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The Amazing Marriage, Complete by George Meredith

Part 8 out of 9

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preposterous, tending to bluntly funny utterances on both sides. The
girl was a creature of the enthusiasms, and had lifted that passion of
her constitution into higher than the worship of sheer physical bravery.
She had pitied Mr. Gower Woodseer for his apparently extreme, albeit
reverential, devotion to her mistress. The plainly worded terms of his
asking a young woman of her position and her reputation to marry him came
on her like an intrusion of dazzling day upon the closed eyelids of the
night, requiring time, and her mistress's consent, and his father's
expressed approval, before she could yield him an answer that might
appear a forgetfulness of her station, her ignorance, her damaged
character. Gower protested himself, with truth, a spotted pard, an
ignoramus, and an outcast of all established classes, as the worshipper
of Nature cannot well avoid being.

'But what is it you like me for, Mr. Gower?' Madge longed to know, that
she might see a way in the strange land where he had planted her after a
whirl; and he replied: 'I 've thought of you till I can say I love you
because you have naturally everything I shoot at.'

The vastness of the compliment drove her to think herself empty of
anything.

He named courage, and its offspring, honesty, and devotedness, constancy.
Her bosom rose at the word.

'Yes, constancy,' he repeated; and 'growing girls have to "turn corners,"
as you told me once.'

'I did?' said she, reddening under a memory, and abashed by his
recollection of a moment she knew to have been weak with her, or noisy
of herself.

Madge went straightway to her mistress and related her great event, in
the tone of a confession of crime. Her mistress's approbation was
timidly suggested rather than besought.

It came on a flood. Carinthia's eyes filled; she exclaimed: 'Oh, that
good man!--he chooses my Madge for wife. She said it, Rebecca said it.
Mrs. Wythan saw and said Mr. Woodseer loved my Madge. I hear her saying
it. Then yes, and yes, from me for both your sakes, dear girl. He will
have the faithfullest, he will have the kindest--Oh! and I shall know
there can be a happy marriage in England.'

She summoned Gower; she clasped his hand, to thank him for appreciating
her servant and sister, and for the happiness she had in hearing it; and
she gazed at him and the laden brows of her Madge alternately,
encouraging him to repeat his recital of his pecuniary means, for the
poetry of the fact it verified, feasting on the sketch of a four-roomed
cottage and an agricultural labourer's widow for cook and housemaid;
Madge to listen to his compositions of the day in the evening; Madge to
praise him, Madge to correct his vanity.

Love was out of the count, but Carinthia's leaping sympathy decorated the
baldness of the sketch and spied his features through the daubed mask he
chose to wear as a member of the order of husbands, without taking it for
his fun. Dry material statements presented the reality she doated to
think of. Moreover, the marriage of these two renewed her belief in true
marriages, and their intention to unite was evidence of love.

'My journey to England was worth all troubles for the meeting Madge,' she
said. 'I can look with pleasure to that day of my meeting her first--the
day, it was then!'

She stopped. Madge felt the quivering upward of a whimper to a sob in
her breast. She slipped away.

'It's a day that has come round to be repaired, Lady Fleetwood,' said
Gower. 'If you will. Will you not? He has had a blow--the death of a
friend, violent death. It has broken him. He wants a month or so in
your mountains. I have thought him hard to deal with; he is humane.
His enormous wealth has been his tempter. Madge and I will owe him our
means of livelihood, enough for cottagers, until I carve my way. His
feelings are much more independent of his rank than those of most
noblemen. He will repeat your kind words to Madge and me; I am sure of
it. He has had heavy burdens; he is young, hardly formed yet. He needs
a helper; I mean, one allied to him. You forgive me? I left him with a
Catholic lord for comforter, who regards my prescript of the study of
Nature, when we're in grief, as about the same as an offer of a dish of
cold boiled greens. Silver and ivory images are more consoling. Neither
he nor I can offer the right thing for Lord Fleetwood. It will be found
here. And then your mountains. More than I, nearly as much as you,
he has a poet's ardour for mountain land. He and Mr. Wythan would soon
learn to understand one another on that head, if not as to management of
mines.'

The pleading was crafty, and it was penetrative in the avoidance of
stress. Carinthia shook herself to feel moved. The endeavour chilled
her to a notion that she was but half alive. She let the question
approach her, whether Chillon could pardon Lord Fleetwood. She, with no
idea of benignness, might speak pardon's word to him, on a late autumn
evening years hence, perhaps, or to his friends to-morrow, if he would
considerately keep distant. She was upheld by the thought of her
brother's more honourable likeness to their father, in the certainty of
his refusal to speak pardon's empty word or touch an offending hand,
without their father's warrant for the injury wiped out; and as she had
no wish for that to be done, she could anticipate his withholding of the
word.

For her brother at wrestle with his fallen fortunes was now the beating
heart of Carinthia's mind. Her husband was a shadow there. He did
obscure it, and he might annoy, he was unable to set it in motion. He
sat there somewhat like Youth's apprehension of Death:--the dark spot
seen mistily at times through people's tears, or visioned as in an ambush
beyond the hills; occasionally challenged to stimulate recklessness;
oftener overlooked, acknowledged for the undesired remote of life's
conditions, life's evil, fatal, ill-assorted yoke-fellow; and if it was
in his power to burst out of his corner and be terrible to her, she could
bring up a force unnamed and unmeasured, that being the blood of her
father in her veins. Having done her utmost to guard her babe, she said
her prayers; she stood for peace or the struggle.

'Does Lord Fleetwood speak of coming here?' she said.

'To-morrow.'

'I go to Croridge to-morrow.'

'Your ladyship returns?'

'Yes, I return Mr. Gower, you have fifty minutes before you dress for
dinner.'

He thought only of the exceeding charity of the intimation; and he may
be excused for his not seeing the feminine full answer it was, in an
implied, unmeditated contrast. He went gladly to find his new comrade,
his flower among grass-blades, the wonderful creature astonishing him and
surcharging his world by setting her face at him, opening her breast to
him, breathing a young man's word of words from a woman's mouth. His
flower among grass-blades for a head looking studiously down, she was his
fountain of wisdom as well, in the assurance she gave him of the wisdom
of his choice.

But Madge had put up the 'prize-fighter's lass,' by way of dolly defence,
to cover her amazed confusion when the proposal of this well-liked
gentleman to a girl such as she sounded churchy. He knocked it over
easily; it left, however, a bee at his ear and an itch to transfer the
buzzer's attentions and tease his darling; for she had betrayed herself
as right good game. Nor is there happier promise of life-long domestic
enlivenment for a prescient man of Letters than he has in the
contemplation of a pretty face showing the sensitiveness to the sting,
which is not allowed to poison her temper, and is short of fetching
tears. The dear innocent girl gave this pleasing promise; moreover, she
could be twisted-to laugh at herself, just a little. Now, the young
woman who can do that has already jumped the hedge into the highroad of
philosophy, and may become a philosopher's mate in its by-ways, where the
minute discoveries are the notable treasures.

They had their ramble, agreeable to both, despite the admonitory dose
administered to one of them. They might have been espied at a point or
two from across the parkpalings; their laughter would have caught an
outside pedestrian's hearing. Whatever the case, Owain Wythan, riding
down off Croridge, big with news of her brother for the countess, dined
at her table, and walking up the lane to the Esslemont Arms on a moonless
night, to mount his horse, pitched against an active and, as it was
deemed by Gower's observation of his eyes, a scientific fist. The design
to black them finely was attributable to the dyeing accuracy of the
stroke. A single blow had done it. Mr. Wythan's watch and purse were
untouched; and a second look at the swollen blind peepers led Gower to
surmise that they were, in the calculation of the striker, his own.

He walked next day to the Royal Sovereign inn. There he came upon the
earl driving his phaeton. Fleetwood jumped down, and Gower told of the
mysterious incident, as the chief thing he had to tell, not rendering it
so mysterious in his narrative style. He had the art of indicating
darkly.

'Ines, you mean?' Fleetwood cried, and he appeared as nauseated and
perplexed as he felt. Why should Ines assault Mr. Wythan? It happened
that the pugilist's patron had, within the last fifteen minutes, driven
past a certain thirty-acre meadow, sight of which on his way to Carinthia
had stirred him. He had even then an idea of his old deeds dogging him
to bind him, every one of them, the smallest.

'But you've nothing to go by,' he said. 'Why guess at this rascal more
than another?'

Gower quoted Mrs. Rundles and the ostler for witnesses to Kit's visit
yesterday to the Royal Sovereign, though Kit shunned the bar of the
Esslemont Arms.

'I guess pretty clearly, because I suspect he was hanging about and saw
me and Madge together.'

'Consolations for failures in town?--by the way, you are complimented,
and I don't think you deserved it. However, there was just the chance to
stop a run to perdition. But, Madge? Madge? I'd swear to the girl!'

'Not so hard as I,' said Gower, and spoke of the oath to come between the
girl and him.

Fleetwood's dive into the girl's eyes drew her before him. He checked a
spirt of exclamations.

'You fancy the brute had a crack for revenge and mistook his man?'

'That's what I want her ladyship to know,' said Gower.

'How could you let her hear of it?'

'Nothing can be concealed from her.'

The earl was impressionable to the remark, in his disgust at the
incident. It added a touch of a new kind of power to her image.

'She's aware of my coming?'

'To-day or to-morrow.'

They scaled the phaeton and drove.

'You undervalue Lord Feltre. You avoid your adversaries,' Fleetwood now
rebuked his hearer. 'It 's an easy way to have the pull of them in your
own mind. You might learn from him. He's willing for controversy.
Nature-worship--or "aboriginal genuflexion," he calls it; Anglicanism,
Methodism; he stands to engage them. It can't be doubted, that in days
of trouble he has a faith "stout as a rock, with an oracle in it," as he
says; and he's right," men who go into battle require a rock to back them
or a staff to lean on." You have your "secret," you think; as far as I
can see, it's to keep you from going into any form of battle.'

The new influence at work on the young nobleman was evident, if only in
the language used.

Gower answered mildly: 'That can hardly be said of a man who's going to
marry.'

'Perhaps not. Lady Fleetwood is aware?'

'Lady Fleetwood does me the honour to approve my choice.'

'You mean, you're dead on to it with this girl?'

'For a year or more.'

'Fond of her?'

'All my heart.'

'In love!'

'Yes, in love. The proof of it is, I 've asked her now I can support her
as a cottager leaning on the Three Per Cents.'

'Well, it helps you to a human kind of talk. It carries out your
theories. I never disbelieved in your honesty. The wisdom's another
matter. Did you ever tell any one, that there's not an act of a man's
life lies dead behind him, but it is blessing or cursing him every step
he takes?'

