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The Amazing Marriage, Complete by George Meredith

Part 5 out of 9

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Fleetwood and the countess, those vulgar Gardens across the water, long
since abandoned by the Fashion, were the most suitable. Thither one fair
June night, for the sake of showing the dowager countess and her
beautiful cousin, the French nobleman, Sir Meeson Corby, and others, what
were the pleasures of the London lower orders, my lord had the whim to
conduct them,--merely a parade of observation once round;--the ladies
veiled, the gentlemen with sticks, and two servants following, one of
whom, dressed in quiet black, like the peacefullest of parsons, was my
lord's pugilist, Christopher Ives.

Now, here we come to history: though you will remember what History is.

The party walked round the Gardens unmolested nor have we grounds for
supposing they assumed airs of state in the style of a previous
generation. Only, as it happened, a gentleman of the party was a wag; no
less than the famous, well-seasoned John Rose Mackrell, bent on amusing
Mrs. Kirby-Levellier, to hear her lovely laughter; and his wit and his
anecdotes, both inexhaustible, proved, as he said, 'that a dried fish is
no stale fish, and a smoky flavour to an old chimney story will often
render it more piquant to the taste than one jumping fresh off the
incident.' His exact meaning in 'smoky flavour' we are not to know; but
whether that M. de St. Ombre should witness the effect of English humour
upon them, or that the ladies could permit themselves to laugh, their
voices accompanied the gentlemen in silvery volleys. There had been
'Mackrell' at Fleetwood's dinner-table; which was then a way of saying
that dry throats made no count of the quantity of champagne imbibed,
owing to the fits Rose Mackrell caused. However, there was loud laughter
as they strolled, and it was noticed; and Fleetwood crying out,
'Mackrell! Mackrell!' in delighted repudiation of the wag's last sally,
the cry of 'Hooray, Mackrell !' was caught up by the crowd. They were
not the primary offenders, for loud laughter in an isolated party is bad
breeding; but they had not the plea of a copious dinner.

So this affair began; inoffensively at the start, for my lord was good-
humoured about it.

Kit Ines, of the mercurial legs, must now give impromptu display of his
dancing. He seized a partner, in the manner of a Roman the Sabine, sure
of pleasing his patron; and the maid, passing from surprise to merriment,
entered the quadrille perforce, all giggles, not without emulation, for
she likewise had the passion for the dance. Whereby it befell that the
pair footed in a way to gather observant spectators; and if it had not
been that the man from whom the maid was willy-nilly snatched, conceived
resentment, things might have passed comfortably; for Kit's quips and
cuts and high capers, and the Sunday gravity of the barge face while the
legs were at their impish trickery, double motion to the music, won the
crowd to cheer. They conjectured him to be a British sailor. But the
destituted man said, sailor or no sailor,--bos'en be hanged! he should
pay for his whistle.

Honourably at the close of the quadrille, Kit brought her back; none the
worse for it, he boldly affirmed, and he thanked the man for the short
loan of her.--The man had an itch to strike. Choosing rather to be
struck first, he vented nasty remarks. My lord spoke to Kit and moved
on. At the moment of the step, Rose Mackrell uttered something, a
waggery of some sort, heard to be forgotten, but of such instantaneous
effect, that the prompt and immoderate laugh succeeding it might
reasonably be taken for a fling of scorn at himself, by an injured man.
They were a party; he therefore proceeded to make one, appealing to
English sentiment and right feeling. The blameless and repentant maid
plucked at his coat to keep him from dogging the heels of the gentlemen.
Fun was promised; consequently the crowd waxed.

'My lord,' had been let fall by Kit Ines. Conjoined to 'Mackrell,' it
rang finely, and a trumpeting of 'Lord Mackrell' resounded. Lord
Mackrell was asked for 'more capers and not so much sauce.' Various fish
took part in his title of nobility. The wag Mackrell continuing to be
discreetly silent, and Kit Ines acting as a pacific rearguard, the crowd
fell in love with their display of English humour, disposed to the surly
satisfaction of a big street dog that has been appeased by a smaller
one's total cessation of growls.

All might have gone well but for the sudden appearance of two figures of
young women on the scene. They fronted the advance of the procession.
They wanted to have a word with Lord Mackrell. Not a bit of it--he won't
listen, turns away; and one of the pair slips round him. It's regular
imploring: 'my lord! my lord!'

O you naughty Surrey melodram villain of a Lord Mackrell! Listen to the
young woman, you Mackrell, or you'll get Billingsgate! Here's Mr. Jig-
and-Reel behind here, says she's done him! By Gosh! What's up now?

One of the young ladies of the party ahead had rushed up to the young
woman dodging to stand in Lord Mackrell's way. The crowd pressed to see.
Kit Ines and his mate shouldered them off. They performed an envelopment
of the gentlemen and ladies, including the two young women. Kit left his
mate and ran to the young woman hitherto the quieter of the two. He
rattled at her. But she had a tongue of her own and rattled it at him.
What did she say?

Merely to hear, for no other reason,' a peace-loving crowd of clerks and
tradesmen, workmen and their girls, young aspirants to the professions,
night-larks of different classes, both sexes, there in that place for
simple entertainment, animated simply by the spirit of English humour,
contracted, so closing upon the Mackrell party as to seem threatening to
the most orderly and apprehensive member of it, who was the baronet, Sir
Meeson Corby.

He was a man for the constables in town emergencies, and he shouted.
'Cock Robin crowing' provoked a jolly round of barking chaff. The noise
in a dense ring drew Fleetwood's temper. He gave the word to Kit Ines,
and immediately two men dropped; a dozen staggered unhit. The fists
worked right and left; such a clearing of ground was never seen for
sickle or scythe. And it was taken respectfully; for Science proclaimed
her venerable self in the style and the perfect sufficiency of the
strokes. A bruiser delivered them. No shame to back away before a
bruiser. There was rather an admiring envy of the party claiming the
nimble champion on their side, until the very moderate lot of the
Mackrells went stepping forward along the strewn path with sticks
pointed.

If they had walked it like gentlemen, they would have been allowed to get
through. An aggressive minority, and with Cock Robin squealing for
constables in the midst, is that insolent upstart thing which howls to
have a lesson. The sticks were fallen on; bump came the mass. Kit Ines
had to fight his way back to his mate, and the couple scoured a clearish
ring, but the gentlemen were at short thrusts, affable in tone, to cheer
the spirits of the ladies:--'All right, my friend, you're a trifle
mistaken, it 's my stick, not yours.' Therewith the wrestle for the
stick.

The one stick not pointed was wrenched from the grasp of Sir Meeson
Corby; and by a woman, the young woman who had accosted my lord; not a
common young woman either, as she appeared when beseeching him. Her
stature rose to battle heights: she made play with Sir Meeson Corby's
ebony stick, using it in one hand as a dwarf quarterstaff to flail the
sconces, then to dash the point at faces; and she being a woman, a girl,
perhaps a lady, her cool warrior method of cleaving way, without so much
as tightening her lips, was found notable; and to this degree (vouched
for by Rose Mackrell, who heard it), that a fellow, rubbing his head,
cried: 'Damn it all, she's clever, though!' She took her station beside
Lord Fleetwood.

He had been as cool as she, or almost. Now he was maddened; she defended
him, she warded and thrust for him, only for him, to save him a touch;
unasked, undesired, detested for the box on his ears of to-morrow's
public mockery, as she would be, overwhelming him with ridicule. Have
you seen the kick and tug at the straps of the mettled pony in stables
that betrays the mishandling of him by his groom? Something so did
Fleetwood plunge and dart to be free of her, and his desperate soul cried
out on her sticking to him like a plaster!

Welcome were the constables. His guineas winked at their chief, as fair
women convey their meanings, with no motion of eyelids; and the officers
of the law knew the voice habituated to command, and answered two words
of his: 'Right, my lord,' smelling my lord in the unerring manner of
those days. My lord's party were escorted to the gates, not a little
jeered; though they by no means had the worst of the tussle. But the
puffing indignation of Sir Meesan Corby over his battered hat and torn
frill and buttons plucked from his coat, and his threat of the
magistrates, excited the crowd to derisive yells.

My lord spoke something to his man, handing his purse.

The ladies were spared the hearing of bad language. They, according to
the joint testimony of M. de St. Ombre and Mr. Rose Mackrell, comported
themselves throughout as became the daughters of a warrior race. Both
gentlemen were emphatic to praise the unknown Britomart who had done such
gallant service with Sir Meeson's ebony wand. He was beginning to fuss
vociferously about the loss of the stick--a family stick, goldheaded, the
family crest on it, priceless to the family--when Mrs. Kirby-Levellier
handed it to him inside the coach.

'But where is she?' M. de St. Ombre said, and took the hint of Livia's
touch on his arm in the dark.

At the silence following the question, Mr. Rose Mackrell murmured, 'Ah!'

He and the French gentleman understood that there might have been a
manifestation of the notorious Whitechapel Countess.

They were two; and a slower-witted third was travelling to his ideas on
the subject. Three men, witnesses of a remarkable incident in connection
with a boiling topic of current scandal,--glaringly illustrative of it,
moreover,--were unlikely to keep close tongues, even if they had been
sworn to secresy. Fleetwood knew it, and he scorned to solicit them; an
exaction of their idle vows would be merely the humiliation of himself.
So he tossed his dignity to recklessness, as the ultraconvivial give the
last wink of reason to the wine-cup. Persecuted as he was, nothing
remained for him but the nether-sublime of a statuesque desperation.

That was his feeling; and his way of cloaking it under light sallies at
Sir Meeson and easy chat with Henrietta made it visible to her, from its
being the contrary of what the world might expect a proud young nobleman
to exhibit. She pitied him: she had done him some wrong. She read into
him, too, as none else could. Seeing the solitary tortures behind the
pleasant social mask, she was drawn to partake of them; and the mask
seemed pathetic. She longed to speak a word in sympathy or relieve her
bosom of tears. Carinthia had sunk herself, was unpardonable, hardly
mentionable. Any of the tales told of her might be credited after this!
The incorrigible cause of humiliation for everybody connected with her
pictured, at a word of her name, the crowd pressing and the London world
acting audience. Livia spoke the name when they had reached their house
and were alone. Henrietta responded with the imperceptible shrug which
is more eloquent than a cry to tell of the most monstrous of loads. My
lord, it was thought by the ladies, had directed his man to convey her
safely to her chosen home, whence she might be expected very soon to be
issuing and striking the gong of London again.

CHAPTER XXIV

A KIDNAPPING AND NO GREAT HARM

Ladies who have the pride of delicate breeding are not more than rather
violently hurled back on the fortress it is, when one or other of the
gross mishaps of circumstance may subject them to a shock: and this
happening in the presence of gentlemen, they are sustained by the within
and the without to keep a smooth countenance, however severe their
affliction. Men of heroic nerve decline similarly to let explosions
shake them, though earth be shaken. Dragged into the monstrous grotesque
of the scene at the Gardens, Livia and Henrietta went through the ordeal,
masking any signs that they were stripped for a flagellation. Only, the
fair cousins were unable to perceive a comic element in the scene: and if
the world was for laughing, as their instant apprehension foresaw it, the
world was an ignoble beast. They did not discuss Carinthia's latest
craziness at night, hardly alluded to it while they were in the
interjectory state.

