man had made me the heir of his
savings. Such was his announcement, in a very excited voice, but
incidentally upon a solemn adjuration to the squire to beware of his
temper--govern his temper and not be a turncoat.
We were present at the head of the supper-table to hear our healths
drunk. Sewis spoke like a half-caste oblivious of his training, and of
the subjects he was at liberty to touch on as well. Evidently there was
a weight of foreboding on his mind. He knew his master well. The squire
excused him under the ejaculation, 'Drunk, by the Lord!' Sewis went so
far as to mention my father 'He no disgrace, sar, he no disgrace, I say!
but he pull one way, old house pull other way, and 'tween 'em my little
Harry torn apieces, squire. He set out in the night "You not enter it
any more!" Very well. I go my lawyer next day. You see my Will,
squire. Years ago, and little Harry so high. Old Sewis not the man to
change. He no turncoat, squire. God bless you, my master; you
recollect, and ladies tell you if you forget, old Sewis no turncoat. You
hate turncoat. You taught old Sewis, and God bless you, and Mr. Harry,
and British Constitution, all Amen!'
With that he bounded to bed. He was dead next morning.
The squire was humorous over my legacy. It amounted to about seventeen
hundred pounds invested in Government Stock, and he asked me what I meant
to do with it; proposed a Charity to be established on behalf of decayed
half-castes, insisting that servants' money could never be appropriated
to the uses of gentlemen. All the while he was muttering, 'Turncoat!
eh? turncoat?'--proof that the word had struck where it was aimed. For
me, after thinking on it, I had a superstitious respect for the legacy,
so I determined, in spite of the squire's laughter over 'Sixty pounds per
annum!' to let it rest in my name: I saw for the first time the
possibility that I might not have my grandfather's wealth to depend upon.
He warned me of growing miserly. With my father in London, living freely
on my property, I had not much fear of that. However, I said discreetly,
'I don't mind spending when I see my way.'
'Oh! see your way,' said he. 'Better a niggard than a chuckfist. Only,
there 's my girl: she 's good at accounts. One 'll do for them, Harry?--
ha'n't been long enough at home yet?'
Few were the occasions when our conversation did not diverge to this sort
of interrogation. Temple and Heriot, with whom I took counsel, advised
me to wait until the idea of the princess had worn its way into his
understanding, and leave the work to Janet. 'Though,' said Heriot to me
aside, 'upon my soul, it's slaughter.' He believed that Janet felt
keenly. But then, she admired him, and so they repaid one another.
I won my grandfather's confidence in practical matters on a trip we took
into Wales. But it was not enough for me to be a man of business, he
affirmed; he wanted me to have some ambition; why not stand for our
county at the next general election? He offered me his Welsh borough if
I thought fit to decline a contest. This was to speak as mightily as a
German prince. Virtually, in wealth and power, he was a prince; but of
how queer a kind! He was immensely gratified by my refraining to look
out for my father on our return journey through London, and remarked,
that I had not seen him for some time, he supposed. To which I said, no,
I had not, He advised me to let the fellow run his length. Suggesting
that he held it likely I contributed to 'the fellow's' support: he said
generously, 'Keep clear of him, Hal: I add you a thousand a year to your
allowance,' and damned me for being so thoughtful over it. I found
myself shuddering at a breath of anger from him. Could he not with a
word dash my hopes for ever? The warning I had taken from old Sewis
transformed me to something like a hypocrite, and I dare say I gave the
squire to understand, that I had not seen my father for a very long
period and knew nothing of his recent doings.
'Been infernally quiet these last two or three years,' the squire
muttered of the object of his aversion. 'I heard of a City widow last,
sick as a Dover packet-boat 'bout the fellow! Well, the women are
ninnies, but you're a man, Harry; you're not to be taken in any longer,
I replied that I knew my father better now, and was asked how the deuce
I knew him better; it was the world I knew better after my stay on the
I contained myself enough to say, 'Very well, the world, sir.'
'Flirted with one of their princesses?' He winked.
'On that subject I will talk to you some other time,' said I.
'Got to pay an indemnity? or what?' He professed alarm, and pushed for
explanations, with the air of a man of business ready to help me if need
were. 'Make a clean breast of it, Harry. You 're not the son of Tom
Fool the Bastard for nothing, I'll swear. All the same you're Beltham;
you're my grandson and heir, and I'll stand by you. Out with 't! She's
a princess, is she?'
The necessity for correcting his impressions taught me to think the
moment favourable. I said, 'I am engaged to her, sir.'
He returned promptly: 'Then you'll break it off.'
I shook my head.
'Why, you can't jilt my girl at home!' said he.
'Do you find a princess objectionable, sir?'
'Objectionable? She's a foreigner. I don't know her. I never saw her.
Here's my Janet I've brought up for you, under my own eyes, out of the
way of every damned soft-sawderer, safe and plump as a melon under a
glass, and you fight shy of her, and go and engage yourself to a
foreigner I don't know and never saw! By George, Harry, I'll call in a
parson to settle you soon as ever we sight Riversley. I'll couple you,
by George, I will! 'fore either of you know whether you're on your legs
or your backs.'
We were in the streets of London, so he was obliged to moderate his
'Have you consulted Janet?' said I.
'Consulted her? ever since she was a chick with half a feather on.'
'A chick with half a feather on,' I remarked, 'is not always of the same
mind as a piece of poultry of full plumage.'
'Hang your sneering and your talk of a fine girl, like my Janet, as a
piece of poultry, you young rooster! You toss your head up like a cock
too conceited to crow. I 'll swear the girl 's in love with you. She
does you the honour to be fond of you. She 's one in a million. A
handsome girl, straight-backed, honest, just a dash, and not too much, of
our blood in her.'
'Consult her again, sir,' I broke in. 'You will discover she is not of
your way of thinking.'
'Do you mean to say she's given you a left-hander, Harry?'
'I have only to say that I have not given her the option.'
He groaned going up the steps of his hotel, faced me once or twice, and
almost gained my sympathy by observing, 'When we're boys, the old ones
worry us; when we're old ones, the boys begin to tug!' He rarely spoke
so humanely,--rarely, at least, to me.