'By that,' rejoined Gower, 'I can say Lord Feltre proves there's wisdom
in the truisms of devoutness.'

He thought the Catholic lord had gone a step or two to catch an eel.

Fleetwood was looking on the backward of his days, beholding a melancholy
sunset, with a grimace in it.

'Lord Feltre might show you the "leanness of Philosophy";--you would
learn from hearing him:--"an old gnawed bone for the dog that chooses to
be no better than a dog."'

'The vertiginous roast haunch is recommended,' Gower said.

'See a higher than your own head, good sir. But, hang the man! he
manages to hit on the thing he wants.' Fleetwood set his face at Gower
with cutting heartiness. 'In love, you say, and Madge: and mean it to be
the holy business! Well, poor old Chummy always gave you credit for
knowing how to play your game. She has given proof she 's a good girl.
I don't see why it shouldn't end well. That attack on the Welshman's the
bad lookout. Explained, if you like, but women's impressions won't get
explained away. We must down on our knees or they. Her ladyship
attentive at all to affairs of the house?'

'Every day with Queeney; at intervals with Leddings.'

'Excellent! You speak like a fellow recording the devout observances of
a great dame with her minor and superior, ecclesiastical comforters.
Regular at church?'

'Her ladyship goes.'

'A woman without religion, Gower Woodseer, is a weed on the water, or
she's hard as nails. We shall see. Generally, Madge and the youngster
parade the park at this hour. I drive round to the stables. Go in and
offer your version of that rascally dog's trick. It seems the nearest we
can come at. He's a sot, and drunken dogs 'll do anything. I've had him
on my hands, and I've got the stain of him.'

They trotted through Esslemont Park gates. 'I've got that place,
Calesford, on my hands, too,' the earl said, suddenly moved to a liking
for his Kentish home.

He and Gower were struck by a common thought of the extraordinary burdens
his indulgence in impulses drew upon him. Present circumstances pictured
to Gower the opposing weighed and matured good reason for his choosing
Madge, and he complimented himself in his pity for the earl. But
Fleetwood, as he reviewed a body of acquaintances perfectly free from the
wretched run in harness, though they had their fits and their whims, was
pushed to the conclusion that fatalism marked his particular course
through life. He could not hint at such an idea to the unsympathetic
fellow, or rather, the burly antagonist to anything of the sort, beside
him. Lord Feltre would have understood and appreciated it instantly.
Where is aid to be had if we have the Fates against us? Feltre knew the
Power, he said; was an example of 'the efficacy of supplications'; he had
been 'fatally driven to find the Power,' and had found it--on the road to
Rome, of course: not a delectable road for an English nobleman, except
that the noise of another convert in pilgrimage on it would deal our
English world a lively smack, the very stroke that heavy body wants.
But the figure of a 'monastic man of fashion' was antipathetic to the
earl, and he flouted an English Protestant mass merely because of his
being highly individual, and therefore revolutionary for the minority.

He cast his bitter cud aside. 'My man should have arrived. Lady
Fleetwood at home?'

Gower spoke of her having gone to Croridge in the morning.

'Has she taken the child?'

'She has, yes. For the air of the heights.'

'For greater security. Lady Arpington praises the thoughtful mother.
I rather expected to see the child.'

'They can't be much later,' Gower supposed.

'You don't feel your long separation from "the object"?'

Letting him have his cushion for pins, Gower said 'It needs all my
philosophy:

He was pricked and probed for the next five minutes; not bad rallying,
the earl could be smart when he smarted. Then they descended the terrace
to meet Lady Fleetwood driving her pony-trap. She gave a brief single
nod to the salute of her lord, quite in the town-lady's manner,
surprisingly.

CHAPTER XLI

IN WHICH THE FATES ARE SEEN AND A CHOICE OF THE REFUGES FROM THEM

The home of husband and wife was under one roof at last. Fleetwood went,
like one deported, to his wing of the house, physically sensible, in the
back turned to his wife's along the corridor, that our ordinary
comparison for the division of a wedded twain is correct. She was
Arctic, and Antarctic he had to be, perforce of the distance she put
between them. A removal of either of them from life--or from 'the act of
breathing,' as Gower Woodseer's contempt of the talk about death would
call it--was an imaginable way of making it a wider division. Ambrose
Mallard was far enough from his fatal lady now--farther than the Poles
asunder. Ambrose, if the clergy will allow him, has found his peace. .
But the road and the means he chose were a madman's.

The blotting of our character, to close our troubles, is the final proof
of our being 'sons of vapour,' according to Gower Woodseer's heartless
term for poor Ambrose and the lot. They have their souls; and above
philosophy, 'natural' or unnatural, they may find a shelter. They can
show in their desperation that they are made of blood, as philosophers
rather fail of doing. An insignificant brainless creature like Feltre
had wits, by the aid of his religion, to help or be charitable to his
fellows, particularly the sinners, in the crisis of life, surpassing any
philosopher's.

Information of her ladyship's having inspected the apartments, to see to
the minutest of his customary luxuries, cut at him all round. His valet
had it from the footmen and maids; and their speaking of it meant a
liking for their mistress; and that liking, added to her official
solicitude on his behalf, touched a soft place in him and blew an icy
wind; he was frozen where he was warmed. Here was evidence of her
intending the division to be a fixed gap. She had entered this room and
looked about her. He was here to feel her presence in her absence.

Some one or something had schooled her, too. Her large-eyed directness
of gaze was the same as at that inn and in Wales, but her easy sedateness
was novel, her English, almost the tone of the English world: he gathered
it, at least, from the few remarks below stairs.

His desire to be with her was the desire to escape the phantasm of the
woman haunting to subjugate him when they were separate. He could kill
illusion by magnifying and clawing at her visible angles and audible
false notes; and he did it until his recollections joined to the sight of
her, when a clash of the thought of what she had been and the thought of
what she was had the effect of conjuring a bitter sweet image that was a
more seductive illusion. Strange to think, this woman once loved the man
who was not half the value of the man she no longer loved. He took a
shot at cynicism, but hit no mark. This woman protected her whole sex.

They sat at the dinner-table alone, thanks to a handsome wench's
attractions for a philosopher. Married, and parents of a lusty son,
this was their first sitting at table together. The mouth that said
'I guard my rooms' was not obtruded; she talked passingly of her brother,
much of Lady Arpington and of old Mr. Woodseer; and, though she reserved
a smile, there was no look of a lock on her face. She seemed pleased to
be treated very courteously; she returned the stately politeness in
exactest measure; very simply, as well. Her face had now an air of
homeliness, well suited to an English household interior. She could
chat. Any pauses occurring, he was the one guilty of them; she did not
allow them to be barrier chasms, or 'strids' for the leap with effort;
she crossed them like the mountain maid over a gorge's plank--kept her
tones perfectly. Her Madge and Mr. Gower Woodseer made a conversible
topic. She was inquisitive for accounts of Spanish history and the land
of Spain.

They passed into the drawing-room. She had heard of the fate of the poor
child in Wales, she said, without a comment.

'I see now, I ought to have backed your proposal,' he confessed, and was
near on shivering. She kept silent, proudly or regretfully.

Open on her workbasket was a Spanish guide-book and a map attached to it.
She listened to descriptions of Cadiz, Malaga, Seville, Granada. Her
curiosity was chiefly for detailed accounts of Catalonia and the
Pyrenees.

'Hardly the place for you; there's a perpetual heaving of Carlism in
those mountains; your own are quieter for travellers,' he remarked; and
for a moment her lips moved to some likeness of a smile; a dimple in a
flowing thought.

He remarked the come and go of it.

He regretted his inability to add to her knowledge of the Spanish
Pyrenees.

Books helped her at present, she said.

Feeling acutely that hostility would have brought them closer than her
uninviting civility, he spoke of the assault on Mr. Wythan, and Gower
Woodseer's conjecture, and of his having long since discharged the rascal
Ines.

To which her unreproachful answer, 'You made use of those men, my lord,'
sent a cry ringing through him, recalling Feltre's words, as to the grip
men progressively are held in by their deeds done.

'Oh, quite true, we change our views and ways of life,' he said, thinking
she might set her considerations on other points of his character. But
this reflection was a piece of humility not yet in his particular
estimate of his character, and he spurned it: an act of pride that drove
his mind, for occupation, to contemplate hers; which speedily became an
embrace of her character, until he was asking whether the woman he called
wife and dared not clasp was one of those rarest, who can be idealized by
virtue of their being known. For the young man embracing a character
loses grasp of his own, is plucked out of himself and passes into it,
to see the creature he is with the other's eyes, and feel for the other
as a very self. Such is the privilege and the chastisement of the young.

Gower Woodseer's engagement with the girl Madge was a happier subject for
expatiation and agreement. Her deeper tones threw a light on Gower, and
where she saw goodness, he could at least behold the natural philosopher
practically philosophizing.

'The girl shall have a dowry from me,' he said; and the sum named was
large. Her head bent acknowledgingly; money had small weight with her
now. His perception of it stripped him and lamed him.

He wished her ladyship good-night. She stood up and performed a semi-
ceremonious obeisance, neatly adapted to their mutual position. She had
a well-bred mother.

Probably she would sleep. No such expectation could soothe the friend,
and some might be thinking misleader, of Ambrose Mallard, before he had
ocular proof that the body lay underground. His promise was given to
follow it to the grave, a grave in consecrated earth. Ambrose died of
the accidental shot of a pocket-pistol he customarily carried loaded.
Two intimate associates of the dead man swore to that habit of his.
They lied to get him undisputed Christian burial. Aha! The earl laughed
outright at Chummy Potts's nursery qualms. The old fellow had to do it,
and he lied like a man for the sake of Ambrose Mallard's family. So much
is owing to our friend.

Can ecclesiastical casuists decide upon cases of conscience affecting men
of the world?

A council sat upon the case the whole night long. A committee of the
worldly held argumentation in a lower chamber.

These are nights that weaken us to below the level of women. A shuttle
worked in Fleetwood's head. He defended the men of the world. Lord
Feltre oiled them, damned them, kindled them to a terrific expiatory
blaze, and extinguishingly salved and wafted aloft the released essence
of them. Maniacal for argument, Fleetwood rejected the forgiveness of
sins, if sins they be. Prove them sins, and the suffering is of
necessity everlasting, his insomnia logic insisted. Whichever side he
took, his wife was against him; not in speech, but in her look. She was
a dumb figure among the wranglers, clouded up to the neck. Her look said
she knew more of him than they knew.