Henrietta was Livia's guest, her husband having hurried away to Vienna:
'To get money! money!' her angry bluntness explained his absence, and
dealt its blow at the sudden astounding poverty into which they had
fallen. She was compelled to practise an excessive, an incredible
economy:--'think of the smallest trifles!' so that her Chillon travelled
unaccompanied, they were separated. Her iterations upon money were the
vile constraint of an awakened interest and wonderment at its powers.
She, the romantic Riette, banner of chivalry, reader of poetry, struck a
line between poor and rich in her talk of people, and classed herself
with the fallen and pinched; she harped on her slender means, on the
enforced calculations preceding purchases, on the living in lodgings;
and that miserly Lord Levellier's indebtedness to Chillon--large sums!
and Chillon's praiseworthy resolve to pay the creditors of her father's
estate; and of how he travelled like a common man, in consequence of the
money he had given Janey--weakly, for her obstinacy was past endurance;
but her brother would not leave her penniless, and penniless she had been
for weeks, because of her stubborn resistance to the earl--quite
unreasonably, whether right or wrong--in the foul retreat she had chosen;
apparently with a notion that the horror of it was her vantage ground
against him: and though a single sign of submission would place the
richest purse in England at her disposal. 'She refuses Esslemont! She
insists on his meeting her! No child could be so witless. Let him be
the one chiefly or entirely to blame, she might show a little tact--for
her brother's sake! She loves her brother? No: deaf to him, to me, to
every consideration except her blind will.'

Here was the skeleton of the love match, earlier than Livia had expected.

It refreshed a phlegmatic lady's disposition for prophecy. Lovers
abruptly tossed between wind and wave may still be lovers, she knew: but
they are, or the weaker of the two is, hard upon any third person who
tugs at them for subsistence or existence. The condition, if they are
much beaten about, prepares true lovers, through their mutual tenderness,
to be bitterly misanthropical.

Livia supposed the novel economic pinches to be the cause of Henrietta's
unwonted harsh judgement of her sister-in-law's misconduct, or the crude
expression of it. She could not guess that Carinthia's unhappiness in
marriage was a spectre over the married happiness of the pair fretted by
the conscience which told them they had come together by doing much to
bring it to pass. Henrietta could see herself less the culprit when she
blamed Carinthia in another's hearing.

After some repose, the cousins treated their horrible misadventure as a
piece of history. Livia was cool; she had not a husband involved in it,
as Henrietta had; and London's hoarse laugh surely coming on them, spared
her the dread Henrietta suffered, that Chillon would hear; the most
sensitive of men on any matter touching his family.

'And now a sister added to the list! Will there be names, Livia?'

'The newspapers!' Livia's shoulders rose.

'We ought to have sworn the gentlemen to silence.'

'M. de St. Ombre is a tomb until he writes his Memoirs. I hold Sir
Meeson under lock. But a spiced incident, a notorious couple,--an
anecdotal witness to the scene,--could you expect Mr. Rose Mackrell to
contain it? The sacredest of oaths, my dear!'

That relentless force impelling an anecdotist to slaughter families for
the amusement of dinner-tables, was brought home to Henrietta by her
prospect of being a victim; and Livia reminding her of the excessive
laughter at Rose Mackrell's anecdotes overnight, she bemoaned her having
consented to go to those Gardens in mourning.

'How could Janey possibly have heard of the project to go?

'You went to please Russett, he to please you, and that wild-cat to
please herself,' said Livia. 'She haunts his door, I suppose, and
follows him, like a running footman. Every step she takes widens the
breach. He keeps his temper, yes, keeps his temper as he keeps his word,
and one morning it breaks loose, and all that's done has to be undone.
It will bemust. That extravaganza, as she is called, is fatal, dogs him
with burlesque--of all men!'

'Why not consent to meet her once, Chillon asks.'

'You are asking Russett to yield an inch on demand, and to a woman.'

'My husband would yield to a woman what he would refuse to all the men in
Europe and America,' said Henrietta; and she enjoyed her thrill of
allegiance to her chivalrous lord and courtier.

'No very extraordinary specimen of a newly married man, who has won the
Beauty of England and America for his wife-at some cost to some people,'
Livia rejoined.

There came a moisture on the eyelashes of the emotional young woman, from
a touch of compassion for the wealthy man who had wished to call her
wife, and was condemned by her rejection of him to call another woman
wife, to be wifeless in wedding her, despite his wealth.

She thinks he loves her; it is pitiable, but she thinks it--after the
treatment she has had. She begs to see him once.'

'And subdue him with a fit of weeping,' Livia was moved to say by sight
of the tear she hated. 'It would harden Russett--on other eyes, too!
Salt-water drops are like the forced agony scenes in a play: they bring
down the curtain, they don't win the critics. I heard her "my husband"
and saw his face.'

'You didn't hear a whimper with it,' Henrietta said. 'She's a mountain
girl, not your city madam on the boards. Chillon and I had her by each
hand, implored her to leave that impossible Whitechapel, and she
trembled, not a drop was shed by her. I can almost fancy privation and
squalor have no terrors for Janey. She sings to the people down there,
nurses them. She might be occupying Esslemont--our dream of an English
home! She is the destruction of the idea of romantic in connection with
the name of marriage. I talk like a simpleton. Janey upsets us all.
My lord was only--a little queer before he knew her: His Mr. Woodseer may
be encouraging her. You tell me the creature has a salary from him equal
to your jointure.'

'Be civil to the man while it lasts,' Livia said, attentive to a
degradation of tone--in her cousin, formerly of supreme self-containment.

The beautiful young woman was reminded of her holiday in town.
She brightened, and the little that it was, and the meanness of the
satisfaction, darkened her. Envy of the lucky adventurer Mr. Woodseer,
on her husband's behalf, grew horridly conscious for being reproved. So
she plucked resolution to enjoy her holiday and forget the contrasts of
life-palaces running profusion, lodgings hammered by duns; the pinch of
poverty distracting every simple look inside or out. There was no end to
it; for her husband's chivalrous honour forced him to undertake the
payment of her father's heavy debts. He was right and admirable, it
could not be contested; but the prospect for them was a grinding gloom,
an unrelieved drag, as of a coach at night on an interminable uphill
flinty road.

These were her sensations, and she found it diverting to be admired;
admired by many while she knew herself to be absorbed in the possession
of her by one. It bestowed the before and after of her marriage. She
felt she was really, had rapidly become, the young woman of the world,
armed with a husband, to take the flatteries of men for the needed
diversion they brought. None moved her; none could come near to touching
the happy insensibility of a wife who adored her husband, wrote to him
daily, thought of him by the minute. Her former worshippers were
numerous at Livia's receptions; Lord Fleetwood, Lord Brailstone, and the
rest. Odd to reflect on--they were the insubstantial but coveted wealth
of the woman fallen upon poverty, ignoble poverty! She could not
discard her wealth. She wrote amusingly of them, and fully, vivacious
descriptions, to Chillon; hardly so much writing to him as entering her
heart's barred citadel, where he resided at his ease, heard everything
that befell about her. If she dwelt on Lord Fleetwood's kindness in
providing entertainments, her object was to mollify Chillon's anger in
some degree. She was doing her utmost to gratify him, 'for the purpose
of paving a way to plead Janey's case.' She was almost persuading
herself she was enjoying the remarks of his friend, confidant, secretary,
or what not, Livia's worshipper, Mr. Woodseer, 'who does as he wills with
my lord; directs his charities, his pleasures, his opinions, all because
he is believed to have wonderful ideas and be wonderfully honest.'
Henrietta wrote: 'Situation unchanged. Janey still At that place'; and
before the letter was posted, she and Livia had heard from Gower Woodseer
of the reported disappearance of the Countess of Fleetwood and her maid.
Gower's father had walked up from Whitechapel, bearing news of it to the
earl, she said.

'And the earl is much disturbed?' was Livia's inquiry.

'He has driven down with my father,' Gower said carelessly, ambiguously
in the sound.

Troubled enough to desire the show of a corresponding trouble, Henrietta
read at their faces.

'May it not be--down there--a real danger?'

The drama, he could inform her, was only too naked down there for
disappearances to be common.

'Will it be published that she is missing?'

'She has her maid with her, a stout-hearted girl. Both have courage.
I don't think we need take measures just yet.'

'Not before it is public property?'

Henrietta could have bitten her tongue for laying her open to the censure
implied in his muteness. Janey perverted her.

Women were an illegible manuscript, and ladies a closed book of the
binding, to this raw philosopher, or he would not so coldly have judged
the young wife, anxious on her husband's account, that they might escape
another scorching. He carried away his impression.

Livia listened to a remark on his want of manners.

'Russett puts it to the credit of his honesty,' she said. 'Honesty is
everything with us at present. The man has made his honesty an excellent
speculation. He puts a piece on zero and the bank hands him a sackful.
We may think we have won him to serve us, up comes his honesty. That's
how we have Lady Arpington mixed in it--too long a tale. But be guided
by me; condescend a little.'

'My dear! my whole mind is upon that unhappy girl. It would break
Chillon's heart.'

Livia pished. 'There are letters we read before we crack the seal. She
is out of that ditch, and it suits Russett that she should be. He's not
often so patient. A woman foot to foot against his will--I see him
throwing high stakes. Tyrants are brutal; and really she provokes him
enough. You needn't be alarmed about the treatment she 'll meet. He
won't let her beat him, be sure.'

Neither Livia nor Gower wondered at the clearing of the mystery, before
it went to swell the scandal. A young nobleman of ready power, quick
temper, few scruples, and a taxed forbearance, was not likely to stand
thwarted and goaded-and by a woman. Lord Fleetwood acted his part,
inscrutable as the blank of a locked door. He could not conceal that he
was behind the door.

CHAPTER XXV

THE PHILOSOPHER MAN OF ACTION

Gower's bedroom window looked over the shrubs of the square, and as his
form of revolt from a city life was to be up and out with the sparrows in
the early flutter of morning, for a stretch of the legs where grass was
green and trees were not enclosed, he rarely saw a figure below when he
stood dressing. Now there appeared a petticoated one stationary against
the rails, with her face lifted. She fronted the house, and while he
speculated abstractedly, recognition rushed on him. He was down and
across the roadway at leaps.

'It's Madge here!'

The girl panted for her voice.

'Mr. Woodseer, I'm glad; I thought I should have to wait hours. She's
safe.'

'Where?'

'Will you come, sir?'

'Step ahead.'

Madge set forth to north of the square.

He judged of the well-favoured girl that she could steer her way through
cities: mouth and brows were a warning to challenger pirate craft of a
vessel carrying guns; and the red lips kept their firm line when they
yielded to the pressure for speech.

'It's a distance. She's quite safe, no harm; she's a prisoner; she's
well fed; she's not ill treated.'

'You 're out?'