For a wonder, he let the matter drop: possibly because he found me
temperate. I tried the system on him with good effect during our stay in
London; that is, I took upon myself to be always cool, always courteous,
deliberate in my replies, and not uncordial, though I was for
representing the reserved young man. I obtained some praise for my style
and bearing among his acquaintances. To one lady passing an encomium on
me, he said, 'Oh, some foreign princess has been training him,' which
seemed to me of good augury.
My friends Temple and Heriot were among the Riversley guests at
Christmas. We rode over to John Thresher's, of whom we heard that the
pretty Mabel Sweetwinter had disappeared, and understood that suspicion
had fallen upon one of us gentlemen. Bob, her brother, had gone the way
of the bravest English fellows of his class-to America. We called on the
miller, a soured old man. Bob's evasion affected him more than Mabel's,
Martha Thresher said, in derision of our sex. I was pained to hear from
her that Bob supposed me the misleader of his sister; and that he had, as
she believed, left England, to avoid the misery of ever meeting me again,
because he liked me so much. She had been seen walking down the lanes
with some one resembling me in figure. Heriot took the miller's view,
counting the loss of one stout young Englishman to his country of far
greater importance than the escapades of dozens of girls, for which
simple creatures he had no compassion: he held the expression of it a
sham. He had grown coxcombical. Without talking of his conquests, he
talked largely of the ladies who were possibly in the situation of
victims to his grace of person, though he did not do so with any unctuous
boasting. On the contrary, there was a rather taking undertone of regret
that his enfeebled over-fat country would give her military son no
worthier occupation. He laughed at the mention of Julia Bulsted's name.
'She proves, Richie, marriage is the best of all receipts for women, just
as it's the worst for men. Poor Billy Bulsted, for instance, a first-
rate seaman, and his heart's only half in his profession since he and
Julia swore their oath; and no wonder,--he made something his own that
won't go under lock and key. No military or naval man ought ever to
'Stop,' said Temple, 'is the poor old country------ How about continuing
the race of heroes?'
Heriot commended him to rectories, vicarages, and curates' lodgings for
breeding grounds, and coming round to Julia related one of the racy
dialogues of her married life. 'The saltwater widow's delicious. Billy
rushes home from his ship in a hurry. What's this Greg writes me?--That
he 's got a friend of his to drink with him, d' ye mean, William?--
A friend of yours, ma'am.--And will you say a friend of mine is not a
friend of yours, William?--Julia, you're driving me mad!--And is that far
from crazy, where you said I drove you at first sight of me, William?
Back to his ship goes Billy with a song of love and constancy.'
I said nothing of my chagrin at the behaviour of the pair who had
furnished my first idea of the romantic beauty of love.
'Why does she talk twice as Irish as she used to, Heriot?'
'Just to coax the world to let her be as nonsensical as she likes. She's
awfully dull; she has only her nonsense to amuse her. I repeat: soldiers
and sailors oughtn't to marry. I'm her best friend. I am, on my honour:
for I 'm going to make Billy give up the service, since he can't give her
up. There she is!' he cried out, and waved his hat to a lady on
horseback some way down the slope of a road leading to the view of our
'There's the only girl living fit to marry a man and swear she 'll stick
to him through life and death.'
He started at a gallop. Temple would have gone too at any possible
speed, for he knew as well as I did that Janet was the girl alone capable
of winning a respectful word from Heriot; but I detained him to talk of
Ottilia and my dismal prospect of persuading the squire to consent to my
proposal for her, and to dower her in a manner worthy a princess. He
doled out his yes and no to me vacantly. Janet and Heriot came at a
walking pace to meet us, he questioning her, she replying, but a little
differently from her usual habit of turning her full face to the speaker.
He was evidently startled, and, to judge from his posture, repeated his
question, as one would say, 'You did this?' She nodded, and then uttered
some rapid words, glanced at him, laughed shyly, and sank her features
into repose as we drew near. She had a deep blush on her face. I
thought it might be, that Janet and her loud champion had come to
particular terms, a supposition that touched me with regrets for Temple's
sake. But Heriot was not looking pleased. It happened that whatever
Janet uttered struck a chord of opposition in me. She liked the Winter
and the Winter sunsets, had hopes of a frost for skating, liked our
climate, thought our way of keeping Christmas venerable, rejoiced in
dispensing the squire's bounties--called them bounties, joined Heriot
in abusing foreign countries to the exaltation of her own: all this with
'Well, Harry, I'm sorry you don't think as we do. And we do, don't we?'
she addressed him.
'I reserve a point,' he said, and not playfully.
She appeared distressed, and courted a change of expression in his
features, and I have to confess that never having seen her gaze upon
any one save myself in that fashion, which was with her very winning,
especially where some of her contralto tones of remonstrance or entreaty
aided it, I felt as a man does at a neighbour's shadow cast over his
rights of property.
Heriot dropped to the rear: I was glad to leave her with Temple, and glad
to see them canter ahead together on the sand of tie heaths.
'She has done it,' Heriot burst out abruptly. 'She has done it!' he said
again. 'Upon my soul, I never wished in my life before that I was a
marrying man: I might have a chance of ending worth something. She has
won the squire round with a thundering fib, and you're to have the German
if you can get her. Don't be in a hurry. The squire 'll speak to you
to-night: but think over it. Will you? Think what a girl this is. I
believe on my honour no man ever had such an offer of a true woman.
Come, don't think it's Heriot speaking--I've always liked her, of course.
But I have always respected her, and that's not of course. Depend upon
it, a woman who can be a friend of men is the right sort of woman to make
a match with. Do you suppose she couldn't have a dozen fellows round her
at the lift of her finger? the pick of the land! I'd trust her with an
army. I tell you, Janet Ilchester 's the only girl alive who'll double
the man she marries. I don't know another who wouldn't make the name of
wife laugh the poor devil out of house and company. She's firm as a
rock; and sweet as a flower on it! Will that touch you? Bah! Richie,
let's talk like men. I feel for her because she's fond of you, and I
know what it is when a girl like that sets her heart on a fellow.
