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The Amazing Marriage, Complete by George Meredith

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Wholly Cambrian Fleetwood was not. But he had to the full the Cambrian's
reverential esteem for high qualities. His good-bye with Henrietta, and
estimate of her, left a dusky mental, void requiring an orb of some sort
for contemplation; and an idea of the totally contrary Carinthia, the
woman he had avowedly wedded, usurped her place. Qualities were
admitted. She was thrust away because she had offended: still more
because he had offended. She bore the blame for forcing him to an
examination of his conduct at this point and that, where an ancestral
savage in his lineaments cocked a strange eye. Yet at the moment of the
act of the deed he had known himself the veritable Fleetwood. He had now
to vindicate himself by extinguishing her under the load of her
unwomanliness: she was like sun-dried linen matched beside oriental silk:
she was rough, crisp, unyielding. That was now the capital charge.
Henrietta could never be guilty of the unfeminine. Which did he prefer?

It is of all questions the one causing young men to screw wry faces when
they are asked; they do so love the feminine, the ultra-feminine, whom
they hate for her inclination to the frail. His depths were sounded, and
he answered independently of his will, that he must be up to the heroical
pitch to decide. Carinthia stood near him then. The confession was a
step, and fraught with consequences. Her unacknowledged influence
expedited him to Sarah Winch's shop, for sight of one of earth's honest
souls; from whom he had the latest of the two others down in Wales, and
of an infant there.

He dined the host of his Ixionides, leaving them early for a drive at
night Eastward, and a chat with old Mr. Woodseer over his punching and
sewing of his bootleather. Another honest soul. Mr. Woodseer thankfully
consented to mount his coach-box next day, and astonish Gower with a drop
on his head from the skies about the time of the mid-day meal.

There we have our peep into Dame Gossip's young man mysterious.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Always the shout for more produced it ("News")
Anecdotist to slaughter families for the amusement
Call of the great world's appetite for more (Invented news)
Enemy's laugh is a bugle blown in the night
He wants the whip; ought to have had it regularly
Magnificent in generosity; he had little humaneness
She was thrust away because because he had offended
Women treat men as their tamed housemates

THE AMAZING MARRIAGE

By GEORGE MEREDITH

1895

BOOK 4.

XXIX. CARINTHIA IN WALES
XXX. REBECCA WYTHAN
XXXI. WE HAVE AGAIN TO DEAL WITH THE EXAMPLES OF OUR YOUNGER MAN
XXXII. IN WHICH WE SEE CARINTHIA PUT IN PRACTICE ONE OF HER OLD
FATHER'S LESSONS
XXXIII. A FRIGHTFUL DEBATE
XXXIV. A SURVEY OF THE RIDE OF THE WELSH CAVALIERS ESCORTING THE
COUNTESS OF FLEETWOOD TO KENTISH ESSLEMONT
XXXV. IN WHICH CERTAIN CHANGES MAY BE DISCERNED
XXXVI. BELOW THE SURFACE AND ABOVE
XXXVII. BETWEEN CARINTHIA AND HER LORD
XXXVIII. A DIP INTO THE SPRING'S WATERS

CHAPTER XXIX

CARINTHIA IN WALES

An August of gales and rains drove Atlantic air over the Welsh highlands.
Carinthia's old father had impressed on her the rapture of 'smelling
salt' when by chance he stood and threw up his nostrils to sniff largely
over a bed of bracken, that reminded him of his element, and her fancy
would be at strain to catch his once proud riding of the seas. She felt
herself an elder daughter of the beloved old father, as she breathed it
in full volume from the billowy West one morning early after sunrise and
walked sisterly with the far-seen inexperienced little maid, whom she saw
trotting beside him through the mountain forest, listening, storing his
words, picturing the magnetic, veined great gloom of an untasted world.

This elder daughter had undergone a shipwreck; but clear proof that she
had not been worsted was in the unclouded liveliness of the younger one
gazing forward. Imaginative creatures who are courageous will never be
lopped of the hopeful portion of their days by personal misfortune.
Carinthia could animate both; it would have been a hurt done to a living
human soul had she suffered the younger self to run overcast. Only, the
gazing forward had become interdicted to her experienced self. Nor could
she vision a future having any horizon for her child. She saw it in
bleak squares, and snuggled him between dangers weathered and dangers
apprehended.

The conviction that her husband hated her had sunk into her nature.
Hating the mother, he would not love her boy. He was her boy, and
strangely bestowed, not beautifully to be remembered rapturously or
gratefully, and with deep love of the father. She felt the wound
recollection dealt her. But the boy was her one treasure, and no
treasure to her husband. They were burdens, and the heir of his House,
child of a hated mother, was under perpetual menace from an unscrupulous
tyrannical man. The dread and antagonism were first aroused by the birth
of her child. She had not known while bearing him her present acute
sensation of the hunted flying and at bay. Previously, she could say:
I did wrong here; I did wrong there. Distrust had brought the state of
war, which allows not of the wasting of our powers in confessions.

Her husband fed her and he clothed her; the limitation of his bounty was
sharply outlined. Sure of her rectitude, a stranger to the world, she
was not very sensible of dishonour done to her name. It happened at
times that her father inquired of her how things were going with his
little Carin; and then revolt sprang up and answered on his behalf rather
fiercely. She was, however, prepared for any treaty including
forgiveness, if she could be at peace in regard to her boy, and have an
income of some help to her brother. Chillon was harassed on all sides;
she stood incapable of aiding; so foolishly feeble in the shadow of her
immense longing to strive for him, that she could think her husband had
purposely lamed her with an infant. Her love of her brother, now the one
man she loved, laid her insufficiency on the rack and tortured imbecile
cries from it.

On the contrary, her strange husband had blest her with an infant.
Everything was pardonable to him if he left her boy untouched in the
mother's charge. Much alone as she was, she raised the dead to pet and
cherish her boy. Chillon had seen him and praised him. Mrs. Owain
Wythan, her neighbour over a hill, praised him above all babes on earth,
poor childless woman!

She was about to cross the hill and breakfast with Mrs. Wythan. The time
for the weaning of the babe approached, and had as prospect beyond it her
dull fear that her husband would say the mother's work was done, and
seize the pretext to separate them: and she could not claim a longer term
to be giving milk, because her father had said: 'Not a quarter of a month
more than nine for the milk of the mother'--or else the child would draw
an unsustaining nourishment from the strongest breast. She could have
argued her exceptional robustness against another than he. But the dead
father wanting to build a great race of men and women ruled.

Carinthia knelt at the cradle of a princeling gone from the rich repast
to his alternative kingdom.

'You will bring him over when he wakes,' she said to Madge. 'Mrs. Wythan
would like to see him every day. Martha can walk now.'

'She can walk and hold a child in her two arms, my lady,' said Madge.
'She expects miners popping up out of the bare ground when she sees no
goblins.'

'They!--they know him, they would not hurt him, they know my son,' her
mistress answered.

The population of the mines in revolt had no alarms for her. The works
were empty down below. Men sat by the wayside brooding or strolled in
groups, now and then loudly exercising their tongues; or they stood in
circle to sing hymns: melancholy chants of a melancholy time for all.

How would her father have acted by these men? He would have been among
them. Dissensions in his mine were vapours of a day. Lords behaved
differently. Carinthia fancied the people must regard their master as a
foreign wizard, whose power they felt, without the chance of making their
cry to him heard. She, too, dealt with a lord. It was now his wish for
her to leave the place where she had found some shreds of a home in the
thought of being useful. She was gathering the people's language; many
of their songs she could sing, and please them by singing to them. They
were not suspicious of her; at least, their women had open doors for her;
the men, if shy, were civil. She had only to go below, she was greeted
in the quick tones of their speech all along the street of the slate-
roofs.

But none loved the castle, and she as little, saving the one room in it
where her boy lay. The grey of Welsh history knew a real castle beside
the roaring brook frequently a torrent. This was an eighteenth century
castellated habitation on the verge of a small wood midway up the height,
and it required a survey of numberless happy recollections to illumine
its walls or drape its chambers. The permanently lighted hearth of a
dear home, as in that forsaken unfavoured old white house of the wooded
Austrian crags, it had not. Rather it seemed a place waiting for an ill
deed to be done in it and stop all lighting of hearths thereafter.

Out on the turf of the shaven hills, her springy step dispersed any misty
fancies. Her short-winged hive set to work in her head as usual,
building scaffoldings of great things to be done by Chillon, present
evils escaped. The rolling big bade hills with the riding clouds excited
her as she mounted, and she was a figure of gladness on the ridge bending
over to hospitable Plas Llwyn, where the Wythans lived, entertaining rich
and poor alike.

They had led the neighbourhood to call on the discarded Countess of
Fleetwood.

A warm strain of arms about her neck was Carinthia's welcome from Mrs.
Wythan lying along the couch in her boudoir; an established invalid, who
yearned sanely to life, and caught a spark of it from the guest eyed
tenderly by her as they conversed.

'Our boy?--our Chillon Kirby till he has his baptism names; he is well?
I am to see him?'

'He follows me. He sleeps almost through the night now.'

'Ah, my dear,' Mrs. Wythan sighed, imagining: 'It would disappoint me if
he did not wake me.'

'I wake at his old time and watch him.'

Carinthia put on the baby's face in the soft mould of slumber.

'I see him!' Mrs. Wythan cried. 'He is part mine. He has taught Owain
to love babies.'

A tray of breakfast was placed before the countess. 'Mr. Wythan is down
among his men?' she said.

'Every morning, as long as this agitation lasts. I need not say good
appetite to you after your walk. You have no fear of the men, I know.
Owain's men are undisturbed; he has them in hand. Absentee masters can't
expect continued harmony. Dear, he tells me Mr. Edwards awaits the
earl.'

Drinking her tea, Carinthia's eyelids shut; she set down her cup, 'If he
must come,' she said. 'He wishes me to leave. I am to go again where I
have no friends, and no language to learn, and can be of no use. It is
not for me that I dread his coming. He speaks to command. The men ask
to be heard. He will have submission first. They do not trust him. His
coming is a danger. For me, I should wish him to come. May I say . . ?'

'Your Rebecca bids you say, my darling.'

'It is, I am with the men because I am so like them. I beg to be heard.
He commands obedience. He is a great nobleman, but I am the daughter of
a greater man, and I have to say, that if those poor miners do harm, I
will not stand by and see an anger against injustice punished. I wish
his coming, for him to agree upon the Christian names of the boy. I feel
his coming will do me, injury in making me offend him worse. I would
avoid that. Oh, dear soul! I may say it to you:--he cannot hurt me any
more. I am spared loving him when I forgive him; and I do. The loving
is the pain. That is gone by.'

