Part 1 out of 2
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US
unless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we usually do not
keep etexts in compliance with any particular paper edition.
The "legal small print" and other information about this book
may now be found at the end of this file. Please read this
important information, as it gives you specific rights and
tells you about restrictions in how the file may be used.
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
CELT AND SAXON
By George Meredith
XII. MISS MATTOCK
XIII. THE DINNER-PARTY
XIV. OF ROCKNEY
XV. THE MATTOCK FAMILY
XVI. OF THE GREAT MR. BULL AND THE CELTIC AND SAXON VIEW OF HIM:
AND SOMETHING OF RICHARD ROCKNEY
XVII. CROSSING THE RUBICON
XVIII. CAPTAIN CON'S LETTER
X1X. MARS CONVALESCENT
Mrs. Adister O'Donnell, in common with her family, had an extreme dislike
of the task of composing epistles, due to the circumstance that she was
unable, unaided, to conceive an idea disconnected with the main theme of
her communication, and regarded, as an art of conjuring, the use of words
independent of ideas. Her native superiority caused her to despise the
art, but the necessity for employing it at intervals subjected her to
fits of admiration of the conjurer, it being then evident that a
serviceable piece of work, beyond her capacity to do, was lightly
performed by another. The lady's practical intelligence admitted the
service, and at the same time her addiction to the practical provoked
disdain of so flimsy a genius, which was identified by her with the
genius of the Irish race. If Irishmen had not been notoriously fighters,
famous for their chivalry, she would have looked on them as a kind of
footmen hired to talk and write, whose volubility might be encouraged
and their affectionateness deserved by liberal wages. The promptitude
of Irish blood to deliver the war-cry either upon a glove flung down
or taken up, raised them to a first place in her esteem: and she was
a peaceful woman abhorring sanguinary contention; but it was in her
own blood to love such a disposition against her principles.
She led Patrick to her private room, where they both took seats and
he selected a pen. Mr. Patrick supposed that his business would be to
listen and put her words to paper; a mechanical occupation permitting the
indulgence of personal phantasies; and he was flying high on them until
the extraordinary delicacy of the mind seeking to deliver itself forced
him to prick up all his apprehensiveness. She wished to convey that she
was pleased with the news from Vienna, and desired her gratification to
be imparted to her niece Caroline, yet not so as to be opposed to the
peculiar feelings of her brother Edward, which had her fullest sympathy;
and yet Caroline must by no means be requested to alter a sentence
referring to Adiante, for that would commit her and the writer jointly to
'It must be the whole truth, madam,' said Patrick, and he wrote: 'My dear
Caroline,' to get the start. At once a magnificently clear course for
the complicated letter was distinguished by him. 'Can I write on and
read it to you afterward? I have the view,' he said.
Mrs. Adister waved to him to write on.
Patrick followed his 'My dear Caroline' with greetings very warm, founded
on a report of her flourishing good looks. The decision of Government to
send reinforcements to Ireland was mentioned as a prelude to the
information from Vienna of the birth of a son to the Princess Nikolas:
and then; having conjoined the two entirely heterogeneous pieces of
intelligence, the composer adroitly interfused them by a careless
transposition of the prelude and the burden that enabled him to play ad
libitum on regrets and rejoicings; by which device the lord of Earlsfont
might be offered condolences while the lady could express her strong
contentment, inasmuch as he deplored the state of affairs in the sister
island, and she was glad of a crisis concluding a term of suspense thus
the foreign-born baby was denounced and welcomed, the circumstances
lamented and the mother congratulated, in a breath, all under cover of
the happiest misunderstanding, as effective as the cabalism of Prospero's
wand among the Neapolitan mariners, by the skilful Irish development on a
grand scale of the rhetorical figure anastrophe, or a turning about and
He read it out to her, enjoying his composition and pleased with his
reconcilement of differences. 'So you say what you feel yourself, madam,
and allow for the feelings on the other side,' he remarked. 'Shall I
There was a smoothness in the letter particularly agreeable to her
troubled wits, but with an awful taste. She hesitated to assent: it
seemed like a drug that she was offered.
Patrick sketched a series of hooked noses on the blotter. He heard a
lady's name announced at the door, and glancing up from his work he
beheld a fiery vision.
Mrs. Adister addressed her affectionately: 'My dear Jane!' Patrick was
introduced to Miss Mattock.
His first impression was that the young lady could wrestle with him and
render it doubtful of his keeping his legs. He was next engaged in
imagining that she would certainly burn and be a light in the dark.
Afterwards he discovered her feelings to be delicate, her looks pleasant.
Thereupon came one of the most singular sensations he had ever known: he
felt that he was unable to see the way to please her. She confirmed it
by her remarks and manner of speaking. Apparently she was conducting a
'You're right, my dear Mrs. Adister, I'm on my way to the Laundry, and I
called to get Captain Con to drive there with me and worry the manageress
about the linen they turn out: for gentlemen are complaining of their
shirt-fronts, and if we get a bad name with them it will ruin us. Women
will listen to a man. I hear he has gone down to the city. I must go
and do it alone. Our accounts are flourishing, I'm glad to say, though
we cannot yet afford to pay for a secretary, and we want one. John and I
verified them last night. We're aiming at steam, you know. In three or
four years we may found a steam laundry on our accumulated capital. If
only we can establish it on a scale to let us give employment to at least
as many women as we have working now! That is what I want to hear of.
But if we wait for a great rival steam laundry to start ahead of us, we
shall be beaten and have to depend on the charitable sentiments of rich
people to support the Institution. And that won't do. So it's a serious
question with us to think of taking the initiative: for steam must come.
It 's a scandal every day that it doesn't while we have coal. I'm for
grand measures. At the same time we must not be imprudent: turning off
hands, even temporarily, that have to feed infants, would be quite
against my policy.'
Her age struck Patrick as being about twenty-three.
'Could my nephew Arthur be of any use to you?' said Mrs. Adister.
'Colonel Adister?' Miss Mattock shook her head. 'No.'
'Arthur can be very energetic when he takes up a thing.' 'Can he? But,
Mrs. Adister, you are looking a little troubled. Sometimes you confide
in me. You are so good to us with your subscriptions that I always feel
in your debt.'
Patrick glanced at his hostess for a signal to rise and depart.
She gave none, but at once unfolded her perplexity, and requested Miss
Mattock to peruse the composition of Mr. Patrick O'Donnell and deliver an
opinion upon it.
The young lady took the letter without noticing its author. She read it
through, handed it back, and sat with her opinion evidently formed
'What do you think of it?' she was asked.
'Rank jesuitry,' she replied.
'I feared so!' sighed Mrs. Adister. 'Yet it says everything I wish to
have said. It spares my brother and it does not belie me. The effect of
a letter is often most important. I cannot but consider this letter very
ingenious. But the moment I hear it is jesuitical I forswear it. But
then my dilemma remains. I cannot consent to give pain to my brother
Edward: nor will I speak an untruth, though it be to save him from a
wound. I am indeed troubled. Mr. Patrick, I cannot consent to despatch
a jesuitical letter. You are sure of your impression, my dear Jane?'
'Perfectly,' said Miss Mattock.
Patrick leaned to her. 'But if the idea in the mind of the person
supposed to be writing the letter is accurately expressed? Does it
matter, if we call it jesuitical, if the emotion at work behind it
happens to be a trifle so, according to your definition?'
She rejoined: 'I should say, distinctly it matters.'
'Then you'd not express the emotions at all?'
He flashed a comical look of astonishment as he spoke. She was not to be
diverted; she settled into antagonism.
'I should write what I felt.'
'But it might be like discharging a bullet.'
'If your writing in that way wounded the receiver.'
'Of course I should endeavour not to wound!'
'And there the bit of jesuitry begins. And it's innocent while it 's no
worse than an effort to do a disagreeable thing as delicately as you
She shrugged as delicately as she could:
'We cannot possibly please everybody in life.'
'No: only we may spare them a shock: mayn't we?'
'Sophistries of any description, I detest.'
'But sometimes you smile to please, don't you?'
'Do you detect falseness in that?' she answered, after the demurest of
'No: but isn't there a soupcon of sophistry in it?'
'I should say that it comes under the title of common civility.'
'And on occasion a little extra civility is permitted!'
'Perhaps: when we are not seeking a personal advantage.'
'On behalf of the Steam Laundry?'
Miss Mattock grew restless: she was too serious in defending her position
to submit to laugh, and his goodhumoured face forbade her taking offence.
'Well, perhaps, for that is in the interest of others.'
'In the interests of poor and helpless females. And I agree with you
with all my heart. But you would not be so considerate for the sore
feelings of a father hearing what he hates to hear as to write a
roundabout word to soften bad news to him?'
She sought refuge in the reply that nothing excused jesuitry.
'Except the necessities of civilisation,' said Patrick.
'Politeness is one thing,' she remarked pointedly.
'And domestic politeness is quite as needful as popular, you'll admit.
And what more have we done in the letter than to be guilty of that? And
people declare it's rarer: as if we were to be shut up in families to
tread on one another's corns! Dear me! and after a time we should be
having rank jesuitry advertised as the specific balsam for an unhappy
domesticated population treading with hard heels from desperate habit and
not the slightest intention to wound.'
'My dear Jane,' Mrs. Adister interposed while the young lady sat between
mildly staring and blinking, 'you have, though still of a tender age, so
excellent a head that I could trust to your counsel blindfolded. It is
really deep concern for my brother. I am also strongly in sympathy with
my niece, the princess, that beautiful Adiante: and my conscience
declines to let me say that I am not.'
'We might perhaps presume to beg for Miss Mattock's assistance in the
composition of a second letter more to her taste,' Patrick said slyly.
The effect was prompt: she sprang from her seat.
'Dear Mrs. Adister! I leave it to you. I am certain you and Mr.
O'Donnell know best. It's too difficult and delicate for me. I am
horribly blunt. Forgive me if I seemed to pretend to casuistry. I am
sure I had no such meaning. I said what I thought. I always do. I
never meant that it was not a very clever letter; and if it does exactly
what you require it should be satisfactory. To-morrow evening John and I
dine with you, and I look forward to plenty of controversy and amusement.
At present I have only a head for work.'
'I wish I had that,' said Patrick devoutly.
She dropped her eyes on him, but without letting him perceive that he was
a step nearer to the point of pleasing her.
Miss Mattock ventured on a prediction in her mind:
She was sure the letter would go. And there was not much to signify if
it did. But the curious fatality that a person of such a native
uprightness as Mrs. Adister should have been drawn in among Irishmen, set
her thoughts upon the composer of the letter, and upon the contrast of
his ingenuous look with the powerful cast of his head. She fancied a
certain danger about him; of what kind she could not quite distinguish,
for it had no reference to woman's heart, and he was too young to be much
of a politician, and he was not in the priesthood. His transparency was
of a totally different order from Captain Con's, which proclaimed itself
genuine by the inability to conceal a shoal of subterfuges. The younger
cousin's features carried a something invisible behind them, and she was
just perceptive enough to spy it, and it excited her suspicions.
