Part 2 out of 2
Chillon cast hungry eyes on his watch: 'Five minutes, then.' He
addressed Mr. Woodseer, who was reposing, indifferent to time, hard-by:
'Your objection to guides might have taught you a sharp lesson. It 's
like declining to have a master in studying a science--trusting to
instinct for your knowledge of a bargain. One might as well refuse an
oar to row in a boat.'
'I 'd rather risk it,' the young man replied. 'These guides kick the
soul out of scenery. I came for that and not for them.'
'You might easily have been a disagreeable part of the scene.'
'Why not here as well as elsewhere?'
'You don't care for your life?'
'I try not to care for it a fraction more than Destiny does.'
'Fatalism. I suppose you care for something?'
'Besides I've a slack purse, and shun guides and inns when I can. I care
for open air, colour, flowers, weeds, birds, insects, mountains. There's
a world behind the mask. I call this life; and the town's a boiling pot,
intolerably stuffy. My one ambition is to be out of it. I thank heaven
I have not another on earth. Yes, I care for my note-book, because it's
of no use to a human being except me. I slept beside a spring last
night, and I never shall like a bedroom so well. I think I have
discovered the great secret: I may be wrong, of course.' And if so,
he had his philosophy, the admission was meant to say.
Carinthia expected the revelation of a notable secret, but none came;
or if it did it eluded her grasp:--he was praising contemplation, he was
praising tobacco. He talked of the charm of poverty upon a settled
income of a very small sum of money, the fruit of a compact he would
execute with the town to agree to his perpetual exclusion from it,
and to retain his identity, and not be the composite which every townsman
was. He talked of Buddha. He said: 'Here the brook's the brook, the
mountain's the mountain: they are as they always were.'
'You'd have men be the same,' Chillon remarked as to a nursling prattler,
and he rejoined: 'They've lost more than they've gained; though, he
admitted, 'there has been some gain, in a certain way.'
Fortunately for them, young men have not the habit of reflecting upon the
indigestion of ideas they receive from members of their community,
sometimes upon exchange. They compare a view of life with their own
view, to condemn it summarily; and he was a curious object to Chillon as
the perfect opposite of himself.
'I would advise you,' Chillon said, 'to get a pair of Styrian boots, if
you intend to stay in the Alps. Those boots of yours are London make.'
'They 're my father's make,' said Mr. Woodseer.
Chillon drew out his watch. 'Come, Carinthia, we must be off.' He
proposed his guide, and, as Anton was rejected, he pointed the route over
the head of the valley, stated the distance to an inn that way, saluted
Mr. Woodseer, partly rising, presumed, in raising his hat and thanking
Carinthia, to touch her fingers. She smiled on him, frankly extending
her open hand, and pointing the route again, counselling him to rest at
the inn, even saying: 'You have not yet your strength to come on with
He thought he would stay some time longer: he had a disposition to smoke.
She tripped away to her brother and was watched through the whiffs of a
pipe far up the valley, guiltless of any consciousness of producing an
impression. But her mind was with the stranger sufficiently to cause her
to say to Chillon, at the close of a dispute between him and Anton on the
interesting subject of the growth of the horns of chamois: 'Have we been
quite kind to that gentleman?'
Chillon looked over his shoulder. 'He's there still; he's fond of
solitude. And, Carin, my dear, don't give your hand when you are meeting
or parting with people it's not done.'
His uninstructed sister said: 'Did you not like him?'
She was answered with an 'Oh,' the tone of which balanced lightly on the
neutral line. 'Some of the ideas he has are Lord Fleetwood's, I hear,
and one can understand them in a man of enormous wealth, who doesn't know
what to do with himself and is dead-sick of flattery; though it seems odd
for an English nobleman to be raving about Nature. Perhaps it's because
none else of them does.'
'Lord Fleetwood loves our mountains, Chillon?'
'But a fellow who probably has to make his way in the world!--and he
despises ambition!' . . . Chillon dropped him. He was antipathetic to
eccentrics, and his soldierly and social training opposed the profession
of heterodox ideas: to have listened seriously to them coming from the
mouth of an unambitious bootmaker's son involved him in the absurdity.
He considered that there was no harm in the lad, rather a commendable
sort of courage and some notion of manners; allowing for his ignorance of
the convenable in putting out his hand to take a young lady's, with the
plea of thanking her. He hoped she would be more on her guard.
Carinthia was sure she had the name of the nobleman wishing to bestow his
title upon the beautiful Henrietta. Lord Fleetwood! That slender thread
given her of the character of her brother's rival who loved the mountains
was woven in her mind with her passing experience of the youth they had
left behind them, until the two became one, a highly transfigured one,
and the mountain scenery made him very threatening to her brother. A
silky haired youth, brown-eyed, unconquerable in adversity, immensely
rich, fond of solitude, curled, decorated, bejewelled by all the elves
and gnomes of inmost solitude, must have marvellous attractions, she
feared. She thought of him so much, that her humble spirit conceived the
stricken soul of the woman as of necessity the pursuer; as shamelessly,
though timidly, as she herself pursued in imagination the enchanted
secret of the mountain-land. She hoped her brother would not supplicate,
for it struck her that the lover who besieged the lady would forfeit her
roaming and hunting fancy.
'I wonder what that gentleman is doing now,' she said to Chillon.
He grimaced slightly, for her sake; he would have liked to inform her,
for the sake of educating her in the customs of the world she was going
to enter, that the word 'gentleman' conveys in English a special
Her expression of wonder whether they were to meet him again gave Chillon
the opportunity of saying:
'It 's the unlikeliest thing possible--at all events in England.'
'But I think we shall,' said she.
'My dear, you meet people of your own class; you don't meet others.'
'But we may meet anybody, Chillon!'
'In the street. I suppose you would not stop to speak to him in the
'It would be strange to see him in the street!' Carinthia said.
'Strange or not!'
. . Chillon thought he had said sufficient. She was under his
protectorship, otherwise he would not have alluded to the observance of
class distinctions. He felt them personally in this case because of
their seeming to stretch grotesquely by the pretentious heterodoxy of the
young fellow, whom, nevertheless, thinking him over now that he was
mentioned, he approved for his manliness in bluntly telling his origin
A chalet supplied them with fresh milk, and the inn of a village on a
perch with the midday meal. Their appetites were princely and swept over
the little inn like a conflagration. Only after clearing it did they
remember the rearward pedestrian, whose probable wants Chillon was urged
by Carthinia to speak of to their host. They pushed on, clambering up,
scurrying down, tramping gaily, till by degrees the chambers of
Carinthia's imagination closed their doors and would no longer
intercommunicate. Her head refused to interest her, and left all
activity to her legs and her eyes, and the latter became unobservant,
except of foot-tracks, animal-like. She felt that she was a fine
machine, and nothing else: and she was rapidly approaching those ladies!
'You will tell them how I walked with you,' she said.
'Your friends over yonder?' said he.
'So that they may not think me so ignorant, brother.' She stumbled on
the helpless word in a hasty effort to cloak her vanity.
He laughed. Her desire to meet the critical English ladies with a
towering reputation in one department of human enterprise was
comprehensible, considering the natural apprehensiveness of the half-wild
girl before such a meeting. As it often happens with the silly phrases
of simple people, the wrong word, foolish although it was, went to the
heart of the hearer and threw a more charitable light than ridicule on
her. So that they may know I can do something they cannot do, was the
interpretation. It showed her deep knowledge of her poorness in laying
bare the fact.
Anxious to cheer her, he said: 'Come, come, you can dance. You dance
well, mother has told me, and she was a judge. You ride, you swim, you
have a voice for country songs, at all events. And you're a bit of a
botanist too. You're good at English and German; you had a French
governess for a couple of years. By the way, you understand the use of a
walking-stick in self-defence: you could handle a sword on occasion.'
'Father trained me,' said Carthinia. 'I can fire a pistol, aiming.'
'With a good aim, too. Father told me you could. How fond he was of his
girl! Well, bear in mind that father was proud of you, and hold up your
head wherever you are.'
'I will,' she said.
He assured her he had a mind to have a bugle blown at the entrance
of the Baths for a challenge to the bathers to match her in warlike
She bit her lips: she could not bear much rallying on the subject just
'Which is the hard one to please?' she asked.
'The one you will find the kinder of the two.'
