Part 7 out of 9
Greatly to the astonishment of the Welsh cavaliers, a mounted footman,
clad in the green and scarlet facings of Lord Fleetwood's livery, rode up
to them a mile outside the principal towns and named the inn where the
earl had ordered preparations for the reception of them. England's
hospitality was offered on a princely scale. Cleverer fencing could not
The meeting, in no sense an encounter, occurred close by a thirty-acre
meadow, famous over the county; and was remarkable for the punctilious
exchange of ceremonial speech, danger being present; as we see powder-
magazines protected by their walls and fosses and covered alleys.
Notwithstanding which, there was a scintillation of sparks.
Lord Brailstone, spokesman of the welcoming party, expressed comic
regrets that they had not an interpreter with them.
Mr. Owain Wythan, in the name of the Cambrian chivalry, assured him of
their comprehension and appreciation of English slang.
Both gentlemen kept their heads uncovered in a suspense; they might for
a word or two more of that savour have turned into the conveniently
spacious meadow. They were induced, on the contrary, to enter the
channel of English humour, by hearing Chumley Potts exclaim: 'His nob!'
and all of them laughed at the condensed description of a good hit back,
at the English party's cost.
Laughter, let it be but genuine, is of a common nationality, indeed a
common fireside; and profound disagreement is not easy after it. The
Dame professes to believe that 'Carinthia Jane' had to intervene as
peacemaker, before the united races took the table in Esslemont's dining-
hall for a memorable night of it, and a contest nearer the mark of
veracity than that shown in another of the ballads she would have us
follow. Whatever happened, they sat down at table together, and the
point of honour for them each and every was, not to be first to rise
from it. Once more the pure Briton and the mixed if not fused English
engaged, Bacchus for instrument this time, Bacchus for arbiter of the
You may imagine! says the Dame. She cites the old butler at Esslemont,
'as having been much questioned on the subject by her family relative,
Dr. Glossop, and others interested to know the smallest items of the
facts,'--and he is her authority for the declaration that the Welsh
gentlemen and the English gentlemen, 'whatever their united number,'
consumed the number of nine dozen and a half of old Esslemont wine before
they rose, or as possibly sank, at the festive board at the hour of five
of the morning.
Years later, this butler, Joshua Queeney, 'a much enfeebled old man,'
retold and enlarged the tale of the enormous consumption of his best
wine; with a sacred oath to confirm it, and a tear expressive of
'They bled me twelve dozen, not a bottle less,' she quotes him, after a
minute description of his countenance and scrupulously brushed black
suit, pensioner though he had become. He had grown, during the interval,
to be more communicative as to particulars. The wines were four. Sherry
led off the parade pace, Hock the trot into the merry canter, Champagne
the racing gallop, Burgundy the grand trial of constitutional endurance
for the enforced finish. All these wines, except the sparkling, had
their date of birth in the precedent century. 'They went like water.'
Questioned anxiously by Dr. Glossop, Queeney maintained an impartial
attitude, and said there was no victor, no vanquished. They did not sit
in blocks. The tactics for preserving peace intermingled them. Each
English gentleman had a Welsh gentleman beside him; they both sat firm;
both fell together. The bottles or decanters were not stationary for the
guest to fill his glass, they circulated, returning to an empty glass.
All drank equally. Often the voices were high, the talk was loud. The
gentlemen were too serious to sing.
At one moment of the evening Queeney confidently anticipated a
'fracassy,' he said. One of the foreign party--and they all spoke
English, after five dozen bottles had gone the round, as correct as the
English themselves--remarked on the seventy-years Old Brown Sherry, that
'it had a Madeira flavour.' He spoke it approvingly. Thereupon Lord
Simon Pitscrew calls to Queeney, asking him 'why Madeira had been
supplied instead of Esslemont's renowned old Sherry?' A second Welsh
gentleman gave his assurances that his friend had not said it was
Madeira. But Lord Brailstone accused them of the worse unkindness to a
venerable Old Brown Sherry, in attributing a Madeira flavour to it. Then
another Welsh gentleman briskly and emphatically stated his opinion, that
the attribution of Madeira flavour to it was a compliment. At this,
which smelt strongly, he said, of insult, Captain Abrane called on the
name of their absent host to warrant the demand of an apology to the Old
Brown Sherry, for the imputation denying it an individual distinction.
Chumley Potts offered generally to bet that he would distinguish
blindfold at a single sip any Madeira from any first-class Sherry, Old
Brown or Pale. 'Single sip or smell!' Ambrose Mallard cried, either for
himself or his comrade, Queeney could not say which.
Of all Lord Fleetwood's following, Mr. Potts and Mr. Mallard were, the
Dame informs us, Queeney's favourites, because they were so genial; and
he remembered most of what they said and did, being moved to it by 'poor
young Mr. Mallard's melancholy end and Mr. Potts's grief!'
The Welsh gentlemen, after paying their devoirs to the countess next
morning, rode on in fresh health and spirits at mid-day to Barlings, the
seat of Mr. Mason Fennell, a friend of Mr. Owain Wythan's. They shouted,
in an unseemly way, Queeney thought, at their breakfast-table, to hear
that three of the English party, namely, Captain Abrane, Mr. Mallard, and
Mr. Potts, had rung for tea and toast in bed. Lord Simon Pitscrew, Lord
Brailstone, and the rest of the English were sore about it; for it
certainly wore a look of constitutional inferiority on the English side,
which could boast of indubitably stouter muscles. The frenzied spirits
of the Welsh gentlemen, when riding off, let it be known what their
opinion was. Under the protection of the countess's presence, they were
so cheery as to seem triumphantly ironical; they sent messages of
condolence to the three in bed.
With an undisguised reluctance, the countess, holding Mr. Owain Wythan's
hand longer than was publicly decent, calling him by his Christian name,
consented to their departure. As they left, they defiled before her; the
vow was uttered by each, that at the instant of her summons he would
mount and devote himself to her service, individually or collectively.
She waved her hand to them. They ranged in line and saluted. She kissed
her hand. Sweeping the cavaliers' obeisance, gallantest of bows, they
A striking scene, Dame Gossip says; but raises a wind over the clipped
adventure, and is for recounting what London believed about it. Enough
has been conceded for the stoppage of her intrusion; she is left in the
likeness of a full-charged pistol capless to the clapping trigger.
That which London believed, or affected to believe about it, would fill
chapters. There was during many months an impression of Lord Fleetwood's
countess as of a tenacious, dread, prevailing young woman, both intrepid
and astute, who had, by an exercise of various arts, legitimate in open
war of husband and wife, gathered the pick of the Principality to storm
and carry another of her husband's houses. The certification that her
cavaliers were Welsh gentlemen of wealth and position required a broader
sneer at the Welsh than was warranted by later and more intimate
acquaintance, if it could be made to redound to her discredit. So,
therefore, added to the national liking for a plucky woman, she gained
the respect for power. Whitechapel was round her like London's one
street's length extension of smoky haze, reminder of the morning's fog
under novel sunbeams.
Simultaneously, strange to say, her connubial antagonist, far from being
overshadowed, grew to be proportionately respected, and on the strength
of his deserts, apart from his title and his wealth. He defended
himself, as he was bound to do, by welcoming the picked Welsh squires
with hospitable embrace, providing ceremonies, receptions, and most
comfortable arrangements for them, along the route. But in thus gravely
entering into the knightly burlesque of the procession, and assisting to
swell the same, he not only drew the venom from it, he stood forth as
England's deputed representative, equal to her invasive challengeing
guests at all points, comic, tragic, or cordial. He saw that it had to
be treated as a national affair; and he parried the imputation which
would have injured his country's name for courtly breeding, had they been
ill-received, while he rescued his own good name from derision by joining
He was well inspired. It was popularly felt to be the supreme of clever-
nay, noble-fencing. Really noble, though the cleverness was conspicuous.
A defensive stroke, protecting him against his fair one's violent charge
of horse, warded off an implied attack upon Old England, in Old England's
best-humoured easy manner.
Supposing the earl to have acted otherwise, his countess would virtually
have ridden over him, and wild Wales have cast a shadow on the chivalry
of magisterial England. He and his country stood to meet the issue
together the moment the Countess of Fleetwood and her escort crossed the
Welsh border; when it became a question between the hot-hearted, at their
impetuous gallop, and the sedatively minded, in an unfortified camp of
arm-chairs. The earl's adroitness, averting a collision fatal or
discomforting to both, disengaged him from an incumbent odium, of which,
it need hardly be stated, neither the lady nor her attendant cavaliers
had any notion at the hour of the assembly for the start for England on
the bridge of Pont-y-pridd. The hungry mother had the safety of her babe
in thought. The hotheaded Welshmen were sworn to guard their heroine.
That is the case presented by the Dame's papers, when the incredible is
excised. She claims the being a good friend to fiction in feeding
popular voracity with all her stores. But the Old Buccaneer, no
professed friend to it, is a sounder guide in the maxim, where he says:
Deliver yourself by permit of your cheque on the 'Bank of Reason, and
your account is increased instead of lessened.
Our account with credulity, he would signify.
The Dame does not like the shaking for a sifting. Romance, however, is
not a mountain made of gold, but a vein running some way through; and it
must be engineered, else either we are filled with wind from swallowing
indigestible substance, or we consent to a debasing of the currency,
which means her to-morrow's bankruptcy; and the spectacle of Romance in
the bankruptcy court degrades us (who believe we are allied to her) as
cruelly as it appals. It gives the cynic licence to bark day and night
for an entire generation.
Surely the Countess of Fleetwood's drive from the Welsh borders to
Esslemont, accompanied by the chosen of the land, followed by the vivats
of the whole Principality, and England gaping to hear the stages of her
progress, may be held sufficiently romantic without stuffing of surprises
and conflicts, adventures at inns, alarms at midnight, windings of a horn
over hilly verges of black heaths, and the rape of the child, the
pursuit, the recovery of the child, after a new set of heroine
performances on the part of a strung-wire mother, whose outcry in a waste
country district, as she clasps her boy to her bosom again: 'There's a
farm I see for milk for him!' the Dame repeats, having begun with an
admission that the tale has been contradicted, and is not produced on
authority. The end in design is to win the ear by making a fuss, and
roll event upon event for the braining of common intelligence, until her
narrative resembles dusty troopings along a road to the races.
Carinthia and her babe reached Esslemont, no matter what impediments.
There, like a stopped runner whose pantings lengthen to the longer
breath, her alarms over the infant subsided, ceasing for as long as she
clasped it or was in the room with it. Walking behind the precious
donkey-basket round the park, she went armed, and she soon won a fearful
name at Kentish cottage-hearths, though she 'was not black to see, nor
old. No, she was very young. But she did all the things that soldiers
do,--was a bit of a foreigner;--she brought a reputation up from the
Welsh land, and it had a raven's croak and a glow-worm's drapery and a
Something was hinted of her having agitated London once. Somebody
dropped word of her and that old Lord Levellier up at Croridge. She
stalked park and country at night. Stories, one or two near the truth,
were told of a restless and a very decided lady down these parts as well;
and the earl her husband daren't come nigh in his dread of her, so that
he runs as if to save his life out of every place she enters. And he's
not one to run for a trifle. His pride is pretty well a match for
princes and princesses.