There,' he concluded, 'I 'd ask you to go down on your knees and pray
before you decide against her!'
Heriot succeeded in raising a certain dull indistinct image in my mind of
a well-meaning girl, to whom I was bound to feel thankful, and felt so.
I thanked Heriot, too, for his friendly intentions. He had never seen
the Princess Ottilia. And at night I thanked my grandfather. He bore
himself, on the whole, like the good and kindly old gentleman Janet loved
to consider him. He would not stand in my light, he said, recurring to
that sheet-anchor of a tolerant sentence whenever his forehead began to
gather clouds. He regretted that Janet was no better than her sex in her
preference for rakes, and wished me to the deuce for bringing Heriot into
the house, and not knowing when I was lucky. 'German grandchildren, eh!'
he muttered. No Beltham had ever married a foreigner. What was the time
fixed between us for the marriage? He wanted to see his line safe before
he died. 'How do I know this foreign woman'll bear?' he asked, expecting
an answer. His hand was on the back of a chair, grasping and rocking it;
his eyes bent stormily on the carpet; they were set blinking rapidly
after a glance at me. Altogether his self-command was creditable to
Janet met me next day, saying with some insolence (so it struck me from
her liveliness): 'Well, it's all right, Harry? Now you'll be happy, I
hope. I did not shine in my reply. Her amiable part appeared to be to
let me see how brilliant and gracious the commonplace could be made to
look. She kept Heriot at the Grange, against the squire's remonstrance
and her mother's. 'It 's to keep him out of harm's way: the women he
knows are not of the best kind for him,' she said, with astounding
fatuity. He submitted, and seemed to like it. She must be teaching
Temple to skate figures in the frost, with a great display of good-
humoured patience, and her voice at musical pitches. But her principal
affectation was to talk on matters of business with Mr. Burgin and Mr.
Trewint, the squire's lawyer and bailiff, on mines and interest, on money
and economical questions; not shrinking from politics either, until the
squire cries out to the males assisting in the performance, 'Gad, she 's
a head as good as our half-dozen put together,' and they servilely joined
their fragmentary capitals in agreement. She went so far as to retain
Peterborough to teach her Latin. He was idling in the expectation of a
living in the squire's gift.
The annoyance for me was that I could not detach myself from a
contemplation of these various scenes, by reverting to my life in
Germany. The preposterous closing of my interview with Ottilia blocked
the way, and I was unable to write to her--unable to address her even in
imagination, without pangs of shame at the review of the petty conspiracy
I had sanctioned to entrap her to plight her hand to me, and without
perpetually multiplying excuses for my conduct. So to escape them I was
reduced to study Janet, forming one of her satellites. She could say to
me impudently, with all the air of a friendly comrade, 'Had your letter
from Germany yet, Harry?' She flew--she was always on the chase. I saw
her permit Heriot to kiss her hand, and then the squire appeared, and
Heriot and she burst into laughter, and the squire, with a puzzled face,
would have the game explained to him, but understood not a bit of it,
only growled at me; upon which Janet became serious and chid him. I was
told by my aunt Dorothy to admire this behaviour of hers. One day she
certainly did me a service: a paragraph in one of the newspapers spoke of
my father, not flatteringly: 'Richmond is in the field again,' it
commenced. The squire was waiting for her to hand the paper to him.
None of us could comprehend why she played him off and denied him his
right to the first perusal of the news; she was voluble, almost witty,
full of sprightly Roxalana petulance.
'This paper,' she said, 'deserves to be burnt,' and she was allowed to
burn it--money article, mining column as well--on the pretext of an
infamous anti-Tory leader, of which she herself composed the first
sentence to shock the squire completely. I had sight of that paper some
time afterwards. Richmond was in the field again, it stated, with mock
flourishes. But that was not the worst. My grandfather's name was down
there, and mine, and Princess Ottilia's. My father's connection with the
court of Eppenwelzen-Sarkeld was alluded to as the latest, and next to
his winning the heiress of Riversley, the most successful of his
ventures, inasmuch as his son, if rumour was to be trusted, had obtained
the promise of the hand of the princess. The paragraph was an excerpt
from a gossiping weekly journal, perhaps less malevolent than I thought
it. There was some fun to be got out of a man who, the journal in
question was informed, had joined the arms of England and a petty German
principality stamped on his plate and furniture.
My gratitude to Janet was fervent enough when I saw what she had saved me
from. I pressed her hand and held it. I talked stupidly, but I made my
cruel position intelligible to her, and she had the delicacy, on this
occasion, to keep her sentiments regarding my father unuttered. We sat
hardly less than an hour side by side--I know not how long hand in hand.
The end was an extraordinary trembling in the limb abandoned to me. It
seized her frame. I would have detained her, but it was plain she
suffered both in her heart and her pride. Her voice was under fair
command-more than mine was. She counselled me to go to London, at once.
'I would be off to London if I were you, Harry,'--for the purpose of
checking my father's extravagances,--would have been the further wording,
which she spared me; and I thanked her, wishing, at the same time,
that she would get the habit of using choicer phrases whenever there
might, by chance, be a stress of emotion between us. Her trembling,
and her 'I'd be off,' came into unpleasant collision in the recollection.
I acknowledge to myself that she was a true and hearty friend. She
listened with interest to my discourse on the necessity of my being in
Parliament before I could venture to propose formally for the hand of the
princess, and undertook to bear the burden of all consequent negotiations
with my grandfather. If she would but have allowed me to speak of
Temple, instead of saying, 'Don't, Harry, I like him so much!' at the
very mention of his name, I should have sincerely felt my indebtedness to
her, and some admiration of her fine spirit and figure besides. I could
not even agree with my aunt Dorothy that Janet was handsome. When I had
to grant her a pardon I appreciated her better.
MY BANKERS' BOOK
The squire again did honour to Janet's eulogy and good management of him.
'And where,' said she, 'would you find a Radical to behave so generously,
Harry, when it touches him so?'