'Has she a father?'
'A gallant old admiral: Admiral Baldwin Fakenham.'
'I am glad of that!' Carinthia sighed out heartily. 'And he is with her?
And likes you, Chillon?'
'On the whole, I think he does.'
'A brave officer!' Such a father would be sure to like him.
So the domestic prospect was hopeful.
At sunset they stood on the hills overlooking the basin of the Baths, all
enfolded in swathes of pink and crimson up to the shining grey of a high
heaven that had the fresh brightness of the morning.
'We are not tired in the slightest,' said Carinthia, trifling with the
vision of a cushioned rest below. 'I could go on through the night quite
'Wait till you wake up in your little bed to-morrow,' Chillon replied
stoutly, to drive a chill from his lover's heart, that had seized it at
the bare suggestion of their going on.
THE LADY'S LETTER
Is not the lover a prophet? He that fervently desires may well be one;
his hurried nature is alive with warmth to break the possible blow: and
if his fears were not needed they were shadows; and if fulfilled, was he
not convinced of his misfortune by a dark anticipation that rarely erred?
Descending the hills, he remembered several omens: the sun had sunk when
he looked down on the villas and clustered houses, not an edge of the orb
had been seen; the admiral's quarters in tile broad-faced hotel had worn
an appearance resembling the empty house of yesterday; the encounter with
the fellow on the rocks had a bad whisper of impish tripping. And what
moved Carinthia to speak of going on?
A letter was handed to Chillon in the hall of the admiral's hotel, where
his baggage had already been delivered. The manager was deploring the
circumstance that his rooms were full to the roof, when Chillon said:
'Well, we must wash and eat'; and Carinthia, from watching her brother's
forehead during his perusal of the letter, declared her readiness for
anything. He gave her the letter to read by herself while preparing to
sit at table, unwilling to ask her for a further tax on her energies--but
it was she who had spoken of going on! He thought of it as of a debt she
had contracted and might be supposed to think payable to their
She read off the first two sentences.
'We can have a carriage here, Chillon; order a carriage; I shall get as
much sleep in a carriage as in a bed: I shall enjoy driving at night,'
she said immediately, and strongly urged it and forced him to yield, the
manager observing that a carriage could be had.
In the privacy of her room, admiring the clear flowing hand, she read the
words, delicious in their strangeness to her, notwithstanding the heavy
news, as though they were sung out of a night-sky:
'Most picturesque of Castles!
May none these marks efface,
For they appeal from Tyranny . . .'
'We start at noon to-day. Sailing orders have been issued, and I could
only have resisted them in my own person by casting myself overboard.
I go like the boat behind the vessel. You were expected yesterday, at
latest this morning. I have seen boxes in the hall, with a name on them
not foreign to me. Why does the master tarry? Sir, of your valliance
you should have held to your good vow,--quoth the damozel, for now you
see me sore perplexed and that you did not your devoir is my affliction.
Where lingers chivalry, she should have proceeded, if not with my knight?
I feast on your regrets. I would not have you less than miserable: and I
fear the reason is, that I am not so very, very sure you will be so at
all or very hugely, as I would command it of you for just time enough to
see that change over your eyebrows I know so well.
'If you had seen a certain Henrietta yesterday you would have the picture
of how you ought to look. The admiral was heard welcoming a new arrival
--you can hear him. She ran down the stairs quicker than any cascade of
this district, she would have made a bet with Livia that it could be no
one else--her hand was out, before she was aware of the difference it was
locked in Lord F.'s!
'Let the guilty absent suffer for causing such a betrayal of
disappointment. I must be avenged! But if indeed you are unhappy and
would like to chide the innocent, I am full of compassion for the poor
gentleman inheriting my legitimate feelings of wrath, and beg merely that
he will not pour them out on me with pen and paper, but from his lips and
'Time pressing, I chatter no more. The destination is Livia's beloved
Baden. We rest a night in the city of Mozart, a night at Munich, a night
at Stuttgart. Baden will detain my cousin full a week. She has Captain
Abrane and Sir Meeson Corby in attendance--her long shadow and her short:
both devoted to Lord F., to win her smile, and how he drives them! The
captain has been paraded on the promenade, to the stupefaction of the
foreigner. Princes, counts, generals, diplomats passed under him in awe.
I am told that he is called St. Christopher.
'Why do we go thus hastily?--my friend, this letter has to be concealed.
I know some one who sees in the dark.
'Think no harm of Livia. She is bent upon my worldly advantage, and that
is plain even to the person rejecting it. How much more so must it be to
papa, though he likes you, and when you are near him would perhaps, in a
fit of unworldliness, be almost as reckless as the creature he calls
madcap and would rather call countess. No! sooner with a Will-o'-the-
wisp, my friend. Who could ever know where the man was when he himself
never knows where he is. He is the wind that bloweth as it listeth--
because it is without an aim or always with a new one. And am I the one
to direct him? I need direction. My lord and sovereign must fix my
mind. I am volatile, earthly, not to be trusted if I do not worship. He
himself said to me that--he reads our characters. "Nothing but a proved
hero will satisfy Henrietta," his words! And the hero must be shining
like a beacon-fire kept in a blaze. Quite true; I own it. Is Chillon
Kirby satisfied? He ought to be.
'But oh!--to be yoked is an insufferable thought, unless we name all the
conditions. But to be yoked to a creature of impulses! Really I could
only describe his erratic nature by commending you to the study of a
dragon-fly. It would map you an idea of what he has been in the twenty-
four hours since we had him here. They tell me a vain sort of person is
the cause. Can she be the cause of his resolving to have a residence
here, to buy up half the valley--erecting a royal palace--and marking
out the site--raving about it in the wildest language, poetical if
it had been a little reasonable--and then, after a night, suddenly,
unaccountably, hating the place, and being under the necessity of flying
from it in hot haste, tearing us all away, as if we were attached to a
kite that will neither mount nor fall, but rushes about headlong. Has he
heard, or suspected? or seen certain boxes bearing a name? Livia has no
suspicion, though she thinks me wonderfully contented in so dull a place,
where it has rained nine days in a fortnight. I ask myself whether my
manner of greeting him betrayed my expectation of another. He has
brains. It is the greatest of errors to suppose him at all like the
common run of rich young noblemen. He seems to thirst for brilliant wits
and original sayings. His ambition is to lead all England in everything!
I readily acknowledge that he has generous ideas too; but try to hold
him, deny him his liberty, and it would be seen how desperate and
relentless he would be to get loose. Of this I am convinced: he would be
either the most abject of lovers, or a woman (if it turned out not to be
love) would find him the most unscrupulous of yoke-fellows. Yoke-fellow!
She would not have her reason in consenting. A lamb and a furious bull!
Papa and I have had a serious talk. He shuts his ears to my comparisons,
but admits, that as I am the principal person concerned, etc. Rich and a
nobleman is too tempting for an anxious father; and Livia's influence is
paramount. She has not said a syllable in depreciation of you. That is
to her credit. She also admits that I must yield freely if at all, and
she grants me the use of similes; but her tactics are to contest them one
by one, and the admirable pretender is not as shifty as the mariner's
breeze, he is not like the wandering spark in burnt paper, of which you
cannot say whether it is chasing or chased: it is I who am the shifty
Pole to the steadiest of magnets. She is a princess in other things
besides her superiority to Physics. There will be wild scenes at Baden.
'My Diary of to-day is all bestowed on you. What have I to write in it
except the pair of commas under the last line of yesterday--" He has not
come!" Oh! to be caring for a he.
'O that I were with your sister now, on one side of her idol, to correct
her extravagant idolatry! I long for her. I had a number of nice little
phrases to pet her with.
'You have said (I have it written) that men who are liked by men are the
best friends for women. In which case, the earl should be worthy of our
friendship; he is liked. Captain Abrane and Sir Meeson, in spite of the
hard service he imposes on them with such comical haughtiness, incline to
speak well of him, and Methuen Rivers--here for two days on his way to
his embassy at Vienna--assured us he is the rarest of gentlemen on the
point of honour of his word. They have stories of him, to confirm
Livia's eulogies, showing him punctilious to chivalry: No man alive is
like him in that, they say. He grieves me. All that you have to fear
is my pity for one so sensitive. So speed, sir! It is not good for us
to be much alone, and I am alone when you are absent.