He departed next day for London, after kissing his child; and he would
have done wisely to abstain from his exhibition of the paternal. Knowing
it a step to conciliation, he checked his impulsive warmth, under the
apprehension that the mother would take it for a piece of acting to
propitiate--and his lips pecked the baby's cheek. Its mother held arms
for it immediately.

Not without reason did his heart denounce her as a mere mother, with
little of a mind to see.

The recent series of feverishly sleepless nights disposed him to
snappish irritability or the thirst for tenderness. Gower had singular
experiences of him on the drive North-westward. He scarcely spoke; he
said once: 'If you mean to marry, you'll be wanting to marry soon, of
course,' and his curt nod before the reply was formulated appeared to
signify, the sooner the better, and deliverance for both of us.
Honest though he might, be sometimes deep and sometimes picturesque,
the philosopher's day had come to an end. How can Philosophy minister
to raw wounds, when we are in a rageing gale of the vexations, battered
to right and left! Religion has a nourishing breast: Philosophy is
breastless. Religion condones offences: Philosophy has no forgiveness,
is an untenanted confessional: 'wide air to a cry in anguish,' Feltre
says.

All the way to London Fleetwood endured his companion, letting him talk
when he would.

He spent the greater part of the night discussing human affairs and
spiritual with Lord Feltre, whose dialectical exhortations and
insinuations were of the feeblest, but to an isolated young man, yearning
for the tenderness of a woman thinking but of her grievances, the
ointment brought comfort.

It soothed him during his march to and away from Ambrose Mallard's grave;
where it seemed to him curious and even pitiable that Chumley Potts
should be so inconsolably shaken. Well, and if the priests have the
secret of strengthening the backbone for a bend of the knee in calamity,
why not go to the priests, Chummy? Potts's hearing was not addressed;
nor was the chief person in the meditation affected by a question that
merely jumped out of his perturbed interior.

Business at Calesford kept Fleetwood hanging about London several days
further; and his hatred of a place he wasted time and money to decorate
grew immeasurable. It distorted the features of the beautiful woman for
whose pleasure the grand entertainments to be held there had, somewhere
or other--when felon spectres were abroad over earth--been conceived.

He could then return to Esslemont. Gower was told kindly, with
intentional coldness, that he could take a seat in the phaeton if he
liked; and he liked, and took it. Anything to get to that girl of his!

Whatever the earl's inferiors did, their inferior station was not
suffered to discolour it for his judgement. But an increasing antagonism
to Woodseer's philosophy--which the fellow carried through with perpetual
scorings of satisfaction--caused him to set a hard eye on the damsel
under the grisly spotting shadow of the sottish bruiser, of whom, after
once touching the beast, he could not rub his hands clean; and he chose
to consider the winning of the prize-fighter's lass the final triumph or
flag on the apex of the now despised philosophy. Vain to ask how he had
come to be mixed up with the lot, or why the stolidly conceited,
pretentious fellow had seat here, as by right, beside him! We sow and we
reap; 'plant for sugar and taste the cane,' some one says--this Woodseer,
probably; he can, when it suits him, tickle the ears of the worldlings.
And there is worthier stuff to remember; stuff to nourish: Feltre's
'wisdom of our fathers,' rightly named Religion.

More in the country, when he traversed sweep and rise of open land,
Carinthia's image began to shine, and she threw some of her light on
Madge, who made Woodseer appear tolerable, sagacious, absurdly enviable,
as when we have the fit to wish we were some four-foot. The fellow's
philosophy wore a look of practical craft.

He was going to the girl he liked, and she was, one could swear, an
honest girl; and she was a comely girl, a girl to stick to a man. Her
throwing over a sot was creditable. Her mistress loved her. That said
much for any mortal creature. Man or woman loved by Carinthia could not
be cowardly, could not be vile, must have high qualities. Next to
Religion, she stood for a test of us. Had she any strong sense of
Religion, in addition to the formal trooping to one of their pallid
Protestant churches? Lord Feltre might prove useful to her. For merely
the comprehension of the signification of Religion steadies us. It had
done that for him, the earl owned.

He broke a prolonged silence by remarking to Gower 'You haven't much to
say to-day'; and the answer was 'Very little. When I'm walking, I'm
picking up; and when I'm driving, I'm putting together.'

Gower was rallied on the pursuit of the personal object in both cases.
He pointed at sheep, shepherd, farmer, over the hedge, all similarly
occupied; and admitted shamelessly, that he had not a thought for
company, scarce a word to fling. 'Ideas in gestation are the dullest
matter you can have.'

'There I quite agree with you,' said Fleetwood. Abrane, Chummy Potts,
Brailstone, little Corby, were brighter comrades. And these were his
Ixionides! Hitherto his carving of a way in the world had been
sufficiently ill-considered. Was it preferable to be a loutish
philosopher? Since the death of Ambrose Mallard, he felt Woodseer's
title for that crew grind harshly; and he tried to provoke a repetition
of it, that he might burst out in wrathful defence of his friends--to be
named friends when they were vilified: defence of poor Ambrose at least,
the sinner who, or one as bad, might have reached to pardon through the
priesthood.

Gower offered him no chance..

Entering Esslemont air, Fleetwood tossed his black mood to the winds.
She breathed it. She was a mountain girl, and found it hard to forgive
our lowlands. She would learn tolerance, taking her flights at seasons.
The yacht, if she is anything of a sailor, may give her a taste of
England's pleasures. She will have a special allowance for distribution
among old Mr. Woodseer's people. As to the rest of the Countess of
Fleetwood's wishes, her family ranks with her husband's in claims of any
kind on him. There would be--she would require and had a right to
demand--say, a warm half-hour of explanations: he knew the tone for them,
and so little did he revolve it apprehensively, that his mind sprang
beyond, to the hearing from her mouth of her not intending further to
'guard her rooms.' How quietly the words were spoken! There was a charm
in the retrospect of her mouth and manner. One of the rare women who
never pout or attitudinize, she could fling her glove gracefully--
one might add, capturingly under every aspect, she was a handsome
belligerent. The words he had to combat pleased his memory. Some good
friend, Lady Arpington probably, had instructed her in the art of
dressing to match her colour.

Concerning himself, he made no stipulation, but he reflected on Lord
Feltre's likely estimate of her as a bit of a heathen. And it might be
to her advantage, were she and Feltre to have some conversations.
Whatever the faith, a faith should exist, for without the sentiment of
religion, a woman, he says, is where she was when she left the gates of
Eden. A man is not much farther. Feltre might have saved Ambrose
Mallard. He is, however, right in saying, that the woman with the
sentiment of religion in her bosom is a box of holy incense
distinguishing her from all other women. Empty of it, she is devil's
bait. At best, she is a creature who cannot overlook an injury, or must
be exacting God knows what humiliations before she signs the treaty.

Informed at the house that her ladyship had been staying up on Croridge
for the last two days, Fleetwood sent his hardest shot of the eyes at
Gower. Let her be absent: it was equal to the first move of war, and
absolved him from contemplated proposals to make amends. But the
enforced solitary companionship with this ruminator of a fellow set him
asking whether the godless dog he had picked up by the wayside was not
incarnate another of the sins he had to expiate. Day after day, almost
hourly, some new stroke fell on him. Why? Was he selected for
persecution because he was wealthy? The Fates were driving him in one
direction, no doubt of that.

This further black mood evaporated, and like a cessation of English
storm-weather bequeathed him gloom. Ashamed of the mood, he was
nevertheless directed by its final shadows to see the ruminating
tramp in Gower, and in Madge the prize-fighter's jilt: and round about
Esslemont a world eyeing an Earl of Fleetwood, who painted himself the
man he was, or was held to be, by getting together such a collection,
from the daughter of the Old Buccaneer to the ghastly corpse of Ambrose
Mallard. Why, clearly, wealth was the sole origin and agent of the
mischief. With somewhat less of it, he might have walked in his place
among the nation's elect, the 'herd of the gilt horns,' untroubled by
ambitions and ideas.

Arriving thus far, he chanced to behold Gower and Madge walking over the
grounds near the western plantation, and he regretted the disappearance
of them, with the fellow talking hard into the girl's ear. Those two
could think he had been of some use. The man pretending to philosophical
depth was at any rate honest; one could swear to the honesty of the girl,
though she had been a reckless hussy. Their humble little hopes and
means to come to union approached, after a fashion, hymning at his ears.
Those two were pleasanter to look on than amorous lords and great ladies,
who are interesting only when they are wicked.

Four days of desolate wanderings over the estate were occupied chiefly in
his decreeing the fall of timber that obstructed views, and was the more
imperatively doomed for his bailiff's intercession. 'Sound wood' the
trees might be: they had to assist in defraying the expense of separate
establishments. A messenger to Queeney from Croridge then announced the
Countess's return 'for a couple of hours.' Queeney said it was the day
when her ladyship examined the weekly bills of the household. That was
in the early morning. The post brought my lord a letter from Countess
Livia, a most infrequent writer. She had his word to pay her debts;
what next was she for asking? He shrugged, opened the letter, and stared
at the half dozen lines. The signification of them rapped on his
consciousness of another heavy blow before he was perfectly intelligent.

All possible anticipation seemed here outdone: insomuch that he held
palpable evidence of the Fates at work to harass and drive him. She was
married to the young Earl of Cressett!'

Fleetwood printed the lines on his eyeballs. They were the politely
flowing feminine of a statement of the fact, which might have been in one
line. They flourished wantonly: they were deadly blunt. And of all men,
this youngster, who struck at him through her lips with the reproach,
that he had sped the good-looking little beast upon his road to ruin:--
perhaps to Ambrose Mallard's end!

CHAPTER XLII

THE RETARDED COURTSHIP

Carinthia reached Esslemont near noon. She came on foot, and had come
unaccompanied, stick in hand, her dress looped for the roads. Madge
bustled her shorter steps up the park beside her; Fleetwood met her on
the terrace.

'No one can be spared at Croridge,' she said. 'I go back before dark.'
Apology was not thought of; she seemed wound to the pitch.

He bowed; he led into the morning-room. 'The boy is at Croridge?'

'With me. He has his nurse. Madge was at home here more than there.'

'Why do you go back?'

'I am of use to my brother.'

'Forgive me--in what way?'

'He has enemies about him. They are the workmen of Lord Levellier.
They attacked Lekkatts the other night, and my uncle fired at them out
of a window and wounded a man. They have sworn they will be revenged.
Mr. Wythan is with my brother to protect him.'

'Two men, very well; they don't want, if there's danger, a woman's aid in
protecting him?'

She smiled, and her smile was like the hint of the steel blade an inch
out of sheath.

'My brother does not count me a weak woman.'

'Oh no! No one would think that,' Fleetwood said hurriedly and heartily.
'Least of all men, I, Carinthia. But you might be rash.'