'That's as it happens. I'm lucky in seeing you early. He don't mean to
hurt her; he won't be beaten. All she asks is ten minutes with him. If
he would!--he won't. She didn't mean to do him offence t' other night in
that place--you've heard. Kit Ines told me he was on duty there--going.
She couldn't help speaking when she had eyes on her husband. She kisses
the ground of his footsoles, you may say, let him be ever so unkind. She
and I were crossing to the corner of Roper Street a rainy night, on way
to Mile End, away down to one of your father's families, Mother Davis and
her sick daughter and the little ones, and close under the public-house
Goat and Beard we were seized on and hustled into a covered carriage that
was there, and they drove sharp. She 's not one to scream. We weren't
frightened. We both made the same guess. They drove us to the house she
's locked in, and me, too, up till three o'clock this morning.'

'You've seen nobody, Madge?'

'He 's fixed she 's to leave London, Mr. Woodseer. I've seen Kit Ines.
And she 's to have one of the big houses to her use. I guessed Kit Ines
was his broom. He defends it because he has his money to make--and be a
dirty broom for a fortune! But any woman's sure of decent handling with
Kit Ines--not to speak of lady. He and a mate guard the house. An old
woman cooks.'

'He guards the house, and he gave you a pass?'

'Not he. His pride's his obedience to his "paytron"--he calls his
master, and won't hear that name abused. We are on the first floor; all
the lower doors are locked day and night. New Street, not much
neighbours; she wouldn't cry out of the window. She 's to be let free if
she'll leave London.'

'You jumped it!'

'If I'd broke a leg, Mr. Kit Ines would have had to go to his drams. It
wasn't very high; and a flower-bed underneath. My mistress wanted to be
the one. She has to be careful. She taught me how to jump down not to
hurt. She makes you feel you can do anything. I had a bother to get her
to let me and be quiet herself. She's not one to put it upon others,
you'll learn. When I was down I felt like a stick in the ground and sat
till I had my feet, she at the window waiting; and I started for you.
She kissed her hand. I was to come to you, and then your father, you
nowhere seen. I wasn't spoken to. I know empty London.'

'Kit Ines was left sleeping in the house?'

'Snoring, I dare say: He don't drink on duty.'

'He must be kept on duty.'

'Drink or that kind of duty, it's a poor choice.'

'You'll take him in charge, Madge.'

'I've got a mistress to look after.'

'You've warmed to her.'

'That's not new; Mr. Woodseer. I do trust you, and you his friend. But
you are the minister's son, and any man not a great nobleman must have
some heart for her. You'll learn. He kills her so because she's fond of
him--loves him, however he strikes. No, not like a dog, as men say of
us. She'd die for him this night, need were. Live with her, you won't
find many men match her for brave; and she's good. My Sally calls her a
Bible saint. I could tell you stories of her goodness, short the time
though she's been down our way. And better there for her than at that
inn he left her at to pine and watch the Royal Sovereign come swing come
smirk in sailor blue and star to meet the rain--would make anybody
disrespect Royalty or else go mad! He's a great nobleman, he can't buy
what she's ready to give; and if he thinks he breaks her will now, it's
because she thinks she's obeying a higher than him, or no lord alive and
Kit Ines to back him 'd hold her. Women want a priest to speak to men
certain times. I wish I dared; we have to bite our tongues. He's master
now, but, as I believe God's above, if he plays her false, he's the one
to be brought to shame. I talk.'

'Talk on, Madge,' said Gower, to whom the girl's short-syllabled run of
the lips was a mountain rill compared with London park waters.

'You won't let him hurry her off where she'll eat her heart for never
seeing him again? She prays to be near him, if she's not to see him.'

'She speaks in that way?'

'I get it by bits. I'm with her so, it's as good as if I was inside her.
She can't obey when it goes the wrong way of her heart to him.'

'Love and wisdom won't pull together, and they part company for good at
the church door,' said Gower. 'This matrimony's a bad business.'

Madge hummed a moan of assent. 'And my poor Sally 'll have to marry.
I can't leave my mistress while she wants me, and Sally can't be alone.
It seems we take a step and harm's done, though it's the right step we
take.'

'It seems to me you've engaged yourself to follow Sally's lead, Madge.'

'Girls' minds turn corners, Mr. Woodseer.'

He passed the remark. What it was that girls' minds occasionally or
habitually did, or whether they had minds to turn, or whether they took
their whims for minds, were untroubled questions with a young man
studying abstract and adoring surface nature too exclusively to be aware
of the manifestation of her spirit in the flesh, as it is not revealed so
much by men. However, she had a voice and a face that led him to be
thoughtful over her devotedness to her mistress, after nearly losing her
character for the prize-fighter, and he had to thank her for invigorating
him. His disposition was to muse and fall slack, helpless to a friend.
Here walked a creature exactly the contrary. He listened to the steps of
the dissimilar pair on the detonating pavement, and eyed a church clock
shining to the sun.

She was sure of the direction: 'Out Camden way, where the murder was.'

They walked at a brisk pace, conversing or not.

'Tired? You must be,' he said.

'Not when I'm hot to do a thing.'

'There's the word of the thoroughbred!'

'You don't tire, sir,' said she. 'Sally and I see you stalking out for
the open country in the still of the morning. She thinks you look pale
for want of food, and ought to have some one put a biscuit into your
pocket overnight.'

'Who'd have guessed I was under motherly observation!'

'You shouldn't go so long empty, if you listen to trainers.'

'Capital doctors, no doubt. But I get a fine appetite.'

'You may grind the edge too sharp.'

He was about to be astonished, and reflected that she had grounds for her
sagacity. His next thought plunged him into contempt for Kit Ines, on
account of the fellow's lapses to sottishness. But there would be no
contempt of Kit Ines in a tussle with him. Nor could one funk the tussle
and play cur, if Kit's engaged young woman were looking on. We get to
our courage or the show of it by queer screws.

Contemplative over these matters, the philosopher transformed to man of
action heard Madge say she read directions in London by churches, and
presently exclaiming disdainfully, and yet relieved, 'Spooner Villas,'
she turned down a row of small detached houses facing a brickfield, that
had just contributed to the erection of them, and threatened the big city
with further defacements.

Madge pointed to the marks of her jump, deep in flower-bed earth under an
open window.

Gower measured the height with sensational shanks.

She smote at the door. Carinthia nodded from her window. Close upon
that, Kit Ines came bounding to the parlour window; he spied and stared.
Gower was known to him as the earl's paymaster; so he went to the passage
and flung the door open, blocking the way.

'Any commands, your honour?'

'You bring the countess to my lord immediately,' said Gower.

Kit swallowed his mouthful of surprise in a second look at Madge and the
ploughed garden-bed beneath the chamber window.

'Are the orders written, sir?'

'To me?--for me to deliver to you?--for you to do my lord's bidding?
Where's your head?'

Kit's finger-nails travelled up to it. Madge pushed past him.
She and her mistress, and Kit's mate, and the old woman receiving the
word for a cup of tea, were soon in the passage. Kit's mate had a ready
obedience for his pay, nothing else,--no counsel at all, not a suggestion
to a head knocked to a pudding by Madge's jump and my lord's paymaster
here upon the scene.

'My lady was to go down Wales way, sir.'

'That may be ordered after.'

'I 'm to take my lady to my lord?' and, 'Does it mean my lady wants a
fly?' Kit asked, and harked back on whether Madge had seen my lord.

'At five in the morning?--don't sham donkey with me,' said Gower.

The business looked inclined to be leaky, but which the way for proving
himself other than a donkey puzzled Kit: so much so, that a shove made
him partly grateful. Madge's clever countermove had stunned his
judgement. He was besides acting subordinate to his patron's paymaster;
and by the luck of it, no voice of woman interposed. The countess and
her maid stood by like a disinterested couple. Why be suspicious, if he
was to keep the countess, in sight? She was a nice lady, and he
preferred her good opinion. She was brave, and he did her homage. It
might be, my lord had got himself round to the idea of thanking her for
saving his nob that night, and his way was to send and have her up, to
tell her he forgave her, after the style of lords. Gower pricked into
him by saying aside: 'Mad, I suppose, in case of a noise?' And he could
not answer quite manfully, lost his eyes and coloured. Neighbours might
have required an explanation of shrieks, he confessed. Men have
sometimes to do nasty work for their patrons.

They were afoot, walking at Carinthia's pace before half-past seven.
She would not hear of any conveyance. She was cheerful, and, as it was
pitiful to see, enjoyed her walk. Hearing of her brother's departure for
the Austrian capital, she sparkled. Her snatches of speech were short
flights out of the meditation possessing her. Gower noticed her easier
English, that came home to the perpetual student he was. She made use of
some of his father's words, and had assimilated them mentally besides
appropriating them: the verbalizing of 'purpose,' then peculiar to his
father, for example. She said, in reply to a hint from him: 'If my lord
will allow me an interview, I purpose to be obedient.' No one could
imagine of her that she spoke broken-spiritedly. Her obedience was to a
higher than a mortal lord: and Gower was touched to the quick through the
use of the word.

Contrasting her with Countess Livia and her cousin, the earl might think
her inferior on the one small, square compartment called by them the
world; but she carried the promise of growth, a character in expansion,
and she had at least natural grace, a deerlike step. Although her
picturesqueness did not swarm on him with images illuminating night,
subduing day, like the Countess Livia's, it was marked, it could tower
and intermittently eclipse; and it was of the uplifting and healing kind
by comparison, not a delicious balefulness.

The bigger houses, larger shops, austere streets of private residences,
were observed by the recent inhabitant of Whitechapel.

'My lord lives in a square,' she said.

'We shall soon be there now,' he encouraged her, doubtful though the
issue appeared.

'It is a summer morning for the Ortler, the Gross-Glockner, the
Venediger,--all our Alps, Mr. Woodseer.'

'If we could fly!'

'We love them.'

'Why, then we beat a wing--yes.'

'For I have them when I want them to sight. It is the feet are so
desirous. I feel them so this morning, after prisonership. I could not
have been driven to my lord.'

'I know the feeling,' said Gower; 'any movement of us not our own
impulse, hurries the body and deadens the mind. And by the way, my dear
lady, I spoke of the earl's commands to this man behind us walking with
your Madge. My father would accuse me of Jesuitry. Ines mentioned
commands, and I took advantage of it.'

'I feared,' said Carinthia. 'I go for my chance.'

Gower had a thought of the smaller creature, greater by position, to whom
she was going for her chance. He alluded to his experience of the earl's
kindness in relation to himself, from a belief in his 'honesty'; dotted
outlines of her husband's complex character, or unmixed and violently
opposing elements.

She remarked: 'I will try and learn.'

The name of the street of beautiful shops woke a happy smile on her
mouth. 'Father talked of it; my mother, too. He has it written down in
his Book of Maxims. When I was a girl, I dreamed of one day walking up
Bond Street.'

They stepped from the pavement and crossed the roadway for a side-street
leading to the square. With the swift variation of her aspect at times,
her tone changed.

'We are near. My lord will not be troubled by me. He has only to meet
me. There has been misunderstanding. I have vexed him; I could not help
it. I will go where he pleases after I have heard him give orders. He
thinks me a frightful woman. I am peaceful.'