'I hear military music!
'How grand that music makes the dullest world appear in a minute. There
is a magic in it to bring you to me from the most dreadful of distances.
--Chillon! it would kill me!--Writing here and you perhaps behind the
hill, I can hardly bear it;--I am torn away, my hand will not any more.
This music burst out to mock me! Adieu.
'I am yours.
'A kiss to the sister. It is owing to her.'
Carinthia kissed the letter on that last line. It seemed to her to end
in a celestial shower.
She was oppressed by wonder of the writer who could run like the rill of
the mountains in written speech; and her recollection of the contents
perpetually hurried to the close, which was more in her way of writing,
for there the brief sentences had a throb beneath them.
She did not speak of the letter to her brother when she returned it. A
night in the carriage, against his shoulder, was her happy prospect, in
the thought that she would be with her dearest all night, touching him
asleep, and in the sweet sense of being near to the beloved of the
fairest angel of her sex. They pursued their journey soon after Anton
was dismissed with warm shakes of the hand and appointments for a
possible year in the future.
The blast of the postillion's horn on the dark highway moved Chillon to
say: 'This is what they call posting, my dear.'
She replied: 'Tell me, brother: I do not understand, "Let none these
marks efface," at the commencement, after most "picturesque of Castles":
--that is you.'
'They are quoted from the verses of a lord who was a poet, addressed to
the castle on Lake Leman. She will read them to you.'
The mention of the lord set Carinthia thinking of the lord whom that
beautiful SHE pitied because she was forced to wound him and he was very
sensitive. Wrapped in Henrietta, she slept through the joltings of the
carriage, the grinding of the wheels, the blowing of the horn, the
flashes of the late moonlight and the kindling of dawn.
OF THE ENCOUNTER OF TWO STRANGE YOUNG MEN AND THEIR CONSORTING: IN WHICH
THE MALE READER IS REQUESTED TO BEAR IN MIND WHAT WILD CREATURE HE WAS IN
HIS YOUTH, WHILE THE FEMALE SHOULD MARVEL CREDULOUSLY.
The young man who fancied he had robed himself in the plain homespun
of a natural philosopher at the age of twenty-three journeyed limping
leisurely in the mountain maid Carinthia's footsteps, thankful to the
Fates for having seen her; and reproving the remainder of superstition
within him, which would lay him open to smarts of evil fortune if he,
encouraged a senseless gratitude for good; seeing that we are simply to
take what happens to us. The little inn of the village on the perch
furnished him a night's lodging and a laugh of satisfaction to hear of a
young lady and gentleman, and their guide, who had devoured everything
eatable half a day in advance of him, all save the bread and butter, and
a few scraps of meat, apologetically spread for his repast by the maid of
the inn: not enough for, a bantam cock, she said, promising eggs for
breakfast. He vowed with an honest heart, that it was more than enough,
and he was nourished by sympathy with the appetites of his precursors and
the maid's description of their deeds. That name, Carinthia, went a good
way to fill him.
Farther on he had plenty, but less contentment. He was compelled to
acknowledge that he had expected to meet Carinthia again at the Baths.
Her absence dealt a violent shock to the aerial structure he dwelt in;
for though his ardour for the life of the solitudes was unfeigned, as was
his calm overlooking of social distinctions, the self-indulgent dreamer
became troubled with an alarming sentience, that for him to share the
passions of the world of men was to risk the falling lower than most.
Women are a cause of dreams, but they are dreaded enemies of his kind of
dream, deadly enemies of the immaterial dreamers; and should one of them
be taken on board a vessel of the vapourish texture young Woodseer sailed
in above the clouds lightly while he was in it alone, questions of past,
future, and present, the three weights upon humanity, bear it down, and
she must go, or the vessel sinks. And cast out of it, what was he? The
asking exposed him to the steadiest wind the civilized world is known to
blow. From merely thinking upon one of the daughters of earth, he was
made to feel his position in that world, though he refused to understand
it, and assisted by two days of hard walking he reduced Carinthia to an
abstract enthusiasm, no very serious burden. His note-book sustained it
easily. He wrote her name in simple fondness of the name; a verse, and
hints for more, and some sentences, which he thought profound. They were
composed as he sat by the roadway, on the top of hills, and in a boat
crossing a dark green lake deep under wooded mountain walls: things of
It happened, that midway on the lake he perceived his boatman about to
prime a pistol to murder the mild-eyed stillness, and he called to the
man in his best German to desist. During the altercation, there passed a
countryman of his in another of the punts, who said gravely: 'I thank you
for that.' It was early morning, and they had the lake to themselves,
each deeming the other an intruder; for the courtship of solitude wanes
when we are haunted by a second person in pursuit of it; he is
discolouring matter in our pure crystal cup. Such is the worship of the
picturesque; and it would appear to say, that the spirit of man finds
itself yet in the society of barbarians. The case admits of good
pleading either way, even upon the issue whether the exclusive or the
vulgar be the more barbarous. But in those days the solicitation of the
picturesque had been revived by a poet of some impassioned rhetoric, and
two devotees could hardly meet, as the two met here, and not be mutually
They stepped ashore in turn on the same small shoot of land where a farm-
house near a chapel in the shadow of cliffs did occasional service for an
inn. Each had intended to pass a day and a night in this lonely
dwelling-place by the lake, but a rival was less to be tolerated there
than in love, and each awaited the other's departure, with an air that
said: 'You are in my sunlight'; and going deeper, more sternly: 'Sir, you
are an offence to Nature's pudency!'
Woodseer was the more placable of the two; he had taken possession of the
bench outside, and he had his note-book and much profundity to haul up
with it while fish were frying. His countryman had rushed inside to
avoid him, and remained there pacing the chamber like a lion newly caged.
Their boatmen were brotherly in the anticipation of provision and
After eating his fish, Woodseer decided abruptly, that as he could not
have the spot to himself, memorable as it would have been to intermarry
with Nature in so sacred a welldepth of the mountains, he had better be
walking and climbing. Another boat paddling up the lake had been spied:
solitude was not merely shared with a rival, but violated by numbers.
In the first case, we detest the man; in the second, we fly from an
outraged scene. He wrote a line or so in his book, hurriedly paid his
bill, and started, full of the matter he had briefly committed to his
At noon, sitting beside the beck that runs from the lake, he was
overtaken by the gentleman he had left behind, and accosted in the
informal English style, with all the politeness possible to a nervously
blunt manner: 'This book is yours,--I have no doubt it is yours; I am
glad to be able to restore it; I should be glad to be the owner-writer of
the contents, I mean. I have to beg your excuse; I found it lying open;
I looked at the page, I looked through the whole; I am quite at your
Woodseer jumped at the sight of his note-book, felt for the emptiness of
his pocket, and replied: 'Thank you, thank you. It's of use to me,
though to no one else.'
'You pardon me?'
'Certainly. I should have done it myself.'
'I cannot offer you my apologies as a stranger.' Lord Fleetwood was the
Woodseer's plebeian was exchanged for it, and he stood up.
The young lord had fair, straight, thin features, with large restless
eyes that lighted quickly, and a mouth that was winning in his present
'You could have done the same? I should find it hard to forgive the man
who pried into my secret thoughts,' he remarked.
'There they are. If one puts them to paper! . . .' Woodseer shrugged.
'Yes, yes. They never last long enough with me. So far I'm safe. One
page led to another. You can meditate. I noticed some remarks on
Religions. You think deeply.'
Woodseer was of that opinion, but modesty urged him to reply with a small
flourish. 'Just a few heads of ideas. When the wind puffs down a sooty
chimney the air is filled with little blacks that settle pretty much like
the notes in this book of mine. There they wait for another puff, or my
fingers to stamp them.'
'I could tell you were the owner of that book,' said Lord Fleetwood. He
swept his forehead feverishly. 'What a power it is to relieve one's
brain by writing! May I ask you, which one of the Universities . . ?'
The burden of this question had a ring of irony to one whom it taught to
feel rather defiantly, that he carried the blazon of a reeking tramp.
'My University,' Woodseer replied, 'was a merchant's office in Bremen
for some months. I learnt more Greek and Latin in Bremen than business.
I was invalided home, and then tried a merchant's office in London.
