Part 2 out of 2
on those days among a people beginning to sit with habitual snugness at
the festive board provided for them by the valour of their fathers.
Fleetwood had not been on the side of the banqueting citizens, though his
country's journals and her feasted popular wits made a powerful current
to whelm opposition. But the appearance of the woman, his wife, here,
her head surrounded by destructive engines in the form of trophy, and the
knowledge that this woman bearing his name designed to be out at the
heels of a foreign army or tag-rag of uniformed rascals, inspired him to
reprobate men's bad old game as heartily as good sense does in the
abstract, and as derisively as it is the way with comfortable islanders
before the midnight trumpet-notes of panic have tumbled them to their
legs. He took his chair; sickened.
He was the next moment taking Carinthia's impression of Chillon,
compelled to it by an admiration that men and women have alike for shapes
of strength in the mould of grace, over whose firm build a flicker of
agility seems to run. For the young soldier's figure was visibly in its
repose prompt to action as the mind's movement. This was her brother;
her enthusiasm for her brother was explained to him. No sooner did he
have the conception of it than it plucked at him painfully; and, feeling
himself physically eclipsed by the object of Carinthia's enthusiasm, his
pride of the rival counselled him to preserve the mask on what was going
on within, lest it should be seen that he was also morally beaten at the
outset. A trained observation told him, moreover, that her Chillon's
correctly handsome features, despite their conventional urbanity, could
knit to smite, and held less of the reserves of mercy behind them than
Carinthia's glorious barbaric ruggedness. Her eyes, each time she looked
at her brother, had, without doating, the light as of the rise of happy
tears to the underlids as they had on a certain day at the altar, when
'my lord' was 'my husband,'--more shyly then. He would have said, as
beautifully, but for envy of the frank, pellucid worship in that look
on her proved hero. It was the jewel of all the earth to win back to
himself; and it subjected him, through his desire for it, to a
measurement with her idol, in character, quality, strength, hardness.
He heard the couple pronouncing sentence of his loss by anticipation.
Why had she primed her brother to propose the council of three?
Addressing them separately, he could have been his better or truer self.
The sensation of the check imposed on him was instructive as to her craft
and the direction of her wishes. She preferred the braving of hazards
and horrors beside her brother, in scorn of the advantages he could
offer; and he yearned to her for despising by comparison the bribe he
proposed in the hope that he might win her to him. She was with religion
to let him know the meanness of wealth.
Thus, at the edge of the debate, or contest, the young lord's essential
nobility disarmed him; and the revealing of it, which would have appealed
to Carinthia and Chillon both, was forbidden by its constituent pride,
which helped him to live and stood obstructing explanatory speech.
BETWEEN THE EARL, THE COUNTESS AND HER BROTHER, AND OF A SILVER CROSS
Carinthia was pleased by hearing Lord Fleetwood say to her: 'Your Madge
and my Gower are waiting to have the day named for them.'
She said: 'I respect him so much for his choice of Madge. They shall not
wait, if I am to decide.'
'Old Mr. Woodseer has undertaken to join them.'
'It is in Whitechapel they will be married.'
The blow that struck was not intended, and Fleetwood passed it, under her
brother's judicial eye. Any small chance word may carry a sting for the
neophyte in penitence.
'My lawyers will send down the settlement on her, to be read to them
to-day or to-morrow. With the interest on that and the sum he tells me
he has in the Funds, they keep the wolf from the door--a cottage door.
They have their cottage. There's an old song of love in a cottage.
His liking for it makes him seem wiser than his clever sayings. He'll
work in that cottage.'
'They have a good friend to them in you, my lord. It will not be poverty
for their simple wants. I hear of the little cottage in Surrey where
they are to lodge at first, before they take one of their own.'
'We will visit them.'
'When I am in England I shall visit them often.'
'The man up here wounded is recovering?'
'Yes, my lord. I am learning to nurse the wounded, with the surgeon to
'Matters are sobering down?--The workmen?'
'They listen to reason so willingly when we speak personally, we find.'
The earl addressed Chillon. 'Your project of a Spanish expedition
reminds me of favourable reports of your chief.'
'Thoroughly able and up to the work,' Chillon answered.
'Queer people to meddle with.'
'We 're on the right side on the dispute.'
'It counts, Napoleon says. A Spanish civil war promises bloody doings.'
'Any war does that.'
'In the Peninsula it's war to the knife, a merciless business.'
'Good schooling for the profession.'
Fleetwood glanced: she was collected and attentive. 'I hear from Mrs.
Levellier that Carinthia would like to be your companion.'
'My sister has the making of a serviceable hospital nurse.'
'You hear the chatter of London!'
'I have heard it.'
'You encourage her, Mr. Levellier?'
'She will be useful--better there than here, my lord.'
'I claim a part in the consultation.'
'There 's no consultation; she determines to go.'
'We can advise her of all the risks.'
'She has weighed them, every one.'
'In the event of accidents, the responsibility for having persuaded her
would rest on you.'
'My brother has not persuaded me,' Carinthia's belltones intervened.
'I proposed it. The persuasion was mine. It is my happiness to be near
him, helping, if I can.'
'Lady Fleetwood, I am entitled to think that your brother yielded to a
request urged in ignorance of the nature of the risks a woman runs.'
'My brother does not yield to a request without examining it all round,
my lord, and I do not. I know the risks. An evil that we should not
endure,--life may go. There can be no fear for me.'
She spoke plain truth. The soul of this woman came out in its radiance
to subdue him, as her visage sometimes did; and her voice enlarged her
words. She was a warrior woman, Life her sword, Death her target, never
to be put to shame, unconquerable. No such symbolical image smote him,
but he had an impression, the prose of it. As in the scene of the
miners' cottares, her lord could have knelt to her: and for an
unprotesting longer space now. He choked a sigh, shrugged, and said,
in the world's patient manner with mad people: 'You have set your mind on
it; you see it rose-coloured. You would not fear, no, but your friends
would have good reason to fear. It's a menagerie in revolt over there.
It is not really the place for you. Abandon the thought, I beg.'
'I shall, if my brother does not go,' said Carinthia.
Laughter of spite at a remark either silly or slyly defiant was checked
in Fleetwood by the horror of the feeling that she had gone, was ankle-
deep in bloody mire, captive, prey of a rabble soldiery, meditating the
shot or stab of the blessed end out of woman's half of our human muddle.
He said to Chillon: 'Pardon me, war is a detestable game. Women in the
thick of it add a touch to the brutal hideousness of the whole thing.'
Chillon said: 'We are all of that opinion. Men have to play the game;
women serving in hospital make it humaner.'
'Their hospitals are not safe.'
For safety is nowhere to be had. But the earl pleaded: 'At least in our
'In our country women are safe?'
'They are, we may say, protected.'
'Laws and constables are poor protection for them.'
'The women we name ladies are pretty safe, as a rule.'
'My sister, then, was the exception.'
After a burning half minute the earl said: 'I have to hear it from you,
Mr. Levellier. You see me here.'
That was handsomely spoken. But Lord Fleetwood had been judged and put
aside. His opening of an old case to hint at repentance for brutality
annoyed the man who had let him go scathless for a sister's sake.
'The grounds of your coming, my lord, are not seen; my time is short.'
'I must, I repeat, be consulted with regard to Lady Fleetwood's
'My sister does not acknowledge your claim.'
'The Countess of Fleetwood's acts involve her husband.'
'One has to listen at times to what old sailors call Caribbee!' Chillon
exclaimed impatiently, half aloud. 'My sister received your title; she
has to support it. She did not receive the treatment of a wife:--
or lady, or woman, or domestic animal. The bond is broken, as far as
it bears on her subjection. She holds to the rite, thinks it sacred.
You can be at rest as to her behaviour. In other respects, your lordship
does not exist for her.'
'The father of her child must exist for her.'
'You raise that curtain, my lord!'
In the presence of three it would not bear a shaking.
Carinthia said, in pity of his torture:--
'I have my freedom, and am thankful for it, to follow my brother, to
share his dangers with him. That is more to me than luxury and the
married state. I take only my freedom.'
'Our boy? You take the boy?'
'My child is with my sister Henrietta!
'We none know yet.'
'You still mistrust me?'
Her eyes were on a man that she had put from her peaceably; and she
replied, with sweetness in his ears, with shocks to a sinking heart,
'My lord, you may learn to be a gentle father to the child. I pray you
may. My brother and I will go. If it is death for us, I pray my child
may have his father, and God directing his father.'
Her speech had the clang of the final.
'Yes, I hope--if it be the worst happening, I pray, too,' said he, and
drooped and brightened desperately: 'But you, too, Carinthia, you could
aid by staying, by being with the boy and me. Carinthia!' he clasped her
name, the vapour left to him of her: 'I have learnt learnt what I am,
what you are; I have to climb a height to win back the wife I threw away.
She was unknown to me; I to myself nearly as much. I sent a warning of
the kind of husband for you--a poor kind; I just knew myself well enough
for that. You claimed my word--the blessing of my life, if I had known
it! We were married; I played--I see the beast I played. Money is
power, they say. I see the means it is to damn the soul, unless we--
unless a man does what I do now.'
Fleetwood stopped. He had never spoken such words--arterial words, as
they were, though the commonest, and with moist brows, dry lips, he could
have resumed, have said more, have taken this woman, this dream of the
former bride, the present stranger, into his chamber of the brave aims
and sentenced deeds. Her brother in the room was the barrier; and she
sat mute, large-eyed, expressionless. He had plunged low in the man's
hearing; the air of his lungs was thick, hard to breathe, for shame of a
degradation so extreme.
Chillon imagined him to be sighing. He had to listen further. 'Soul'
had been an uttered word. When the dishonouring and mishandling brute of
a young nobleman stuttered a compliment to Carinthia on her 'faith in
God's assistance and the efficacy of prayer,' he jumped to his legs, not
to be shouting 'Hound!' at him. He said, under control: 'God's name
shall be left to the Church. My sister need not be further troubled.
She has shown she is not persuaded by me. Matters arranged here
quickly,--we start. If I am asked whether I think she does wisely to
run the risks in an insurrectionary country rather than remain at home
exposed to the honours and amusements your lordship offers, I think so;
she is acting in her best interests. She has the choice of being abroad
with me or staying here unguarded by me. She has had her experience.
She chooses rightly. Paint the risks she runs, you lay the colours on
those she escapes.' She thanks the treatment she has undergone for her
freedom to choose. I am responsible for nothing but the not having stood
against her most wretched marriage. It might have been foreseen. Out
there in the war she is protected. Here she is with--I spare your
lordship the name.'
Fleetwood would have heard harsher had he not been Carinthia's husband.