Gower muttered her word 'misunderstanding.' They were at the earl's
house door. One tap at it, and the two applicants for admission would
probably be shot as far away from Lord Fleetwood as when they were on the
Styrian heights last autumn. He delivered the tap, amused by the idea.
It was like a summons to a genie of doubtful service.

My lord was out riding in the park.

Only the footman appeared at that early hour, and his countenance was
blank whitewash as he stood rigid against the wall for the lady to pass.
Madge followed into the morning room; Ines remained in the hall, where he
could have the opening speech with his patron, and where he soon had
communication with the butler.

This official entered presently to Gower, presenting a loaded forehead.
A note addressed to Mrs. Kirby-Levellier at the Countess Livia's house
hard by was handed to him for instant despatch. He signified a
deferential wish to speak.

'You can speak in the presence of the Countess of Fleetwood, Mr. Waytes,'
Gower said.

Waytes checked a bend of his shoulders. He had not a word, and he turned
to send the note. He was compelled to think that he saw a well-grown
young woman in the Whitechapel Countess.

Gower's note reached Henrietta on her descent to the breakfast-table.
She was, alone, and thrown into a torture of perplexity: for she wanted
advice as to the advice to be given to Janey, and Livia was an utterly
unprofitable person to consult in the case. She thought of Lady
Arpington, not many doors distant. Drinking one hasty cup of tea, she
sent for her bonnet, and hastened away to the great lady, whom she found
rising from breakfast with the marquis.

Lady Arpington read Gower's note. She unburdened herself: 'Oh! So it 's
no longer a bachelor's household!'

Henrietta heaved the biggest of sighs. 'I fear the poor dear may have
made matters worse.'

To which Lady Arpington said: 'Worse or better, my child!' and shrugged;
for the present situation strained to snapping.

She proposed to go forthwith, and give what support she could to the
Countess of Fleetwood.

They descended the steps of the house to the garden and the Green Park's
gravel walk up to Piccadilly. There they had view of Lord Fleetwood on
horseback leisurely turning out of the main way's tide. They saw him
alight at the mews. As they entered the square, he was met some doors
from the south corner by his good or evil genius, whose influence with
him came next after the marriage in the amazement it caused, and was
perhaps to be explained by it; for the wealthiest of young noblemen
bestowing his name on an unknown girl, would be the one to make an absurd
adventurer his intimate. Lord Fleetwood bent a listening head while Mr.
Gower Woodseer, apparently a good genius for the moment, spoke at his
ear.

How do we understand laughter at such a communication as he must be
hearing from the man? Signs of a sharp laugh indicated either his cruel
levity or that his presumptuous favourite trifled--and the man's talk
could be droll, Lady Arpington knew: it had, she recollected angrily,
diverted her, and softened her to tolerate the intruder into regions from
which her class and her periods excluded the lowly born, except at the
dinner-tables of stale politics and tattered scandal. Nevertheless, Lord
Fleetwood mounted the steps to his house door, still listening. His
'Asmodeus,' on the tongue of the world, might be doing the part of Mentor
really. The house door stood open.

Fleetwood said something to Gower; he swung round, beheld the ladies and
advanced to them, saluting. 'My dear Lady Arpington! quite so, you
arrive opportunely. When the enemy occupies the citadel, it's proper to
surrender. Say, I beg, she can have the house, if she prefers it. I
will fall back on Esslemont. Arrangements for her convenience will be
made. I thank you, by anticipation.'

His bow included Henrietta loosely. Lady Arpington had exclaimed:
'Enemy, Fleetwood?' and Gower, in his ignorance of the smoothness of
aristocratic manners, expected a remonstrance; but Fleetwood was allowed
to go on, with his air of steely geniality and a decision, that his
friend imagined he could have broken down like an old partition board
under the kick of a sarcasm sharpening an appeal.

'Lord Fleetwood was on the point of going in,' he assured the great lady.

'Lord Fleetwood may regret his change of mind,' said she. 'The Countess
of Fleetwood will have my advice to keep her footing in this house.'

She and Henrietta sat alone with Carinthia for an hour. Coming forth,
Lady Arpington ejaculated to herself: 'Villany somewhere!--You will do
well, Henrietta, to take up your quarters with her a day or two. She can
hold her position a month. Longer is past possibility.'

A shudder of the repulsion from men crept over the younger lady. But she
was a warrior's daughter, and observed: 'My husband, her brother, will be
back before the month ends.'

'No need for hostilities to lighten our darkness,' Lady Arpington
rejoined. 'You know her? trust her?'

'One cannot doubt her face. She is my husband's sister. Yes, I do trust
her. I nail my flag to her cause.'

The flag was crimson, as it appeared on her cheeks; and that intimated a
further tale, though not of so dramatic an import as the cognizant short
survey of Carinthia had been.

These young women, with the new complications obtruded by them, irritated
a benevolent great governing lady, who had married off her daughters and
embraced her grandchildren, comfortably finishing that chapter; and
beheld now the apparition of the sex's ancient tripping foe, when
circumstances in themselves were quite enough to contend against on their
behalf. It seemed to say, that nature's most burdened weaker must always
be beaten. Despite Henrietta's advocacy and Carinthia's clear face, it
raised a spectral form of a suspicion, the more effective by reason of
the much required justification it fetched from the shades to plead
apologies for Lord Fleetwood's erratic, if not mad, and in any case ugly,
conduct. What otherwise could be his excuse? Such was his need of one,
that the wife he crushed had to be proposed for sacrifice, in the mind of
a lady tending strongly to side with her and condemn her husband.

Lady Arpington had counselled Carinthia to stay where she was, the Fates
having brought her there. Henrietta was too generous to hesitate in her
choice between her husband's sister and the earl. She removed from
Livia's house to Lord Fleetwood's. My lord was at Esslemont two days;
then established his quarters at Scrope's hotel, five minutes' walk from
the wedded lady to whom the right to bear his title was granted, an
interview with him refused. Such a squaring for the battle of spouses
had never--or not in mighty London--been seen since that old fight began.

CHAPTER XXVI

AFTER SOME FENCING THE DAME PASSES OUR GUARD

Dame Gossip at this present pass bursts to give us a review of the social
world siding for the earl or for his countess; and her parrot cry of
'John Rose Mackrell!' with her head's loose shake over the smack of her
lap, to convey the contemporaneous tipsy relish of the rich good things
he said on the subject of the contest, indicates the kind of intervention
it would be.

To save the story from having its vein tied, we may accept the reminder,
that he was the countess's voluble advocate at a period when her friends
were shy to speak of her. After relating the Vauxhall Gardens episode in
burlesque Homeric during the freshness of the scandal, Rose Mackrell's
enthusiasm for the heroine of his humour set in. He tracked her to her
parentage, which was new breath blown into the sunken tradition of some
Old Buccaneer and his Countess Fanny: and, a turn of great good luck
helping him to a copy of the book of the MAXIMS FOR MEN, he would quote
certain of the racier ones, passages of Captain John Peter Kirby's
personal adveres in various lands and waters illustrating the text, to
prove that the old warrior acted by the rule of his recommendations.
They had the repulsive attraction proper to rusty lumber swords and
truncehons that have tasted brains. They wove no mild sort of halo for
the head of a shillelagh-flourishing Whitechapel Countess descended from
the writer and doer.

People were willing to believe in her jump of thirty feet or more off a
suburban house-top to escape durance, and her midnight storming of her
lord's town house, and ousting of him to go find his quarters at Scrope's
hotel. He, too, had his band of pugilists, as it was known; and he might
have heightened a rageing scandal. The nobleman forbore. A woman's blow
gracefully taken adds a score of inches to our stature, floor us as it
may: we win the world's after-thoughts. Rose Mackrell sketched the
earl;--always alert, smart, quick to meet a combination and protect a
dignity never obtruded, and in spite of himself the laugh of the town.
His humour flickered wildly round the ridiculous position of a prominent
young nobleman, whose bearing and character were foreign to a position of
ridicule.

Nevertheless, the earl's figure continuing to be classic sculpture, it
allied him with the aristocracy of martyrs, that burn and do not wince.
He propitiated none, and as he could not but suffer shrewdly, he gained
esteem enough to shine through the woman's pitiless drenching of him.
During his term at Scrope's hotel, the carousals there were quite old-
century and matter of discourse. He had proved his return to sound sense
in the dismissal of 'the fiddler,' notoriously the woman's lieutenant, or
more; and nightly the revelry closed at the great gaming tables of St.
James's Street, while Whitechapel held the coroneted square, well on her
way to the Law courts, as Abrane and Potts reported; and positively so,
'clear case.' That was the coming development and finale of the
Marriage. London waited for it.

A rich man's easy smile over losses at play, merely taught his emulous
troop to feel themselves poor devils in the pocket. But Fleetwood's
contempt of Sleep was a marvel, superhuman, and accused them of an
inferior vigour, hard for young men to admit by the example. He never
went to bed. Issuing from Fortune's hall-doors in the bright, lively,
summer morning, he mounted horse and was away to the hills. Or he took
the arm of a Roman Catholic nobleman, Lord Feltre, and walked with him
from the green tables and the establishment's renowned dry still Sillery
to a Papist chapel. As it was not known that he had given his word to
abjure his religion, the pious gamblers did no worse than spread an alarm
and quiet it, by the citation of his character for having a try at
everything.

Henrietta despatched at this period the following letter to Chillon:

'I am with Livia to-morrow. Janey starts for Wales to-morrow morning, a
voluntary exile. She pleaded to go back to that place where you had to
leave her, promising she would not come Westward; but was persuaded.
Lady Arpington approves. The situation was getting too terribly
strained. We met and passed my lord in the park.

'He was walking his horse-elegant cavalier that he is: would not look on
his wife. A woman pulled by her collar should be passive; if she pulls
her way, she is treated as a dog. I see nothing else in the intention of
poor Janey's last offence to him. There is an opposite counsel, and he
can be eloquent, and he will be heard on her side. How could she manage
the most wayward when she has not an idea of ordinary men! But, my
husband, they have our tie between them; it may move him. It subdues
her--and nothing else would have done that. If she had been in England a
year before the marriage, she would, I think, have understood better how
to guide her steps and her tongue for his good pleasure. She learns
daily, very quickly: observes, assimilates; she reads and has her
comments--would have shot far ahead of your Riette, with my advantages.

'Your uncle--but he will bear any charge on his conscience as long as he
can get the burden off his shoulders. Do not fret, my own! Reperuse the
above--you will see we have grounds for hope.

'He should have looked down on her! No tears from her eyes, but her eyes
were tears. She does not rank among beautiful women. She has her
moments for outshining them--the loveliest of spectres! She caught at my
heart. I cannot forget her face looking up for him to look down. A
great painter would have reproduced it, a great poet have rendered the
impression. Nothing short of the greatest. That is odd to say of one so
simple as she. But when accidents call up her reserves, you see mountain
heights where mists were--she is actually glorified. Her friend--I do
believe a friend--the Mr. Woodseer you are to remember meeting somewhere
--a sprained ankle--has a dozen similes ready for what she is when pain
or happiness vivify her. Or, it may be, tender charity. She says, that
if she feels for suffering people, it is because she is the child of
Chillon's mother. In like manner Chillon is the son of Janey's father.