Mrs. Wythan fondled and kissed Carinthia's hand.

'Let me say in my turn; I may help you, dear. You know I have my
husband's love, as he mine. Am I, have I ever been a wife to him? Here
I lie, a dead weight, to be carried up and down, all of a wife that Owain
has had for years. I lie and pray to be taken, that my good man, my
proved good man, may be free to choose a healthy young woman and be
rewarded before his end by learning what a true marriage is. The big
simpleton will otherwise be going to his grave, thinking he was married!
I see him stepping about softly in my room, so contented if he does not
disturb me, and he crushes me with a desire to laugh at him while I
worship. I tricked him into marrying the prostrate invalid I am, and he
can't discover the trick, he will think it's a wife he has, instead of a
doctor's doll. Oh! you have a strange husband, it has been a strange
marriage for you, but you have your invincible health, you have not to
lie and feel the horror of being a deception to a guileless man, whose
love blindfolds him. The bitter ache to me is, that I can give nothing.
You abound in power to give.'

Carinthia lifted her open hands for sign of their emptiness.

'My brother would not want, if I could give. He may have to sell out of.
the army, he thinks, fears; and I must look on. Our mother used to say
she had done something for her country in giving a son like Chillon to
the British army. Poor mother! Our bright opening days all seem to end
in rain. We should turn to Mr. Wythan for a guide.'

'He calls you Morgan le Fay christianized.'

'What I am!' Carinthia raised and let fall her head. 'An example makes
dwarfs of us. When Mr. Wythan does penance for temper by descending into
his mine and working among his men for a day with the pick, seated, as he
showed me down below, that is an example. If I did like that, I should
have no firedamp in the breast, and not such a task to forgive, that when
I succeed I kill my feelings.'

The entry of Madge and Martha, the nurse-girl, with the overflowing
armful of baby, changed their converse into melodious exclamations.

'Kit Ines has arrived, my lady,' Madge said. 'I saw him on the road and
stopped a minute.'

Mrs. Wythan studied Carinthia. Her sharp invalid's ears had caught the
name. She beckoned. 'The man who--the fighting man?'

'It will be my child this time,' said Carinthia; 'I have no fear for
myself.' She was trembling, though her features were hard for the war
her lord had declared, as it seemed. 'Did he tell you his business
here?' she asked of Madge.

'He says, to protect you, my lady, since you won't leave.'

'He stays at the castle?'

'He is to stay there, he says, as long as the Welsh are out.'

'The "Welsh" are misunderstood by Lord Fleetwood,'

Mrs. Wythan said to Carinthia. 'He should live among them. They will
not hurt their lady. Protecting may be his intention; but we will have
our baby safe here. Not?' she appealed. 'And baby's mother. How
otherwise?'

'You read my wishes,' Carinthia rejoined. 'The man I do not think a bad
man. He has a master. While I am bound to my child I must be restful,
and with the man at the castle Martha's goblins would jump about me day
and night. My boy makes a coward of his mother.'

'We merely take a precaution, and I have the pleasure of it,' said her
hostess. 'Give orders to your maid not less than a fortnight. It will
rejoice my husband so much.'

As with the warmly hospitable, few were the words. Madge was promised by
her mistress plenty of opportunities daily for seeing Kit Ines, and her
mouth screwed to one of women's dimples at a corner. She went off in a
cart to fetch boxes, thinking: We are a hunted lot! So she was not
mildly disposed for the company of Mr. Kit on her return to the castle.

England's champion light-weight thought it hard that his, coming down to
protect the castle against the gibbering heathen Welsh should cause a
clearing out, and solitariness for his portion.

'What's the good of innocence if you 're always going to suspect a man!'
he put it, like a true son of the pirates turned traders. 'I've got a
paytron, and a man in my profession must have a paytron, or where is he?
Where's his money for a trial of skill? Say he saves and borrows and
finds the lump to clap it down, and he's knocked out o' time. There he
is, bankrup', and a devil of a licking into the bargain. That 's the
cream of our profession, if a man has got no paytron.

No prize-ring can live without one. The odds are too hard on us. My
lady ought to take into account I behaved respectful when I was obliged
to do my lord's orders and remove her from our haunts, which wasn't to
his taste. Here I'm like a cannon for defending the house, needs be, and
all inside flies off scarified.'

'It strikes me, Kit Ines, a man with a paytron is no better than a tool
of a man,' said Madge.

'And don't you go to be sneering at honest tools,' Ines retorted. 'When
will women learn a bit of the world before they're made hags of by old
Father Wear-and-Tear! A young woman in her prime, you Madge! be such a
fool as not see I serve tool to stock our shop.'

'Your paytron bid you steal off with my lady's child, Kit Ines, you'd do
it to stock your shop.'

Ines puffed. 'If you ain't a girl to wallop the wind! Fancy me at that
game! Is that why my lady--but I can't be suspected that far? You make
me break out at my pores. My paytron's a gentleman: he wouldn't ask and
I couldn't act such a part. Dear Lord! it'd have to be stealing off, for
my lady can use a stick; and put it to the choice between my lady and her
child and any paytron living, paytron be damned, I'd say, rather'n go
against my notions of honour. Have you forgot all our old talk about the
prize-ring, the nursery of honour in Old England?'

'That was before you sold yourself to a paytron, Kit Ines.'

'Ah! Women wants mast-heading off and on, for 'em to have a bit of a
look-out over life as it is. They go stewing over books of adventure
and drop into frights about awful man. Take me, now; you had a no small
admiration for my manly valour once, and you trusted yourself to me, and
did you ever repent it?--owning you're not the young woman to tempt to t'
other way.'

'You wouldn't have found me talking to you here if I had.'

'And here I'm left to defend an empty castle, am I?'

'Don't drink or you'll have your paytron on you. He's good use there.'

'I ask it, can I see my lady?'

'Drunk nor sober you won't. Serve a paytron, be a leper, you'll find,
with all honest folk.'

Ines shook out an execrating leg at the foul word. 'Leper, you say? You
say that? You say leper to me?'

'Strut your tallest, Kit Ines. It's the money rattles in your pocket
says it.'

'It's my reputation for decent treatment of a woman lets you say it,
Madge Winch.'

'Stick to that as long as your paytron consents. It's the one thing
you've got left.'

'Benefit, you hussy, and mind you don't pull too stiff.'

'Be the woman and have the last word!'

His tongue was checked. He swallowed the exceeding sourness of a retort
undelivered, together with the feeling that she beat him in the wrangle
by dint of her being an unreasonable wench.

Madge huffed away to fill her boxes.

He stood by the cart, hands deep down his pockets, when she descended.
She could have laughed at the spectacle of a champion prize-fighter out
of employ, hulking idle, because he was dog to a paytron; but her
contempt of him declined passing in small change.

'So you're off. What am I to tell my lord when he comes?' Kit growled.
'His yacht's fetching for a Welsh seaport.'

She counted it a piece of information gained, and jumped to her seat,
bidding the driver start. To have pretty well lost her character for a
hero changed into a patron's dog, was a thought that outweighed the show
of incivility. Some little distance away, she reproached herself for
not having been so civil as to inquire what day my lord was expected,
by his appointment. The girl reflected on the strangeness of a body of
discontented miners bringing my lord and my lady close, perhaps to meet.

CHAPTER XXX

REBECCA WYTHAN

The earl was looked for at the, chief office of the mines, and each day
an expectation of him closed in disappointment, leaving it to be surmised
that there were more serious reasons for his continued absence during a
crisis than any discussed; whether indeed, as when a timepiece neglects
to strike the hour which is, by the reckoning of natural impatience,
past, the capital charge of 'crazy works' must not be brought against a
nobleman hitherto precise upon business, of a just disposition, fairly
humane. For though he was an absentee sucking the earth through a tube,
in Ottoman ease, he had never omitted the duty of personally attending on
the spot to grave cases under dispute. The son of the hardheaded father
came out at a crisis; and not too highhandedly: he could hear an opposite
argument to the end. Therefore, since he refused to comply without
hearing, he was wanted on the spot imperatively, now.

Irony perusing History offers the beaten and indolent a sugary acid in
the indication of the spites and the pranks, the whims and the tastes,
at the springs of main events. It is, taken by itself, destructive
nourishment. But those who labour in the field to shovel the clods of
earth to History, would be wiser of their fellows for a minor dose of it.
Mr. Howell Edwards consulting with Mr. Owain Wythan on the necessity,
that the earl should instantly keep his promise to appear among the men
and stop the fermentation, as in our younger days a lordly owner still
might do by small concessions and the physical influence--the nerve-
charm--could suppose him to be holding aloof for his pleasure or his
pride; perhaps because of illness or inability to conceive the actual
situation at a distance. He mentioned the presence of the countess, and
Mr. Wythan mentioned it, neither of them thinking a rational man would so
play the lunatic as to let men starve, and wreck precious mines, for the
sake of avoiding her.

Sullen days went by. On these days of the slate-cloud or the leaden-
winged, Carinthia walked over the hills to her staring or down-eyed
silent people, admitted without a welcome at some doors, rejected at
some. Her baskets from the castle were for the most part received as
graciously. She continued to direct them for delivery where they were
needed, and understood why a charity that supplied the place of justice
was not thanked. She and her people here were one regarding the master,
as she had said. They could not hurt her sensitiveness, she felt too
warmly with them. And here it was not the squalid, flat, bricked east-
corner of London at the close of her daily pilgrimage. Up from the
solitary street of the slate-roofs, she mounted a big hill and had the
life of high breathing. A perpetual escape out of the smoky, grimy city
mazes was trumpeted to her in the winds up there: a recollected contrast
lightened the skyless broad spaces overhead almost to sunniness. Having
air of the hills and activity for her limbs, she made sunshine for
herself. Regrets were at no time her nestlings.

Look backward only to correct an error of conduct for the next attempt,
says one of her father's Maxims; as sharply bracing for women as for men.
She did not look back to moan. Now that her hunger for the safety of her
infant was momentarily quieted, she could see Kit Ines hanging about the
lower ground, near the alehouse, and smile at Madge's comparison of him
to a drummed-out soldier, who would like to be taken for a holiday
pensioner.

He saluted; under the suspicion of his patron's lady his legs were
hampered, he dared not approach her; though his innocence of a deed not
proposed to him yet--and all to stock that girl Madge's shop, if done!
knocked at his ribs with fury to vindicate himself before the lady and
her maid. A gentleman met them and conducted them across the hills.