'My brother knows me cautious.'

'Chillon?'

'It is my brother's name.'

'You used to call him by his name.

'I love his name.'

'Ah, well! I may be pardoned for wishing to hear what part you play
there.'

'I go the rounds with my brother.'

'Armed?'

'We carry arms.'

'Queer sight to see in England. But there are rascals in this country,
too.'

She was guilty of saying, though not pointedly: 'We do not hire
defenders.'

'In civilized lands . . .' he began and stopped 'You have Mr. Wythan?'

'Yes, we are three.'

'You call him, I think, Owain?'

'I do.'

'In your brother's hearing?'

'Yes, my lord; it would be in your hearing if you were near.'

'No harm, no doubt.'

'There is none.'

'But you will not call your brother Chillon to me.'

'You dislike the name.'

'I learn to like everything you do and say; and every person you like.'

'It is by Mr. Wythan's dead wife's request that I call him by his name.
He is our friend. He is a man to trust.'

'The situation . . .' Fleetwood hung swaying between the worldly view
of it and the white light of this woman's nature flashed on his emotion
into his mind. 'You shall be trusted for judging. If he is your friend,
he is my friend. I have missed the sight of our boy. You heard I was at
Esslemont?'

'I heard from Madge!'

'It is positive you must return to Croridge?'

'I must be with my brother, yes.'

'Your ladyship will permit me to conduct you.'

Her head assented. There was nothing to complain of, but he had not
gained a step.

The rule is, that when we have yielded initiative to a woman, we are
unable to recover it without uncivil bluster. So, therefore, women
dealing with gentlemen are allowed unreasonable advantages. He had never
granted it in colloquy or act to any woman but this one. Consequently,
he was to see, that if the gentleman in him was not put aside, the lady
would continue moving on lines of the independence he had likewise
yielded, or rather flung, to her. Unless, as a result, he besieged and
wooed his wife, his wife would hold on a course inclining constantly
farther from the union he desired. Yet how could he begin to woo her if
he saw no spark of womanly tenderness? He asked himself, because the
beginning of the wooing might be checked by the call on him for words of
repentance only just possible to conceive. Imagine them uttered, and she
has the initiative for life.

She would not have it, certainly, with a downright brute. But he was not
that. In an extremity of bitterness, he fished up a drowned old thought,
of all his torments being due to the impulsive half-brute he was. And
between the good and the bad in him, the sole point of strength was a
pride likely, as the smooth simplicity of her indifference showed him,
soon to be going down prostrate beneath her feet. Wholly a brute--well?
He had to say, that playing the perfect brute with any other woman he
would have his mastery. The summoning of an idea of personal power to
match this woman in a contest was an effort exhausting the idea.

They passed out of Esslemont gates together at that hour of the late
afternoon when South-westerly breezes, after a summer gale, drive their
huge white flocks over blue fields fresh as morning, on the march to pile
the crown of the sphere, and end a troubled day with grandeur. Up the
lane by the park they had open land to the heights of Croridge.

'Splendid clouds,' Fleetwood remarked.

She looked up, thinking of the happy long day's walk with her brother to
the Styrian Baths. Pleasure in the sight made her face shine superbly.
'A flying Switzerland, Mr. Woodseer says,' she replied. 'England is
beautiful on days like these.--For walking, I think the English climate
very good.'

He dropped a murmur: 'It should suit so good a walker,' and burned to
compliment--her spirited easy stepping, and scorned himself for the
sycophancy it would be before they were on the common ground of a
restored understanding. But an approval of any of her acts threatened
him with enthusiasm for the whole of them, her person included; and a dam
in his breast had to keep back the flood.

'You quote Woodseer to me, Carinthia. I wish you knew Lord Feltre.
He can tell you of every cathedral, convent, and monastery in Europe and
Syria. Nature is well enough; she is, as he says, a savage. Men's
works, acting under divine direction to escape from that tangle, are
better worthy of study, perhaps. If one has done wrong, for example.'

'I could listen to him,' she said.

'You would not need--except, yes, one thing. Your father's book speaks
of not forgiving an injury.'

'My father does. He thinks it weakness to forgive an injury. Women do,
and are disgraced, they are thought slavish. My brother is much stronger
than I am. He is my father alive in that.'

'It is anti-Christian, some would think.'

'Let offending people go. He would not punish them. They may go where
they will be forgiven. For them our religion is a happy retreat; we are
glad they have it. My father and my brother say that injury forbids us
to be friends again. My father was injured by the English Admiralty: he
never forgave it; but he would have fought one of their ships and offered
his blood any day, if his country called to battle.'

'You have the same feeling, you mean.'

'I am a woman. I follow my brother, whatever he decides. It is not to
say he is the enemy of persons offending him; only that they have put the
division.'

'They repent?'

'If they do, they do well for themselves.'

'You would see them in sackcloth and ashes?'

'I would pray to be spared seeing them.'

'You can entirely forget--well, other moments, other feelings?'

'They may heighten the injury.'

'Carinthia, I should wish to speak plainly, if I could, and tell you....'

'You speak quite plainly, my lord.'

'You and I cannot be strangers or enemies.'

'We cannot be, I would not be. To be friends, we should be separate.'

'You say you are a woman; you have a heart, then?'--for, if not, what
have you? was added in the tone.

'My heart is my brother's,' she said.

'All your heart?'

'My heart is my brother's until one of us drops.'

'There is not another on earth beside your brother Chillon?'

'There is my child.'

The dwarf square tower of Croridge village church fronted them against
the sky, seen of both.

'You remember it,' he said; and she answered: 'I was married there.'

'You have not forgotten that injury, Carinthia?'

'I am a mother.'

'By all the saints! you hit hard. Justly. Not you. Our deeds are the
hard hitters. We learn when they begin to flagellate, stroke upon
stroke! Suppose we hold a costly thing in the hand and dash it to the
ground--no recovery of it, none! That must be what your father meant.
I can't regret you are a mother. We have a son, a bond. How can I
describe the man I was!' he muttered,--'possessed! sort of werewolf!
You are my wife?'

'I was married to you, my lord.'

'It's a tie of a kind.'

'It binds me.'

'Obey, you said.'

'Obey it. I do.'

'You consider it holy?'

'My father and my mother spoke to me of the marriage-tie. I read the
service before I stood at the altar. It is holy. It is dreadful.
I will be true to it.'

'To your husband?'

'To his name, to his honour.'

'To the vow to live with him?'

'My husband broke that for me.'

'Carinthia, if he bids you, begs you to renew it? God knows what you may
save me from!'

'Pray to God. Do not beg of me, my lord. I have my brother and my
little son. No more of husband for me! God has given me a friend, too,
--a man of humble heart, my brother's friend, my dear Rebecca's husband.
He can take them from me: no one but God. See the splendid sky we have.'

With those words she barred the gates on him; at the same time she
bestowed the frank look of an amiable face brilliant in the lively red
of her exercise, in its bent-bow curve along the forehead, out of the
line of beauty, touching, as her voice was, to make an undertone of
anguish swell an ecstasy. So he felt it, for his mood was now the
lover's. A torture smote him, to find himself transported by that
voice at his ear to the scene of the young bride in thirty-acre meadow.

'I propose to call on Captain Kirby-Levellier tomorrow, Carinthia,' he
said. 'The name of his house?'

'My brother is not now any more in the English army,' she replied. 'He
has hired a furnished house named Stoneridge.'

'He will receive me, I presume?'

'My brother is a courteous gentleman, my lord.'

'Here is the church, and here we have to part for today. Do we?'

'Good-bye to you, my lord,' she said.

He took her hand and dropped the dead thing.

'Your idea is, to return to Esslemont some day or other?'

'For the present,' was her strange answer.

She bowed, she stepped on. On she sped, leaving him at the stammered
beginning of his appeal to her.

Their parting by the graveyard of the church that had united them was
what the world would class as curious. To him it was a further and a
well-marked stroke of the fatality pursuing him. He sauntered by the
graveyard wall until her figure slipped out of sight. It went like a
puffed candle, and still it haunted the corner where last seen. Her
vanishing seemed to say, that less of her belonged to him than the
phantom his eyes retained behind them somewhere.

There was in his pocket a memento of Ambrose Mallard, that the family had
given him at his request. He felt the lump. It had an answer for all
perplexities. It had been charged and emptied since it was in his
possession; and it could be charged again. The thing was a volume as
big as the world to study. For the touch of a finger, one could have
its entirely satisfying contents, and fly and be a raven of that night
wherein poor Ambrose wanders lost, but cured of human wounds.

He leaned on the churchyard wall, having the graves to the front of eyes
bent inward. They were Protestant graves, not so impressive to him as
the wreathed and gilt of those under dedication to Feltre's Madonna.
But whatever they were, they had ceased to nurse an injury or feel the
pain for having inflicted it. Their wrinkles had gone from them, whether
of anger or suffering. Ambrose Mallard lay as peaceful in consecrated
ground: and Chumley Potts would be unlikely to think that the helping to
lay Ambrose in his quiet last home would cost him a roasting until
priestly intercession availed. So Chummy continues a Protestant; dull
consciences can! But this is incomprehensible, that she, nursing her
injury, should be perfectly civil. She is a woman without emotion. She
is a woman full of emotion, one man knows. She ties him to her, to make
him feel the lash of his remorse. He feels it because of her casting him
from her--and so civilly. If this were a Catholic church, one might go
in and give the stained soul free way to get a cleansing. As it is, here
are the graves; the dead everywhere have their sanctity, even the
heathen.

Fleetwood read the name of the family of Meek on several boards at
the head of the graves. Jonathan Meek died at the age of ninety-five.
A female Meek had eighty-nine years in this life. Ezra Meek gave up
the ghost prematurely, with a couplet, at eighty-one. A healthy spot,
Croridge, or there were virtues in the Meek family, he reflected, and had
a shudder that he did not trace to its cause, beyond an acknowledgement
of a desire for the warm smell of incense.

CHAPTER XLIII

ON THE ROAD TO THE ACT OF PENANCE

His customary wrestle with the night drove Lord Fleetwood in the
stillness of the hour after matins from his hated empty Esslemont up
again to the village of the long-lived people, enjoying the moist
earthiness of the air off the ironstone. He rode fasting, a good
preparatory state for the simple pleasures, which are virtually the Great
Nourisher's teats to her young. The earl was relieved of his dejection
by a sudden filling of his nostrils. Fat Esslemont underneath had no
such air. Except on the mornings of his walk over the Salzkammergut and
Black Forest regions, he had never consciously drawn that deep breath of
the satisfied rapture, charging the whole breast with thankfulness.
Huntsmen would know it, if the chase were not urgent to pull them at
the tail of the running beast. Once or twice on board his yacht he
might have known something like it, but the salt sea-breeze could not
be disconnected from his companion Lord Feltre, and a thought of Feltre
swung vapour of incense all about him. Breathing this air of the young
sun's kiss of earth, his invigoration repelled the seductions of the
burnt Oriental gums.

