Part 2 out of 2
Dame Gossip at this present pass bursts to give us a review of the social
world siding for the earl or for his countess; and her parrot cry of
'John Rose Mackrell!' with her head's loose shake over the smack of her
lap, to convey the contemporaneous tipsy relish of the rich good things
he said on the subject of the contest, indicates the kind of intervention
it would be.
To save the story from having its vein tied, we may accept the reminder,
that he was the countess's voluble advocate at a period when her friends
were shy to speak of her. After relating the Vauxhall Gardens episode in
burlesque Homeric during the freshness of the scandal, Rose Mackrell's
enthusiasm for the heroine of his humour set in. He tracked her to her
parentage, which was new breath blown into the sunken tradition of some
Old Buccaneer and his Countess Fanny: and, a turn of great good luck
helping him to a copy of the book of the MAXIMS FOR MEN, he would quote
certain of the racier ones, passages of Captain John Peter Kirby's
personal adveres in various lands and waters illustrating the text, to
prove that the old warrior acted by the rule of his recommendations.
They had the repulsive attraction proper to rusty lumber swords and
truncehons that have tasted brains. They wove no mild sort of halo for
the head of a shillelagh-flourishing Whitechapel Countess descended from
the writer and doer.
People were willing to believe in her jump of thirty feet or more off a
suburban house-top to escape durance, and her midnight storming of her
lord's town house, and ousting of him to go find his quarters at Scrope's
hotel. He, too, had his band of pugilists, as it was known; and he might
have heightened a rageing scandal. The nobleman forbore. A woman's blow
gracefully taken adds a score of inches to our stature, floor us as it
may: we win the world's after-thoughts. Rose Mackrell sketched the
earl;--always alert, smart, quick to meet a combination and protect a
dignity never obtruded, and in spite of himself the laugh of the town.
His humour flickered wildly round the ridiculous position of a prominent
young nobleman, whose bearing and character were foreign to a position of
Nevertheless, the earl's figure continuing to be classic sculpture, it
allied him with the aristocracy of martyrs, that burn and do not wince.
He propitiated none, and as he could not but suffer shrewdly, he gained
esteem enough to shine through the woman's pitiless drenching of him.
During his term at Scrope's hotel, the carousals there were quite old-
century and matter of discourse. He had proved his return to sound sense
in the dismissal of 'the fiddler,' notoriously the woman's lieutenant, or
more; and nightly the revelry closed at the great gaming tables of St.
James's Street, while Whitechapel held the coroneted square, well on her
way to the Law courts, as Abrane and Potts reported; and positively so,
'clear case.' That was the coming development and finale of the
Marriage. London waited for it.
A rich man's easy smile over losses at play, merely taught his emulous
troop to feel themselves poor devils in the pocket. But Fleetwood's
contempt of Sleep was a marvel, superhuman, and accused them of an
inferior vigour, hard for young men to admit by the example. He never
went to bed. Issuing from Fortune's hall-doors in the bright, lively,
summer morning, he mounted horse and was away to the hills. Or he took
the arm of a Roman Catholic nobleman, Lord Feltre, and walked with him
from the green tables and the establishment's renowned dry still Sillery
to a Papist chapel. As it was not known that he had given his word to
abjure his religion, the pious gamblers did no worse than spread an alarm
and quiet it, by the citation of his character for having a try at
Henrietta despatched at this period the following letter to Chillon:
'I am with Livia to-morrow. Janey starts for Wales to-morrow morning, a
voluntary exile. She pleaded to go back to that place where you had to
leave her, promising she would not come Westward; but was persuaded.
Lady Arpington approves. The situation was getting too terribly
strained. We met and passed my lord in the park.
'He was walking his horse-elegant cavalier that he is: would not look on
his wife. A woman pulled by her collar should be passive; if she pulls
her way, she is treated as a dog. I see nothing else in the intention of
poor Janey's last offence to him. There is an opposite counsel, and he
can be eloquent, and he will be heard on her side. How could she manage
the most wayward when she has not an idea of ordinary men! But, my
husband, they have our tie between them; it may move him. It subdues
her--and nothing else would have done that. If she had been in England a
year before the marriage, she would, I think, have understood better how
to guide her steps and her tongue for his good pleasure. She learns
daily, very quickly: observes, assimilates; she reads and has her
comments--would have shot far ahead of your Riette, with my advantages.
'Your uncle--but he will bear any charge on his conscience as long as he
can get the burden off his shoulders. Do not fret, my own! Reperuse the
above--you will see we have grounds for hope.
'He should have looked down on her! No tears from her eyes, but her eyes
were tears. She does not rank among beautiful women. She has her
moments for outshining them--the loveliest of spectres! She caught at my
heart. I cannot forget her face looking up for him to look down. A
great painter would have reproduced it, a great poet have rendered the
impression. Nothing short of the greatest. That is odd to say of one so
simple as she. But when accidents call up her reserves, you see mountain
heights where mists were--she is actually glorified. Her friend--I do
believe a friend--the Mr. Woodseer you are to remember meeting somewhere
--a sprained ankle--has a dozen similes ready for what she is when pain
or happiness vivify her. Or, it may be, tender charity. She says, that
if she feels for suffering people, it is because she is the child of
Chillon's mother. In like manner Chillon is the son of Janey's father.
'Mr. Woodseer came every other evening. Our only enlivenment. Livia
followed her policy, in refusing to call. We lived luxuriously; no
money, not enough for a box at the opera, though we yearned--you can
imagine. Chapters of philosophy read out and expounded instead. Janey
likes them. He sets lessons to her queer maid--reading, writing,
pronunciation of English. An inferior language to Welsh, for poetical
purposes, we are informed. So Janey--determining to apply herself to
Welsh, and a chameleon Riette dreading that she will be taking a contrary
view of the honest souls--as she feels them to be--when again under
'The message from Janey to Scrope's hotel was despatched half-an-hour
after we had driven in from the park; fruit of a brown meditation. I
wrote it--third person--a single sentence. Arrangements are made for her
to travel comfortably. It is funny--the shops for her purchases of
clothes, necessaries, etc., are specified; she may order to any extent.
Not a shilling of money for her poor purse. What can be the secret of
that? He does nothing without an object. To me, uniformly civil, no
irony, few compliments. Livia writes, that I am commended for keeping
Janey company. What can be the secret of a man scrupulously just with
one hand, and at the same time cruel with the other? Mr. Woodseer says,
his wealth:--"More money than is required for their needs, men go into
harness to Plutus,"--if that is clever.