Irishmen both she and her brother had to learn to like, owing to their
bad repute for stability: they are, moreover, Papists: they are not given
to ideas: that one of the working for the future has not struck them. In
fine, they are not solid, not law-supporting, not disposed to be (humbly
be it said) beneficent, like the good English. These were her views, and
as she held it a weakness to have to confess that Irishmen are socially
more fascinating than the good English, she was on her guard against
Of course the letter had gone. She heard of it before the commencement
of the dinner, after Mrs. Adister had introduced Captain Philip O'Donnell
to her, and while she was exchanging a word or two with Colonel Adister,
who stood ready to conduct her to the table. If he addressed any remarks
to the lady under his charge, Miss Mattock did not hear him; and she
listened--who shall say why? His unlike likeness to his brother had
struck her. Patrick opposite was flowing in speech. But Captain Philip
O'Donnell's taciturnity seemed no uncivil gloom: it wore nothing of that
look of being beneath the table, which some of our good English are
guilty of at their social festivities, or of towering aloof a Matterhorn
above it, in the style of Colonel Adister. Her discourse with the latter
amused her passing reflections. They started a subject, and he
punctuated her observations, or she his, and so they speedily ran to
'I think,' says she, 'you were in Egypt this time last winter.'
He supplies her with a comma: 'Rather later.'
Then he carries on the line. 'Dull enough, if you don't have the right
sort of travelling crew in your boat.'
'Naturally,' she puts her semicolon, ominous of the full stop.
'I fancy you have never been in Egypt?'
There it is; for the tone betrays no curiosity about Egypt and her Nile,
and he is led to suppose that she has a distaste for foreign places.
Condescending to attempt to please, which he has reason to wish to
succeed in doing, the task of pursuing conversational intercourse
devolves upon him
'I missed Parlatti last spring. What opinion have you formed of her?'
'I know her only by name at present.'
'Ah, I fancy you are indifferent to Opera.'
'Not at all; I enjoy it. I was as busy then as I am now.'
'Meetings? Dorcas, so forth.'
'Not Dorcas, I assure you. You might join if you would.'
'Your most obliged.'
A period perfectly rounded. At the same time Miss Mattock exchanged a
smile with her hostess, of whose benignant designs in handing her to the
entertaining officer she was not conscious. She felt bound to look happy
to gratify an excellent lady presiding over the duller half of a table of
eighteen. She turned slightly to Captain O'Donnell. He had committed
himself to speech at last, without tilting his shoulders to exclude the
company by devoting himself to his partner, and as he faced the table
Miss Mattock's inclination to listen attracted him. He cast his eyes on
her: a quiet look, neither languid nor frigid seeming to her both open
and uninviting. She had the oddest little shiver, due to she knew not
what. A scrutiny she could have borne, and she might have read a
signification; but the look of those mild clear eyes which appeared to
say nothing save that there was fire behind them, hit on some perplexity,
or created it; for she was aware of his unhappy passion for the beautiful
Miss Adister; the whole story had been poured into her ears; she had been
moved by it. Possibly she had expected the eyes of such a lover to
betray melancholy, and his power of containing the expression where the
sentiment is imagined to be most transparent may have surprised her,
thrilling her as melancholy orbs would not have done.
Captain Con could have thumped his platter with vexation. His wife's
diplomacy in giving the heiress to Colonel Adister for the evening had
received his cordial support while he manoeuvred cleverly to place Philip
on the other side of her; and now not a step did the senseless fellow
take, though she offered him his chance, dead sick of her man on the
right; not a word did he have in ordinary civility; he was a burning
disgrace to the chivalry of Erin. She would certainly be snapped up by a
man merely yawning to take the bite. And there's another opportunity
gone for the old country!--one's family to boot!
Those two were in the middle of the table, and it is beyond mortal,
beyond Irish, capacity, from one end of a table of eighteen to whip up
the whole body of them into a lively unanimous froth, like a dish of
cream fetched out of thickness to the airiest lightness. Politics, in
the form of a firebrand or apple of Discord, might knead them together
and cut them in batches, only he had pledged his word to his wife to shun
politics as the plague, considering Mr. Mattock's presence. And yet it
was tempting: the recent Irish news had stung him; he could say sharp
things from the heart, give neat thrusts; and they were fairly divided
and well matched. There was himself, a giant; and there was an
unrecognised bard of his country, no other than himself too; and there
was a profound politician, profoundly hidden at present, like powder in a
mine--the same person. And opposite to him was Mr. John Mattock, a
worthy antagonist, delightful to rouse, for he carried big guns and took
the noise of them for the shattering of the enemy, and this champion
could be pricked on to a point of assertion sure to fire the phlegm in
Philip; and then young Patrick might be trusted to warm to the work.
Three heroes out skirmishing on our side. Then it begins to grow hot,
and seeing them at it in earnest, Forbery glows and couches his gun, the
heaviest weight of the Irish light brigade. Gallant deeds! and now Mr.
Marbury Dyke opens on Forbery's flank to support Mattock hardpressed, and
this artillery of English Rockney resounds, with a similar object: the
ladies to look on and award the crown of victory, Saxon though they be,
excepting Rockney's wife, a sure deserter to the camp of the brave,
should fortune frown on them, for a punishment to Rockney for his
carrying off to himself a flower of the Green Island and holding
inveterate against her native land in his black ingratitude. Oh! but
eloquence upon a good cause will win you the hearts of all women, Saxon
or other, never doubt of it. And Jane Mattock there, imbibing forced
doses of Arthur Adister, will find her patriotism dissolving in the
natural human current; and she and Philip have a pretty wrangle, and like
one another none the worse for not agreeing: patriotically speaking,
she's really unrooted by that half-thawed colonel, a creature snow-bound
up to his chin; and already she's leaping to be transplanted. Jane is
one of the first to give her vote for the Irish party, in spite of her
love for her brother John: in common justice, she says, and because she
hopes for complete union between the two islands. And thereupon we
debate upon union. On the whole, yes: union, on the understanding that
we have justice, before you think of setting to work to sow the land with
affection:--and that 's a crop in a clear soil will spring up harvest-
thick in a single summer night across St. George's Channel, ladies!....
Indeed a goodly vision of strife and peace: but, politics forbidden, it
was entirely a dream, seeing that politics alone, and a vast amount of
blowing even on the topic of politics, will stir these English to enter
the arena and try a fall. You cannot, until you say ten times more than
you began by meaning, and have heated yourself to fancy you mean more
still, get them into any state of fluency at all. Forbery's anecdote now
and then serves its turn, but these English won't take it up as a start
for fresh pastures; they lend their ears and laugh a finale to it; you
see them dwelling on the relish, chewing the cud, by way of mental note
for their friends to-morrow, as if they were kettles come here merely for
boiling purposes, to make tea elsewhere, and putting a damper on the fire
that does the business for them. They laugh, but they laugh
extinguishingly, and not a bit to spread a general conflagration and
The case appeared hopeless to Captain Con, bearing an eye on Philip. He
surveyed his inanimate eights right and left, and folded his combative
ardour around him, as the soldier's martial cloak when he takes his rest
on the field. Mrs. Marbury Dyke, the lady under his wing, honoured wife
of the chairman of his imagined that a sigh escaped him, and said in
sympathy: 'Is the bad news from India confirmed?'
He feared it was not bright, and called to Philip for the latest.
'Nothing that you have not had already in the newspapers,' Philip
replied, distinctly from afar, but very bluntly, as through a trumpet.
Miss Mattock was attentive. She had a look as good as handsome when she
The captain persevered to draw his cousin out.
'Your chief has his orders?'
'There's a rumour to that effect.'
'The fellow's training for diplomacy,' Con groaned.
Philip spoke to Miss Mattock: he was questioned and he answered, and
answered dead as a newspaper telegraphic paragraph, presenting simply the
corpse of the fact, and there an end. He was a rival of Arthur Adister
for military brevity.
'Your nephew is quite the diplomatist,' said Mrs. Dyke, admiring Philip's
'Cousin, ma'am. Nephews I might drive to any market to make the most of
them. Cousins pretend they're better than pigs, and diverge bounding
from the road at the hint of the stick. You can't get them to grunt more
than is exactly agreeable to them.'
'My belief is that if our cause is just our flag will triumph,' Miss
Grace Barrow, Jane Mattock's fellow-worker and particular friend,
observed to Dr. Forbery.
'You may be enjoying an original blessing that we in Ireland missed in
the cradle,' said he.
She emphasised: 'I speak of the just cause; it must succeed.'
'The stainless flag'll be in the ascendant in the long run,' he assented.
'Is it the flag of Great Britain you're speaking of, Forbery?' the
'There's a harp or two in it,' he responded pacifically.
Mrs. Dyke was not pleased with the tone. 'And never will be out of it!'
she thumped her interjection.
'Or where 's your music?' said the captain, twinkling for an adversary
among the males, too distant or too dull to distinguish a note of
challenge. 'You'd be having to mount your drum and fife in their places,
She saw no fear of the necessity.
'But the fife's a pretty instrument,' he suggested, and with a candour
that seduced the unwary lady to think dubiously whether she quite liked
the fife. Miss Barrow pronounced it cheerful.
'Oh, and martial!' he exclaimed, happy to have caught Rockney's
deliberate gaze. 'The effect of it, I'm told in the provinces is
astonishing for promoting enlistment. Hear it any morning in your London
parks, at the head of a marching regiment of your giant foot-Guards.
Three bangs of the drum, like the famous mountain, and the fife announces
himself to be born, and they follow him, left leg and right leg and
bearskin. And what if he's a small one and a trifle squeaky; so 's a
prince when the attendant dignitaries receive him submissively and hear
him informing the nation of his advent. It 's the idea that 's grand.'
'The idea is everything in military affairs,' a solemn dupe, a Mr.
Rumford, partly bald, of benevolent aspect, and looking more copious than
his flow, observed to the lady beside him. 'The flag is only an idea.'
She protested against the barbarism of war, and he agreed with her,
but thought it must be: it had always been: he deplored the fatality.
Nevertheless, he esteemed our soldiers, our sailors too. A city man
himself and a man of peace, he cordially esteemed and hailed the
victories of a military body whose idea was Duty instead of Ambition.
'One thing,' said Mrs. Dyke, evading the ambiguous fife, 'patriotic as I
am, I hope, one thing I confess; I never have yet brought myself to
venerate thoroughly our Royal Standard. I dare say it is because I do
not understand it.'
A strong fraternal impulse moved Mr. Rumford to lean forward and show her
the face of one who had long been harassed by the same incapacity to
digest that one thing. He guessed it at once, without a doubt of the
accuracy of the shot. Ever since he was a child the difficulty had
haunted him; and as no one hitherto had even comprehended his dilemma,
he beamed like a man preparing to embrace a recovered sister.
'The Unicorn!' he exclaimed.
'It is the Unicorn!' she sighed. 'The Lion is noble.'