All the same, he shakes in his shoes before her, durst hardly spy at
Esslemont again while she's in occupation. His managing gentleman comes
down from him, and goes up from her; that's how they communicate. One
week she's quite solitary; another week the house is brimful as can be.
She 's the great lady entertaining then. Yet they say it 's a fact, she
has not a shilling of her own to fling at a beggar. She 'll stock a
cottage wanting it with provision for a fortnight or more, and she'll
order the doctor in, and she'll call and see the right things done for
illness. 'But no money; no one's to expect money of her. The shots you
hear in Esslemont grounds out of season are she and her maid, always
alongside her, at it before a target on a bank, trying that old Lord
Levellier's gunpowder out of his mill; and he's got no money either; not
for his workmen, they say, until they congregate, and a threatening to
blow him up brings forth half their pay, on account. But he 's a known
miser. She's not that. She's a pleasant-faced lady for the poor. She
has the voice poor people like. It's only her enemy, maybe her husband,
she can be terrible to. She'd drive a hole through a robber stopping her
on the road, as soon as look at him.
This was Esslemont's atmosphere working its way to the earl, not so very
long after the establishment of his countess there. She could lay hold
of the English, too, it seemed. Did she call any gentleman of the
district by his Christian name? Lord Simon Pitscrew reported her doing
so in the case of one of the Welshmen. Those Welshmen! Apparently they
are making a push for importance in the kingdom!
IN WHICH CERTAIN CHANGES MAY BE DISCERNED
Behind his white plaster of composure, Lord Fleetwood had alternately
raged and wondered during the passage of the Welsh cavalcade up Eastward:
a gigantic burlesque, that would have swept any husband of their heroine
off the scene had he failed to encounter it deferentially, preserving his
countenance and ostensibly his temper. An idiot of a woman, incurable in
her lunacy, suspects the father of the infant as guilty of designs done
to death in romances; and so she manages to set going solemnly a bigger
blazing Tom Fool's show than any known or written romance gives word of!
And that fellow, Gower Woodseer, pleads, in apology, for her husband's
confusion, physiologically, that it comes of her having been carried off
and kept a prisoner when she was bearing the child and knitting her whole
mind to ensure the child. But what sheer animals these women are, if
they take impressions in such a manner! And Mr. Philosopher argues that
the abusing of women proves the hating of Nature; names it 'the commonest
insanity, and the deadliest,' and men are 'planted in the bog of their
unclean animal condition until they do proper homage to the animal Nature
makes the woman be.' Oh, pish, sir!--as Meeson Corby had the habit of
exclaiming when Abrane's 'fiddler' argues him into a corner. The fellow
can fiddle fine things and occasionally clear sense:--'Men hating Nature
are insane. Women and Nature are close. If it is rather general to hate
Nature and maltreat women, we begin to see why the world is a mad world.'
That is the tune of the fiddler's fiddling. As for him, something
protects him. He was the slave of Countess Livia; like Abrane, Mallard,
Corby, St. Ombre, young Cressett, and the dozens. He is now her master.
Can a man like that be foolish, in saying of the Countess Carinthia, she
is 'not only quick to understand, she is in the quick of understanding'?
Gower Woodseer said it of her in Wales, and again on the day of his walk
up to London from Esslemont, after pedestrian exercise, which may heat
the frame, but cools the mind. She stamped that idea on a thoughtful
He's a Welshman. They are all excitable,--have heads on hound's legs for
a flying figure in front. Still, they must have an object, definitely
seen by them--definite to them if dim to their neighbours; and it will
run in the poetic direction: and the woman to win them, win all classes
of them, within so short a term, is a toss above extraordinary. She is
named Carinthia--suitable name for the Welsh pantomimic procession. Or
cry out the word in an amphitheatre of Alpine crags,--it sounds at home.
She is a daughter of the mountains,--should never have left them. She
is also a daughter of the Old Buccaneer--no poor specimen of the fighting
Englishman of his day. According to Rose Mackrell, he, this Old
Buccaneer, it was, who, by strange adventures, brought the great Welsh
mines into the family! He would not be ashamed in spying through his
nautical glass, up or down, at his daughter's doings. She has not yet
developed a taste for the mother's tricks:--the mother, said to have been
a kindler. That Countess of Cressett was a romantic little fly-away
bird. Both parents were brave: the daughter would inherit gallantry.
She inherits a kind of thwarted beauty. Or it needs the situation seen
in Wales: her arms up and her unaffrighted eyes over the unappeasable
growl. She had then the beauty coming from the fathom depths, with the
torch of Life in the jaws of Death to light her: beauty of the nether
kingdom mounting to an upper place in the higher. Her beauty recognized,
the name of the man who married her is not Longears--not to himself,
is the main point; nor will it be to the world when he shows that
it is not so to himself.
Suppose he went to her, would she be trying at domination? The woman's
pitch above woman's beauty was perceived to be no intermittent beam, but
so living as to take the stamp of permanence. More than to say it was
hers, it was she. What a deadly peril brought into view was her
character-soul, some call it: generally a thing rather distasteful in
women, or chilling to the masculine temperament. Here it attracts.
Here, strange to say, it is the decided attraction, in a woman of a
splendid figure and a known softness. By rights, she should have more
understanding than to suspect the husband as guilty of designs done to
death in romances. However, she is not a craven who compliments him by
rearing him, and he might prove that there is no need for fear. But she
would be expecting explanations before the reconcilement. The bosom of
these women will keep on at its quick heaving until they have heard
certain formal words, oaths to boot. How speak them?
His old road of the ladder appeared to Fleetwood an excellent one for
obviating explanations and effecting the reconcilement without any
temporary seeming forfeit of the native male superiority. For there she
is at Esslemont now; any night the window could be scaled. 'It is my
husband.' The soul was in her voice when she said it.
He remembered that it had not ennobled her to him then; had not endeared;
was taken for a foreign example of the childish artless, imperfectly
suited to our English clime.' The tone of adorable utterances, however
much desired, is never for repetition; nor is the cast of divine sweet
looks; nor are the particular deeds-once pardonable, fitly pleaded. A
second scaling of her window--no, night's black hills girdle the scene
with hoarse echoes; the moon rushes out of her clouds grimacing. Even
Fleetwood's devil, much addicted to cape and sword and ladder, the
vulpine and the gryphine, rejected it.
For she had, by singular transformation since, and in spite of a deluging
grotesque that was antecedently incredible, she had become a personage,
counting her adherents; she could put half the world in motion on her
side. Yell those Welshmen to scorn, they were on a plane finding native
ground with as large a body of these English. His baser mind bowed to
the fact. Her aspect was entirely different; her attitude toward him as
well: insomuch that he had to chain her to her original features by the
conjuring of recollected phrases memorable for the vivid portraiture of
her foregone simplicity and her devotion to 'my husband.'
Yes, there she was at Essleinont, securely there, near him, to be seen
any day; worth claiming, too; a combatant figure, provocative of the
fight and the capture rather than repellent. The respect enforced by
her attitude awakened in him his inherited keen old relish for our
intersexual strife and the indubitable victory of the stronger, with the
prospect of slavish charms, fawning submission, marrowy spoil. Or
perhaps, preferably, a sullen submission, reluctant charms; far more
marrowy. Or who can say?--the creature is a rocket of the shot into the
fiery garland of stars; she may personate any new marvel, be an
unimagined terror, an overwhelming bewitchment: for she carries the
unexpected in her bosom. And does it look like such indubitable victory,
when the man, the woman's husband, divided from her, toothsome to the
sex, acknowledges within himself and lets the world know his utter
dislike of other women's charms, to the degree that herbal anchorites
positively could not be colder, could not be chaster: and he no forest
bird, but having the garden of the variety of fairest flowers at nod and
blush about him! That was the truth. Even Henrietta's beauty had the
effect of a princess's birthday doll admired on show by a contemptuous
Wherefore, then, did the devil in him seek to pervert this loveliest of
young women and feed on her humiliation for one flashing minute? The
taste had gone, the desire of the vengeance was extinct, personal
gratification could not exist. He spied into himself, and set it down to
one among the many mysteries.
Men uninstructed in analysis of motives arrive at this dangerous
conclusion, which spares their pride and caresses their indolence, while
it flatters the sense of internal vastness, and invites to headlong
intoxication. It allows them to think they are of such a compound, and
must necessarily act in that manner. They are not taught at the schools
or by the books of the honoured places in the libraries, to examine and
see the simplicity of these mysteries, which it would be here and there a
saving grace for them to see; as the minstrel, dutifully inclining to the
prosy in their behalf and morality's, should exhibit; he should arrest
all the characters of his drama to spring it to vision and strike
perchance the chord primarily if not continually moving them, that
readers might learn the why and how of a germ of evil, its flourishing
under rebuke, the persistency of it after the fell creative energy has
expired and pleasure sunk to be a phlegmatic dislike, almost a loathing.
This would here be done, but for signs of a barometric dead fall in Dame
Gossip's chaps, already heavily pendent. She would be off with us on one
of her whirling cyclones or elemental mad waltzes, if a step were taken
to the lecturing-desk. We are so far in her hands that we have to keep
her quiet. She will not hear of the reasons and the change of reasons
for one thing and the other. Things were so: narrate them, and let
readers do their reflections for themselves, she says, denouncing our
conscientious method as the direct road downward to the dreadful modern
appeal to the senses and assault on them for testimony to the veracity of
everything described; to the extent that, at the mention of a vile smell,
it shall be blown into the reader's nostrils, and corking-pins attack the
comfortable seat of him simultaneously with a development of surprises.
'Thither your conscientiousness leads.'
It is not perfectly visible. And she would gain information of the
singular nature of the young of the male sex in listening to the wrangle
between Lord Fleetwood and Gower Woodseer on the subject of pocket-money
for the needs of the Countess Carinthia. For it was a long and an angry
one, and it brought out both of them, exposing, of course, the more
complex creature the most. They were near a rupture, so scathing was
Gower's tone of irate professor to shirky scholar--or it might be put,
German professor to English scuffleshoe.
She is for the scene of 'Chillon John's' attempt to restore the
respiration of his bank-book by wager; to wit, that he would walk a mile,
run a mile, ride a mile, and jump ten hurdles, then score five rifle-
shots at a three hundred yards' distant target within a count of minutes;
twenty-five, she says; and vows it to have been one of the most exciting
of scenes ever witnessed on green turf in the land of wagers; and that he
was accomplishing it quite certainly when, at the first of the hurdles, a
treacherous unfolding and waving of a white flag caused his horse to
swerve and the loss of one minute, seven and twenty seconds, before he
cleared the hurdles; after which, he had to fire his shots hurriedly, and
the last counted blank, for being outside the circle of the stated time.