'I have written my husband--as Janey ceases to call her own; and it was
pretty and touching to hear her "my husband."--Oh! a dull letter. But
he is my husband though he keeps absent--to be longed for--he is my
husband still, my husband always. Chillon is Henrietta's husband, the
world cries out, and when she is flattered she does the like, for then it
is not too presumptuous that she should name Henrietta Chillon's wife.
In my ears, husband has the sweeter sound. It brings an angel from
overhead. Will it bring him one-half hour sooner? My love! My dear!
If it did, I should be lisping "husband, husband, husband" from cock-crow
to owl's cry. Livia thinks the word foolish, if not detestable. She and
I have our different opinions. She is for luxury. I choose poverty and
my husband. Poverty has its beauty, if my husband is the sun of it.
Elle radote. She would not have written so dull a letter to her husband
if she had been at the opera last night, or listened to a distant street-
band. No more--the next line would be bleeding. He should have her
blood too, if that were her husband's--it would never be; but if it were
for his good in the smallest way. Chillon's wish is to give his blood
for them he loves. Never did woman try more to write worthily to her
absent lord and fall so miserably into the state of dripping babe from
bath on nurse's knee. Cover me, my lord; and love, my cause for--no, my
excuse, my refuge from myself. We are one? Oh! we are one!--and we
have been separated eight and twenty days.
That was a letter for the husband and lover to receive in a foreign land
and be warmed.
The tidings of Carinthia washed him clean of the grimy district where
his waxen sister had developed her stubborn insensibility;--resembling
craziness, every perversion of the refinement demanded by young
Englishmen of their ladies; and it pacified him with the belief that she
was now at rest, the disturbed history of their father and mother at rest
as well; his conscience in relation to the marriage likewise at rest.
Chillon had a wife. Her writing of the welcome to poverty stirred his
knowledge of his wife's nature. Carinthia might bear it and harden to
flint; Henrietta was a butterfly for the golden rays. His thoughts, all
his energies, were bent on the making of money to supply her need for the
pleasure she flew in--a butterfly's grub without it. Accurately so did
the husband and lover read his wife--adoring her the more.
Her letter's embracing close was costly to them. It hurried him to the
compromise of a debateable business, and he fell into the Austrian
Government's terms for the payment of the inheritance from his father;
calculating that--his sister's share deducted-money would be in hand to
pay pressing debts and enable Henrietta to live unworried by cares until
he should have squeezed debts, long due and increasing, out of the
miserly old lord, his uncle. A prospect of supplies for twelve months,
counting the hack and carriage Henrietta had always been used to, seemed
about as far as it was required to look by the husband hastening homeward
to his wife's call. Her letter was a call in the night. Besides, there
were his yet untried Inventions. The new gunpowder testing at Croridge
promised to provide Henrietta with many of the luxuries she could have
had, and had abandoned for his sake. The new blasting powder and a
destructive shell might build her the palace she deserved. His uncle
was, no doubt, his partner. If, however, the profits were divided,
sufficient wealth was assured. But his uncle remained a dubious image.
The husband and lover could enfold no positive prospect to suit his
wife's tastes beyond the twelve months.
We have Dame Gossip upon us.
--One minute let mention be of the excitement over Protestant England
when that rumour disseminated, telling of her wealthiest nobleman's visit
to a monastery, up in the peaks and snows; and of his dwelling among the
monks, and assisting in all their services day and night, hymning and
chanting, uttering not one word for one whole week: his Papistical
friend, Lord Feltre, with him, of course, after Jesuit arts had allured
him to that place of torrents and lightnings and canticles and demon
echoes, all as though expressly contrived for the horrifying of sinners
into penitence and confession and the monkish cowl up to life's end, not
to speak of the abjuration of worldly possessions and donation of them
into the keeping of the shaven brothers; when either they would have
settled a band of them here in our very midst, or they would have
impoverished--is not too strong a word--the country by taking the money's
worth of the mines, estates, mansions, freehold streets and squares of
our metropolis out of it without scruple; rejoicing so to bleed the
Protestant faith. Underrate it now--then it was a truly justifiable
anxiety: insomuch that you heard people of station, eminent titled
persons, asking, like the commonest low Radicals, whether it was prudent
legislation to permit of the inheritance of such vast wealth by a young
man, little more than a boy, and noted for freaks. And some declared it
could not be allowed for foreign monks to have a claim to inherit English
property. There was a general consent, that if the Earl of Fleetwood
went to the extreme of making over his property to those monks, he should
be pronounced insane and incapable. Ultimately the world was a little
pacified by hearing that a portion of it was entailed, Esslemont and the
So it might be; but what if he had no child! The marriage amazing
everybody scarcely promised fruit, it was thought. Countess Livia, much
besought for her opinion, scouted the possibility. And Carinthia Jane
was proclaimed by John Rose Mackrell (to his dying day the poor gentleman
tried vainly to get the second syllable of his name accentuated) a young
woman who would outlive twice over the husband she had. He said of his
name, it was destined to pass him down a dead fish in the nose of
posterity, and would affect his best jokes; which something has done, or
the present generation has lost the sense of genuine humour.
Thanks to him, the talk of the Whitechapel Countess again sprang up,
merrily as ever; and after her having become, as he said, 'a desiccated
celebrity,' she outdid cabinet ministers and naughty wives for a living
morsel in the world's mouth. She was denounced by the patriotic party as
the cause of the earl's dalliance with Rome.
The earl, you are to know, was then coasting along the Mediterranean, on
board his beautiful schooner yacht, with his Lord Feltre, bound to make
an inspection of Syrian monasteries, and forget, if he could, the face of
all faces, another's possession by the law.
Those two lords, shut up together in a yacht, were advised by their
situation to be bosom friends, and they quarrelled violently, and were
reconciled, and they quarrelled again; they were explosive chemicals;
until the touch of dry land relieved them of what they really fancied the
spell of the Fiend. For their argumentative topic during confinement was
Woman, when it was not Theology; and even off a yacht, those are subjects
to kindle the utmost hatred of dissension, if men are not perfectly
concordant. They agreed upon land to banish any talk of Women or
Theology, where it would have been comparatively innocent; so they both
desiring to be doing the thing they had sworn they would not do, the
thoughts of both were fastened on one or the other interdicted subject.