'The Unicorn, if I may speak by my own feelings, certainly does not
inspire attachment, that is to say, the sense of devotion, which we
should always be led to see in national symbols,' Mr. Rumford resumed,
and he looked humorously rueful while speaking with some earnestness;
to show that he knew the subject to be of the minor sort, though it was
not enough to trip and jar a loyal enthusiasm in the strictly meditative.
'The Saxon should carry his White Horse, I suppose,' Dr. Forbery said.
'But how do we account for the horn on his forehead?' Mr. Rumford sadly
'Two would have been better for the harmony of the Unicorn's appearance,'
Captain Con remarked, desirous to play a floundering fish, and tender to
the known simple goodness of the ingenuous man. 'What do you say,
Forbery? The poor brute had a fall on his pate and his horn grew of it,
and it 's to prove that he has got something in his head, and is
dangerous both fore and aft, which is not the case with other horses,
who're usually wicked at the heels alone. That's it, be sure, or near
it. And his horn's there to file the subject nation's grievances for the
Lion to peruse at his leisure. And his colour's prophetic of the Horse
to come, that rides over all.'
'Lion and Unicorn signify the conquest of the two hemispheres, Matter and
Mind,' said Dr. Forbery. 'The Lion there's no mistake about. The
Unicorn sets you thinking. So it's a splendid Standard, and means the
more for not being perfectly intelligible at a glance.'
'But if the Lion, as they've whispered of late, Forbery, happens to be
stuffed with straw or with what's worse, with sawdust, a fellow bearing a
pointed horn at close quarters might do him mortal harm; and it must be a
situation trying to the patience of them both. The Lion seems to say "No
prancing!" as if he knew his peril; and the Unicorn to threaten a
playful dig at his flank, as if he understood where he's ticklish.'
Mr. Rumford drank some champagne and murmured with a shrug to the
acquiescent lady beside him: 'Irishmen!' implying that the race could not
be brought to treat serious themes as befitted the seriousness of the
sentiments they stir in their bosoms. He was personally a little hurt,
having unfolded a shy secret of his feelings, which were keenly patriotic
in a phlegmatic frame, and he retired within himself, assuring the lady
that he accepted our standard in its integrity; his objection was not
really an objection; it was, he explained to her, a ridiculous desire to
have a perfect comprehension of the idea in the symbol. But where there
was no seriousness everything was made absurd. He could, he said, laugh
as well as others on the proper occasion. As for the Lion being stuffed,
he warned England's enemies for their own sakes not to be deluded by any
such patent calumny. The strong can afford to be magnanimous and
forbearing. Only let not that be mistaken for weakness. A wag of his
tail would suffice.
The lady agreed. But women are volatile. She was the next moment
laughing at something she had heard with the largest part of her ear,
and she thought the worthy gentleman too simple, though she knew him for
one who had amassed wealth. Captain Con and Dr. Forbery had driven the
Unicorn to shelter, and were now baiting the Lion. The tremendous import
of that wag of his tail among the nations was burlesqued by them, and it
came into collision with Mr. Rumford's legendary forefinger threat. She
excused herself for laughing:
'They are so preposterous!'
'Yes, yes, I can laugh,' said he, soberly performing the act: and Mr.
Rumford covered the wound his delicate sensations had experienced under
an apology for Captain Con, that would redound to the credit of his
artfulness were it not notorious our sensations are the creatures and
born doctors of art in discovering unguents for healing their bruises.
'O'Donnell has a shrewd head for business. He is sound at heart. There
is not a drop of gout in his wine.'
The lady laughed again, as we do when we are fairly swung by the tide,
and underneath her convulsion she quietly mused on the preference she
would give to the simple English citizen for soundness.
'What can they be discussing down there?' Miss Mattock said to Philip,
enviously as poor Londoners in November when they receive letters from
the sapphire Riviera.
'I will venture to guess at nonsense,' he answered.
'Nothing political, then.'
'That scarcely follows; but a host at his own table may be trusted to
'I should not object.'
'One would go a long way to see the exhibition.'
'But why cannot men be temperate in their political arguments?'
'The questions raised are too close about the roots of us.'
'That sounds very pessimist.'
'More duels come from politics than from any other source.'
'I fear it is true. Then women might set you an example.'
'By avoiding it?'
'I think you have been out of England for some time.'
'I have been in America.'
'We are not exactly on the pattern of the Americans.' Philip hinted a
bow. He praised the Republican people.
'Yes, but in our own way we are working out our own problems over here,'
said she. 'We have infinitely more to contend with: old institutions,
monstrous prejudices, and a slower-minded people, I dare say: much
slower, I admit. We are not shining to advantage at present. Still,
that is not the fault of English women.'
'Are they so spirited?'
Spirited was hardly the word Miss Mattock would have chosen to designate
the spirit in them. She hummed a second or two, deliberating; it flashed
through her during the pause that he had been guilty of irony, and she
reddened: and remembering a foregoing strange sensation she reddened
more. She had been in her girlhood a martyr to this malady of youth; it
had tied her to the stake and enveloped her in flames for no accountable
reason, causing her to suffer cruelly and feel humiliated. She knew the
pangs of it in public, and in private as well. And she had not conquered
it yet. She was angered to find herself such a merely physical victim of
the rushing blood: which condition of her senses did not immediately
restore her natural colour.
'They mean nobly,' she said, to fill an extending gap in the conversation
under a blush; and conscious of an ultra-swollen phrase, she snatched at
it nervously to correct it: 'They are becoming alive to the necessity for
action.' But she was talking to a soldier! 'I mean, their heads are
opening.' It sounded ludicrous. 'They are educating themselves
differently.' Were they? 'They wish to take their part in the work of
the world.' That was nearer the proper tone, though it had a ring of
claptrap rhetoric hateful to her: she had read it and shrunk from it in
reports of otherwise laudable meetings.
'Well, spirited, yes. I think they are. I believe they are. One has
need to hope so.'
Philip offered a polite affirmative, evidently formal.
Not a sign had he shown of noticing her state of scarlet. His grave
liquid eyes were unalterable. She might have been grateful, but the
reflection that she had made a step to unlock the antechamber of her
dearest deepest matters to an ordinary military officer, whose notions of
women were probably those of his professional brethren, impelled her to
transfer his polished decorousness to the burden of his masculine
antagonism-plainly visible. She brought the dialogue to a close.
Colonel Adister sidled an eye at a three-quarter view of her face.
'I fancy you're feeling the heat of the room,' he said.
Jane acknowledged a sensibility to some degree of warmth.
The colonel was her devoted squire on the instant for any practical
service. His appeal to his aunt concerning one of the windows was
answered by her appeal to Jane's countenance for a disposition to rise
and leave the gentlemen. Captain Con, holding the door for the passage
of his wife and her train of ladies, received the injunction:
'Ten,' from her, and remarked: 'Minutes,' as he shut it. The shortness
of the period of grace proposed dejection to him on the one hand, and on
the other a stimulated activity to squeeze it for its juices without any
delay. Winding past Dr. Forbery to the vacated seat of the hostess he
'It's I, is it!' cried the doctor. Was it ever he that endangered
the peace and placability of social gatherings! He sat down prepared
rather for a bout with Captain Con than with their common opponents,
notwithstanding that he had accurately read the mock thunder of his
Battles have been won and the streams of History diverted to new channels
in the space of ten minutes. Ladies have been won, a fresh posterity
founded, and grand financial schemes devised, revolts arranged, a yoke
shaken off, in less of mortal time. Excepting an inspired Epic song and
an original Theory of the Heavens, almost anything noteworthy may be
accomplished while old Father Scythe is taking a trot round a courtyard;
and those reservations should allow the splendid conception to pass for
the performance, when we bring to mind that the conception is the
essential part of it, as a bard poorly known to fame was constantly
urging. Captain Con had blown his Epic bubbles, not to speak of his
projected tuneful narrative of the adventures of the great Cuchullin, and
his Preaching of St. Patrick, and other national triumphs. He could own,
however, that the world had a right to the inspection of the Epic books
before it awarded him his crown. The celestial Theory likewise would
have to be worked out to the last figure by the illustrious astronomers
to whom he modestly ranked himself second as a benefactor of his kind,
revering him. So that, whatever we may think in our own hearts, Epic and
Theory have to remain the exception. Battles indeed have been fought, but
when you survey the field in preparation for them you are summoned to
observe the preluding courtesies of civilised warfare in a manner
becoming a chivalrous gentleman. It never was the merely flinging of
your leg across a frontier, not even with the abrupt Napoleon. You have
besides to drill your men; and you have often to rouse your foe with a
ringing slap, if he's a sleepy one or shamming sleepiness. As here, for
example: and that of itself devours more minutes than ten. Rockney and
Mattock could be roused; but these English, slow to kindle, can't subside
in a twinkling; they are for preaching on when they have once begun;
betray the past engagement, and the ladies are chilled, and your wife
puts you the pungent question: 'Did you avoid politics, Con?' in the
awful solitude of domestic life after a party. Now, if only there had
been freedom of discourse during the dinner hour, the ten disembarrassed
minutes allotted to close it would have afforded time sufficient for
hearty finishing blows and a soothing word or so to dear old innocent Mr.
Rumford, and perhaps a kindly clap of the shoulder to John Mattock, no
bad fellow at bottom. Rockney too was no bad fellow in his way. He
wanted no more than a beating and a thrashing. He was a journalist, a
hard-headed rascal, none of your good old-fashioned order of regimental
scribes who take their cue from their colonel, and march this way and
that, right about face, with as little impediment of principles to hamper
their twists and turns as the straw he tosses aloft at midnight to spy
the drift of the wind to-morrow. Quite the contrary; Rockney was his
own colonel; he pretended to think independently, and tried to be the
statesman of a leading article, and showed his intention to stem the
current of liberty, and was entirely deficient in sympathy with the
oppressed, a fanatical advocate of force; he was an inveterate Saxon,
good-hearted and in great need of a drubbing. Certain lines Rockney had
written of late about Irish affairs recurred to Captain Con, and the
political fires leaped in him; he sparkled and said: 'Let me beg you to
pass the claret over to Mr. Rockney, Mr. Rumford; I warrant it for the
circulating medium of amity, if he'll try it.'
"Tis the Comet Margaux,' said Dr. Forbery, topping anything Rockney might
have had to say, and anything would have served. The latter clasped the
decanter, poured and drank in silence.
''Tis the doctor's antidote, and best for being antedated,' Captain Con
rapped his friend's knuckles.
'As long as you're contented with not dating in double numbers,' retorted
the doctor, absolutely scattering the precious minutes to the winds, for
he hated a provocation.
'There's a golden mean, is there!'
'There is; there's a way between magnums of good wine and gout, and it's
generally discovered too late.'
'At the physician's door, then! where the golden mean is generally
discovered to be his fee. I've heard of poor souls packed off by him
without an obolus to cross the ferry. Stripped they were in all
'You remind me of a fellow in Dublin who called on me for medical advice,
and found he'd forgotten his purse. He offered to execute a deed to
bequeath me his body, naked and not ashamed.'