He withheld his reply. The language moved him to proud hostility: but
the speaker was Carinthia's brother.
He said to her: 'You won't forget Gower and Madge?'
She gave him a smile in saying: 'It shall be settled for a day after next
The forms of courtesy were exchanged.
At the closing of the door on him, Chillon said: 'He did send a message:
I gathered it--without the words--from our Uncle Griphard. I thought him
in honour bound to you--and it suited me that I should.'
'I was a blindfold girl, dearest; no warning would have given me sight,'
said Carinthia. 'That was my treachery to the love of my brother. . I
dream of father and mother reproaching me.'
The misery of her time in England had darkened her mind's picture of the
early hour with Chillon on the heights above the forsaken old home; and
the enthusiasm of her renewed devotion to her brother giving it again,
as no light of a lost Eden, as the brilliant step she was taking with him
from their morning Eastern Alps to smoky-crimson Pyrenees and Spanish
Sierras; she could imagine the cavernous interval her punishment for
having abandoned a sister's duties in the quest of personal happiness.
But simultaneously, the growing force of her mind's intelligence, wherein
was no enthusiasm to misdirect by overcolouring, enabled her to gather
more than a suspicion of comparative feebleness in the man stripped of
his terrors. She penetrated the discrowned tyrant's nature some
distance, deep enough to be quit of her foregoing alarms. These,
combined with his assured high style, had woven him the magical coat,
threadbare to quiet scrutiny. She matched him beside her brother. The
dwarfed object was then observed; and it was not for a woman to measure
herself beside him. She came, however, of a powerful blood, and he was
pressing her back on her resources: without the measurement or a thought
of it, she did that which is the most ordinary and the least noticed of
our daily acts in civilized intercourse, she subjected him to the trial
of the elements composing him, by collision with what she felt of her
own; and it was because she felt them strongly, aware of her feeling
them, but unaware of any conflict, that the wrestle occurred. She flung
him, pitied him, and passed on along her path elsewhere. This can be
done when love is gone. It is done more or less at any meeting of men
and men; and men and women who love not are perpetually doing it,
unconsciously or sensibly. Even in their love, a time for the trial
arrives among certain of them; and the leadership is assumed, and
submission ensues, tacitly; nothing of the contention being spoken,
perhaps, nothing definitely known.
In Carinthia's case, her revived enthusiasm for her brother drove to the
penetration of the husband pleading to thwart its course. His offer was
wealth: that is, luxury, amusement, ease. The sub-audible 'himself' into
the bargain was disregarded, not counting with one who was an upward rush
of fire at the thought that she was called to share her brother's
Chillon cordially believed the earl to be the pestilent half madman,
junction with whom is a constant trepidation for the wife, when it is
not a screaming plight. He said so, and Carinthia let him retain his
opinion. She would have said it herself to support her scheme, though
'mad' applied to a man moving in the world with other men was not
understood by her.
With Henrietta for the earl's advocate, she was patient as the deaf rock-
wall enthusiam can be against entreaties to change its direction or bid
it disperse: The 'private band of picked musicians' at the disposal of
the Countess of Fleetwood, and Opera singers (Henrietta mentioned
resonant names) hired for wonderful nights at Esslemont and Calesford or
on board the earl's beautiful schooner yacht, were no temptation. Nor
did Henrietta's allusions to his broken appearance move his wife, except
in her saying regretfully: 'He changes.'
On the hall table at Esslemont, a letter from his bankers informed the
earl of a considerable sum of money paid in to his account in the name of
Lord Brailstone. Chumley Potts, hanging at him like a dog without a
master since the death of his friend Ambrose, had journeyed down:
'Anxious about you,' he said. Anxious about or attracted by the
possessor of Ambrose Mallard's 'clean sweeper,' the silver-mounted small
pistol; sight of which he begged to have; and to lengthened his jaw on
hearing it was loaded. A loaded pistol, this dark little one to the
right of the earl's blotting-pad and pens, had the look of a fearful link
with his fallen chaps and fishy hue. Potts maundered moralities upon
'life,' holding the thing in his hand, weighing it, eyeing the muzzle.
He 'couldn't help thinking of what is going to happen to us after it
all': and 'Brosey knows now!' was followed by a twitch of one cheek and
the ejaculation 'Forever !' Fleetwood alive and Ambrose dead were
plucking the startled worldling to a peep over the verge into our abyss;
and the young lord's evident doing of the same commanded Chumley Potts'
imitation of him under the cloud Ambrose had become for both of them.
He was recommended to see Lord Feltre, if he had a desire to be
instructed on the subject of the mitigation of our pains in the regions
below. Potts affirmed that he meant to die a Protestant Christian.
Thereupon, carrying a leaden burden of unlaughed laughable stuff in his
breast, and Chummy's concluding remark to speed him: 'Damn it, no, we'll
stick to our religion!' Fleetwood strode off to his library, and with
the names of the Ixionides of his acquaintance ringing round his head,
proceeded to strike one of them off the number privileged at the moment
to intrude on him. Others would follow; this one must be the first to
go. He wrote the famous letter to Lord Brailstone, which debarred the
wily pursuer from any pretext to be running down into Mrs. Levellier's
neighbourhood, and also precluded the chance of his meeting the fair lady
at Calesford. With the brevity equivalent to the flick of a glove on the
cheek, Lord Brailstone was given to understand by Lord Fleetwood that
relations were at an end between them. No explanation was added; a
single sentence executed the work, and in the third person. He did not
once reflect on the outcry in the ear of London coming from the receiver
of such a letter upon payment of a debt.
The letter posted and flying, Lord Fleetwood was kinder to Chumley Potts;
he had a friendly word for Gower Woodseer; though both were heathens,
after their diverse fashions, neither of them likely ever to set out upon
the grand old road of Rome: Lord Feltre's 'Appian Way of the Saints and
Chummy was pardoned when they separated at night for his reiterated
allusions to the temptation of poor Ambrose Mallard's conclusive little
weapon lying on the library table within reach of a man's arm-chair: in
its case, and the case locked, yes, but easily opened, 'provoking every
damnable sort of mortal curiosity!' The soundest men among us have their
fits of the blues, Fleetwood was told. 'Not wholesome!' Chummy shook his
head resolutely, and made himself comprehensibly mysterious. He meant
well. He begged his old friend to promise he would unload and keep it
unloaded. 'For I know the infernal worry you have--deuced deal worse
than a night's bad luck!' said he; and Fleetwood smiled sourly at the
world's total ignorance of causes. His wretchedness was due now to the
fact that the aforetime huntress refused to be captured. He took a
silver cross from a table-drawer and laid it on the pistol-case. 'There,
Chummy,' he said; that was all; not sermonizing or proselytizing. He was
partly comprehended by Chumley Potts, fully a week later. The
unsuspecting fellow, soon to be despatched in the suite of Brailstone,
bore away an unwontedly affectionate dismissal to his bed, and spoke some
rather squeamish words himself, as he recollected with disgust when he
ran about over London repeating his executioner's.
The Cross on the pistol-case may have conduced to Lord Fleetwood's
thought, that his days among unrepentant ephemeral Protestant sinners
must have their immediate termination. These old friends were the
plague-infected clothes he flung off his body. But the Cross where it
lay, forbidding a movement of the hand to that box, was authoritative to
decree his passage through a present torture, by the agency of the hand
he held back from the solution of his perplexity, at the cost which his
belief in the Eternal would pay. Henrietta had mentioned her husband's
defeat, by some dastardly contrivance. He had to communicate, for the
disburdening of his soul, not only that he was guilty, but the meanest
of criminals, in being no more than half guilty. His training told him
of the contempt women entertain toward the midway or cripple sinner, when
they have no special desire to think him innocent. How write, or even
how phrase his having merely breathed in his ruffian's hearing the wish
that he might hear of her husband's defeat! And with what object?
Here, too, a woman might, years hence, if not forgive, bend her head
resignedly over the man's vile nature, supposing strong passion his
motive. But the name for the actual motive? It would not bear writing,
or any phrasing round it. An unsceptred despot bidden take a fair
woman's eyes into his breast, saw and shrank. And now the eyes were
Carinthia's: he saw a savage bridegroom, and a black ladder-climber,
and the sweetest of pardoning brides, and the devil in him still
insatiate for revenge upon her who held him to his word.
He wrote, read, tore the page, trimmed the lamp, and wrote again. He
remembered Gower Woodseer's having warned him he would finish his career
a monk. Not, like Feltre, an oily convert, but under the hood, yes, and
extracting a chartreuse from his ramble through woods richer far than the
philosopher's milk of Mother Nature's bosom. There flamed the burning
signal of release from his torments; there his absolving refuge, instead
of his writing fruitless, intricate, impossible stuff to a woman. The
letter was renounced and shredded: the dedicated ascetic contemplated a
hooded shape, washed of every earthly fleck. It proved how men may by
power of grip squeeze raptures out of pain.
CONTAINS A RECORD OF WHAT WAS FEARED, WHAT WAS HOPED, AND WHAT HAPPENED
The Dame is at her thumps for attention to be called to 'the strangeness
of it,' that a poor, small, sparse village, hardly above a hamlet, on the
most unproductive of Kentish heights, part of old forest land, should at
this period become 'the cynosure of a city beautifully named by the poet
Great Augusta, and truly indeed the world's metropolis.'
Put aside her artful pother to rouse excitement at stages of a narrative,
London's general eye upon little Croridge was but another instance of
the extraordinary and not so wonderful. Lady Arpington, equal to a
Parliament in herself, spoke of the place and the countess courted by
her repentant lord. Brailstone and Chumley Potts were town criers of
the executioner letter each had received from the earl; Potts with his
chatter of a suicide's pistol kept loaded in a case under a two-inch-long
silver Cross, and with sundry dramatic taps on the forehead, Jottings
over the breast, and awful grimace of devoutness. There was no mistaking
him. The young nobleman of the millions was watched; the town spyglass
had him in its orbit. Tales of the ancestral Fleetwoods ran beside
rumours of a Papist priest at the bedside of the Foredoomed to Error's
dying mother. His wealth was counted, multiplied by the ready naughts of
those who know little and dread much. Sir Meeson Corby referred to an
argument Lord Fleetwood had held on an occasion hotly against the logical
consistency of the Protestant faith; and to his alarm lest some day 'all
that immense amount of money should slip away from us to favour the
machinations of Roman Catholicism!' The Countess of Cressett, Livia,
anticipated her no surprise at anything Lord Fleetwood might do: she knew
So thereupon, with the whirr of a covey on wing before the fowler, our
crested three of immemorial antiquity and a presumptive immortality, the
Ladies Endor, Eldritch, and Cowry, shot up again, hooting across the
dormant chief city Old England's fell word of the scarlet shimmer above
the nether pit-flames, Rome. An ancient horror in the blood of the
population, conceiving the word to signify, beak, fang, and claw, the
fiendish ancient enemy of the roasting day of yore, heard and echoed.