They hardly spoke; they perceived in their longing minds, that the
imagined spell of, the Fiend was indeed the bile of the sea, secreted
thickly for want of exercise, and they both regretted the days and nights
of their angry controversies; unfit pilgrims of the Holy Land, they
To such effect, Lord Fleetwood wrote to Gower Woodseer, as though there
had been no breach between them, from Jerusalem, expressing the wish to
hear his cool wood-notes of the philosophy of Life, fresh drawn from
Nature's breast; and urgent for an answer, to be addressed to his hotel
at Southampton, that he might be greeted on his return home first by his
He wrote in the month of January. His arrival at Southampton was on the
thirteenth day of March; and there he opened a letter some weeks old, the
bearer of news which ought by rights to make husbands proudly happy.
WE DESCEND INTO A STEAMER'S ENGINE-ROOM
Fleetwood had dropped his friend Lord Feltre at Ancona; his good fortune
was to be alone when the clang of bells rang through his head in the
reading of Gower's lines. Other letters were opened: from the Countess
Livia, from Lady Arpington, from Captain Kirby-Levellier. There was one
from his lawyers, informing him of their receipt of a communication dated
South Wales, December 11th, and signed Owain Wythan; to the effect, that
the birth of a son to the Earl of Fleetwood was registered on the day of
the date, with a copy of the document forwarded.
Livia scornfully stated the tattling world's 'latest.' The captain was
as brief, in ordinary words, whose quick run to the stop could be taken
for a challenge of the eye. It stamped the adversary's frown on
Fleetwood reading. Lady Arpington was more politic; she wrote of
'a healthy boy,' and 'the healthy mother giving him breast,' this being
'the way for the rearing of strong men.' She condescended to the
particulars, that she might touch him.
The earl had not been so reared: his mother was not the healthy mother.
One of his multitudinous, shifty, but ineradicable ambitions was to
exhibit an excellingly vigorous, tireless constitution. He remembered
the needed refreshment of the sea-breezes aboard his yacht during the
week following the sleep-discarded nights at Scrope's and the green
tables. For a week he hung to the smell of brine, in rapturous amity
with Feltre, until they yellowed, differed, wrangled, hated.
A powerful leaven was put into him by the tidings out of Wales. Gower,
good fellow, had gone down to see the young mother three weeks after the
birth of her child. She was already renewing her bloom. She had
produced the boy in the world's early manner, lightly, without any of the
tragic modern hovering over death to give the life. Gower compared it to
a 'flush of the vernal orchard after a day's drink of sunlight.' That
was well: that was how it should be. One loathes the idea of tortured
The good fellow was perhaps absurdly poetical. Still we must have poetry
to hallow this and other forms of energy: or say, if you like, the right
view of them impels to poetry. Otherwise we are in the breeding yards,
among the litters and the farrows. It is a question of looking down or
looking up. If we are poor creatures--as we are if we do but feast and
gamble and beget--we shall run for a time with the dogs and come to the
finish of swine. Better say, life is holy! Why, then have we to thank
her who teaches it.
He gazed at the string of visions of the woman naming him husband, making
him a father: the imagined Carinthia--beautiful Gorgon, haggard Venus;
the Carinthia of the precipice tree-shoot; Carinthia of the ducal
dancing-hall; and she at the altar rails; she on the coach box; she
alternately softest of brides, doughtiest of Amazons. A mate for the
caress, an electrical heroine, fronted him.
Yes, and she was Lord Fleetwood's wife, cracking sconces,--a demoiselle
Moll Flanders,--the world's Whitechapel Countess out for an airing,
infernally earnest about it, madly ludicrous; the schemer to catch his
word, the petticoated Shylock to bind him to the letter of it; now
persecuting, haunting him, now immoveable for obstinacy; malignant to
stay down in those vile slums and direct tons of sooty waters on his head
from its mains in the sight of London, causing the least histrionic of
men to behave as an actor. He beheld her a skull with a lamp behind the
But this woman was the woman who made him a father; she was the mother of
the heir of the House; and the boy she clasped and suckled as her boy was
his boy. They met inseparably in that new life.
Truly, there could not be a woman of flesh so near to a likeness with the
beatific image of Feltre's worshipped Madonna!
The thought sparkled and darkened in Fleetwood's mind, as a star passing
into cloud. For an uproarious world claimed the woman, jeered at all
allied with her; at her husband most, of course:--the punctilious noodle!
the golden jackass, tethered and goaded! He had choice among the pick of
women: the daughter of the Old Buccaneer was preferred by the wiseacre
Coelebs. She tricked him cunningly and struck a tremendous return blow
in producing her male infant.
By the way, was she actually born in wedlock? Lord Levellier's
assurances regarding her origin were, by the calculation, a miser's
shuffles to clinch his bargain. Assuming the representative of holy
motherhood to be a woman of illegitimate birth, the history of the House
to which the spotted woman gave an heir would suffer a jolt when touching
on her. And altogether the history fumed rank vapours. Imagine her boy
in his father's name a young collegian! No commonly sensitive lad could
bear the gibes of the fellows raking at antecedents: Fleetwood would be
the name to start roars. Smarting for his name, the earl chafed at the
boy's mother. Her production of a man-child was the further and grosser
The world sat on him. His confession to some degree of weakness, even to
folly, stung his pride of individuality so that he had to soothe the pain
by tearing himself from a thought of his folly's partner, shutting
himself up and away from her. Then there was a cessation of annoyance,
flatteringly agreeable: which can come to us only of our having done the
right thing, young men will think. He felt at once warmly with the
world, enjoyed the world's kind shelter, and in return for its eulogy of
his unprecedented attachment to the pledge of his word, admitted an
understanding of its laughter at the burlesque edition of a noble lady in
the person of the Whitechapel Countess. The world sat on him heavily.
He recurred to Gower Woodseer's letter.
The pictures and images in it were not the principal matter,--the
impression had been deep. A plain transcription of the young mother's
acts and words did more to portray her: the reader could supply
Would her boy's father be very pleased to see him? she had asked.
And she spoke of a fear that the father would try to take her boy from
'Never that--you have my word!' Fleetwood said; and he nodded
consentingly over her next remark
'Not while I live, till he must go to school!'
The stubborn wife would be the last of women to sit and weep as a rifled
A child of the Countess Carinthia (he phrased it) would not be deficient
in will, nor would the youngster lack bravery.