He accorded me his permission to select my side in politics, merely
insisting that I was never to change it, and this he requested me to
swear to, for (he called the ghost of old Sewis to witness) he abhorred a
'If you're to be a Whig, or a sneaking half-and-half, I can't help you
much,' he remarked. 'I can pop a young Tory in for my borough, maybe;
but I can't insult a number of independent Englishmen by asking them to
vote for the opposite crew; that's reasonable, eh? And I can't promise
you plumpers for the county neither. You can date your Address from
Riversley. You'll have your house in town. Tell me this princess of
yours is ready with her hand, and,' he threw in roughly, 'is a
respectable young woman, I'll commence building. You'll have a house fit
for a prince in town and country, both.'
Temple had produced an effect on him by informing him that 'this princess
of mine' was entitled to be considered a fit and proper person, in rank
and blood, for an alliance with the proudest royal Houses of Europe, and
my grandfather was not quite destitute of consolation in the prospect I
presented to him. He was a curious study to me, of the Tory mind, in its
attachment to solidity, fixity, certainty, its unmatched generosity
within a limit, its devotion to the family, and its family eye for the
country. An immediate introduction to Ottilia would have won him to
enjoy the idea of his grandson's marriage; but not having seen her, he
could not realize her dignity, nor even the womanliness of a 'foreign
'Thank God for one thing,' he said: 'we shan't have that fellow
bothering--shan't have the other half of your family messing the
business. You'll have to account for him to your wife as you best can.
I 've nothing to do with him, mind that. He came to my house, stole my
daughter, crazed her wits, dragged us all . . .'
The excuse to turn away from the hearing of abuse of my father was too
good to be neglected, though it was horribly humiliating that I should
have to take advantage of it--vexatious that I should seem chargeable
with tacit lying in allowing the squire to suppose the man he hated to be
a stranger to the princess. Not feeling sure whether it might be common
prudence to delude him even passively, I thought of asking Janet for her
opinion, but refrained. A stout deceiver has his merits, but a feeble
hypocrite applying to friends to fortify him in his shifts and
tergiversations must provoke contempt. I desired that Janet might
continue to think well of me. I was beginning to drop in my own esteem,
which was the mirror of my conception of Ottilia's view of her lover.
Now, had I consulted Janet, I believe the course of my history would have
been different, for she would not then, I may imagine, have been guilty
of her fatal slip of the tongue that threw us into heavy seas when we
thought ourselves floating on canal waters. A canal barge (an image to
me of the most perfect attainable peace), suddenly, on its passage
through our long fir-woods, with their scented reeds and flowing rushes,
wild balsam and silky cotton-grass beds, sluiced out to sea and storm,
would be somewhat in my likeness soon after a single luckless observation
had passed at our Riversley breakfast-table one Sunday morning.
My aunt Dorothy and Mr. Peterborough were conversing upon the varieties
of Christian sects, and particularly such as approached nearest to
Anglicanism, together with the strange, saddening fact that the Christian
religion appeared to be more divided than, Peterborough regretted to say,
the forms of idolatry established by the Buddha, Mahomet, and other
impostors. He claimed the audacious merit for us, that we did not
discard the reason of man we admitted man's finite reason to our school
of faith, and it was found refractory. Hence our many divisions.
'The Roman Catholics admit reason?' said Janet, who had too strong a turn
for showing her keenness in little encounters with Peterborough.
'No,' said he; 'the Protestants.' And, anxious to elude her, he pressed
on to enchain my aunt Dorothy's attention. Janet plagued him meanwhile;
and I helped her. We ran him and his schoolboy, the finite refractory,
up and down, until Peterborough was glad to abandon him, and Janet said,
'Did you preach to the Germans much?' He had officiated in Prince
Ernest's private chapel: not, he added in his egregious modesty, not that
he personally wished to officiate.
'It was Harry's wish?' Janet said, smiling.
'My post of tutor,' Peterborough hastened to explain, 'was almost
entirely supernumerary. The circumstances being so, I the more readily
acquiesced in the title of private chaplain, prepared to fulfil such
duties as devolved upon me in that capacity, and acting thereon I
proffered my occasional services. Lutheranism and Anglicanism are not,
doubtless you are aware, divided on the broader bases. We are common
Protestants. The Papacy, I can assure you, finds as little favour with
one as with the other. Yes, I held forth, as you would say, from time to
time. My assumption of the title of private chaplain, it was thought,
improved the family dignity--that is, on our side.'
'Thought by Harry?' said Janet; and my aunt Dorothy said, 'You and Harry
had a consultation about it?'
'Wanted to appear as grand as they could,' quoth the squire.
Peterborough signified an assent, designed to modify the implication.
'Not beyond due bounds, I trust, sir.'
'Oh! now I understand,' Janet broke out in the falsetto notes of a
puzzle solved in the mind. 'It was his father! Harry proclaiming his
'Mr. Harry's father did first suggest--' said Peterborough, but her
quickly-altered features caused him to draw in his breath, as she had
done after one short laugh.
My grandfather turned a round side-eye on me, hard as a cock's.
Janet immediately started topics to fill Peterborough's mouth: the
weather, the walk to church, the probable preacher. 'And, grandada,'
said she to the squire, who was muttering ominously with a grim under-
jaw, 'His private chaplain!' and for this once would not hear her,
'Grandada, I shall drive you over to see papa this afternoon.' She talked
as if nothing had gone wrong. Peterborough, criminal red, attacked a
jam-pot for a diversion. 'Such sweets are rare indeed on the Continent,'
he observed to my aunt Dorothy. 'Our homemade dainties are matchless.'
'Private chaplain!' the squire growled again.
'It's you that preach this afternoon,' Janet said to Peterborough. 'Do
you give us an extempore sermon?'
'You remind me, Miss Ilchester, I must look to it; I have a little
trimming to do.'
Peterborough thought he might escape, but the squire arrested him.
'You'll give me five minutes before you're out of the house, please.
D' ye smoke on Sundays?'
'Not on Sundays, sir,' said Peterborough, openly and cordially, as to
signify that they were of one mind regarding the perniciousness of Sunday
'See you don't set fire to my ricks with your foreign chaplain's tricks.