'Mr. Woodseer came every other evening. Our only enlivenment. Livia
followed her policy, in refusing to call. We lived luxuriously; no
money, not enough for a box at the opera, though we yearned--you can
imagine. Chapters of philosophy read out and expounded instead. Janey
likes them. He sets lessons to her queer maid--reading, writing,
pronunciation of English. An inferior language to Welsh, for poetical
purposes, we are informed. So Janey--determining to apply herself to
Welsh, and a chameleon Riette dreading that she will be taking a contrary
view of the honest souls--as she feels them to be--when again under
Livia's shadow.

'The message from Janey to Scrope's hotel was despatched half-an-hour
after we had driven in from the park; fruit of a brown meditation. I
wrote it--third person--a single sentence. Arrangements are made for her
to travel comfortably. It is funny--the shops for her purchases of
clothes, necessaries, etc., are specified; she may order to any extent.
Not a shilling of money for her poor purse. What can be the secret of
that? He does nothing without an object. To me, uniformly civil, no
irony, few compliments. Livia writes, that I am commended for keeping
Janey company. What can be the secret of a man scrupulously just with
one hand, and at the same time cruel with the other? Mr. Woodseer says,
his wealth:--"More money than is required for their needs, men go into
harness to Plutus,"--if that is clever.

'I have written my husband--as Janey ceases to call her own; and it was
pretty and touching to hear her "my husband."--Oh! a dull letter. But
he is my husband though he keeps absent--to be longed for--he is my
husband still, my husband always. Chillon is Henrietta's husband, the
world cries out, and when she is flattered she does the like, for then it
is not too presumptuous that she should name Henrietta Chillon's wife.
In my ears, husband has the sweeter sound. It brings an angel from
overhead. Will it bring him one-half hour sooner? My love! My dear!
If it did, I should be lisping "husband, husband, husband" from cock-crow
to owl's cry. Livia thinks the word foolish, if not detestable. She and
I have our different opinions. She is for luxury. I choose poverty and
my husband. Poverty has its beauty, if my husband is the sun of it.
Elle radote. She would not have written so dull a letter to her husband
if she had been at the opera last night, or listened to a distant street-
band. No more--the next line would be bleeding. He should have her
blood too, if that were her husband's--it would never be; but if it were
for his good in the smallest way. Chillon's wish is to give his blood
for them he loves. Never did woman try more to write worthily to her
absent lord and fall so miserably into the state of dripping babe from
bath on nurse's knee. Cover me, my lord; and love, my cause for--no, my
excuse, my refuge from myself. We are one? Oh! we are one!--and we
have been separated eight and twenty days.

'HENRIETTA KIRBY-LEVELLIER.'

That was a letter for the husband and lover to receive in a foreign land
and be warmed.

The tidings of Carinthia washed him clean of the grimy district where
his waxen sister had developed her stubborn insensibility;--resembling
craziness, every perversion of the refinement demanded by young
Englishmen of their ladies; and it pacified him with the belief that she
was now at rest, the disturbed history of their father and mother at rest
as well; his conscience in relation to the marriage likewise at rest.
Chillon had a wife. Her writing of the welcome to poverty stirred his
knowledge of his wife's nature. Carinthia might bear it and harden to
flint; Henrietta was a butterfly for the golden rays. His thoughts, all
his energies, were bent on the making of money to supply her need for the
pleasure she flew in--a butterfly's grub without it. Accurately so did
the husband and lover read his wife--adoring her the more.

Her letter's embracing close was costly to them. It hurried him to the
compromise of a debateable business, and he fell into the Austrian
Government's terms for the payment of the inheritance from his father;
calculating that--his sister's share deducted-money would be in hand to
pay pressing debts and enable Henrietta to live unworried by cares until
he should have squeezed debts, long due and increasing, out of the
miserly old lord, his uncle. A prospect of supplies for twelve months,
counting the hack and carriage Henrietta had always been used to, seemed
about as far as it was required to look by the husband hastening homeward
to his wife's call. Her letter was a call in the night. Besides, there
were his yet untried Inventions. The new gunpowder testing at Croridge
promised to provide Henrietta with many of the luxuries she could have
had, and had abandoned for his sake. The new blasting powder and a
destructive shell might build her the palace she deserved. His uncle
was, no doubt, his partner. If, however, the profits were divided,
sufficient wealth was assured. But his uncle remained a dubious image.
The husband and lover could enfold no positive prospect to suit his
wife's tastes beyond the twelve months.

We have Dame Gossip upon us.

--One minute let mention be of the excitement over Protestant England
when that rumour disseminated, telling of her wealthiest nobleman's visit
to a monastery, up in the peaks and snows; and of his dwelling among the
monks, and assisting in all their services day and night, hymning and
chanting, uttering not one word for one whole week: his Papistical
friend, Lord Feltre, with him, of course, after Jesuit arts had allured
him to that place of torrents and lightnings and canticles and demon
echoes, all as though expressly contrived for the horrifying of sinners
into penitence and confession and the monkish cowl up to life's end, not
to speak of the abjuration of worldly possessions and donation of them
into the keeping of the shaven brothers; when either they would have
settled a band of them here in our very midst, or they would have
impoverished--is not too strong a word--the country by taking the money's
worth of the mines, estates, mansions, freehold streets and squares of
our metropolis out of it without scruple; rejoicing so to bleed the
Protestant faith. Underrate it now--then it was a truly justifiable
anxiety: insomuch that you heard people of station, eminent titled
persons, asking, like the commonest low Radicals, whether it was prudent
legislation to permit of the inheritance of such vast wealth by a young
man, little more than a boy, and noted for freaks. And some declared it
could not be allowed for foreign monks to have a claim to inherit English
property. There was a general consent, that if the Earl of Fleetwood
went to the extreme of making over his property to those monks, he should
be pronounced insane and incapable. Ultimately the world was a little
pacified by hearing that a portion of it was entailed, Esslemont and the
Welsh mines.

So it might be; but what if he had no child! The marriage amazing
everybody scarcely promised fruit, it was thought. Countess Livia, much
besought for her opinion, scouted the possibility. And Carinthia Jane
was proclaimed by John Rose Mackrell (to his dying day the poor gentleman
tried vainly to get the second syllable of his name accentuated) a young
woman who would outlive twice over the husband she had. He said of his
name, it was destined to pass him down a dead fish in the nose of
posterity, and would affect his best jokes; which something has done, or
the present generation has lost the sense of genuine humour.

Thanks to him, the talk of the Whitechapel Countess again sprang up,
merrily as ever; and after her having become, as he said, 'a desiccated
celebrity,' she outdid cabinet ministers and naughty wives for a living
morsel in the world's mouth. She was denounced by the patriotic party as
the cause of the earl's dalliance with Rome.

The earl, you are to know, was then coasting along the Mediterranean, on
board his beautiful schooner yacht, with his Lord Feltre, bound to make
an inspection of Syrian monasteries, and forget, if he could, the face of
all faces, another's possession by the law.

Those two lords, shut up together in a yacht, were advised by their
situation to be bosom friends, and they quarrelled violently, and were
reconciled, and they quarrelled again; they were explosive chemicals;
until the touch of dry land relieved them of what they really fancied the
spell of the Fiend. For their argumentative topic during confinement was
Woman, when it was not Theology; and even off a yacht, those are subjects
to kindle the utmost hatred of dissension, if men are not perfectly
concordant. They agreed upon land to banish any talk of Women or
Theology, where it would have been comparatively innocent; so they both
desiring to be doing the thing they had sworn they would not do, the
thoughts of both were fastened on one or the other interdicted subject.
They hardly spoke; they perceived in their longing minds, that the
imagined spell of, the Fiend was indeed the bile of the sea, secreted
thickly for want of exercise, and they both regretted the days and nights
of their angry controversies; unfit pilgrims of the Holy Land, they
owned.

To such effect, Lord Fleetwood wrote to Gower Woodseer, as though there
had been no breach between them, from Jerusalem, expressing the wish to
hear his cool wood-notes of the philosophy of Life, fresh drawn from
Nature's breast; and urgent for an answer, to be addressed to his hotel
at Southampton, that he might be greeted on his return home first by his
'friend Gower.'

He wrote in the month of January. His arrival at Southampton was on the
thirteenth day of March; and there he opened a letter some weeks old, the
bearer of news which ought by rights to make husbands proudly happy.

CHAPTER XXVII

WE DESCEND INTO A STEAMER'S ENGINE-ROOM

Fleetwood had dropped his friend Lord Feltre at Ancona; his good fortune
was to be alone when the clang of bells rang through his head in the
reading of Gower's lines. Other letters were opened: from the Countess
Livia, from Lady Arpington, from Captain Kirby-Levellier. There was one
from his lawyers, informing him of their receipt of a communication dated
South Wales, December 11th, and signed Owain Wythan; to the effect, that
the birth of a son to the Earl of Fleetwood was registered on the day of
the date, with a copy of the document forwarded.

Livia scornfully stated the tattling world's 'latest.' The captain was
as brief, in ordinary words, whose quick run to the stop could be taken
for a challenge of the eye. It stamped the adversary's frown on
Fleetwood reading. Lady Arpington was more politic; she wrote of
'a healthy boy,' and 'the healthy mother giving him breast,' this being
'the way for the rearing of strong men.' She condescended to the
particulars, that she might touch him.

The earl had not been so reared: his mother was not the healthy mother.
One of his multitudinous, shifty, but ineradicable ambitions was to
exhibit an excellingly vigorous, tireless constitution. He remembered
the needed refreshment of the sea-breezes aboard his yacht during the
week following the sleep-discarded nights at Scrope's and the green
tables. For a week he hung to the smell of brine, in rapturous amity
with Feltre, until they yellowed, differed, wrangled, hated.

A powerful leaven was put into him by the tidings out of Wales. Gower,
good fellow, had gone down to see the young mother three weeks after the
birth of her child. She was already renewing her bloom. She had
produced the boy in the world's early manner, lightly, without any of the
tragic modern hovering over death to give the life. Gower compared it to
a 'flush of the vernal orchard after a day's drink of sunlight.' That
was well: that was how it should be. One loathes the idea of tortured
women.

The good fellow was perhaps absurdly poetical. Still we must have poetry
to hallow this and other forms of energy: or say, if you like, the right
view of them impels to poetry. Otherwise we are in the breeding yards,
among the litters and the farrows. It is a question of looking down or
looking up. If we are poor creatures--as we are if we do but feast and
gamble and beget--we shall run for a time with the dogs and come to the
finish of swine. Better say, life is holy! Why, then have we to thank
her who teaches it.

He gazed at the string of visions of the woman naming him husband, making
him a father: the imagined Carinthia--beautiful Gorgon, haggard Venus;
the Carinthia of the precipice tree-shoot; Carinthia of the ducal
dancing-hall; and she at the altar rails; she on the coach box; she
alternately softest of brides, doughtiest of Amazons. A mate for the
caress, an electrical heroine, fronted him.