For his part, comparison rushing at him and searching him, he owned that
he leaned on pride. To think that he did, became a theme for pride. The
mother had the primitive virtues, the father the developed: he was the
richer mine. And besides, he was he, the unriddled, complex, individual
he; she was the plain barbarian survival, good for giving her offspring
bone, muscle, stout heart.
Shape the hypothesis of a fairer woman the mother of the heir to the
Henrietta was analyzed in a glimpse. Courage, animal healthfulness, she,
too, might--her husband not obstructing--transmit; and good looks, eyes
of the sapphire AEgean. And therewith such pliability as the Mother of
Love requires of her servants.
Could that woman resist seductions?
Fleetwood's wrath with her for refusing him and inducing him in spite to
pledge his word elsewhere, haphazard, pricked a curiosity to know whether
the woman could be--and easily! easily! he wagered--led to make her
conduct warrant for his contempt of her. Led,--that is, misled, you
might say, if you were pleading for a doll. But it was necessary to bait
the pleasures for the woman, in order to have full view of the precious
fine fate one has escaped. Also to get well rid of a sort of hectic in
the blood, which the woman's beauty has cast on that reflecting tide: a
fever-sign, where the fever has become quite emotionless and is merely
desirous for the stain of it to be washed out. As this is not the desire
to possess or even to taste, contempt will do it. When we know that the
weaver of the fascinations is purchasable, we toss her to the market
where men buy; and we walk released from vile subjection to one of the
female heap: subjection no longer, doubtless, and yet a stain of the past
flush, often colouring our reveries, creating active phantasms of a
passion absolutely extinct, if it ever was the veritable passion.
The plot--formless plot--to get release by the sacrifice or at least a
crucial temptation of the woman, that should wash his blood clean of her
image, had a shade of the devilish, he acknowledged; and the apology
offered no improvement of its aspect. She might come out of the trial
triumphant. And benefit for himself, even a small privilege, even the
pressure of her hand, he not only shrank from the thought of winning,-he
loathed the thought. He was too delicate over the idea of the married
woman whom he fancied he loved in her maidenhood. Others might press her
hand, lead her the dance: he simply wanted his release. She had set him
on fire; he conceived a method for trampling the remaining sparks and
erasing stain and scars; that was all. Henrietta rejected her wealthy
suitor: she might some day hence be seen crawling abjectly to wealth,
glad of a drink from the cup it holds, intoxicated with the draught.
An injured pride could animate his wealth to crave solace of such a
Devilish, if you like. He had expiated the wickedness in Cistercian
seclusion. His wife now drove him to sin again.
She had given him a son. That fluted of home and honourable life.
She had her charm, known to him alone.
But how, supposing she did not rub him to bristle with fresh irritations,
how go to his wife while Henrietta held her throne? Consideration was
due to her until she stumbled. Enough if she wavered. Almost enough is
she stood firm as a statue in the winds, and proved that the first page
of her was a false introduction. The surprising apparition of a
beautiful woman with character; a lightly-thrilled, pleasure-loving woman
devoted to her husband or protected by her rightful self-esteem, would
loosen him creditably. It had to be witnessed, for faith in it. He
reverenced our legendary good women, and he bowed to noble deeds; and he
ascribed the former to poetical creativeness, the latter operated as a
scourging to his flesh to yield its demoniacal inmates. Nothing of the
kind was doing at present.
Or stay: a studious re-perusal of Gower Woodseer's letter enriched a
little incident. Fleetwood gave his wife her name of Carinthia when he
had read deliberately and caught the scene.
Mrs. Wythan down in Wales related it to Gower. Carinthia and Madge,
trudging over the treeless hills, came on a birchen clump round a deep
hollow or gullypit; precipitous, the earl knew, he had peeped over the
edge in his infant days. There at the bottom, in a foot or so of water,
they espied a lamb; and they rescued the poor beastie by going down to
it, one or both. It must have been the mountain-footed one. A man would
hesitate, spying below. Fleetwood wondered how she had managed to climb
up, and carrying the lamb! Down pitches Madge Winch to help--they did it
between them. We who stand aloof admire stupidly. To defend himself
from admiring, he condemned the two women for the risk they ran to save a
probably broken-legged little beast: and he escaped the melting mood by
forcing a sneer at the sort of stuff out of which popular ballads are
woven. Carinthia was accused of letting her adventurous impulses and
sentimental female compassion swamp thought of a mother's duties. If
both those women had broken their legs the child might have cried itself
into fits for the mother, there she would have remained.
Gower wrote in a language transparent of the act, addressed to a reader
whose memory was to be impregnated. His reader would have flown away
from the simple occurrence on arabesques and modulated tones; and then
envisaging them critically, would have tossed his poor little story to
the winds, as a small thing magnified: with an object, being the next
thought about it. He knew his Fleetwood so far.
His letter concluded: 'I am in a small Surrey village over a baker's
shop, rent eight shillings per week, a dame's infant school opposite my
window, miles of firwood, heath, and bracken openings, for the winged or
the nested fancies. Love Nature, she makes you a lord of her boundless,
off any ten square feet of common earth. I go through my illusions and
come always back on that good truth. It says, beware of the world's
passion for flavours and spices. Much tasted, they turn and bite the
biter. My exemplars are the lately breeched youngsters with two pence in
their pockets for the gingerbread-nut booth on a fair day. I learn more
from one of them than you can from the whole cavalcade of your attendant
Mounting the box of his coach for the drive to London, Fleetwood had the
new name for the parasitic and sham vital troop at his ears.
'My Ixionides!' he repeated, and did not scorn them so much as he
rejoiced to be enlightened by the title. He craved the presence of the
magician who dropped illumination with a single word; wholesomer to think
of than the whole body of those Ixionides--not bad fellows, here and
there, he reflected, tolerantly, half laughing at some of their clownish
fun. Gower Woodseer and he had not quarrelled? No, they had merely
parted at one of the crossways. The plebeian could teach that son of
the, genuflexions, Lord Feltre, a lesson in manners. Woodseer was the
better comrade and director of routes. Into the forest, up on the
heights; and free, not locked; and not parroting day and night, but quick
for all that the world has learnt and can tell, though two-thirds of it
be composed of Ixionides: that way lies wisdom, and his index was cut
Arrived in town, he ran over the headings of his letters, in no degree
anxious for a communication from Wales. There was none. Why none?