I spied you puffing behind one t' other day. There,' the squire
dispersed Peterborough's unnecessary air of abstruse recollection, 'don't
look as though you were trying to hit on a pin's head in a bushel of
oats. Don't set my ricks on fire--that 's all.'
'Mr. Peterborough,' my aunt Dorothy interposed her voice to soften this
rough treatment of him with the offer of some hot-house flowers for his
' Oh, I thank you!' I heard the garlanded victim lowing as I left him to
the squire's mercy.
Janet followed me out. 'It was my fault, Harry. You won't blame him, I
know. But will he fib? I don't think he's capable of it, and I'm sure
he can't run and double. Grandada will have him fast before a minute is
I told her to lose no time in going and extracting the squire's promise
that Peterborough should have his living,--so much it seemed possible to
She flew back, and in Peterborough's momentary absence, did her work.
Nothing could save the unhappy gentleman from a distracting scene and
much archaic English. The squire's power of vituperation was notorious:
he could be more than a match for roadside navvies and predatory tramps
in cogency of epithet. Peterborough came to me drenched, and wailing
that he had never heard such language,--never dreamed of it. And to find
himself the object of it!--and, worse, to be unable to conscientiously
defend himself! The pain to him was in the conscience,--which is, like
the spleen, a function whose uses are only to be understood in its
derangement. He had eased his conscience to every question right out,
and he rejoiced to me at the immense relief it gave him. Conscientiously,
he could not deny that he knew the squire's objection to my being in my
father's society; and he had connived at it 'for reasons, my dearest
Harry, I can justify to God and man, but not--I had to confess as much--
not, I grieve to say, to your grandfather. I attempted to do justice to
the amiable qualities of the absent. In a moment I was assailed with
epithets that . . . and not a word is to be got in when he is so
violent. One has to make up one's mind to act Andromeda, and let him be
the sea-monster, as somebody has said; I forget the exact origin of the
The squire certainly had a whole ocean at command. I strung myself to
pass through the same performance. To my astonishment I went
unchallenged. Janet vehemently asserted that she had mollified the angry
old man, who, however, was dark of visage, though his tongue kept
silence. He was gruff over his wine-glass the blandishments of his
favourite did not brighten him. From his point of view he had been
treated vilely, and he was apparently inclined to nurse his rancour and
keep my fortunes trembling in the balance. Under these circumstances it
was impossible for me to despatch a letter to Ottilia, though I found
that I could write one now, and I sat in my room writing all day,--most
eloquent stuff it was. The shadow of misfortune restored the sense of my
heroical situation, which my father had extinguished, and this unlocked
the powers of speech. I wrote so admirably that my wretchedness could
enjoy the fine millinery I decorated it in. Then to tear the noble
composition to pieces was a bitter gratification. Ottilia's station
repelled and attracted me mysteriously. I could not separate her from
it, nor keep my love of her from the contentions into which it threw me.
In vain I raved, 'What is rank?' There was a magnet in it that could at
least set me quivering and twisting, behaving like a man spellbound, as
madly as any hero of the ballads under a wizard's charm.
At last the squire relieved us. He fixed that side-cast cock's eye of
his on me, and said, 'Where 's your bankers' book, sir?'
I presumed that it was with my bankers, but did not suggest the
possibility that my father might have it in his custody; for he had a
cheque-book of his own, and regulated our accounts. Why not? I thought,
and flushed somewhat defiantly. The money was mine.
'Any objection to my seeing that book?' said the squire.
'None whatever, sir.'
He nodded. I made it a point of honour to write for the book to be sent
down to me immediately.
The book arrived, and the squire handed it to me to break the cover,
insisting, 'You're sure you wouldn't rather not have me look at it?'
'Quite,' I replied. The question of money was to me perfectly
unimportant. I did not see a glimpse of danger in his perusing the list
of my expenses.
''Cause I give you my word I know nothing about it now,' he said.
I complimented him on his frank method of dealing, and told him to look
at the book if he pleased, but with prudence sufficiently awake to check
the declaration that I had not once looked at it myself.
He opened it. We had just assembled in the hall, where breakfast was
laid during Winter, before a huge wood fire. Janet had her teeth on her
lower lip, watching the old man's face. I did not condescend to be
curious; but when I turned my head to him he was puffing through thin
lips, and then his mouth crumpled in a knob. He had seen sights.
'By George, I must have breakfast 'fore I go into this!' he exclaimed,
and stared as if he had come out of an oven.
Dorothy Beltham reminded him that Prayers had not been read.
'Prayers!' He was about to objurgate, but affirmatived her motion to ring
the bell for the servants, and addressed Peterborough: 'You read 'em
abroad every morning?'
Peterborough's conscience started off on its inevitable jog-trot at a
touch of the whip. 'A-yes; that is--oh, it was my office.' He had to
recollect with exactitude:
'I should specify exceptions; there were intervals . . .'
'Please, open your Bible,' the squire cut him short; 'I don't want a
damned fine edge on everything.'
Partly for an admonition to him, or in pure nervousness, Peterborough
blew his nose monstrously: an unlucky note; nothing went well after it.
'A slight cold,' he murmured and resumed the note, and threw himself
maniacally into it. The unexpected figure of Captain Bulsted on tiptoe,
wearing the ceremonial depressed air of intruders on these occasions,
distracted our attention for a moment.
'Fresh from ship, William?' the squire called out.
The captain ejaculated a big word, to judge of it from the aperture, but
it was mute as his footing on the carpet, and he sat and gazed devoutly
toward Peterborough, who had waited to see him take his seat, and must
now, in his hurry to perform his duty, sweep the peccant little redbound
book to the floor. 'Here, I'll have that,' said the squire. 'Allow me,
sir,' said Peterborough; and they sprang into a collision.
'Would you jump out of your pulpit to pick up an old woman's umbrella?'
the squire asked him in wrath, and muttered of requiring none of his
clerical legerdemain with books of business. Tears were in
Peterborough's eyes. My aunt Dorothy's eyes dwelt kindly on him to
encourage him, but the man's irritable nose was again his enemy.