'You'd a right to cut him up at once, Forbery. Any Jury 'd have
pronounced him guilty of giving up the ghost before he called.'
'I let him go, body and all. I never saw him again.'
'The fellow was not a lunatic. As for your golden mean, there's a
saying: Prevention is better than cure: and another that caps it: Drink
deep or taste not.'
'That's the Pierian Spring.'
'And what is the wine on my table, sir?'
'Exhaustless if your verses come of it.'
'And pure, you may say of the verses and the fount.'
'And neither heady nor over-composed; with a blush like Diana confessing
her love for the young shepherd: it's one of your own comparisons.'
'Oh!' Con could have roared his own comparisons out of hearing. He was
angry with Forbery for his obstructive dulness and would not taste the
sneaking compliment. What could Forbery mean by paying compliments and
spoiling a game! The ten minutes were dancing away like harmless wood-
nymphs when the Satyr slumbers. His eyes ranged over his guests
despondently, and fixed in desperation on Mr. Rumford, whom his
magnanimous nature would have spared but for the sharp necessity to
The wine in Rumford at any rate let loose his original nature, if it
failed to unlock the animal in these other unexcitable Saxons.
'By the way, now I think of it, Mr. Rumford, the interpretation of your
Royal Standard, which perplexes you so much, strikes me as easy if you
'll examine the powerfully different colours of the two beasts in it.'
Mr. Rumford protested that he had abandoned his inquiry: it was a piece
of foolishness: he had no feeling in it whatever, none.
The man was a perfect snail's horn for coyness.
The circumstances did not permit of his being suffered to slip away: and
his complexion showed that he might already be classed among the roast.
'Your Lion:--Mr. Rumford, you should know, is discomposed, as a
thoughtful patriot, by the inexplicable presence of the Unicorn in the
Royal Standard, and would be glad to account for his one horn and the
sickly appearance of the beast. I'm prepared to say he's there to
represent the fair one half of the population.
Your Lion, my dear sir, may have nothing in his head, but his tawniness
tells us he imbibes good sound stuff, worthy of the reputation of a noble
brewery. Whereas your, Unicorn, true to the character of the numberless
hosts he stands for, is manifestly a consumer of doctor's drugs. And
there you have the symbolism of your country. Right or left of the
shield, I forget which, and it is of no importance to the point--you have
Grandgosier or Great Turk in all his majesty, mane and tail; and on the
other hand, you behold, as the showman says, Dyspepsia. And the pair are
intended to indicate that you may see yourselves complete by looking at
them separately; and so your Royal Standard is your national mirror; and
when you gaze on it fondly you're playing the part of a certain Mr.
Narcissus, who got liker to the Lion than to the Unicorn in the act. Now
will that satisfy you?'
'Quite as you please, quite as you please,' Mr. Rumford replied.
'One loves the banner of one's country--that is all.' He rubbed his
hands. 'I for one am proud of it.'
'Far be it from me to blame you, my dear sir. Or there's the alternative
of taking him to stand for your sole great festival holiday, and
worshipping him as the personification of your Derbyshire race.'
A glittering look was in Captain Con's eye to catch Rockney if he would
but rise to it.
That doughty Saxon had been half listening, half chatting to Mr. Mattock,
and wore on his drawn eyelids and slightly drawn upper lip a look of
lambent pugnacity awake to the challenge, indifferent to the antagonist,
and disdainful of the occasion.
'We have too little of your enthusiasm for the flag,' Philip said to Mr.
Rumford to soothe him, in a form of apology for his relative.
'Surely no! not in England?' said Mr. Rumford, tempted to open his heart,
for he could be a bellicose gentleman by deputy of the flag. He
recollected that the speaker was a cousin of Captain Con's, and withdrew
into his wound for safety. 'Here and there, perhaps; not when we are
roused; we want rousing, we greatly prefer to live at peace with the
world, if the world will let us.'
'Not at any price?' Philip fancied his tone too quakerly.
'Indeed I am not one of that party!' said Mr. Rumford, beginning to glow;
but he feared a snare, and his wound drew him in again.
'When are you ever at peace!' quoth his host, shocked by the
inconsiderate punctuality of Mrs. Adister O'Donnell's household, for here
was the coffee coming round, and Mattock and Rockney escaping without a
scratch. 'There's hardly a day in the year when your scarlet mercenaries
are not popping at niggers.'
Rockney had the flick on the cheek to his manhood now, it might be hoped.
'Our what?' asked Mr. Rumford, honestly unable to digest the opprobrious
'Paid soldiery, hirelings, executioners, whom you call volunteers, by a
charming euphemism, and send abroad to do the work of war while you
propound the doctrines of peace at home.'
Rockney's forehead was exquisitely eruptive, red and swelling. Mattock
lurched on his chair. The wine was in them, and the captain commended
the spiriting of it, as Prospero his Ariel.
Who should intervene at this instant but the wretched Philip, pricked on
the point of honour as a soldier! Are we inevitably to be thwarted by
our own people?
'I suppose we all work for pay,' said he. 'It seems to me a cry of the
streets to call us by hard names. The question is what we fight for.'
He spoke with a witless moderation that was most irritating, considering
the latest news from the old country.
'You fight to subjugate, to enslave,' said Con, 'that's what you're
doing, and at the same time your journals are venting their fine irony
at the Austrians and the Russians and the Prussians for tearing Poland to
strips with their bloody beaks.'
'We obey our orders, and leave you to settle the political business,'
Forbery declined the fray. Patrick was eagerly watchful and dumb.
Rockney finished his coffee with a rap of the cup in the saucer, an
appeal for the close of the sitting; and as Dr. Forbery responded to it
by pushing back his chair, he did likewise, and the other made a
The disappointed hero of a fight unfought had to give the signal for
rising. Double the number of the ten minutes had elapsed. He sprang up,
hearing Rockney say: 'Captain Con O'Donnell is a politician or nothing,'
and as he was the most placable of men concerning his personality, he
took it lightly, with half a groan that it had not come earlier, and
said, 'He thinks and he feels, poor fellow!'
All hope of a general action was over.
'That shall pass for the epitaph of the living,' said Rockney.
It was too late to catch at a trifle to strain it to a tussle. Con was
obliged to subjoin: 'Inscribe it on the dungeon-door of tyranny.' But the
note was peaceful.
He expressed a wish that the fog had cleared for him to see the stars of
heaven before he went to bed, informing Mr. Mattock that a long look in
among them was often his prayer at night, and winter a holy season to
him, for the reason of its showing them bigger and brighter.
'I can tell my wife with a conscience we've had a quiet evening, and
you're a witness to it,' he said to Patrick. That consolation remained.
'You know the secret of your happiness,' Patrick answered.
'Know you one of the secrets of a young man's fortune in life, and give
us a thrilling song at the piano, my son,' said Con: 'though we don't
happen to have much choice of virgins for ye to-night. Irish or French.
Irish are popular. They don't mind having us musically. And if we'd go
on joking to the end we should content them, if only by justifying their
opinion that we're born buffoons.'
His happy conscience enabled him to court his wife with assiduity and
winsomeness, and the ladies were once more elated by seeing how
chivalrously lover-like an Irish gentleman can be after years of wedlock.
Patrick was asked to sing. Miss Mattock accompanied him at the piano.
Then he took her place on the music-stool, and she sang, and with an
electrifying splendour of tone and style.
'But it's the very heart of an Italian you sing with!' he cried.
'It will surprise you perhaps to hear that I prefer German music,' said
'But where--who had the honour of boasting you his pupil?'
She mentioned a famous master. Patrick had heard of him in Paris. He
begged for another song and she complied, accepting the one he selected
as the favourite of his brother Philip's, though she said: 'That one?'
with a superior air. It was a mellifluous love-song from a popular
Opera somewhat out of date. 'Well, it's in Italian!' she summed up her
impressions of the sickly words while scanning them for delivery.
She had no great admiration of the sentimental Sicilian composer, she
confessed, yet she sang as if possessed by him. Had she, Patrick
thought, been bent upon charming Philip, she could not have thrown more
fire into the notes. And when she had done, after thrilling the room,
there was a gesture in her dismissal of the leaves displaying critical
loftiness. Patrick noticed it and said, with the thrill of her voice
lingering in him: 'What is it you do like? I should so like to know.'
She was answering when Captain Con came up to the piano and remarked in
an undertone to Patrick: 'How is it you hit on the song Adiante Adister
used to sing?'
Miss Mattock glanced at Philip. He had applauded her mechanically,
and it was not that circumstance which caused the second rush of scarlet
over her face. This time she could track it definitely to its origin.
A lover's favourite song is one that has been sung by his love. She
detected herself now in the full apprehension of the fact before she had
sung a bar: it had been a very dim fancy: and she denounced herself
guilty of the knowledge that she was giving pain by singing the stuff
fervidly, in the same breath that accused her of never feeling things at
the right moment vividly. The reminiscences of those pale intuitions
made them always affectingly vivid.
But what vanity in our emotional state in a great jarring world where we
are excused for continuing to seek our individual happiness only if we
ally it and subordinate it to the well being of our fellows! The
interjection was her customary specific for the cure of these little
tricks of her blood. Leaving her friend Miss Barrow at the piano, she
took a chair in a corner and said; 'Now, Mr. O'Donnell, you will hear the
music that moves me.'
'But it's not to be singing,' said Patrick. 'And how can you sing so
gloriously what you don't care for? It puzzles me completely.'
She assured him she was no enigma: she hushed to him to hear.
He dropped his underlip, keeping on the conversation with his eyes until
he was caught by the masterly playing of a sonata by the chief of the
poets of sound.
He was caught by it, but he took the close of the introductory section,
an allegro con brio, for the end, and she had to hush at him again, and
could not resist smiling at her lullaby to the prattler. Patrick smiled
in response. Exchanges of smiles upon an early acquaintance between two
young people are peeps through the doorway of intimacy. She lost sight
of the Jesuit. Under the influence of good music, too, a not
unfavourable inclination towards the person sitting beside us and sharing
that sweetness, will soften general prejudices--if he was Irish, he was
boyishly Irish, not like his inscrutable brother; a better, or hopefuller
edition of Captain Con; one with whom something could be done to steady
him, direct him, improve him. He might be taught to appreciate Beethoven
and work for his fellows. 'Now does not that touch you more deeply than
the Italian?' said she, delicately mouthing: 'I, mio tradito amor!'
'Touch, I don't know,' he was honest enough to reply. 'It's you that
haven't given it a fair chance I'd like to hear it again. There's a
forest on fire in it.'
'There is,' she exclaimed. 'I have often felt it, but never seen it.
You exactly describe it. How true!'
'But any music I could listen to all day and all the night,' said he.
'And be as proud of yourself the next morning?'
Patrick was rather at sea. What could she mean?
Mrs. Adister O'Donnell stepped over to them, with the object of
installing Colonel Adister in Patrick's place.