And two Taffy gentlemen would hardly be sufficient for the purpose,
supposing an ill-used Englishman inclined to block their way!--What, and
play footpad, Kit Ines? No, it's just a game in the head. But a true
man hates to feel himself suspected. His refuge is the beer of the
country.

Next day there were the two gentlemen to conduct the lady and her maid;
and Taffy the first walks beside the countess; and that girl Madge
trudges along with no other than my lord's Mr. Woodseer, chattering like
a watering-can on a garden-bed: deuce a glance at Kit Ines. How can she
keep it up and the gentleman no more than nodding? How does he enjoy
playing second fiddle with the maid while Mr. tall brown-face Taffy
violins it to her ladyship a stone's throw in front? Ines had less
curiosity to know the object of Mr. Woodseer's appearance on the scene.
Idle, unhandsomely treated, and a cave of the yawns, he merely commented
on his observations.

'Yes, there he is, don't look at him,' Madge said to Gower; 'and whatever
he's here for, he has a bad time of it, and rather more than it's
pleasant for him to think over, if a slave to a "paytron" thinks at all.
I won't judge him; my mistress is bitten with the fear for the child,
worse than ever. And the earl, my lord, not coming, and he wanting her
to move again, seems to her he durstn't do it here and intends to snap at
the child on the road. She-'s forced to believe anything of such a
husband and father. And why does he behave so? I can't spell it. He's
kind to my Sally--you've seen the Piccadilly shop?--because she was . . .
she did her best in love and duty for my lady. And behaves like a
husband hating his wife's life on earth! Then he went down with good Mr.
Woodseer, and called on Sally, pretending to inquire, after she was
kidnapped by that Kit Ines acting to please his paytron, he must be shown
up to the room where she slept, and stands at the door and peeps in,
Sally's letter says, and asks if he may enter the room. He went to the
window looking on the chimneys she used to see, and touched an ornament
over the fireplace, called grandfather's pigtail case--he was a sailor;
only a ridiculous piece of china, that made my lady laugh about the story
of its holding a pigtail. But he turns it over because she did--Sally
told him. He couldn't be pretending when he bought the beautiful shop
and stocked it for Sally. He gets her lots of customers; and no rent to
pay till next Michaelmas a year. She's a made woman through him. He
said to her, he had heard from Mr. Woodseer the Countess of Fleetwood
called her sister; he shook her hand.'

'The Countess of Fleetwood called both of you her sisters, I think,' said
Gower.

'I'm her servant. I'd rather serve her than have a fortune.'

'You were born with a fortune one would like to have a nibble at, Madge.'

'I can't lay hand on it, then.'

'It's the capacity for giving, my dear.'

'Please, Mr. Gower, don't say that; you'll make me cry. He keeps his
wife so poor she hasn't a shilling of her own; she wearies about her
brother; she can't help. He can spend hundreds on my Sally for having
been good to her, in our small way--it's a fairy tale; and he won't hear
of money for his wife, except that she's never to want for anything it
can buy.'

'You give what it can't buy.'

'Me. I'm "a pugilist's wench"--I've heard myself called. She was the
first who gave me a lift; never mind me. Have you come to take her away?
She'd trust herself and the child to you.'

'Take her?--reason with her as to the best we can do. He holds off from
a meeting just now. I fancy he's wearing round to it. His keeping his
wife without money passes comprehension. After serving him for a few
months, I had a store invested to support me for years--as much as I need
before I join the ranks of the pen. I was at my reading and writing and
drowsing, and down he rushes: I 'm in harness again. I can't say it's
dead waste of time; besides I pick up an independence for the days ahead.
But I don't respect myself for doing the work. Here's the difference
between us two servants, Madge: I think of myself, and you don't.'

'The difference is more like between the master and mistress we serve,
Mr. Gower.'

'Well, I'd rather be the woman in this case.'

'You know the reputation I've got. And can only just read, and can't
spell. My mistress teaches me bits of German and French on her walks.'

Gower took a new observation of this girl, whom he had not regarded as
like himself, a pushing blade among the grasses. He proposed to continue
her lessons, if she cared to learn; saying it could be done in letters.

'I won't be ashamed of writing, if you mean it,' said she. 'My mistress
will have a usefuller servant. She had a strange honeymoon of a
marriage, if ever was--and told me t' other day she was glad because it
brought us together--she a born lady!'

'A fling-above born ladies. She's quick as light to hit on a jewel where
there is one, whether it shines or not. She stands among the Verities of
the world.'

'Yes,' Madge said, panting for more. 'Do speak of her. When you praise
her, I feel she's not wasted. Mistress; and friend and wife--if he'd let
her be; and mother; never mother like her. The boy 'll be a sturdy.
She'll see he has every chance. He's a lucky little one to have that
mother.'

'You think her handsome, Madge?'

Gower asked it, wishing to hear a devotee's confusion of qualities and
looks.

The question was a drop on lower spheres, and it required definitions, to
touch the exact nature of the form of beauty, and excuse a cooler tone on
the commoner plane. These demanded language. She rounded the
difficulty, saying: 'You see engravings of archery; that 's her figure--
her real figure. I think her face . . . I can't describe . . . it
flashes.'

'That's it,' said Gower, delighted with his perception of a bare mind at
work and hitting the mark perforce of warmth. 'When it flashes, it's
unequalled. There's the supremacy of irregular lines. People talk of
perfect beauty: suitable for paintings and statues. Living faces, if
they're to show the soul, which is the star on the peak of beauty, must
lend themselves to commotion. Nature does it in a breezy tree or over
ruffled waters. Repose has never such splendid reach as animation--
I mean, in the living face. Artists prefer repose. Only Nature can
express the uttermost beauty with her gathering and tuning of discords.
Well, your mistress has that beauty. I remember my impression when I saw
her first on her mountains abroad. Other beautiful faces of women go
pale, grow stale. The diversified in the harmony of the flash are
Nature's own, her radiant, made of her many notes, beyond our dreams to
reproduce. We can't hope to have a true portrait of your mistress. Does
Madge understand?'

The literary dose was a strong one for her; but she saw the index, and
got a lift from the sound. Her bosom heaved. 'Oh, I do try, Mr. Gower.
I think I do a little. I do more while you're talking. You are good to
talk so to me. You should have seen her the night she went to meet my
lord at those beastly Gardens Kit Ines told me he was going to. She was
defending him. I've no words. You teach me what's meant by poetry. I
couldn't understand that once.'

Their eyes were on the countess and her escort in advance. Gower's
praises of her mistress's peculiar beauty set the girl compassionately
musing. His eloquence upon the beauty was her clue.

Carinthia and Mr. Wythan started at a sharp trot in the direction of the
pair of ponies driven by a groom along the curved decline of the narrow
roadway. His whip was up for signal.

It concerned the house and the master of it. His groom drove rapidly
down, while he hurried on the homeward way, as a man will do, with the
dread upon him that his wife's last breath may have been yielded before
he can enfold her.

Carinthia walked to be overtaken, not daring to fever her blood at a
swifter pace; 'lamed with an infant,' the thought recurred.

'She is very ill, she has fainted, she lies insensible,' Madge heard from
her of Mrs. Wythan. 'We were speaking of her when the groom appeared.
It has happened twice. They fear the third. He fears it, though he
laughs at a superstition. Now step, I know you like walking, Mr.
Woodseer. Once I left you behind.'

'I have the whole scene of the angel and the cripple,' Gower replied.

'O that day!'

They 'were soon speculating on the unimpressionable house in its clump of
wood midway below, which had no response for anxieties.

A maid-servant at the garden gate, by Mr. Wythan's orders, informed
Carinthia that her mistress had opened her eyes: There was a hope of
weathering the ominous third time. But the hope was a bird of short
flight from bush to bush until the doctor should speak to confirm it.
Even the child was under the shadow of the house. Carinthia had him in
her arms, trusting to life as she hugged him, and seeing innumerable
darts out of all regions assailing her treasure.

'She wishes to have you,' Mr. Wythan came and said to her. 'Almost her
first word. The heart is quickening. She will live for me if she can.'

He whispered it. His features shot the sparkle.

Rebecca Wythan had strength to press Carinthia's hand faintly. She made
herself heard: 'No pain.' Her husband sat upright, quite still,
attentive for any sign. His look of quiet pleasure ready to show,
sprightliness dwelt on her. She returned the look, unable to give it
greeting. Past the sense of humour, she wanted to say: 'See the poor
simple fellow who will think it a wife that he has!' She did but look.

Carinthia spoke his name, 'Mr. Wythan,' by chance, and Rebecca breathed
heavily until she formed the words: 'Owain to me.'

'To me,' Owain added.

The three formed a chain of clasped hands.

It was in the mind of the sick lady to disburden herself of more than her
weakness could utter, so far was she above earthly links. The desire in
her was to be quit of the flesh, bearing a picture of her husband as
having the dues of his merits.

Her recovered strength next day brought her nearer to our laws. 'You
will call him Owain, Carinthia?' she said. 'He is not one to presume on
familiarity. I must be going soon. I cannot leave him the wife I would
choose. I can leave him the sister. He is a sure friend. He is the
knightly man women dream of. I harp on it because I long for testimony
that I leave him to have some reward. And this may be, between two so
pure at heart as you two.'

'Dear soul friend, yes, and Owain, yes, I can say it,' Carinthia
rejoined. 'Brother? I have only my Chillon. My life is now for him.
I am punished for separating myself from the son of my father. I have no
heart for a second brother. What I can give to my friend I will. I
shall love you in him, if I am to lose you.'

'Not Owain--it was I was the wretch refused to call on the lonely lady at
the castle until I heard she had done a romantic little bit of thing--
hushed a lambkin's bleating. My loss! my loss! And I could afford it
so poorly. Since then Carinthia has filled my days. I shudder to leave
you and think of your going back to the English. Their sneer withers.
They sent you down among us as a young woman to be shunned.'

'I did wildly, I was ungoverned, I had one idea,' said Carinthia.
'One idea is a bullet, good for the day of battle to beat the foe,
father tells us. It was a madness in me. Now it has gone, I see all
round. I see straight, too. With one idea, we see nothing--nothing but
itself. Whizz! we go. I did. I shall no longer offend in that way.
Mr. Gower Woodseer is here from my lord.'

'With him the child will be safe.'

'I am not alarmed. It is to request--they would have me gone, to prepare
the way for my lord.'

'You have done, it; he has the castle to himself. I cannot-spare you.
A tyrant ordering you to go should be defied. My Lord Fleetwood puts
lightning into my slow veins.'

'We have talked: we shall be reproved by the husband and the doctor,'
said Carinthia.