Sleepless at the work of the sapper, in preparation for the tiger's leap,
Rome is keen to spy the foothold of English stability, and her clasp of a
pillar of the structure sends tremors to our foundations.
The coupling of Rome and England's wealthiest nobleman struck a match to
terrorize the Fire Insurance of Smithfield. That meteoric, intractable,
perhaps wicked, but popular, reputedly clever; manifestly evil-starred,
enormously wealthy, young Earl of Fleetwood, wedded to an adventuress,
and a target for the scandals emanating from the woman, was daily,
without omission of a day, seen walking Piccadilly pavement in company
once more with the pervert, the Jesuit agent, that crafty Catesby of a
Lord Feltre, arm in arm the pair of them, and uninterruptedly conversing,
utterly unlike Englishmen. Mr. Rose Mackrell passed them, and his breezy
salutation of the earl was unobserved in my lord's vacant glass optics,
as he sketched the scene. London had report of the sinister tempter and
the imperilled young probationer undisguisedly entering the Roman
Catholic chapel of a fashionable district-chapel erected on pervert's
legacies, down a small street at the corner of a grandee square, by
tolerance or connivance of our constabulary,--entering it linked; and
linked they issued, their heads bent; for the operation of the tonsure,
you would say. Two English noblemen! But is there no legislation to
stop the disease? Our female government asks it vixenly of our impotent
male; which pretends, beneath an air of sympathy, that we should abstain
from any compulsory action upon the law to interfere, though the
situation is confessedly grave; and the aspect men assume is
correspondingly, to the last degree provokingly, grave-half alive
that they are, or void of patriotism, or Babylonian at heart!
Lord Fleetwood's yet undocked old associates vowed he 'smelt strong' of
the fumes of the whirled silver censer-balls. His disfavour had caused a
stoppage of supplies, causing vociferous abomination of their successful
rivals, the Romish priests. Captain Abrane sniffed, loud as a horse,
condemnatory as a cat, in speaking of him. He said: 'By George, it comes
to this; we shall have to turn Catholics for a loan!' Watchdogs of the
three repeated the gigantic gambler's melancholy roar. And, see what
gap, cried the ratiocination of alarm, see the landslip it is in our
body, national and religious, when exalted personages go that way to
As you and the world have reflected in your sager moods, an ordinary
pebble may roll where it likes, for individualism of the multitudinously
obscure little affects us. Not so the costly jewel, which is a
congregation of ourselves, in our envies and longings and genuflexions
thick about its lustres. The lapses of precious things must needs carry
us, both by weight and example, and it will ceaselessly be, that we are
possessed by the treasure we possess, we hang on it. A still, small
voice of England's mind under panic sent up these truisms containing
admonitions to the governing Ladies. They, the most conservative of
earthly bodies, clamoured in return, like cloud-scud witches that have
caught fire at their skirts from the torches of marsh-fire radicals.
They cited for his arrest the titled millionaire who made a slide for
the idiots of the kingdom; they stigmatized our liberty as a sophistry,
unless we have in it the sustaining element of justice; and where is the
justice that punishes his country for any fatal course a mad young
Croesus may take! They shackled the hands of testators, who endangered
the salvation of coroneted boys by having sanction to bequeath vast
wealth in bulk. They said, in truth, that it was the liberty to be
un-Christian. Finally, they screeched a petitioning of Parliament to
devote a night to a sitting, and empower the Lord Chancellor to lay an
embargo on the personal as well as the real estate of wealthy perverts;
in common prudence depriving Rome of the coveted means to turn our
religious weapons against us.
The three guardian ladies and their strings of followers headed over
the fevered and benighted town, as the records of the period attest,
windpiping these and similar Solan notes from the undigested cropful of
alarms Lord Fleetwood's expected conduct crammed into them. They and all
the world traced his present madness to the act foregoing: that marriage!
They reviewed it to deplore it, every known incident and the numbers
imagined; yet merely to deplore: frightful comparisons of then with now
rendered the historical shock to the marriage market matter for a sick
smile. Evil genius of some sort beside him the wealthy young nobleman
is sure to have. He has got rid of one to take up with a viler. First,
a sluttish trollop of German origin is foisted on him for life; next, he
is misled to abjure the faith of his fathers for Rome. But patently,
desperation in the husband of such a wife weakened his resistance to the
Roman Catholic pervert's insinuations. There we punctuate the full stop
to our inquiries; we have the secret.
And upon that, suddenly comes a cyclonic gust; and gossip twirls, whines,
and falls to the twanging of an entirely new set of notes, that furnish a
tolerably agreeable tune, on the whole. O hear! The Marchioness of
Arpington proclaims not merely acquaintanceship with Lord Fleetwood's
countess, she professes esteem for the young person. She has been heard
to say, that if the Principality of Wales were not a royal title,
a dignity of the kind would be conferred by the people of those mountains
on the Countess of Fleetwood: such unbounded enthusiasm there was for her
character when she sojourned down there. As it is, they do speak of her
in their Welsh by some title. Their bards are offered prizes to
celebrate her deeds. You remember the regiment of mounted Welsh
gentlemen escorting her to her Kentish seat, with their band of the
three-stringed harps! She is well-born, educated, handsome, a perfectly
honest woman, and a sound Protestant. Quite the reverse of Lord
Fleetwood's seeking to escape her, it is she who flies; she cannot
forgive him his cruelties and infidelities: and that is the reason why he
threatens to commit the act of despair. Only she can save him! She has
flown for refuge to her uncle, Lord Levellier's house at a place named
Croridge--not in the gazetteer--hard of access and a home of poachers,
where shooting goes on hourly; but most picturesque and romantic, as she
herself is! Lady Arpington found her there, nursing one of the wounded,
and her uncle on his death-bed; obdurate all round against her husband,
but pensive when supplicated to consider her country endangered by Rome.
She is a fervent patriot. The tales of her Whitechapel origin, and
heading mobs wielding bludgeons, are absolutely false, traceable to
scandalizing anecdotists like Mr. Rose Mackrell. She is the beautiful
example of an injured wife doing honour to her sex in the punishment of a
faithless husband, yet so little cherishing her natural right to deal him
retribution, that we dare hope she will listen to her patriotic duty in
consenting to the reconcilement, which is Lord Fleetwood's alternative:
his wife or Rome! They say she has an incommunicable charm, accounting
for the price he puts on her now she holds aloof and he misses it. Let
her but rescue him from England's most vigilant of her deadly enemies,
she will be entitled to the nation's lasting gratitude. She has her
opportunity for winning the Anglican English, as formerly she won the
Dissenter Welsh. She may yet be the means of leading back the latter to
A notation of the cries in air at a time of surgent public excitement can
hardly yield us music; and the wording of them, by the aid of compounds
and transplants, metaphors and similes only just within range of the
arrows of Phoebus' bow (i.e. the farthest flight known), would, while it
might imitate the latent poetry, expose venturesome writers to the wrath
of a people commendably believing their language a perfected instrument
when they prefer the request for a plateful, and commissioning their
literary police to brain audacious experimenters who enlarge or wing it
beyond the downright aim at that mark. The gossip of the time must
therefore appear commonplace, in resemblance to the panting venue a terre
of the toad, instead of the fiery steed's; although we have documentary
evidence that our country's heart was moved;--in no common degree,
Dr. Glossop's lucid English has it, at the head of a broadsheet ballad
discovered by him, wherein the connubially inclined young earl and the
nation in turn beseech the countess to resume her place at Esslemont,
and so save both from a terrific dragon's jaw, scarlet as the infernal
flames; described as fascinating--
'The classes with the crests,
And the lining to their vests,
Till down they jump, and empty leave
A headless trunk that rests.'
These ballads, burlesque to present reading, mainly intended for
burlesque by the wits who dogged without much enlivening an anxious
period of our history, when corner-stones were falling the way the
young lord of the millions threatened to go, did, there is little doubt,
according to another part of their design (Rose Mackrell boasts it
indirectly in his Memoirs), interpret public opinion, that is, the
English humour of it--the half laugh in their passing and not simulated
Carinthia had a study of the humours of English character in the person
of the wounded man she nursed on little Croridge, imagining it the most
unobserved of English homes, and herself as unimportant an object.
Daniel Charner took his wound, as he took his medicine and his posset
from her hand, kindly, and seemed to have a charitable understanding of
Lord Levellier now that the old nobleman had driven a pellet of lead into
him and laid him flat. It pleased him to assure her that his mates were
men of their word, and had promised to pay the old lord with a 'rouse'
for it, nothing worse. Her father used to speak of the 'clean hearts of
the English' as to the husbanding of revenge; that is, the 'no spot of
bad blood' to vitiate them. Captain John Peter seconded all good-
humoured fighters 'for the long account': they will surely win; and it
was one of his maxims: 'My foe can spoil my face; he beats me if he
spoils my temper.'
Recalling the scene of her bridal day--the two strong Englishmen at the
shake of hands, that had spoiled one another's faces, she was enlightened
with a comprehension of her father's love for the people; seeing the
spiritual of the gross ugly picture, as not every man can do, and but a
warrior Joan among women. Chillon shall teach the Spanish people English
heartiness, she thought. Lord Fleetwood's remarks on the expedition
would have sufficed to stamp it righteous with her; that was her logic of
the low valuation of him. She fancied herself absolutely released at his
departure. Neither her sister Riette nor her friend Owain, administering
sentiment and common sense to her by turns, could conceive how the
passion for the recovery of her brother's military name fed the hope
that she might aid in it, how the hope fed the passion. She had besides
her hunger to be at the work she could do; her Chillon's glory for
morning sky above it.
Such was the mind Lady Arpington brought the world's wisdom to bear upon;
deeming it in the end female only in its wildness and obstinacy.
Carinthia's answers were few, barely varied. Her repetition of 'my
brother' irritated the great lady, whose argument was directed to make
her see that these duties toward her brother were primarily owing to her
husband, the man she would reclaim and could guide. And the Countess of
Fleetwood's position, her duty to society, her dispensing of splendid
hospitality, the strengthening of her husband to do his duty to the
nation, the saving of him from a fatal step-from Rome; these were
considerations for a reasonable woman to weigh before she threw up all
to be off on the maddest of adventures. 'Inconceivable, my dear child!'
Lady Arpington proceeded until she heard herself as droning.