The object was possibly perceived. Mrs. Adister was allowed no time to
set the manoeuvre in motion.
'Mr. O'Donnell is a great enthusiast for music, and could listen to it
all day and all night, he tells me,' said Miss Mattock. 'Would he not
sicken of it in a week, Mrs. Adister?'
'But why should I?' cried Patrick. 'It's a gift of heaven.'
'And, like other gifts of heaven, to the idle it would turn to evil.'
'I can't believe it.'
'Work, and you will believe it.'
'But, Miss Mattock, I want to work; I'm empty-handed. It 's true I want
to travel and see a bit of the world to help me in my work by and by.
I'm ready to try anything I can do, though.'
'Has it ever struck you that you might try to help the poor?'
'Arthur is really anxious, and only doubts his ability,' said Mrs.
'The doubt throws a shadow on the wish,' said Miss Mattock. 'And can one
picture Colonel Adister the secretary of a Laundry Institution, receiving
directions from Grace and me! We should have to release him long before
the six months' term, when we have resolved to incur the expense of a
Mrs. Adister turned her head to the colonel, who was then looking down
the features of Mrs. Rockney.
Patrick said: 'I'm ready, for a year, Miss Mattock.'
She answered him, half jocosely: 'A whole year of free service? Reflect
on what you are undertaking.'
'It's writing and accounts, no worse?'
'Writing and accounts all day, and music in the evening only now and
'I can do it: I will, if you'll have me.'
'Do you hear Mr. O'Donnell, Mrs. Adister?'
Captain Con fluttered up to his wife, and heard the story from Miss
He fancied he saw a thread of good luck for Philip in it. 'Our house
could be Patrick's home capitally,' he suggested to his wife. She was
not a whit less hospitable, only hinting that she thought the refusal of
the post was due to Arthur.
'And if he accepts, imagine him on a stool, my dear madam; he couldn't
Miss Mattock laughed. 'No, that is not to be thought of seriously. And
with Mr. O'Donnell it would be probationary for the first fortnight or
month. Does he know anything about steam?'
'The rudimentary idea,' said Patrick.
'That's good for a beginning,' said the captain; and he added: 'Miss
Mattock, I'm proud if one of my family can be reckoned worthy of
assisting in your noble work.'
She replied: 'I warn everybody that they shall be taken at their word if
they volunteer their services.'
She was bidden to know by the captain that the word of an Irish gentleman
was his bond. 'And not later than to-morrow evening I'll land him at
your office. Besides, he'll find countrywomen of his among you, and
there's that to enliven him. You say they work well, diligently,
She deliberated. 'Yes, on the whole; when they take to their work.
Intelligently certainly compared with our English. We do not get the
best of them in London. For that matter, we do not get the best of the
English--not the women of the north. We have to put up with the rejected
of other and better-paying departments of work. It breaks my heart
sometimes to see how near they are to doing well, but for such a little
want of ballast.'
'If they're Irish,' said Patrick, excited by the breaking of her heart,
'a whisper of cajolery in season is often the secret.'
Captain Con backed him for diplomacy. 'You'll learn he has a head, Miss
'I am myself naturally blunt, and prefer the straightforward method,'
Patrick nodded. 'But where there's an obstruction in the road, it's
permissible to turn a corner.'
'Take 'em in flank when you can't break their centre,' said Con.
'Well, you shall really try whether you can endure the work for a short
time if you are in earnest,' Miss Mattock addressed the volunteer.
'But I am,' he said.
'We are too poor at present to refuse the smallest help.'
'And mine is about the smallest.'
'I did not mean that, Mr. O'Donnell.'
'But you'll have me?'
Captain Con applauded the final words between them. They had the genial
ring, though she accepted the wrong young man for but a shadow of the
right sort of engagement.
This being settled, by the sudden combination of enthusiastic Irish
impulse and benevolent English scheming, she very considerately resigned
herself to Mrs. Adister's lead and submitted herself to a further jolting
in the unprogressive conversational coach with Colonel Adister, whose
fault as a driver was not in avoiding beaten ways, but whipping wooden
Evidently those two were little adapted to make the journey of life
together, though they were remarkably fine likenesses of a pair in the
dead midway of the journey, Captain Con reflected, and he could have
jumped at the thought of Patrick's cleverness: it was the one bright
thing of the evening. There was a clear gain in it somewhere. And if
there was none, Jane Mattock was a good soul worth saving. Why not all
the benefaction on our side, and a figo for rewards! Devotees or
adventurers, he was ready in imagination to see his cousins play the part
of either, as the cross-roads offered, the heavens appeared to decree.
We turn to the right or the left, and this way we're voluntary drudges,
and that way we're lucky dogs; it's all according to the turn, the fate
of it. But never forget that old Ireland is weeping!
O never forget that old Ireland is weeping
The bitter salt tears of the mother bereft!
He hummed the spontaneous lines. He was accused of singing to himself,
and a song was vigorously demanded of him by the ladies.
He shook his head. 'I can't,' he sighed. 'I was plucking the drowned
body of a song out of the waters to give it decent burial. And if I sing
I shall be charged with casting a firebrand at Mr. Rockney.'
Rockney assured him that he could listen to anything in verse.
'Observe the sneer:--for our verses are smoke,' said Con.
Miss Mattock pressed him to sing.
But he had saddened his mind about old Ireland: the Irish news weighed
heavily on him, unrelieved by a tussle with Rockney. If he sang, it
would be an Irish song, and he would break down in it, he said; and he
hinted at an objection of his wife's to spirited Irish songs of the sort
which carry the sons of Erin bounding over the fences of tyranny and the
brook of tears. And perhaps Mr. Rockney might hear a tale in verse as
hard to bear as he sometimes found Irish prose!--Miss Mattock perceived
that his depression was genuine, not less than his desire to please her.
'Then it shall be on another occasion,' she said.
'Oh! on another occasion I'm the lark to the sky, my dear lady.'
Her carriage was announced. She gave Patrick a look, with a smile, for
it was to be a curious experiment. He put on the proper gravity of a
young man commissioned, without a dimple of a smile. Philip bowed to her
stiffly, as we bow to a commanding officer who has insulted us and will
hear of it. But for that, Con would have manoeuvred against his wife to
send him downstairs at the lady's heels. The fellow was a perfect
riddle, hard to read as the zebra lines on the skin of a wild jackass--
if Providence intended any meaning when she traced them! and it's a moot
point: as it is whether some of our poets have meaning and are not
composers of zebra. 'No one knows but them above!' he said aloud,
apparently to his wife.
'What can you be signifying?' she asked him. She had deputed Colonel
Arthur to conduct Miss Mattock and Miss Barrow to their carriage, and she
supposed the sentence might have a mysterious reference to the plan she
had formed; therefore it might be a punishable offence. Her small round
eyes were wide-open, her head was up and high.
She was easily appeased, too easily.
'The question of rain, madam,' he replied to her repetition of his words.
'I dare say that was what I had in my mind, hearing Mr. Mattock and Mr.
Rockney agree to walk in company to their clubs.'
He proposed to them that they should delay the march on a visit to his
cabin near the clouds. They were forced to decline his invitation to the
gentle lion's mouth; as did Mr. Rumford, very briskly and thankfully.
Mr. Rockney was taken away by Mr. and Mrs. Marbury Dyke. So the party
separated, and the Englishmen were together, and the Irishmen together;
and hardly a syllable relating to the Englishmen did the Irishmen say,
beyond an allusion to an accident to John Mattock's yacht off the Irish
west-coast last autumn; but the Irishmen were subjected to some remarks
by the Englishmen, wherein their qualities as individuals and specimens
of a race were critically and neatly packed. Common sense is necessarily
critical in its collision with vapours, and the conscious possessors of
an exclusive common sense are called on to deliver a summary verdict, nor
is it an unjust one either, if the verdict be taken simply for an
estimate of what is presented upon the plain surface of to-day. Irishmen
are queer fellows, never satisfied, thirsting for a shindy. Some of them
get along pretty well in America. The air of their Ireland intoxicates
them. They require the strong hand: fair legislation, but no show of
weakness. Once let them imagine you are afraid of them, and they see
perfect independence in their grasp. And what would be the spectacle if
they were to cut themselves loose from England? The big ship might be
inconvenienced by the loss of the tender; the tender would fall adrift on
the Atlantic, with pilot and captain at sword and pistol, the crew
playing Donnybrook freely. Their cooler heads are shrewd enough to see
the folly, but it catches the Irish fancy to rush to the extreme, and we
have allowed it to be supposed that it frightens us. There is the
capital blunder, fons et origo.
Their leaders now pretend to work upon the Great Scale; they demand
everything on the spot upon their own interpretation of equity.
Concessions, hazy speeches, and the puling nonsense of our present
Government, have encouraged them so far and got us into the mess. Treat
them as policemen treat highwaymen: give them the law: and the law must
be tightened, like the hold on a rogue by his collar, if they kick at it.
Rockney was for sharp measures in repression, fair legislation in due
'Fair legislation upon your own interpretation of fair,' said Mattock,
whose party opposed Rockney's. 'As to repression, you would have missed
that instructive scene this evening at Con O'Donnell's table, if you had
done him the kindness to pick up his glove. It 's wisest to let them
exhaust their energies upon one another. Hold off, and they're soon at
'What kind of director of a City Company does he make?' said Rockney.
Mattock bethought him that, on the whole, strange to say, Con O'Donnell
comported himself decorously as a director, generally speaking on the
reasonable side, not without shrewdness: he seemed to be sobered by the
'That wife of his is the salvation of him,' Rockney said, to account for
the Captain's shrewdness. 'She manages him cleverly. He knows the
length of his line. She's a woman of principle, and barring the
marriage, good sense too. His wife keeps him quiet, or we should be
hearing of him. Forbery 's a more dangerous man. There's no intentional
mischief in Con O'Donnell; it's only effervescence. I saw his game, and
declined to uncork him. He talks of a niece of his wife's: have you ever
seen her?--married to some Servian or Roumanian prince.'
Mattock answered: 'Yes.'
'Is she such a beauty?'
Again Mattock answered: 'Yes,' after affecting thoughtfulness.
'They seem to marry oddly in that family.'
Mattock let fly a short laugh at the remark, which had the ring of some
current phrase. 'They do,' he said.
Next morning Jane Mattock spoke to her brother of her recruit. He
entirely trusted to her discretion; the idea of a young Irish secretary
was rather comical, nevertheless. He had his joke about it, requesting
to have a sight of the secretary's books at the expiry of the week, which
was the length of time he granted this ardent volunteer for evaporating
'If it releases poor Grace for a week, it will be useful to us,' Jane
said. 'Women are educated so shamefully that we have not yet found one
we can rely on as a competent person. And Mr. O'Donnell--did you notice
him? I told you I met him a day or two back--seems willing to be of use.
It cannot hurt him to try. Grace has too much on her hands.'
'She has a dozen persons.'
'They are zealous when they are led.'
'Beware of letting them suspect that they are led.'
'They are anxious to help the poor if they can discover how.'