Sullen days continued and rolled over to night at the mines. Gower's
mission was rendered absurd by the countess's withdrawal from the castle.
He spoke of it to Mr. Wythan once, and the latter took a big breath and
blew such a lord to the winds. 'Persuade our guest to leave us, that the
air may not be tainted for her husband when he comes? He needn't call;
he's not obliged to see her. She's offered Esslemont to live in? I
believe her instinct's right--he has designs on the child. A little more
and we shall have a mad dog in the fellow. He doubles my work by keeping
his men out. If she were away we should hear of black doings. Twenty
dozen of his pugilists wouldn't stop the burning.'

They agreed that persuasions need not be addressed to the countess. She
was and would remain Mr. Wythan's guest. As for the earl, Gower inclined
to plead hesitatingly, still to plead, on behalf of a nobleman owning his
influence and very susceptible to his wisdom, whose echo of a pointed
saying nearly equalled the satisfaction bestowed by print. The titled
man affected the philosopher in that manner; or rather, the crude
philosopher's relish of brilliant appreciation stripped him of his robe.
For he was with Owain Wythan at heart to scorn titles which did not
distinguish practical offices. A nation bowing to them has gone to pith,
for him; he had to shake himself, that he might not similarly stick; he
had to do it often. Objects elevated even by a decayed world have their
magnetism for us unless we nerve the mind to wakeful repulsion. He
protested he had reason to think the earl was humanizing, though he might
be killing a woman in the process. 'Could she wish for better?' he
asked, with at least the gravity of the undermining humourist; and he
started Owain to course an idea when he remarked of Lord Fleetwood:
'Imagine a devil on his back on a river, flying a cherub.'

Owain sparkled from the vision of the thing to wrath with it.

'Ay, but while he's floating, his people are edging on starvation. And
I've a personal grievance. I keep, you know, open hall, bread and cheese
and beer, for poor mates. His men are favouring us with a call. We have
to cart treble from the town. If I straighten the sticks he dies to
bend, it'll be a grievance against me--and a fig for it! But I like to
be at peace with my neighbours, and waft them "penillion" instead of
dealing the "cleddyfal" of Llewellyn.'

At last the tension ceased; they had intelligence of the earl's arrival.

His countess was little moved by it; and the reason for that lay in her
imagination being absorbed. Henrietta had posted her a journal telling
of a deed of Chillon's: no great feat, but precious for its 'likeness to
him,' as they phrased it; that is, for the light it cast on their
conception of the man. Heading a squadron in a riotous Midland town, he
stopped a charge, after fire of a shot from the mob, and galloped up the
street to catch a staggering urchin to his saddle-bow, and place the mite
in safety. Then it was a simple trot of the hussars ahead; way was made
for him.

Now, to see what banquet there is for the big of heart in the world's hot
stress, take the view of Carinthia, to whom her brother's thoughtful
little act of gentleness at the moment of the red-of-the-powder smoke was
divinest bread and wine, when calamity hung around, with the future an
unfooted wilderness, her powers untried, her husband her enemy.

CHAPTER XXXI

WE HAVE AGAIN TO DEAL WITH THE EXAMPLES OF OUR YOUNGER MAN

The most urgent of Dames is working herself up to a grey squall in her
detestation of imagerial epigrams. Otherwise Gower Woodseer's dash at
the quintessential young man of wealth would prompt to the carrying of it
further, and telling how the tethered flutterer above a 'devil on his
back on a river' was beginning to pull if not drag his withholder and
teaser.

Fleetwood had almost a desire to see the small dot of humanity which drew
the breath from him;--and was indistinguishably the bubbly grin and
gurgle of the nurses, he could swear. He kicked at the bondage to our
common fleshly nature imposed on him by the mother of the little animal.
But there had been a mother to his father: odd movements of a warmish
curiosity brushed him when the cynic was not mounting guard. They were,
it seemed, external--no part of him: like blasts of a wayside furnace
across wintry air. They were, as it chanced, Nature's woman in him
plucking at her separated partner, Custom's man; something of an oriental
voluptuary on his isolated regal seat; and he would suck the pleasures
without a descent into the stale old ruts where Life's convict couple
walk linked to one another, to their issue more.

There was also a cold curiosity to see the male infant such a mother
would have. The grandson of Old Lawless might turn out a rascal,--he
would be no mean one, no coward.

That mother, too, who must have been a touch astonished to find herself a
mother:--Fleetwood laughed a curt bark, and heard rebukes, and pleaded
the marriage-trap to the man of his word; devil and cherub were at the
tug, or say, dog and gentleman, a survival of the schoolboy--that mother,
a girl of the mountains, perhaps wanted no more than smoothing by the
world. 'It is my husband' sounded foolish, sounded freshish,--a new
note. Would she repeat it? The bit of simplicity would bear repeating
once. Gower Woodseer says the creature grows and studies to perfect
herself. She's a good way off that, and may spoil herself in the
process; but she has a certain power. Her donkey obstinacy in refusing
compliance, and her pursuit of 'my husband,' and ability to drench him
with ridicule, do not exhibit the ordinary young female. She stamps her
impression on the people she meets. Her husband is shaken to confess it
likewise, despite a disagreement between them.

He has owned he is her husband: he has not disavowed the consequence.
That fellow, Gower Woodseer, might accuse the husband of virtually lying,
if he by his conduct implied her distastefulness or worse. By heaven!
as felon a deed as could be done. Argue the case anyhow, it should be
undone. Let her but cease to madden. For whatever the rawness of the
woman, she has qualities; and experience of the facile loves of London
very sharply defines her qualities. Think of her as raw, she has the
gift of rareness: forget the donkey obstinacy, her character grasps.
In the grasp of her character, one inclines, and her husband inclines,
to become her advocate. She has only to discontinue maddening.

The wealthy young noble prized any form of rareness wherever it was
visible, having no thought of the purchase of it, except with worship.
He could listen pleased to the talk of a Methodist minister sewing
bootleather. He picked up a roadside tramp and made a friend of him,
and valued the fellow's honesty, submitted to his lectures, pardoned his
insolence. The sight of Carinthia's narrow bedroom and strip of bed over
Sarah Winch's Whitechapel shop had gone a step to drown the bobbing
Whitechapel Countess. At least, he had not been hunted by that gaunt
chalk-quarry ghost since his peep into the room. Own it! she likewise
has things to forgive. Women nurse their larvae of ideas about fair
dealing. But observe the distinction: aid if women understood justice
they would be the first to proclaim, that when two are tied together, the
one who does the other serious injury is more naturally excused than the
one who-tenfold abhorrent if a woman!--calls up the grotesque to
extinguish both.

With this apology for himself, Lord Fleetwood grew tolerant of the person
honourably avowed as his wife. So; therefore, the barrier between him
and his thoughts of her was broken. The thoughts carrying red doses were
selected. Finally, the taste to meet her sprouted. If agreeable, she
could be wooed; if barely agreeable, tormented; if disagreeable, left as
before.

Although it was the hazard of a die, he decided to follow his taste.
Her stay at the castle had kept him long from the duties of his business;
and he could imagine it a grievance if he pleased, but he put it aside.
Alighting at his chief manager's office, he passed through the heated
atmosphere of black-browed, wiry little rebels, who withheld the salute
as they lounged: a posture often preceding the spring in compulsorily
idle workers. He was aware of instinct abroad, an antagonism to the
proprietor's rights. They roused him to stand by them, and were his own
form of instinct, handsomely clothed. It behoved that he should examine
them and the claims against them, to be sure of his ground. He and Mr.
Howell Edwards debated the dispute for an hour; agreeing, partially
differing. There was a weakness on the principle in Edwards. These
fellows fixed to the spot are for compromise too much. An owner of mines
has no steady reckoning of income if the rate of wage is perpetually to
shift according to current, mostly ignorant, versions of the prosperity
of the times. Are we so prosperous? It is far from certain. And if the
rate ascends, the question of easing it down to suit the discontinuance
of prosperity agitating our exchequer--whose demand is for fixity--
perplexes us further.

However, that was preliminary. He and Howell Edwards would dine and
wrangle it out. The earl knew himself a hot disputant after dinner.
Incidentally he heard of Lady Fleetwood as a guest of Mrs. Wythan; and
the circumstance was injurious to him because he stood against Mr.
Wythan's pampering system with his men.

Ines up at the castle smelt of beer, and his eyelids were sottish.
Nothing to do tries the virtue of the best. He sought his excuse in a
heavy lamentation over my lady's unjust suspicion of him,--a known man of
honour, though he did serve his paytron.

The cause of Lady Fleetwood's absence was exposed to her outraged lord,
who had sent the man purely to protect her at this castle, where she
insisted on staying. The suspicion cast on the dreary lusher was the
wife's wild shot at her husband. One could understand a silly woman's
passing terror. Her acting under the dictate of it struck the husband's
ribbed breast as a positive clap of hostilities between them across a
chasm.

His previous placable mood was immediately conceived by him to have been
one of his fits of generosity; a step to a frightful dutiful embrace of
an almost repulsive object. He flung the thought of her back on her
Whitechapel. She returned from that place with smiles, dressed in a
laundry white with a sprinkle of smuts, appearing to him as an adversary
armed and able to strike. There was a blow, for he chewed resentments;
and these were goaded by a remembered shyness of meeting her eyes when he
rounded up the slope of the hill, in view of his castle, where he
supposed she would be awaiting 'my husband.' The silence of her absence
was lively mockery of that anticipation.

Gower came on him sauntering about the grounds.

'You're not very successful down here,' Fleetwood said, without greeting.

'The countess likes the air of this country,' said Gower, evasively,
impertinently, and pointlessly; offensively to the despot employing him
to be either subservient or smart.

'I wish her to leave it.'

'She wishes to see you first.'

'She takes queer measures. I start to-morrow for my yacht at Cardiff.'
There the matter ended; for Fleetwood fell to talking of the mines. At
dinner and after dinner it was the topic, and after Howell Edwards had
departed.

When the man who has a heart will talk of nothing but what concerns his
interests, and the heart is hurt, it may be perceived by a cognizant
friend, that this is his proud mute way of petitioning to have the
tenderer subject broached. Gower was sure of the heart, armoured or
bandaged though it was,--a haunt of evil spirits as well,--and he began:
'Now to speak of me half a minute. You cajoled me out of my Surrey room,
where I was writing, in the vein . . .'

'I've had the scene before me!' the earl interposed. 'Juniper dells and
that tree of the flashing leaf, and that dear old boy, your father, young
as you and me, and saying love of Nature gives us eternal youth. On with
you.'

'I doubted whether I should be of use to you. I told you the amount of
alloy in my motives. A year with you, I have subsistence for ten years
assured to me.'