Captain Bulsted chanced to say in the musical voice of inquiry: ' Prayers
are not yet over, are they?'
'No, nor never will be with a parson blowing his horn at this rate,' the
squire rejoined. 'And mind you,' he said to Peterborough, after
dismissing the servants, to whom my aunt Dorothy read the morning lessons
apart, 'I'd not have had this happen, sir, for money in lumps. I've
always known I should hang the day when my house wasn't blessed in the
morning by prayer. So did my father, and his before him. Fiddle! sir,
you can't expect young people to wear decent faces when the parson's
hopping over the floor like a flea, and trumpeting as if the organ-pipe
wouldn't have the sermon at any price. You tried to juggle me out of
this book here.'
'On my!--indeed, sir, no!' Peterborough proclaimed his innocence, and it
was unlikely that the squire should have suspected him.
Captain Bulsted had come to us for his wife, whom he had not found at
home on his arrival last midnight.
'God bless my soul,' said the squire, 'you don't mean to tell me she's
gone off, William?'
'Oh! dear, no, sir,' said the captain, 'she's only cruising.'
The squire recommended a draught of old ale. The captain accepted it.
His comportment was cheerful in a sober fashion, notwithstanding the
transparent perturbation of his spirit. He answered my aunt Dorothy's
questions relating to Julia simply and manfully, as became a gallant
seaman, cordially excusing his wife for not having been at home to
welcome him, with the singular plea, based on his knowledge of the sex,
that the nearer she knew him to be the less able was she to sit on her
chair waiting like Patience. He drank his ale from the hands of
Sillabin, our impassive new butler, who had succeeded Sewis, the squire
told him, like a Whig Ministry the Tory; proof that things were not
'I thought, sir, things were getting better,' said the captain.
'The damnedest mistake ever made, William. How about the Fall of Man,
then? eh? You talk like a heathen Radical. It's Scripture says we're
going from better to worse, and that's Tory doctrine. And stick to the
good as long as you can! Why, William, you were a jolly bachelor once.'
'Sir, and ma'am,' the captain bowed to Dorothy Beltham, 'I have, thanks
to you, never known happiness but in marriage, and all I want is my
The squire fretted for Janet to depart. 'I 'm going, grandada,' she
said. 'You'll oblige me by not attending to any matter of business
to-day. Give me that book of Harry's to keep for you.'
'How d' ye mean, my dear?'
'It 's bad work done on a Sunday, you know.'
'So it is. I'll lock up the book.'
'I have your word for that, grandada,' said Janet.
The ladies retired, taking Peterborough with them.
'Good-bye to the frocks! and now, William, out with your troubles,' said
The captain's eyes were turned to the door my aunt Dorothy had passed
'You remember the old custom, sir!'
'Ay, do I, William. Sorry for you then; infernally sorry for you now,
that I am! But you've run your head into the halter.'
'I love her, sir; I love her to distraction. Let any man on earth say
she's not an angel, I flatten him dead as his lie. By the way, sir, I am
bound in duty to inform you I am speaking of my wife.'
'To be sure you are, William, and a trim schooner-yacht she is.'
'She 's off, sir; she's off!'
I thought it time to throw in a word. 'Captain Bulsted, I should hold
any man but you accountable to me for hinting such things of my friend.'
'Harry, your hand,' he cried, sparkling.
'Hum; his hand!' growled the squire. 'His hand's been pretty lively on
the Continent, William. Here, look at this book, William, and the bundle
o' cheques! No, I promised my girl. We'll go into it to-morrow, he and
I, early. The fellow has shot away thousands and thousands--been
gallivanting among his foreign duchesses and countesses. There 's a
petticoat in that bank-book of his; and more than one, I wager. Now he's
for marrying a foreign princess--got himself in a tangle there, it
'Mightily well done, Harry!' Captain Bulsted struck a terrific encomium
on my shoulder, groaning, 'May she be true to you, my lad!'
The squire asked him if he was going to church that morning.
'I go to my post, sir, by my fireside,' the captain replied; nor could he
be induced to leave his post vacant by the squire's promise to him of a
sermon that would pickle his temper for a whole week's wear and tear.
He regretted extremely that he could not enjoy so excellent a trial of
his patience, but he felt himself bound to go to his post and wait.
I walked over to Bulsted with him, and heard on the way that it was
Heriot who had called for her and driven her off. 'The man had been,
I supposed,' Captain Bulsted said, 'deputed by some of you to fetch her
over to Riversley. My servants mentioned his name. I thought it
adviseable not to trouble the ladies with it to-day.' He meditated.
'I hoped I should find her at the Grange in the morning, Harry. I slept
on it, rather than startle the poor lamb in the night.'
I offered him to accompany him at once to Heriot's quarters.
'What! and let my wife know I doubted her fidelity. My girl shall never
accuse me of that.'
As it turned out, Julia had been taken by Heriot on a visit to Lady Maria
Higginson, the wife of the intrusive millionaire, who particularly
desired to know her more intimately. Thoughtless Julia, accepting the
impudent invitation without scruple, had allowed herself to be driven
away without stating the place of her destination. She and Heriot were
in the Higginsons' pew at church. Hearing from Janet of her husband's
arrival, she rushed home, and there, instead of having to beg
forgiveness, was summoned to grant pardon. Captain Bulsted had drawn
largely on Squire Gregory's cellar to assist him in keeping his post.
The pair appeared before us fondling ineffably next day, neither one
of them capable of seeing that our domestic peace at the Grange was
unseated. 'We 're the two wretchedest creatures alive; haven't any of
ye to spare a bit of sympathy for us?' Julia began. 'We 're like on a
pitchfork. There's William's duty to his country, and there 's his
affection for me, and they won't go together, because Government, which
is that horrid Admiralty, fears pitching and tossing for post-captains'
wives. And William away, I 'm distracted, and the Admiralty's hair's on
end if he stops. And, 'deed, Miss Beltham, I'm not more than married to
just half a husband.'
The captain echoed her, 'Half! but happy enough for twenty whole ones,
if you'll be satisfied, my duck.'
