Part 1 out of 2
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US
unless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we usually do not
keep etexts in compliance with any particular paper edition.
The "legal small print" and other information about this book
may now be found at the end of this file. Please read this
important information, as it gives you specific rights and
tells you about restrictions in how the file may be used.
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
THE AMAZING MARRIAGE
By George Meredith
XX. STUDIES IN FOG, GOUT, AN OLD SEAMAN, A LOVELY SERPENT, AND THE
MORAL EFFECTS THAT MAY COME OF A BORROWED SHIRT
XXI. IN WHICH WE HAVE FURTHER GLIMPSES OF THE WONDROUS MECHANISM OF
OUR YOUNGER MAN
XXII. A RIGHT-MINDED GREAT LADY
XXIII. IN DAME GOSSIP'S VEIN
XXIV. A KIDNAPPING AND NO GREAT HARM
XXV. THE PHILOSOPHER MAN OF ACTION
XXVI. AFTER SOME FENCING THE DAME PASSES OUR GUARD
XXVII. WE DESCEND INTO A STEAMER'S ENGINE-ROOM
XXVIII. BY CONCESSIONS TO MISTRESS GOSSIP A FURTHER INTRUSION IS
STUDIES IN FOG, GOUT, AN OLD SEAMAN, A LOVELY SERPENT, AND THE MORAL
EFFECTS THAT MAY COME OF A BORROWED SHIRT
Money of his father's enabled Gower to take the coach; and studies in
fog, from the specked brown to the woolly white, and the dripping torn,
were proposed to the traveller, whose preference of Nature's face did not
arrest his observation of her domino and petticoats; across which blank
sheets he curiously read backward, that he journeyed by the aid of his
father's hard-earned, ungrudged piece of gold. Without it, he would have
been useless in this case of need. The philosopher could starve with
equanimity, and be the stronger. But one had, it seemed here clearly, to
put on harness and trudge along a line, if the unhappy were to have one's
help. Gradual experiences of his business among his fellows were
teaching an exercised mind to learn in regions where minds unexercised
were doctorial giants beside it.
The study of gout was offered at Chinningfold. Admiral Fakenham's butler
refused at first to take a name to his master. Gower persisted, stating
the business of his mission; and in spite of the very suspicious glib
good English spoken by a man wearing such a hat and suit, the butler was
induced to consult Mrs. Carthew.
She sprang up alarmed. After having seen the young lady happily married
and off with her lordly young husband, the arrival of a messenger from
the bride gave a stir the wrong way to her flowing recollections; the
scenes and incidents she had smothered under her love of the comfortable
stood forth appallingly. The messenger, the butler said, was no
gentleman. She inspected Gower and heard him speak. An anomaly had come
to the house; for he had the language of a gentleman, the appearance of a
nondescript; he looked indifferent, he spoke sympathetically; and he was
frank as soon as the butler was out of hearing. In return for the
compliment, she invited him to her sitting-room. The story of the young
countess, whom she had seen driven away by her husband from the church in
a coach and four, as being now destitute, praying to see her friends, in
the Whitechapel of London--the noted haunt of thieves and outcasts,
bankrupts and the abandoned; set her asking for the first time, who was
the man with dreadful countenance inside the coach? A previously
disregarded horror of a man. She went trembling to the admiral, though
his health was delicate, his temper excitable. It was, she considered,
an occasion for braving the doctor's interdict.
Gower was presently summoned to the chamber where Admiral Fakenham
reclined on cushions in an edifice of an arm-chair. He told a plain
tale. Its effect was to straighten the admiral's back, and enlarge in
grey glass a pair of sea-blue eyes. And, 'What's that? Whitechapel?'
the admiral exclaimed,--at high pitch, far above his understanding.
The particulars were repeated, whereupon the sick-room shook with,
'Greengrocer?' He stunned himself with another of the monstrous points in
his pet girl's honeymoon: 'A prizefight?'
To refresh a saving incredulity, he took a closer view of the messenger.
Gower's habiliments were those of the 'queer fish,' the admiral saw. But
the meeting at Carlsruhe was recalled to him, and there was a worthy
effort to remember it. 'Prize-fight!--Greengrocer! Whitechapel!' he
rang the changes rather more moderately; till, swelling and purpling, he
cried: 'Where's the husband?'
That was the emissary's question likewise.
'If I could have found him, sir, I should not have troubled you.'
'Disappeared? Plays the man of his word, then plays the madman! Prize-
fight the first day of her honeymoon? Good Lord! Leaves her at the
'She was left.'
'When was she left?'
'As soon as the fight was over--as far as I understand.'
The admiral showered briny masculine comments on that bridegroom.
'Her brother's travelling somewhere in the Pyrenees--married my daughter.
She has an uncle, a hermit.' He became pale. 'I must do it. The rascal
insults us all. Flings her off the day he married her! It 's a slap in
the face to all of us. You are acquainted with the lady, sir. Would you
call her a red-haired girl?'
'Red-gold of the ballads; chestnut-brown, with threads of fire.'
'She has the eyes for a man to swear by. I feel the loss of her, I can
tell you. She was wine and no penalty to me. Is she much broken under
it?--if I 'm to credit . . . I suppose I must. It floors me.'
Admiral Baldwin's frosty stare returned on him. Gower caught an image of
it, as comparable, without much straining, to an Arctic region smitten by
'Nothing breaks her courage,' he said.
'To be sure, my poor dear! Who could have guessed when she left my house
she was on her way to a prizefight and a greengrocer's in Whitechapel.
But the dog's not mad, though his bite 's bad; he 's an eccentric
mongrel. He wants the whip; ought to have had it regularly from his
first breeching. He shall whistle for her when he repents; and he will,
mark me. This gout here will be having a snap at the vitals if I don't
start to-night. Oblige me, half a minute.'
The admiral stretched his hand for an arm to give support, stood, and
dropped into the chair, signifying a fit of giddiness in the word 'Head.'
Before the stupor had passed, Mrs. Carthew entered, anxious lest the
admittance of a messenger of evil to her invalid should have been an
error of judgement. The butler had argued it with her. She belonged to
the list of persons appointed to cut life's thread when it strains, their
general kindness being so liable to misdirection.
Gower left the room and went into the garden. He had never seen a death;
and the admiral's peculiar pallor intimated events proper to days of cold
mist and a dripping stillness. How we go, was the question among his
problems:--if we are to go! his youthful frame insistingly added.
The fog down a wet laurel-walk contracted his mind with the chilling of
his blood, and he felt that he would have to see the thing if he was to
believe in it. Of course he believed, but life throbbed rebelliously,
and a picture of a desk near a lively fire-grate, books and pen and
paper, and a piece of writing to be approved of by the Hesper of ladies,
held ground with a pathetic heroism against the inevitable. He got his
wits to the front by walking faster; and then thought of the young
countess and the friend she might be about to lose. She could number her
friends on her fingers. Admiral Fakenham's exclamations of the name of
the place where she now was, conveyed an inky idea of the fall she had
undergone. Counting her absent brother, with himself, his father, and
the two Whitechapel girls, it certainly was an unexampled fall, to say of
her, that they and those two girls had become by the twist of
circumstances the most serviceable of her friends.
Her husband was the unriddled riddle we have in the wealthy young lord,--
burning to possess, and making, tatters of all he grasped, the moment it
was his own. Glints of the devilish had shot from him at the
gamingtables,--fine haunts for the study of our lower man. He could be
magnificent in generosity; he had little humaneness. He coveted beauty
in women hungrily, and seemed to be born hostile to them; or so Gower
judged by the light of the later evidence on unconsidered antecedent
observations of him. Why marry her to cast her off instantly? The crude
philosopher asked it as helplessly as the admiral. And, further, what
did the girl Madge mean by the drop of her voice to a hum of enforced
endurance under injury, like the furnace behind an iron door? Older men
might have understood, as he was aware; he might have guessed, only he
had the habit of scattering meditation upon the game of hawk and fowl.
Dame Gossip boils. Her one idea of animation is to have her dramatis
persona in violent motion, always the biggest foremost; and, indeed, that
is the way to make them credible, for the wind they raise and the
succession of collisions. The fault of the method is, that they do not
instruct; so the breath is out of them before they are put aside; for the
uninstructive are the humanly deficient: they remain with us like the
tolerated old aristocracy, which may not govern, and is but socially
seductive. The deuteragonist or secondary person can at times tell us
more of them than circumstances at furious heat will help them to reveal;
and the Dame will have him only as an index-post. Hence her endless
ejaculations over the mystery of Life, the inscrutability of character,
--in a plain world, in the midst of such readable people! To preserve
Romance (we exchange a sky for a ceiling if we let it go), we must be
inside the heads of our people as well as the hearts, more than shaking
the kaleidoscope of hurried spectacles, in days of a growing activity of
Gower Woodseer could not know that he was drawn on to fortune and the
sight of his Hesper by Admiral Fakenham's order that the visitor was to
stay at his house until he should be able to quit his bed, and journey
with him to London, doctor or no doctor. The doctor would not hear of
it. The admiral threatened it every night for the morning, every morning
for the night; and Gower had to submit to postponements balefully
affecting his linen. Remonstrance was not to be thought of; for at a
mere show of reluctance the courtly admiral flushed, frowned, and beat
the bed where he lay, a gouty volcano. Gower's one shirt was passing
through the various complexions, and had approached the Nubian on its way
to negro. His natural candour checked the downward course. He mentioned
to Mrs. Carthew, with incidental gravity, on a morning at breakfast, that
this article of his attire 'was beginning to resemble London snow.' She
was amused; she promised him a change more resembling country snow.
'It will save me from buttoning so high up,' he said, as he thanked her.
She then remembered the daily increase of stiffness in his figure: and a
reflection upon his patient waiting, and simpleness, and lexicographer
speech to expose his minor needs, touched her unused sense of humour on
the side where it is tender in women, from being motherly.
In consequence, she spoke of him with a pleading warmth to the Countess
Livia, who had come down to see the admiral 'concerning an absurd but
annoying rumour running over London.' Gower was out for a walk. He knew
of the affair, Mrs. Carthew said, for an introduction to her excuses of
'But I know the man,' said Livia. 'Lord Fleetwood picked him up
somewhere, and brought him to us. Clever: Why, is he here?'
'He is here, sent to the admiral, as I understand, my lady.'
'Sent by whom?'
Having but a weak vocabulary to defend a delicate position, Mrs. Carthew
stuttered into evasions, after the way of ill-armed persons; and naming
herself a stranger to the circumstances, she feebly suggested that the
admiral ought not to be disturbed before the doctor's next visit; Mr.
Woodseer had been allowed to sit by his bed yesterday only for ten
minutes, to divert him with his talk. She protected in this wretched
manner the poor gentleman she sacrificed and emitted such a smell of
secresy, that Livia wrote three words on her card, for it to be taken to
Admiral Baldwin at once. Mrs. Carthew supplicated faintly; she was
The Countess of Fleetwood mounted the stairs--to descend them with the
knowledge of her being the Dowager Countess of Fleetwood! Henrietta had
spoken of the Countess of Fleetwood's hatred of the title of Dowager.