I put on my hat one day, and walked into the country. My College fellows
were hawkers, tinkers, tramps and ploughmen, choughs and crows. A volume
of our Poets and a History of Philosophy composed my library. I had
scarce any money, so I learnt how to idle inexpensively--a good first
lesson. We're at the bottom of the world when we take to the road; we
see men as they were in the beginning--not so eager for harness till they
get acquainted with hunger, as I did, and studied in myself the old
animal having his head pushed into the collar to earn a feed of corn.'
Woodseer laughed, adding, that he had been of a serious mind in those
days of the alternation of smooth indifference and sharp necessity, and
he had plucked a flower from them.
His nature prompted him to speak of himself with simple candour, as he
had done spontaneously to Chillon Kirby, yet he was now anxious to let
his companion know at once the common stuff he was made of, together with
the great stuff he contained. He grew conscious of an over-anxiety, and
was uneasy, recollecting how he had just spoken about his naturalness,
dimly if at all apprehending the cause of this disturbance within. What
is a lord to a philosopher! But the world is around us as a cloak, if
not a coat; in his ignorance he supposed it specially due to a lord
seeking acquaintance with him, that he should expose his condition: doing
the which appeared to subject him to parade his intellectual treasures
and capacity for shaping sentences; and the effect upon Lord Fleetwood
was an incentive to the display. Nevertheless he had a fretful desire to
escape from the discomposing society of a lord; he fixed his knapsack and
began to saunter.
The young lord was at his elbow. 'I can't part with you. Will you allow
Woodseer was puzzled and had to say: 'If you wish it.'
'I do wish it: an hour's walk with you. One does not meet a man like you
every day. I have to join a circle of mine in Baden, but there's no
hurry; I could be disengaged for a week. And I have things to ask you,
owing to my indiscretion--but you have excused it.'
Woodseer turned for a farewell gaze at the great Watzmann, and saluted
'Splendid,' said Lord Fleetwood; 'but don't clap names on the mountains.
--I saw written in your book: "A text for Dada." You write: "A despotism
would procure a perfect solitude, but kill the ghost." That was my
thought at the place where we were at the lake. I had it. Tell me--
though I could not have written it, and "ghost" is just the word, the
exact word--tell me, are you of Welsh blood? "Dad" is good Welsh--
pronounce it hard.'
Woodseer answered: 'My mother was a Glamorganshire woman. My father,
I know, walked up from Wales, mending boots on his road for a livelihood.
He is not a bad scholar, he knows Greek enough to like it. He is a
Dissenting preacher. When I strike a truism, I 've a habit of scoring it
to give him a peg or tuning-fork for one of his discourses. He's a man
of talent; he taught himself, and he taught me more than I learnt at
school. He is a thinker in his way. He loves Nature too. I rather envy
him in some respects. He and I are hunters of Wisdom on different
tracks; and he, as he says, "waits for me." He's patient!'
Ah, and I wanted to ask you,' Lord Fleetwood observed, bursting with it,
'I was puzzled by a name you write here and there near the end, and
permit me to ask, it: Carinthia! It cannot be the country? You write
after, the name: "A beautiful Gorgon--a haggard Venus." It seized me.
I have had the face before my eyes ever since. You must mean a woman.
I can't be deceived in allusions to a woman: they have heart in them.
You met her somewhere about Carinthia, and gave her the name? You write
--may I refer to the book?'
He received the book and flew through the leaves:
'Here--"A panting look": you write again: "A look of beaten flame: a look
of one who has run and at last beholds!" But that is a living face: I
see her! Here again: "From minute to minute she is the rock that loses
the sun at night and reddens in the morning." You could not create an
idea of a woman to move you like that. No one could, I am certain of it,
certain; if so, you 're a wizard--I swear you are. But that's a face
high over beauty. Just to know there is a woman like her, is an
antidote. You compare her to a rock. Who would imagine a comparison of
a woman to a rock! But rock is the very picture of beautiful Gorgon,
haggard Venus. Tell me you met her, you saw her. I want only to hear
she lives, she is in the world. Beautiful women compared to roses may
whirl away with their handsome dragoons! A pang from them is a thing
to be ashamed of. And there are men who trot about whining with it!
But a Carinthia makes pain honourable. You have done what I thought
impossible--fused a woman's face and grand scenery, to make them
inseparable. She might be wicked for me. I should see a bright rim
round hatred of her!--the rock you describe. I could endure horrors
and not annihilate her! I should think her sacred.'
Woodseer turned about to have a look at the man who was even quicker than
he at realizing a person from a hint of description, and almost insanely
extravagant in the pitch of the things he uttered to a stranger. For
himself, he was open with everybody, his philosophy not allowing that
strangers existed on earth. But the presence of a lord brought the
conventional world to his feelings, though at the same time the title
seemed to sanction the exceptional abruptness and wildness of this lord.
As for suspecting him to be mad, it would have been a common idea: no
stretching of speech or overstepping of social rules could waken a
suspicion so spiritless in Woodseer.
He said: 'I can tell you I met her and she lives. I could as soon swim
in that torrent or leap the mountain as repeat what she spoke, or sketch
a feature of her. She goes into the blood, she is a new idea of women.
She has the face that would tempt a gypsy to evil tellings. I could
think of it as a history written in a line: Carinthia, Saint and Martyr!
As for comparisons, they are flowers thrown into the fire.'
'I have had that--I have thought that,' said Lord Fleetwood. 'Go on;
talk of her, pray; without comparisons. I detest them. How did you meet
her? What made you part? Where is she now? I have no wish to find her,
but I want thoroughly to believe in her.'
Another than Woodseer would have perceived the young lord's malady. Here
was one bitten by the serpent of love, and athirst for an image of the
sex to serve for the cooling herb, as youth will be. Woodseer put it
down to a curious imaginative fellowship with himself. He forgot the
lord, and supposed he had found his own likeness, less gifted in speech.
After talking of Carinthia more and more in the abstract, he fell upon
his discovery of the Great Secret of life, against which his hearer
struggled for a time, though that was cooling to him too; but ultimately
there was no resistance, and so deep did they sink into the idea of pure
contemplation, that the idea of woman seemed to have become a part of it.
No stronger proof of their aethereal conversational earnestness could be
offered. A locality was given to the Great Secret, and of course it was
the place where the most powerful recent impression had been stamped on
the mind of the discoverer: the shadowy valley rolling from the slate-
rock. Woodseer was too artistic a dreamer to present the passing vision
of Carinthia with any associates there. She passed: the solitude
accepted her and lost her; and it was the richer for the one swift gleam:
she brought no trouble, she left no regrets; she was the ghost of the
rocky obscurity. But now remembering her mountain carol, he chanced to
speak of her as a girl.
'She is a girl?' cried Lord Fleetwood, frowning over an utter revolution
of sentiment at the thought of the beautiful Gorgon being a girl; for,
rapid as he was to imagine, he had raised a solid fabric upon his
conception of Carinthia the woman, necessarily the woman--logically.
Who but the woman could look the Gorgon! He tried to explain it to be
impossible for a girl to wear the look: and his notion evidently was,
that it had come upon a beautiful face in some staring horror of a world
that had bitten the tender woman. She touched him sympathetically
through the pathos.
Woodseer flung out vociferously for the contrary. Who but a girl could
look the beautiful Gorgon! What other could seem an emanation of the
mountain solitude? A woman would instantly breathe the world on it to
destroy it. Hers would be the dramatic and not the poetic face. It
would shriek of man, wake the echoes with the tale of man, slaughter all.
quietude. But a girl's face has no story of poisonous intrusion. She
indeed may be cast in the terrors of Nature, and yet be sweet with
Nature, beautiful because she is purely of Nature. Woodseer did his best
to present his view irresistibly. Perhaps he was not clear; it was a
piece of skiamachy, difficult to render clear to the defeated.
Lord Fleetwood had nothing to say but 'Gorgon! a girl a Gorgon!' and it
struck Woodseer as intensely unreasonable, considering that he had seen
the girl whom, in his effort to portray her, he had likened to a
beautiful Gorgon. He recounted the scene of the meeting with her,
pictured it in effective colours, but his companion gave no response, nor
a nod. They ceased to converse, and when the young lord's hired carriage
drew up on the road, Woodseer required persuasion to accompany him. They
were both in their different stations young tyrants of the world, ready
to fight the world and one another for not having their immediate view of
it such as they wanted it. They agreed, however, not to sleep in the
city. Beds were to be had near the top of a mountain on the other side
of the Salza, their driver informed them, and vowing themselves to that
particular height, in a mutual disgust of the city, they waxed
friendlier, with a reserve.