'Don't be a prosy dog, Gower Woodseer.'

'Will you come over to the Wythans before you go?'

'I will not.'

'You would lengthen your stride across a wounded beast?'

'I see no wound to the beast.'

'You can permit yourself to kick under cover of a metaphor.'

'Tell me what you drive at, Gower.'

'The request is, for you to spare pain by taking one step--an extra
strain on the muscles of the leg. It 's only the leg wants moving.'

'The lady has legs to run away, let them bring her back.'

'Why have me with you, then? I'm useless. But you read us all, see
everything, and wait only for the mood to do the right. You read me,
and I'm not open to everybody. You read the crux of a man like me in my
novel position. You read my admiration of a beautiful woman and effort
to keep honest. You read my downright preference of what most people
would call poverty, and my enjoyment of good cookery and good company.
You enlist among the crew below as one of our tempters. You find I come
round to the thing I like best. Therefore, you have your liking for me;
and that's why you turn to me again, after your natural infidelities.
So much for me. You read this priceless lady quite as clearly.
You choose to cloud her with your moods. She was at a disadvantage,
'arriving in a strange country, next to friendless; and each new incident
bred of a luckless beginning--I could say more.'

Fleetwood nodded. 'You are read without the words: You read in history,
too, I suppose, that there are two sides to most cases. The loudest is
not often the strongest. However, now the lady shows herself crazed.
That's reading her charitably. Else she has to be taken for a spiteful
shrew, who pretends to suspect anything that's villanous, because she can
hit on no other way of striking.'

'Crazed, is a wide shot and hits half the world,' muttered Gower. 'Lady
Fleetwood had a troubled period after her marriage. She suffered a sort
of kidnapping when she was bearing her child. There's a book by an
Edinburgh doctor might be serviceable to you. It enlightens me. She
will have a distrust of you, as regards the child, until she understands
you by living with you under one roof.'

'Such animals these women are!' Good Lord !' Fleetwood ejaculated.
'I marry one, and I 'm to take to reading medical books!' He yawned.

'You speak that of women and pretend to love Nature,' said Gower.
'You hate Nature unless you have it served on a dish by your own cook.
That's the way to the madhouse or the monastery. There we expiate the
sin of sins. A man finds the woman of all women fitted to stick him in
the soil, and trim and point him to grow, and she's an animal for her
pains! The secret of your malady is, you've not yet, though you're
on a healthy leap for the practices of Nature, hopped to the primary
conception of what Nature means. Women are in and of Nature. I've
studied them here--had nothing to do but study them. That most noble of
ladies' whole mind was knotted to preserve her child during her time of
endurance up to her moment of trial. Think it over. It's your one
chance of keeping sane.

And expect to hear flat stuff from me while you go on playing tyrant.'

'You certainly take liberties,' Fleetwood's mildest voice remarked.

'I told you I should try you, when you plucked me out of my Surrey nest.'

Fleetwood, passed from a meditative look to a malicious half-laugh.
'You seem to have studied the "most noble of ladies" latterly rather like
a barrister with a brief for the defendant--plaintiff, if you like!'

'As to that, I'll help you to an insight of a particular weakness of
mine,' said Gower. 'I require to have persons of even the highest value
presented to me on a stage, or else I don't grasp them at all--they 're
simply pictures. I saw the lady; admired, esteemed, sufficiently, I
supposed, until her image appeared to me in the feelings of another.
Then I saw fathoms. No doubt, it was from feeling warmer. I went
through the blood of the other for my impression.'

'Name the other,' said the earl, and his features were sharp.

You can have the name,' Gower answered. 'It was the girl, Madge Winch.'

Fleetwood's hard stare melted to surprise and contemptuous amusement.
'You see the lady to be the "most noble of ladies" through the warming
you get by passing into the feelings of Madge Winch?'

Sarcasm was in the tone, and beneath it a thrill of compassionateness
traversed him and shot a remorseful sting with the vision of those two
young women on the coach at the scene of the fight. He had sentience of
their voices, nigh to hearing them. The forlorn bride's hand given to
the anxious girl behind her gushed an image of the sisterhood binding
women under the pangs they suffer from men. He craved a scourging that
he might not be cursing himself; and he provoked it, for Gower was very
sensitive to a cold breath on the weakness he had laid bare; and when
Fleetwood said: 'You recommend a bath in the feelings of Madge Winch?'
the retort came:--'It might stop you on the road to a cowl.'

Fleetwood put on the mask of cogitation to cover a shudder, 'How?'

'A question of the man or the monk with you, as I fancy I've told you
more than once!'

'You may fancy committing any impertinence and be not much out.'

'The saving of you is that you digest it when you've stewed it down.'

'You try me!'

'I don't impose the connection.'

'No, I take the blame for that.'

They sat in dumbness, fidgeted, sprang to their feet, and lighted bedroom
candles.

Mounting the stairs, Gower was moved to let fall a benevolent look on the
worried son of fortune. 'I warned you I should try you. It ought to be
done politely. If I have to speak a truth I 'm boorish. The divinely
damnable naked truth won't wear ornaments. It's about the same as
pitching a handful of earth.'

'You dirt your hands, hit or miss. Out of this corridor! Into my room,
and spout your worst,' cried the earl.

Gower entered his dressing-room and was bidden to smoke there.

'You're a milder boor when you smoke. That day down in Surrey with the
grand old bootmaker was one of our days, Gower Woodseer! There's no
smell of the boor in him. Perhaps his religion helps him, more than
Nature-worship: not the best for manners. You won't smoke your pipe?
--a cigar? Lay on, then, as hard as you like.'

'You're asking for the debauchee's last luxury--not a correction,' said
Gower, grimly thinking of how his whip might prove effective and punish
the man who kept him fruitlessly out of his bed.

'I want stuff for a place in the memory,' said Fleetwood; and the late
hour, with the profitless talk, made it a stinging taunt.

'You want me to flick your indecision.'

'That's half a hit.'

'I 'm to talk italics, for you to store a smart word or so.'

'True, I swear! And, please, begin.'

'You hang for the Fates to settle which is to be smothered in you, the
man or the lord--and it ends in the monk, if you hang much longer.'

'A bit of a scorpion in his intention,' Fleetwood muttered on a stride.
'I'll tell you this, Gower Woodseer; when you lay on in earnest, your
diction is not so choice. Do any of your remarks apply to Lady
Fleetwood?'

'All should. I don't presume to allude to Lady Fleetwood.'

'She has not charged you to complain?'

' Lady Fleetwood is not the person to complain or condescend to speak of
injuries.'

'She insults me with her insane suspicion.'

A swollen vein on the young nobleman's forehead went to confirm the idea
at the Wythans' that he was capable of mischief. They were right; he was
as capable of villany as of nobility. But he happened to be thanking
Gower Woodseer's whip for the comfortable numbness he felt at Carinthia's
behaviour, while detesting her for causing him to desire it and endure
it, and exonerate his prosy castigator.

He was ignorant of the revenge he had on Gower, whose diction had not
been particularly estimable. In the feebleness of a man vainly courting
sleep, the disarmed philosopher tossed from one side to the other through
the remaining hours of darkness, polishing sentences that were natural
spouts of choicest diction; and still the earl's virulent small sneer
rankled. He understood why, after a time. The fervour of advocacy,
which inspires high diction, had been wanting. He had sought more to
lash the earl with his personal disgust and partly to parade his contempt
of a lucrative dependency--than he had felt for the countess. No wonder
his diction was poor. It was a sample of limp thinness; a sort of tongue
of a Master Slender:--flavourless, unsatisfactory, considering its
object: measured to be condemned by its poor achievement. He had
nevertheless a heart to feel for the dear lady, and heat the pleading for
her, especially when it ran to its object, as along a shaft of the sun-
rays, from the passionate devotedness of that girl Madge.

He brooded over it till it was like a fire beneath him to drive him from
his bed and across the turfy roller of the hill to the Wythans', in the
front of an autumnal sunrise--grand where the country is shorn of surface
decoration, as here and there we find some unadorned human creature,
whose bosom bears the ball of warmth.

CHAPTER XXXII

IN WHICH WE SEE CARINTHIA PUT IN PRACTICE ONE OF HER OLD FATHER'S LESSONS

Seated at his breakfast-table, the earl saw Gower stride in, and could
have wagered he knew the destination of the fellow's morning walk. It
concerned him little; he would be leaving the castle in less than an
hour. She might choose to come or choose to keep away. The whims of
animals do not affect men unless they are professionally tamers.
Petty domestic dissensions are besides poor webs to the man pulling
singlehanded at ropes with his revolted miners. On the topic of wages,
too, he was Gower's master, and could hold forth: by which he taught
himself to feel that practical affairs are the proper business of men,
women and infants being remotely secondary; the picturesque and poetry,
consequently, sheer nonsense.

'I suppose your waiting here is useless, to quote you,' he said. 'The
countess can decide now to remain, if she pleases. Drive with me to
Cardiff--I miss you if you 're absent a week. Or is it legs? Drop me a
line of your stages on the road, and don't loiter much.'

Gower spoke of starting his legs next day, if he had to do the journey
alone: and he clouded the yacht for Fleetwood with talk of the Wye and
the Usk, Hereford and the Malvern Hills elliptical over the plains.

'Yes,' the earl acquiesced jealously; 'we ought to have seen--tramped
every foot of our own country. That yacht of mine, there she is, and I
said I would board her and have a fly with half a dozen fellows round the
Scottish isles. We're never free to do as we like.'

'Legs are the only things that have a taste of freedom,' said Gower.

They strolled down to Howell Edwards' office at nine, Kit Ines beside the
luggage cart to the rear.

Around the office and along to the street of the cottages crowds were
chattering, gesticulating; Ines fancied the foreign jabberers inclined to
threaten. Howell Edwards at the door of his office watched them
calculatingly. The lord of their destinies passed in with him, leaving
Gower to study the features of the men, and Ines to reckon the chance of
a fray.

Fleetwood came out presently, saying to Edwards:

'That concession goes far enough. Because I have a neighbour who yields
at every step? No, stick to the principle. I've said my final word.
And here's the carriage. If the mines are closed, more's the pity: but
I'm not responsible. You can let them know if you like, before I drive
off; it doesn't matter to me.'

The carriage was ready. Gower cast a glance up the hill. Three female
figures and a pannier-donkey were visible on the descent. He nodded to
Edwards, who took the words out of his mouth. 'Her ladyship, my lord.'