Yes, and she was Lord Fleetwood's wife, cracking sconces,--a demoiselle
Moll Flanders,--the world's Whitechapel Countess out for an airing,
infernally earnest about it, madly ludicrous; the schemer to catch his
word, the petticoated Shylock to bind him to the letter of it; now
persecuting, haunting him, now immoveable for obstinacy; malignant to
stay down in those vile slums and direct tons of sooty waters on his head
from its mains in the sight of London, causing the least histrionic of
men to behave as an actor. He beheld her a skull with a lamp behind the
eyeholes.

But this woman was the woman who made him a father; she was the mother of
the heir of the House; and the boy she clasped and suckled as her boy was
his boy. They met inseparably in that new life.

Truly, there could not be a woman of flesh so near to a likeness with the
beatific image of Feltre's worshipped Madonna!

The thought sparkled and darkened in Fleetwood's mind, as a star passing
into cloud. For an uproarious world claimed the woman, jeered at all
allied with her; at her husband most, of course:--the punctilious noodle!
the golden jackass, tethered and goaded! He had choice among the pick of
women: the daughter of the Old Buccaneer was preferred by the wiseacre
Coelebs. She tricked him cunningly and struck a tremendous return blow
in producing her male infant.

By the way, was she actually born in wedlock? Lord Levellier's
assurances regarding her origin were, by the calculation, a miser's
shuffles to clinch his bargain. Assuming the representative of holy
motherhood to be a woman of illegitimate birth, the history of the House
to which the spotted woman gave an heir would suffer a jolt when touching
on her. And altogether the history fumed rank vapours. Imagine her boy
in his father's name a young collegian! No commonly sensitive lad could
bear the gibes of the fellows raking at antecedents: Fleetwood would be
the name to start roars. Smarting for his name, the earl chafed at the
boy's mother. Her production of a man-child was the further and grosser
offence.

The world sat on him. His confession to some degree of weakness, even to
folly, stung his pride of individuality so that he had to soothe the pain
by tearing himself from a thought of his folly's partner, shutting
himself up and away from her. Then there was a cessation of annoyance,
flatteringly agreeable: which can come to us only of our having done the
right thing, young men will think. He felt at once warmly with the
world, enjoyed the world's kind shelter, and in return for its eulogy of
his unprecedented attachment to the pledge of his word, admitted an
understanding of its laughter at the burlesque edition of a noble lady in
the person of the Whitechapel Countess. The world sat on him heavily.

He recurred to Gower Woodseer's letter.

The pictures and images in it were not the principal matter,--the
impression had been deep. A plain transcription of the young mother's
acts and words did more to portray her: the reader could supply
reflections.

Would her boy's father be very pleased to see him? she had asked.

And she spoke of a fear that the father would try to take her boy from
her.

'Never that--you have my word!' Fleetwood said; and he nodded
consentingly over her next remark

'Not while I live, till he must go to school!'

The stubborn wife would be the last of women to sit and weep as a rifled
mother.

A child of the Countess Carinthia (he phrased it) would not be deficient
in will, nor would the youngster lack bravery.

For his part, comparison rushing at him and searching him, he owned that
he leaned on pride. To think that he did, became a theme for pride. The
mother had the primitive virtues, the father the developed: he was the
richer mine. And besides, he was he, the unriddled, complex, individual
he; she was the plain barbarian survival, good for giving her offspring
bone, muscle, stout heart.

Shape the hypothesis of a fairer woman the mother of the heir to the
earldom.

Henrietta was analyzed in a glimpse. Courage, animal healthfulness, she,
too, might--her husband not obstructing--transmit; and good looks, eyes
of the sapphire AEgean. And therewith such pliability as the Mother of
Love requires of her servants.

Could that woman resist seductions?

Fleetwood's wrath with her for refusing him and inducing him in spite to
pledge his word elsewhere, haphazard, pricked a curiosity to know whether
the woman could be--and easily! easily! he wagered--led to make her
conduct warrant for his contempt of her. Led,--that is, misled, you
might say, if you were pleading for a doll. But it was necessary to bait
the pleasures for the woman, in order to have full view of the precious
fine fate one has escaped. Also to get well rid of a sort of hectic in
the blood, which the woman's beauty has cast on that reflecting tide: a
fever-sign, where the fever has become quite emotionless and is merely
desirous for the stain of it to be washed out. As this is not the desire
to possess or even to taste, contempt will do it. When we know that the
weaver of the fascinations is purchasable, we toss her to the market
where men buy; and we walk released from vile subjection to one of the
female heap: subjection no longer, doubtless, and yet a stain of the past
flush, often colouring our reveries, creating active phantasms of a
passion absolutely extinct, if it ever was the veritable passion.

The plot--formless plot--to get release by the sacrifice or at least a
crucial temptation of the woman, that should wash his blood clean of her
image, had a shade of the devilish, he acknowledged; and the apology
offered no improvement of its aspect. She might come out of the trial
triumphant. And benefit for himself, even a small privilege, even the
pressure of her hand, he not only shrank from the thought of winning,-he
loathed the thought. He was too delicate over the idea of the married
woman whom he fancied he loved in her maidenhood. Others might press her
hand, lead her the dance: he simply wanted his release. She had set him
on fire; he conceived a method for trampling the remaining sparks and
erasing stain and scars; that was all. Henrietta rejected her wealthy
suitor: she might some day hence be seen crawling abjectly to wealth,
glad of a drink from the cup it holds, intoxicated with the draught.
An injured pride could animate his wealth to crave solace of such a
spectacle.

Devilish, if you like. He had expiated the wickedness in Cistercian
seclusion. His wife now drove him to sin again.

She had given him a son. That fluted of home and honourable life.
She had her charm, known to him alone.

But how, supposing she did not rub him to bristle with fresh irritations,
how go to his wife while Henrietta held her throne? Consideration was
due to her until she stumbled. Enough if she wavered. Almost enough is
she stood firm as a statue in the winds, and proved that the first page
of her was a false introduction. The surprising apparition of a
beautiful woman with character; a lightly-thrilled, pleasure-loving woman
devoted to her husband or protected by her rightful self-esteem, would
loosen him creditably. It had to be witnessed, for faith in it. He
reverenced our legendary good women, and he bowed to noble deeds; and he
ascribed the former to poetical creativeness, the latter operated as a
scourging to his flesh to yield its demoniacal inmates. Nothing of the
kind was doing at present.

Or stay: a studious re-perusal of Gower Woodseer's letter enriched a
little incident. Fleetwood gave his wife her name of Carinthia when he
had read deliberately and caught the scene.

Mrs. Wythan down in Wales related it to Gower. Carinthia and Madge,
trudging over the treeless hills, came on a birchen clump round a deep
hollow or gullypit; precipitous, the earl knew, he had peeped over the
edge in his infant days. There at the bottom, in a foot or so of water,
they espied a lamb; and they rescued the poor beastie by going down to
it, one or both. It must have been the mountain-footed one. A man would
hesitate, spying below. Fleetwood wondered how she had managed to climb
up, and carrying the lamb! Down pitches Madge Winch to help--they did it
between them. We who stand aloof admire stupidly. To defend himself
from admiring, he condemned the two women for the risk they ran to save a
probably broken-legged little beast: and he escaped the melting mood by
forcing a sneer at the sort of stuff out of which popular ballads are
woven. Carinthia was accused of letting her adventurous impulses and
sentimental female compassion swamp thought of a mother's duties. If
both those women had broken their legs the child might have cried itself
into fits for the mother, there she would have remained.

Gower wrote in a language transparent of the act, addressed to a reader
whose memory was to be impregnated. His reader would have flown away
from the simple occurrence on arabesques and modulated tones; and then
envisaging them critically, would have tossed his poor little story to
the winds, as a small thing magnified: with an object, being the next
thought about it. He knew his Fleetwood so far.

His letter concluded: 'I am in a small Surrey village over a baker's
shop, rent eight shillings per week, a dame's infant school opposite my
window, miles of firwood, heath, and bracken openings, for the winged or
the nested fancies. Love Nature, she makes you a lord of her boundless,
off any ten square feet of common earth. I go through my illusions and
come always back on that good truth. It says, beware of the world's
passion for flavours and spices. Much tasted, they turn and bite the
biter. My exemplars are the lately breeched youngsters with two pence in
their pockets for the gingerbread-nut booth on a fair day. I learn more
from one of them than you can from the whole cavalcade of your attendant
Ixionides.'

Mounting the box of his coach for the drive to London, Fleetwood had the
new name for the parasitic and sham vital troop at his ears.

'My Ixionides!' he repeated, and did not scorn them so much as he
rejoiced to be enlightened by the title. He craved the presence of the
magician who dropped illumination with a single word; wholesomer to think
of than the whole body of those Ixionides--not bad fellows, here and
there, he reflected, tolerantly, half laughing at some of their clownish
fun. Gower Woodseer and he had not quarrelled? No, they had merely
parted at one of the crossways. The plebeian could teach that son of
the, genuflexions, Lord Feltre, a lesson in manners. Woodseer was the
better comrade and director of routes. Into the forest, up on the
heights; and free, not locked; and not parroting day and night, but quick
for all that the world has learnt and can tell, though two-thirds of it
be composed of Ixionides: that way lies wisdom, and his index was cut
that way.

Arrived in town, he ran over the headings of his letters, in no degree
anxious for a communication from Wales. There was none. Why none?

She might as well have scrawled her announcement of an event pleasing to
her, and, by the calculation, important to him, if not particularly
interesting. The mother's wifeish lines would, perhaps, have been tested
in a furnace. He smarted at the blank of any, of even two or three
formal words. She sulked? 'I am not a fallen lamb!' he said. Evidently
one had to be a shivering beast in trouble, to excite her to move a hand.

Through so slight a fissure as this piece of discontent cracked in him,
the crowd of his grievances with the woman rushed pell-mell, deluging
young shoots of sweeter feelings. She sulked! If that woman could not
get the command, he was to know her incapable of submission. After
besmutting the name she had filched from him, she let him understand that
there was no intention to repent. Possibly she meant war. In which case
a man must fly, or stand assailed by the most intolerable of vulgar
farces;--to be compared to a pelting of one on the stage.

The time came for him to knock at doors and face his public.

CHAPTER XXVIII

BY CONCESSIONS TO MISTRESS GOSSIP A FURTHER INTRUSION IS AVERTED

Livia welcomed him, with commiserating inquiry behind her languid
eyelids. 'You have all the latest?' it said.

He struck on the burning matter.

'You wish to know the part you have to play, ma'am.' 'Tell me, Russett.'

'You will contradict nothing.'

Her eyebrows asked, 'It means?'

'You have authority from me to admit the facts.'

'They are facts?' she remarked.

'Women love teasing round certain facts, apparently; like the Law courts
over their pet cases.'

'But, Russett, will you listen?'

'Has the luck been civil of late?'

'I think of something else at present. No, it has not.'

'Abrane?'

'Pray, attend to me. No, not Abrane.'