But when Lady Fleetwood had the fact from the admiral, would she forbear
to excite him? If she repudiated it, she would provoke him to fire 'one
of his broadsides,'--as they said in the family, to assert its and that
might exhaust him; and there was peril in that. And who was guilty?
Mrs. Carthew confessed her guilt, asking how it could have been avoided.
She made appeal to Gower on his return, transfixing him.
Not only is he no philosopher who has an idol, he has to learn that he
cannot think rationally; his due sense of weight and measure is lost, the
choice of his thoughts as well. He was in the house with his devoutly,
simply worshipped, pearl of women, and his whole mind fell to work
without ado upon the extravagant height of the admiral's shirt-collar
cutting his ears. The very beating of his heart was perplexed to know
whether it was for rapture or annoyance. As a result he was but
histrionically master of himself when the Countess Livia or the nimbus of
the lady appeared in the room.
She received his bow; she directed Mrs. Carthew to have the doctor
summoned immediately. The remorseful woman flew.
'Admiral Fakenham is very ill, Mr. Woodseer, he has had distracting news.
Oh, no, the messenger is not blamed. You are Lord Fleetwood's friend and
will not allow him to be prejudged. He will be in town shortly. I know
him well, you know him; and could you hear him accused of cruelty--and to
a woman? He is the soul of chivalry. So, in his way, is the admiral.
If he were only more patient! Let us wait for Lord Fleetwood's version.
I am certain it will satisfy me. The admiral wishes you to step up to
him. Be very quiet; you will be; consent to everything. I was unaware
of his condition: the things I heard were incredible. I hope the doctor
will not delay. Now go. Beg to retire soon.'
Livia spoke under her breath; she had fears.
Admiral Baldwin lay in his bed, submitting to a nurse-woman-sign of
extreme exhaustion. He plucked strength from the sight of Gower and
bundled the woman out of the room, muttering: 'Kill myself? Not half so
quick as they'd do it. I can't rest for that Whitechapel of yours.
Please fetch pen and paper: it's a letter.'
The letter began, 'Dear Lady Arpington.'
The dictation of it came in starts. Atone moment it seemed as if life's
ending shook the curtains on our stage and were about to lift. An old
friend in the reader of the letter would need no excuse for its jerky
brevity. It said that his pet girl, Miss Kirby, was married to the Earl
of Fleetwood in the first week of last month, and was now to be found at
a shop No. 45 Longways, Whitechapel; that the writer was ill, unable to
stir; that he would be in London within eight-and-forty hours at
furthest. He begged Lady Arpington to send down to the place and have
the young countess fetched to her, and keep her until he came.
Admiral Baldwin sat up to sign the letter.
'Yes, and write "miracles happen when the devil's abroad"--done it !' he
said, sinking back. 'Now seal, you'll find wax--the ring at my watch-
He sighed, as it were the sound of his very last; he lay like a sleeper
twitched by a dream. There had been a scene with Livia. The dictating
of the letter took his remainder of strength out of him.
Gower called in the nurse, and went downstairs. He wanted the address of
Lady Arpington's town house.
'You have a letter for her?' said Livia, and held her hand for it in a
way not to be withstood.
'There's no superscription,' he remarked.
'I will see to that, Mr. Woodseer.'
'I fancy I am bound, Lady Fleetwood.'
'By no means.' She touched his arm. 'You are Lord Fleetwood's friend.'
A slight convulsion of the frame struck the admiral's shirt-collar at his
ears; it virtually prostrated him under foot of a lady so benign in
overlooking the spectacle he presented. Still, he considered; he had
wits alive enough, just to perceive a duty.
'The letter was entrusted to me, Lady Fleetwood.'
'You are afraid to entrust it to the post?'
'I was thinking of delivering it myself in town.'
'You will entrust it to me.'
'Anything on earth of my own.'
'The treasure would be valued. This you confide to my care.'
'It is important.'
'Indeed it is.'
'Say that it is, then. It is quite safe with me. It may be important
that it should not be delivered. Are you not Lord Fleetwood's friend?
Lady Arpington is not so very, very prominent in the list with you and
me. Besides, I don't think she has come to town yet. She generally sees
out the end of the hunting season. Leave the letter to me: it shall go.
You, with your keen observation missing nothing, have seen that my uncle
has not his whole judgement at present. There are two sides to a case.
Lord Fleetwood's friend will know that it would be unfair to offer him up
to his enemies while he is absent. Things going favourably here, I drive
back to town to-morrow, and I hope you will accept a seat in my
He delivered his courtliest; he was riding on cloud.
They talked of Baden. His honourable surrender of her defeated purse was
a subject for gentle humour with her, venturesome compliment with him.
He spoke well; and though his hands were clean of Sir Meeson Corby's
reproach of them, the caricature of presentable men blushed absurdly and
seemed uneasy in his monstrous collar. The touching of him again would
not be required to set him pacing to her steps. His hang of the head
testified to the unerring stamp of a likeness Captain Abrane could affix
with a stroke: he looked the fiddler over his bow, playing wonderfully to
conceal the crack of a string. The merit of being one of her army of
admirers was accorded to him. The letter to Lady Arpington was retained.
Gower deferred the further mention of the letter until a visit to the
admiral's chamber should furnish an excuse; and he had to wait for it.
Admiral Baldwin's condition was becoming ominous. He sent messages
downstairs by the doctor, forbidding his guest's departure until they two
could make the journey together next day. The tortured and blissful
young man, stripped of his borrowed philosopher's cloak, hung conscience-
ridden in this delicious bower, which was perceptibly an antechamber of
the vaults, offering him the study he thirsted for, shrank from, and
mixed with his cup of amorous worship.
IN WHICH WE HAVE FURTHER GLIMPSES OF THE WONDROUS MECHANISM OF OUR
The report of Admiral Baldwin Fakenham as having died in the arms of a
stranger visiting the house, hit nearer the mark than usual. He yielded
his last breath as Gower Woodseer was lowering him to his pillow, shortly
after a husky whisper of the letter to Lady Arpington; and that was one
of Gower's crucial trials. It condemned him, for the pacifying of a
dying man, to the murmur and shuffle, which was a lie; and the lie burnt
him, contributed to the brand on his race. He and his father upheld a
solitary bare staff, where the Cambrian flag had flown, before their
people had been trampled in mire, to do as the worms. His loathing of
any shadow of the lie was a protest on behalf of Welsh blood against an
English charge, besides the passion for spiritual cleanliness: without
which was no comprehension, therefore no enjoyment, of Nature possible to
him. For Nature is the Truth.
He begged the countess to let him have the letter; he held to the
petition, with supplications; he spoke of his pledged word, his honour;
and her countenance did not deny to such an object as she beheld the
right to a sense of honour. 'We all have the sentiment, I hope, Mr.
Woodseer,' she said, stupefying the worshipper, who did not see it
manifested. There was a look of gentle intimacy, expressive of common
grounds between them, accompanying the dead words. Mistress of the
letter, and the letter safe under lock, the admiral dead, she had not to
bestow a touch of her hand on his coatsleeve in declining to return it.
A face languidly and benevolently querulous was bent on him, when he,
so clever a man, resumed his very silly petition.
She was moon out of cloud at a change of the theme. Gower journeyed to
London without the letter, intoxicated, and conscious of poison;
enamoured of it, and straining for health. He had to reflect at the
journey's end, that he had picked up nothing on the road, neither a thing
observed nor a thing imagined; he was a troubled pool instead of a
The best help to health for him was a day in his father's house. We are
perpetually at our comparisons of ourselves with others; and they are
mostly profitless; but the man carrying his religious light, to light the
darkest ways of his fellows, and keeping good cheer, as though the heart
of him ran a mountain water through the grimy region, plucked at Gower
with an envy to resemble him in practice. His philosophy, too,
reproached him for being outshone. Apart from his philosophy, he stood
confessed a bankrupt; and it had dwindled to near extinction. Adoration
of a woman takes the breath out of philosophy. And if one had only to
say sheer donkey, he consenting to be driven by her! One has to say
worse in this case; for the words are, liar and traitor.
Carinthia's attitude toward his father conduced to his emulous respect
for the old man, below whom, and indeed below the roadway of ordinary
principles hedged with dull texts, he had strangely fallen. The sight of
her lashed him. She made it her business or it was her pleasure to go
the rounds beside Mr. Woodseer visiting his poor people. She spoke of
the scenes she witnessed, and threw no stress on the wretchedness, having
only the wish to assist in ministering. Probably the great wretchedness
bubbling over the place blunted her feeling of loss at the word of
Admiral Baldwin's end; her bosom sprang up: 'He was next to father,'
was all she said; and she soon reverted to this and that house of the
lodgings of poverty. She had descended on the world. There was of
course a world outside Whitechapel, but Whitechapel was hot about her;
the nests of misery, the sharp note of want in the air, tricks of an
urchin who had amused her.
As to the place itself, she had no judgement to pronounce, except that:
'They have no mornings here'; and the childish remark set her quivering
on her heights, like one seen through a tear, in Gower's memory. Scarce
anything of her hungry impatience to meet her husband was visible: she
had come to London to meet him; she hoped to meet him soon: before her
brother's return, she could have added. She mentioned the goodness of
Sarah Winch in not allowing that she was a burden to support. Money and
its uses had impressed her; the quantity possessed by some, the utter
need of it for the first of human purposes by others. Her speech was not
of so halting or foreign an English. She grew rapidly wherever she was
Speculation on the conduct of her husband, empty as it might be, was
necessitated in Gower. He pursued it, and listened to his father
similarly at work: 'A young lady fit for any station, the kindest of
souls, a born charitable human creature, void of pride, near in all she
--does and thinks to the Shaping Hand, why should her husband forsake her
on the day of their nuptials.
She is most gracious; the simplicity of an infant. Can you imagine the
doing of an injury by a man to a woman like her?'
Then it was that Gower screwed himself to say:
'Yes, I can imagine it, I'm doing it myself. I shall be doing it till
I've written a letter and paid a visit.'
He took a meditative stride or two in the room, thinking without
revulsion of the Countess Livia under a similitude of the bell of the
plant henbane, and that his father had immunity from temptation because
of the insensibility to beauty. Out of which he passed to the writing of
the letter to Lord Fleetwood, informing his lordship that he intended
immediately to deliver a message to the Marchioness of Arpington from
Admiral Baldwin Fakenham, in relation to the Countess of Fleetwood. A
duty was easily done by Gower when he had surmounted the task of
conceiving his resolution to do it; and this task, involving an offence
to the Lady Livia and intrusion of his name on a nobleman's recollection,
ranked next in severity to the chopping off of his fingers by a man
suspecting them of the bite of rabies.
An interview with Lady Arpington was granted him the following day.