She was distinctly seen, and looked formidable in definition against the
cloud. Madge and the nurse-maid Martha were the two other young women.
On they came, and the, angry man seated in the carriage could not give
the order to start. Nor could he quite shape an idea of annoyance,
though he hung to it and faced at Gower a battery of the promise to pay
him for this. Tattling observers were estimated at their small
importance there, as everywhere, by one so high above them. But the
appearance of the woman of the burlesque name and burlesque actions, and
odd ascension out of the ludicrous into a form to cast a spell, so that
she commanded serious recollections of her, disturbed him. He stepped
from his carriage. Again he had his incomprehensible fit of shyness;
and a vision of the complacent, jowled, redundant, blue-coated monarch
aswing in imbecile merriment on the signboard of the Royal Sovereign inn;
constitutionally his total opposite, yet instigating the sensation.

In that respect his countess and he had shifted characters. Carinthia
came on at her bold mountain stride to within hail of him. Met by Gower,
she talked, smiled, patted her donkey, clutched his ear, lifted a silken
covering to show the child asleep; entirely at her ease and unhurried.
These women get aid from their pride of maternity. And when they can
boast a parson behind them, they are indecorous up to insolent in their
ostentation of it.

She resumed her advance, with a slight abatement of her challengeing
match, sedately; very collectedly erect; changed in the fulness of her
figure and her poised calm bearing.

He heard her voice addressing Gower: 'Yes, they do; we noticed the slate-
roofs, looking down on them. They do look like a council of rooks in the
hollow; a parliament, you said. They look exceedingly like, when a peep
of sunshine falls. Oh, no; not clergymen!'

She laughed at the suggestion.

She might be one of the actresses by nature.

Is the man unsympathetic with women a hater of Nature deductively? Most
women are actresses. As to worshipping Nature, we go back to the state
of heathen beast, Mr. Philosopher Gower could be answered . . . .

Fleetwood drew in his argument. She stood before him. There was on
his part an insular representation of old French court salute to the
lady, and she replied to it in the exactest measure, as if an instructed
proficient.

She stood unshadowed. 'We have come to bid you adieu, my lord,' she
said, and no trouble of the bosom shook her mellow tones. Her face was
not the chalk-quarry or the rosed rock; it was oddly individual, and,
in a way, alluring, with some gentle contraction of her eyelids. But
evidently she stood in full repose, mistress of herself.

Upon him, it appeared, the whole sensibility of the situation was to be
thrown. He hardened.

'We have had to settle business here,' he said, speaking resonantly, to
cover his gazing discomposedly, all but furtively.

The child was shown, still asleep. A cunning infant not a cry in him to
excuse a father for preferring concord or silence or the bachelor's
exemption.

'He is a strong boy,' the mother said. 'Our doctor promises he will ride
over all the illnesses.'

Fleetwood's answer set off with an alarum of the throat, and dwindled to
'We 'll hope so. Seems to sleep well.'

She had her rocky brows. They were not barren crags, and her shape was
Nature's ripeness, it was acknowledged: She stood like a lance in air-
rather like an Amazon schooled by Athene, one might imagine. Hues of
some going or coming flush hinted the magical trick of her visage. She
spoke in modest manner, or it might be indifferently, without a flaunting
of either.

'I wish to consult you, my lord. He is not baptized. His Christian
names?'

'I have no choice.'

'I should wish him to bear one of my brother's names.'

'I have no knowledge of your brother's names.'

'Chillon is one.'

'Ah! Is it, should you think, suitable to our climate?'

'Another name of my brother's is John.'

'Bull.' The loutish derision passed her and rebounded on him. 'That
would be quite at home.'

'You will allow one of your own names, my lord?'

'Oh, certainly, if you desire it, choose. There are four names you will
find in a book of the Peerage or Directory or so. Up at the castle--or
you might have written:--better than these questions on the public road.
I don't demur. Let it be as you like.'

'I write empty letters to tell what I much want,' Carinthia said.

'You have only to write your plain request.'

'If, now I see you, I may speak another request, my lord.'

'Pray,' he said, with courteous patience, and stepped forward down to the
street of the miners' cottages. She could there speak out-bawl the
request, if it suited her to do so.

On the point of speaking, she gazed round.

'Perfectly safe! no harm possible,' said he, fretful under the burden of
this her maniacal maternal anxiety.

'The men are all right, they would not hurt a child. What can rationally
be suspected!'

'I know the men; they love their children,' she replied. 'I think my
child would be precious to them. Mr. Woodseer and Mr. Edwards and Madge
are there.'

'Is the one more request--I mean, a mother's anxiety does not run to the
extent of suspecting everybody?'

'Some of the children are very pretty,' said Carinthia, and eyed the
bands of them at their games in the roadway and at the cottage doors.
'Children of the poor have happy mothers.'

Her eyes were homely, morning over her face. They were open now to what
that fellow Woodseer (who could speak to the point when he was not aiming
at it) called the parlour, or social sitting-room; where we may have
converse with the tame woman's mind, seeing the door to the clawing
recesses temporarily shut.

'Forgive me if I say you talk like the bigger child,' Fleetwood said
lightly, not ungenially; for the features he looked on were museful,
a picture in their one expression.

Her answer chilled him. 'It is true, my lord. I will not detain you.
I would beg to be supplied with money.'

He was like the leaves of a frosted plant, in his crisp curling inward:--
he had been so genial.

'You have come to say good-bye, that an opportunity to--as you put it--
beg for money. I am not sure of your having learnt yet the right
disposal of money.'

'I beg, my lord, to have two thousand pounds a year allowed me.'

'Ten--and it's a task to spend the sum on a single household--shall be
alloted to your expenditure at Esslemont;--stables, bills, et caetera.
You can entertain. My steward Leddings will undertake the management.
You will not be troubled with payings.'

Her head acknowledged the graciousness.--'I would have two thousand
pounds and live where I please.'

'Pardon me: the two, for a lady living where she pleases, exceeds the
required amount.'

'I will accept a smaller sum, my lord.'

'Money!-it seems a singular demand when all supplies are furnished.'

'I would have control of some money.'

'You are thinking of charities.'

'Not charities.'

'Edwards here has a provision for the hospital needs of the people. Mr.
Woodseer applies to me in cases he can certify. Leddings will do the
same at Esslemont.'

'I am glad, I am thankful. The money I would have is for my own use.
It is for me.'

'Ah. Scarcely that, I fancy.'

The remark should have struck home. He had a thirst for the sign of her
confessing to it. He looked. Something like a petrifaction of her
wildest face was shown.

Carinthia's eyes were hard out on a scattered knot of children down the
street.

She gathered up her skirts. Without a word to him, she ran, and running
shouted to the little ones around and ahead: 'In! in! indoors, children!
"Blant, i'r ty!" Mothers, mothers, ho! get them in. See the dog! "Ci!
Ci!" In with them! "Blant, i'r ty! Vr ty!"'

A big black mongrel appeared worrying at one of two petticoated urchins
on the ground.

She scurried her swiftest, with such warning Welsh as she had on the top
of her mountain cry; and doors flew wide, there was a bang of doors when
she darted by: first gust of terrible heavens that she seemed to the
cottagers.

Other shouts behind her rent the air, gathering to a roar, from the
breasts of men and women. 'Mad dog about' had been for days the rumour,
crossing the hills over the line of village, hamlet, farm, from Cardiff
port.

Dead hush succeeded the burst. Men and women stood off. The brute was
at the lady.

Her arms were straight above her head; her figure overhanging, on a bend
of the knees. Right and left, the fury of the slavering fangs shook her
loose droop of gown; and a dull, prolonged growl, like the clamour of a
far body of insurrectionary marching men, told of the rage.

Fleetwood hovered helpless as a leaf on a bough.

'Back--', I pray,' she said to him, and motioned it, her arms at high
stretch.

He held no weapon. The sweat of his forehead half blinded him. And she
waved him behind her, beckoned to the crowd to keep wide way, used her
lifted hands as flappers; she had all her wits. There was not a wrinkle
of a grimace. Nothing but her locked lips betrayed her vision of
imminent doom. The shaking of her gown and the snarl in the undergrowl
sounded insatiate.

The brute dropped hold. With a weariful jog of the head, it pursued its
course at an awful even swinging pace: Death's own, Death's doer, his
reaper,--he, the very Death of the Terrors.

Carinthia's cry rang for clear way to be kept on either side, and that
accursed went the path through a sharp-edged mob, as it poured pell-mell
and shrank back, closing for the chase to rear of it.

'Father taught me,' she said to the earl, not more discomposed than if
she had taken a jump.

'It's over!' he groaned, savagely white, and bellowed for guns, any
weapons. 'Your father? pray?' She was entreated to speak.

'Yes, it must be shot; it will be merciful to kill it,' she said. 'They
have carried the child indoors. The others are safe. Mr. Woodseer, run
to my nurse-girl, Martha. He goes,' she murmured, and resumed to the
earl: 'Father told me women have a better chance than men with a biting
dog. He put me before him and drilled me. He thought of everything.
Usually the poor beast snaps--one angry bite, not more. My dress teased
it.'

Fleetwood grinned civilly in his excitement; intending to yield patient
hearing, to be interested by any mortal thing she might choose to say.

She was advised by recollection to let her father rest.

'No, dear girl, not hurt, no scratch,--only my gown torn,' she said to
Madge; and Madge heaved and whimpered, and stooped to pin the frayed
strips. 'Quite safe; you see it is easy for women to escape,
Mr. Edwards.'

Carinthia's voice hummed over the girl's head

'Father made me practise it, in case. He forethought. Madge, you heard
of this dog. I told you how to act. I was not feverish. Our babe will
not feel it.'

She bade Madge open her hands. 'A scratch would kill. Never mind the
tearings; I will hold my dress. Oh! there is that one child bitten.
Mr. Edwards, mount a man for the doctor. I will go in to the child.
He was bitten. Lose not one minute, Mr. Edwards. I see you go.'

He bowed and hastened.

The child's mother was red eyes at her door for ease of her heart to the
lady. Carinthia stepped into the room, where the little creature was
fetching sobs after the spout of screams.

'God in heaven! she can't be going to suck the bite?' Fleetwood cried to
Madge, whose answer was disquieting 'If it's to save life, my mistress
won't stop at anything.'

His heart sprang with a lighted comprehension of Gower Woodseer's
meaning. This girl's fervour opened portals to new views of her
mistress, or opened eyes.

CHAPTER XXXIII

A FRIGHTFUL DEBATE

Pushing through a swarm into the cot, Fleetwood saw Carinthia on a knee
beside a girl's lap, where the stripped child lay. Its mother held a
basin for the dabbing at raw red spots.

A sting of pain touched the memory of its fright, and brought further
screams, then the sobs. Carinthia hummed a Styrian cradle-song as the
wailing lulled.