So he was beaten. But a terrific uproar over the field proclaimed the
popular dissatisfaction. Presently there was a cleavage of the mob, and
behold a chase at the heels of the fellow to rival the very captain
himself for fleetness. He escaped, leaving his pole with the sheet
nailed to it, by way of flag, in proof of foul play; or a proof, as the
other side declared, of an innocently premature signalizing of the
However that might be, he ran. Seeing him spin his legs at a hound's
pace, half a mile away, four countrymen attempted to stop him. All four
were laid on their backs in turn with stupefying celerity; and on rising
to their feet, and for the remainder of their natural lives, they swore
that no man but a Champion could have floored them so. This again may
have been due to the sturdy island pride of four good men knocked over by
one. We are unable to decide. Wickedness there was, the Dame says; and
she counsels the world to 'put and put together,' for, at any rate, 'a
partial elucidation of a most mysterious incident.' As to the wager-
money, the umpires dissented; a famous quarrel, that does not concern us
here, sprang out of the dispute; which was eventually, after great
disturbance 'of the country, referred to three leading sportsmen in the
metropolitan sphere, who pronounced the wager 'off,' being two to one.
Hence arose the dissatisfied third party, and the letters of this
minority to the newspapers, exciting, if not actually dividing, all
England for several months.
Now the month of December was the month of the Dame's mysterious
incident. From the date of January, as Madge Winch knew, Christopher
Ines had ceased to be in the service of the Earl of Fleetwood. At
Esslemont Park gates, one winter afternoon of a North-east wind blowing
'rum-shrub into men for a stand against rheumatics,' as he remarked,
Ines met the girl by appointment, and informing her that he had money,
and that Lord Fleetwood was 'a black nobleman,' he proposed immediate
marriage. The hymeneal invitation, wafted to her on the breath of rum-
shrub, obtained no response from Madge until she had received evasive
answers as to why the earl dismissed him, and whence the stock of money
Lord Fleetwood, he repeated, was a black nobleman. She brought him to
say of his knowledge, that Lord Fleetwood hated, and had reason to hate,
Captain Levellier. 'Shouldn't I hate the man took my sweetheart from me
and popped me into the noose with his sister instead?' Madge was now
advised to be overcome by the smell of rum-shrub:--a mere fancy drink
tossed off by heroes in their idle moments, before they settle down to
the serious business of real drinking, Kit protested. He simulated
envious admiration of known heroes, who meant business, and scorned any
of the weak stuff under brandy, and went at it till the bottles were the
first to give in. For why? They had to stomach an injury from the world
or their young woman, and half-way on they shoved that young person and
all enemies aside, trampled 'em. That was what Old O'Devy signified; and
many's the man driven to his consolation by a cat of a girl, who's like
the elements in their puffs and spits at a gallant ship, that rides the
tighter and the tighter for all they can do to capsize. 'Tighter than
ever I was tight I'll be to-night, if you can't behave.'
They fell upon the smack of words. Kit hitched and huffed away,
threatening bottles. Whatever he had done, it was to establish the
petticoated hornet in the dignity of matron of a champion light-weight's
wholesome retreat of a public-house. A spell of his larkish hilarity was
for the punishment of the girl devoted to his heroical performances,
as he still considered her to be, though women are notoriously volatile,
and her language was mounting a stage above the kitchen.
Madge had little sorrow for him. She was the girl of the fiery heart,
not the large heart; she could never be devoted to more than one at a
time, and her mistress had all her heart. In relation to Kit, the
thought of her having sacrificed her good name to him, flung her on her
pride of chastity, without the reckoning of it as a merit. It was the
inward assurance of her independence: the young spinster's planting of
the, standard of her proud secret knowledge of what she is, let it be a
thing of worth or what you will, or the world think as it may. That was
Her feeling, the much livelier animation, was bitter grief, because her
mistress, unlike herself, had been betrayed by her ignorance of the man
into calling him husband. Just some knowledge of the man! The warning
to the rescue might be there. For nothing did the dear lady weep except
for her brother's evil fortune. The day when she had intelligence from
Mrs. Levellier of her brother's defeat, she wept over the letter on her
knees long hours. 'Me, my child, my brother!' she cried more than once.
She had her suspicion of the earl then, and instantly, as her loving
servant had. The suspicion was now no dark light, but a clear day-beam
to Madge. She adopted Kit's word of Lord Fleetwood. 'A black nobleman
he is! he is!' Her mistress had written like a creature begging him for
money. He did not deign a reply. To her! When he had seen good proof
she was the bravest woman on earth; and she rushed at death to save a
child, a common child; as people say. And who knows but she saved that
husband of hers, too, from bites might have sent him out of the world
barking, and all his wealth not able to stop him!
They were in the month of March. Her dear mistress had been begging my
lord through Mr. Woodseer constantly of late for an allowance of money;
on her knees to him, as it seemed; and Mr. Woodseer was expected at
Esslemont. Her mistress was looking for him eagerly. Something her
heart was in depended on it, and only her brother could be the object,
for now she loved only him of these men; though a gentleman coming over
from Barlings pretty often would pour mines of money into her lap for
half a word.
Carinthia had walked up to Croridge in the morning to meet her brother at
Lekkatts. Madge was left guardian of the child. She liked a stroll any
day round Esslemont Park, where her mistress was beginning to strike
roots; as she soon did wherever she was planted, despite a tone of pity
for artificial waters and gardeners' arts. Madge respected them. She
knew nothing of the grandeur of wildness. Her native English veneration
for the smoothing hand of wealth led her to think Esslemont the home of
all homes for a lady with her husband beside her. And without him, too,
if he were wafted over seas and away: if there would but come a wind to
The wild North-easter tore the budded beeches. Master John Edward
Russett lay in the cradling-basket drawn by his docile donkey, Martha and
Madge to right and left of him; a speechless rustic, graduating in
footman's livery, to rear.
At slow march round by the wrinkled water, Madge saw the park gates flung
wide. A coach drove up the road along on the farther rim of the circle,
direct for the house. It stopped, the team turned leisurely and came at
a smart pace toward the carriage-basket. Lord Fleetwood was recognized.
He alighted, bidding one of his grooms drive to stables. Madge performed
her reverence, aware that she did it in clumsy style; his presence had
startled her instincts and set them travelling.
'Coldish for the youngster,' he said. 'All well, Madge?'
'Baby sleeps in the air, my lord,' she replied. 'My lady has gone to
'Sharp air for a child, isn't it?'
'My lady teaches him to breathe with his mouth shut, like her father
taught her when she was little. Our baby never catches colds.'
Madge displayed the child's face.
The father dropped a glance on it from the height of skies.
'Croridge, you said?'
'Her uncle, Lord Levellier's.'
'You say, never catches cold?'
'Not our baby, my lord.'
Probably good management on the part of the mother. But the wife's
absence disappointed the husband strung to meet her, and an obtrusion of
her practical motherhood blurred the prospect demanded by his present
'When do you expect her to return, Madge?'
'Before nightfall, my lord.'
'Oh yes, my lady is fond of walking.'
'I suppose she could defend herself?'
'My lady walks with a good stick.'
Fleetwood weighed the chances; beheld her figure attacked, Amazonian.
'And tell me, my dear--Kit?'
I don't see more of Kit Ines.'
'What has the fellow done?'
'I'd like him to let me know why he was dismissed.'
'Ah. He kept silent on that point.'
'He let out enough.'
'You've punished him, if he's to lose a bonny sweetheart, poor devil!
Your sister Sally sends you messages?'
'We're both of us grateful, my lord.'
He lifted the thin veil from John Edward Russett's face with a loveless
'You remember the child bitten by a dog down in Wales. I have word from
my manager there. Poor little wretch has died--died raving.'
Madge's bosom went shivering up and sank. 'My lady was right. She's not
'She's looking well?' said the earl, impatient with her moral merits:--
and this communication from Wales had been the decisive motive agent in
hurrying him at last to Esslemont. The next moment he heard coolly of
the lady's looking well. He wanted fervid eulogy of his wife's looks, if
he was to hear any.
BELOW THE SURFACE AND ABOVE
The girl was counselled by the tremor of her instincts to forbear to
speak of the minor circumstance, that her mistress had, besides a good
stick, a good companion on the road to Croridge: and she rejoiced to
think her mistress had him, because it seemed an intimation of justice
returning upon earth. She was combative, a born rebel against tyranny.
She weighed the powers, she felt to the worth of the persons coming into
her range of touch: she set her mistress and my lord fronting for a
wrestle, and my lord's wealth went to thin vapour, and her mistress's
character threw him. More dimly, my lord and the Welsh gentleman were
put to the trial: a tough one for these two men. She did not proclaim
the winner, but a momentary flutter of pity in the direction of Lord
Fleetwood did as much. She pitied him; for his presence at Esslemont
betrayed an inclination; he was ignorant of his lady's character, of how
firm she could be to defy him and all the world, in her gratitude to the
gentleman she thought of as her true friend, smiled at for his open
nature,--called by his Christian name.
The idea of a piece of information stinging Lord Fleetwood, the desire to
sting, so as to be an instrument of retribution (one of female human
nature's ecstasies); and her, abstaining, that she, might not pain the
lord who had been generous to her sister Sally, made the force in Madge's
breast which urges to the gambling for the undeveloped, entitled
prophecy. She kept it low and felt it thrill.
Lord Fleetwood, chatted; Madge had him wincing. He might pull the cover
off the child's face carelessly--he looked at the child. His look at the
child was a thought of the mother. If he thought of the mother, he would
be wanting to see her. If he heard her call a gentleman by his Christian
name, and heard the gentleman say 'Carinthia' my lord would begin to
shiver at changes. Women have to do unusual things when they would bring
that outer set to human behaviour. Perhaps my lord would mount the
coach-box and whip his horses away, adieu forever. His lady would not
weep. He might, perhaps, command her to keep her mouth shut from
gentlemen's Christian names, all except his own. His lady would not
obey. He had to learn something of changes that had come to others as
well as to himself. Ah, and then would he dare hint, as base men will?
He may blow foul smoke on her, she will shine out of it. He has to learn
what she is, that is his lesson; and let him pray all night and work hard
all day for it not to be too late. Let him try to be a little like Mr.
Woodseer, who worships the countess, and is hearty with the gentleman she
treats as her best of friends. There is the real nobleman.
Fleetwood chatted on airily. His instincts were duller than those of the
black-browed girl, at whom he gazed for idle satisfaction of eye from
time to time while she replied demurely and maintained her drama of, the
featureless but well-distinguished actors within her bosom,--a round,
plump bust, good wharfage and harbourage, he was thinking. Excellent
harbourage, supposing the arms out in pure good-will. A girl to hold her
voyager fast and safe! Men of her class had really a capital choice in a
girl like this. Men of another class as well, possibly, for temporary
anchorage out midchannel. No?--possibly not. Here and there a girl is a
Tartar. Ines talked of her as if she were a kind of religious edifice
and a doubt were sacrilege. She could impress the rascal: girls have
their arts for reaching the holy end, and still they may have a welcome
for a foreign ship.
The earl said humorously: 'You will grant me permission to lunch at your
mistress's table in her absence?' And she said: 'My lord!' And he
resumed, to waken her interest with a personal question: 'You like our
quiet country round Esslemont?' She said: 'I do,' and gave him plain
look for look. Her eye was undefended: he went into it, finding neither
shallow nor depth, simply the look, always the look; whereby he knew that
no story of man was there, and not the shyest of remote responsive
invitations from Nature's wakened and detected rogue. The bed of an
unmarried young woman's eye yields her secret of past and present to the
intrepid diver, if he can get his plunge; he holds her for the tenth of a
minute, that is the revealment. Jewel or oyster-shell, it is ours. She
cannot withhold it, he knew right well. This girl, then, was, he could
believe, one of the rarely exampled innocent in knowledge. He was
practised to judge.