She was a florid, aquiline, loud-voiced lady, evidently having no seat
for her wonderments, after his account of the origin of his acquaintance
with the admiral had quieted her suspicions. The world had only to stand
beside her, and it would hear what she had heard. She rushed to the
conclusion that Lord Fleetwood had married a person of no family.
'Really, really, that young man's freaks appear designed for the express
purpose of heightening our amazement!' she exclaimed. 'He won't easily
get beyond a wife in the east of London, at a shop; but there's no
knowing. Any wish of Admiral Baldwin Fakenham's I hold sacred. At least
I can see for myself. You can't tell me more of the facts? If Lord
Fleetwood's in town, I will call him here at once. I will drive down to
this address you give me. She is a civil person?'
'Her breeding is perfect,' said Gower.
'Perfect breeding, you say?' Lady Arpington was reduced to a murmur.
She considered the speaker: his outlandish garb, his unprotesting self-
possession. He spoke good English by habit, her ear told her. She was
of an eminence to judge of a man impartially, even to the sufferance of
an opinion from him, on a subject that lesser ladies would have denied to
his clothing. Outwardly simple, naturally frank, though a tangle of the
complexities inwardly, he was a touchstone for true aristocracy, as the
humblest who bear the main elements of it must be. Certain humorous
turns in his conversation won him an amicable smile when he bowed to
leave: they were the needed finish of a favourable impression.
One day later the earl arrived in town, read Gower Woodseer's brief
words, and received the consequently expected summons, couched in a great
lady's plain imperative. She was connected with his family on the
He went obediently; not unwillingly, let the deputed historian of the
Marriage, turning over documents, here say. He went to Lady Arpington
disposed for marital humaneness and jog-trot harmony, by condescension;
equivalent to a submitting to the drone of an incessant psalm at the drum
of the ear. He was, in fact, rather more than inclined that way. When
very young, at the age of thirteen, a mood of religious fervour had
spiritualized the dulness of Protestant pew and pulpit for him. Another
fit of it, in the Roman Catholic direction, had proposed, during his
latest dilemma, to relieve him of the burden of his pledged word. He had
plunged for a short space into the rapturous contemplation of a monastic
life--'the clean soul for the macerated flesh,' as that fellow Woodseer
said once: and such as his friend, the Roman Catholic Lord Feltre,
moodily talked of getting in his intervals. He had gone down to a young
and novel trial establishment of English penitents in the forest of a
Midland county, and had watched and envied, and seen the escape from a
lifelong bondage to the 'beautiful Gorgon,' under cover of a white
flannel frock. The world pulled hard, and he gave his body into chains
of a woman, to redeem his word.
But there was a plea on behalf of this woman. The life she offered
might have psalmic iteration; the dead monotony of it in prospect did,
nevertheless, exorcise a devil. Carinthia promised, it might seem to
chase and keep the black beast out of him permanently, as she could,
he now conceived: for since the day of the marriage with her, the devil
inhabiting him had at least been easier, 'up in a corner.'
He held an individual memory of his bride, rose-veiled, secret to them
both, that made them one, by subduing him. For it was a charm; an actual
feminine, an unanticipated personal, charm; past reach of tongue to name,
wordless in thought. There, among the folds of the incense vapours of
our heart's holy of holies, it hung; and it was rare, it was distinctive
of her, and alluring, if one consented to melt to it, and accepted for
compensation the exorcising of a devil.
Oh, but no mere devil by title!--a very devil. It was alert and frisky,
flushing, filling the thin cold idea of Henrietta at a thought; and in
the thought it made Carinthia's intimate charm appear as no better than a
thing to enrich a beggar, while he knew that kings could never command
the charm. Not love, only the bathing in Henrietta's incomparable beauty
and the desire to be, desire to have been, the casket of it, broke the
world to tempest and lightnings at a view of Henrietta the married woman
--married to the brother of the woman calling him husband:--'It is my
husband.' The young tyrant of wealth could have avowed that he did not
love Henrietta; but not the less was he in the swing of a whirlwind at
the hint of her loving the man she had married. Did she? It might be
She? That Henrietta is one of the creatures who love pleasure, love
flattery, love their beauty: they cannot love a man. Or the love is a
ship that will not sail a sea.
Now, if the fact were declared and attested, if her shallowness were seen
proved, one might get free of the devil she plants in the breast.
Absolutely to despise her would be release, and it would allow of his
tasting Carinthia's charm, reluctantly acknowledged; not 'money of the
country' beside that golden Henrietta's.
Yet who can say?--women are such deceptions. Often their fairest,
apparently sweetest, when brought to the keenest of the tests, are
graceless; or worse, artificially consonant; in either instance barren of
the poetic. Thousands of the confidently expectant among men have been
unbewitched; a lamentable process; and the grimly reticent and the loudly
discursive are equally eloquent of the pretty general disillusion. How
they loathe and tear the mask of the sham attraction that snatched them
to the hag yoke, and fell away to show its grisly horrors within the
round of the month, if not the second enumeration of twelve by the clock!
Fleetwood had heard certain candid seniors talk, delivering their minds
in superior appreciation of unpretentious boor wenches, nature's
products, not esteemed by him. Well, of a truth, she--'Red Hair and
Rugged Brows,' as the fellow Woodseer had called her, in alternation with
'Mountain Face to Sun'--she at the unveiling was gentle, surpassingly;
graceful in the furnace of the trial. She wore through the critic ordeal
his burning sensitiveness to grace and delicacy cast about a woman, and
was rather better than not withered by it.
On the borders between maidenly and wifely, she, a thing of flesh like
other daughters of earth, had impressed her sceptical lord, inclining to
contempt of her and detestation of his bargain, as a flitting hue,
ethereal, a transfiguration of earthliness in the core of the earthly
furnace. And how?--but that it must have been the naked shining forth of
her character, startled to show itself:--'It is my husband':--it must
have been love.
The love that they versify, and strum on guitars, and go crazy over, and
end by roaring at as the delusion; this common bloom of the ripeness of a
season; this would never have utterly captured a sceptic, to vanquish him
in his mastery, snare him in her surrender. It must have been the
veritable passion: a flame kept alive by vestal ministrants in the
yewwood of the forest of Old Romance; planted only in the breasts of very
favourite maidens. Love had eyes, love had a voice that night,-love was
the explicable magic lifting terrestrial to seraphic. Though, true, she
had not Henrietta's golden smoothness of beauty. Henrietta, illumined
with such a love, would outdo all legends, all dreams of the tale of
love. Would she? For credulous men she would be golden coin of the
currency. She would not have a particular wild flavour: charm as of the
running doe that has taken a dart and rolls an eye to burst the hunter's
heart with pity.
Fleetwood went his way to Lady Arpington almost complacently, having
fought and laid his wilder self. He might be likened to the doctor's
patient entering the chemist's shop, with a prescription for a drug of
healing virtue, upon which the palate is as little consulted as a
robustious lollypop boy in the household of ceremonial parents, who have
rung for the troop of their orderly domestics to sit in a row and hearken
the intonation of good words.
A RIGHT-MINDED GREAT LADY
The bow, the welcome, and the introductory remarks passed rapidly as the
pull at two sides of a curtain opening on a scene that stiffens
courtliness to hard attention.
After the names of Admiral Baldwin and 'the Mr. Woodseer,' the name of
Whitechapel was mentioned by Lady Arpington. It might have been the name
of any other place.
'Ah, so far, then, I have to instruct you,' she said, observing the young
earl. 'I drove down there yesterday. I saw the lady calling herself
Countess of Fleetwood. By right? She was a Miss Kirby.'
'She has the right,' Fleetwood said, standing well up out of a discharge
'Marriage not contested. You knew of her being in that place?--I can't
'Your ladyship will pardon me?'
London's frontier of barbarism was named for him again, and in a tone to
He refrained from putting the question of how she had come there.
As iron as he looked, he said: 'She stays there by choice.'
The great lady tapped her foot on the floor.
'You are not acquainted with the district.'
'One of my men comes out of it.'
'The coming out of it ! . . . However, I understand her story, that
she travelled from a village inn, where she had been left-without
resources. She waited weeks; I forget how many. She has a description
of maid in attendance on her. She came to London to find her husband.
You were at the mines, we heard. Her one desire is to meet her husband.
But, goodness! Fleetwood, why do you frown? You acknowledge the
marriage, she has the name of the church; she was married out of that old
Lord Levellier's house. You drove her--I won't repeat the flighty
business. You left her, and she did her best to follow you. Will the
young men of our time not learn that life is no longer a game when they
have a woman for partner in the match!
You don't complain of her flavour of a foreign manner? She can't be so
very . . . Admiral Baldwin's daughter has married her brother; and he
is a military officer. She has germs of breeding, wants only a little
rub of the world to smooth her. Speak to the point:--do you meet her
here? Do you refuse?'
'At present? I do.'
'Something has to be done.'
'She was bound to stay where I left her.'
'You are bound to provide for her becomingly.'
'Provision shall be made, of course.'
'The story will . . . unless--and quickly, too.'
I know, I know!'
Fleetwood had the clang of all the bells of London chiming Whitechapel at
him in his head, and he betrayed the irritated tyrant ready to decree
fire and sword, for the defence or solace of his tender sensibilities.
The black flash flew.
'It 's a thing to mend as well as one can,' Lady Arpington said. 'I am
not inquisitive: you had your reasons or chose to act without any. Get
her away from that place. She won't come to me unless it 's to meet her
husband. Ah, well, temper does not solve your problem; husband you are,
if you married her. We'll leave the husband undiscussed: with this
reserve, that it seems to me men are now beginning to play the
'I hope they know themselves better,' said Fleetwood; and he begged for
the name and number of the house in the Whitechapel street, where she who
was discernibly his enemy, and the deadliest of enemies, had now her
Her immediate rush to that place, the fixing of herself there for an
assault on him, was a move worthy the daughter of the rascal Old
Buccaneer; it compelled to urgent measures. He, as he felt horribly in
pencilling her address, acted under compulsion; and a woman prodded the
goad. Her mask of ingenuousness was flung away for a look of craft,
which could be power; and with her changed aspect his tolerance changed
'A shop,' Lady Arpington explained for his better direction: 'potatoes,
vegetable stuff. Honest people, I am to believe. She is indifferent to
her food, she says. She works, helping one of their ministers--one of
their denominations: heaven knows what they call themselves! Anything to
escape from the Church! She's likely to become a Methodist. With Lord
Feltre proselytizing for his Papist creed, Lord Pitscrew a declared
Mohammedan, we shall have a pretty English aristocracy in time. Well,
she may claim to belong to it now. She would not be persuaded against
visitations to pestiferous hovels. What else is there to do in such a
place? She goes about catching diseases to avoid bilious melancholy in
the dark back room of a small greengrocer's shop in Whitechapel. There--
you have the word for the Countess of Fleetwood's present address.'
It drenched him with ridicule.
'I am indebted to your ladyship for the information,' he said, and
maintained his rigidity.
The great lady stiffened.