Besides, as he had told his friend, it was the sincerity of the Catholic
religion, not the seductiveness, that won him to a form of homage--the
bend of the head of a foreign observer at a midnight mass. Asceticism,
though it may not justify error, is a truth in itself, it is the essence
extracted of the scourge, flesh vanquished; and it stands apart from
controversy. Those monks of the forested mountain heights, rambling for
their herbs, know the blessedness to be found in mere breathing:
a neighbour readiness to yield the breath inspires it the more. For when
we do not dread our end, the sense of a free existence comes back to us:
we have the prized gift to infancy under the piloting of manhood. But
before we taste that happiness we must perform our penance; 'No living
happiness can be for the unclean,' as the holy father preached to his
flock of the monastery dispersing at matins.

Ay, but penance? penance? Is there not such a thing as the doing of
penance out of the Church, in the manly fashion? So to regain the right
to be numbered among the captains of the world's fighting men,
incontestably the best of comrades, whether or no they led away on a
cataract leap at the gates of life. Boldly to say we did a wrong will
clear our sky for a few shattering peals.

The penitential act means, youth put behind us, and a steady course
ahead. But, for the keeping of a steady course, men made of blood in the
walks of the world must be steadied. Say it plainly-mated. There is the
humiliating point of our human condition. We must have beside us and
close beside us the woman we have learned to respect; supposing ourselves
lucky enough to have found her; 'that required other scale of the human
balance,' as Woodseer calls her now he has got her, wiser than Lord
Feltre in reference to men and women. We get no balance without her.
That is apparently the positive law; and by reason of men's wretched
enslavement, it is the dance to dissolution when we have not honourable
union with women. Feltre's view of women sees the devilish or the
angelical; and to most men women are knaves or ninnies. Hence do we
behold rascals or imbeciles in the offspring of most men.

He embraced the respected woman's character, with the usual effect:
--to see with her sight; and she beheld a speckled creature of the
intermittent whims and moods and spites; the universal Patron, whose
ambition to be leader of his world made him handle foul brutes--corrupt
and cause their damnation, they retort, with curses, in their pangs.
She was expected to pardon the husband, who had not abstained from his
revenge on her for keeping him to the pledge of his word. And what a
revenge!--he had flung the world at her. She is consequently to be the
young bride she was on the memorable morning of the drive off these
heights of Croridge down to thirty-acre meadow! It must be a saint to
forgive such offences; and she is not one, she is deliciously not one,
neither a Genevieve nor a Griselda. He handed her the rod to chastise
him. Her exchange of Christian names with the Welshman would not do it;
she was too transparently sisterly, provincially simple; she was, in
fact, respected. Any whipping from her was child's play to him, on whom,
if he was to be made to suffer, the vision of the intense felicity of
austerest asceticism brought the sensation as bracingly as the Boreal
morning animates men of high blood in ice regions. She could but gently
sting, even if vindictive.

Along the heights, outside the village, some way below a turn of the road
to Lekkatts, a gentleman waved hand. The earl saluted with his whip, and
waited for him.

'Nothing wrong, Mr. Wythan?'

'Nothing to fear, my lord.'

'I get a trifle uneasy.'

'The countess will not leave her brother.'

A glow of his countess's friendliness for this open-faced, prompt-
speaking, good fellow of the faintly inky eyelids, and possibly sheepish
inclinations, melted Fleetwood. Our downright repentance of misconduct
toward a woman binds us at least to the tolerant recognition of what poor
scraps of consolement she may have picked up between then and now--when
we can stretch fist in flame to defy it on the oath of her being a woman
of honour.

The earl alighted and said: 'Her brother, I suspect, is the key of the
position.'

'He's worth it--she loves her brother,' said Mr. Wythan, betraying a
feature of his quick race, with whom the reflection upon a statement is
its lightning in advance.

Gratified by the instant apprehension of his meaning, Fleetwood
interpreted the Welshman's. 'I have to see the brother worthy of her
love. Can you tell me the hour likely to be convenient?'. . . . .

Mr. Wythan thought an appointment unnecessary which conveyed the
sufficient assurance of audience granted.

'You know her brother well, Mr. Wythan?'

'Know him as if I had known him for years. They both come to the mind as
faith comes--no saying how; one swears by them.'

Fleetwood eyed the Welsh gentleman, with an idea that he might readily do
the same by him.

Mr. Wythan's quarters were at the small village inn, whither he was on
his way to breakfast. The earl slipped an arm through the bridle reins
and walked beside him, listening to an account of the situation at
Lekkatts. It was that extraordinary complication of moves and checks
which presents in the main a knot, for the powers above to cut. A
miserly old lord withholds arrears of wages; his workmen strike at a
critical moment; his nephew, moved by common humanity, draws upon
crippled resources to supply their extremer needs, though they are
ruining his interests. They made one night a demonstration of the
terrorizing sort round Lekkatts, to give him a chorus; and the old lord
fired at them out of window and wounded a man. For that they vowed
vengeance. All the new gunpowder milled in Surrey was, for some purpose
of his own, stored by Lord Levellier on the alder island of the pond near
his workshops, a quarter of a mile below the house. They refused,
whatever their object, to let a pound of it be moved, at a time when at
last the Government had undertaken to submit it to experiments. And
there they stood on ground too strong for 'the Captain,' as they called
him, to force, because of the quantity stored at Lekkatts being largely
beyond the amount under cover of Lord Levellier's licence. The old lord
was very ill, and he declined to see a doctor, but obstinately kept from
dying. His nephew had to guard him and at the same time support an enemy
having just cause of complaint. This, however, his narrow means would
not much longer permit him to do. The alternative was then offered him
of either siding arbitrarily against the men and his conscience or of
taking a course 'imprudent on the part of a presumptive heir,' Mr. Wythan
said hurriedly at the little inn's doorsteps.

'You make one of his lordship's guard?' said Fleetwood.

'The countess, her brother, and I, yes'

'Danger at all?'

'Not so much to fear while the countess is with us.'

'Fear is not a word for Carinthia.'

Her name on the earl's lips drew a keen shot of the eye from Mr. Wythan,
and he read the signification of the spoken name. 'You know what every
Cambrian living thinks of her, my lord.'

'She shall not have one friend the less for me.'

Fleetwood's hand was out for a good-bye, and the hand was grasped by one
who looked happy in doing it. He understood and trusted the man after
that, warmed in thinking how politic his impulses could be.

His intention of riding up to Croridge at noon to request his interview
with Mr. Kirby-Levellier was then stated.

'The key of the position, as you said,' Mr. Wythan remarked, not
proffering an opinion of it more than was expressed by a hearty, rosy
countenance, that had to win its way with the earl before excuse was
found for the venturesome repetition of his phrase.

Cantering back to that home of the loves of Gower Woodseer and Madge
Winch, the thought of his first act of penance done, without his feeling
the poorer for it, reconciled Fleetwood to the aspect of the hollow
place.

He could not stay beneath the roof. His task of breakfasting done, he
was off before the morning's delivery of letters, riding round the
country under Croridge, soon up there again. And Henrietta might be at
home, he was reminded by hearing band-music as he followed the directions
to the house named Stoneridge. The band consisted of eight wind
instruments; they played astonishingly well for itinerant musicians.
By curious chance, they were playing a selection from the Pirata;
presently he heard the notes to 'il mio tradito amor.' They had hit upon
Henrietta's favourite piece!

At the close of it he dismounted, flung the reins to his groom, and,
addressing a compliment to the leader, was deferentially saluted with a
'my lord.' Henrietta stood at the window, a servant held the door open
for him to enter; he went in, and the beautiful young woman welcomed him:
'Oh, my dear lord, you have given me such true delight! How very
generous of you!' He protested ignorance. She had seen him speak to the
conductor and receive the patron's homage; and who but he knew her adored
of operas, or would have had the benevolent impulse to think of solacing
her exile from music in the manner so sure of her taste! She was at her
loveliest: her features were one sweet bloom, as of the sunny flower
garden; and, touched to the heart by the music and the kindness, she
looked the look that kisses; innocently, he felt, feeling himself on the
same good ground while he could own he admired the honey creature, much
as an amateur may admire one of the pictures belonging to the nation.

'And you have come . . .?' she said. 'We are to believe in happy
endings?'

He shrugged, as the modest man should, who says:

'If it depends on me'; but the words were firmly spoken and could be
credited.

'Janey is with her brother down at Lekkatts. Things are at a deadlock.
A spice of danger, enough to relieve the dulness; and where there is
danger Janey's at home.' Henrietta mimicked her Janey. 'Parades with
her brother at night; old military cap on her head; firearms primed;
sings her Austrian mountain songs or the Light Cavalry call, till it
rings all day in my ears--she has a thrilling contralto. You are not to
think her wild, my lord. She's for adventure or domesticity, "whichever
the Fates decree." She really is coming to the perfect tone.'

'Speak of her,' said the earl. 'She can't yet overlook . . . ?'

'It's in the family. She will overlook anything her brother excuses.'

'I'm here to see him.'

'I heard it from Mr. Wythan.'

'"Owain," I believe?'

Henrietta sketched apologies, with a sidled head, soft pout, wavy hand.
'He belongs to the order of primitive people. His wife--the same
pattern, one supposes--pledged them to their Christian names. The man
is a simpleton, but a gentleman; and Janey holds his dying wife's wish
sacred. We are all indebted to him.'

'Whatever she thinks right!' said Fleetwood.

The fair young woman's warm nature flew out to him on a sparkle of
grateful tenderness in return for his magnanimity, oblivious of the
inflamer it was: and her heart thanked him more warmly, without the
perilous show of emotion, when she found herself secure.

She was beautiful, she was tempting, and probably the weakest of players
in the ancient game of two; and clearly she was not disposed to the
outlaw game; was only a creature of ardour. That he could see, seeing
the misinterpretation a fellow like Brailstone would put upon a temporary
flush of the feminine, and the advantage he would take of it, perhaps not
unsuccessfully--the dog! He committed the absurdity of casting a mental
imprecation at the cunning tricksters of emotional women, and yelled at
himself in the worn old surplice of the converted rake. But letting his
mind run this way, the tradito amor of the band outside the lady's window
was instantly traced to Lord Brailstone; so convictingly, that he now
became a very counsel for an injured husband in denunciation of the
seductive compliment.