'Good men, I don't doubt,' said John Mattock. 'Any proposals from
'Not of late. Captain O'Donnell, the brother of our secretary, is
handsomer, but we do not think him so trustworthy. Did you observe him
at all?--he sat by me. He has a conspirator's head.'
'What is that?' her brother asked her.
'Only a notion of mine.'
She was directed to furnish a compendious report of the sayings, doings,
and behaviour of the Irish secretary in the evening.
'If I find him there,' she said.
Her brother was of opinion that Mr. Patrick O'Donnell would be as good as
his word, and might be expected to appear there while the novelty lasted.
THE MATTOCK FAMILY
That evening's report of the demeanour of the young Irish secretary in
harness was not so exhilarating as John Mattock had expected, and he
inclined to think his sister guilty of casting her protecting veil over
the youth. It appeared that Mr. O'Donnell had been studious of his
duties, had spoken upon no other topic, had asked pertinent questions,
shown no flippancy, indulged in no extravagances. He seemed, Jane said,
eager to master details. A certain eagerness of her own in speaking of
it sharpened her clear features as if they were cutting through derision.
She stated it to propitiate her brother, as it might have done but for
the veracious picture of Patrick in the word 'eager,' which pricked the
scepticism of a practical man. He locked his mouth, looking at her with
a twinkle she refused to notice. 'Determined to master details' he could
have accepted. One may be determined to find a needle in a dust-heap;
one does not with any stiffness of purpose go at a dust-heap eagerly.
Hungry men have eaten husks; they have not betrayed eagerness for such
dry stuff. Patrick's voracity after details exhibited a doubtfully
genuine appetite, and John deferred his amusement until the termination
of the week or month when his dear good Jane would visit the office to
behold a vacated seat, or be assailed by the customary proposal.
Irishmen were not likely to be far behind curates in besieging an
heiress. For that matter, Jane was her own mistress and could very well
take care of herself; he had confidence in her wisdom.
He was besides of an unsuspicious and an unexacting temperament. The
things he would strongly object to he did not specify to himself because
he was untroubled by any forethought of them. Business, political,
commercial and marine, left few vacancies in his mind other than for the
pleasures he could command and enjoy. He surveyed his England with a
ruddy countenance, and saw the country in the reflection. His England
saw much of itself in him. Behind each there was more, behind the
country a great deal more, than could be displayed by a glass. The
salient features wore a resemblance. Prosperity and heartiness; a ready
hand on, and over, a full purse; a recognised ability of the second-rate
order; a stout hold of patent principles; inherited and embraced, to make
the day secure and supply a somniferous pillow for the night; occasional
fits of anxiety about affairs, followed by an illuminating conviction
that the world is a changing one and our construction not of granite,
nevertheless that a justifiable faith in the ship, joined to a constant
study of the chart, will pull us through, as it has done before, despite
all assaults and underminings of the common enemy and the particular;
these, with the humorous indifference of familiarity and constitutional
annoyances, excepting when they grew acute and called for drugs, and with
friendliness to the race of man of both colours, in the belief that our
Creator originally composed in black and white, together with a liking
for matters on their present footing in slow motion, partly under his
conductorship, were the prominent characteristics of the grandson of the
founder of the house, who had built it from a spade.
The story of the building was notorious; popular books for the inciting
of young Englishmen to dig to fortune had a place for it among the
chapters, where we read of the kind of man, and the means by which the
country has executed its later giant strides of advancement. The first
John Mattock was a representative of his time; he moved when the country
was moving, and in the right direction, finding himself at the auspicious
moment upon a line of rail. Elsewhere he would have moved, we may
suppose, for the spade-like virtues bear their fruits; persistent and
thrifty, solid and square, will fetch some sort of yield out of any soil;
but he would not have gone far. The Lord, to whom an old man of a mind
totally Hebrew ascribed the plenitude of material success, the Lord and
he would have reared a garden in the desert; in proximity to an oasis,
still on the sands, against obstacles. An accumulation of upwards of
four hundred thousand pounds required, as the moral of the popular books
does not sufficiently indicate, a moving country, an ardent sphere, to
produce the sum: and since, where so much was done, we are bound to
conceive others at work as well as he, it seems to follow that the
exemplar outstripping them vastly must have profited by situation at
the start, which is a lucky accident; and an accident is an indigestible
lump in a moral tale, real though the story be. It was not mentioned in
the popular books; nor did those worthy guides to the pursuit of wealth
contain any reminder of old John Mattock's dependence upon the conjoint
labour of his fellows to push him to his elevation. As little did they
think of foretelling a day, generations hence, when the empty heirs of
his fellows might prefer a modest claim (confused in statement) to
compensation against the estate he bequeathed: for such prophecy as that
would have hinted at a tenderness for the mass to the detriment of the
individual, and such tenderness as that is an element of our religion,
not the drift of our teaching.
He grumbled at the heavy taxation of his estate during life: yearly this
oppressed old man paid thousands of pounds to the Government. It was
poor encouragement to shoulder and elbow your way from a hovel to a
He paid the money, dying sour; a splendid example of energy on the road,
a forbidding one at the terminus. And here the moral of the popular
books turned aside from him to snatch at humanity for an instance of our
frailness and dealt in portentous shadows:--we are, it should be known,
not the great creatures we assume ourselves to be. Six months before his
death he appeared in the garb of a navvy, humbly soliciting employment at
his own house-door. There he appealed to the white calves of his footmen
for a day's work, upon the plea that he had never been a democrat.
The scene had been described with humanely-moralising pathos in the
various books of stories of Men who have come to Fortune, and it had for
a length of seasons an annual position in the foremost rank (on the line,
facing the door) in our exhibition of the chosen artists, where, as our
popular words should do, it struck the spectator's eye and his brain
simultaneously with pugilistic force: a reference to the picture in the
catalogue furnishing a recapitulation of the incident. 'I've worked a
good bit in my time, gentlemen, and I baint done yet':--SEE PROFESSOR
SUMMIT'S 'MEN WHO HAVE COME TO FORTUNE.' There is, we perceive at a
glance, a contrast in the bowed master of the Mansion applying to his
menials for a day's work at the rate of pay to able-bodied men:--which he
is not, but the deception is not disingenuous. The contrast flashed with
the rapid exchange of two prizefighters in a ring, very popularly. The
fustian suit and string below the knee, on the one side, and the purple
plush breeches and twinkling airy calves (fascinating his attention as he
makes his humble request to his own, these domestic knights) to right and
left of the doorway and in front, hit straight out of the canvas. And as
quickly as you perceive the contrast you swallow the moral. The dreaded
thing is down in a trice, to do what salutary work it may within you.
That it passed into the blood of England's middle-class population, and
set many heads philosophically shaking, and filled the sails of many a
sermon, is known to those who lived in days when Art and the classes
patronising our Native Art existed happily upon the terms of venerable
School-Dame and studious pupils, before the sickly era displacing
Exhibitions full of meaning for tricks of colour, monstrous atmospherical
vagaries that teach nothing, strange experiments on the complexion of the
human face divine--the feminine hyper-aethereally. Like the first John
Mattock, it was formerly of, and yet by dint of sturdy energy, above the
people. They learnt from it; they flocked to it thirsting and retired
from it thoughtful, with some belief of having drunk of nature in art, as
you will see the countless troops of urchins about the one cow of London,
in the Great City's Green Park.
A bequest to the nation of the best of these pictures of Old John, by a
very old Yorkshire collector, makes it milk for all time, a perpetual
contrast, and a rebuke. Compared with the portrait of Jane Mattock in
her fiery aureole of hair on the walls of the breakfast-room, it marks
that fatal period of degeneracy for us, which our critics of Literature
as well as Art are one voice in denouncing, when the complex overwhelms
the simple, and excess of signification is attempted, instead of letting
plain nature speak her uncorrupted tongue to the contemplative mind.
Degeneracy is the critical history of the Arts. Jane's hair was of a
reddish gold-inwoven cast that would, in her grandfather's epoch, have
shone unambiguously as carrots. The girl of his day thus adorned by
Nature, would have been shown wearing her ridiculous crown with some
decent sulkiness; and we should not have had her so unsparingly crowned;
the truth would have been told in a dexterous concealment--a rope of it
wound up for a bed of the tortoise-shell comb behind, and a pair of tight
cornucopias at the temples. What does our modern artist do but flare it
to right and left, lift it wavily over her forehead, revel in the
oriental superabundance, and really seem to swear we shall admire it,
against our traditions of the vegetable, as a poetical splendour. The
head of the heiress is in a Jovian shower. Marigolds are in her hand.
The whole square of canvas is like a meadow on the borders of June. It
Her brother also is presented: a fine portrait of him, with clipped red
locks, in blue array, smiling, wearing the rose of briny breezes, a
telescope under his left arm, his right forefinger on a map, a view of
Spitzbergen through a cabin-window: for John had notions about the north-
west passage, he had spent a winter in the ice, and if an amateur, was
not the less a true sailor.
With his brass-buttoned blue coat, and his high coloured cheeks, and his
convict hair--a layer of brickdust--and his air of princely wealth, and
the icebergs and hummocks about him, he looks for adventure without a
thought of his heroism--the country all over.
There he stands, a lover of the sea, and a scientific seaman and engineer
to boot, practical in every line of his face, defying mankind to suspect
that he cherishes a grain of romance. On the wall, just above his
shoulder, is a sketch of a Viking putting the lighted brand to his ship
in mid sea, and you are to understand that his time is come and so should
a Viking die: further, if you will, the subject is a modern Viking, ready
for the responsibilities of the title. Sketches of our ancient wooden
walls and our iron and plated defences line the panellings. These
degenerate artists do work hard for their money.
The portrait of John's father, dated a generation back, is just the man
and little else, phantomly the man. His brown coat struggles out of the
obscurity of the background, but it is chiefly background clothing him.
His features are distinguishable and delicate: you would suppose him
appearing to you under the beams of a common candle, or cottage coalfire
--ferruginously opaque. The object of the artist (apart from the triumph
of tone on the canvas) is to introduce him as an elegant and faded
gentleman, rather retiring into darkness than emerging. He is the ghost
of the painter's impasto. Yet this is Ezra Mattock, who multipled the
inheritance of the hundreds of thousands into millions, and died, after
covering Europe, Asia, and the Americas with iron rails, one of the few
Christians that can hold up their heads beside the banking Jew as
magnates in the lists of gold. The portrait is clearly no frontispiece
of his qualities. He married an accomplished and charitable lady, and
she did not spoil the stock in refining it. His life passed quietly;
his death shook the country: for though it had been known that he had
been one of our potentates, how mightily he was one had not entered into
the calculations of the public until the will of the late Ezra Mattock,
cited in our prints, received comments from various newspaper articles.