'I am obliged to ask you whether you intend to act on it at once. The
admiral has gone; I am in some sort deputed as a guardian to her, and I
warn you--very well, very well. In your own interests, it will be. If
she is left there another two or three days, the name of the place will
stick to her.'
'She has baptized herself with it already, I imagine,' said Fleetwood.
'She will have Esslemont to live in.'
'There will be more than one to speak as to that. You should know her.'
'I do not know her.'
'You married her.'
'The circumstances are admitted.'
'If I may hazard a guess, she is unlikely to come to terms without a
previous interview. She is bent on meeting you.'
'I am to be subjected to further annoyance, or she will take the name of
the place she at present inhabits, and bombard me with it. Those are the
'She has a brother living, I remind you.'
'State the deduction, if you please, my lady.'
'She is not of 'a totally inferior family.'
'She had a father famous over England as the Old Buccaneer, and is a
diligent reader of his book of MAXIMS FOR MEN.'
'Dear me! Then Kirby--Captain Kirby! I remember. That's her origin,
is it?' the great lady cried, illumined. 'My mother used to talk of the
Cressett scandal. Old Lady Arpington, too. At any rate, it ended in
their union--the formalities were properly respected, as soon as they
'I am unaware.'
'I detest such a tone of speaking. Speaking as you do now--married to
the daughter? You are not yourself, Lord Fleetwood.'
'Quite, ma'am, let me assure you. Otherwise the Kirby-Cressetts would be
dictating to me from the muzzle of one of the old rapscallion's Maxims.
They will learn that I am myself.'
'You don't improve as you proceed. I tell you this, you'll not have me
for a friend. You have your troops of satellites; but take it as equal
to a prophecy, you won't have London with you; and you'll hear of Lord
Fleetwood and his Whitechapel Countess till your ears ache.'
The preluding box on them reddened him.
'She will have the offer of Esslemont.'
'Undertake to persuade her in person.'
'I have spoken on that head.'
'Well, I may be mistaken,--I fancied it before I knew of the pair she
springs from: you won't get her consent to anything without your
consenting to meet her. Surely it's the manlier way. It might be
settled for to-morrow, here, in this room. She prays to meet you.'
With an indicated gesture of 'Save me from it,' Fleetwood bowed.
He left no friend thinking over the riddle of his conduct. She was a
loud-voiced lady, given to strike out phrases. The 'Whitechapel
Countess' of the wealthiest nobleman of his day was heard by her on
London's wagging tongue. She considered also that he ought at least have
propitiated her; he was in the position requiring of him to do something
of the kind, and he had shown instead the dogged pride which calls for a
whip. Fool as he must have been to go and commit himself to marriage
with a girl of whom he knew nothing or little, the assumption of pride
belonged to the order of impudent disguises intolerable to behold and
not, in a modern manner, castigate.
Notwithstanding a dislike of the Dowager Countess of Fleetwood, Lady
Arpington paid Livia an afternoon visit; and added thereby to the stock
of her knowledge and the grounds of her disapprobation.
Down in Whitechapel, it was known to the Winch girls and the Woodseers
that Captain Kirby and his wife had spent the bitterest of hours in
vainly striving to break their immoveable sister's will to remain there.
At the tea-time of simple people, who make it a meal, Gower's appetite
for the home-made bread of Mary Jones was checked by the bearer of a
short note from Lord Fleetwood. The half-dozen lines were cordial,
breathing of their walk in the Austrian highlands, and naming a renowned
city hotel for dinner that day, the hour seven, the reply yes or no by
'But we are man to man, so there's no "No" between us two,' the note
said, reviving a scene of rosy crag and pine forest, where there had been
philosophical fun over the appropriate sexes of those our most important
fighting-ultimately, we will hope, to be united-syllables, and the when
for men, the when for women, to select the one of them as their weapon.
Under the circumstances, Gower thought such a piece of writing to him
'It may be the solution,' his father remarked.
Both had the desire; and Gower's reply was the yes, our brave male word,
supposed to be not so compromising to men in the employment of it as a
form of acquiescence rather than insistent pressure.
IN DAME GOSSIP'S VEIN
Right soon the London pot began to bubble. There was a marriage.
'There are marriages by the thousand every day of the year that is not
consecrated to prayer for the forgiveness of our sins,' the Old
Buccaneer, writing it with simple intent, says, by way of preface to a
series of Maxims for men who contemplate acceptance of the yoke.
This was a marriage high as the firmament over common occurrences, black
as Erebus to confound; it involved the wreck of expectations, disastrous
eclipse of a sovereign luminary in the splendour of his rise, Phaethon's
descent to the Shades through a smoking and a crackling world. Asserted
here, verified there, the rumour gathered volume, and from a serpent of
vapour resolved to sturdy concrete before it was tangible. Contradiction
retired into corners, only to be swept out of them. For this marriage,
abominable to hear of, was of so wonderful a sort, that the story filled
the mind, and the discrediting of the story threatened the great world's
cranium with a vacuity yet more monstrously abominable.
For he, the planet Croesus of his time, recently, scarce later than last
night, a glorious object of the mid-heavens above the market, has been
enveloped, caught, gobbled up by one of the nameless little witches
riding after dusk the way of the wind on broomsticks-by one of them!
She caught him like a fly in the hand off a pane of glass, gobbled him
with the customary facility of a pecking pullet.
But was the planet Croesus of his time a young man to be so caught, so
There is the mystery of it. On his coming of age, that young man gave
sign of his having a city head. He put his guardians deliberately aside,
had his lawyers and bailiffs and stewards thoroughly under control:
managed a particularly difficult step-mother; escaped the snares of her
lovely cousin; and drove his team of sycophants exactly the road he chose
to go and no other. He had a will.
The world accounted him wildish?
Always from his own offset, to his own ends. Never for another's
dictation or beguilement. Never for a woman. He was born with a
suspicion of the sex. Poetry decorated women, he said, to lime and
drag men in the foulest ruts of prose.
We are to believe he has been effectively captured?
It is positively a marriage; he admits it.
There we are at hoodman-blind for the moment. Three counties claim the
church; two ends of London.
She is not a person of society, lineage?
Nor of beauty. She is a witch; ordinarily petticoated and not squeaking
like a shrew-mouse in her flights, but not a whit less a moon-shade
witch. The kind is famous. Fairy tales and terrible romances tell of
her; she is just as much at home in life, and springs usually from the
mire to enthral our knightliest. Is it a popular hero? She has him,
sooner or later. A planet Croesus? He falls to her.
That is, if his people fail to attach him in legal bonds to a damsel of a
corresponding birth on the day when he is breeched.
Small is her need to be young--especially if it is the man who is very
young. She is the created among women armed with the deadly instinct for
the motive force in men, and shameless to attract it. Self-respecting
women treat men as their tamed housemates. She blows the horn of the
wild old forest, irresistible to the animal. O the droop of the eyelids,
the curve of a lip, the rustle of silks, the much heart, the neat ankle;
and the sparkling agreement, the reserve--the motherly feminine petition
that she may retain her own small petted babe of an opinion, legitimate
or not, by permission of superior authority!--proof at once of her
intelligence and her appreciativeness. Her infinitesimal spells are
seen; yet, despite experience, the magnetism in their repulsive display
is barely apprehended by sedate observers until the astounding capture is
proclaimed. It is visible enough then:--and O men! O morals! If she
can but trick the smallest bit in stooping, she has the pick of men.
Our present sample shows her to be young: she is young and a foreigner.
Mr. Chumley Potts vouches for it. Speaks foreign English. He thinks her
more ninny than knave: she is the tool of a wily plotter, picked up off
the highway road by Lord Fleetwood as soon as he had her in his eye.
Sir Meeson Corby wrings his frilled hands to depict the horror of the
hands of that tramp the young lord had her from. They afflict him
malariously still. The man, he says, the man as well was an infatuation,
because he talks like a Dictionary Cheap Jack, and may have had an
education and dropped into vagrancy, owing to indiscretions. Lord
Fleetwood ran about in Germany repeating his remarks. But the man is
really an accomplished violinist, we hear. She dances the tambourine
business. A sister of the man, perhaps, if we must be charitable. They
are, some say, a couple of Hungarian gypsies Lord F. found at a show and
brought over to England, and soon had it on his conscience that he ought
to marry her, like the Quixote of honour that he is; which is equal to
saying crazy, as there is no doubt his mother was.
The marriage is no longer disputable; poor Lady Fleetwood, whatever her
faults as a step-mother, does no longer deny the celebration of a
marriage; though she might reasonably discredit any such story if he,
on the evening of the date of the wedding day, was at a Ball, seen by her
at the supper-table; though it is admitted he left the Ball-room at
night. But the next day he certainly was in his place among the Peers
and voted against the Government, and then went down to his estates in
Wales, being an excellent holder of the reins, whether on the coach box
or over the cash box.
More and more wonderful, we hear that he drove his bride straight from
the church to the field of a prizefight, arranged for her special
delectation. She doats on seeing blood-shed and drinking champagne.
Young Mr. Mallard is our authority; and he says, she enjoyed it, and
cheered the victor for being her husband's man. And after the shocking
exhibition, good-bye; the Countess of Fleetwood was left sole occupant of
a wayside inn, and may have learnt in her solitude that she would have
been wise to feign disgust; for men to the smallest degree cultivated are
unable to pardon a want of delicacy in a woman who has chosen them, as
they are taught to think by their having chosen her.
So talked, so twittered, piped and croaked the London world over the
early rumours of the marriage, this Amazing Marriage; which it got to be
called, from the number of items flocking to swell the wonder.
Ravens ravening by night, poised peregrines by day, provision-merchants
for the dispensing of dainty scraps to tickle the ears, to arm the
tongues, to explode reputations, those great ladies, the Ladies Endor,
Eldritch, and Cowry, fateful three of their period, avenged and scourged
both innocence and naughtiness; innocence, on the whole, the least, when
their withering suspicion of it had hunted the unhappy thing to the bank
of Ophelia's ditch. Mallard and Chumley Potts, Captain Abrane, Sir
Meeson Corby, Lord Brailstone, were plucked at and rattled, put to the
blush, by a pursuit of inquiries conducted with beaks. High-nosed dames
will surpass eminent judges in their temerity on the border-line where
Ahem sounds the warning note to curtained decency. The courtly M. de St.
Ombre had to stand confused. He, however, gave another version of
Captain Abrane's 'fiddler,' and precipitated the great ladies into the
reflection, that French gentlemen, since the execrable French Revolution,
have lost their proper sense of the distinctions of Class. Homme
d'esprit, applied to a roving adventurer, a scarce other than vagabond,
was either an undiscriminating epithet or else a further example of the
French deficiency in humour.
Dexterous contriver, he undoubtedly is. Lady Cowry has it from Sir
Meeson Corby, who had it from the poor dowager, that Lord Fleetwood has
installed the man in his house and sits at the opposite end of his table;
fished him up from Whitechapel, where the countess is left serving
oranges at a small fruit-shop. With her own eyes, Lady Arpington saw her
there; and she can't be got to leave the place unless her husband drives
his coach down to fetch her. That he declines to do; so she remains the
Whitechapel Countess, all on her hind heels against the offer of a
shilling of her husband's money, if she 's not to bring him to his knees;
and goes about at night with a low Methodist singing hymns along those
dreadful streets, while Lord Fleetwood gives gorgeous entertainments.