Julia piteously entreated me, for my future wife's sake, not to take
service under Government. As for the Admiralty, she said, it had no
characteristic but the abominable one, that it hated a woman. The squire
laid two or three moderately coarse traps for the voluble frank creature,
which she evaded with surprising neatness, showing herself more awake
than one would have imagined her. Janet and I fancied she must have come
with the intention to act uxorious husband and Irish wife for the
distinct purpose of diverting the squire's wrath from me, for he greatly
delighted in the sight of merry wedded pairs. But they were as simple as
possible in their display of happiness.
It chanced that they came opportunely. My bankers' book had been the
theme all the morning, and an astonishing one to me equally with my
grandfather: Since our arrival in England, my father had drawn nine
thousand pounds. The sums expended during our absence on the Continent
reached the perplexing figures of forty-eight thousand. I knew it too
likely, besides, that all debts were not paid. Self--self--self drew for
thousands at a time; sometimes, as the squire's convulsive forefinger
indicated, for many thousands within a week. It was incomprehensible to
him until I, driven at bay by questions and insults, and perceiving that
concealment could not long be practised, made a virtue of the situation
by telling him (what he in fact must have seen) that my father possessed
a cheque-book as well as I, and likewise drew upon the account. We had
required the money; it was mine, and I had sold out Bank Stock and
Consols,--which gave very poor interest, I remarked cursorily-and had
kept the money at my bankers', to draw upon according to our necessities.
I pitied the old man while speaking. His face was livid; language died
from his lips. He asked to have little things explained to him--the two
cheque-books, for instance,--and what I thought of doing when this money
was all gone: for he supposed I did not expect the same amount to hand
every two years; unless, he added, I had given him no more than a couple
of years' lease of life when I started for my tour. 'Then the money's
gone!' he summed up; and this was the signal for redemanding
explanations. Had he not treated me fairly and frankly in handing over
my own to me on the day of my majority? Yes.
'And like a fool, you think--eh?'
'I have no such thought in my head, sir.'
'You have been keeping that fellow in his profligacy, and you 're keeping
him now. Why, you 're all but a beggar! . . . Comes to my house,
talks of his birth, carries off my daughter, makes her mad, lets her
child grow up to lay hold of her money, and then grips him fast and pecks
him, fleeces him! . . . You 're beggared--d 'ye know that? He's had
the two years of you, and sucked you dry. What were you about? What
were you doing? Did you have your head on? You shared cheque-books?
good! . . . The devil in hell never found such a fool as you! You
had your house full of your foreign bonyrobers--eh? Out with it! How
did you pass your time? Drunk and dancing?'
By such degrees my grandfather worked himself up to the pitch for his
style of eloquence. I have given a faint specimen of it. When I took
the liberty to consider that I had heard enough, he followed me out of
the library into the hall, where Janet stood. In her presence, he
charged the princess and her family with being a pack of greedy
adventurers, conspirators with 'that fellow' to plunder me; and for a
proof of it, he quoted my words, that my father's time had been spent in
superintending the opening of a coal-mine on Prince Ernest's estate.
'That fellow pretending to manage a coal-mine!' Could not a girl see it
was a shuffle to hoodwink a greenhorn? And now he remembered it was
Colonel Goodwin and his daughter who had told him of having seen 'the
fellow' engaged in playing Court-buffoon to a petty German prince, and
performing his antics, cutting capers like a clown at a fair.
'Shame!' said Janet.
'Hear her!' The squire turned to me.
But she cried: 'Oh! grandada, hear yourself! or don't, be silent. If
Harry has offended you, speak like one gentleman to another. Don't rob
me of my love for you: I haven't much besides that.'
'No, because of a scoundrel and his young idiot!'
Janet frowned in earnest, and said: 'I don't permit you to change the
meaning of the words I speak.'
He muttered a proverb of the stables. Reduced to behave temperately, he
began the whole history of my bankers' book anew--the same queries, the
same explosions and imprecations.
'Come for a walk with me, dear Harry,' said Janet.
I declined to be protected in such a manner, absurdly on my dignity; and
the refusal, together possibly with some air of contemptuous independence
in the tone of it, brought the squire to a climax. 'You won't go out and
walk with her? You shall go down on your knees to her and beg her to
give you her arm for a walk. By God! you shall, now, here, on the spot,
or off you go to your German princess, with your butler's legacy, and
nothing more from me but good-bye and the door bolted. Now, down with
He expected me to descend.
'And if he did, he would never have my arm.' Janet's eyes glittered hard
on the squire.
'Before that rascal dies, my dear, he shall whine like a beggar out in
the cold for the tips of your fingers!'
'Not if he asks me first,' said Janet.
This set him off again. He realized her prospective generosity, and
contrasted it with my actual obtuseness. Janet changed her tactics. She
assumed indifference. But she wanted experience, and a Heriot to help
her in playing a part. She did it badly--overdid it; so that the old
man, now imagining both of us to be against his scheme for uniting us,
counted my iniquity as twofold. Her phrase, 'Harry and I will always be
friends,' roused the loudest of his denunciations upon me, as though
there never had been question of the princess, so inveterate was his
mind's grasp of its original designs. Friends! Would our being friends
give him heirs by law to his estate and name? And so forth. My aunt
Dorothy came to moderate his invectives. In her room the heavily-
burdened little book of figures was produced, and the items read aloud;
and her task was to hear them without astonishment, but with a business-
like desire to comprehend them accurately, a method that softened the
squire's outbursts by degrees. She threw out hasty running commentaries:
'Yes, that was for a yacht'; and 'They were living at the Court of a
prince'; such and such a sum was 'large, but Harry knew his grandfather
did not wish him to make a poor appearance.'
'Why, do you mean to swear to me, on your oath, Dorothy Beltham,' said
the squire, amazed at the small amazement he created 'you think these two
fellows have been spending within the right margin? What'll be women's
'No,' she answered demurely. 'I think Harry has been extravagant, and
has had his lesson. And surely it is better now than later? But you
are, not making allowances for his situation as the betrothed of a
'That 's what turns your head,' said he; and she allowed him to have the
notion, and sneer at herself and her sex.