Woodseer soon had experience that he was receiving exceptional treatment
from Lord Fleetwood, whose manservant was on the steps of the hotel in
Salzburg on the lookout for his master.
'Sir Meeson has been getting impatient, my lord,' said the man.
Sir Meeson Corby appeared; Lord Fleetwood cut him short: 'You 're in a
hurry; go at once, don't wait for me; I join you in Baden.--Do me the
favour to eat with me,' he turned to Woodseer. 'And here, Corby! tell
the countess I have a friend to bear me company, and there is to be an
extra bedroom secured at her hotel. That swinery of a place she insists
on visiting is usually crammed. With you there,' he turned to Woodseer,
'I might find it agreeable.--You can take my man, Corby; I shall not want
'Positively, my dear Fleetwood, you know,' Sir Meeson expostulated, 'I am
under orders; I don't see how--I really can't go on without you.'
'Please yourself. This gentleman is my friend, Mr. Woodseer.'
Sir Meeson Corby was a plump little beau of forty, at war with his fat
and accounting his tight blue tail coat and brass buttons a victory. His
tightness made his fatness elastic; he looked wound up for a dance, and
could hardly hold on a leg; but the presentation of a creature in a
battered hat and soiled garments, carrying a tattered knapsack half
slung, lank and with disorderly locks, as the Earl of Fleetwood's friend
--the friend of the wealthiest nobleman of Great Britain!--fixed him in a
perked attitude of inquiry that exhausted interrogatives. Woodseer
passed him, slouching a bow. The circular stare of Sir Meeson seemed
unable to contract. He directed it on Lord Fleetwood, and was then
reminded that he dealt with prickles.
'Where have you been?' he said, blinking to refresh his eyeballs. 'I
missed you, I ran round and round the town after you.'
'I have been to the lake.'
'Queer fish there!' Sir Meeson dropped a glance on the capture.
Lord Fleetwood took Woodseer's arm. 'Do you eat with us?' he asked the
baronet, who had stayed his eating for an hour and was famished; so they
strode to the dining-room.
'Do you wash, sir, before eating?' Sir Meeson said to Woodseer, caressing
his hands when they had seated themselves at table. 'Appliances are to
be found in this hotel.'
'Soap?' said Lord Fleetwood.
'Soap--at least, in my chamber.'
'Fetch it, please.'
Sir Meeson, of course, could not hear that. He requested the waiter to
show the gentleman to a room.
Lord Fleetwood ordered the waiter to bring a handbasin and towel. 'We're
off directly and must eat at once,' he said.
'Soap--soap! my dear Fleetwood,' Sir Meeson knuckled on the table, to
impress it that his appetite and his gorge demanded a thorough cleansing
of those fingers, if they were to sit at one board.
'Let the waiter fetch it.'
'The soap is in my portmanteau.'
'You spoke of it as a necessity for this gentleman and me. Bring it.'
Woodseer had risen. Lord Fleetwood motioned him down. He kept an eye
dead--as marble on Corby, who muttered: 'You can't mean that you ask me
. . .?' But the alternative was forced on Sir Meeson by too strong a
power of the implacable eye; there was thunder in it, a continuity of
gaze forcefuller than repetitions of the word. He knew Lord Fleetwood.
Men privileged to attend on him were dogs to the flinty young despot:
they were sure to be called upon to expiate the faintest offence to him.
He had hastily to consider, that he was banished beyond appeal, with the
whole torture of banishment to an adorer of the Countess Livia, or else
the mad behest must be obeyed. He protested, shrugged, sat fast, and
sprang up, remarking, that he went with all the willingness imaginable.
It could not have been the first occasion.
He was affecting the excessively obsequious when he came back bearing his
metal soap-case. The performance was checked by another look solid as
shot, and as quick. Woodseer, who would have done for Sir Meeson Corby
or Lazarus what had been done for him, thought little of the service, but
so intense a peremptoriness in the look of an eye made him uncomfortable
in his own sense of independence. The humblest citizen of a free nation
has that warning at some notable exhibition of tyranny in a neighbouring
State: it acts like a concussion of the air.
Lord Fleetwood led an easy dialogue with him and Sir Meeson, on their
different themes immediately, which was not less impressive to an
observer. He listened to Sir Meeson's entreaties that he should start
at once for Baden, and appeared to pity the poor gentleman, condemned by
his office to hang about him in terror of his liege lady's displeasure.
Presently, near the close of the meal, drawing a ring from his finger,
he handed it to the baronet, and said, 'Give her that. She knows I shall
follow that.' He added to himself:--I shall have ill-luck till I have it
back! and he asked Woodseer whether he put faith in the virtue of
'I have never possessed one,' said Woodseer, with his natural frankness.
'It would have gone long before this for a night's lodging.'
Sir Meeson heard him, and instantly urged Lord Fleetwood not to think of
dismissing his man Francis. 'I beg it, Fleetwood! I beg you to take the
man. Her ladyship will receive me badly, ring or no ring, if she hears
of your being left alone. I really can't present myself. I shall not
go, not go. I say no.'
'Stay, then,' said Fleetwood.
He turned to Woodseer with an air of deference, and requested the
privilege of glancing at his notebook again, and scanned it closely
at one of the pages. 'I believe it true,' he cried; 'I had a half
recollection of it--I have had some such thought, but never could
put it in words. You have thought deeply.'
'That is only a surface thought, or common reflection,' said Woodseer.
Sir Meeson stared at them in turn. Judging by their talk and the effect
produced on the earl, he took Woodseer for a sort of conjuror.
It was his duty to utter a warning.
He drew Fleetwood aside. A word was whispered, and they broke asunder
with a snap. Francis was called. His master gave him his keys, and
despatched him into the town to purchase a knapsack or bag for the outfit
of a jolly beggar. The prospect delighted Lord Fleetwood. He sang notes
from the deep chest, flaunting like an opera brigand, and contemplating
his wretched satellite's indecision with brimming amusement.
'Remember, we fight for our money. I carry mine,' he said to Woodseer.
'Wouldn't it be expedient, Fleetwood . . .' Sir Meeson suggested a
treasurer in the person of himself.
'Not a florin, Corby! I should find it all gambled away at Baden.'
'But I am not Abrane, I'm not Abrane! I never play, I have no mania,
none. It would be prudent, Fleetwood.'
'The slightest bulging of a pocket would show on you, Corby; and they
would be at you, they would fall on you and pluck you to have another
fling. I 'd rather my money should go to a knight of the road than feed
that dragon's jaw. A highwayman seems an honest fellow compared with
your honourable corporation of fly-catchers. I could surrender to him
with some satisfaction after a trial of the better man. I 've tried
these tables, and couldn't stir a pulse. Have you?'
It had to be explained to Woodseer what was meant by trying the tables.
'Not I,' said he, in strong contempt of the queer allurement.
Lord Fleetwood studied him half a minute, as if measuring and discarding
a suspicion of the young philosopher's possible weakness under
Sir Meeson Corby accompanied the oddly assorted couple through the town
and a short way along the road to the mountain, for the sake of quieting
his conscience upon the subject of his leaving them together. He could
not have sat down a second time at a table with those hands. He said
it:--he could not have done the thing. So the best he could do was to
let them go. Like many of his class, he had a mind open to the effect of
striking contrasts, and the spectacle of the wealthiest nobleman in Great
Britain tramping the road, pack on back, with a young nobody for his
comrade, a total stranger, who might be a cut-throat, and was avowedly
next to a mendicant, charged him with quantities of interjectory matter,
that he caught himself firing to the foreign people on the highway.
Hundreds of thousands a year, and tramping it like a pedlar, with a
beggar for his friend! He would have given something to have an English
ear near him as he watched them rounding under the mountain they were
about to climb.