One signal from the man he has hired, and he stops drinking--he will stop
speaking as soon as the man's mouth is open. He is under a complete
fascination, attributable, some say, to passes of the hands, which the
man won't wash lest he should weaken their influence.
For it cannot be simply his violin playing. They say he was a pupil of
a master of the dark art in Germany, and can practise on us to make us
think his commonest utterances extraordinarily acute and precious. Lord
Fleetwood runs round quoting him to everybody, quite ridiculously. But
the man's influence is sufficient to induce his patron to drive down and
fetch the Whitechapel Countess home in state, as she insists--if the man
wishes it. Depend upon it he is the key of the mystery.
Totally the contrary, Lady Arpington declares! the man is a learned man,
formerly a Professor of English Literature in a German University, and no
connection of the Whitechapel Countess whatever, a chance acquaintance at
the most. He operates on Lord Fleetwood with doses of German philosophy;
otherwise, a harmless creature; and has consented to wash and dress. It
is my lord who has had the chief influence. And the Countess Livia now
backs him in maintaining that there is nowhere a more honest young man to
be found. She may have her reasons.
As for the Whitechapel Countess . . . the whole story of the Old
Buccaneer and Countess Fanny was retold, and it formed a terrific halo,
presage of rains and hurricane tempest, over the girl the young earl had
incomprehensibly espoused to discard. Those two had a son and a daughter
born aboard:--in wedlock, we trust. The girl may be as wild a one as the
mother. She has a will as determined as her husband's. She is offered
Esslemont, the earl's Kentish mansion, for a residence, and she will none
of it until she has him down in the east of London on his knees to
entreat her. The injury was deep on one side or the other. It may be
almost surely prophesied that the two will never come together. Will
either of them deal the stroke for freedom? And which is the likelier?
Meanwhile Lord Fleetwood and his Whitechapel Countess composed the laugh
of London. Straightway Invention, the violent propagator, sprang from
his shades at a call of the great world's appetite for more, and, rushing
upon stationary Fact, supplied the required. Marvel upon marvel was
recounted. The mixed origin of the singular issue could not be examined,
where all was increasingly funny.
Always the shout for more produced it. She and her band of Whitechapel
boys were about in ambush to waylay the earl wherever he went. She stood
knocking at his door through a whole night. He dared not lug her before
a magistrate for fear of exposure. Once, riding in the park with a troop
of friends he had a young woman pointed out to him, and her finger was
levelled, and she cried: 'There is the English nobleman who marries a
girl and leaves her to go selling cabbages!'
He left town for the Island, and beheld his yacht sailing the Solent:--
my lady the countess was on board! A pair of Tyrolese minstrels in the
square kindled his enthusiasm at one of his dinners; he sent them a
sovereign; their humble, hearty thanks were returned to him in the name
of Die Grafin von Fleetwood.
The Ladies Endor, Eldritch, and Cowry sifted their best. They let pass
incredible stories: among others, that she had sent cards to the nobility
and gentry of the West End of London, offering to deliver sacks of
potatoes by newly-established donkey-cart at the doors of their
residences, at so much per sack, bills quarterly; with the postscript,
Vive L'aristocratie! Their informant had seen a card, and the stamp of
the Fleetwood dragoncrest was on it.
He has enemies, was variously said of the persecuted nobleman. But it
was nothing worse than the parasite that he had. This was the parasite's
gentle treason. He found it an easy road to humour; it pricked the slug
fancy in him to stir and curl; gave him occasion to bundle and bustle his
patron kindly. Abrane, Potts, Mallard, and Sir Meeson Corby were
personages during the town's excitement, besought for having something to
say. Petrels of the sea of tattle, they were buoyed by the hubbub they
created, and felt the tipsy happiness of being certain to rouse the laugh
wherever they alighted. Sir Meeson Corby, important to himself in an
eminent degree, enjoyed the novel sense of his importance with his
fellows. They crowded round the bore who had scattered them.
He traced the miserable catastrophe in the earl's fortunes to the cunning
of the rascal now sponging on Fleetwood and trying to dress like a
gentleman: a convicted tramp, elevated by the caprice of the young
nobleman he was plotting to ruin. Sir Meeson quoted Captain Abrane's
latest effort to hit the dirty object's name, by calling him 'Fleetwood's
Mr. Woodlouse.' And was the rascal a sorcerer? Sir Meeson spoke of him
in the hearing of the Countess Livia, and she, previously echoing his
disgust, corrected him sharply, and said: 'I begin to be of Russett's
opinion, that his fault is his honesty.' The rascal had won or partly
won the empress of her sex! This Lady Livia, haughtiest and most
fastidious of our younger great dames, had become the indulgent critic of
the tramp's borrowed plumes! Nay, she would not listen to a depreciatory
word on him from her cousin Henrietta Kirby-Levellier.
Perhaps, after all, of all places for an encounter between the Earl of
Fleetwood and the countess, those vulgar Gardens across the water, long
since abandoned by the Fashion, were the most suitable. Thither one fair
June night, for the sake of showing the dowager countess and her
beautiful cousin, the French nobleman, Sir Meeson Corby, and others, what
were the pleasures of the London lower orders, my lord had the whim to
conduct them,--merely a parade of observation once round;--the ladies
veiled, the gentlemen with sticks, and two servants following, one of
whom, dressed in quiet black, like the peacefullest of parsons, was my
lord's pugilist, Christopher Ives.
Now, here we come to history: though you will remember what History is.
The party walked round the Gardens unmolested nor have we grounds for
supposing they assumed airs of state in the style of a previous
generation. Only, as it happened, a gentleman of the party was a wag; no
less than the famous, well-seasoned John Rose Mackrell, bent on amusing
Mrs. Kirby-Levellier, to hear her lovely laughter; and his wit and his
anecdotes, both inexhaustible, proved, as he said, 'that a dried fish is
no stale fish, and a smoky flavour to an old chimney story will often
render it more piquant to the taste than one jumping fresh off the
incident.' His exact meaning in 'smoky flavour' we are not to know; but
whether that M. de St. Ombre should witness the effect of English humour
upon them, or that the ladies could permit themselves to laugh, their
voices accompanied the gentlemen in silvery volleys. There had been
'Mackrell' at Fleetwood's dinner-table; which was then a way of saying
that dry throats made no count of the quantity of champagne imbibed,
owing to the fits Rose Mackrell caused. However, there was loud laughter
as they strolled, and it was noticed; and Fleetwood crying out,
'Mackrell! Mackrell!' in delighted repudiation of the wag's last sally,
the cry of 'Hooray, Mackrell !' was caught up by the crowd. They were
not the primary offenders, for loud laughter in an isolated party is bad
breeding; but they had not the plea of a copious dinner.
So this affair began; inoffensively at the start, for my lord was good-
humoured about it.
Kit Ines, of the mercurial legs, must now give impromptu display of his
dancing. He seized a partner, in the manner of a Roman the Sabine, sure
of pleasing his patron; and the maid, passing from surprise to merriment,
entered the quadrille perforce, all giggles, not without emulation, for
she likewise had the passion for the dance. Whereby it befell that the
pair footed in a way to gather observant spectators; and if it had not
been that the man from whom the maid was willy-nilly snatched, conceived
resentment, things might have passed comfortably; for Kit's quips and
cuts and high capers, and the Sunday gravity of the barge face while the
legs were at their impish trickery, double motion to the music, won the
crowd to cheer. They conjectured him to be a British sailor. But the
destituted man said, sailor or no sailor,--bos'en be hanged! he should
pay for his whistle.
Honourably at the close of the quadrille, Kit brought her back; none the
worse for it, he boldly affirmed, and he thanked the man for the short
loan of her.--The man had an itch to strike. Choosing rather to be
struck first, he vented nasty remarks. My lord spoke to Kit and moved
on. At the moment of the step, Rose Mackrell uttered something, a
waggery of some sort, heard to be forgotten, but of such instantaneous
effect, that the prompt and immoderate laugh succeeding it might
reasonably be taken for a fling of scorn at himself, by an injured man.
They were a party; he therefore proceeded to make one, appealing to
English sentiment and right feeling. The blameless and repentant maid
plucked at his coat to keep him from dogging the heels of the gentlemen.
Fun was promised; consequently the crowd waxed.
'My lord,' had been let fall by Kit Ines. Conjoined to 'Mackrell,' it
rang finely, and a trumpeting of 'Lord Mackrell' resounded. Lord
Mackrell was asked for 'more capers and not so much sauce.' Various fish
took part in his title of nobility. The wag Mackrell continuing to be
discreetly silent, and Kit Ines acting as a pacific rearguard, the crowd
fell in love with their display of English humour, disposed to the surly
satisfaction of a big street dog that has been appeased by a smaller
one's total cessation of growls.
All might have gone well but for the sudden appearance of two figures of
young women on the scene. They fronted the advance of the procession.
They wanted to have a word with Lord Mackrell. Not a bit of it--he won't
listen, turns away; and one of the pair slips round him. It's regular
imploring: 'my lord! my lord!'
O you naughty Surrey melodram villain of a Lord Mackrell! Listen to the
young woman, you Mackrell, or you'll get Billingsgate! Here's Mr. Jig-
and-Reel behind here, says she's done him! By Gosh! What's up now?
One of the young ladies of the party ahead had rushed up to the young
woman dodging to stand in Lord Mackrell's way. The crowd pressed to see.
Kit Ines and his mate shouldered them off. They performed an envelopment
of the gentlemen and ladies, including the two young women. Kit left his
mate and ran to the young woman hitherto the quieter of the two. He
rattled at her. But she had a tongue of her own and rattled it at him.
What did she say?
Merely to hear, for no other reason,' a peace-loving crowd of clerks and
tradesmen, workmen and their girls, young aspirants to the professions,
night-larks of different classes, both sexes, there in that place for
simple entertainment, animated simply by the spirit of English humour,
contracted, so closing upon the Mackrell party as to seem threatening to
the most orderly and apprehensive member of it, who was the baronet, Sir
He was a man for the constables in town emergencies, and he shouted.