Carinthia's unmoved aspect of courteous attention appeared to invoke the
prolongation of the sermon it criticized. It had an air of reversing
their positions while she listened to the charge of folly, and
Her reason for not fearing Roman Catholic encroachments was, she said,
her having known good Catholics in the country she came from. For
herself, she should die professing the faith of her father and mother.
Behind her correct demeanour a rustic intelligence was exhibited. She
appreciated her duty to her marriage oath: 'My husband's honour is quite
safe with me.' Neither England nor religion, nor woman's proper devotion
to a husband's temporal and spiritual welfare, had claims rivalling her
devotion to her brother. She could not explain a devotion that
instigated her to an insensate course. It seemed a kind of enthusiasm;
and it was coldly spoken; in the tone referring to 'her husband's
honour.' Her brother's enterprise had her approval because 'her mother's
prayer was for him to serve in the English army.' By running over to
take a side in a Spanish squabble? she was asked and answered: 'He will
learn war; my Chillon will show his value; he will come back a tried
She counted on his coming back? She did.
'I cannot take a step forward without counting on success. We know the
chances we are to meet. My father has written of death. We do not fear
it, so it is nothing to us. We shall go together; we shall not have to
weep for one another.'
The strange young woman's avoidance of any popular sniffle of the
pathetic had a recognized merit.
'Tell me,' Lady Arpington said abruptly; 'this maid of yours, who is to
marry the secretary, or whatever he was--you are satisfied with her?'
'She is my dear servant Madge.' A cloud opened as Carinthia spoke the
name. 'She will be a true wife to him. They will always be my friends!'
Nothing against the earl in that direction, apparently; unless his
countess was blest with the density of frigidity.
Society's emissary sketched its perils for unprotected beautiful woman;
an outline of the London quadrille Henrietta danced in; and she glanced
at Carinthia and asked: 'Have you thought of it?'
Carinthia's eyes were on the great lady's. Their meaning was, 'You hit
my chief thought.' They were read as her farthest thought. For the hint
of Henrietta's weakness deadened her feelings with a reminder of warm and
continued solicitations rebutted; the beautiful creature's tortures at
the idea of her exile from England. An outwearied hopelessness expressed
a passive sentiment very like indifference in the clear wide gaze. She
replied: 'I have. My proposal to her was Cadiz, with both our young
ones. She will not.'
And there is an end to that part of the question! Lady Arpington
interpreted it, by the gaze more than the words, under subjection of the
young woman's character. Nevertheless, she bore away Carinthia's consent
to a final meeting with the earl at her house in London, as soon as
things were settled at Croridge. Chillon, whom she saw, was just as
hard, unforgiving, careless of his country's dearest interests; brother
and sister were one heart of their one blood. She mentioned the general
impression in town, that the countess and only she could save the earl
from Rome. A flash of polite laughter was Chillon's response. But after
her inspection of the elegant athlete, she did fancy it possible for a
young wife, even for Henrietta, to bear his name proudly in his absence
--if that was worth a moment's consideration beside the serious issues
involved in her appeal to the countess; especially when the suggestion
regarding young wives left unprotected, delicately conveyed to the
husband, had failed of its purpose. The handsome husband's brows
fluttered an interrogation, as if her clear-obscure should be further
lighted; and it could not be done. He weighed the wife by the measure
of the sister, perhaps; or his military head had no room for either.
His callousness to the danger of his country's disintegration, from the
incessant, becoming overt, attacks of a foreign priesthood might--
an indignant great lady's precipitation to prophecy said would--bring
chastisement on him. She said it, and she liked Henrietta, vowing to
defeat her forecast as well as she could in a land seeming forsaken by
stable principles; its nobles breaking up its national church, going over
to Rome, embracing the faith of the impostor Mahomet.
Gossip fed to the starvation bone of Lady Arpington's report, until one
late afternoon, memorable for the breeding heat in the van of elemental
artillery, newsboys waved damp sheets of fresh print through the streets,
and society's guardians were brought to confess, in shame and gladness,
that they had been growing sceptical of the active assistance of
Providence. At first the 'Terrible explosion of gunpowder at Croridge'
alarmed them lest the timely Power should have done too much. A day
later the general agitation was pacified; Lady Arpington circulated the
word 'safe,' and the world knew the disaster had not engulphed Lady
Fleetwood's valuable life. She had the news by word of mouth from the
lovely Mrs. Kirby-Levellier, sister-in-law to the countess. We are
convinced we have proof of Providence intervening when some terrific
event of the number at its disposal accomplishes the thing and no more
than the thing desired. Pitiful though it may seem for a miserly old
lord to be blown up in his bed, it is necessarily a subject of
congratulation if the life, or poor remnant of a life, sacrificed was
an impediment to our righteous wishes. But this is a theme for the Dame,
who would full surely have committed another breach of the treaty, had
there not been allusion to her sisterhood's view of the government of
On the day preceding the catastrophe, Chillon's men returned to work.
He and Carinthia and Mr. Wythan lunched with Henrietta at Stoneridge.
Walking down to Lekkatts, they were astounded to see the figure of the
spectral old lord on the plank to the powder store, clad in his long
black cloak, erect. He was crossing, he told them, to count his barrels;
a dream had disturbed him. Chillon fell to rapid talk upon various
points of business, and dispersed Lord Levellier's memory relating to his
errand. Leaning on Carinthia's arm, he went back to the house, where he
was put to bed in peace of mind. His resuscitated physical vigour
blocked all speculation for the young people assembled at Stoneridge that
night. They hardly spoke; they strangled thoughts forming as larvae of
wishes. Henrietta would be away to Lady Arpington's next day, Mr. Wythan
to Wales. The two voyagers were sadder by sympathy than the two whom
they were leaving to the clock's round of desert sameness. About ten at
night Chillon and Mr. Wythan escorted Carinthia, for the night's watch
beside her uncle, down to Lekkatts. It was midway that the knocks on
air, as of a muffled mallet at a door and at farther doors of caverns,
smote their ears and shook the ground.
After an instant of the silence following a shock, Carinthia touched her
brother's arm; and Chillon said:
'Not my powder!'
They ran till they had Lekkatts in sight. A half moon showed the house;
it stood. Fifty paces below, a column of opal smoke had begun to wreathe
and stretch a languid flag. The 'rouse' promised to Lord Levellier by
Daniel Charner's humorous mates had hit beyond its aim. Intended to give
him a start--or 'One-er in return,' it surpassed his angry shot at the
body of them in effect.
Carinthia entered his room and saw that he was lying stretched restfully.
She whispered of this to Chillon, and began upon her watch, reading her
Spanish phrasebook; and she could have wept, if she had been a woman for
tears. Her duty to stay in England with Chillon's fair wife crossed the
beckoning pages like a black smoke. Her passion to go and share her
brother's dangers left the question of its righteousness at each fall of
the big breath.
Her uncle's grey head on his pillow was like a flintstone in chalk under
her look by light of dawn; the chin had dropped.
A CHAPTER OF UNDERCURRENTS AND SOME SURFACE FLASHES
Thus a round and a good old English practical repartee, worthy a place
in England's book of her historical popular jests; conceived ingeniously,
no bit murderously, even humanely, if Englishmen are to be allowed
indulgence of a jolly hit back for an injury--more a feint than a real
stroke--gave the miserly veteran his final quake and cut Chillon's knot.
Lord Levellier dead of the joke detracted from the funny idea there had
been in the anticipation of his hearing the libertine explosion of his
grand new powder, and coming out cloaked to see what walls remained
upright. Its cleverness, however, was magnified by the shades into which
it had despatched him. The man who started the 'rouse for old Griphard'
was named: nor did he shuffle his honours off. Chillon accused him, and
he regretfully grinned; he would have owned to it eloquently, excited by
the extreme ingenuity, but humour at the criminal bar is an abject thing,
that has to borrow from metaphysics for the expository words. He lacked
them entirely, and as he could not, fronting his master, supply the
defect with oaths, he drew up and let out on the dead old lord, who
wanted a few pounds of blasting powder, like anything else in everybody's
way. Chillon expected the lowest of his countrymen to show some degree
of chivalry upon occasions like the present. He was too young to
perceive how it is, that a block of our speech in the needed direction
drives it storming in another, not the one closely expressing us.
Carinthia liked the man; she was grieved to hear of his having got the
sack summarily, when he might have had a further month of service or a
month's pay. Had not the workmen's forbearance been much tried? And
they had not stolen, they had bought the powder, only intending to
She touched her brother's native sense of fairness and vexed him with his
cowardly devil of impatience, which kicked at a simply stupid common man,
and behaved to a lordly offender, smelling rascal, civilly. Just as her
father would have--treated the matter, she said: 'Are we sorry for what
has happened, Chillon?' The man had gone, the injustice was done; the
master was left to reflect on the part played by his inheritance of the
half share of ninety thousand pounds in his proper respect for Lord
Levellier's memory. Harsh to an inferior is a horrible charge. But the
position of debtor to a titled cur brings a worse for endurance. Knowing
a part of Lord Fleetwood's message to Lord Levellier suppressed, the
bride's brother, her chief guardian, had treated the omission as of no
importance, and had all the while understood that he ought to give her
his full guess at the reading of it: or so his racked mind understood it
now. His old father had said: A dumb tongue can be a heavy liar; and,
Lies are usurers' coin we pay for ten thousand per cent. His harshness
in the past hour to a workman who had suffered with him and had not
intended serious mischief was Chillon's unsounded motive for the
resolution to be out of debt to the man he loathed. There is a
Muse that smiles aloft surveying our acts from the well-springs.
Carinthia heard her brother's fuller version of the earl's communication
to her uncle before the wild day of her marriage. 'Not particularly
fitted for the married state,' Chillon phrased it, saying: 'He seems to
have known himself, he was honest so far.' She was advised to think it
over, that the man was her husband.
She had her brother's heart in her breast, she could not misread him.
She thought it over, and felt a slight drag of compassion for the
reluctant bridegroom. That was a stretch long leagues distant from love
with her; the sort of feeling one has for strange animals hurt and she
had in her childish blindness done him a hurt, and he had bitten her.
He was a weak young nobleman; he had wealth for a likeness of strength;
he had no glory about his head. Why had he not chosen a woman to sit
beside him who would have fancied his coronet a glory and his luxury a
kindness? But the poor young nobleman did not choose! The sadly comic
of his keeping to the pledge of his word--his real wife--the tyrant of
the tyrant--clothed him; the vision of him at the altar, and on the
coach, and at the Royal Sovereign Inn, and into the dimness where a
placidly smiling recollection met a curtain and lost the smile.