A chuckle of collateral satisfaction ran through the empire. All England
and her dependencies felt the state of cousinship with the fruits of
energy; and it was an agreeable sentiment, coming opportunely, as it did,
at the tail of articles that had been discussing a curious manifestation
of late--to-wit, the awakening energy of the foreigner--a prodigious
apparition on our horizon. Others were energetic too! We were not, the
sermon ran, to imagine we were without rivals in the field. We were
possessed of certain positive advantages; we had coal, iron, and an
industrious population, but we were, it was to be feared, by no means a
thrifty race, and there was reason for doubt whether in the matter of
industry we were quite up to the mark of our forefathers. No
deterioration of the stock was apprehended, still the nation must be
accused of a lack of vigilance. We must look round us, and accept the
facts as they stood. So accustomed had we become to the predominance of
our position that it was difficult at first to realise a position of
rivalry that threatened our manufacturing interests in their hitherto
undisputed lead in the world's markets. The tale of our exports for the
last five years conveys at once its moral and its warning. Statistics
were then cited.
As when the gloomy pedagogue has concluded his exhortation, statistics
birched the land. They were started at our dinner-tables, and scourged
the social converse. Not less than in the articles, they were perhaps
livelier than in the preface; they were distressing nevertheless; they
led invariably to the question of our decadence. Carthage was named; a
great mercantile community absolutely obliterated! Senatorial men were
led to propose in their thoughtfullest tones that we should turn our
attention to Art. Why should we not learn to excel in Art? We excelled
in Poetry. Our Poets were cited: not that there was a notion that poems
would pay as an export but to show that if we excel in one of the Arts we
may in others of them. The poetry was not cited, nor was it necessary,
the object being to inflate the balloon of paradox with a light-flying
gas, and prove a poem-producing people to be of their nature born
artists; if they did but know it. The explosion of a particular trade
points to your taking up another. Energy is adapted to flourish equally
in every branch of labour.
It is the genius of the will, commanding all the crossroads. A country
breeding hugely must prove its energy likewise in the departments of the
mind, or it will ultimately be unable to feed its young--nay, to feast
its aldermen! Let us be up and alive.--Such was the exhortation of a
profound depression. Outside these dismal assemblies, in the streets,
an ancient song of raven recurrence croaked of 'Old England a-going down
the hill'; for there is a link of electricity between the street-boy and
the leading article in days when the Poles exchange salutations.
Mr. Ezra's legacy of his millions to son and daughter broke like a golden
evening on the borders of the raincloud. Things could not be so bad when
a plain untitled English gentleman bequeathed in the simplest manner
possible such giant heaps, a very Pelion upon Ossa, of wealth to his
children. The minds of the readers of journals were now directed to
think of the hoarded treasures of this favoured country. They might
approximately be counted, but even if counted they would be past
conception, like the sidereal system. The contemplation of a million
stupefies: consider the figures of millions and millions! Articles were
written on Lombard Street, the world's gold-mine, our granary of energy,
surpassing all actual and fabulous gold-mines ever spoken of: Aladdin's
magician would find his purse contracting and squeaking in the
comparison. Then, too, the store of jewels held by certain private
families called for remark and an allusion to Sindbad the sailor, whose
eyes were to dilate wider than they did in the valley of diamonds. Why,
we could, if we pleased, lie by and pass two or three decades as jolly
cricketers and scullers, and resume the race for wealth with the rest of
mankind, hardly sensible of the holiday in our pockets though we were the
last people to do it, we were the sole people that had the option. Our
Fortunatus' cap was put to better purposes, but to have the cap, and not
to be emasculated by the possession, might excuse a little reasonable
pride in ourselves.
Thus did Optimism and Pessimism have their turn, like the two great
parties in the State, and the subsiding see-saw restored a proper
balance, much to the nation's comfort. Unhappily, it was remembered,
there are spectators of its method of getting to an equipoise out of the
agitation of extremes. The peep at our treasures to regain composure
had, we fear, given the foreigner glimpses, and whetted the appetite of
our masses. No sooner are we at peace than these are heard uttering low
howls, and those are seen enviously glaring. The spectre, Panic, that
ever dogs the optimistic feast, warns us of a sack under our beds, and
robbers about to try a barely-bolted door. . . Then do we, who have so
sweetly sung our senses to sleep, start up, in their grip, rush to the
doctor and the blacksmith, rig alarums, proclaim ourselves intestinally
torn, defenceless, a prey to foes within and without. It is discovered
to be no worse than an alderman's dream, but the pessimist frenzy of the
night has tossed a quieting sop to the Radical, and summoned the
volunteers to a review. Laudatory articles upon the soldierly 'march
past' of our volunteers permit of a spell of soft repose, deeper than
prudent, at the end of it, India and Ireland consenting.
So much for a passing outline of John Bull--the shadow on the wall of
John Mattock. The unostentatious millionaire's legacy to his two
children affected Mr. Bull thrillingly, pretty nearly as it has here been
dotted in lining. That is historical. Could he believe in the existence
of a son of his, a master of millions, who had never sighed (and he had
only to sigh) to die a peer, or a baronet, or simple Knight? The
downright hard-nailed coffin fact was there; the wealthiest man in the
country had flown away to Shadowland a common Mr.! You see the straight
deduction from the circumstances:--we are, say what you will, a
Republican people! Newspaper articles on the watch sympathetically for
Mr. Bull's latest view of himself, preached on the theme of our peculiar
Republicanism. Soon after he was observed fondling the Crown Insignia.
His bards flung out their breezy columns, reverentially monarchial. The
Republican was informed that they were despised as a blatant minority. A
maudlin fit of worship of our nobility had hold of him next, and English
aristocracy received the paean. Lectures were addressed to democrats;
our House of Lords was pledged solemnly in reams of print. We were told
that 'blood' may always be betted on to win the race; blood that is blue
will beat the red hollow. Who could pretend to despise the honour of
admission to the ranks of the proudest peerage the world has known! Is
not a great territorial aristocracy the strongest guarantee of national
stability? The loudness of the interrogation, like the thunder of Jove,
precluded thought of an answer.
Mr. Bull, though he is not of lucid memory, kept an eye on the owner of
those millions. His bards were awake to his anxiety, and celebrated John
Mattock's doings with a trump and flourish somewhat displeasing to a
quietly-disposed commoner. John's entry into Parliament as a Liberal was
taken for a sign of steersman who knew where the tide ran. But your
Liberals are sometimes Radicals in their youth, and his choice of parties
might not be so much sagacity as an instance of unripe lightheadedness.
A young conservative millionaire is less disturbing. The very wealthy
young peer is never wanton in his politics, which seems to admonish us
that the heir of vast wealth should have it imposed on him to accept a
peerage, and be locked up as it were. A coronet steadies the brain.
You may let out your heels at the social laws, you are almost expected to
do it, but you are to shake that young pate of yours restively under such
a splendid encumbrance. Private reports of John, however, gave him
credit for sound opinions: he was moderate, merely progressive. When it
was added that the man had the habit of taking counsel with his sister,
he was at once considered as fast and safe, not because of any public
knowledge of the character of Jane Mattock. We pay this homage to the
settled common sense of women. Distinctly does she discountenance leaps
in the dark, wild driving, and the freaks of Radicalism.
John, as it happened, had not so grave a respect for the sex as for the
individual Jane. He thought women capable of acts of foolishness; his
bright-faced sister he could thoroughly trust for prudent conduct. He
gave her a good portion of his heart in confidence, and all of it in
affection. There were matters which he excluded from confidence, even
from intimate communication with himself. These he could not reveal; nor
could she perfectly open her heart to him, for the same reason. They
both had an established ideal of their personal qualities, not far above
the positive, since they were neither of them pretentious, yet it was a
trifle higher and fairer than the working pattern; and albeit they were
sincere enough, quite sincere in their mutual intercourse, they had, by
what each knew at times of the thumping organ within them, cause for
doubting that they were as transparent as the other supposed; and they
were separately aware of an inward smile at one another's partial
deception; which did not thwart their honest power of working up to the
respected ideal. The stroke of the deeper self-knowledge rarely shook
them; they were able to live with full sensations in the animated picture
they were to the eyes best loved by them. This in fact was their life.
Anything beside it was a dream, and we do not speak of our dreams--not of
every dream. Especially do we reserve our speech concerning the dream in
which we had a revelation of the proud frame deprived of a guiding will,
flung rudderless on the waves. Ah that abject! The dismantled ship has
the grandeur of the tempest about it, but the soul swayed by passion is
ignominiously bare-poled, detected, hooted by its old assumption. If
instinct plays fantastical tricks when we are sleeping, let it be ever
behind a curtain. We can be held guilty only if we court exposure. The
ideal of English gentleman and gentlewoman is closely Roman in the self-
repression it exacts, and that it should be but occasionally difficult to
them shows an affinity with the type. Do you perchance, O continental
observers of the race, call it hypocritical? It is their nature
disciplined to the regimental step of civilisation. Socially these
island men and women of a certain middle rank are veterans of an army,
and some of the latest enrolled are the stoutest defenders of the flag.
Brother and sister preserved their little secrets of character apart.
They could not be expected to unfold what they declined personally to
examine. But they were not so successful with the lady governing the
household, their widowed maternal aunt, Mrs. Lackstraw, a woman of
decisive penetration, and an insubordinate recruit of the army aforesaid.
To her they were without a mask; John was passion's slave, Jane the most
romantic of Eve's daughters. She pointed to incidents of their youth;
her vision was acutely retrospective. The wealth of her nephew and niece
caused such a view of them to be, as she remarked, anxious past
endurance. She had grounds for fearing that John, who might step to an
alliance with any one of the proudest houses in the Kingdom, would marry
a beggar-maid. As for Jane, she was the natural prey of a threadbare
poet. Mrs. Lackstraw heard of Mr. Patrick O'Donnell, and demanded the
right to inspect him. She doubted such perfect disinterestedness in any
young man as that he should slave at account-keeping to that Laundry
without a prospect of rich remuneration, and the tale of his going down
to the city for a couple of hours each day to learn the art of keeping
books was of very dubious import in a cousin of Captain Con O'Donnell.
'Let me see your prodigy,' she said, with the emphasis on each word.
Patrick was presented at her table. She had steeled herself against an
Irish tongue. He spoke little, appeared simple, professed no enthusiasm
for the Laundry. And he paid no compliments to Jane: of the two he was
more interested by the elder lady, whose farm and dairy in Surrey he
heard her tell of with a shining glance, observing that he liked thick
cream: there was a touch of home in it. The innocent sensuality in the
candid avowal of his tastes inspired confidence. Mrs. Lackstraw fished
for some account of his home. He was open to flow on the subject; he
dashed a few sketches of mother and sisters, dowerless girls, fresh as
trout in the stream, and of his own poor estate, and the peasantry, with
whom he was on friendly terms. He was an absentee for his education.
Sweet water, pure milk, potatoes and bread, were the things he coveted in
plenty for his people and himself, he said, calling forth an echo from
Mrs. Lackstraw, and an invitation to come down to her farm in the Spring.
'That is, Mr. O'Donnell, if you are still in London.'
'Oh, I'm bound apprentice for a year,' said he.
He was asked whether he did not find it tiresome work.