'Cock Robin crowing' provoked a jolly round of barking chaff. The noise
in a dense ring drew Fleetwood's temper. He gave the word to Kit Ines,
and immediately two men dropped; a dozen staggered unhit. The fists
worked right and left; such a clearing of ground was never seen for
sickle or scythe. And it was taken respectfully; for Science proclaimed
her venerable self in the style and the perfect sufficiency of the
strokes. A bruiser delivered them. No shame to back away before a
bruiser. There was rather an admiring envy of the party claiming the
nimble champion on their side, until the very moderate lot of the
Mackrells went stepping forward along the strewn path with sticks
If they had walked it like gentlemen, they would have been allowed to get
through. An aggressive minority, and with Cock Robin squealing for
constables in the midst, is that insolent upstart thing which howls to
have a lesson. The sticks were fallen on; bump came the mass. Kit Ines
had to fight his way back to his mate, and the couple scoured a clearish
ring, but the gentlemen were at short thrusts, affable in tone, to cheer
the spirits of the ladies:--'All right, my friend, you're a trifle
mistaken, it 's my stick, not yours.' Therewith the wrestle for the
The one stick not pointed was wrenched from the grasp of Sir Meeson
Corby; and by a woman, the young woman who had accosted my lord; not a
common young woman either, as she appeared when beseeching him. Her
stature rose to battle heights: she made play with Sir Meeson Corby's
ebony stick, using it in one hand as a dwarf quarterstaff to flail the
sconces, then to dash the point at faces; and she being a woman, a girl,
perhaps a lady, her cool warrior method of cleaving way, without so much
as tightening her lips, was found notable; and to this degree (vouched
for by Rose Mackrell, who heard it), that a fellow, rubbing his head,
cried: 'Damn it all, she's clever, though!' She took her station beside
He had been as cool as she, or almost. Now he was maddened; she defended
him, she warded and thrust for him, only for him, to save him a touch;
unasked, undesired, detested for the box on his ears of to-morrow's
public mockery, as she would be, overwhelming him with ridicule. Have
you seen the kick and tug at the straps of the mettled pony in stables
that betrays the mishandling of him by his groom? Something so did
Fleetwood plunge and dart to be free of her, and his desperate soul cried
out on her sticking to him like a plaster!
Welcome were the constables. His guineas winked at their chief, as fair
women convey their meanings, with no motion of eyelids; and the officers
of the law knew the voice habituated to command, and answered two words
of his: 'Right, my lord,' smelling my lord in the unerring manner of
those days. My lord's party were escorted to the gates, not a little
jeered; though they by no means had the worst of the tussle. But the
puffing indignation of Sir Meesan Corby over his battered hat and torn
frill and buttons plucked from his coat, and his threat of the
magistrates, excited the crowd to derisive yells.
My lord spoke something to his man, handing his purse.
The ladies were spared the hearing of bad language. They, according to
the joint testimony of M. de St. Ombre and Mr. Rose Mackrell, comported
themselves throughout as became the daughters of a warrior race. Both
gentlemen were emphatic to praise the unknown Britomart who had done such
gallant service with Sir Meeson's ebony wand. He was beginning to fuss
vociferously about the loss of the stick--a family stick, goldheaded, the
family crest on it, priceless to the family--when Mrs. Kirby-Levellier
handed it to him inside the coach.
'But where is she?' M. de St. Ombre said, and took the hint of Livia's
touch on his arm in the dark.
At the silence following the question, Mr. Rose Mackrell murmured, 'Ah!'
He and the French gentleman understood that there might have been a
manifestation of the notorious Whitechapel Countess.
They were two; and a slower-witted third was travelling to his ideas on
the subject. Three men, witnesses of a remarkable incident in connection
with a boiling topic of current scandal,--glaringly illustrative of it,
moreover,--were unlikely to keep close tongues, even if they had been
sworn to secresy. Fleetwood knew it, and he scorned to solicit them; an
exaction of their idle vows would be merely the humiliation of himself.
So he tossed his dignity to recklessness, as the ultraconvivial give the
last wink of reason to the wine-cup. Persecuted as he was, nothing
remained for him but the nether-sublime of a statuesque desperation.
That was his feeling; and his way of cloaking it under light sallies at
Sir Meeson and easy chat with Henrietta made it visible to her, from its
being the contrary of what the world might expect a proud young nobleman
to exhibit. She pitied him: she had done him some wrong. She read into
him, too, as none else could. Seeing the solitary tortures behind the
pleasant social mask, she was drawn to partake of them; and the mask
seemed pathetic. She longed to speak a word in sympathy or relieve her
bosom of tears. Carinthia had sunk herself, was unpardonable, hardly
mentionable. Any of the tales told of her might be credited after this!
The incorrigible cause of humiliation for everybody connected with her
pictured, at a word of her name, the crowd pressing and the London world
acting audience. Livia spoke the name when they had reached their house
and were alone. Henrietta responded with the imperceptible shrug which
is more eloquent than a cry to tell of the most monstrous of loads. My
lord, it was thought by the ladies, had directed his man to convey her
safely to her chosen home, whence she might be expected very soon to be
issuing and striking the gong of London again.
A KIDNAPPING AND NO GREAT HARM
Ladies who have the pride of delicate breeding are not more than rather
violently hurled back on the fortress it is, when one or other of the
gross mishaps of circumstance may subject them to a shock: and this
happening in the presence of gentlemen, they are sustained by the within
and the without to keep a smooth countenance, however severe their
affliction. Men of heroic nerve decline similarly to let explosions
shake them, though earth be shaken. Dragged into the monstrous grotesque
of the scene at the Gardens, Livia and Henrietta went through the ordeal,
masking any signs that they were stripped for a flagellation. Only, the
fair cousins were unable to perceive a comic element in the scene: and if
the world was for laughing, as their instant apprehension foresaw it, the
world was an ignoble beast. They did not discuss Carinthia's latest
craziness at night, hardly alluded to it while they were in the
Henrietta was Livia's guest, her husband having hurried away to Vienna:
'To get money! money!' her angry bluntness explained his absence, and
dealt its blow at the sudden astounding poverty into which they had
fallen. She was compelled to practise an excessive, an incredible
economy:--'think of the smallest trifles!' so that her Chillon travelled
unaccompanied, they were separated. Her iterations upon money were the
vile constraint of an awakened interest and wonderment at its powers.
She, the romantic Riette, banner of chivalry, reader of poetry, struck a
line between poor and rich in her talk of people, and classed herself
with the fallen and pinched; she harped on her slender means, on the
enforced calculations preceding purchases, on the living in lodgings;
and that miserly Lord Levellier's indebtedness to Chillon--large sums!
and Chillon's praiseworthy resolve to pay the creditors of her father's
estate; and of how he travelled like a common man, in consequence of the
money he had given Janey--weakly, for her obstinacy was past endurance;
but her brother would not leave her penniless, and penniless she had been
for weeks, because of her stubborn resistance to the earl--quite
unreasonably, whether right or wrong--in the foul retreat she had chosen;
apparently with a notion that the horror of it was her vantage ground
against him: and though a single sign of submission would place the
richest purse in England at her disposal. 'She refuses Esslemont! She
insists on his meeting her! No child could be so witless. Let him be
the one chiefly or entirely to blame, she might show a little tact--for
her brother's sake! She loves her brother? No: deaf to him, to me, to
every consideration except her blind will.'
Here was the skeleton of the love match, earlier than Livia had expected.
It refreshed a phlegmatic lady's disposition for prophecy. Lovers
abruptly tossed between wind and wave may still be lovers, she knew: but
they are, or the weaker of the two is, hard upon any third person who
tugs at them for subsistence or existence. The condition, if they are
much beaten about, prepares true lovers, through their mutual tenderness,
to be bitterly misanthropical.
Livia supposed the novel economic pinches to be the cause of Henrietta's
unwonted harsh judgement of her sister-in-law's misconduct, or the crude
expression of it. She could not guess that Carinthia's unhappiness in
marriage was a spectre over the married happiness of the pair fretted by
the conscience which told them they had come together by doing much to
bring it to pass. Henrietta could see herself less the culprit when she
blamed Carinthia in another's hearing.
After some repose, the cousins treated their horrible misadventure as a
piece of history. Livia was cool; she had not a husband involved in it,
as Henrietta had; and London's hoarse laugh surely coming on them, spared
her the dread Henrietta suffered, that Chillon would hear; the most
sensitive of men on any matter touching his family.
'And now a sister added to the list! Will there be names, Livia?'
'The newspapers!' Livia's shoulders rose.
'We ought to have sworn the gentlemen to silence.'
'M. de St. Ombre is a tomb until he writes his Memoirs. I hold Sir
Meeson under lock. But a spiced incident, a notorious couple,--an
anecdotal witness to the scene,--could you expect Mr. Rose Mackrell to
contain it? The sacredest of oaths, my dear!'
That relentless force impelling an anecdotist to slaughter families for
the amusement of dinner-tables, was brought home to Henrietta by her
prospect of being a victim; and Livia reminding her of the excessive
laughter at Rose Mackrell's anecdotes overnight, she bemoaned her having
consented to go to those Gardens in mourning.
'How could Janey possibly have heard of the project to go?
'You went to please Russett, he to please you, and that wild-cat to
please herself,' said Livia. 'She haunts his door, I suppose, and
follows him, like a running footman. Every step she takes widens the
breach. He keeps his temper, yes, keeps his temper as he keeps his word,
and one morning it breaks loose, and all that's done has to be undone.
It will bemust. That extravaganza, as she is called, is fatal, dogs him
with burlesque--of all men!'
'Why not consent to meet her once, Chillon asks.'
'You are asking Russett to yield an inch on demand, and to a woman.'
'My husband would yield to a woman what he would refuse to all the men in
Europe and America,' said Henrietta; and she enjoyed her thrill of
allegiance to her chivalrous lord and courtier.
'No very extraordinary specimen of a newly married man, who has won the
Beauty of England and America for his wife-at some cost to some people,'
There came a moisture on the eyelashes of the emotional young woman, from
a touch of compassion for the wealthy man who had wished to call her
wife, and was condemned by her rejection of him to call another woman
wife, to be wifeless in wedding her, despite his wealth.
She thinks he loves her; it is pitiable, but she thinks it--after the
treatment she has had. She begs to see him once.'
'And subdue him with a fit of weeping,' Livia was moved to say by sight
of the tear she hated. 'It would harden Russett--on other eyes, too!
Salt-water drops are like the forced agony scenes in a play: they bring
down the curtain, they don't win the critics. I heard her "my husband"
and saw his face.'
'You didn't hear a whimper with it,' Henrietta said. 'She's a mountain
girl, not your city madam on the boards. Chillon and I had her by each
hand, implored her to leave that impossible Whitechapel, and she
trembled, not a drop was shed by her. I can almost fancy privation and
squalor have no terrors for Janey. She sings to the people down there,
nurses them. She might be occupying Esslemont--our dream of an English
home! She is the destruction of the idea of romantic in connection with
the name of marriage. I talk like a simpleton. Janey upsets us all.
My lord was only--a little queer before he knew her: His Mr. Woodseer may
be encouraging her. You tell me the creature has a salary from him equal
to your jointure.'
'Be civil to the man while it lasts,' Livia said, attentive to a
degradation of tone--in her cousin, formerly of supreme self-containment.
The beautiful young woman was reminded of her holiday in town.