Suppose that her duty condemned her to stay in England on guard over
Chillon's treasure! The perpetual struggle with a weak young nobleman
of aimless tempers and rightabout changes, pretending to the part of
husband, would, she foresaw, raise another figure of duty, enchaining a
weak young woman. The world supported his pretension; and her passion to
serve as Chillon's comrade sank at a damping because it was flame.
Chillon had done that; Lady Arpington, to some extent; Henrietta more.
A little incident, pointing in no direction, had left a shadow of a
cloud, consequent upon Lady Arpington's mention of Henrietta's
unprotectedness. Stepping up the hill to meet her sister, on the morning
of Henrietta's departure for London under the convoy of Mr. Wythan,
Carinthia's long sight spied Kit Ines, or a man like him, in the meadow
between Lekkatts and Croridge. He stood before Henrietta, and vanished
light-legged at a gesture. Henrietta was descending to take her leave of
her busied husband; her cheeks were flushed; she would not speak of the
fellow, except to reply, 'oh, a beggar,' and kept asking whether she
ought not to stay at Stoneridge. And if she did she would lose the last
of the Opera in London! How could she help to investigate the cause of
an explosion so considerate to them? She sang snatches of melodies,
clung to her husband, protested her inability to leave him, and went,
appearing torn away. As well bid healthy children lie abed on a bright
summer morning, as think of holding this fair young woman bound to the
circle of safety when she has her view of pleasure sparkling like the
shore-sea mermaid's mirror.
Suspicions were not of the brood Carinthia's bosom harboured. Suspicion
of Chillon's wife Carinthia could not feel. An uncaptained vessel in the
winds on high seas was imagined without a picturing of it. The
apparition of Ives, if it was he, would not fit with any conjecture.
She sent a warning to Madge, and at the same time named the girl's
wedding day for her; pained in doing it. She had given the dear girl
her word that she would be present at this of all marriages. But a day
or two days or more would have to be spent away from Chillon; and her
hunger for every hour beside her brother confessed to the war going on
within her, as to which was her holier duty, the one on the line of her
inclinations, or that one pointing to luxury-choice between a battle-
horse and a cushioned-chair; between companionship with her glorious
brother facing death, and submission to a weak young nobleman claiming
his husband's rights over her. She had submitted, had forgotten his icy
strangeness, had thought him love; and hers was a breast for love, it was
owned by the sobbing rise of her breast at the thought. And she might
submit again--in honour? scorning the husband? Chillon scorned him. Yet
Chillon left the decision to her, specified his excuses. And Henrietta
and Owain, Lady Arpington, Gower Woodseer, all the world--Carinthia
shuddered at the world's blank eye on what it directs for the
acquiescence of the woman. That shred of herself she would become,
she felt herself becoming it when the view of her career beside her
brother waned. The dead Rebecca living in her heart was the only
soul among her friends whose voice was her own against the world's.
But there came a turn where she and Rebecca separated. Rebecca's
insurgent wishes taking shape of prophecy, robbed her of her friend
Owain, to present her an impossible object, that her mind could not
compass or figure. She bade Rebecca rest and let her keep the fancy of
Owain as her good ghost of a sun in the mist of a frosty morning; sweeter
to her than an image of love, though it were the very love, the love of
maidens' dreams, bursting the bud of romance, issuing its flower.
Delusive love drove away with a credulous maiden, under an English
heaven, on a coach and four, from a windy hill-top, to a crash below,
and a stunned recovery in the street of small shops, mud, rain, gloom,
language like musket-fire and the wailing wounded.
No regrets, her father had said; they unman the heart we want for
to-morrow. She kept her look forward at the dead wall Chillon had thrown
up. He did not reject her company; his prospect of it had clouded; and
there were allusions to Henrietta's loneliness. 'His Carin could do her
service by staying, if she decided that way.' Her enthusiasm dropped to
the level of life's common ground. With her sustainment gone, she beheld
herself a titled doll, and had sternly to shut her eyes on the behind
scenes, bar any shadowy approaches of womanly softness; thinking her
father's daughter dishonoured in the submissive wife of the weak
young nobleman Chillon despised as below the title of man.
Madge and Gower came to Stoneridge on their road to London three days
before their union. Madge had no fear of Ines, but said: 'I never let
Mr. Gower out of my sight.' Perforce of studying him with the thirsty
wonder consequent upon his proposal to her, she had got fast hold of the
skirts of his character; she 'knew he was happy because he was always
making her laugh at herself.' Her manner of saying, 'She hoped to give
him a comfortable home, so that he might never be sorry for what he had
done,' was toned as in a church, beautiful to her mistress. Speaking of
my lord's great kindness, her eyes yearned for a second and fell humbly.
She said of Kit Ives, 'He's found a new "paytron," Sarah says Mr.
Woodseer tells her, my lady. It's another nobleman, Lord Brailstone,
has come into money lately and hired him for his pugilist when it's not
horseracing.' Gower spoke of thanks to Lord Fleetwood for the
independence allowing him to take a wife and settle to work in his little
Surrey home. He, too, showed he could have said more and was advised not
to push at a shut gate. My lord would attend their wedding as well as
my lady, Carinthia heard from Madge; counting it a pity that wealthy
noblemen had no professions to hinder the doing of unprofitable things.
Her sensibility was warmer on the wedding-day of these two dear ones.
He graced the scene, she admitted, when reassured by his perfect reserve
toward her personally. He was the born nobleman in his friendliness with
the bridal pair and respectfulness to Mr. Woodseer. High social breeding
is an exquisite performance on the instrument we are, and his behaviour
to her left her mind at liberty for appreciation of it. Condescension
was not seen, his voice had no false note. During the ceremony his
eyelids blinked rapidly. At the close, he congratulated the united
couple, praising them each for the wisdom of their choice. He said to
'This is one of the hopeful marriages; chiefly of your making.'
She replied: 'My prayers will be for them always.'
'They are fortunate who have your prayers,' he said, and turned to Sarah
Winch. She was to let him know when she also had found her 'great
philosopher.' Sarah was like a fish on a bank, taking gasps at the
marvel of it all; she blushed the pale pink of her complexion, and
murmured of 'happiness.' Gower had gone headlong into happiness, where
philosophers are smirkers and mouthers of ordinary stuff. His brightest
remark was to put the question to his father: 'The three good things of
the Isle of Britain?' and treble the name of Madge Woodseer for a richer
triad than the Glamorgan man could summon. Pardonably foolish; but
mindful of a past condition of indiscipline, Nature's philosopher said
to the old minister: 'Your example saved me for this day at a turn of
my road, sir.' Nature's poor wild scholar paid that tribute to the
regimental sectarian. Enough for proud philosophy to have done the thing
demonstrably right, Gower's look at his Madge and the world said. That
'European rose of the coal-black order,' as one of his numerous pictures
of her painted the girl, was a torch in a cavern for dusky redness at her
cheeks. Her responses beneath the book Mr. Woodseer held open had
flashed a distant scene through Lord Fleetwood. Quaint to notice was
her reverence for the husband she set on a towering monument, and her
friendly, wifely; whispered jogs at the unpractical creature's
forgetfulness of his wraps, his books; his writing-desk--on this
tremendous occasion, his pipe. Again the earl could have sworn, that
despite her antecedents, she brought her husband honest dower, as surely
as she gave the lucky Pagan a whole heart; and had a remarkably fine bust
to house the organ, too; and a clarionet of a voice, curiously like her,
mistress's. And not a bad fellow, but a heathen dog, a worshipper of
Nature, walked off with the girl, whose voice had the ring of
Carinthia's. The Powers do not explain their dispensations.
These two now one by united good-will for the junction Lord Fleetwood
himself drove through Loudon to the hills, where another carriage awaited
them by his orders, in the town of London's race-course. As soon as they
were seated he nodded to them curtly from his box, and drove back,
leaving them puzzled. But his countess had not so very coldly seen
him start his horses to convey the modest bridal pair. His impulses to
kindness could be politic. Before quitting Whitechapel, she went with
Sarah to look at the old shop of the fruits and vegetables. They found
it shut, untenanted; Mr. Woodseer told them that the earl was owner of it
by recent purchase, and would not lease it. He had to say why; for the
countess was dull to the notion of a sentimental desecration in the
occupying of her bedchamber by poor tradespeople. She was little
flattered. The great nobleman of her imagination when she lay there
dwindled to a whimsy infant, despot of his nursery, capricious with
his toys; likely to damage himself, if left to himself.
How it might occur, she heard hourly from her hostess, Lady Arpington;
from Henrietta as well, in different terms. He seemed to her no longer
the stationed nobleman, but one of other idle men, and the saddest of
young men. His weakness cast a net on her. Worse than that drag of
compassion, she foresaw the chance of his having experience of her own
weakness, if she was to be one among idle women: she might drop to the
love of him again. Chillon's damping of her enthusiasm sank her to a
mere breathing body, miserably an animal body, no comrade for a valiant
brother; this young man's feeble consort, perhaps: and a creature
thirsting for pleasure, disposed to sigh in the prospect of caresses.
Enthusiasm gone, her spirited imagination of active work on the field of
danger beside her brother flapped a broken wing.
She fell too low in her esteem to charge it upon Henrietta that she stood
hesitating, leaning on the hated side of the debate; though she could
almost have blamed Chillon for refusing her his positive counsel, and
not ordering his wife to follow him. Once Lady Arpington, reasoning with
her on behalf of the husband who sought reconciliation, sneered at her
brother's project, condemned it the more for his resolve to carry it
out now that he had means. The front of a shower sprang to Carinthia's
eyelids. Now that her brother had means, he from whom she might be
divided was alert to keep his engagement and study war on the field,
as his father had done in foreign service, offering England a trained
soldier, should his country subsequently need him. The contrast of her
heroic brother and a luxurious idle lord scattering blood of bird or
stag, and despising the soldier's profession, had a singular bitter
effect, consequent on her scorn of words to defend the man her heart
idolized. This last of young women for weeping wept in the lady's
The feminine trick was pardoned to her because her unaccustomed betrayal
of that form of enervation was desired. It was read as woman's act of
self-pity over her perplexity: which is a melting act with the woman when
there is no man to be dissolved by it. So far Lady Arpington judged
rightly; Carinthia's tears, shed at the thought of her brother under the
world's false judgement of him, left her spiritless to resist her
husband's advocates. Unusual as they were, almost unknown, they
were thunder-drops and shook her.
All for the vivid surface, the Dame frets at stresses laid on
undercurrents. There is no bridling her unless the tale be here told of
how Lord Brailstone in his frenzy of the disconcerted rival boasted over
town the counterstroke he had dealt Lord Fleetwood, by sending Mrs.