'I believe you've all been cleared out in my absence. St. Ombre?'

Her complexion varied. 'Mr. Ambrose Mallard has once or twice . . .
But let me beg you--the town is rageing with it. My dear Russett, a bold
front now; there 's the chance of your release in view.'

'A rascal in view! Name the sum.'

'I must reckon. My head is--can you intend to submit?'

'So it's Brosey Mallard now. You choose your deputy queerly. He's as
bad as Abrane, with steam to it. Chummy Potts would have done better.'

'He wins one night; loses every pound-note he has the next; and comes
vaunting--the "dry still Sillery" of the establishment,--a perpetual
chorus to his losses!'

'His consolation to you for yours. That is the gentleman. Chummy
doesn't change. Say, why not St. Ombre? He's cool.'

'There are reasons.'

'Let them rest. And I have my reasons. Do the same for them.'

'Yours concern the honour of the family.'

'Deeply: respect them.'

'Your relatives have to be thought of, though they are few and not too
pleasant.'

'If I had thought much of them, what would our relations be? They object
to dicing, and I to leading strings.'

She turned to a brighter subject, of no visible connection with the
preceding.

'Henrietta comes in May.'

'The month of her colours.'

'Her money troubles are terrible.'

'Both of you appear unlucky in your partners,--if winning was the object.
She shall have all the distractions we can offer.'

'Your visit to the Chartreuse alarmed her.'

'She has rejoiced her husband.'

'A girl. She feared the Jesuit in your friend.'

'Feltre and she are about equally affected by music. They shall meet.'

'Russett, this once: I do entreat you to take counsel with your good
sense, and remember that you stand where you are by going against my
advice. It is a perfect storm over London. The world has not to be
informed of your generosity; but a chivalry that invites the most
horrible of sneers at a man! And what can I say? I have said it was
impossible.'

'Add the postscript: you find it was perfectly possible.'

'I have to learn more than I care to hear.'

'Your knowledge is not in request: you will speak in my name.'

'Will you consult your lawyers, Russett, before you commit yourself?'

'I am on my way to Lady Arpington.'

'You cannot be thinking how serious it is.'

'I rather value the opinion of a hard-headed woman of the world.'

'Why not listen to me?'

'You have your points, ma'am.'

'She's a torch.'

'She serves my purpose.'

Livia shrugged sadly. 'I suppose it serves your purpose to be
unintelligible to me.'

He rendered himself intelligible immediately by saying, 'Before I go--
a thousand?'

'Oh, my dear Russett!' she sighed.

'State the amount.'

She seemed to be casting unwieldly figures and he helped her with, 'Mr.
Isaacs?'

'Not less than three, I fear.'

'Has he been pressing?'

'You are always good to us, Russett.'

'You are always considerate for the honour of the family, ma'am. Order
for the money with you here to-morrow. And I thank you for your advice.
Do me the favour to follow mine.

'Commands should be the word.'

'Phrase it as you please.'

'You know I hate responsibility.'

'The chorus in classical dramas had generally that sentiment, but the
singing was the sweeter for it.'

'Whom do you not win when you condescend to the mood, you dear boy?'

He restrained a bitter reply, touching the kind of persons he had won: a
girl from the mountains, a philosophical tramp of the roads, troops of
the bought.

Livia spelt at the problem he was. She put away the task of reading it.
He departed to see Lady Arpington, and thereby rivet his chains.

As Livia had said, she was a torch. Lady Endor, Lady Eldritch, Lady
Cowry, kindled at her. Again there were flights of the burning brands
over London. The very odd marriage; the no-marriage; the two-ends-of-
the-town marriage; and the maiden marriage a fruitful marriage; the
monstrous marriage of the countess productive in banishment, and the
unreadable earl accepting paternity; this Amazing Marriage was again the
riddle in the cracker for tattlers and gapers. It rattled upon the
world's native wantonness, the world's acquired decorum: society's
irrepressible original and its powerfully resisting second nature. All
the rogues of the fine sphere ran about with it, male and female; and
there was the narrative that suggestively skipped, and that which trod
the minuet measure, dropping a curtsey to ravenous curiosity; the apology
surrendering its defensible cause in supplications to benevolence; and
the benevolence damnatory in a too eloquent urgency; followed by the
devout objection to a breath of the subject, so blackening it as to call
forth the profanely circumstantial exposition. Smirks, blushes, dead
silences, and in the lower regions roars, hung round it.

But the lady, though absent, did not figure poorly at all. Granting
Whitechapel and the shillelagh affair, certain whispers of her good
looks, contested only to be the more violently asserted; and therewith
Rose Mackrell's tale of her being a 'young woman of birth,' having a
'romantic story to tell of herself and her parentage,' made her latest
performance the champagne event of it hitherto. Men sparkled when they
had it on their lips.

How, then, London asked, would the Earl of Fleetwood move his pieces in
reply to his countess's particularly clever indication of the check
threatening mate?

His move had no relation to the game, it was thought at first. The world
could not suppose that he moved a simple pawn on his marriage board. He
purchased a shop in Piccadilly for the sale of fruit and flowers.

Lady Arpington was entreated to deal at the shop, Countess Livia had her
orders; his friends, his parasites and satellites, were to deal there.
Intensely earnest as usual, he besought great ladies to let him have the
overflow of their hothouses; and they classing it as another of the
mystifications of a purse crazy for repleteness, inquired: 'But is it you
we are to deal with?' And he quite seriously said: 'With me, yes, at
present.' Something was behind the curtain, of course. His gravity had
the effect of the ultra-comical in concealing it.

The shop was opened. We have the assurance of Rose Mackrell, that he
entered and examined the piles and pans of fruit, and the bouquets
cunningly arranged by a hand smelling French. The shop was roomy,
splendid windows lighted the yellow, the golden, the green and parti-
coloured stores. Four doors off, a chemist's motley in bellied glasses
crashed on the sight. Passengers along the pavement had presented to
them such a contrast as might be shown if we could imagine the Lethean
ferry-boatload brought sharp against Pomona's lapful. In addition to the
plucked flowers and fruits of the shop, Rose Mackrell more attentively
examined the samples doing service at the counters. They were three,
under supervision of a watchful-eyed fourth. Dame Gossip is for quoting
his wit. But the conclusion he reached, after quitting the shop and
pacing his dozen steps, is important; for it sent a wind over the town to
set the springs of tattle going as wildly as when the herald's trumpet
blew the announcement for the world to hear out of Wales.

He had observed, that the young woman supervising was deficient in the
ease of an established superior; her brows were troubled; she was,
therefore, a lieutenant elevated from a lower grade; and, to his
thinking, conducted the business during the temporary retirement of the
mistress of the shop.

And the mistress of the shop?

The question hardly needs be put.

Rose Mackrell or his humour answered it in unfaltering terms.

London heard, with the variety of feelings which are indistinguishable
under a flooding amazement, that the beautiful new fruit and flower shop
had been purchased and stocked by the fabulously wealthy young Earl of
Fleetwood, to give his Whitechapel Countess a taste for business, an
occupation, and an honourable means of livelihood.

There was, Dame Gossip thumps to say, a general belief in this report.
Crowds were on the pavement, peering through the shop-windows. Carriages
driving by stopped to look. My lord himself had been visible, displaying
his array of provisions to friends. Nor was credulity damped appreciably
when over the shop, in gold letters, appeared the name of Sarah Winch.
It might be the countess's maiden name, if she really was a married
countess.

But, in truth, the better informed of the town, having begun to think its
Croesus capable of any eccentricity, chose to believe. They were at the
pitch of excitement which demands and will swallow a succession of wilder
extravagances. To accelerate the delirium of the fun, nothing was too
much, because any absurdity was anticipated. And the earl's readiness to
be complimented on the shop's particular merits, his gratified air at an
allusion to it, whirled the fun faster. He seemed entirely unconscious
that each step he now took wakened peals.

For such is the fate of a man who has come to be dogged by the humourist
for the provision he furnishes; and, as it happens, he is the more
laughable if not in himself a laughable object. The earl's handsome
figure, fine style, and contrasting sobriety heightened the burlesque of
his call to admiration of a shop where Whitechapel would sit in state-
according to the fiction so closely under the lee of fact that they were
not strictly divisible. Moreover, Sarah Winch, whom Chumley Potts drew
into conversation, said, he vowed, she came up West from Whitechapel.
She said it a little nervously, but without blushing. Always on the side
of the joke, he could ask: 'Who can doubt?' Indeed, scepticism poisoned
the sport.

The Old Buccaneer has written: Friends may laugh; I am not roused. My
enemy's laugh is a bugle blown in the night.

Our enemy's laugh at us rouses to wariness, he would say. He can barely
mean, that a condition of drowsihead is other than providently warned by
laughter of friends. An old warrior's tough fibre would, perhaps, be
insensible to that small crackle. In civil life, however, the friend's
laugh at us is the loudest of the danger signals to stop our course: and
the very wealthy nobleman, who is known for not a fool, is kept from
hearing it. Unless he does hear it, he can have no suspicion of its
being about him: he cannot imagine such 'lese-majeste' in the subservient
courtiers too prudent to betray a sign. So Fleetwood was unwarned; and
his child-like unconsciousness of the boiling sentiments around,
seasoned, pricked, and maddened his parasites under compression to
invent, for a faint relief. He had his title for them, they their tales
of him.

Dame Gossip would recount the tales. She is of the order of persons
inclining to suspect the tittle of truth in prodigies of scandal. She is
rustling and bustling to us of 'Carinthia Jane's run up to London to see
Sarah Winch's grand new shop,' an eclipse of all existing grand London
western shops; and of Rose Mackrell's account of her dance of proud
delight in the shop, ending with a 'lovely cheese' just as my lord
enters; and then a scene, wild beyond any conceivable 'for pathos and
humour'--her pet pair of the dissimilar twins, both banging at us for
tear-drops by different roads, through a common aperture:--and the earl
has the Whitechapel baby boy plumped into his arms; and the countess
fetches him a splendid bob-dip and rises out of a second cheese to twirl
and fandango it; and, all serious on a sudden, request, whimperingly
beseech, his thanks to her for the crowing successor she has presented
him with: my lord ultimately, but carefully, depositing the infant on a
basket of the last oranges of the season, fresh from the Azores, by
delivery off my lord's own schooner-yacht in Southampton water; and
escaping, leaving his gold-headed stick behind him--a trophy for the
countess? a weapon, it may be.

Quick she tucks up her skirts, she is after him. Dame Gossip speaks
amusingly enough of the chase, and many eye-witnesses to the earl's
flight at top speed down the right side of the way along by the Green
Park; and of a Prince of the Blood, a portly Royal Duke on foot, bumped
by one or the other of them, she cannot precisely say which, but 'thinks
it to have been Carinthia Jane,' because the exalted personage, his shock
of surprise abating, turned and watched the chase, in much merriment.
And it was called, we are informed, 'The Piccadilly Hare and Hound' from
that day.