Invitation or challenge or response from the handsomest he would have
scorned just then. His native devilry suffered a stir at sight of an
innocent in knowledge and spotless after experiences. By a sudden
singular twist, rather unfairly, naturally, as it happened, he attributed
it to an influence issuing from her mistress, to whom the girl was
devoted, whom consequently she copied; might physically, and also
morally, at a distance, resemble.
'Well, you've been a faithful servant to your lady, my dear; I hope
you'll be comfortable here,' he said. 'She likes the mountains.'
'My lady would be quite contented if she could pass two months of the
year in the mountains,' Madge answered.
'Look at me. They say people living together get a likeness to one
another. What's your opinion? Upon my word, your eyebrows remind me,
though they're not the colour--they have a bend!'
'You've seen my lady in danger, my lord.'
'Yes; well, there 's no one to resemble her there, she has her mark--kind
of superhuman business. We're none of us "fifty feet high, with
phosphorus heads," as your friend Mr. Gower Woodseer says of the
prodigiosities. Lady Fleetwood is back--when?'
'Before dark, she should be.'
He ran up the steps to the house.
At Lekkatts beneath Croridge a lean midday meal was being finished hard
on the commencement by a silent company of three. When eating is choking
to the younger members of the repast, bread and cold mutton-bone serve
the turn as conclusively as the Frenchman's buffet-dishes. Carinthia's
face of unshed tears dashed what small appetite Chillon had. Lord
Levellier plied his fork in his right hand ruminating, his back an arch
across his plate.
Riddles to the thwarted young, these old people will not consent to be
read by sensations. Carinthia watched his jaws at their work of eating
under his victim's eye-knowing Chillon to be no longer an officer in the
English service; knowing that her beloved had sold out for the mere money
to pay debts and support his Henrietta; knowing, as he must know, that
Chillon's act struck a knife to pierce his mother's breast through her
coffin-boards! This old man could eat, and he could withhold the means
due to his dead sister's son. Could he look on Chillon and not feel that
the mother's heart was beating in her son's fortunes? Half the money due
to Chillon would have saved him from ruin.
Lord Levellier laid his fork on the plate. He munched his grievance with
his bit of meat. The nephew and niece here present feeding on him were
not so considerate as the Welsh gentleman, a total stranger, who had
walked up to Lekkatts with the Countess of Fleetwood, and expressed the
preference to feed at an inn. Relatives are cormorants.
His fork on his plate released the couple. Barely half a dozen words,
before the sitting to that niggard restoration, had informed Carinthia of
the step taken by her brother. She beckoned him to follow her.
'The worst is done now, Chillon. I am silent. Uncle is a rock. You say
we must not offend. I have given him my whole mind. Say where Riette is
'Her headquarters will be here, at a furnished house. She's, with her
cousin, the Dowager.'
'Yes. She should be with me.'
'She wants music. She wants--poor girl! let her have what comes to
Their thoughts beneath their speech were like fish darting under shadow
of the traffic bridge.
'She loves music,' said Carinthia; 'it is almost life to her, like fresh
air to me. Next month I am in London; Lady Arpington is kind. She will
give me as much of their polish as I can take. I dare say I should feel
the need of it if I were an enlightened person.'
'For instance, did I hear "Owain," when your Welsh friend was leaving?'
'It was his dying wife's wish, brother.'
'Keep to the rules, dear.'
'They have been broken, Chillon.'
'That would be a step backward.'
'"The right one for defence!" father says.'
'Father says, "The habit of the defensive paralyzes will."'
'"Womanizes," he says, Carin. You quote him falsely, to shield the sex.
Quite right. But my sister must not be tricky. Keep to the rules.
You're an exceptional woman, and it would be a good argument, if you were
not in an exceptional position.'
'Owain is the exceptional man, brother.'
'My dear, after all, you have a husband.'
'I have a brother, I have a friend, I have no--I am a man's wife and the
mother of his child; I am free, or husband would mean dungeon. Does my
brother want an oath from me? That I can give him.'
'Conduct, yes; I couldn't doubt you,' said Chillon. 'But "the world's a
flood at a dyke for women, and they must keep watch," you've read.'
'But Owain is not our enemy,' said Carinthia, in her deeper tones,
expressive of conviction, and not thereby assuring to hear. 'He is a man
with men, a child with women. His Rebecca could describe him; I laugh
now at some of her sayings of him; I see her mouth, so tenderly comical
over her big "simpleton," she called him, and loved him so.'
The gentleman appeared on the waste land above the house. His very loose
black suit and a peculiar roll of his gait likened him to a mourning
boatswain who was jolly. In Lord Levellier's workshop his remarks were
to the point. Chillon's powders for guns and blasting interested him,
and he proposed to ride over from Barlings to witness a test of them.
'You are staying at Barlings?' Chillon said.
'Yes; now Carinthia is at Esslemont,' he replied, astoundingly the
His conversation was practical and shrewd on the walk with Chillon
and Carinthia down to Esslemont evidently he was a man well armed
to encounter the world; social usages might be taught him. Chillon
gained a round view of the worthy simple fellow, unlikely to turn out
impracticable, for he talked such good sense upon matters of business.
Carinthia saw her brother tickled and interested. A feather moved her.
Full of tears though she was, her, heart lay open to the heavens and
their kind, small, wholesome gifts. Her happiness in the walk with her
brother and her friend--the pair of them united by her companionship,
both of them showing they counted her their comrade--was the nearest to
the radiant day before she landed on an island, and imagined happiness
grew here, and found it to be gilt thorns, loud mockery. A shaving
North-easter tore the scream from hedges and the roar from copses under a
faceless breadth of sky, and she said, as they turned into Esslemont Park
lane: 'We have had one of our old walks to-day, Chillon!'
'You used to walk together long walks over in your own country,' said Mr.
'Yes, Owain, we did, and my brother never knew me tired.'
'Never knew you confess to it,' said Chillon, as he swallowed the name on
'Walking was flying over there, brother.'
'Say once or twice in Wales, too,' Mr. Wythan begged of her.
'Wales reminded. Yes, ..Owain, I shall not forget Wales, Welsh people.
Mr. Woodseer says they have the three-stringed harp in their breasts, and
one string is always humming, whether you pull it or no.'
'That 's love of country! that 's their love of wild Wales, Carinthia.'
There was a quiet interrogation in Chillon's turn of the head at this
'I love them for that hum,' said she. 'It joins one in me.'
'Call to them any day, they are up, ready to march!'
'Oh, dear souls!' Carinthia said.
Her breath drew in.
The three were dumb. They saw Lord Fleetwood standing in the park
BETWEEN CARINTHIA AND HER LORD
The earl's easy grace of manner was a ceremonial mantle on him as he
grasped the situation in a look. He bent with deferential familiarity to
his countess, exactly toning the degree of difference which befitted a
salute to the two gentlemen, amiable or hostile.
'There and back?' he said, and conveyed a compliment to Carinthia's
pedestrian vigour in the wary smile which can be recalled for a snub.
She replied: 'We have walked the distance, my lord.'
Her smile was the braced one of an untired stepper.
'A cold wind for you.'
'We walked fast.'
She compelled him to take her in the plural, though he addressed her
separately, but her tones had their music.
'Your brother, Captain Kirby-Levellier, I believe?'
'My brother is not of the army now, my lord.'
She waved her hand for Madge to conduct donkey and baby to the house. He
noticed. He was unruffled.
The form of amenity expected from her, in relation to her brother, was
not exhibited. She might perhaps be feeling herself awkward at
introductions, and had to be excused.
'I beg,' he said, and motioned to Chillon the way of welcome into the
park, saw the fixed figure, and passed over the unspoken refusal, with a
remark to Mr. Wythan: 'At Barlings, I presume?'
'My tent is pitched there,' was the answer.
'Good-bye, my brother,' said Carinthia.
Chillon folded his arms round her. 'God bless you, dear love. Let me
see you soon.' He murmured:
'You can protect yourself.'
'Fear nothing for me, dearest.'
She kissed her brother's cheek. The strain of her spread fingers on his
shoulder signified no dread at her being left behind.
Strangers observing their embrace would have vowed that the pair were
brother and sister, and of a notable stock.
'I will walk with you to Croridge again when you send word you are
willing to go; and so, good-bye, Owain,' she said.
She gave her hand; frankly she pressed the Welshman's, he not a whit
behind her in frankness.
Fleetwood had a skimming sense of a drop upon a funny, whirly world. He
kept from giddiness, though the whirl had lasted since he beheld the form
of a wild forest girl, dancing, as it struck him now, over an abyss, on
the plumed shoot of a stumpy tree.
Ay, and she danced at the ducal schloss;--she mounted his coach like a
witch of the Alps up crags;--she was beside him pelting to the vale under
a leaden Southwester;--she sat solitary by the fireside in the room of
Veil it. He consented to the veil he could not lift. He had not even
power to try, and his heart thumped.
London's Whitechapel Countess glided before him like a candle in the fog.
He had accused her as the creature destroying Romance. Was it gold in
place of gilding, absolute upper human life that the ridiculous object at
his heels over London proposed instead of delirious brilliancies, drunken
gallops, poison-syrups,--puffs of a young man's vapours?
There was Madge and the donkey basket-trap ahead on the road to the
house, bearing proof of the veiled had-been: signification of a might-
have-been. Why not a possible might-be? Still the might-be might be.
Looking on this shaven earth and sky of March with the wrathful wind at
work, we know that it is not the end: a day follows for the world. But
looking on those blown black funeral sprays, and the wrinkled chill
waters, and the stare of the Esslemont house-windows, it has an
appearance of the last lines of our written volume: dead Finis. Not
death; fouler, the man alive seeing himself stretched helpless for the
altering of his deeds; a coffin carrying him; the fatal whiteheaded
sacerdotal official intoning his aims on the march to front, the drear
craped files of the liveried, salaried mourners over his failure,
trooping at his heels.
Frontward was the small lake's grey water, rearward an avenue of limes.
But the man alive, if but an inch alive, can so take his life in his
clutch, that he does alter, cleanse, recast his deeds:--it is known;
priests proclaim it, philosophers admit it.
Can he lay his clutch on another's life, and wring out the tears shed,
the stains of the bruises, recollection of the wrongs?
Contemplate the wounded creature as a woman. Then, what sort of woman is
she? She was once under a fascination--ludicrously, painfully, intensely
like a sort of tipsy poor puss, the trapped hare tossed to her serpent;
and thoroughly reassured for a few caresses, quite at home, caged and at
home; and all abloom with pretty ways, modest pranks, innocent fondlings.
Gobbled, my dear!