Levellier a statement of the latter nobleman's base plot to thwart her
husband's wager, with his foul agent, the repentant and well-paid ruffian
in person, to verify every written word. The town's conception of the
necessity for the reunion of the earl and countess was too intense to let
exciting scandal prosper. Moreover, the town's bright anticipation of
its concluding festivity on the domain of Calesford argued such tattle
down to a baffled adorer's malice. The Countess of Cressett, having her
cousin, the beautiful Mrs. Kirby-Levellier, in her house, has denied Lord
Brailstone admission at her door, we can affirm. He has written to her
vehemently, has called a second time, has vowed publicly that Mrs.
Levellier shall have her warning against Lord Fleetwood. The madness of
jealousy was exhibited. Lady Arpington pronounced him in his conduct
unworthy the name of gentleman. And how foolish the scandal he
circulates! Lord Fleetwood's one aim is to persuade his offended wife
to take her place beside him. He expresses regret everywhere, that the
death of her uncle Lord Levellier withholds her presence from Calesford
during her term of mourning; and that he has given his word for the fete
on a particular day, before London runs quite dry. His pledge of his
word is notoriously inviolate. The Countess of Cressett--an extraordinary
instance of a thrice married woman corrected in her addiction to play by
her alliance with a rakish juvenile--declares she performs the part of
hostess at the request of the Countess of Fleetwood. Perfectly
convincing. The more so (if you have the gossips' keen scent of a
deduction) since Lord Fleetwood and young Lord Cressett and the Jesuit
Lord Feltre have been seen confabulating with very sacerdotal
countenances indeed. Three English noblemen! not counting eighty years
for the whole three! And dear Lady Cressett fears she may be called on
to rescue her boy-husband from a worse enemy than the green tables, if
Lady Fleetwood should unhappily prove unyielding, as it shames the gentle
sex to imagine she will be. In fact, we know through Mrs. Levellier, the
meeting of reconciliation between the earl and the countess comes off at
Lady Arpington's, by her express arrangement, to-morrow: 'none too soon,'
the expectant world of London declared it.
The meeting came to pass three days before the great day at Calesford.
Carinthia and her lord were alone together. This had been his burning
wish at Croridge, where he could have poured his heart to her and might
have moved the wife's. But she had formed her estimate of him there: she
had, in the comparison or clash of forces with him, grown to contemplate
the young man of wealth and rank, who had once been impatient of an
allusion to her father, and sought now to part her from her brother--
stop her breathing of fresh air. Sensationally, too, her ardour for the
exercise of her inherited gifts attributed it to him that her father's
daughter had lived the mean existence in England, pursuing a husband,
hounded by a mother's terrors. The influences environing her and
pressing her to submission sharpened her perusal of the small object
largely endowed by circumstances to demand it. She stood calmly
discoursing, with a tempered smile: no longer a novice in the social
manner. An equal whom he had injured waited for his remarks, gave ready
replies; and he, bowing to the visible equality, chafed at a sense of
inferiority following his acknowledgement of it. He was alone with her,
and next to dumb; she froze a full heart. As for his heart, it could not
speak at all, it was a swinging lump. The rational view of the situation
was exposed to her; and she listened to that favourably, or at least
attentively; but with an edge to her civil smile when he hinted of
entertainments, voyages, travels, an excursion to her native mountain
land. Her brother would then be facing death. The rational view, she
admitted, was one to be considered. Yes, they were married; they had a
son; they were bound to sink misunderstandings, in the interests of their
little son. He ventured to say that the child was a link uniting them;
and she looked at him. He blinked rapidly, as she had seen him do of
late, but kept his eyes on her through the nervous flutter of the lids;
his pride making a determined stand for physical mastery, though her look
was but a look. Had there been reproach in it, he would have found the
voice to speak out. Her look was a cold sky above a hungering man. She
froze his heart from the marble of her own.
And because she was for adventuring with her brother at bloody work of
civil war in the pay of a foreign government!--he found a short refuge
in that mute sneer, and was hurled from it by an apparition of the Welsh
scene of the bitten infant, and Carinthia volunteering to do the bloody
work which would have saved it; which he had contested, ridiculed. Right
then, her insanity now conjured the wretched figure of him opposing the
martyr her splendid humaneness had offered her to be, and dominated his
reason, subjected him to admire--on to worship of the woman, whatever she
might do. Just such a feeling for a woman he had dreamed of in his
younger time, doubting that he would ever meet the fleshly woman to
impose it. His heart broke the frost she breathed. Yet, if he gave way
to the run of speech, he knew himself unmanned, and the fatal habit of
superiority stopped his tongue after he had uttered the name he loved to
speak, as nearest to the embrace of her.
'Carinthia--so I think, as I said, we both see the common sense of the
position. I regret over and over again--we'll discuss all that when we
meet after this Calesford affair. I shall have things to say. You will
overlook, I am sure--well, men are men!--or try to. Perhaps I'm not
worse than--we'll say, some. You will, I know,--I have learnt it,--be of
great service, help to me; double my value, I believe; more than double
it. You will receive me--here? Or at Croridge or Esslemont; and alone
together, as now, I beg.'
That was what he said. Having said it, his escape from high tragics
in the comfortable worldly tone rejoiced him; to some extent also the
courteous audience she gave him. And her hand was not refused. Judging
by her aspect, the plain common-sense ground of their situation was
accepted for the best opening step to their union; though she must have
had her feelings beneath it, and God knew that he had! Her hand was
friendly. He could have thanked her for yielding her hand without a
stage scene; she had fine breeding by nature. The gracefullest of
trained ladies could not have passed through such an interview so
perfectly in the right key; and this was the woman he had seen at the
wrestle with hideous death to save a muddy street-child! She touched
the gentleman in him. Hard as it was while he held the hand of the wife,
his little son's mother, who might be called his bride, and drew him by
the contact of their blood to a memory, seeming impossible, some other
world's attested reality,--she the angel, he the demon of it,--
unimaginable, yet present, palpable, a fact beyond his mind, he let her
hand fall scarce pressed. Did she expect more than the common sense of
it to be said? The 'more' was due to her, and should partly be said at
their next meeting for the no further separating; or else he would vow
in his heart to spread it out over a whole life's course of wakeful
devotion, with here and there a hint of his younger black nature. Better
that except for a desire seizing him to make sacrifice of the demon he
had been, offer him up hideously naked to her mercy. But it was a thing
to be done by hints, by fits, by small doses. She could only gradually
be brought to the comprehension of how the man or demon found
indemnification under his yoke of marriage in snatching her, to torment,
perhaps betray; and solace for the hurt to his pride in spreading a snare
for the beautiful Henrietta. A confession! It could be to none but the
Knowledge of Carinthia would have urged him to the confession
straightway. In spite of horror, the task of helping to wash a black
soul white would have been her compensation for loss of companionship
with her soldier brother. She would have held hot iron to the rabid
wound and come to a love of the rescued sufferer.
It seemed to please her when he spoke of Mr. Rose Mackrell's applications
to get back his volume of her father's Book of Maxims.
'There is mine,' she said.
For the sake of winning her quick gleam at any word of the bridal couple,
he conjured a picture of her Madge and his Gower, saying: 'That marriage
--as you will learn--proves him honest from head to foot; as she is in
her way, too.'
'Oh, she is,' was the answer.
'We shall be driving down to them very soon, Carinthia.'
'It will delight them to see either of us, my lord.'
'My lady, adieu until I am over with this Calesford,' he gestured, as in
She spared him the my lording as she said adieu, sensitive as she was,
and to his perception now.
Lady Arpington had a satisfactory two minutes with him before he left
the house. London town, on the great day at Calesford, interchanged
communications, to the comforting effect, that the Countess of Fleetwood
would reign over the next entertainment.
THE LAST: WITH A CONCLUDING WORD BY THE DAME
It is of seemingly good augury for the cause of a suppliant man, however
little for the man himself, when she who has much to pardon can depict
him in a manner that almost smiles, not unlike a dandling nurse the
miniature man-child sobbing off to sleep after a frenzy; an example of a
genus framed for excuses, and he more than others. Chillon was amused up
to inquisitive surprise by Carinthia's novel idea of her formerly dreaded
riddle of a husband. As she sketched the very rational alliance proposed
to her, and his kick at the fetters of Calesford, a shadowy dash for an
image of the solicitous tyrant was added perforce to complete the scene;
following which, her head moved sharply, the subject was flung over her
She was developing; she might hold her ground with the husband, if the
alliance should be resumed; and she would be a companion for Henrietta
in England: she was now independent, as to money, and she could break an
intolerable yoke without suffering privation. He kept his wrath under,
determined not to use his influence either way, sure though he was of her
old father's voting for her to quit the man and enter the field where
qualities would be serviceable. The man probably feared a scandal more
than the loss of his wife in her going. He had never been thrashed--the
sole apology Chillon discovered for him, in a flushed review of the
unavenged list of injuries Carinthia had sustained. His wise old father
insisted on the value of an early thrashing to trim and shape the growth
of most young men. There was no proof of Lord Fleetwood's having schemed
to thwart his wager, so he put that accusation by: thinking for an
instant, that if the man desired to have his wife with him, and she left
the country with her brother, his own act would recoil; or if she stayed
to hear of a villany, Carinthia's show of scorn could lash. Henrietta
praised my lord's kindness. He had been one of the adorers--as what man
would not be!--and upon her at least (he could hardly love her husband)
he had not wreaked his disappointment. A young man of huge wealth,
having nothing to do but fatten his whims, is the monster a rich country
breeds under the blessing of peace. His wife, if a match for him, has
her work traced out:--mean work for the child of their father, Chillon
thought. She might be doing braver, more suitable to the blood in her
veins. But women have to be considered as women, not as possible
heroines; and supposing she held her own with this husband of hers, which
meant, judging by the view of their unfolded characters at present, a
certain command of the freakish beast; she, whatever her task, would not
be the one set trotting. He came to his opinion through the estimate he
had recently formed of Lord Fleetwood, and a study of his changed sister.
Her brows gloomed at a recurrence to that subject. Their business of the
expedition absorbed her, each detail, all the remarks he quoted of his
chief, hopeful or weariful; for difficulties with the Spanish Government,
and with the English too, started up at every turn; and the rank and file
of the contingent were mostly a rough lot, where they were rather better
than soaked weeds. A small body of trained soldiers had sprung to the
call to arms; here and there an officer could wheel a regiment.
Carinthia breasted discouragement. 'English learn from blows, Chillon.'
'He might have added, they lose half their number by having to learn from
'He said, "Let me lead Britons!"'
'When the canteen's fifty leagues to the rear, yes!'
'Yes, it is a wine country,' she sighed. 'But would the Spaniards have
sent for us if their experience told them they could not trust us?'