She might as well have scrawled her announcement of an event pleasing to
her, and, by the calculation, important to him, if not particularly
interesting. The mother's wifeish lines would, perhaps, have been tested
in a furnace. He smarted at the blank of any, of even two or three
formal words. She sulked? 'I am not a fallen lamb!' he said. Evidently
one had to be a shivering beast in trouble, to excite her to move a hand.
Through so slight a fissure as this piece of discontent cracked in him,
the crowd of his grievances with the woman rushed pell-mell, deluging
young shoots of sweeter feelings. She sulked! If that woman could not
get the command, he was to know her incapable of submission. After
besmutting the name she had filched from him, she let him understand that
there was no intention to repent. Possibly she meant war. In which case
a man must fly, or stand assailed by the most intolerable of vulgar
farces;--to be compared to a pelting of one on the stage.
The time came for him to knock at doors and face his public.
BY CONCESSIONS TO MISTRESS GOSSIP A FURTHER INTRUSION IS AVERTED
Livia welcomed him, with commiserating inquiry behind her languid
eyelids. 'You have all the latest?' it said.
He struck on the burning matter.
'You wish to know the part you have to play, ma'am.' 'Tell me, Russett.'
'You will contradict nothing.'
Her eyebrows asked, 'It means?'
'You have authority from me to admit the facts.'
'They are facts?' she remarked.
'Women love teasing round certain facts, apparently; like the Law courts
over their pet cases.'
'But, Russett, will you listen?'
'Has the luck been civil of late?'
'I think of something else at present. No, it has not.'
'Pray, attend to me. No, not Abrane.'
'I believe you've all been cleared out in my absence. St. Ombre?'
Her complexion varied. 'Mr. Ambrose Mallard has once or twice . . .
But let me beg you--the town is rageing with it. My dear Russett, a bold
front now; there 's the chance of your release in view.'
'A rascal in view! Name the sum.'
'I must reckon. My head is--can you intend to submit?'
'So it's Brosey Mallard now. You choose your deputy queerly. He's as
bad as Abrane, with steam to it. Chummy Potts would have done better.'
'He wins one night; loses every pound-note he has the next; and comes
vaunting--the "dry still Sillery" of the establishment,--a perpetual
chorus to his losses!'
'His consolation to you for yours. That is the gentleman. Chummy
doesn't change. Say, why not St. Ombre? He's cool.'
'There are reasons.'
'Let them rest. And I have my reasons. Do the same for them.'
'Yours concern the honour of the family.'
'Deeply: respect them.'
'Your relatives have to be thought of, though they are few and not too
'If I had thought much of them, what would our relations be? They object
to dicing, and I to leading strings.'
She turned to a brighter subject, of no visible connection with the
'Henrietta comes in May.'
'The month of her colours.'
'Her money troubles are terrible.'
'Both of you appear unlucky in your partners,--if winning was the object.
She shall have all the distractions we can offer.'
'Your visit to the Chartreuse alarmed her.'
'She has rejoiced her husband.'
'A girl. She feared the Jesuit in your friend.'
'Feltre and she are about equally affected by music. They shall meet.'
'Russett, this once: I do entreat you to take counsel with your good
sense, and remember that you stand where you are by going against my
advice. It is a perfect storm over London. The world has not to be
informed of your generosity; but a chivalry that invites the most
horrible of sneers at a man! And what can I say? I have said it was
'Add the postscript: you find it was perfectly possible.'
'I have to learn more than I care to hear.'
'Your knowledge is not in request: you will speak in my name.'
'Will you consult your lawyers, Russett, before you commit yourself?'
'I am on my way to Lady Arpington.'
'You cannot be thinking how serious it is.'
'I rather value the opinion of a hard-headed woman of the world.'
'Why not listen to me?'
'You have your points, ma'am.'
'She's a torch.'
'She serves my purpose.'
Livia shrugged sadly. 'I suppose it serves your purpose to be
unintelligible to me.'
He rendered himself intelligible immediately by saying, 'Before I go--
'Oh, my dear Russett!' she sighed.
'State the amount.'
She seemed to be casting unwieldly figures and he helped her with, 'Mr.
'Not less than three, I fear.'
'Has he been pressing?'
'You are always good to us, Russett.'
'You are always considerate for the honour of the family, ma'am. Order
for the money with you here to-morrow. And I thank you for your advice.
Do me the favour to follow mine.
'Commands should be the word.'
'Phrase it as you please.'
'You know I hate responsibility.'
'The chorus in classical dramas had generally that sentiment, but the
singing was the sweeter for it.'
'Whom do you not win when you condescend to the mood, you dear boy?'
He restrained a bitter reply, touching the kind of persons he had won: a
girl from the mountains, a philosophical tramp of the roads, troops of
Livia spelt at the problem he was. She put away the task of reading it.
He departed to see Lady Arpington, and thereby rivet his chains.
As Livia had said, she was a torch. Lady Endor, Lady Eldritch, Lady
Cowry, kindled at her. Again there were flights of the burning brands
over London. The very odd marriage; the no-marriage; the two-ends-of-
the-town marriage; and the maiden marriage a fruitful marriage; the
monstrous marriage of the countess productive in banishment, and the
unreadable earl accepting paternity; this Amazing Marriage was again the
riddle in the cracker for tattlers and gapers. It rattled upon the
world's native wantonness, the world's acquired decorum: society's
irrepressible original and its powerfully resisting second nature. All
the rogues of the fine sphere ran about with it, male and female; and
there was the narrative that suggestively skipped, and that which trod
the minuet measure, dropping a curtsey to ravenous curiosity; the apology
surrendering its defensible cause in supplications to benevolence; and
the benevolence damnatory in a too eloquent urgency; followed by the
devout objection to a breath of the subject, so blackening it as to call
forth the profanely circumstantial exposition. Smirks, blushes, dead
silences, and in the lower regions roars, hung round it.
But the lady, though absent, did not figure poorly at all. Granting
Whitechapel and the shillelagh affair, certain whispers of her good
looks, contested only to be the more violently asserted; and therewith
Rose Mackrell's tale of her being a 'young woman of birth,' having a
'romantic story to tell of herself and her parentage,' made her latest
performance the champagne event of it hitherto. Men sparkled when they
had it on their lips.