It is the doom of the innocents, a natural fate. Smother the creature
with kindness again, show we are a point in the scale above that old
coiler snake--which broke no bones, bit not so very deep;--she will be,
she ought to be, the woman she was. That is, if she was then sincere,
a dose of kindness should operate happily to restore the honeymoony
fancies, hopes, trusts, dreams, all back, as before the honeymoon showed
the silver crook and shadowy hag's back of a decaying crescent. And true
enough, the poor girl's young crescent of a honeymoon went down sickly-
yellow rather early. It can be renewed. She really was at that time
rather romantic. She became absurd. Romance is in her, nevertheless.
She is a woman of mettle: she is probably expecting to be wooed. One
makes a hash of yesterday's left dish, but she may know no better. 'Add
a pickle,' as Chummy Potts used to say. The dish is rendered savoury by
a slight expenditure of attentions, just a dab of intimated soft stuff.
'Pleasant to see you established here, if you find the place agreeable,'
She was kissing her hand to her brother, all her eyes for him--or for the
couple; and they were hidden by the park lodge before she replied: 'It is
an admired, beautiful place.'
'I came,' said he, 'to have your assurance that it suits you.'
'I thank you, my lord.'
'"My lord" would like a short rest, Carinthia.'
She seemed placidly acquiescing. 'You have seen the boy?'
'Twice to-day. We were having a conversation just now.'
'We think him very intelligent.'
'Lady Arpington tells me you do the honours here excellently.'
'She is good to me.'
'Praises the mother's management of the young one. John Edward: Edward
for call-name. Madge boasts his power for sleeping.'
'He gives little trouble.'
'And babes repay us! We learn from small things. Out of the mouth of
babes wisdom? Well, their habits show the wisdom of the mother. A good
mother! There's no higher title. A lady of my acquaintance bids fair to
win it, they say.'
Carinthia looked in simplicity, saw herself, and said 'If a mother may
rear her boy till he must go to school, she is rewarded for all she
'Ah,' said he, nodding over her mania of the perpetual suspicion.
'Leddings, Queeney, the servants here, run smoothly?'
'They do: they are happy in serving.'
'You see, we English are not such bad fellows when we're known. The
climate to-day, for example, is rather trying.'
'I miss colours most in England,' said Carinthia. 'I like the winds.
Now and then we have a day to remember.'
'We 're to be "the artist of the day," Gower Woodseer says, and we get
an attachment to the dreariest; we are to study "small variations of the
commonplace"--dear me! But he may be right. The "sky of lead and
scraped lead" over those lines, he points out; and it's not a bad trick
for reconciling us to gloomy English weather. You take lessons from
'I can always learn from him,' said Carinthia.
Fleetwood depicted his plodding Gower at the tussle with account-books.
She was earnest in sympathy; not awake to the comical; dull as the
clouds, dull as the discourse. Yet he throbbed for being near her
took impression of her figure, the play of her features, the carriage of
He was shut from her eyes. The clear brown eyes gave exchange of looks;
less of admission than her honest maid's.
Madge and the miracle infant awaited them on the terrace. For so foreign
did the mother make herself to him, that the appearance of the child,
their own child, here between them, was next to miraculous; and the
mother, who might well have been the most astonished, had transparently
not an idea beyond the verified palpable lump of young life she lifted in
her arms out of the arms of Madge, maternally at home with its presence
Demonstrably a fine specimen, a promising youngster. The father was
allowed to inspect him. This was his heir: a little fellow of smiles,
features, puckered brows of inquiry; seeming a thing made already, and
active on his own account.
'Do people see likenesses?' he asked.
'Some do,' said the mother.
She was constrained to give answer. 'There is a likeness to my father, I
There's a dotage of idolatrous daughters, he could have retorted; and his
gaze was a polite offer to humdrum reconcilement, if it pleased her.
She sent the child up the steps.
'Do you come in, my lord?'
'The house is yours, my lady.'
'I cannot feel it mine.'
'You are the mistress to invite or exclude.'
'I am ready to go in a few hours for a small income of money, for my
child and me.'
'It is our child.'
'Any sum you choose to name. But where would you live?'
'Near my brother I would live.'
'Three thousand a year for pin-money, or more, are at your disposal.
Stay here, I beg. You have only to notify your wants. And we'll talk
familiarly now, as we're together. Can I be of aid to your brother?
Tell me, pray. I am disposed in every way to subscribe to your wishes.
Pray, speak, speak out.'
So the earl said. He had to force his familiar tone against the rebuke
of her grandeur of stature; and he was for inducing her to deliver her
mind, that the mountain girl's feebleness in speech might reinstate him.
She rejoined unhesitatingly: 'My brother would not accept aid from you,
my lord. I will take no money more than for my needs.'
'You spoke of certain sums down in Wales.'
'I did then.' Her voice was dead.
'Ah! You must be feeling the cold North-wind here.'
'I do not. You may feel the cold, my lord. Will you enter the house?'
' Do you invite me?'
'The house is your own.'
'Will the mistress of the house honour me so far?'
'I am not the mistress of the house, my lord.'
'You refuse, Carinthia?'
'I would keep from using those words. I have no right to refuse the
entry of the house to you.'
'If I come in?'
'I guard my rooms.'
She had been awake, then, to the thrusting and parrying behind masked
'Good. You are quite decided, I may suppose.'
'I will leave them when I have a little money, or when I know of how I
may earn some.'
'The Countess of Fleetwood earning a little money?'
'I can put aside your title, my lord.'
'No, you can't put it aside while the man with the title lives, not even
if you're running off in earnest, under a dozen Welsh names. Why should
you desire to do it? The title entitles you to the command of half my
possessions. As to the house; don't be alarmed; you will not have to
guard your rooms. The extraordinary wild animal you--the impression may
have been produced; I see, I see. If I were in the house, I should not
be rageing at your doors; and it is not my intention to enter the house.
That is, not by right of ownership. You have my word.'
He bowed to her, and walked to the stables.
She had the art of extracting his word from him. The word given, she
went off with it, disengaged mistress of Esslemont. And she might have
the place for residence, but a decent courtesy required that she should
remain at the portico until he was out of sight. She was the first out
of sight, rather insolently.
She returned him without comment the spell he had cast on her, and he
was left to estimate the value of a dirited piece of metal not in the
currency, stamped false coin. An odd sense of impoverishment chilled
him. Chilly weather was afflicting the whole country, he was reminded,
and he paced about hurriedly until his horses were in the shafts. After
all, his driving away would be much more expected of him than a stay at
the house where the Whitechapel Countess resided, chill, dry, talking the
language of early Exercises in English, suitable to her Welshmen. Did
she 'Owain' them every one?
As he whipped along the drive and left that glassy stare of Esslemont
behind him, there came a slap of a reflection:--here, on the box of this
coach, the bride just bursting her sheath sat, and was like warm wax to
take impressions. She was like hard stone to retain them, pretty
evidently. Like women the world over, she thinks only of her side of the
case. Men disdain to plead theirs. Now money is offered her, she
declines it. Formerly, she made it the principal subject of her
Turn the mind to something brighter. Fleetwood strung himself to do so,
and became agitated by the question whether the bride sat to left or to
right of him when the South-wester blew-a wind altogether preferable to
the chill North-east. Women, when they are no longer warm, are colder
than the deadliest catarrh wind scything across these islands. Of course
she sat to left of him. In the line of the main road, he remembered a
look he dropped on her, a look over his left shoulder.
She never had a wooing: she wanted it, had a kind of right to it, or the
show of it. How to begin? But was she worth an effort? Turn to
something brighter. Religion is the one refuge from women, Feltre says:
his Roman Catholic recipe. The old shoemaker, Mr. Woodseer, hauls women
into his religion, and purifies them by the process,--fancies he does.
He gets them to wear an air. Old Gower, too, has his Religion of Nature,
with free admission for women, whom he worships in similes, running away
from them, leering sheepishly. No, Feltre's' rigid monastic system is
the sole haven. And what a world, where we have no safety except in
renouncing it! The two sexes created to devour one another must abjure
their sex before they gain 'The Peace,' as Feltre says, impressively, if
absurdly. He will end a monk if he has the courage of his logic. A
queer spectacle--an English nobleman a shaven monk!
Fleetwood shuddered. We are twisted face about to discover our being
saved by women from that horror--the joining the ranks of the nasal
friars. By what women? Bacchante, clearly, if the wife we have is a
North-easter to wither us, blood, bone, and soul.
He was hungry; he waxed furious with the woman who had flung him out upon
the roads. He was thirsty as well. The brightest something to refresh
his thoughts grew and glowed in the form of a shiny table, bearing tasty
dishes, old wines; at an inn or anywhere. But, out of London, an English
inn to furnish the dishes and the wines for a civilized and self-
respecting man is hard to seek, as difficult to find as a perfect
skeleton of an extinct species. The earl's breast howled derision of
his pursuit when he drew up at the; sign of the Royal Sovereign, in the
dusky hour, and handed himself desperately to Mrs. Rundles' mercy.
He could not wait for a dinner, so his eating was cold meat. Warned by a
sip, that his drinking, if he drank, was to be an excursion in chemical
acids, the virtues of an abstainer served for his consolation. Tolerant
of tobacco, although he did not smoke, he fronted the fire, envying Gower
Woodseer the contemplative pipe, which for half a dozen puffs wafted him
to bracing deserts, or primaeval forests, or old highways with the
swallow thoughts above him, down the Past, into the Future. A pipe is
pleasant dreams at command. A pipe is the concrete form of philosophy.
Why, then, a pipe is the alternative of a friar's frock for an escape
from women. But if one does not smoke! . . . Here and there a man is
visibly in the eyes of all men cursed: let him be blest by Fortune; let
him be handsome, healthy, wealthy, courted, he is cursed.
Fleetwood lay that night beneath the roof of the Royal Sovereign. Sleep
is life's legitimate mate. It will treat us at times as the faithless
wife, who becomes a harrying beast, behaves to her lord. He had no
sleep. Having put out his candle, an idea took hold of him, and he
jumped up to light it again and verify the idea that this room . . .
He left the bed and strode round it, going in the guise of an urgent
somnambulist, or ghost bearing burden of an imperfectly remembered
mission. This was the room.
Reason and cold together overcame his illogical scruples to lie down on
that bed soliciting the sleep desired. He lay and groaned, lay and
rolled. All night the Naval Monarch with the loose cheeks and jelly
smile of the swinging sign-board creaked. Flaws of the North-easter
swung and banged him. He creaked high, in complaint,--low, in some
partial contentment. There was piping of his boatswain, shrill piping
--shrieks of the whistle. How many nights had that most ill-fated of
brides lain listening to the idiotic uproar! It excused a touch of
craziness. But how many? Not one, not two, ten, twenty:--count, count
to the exact number of nights the unhappy girl must have heard those mad
colloquies of the hurricane boatswain and the chirpy king. By heaven!
Whitechapel, after one night of it, beckons as a haven of grace.