Chillon brightened rigorously: 'Yes, yes; there's just a something about
our men at their best, hard to find elsewhere. We're right in thinking
that. And our chief 's the right man.'
'He is Owain's friend and countryman,' said Carinthia, and pleased, her
brother for talking like a girl, in the midst of methodical calculations
of the cost of this and that, to purchase the supplies he would need.
She had an organizing head. On her way down from London she had drawn on
instructions from a London physician of old Peninsula experience to
pencil a list of the medical and surgical stores required by a
campaigning army; she had gained information of the London shops where
they were to be procured; she had learned to read medical prescriptions
for the composition of drugs. She was at her Spanish still, not behind
him in the ordinary dialogue, and able to correct him on points of
Spanish history relating to fortresses, especially the Basque.
A French bookseller had supplied her with the Vicomte d'Eschargue's
recently published volume of a Travels in Catalonia. Chillon saw
paragraphs marked, pages dog-eared, for reference. At the same time,
the question of Henrietta touched her anxiously. Lady Arpington's
hints had sunk into them both.
'I have thought of St. Jean de Luz, Chillon, if Riette would consent to
settle there. French people are friendly. You expect most of your work
in and round the Spanish Pyrenees.'
'Riette alone there?' said he, and drew her by her love of him into his
altered mind; for he did not object to his wife's loneliness at Cadiz
when their plan was new.
London had taught her that a young woman in the giddy heyday of her
beauty has to be guarded; her belonging to us is the proud burden
involving sacrifices. But at St. Jean de Luz, if Riette would consent
to reside there, Lord Fleetwood's absence and the neighbourhood of the
war were reckoned on to preserve his yokefellow from any fit of the
abominated softness which she had felt in one premonitory tremor during
their late interview, and deemed it vile compared with the life of action
and service beside, almost beside, her brother, sharing his dangers at
least. She would have had Chillon speak peremptorily to his wife
regarding the residence on the Spanish borders, adding, in a despair:
'And me with her to protect her!'
'Unfair to Riette, if she can't decide voluntarily,' he said.
All he refrained from was, the persuading her to stay in England and live
reconciled with the gaoler of the dungeon, as her feelings pictured it.
Chillon and Carinthia journeyed to London for purchases and a visit to
lawyer, banker, and tradesmen, on their way to meet his chief and Owain
Wythan at Southampton. They lunched with Livia. The morrow was the
great Calesford day; Henrietta carolled of it. Lady Arpington had been
afllictingly demure on the theme of her presence at Calesford within her
term of mourning. 'But I don't mourn, and I'm not related to the
defunct, and I can't be denied the pleasure invented for my personal
gratification,' Henrietta's happy flippancy pouted at the prudish
objections. Moreover, the adored Columelli was to be her slave of song.
The termination of the London season had been postponed a whole week for
Calesford: the utmost possible strain; and her presence was understood to
represent the Countess of Fleetwood, temporarily in decorous retirement.
Chillon was assured by her that the earl had expressed himself satisfied
with his wife's reasonableness. 'The rest will follow.' Pleading on the
earl's behalf was a vain effort, but she had her grounds for painting
Lord Fleetwood's present mood to his countess in warm colours. 'Nothing
short of devotion, Chillon!' London's extreme anxiety to see them united,
and the cause of it, the immense good Janey could do to her country,
should certainly be considered by her, Henrietta said. She spoke
feverishly. A mention of St. Jean de Luz for a residence inflicted,
it appeared, a more violent toothache than she had suffered from the
proposal of quarters in Cadiz. And now her husband had money? . . .
she suggested his reinstatement in the English army. Chillon hushed
that: his chief had his word. Besides, he wanted schooling in war.
Why had he married! His love for her was the answer; and her beauty
argued for the love. But possessing her, he was bound to win her a name.
So his reasoning ran to an accord with his military instincts and
ambition. Nevertheless, the mournful strange fact she recalled, that
they had never waltzed together since they were made one, troubled his
countenance in the mirror of hers. Instead of the waltz, grief, low
worries, dulness, an eclipse of her, had been the beautiful creature's
It established mighty claims to a young husband's indulgence. She
hummed a few bars of his favourite old Viennese waltz, with 'Chillon!'
invitingly and reproachfully. His loathing of Lord Fleetwood had to
withstand an envious jump at the legs in his vison of her partner on
the morrow. He said: 'You'll think of some one absent.'
'You really do wish me to go, my darling? It is Chillon's wish?' She
begged for the words; she had them, and then her feverishness abated to a
simple sparkling composure.
Carinthia had observed her. She was heart-sick under pressure of
thoughts the heavier for being formless. They signified in the sum her
doom to see her brother leave England for the war, and herself crumble to
pieces from the imagined figure of herself beside him on or near the
field. They could not be phrased, for they accused the beloved brother
of a weakness in the excessive sense of obligation to the beautiful woman
who had wedded him. Driving down to Southampton by the night-coach, her
tenderness toward Henrietta held other thoughts unshaped, except one,
that moved in its twilight, murmuring of how the love of pleasure keeps
us blind children. And how the innocents are pushed by it to snap at
wicked bait, which the wealthy angle with, pointed a charitable index on
some of our social story. The Countess Livia, not an innocent like
Henrietta had escaped the poisoned tongues by contracting a third
marriage--'in time!' Lady Arpington said; and the knotty question was
presented to a young mind: Why are the innocents tempted to their ruin,
and the darker natures allowed an escape? Any street-boy could have told
her of the virtue in quick wits. But her unexercised reflectiveness was
on the highroad of accepted doctrines, with their chorus of the moans of
gossips for supernatural intervention to give us justice. She had not
learnt that those innocents, pushed by an excessive love of pleasure,
are for the term lower in the scale than their wary darker cousins,
and must come to the diviner light of intelligence through suffering.
However, the result of her meditations was to show her she was directed
to be Henrietta's guardian. After that, she had no thoughts; travelling
beside Chillon, she was sheer sore feeling, as of a body aching for its
heart plucked out. The bitterness of the separation to come between them
prophesied a tragedy. She touched his hand. It was warm now.
During six days of travels from port to port along the Southern and
Western coasts, she joined in the inspection of the English contingent
about to be shipped. They and their chief and her brother were plain to
sight, like sample print of a book's first page, blank sheets for the
rest of the volume. If she might have been one among them, she would
have dared the reckless forecast. Her sensations were those of a bird
that has flown into a room, and beats wings against the ceiling and the
window-panes. A close, hard sky, a transparent prison wall, narrowed her
powers, mocked her soul. She spoke little; what she said impressed
Chillon's chief, Owain Wythan was glad to tell her. The good friend had
gone counter to the tide of her breast by showing satisfaction with the
prospect that she would take her rightful place in the world. Her
concentrated mind regarded the good friend as a phantom of a man, the
world's echo. His dead Rebecca would have understood her passion to be
her brother's comrade, her abasement in the staying at home to guard his
butterfly. Owain had never favoured her project; he could not now
perceive the special dangers Chillon would be exposed to in her
separation from him. She had no means of explaining what she felt
intensely, that dangers, death, were nothing to either of them,
if they shared the fate together.
Her rejected petition to her husband for an allowance of money, on the
day in Wales, became the vivid memory which brings out motives in its
glow. Her husband hated her brother; and why? But the answer was
lighted fierily down another avenue. A true husband, a lord of wealth,
would have rejoiced to help the brother of his wife. He was the cause
of Chillon's ruin and this adventure to restore his fortunes. Could she
endure a close alliance with the man while her brother's life was
imperilled? Carinthia rebuked her drowsy head for not having seen his
reason for refusing at the time. 'How long I am before I see anything
that does not stare in my face!' She was a married woman, whose order of
mind rendered her singularly subject to the holiness of the tie; and she
was a weak woman, she feared. Already, at intervals, now that action on
a foreign field of the thunders and lightnings was denied, imagination
revealed her dissolving to the union with her husband, and cried her
comment on herself as the world's basest of women for submitting to it
while Chillon's life ran risks; until finally she said: 'Not before I
have my brother home safe!' an exclamation equal to a vow.
That being settled, some appearance of equanimity returned; she talked of
the scarlet business as one she participated in as a distant spectator.
Chillon's chief was hurrying the embarkation of his troops; within ten
days the whole expedition would be afloat. She was to post to London for
further purchases, he following to take leave of his wife and babe.
Curiously, but hardly remarked on during the bustle of work, Livia had
been the one to send her short account of the great day at Calesford;
Henrietta, the born correspondent, pencilling a couple of lines; she was
well, dreadfully fatigued, rather a fright from a trip of her foot and
fall over a low wire fence. Her message of love thrice underlined the
Henrietta was the last person Carinthia would have expected to meet
midway on the London road. Her name was called from a carriage as she
drove up to the door of the Winchester hostlery, and in the lady, over
whose right eye and cheek a covering fold of silk concealed a bandage,
the voice was her sister Riette's. With her were two babes and their
'Chillon is down there--you have left him there?' Henrietta greeted her,
saw the reply, and stepped out of her carriage. 'You shall kiss the
children afterwards; come into one of the rooms, Janey.'
Alone together, before an embrace, she said, in the voice of tears
hardening to the world's business, 'Chillon must not enter London. You
see the figure I am. My character's in as bad case up there--thanks to
those men! My husband has lost his "golden Riette." When you see
beneath the bandage! He will have the right to put me away. His "beauty
of beauties"! I'm fit only to dress as a page-boy and run at his heels.
My hero! my poor dear! He thinking I cared for nothing but amusement,
flattery. Was ever a punishment so cruel to the noblest of generous
husbands! Because I know he will overlook it, make light of it, never
reproach his Riette. And the rose he married comes to him a shrivelled
leaf of a potpourri heap. You haven't seen me yet. I was their
"beautiful woman." I feel for my husband most.'
She took breath. Carinthia pressed her lips on the cheek sensible to a
hiss, and Henrietta pursued, in words liker to sobs: 'Anywhere, Cadiz,
St. Jean de Luz, hospital work either, anywhere my husband likes,
anything! I want to work, or I'll sit and rock the children. I'm awake
at last. Janey, we're lambs to vultures with those men. I don't pretend
I was the perfect fool. I thought myself so safe. I let one of them
squeeze my hand one day, he swears. You know what a passion is; you have
it for mountains and battles, I for music. I do remember, one morning
before sunrise, driving back to town out of Windsor,--a dance, the
officers of the Guards,--and my lord's trumpeter at the back of the coach
blowing notes to melt a stone, I found a man's hand had mine. I remember
Lord Fleetwood looking over his shoulder and smiling hard and lashing his
horses. But listen--yes, at Calesford it happened. He--oh, hear the
name, then; Chillon must never hear it;--Lord Brailstone was denied the
right to step on Lord Fleetwood's grounds. The Opera company had
finished selections from my Pirata. I went out for cool air; little Sir
Meeson beside me. I had a folded gauze veil over my head, tied at the
chin in a bow. Some one ran up to me--Lord Brailstone. He poured forth
their poetry. They suppose it the wine for their "beautiful woman."