How, then, London asked, would the Earl of Fleetwood move his pieces in
reply to his countess's particularly clever indication of the check
His move had no relation to the game, it was thought at first. The world
could not suppose that he moved a simple pawn on his marriage board. He
purchased a shop in Piccadilly for the sale of fruit and flowers.
Lady Arpington was entreated to deal at the shop, Countess Livia had her
orders; his friends, his parasites and satellites, were to deal there.
Intensely earnest as usual, he besought great ladies to let him have the
overflow of their hothouses; and they classing it as another of the
mystifications of a purse crazy for repleteness, inquired: 'But is it you
we are to deal with?' And he quite seriously said: 'With me, yes, at
present.' Something was behind the curtain, of course. His gravity had
the effect of the ultra-comical in concealing it.
The shop was opened. We have the assurance of Rose Mackrell, that he
entered and examined the piles and pans of fruit, and the bouquets
cunningly arranged by a hand smelling French. The shop was roomy,
splendid windows lighted the yellow, the golden, the green and parti-
coloured stores. Four doors off, a chemist's motley in bellied glasses
crashed on the sight. Passengers along the pavement had presented to
them such a contrast as might be shown if we could imagine the Lethean
ferry-boatload brought sharp against Pomona's lapful. In addition to the
plucked flowers and fruits of the shop, Rose Mackrell more attentively
examined the samples doing service at the counters. They were three,
under supervision of a watchful-eyed fourth. Dame Gossip is for quoting
his wit. But the conclusion he reached, after quitting the shop and
pacing his dozen steps, is important; for it sent a wind over the town to
set the springs of tattle going as wildly as when the herald's trumpet
blew the announcement for the world to hear out of Wales.
He had observed, that the young woman supervising was deficient in the
ease of an established superior; her brows were troubled; she was,
therefore, a lieutenant elevated from a lower grade; and, to his
thinking, conducted the business during the temporary retirement of the
mistress of the shop.
And the mistress of the shop?
The question hardly needs be put.
Rose Mackrell or his humour answered it in unfaltering terms.
London heard, with the variety of feelings which are indistinguishable
under a flooding amazement, that the beautiful new fruit and flower shop
had been purchased and stocked by the fabulously wealthy young Earl of
Fleetwood, to give his Whitechapel Countess a taste for business, an
occupation, and an honourable means of livelihood.
There was, Dame Gossip thumps to say, a general belief in this report.
Crowds were on the pavement, peering through the shop-windows. Carriages
driving by stopped to look. My lord himself had been visible, displaying
his array of provisions to friends. Nor was credulity damped appreciably
when over the shop, in gold letters, appeared the name of Sarah Winch.
It might be the countess's maiden name, if she really was a married
But, in truth, the better informed of the town, having begun to think its
Croesus capable of any eccentricity, chose to believe. They were at the
pitch of excitement which demands and will swallow a succession of wilder
extravagances. To accelerate the delirium of the fun, nothing was too
much, because any absurdity was anticipated. And the earl's readiness to
be complimented on the shop's particular merits, his gratified air at an
allusion to it, whirled the fun faster. He seemed entirely unconscious
that each step he now took wakened peals.
For such is the fate of a man who has come to be dogged by the humourist
for the provision he furnishes; and, as it happens, he is the more
laughable if not in himself a laughable object. The earl's handsome
figure, fine style, and contrasting sobriety heightened the burlesque of
his call to admiration of a shop where Whitechapel would sit in state-
according to the fiction so closely under the lee of fact that they were
not strictly divisible. Moreover, Sarah Winch, whom Chumley Potts drew
into conversation, said, he vowed, she came up West from Whitechapel.
She said it a little nervously, but without blushing. Always on the side
of the joke, he could ask: 'Who can doubt?' Indeed, scepticism poisoned
The Old Buccaneer has written: Friends may laugh; I am not roused. My
enemy's laugh is a bugle blown in the night.
Our enemy's laugh at us rouses to wariness, he would say. He can barely
mean, that a condition of drowsihead is other than providently warned by
laughter of friends. An old warrior's tough fibre would, perhaps, be
insensible to that small crackle. In civil life, however, the friend's
laugh at us is the loudest of the danger signals to stop our course: and
the very wealthy nobleman, who is known for not a fool, is kept from
hearing it. Unless he does hear it, he can have no suspicion of its
being about him: he cannot imagine such 'lese-majeste' in the subservient
courtiers too prudent to betray a sign. So Fleetwood was unwarned; and
his child-like unconsciousness of the boiling sentiments around,
seasoned, pricked, and maddened his parasites under compression to
invent, for a faint relief. He had his title for them, they their tales
Dame Gossip would recount the tales. She is of the order of persons
inclining to suspect the tittle of truth in prodigies of scandal. She is
rustling and bustling to us of 'Carinthia Jane's run up to London to see
Sarah Winch's grand new shop,' an eclipse of all existing grand London
western shops; and of Rose Mackrell's account of her dance of proud
delight in the shop, ending with a 'lovely cheese' just as my lord
enters; and then a scene, wild beyond any conceivable 'for pathos and
humour'--her pet pair of the dissimilar twins, both banging at us for
tear-drops by different roads, through a common aperture:--and the earl
has the Whitechapel baby boy plumped into his arms; and the countess
fetches him a splendid bob-dip and rises out of a second cheese to twirl
and fandango it; and, all serious on a sudden, request, whimperingly
beseech, his thanks to her for the crowing successor she has presented
him with: my lord ultimately, but carefully, depositing the infant on a
basket of the last oranges of the season, fresh from the Azores, by
delivery off my lord's own schooner-yacht in Southampton water; and
escaping, leaving his gold-headed stick behind him--a trophy for the
countess? a weapon, it may be.
Quick she tucks up her skirts, she is after him. Dame Gossip speaks
amusingly enough of the chase, and many eye-witnesses to the earl's
flight at top speed down the right side of the way along by the Green
Park; and of a Prince of the Blood, a portly Royal Duke on foot, bumped
by one or the other of them, she cannot precisely say which, but 'thinks
it to have been Carinthia Jane,' because the exalted personage, his shock
of surprise abating, turned and watched the chase, in much merriment.