Henrietta prepared to conduct him to Lekkatts; her bonnet was brought.
She drew forth a letter from a silken work-bag, and raised it,--Livia's
handwriting. 'I 've written my opinion,' he said.

'Not too severe, pray.'

'Posted.'

'Livia wanted a protector.'

'And chose--what on earth are you saying!'

Livia and her boyish lord were abandoned on the spot, though Henrietta
could have affirmed stoutly that there was much to be pleaded, if a
female advocate dared it, and a man would but hear.

His fingers were at the leaves of a Spanish dictionary.

'Oh yes, and here we have a book of Travels in Spain,' she said.
'Everything Spanish for Janey now. You are aware?--no?'

He was unaware and desired to be told.

'Janey's latest idea; only she would have conceived the notion. You
solve our puzzle, my lord.'

She renewed the thanks she persisted in offering for the military music
now just ceasing: vexatiously, considering that it was bad policy for him
to be unmasking Brailstone to her. At the same time, the blindness which
rendered her unconscious of Brailstone's hand in sending members of a
military band to play selections from the favourite opera they had
jointly drunk of to ecstasy, was creditable; touching, when one thought
of the pursuer's many devices, not omitting some treason on the part of
her present friend.

'Tell me--I solve?' he said . . . .

Henrietta spied the donkey-basket bearing the two little ones.

'Yes, I hope so--on our way down,' she made answer. 'I want you to see
the pair of love-birds in a nest.'

The boy and girl were seen lying side by side, both fast asleep; fair-
haired girl, dark-haired boy, faced to one another.

'Temper?' said Fleetwood, when he had taken observation of them.

'Very imperious--Mr. Boy!' she replied, straightening her back under a
pretty frown, to convey the humour of the infant tyrant.

The father's mind ran swiftly on a comparison of the destinies of the two
children, from his estimate of their parents; many of Gower Woodseer's
dicta converging to reawaken thoughts upon Nature's laws, which a
knowledge of his own nature blackened. He had to persuade himself that
this child of his was issue of a loving union; he had to do it violently,
conjuring a vivid picture of the mother in bud, and his recognition of
her young charm; the pain of keeping to his resolve to quit her, lest she
should subjugate him and despoil him of his wrath; the fatalism in his
coming and going; the romantic freak it had been,--a situation then so
clearly wrought, now blurred past comprehension. But there must have
been love, or some love on his part. Otherwise he was bound to pray for
the mother to predominate in the child, all but excluding its father.

Carinthia's image, as a result, ascended sovereignty, and he hung to it.

For if we are human creatures with consciences, nothing is more certain
than that we make our taskmasters of those to whom we have done a wrong,
the philosopher says. Between Lord Feltre and Gower Woodseer, influenced
pretty equally by each of them, this young nobleman was wakening to the
claims of others--Youth's infant conscience. Fleetwood now conceived the
verbal supplication for his wife's forgiveness involved in the act of
penance; and verbal meant abject; with him, going so far, it would mean
naked, precise, no slurring. That he knew, and a tremor went over him.
Women, then, are really the half of the world in power as much as in
their number, if men pretend to a step above the savage. Or, well, his
wife was a power.

He had forgotten the puzzle spoken of by Henrietta, when she used the
word again and expressed her happiness in the prospect before them--
caused by his presence, of course.

'You are aware, my dear lord, Janey worships her brother. He was
defeated, by some dastardly contrivance, in a wager to do wonderful
feats--for money! money! money! a large stake. How we come off our
high horses! I hadn't an idea of money before I was married. I think
of little else. My husband has notions of honour; he engaged himself
to pay a legacy of debts; his uncle would not pay debts long due to him.
He was reduced to the shift of wagering on his great strength and skill.
He could have done it. His enemy managed--enemy there was! He had to
sell out of the army in consequence. I shall never have Janey's face
of suffering away from my sight. He is a soldier above all things. It
seems hard on me, but I cannot blame him for snatching at an opportunity
to win military distinction. He is in treaty for the post of aide to the
Colonel--the General of the English contingent bound for Spain, for the
cause of the Queen. My husband will undertake to be at the orders of his
chief as soon as he can leave this place. Janey goes with him, according
to present arrangements.'

Passing through a turnstile, that led from the road across a meadow-slope
to the, broken land below, Henrietta had view of the earl's hard white
face, and she hastened to say: 'You have altered that, my lord. She is
devoted to her brother; and her brother running dangers . . . and
danger in itself is an attraction to her. But her husband will have the
first claim. She has her good sense. She will never insist on going, if
you oppose. She will be ready to fill her station. It will be-her pride
and her pleasure.'

Henrietta continued in the vein of these assurances; and Carinthia's
character was shooting lightnings through him, withering that of the
woman who referred to his wife's good sense and her station; and
certainly would not have betrayed herself by such drawlings if she had
been very positive that Carinthia's disposition toward wealth and luxury
resembled hers. She knew the reverse; or so his contemptuously generous
effort to frame an apology for the stuff he was hearing considered it.
His wife was lost to him. That fact smote on his breast the moment he
heard of her desire to go with her brother.

Wildest of enterprises! But a criminal saw himself guilty of a large
part in the disaster the two heroical souls were striving desperately to
repair. If her Chillon went, Carinthia would go--sure as flame is drawn
to air. The exceeding splendour in the character of a young woman,
injured as she had been, soft to love, as he knew her, and giving her
husband no other rival than a beloved brother, no ground of complaint
save her devotion to her brother, pervaded him, without illuminating or
lifting; rather with an indication of a foul contrast, that prostrated
him.

Half of our funny heathen lives we are bent double to gather things we
have tossed away! was one of the numbers of apposite sayings that hummed
about him, for a chorus of the world's old wisdom in derision, when he
descended the heathy path and had sight of Carinthia beside her Chillon.
Would it be the same thing if he had it in hand again? Did he wish it to
be the same? Was not he another man? By the leap of his heart to the
woman standing down there, he was a better man.

But recent spiritual exercises brought him to see superstitiously how by
that sign she was lost to him; for everlastingly in this life the better
pays for the worse; thus is the better a proved thing.

Both Chillon and Carinthia, it is probable, might have been stirred to
deeper than compassion, had the proud young nobleman taken them into
his breast to the scouring of it; exposing the grounds of his former
brutality, his gradual enlightenment, his ultimate acknowledgement of
the pricelessness of the woman he had won to lose her. An imploring of
forgiveness would not have been necessary with those two, however great
their--or the woman's--astonishment at the revelation of an abysmal male
humanity. A complete exposure of past meanness is the deed of present
courage certain of its reward without as well as within; for then we show
our fellows that the slough is cast. But life is a continuous fight;
and members of the social world display its degree of civilization by
fighting in armour; most of them are born in it; and their armour is more
sensitive than their skins. It was Fleetwood's instinct of his inability
to fling it off utterly which warned him of his loss of the wife, whose
enthusiasm to wait on her brother in danger might have subsided into the
channel of duty, even tenderness, had he been able resolutely to strip
himself bare. This was the further impossible to him, because of a
belief he now imposed upon himself, to cover the cowardly shrinking from
so extreme a penitential act, that such confessions are due from men to
the priest only, and that he could confess wholly and absolutely to the
priest--to heaven, therefore, under seal, and in safety, but with perfect
repentance.

So, compelled to keep his inner self unknown, he fronted Chillon;
courteously, in the somewhat lofty seeming of a guarded manner, he
requested audience for a few minutes; observing the princely figure of
the once hated man, and understanding Henrietta's sheer womanly choice of
him; Carinthia's idolatry, too, as soon as he had spoken. The man was in
his voice.

Chillon said: 'It concerns my sister, I have to think. In that case, her
wish is to be present. Your lordship will shorten the number of minutes
for the interview by permitting it.'

Fleetwood encountered Carinthia's eyes. They did not entreat or defy.
They seconded her brother, and were a civil shining naught on her
husband. He bowed his head, constrained, feeling heavily the two to one.

She replied to the look: 'My brother and I have a single mind. We save
time by speaking three together, my lord.'

He was led into the long room of the workshop, where various patterns of
muskets, rifles, pistols, and swords were stars, crosses, wedges, over
the walls, and a varnished wooden model of a piece of cannon occupied the
middle place, on a block.

Contempt of military weapons and ridicule of the art of war were common
on those days among a people beginning to sit with habitual snugness at
the festive board provided for them by the valour of their fathers.
Fleetwood had not been on the side of the banqueting citizens, though his
country's journals and her feasted popular wits made a powerful current
to whelm opposition. But the appearance of the woman, his wife, here,
her head surrounded by destructive engines in the form of trophy, and the
knowledge that this woman bearing his name designed to be out at the
heels of a foreign army or tag-rag of uniformed rascals, inspired him to
reprobate men's bad old game as heartily as good sense does in the
abstract, and as derisively as it is the way with comfortable islanders
before the midnight trumpet-notes of panic have tumbled them to their
legs. He took his chair; sickened.

He was the next moment taking Carinthia's impression of Chillon,
compelled to it by an admiration that men and women have alike for shapes
of strength in the mould of grace, over whose firm build a flicker of
agility seems to run. For the young soldier's figure was visibly in its
repose prompt to action as the mind's movement. This was her brother;
her enthusiasm for her brother was explained to him. No sooner did he
have the conception of it than it plucked at him painfully; and, feeling
himself physically eclipsed by the object of Carinthia's enthusiasm, his
pride of the rival counselled him to preserve the mask on what was going
on within, lest it should be seen that he was also morally beaten at the
outset. A trained observation told him, moreover, that her Chillon's
correctly handsome features, despite their conventional urbanity, could
knit to smite, and held less of the reserves of mercy behind them than
Carinthia's glorious barbaric ruggedness. Her eyes, each time she looked
at her brother, had, without doating, the light as of the rise of happy
tears to the underlids as they had on a certain day at the altar, when
'my lord' was 'my husband,'--more shyly then. He would have said, as
beautifully, but for envy of the frank, pellucid worship in that look
on her proved hero. It was the jewel of all the earth to win back to
himself; and it subjected him, through his desire for it, to a
measurement with her idol, in character, quality, strength, hardness.
He heard the couple pronouncing sentence of his loss by anticipation.

Why had she primed her brother to propose the council of three?
Addressing them separately, he could have been his better or truer self.
The sensation of the check imposed on him was instructive as to her craft
and the direction of her wishes. She preferred the braving of hazards
and horrors beside her brother, in scorn of the advantages he could
offer; and he yearned to her for despising by comparison the bribe he
proposed in the hope that he might win her to him. She was with religion
to let him know the meanness of wealth.