She brightened, and the little that it was, and the meanness of the
satisfaction, darkened her. Envy of the lucky adventurer Mr. Woodseer,
on her husband's behalf, grew horridly conscious for being reproved. So
she plucked resolution to enjoy her holiday and forget the contrasts of
life-palaces running profusion, lodgings hammered by duns; the pinch of
poverty distracting every simple look inside or out. There was no end to
it; for her husband's chivalrous honour forced him to undertake the
payment of her father's heavy debts. He was right and admirable, it
could not be contested; but the prospect for them was a grinding gloom,
an unrelieved drag, as of a coach at night on an interminable uphill
These were her sensations, and she found it diverting to be admired;
admired by many while she knew herself to be absorbed in the possession
of her by one. It bestowed the before and after of her marriage. She
felt she was really, had rapidly become, the young woman of the world,
armed with a husband, to take the flatteries of men for the needed
diversion they brought. None moved her; none could come near to touching
the happy insensibility of a wife who adored her husband, wrote to him
daily, thought of him by the minute. Her former worshippers were
numerous at Livia's receptions; Lord Fleetwood, Lord Brailstone, and the
rest. Odd to reflect on--they were the insubstantial but coveted wealth
of the woman fallen upon poverty, ignoble poverty! She could not
discard her wealth. She wrote amusingly of them, and fully, vivacious
descriptions, to Chillon; hardly so much writing to him as entering her
heart's barred citadel, where he resided at his ease, heard everything
that befell about her. If she dwelt on Lord Fleetwood's kindness in
providing entertainments, her object was to mollify Chillon's anger in
some degree. She was doing her utmost to gratify him, 'for the purpose
of paving a way to plead Janey's case.' She was almost persuading
herself she was enjoying the remarks of his friend, confidant, secretary,
or what not, Livia's worshipper, Mr. Woodseer, 'who does as he wills with
my lord; directs his charities, his pleasures, his opinions, all because
he is believed to have wonderful ideas and be wonderfully honest.'
Henrietta wrote: 'Situation unchanged. Janey still At that place'; and
before the letter was posted, she and Livia had heard from Gower Woodseer
of the reported disappearance of the Countess of Fleetwood and her maid.
Gower's father had walked up from Whitechapel, bearing news of it to the
earl, she said.
'And the earl is much disturbed?' was Livia's inquiry.
'He has driven down with my father,' Gower said carelessly, ambiguously
in the sound.
Troubled enough to desire the show of a corresponding trouble, Henrietta
read at their faces.
'May it not be--down there--a real danger?'
The drama, he could inform her, was only too naked down there for
disappearances to be common.
'Will it be published that she is missing?'
'She has her maid with her, a stout-hearted girl. Both have courage.
I don't think we need take measures just yet.'
'Not before it is public property?'
Henrietta could have bitten her tongue for laying her open to the censure
implied in his muteness. Janey perverted her.
Women were an illegible manuscript, and ladies a closed book of the
binding, to this raw philosopher, or he would not so coldly have judged
the young wife, anxious on her husband's account, that they might escape
another scorching. He carried away his impression.
Livia listened to a remark on his want of manners.
'Russett puts it to the credit of his honesty,' she said. 'Honesty is
everything with us at present. The man has made his honesty an excellent
speculation. He puts a piece on zero and the bank hands him a sackful.
We may think we have won him to serve us, up comes his honesty. That's
how we have Lady Arpington mixed in it--too long a tale. But be guided
by me; condescend a little.'
'My dear! my whole mind is upon that unhappy girl. It would break
Livia pished. 'There are letters we read before we crack the seal. She
is out of that ditch, and it suits Russett that she should be. He's not
often so patient. A woman foot to foot against his will--I see him
throwing high stakes. Tyrants are brutal; and really she provokes him
enough. You needn't be alarmed about the treatment she 'll meet. He
won't let her beat him, be sure.'
Neither Livia nor Gower wondered at the clearing of the mystery, before
it went to swell the scandal. A young nobleman of ready power, quick
temper, few scruples, and a taxed forbearance, was not likely to stand
thwarted and goaded-and by a woman. Lord Fleetwood acted his part,
inscrutable as the blank of a locked door. He could not conceal that he
was behind the door.
THE PHILOSOPHER MAN OF ACTION
Gower's bedroom window looked over the shrubs of the square, and as his
form of revolt from a city life was to be up and out with the sparrows in
the early flutter of morning, for a stretch of the legs where grass was
green and trees were not enclosed, he rarely saw a figure below when he
stood dressing. Now there appeared a petticoated one stationary against
the rails, with her face lifted. She fronted the house, and while he
speculated abstractedly, recognition rushed on him. He was down and
across the roadway at leaps.
'It's Madge here!'
The girl panted for her voice.
'Mr. Woodseer, I'm glad; I thought I should have to wait hours. She's
'Will you come, sir?'
Madge set forth to north of the square.
He judged of the well-favoured girl that she could steer her way through
cities: mouth and brows were a warning to challenger pirate craft of a
vessel carrying guns; and the red lips kept their firm line when they
yielded to the pressure for speech.
'It's a distance. She's quite safe, no harm; she's a prisoner; she's
well fed; she's not ill treated.'
'You 're out?'
'That's as it happens. I'm lucky in seeing you early. He don't mean to
hurt her; he won't be beaten. All she asks is ten minutes with him. If
he would!--he won't. She didn't mean to do him offence t' other night in
that place--you've heard. Kit Ines told me he was on duty there--going.
She couldn't help speaking when she had eyes on her husband. She kisses
the ground of his footsoles, you may say, let him be ever so unkind. She
and I were crossing to the corner of Roper Street a rainy night, on way
to Mile End, away down to one of your father's families, Mother Davis and
her sick daughter and the little ones, and close under the public-house
Goat and Beard we were seized on and hustled into a covered carriage that
was there, and they drove sharp. She 's not one to scream. We weren't
frightened. We both made the same guess. They drove us to the house she
's locked in, and me, too, up till three o'clock this morning.'
'You've seen nobody, Madge?'
'He 's fixed she 's to leave London, Mr. Woodseer. I've seen Kit Ines.
And she 's to have one of the big houses to her use. I guessed Kit Ines
was his broom. He defends it because he has his money to make--and be a
dirty broom for a fortune! But any woman's sure of decent handling with
Kit Ines--not to speak of lady. He and a mate guard the house. An old
'He guards the house, and he gave you a pass?'
'Not he. His pride's his obedience to his "paytron"--he calls his
master, and won't hear that name abused. We are on the first floor; all
the lower doors are locked day and night. New Street, not much
neighbours; she wouldn't cry out of the window. She 's to be let free if
she'll leave London.'
'You jumped it!'
'If I'd broke a leg, Mr. Kit Ines would have had to go to his drams. It
wasn't very high; and a flower-bed underneath. My mistress wanted to be
the one. She has to be careful. She taught me how to jump down not to
hurt. She makes you feel you can do anything. I had a bother to get her
to let me and be quiet herself. She's not one to put it upon others,
you'll learn. When I was down I felt like a stick in the ground and sat
till I had my feet, she at the window waiting; and I started for you.
She kissed her hand. I was to come to you, and then your father, you
nowhere seen. I wasn't spoken to. I know empty London.'
'Kit Ines was left sleeping in the house?'
'Snoring, I dare say: He don't drink on duty.'
'He must be kept on duty.'
'Drink or that kind of duty, it's a poor choice.'
'You'll take him in charge, Madge.'
'I've got a mistress to look after.'
'You've warmed to her.'
'That's not new; Mr. Woodseer. I do trust you, and you his friend. But
you are the minister's son, and any man not a great nobleman must have
some heart for her. You'll learn. He kills her so because she's fond of
him--loves him, however he strikes. No, not like a dog, as men say of
us. She'd die for him this night, need were. Live with her, you won't
find many men match her for brave; and she's good. My Sally calls her a
Bible saint. I could tell you stories of her goodness, short the time
though she's been down our way. And better there for her than at that
inn he left her at to pine and watch the Royal Sovereign come swing come
smirk in sailor blue and star to meet the rain--would make anybody
disrespect Royalty or else go mad! He's a great nobleman, he can't buy
what she's ready to give; and if he thinks he breaks her will now, it's
because she thinks she's obeying a higher than him, or no lord alive and
Kit Ines to back him 'd hold her. Women want a priest to speak to men
certain times. I wish I dared; we have to bite our tongues. He's master
now, but, as I believe God's above, if he plays her false, he's the one
to be brought to shame. I talk.'
'Talk on, Madge,' said Gower, to whom the girl's short-syllabled run of
the lips was a mountain rill compared with London park waters.
'You won't let him hurry her off where she'll eat her heart for never
seeing him again? She prays to be near him, if she's not to see him.'
'She speaks in that way?'
'I get it by bits. I'm with her so, it's as good as if I was inside her.
She can't obey when it goes the wrong way of her heart to him.'
'Love and wisdom won't pull together, and they part company for good at
the church door,' said Gower. 'This matrimony's a bad business.'
Madge hummed a moan of assent. 'And my poor Sally 'll have to marry.
I can't leave my mistress while she wants me, and Sally can't be alone.
It seems we take a step and harm's done, though it's the right step we
'It seems to me you've engaged yourself to follow Sally's lead, Madge.'
'Girls' minds turn corners, Mr. Woodseer.'
He passed the remark. What it was that girls' minds occasionally or
habitually did, or whether they had minds to turn, or whether they took
their whims for minds, were untroubled questions with a young man
studying abstract and adoring surface nature too exclusively to be aware
of the manifestation of her spirit in the flesh, as it is not revealed so
much by men. However, she had a voice and a face that led him to be
thoughtful over her devotedness to her mistress, after nearly losing her
character for the prize-fighter, and he had to thank her for invigorating
him. His disposition was to muse and fall slack, helpless to a friend.
Here walked a creature exactly the contrary. He listened to the steps of
the dissimilar pair on the detonating pavement, and eyed a church clock
shining to the sun.
She was sure of the direction: 'Out Camden way, where the murder was.'
They walked at a brisk pace, conversing or not.
'Tired? You must be,' he said.
'Not when I'm hot to do a thing.'
'There's the word of the thoroughbred!'
'You don't tire, sir,' said she. 'Sally and I see you stalking out for
the open country in the still of the morning. She thinks you look pale
for want of food, and ought to have some one put a biscuit into your
'Who'd have guessed I was under motherly observation!'
'You shouldn't go so long empty, if you listen to trainers.'
'Capital doctors, no doubt. But I get a fine appetite.'
'You may grind the edge too sharp.'
He was about to be astonished, and reflected that she had grounds for her
sagacity. His next thought plunged him into contempt for Kit Ines, on
account of the fellow's lapses to sottishness. But there would be no
contempt of Kit Ines in a tussle with him. Nor could one funk the tussle
and play cur, if Kit's engaged young woman were looking on. We get to
our courage or the show of it by queer screws.
Contemplative over these matters, the philosopher transformed to man of
action heard Madge say she read directions in London by churches, and
presently exclaiming disdainfully, and yet relieved, 'Spooner Villas,'
she turned down a row of small detached houses facing a brickfield, that
had just contributed to the erection of them, and threatened the big city
with further defacements.