A DIP INTO THE SPRING'S WATERS
The night Lord Fleetwood had passed cured him of the wound Carinthia
dealt, with her blunt, defensive phrase and her Welshman. Seated on his
coach-box, he turned for a look the back way leading to Esslemont, and
saw rosed crag and mountain forest rather than the soft undulations of
parkland pushing green meadows or brown copse up the slopes under his
eye. She had never been courted: she deserved a siege. She was a
daughter of the racy highlands. And she, who could say to her husband,
'I guard my rooms,' without sign of the stage-face of scorn or defiance
or flinging of the glove, she would have to be captured by siege, it was
clear. She wore an aspect of the confident fortress, which neither
challenges nor cries to treat, but commands respect. How did she
accomplish this miracle of commanding respect after such a string of
somersaults before the London world?
He had to drive North-westward: his word was pledged to one of his donkey
Ixionides--Abrane, he recollected--to be a witness at some contemptible
exhibition of the fellow's muscular skill: a match to punt against a
Thames waterman: this time. Odd how it should come about that the giving
of his word forced him now to drive away from the woman once causing him
to curse his luck as the prisoner of his word! However, there was to be
an end of it soon--a change; change as remarkable as Harry Monmouth's at
the touching of his crown. Though in these days, in our jog-trot Old
England, half a step on the road to greatness is the utmost we can hop;
and all England jeers at the man attempting it. He caps himself with
this or that one of their titles. For it is not the popular thing among
Englishmen. Their hero, when they have done their fighting, is the
wealthy patron of Sport. What sort of creatures are his comrades? But
he cannot have comrades unless he is on the level of them. Yet let him
be never so high above them, they charge him and point him as a piece of
cannon; assenting to the flatteries they puff into him, he is their
engine. 'The idol of the hour is the mob's wooden puppet, and the doing
of the popular thing seed of no harvest,' Gower Woodseer says, moderately
well, snuffing incense of his happy delivery. Not to be the idol, to
have an aim of our own, there lies the truer pride, if we intend respect
The Mr. Pulpit young men have in them, until their habits have fretted
him out, was directing Lord Fleetwood's meditations upon the errors of
the general man, as a cover for lateral references to his hitherto
erratic career: not much worse than a swerving from the right line,
which now seemed the desirable road for him, and had previously seemed
so stale, so repulsive. He was, of course, only half-conscious of his
pulpitizing; he fancied the serious vein of his thoughts attributable to
a tumbled night. Nevertheless, he had the question whether that woman--
poor girl!--was influencing his thoughts. For in a moment, the very word
'respect' pitched him upon her character; to see it a character that
emerged beneath obstacles, and overcame ridicule, won suffrages, won a
reluctant husband's admiration, pricked him from distaste to what might
really be taste for her companionship, or something more alarming to
contemplate in the possibilities,--thirst for it. He was driving away,
and he longed to turn back. He did respect her character: a character
angular as her features were, and similarly harmonious, splendid in
Respect seems a coolish form of tribute from a man who admires. He had
to say that he did not vastly respect beautiful women. Have they all the
poetry? Know them well, and where is it?
The pupil of Gower Woodseer asked himself to specify the poetry of woman.
She is weak and inferior, but she has it; civilized men acknowledge it;
and it is independent, or may be beside her gift of beauty. She has more
of it than we have. Then name it.
Well, the flowers of the field are frail things. Pluck one, and you have
in your hand the frailest of things. But reach through the charm of
colour and the tale of its beneficence in frailty to the poetry of the
flower, and secret of the myriad stars will fail to tell you more than
does that poetry of your little flower. Lord Feltre, at the heels of St.
Francis, agrees in that.
Well, then, much so with the flowers of the two hands and feet. We do
homage to those ungathered, and reserve our supremacy; the gathered, no
longer courted, are the test of men. When the embraced woman breathes
respect into us, she wings a beast. We have from her the poetry of the
tasted life; excelling any garden-gate or threshold lyrics called forth
by purest early bloom. Respect for her person, for her bearing, for her
character that is in the sum a beauty plastic to the civilized young
man's needs and cravings, as queenly physical loveliness has never so
fully been to him along the walks of life, and as ideal worships cannot
be for our nerving contentment. She brings us to the union of body and
soul; as good as to say, earth and heaven. Secret of all human
aspirations, the ripeness of the creeds, is there; and the passion for
the woman desired has no poetry equalling that of the embraced respected
Something of this went reeling through Fleetwood; positively to this end;
accompanied the while with flashes of Carinthia, her figure across the
varied scenes. Ridicule vanished. Could it ever have existed? If
London had witnessed the scene down in Wales, London never again would
laugh at the Whitechapel Countess.
He laughed amicably at himself for the citizen sobriety of these views,
on the part of a nobleman whose airy pleasure it had been to flout your
sober citizens, with their toad-at-the-hop notions, their walled
conceptions, their drab propriety; and felt a petted familiar within
him dub all pulpitizing, poetizing drivellers with one of those detested
titles, invented by the English as a corrective of their maladies or the
excesses of their higher moods. But, reflection telling him that he had
done injury to Carinthia--had inflicted the sorest of the wounds a young
woman a new bride can endure, he nodded acquiescence to the charge of
misbehaviour, and muzzled the cynic.
As a consequence, the truisms flooded him and he lost his guard against
our native prosiness. Must we be prosy if we are profoundly, uncynically
sincere? Do but listen to the stuff we are maundering! Extracts of
poetry, if one could hit upon the right, would serve for a relief and a
lift when we are in this ditch of the serious vein. Gower Woodseer would
have any number handy to spout. Or Felter:--your convinced and fervent
Catholic has quotations of images and Latin hymns to his Madonna or one
of his Catherines, by the dozen, to suit an enthusiastic fit of the
worship of some fair woman, and elude the prosy in commending her.
Feltre is enviable there. As he says, it is natural to worship, and only
the Catholics can prostrate themselves with dignity. That is matter for
thought. Stir us to the depths, it will be found that we are poor soupy
stuff. For estimable language, and the preservation of self-respect in
prostration, we want ritual, ceremonial elevation of the visible object
for the soul's adoring through the eye. So may we escape our foul or
Lord Feltre seemed to Fleetwood at the moment a more serviceable friend
than Gower Woodseer preaching 'Nature'--an abstraction, not inspiring to
the devout poetic or giving us the tongue above our native prosy. He was
raised and refreshed by recollected lines of a Gregorian chant he and
Feltre had heard together under the roof of that Alpine monastery.
The Dame collapses. There is little doubt of her having the world to
back her in protest against all fine filmy work of the exploration of a
young man's intricacies or cavities. Let her not forget the fact she has
frequently impressed upon us, that he was 'the very wealthiest nobleman
of his time,' instructive to touch inside as well as out. He had his
share of brains, too. And also she should be mindful of an alteration of
English taste likely of occurrence in the remote posterity she vows she
is for addressing after she has exhausted our present hungry generation.
The posterity signified will, it is calculable, it is next to certain,
have studied a developed human nature so far as to know the composition
of it a not unequal mixture of the philosophic and the romantic, and that
credible realism is to be produced solely by an involvement of those two
elements. Or else, she may be sure, her story once out of the mouth,
goes off dead as the spirits of a vapour that has performed the stroke of
energy. She holds a surprising event in the history of 'the wealthiest
nobleman of his time,' and she would launch it upon readers unprepared,
with the reference to our mysterious and unfathomable nature for an
explanation of the stunning crack on the skull.
This may do now. It will not do ten centuries hence. For the English,
too, are a changeable people in the sight of ulterior Time.
One of the good pieces of work Lord Fleetwood could suppose he had
performed was recalled to him near the turning to his mews by the
handsome Piccadilly fruit-shop. He jumped to the pavement, merely to
gratify. Sarah Winch with a word of Madge; and being emotional just
then, he spoke of Lady Fleetwood's attachment to Madge; and he looked at
Sarah straight, he dropped his voice: 'She said, you remember, you were
sisters to her.'
Sarah remembered that he had spoken of it before. Two brilliant
drops from the deepest of woman's ready well stood in her eyes.
He carried the light of them away. They were such pure jewels of tribute
to the Carinthia now seen by him as worshipping souls of devotees offer
to their Madonna for her most glorious adornment.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Be the woman and have the last word!
Charity that supplied the place of justice was not thanked
Courage to grapple with his pride and open his heart was wanting
Deeds only are the title
Detested titles, invented by the English
He did not vastly respect beautiful women
Look backward only to correct an error of conduct in future
Meditations upon the errors of the general man, as a cover
Not to be the idol, to have an aim of our own
Objects elevated even by a decayed world have their magnetism
One idea is a bullet
Quick to understand, she is in the quick of understanding
Religion is the one refuge from women
Scorn titles which did not distinguish practical offices
The divinely damnable naked truth won't wear ornaments
The embraced respected woman
The habit of the defensive paralyzes will
The idol of the hour is the mob's wooden puppet
Their sneer withers
Tighter than ever I was tight I'll be to-night
With one idea, we see nothing--nothing but itself
You want me to flick your indecision
THE AMAZING MARRIAGE
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXXIX. THE RED WARNING FROM A SON OF VAPOUR
XL. A RECORD OF MINOR INCIDENTS
XLI. IN WHICH THE FATES ARE SEEN AND A CHOICE OF THE REFUGES FROM
XLII. THE RETARDED COURTSHIP
XLIII. ON THE ROAD TO THE ACT OF PENANCE
XLIV. BETWEEN THE EARL; THE COUNTESS AND HER BROTHER, AND OF A SILVER
XLV. CONTAINS A RECORD OF WHAT WAS FEARED, WHAT WAS HOPED, AND WHAT
XLVI. A CHAPTER OF UNDERCURRENTS AND SOME SURFACE FLASHES
XLVII. THE LAST: WITH A CONCLUDING WORD BY THE DAME
THE RED WARNING FROM A SON OF VAPOUR
Desiring loneliness or else Lord Feltre's company, Fleetwood had to grant
a deferred audience at home to various tradesmen, absurdly fussy about
having the house of his leased estate of Calesford furnished complete and
habitable on the very day stipulated by his peremptory orders that the
place should be both habitable and hospitable. They were right, they
were excused; grand entertainments of London had been projected, and he
fell into the weariful business with them, thinking of Henrietta's
insatiable appetite for the pleasures. He had taken the lease of this
burdensome Calesford, at an eight-miles' drive from the Northwest of
town, to gratify the devouring woman's taste which was, to have all the
luxuries of the town in a framework of country scenery.
Gower Woodseer and he were dining together in the evening. The
circumstance was just endurable, but Gower would play the secretary,
and doggedly subjected him to hear a statement of the woeful plight of
Countess Livia's affairs. Gower, commissioned to examine them, remarked:
'If we have all the figures!'
'If we could stop the bleeding!' Fleetwood replied. 'Come to the Opera
to-night; I promised. I promised Abrane for to-morrow. There's no end
to it. This gambling mania's a flux. Not one of them except your old
enemy, Corby, keeps clear of it; and they're at him for subsidies, as
they are at me, and would be at you or any passenger on the suspected of
a purse. Corby shines among them.'
That was heavy judgement enough, Gower thought. No allusion to Esslemont
ensued. The earl ate sparely, and silently for the most part.
He was warmed a little at the Opera by hearing Henrietta's honest
raptures over her Columelli in the Pirata. But Lord Brailstone sat
behind her, and their exchange of ecstasies upon the tattered pathos of
E il mio tradito amor,
was not moderately offensive.