I dare say I laughed or told him to go, and he began a tirade against
Lord Fleetwood. There's no mighty difference between one beast of prey
and another. Let me get away from them all! Though now! they would not
lift an eyelid. This is my husband's treasure returning to him. We have
to be burnt to come to our senses. Janey--oh! you do well!--it was
fiendish; old ballads, melodrama plays, I see they were built on men's
deeds. Janey, I could not believe it, I have to believe, it is forced
down my throat;--that man, your husband, because he could not forgive my
choosing Chillon, schemed for Chillon's ruin. I could not believe it
until I saw in the glass this disfigured wretch he has made of me. Livia
serves him, she hates him for the tyrant he is; she has opened my eyes.
And not for himself, no, for his revenge on me, for my name to be as my
face is. He tossed me to his dogs; fair game for them! You do well,
Janey; he is capable of any villany. And has been calling at Livia's
door twice a day, inquiring anxiously; begs the first appointment
possible. He has no shame; he is accustomed to buy men and women; he
thinks his money will buy my pardon, give my face a new skin, perhaps.
A woman swears to you, Janey, by all she holds holy on earth, it is not
the loss of her beauty--there will be a wrinkled patch on the cheek for
life, the surgeon says; I am to bear a brown spot, like a bruised peach
they sell at the fruit-shops cheap. Chillon's Riette! I think of that,
the miserable wife I am for him without the beauty he loved so! I think
of myself as guilty, a really guilty woman, when I compare my loss with
'Your accident, dearest Riette--how it happened?' Carinthia said,
'Because, Janey, what have I ever been to Chillon but the good-looking
thing he was proud of? It's gone. Oh, the accident. Brailstone had
pushed little Corby away; he held my hand, kept imploring, he wanted the
usual two minutes, and all to warn me against--I've told you; and he saw
Lord Fleetwood coming. I got my hand free, and stepped back, my head
spinning; and I fell. That I recollect, and a sight of flames, like the
end of the world. I fell on one of the oil-lamps bordering the grass; my
veil lighted; I had fainted; those two men saw nothing but one another;
and little Sir Meeson was no help; young Lord Cressett dashed out the
flames. They brought me to my senses for a second swoon. Livia says I
woke moaning to be taken away from that hated Calesford. It was, oh!
never to see that husband of yours again. Forgive him, if you can.
Not I. I carry the mark of him to my grave. I have called myself "Skin-
deep" ever since, day and night--the name I deserve.'
'We will return to Chillon together, my own,' said Carinthia. 'It may
not be so bad.' And in the hope that her lovely sister exaggerated a
defacement leaving not much worse than a small scar, her heart threw off
its load of the recent perplexities, daylight broke through her dark
wood. Henrietta brought her liberty. How far guilty her husband might
be, she was absolved from considering; sufficiently guilty to release
her. Upon that conclusion, pity for the awakened Riette shed purer tear-
drops through the gratitude she could not restrain, could hardly conceal,
on her sister's behalf and her own. Henrietta's prompt despatch to
Croridge to fetch the babes, her journey down out of a sick-room to stop
Chillon's visit to London, proved her an awakened woman, well paid for
the stain on her face, though the stain were lasting. Never had she
loved Henrietta, never shown her so much love, as on the road to the
deepening colours of the West. Her sisterly warmth surprised the woeful
spotted beauty with a reflection that this martial Janey was after all a
woman of feeling, one whom her husband, if he came to know it and the
depth of it, the rich sound of it, would mourn in sackcloth to have lost.
And he did, the Dame interposes for the final word, he mourned his loss
of Carinthia Jane in sackcloth and ashes, notwithstanding that he had the
world's affectionate condolences about him to comfort him, by reason of
his ungovernable countess's misbehaviour once more, according to the
report, in running away with a young officer to take part in a foreign
insurrection; and when he was most the idol of his countrymen and
countrywomen, which it was once his immoderate aim to be, he mourned her
day and night, knowing her spotless, however wild a follower of her
father's MAXIMS FOR MEN. He believed--some have said his belief was not
in error--that the woman to aid and make him man and be the star in human
form to him, was miraculously revealed on the day of his walk through the
foreign pine forest, and his proposal to her at the ducal ball was an
inspiration of his Good Genius, continuing to his marriage morn, and then
running downwards, like an overstrained reel, under the leadership of his
Bad. From turning to turning of that descent, he saw himself advised to
retrieve the fatal steps, at each point attempting it just too late;
until too late by an hour, he reached the seaport where his wife had
embarked; and her brother, Chillon John, cruelly, it was the common
opinion, refused him audience. No syllable of the place whither she fled
abroad was vouchsafed to him; and his confessions of sins and repentance
of them were breathed to empty air. The wealthiest nobleman of all
England stood on the pier, watching the regiments of that doomed
expedition mount ship, ready with the bribe of the greater part of his
possessions for a single word to tell him of his wife's destination.
Lord Feltre, his companion, has done us the service to make his emotions
known. He describes them, true, as the Papist who sees every incident
contribute to precipitate sinners into the bosom of his Church. But
this, we have warrant for saying, did not occur before the earl had
visited and strolled in the woods with his former secretary, Mr. Gower
Woodseer, of whom so much has been told, and he little better than an
infidel, declaring his aim to be at contentedness in life. Lord
Fleetwood might envy for a while, he could not be satisfied with Nature.
Within six months of Carinthia Jane's disappearance, people had begun to
talk of strange doings at Calesford; and some would have it, that it was
the rehearsal of a play, in which friars were prominent characters, for
there the frocked gentry were seen flitting across the ground. Then
the world learnt too surely that the dreaded evil had happened, its
wealthiest nobleman had gone over to the Church of Rome! carrying all his
personal and unentailed estate to squander it on images and a dogma.
Calesford was attacked by the mob;--one of the notorious riots in our
history was a result of the Amazing Marriage, and roused the talk of it
again over Great Britain. When Carinthia Jane, after two years of
adventures and perils rarely encountered by women, returned to these
shores, she was, they say, most anxious for news of her husband; and
then, indeed, it has been conjectured, they might have been united to
walk henceforward as one for life, but for the sad fact that the Earl of
Fleetwood had two months and some days previously abjured his rank, his
remaining property, and his title, to become, there is one report, the
Brother Russett of the mountain monastery he visited in simple curiosity
once with his betraying friend, Lord Feltre. Or some say, and so it may
truly be, it was an amateur monastery established by him down among his
Welsh mountains, in which he served as a simple brother, without any
authority over the priests or what not he paid to act as his superiors.
Monk of some sort he would be. He was never the man to stop at anything
Mr. Rose Mackrell, in his Memoirs, was the first who revealed to the
world, that the Mademoiselle de Levellier of the French Count fighting
with the Carlists--falsely claimed by him as a Frenchwoman--was, in very
truth, Carinthia Jane, the Countess of Fleetwood, to whom Carlists and
Legitimises alike were indebted for tender care of them on the field and
in hospital; and who rode from one camp through the other up to the tent
of the Pretender to the throne of Spain, bearing her petition for her
brother's release; which was granted, in acknowledgement of her 'renowned
humanity to both conflicting armies,' as the words translated by Dr.
Glossop run. Certain it is she brought her wounded brother safe home to
England, and prisoners in that war usually had short shrift. For three
years longer she was the Countess of Fleetwood, 'widow of a living
suicide,' Mr. Rose Mackrell describes the state of the Marriage at that
period. No whisper of divorce did she tolerate.
Six months after it was proved that Brother Russett had perished of his
austerities, or his heart, we learn she said to the beseeching applicant
for her hand, Mr. Owain Wythan, with the gift of it, in compassion:
'Rebecca could foretell events.' Carinthia Jane had ever been ashamed
of second marriages, and the union with her friend Rebecca's faithful
simpleton gave it, one supposes, a natural air, for he as little as she
had previously known the wedded state. She married him, Henrietta has
written, because of his wooing her with dog's eyes instead of words.
The once famous beauty carried a wrinkled spot on her cheek to her grave;
a saving disfigurement, and the mark of changes in the story told you
enough to make us think it a providential intervention for such ends as
were in view.
So much I can say: the facts related, with some regretted omissions,
by which my story has so skeleton a look, are those that led to the
lamentable conclusion. But the melancholy, the pathos of it, the heart
of all England stirred by it, have been--and the panting excitement it
was to every listener--sacrificed in the vain effort to render events as
consequent to your understanding as a piece of logic, through an exposure
of character! Character must ever be a mystery, only to be explained in
some degree by conduct; and that is very dependent upon accident: and
unless we have a perpetual whipping of the tender part of the reader's
mind, interest in invisible persons must needs flag. For it is an infant
we address, and the storyteller whose art excites an infant to serious
attention succeeds best; with English people assuredly, I rejoice to
think, though I have to pray their patience here while that philosophy
and exposure of character block the course along a road inviting to
traffic of the most animated kind.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A dumb tongue can be a heavy liar
Advised not to push at a shut gate
As faith comes--no saying how; one swears by them
Bent double to gather things we have tossed away
Contempt of military weapons and ridicule of the art of war
Everlastingly in this life the better pays for the worse
Fatal habit of superiority stopped his tongue
Festive board provided for them by the valour of their fathers
Flung him, pitied him, and passed on
Foe can spoil my face; he beats me if he spoils my temper
He had wealth for a likeness of strength
Himself in the worn old surplice of the converted rake
Ideas in gestation are the dullest matter you can have
Injury forbids us to be friends again
Lies are usurers' coin we pay for ten thousand per cent
Love of pleasure keeps us blind children
Never forgave an injury without a return blow for it
Pebble may roll where it likes--not so the costly jewel
Reflection upon a statement is its lightning in advance
Religion condones offences: Philosophy has no forgiveness
Sensitiveness to the sting, which is not allowed to poison
Strengthening the backbone for a bend of the knee in calamity
Style is the mantle of greatness
That sort of progenitor is your "permanent aristocracy"
There's not an act of a man's life lies dead behind him
Those who have the careless chatter, the ready laugh
Those who know little and dread much
To most men women are knaves or ninnies
Wakening to the claims of others--Youth's infant conscience
We make our taskmasters of those to whom we have done a wrong
We shall go together; we shall not have to weep for one another
Wooing her with dog's eyes instead of words