She glanced up; she said to the earl: 'The bite was deep; it was in the
blood. We may have time. Get me an interpreter. I must ask the mother.
I know not many words.'

'What now?' said he, at the looming of new vexations.

'We have no choice. Has a man gone? Dr. Griffiths would hurry fast.
An hour may be too late. The poison travels: Father advised it:--Fifty
years for one brave minute! This child should be helped to live.'

'We 'll do our best. Why an interpreter?'

'A poker in the fire. The interpreter--whether the mother will bear to
have it done.'

'Burn, do you mean?'

'It should be burnt.'

'Not by you?'

'Quick! Quick!'

'But will you--could you? No, I say!'

'If there is no one else.'

'You forget your own child.'

'He is near the end of his mother.'

'The doctor will soon arrive.'

'The poison travels. It cannot be overtaken unless we start nearly
equal, father said.'

'Work like that wants an experienced hand.'

'A steady one. I would not quake--not tremble.'

'I cannot permit it.'

'Mr. Wythan would know!--he would know!

'Do you hear, Lady Fleetwood--the dog may not be mad!'

'Signs! He ran heavy, he foamed.'

'Foam 's no sign.'

'Go; order to me a speaker of English and Welsh.'

The earl spun round, sensible of the novelty of his being commanded, and
submitting; but no sooner had he turned than he fell into her view of the
urgency, and he went, much like the boy we see at school, with a strong
hand on his collar running him in.

Madge entered, and said: 'Mr. Woodseer has seen baby and Martha and the
donkey all safe.'

'He is kind,' said Carinthia. 'Do we right to bathe the wound? It seems
right to wash it. Little things that seem right may be exactly wrong
after all, when we are ignorant. I know burning the wound is right.'

Madge asked: 'But, my lady, who is to do it?'

'You would do it, dear, if I shrank,' her mistress replied.

'Oh, my lady, I don't know, I can't say. Burning a child! And there's
our baby.'

'He has had me nearly his time.'

'Oh, my dear lady! Would the mother consent?'

'My Madge! I have so few of their words yet. You would hold the child
to save it from a dreadful end.'

'God help me, my lady--I would, as long as I live I will . . . . Oh!
poor infant, we do need our courage now.'

Seeing that her mistress had not a tear or a tremor, the girl blinked and
schooled her quailing heart, still under the wicked hope that the mother
would not consent; in a wonderment at this lady, who was womanly, and who
could hold the red iron at living flesh, to save the poor infant from a
dreadful end. Her flow of love to this dear lady felt the slicing of a
cut; was half revulsion, half worship; uttermost worship in estrangement,
with the further throbbing of her pulses.

The cottage door was pushed open for Lord Fleetwood and Howell Edwards,
whom his master had prepared to stand against immediate operations. A
mounted messenger had been despatched. But it was true, the doctor might
not be at home. Assuming it to be a bite of rabies, minutes lost meant
the terrible: Edwards bowed his head to that. On the other hand, he
foresaw the closest of personal reasons for hesitating to be in agreement
with the lady wholly. The countess was not so much a persuasive lady as
she was, in her breath and gaze, a sweeping and a wafting power. After
a short argument, he had the sense of hanging like a bank detached to
fatality of motion by the crack of a landslip, and that he would speedily
be on his manhood to volunteer for the terrible work.

He addressed the mother. Her eyes whitened from their red at his first
word of laying hot iron on the child: she ran out with the wild woman's
howl to her neighbours.

'Poor mother!' Carinthia sighed. 'It may last a year in the child's
body, and one day he shudders at water. Father saw a bitten man die.
I could fear death with the thought of that poison in me. I pray Dr.
Griffiths may come.'

Fleetwood shuffled a step. 'He will come, he will come.'

The mother and some women now packed the room.

A gabble arose between them and Edwards. They fired sharp snatches of
speech, and they darted looks at the lady and her lord.

'They do not know!' said Carinthia.

Gower brought her news that the dog had been killed; Martha and her
precious burden were outside, a mob of men, too. He was not alarmed; but
she went to the door and took her babe in her arms, and when the women
observed the lady holding her own little one, their looks were softened.
At a hint of explanation from Edwards, the guttural gabble rattled up to
the shrill vowels.

Fleetwood's endurance broke short. The packed small room, the caged-
monkey lingo, the wailful child, and the past and apprehended debate upon
the burning of flesh, composed an intolerable torture. He said to
Edwards: 'Go to the men; settle it with them. We have to follow that man
Wythan; no peace otherwise. Tell the men the body of the dog must be
secured for analysis. Mad or not, it's the same. These Welsh mothers
and grandmothers won't allow cautery at any price. Hark at them!'

He turned to Carinthia: 'Your ladyship will let Mr. Edwards or Mr.
Woodseer conduct you to the house where you are residing. You don't know
these excitable people. I wish you to leave.'

She replied softly: 'I stay for the doctor's coming.'

'Impossible for me to wait, and I can't permit you to be here.'

'It is life and death, and I must not be commanded.'

'You may be proposing gratuitous agony.'

'I would do it to my own child.'

The earl attacked Gower: 'Add your voice to persuade Lady Fleetwood.'

Gower said: 'What if I think with Lady Fleetwood?'

'You would see her do it?'

'Do it myself, if there was no one else'

'This dog-all of you have gone mad,' the earl cried.

'Griffiths may keep his head; it's the only chance. Take my word, these
Welshwomen just listen to them won't have it. You 'll find yourself in a
nest of Furies. It may be right to do, it's folly to propose it, madness
to attempt it. And I shall be bitten if I stop here a minute longer; I'm
gone; I can neither command nor influence. I should have thought Gower
Woodseer would have kept his wits.'

Fleetwood's look fell on Madge amid the group. Gower's perception of her
mistress through the girl's devotion to her moved him. He took Madge by
the hand, and the sensation came that it was the next thing to pressing
his wife's. 'You're a loyal girl. You have a mistress it 's an honour
to serve. You bind me. By the way, Ines shall run down for a minute
before I go.'

'Let him stay where he is,'' Madge said, having bobbed her curtsey.

'Oh, if he's not to get a welcome!' said the earl; and he could now fix a
steadier look on his countess, who would have animated him with either a
hostile face or a tender. She had no expression of a feeling. He bent
to her formally.

Carinthia's words were: 'Adieu, my lord.'

'I have only to say, that Esslemont is ready to receive you,' he
remarked, bowed more curtly, and walked out. . .

Gower followed him. They might as well have been silent, for any effect
from what was uttered between them. They spoke opinions held by each of
them--adverse mainly; speaking for no other purpose than to hold their
positions.

'Oh, she has courage, no doubt; no one doubted it,' Fleetwood said, out
of all relation to the foregoing.

Courage to grapple with his pride and open his heart was wanting in him.

Had that been done, even to the hint of it, instead of the lordly
indifference shown, Gower might have ventured on a suggestion, that the
priceless woman he could call wife was fast slipping away from him and
withering in her allegiance. He did allude to his personal sentiment.
'One takes aim at Philosophy; Lady Fleetwood pulls us up to pay tribute
to our debts.' But this was vague, and his hearer needed a present
thunder and lightning to shake and pierce him.

'I pledged myself to that yacht,' said Fleetwood, by way of reply, 'or
you and I would tramp it, as we did once-jolly old days! I shall have
you in mind. Now turn back. Do the best you can.'

They parted midway up the street, Gower bearing away a sharp contrast
of the earl and his countess; for, until their senses are dulled,
impressionable young men, however precociously philosophical, are
mastered by appearances; and they have to reflect under new lights before
vision of the linked eye and mind is given them.

Fleetwood jumped into his carriage and ordered the coachman to drive
smartly. He could not have admitted the feeling small; he felt the
having been diminished, and his requiring a rapid transportation from
these parts for him to regain his proper stature. Had he misconducted
himself at the moment of danger? It is a ghastly thought, that the
craven impulse may overcome us. But no, he could reassure his repute for
manliness. He had done as much as a man could do in such a situation.

At the same time, he had done less than the woman.

Needed she to have gone so far? Why precipitate herself into the jaws of
the beast?

Now she, proposes to burn the child's wound. And she will do it if they
let her. One, sees her at the work,--pale, flinty; no faces; trebly the
terrific woman in her mild way of doing the work. All because her old
father recommended it. Because she thinks it a duty, we will say; that
is juster. This young woman is a very sword in the hand of her idea of
duty. She can be feminine, too,--there is one who knows. She can be
particularly distant, too. If in timidity, she has a modest view of
herself--or an enormous conception of the magi that married her. Will
she take the world's polish a little?

Fleetwood asked with the simplicity of the superior being who will
consequently perhaps bestow the debt he owes. . .

But his was not the surface nature which can put a question of the sort
and pass it. As soon as it had been formed, a vision of the elemental
creature calling him husband smote to shivers the shell we walk on, and
caught him down among the lower forces, up amid the higher; an infernal
and a celestial contest for the extinction of the one or the other of
them, if it was not for their union. She wrestled with him where the
darknesses roll their snake-eyed torrents over between jagged horns of
the netherworld. She stood him in the white ray of the primal vital
heat, to bear unwithering beside her the test of light. They flew, they
chased, battled, embraced, disjoined, adventured apart, brought back the
count of their deeds, compared them,--and name the one crushed! It was
the one weighted to shame, thrust into the cellar-corner of his own
disgust, by his having asked whether that starry warrior spirit in the
woman's frame would 'take polish a little.'

Why should it be a contention between them? For this reason: he was
reduced to admire her act; and if he admired, he could not admire without
respecting; if he respected, perforce he reverenced; if he reverenced,
he worshipped. Therefore she had him at her feet. At the feet of any
woman, except for the trifling object! But at the feet of 'It is my
husband!' That would be a reversal of things.

Are not things reversed when the name Carinthia sounds in the thought of
him who laughed at the name not less angelically martial than Feltre's
adored silver trumpets of his Papal procession; sweeter of the new
morning for the husband of the woman; if he will but consent to the
worshipper's posture? Yes, and when Gower Woodseer's 'Malady of the
Wealthy,' as he terms the pivotting of the whole marching and wheeling
world upon the favoured of Fortune's habits and tastes, promises to quit
its fell clutch on him?

Another voice in the young nobleman cried: Pooh, dolt and dupe! and
surrounded her for half a league with reek of burnt flesh and shrieks
of a tortured child; giving her the aspect of a sister of the Parcw.
But it was not the ascendant' voice. It growled underneath, much like
the deadly beast at Carinthia's gown while she stood:--an image of her
to dominate the princeliest of men.