His countenance in Henrietta's presence had to be studied and interpreted
by Livia. Why did it darken? The demurest of fuliginous intriguers
argued that Brail stone was but doing the spiriting required of him,
and would have to pay the penalty unrewarded, let him Italianize as much
as he pleased. Not many months longer, and there would be the bit of an
outburst, the whiff of scandal, perhaps a shot, and the rupture of an
improvident alliance, followed by Henrietta's free hand to the moody
young earl, who would then have possession of the only woman he could
ever love: and at no cost. Jealousy of a man like Brailstone, however
infatuated the man, was too foolish. He must perceive how matters were
tending? The die-away acid eyeballs-at-the-ceiling of a pair of fanatics
per la musica might irritate a husband, but the lover should read and
know. Giddy as the beautiful creature deprived of her natural aliment
seems in her excuseable hunger for it, she has learnt her lesson, she is
not a reeling libertine.
Brailstone peered through his eyelashes at the same shadow of a frown
where no frown sat on his friend's brows. Displeasure was manifest, and
why? Fleetwood had given him the dispossessing shrug of the man out of
the run, and the hint of the tip for winning, with the aid of operatic
arias; and though he was in Fleetwood's books ever since the prize-fight,
neither Fleetwood nor the husband nor any skittishness of a timorous wife
could stop the pursuer bent to capture the fairest and most inflaming
woman of her day.
'I prefer your stage Columelli,' Fleetwood said.
'I come from exile!' said Henrietta; and her plea in excuse of ecstatics
wrote her down as confessedly treasonable to the place quitted.
Ambrose Mallard entered the box, beholding only his goddess Livia.
Their eyebrows and inaudible lips conversed eloquently. He retired
like a trumped card on the appearance of M. de St. Ombre. The courtly
Frenchman won the ladies to join him in whipping the cream of the world
for five minutes, and passed out before his flavour was exhausted.
Brailstone took his lesson and departed, to spy at them from other
boxes and heave an inflated shirt-front. Young Cressett, the bottle
of effervescence, dashed in, and for him Livia's face was motherly.
He rattled a tale of the highway robbery of Sir Meeson Corby on one of
his Yorkshire moors. The picture of the little baronet arose upon the
narration, and it amused. Chumley Potts came to 'confirm every item,'
as he said. 'Plucked Corby clean. Pistol at his head. Quite old style.
Time, ten P.M. Suspects Great Britain, King, Lords and Commons, and
buttons twenty times tighter. Brosey Mallard down on him for a few
fighting men. Perfect answer to Brosey.'
'Mr. Mallard did not mention the robbery,' Henrietta remarked.
'Feared to shock: Corby such a favoured swain,' Potts accounted for the
'Brosey spilling last night?' Fleetwood asked.
'At the palazzo, we were,' said Potts. 'Luck pretty fair first off.
Brosey did his trick, and away and away and away went he! More old
Brosey wins, the wiser he gets. I stayed.' He swung to Gower: 'Don't
drink dry Sillery after two A.M. You read me?'
'Egyptian, but decipherable,' said Gower.
The rising of the curtain drew his habitual groan from Potts, and he fled
to collogue with the goodly number of honest fellows in the house of
music who detested 'squallery.' Most of these afflicted pilgrims to the
London conservatory were engaged upon the business of the Goddess richly
inspiring the Heliconian choir, but rendering the fountain-waters heady.
Here they had to be, if they would enjoy the spectacle of London's
biggest and choicest bouquet: and in them, too, there was an unattached
air during Potts' cooling discourse of turf and tables, except when he
tossed them a morsel of tragedy, or the latest joke, not yet past the
full gallop on its course. Their sparkle was transient; woman had them
fast. Compelled to think of them as not serious members of our group, he
assisted at the crush-room exit, and the happy riddance of the beautiful
cousins dedicated to the merry London midnights' further pastures.
Fleetwood's word was extracted, that he would visit the 'palazzo' within
a couple of hours.
Potts exclaimed: 'Good. You promise. Hang me, if I don't think it 's
the only certain thing a man can depend upon in this world.'
He left the earl and Gower Woodseer to their lunatic talk. He still had
his ideas about the association of the pair. 'Hard-headed player of his
own game, that Woodseer, spite of his Mumbo-Jumbo-oracle kind of talk.'
Mallard's turn of luck downward to the deadly drop had come under Potts'
first inspection of the table. Admiring his friend's audacity, deploring
his rashness, reproving his persistency, Potts allowed his verdict to go
by results; for it was clear that Mallard and Fortune were in opposition.
Something like real awe of the tremendous encounter kept him from a
plunge or a bet. Mallard had got the vertigo, he reported the gambler's
launch on dementedness to the earl. Gower's less experienced optics
perceived it. The plainly doomed duellist with the insensible Black
Goddess offered her all the advantages of the Immortals challenged by
flesh. His effort to smile was a line cut awry in wood; his big eyes
were those of a cat for sociability; he looked cursed, and still he
wore the smile. In this condition, the gambler runs to emptiness of
everything he has, his money, his heart, his brains, like a coal-truck
on the incline of the rails to a collier.
Mallard applied to the earl for a loan of fifty guineas. He had them
and lost them, and he came, not begging, blustering for a second supply;
quite in the wrong tone, Potts knew. Fleetwood said: 'Back it with
pistols, Brosey'; and, as Potts related subsequently, 'Old Brosey had the
look of a staked horse.'
Fortune and he having now closed the struggle, perforce of his total
disarmament, he regained the wits we forfeit when we engage her.
He said to his friend Chummy: 'Abrane tomorrow? Ah, yes, punts a Thames
waterman. Start of--how many yards? Sunbury-Walton: good reach. Course
of two miles: Braney in good training. Straight business? I mayn't be
there. But you, Chummy, you mind, old Chums, all cases of the kind,
safest back the professional. Unless--you understand!'
Fleetwood could not persuade Gower to join the party. The philosopher's
pretext of much occupation masked a bashfully sentimental dislike of the
flooding of quiet country places by the city's hordes. 'You're right,
right,' said Fleetwood, in sympathy, resigned to the prospect of
despising his associates without a handy helper. He named Esslemont
once, shot up a look at the sky, and glanced it Eastward.
Three coaches were bound for Sunbury from a common starting-point at nine
of the morning. Lord Fleetwood, Lord Brailstone, and Lord Simon Pitscrew
were the whips. Two hours in advance of them, the earl's famous
purveyors of picnic feasts bowled along to pitch the riverside tent and
spread the tables. Our upper and lower London world reported the earl as
out on another of his expeditions: and, say what we will, we must think
kindly of a wealthy nobleman ever to the front to enliven the town's
dusty eyes and increase Old England's reputation for pre-eminence in the
He is the husband of the Whitechapel Countess--got himself into
that mess; but whatever he does, he puts the stamp of style on it.
He and the thing he sets his hand to, they're neat, they're finished,
they're fitted to trot together, and they've a shining polish, natural,
like a lily of the fields; or say Nature and Art, like the coat of a
thoroughbred led into the paddock by his groom, if you're of that mind.
Present at the start in Piccadilly, Gower took note of Lord Fleetwood's
military promptitude to do the work he had no taste for, and envied the
self-compression which could assume so pleasant an air. He heard here
and there crisp comments on his lordship's coach and horses and personal
smartness; the word 'style,' which reflects handsomely on the connoisseur
conferring it, and the question whether one of the ladies up there was
the countess. His task of unearthing and disentangling the monetary
affairs of 'one of the ladies' compelled the wish to belong to the party
soon to be towering out of the grasp of bricks, and delightfully gay,
spirited, quick for fun. A fellow, he thought, may brood upon Nature,
but the real children of Nature--or she loves them best--are those who
have the careless chatter, the ready laugh, bright welcome for a holiday.
In catching the hour, we are surely the bloom of the hour? Why, yes, and
no need to lose the rosy wisdom of the children when we wrap ourselves in
the patched old cloak of the man's.
On he went to his conclusions; but the Dame will have none of them,
though here was a creature bent on masonry-work in his act of thinking,
to build a traveller's-rest for thinkers behind him; while the volatile
were simply breaking their bubbles.
He was discontented all day, both with himself and the sentences he
coined. A small street-boy at his run along the pavement nowhither,
distanced him altogether in the race for the great Secret; precipitating
the thought, that the conscious are too heavily handicapped. The
unburdened unconscious win the goal. Ay, but they leave no legacy.
So we must fret and stew, and look into ourselves, and seize the brute
and scourge him, just to make one serviceable step forward: that is,
utter a single sentence worth the pondering for guidance.
Gower imagined the fun upon middle Thames: the vulcan face of Captain
Abrane; the cries of his backers, the smiles of the ladies, Lord
Fleetwood's happy style in the teeth of tattlean Aurora's chariot for
overriding it. One might hope, might almost see, that he was coming to
his better senses on a certain subject. As for style overriding the
worst of indignities, has not Scotia given her poet to the slack
dependant of the gallows-tree, who so rantingly played his jig and
wheeled it round in the shadow of that institution? Style was his,
he hit on the right style to top the situation, and perpetually will
he slip his head out of the noose to dance the poet's verse.
In fact, style is the mantle of greatness; and say that the greatness is
beyond our reach, we may at least pray to have the mantle.
Strangest of fancies, most unphilosophically, Gower conceived a woman's
love as that which would bestow the gift upon a man so bare of it as he.
Where was the woman? He embraced the idea of the sex, and found it
resolving to a form of one. He stood humbly before the one, and she
waned into swarms of her sisters. So did she charge him with the loving
of her sex, not her. And could it be denied, if he wanted a woman's love
just to give him a style? No, not that, but to make him feel proud of
himself. That was the heart's way of telling him a secret in owning to
a weakness. Within it the one he had thought of forthwith obtained her
lodgement. He discovered this truth, in this roundabout way, and knew it
a truth by the warm fireside glow the contemplation of her cast over him.
Dining alone, as he usually had to do, he was astonished to see the earl
enter his room.
'Ah, you always make the right choice!' Fleetwood said, and requested
him to come to the library when he had done eating.
Gower imagined an accident. A metallic ring was in the earl's voice.
One further mouthful finished dinner, for Gower was anxious concerning
the ladies. He joined the earl and asked.
'Safe. Oh yes. We managed to keep it from them,' said Fleetwood.
'Nothing particular, perhaps you'll think. Poor devil of a fellow!
Father and mother alive, too! He did it out of hearing, that 'a one
merit. Mallard: Ambrose Mallard. He has blown his brains out.'
Seated plunged in the armchair, with stretched legs and eyes at the black
fire-grate, Fleetwood told of the gathering under the tent, and Mallard
seen, seen drinking champagne; Mallard no longer seen, not missed.
'He killed himself three fields off. He must have been careful to deaden
the sound. Small pocket-pistol hardly big enough to--but anything
serves. Couple of brats came running up to Chummy Potts:--"Gentleman's
body bloody in a ditch." Chummy came to me, and we went. Clean dead;
--in the mouth, pointed up; hole through the top of the skull. We're
crockery! crockery! I had to keep Chummy standing. I couldn't bring
him back to our party. We got help at a farm; the body lies there. And
that's not the worst. We found a letter to me in his pocket pencilled
his last five minutes. I don't see what he could have done except to go.