'A trifle so,' he confessed.
Then why did he pursue it, the question was put.
He was not alive for his own pleasure, and would like to feel he was
doing a bit of good, was the answer.
Could one, Mrs. Lackstraw asked herself, have faith in this young
Irishman? He possessed an estate. His brogue rather added to his air of
truthfulness. His easy manners and the occasional streak of correct
French in his dialogue cast a shadow on it. Yet he might be an ingenuous
creature precisely because of the suspicion roused by his quaint
unworldliness that he might be a terrible actor. Why not?--his heart was
evidently much more interested in her pursuits than in her niece's. The
juvenility of him was catching, if it was indeed the man, and not one of
the actor's properties. Mrs. Lackstraw thought it prudent to hint at the
latter idea to Jane while she decided in her generosity to embrace the
former. Oh! if all Irishmen shared his taste for sweet water, pure milk
and wholesome bread, what a true Union we should have! She had always
insisted on those three things as most to be desired on earth for the
masses, and she reminded Jane of it as a curious fact. Jane acquiesced,
having always considered it a curious fact that her aunt should combine
the relish of a country life with the intensest social ambition--
a passion so sensitive as to make the name her husband had inflicted on
her a pain and a burden. The name of Mattock gave her horrors. She
spoke of it openly to prove that Jane must marry a title and John become
a peer. Never was there such a name to smell of the soil. She declared
her incapacity to die happy until the two had buried Mattock. Her own
one fatal step condemned her, owing to the opinion she held upon the
sacredness of marriage, as Lackstraw on her tombstone, and to Lackstraw
above the earthly martyr would go bearing the designation which marked
her to be claimed by him. But for John and Jane the index of Providence
pointed a brighter passage through life. They had only to conquer the
weakness native to them--the dreadful tendency downward. They had, in
the spiritual sense, frail hearts. The girl had been secretive about the
early activity of hers, though her aunt knew of two or three adventures
wanting in nothing save boldness to have put an end to her independence
and her prospects:--hence this Laundry business! a clear sign of some
internal disappointment. The boy, however, had betrayed himself in his
mother's days, when it required all her influence and his father's
authority, with proof positive of the woman's unworthiness, to rescue him
from immediate disaster.
Mrs. Lackstraw's confidences on the theme of the family she watched over
were extended to Patrick during their strolls among the ducks and fowls
and pheasants at her farm. She dealt them out in exclamations, as much
as telling him that now they knew him they trusted him, notwithstanding
the unaccountable part he played as honorary secretary to that Laundry.
The confidences, he was aware, were common property of the visitors one
after another, but he had the knowledge of his being trusted as not every
Irishman would have been. A service of six months to the secretaryship
established his reputation as the strange bird of a queer species: not
much less quiet, honest, methodical, than an Englishman, and still
impulsive, Irish still; a very strange bird.
The disposition of the English to love the children of Erin, when not
fretted by them, was shown in the treatment Patrick received from the
Mattock family. It is a love resembling the affection of the stage-box
for a set of favourite performers, and Patrick, a Celt who had schooled
his wits to observe and meditate, understood his position with them as
one of the gallant and amusing race, as well as the reason why he had won
their private esteem. They are not willingly suspicious: it agitates
their minds to be so; and they are most easily lulled by the flattery of
seeing their special virtues grafted on an alien stock: for in this
admiration of virtues that are so necessary to the stalwart growth of
man, they become just sensible of a minor deficiency; the tree, if we
jump out of it to examine its appearance, should not be all trunk. Six
months of ungrudging unremunerated service, showing devotion to the good
cause and perfect candour from first to last, was English, and a poetic
touch beyond: so that John Mattock, if he had finished the sentence
instead of lopping it with an interjection, would have said: 'These Irish
fellows, when they're genuine and first rate!--are pretty well the pick
of the land.' Perhaps his pause on the interjection expressed a doubt
of our getting them genuine. Mr. O'Donnell was a sort of exceptional
Irishman, not devoid of practical ability in a small way--he did his
duties of secretary fairly well; apparently sincere--he had refrained
from courting Jane; an odd creature enough, what with his mixture of
impulsiveness and discretion; likeable, pleasant to entertain and talk
to; not one of your lunatics concerning his country--he could listen to
an Englishman's opinion on that head, listen composedly to Rockney,
merely seeming to take notes; and Rockney was, as Captain Con termed him,
Press Dragoon about Ireland, a trying doctor for a child of the patient.
On the whole, John Mattock could shake his hand heartily when he was
leaving our shores. Patrick was released by Miss Grace Barrow's
discovery at last of a lady capable of filling his place: a circumstance
that he did not pretend to regret. He relinquished his post and stood
aside with the air of a disciplined soldier. This was at the expiration
of seven months and two weeks of service. Only after he had gone, upon
her receiving his first letter from the Continent, did Jane distinguish
in herself the warmth of friendliness she felt for him, and know that of
all around her she, reproaching every one who had hinted a doubt, had
been the most suspicious of his pure simplicity. It was the vice of her
condition to be suspicious of the honesty of men. She thought of her
looks as less attractive than they were; of her wealth she had reason to
think that the scent transformed our sad sex into dogs under various
disguises. Remembering her chill once on hearing Patrick in a green lane
where they botanised among spring flowers call himself her Irish cousin,
as if he had advanced a step and betrayed the hoof, she called him her
Irish cousin now in good earnest. Her nation was retrospectively
enthusiastic. The cordiality of her letter of reply to the wandering
Patrick astonished him on the part of so cool a young lady; and Captain
Con, when he heard Miss Mattock speak of Patrick to his wife, came to the
conclusion that the leery lad had gone a far way toward doing the trick
for himself, though Jane said his correspondence was full of the deeds of
his brother in India. She quite sparkled in speaking of this boy.
She and the captain had an interchange of sparklings over absent Patrick,
at a discovery made by Miss Colesworth, the lady replacing him, in a nook
of the amateur secretary's official desk, under heaps of pamphlets and
slips, French and English and Irish journals, not at all bearing upon the
business of the Laundry. It was a blotting-pad stuffed with Patrick's
jottings. Jane brought it to Con as to the proper keeper of the
reliquary. He persuaded her to join him in examining it, and together
they bent their heads, turning leaf by leaf, facing, laughing, pursuing
the search for more, sometimes freely shouting.
Her inspection of the contents had previously been shy; she had just
enough to tell her they were funny. Dozens of scraps, insides of torn
envelopes, invitation-cards, ends of bills received from home, whatever
was handy to him at the moment, had done service for the overflow of Mr.
Secretary's private notes and reflections; the blotting-paper as well;
though that was devoted chiefly to sketches of the human countenance,
the same being almost entirely of the fair. Jane fancied she spied
herself among the number. Con saw the likeness, but not considering
it a complimentary one, he whisked over the leaf. Grace Barrow was
unmistakeable. Her dimpled cushion features, and very intent eyes gazing
out of the knolls and dingles, were given without caricature. Miss
Colesworth appeared on the last page, a half-length holding a big key,
demure between curls. The key was explained by a cage on a stool, and a
bird flying out. She had unlocked the cage for Patrick.
'He never seemed anxious to be released while he was at work,' said Jane,
after she and the captain had spelt the symbolling in turns.
'And never thirsted to fly till he flew, I warrant him,' said Con.
A repeated sketch of some beauty confused them both; neither of them
could guess the proud owner of those lineaments. Con proclaimed it to be
merely one of the lad's recollections, perhaps a French face. He thought
he might have seen a face rather resembling it, but could not call to
mind whose face it was.
'I dare say it's just a youngster's dream on a stool at a desk, as poets
write sonnets in their youth to nobody, till they're pierced by somebody,
and then there's a difference in their handwriting,' he said, vexed with
Patrick for squandering his opportunity to leave a compliment to the
heiress behind him.
Jane flipped the leaves back to the lady with stormy hair.
'But you'll have the whole book, and hand it to him when he returns; it
'll come best from you,' said Con. 'The man on horseback, out of
uniform, 's brother Philip, of course. And man and horse are done to the
life. Pray, take it, Miss Mattock. I should lose it to a certainty; I
should; I can't be trusted. You'll take it!'
He pressed her so warmly to retain the bundle in her custody that she
carried it away.
Strange to say the things she had laughed at had been the things which
struck her feelings and sympathies. Patrick's notes here and there
recalled conversations he had more listened to than taken part in between
herself and Grace Barrow. Who could help laughing at his ideas about
women! But if they were crude, they were shrewd--or so she thought them;
and the jejuneness was, to her mind, chiefly in the dressing of them.
Grace agreed with her, for Grace had as good a right to inspect the
papers as she, and a glance had shown that there was nothing of peculiar
personal import in his notes: he did not brood on himself.
Here was one which tickled the ladies and formed a text for discussion.
'Women must take the fate of market-fruit till they earn their own
pennies, and then they 'll regulate the market. It is a tussle for money
with them as with us, meaning power. They'd do it as little by oratory
as they have done by millinery, for their oratory, just like their
millinery, appeals to a sentiment, and to a weaker; and nothing solid
comes of a sentiment. Power is built on work.'
To this was appended: 'The better for mankind in the developing process,
ay, and a bad day for us, boys, when study masks the charming eyes in
gig-lamps, and there is no pretty flying before us. Good-night to Cupid,
I fear. May be I am not seeing far enough, and am asking for the devil
to have the loveliest women as of old. Retro S. M.'
The youthful eye on their sex, the Irish voice, and the perceptible moral
earnestness in the background, made up a quaint mixture.
OF THE GREAT MR. BULL AND THE CELTIC AND SAXON VIEW OF HIM: AND SOMETHING
OF RICHARD ROCKNEY
Meanwhile India, our lubber giant, had ceased to kick a leg, and Ireland,
our fever-invalid, wore the aspect of an opiate slumber. The volcano we
couch on was quiet, the gritty morsel unabsorbed within us at an
armistice with the gastric juices. Once more the personification of the
country's prosperity had returned to the humming state of roundness.
Trade whipped him merrily, and he spun.
A fuller sketch of the figure of this remarkable emanation of us and
object of our worship, Bull, is required that we may breathe the
atmosphere of a story dealing with such very different views of the idol,
and learn to tolerate plain-speaking about him.
Fancy yourself delayed by stress of weather at an inn or an excursion,
and snapped up by some gossip drone of the district, who hearing whither
you are bound, recounts the history and nature of the place, to your
ultimate advantage, though you groan for the outer downpour to abate.--
Of Bull, then: our image, before the world: our lord and tyrant, ourself
in short--the lower part of us. Coldly worshipped on the whole, he can
create an enthusiasm when his roast-beef influence mounts up to peaceful
skies and the domestic English world spins with him. What he does not
like will then be the forbidding law of a most governable people, what
he does like the consenting. If it is declared that argument will be
inefficacious to move him, he is adored in the form of post. A hint of
his willingness in any direction, causes a perilous rush of his devotees.
Nor is there reason to suppose we have drawn the fanatical subserviency