And it was called, we are informed, 'The Piccadilly Hare and Hound' from
Some tradition of an extenuated nobleman pursued by a light-footed lady
amid great excitement, there is; the Dame attaches importance also to
verses of one of the ballads beginning to gain currency at the time
(issuing ostensibly from London's poetic centre, the Seven Dials, which
had, we are to conjecture, got the story by discolouring filtration
through footmen retailing in public-houses the stock of anecdotes they
gathered when stationed behind Rose Mackrell's chair, or Captain
Abrane's, or Chumley 'Potts's), and would have the whole of it quoted:--
"'Tho' fair I be a powdered peruke,
And once was a gaping silly,
Your Whitechapel Countess will prove, Lord Duke,
She's a regular tiger-lily.
She'll fight you with cold steel
or she'll run you off your legs
Down the length of Piccadilly!"
That will satisfy; and perhaps indicate the hand.
'Popular sympathy, of course, was all on the side of the Fair, as ever in
those days when women had not forfeited it by stepping from their
The Dame shall expose her confusions. She really would seem to fancy
that the ballad verifies the main lines of the story, which is an
impossible one. Carinthia had not the means to travel: she was
moneyless. Every bill of her establishment was paid without stint by Mr.
Howell Edwards, the earl's manager of mines; but she had not even the
means for a journey to the Gowerland rocks she longed to see. She had
none since she forced her brother to take the half of her share of their
inheritance, L1400, and sent him the remainder.
Accepted by Chillon John as a loan, says Dame Gossip, and no sooner
received than consumed by the pressing necessities of a husband with the
Rose Beauty of England to support in the comforts and luxuries he deemed
Still the Dame leans to her opinion that 'Carinthia Jane' may have been
seen about London: for 'where we have much smoke there must be fire.'
And the countess never denying an imputation not brought against her in
her hearing, the ballad was unchallenged and London's wags had it their
own way. Among the reasons why they so persistently hunted the earl,
his air of a smart correctness shadowed by this new absurdity invited
them, as when a spot of mud on the trimmest of countenances arrests
observation: Humour plucked at him the more for the good faith of his
handsome look under the prolific little disfigurement. Besides, a
wealthy despot, with no conception of any hum around him, will have the
wags in his track as surely as the flexibles in front: they avenge his
Fleetwood was honestly unaware of ridicule in the condition of inventive
mania at his heels. Scheming, and hesitating to do, one-half of his mind
was absorbed with the problem of how now to treat the mother of his boy.
Her behaviour in becoming a mother was acknowledged to be good: the
production of a boy was good--considerate, he almost thought. He grew
so far reconciled to her as to have intimations of a softness coming on;
a wish to hear her speak of the trifling kindness done to. the sister of
Madge in reward of kindness done to her; wishes for looks he remembered,
secret to him, more his own than any possessions. Dozens of men had
wealth, some had beautiful wives; none could claim as his own that face
of the look of sharp steel melting into the bridal flower, when she
sprang from her bed to defend herself and recognized the intruder at her
window; stood smitten:--'It is my, husband.' Moonlight gave the
variation of her features.
And that did not appease the resentment tearing him from her, so
justifiable then, as he forced himself to think, now hideous. Glimpses
of the pictures his deeds painted of him since his first meeting with
this woman had to be shunned. He threw them off; they were set down to
the mystery men are. The degrading, utterly different, back view of them
teaches that Life is an irony. If the teaching is not accepted, and we
are to take the blame, can we bear to live? Therefore, either way the
irony of Life is proved. Young men straining at thought, in the grip of
their sensations, reach this logical conclusion. They will not begin by
examining the ground they stand on, and questioning whether they have
consciences at peace with the steps to rearward.
Having established Life as the coldly malignant element, which induces to
what it chastises, a loathing of womanhood, the deputed Mother of Life,
ensues, by natural sequence. And if there be one among women who
disturbs the serenity we choose to think our due, she wears for us the
sinister aspect of a confidential messenger between Nemesis and the
Parcae. Fleetwood was thus compelled to regard Carinthia as both
originally and successively the cause of his internal as well as his
exterior discomfort; otherwise those glimpses would have burnt into
perpetual stigmas. He had also to get his mind away from her. They
pleaded against him volubly with the rising of her image into it.
His manager at the mines had sent word of ominous discontent down there.
His presence might be required. Obviously, then, the threatened place
was unfitting for the Countess of Fleetwood. He despatched a kind of
order through Mr. Howell Edwards, that she should remove to Esslemont to
escape annoyances. Esslemont was the preferable residence. She could
there entertain her friends, could spend a pleasanter time there.
He waited for the reply; Edwards deferred it.
Were they to be in a struggle with her obstinate will once more?
Henrietta was preparing to leave London for her dismal, narrow, and,
after an absence, desired love-nest. The earl called to say farewell,
cool as a loyal wife could wish him to be, admiring perforce. Marriage
and maternity withdrew nothing--added to the fair young woman's bloom.
She had gone to her room to pack and dress. Livia received him. In the
midst of the casual commonplaces her memory was enlightened.
'Oh,' said she, and idly drew a letter out of a blottingpad, 'we have
heard from Wales.' She handed it to him.
Before he knew the thing he did, he was reading:
'There is no rest foamy brother, and I cannot help; I am kept so poor I
have not the smallest of sums. I do not wish to leave Wales--the people
begin to love me; and can one be mistaken? I know if I am loved or
hated. But if my lord will give me an allowance of money of some
hundreds, I will do his bidding; I will leave England or I will go to
Esslemont; I could say--to Mr. Woodseer, in that part of London. He
would not permit. He thinks me blacked by it, like a sweepboy coming
from a chimney; and that I have done injury to his title. No, Riette, to
be a true sister, I must bargain with my lord before I submit. He has
not cared to come and see his little son. His boy has not offended him.
There may be some of me in this dear. I know whose features will soon
show to defend the mother's good name. He is early my champion. He is
not christened yet, and I hear it accuse me, and I am not to blame,--I
still wait my lord's answer.'
'Don't be bothered to read the whole,' Livia had said, with her hand out,
when his eyes were halfway down the page.
Fleetwood turned it, to read the signature: 'Janey.'
She seemed servile enough to some of her friends. 'Carinthia' would have
had--a pleasanter sound. He folded the letter.
'Why give me this? Take it,'--said he.
She laid it on the open pad.
Henrietta entered and had it restored to her, Livia remarking: 'I found
it in the blotter after all.'
She left them together, having to dress for the drive to the coach office
'Poor amusement for you this time.' Fleetwood bowed, gently smiling.