I can't tell you more. I had to keep my face, rowing and driving back.
"But where is Mr. Potts? Where can Mr. Mallard be?" Queer sensation, to
hear the ladies ask! Give me your hand.'
The earl squeezed Gower's hand an instant; and it was an act unknown for
him to touch or bear a touch; it said a great deal.
Late at night he mounted to Gower's room. The funeral of the day's
impressions had not been skaken off. He kicked at it and sunk under it
as his talk rambled. 'Add five thousand,' he commented, on the spread of
Livia's papers over the table. 'I've been having an hour with her. Two
thousand more, she says. Better multiply by two and a half for a woman's
confession. We have to trust to her for some of the debts of honour.
See her in the morning. No one masters her but you. Mind, the first to
be clear of must be St. Ombre. I like the fellow; but these Frenchmen
--they don't spare women. Ambrose,'--the earl's eyelids quivered.
'Jealousy fired that shot. Quite groundless. She 's cool as a marble
Venus, as you said. Go straight from her house to Esslemont. I don't
plead a case. Make the best account you can of it. Say--you may say
my eyes are opened. I respect her. If you think that says little, say
more. It can't mean more. Whatever the Countess of Fleetwood may think
due to her, let her name it. Say my view of life, way of life,
everything in me, has changed. I shall follow you. I don't expect to
march over the ground. She has a heap to forgive. Her father owns or
boasts, in that book of his Rose Mackrell lent me, he never forgave an
Gower helped the quotation, rubbing his hands over it, for cover of his
glee at the words he had been hearing. 'Never forgave an injury without
a return blow for it. The blow forgives. Good for the enemy to get it.
He called his hearty old Pagan custom "an action of the lungs" with him.
And it's not in nature for injuries to digest in us. They poison the
blood, if we try. But then, there's a manner of hitting back. It is not
to go an inch beyond the exact measure, Captain Kirby warns us.'
Fleetwood sighed down to a low groan.
'Lord Feltre would have an answer for you. She's a wife; and a wife
hitting back is not a pleasant--well, petticoats make the difference.
If she's for amends, she shall exact them; and she may be hard to
satisfy, she shall have her full revenge. Call it by any other term
you like. I did her a wrong. I don't defend myself; it 's not yet in
the Law Courts. I beg to wipe it out, rectify it--choose your phrase--
to the very fullest. I look for the alliance with her to . . .'
He sprang up and traversed the room: 'We're all guilty of mistakes at
starting: I speak of men. Women are protected; and if they're not,
there's the convent for them, Feltre says. But a man has to live it on
before the world; and this life, with these flies of fellows . . .
I fell into it in some way. Absolutely like the first bird I shot as a
youngster, and stood over the battered head and bloody feathers,
wondering! There was Ambrose Mallard--the same splintered bones--blood
--come to his end; and for a woman; that woman the lady bearing the title
of half-mother to me. God help me! What are my sins? She feels
nothing, or about as much as the mortuary paragraph of the newspapers,
for the dead man; and I have Ambrose Mallard's look at her and St. Ombre
talking together, before he left the tent to cross the fields. Borrow,
beg, or steal for money to play for her! and not a glimpse of the winning
St. Ombre 's a cool player; that 's at the bottom of the story. He's
cool because play doesn't bite him, as it did Ambrose. I should say the
other passion has never bitten him. And he's alive and presentable;
Ambrose under a sheet, with Chummy Potts to watch. Chummy cried like a
brat in the street for his lost mammy. I left him crying and sobbing.
They have their feelings, these "children of vapour," as you call them.
But how did I fall into the line with a set I despised? She had my
opinion of her gamblers, and retorted that young Cressett's turn for
the fling is my doing. I can't swear it's not. There's one of my sins.
What's to wipe them out! She has a tender feeling for the boy; confessed
she wanted governing. Why; she's young, in a way. She has that
particular vice of play. She might be managed. Here's a lesson for her!
Don't you think she might? The right man,--the man she can respect,
fancy incorruptible! He must let her see he has an eye for tricks.
She's not responsible for--his mad passion was the cause, cause of
everything he did. The kind of woman to send the shaft. You called her
"Diana seated." You said, "She doesn't hunt, she sits and lets fly her
arrow." Well, she showed feeling for young Cressett, and her hit at me
was an answer. It struck me on the mouth. But she's an eternal anxiety.
A man she respects! A man to govern her!'
Fleetwood hurried his paces. 'I couldn't have allowed poor Ambrose.
Besides, he had not a chance--never had in anything. It wants a head,
wants the man who can say no to her. "The Reveller's Aurora," you called
her. She has her beauty, yes. She respects you. I should be relieved
--a load off me! Tell her, all debts paid; fifty thousand invested, in
her name and her husband's. Tell her, speak it, there's my consent--if
only the man to govern her! She has it from me, but repeat it, as from
me. That sum and her portion would make a fair income for the two.
Relieved? By heaven, what a relief! Go early. Coach to Esslemont at
eleven. Do my work there. I haven't to repeat my directions. I shall
present myself two days after. I wish Lady Fleetwood to do the part of
hostess at Calesford. Tell her I depute you to kiss my son for me. Now
I leave you. Good-night. I shan't sleep. I remember your saying, "bad
visions come under the eyelids." I shall keep mine open and read--read
her father's book of the Maxims; I generally find two or three at a dip
to stimulate. No wonder she venerates him. That sort of progenitor is
your "permanent aristocracy." Hard enemy. She must have some of her
mother in her, too. Abuse me to her, admit the justice of reproaches,
but say, reason, good feeling--I needn't grind at it. Say I respect her.
Advise her to swallow the injury--not intended for insult. I don't
believe anything higher than respect can be offered to a woman. No
defence of me to her, but I'll tell you, that when I undertook to keep my
word with her, I plainly said--never mind; good-night. If we meet in the
morning, let this business rest until it 's done. I must drive to help
poor Chums and see about the Inquest.'
Fleetwood nodded from the doorway. Gower was left with humming ears.
RECORD OF MINOR INCIDENTS
They went to their beds doomed to lie and roam as the solitaries of a
sleepless night. They met next day like a couple emerging from sirocco
deserts, indisposed for conversation or even short companionship, much of
the night's dry turmoil in their heads. Each would have preferred the
sight of an enemy; and it was hardly concealed by them, for they inclined
to regard one another as the author of their infernal passage through the
drear night's wilderness.
Fleetwood was the civiller; his immediate prospective duties being clear,
however abhorrent. But he had inflicted a monstrous disturbance on the
man he meant in his rash, decisive way to elevate, if not benefit.
Gower's imagination, foreign to his desires and his projects, was playing
juggler's tricks with him, dramatizing upon hypotheses, which mounted in
stages and could pretend to be soberly conceivable, assuming that the
earl's wild hints overnight were a credible basis. He transported
himself to his first view of the Countess Livia, the fountain of similes
born of his prostrate adoration, close upon the invasion and capture of
him by the combined liqueurs in the giddy Batlen lights; and joining the
Arabian magic in his breast at the time with the more magical reality now
proposed as a sequel to it, he entered the land where dreams confess they
are outstripped by revelations.
Yet it startled him to hear the earl say: 'You'll get audience at ten;
I've arranged; make the most of the situation to her. I refuse to help.
I foresee it 's the only way of solving this precious puzzle. You do me
and every one of us a service past paying. Not a man of her set worth.
. . . She--but you'll stop it; no one else can. Of course, you've had
your breakfast. Off, and walk yourself into a talkative mood, as you
tell me you do.'
'One of the things I do when I've nobody to hear,' said Gower,
speculating whether the black sprite in this young nobleman was for
sending him as a rod to scourge the lady: an ingenious device, that smelt
of mediaeval Courts and tickled his humour.
'Will she listen?' he said gravely.
'She will listen; she has not to learn you admire. You admit she has
helped to trim and polish, and the rest. She declares you're
incorruptible. There's the ground open. I fling no single sovereign
more into that quicksand, and I want not one word further on the subject.
I follow you to Esslemont. Pray, go.'
Fleetwood pushed into the hall. A footman was ordered to pack and
deposit Mr. Woodseer's portmanteau at the coach-office.
'The principal point is to make sure we have all the obligations,' Gower
'You know the principal point,' said the earl. 'Relieve me.'
He faced to the opening street door. Lord Feltre stood in the framing of
it--a welcome sight. The 'monastic man of fashion,' of Gower's phrase
for him, entered, crooning condolences, with a stretched waxen hand for
his friend, a partial nod for Nature's worshipper--inefficient at any
serious issue of our human affairs, as the earl would now discover.
Gower left the two young noblemen to their greetings. Happily for him,
philosophy, in the present instance, after a round of profundities,
turned her lantern upon the comic aspect of his errand. Considering the
Countess Livia, and himself, and the tyrant, who benevolently and
providentially, or sardonically, hurled them to their interview, the
situation was comic, certainly, in the sense of its being an illumination
of this life's odd developments. For thus had things come about, that if
it were possible even to think of the lady's condescending, he, thanks to
the fair one he would see before evening, was armed and proof against his
old infatuation or any renewal of it. And he had been taught to read
through the beautiful twilighted woman, as if she were burnt paper held
at the fire consuming her. His hopes hung elsewhere. Nevertheless, an
intellectual demon-imp very lively in his head urged him to speculate on
such a contest between them, and weigh the engaging forces. Difficulties
were perceived, the scornful laughter on her side was plainly heard; but
his feeling of savage mastery, far from beaten down, swelled so as to
become irritable for the trial; and when he was near her house he held a
review of every personal disadvantage he could summon, incited by an
array of limping deficiencies that flattered their arrogant leader with
ideas of the power he had in spite of them.
In fact, his emancipation from sentiment inspired the genial mood to
tease. Women, having to encounter a male adept at the weapon for the
purpose, must be either voluble or supportingly proud to keep the skin
from shrinking: which is a commencement of the retrogression; and that
has frequently been the beginning of a rout. Now the Countess Livia was
a lady of queenly pose and the servitorial conventional speech likely at
a push to prove beggarly. When once on a common platform with a man of
agile tongue instigated by his intellectual demon to pursue inquiries
into her moral resources, after a ruthless exposure of the wrecked
material, she would have to be, after the various fashions, defiant,
if she was to hold her own against pressure; and seeing, as she must,
the road of prudence point to conciliation, it was calculable that she
would take it. Hence a string of possible events, astounding to mankind,
but equally calculable, should one care to give imagination headway.
Gower looked signally Captain Abrane's 'fiddler' while he waited at
Livia's house door. A studious intimacy with such a lady was rather like
the exposure of the silver moon to the astronomer's telescope.
The Dame will have nought of an interview and colloquy not found
mentioned in her collection of ballads, concerning a person quite
secondary in Dr. Glossop's voluminous papers. She as vehemently
prohibits a narration of Gower Woodseer's proposal some hours later,
for the hand of the Countess of Fleetwood's transfixed maid Madge,
because of the insignificance of the couple; and though it was a quaint
idyll of an affection slowly formed, rationally based while seeming