The princeliest must have won his title to the place before he can yield
other than complimentary station to a woman without violation of his
dignity; and vast wealth is not the title; worldly honours are not; deeds
only are the title. Fleetwood consented to tell himself that he had not
yet performed the deeds.

Therefore, for him to be dominated was to be obscured, eclipsed. A man
may outrun us; it is the fortune of war. Eclipsed behind the skirts of a
woman waving her upraised hands, with, 'Back, pray!'--no, that ignominy
is too horribly abominable! Be sure, the situation will certainly recur
in some form; will constantly recur. She will usurp the lead; she will
play the man.

Let matters go on as they are. We know our personal worth.

Arrived at this point in the perpetual round of the conflict Carinthia
had implanted, Fleetwood entered anew the ranks of the ordinary men of
wealth and a coronet, and he hugged himself. He enjoyed repose; knowing
it might be but a truce. Matters might go on as they were. Still, he
wished her away from those Wythans, residing at Esslemont. There she
might come eventually to a better knowledge of his personal worth:--'the
gold mine we carry in our bosoms till it is threshed out of us in sweat,'
that fellow Gower Woodseex says; adding, that we are the richer for not
exploring it. Philosophical cynicism is inconclusive. Fleetwood knew
his large capacities; he had proved them and could again. In case a
certain half foreseen calamity should happen:--imagine it a fact, imagine
him seized, besides admiring her character, with a taste for her person!
Why, then, he would have to impress his own mysteriously deep character
on her portion of understanding. The battle for domination would then
begin.

Anticipation of the possibility of it hewed division between the young
man's pride of being and his warmer feelings. Had he been free of the
dread of subjection, he would have sunk to kiss the feet of the
statuesque young woman, arms in air, firm-fronted over the hideous death
that tore at her skirts.

CHAPTER XXXIV

A SURVEY OF THE RIDE OF THE WELSH CAVALIERS ESCORTING THE COUNTESS OF
FLEETWOOD TO KENTISH ESSLEMONT

A formal notification from the earl, addressed to the Countess of
Fleetwood in the third person, that Esslemont stood ready to receive her,
autocratically concealed her lord's impatience to have her there; and by
the careful precision with which the stages of her journey were marked,
as places where the servants despatched to convey their lady would find
preparations for her comfort, again alarmed the disordered mother's mind
on behalf of the child she deemed an object of the father's hatred,
second to his hatred of the mother. But the mother could defend herself,
the child was prey. the child of a detested wife was heir to his title
and estates. His look at the child, his hasty one look down at her
innocent, was conjured before her as resembling a kick at a stone in his
path. His indifference to the child's Christian names pointed darkly
over its future.

The distempered wilfulness of a bruised young woman directed her
thoughts. She spoke them in the tone of reason to her invalid friend
Rebecca Wythan, who saw with her, felt with her, yearned to retain her
till breath was gone. Owain Wythan had his doubts of the tyrant guilty
of maltreating this woman of women. 'But when you do leave Wales,' he
said, 'you shall be guarded up to your haven.'

Carinthia was not awake to his meaning then. She sent a short letter of
reply, imitating the style of her lord; very baldly stating, that she was
unable to leave Wales because of her friend's illness and her part as
nurse. Regrets were unmentioned.

Meanwhile Rebecca Wythan was passing to death. Not cheerlessly, more and
more faintly, her thread of life ran to pause, resembling a rill of the
drought; and the thinner-it grew, the shrewder were her murmurs for
Carinthia's ears in commending 'the most real of husbands of an unreal
wife' to her friendly care of him when he would no longer see the shadow
he had wedded. She had the privilege of a soul beyond our minor rules
and restrainings to speak her wishes to the true wife of a mock husband-
no husband; less a husband than this shadow of a woman a wife, she said;
and spoke them without adjuring the bowed head beside her to record a
promise or seem to show the far willingness, but merely that the wishes
should be heard on earth in her last breath, for a good man's remaining
one chance of happiness. On the theme touching her husband Owain, it was
verily to hear a soul speak, and have knowledge of the broader range, the
rich interflowings of the tuned discords, a spirit past the flesh can
find. Her mind was at the same time alive to our worldly conventions
when other people came under its light; she sketched them and their views
in her brief words between the gasps, with perspicuous, humorous
bluntness, as vividly as her twitched eyebrows indicated the laugh.
Gower Woodseer she read startlingly, if correctly.

Carinthia could not leave her. Attendance upon this dying woman was a
drinking at the springs of life.

Rebecca Wythan under earth, the earl was briefly informed of Lady
Fleetwood's consent to quit Wales, obedient to a summons two months old,
--and that she would be properly escorted; for the which her lord had
made provision. Consequently the tyrant swallowed his wrath, little
conceiving the monstrous blow she was about to strike.

In peril of fresh floods from our Dame, who should be satisfied with the
inspiring of these pages, it is owned that her story of 'the four and
twenty squires of Glamorgan and Caermarthen in their brass-buttoned green
coats and buckskins, mounted and armed, an escort of the Countess of
Fleetwood across the swollen Severn, along midwinter roads, up to the
Kentish gates of Esslemont,' has a foundation, though the story is not
the more credible for her flourish of documentary old ballad-sheets,
printed when London's wags had ears on cock to any whisper of the doings.
of their favourite Whitechapel Countess; and indeed hardly depended on
whispers.

Enthusiasm sufficient to troop forth four and twenty and more hundreds of
Cambrian gentlemen, and still more of the common folk, as far as they
could journey afoot, was over the two halves of the Principality, to give
the countess a reputable and gallant body-guard. London had intimations
of kindling circumstances concerning her, and magnified them in the
interests of the national humour: which is the English way of exalting to
criticize, criticizing to depreciate, and depreciating to restore,
ultimately to cherish, in reward for the amusement furnished by an
eccentric person, not devoid of merit.

These little tales of her, pricking cool blood to some activity, were
furze-fires among the Welsh. But where the latter heard Bardic strings
inviting a chorus, the former as unanimously obeyed the stroke of their
humorous conductor's baton for an outburst from the ribs or below. And
it was really funny to hear of Whitechapel's titled heroine roaming
Taffyland at her old pranks.

Catching a maddened bull by the horns in the marketplace, and hanging to
the infuriate beast, a wild whirl of clouts, till he is reduced to be a
subject for steaks, that is no common feat.

Her performances down mines were things of the underworld. England
clapped hands, merely objecting to her not having changed her garb for
the picador's or matador's, before she seized the bull. Wales adopted
and was proud of her in any costume. Welshmen North and South, united
for the nonce, now propose her gallantry as a theme to the rival Bards at
the next Eisteddfod. She is to sit throned in full assembly, oak leaves
and mistletoe interwoven on her head, a white robe and green sash to
clothe her, and the vanquished beast's horns on a gilded pole behind the
dais; hearing the eulogies respectively interpreted to her by Colonel
Fluellen Wythan at one ear, and Captain Agincourt Gower at the other. A
splendid scene; she might well insist to be present.

There, however, we are at the pitch of burlesque beyond her illustrious
lord's capacity to stand. Peremptory orders from England arrive,
commanding her return. She temporizes, postpones, and supplicates to
have the period extended up to the close of the Eisteddfod. My lord's
orders are imperatively repeated, and very blunt. He will not have her
'continue playing the fool down there.' She holds her ground from August
into February, and then sets forth, to undergo the further process of
her taming at Esslemont in England; with Llewellyn and Vaughan and
Cadwallader, and Watkyn and Shenkyn and the remains of the race of Owen
Tudor, attending her; vowed to extract a receipt from the earl her lord's
responsible servitors for the safe delivery of their heroine's person at
the gates of Esslemont; ich dien their trumpeted motto.

Counting the number at four and twenty, it wears the look of an invasion.
But the said number is a ballad number, and has been since the antique
time. There was, at a lesser number, enough of a challenge about it for
squires of England, never in those days backward to pick up a glove or
give the ringing rejoinder for a thumb-bite, to ride out and tilt
compliments with the Whitechapel Countess's green cavaliers, rally their
sprites and entertain them exactly according to their degrees of dignity,
as exhibited by their 'haviour under something of a trial; and satisfy
also such temporary appetites as might be excited in them by (among other
matters left to the luck of events) a metropolitan play upon the Saxon
tongue, hard of understanding to the leeky cocks until their ready store
of native pepper seasons it; which may require a corresponding English
condiment to rectify the flavour of the stew.

Now the number of Saxe-Normans riding out to meet and greet the Welshmen
is declared to have not exceeded nine. So much pretends to be historic,
in opposition to the poetic version. They would, we may be sure, have
made it a point of honour to meet and greet their invading guests in
precisely similar numbers a larger would have overshot the mark of
courtesy; and doubtless a smaller have fallen deplorably short of it.
Therefore, an acquaintance with her chivalrous, if less impulsive,
countrymen compels to the dismissing of the Dame's ballad authorities.
She has every right to quote them for her own good pleasure, and may
create in others an enjoyment of what has been called 'the Mackrell fry.'

Her notion of a ballad is, that it grows like mushrooms from a scuffle of
feet on grass overnight, and is a sort of forest mother of the pied
infant reared and trimmed by historians to show the world its fatherly
antecedent steps. The hand of Rose Mackrell is at least suggested in
more than one of the ballads. Here the Welsh irruption is a Chevy Chase;
next we have the countess for a disputed Helen.

The lady's lord is not a shining figure. How can an undecided one be a
dispenser of light? Poetry could never allow him to say with her:

'Where'er I go I make a name,
And leave a song to follow.'

Yet he was the master of her fortunes at the time; all the material power
was his. Even doggerel verse (it is worth while to brood on the fact)
denies a surviving pre-eminence to the potent moody, reverses the
position between the driven and the driver. Poetry, however erratic,
is less a servant of the bully Present, or pomlious Past, than History.
The Muse of History has neither the same divination of the intrinsic nor
the devotion to it, though truly, she has possession of all the positive
matter and holds us faster by the crediting senses.

Nine English cavaliers, then, left London early on a January or February
morning in a Southerly direction, bearing East; and they were the Earl of
Fleetwood's intimates, of the half-dependent order; so we may suppose
them to have gone at his bidding. That they met the procession of the
Welsh, and claimed to take charge of the countess's carriage, near the
Kentish border-line, is an assertion supported by testimony fairly
acceptable.

Intelligence of the advancing party had reached the earl by courier, from
the date of the first gathering on the bridge of Pont-y-pridd; and from
Gloucester, along to the Thames at Reading; thence away to the Mole, from
Mickleham, where the Surrey chalk runs its final turfy spine North-
eastward to the slope upon Kentish soil.

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