CONCERNING THE BLACK GODDESS FORTUNE AND THE WORSHIP OF HER, TOGETHER
WITH AN INTRODUCTION OF SOME OF HER VOTARIES
In those early days of Fortune's pregnant alternations of colour between
the Red and the Black, exhibited publicly, as it were a petroleum spring
of the ebony-fiery lake below, Black-Forest Baden was the sprightliest'
of the ante-chambers of Hades. Thither in the ripeness of the year
trooped the devotees of the sable goddess to perform sacrifice; and
annually among them the beautiful Livia, the Countess of Fleetwood; for
nowhere else had she sensation of the perfect repose which is rocked to a
slumber by gales.
She was not of the creatures who are excited by an atmosphere of
excitement; she took it as the nymph of the stream her native wave, and
swam on the flood with expansive languor, happy to have the master
passions about her; one or two of which her dainty hand caressed,
fearless of a sting; the lady petted them as her swans. It surprised
her to a gentle contempt of men and women, that they should be ruffled
either by love or play. A withholding from the scene will naturally
arouse disturbing wishes; but to be present lulls; for then we live, we
are in our element. And who could expect, what sane person can desire,
perpetual good luck? Fortune, the goddess, and young Love, too, are
divine in their mutability: and Fortune would resemble a humdrum
housewife, Love a droning husband, if constancy were practised by them.
Observe the staggering and plunging of the blindfold wretch seeking to be
persuaded of their faithfulness.
She could make for herself a quiet centre in the heart of the whirlwind,
but the whirlwind was required. The clustered lights at the corner of
the vale under forest hills, the burst of music, the blazing windows of
the saloons of the Furies, and the gamblers advancing and retreating,
with their totally opposite views of consequences, and fashions of
wearing or tearing the mask; and closer, the figures shifting up and down
the promenade, known and unknown faces, and the histories half known,
half woven, weaving fast, which flew their, threads to provoke
speculation; pleasantly embraced and diverted the cool-blooded lady
surrounded by her courtiers, who could upon occasion supply the luminous
clue or anecdote. She had an intuitive liveliness to detect interchanges
of eyes, the shuttle of intrigue; the mild hypocrisy, the clever
audacity, the suspicion confirmed, the complication threatening to become
resonant and terrible; and the old crossing the young and the young
outwitting the old, wiles of fair traitors and dark, knaves of all suits
of the pack. A more intimate acquaintance with their lineaments inspired
a regard for them, such as poets may feign the throned high moon to
entertain for objects causing her rays to flash.
The simple fools, performing in character, were a neutral people,
grotesques and arabesques wreathed about the margins of the scene.
Venus or Fortune smote them to a relievo distinguishing one from another.
Here, however, as elsewhere, the core of interest was with the serious
population, the lovers and the players in earnest, who stood round the
furnace and pitched themselves into it, not always under a miscalculation
of their chances of emerging transfigured instead of serving for fuel.
These, the tragical children of folly, were astute: they played with
lightning, and they knew the conditions of the game; victories were to be
The ulterior conditions of the game, the price paid for a victory, they
thought little of: for they were feverish worshippers of the phantasmal
deity called the Present; a god reigning over the Past, appreciable only
in the Future; whose whiff of actual being is composed of the embryo idea
of the union of these two periods. Still he is occasionally a benevolent
god to the appetites; which have but to be continuous to establish him in
permanence; and as nothing in us more readily supposes perpetuity than
the appetite rushing to destroy itself, the rational nature of the most
universal worship on earth is perceived at once.
Now, the price paid for a victory is this: that having been favoured in a
single instance by the spouse of the aforesaid eminent divinity--the
Black Goddess of the golden fringes--men believe in her for ever after,
behold her everywhere, they belong to her. Their faith as to sowing and
reaping has gone; and so has their capacity to see the actual as it is:
she has the power to attach them to her skirts the more by rewarding
their impassioned devotion with cuffs and scorns. They have ceased to
have a first notion upon anything without a second haunting it, which
directs them to propitiate Fortune.
But I am reminded by the convulsions of Dame Gossip, that the wisdom of
our ancestors makes it a mere hammering of commonplace to insist on such
reflections. Many of them, indeed, took the union of the Black Goddess
and the Rosy Present for the composition of the very Arch-Fiend. Some
had a shot at the strange conjecture, figuring her as tired of men in the
end and challengeing him below--equally tired of his easy conquests of
men since the glorious old times of the duelling saints. By virtue of
his one incorrigible weakness, which we know him to have as long as we
have it ourselves: viz., the belief in her existence, she is to get the
better of him.
Upon this point the experience of Captain Abrane has a value. Livia was
a follower of the Red and Black and the rounding ball in the person of
the giant captain, through whom she received her succession of sweetly
teasing thrills and shocks, as one of the adventurous company they formed
together. The place was known to him as the fair Philistine to another
muscular hero; he had been shorn there before, and sent forth tottering,
treating the friends he met as pillars to fall with him; and when the
operation was done thoroughly, he pronounced himself refreshed by it,
like a more sensible Samson, the cooler for his clipping. Then it was
that he relapsed undistractedly upon processes of his mind and he often
said he thought Fortune would beat the devil.
Her power is shown in the moving of her solicitors to think, instantly
after they have made their cast, that the reverse of it was what they
intended. It comes as though she had withdrawn the bandage from her
forehead and dropped a leaden glance on them, like a great dame angry to
have her signal misinterpreted. Well, then, distinguished by the goddess
in such a manner, we have it proved to us how she wished to favour: for
the reverse wins, and we who are pinched blame not her cruelty but our
blind folly. This is true worship. Henceforth the pain of her nip is
mingled with the dream of her kiss; between the positive and the imagined
of her we remain confused until the purse is an empty body on a gallows,
honour too, perhaps.
Captain Abrane was one of the Countess Livia's numerous courtiers on the
border of the promenade under the lighted saloons. A colossus inactive,
he had little to say among the chattering circle; for when seated, cards
were wanted to animate him: and he looked entirely out of place and
unfitted, like a great vessel's figure-head in a shipwright's yard.
She murmured: 'Not this evening?'
Abrane quoted promptly a line of nursery song 'How shall he cut it
without e'er a knife?'
'Have we run it down so low?' said she, with no reproach in her tone.
The captain shrugged over his clean abyss, where nothing was.
Yesterday their bank presented matronly proportions. But an importuned
goddess reduces the most voluminous to bare stitches within a few winks
of an eye.
Livia turned to a French gentleman of her court, M. de St. Ombre, and
pursued a conversation. He was a stately cavalier of the Gallicized
Frankish outlines, ready, but grave in his bearing, grave in his
delivery, trimly moustached, with a Guise beard.
His profound internal question relating to this un-English beauty of the
British Isles:--had she no passion in her nature? was not convinced by
her apparent insensibility to Fortune's whips.
Sir Meeson Corby inserted a word of Bull French out of place from time to
As it might be necessary to lean on the little man for weapons of war,
supposing Lord Fleetwood delayed his arrival yet another day, Livia was
indulgent. She assisted him to think that he spoke the foreign tongue.
Mention of Lord Fleetwood set Sir Meeson harping again on his alarms, in
consideration of the vagabond object of the young lord had roamed away
'You forget that Russett has gypsy in him: Welsh! it's about the same,'
said Livia. 'He can take excellent care of himself and his purse.'
'Countess, he is a good six days overdue.'
'He will be in time for the ball at the Schloss.'
Sir Meeson Corby produced an aspect of the word 'if,' so perkily, that
the dejected Captain Abrane laughed outright and gave him double reason
to fret for Lord Fleetwood's arrival, by saying: 'If he hangs off much
longer, I shall have to come on you for another fifty.'
Our two pedestrians out of Salzburg were standing up in the night of
cloud and pines above the glittering pool, having made their way along
the path from the hill anciently dedicated to the god Mercury; and at the
moment when Sir Meeson put forth his frilled wrists to say: 'If you had
seen his hands--the creature Fleetwood trotted off alone with!--you'd be
a bit anxious too'; the young lord called his comrade to gaze underneath
them: 'There they are, hard at it, at their play!--it's the word used for
the filthiest gutter scramble.'
They had come to know something of one another's humours; which are
taken by young men for their characters; and should the humours please,
they are friends, until further humours develop, trying these nascent
conservatives hard to suit them to their moods as well as the accustomed.