Madge pointed to the marks of her jump, deep in flower-bed earth under an
Gower measured the height with sensational shanks.
She smote at the door. Carinthia nodded from her window. Close upon
that, Kit Ines came bounding to the parlour window; he spied and stared.
Gower was known to him as the earl's paymaster; so he went to the passage
and flung the door open, blocking the way.
'Any commands, your honour?'
'You bring the countess to my lord immediately,' said Gower.
Kit swallowed his mouthful of surprise in a second look at Madge and the
ploughed garden-bed beneath the chamber window.
'Are the orders written, sir?'
'To me?--for me to deliver to you?--for you to do my lord's bidding?
Where's your head?'
Kit's finger-nails travelled up to it. Madge pushed past him.
She and her mistress, and Kit's mate, and the old woman receiving the
word for a cup of tea, were soon in the passage. Kit's mate had a ready
obedience for his pay, nothing else,--no counsel at all, not a suggestion
to a head knocked to a pudding by Madge's jump and my lord's paymaster
here upon the scene.
'My lady was to go down Wales way, sir.'
'That may be ordered after.'
'I 'm to take my lady to my lord?' and, 'Does it mean my lady wants a
fly?' Kit asked, and harked back on whether Madge had seen my lord.
'At five in the morning?--don't sham donkey with me,' said Gower.
The business looked inclined to be leaky, but which the way for proving
himself other than a donkey puzzled Kit: so much so, that a shove made
him partly grateful. Madge's clever countermove had stunned his
judgement. He was besides acting subordinate to his patron's paymaster;
and by the luck of it, no voice of woman interposed. The countess and
her maid stood by like a disinterested couple. Why be suspicious, if he
was to keep the countess, in sight? She was a nice lady, and he
preferred her good opinion. She was brave, and he did her homage. It
might be, my lord had got himself round to the idea of thanking her for
saving his nob that night, and his way was to send and have her up, to
tell her he forgave her, after the style of lords. Gower pricked into
him by saying aside: 'Mad, I suppose, in case of a noise?' And he could
not answer quite manfully, lost his eyes and coloured. Neighbours might
have required an explanation of shrieks, he confessed. Men have
sometimes to do nasty work for their patrons.
They were afoot, walking at Carinthia's pace before half-past seven.
She would not hear of any conveyance. She was cheerful, and, as it was
pitiful to see, enjoyed her walk. Hearing of her brother's departure for
the Austrian capital, she sparkled. Her snatches of speech were short
flights out of the meditation possessing her. Gower noticed her easier
English, that came home to the perpetual student he was. She made use of
some of his father's words, and had assimilated them mentally besides
appropriating them: the verbalizing of 'purpose,' then peculiar to his
father, for example. She said, in reply to a hint from him: 'If my lord
will allow me an interview, I purpose to be obedient.' No one could
imagine of her that she spoke broken-spiritedly. Her obedience was to a
higher than a mortal lord: and Gower was touched to the quick through the
use of the word.
Contrasting her with Countess Livia and her cousin, the earl might think
her inferior on the one small, square compartment called by them the
world; but she carried the promise of growth, a character in expansion,
and she had at least natural grace, a deerlike step. Although her
picturesqueness did not swarm on him with images illuminating night,
subduing day, like the Countess Livia's, it was marked, it could tower
and intermittently eclipse; and it was of the uplifting and healing kind
by comparison, not a delicious balefulness.
The bigger houses, larger shops, austere streets of private residences,
were observed by the recent inhabitant of Whitechapel.
'My lord lives in a square,' she said.
'We shall soon be there now,' he encouraged her, doubtful though the
'It is a summer morning for the Ortler, the Gross-Glockner, the
Venediger,--all our Alps, Mr. Woodseer.'
'If we could fly!'
'We love them.'
'Why, then we beat a wing--yes.'
'For I have them when I want them to sight. It is the feet are so
desirous. I feel them so this morning, after prisonership. I could not
have been driven to my lord.'
'I know the feeling,' said Gower; 'any movement of us not our own
impulse, hurries the body and deadens the mind. And by the way, my dear
lady, I spoke of the earl's commands to this man behind us walking with
your Madge. My father would accuse me of Jesuitry. Ines mentioned
commands, and I took advantage of it.'
'I feared,' said Carinthia. 'I go for my chance.'
Gower had a thought of the smaller creature, greater by position, to whom
she was going for her chance. He alluded to his experience of the earl's
kindness in relation to himself, from a belief in his 'honesty'; dotted
outlines of her husband's complex character, or unmixed and violently
She remarked: 'I will try and learn.'
The name of the street of beautiful shops woke a happy smile on her
mouth. 'Father talked of it; my mother, too. He has it written down in
his Book of Maxims. When I was a girl, I dreamed of one day walking up
They stepped from the pavement and crossed the roadway for a side-street
leading to the square. With the swift variation of her aspect at times,
her tone changed.
'We are near. My lord will not be troubled by me. He has only to meet
me. There has been misunderstanding. I have vexed him; I could not help
it. I will go where he pleases after I have heard him give orders. He
thinks me a frightful woman. I am peaceful.'
Gower muttered her word 'misunderstanding.' They were at the earl's
house door. One tap at it, and the two applicants for admission would
probably be shot as far away from Lord Fleetwood as when they were on the
Styrian heights last autumn. He delivered the tap, amused by the idea.
It was like a summons to a genie of doubtful service.
My lord was out riding in the park.
Only the footman appeared at that early hour, and his countenance was
blank whitewash as he stood rigid against the wall for the lady to pass.
Madge followed into the morning room; Ines remained in the hall, where he
could have the opening speech with his patron, and where he soon had
communication with the butler.
This official entered presently to Gower, presenting a loaded forehead.
A note addressed to Mrs. Kirby-Levellier at the Countess Livia's house
hard by was handed to him for instant despatch. He signified a
deferential wish to speak.
'You can speak in the presence of the Countess of Fleetwood, Mr. Waytes,'
Waytes checked a bend of his shoulders. He had not a word, and he turned
to send the note. He was compelled to think that he saw a well-grown
young woman in the Whitechapel Countess.
Gower's note reached Henrietta on her descent to the breakfast-table.
She was, alone, and thrown into a torture of perplexity: for she wanted
advice as to the advice to be given to Janey, and Livia was an utterly
unprofitable person to consult in the case. She thought of Lady
Arpington, not many doors distant. Drinking one hasty cup of tea, she
sent for her bonnet, and hastened away to the great lady, whom she found
rising from breakfast with the marquis.
Lady Arpington read Gower's note. She unburdened herself: 'Oh! So it 's
no longer a bachelor's household!'
Henrietta heaved the biggest of sighs. 'I fear the poor dear may have
made matters worse.'
To which Lady Arpington said: 'Worse or better, my child!' and shrugged;
for the present situation strained to snapping.
She proposed to go forthwith, and give what support she could to the
Countess of Fleetwood.
They descended the steps of the house to the garden and the Green Park's
gravel walk up to Piccadilly. There they had view of Lord Fleetwood on
horseback leisurely turning out of the main way's tide. They saw him
alight at the mews. As they entered the square, he was met some doors
from the south corner by his good or evil genius, whose influence with
him came next after the marriage in the amazement it caused, and was
perhaps to be explained by it; for the wealthiest of young noblemen
bestowing his name on an unknown girl, would be the one to make an absurd
adventurer his intimate. Lord Fleetwood bent a listening head while Mr.
Gower Woodseer, apparently a good genius for the moment, spoke at his
How do we understand laughter at such a communication as he must be
hearing from the man? Signs of a sharp laugh indicated either his cruel
levity or that his presumptuous favourite trifled--and the man's talk
could be droll, Lady Arpington knew: it had, she recollected angrily,
diverted her, and softened her to tolerate the intruder into regions from
which her class and her periods excluded the lowly born, except at the
dinner-tables of stale politics and tattered scandal. Nevertheless, Lord
Fleetwood mounted the steps to his house door, still listening. His
'Asmodeus,' on the tongue of the world, might be doing the part of Mentor
really. The house door stood open.
Fleetwood said something to Gower; he swung round, beheld the ladies and
advanced to them, saluting. 'My dear Lady Arpington! quite so, you
arrive opportunely. When the enemy occupies the citadel, it's proper to
surrender. Say, I beg, she can have the house, if she prefers it. I
will fall back on Esslemont. Arrangements for her convenience will be
made. I thank you, by anticipation.'
His bow included Henrietta loosely. Lady Arpington had exclaimed:
'Enemy, Fleetwood?' and Gower, in his ignorance of the smoothness of
aristocratic manners, expected a remonstrance; but Fleetwood was allowed
to go on, with his air of steely geniality and a decision, that his
friend imagined he could have broken down like an old partition board
under the kick of a sarcasm sharpening an appeal.
'Lord Fleetwood was on the point of going in,' he assured the great lady.
'Lord Fleetwood may regret his change of mind,' said she. 'The Countess
of Fleetwood will have my advice to keep her footing in this house.'
She and Henrietta sat alone with Carinthia for an hour. Coming forth,
Lady Arpington ejaculated to herself: 'Villany somewhere!--You will do
well, Henrietta, to take up your quarters with her a day or two. She can
hold her position a month. Longer is past possibility.'
A shudder of the repulsion from men crept over the younger lady. But she
was a warrior's daughter, and observed: 'My husband, her brother, will be
back before the month ends.'
'No need for hostilities to lighten our darkness,' Lady Arpington
rejoined. 'You know her? trust her?'
'One cannot doubt her face. She is my husband's sister. Yes, I do trust
her. I nail my flag to her cause.'
The flag was crimson, as it appeared on her cheeks; and that intimated a
further tale, though not of so dramatic an import as the cognizant short
survey of Carinthia had been.
These young women, with the new complications obtruded by them, irritated
a benevolent great governing lady, who had married off her daughters and
embraced her grandchildren, comfortably finishing that chapter; and
beheld now the apparition of the sex's ancient tripping foe, when
circumstances in themselves were quite enough to contend against on their
behalf. It seemed to say, that nature's most burdened weaker must always
be beaten. Despite Henrietta's advocacy and Carinthia's clear face, it
raised a spectral form of a suspicion, the more effective by reason of
the much required justification it fetched from the shades to plead
apologies for Lord Fleetwood's erratic, if not mad, and in any case ugly,
conduct. What otherwise could be his excuse? Such was his need of one,
that the wife he crushed had to be proposed for sacrifice, in the mind of
a lady tending strongly to side with her and condemn her husband.
Lady Arpington had counselled Carinthia to stay where she was, the Fates
having brought her there. Henrietta was too generous to hesitate in her
choice between her husband's sister and the earl. She removed from
Livia's house to Lord Fleetwood's. My lord was at Esslemont two days;
then established his quarters at Scrope's hotel, five minutes' walk from
the wedded lady to whom the right to bear his title was granted, an
interview with him refused. Such a squaring for the battle of spouses
had never--or not in mighty London--been seen since that old fight began.
AFTER SOME FENCING THE DAME PASSES OUR GUARD