'Oh!' cried Henrietta, 'balls, routs, dinners, music--as much music as I
could desire, even I! What more could be asked? I am eternally
'The world says, you are more beautiful than ever.'
'Happiness does it, then,--happiness owing to you, Lord Fleetwood.'
'Columelli pleases you?'
'His voice is heavenly! He carries me away from earth.'
'He is a gentleman, too-rare with those fellows.'
'A pretty manner. He will speak his compliments in his English.'
'You are seasoned to endure them in all languages. Pity another of your
wounded: Brailstone has been hard hit at the tables.
'I cannot pity gamblers.--May I venture?--half a word?'
'Tomes! But just a little compassion for the devoted. He wouldn't play
so madly--if, well, say a tenth dilution of the rapt hearing Columelli
'Signor Columelli sings divinely.'
'You don't dislike Brailstone?'
'He is one of the agreeable.'
'He must put his feelings into Italian song!'
'To put them aside will do.'
'We are not to have our feelings?'
'Yes, on the proviso that ours are respected. But, one instant, Lord
Fleetwood, pray. She is--I have to speak of her as my sister. I am sure
she regrets . . . She writes very nicely.'
'You have a letter from her?'
Henrietta sighed that it would not bear exposure to him: 'Yes.'
'Well, yes, it is.'
He paused, not expecting that the letter would be shown, but silence
fired shots, and he had stopped the petition. 'We are to have you for a
week's yachting. You prescribe your company. Only be merciful.
Exclusion will mean death to some. Columelli will be touring in
Switzerland. You shall have him in the house when my new bit of ground
Northwest of London is open: very handy, ten miles out. We'll have the
Opera troupe there, and you shall command the Opera.'
Her beauty sweetened to thank him.
If, as Livia said, his passion for her was unchanged, the generosity
manifested in the considerate screen it wore over any physical betrayal
of it, deserved the lustre of her eyes. It dwelt a moment, vivid with
the heart close behind and remorseful for misreading of old his fine
character. Here was a young man who could be the very kindest of friends
to the woman rejecting him to wed another. Her smile wavered. How shall
a loving wife express warmth of sentiment elsewhere, without the one beam
too much, that plunges her on a tideway? His claim of nothing called for
everything short of the proscribed. She gave him her beauty in fullest
It had the appearance of a temptation; and he was not tempted, though he
admired; his thought being, Husband of the thing!
But he admired. That condition awakened his unsatisfied past days to
desire positive proof of her worthlessness. The past days writhed in
him. The present were loveless, entirely cold. He had not even the
wish to press her hand. The market held beautiful women of a like
description. He wished simply to see her proved the thing he read her
to be: and not proved as such by himself. He was unable to summon or
imagine emotion enough for him to simulate the forms by which fair women
are wooed to their perdition. For all he cared, any man on earth might
try, succeed or fail, as long as he had visual assurance that she
coveted, a slave to the pleasures commanded by the wealth once disdained
by her. Till that time, he could not feel himself perfectly free.
Dame Gossip prefers to ejaculate. Young men are mysteries! and bowl us
onward. No one ever did comprehend the Earl of Fleetwood, she says: he
was bad, he was good; he was whimsical and stedfast; a splendid figure, a
mark for ridicule; romantic and a close arithmetician; often a devil,
sometimes the humanest of creatures.
In fine, he was a millionaire nobleman, owning to a considerable infusion
of Welsh blood in the composition of him. Now, to the Cymry and to the
pure Kelt, the past is at their elbows continually. The past of their
lives has lost neither face nor voice behind the shroud; nor are the
passions of the flesh, nor is the animate soul, wanting to it. Other
races forfeit infancy, forfeit youth and manhood with their progression
to the wisdom age may bestow. These have each stage always alive, quick
at a word, a scent, a sound, to conjure up scenes, in spirit and in
flame. Historically, they still march with Cadwallader, with Llewellyn,
with Glendower; sing with Aneurin, Taliesin, old Llywarch: individually,
they are in the heart of the injury done them thirty years back or
thrilling to the glorious deed which strikes an empty buckler for most of
the sons of Time. An old sea rises in them, rolling no phantom billows
to break to spray against existing rocks of the shore. That is why, and
even if they have a dose of the Teuton in them, they have often to feel
themselves exiles when still in amicable community among the
preponderating Saxon English.
Add to the single differentiation enormous wealth--we convulse the
excellent Dame by terming it a chained hurricane, to launch in foul
blasts or beneficent showers, according to the moods during youth--and
the composite Lord Fleetwood comes nearer into our focus. Dame Gossip,
with her jigging to be at the butterwoman's trot, when she is not
violently interrupting, would suffer just punishment were we to digress
upon the morality of a young man's legal possession of enormous wealth as
Wholly Cambrian Fleetwood was not. But he had to the full the Cambrian's
reverential esteem for high qualities. His good-bye with Henrietta, and
estimate of her, left a dusky mental, void requiring an orb of some sort
for contemplation; and an idea of the totally contrary Carinthia, the
woman he had avowedly wedded, usurped her place. Qualities were
admitted. She was thrust away because she had offended: still more
because he had offended. She bore the blame for forcing him to an
examination of his conduct at this point and that, where an ancestral
savage in his lineaments cocked a strange eye. Yet at the moment of the
act of the deed he had known himself the veritable Fleetwood. He had now
to vindicate himself by extinguishing her under the load of her
unwomanliness: she was like sun-dried linen matched beside oriental silk:
she was rough, crisp, unyielding. That was now the capital charge.
Henrietta could never be guilty of the unfeminine. Which did he prefer?
It is of all questions the one causing young men to screw wry faces when
they are asked; they do so love the feminine, the ultra-feminine, whom
they hate for her inclination to the frail. His depths were sounded, and
he answered independently of his will, that he must be up to the heroical
pitch to decide. Carinthia stood near him then. The confession was a
step, and fraught with consequences. Her unacknowledged influence
expedited him to Sarah Winch's shop, for sight of one of earth's honest
souls; from whom he had the latest of the two others down in Wales, and
of an infant there.
He dined the host of his Ixionides, leaving them early for a drive at
night Eastward, and a chat with old Mr. Woodseer over his punching and
sewing of his bootleather. Another honest soul. Mr. Woodseer thankfully
consented to mount his coach-box next day, and astonish Gower with a drop
on his head from the skies about the time of the mid-day meal.
There we have our peep into Dame Gossip's young man mysterious.
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