Thus, at the edge of the debate, or contest, the young lord's essential
nobility disarmed him; and the revealing of it, which would have appealed
to Carinthia and Chillon both, was forbidden by its constituent pride,
which helped him to live and stood obstructing explanatory speech.

CHAPTER XLIV

BETWEEN THE EARL, THE COUNTESS AND HER BROTHER, AND OF A SILVER CROSS

Carinthia was pleased by hearing Lord Fleetwood say to her: 'Your Madge
and my Gower are waiting to have the day named for them.'

She said: 'I respect him so much for his choice of Madge. They shall not
wait, if I am to decide.'

'Old Mr. Woodseer has undertaken to join them.'

'It is in Whitechapel they will be married.'

The blow that struck was not intended, and Fleetwood passed it, under her
brother's judicial eye. Any small chance word may carry a sting for the
neophyte in penitence.

'My lawyers will send down the settlement on her, to be read to them
to-day or to-morrow. With the interest on that and the sum he tells me
he has in the Funds, they keep the wolf from the door--a cottage door.
They have their cottage. There's an old song of love in a cottage.
His liking for it makes him seem wiser than his clever sayings. He'll
work in that cottage.'

'They have a good friend to them in you, my lord. It will not be poverty
for their simple wants. I hear of the little cottage in Surrey where
they are to lodge at first, before they take one of their own.'

'We will visit them.'

'When I am in England I shall visit them often.'

He submitted.

'The man up here wounded is recovering?'

'Yes, my lord. I am learning to nurse the wounded, with the surgeon to
direct me.'

'Matters are sobering down?--The workmen?'

'They listen to reason so willingly when we speak personally, we find.'

The earl addressed Chillon. 'Your project of a Spanish expedition
reminds me of favourable reports of your chief.'

'Thoroughly able and up to the work,' Chillon answered.

'Queer people to meddle with.'

'We 're on the right side on the dispute.'

'It counts, Napoleon says. A Spanish civil war promises bloody doings.'

'Any war does that.'

'In the Peninsula it's war to the knife, a merciless business.'

'Good schooling for the profession.'

Fleetwood glanced: she was collected and attentive. 'I hear from Mrs.
Levellier that Carinthia would like to be your companion.'

'My sister has the making of a serviceable hospital nurse.'

'You hear the chatter of London!'

'I have heard it.'

'You encourage her, Mr. Levellier?'

'She will be useful--better there than here, my lord.'

'I claim a part in the consultation.'

'There 's no consultation; she determines to go.'

'We can advise her of all the risks.'

'She has weighed them, every one.'

'In the event of accidents, the responsibility for having persuaded her
would rest on you.'

'My brother has not persuaded me,' Carinthia's belltones intervened.
'I proposed it. The persuasion was mine. It is my happiness to be near
him, helping, if I can.'

'Lady Fleetwood, I am entitled to think that your brother yielded to a
request urged in ignorance of the nature of the risks a woman runs.'

'My brother does not yield to a request without examining it all round,
my lord, and I do not. I know the risks. An evil that we should not
endure,--life may go. There can be no fear for me.'

She spoke plain truth. The soul of this woman came out in its radiance
to subdue him, as her visage sometimes did; and her voice enlarged her
words. She was a warrior woman, Life her sword, Death her target, never
to be put to shame, unconquerable. No such symbolical image smote him,
but he had an impression, the prose of it. As in the scene of the
miners' cottares, her lord could have knelt to her: and for an
unprotesting longer space now. He choked a sigh, shrugged, and said,
in the world's patient manner with mad people: 'You have set your mind on
it; you see it rose-coloured. You would not fear, no, but your friends
would have good reason to fear. It's a menagerie in revolt over there.
It is not really the place for you. Abandon the thought, I beg.'

'I shall, if my brother does not go,' said Carinthia.

Laughter of spite at a remark either silly or slyly defiant was checked
in Fleetwood by the horror of the feeling that she had gone, was ankle-
deep in bloody mire, captive, prey of a rabble soldiery, meditating the
shot or stab of the blessed end out of woman's half of our human muddle.

He said to Chillon: 'Pardon me, war is a detestable game. Women in the
thick of it add a touch to the brutal hideousness of the whole thing.'

Chillon said: 'We are all of that opinion. Men have to play the game;
women serving in hospital make it humaner.'

'Their hospitals are not safe.'

'Well! Safety!'

For safety is nowhere to be had. But the earl pleaded: 'At least in our
country.'

'In our country women are safe?'

'They are, we may say, protected.'

'Laws and constables are poor protection for them.'

'The women we name ladies are pretty safe, as a rule.'

'My sister, then, was the exception.'

After a burning half minute the earl said: 'I have to hear it from you,
Mr. Levellier. You see me here.'

That was handsomely spoken. But Lord Fleetwood had been judged and put
aside. His opening of an old case to hint at repentance for brutality
annoyed the man who had let him go scathless for a sister's sake.

'The grounds of your coming, my lord, are not seen; my time is short.'

'I must, I repeat, be consulted with regard to Lady Fleetwood's
movements.'

'My sister does not acknowledge your claim.'

'The Countess of Fleetwood's acts involve her husband.'

'One has to listen at times to what old sailors call Caribbee!' Chillon
exclaimed impatiently, half aloud. 'My sister received your title; she
has to support it. She did not receive the treatment of a wife:--
or lady, or woman, or domestic animal. The bond is broken, as far as
it bears on her subjection. She holds to the rite, thinks it sacred.
You can be at rest as to her behaviour. In other respects, your lordship
does not exist for her.'

'The father of her child must exist for her.'

'You raise that curtain, my lord!'

In the presence of three it would not bear a shaking.

Carinthia said, in pity of his torture:--

'I have my freedom, and am thankful for it, to follow my brother, to
share his dangers with him. That is more to me than luxury and the
married state. I take only my freedom.'

'Our boy? You take the boy?'

'My child is with my sister Henrietta!

'Where?'

'We none know yet.'

'You still mistrust me?'

Her eyes were on a man that she had put from her peaceably; and she
replied, with sweetness in his ears, with shocks to a sinking heart,
'My lord, you may learn to be a gentle father to the child. I pray you
may. My brother and I will go. If it is death for us, I pray my child
may have his father, and God directing his father.'

Her speech had the clang of the final.

'Yes, I hope--if it be the worst happening, I pray, too,' said he, and
drooped and brightened desperately: 'But you, too, Carinthia, you could
aid by staying, by being with the boy and me. Carinthia!' he clasped her
name, the vapour left to him of her: 'I have learnt learnt what I am,
what you are; I have to climb a height to win back the wife I threw away.
She was unknown to me; I to myself nearly as much. I sent a warning of
the kind of husband for you--a poor kind; I just knew myself well enough
for that. You claimed my word--the blessing of my life, if I had known
it! We were married; I played--I see the beast I played. Money is
power, they say. I see the means it is to damn the soul, unless we--
unless a man does what I do now.'

Fleetwood stopped. He had never spoken such words--arterial words, as
they were, though the commonest, and with moist brows, dry lips, he could
have resumed, have said more, have taken this woman, this dream of the
former bride, the present stranger, into his chamber of the brave aims
and sentenced deeds. Her brother in the room was the barrier; and she
sat mute, large-eyed, expressionless. He had plunged low in the man's
hearing; the air of his lungs was thick, hard to breathe, for shame of a
degradation so extreme.

Chillon imagined him to be sighing. He had to listen further. 'Soul'
had been an uttered word. When the dishonouring and mishandling brute of
a young nobleman stuttered a compliment to Carinthia on her 'faith in
God's assistance and the efficacy of prayer,' he jumped to his legs, not
to be shouting 'Hound!' at him. He said, under control: 'God's name
shall be left to the Church. My sister need not be further troubled.
She has shown she is not persuaded by me. Matters arranged here
quickly,--we start. If I am asked whether I think she does wisely to
run the risks in an insurrectionary country rather than remain at home
exposed to the honours and amusements your lordship offers, I think so;
she is acting in her best interests. She has the choice of being abroad
with me or staying here unguarded by me. She has had her experience.
She chooses rightly. Paint the risks she runs, you lay the colours on
those she escapes.' She thanks the treatment she has undergone for her
freedom to choose. I am responsible for nothing but the not having stood
against her most wretched marriage. It might have been foreseen. Out
there in the war she is protected. Here she is with--I spare your
lordship the name.'

Fleetwood would have heard harsher had he not been Carinthia's husband.
He withheld his reply. The language moved him to proud hostility: but
the speaker was Carinthia's brother.

He said to her: 'You won't forget Gower and Madge?'

She gave him a smile in saying: 'It shall be settled for a day after next
week.'

The forms of courtesy were exchanged.

At the closing of the door on him, Chillon said: 'He did send a message:
I gathered it--without the words--from our Uncle Griphard. I thought him
in honour bound to you--and it suited me that I should.'

'I was a blindfold girl, dearest; no warning would have given me sight,'
said Carinthia. 'That was my treachery to the love of my brother. . I
dream of father and mother reproaching me.'

The misery of her time in England had darkened her mind's picture of the
early hour with Chillon on the heights above the forsaken old home; and
the enthusiasm of her renewed devotion to her brother giving it again,
as no light of a lost Eden, as the brilliant step she was taking with him
from their morning Eastern Alps to smoky-crimson Pyrenees and Spanish
Sierras; she could imagine the cavernous interval her punishment for
having abandoned a sister's duties in the quest of personal happiness.

But simultaneously, the growing force of her mind's intelligence, wherein
was no enthusiasm to misdirect by overcolouring, enabled her to gather
more than a suspicion of comparative feebleness in the man stripped of
his terrors. She penetrated the discrowned tyrant's nature some
distance, deep enough to be quit of her foregoing alarms. These,
combined with his assured high style, had woven him the magical coat,
threadbare to quiet scrutiny. She matched him beside her brother. The
dwarfed object was then observed; and it was not for a woman to measure
herself beside him. She came, however, of a powerful blood, and he was
pressing her back on her resources: without the measurement or a thought
of it, she did that which is the most ordinary and the least noticed of
our daily acts in civilized intercourse, she subjected him to the trial
of the elements composing him, by collision with what she felt of her
own; and it was because she felt them strongly, aware of her feeling
them, but unaware of any conflict, that the wrestle occurred. She flung
him, pitied him, and passed on along her path elsewhere. This can be
done when love is gone. It is done more or less at any meeting of men
and men; and men and women who love not are perpetually doing it,
unconsciously or sensibly. Even in their love, a time for the trial
arrives among certain of them; and the leadership is assumed, and
submission ensues, tacitly; nothing of the contention being spoken,
perhaps, nothing definitely known.