Lord Fleetwood had discovered in his companion, besides the spirit of
independence and the powers of thought impressed on him by Woodseer's
precocious flashes, a broad playfulness, that trenched on buffoonery; it
astonished, amused, and relieved him, loosening the spell of reverence
cast over him by one who could so wonderfully illumine his brain. Prone
to admire and bend the knee where he admired, he chafed at subjection,
unless he had the particular spell constantly renewed. A tone in him
once or twice of late, different from the comrade's, had warned Woodseer
to be guarded.
Susceptible, however, of the extreme contrast between the gamblers below
and Nature's lover beside him, Fleetwood returned to his enthusiasm
without thinking it a bondage.
'I shall never forget the walk we 've had. I have to thank you for the
noblest of pleasures. You 've taught me--well, a thousand things; the
things money can't buy. What mornings they were! And the dead-tired
nights! Under the rock and up to see the snowy peak pink in a gap of
thick mist. You were right: it made a crimsoning colour shine like a new
idea. Up in those mountains one walks with the divinities, you said.
It's perfectly true. I shall remember I did. I have a treasure for
life! Now I understand where you get your ideas. The life we lead down
there is hoggish. You have chosen the right. You're right, over and
over again, when you say, the dirty sweaters are nearer the angels for
cleanliness than my Lord and Lady Sybarite out of a bath, in chemical
scents. A man who thinks, loathes their High Society. I went through
Juvenal at college. But you--to be sure, you add example--make me feel
the contempt of it more. I am everlastingly indebted to you. Yes, I
won't forget: you preach against the despising of anything.
This was pleasant in Woodseer's ears, inasmuch as it established the
young nobleman as the pupil of his philosophy for the conduct of life;
and to fortify him, he replied:
'Set your mind on the beauty, and there'll be no room for comparisons.
Most of them are unjust, precious few instructive. In this case, they
spoil both pictures: and that scene down there rather hooks me; though I
prefer the Dachstein in the wane of the afterglow. You called it
'I did: the beautiful Gorgon, haggard Venus--if she is to be a girl!'
Fleetwood rejoined. 'She looked burnt out--a spectre.'
'One of the admirably damned,' said Woodseer, and he murmured with
enjoyment: 'Between the lights--that 's the beauty and the tragedy of
His comrade fell in with the pictured idea: 'You hit it:--not what you
called the "sublimely milky," and not squalid as you'll see the faces of
the gambling women at the tables below. Oblige me--may I beg?--don't
clap names on the mountains we've seen. It stamps guide-book on them,
English tourist, horrors. We'll moralize over the crowds at the tables
down there. On the whole, it's a fairish game: you know the odds against
you, as you don't on the Turf or the Bourse. Have your fling; but don't
get bitten. There's a virus. I'm not open to it. Others are.'
Hereupon Woodseer, wishing to have his individuality recognised in the
universality it consented to, remarked on an exchequer that could not
afford to lose, and a disposition free of the craving to win.
These were, no doubt, good reasons for abstaining, and they were grand
morality. They were, at the same time, customary phrases of the
unfleshed in folly. They struck Fleetwood with a curious reminder
of the puking inexperienced, whom he had seen subsequently plunge
suicidally. He had a sharp vision of the attractive forces of the game;
and his elemental nature exulted in siding with the stronger against a
pretender to the superhuman. For Woodseer had spoken a trifle loftily,
as quite above temptation. To see a forewarned philosopher lured to try
the swim on those tides, pulled along the current, and caught by the
undertug of the lasher, would be fun.
'We'll drop down on them, find our hotel, and have a look at what they're
doing,' he said, and stepped.
Woodseer would gladly have remained. The starlit black ridges about him
and the dragon's mouth yawing underneath were an opposition of spiritual
and mundane; innocent, noxious; exciting to the youthful philosopher.
He had to follow, and so rapidly in the darkness that he stumbled and
fell on an arm; a small matter.
Bed-chambers awaited them at the hotel, none of the party: and
Fleetwood's man-servant was absent.
'Gambling, the rascal!' he said. Woodseer heard the first note of the
place in that.
His leader was washed, neatly dressed, and knocking at his door very
soon, impatient to be off, and he flung a promise of 'supper presently'
to one whose modest purse had fallen into a debate with this lordly
hostelry, counting that a supper and a night there would do for it.
They hurried on to the line of promenaders, a river of cross-currents
by the side of seated groups; and the willowy swish of silken dresses,
feminine perfumery, cigar-smoke, chatter, laughter, told of pleasure
Fleetwood scanned the groups. He had seen enough in a moment and his
face blackened. A darting waiter was called to him.
He said to Woodseer, savagely, as it sounded: 'You shall have something
to joint your bones!' What cause of wrath he had was past a guess: a wolf
at his vitals bit him, hardening his handsome features.
The waiter darted back, bearing a tray and tall glasses filled each with
piled parti-coloured liqueurs, on the top of which an egg-yolk swam.
Fleetwood gave example. Swallowing your egg, the fiery-velvet triune
behind slips after it, in an easy milky way, like a princess's train on a
state-march, and you are completely, transformed, very agreeably; you
have become a merry demon. 'Well, yes, it's next to magic,' he replied
to Woodseer's astonished snigger after the draught, and explained, that
it was a famous Viennese four-of-the-morning panacea, the revellers'
electrical restorer. 'Now you can hold on for an hour or two, and then
we'll sup. At Rome?'
'Ay! Druids to-morrow!' cried the philosopher bewitched.
He found himself bowing to a most heavenly lady, composed of day and
night in her colouring, but more of night, where the western edge has
become a pale steel blade. Men were around her, forming a semi-circle.
The world of men and women was mere timber and leafage to this flower of
her sex, glory of her kind. How he behaved in her presence, he knew not;
he was beyond self-criticism or conscious reflection; simply the engine
of the commixed three liqueurs, with parlous fine thoughts, and a sense
of steaming into the infinite.
To leave her was to have her as a moon in the heavens and to think of her
creatively. A swarm of images rushed about her and away, took lustre and
shade. She was a miracle of greyness, her eyes translucently grey, a
dark-haired queen of the twilights; and his heart sprang into his brain
to picture the novel beauty; language became a flushed Bacchanal in a
ring of dancing similes. Lying beside a bank of silvery cinquefoil
against a clear evening sky, where the planet Venus is a point of new and
warmer light, one has the vision of her. Or something of Persephone
rising to greet her mother, when our beam of day first melts through her
as she kneels to gather an early bud of the year, would be near it. Or
there is a lake in mid-forest, that curls part in shadow under the foot
of morning: there we have her.
He strained to the earthly and the skyey likenesses of his marvel of
human beauty because they bestowed her on him in passing. All the while,
he was gazing on a green gaming-table.
The gold glittered, and it heaped or it vanished. Contemptuous of money,
beyond the limited sum for his needs, he gazed; imagination was blunted
in him to the hot drama of the business. Moreover his mind was engaged
in insisting that the Evening Star is not to be called Venus, because of
certain stories; and he was vowed to defend his lady from any allusion
to them. This occupied him. By degrees, the visible asserted its
authority; his look on the coin fell to speculating. Oddly, too, he was
often right;--the money, staked on the other side, would have won. He
considered it rather a plain calculation than a guess.
Philosophy withdrew him from his temporary interest in the tricks of a
circling white marble ball. The chuck farthing of street urchins has
quite as much dignity. He compared the creatures dabbling, over the
board to summer flies on butcher's meat, periodically scared by a cloth.
More in the abstract, they were snatching at a snapdragon bowl. It
struck him, that the gamblers had thronged on an invitation to drink the
round of seed-time and harvest in a gulp. Again they were desperate
gleaners, hopping, skipping, bleeding, amid a whizz of scythe-blades,
for small wisps of booty. Nor was it long before the presidency of an
ancient hoary Goat-Satan might be perceived, with skew-eyes and pucker-
mouth, nursing a hoof on a knee.
Our mediaeval Enemy sat symbolical in his deformities, as in old Italian
and Dutch thick-line engravings of him. He rolled a ball for souls,
excited like kittens, to catch it, and tumbling into the dozens of vacant
pits. So it seemed to Woodseer, whose perceptions were discoloured by
hereditary antagonism. Had he preserved his philosopher's eye, he would
have known that the Hoofed One is too wily to show himself, owing to his
ugliness. The Black Goddess and no other presides at her own game.