Some tradition of an extenuated nobleman pursued by a light-footed lady
amid great excitement, there is; the Dame attaches importance also to
verses of one of the ballads beginning to gain currency at the time
(issuing ostensibly from London's poetic centre, the Seven Dials, which
had, we are to conjecture, got the story by discolouring filtration
through footmen retailing in public-houses the stock of anecdotes they
gathered when stationed behind Rose Mackrell's chair, or Captain
Abrane's, or Chumley 'Potts's), and would have the whole of it quoted:--

"'Tho' fair I be a powdered peruke,
And once was a gaping silly,
Your Whitechapel Countess will prove, Lord Duke,
She's a regular tiger-lily.
She'll fight you with cold steel
or she'll run you off your legs
Down the length of Piccadilly!"

That will satisfy; and perhaps indicate the hand.

'Popular sympathy, of course, was all on the side of the Fair, as ever in
those days when women had not forfeited it by stepping from their
sanctuary seclusion.'

The Dame shall expose her confusions. She really would seem to fancy
that the ballad verifies the main lines of the story, which is an
impossible one. Carinthia had not the means to travel: she was
moneyless. Every bill of her establishment was paid without stint by Mr.
Howell Edwards, the earl's manager of mines; but she had not even the
means for a journey to the Gowerland rocks she longed to see. She had
none since she forced her brother to take the half of her share of their
inheritance, L1400, and sent him the remainder.

Accepted by Chillon John as a loan, says Dame Gossip, and no sooner
received than consumed by the pressing necessities of a husband with the
Rose Beauty of England to support in the comforts and luxuries he deemed
befitting.

Still the Dame leans to her opinion that 'Carinthia Jane' may have been
seen about London: for 'where we have much smoke there must be fire.'
And the countess never denying an imputation not brought against her in
her hearing, the ballad was unchallenged and London's wags had it their
own way. Among the reasons why they so persistently hunted the earl,
his air of a smart correctness shadowed by this new absurdity invited
them, as when a spot of mud on the trimmest of countenances arrests
observation: Humour plucked at him the more for the good faith of his
handsome look under the prolific little disfigurement. Besides, a
wealthy despot, with no conception of any hum around him, will have the
wags in his track as surely as the flexibles in front: they avenge his
exactions.

Fleetwood was honestly unaware of ridicule in the condition of inventive
mania at his heels. Scheming, and hesitating to do, one-half of his mind
was absorbed with the problem of how now to treat the mother of his boy.
Her behaviour in becoming a mother was acknowledged to be good: the
production of a boy was good--considerate, he almost thought. He grew
so far reconciled to her as to have intimations of a softness coming on;
a wish to hear her speak of the trifling kindness done to. the sister of
Madge in reward of kindness done to her; wishes for looks he remembered,
secret to him, more his own than any possessions. Dozens of men had
wealth, some had beautiful wives; none could claim as his own that face
of the look of sharp steel melting into the bridal flower, when she
sprang from her bed to defend herself and recognized the intruder at her
window; stood smitten:--'It is my, husband.' Moonlight gave the
variation of her features.

And that did not appease the resentment tearing him from her, so
justifiable then, as he forced himself to think, now hideous. Glimpses
of the pictures his deeds painted of him since his first meeting with
this woman had to be shunned. He threw them off; they were set down to
the mystery men are. The degrading, utterly different, back view of them
teaches that Life is an irony. If the teaching is not accepted, and we
are to take the blame, can we bear to live? Therefore, either way the
irony of Life is proved. Young men straining at thought, in the grip of
their sensations, reach this logical conclusion. They will not begin by
examining the ground they stand on, and questioning whether they have
consciences at peace with the steps to rearward.

Having established Life as the coldly malignant element, which induces to
what it chastises, a loathing of womanhood, the deputed Mother of Life,
ensues, by natural sequence. And if there be one among women who
disturbs the serenity we choose to think our due, she wears for us the
sinister aspect of a confidential messenger between Nemesis and the
Parcae. Fleetwood was thus compelled to regard Carinthia as both
originally and successively the cause of his internal as well as his
exterior discomfort; otherwise those glimpses would have burnt into
perpetual stigmas. He had also to get his mind away from her. They
pleaded against him volubly with the rising of her image into it.

His manager at the mines had sent word of ominous discontent down there.
His presence might be required. Obviously, then, the threatened place
was unfitting for the Countess of Fleetwood. He despatched a kind of
order through Mr. Howell Edwards, that she should remove to Esslemont to
escape annoyances. Esslemont was the preferable residence. She could
there entertain her friends, could spend a pleasanter time there.

He waited for the reply; Edwards deferred it.

Were they to be in a struggle with her obstinate will once more?

Henrietta was preparing to leave London for her dismal, narrow, and,
after an absence, desired love-nest. The earl called to say farewell,
cool as a loyal wife could wish him to be, admiring perforce. Marriage
and maternity withdrew nothing--added to the fair young woman's bloom.

She had gone to her room to pack and dress. Livia received him. In the
midst of the casual commonplaces her memory was enlightened.

'Oh,' said she, and idly drew a letter out of a blottingpad, 'we have
heard from Wales.' She handed it to him.

Before he knew the thing he did, he was reading:

'There is no rest foamy brother, and I cannot help; I am kept so poor I
have not the smallest of sums. I do not wish to leave Wales--the people
begin to love me; and can one be mistaken? I know if I am loved or
hated. But if my lord will give me an allowance of money of some
hundreds, I will do his bidding; I will leave England or I will go to
Esslemont; I could say--to Mr. Woodseer, in that part of London. He
would not permit. He thinks me blacked by it, like a sweepboy coming
from a chimney; and that I have done injury to his title. No, Riette, to
be a true sister, I must bargain with my lord before I submit. He has
not cared to come and see his little son. His boy has not offended him.
There may be some of me in this dear. I know whose features will soon
show to defend the mother's good name. He is early my champion. He is
not christened yet, and I hear it accuse me, and I am not to blame,--I
still wait my lord's answer.'

'Don't be bothered to read the whole,' Livia had said, with her hand out,
when his eyes were halfway down the page.

Fleetwood turned it, to read the signature: 'Janey.'

She seemed servile enough to some of her friends. 'Carinthia' would have
had--a pleasanter sound. He folded the letter.

'Why give me this? Take it,'--said he.

She laid it on the open pad.

Henrietta entered and had it restored to her, Livia remarking: 'I found
it in the blotter after all.'

She left them together, having to dress for the drive to the coach office
with Henrietta.

'Poor amusement for you this time.' Fleetwood bowed, gently smiling.

'Oh!' cried Henrietta, 'balls, routs, dinners, music--as much music as I
could desire, even I! What more could be asked? I am eternally
grateful.'

'The world says, you are more beautiful than ever.'

'Happiness does it, then,--happiness owing to you, Lord Fleetwood.'

'Columelli pleases you?'

'His voice is heavenly! He carries me away from earth.'

'He is a gentleman, too-rare with those fellows.'

'A pretty manner. He will speak his compliments in his English.'

'You are seasoned to endure them in all languages. Pity another of your
wounded: Brailstone has been hard hit at the tables.

'I cannot pity gamblers.--May I venture?--half a word?'

'Tomes! But just a little compassion for the devoted. He wouldn't play
so madly--if, well, say a tenth dilution of the rapt hearing Columelli
gets.'

'Signor Columelli sings divinely.'

'You don't dislike Brailstone?'

'He is one of the agreeable.'

'He must put his feelings into Italian song!'

'To put them aside will do.'

'We are not to have our feelings?'

'Yes, on the proviso that ours are respected. But, one instant, Lord
Fleetwood, pray. She is--I have to speak of her as my sister. I am sure
she regrets . . . She writes very nicely.'

'You have a letter from her?'

Henrietta sighed that it would not bear exposure to him: 'Yes.'

'Nicely worded?'

'Well, yes, it is.'

He paused, not expecting that the letter would be shown, but silence
fired shots, and he had stopped the petition. 'We are to have you for a
week's yachting. You prescribe your company. Only be merciful.
Exclusion will mean death to some. Columelli will be touring in
Switzerland. You shall have him in the house when my new bit of ground
Northwest of London is open: very handy, ten miles out. We'll have the
Opera troupe there, and you shall command the Opera.'

Her beauty sweetened to thank him.

If, as Livia said, his passion for her was unchanged, the generosity
manifested in the considerate screen it wore over any physical betrayal
of it, deserved the lustre of her eyes. It dwelt a moment, vivid with
the heart close behind and remorseful for misreading of old his fine
character. Here was a young man who could be the very kindest of friends
to the woman rejecting him to wed another. Her smile wavered. How shall
a loving wife express warmth of sentiment elsewhere, without the one beam
too much, that plunges her on a tideway? His claim of nothing called for
everything short of the proscribed. She gave him her beauty in fullest
flower.

It had the appearance of a temptation; and he was not tempted, though he
admired; his thought being, Husband of the thing!

But he admired. That condition awakened his unsatisfied past days to
desire positive proof of her worthlessness. The past days writhed in
him. The present were loveless, entirely cold. He had not even the
wish to press her hand. The market held beautiful women of a like
description. He wished simply to see her proved the thing he read her
to be: and not proved as such by himself. He was unable to summon or
imagine emotion enough for him to simulate the forms by which fair women
are wooed to their perdition. For all he cared, any man on earth might
try, succeed or fail, as long as he had visual assurance that she
coveted, a slave to the pleasures commanded by the wealth once disdained
by her. Till that time, he could not feel himself perfectly free.

Dame Gossip prefers to ejaculate. Young men are mysteries! and bowl us
onward. No one ever did comprehend the Earl of Fleetwood, she says: he
was bad, he was good; he was whimsical and stedfast; a splendid figure, a
mark for ridicule; romantic and a close arithmetician; often a devil,
sometimes the humanest of creatures.

In fine, he was a millionaire nobleman, owning to a considerable infusion
of Welsh blood in the composition of him. Now, to the Cymry and to the
pure Kelt, the past is at their elbows continually. The past of their
lives has lost neither face nor voice behind the shroud; nor are the
passions of the flesh, nor is the animate soul, wanting to it. Other
races forfeit infancy, forfeit youth and manhood with their progression
to the wisdom age may bestow. These have each stage always alive, quick
at a word, a scent, a sound, to conjure up scenes, in spirit and in
flame. Historically, they still march with Cadwallader, with Llewellyn,
with Glendower; sing with Aneurin, Taliesin, old Llywarch: individually,
they are in the heart of the injury done them thirty years back or
thrilling to the glorious deed which strikes an empty buckler for most of
the sons of Time. An old sea rises in them, rolling no phantom billows
to break to spray against existing rocks of the shore. That is why, and
even if they have a dose of the Teuton in them, they have often to feel
themselves exiles when still in amicable community among the
preponderating Saxon English.

Add to the single differentiation enormous wealth--we convulse the
excellent Dame by terming it a chained hurricane, to launch in foul
blasts or beneficent showers, according to the moods during youth--and
the composite Lord Fleetwood comes nearer into our focus. Dame Gossip,
with her jigging to be at the butterwoman's trot, when she is not
violently interrupting, would suffer just punishment were we to digress
upon the morality of a young man's legal possession of enormous wealth as
well.

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