In Carinthia's case, her revived enthusiasm for her brother drove to the
penetration of the husband pleading to thwart its course. His offer was
wealth: that is, luxury, amusement, ease. The sub-audible 'himself' into
the bargain was disregarded, not counting with one who was an upward rush
of fire at the thought that she was called to share her brother's
dangers.

Chillon cordially believed the earl to be the pestilent half madman,
junction with whom is a constant trepidation for the wife, when it is
not a screaming plight. He said so, and Carinthia let him retain his
opinion. She would have said it herself to support her scheme, though
'mad' applied to a man moving in the world with other men was not
understood by her.

With Henrietta for the earl's advocate, she was patient as the deaf rock-
wall enthusiam can be against entreaties to change its direction or bid
it disperse: The 'private band of picked musicians' at the disposal of
the Countess of Fleetwood, and Opera singers (Henrietta mentioned
resonant names) hired for wonderful nights at Esslemont and Calesford or
on board the earl's beautiful schooner yacht, were no temptation. Nor
did Henrietta's allusions to his broken appearance move his wife, except
in her saying regretfully: 'He changes.'

On the hall table at Esslemont, a letter from his bankers informed the
earl of a considerable sum of money paid in to his account in the name of
Lord Brailstone. Chumley Potts, hanging at him like a dog without a
master since the death of his friend Ambrose, had journeyed down:
'Anxious about you,' he said. Anxious about or attracted by the
possessor of Ambrose Mallard's 'clean sweeper,' the silver-mounted small
pistol; sight of which he begged to have; and to lengthened his jaw on
hearing it was loaded. A loaded pistol, this dark little one to the
right of the earl's blotting-pad and pens, had the look of a fearful link
with his fallen chaps and fishy hue. Potts maundered moralities upon
'life,' holding the thing in his hand, weighing it, eyeing the muzzle.
He 'couldn't help thinking of what is going to happen to us after it
all': and 'Brosey knows now!' was followed by a twitch of one cheek and
the ejaculation 'Forever !' Fleetwood alive and Ambrose dead were
plucking the startled worldling to a peep over the verge into our abyss;
and the young lord's evident doing of the same commanded Chumley Potts'
imitation of him under the cloud Ambrose had become for both of them.

He was recommended to see Lord Feltre, if he had a desire to be
instructed on the subject of the mitigation of our pains in the regions
below. Potts affirmed that he meant to die a Protestant Christian.
Thereupon, carrying a leaden burden of unlaughed laughable stuff in his
breast, and Chummy's concluding remark to speed him: 'Damn it, no, we'll
stick to our religion!' Fleetwood strode off to his library, and with
the names of the Ixionides of his acquaintance ringing round his head,
proceeded to strike one of them off the number privileged at the moment
to intrude on him. Others would follow; this one must be the first to
go. He wrote the famous letter to Lord Brailstone, which debarred the
wily pursuer from any pretext to be running down into Mrs. Levellier's
neighbourhood, and also precluded the chance of his meeting the fair lady
at Calesford. With the brevity equivalent to the flick of a glove on the
cheek, Lord Brailstone was given to understand by Lord Fleetwood that
relations were at an end between them. No explanation was added; a
single sentence executed the work, and in the third person. He did not
once reflect on the outcry in the ear of London coming from the receiver
of such a letter upon payment of a debt.

The letter posted and flying, Lord Fleetwood was kinder to Chumley Potts;
he had a friendly word for Gower Woodseer; though both were heathens,
after their diverse fashions, neither of them likely ever to set out upon
the grand old road of Rome: Lord Feltre's 'Appian Way of the Saints and
Comforters.'

Chummy was pardoned when they separated at night for his reiterated
allusions to the temptation of poor Ambrose Mallard's conclusive little
weapon lying on the library table within reach of a man's arm-chair: in
its case, and the case locked, yes, but easily opened, 'provoking every
damnable sort of mortal curiosity!' The soundest men among us have their
fits of the blues, Fleetwood was told. 'Not wholesome!' Chummy shook his
head resolutely, and made himself comprehensibly mysterious. He meant
well. He begged his old friend to promise he would unload and keep it
unloaded. 'For I know the infernal worry you have--deuced deal worse
than a night's bad luck!' said he; and Fleetwood smiled sourly at the
world's total ignorance of causes. His wretchedness was due now to the
fact that the aforetime huntress refused to be captured. He took a
silver cross from a table-drawer and laid it on the pistol-case. 'There,
Chummy,' he said; that was all; not sermonizing or proselytizing. He was
partly comprehended by Chumley Potts, fully a week later. The
unsuspecting fellow, soon to be despatched in the suite of Brailstone,
bore away an unwontedly affectionate dismissal to his bed, and spoke some
rather squeamish words himself, as he recollected with disgust when he
ran about over London repeating his executioner's.

The Cross on the pistol-case may have conduced to Lord Fleetwood's
thought, that his days among unrepentant ephemeral Protestant sinners
must have their immediate termination. These old friends were the
plague-infected clothes he flung off his body. But the Cross where it
lay, forbidding a movement of the hand to that box, was authoritative to
decree his passage through a present torture, by the agency of the hand
he held back from the solution of his perplexity, at the cost which his
belief in the Eternal would pay. Henrietta had mentioned her husband's
defeat, by some dastardly contrivance. He had to communicate, for the
disburdening of his soul, not only that he was guilty, but the meanest
of criminals, in being no more than half guilty. His training told him
of the contempt women entertain toward the midway or cripple sinner, when
they have no special desire to think him innocent. How write, or even
how phrase his having merely breathed in his ruffian's hearing the wish
that he might hear of her husband's defeat! And with what object?
Here, too, a woman might, years hence, if not forgive, bend her head
resignedly over the man's vile nature, supposing strong passion his
motive. But the name for the actual motive? It would not bear writing,
or any phrasing round it. An unsceptred despot bidden take a fair
woman's eyes into his breast, saw and shrank. And now the eyes were
Carinthia's: he saw a savage bridegroom, and a black ladder-climber,
and the sweetest of pardoning brides, and the devil in him still
insatiate for revenge upon her who held him to his word.

He wrote, read, tore the page, trimmed the lamp, and wrote again. He
remembered Gower Woodseer's having warned him he would finish his career
a monk. Not, like Feltre, an oily convert, but under the hood, yes, and
extracting a chartreuse from his ramble through woods richer far than the
philosopher's milk of Mother Nature's bosom. There flamed the burning
signal of release from his torments; there his absolving refuge, instead
of his writing fruitless, intricate, impossible stuff to a woman. The
letter was renounced and shredded: the dedicated ascetic contemplated a
hooded shape, washed of every earthly fleck. It proved how men may by
power of grip squeeze raptures out of pain.

CHAPTER XLV

CONTAINS A RECORD OF WHAT WAS FEARED, WHAT WAS HOPED, AND WHAT HAPPENED

The Dame is at her thumps for attention to be called to 'the strangeness
of it,' that a poor, small, sparse village, hardly above a hamlet, on the
most unproductive of Kentish heights, part of old forest land, should at
this period become 'the cynosure of a city beautifully named by the poet
Great Augusta, and truly indeed the world's metropolis.'

Put aside her artful pother to rouse excitement at stages of a narrative,
London's general eye upon little Croridge was but another instance of
the extraordinary and not so wonderful. Lady Arpington, equal to a
Parliament in herself, spoke of the place and the countess courted by
her repentant lord. Brailstone and Chumley Potts were town criers of
the executioner letter each had received from the earl; Potts with his
chatter of a suicide's pistol kept loaded in a case under a two-inch-long
silver Cross, and with sundry dramatic taps on the forehead, Jottings
over the breast, and awful grimace of devoutness. There was no mistaking
him. The young nobleman of the millions was watched; the town spyglass
had him in its orbit. Tales of the ancestral Fleetwoods ran beside
rumours of a Papist priest at the bedside of the Foredoomed to Error's
dying mother. His wealth was counted, multiplied by the ready naughts of
those who know little and dread much. Sir Meeson Corby referred to an
argument Lord Fleetwood had held on an occasion hotly against the logical
consistency of the Protestant faith; and to his alarm lest some day 'all
that immense amount of money should slip away from us to favour the
machinations of Roman Catholicism!' The Countess of Cressett, Livia,
anticipated her no surprise at anything Lord Fleetwood might do: she knew
him.

So thereupon, with the whirr of a covey on wing before the fowler, our
crested three of immemorial antiquity and a presumptive immortality, the
Ladies Endor, Eldritch, and Cowry, shot up again, hooting across the
dormant chief city Old England's fell word of the scarlet shimmer above
the nether pit-flames, Rome. An ancient horror in the blood of the
population, conceiving the word to signify, beak, fang, and claw, the
fiendish ancient enemy of the roasting day of yore, heard and echoed.
Sleepless at the work of the sapper, in preparation for the tiger's leap,
Rome is keen to spy the foothold of English stability, and her clasp of a
pillar of the structure sends tremors to our foundations.

The coupling of Rome and England's wealthiest nobleman struck a match to
terrorize the Fire Insurance of Smithfield. That meteoric, intractable,
perhaps wicked, but popular, reputedly clever; manifestly evil-starred,
enormously wealthy, young Earl of Fleetwood, wedded to an adventuress,
and a target for the scandals emanating from the woman, was daily,
without omission of a day, seen walking Piccadilly pavement in company
once more with the pervert, the Jesuit agent, that crafty Catesby of a
Lord Feltre, arm in arm the pair of them, and uninterruptedly conversing,
utterly unlike Englishmen. Mr. Rose Mackrell passed them, and his breezy
salutation of the earl was unobserved in my lord's vacant glass optics,
as he sketched the scene. London had report of the sinister tempter and
the imperilled young probationer undisguisedly entering the Roman
Catholic chapel of a fashionable district-chapel erected on pervert's
legacies, down a small street at the corner of a grandee square, by
tolerance or connivance of our constabulary,--entering it linked; and
linked they issued, their heads bent; for the operation of the tonsure,
you would say. Two English noblemen! But is there no legislation to
stop the disease? Our female government asks it vixenly of our impotent
male; which pretends, beneath an air of sympathy, that we should abstain
from any compulsory action upon the law to interfere, though the
situation is confessedly grave; and the aspect men assume is
correspondingly, to the last degree provokingly, grave-half alive
that they are, or void of patriotism, or Babylonian at heart!

Lord Fleetwood's yet undocked old associates vowed he 'smelt strong' of
the fumes of the whirled silver censer-balls. His disfavour had caused a
stoppage of supplies, causing vociferous abomination of their successful
rivals, the Romish priests. Captain Abrane sniffed, loud as a horse,
condemnatory as a cat, in speaking of him. He said: 'By George, it comes

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