She (it is good for us to know it) is the Power who challenges the
individual, it is he who spreads the net for the mass. She liquefies
the brain of man; he petrifies or ossifies the heart. From her comes
craziness, from him perversity: a more provocative and, on the whole,
more contagious disease. The gambler does not seek to lead his fellows
into perdition; the snared of the Demon have pleasure in the act. Hence
our naturally interested forecasts of the contests between them: for if
he is beaten, as all must be at the close of an extended game with her,
we have only to harden the brain against her allurements and we enter a
Woodseer said to Fleetwood: 'That ball has a look of a nymph running
round and round till she changes to one of the Fates.'
'We'll have a run with her,' said Fleetwood, keener for business than for
metaphors--at the moment.
He received gold for a bank-note. Captain Abrane hurriedly begged a
loan. Both of them threw. Neither of them threw on the six numbers
Woodseer would have selected, and they lost. He stated that the number
of 17 had won before. Abrane tried the transversal enclosing this
favoured number. 'Of course!' he cried, with foul resignation and a
hostile glare: the ball had seated itself and was grinning at him from
the lowest of the stalls.
Fleetwood quitted the table-numbers to throw on Pair; he won, won again,
pushed his luck and lost, dragging Abrane with him. The giant varied his
tone of acquiescence in Fortune's whims: 'Of course! I 've only to
fling! Luck hangs right enough till I put down my stake.'
'If the luck has gone three times, the chances . . . .' Woodseer was
rather inquiring than pronouncing. . . . Lord Fleetwood cut him short.
'The chances are equally the contrary!' and discomposed his argumentative
As argument in such a place was impossible, he had a wild idea of
example--'just to see'--; and though he smiled, his brain was liquefying.
Upon a calculation of the chances, merely for the humour of it, he laid a
silver piece on the first six, which had been neglected. They were now
blest. He laid his winnings on the numbed 17. Who would have expected
it? why, the player, surely! Woodseer comported himself like a veteran:
he had proved that you can calculate the chances. Instead of turning in
triumph to Lord Fleetwood, he laid gold pieces to hug the number 17, and
ten in the centre. And it is the truth, he hoped then to lose and have
done with it--after proving his case. The ball whirled, kicked, tried
for seat in two, in three points, and entered 17. The usual temporary
wonderment flew round the table; and this number was courted in dread,
avoided with apprehension.
Abrane let fly a mighty breath: 'Virgin, by Jove!'
Success was a small matter to Gower Woodseer. He displayed his contempt
of fortune by letting his heap of bank-notes lie on Impair, and he won.
Abrane bade him say 'Maximum' in a furious whisper. He did so, as one at
home with the word; and winning repeatedly, observed to Fleetwood: 'Now I
can understand what historians mean, in telling us of heroes rushing into
the fray and vainly seeking death. I always thought death was to be had,
if you were in earnest.'
Fleetwood scrutinized the cast of his features and the touch of his
fingers on the crispy paper.
'Come to another of these "green fields,"' he returned briefly. 'The
game here is child's play.'
Urging Virgin Luck not to quit his initiatory table, the captain
reluctantly went at their heels. Shortly before the tables were clad in
mantles for the night, he reported to Livia one of the great cases of
Virgin Luck; described it, from the silver piece to the big heap of
notes, and drew on his envy of the fellow to sketch the indomitable
coolness shown in following or in quitting a run. 'That fellow it is,
Fleetwood's tag-rag; holds his head like a street-fiddler; Woodler or
some name. But there's nothing to be done if we don't cultivate him.
He must have pocketed a good three thousand and more. They had a quarrel
about calculations of chances, and Fleet ran the V up his forehead at a
piece of impudence. Fellow says some high-flying stuff; Fleet brightens
like a Sunday chimney-sweep. If I believed in Black Arts, upon my word!'
'Russett is not usually managed with ease,' the lady said.
Her placid observation was directed on the pair then descending the
'Be careful how you address, this gentleman,' she counselled Abrane.
'The name is not Woodier, I know. It must be the right name or none.'
Livia's fairest smile received them. She heard the captain accosting the
child of luck as Mr. Woodier, and she made a rustle in rising to take
'We haven't dined, we have to sup,' said he.
'You are released at the end of the lamps. You redeem your ring,
Russett, and I will restore it. I have to tell you, Henrietta is here
'She might be in a better place.'
'The place where she is to be seen is not generally undervalued by men.
It is not her fault that she is absent. The admiral was persuaded to go
and attend those cavalry manoeuvres with the Grand Duke, to whom he had
been civil when in command of the Mediterranean squadron. You know, the
admiral believes he has military--I mean soldierly-genius; and the
delusion may have given him wholesome exercise and helped him to forget
his gout. So far, Henrietta will have been satisfied. She cannot have
found much amusement among dusty troopers or at that court at Carlsruhe.
Our French milliner there has helped in retarding her quite against her
will. She has had to choose a balldress for the raw mountain-girl they
have with them, and get her fitted, and it's a task! Why take her to the
ball? But the admiral's infatuated with this girl, and won't hear of her
exclusion--because, he says, she understands a field of battle; and the
Ducal party have taken to her. Ah, Russett, you should not have flown!
No harm, only Henrietta does require a trifle of management. She writes,
that she is sure of you for the night at the Schloss.'
'You have given your word. "He never breaks his lightest word," she
'It sounds like the beginning of respect.'
'The rarest thing men teach women to feel for them!'
'A respectable love match--eh? Good Lord! You'll be civil to my friend.
You have struck him to the dust. You have your one poetical admirer in
'I am honoured, Russett.'
'Cleared out, I suppose? Abrane is a funnel for pouring into that Bank.
Have your fun as you like it! I shall get supplies to-morrow. By the
way, you have that boy Cressett here. What are you doing with him?'
Livia spoke of watching over him and guarding him:
'He was at the table beside me, bursting to have a fling; and my friend
Mr. Woodseer said, it was "Adonis come to spy the boar":--the picture!'
Prompt as bugle to the breath, Livia proposed to bet him fifty pounds
that she would keep young Cressett from gambling a single louis. The
pretty saying did not touch her.
Fleetwood moved and bowed. Sir Meeson Corby simulated a petrifaction of
his frame at seeing the Countess of Fleetwood actually partly bent with
her gracious acknowledgement of the tramp's gawky homage.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Accounting his tight blue tail coat and brass buttons a victory
Amused after their tiresome work of slaughter
And her voice, against herself, was for England
As for comparisons, they are flowers thrown into the fire
As if the age were the injury!
Brains will beat Grim Death if we have enough of them
But a great success is full of temptations
Could affect me then, without being flung at me
Country enclosed us to make us feel snug in our own importance
Did not know the nature of an oath, and was dismissed
Dogs' eyes have such a sick look of love
Drank to show his disdain of its powers
Earl of Cressett fell from his coach-box in a fit
Father used to say, four hours for a man, six for a woman
Fond, as they say, of his glass and his girl
Found that he 'cursed better upon water'
Good-bye to sorrow for a while--Keep your tears for the living
Had got the trick of lying, through fear of telling the truth
Hard enough for a man to be married to a fool
He was a figure on a horse, and naught when off it
Her intimacy with a man old enough to be her grandfather
I hate sleep: I hate anything that robs me of my will
Innocence and uncleanness may go together
It was an honest buss, but dear at ten thousand
Limit was two bottles of port wine at a sitting
Little boy named Tommy Wedger said he saw a dead body go by
Mighty Highnesses who had only smelt the outside edge of battle
No enemy's shot is equal to a weak heart in the act
Not afford to lose, and a disposition free of the craving to win
Past, future, and present, the three weights upon humanity
Put material aid at a lower mark than gentleness
Puzzle to connect the foregoing and the succeeding
Seventy, when most men are reaping and stacking their sins
Should we leave a good deed half done
Showery, replied the admiral, as his cocked-hat was knocked off
So indulgent when they drop their blot on a lady's character
So much for morality in those days!
Steady shakes them
Sweetest on earth to her was to be prized by her brother
They could have pardoned her a younger lover
Thus are we stricken by the days of our youth
Truth is, they have taken a stain from the life they lead
Very little parleying between determined men
Warm, is hardly the word--Winter's warm on skates
Woman finds herself on board a rudderless vessel
Writer society delights in, to show what it is composed of
You are to imagine that they know everything
You saw nothing but handkerchiefs out all over the theatre