'How about this money drawn since he came home?' the squire persisted.
My aunt Dorothy reddened. He struck his finger on the line marking the
sum, repeating his demand; and at this moment Captain Bulsted and Julia
arrived. The ladies manoeuvred so that the captain and the squire were
left alone together. Some time afterward the captain sent out word that
he begged his wife's permission to stay to dinner at the Grange, and
requested me to favour him by conducting his wife to Bulsted: proof, as
Julia said, that the two were engaged in a pretty hot tussle. She was
sure her William would not be the one to be beaten.
I led her away, rather depressed by the automaton performance assigned to
me; from which condition I awoke with a touch of horror to find myself
paying her very warm compliments; for she had been coquettish and
charming to cheer me, and her voice was sweet. We reached a point in our
conversation I know not where, but I must have spoken with some warmth.
'Then guess,' said she, 'what William is suffering for your sake now,
Harry'; that is, 'suffering in remaining away from me on your account';
and thus, in an instant, with a skill so intuitive as to be almost
unconscious, she twirled me round to a right sense of my position, and
set me reflecting, whether a love that clad me in such imperfect armour
as to leave me penetrable to these feminine graces--a plump figure,
swinging skirts, dewy dark eyelids, laughing red lips--could indeed be
absolute love. And if it was not love of the immortal kind, what was I?
I looked back on the thought like the ship on its furrow through the
waters, and saw every mortal perplexity, and death under. My love of
Ottilia delusion? Then life was delusion! I contemplated Julia in
alarm, somewhat in the light fair witches were looked on when the faggots
were piled for them. The sense of her unholy attractions abased and
mortified me: and it set me thinking on the strangeness of my disregard
of Mdlle. Jenny Chassediane when in Germany, who was far sprightlier,
if not prettier, and, as I remembered, had done me the favour to make
discreet play with her eyelids in our encounters, and long eyes in
passing. I caught myself regretting my coldness of that period; for
which regrets I could have swung the scourge upon my miserable flesh.
Ottilia's features seemed dying out of my mind. 'Poor darling Harry!'
Julia sighed. 'And d' ye know, the sight of a young man far gone in love
gives me the trembles?' I rallied her concerning the ladder scene in my
old schooldays, and the tender things she had uttered to Heriot. She
answered, 'Oh, I think I got them out of poets and chapters about
lovemaking, or I felt it very much. And that's what I miss in William;
he can't talk soft nice nonsense. I believe him, he would if he could,
but he 's like a lion of the desert--it 's a roar!'
I rejoiced when we heard the roar. Captain Bulsted returned to take
command of his ship, not sooner than I wanted him, and told us of a
fierce tussle with the squire. He had stuck to him all day, and up to 11
P.M. 'By George! Harry, he had to make humble excuses to dodge out of
eyeshot a minute. Conquered him over the fourth bottle! And now all's
right. He'll see your dad. "In a barn?" says the squire. "Here 's to
your better health, sir," I bowed to him; "gentlemen don't meet in barns;
none but mice and traps make appointments there." To shorten my story,
my lad, I have arranged for the squire and your excellent progenitor to
meet at Bulsted: we may end by bringing them over a bottle of old Greg's
best. "See the boy's father," I kept on insisting. The point is, that
this confounded book must be off your shoulders, my lad. A dirty dog may
wash in a duck-pond. You see, Harry, the dear old squire may set up your
account twenty times over, but he has a right to know how you twirl the
coin. He says you don't supply the information. I suggest to him that
your father can, and will. So we get them into a room together. I'll be
answerable for the rest. And now top your boom, and to bed here: off in
the morning and tug the big vessel into port here! And, Harry, three
cheers, and another bottle to crown the victory, if you 're the man for
Julia interposed a decided negative to the proposal; an ordinarily
unlucky thing to do with bibulous husbands, and the captain looked
uncomfortably checked; but when he seemed to be collecting to assert
himself, the humour of her remark, 'Now, no bravado, William,' disarmed
'Bravado, my sweet chuck?'
'Won't another bottle be like flashing your sword after you've won the
day?' said she.
He slung his arm round her, and sent a tremendous whisper into my ear--
'A perfect angel!'
I started for London next day, more troubled aesthetically regarding the
effect produced on me by this order of perfect angels than practically
anxious about material affairs, though it is true that when I came into
proximity with my father, the thought of his all but purely mechanical
power of making money spin, fly, and vanish, like sparks from a fire-
engine, awakened a serious disposition in me to bring our monetary
partnership to some definite settlement. He was living in splendour,
next door but one to the grand establishment he had driven me to from
Dipwell in the old days, with Mrs. Waddy for his housekeeper once more,
Alphonse for his cook. Not living on the same scale, however, the
troubled woman said. She signified that it was now the whirlwind.
I could not help smiling to see how proud she was of him, nevertheless,
as a god-like charioteer--in pace, at least.
'Opera to-night,' she answered my inquiries for him, admonishing me by
her tone that I ought not to be behindhand in knowing his regal rules and
habits. Praising his generosity, she informed me that he had spent one
hundred pounds, and offered a reward of five times the sum, for the
discovery of Mabel Sweetwinter. 'Your papa never does things by halves,
Mr. Harry!' Soon after she was whimpering, 'Oh, will it last?' I was
shown into the room called 'The princess's room,' a miracle of furniture,
not likely to be occupied by her, I thought, the very magnificence of the
apartment striking down hope in my heart like cold on a nerve. Your papa
says the whole house is to be for you, Mr. Harry, when the happy day
comes.' Could it possibly be that he had talked of the princess? I took
a hasty meal and fortified myself with claret to have matters clear with
him before the night was over.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Discreet play with her eyelids in our encounters
Excellent is pride; but oh! be sure of its foundations
I do not defend myself ever
Nations at war are wild beasts
Only true race, properly so called, out of India--German
Some so-called laws of honour
They are little ironical laughter--Accidents
War is only an exaggerated form of duelling
Winter mornings are divine. They move on noiselessly