Part 2 out of 12
ride over to them; and, meanwhile, during his absence, Miss Middleton
had bethought herself that she ought to have given her last days of
freedom to her friends. After the weeks to be passed at Patterne, very
few weeks were left to her, and she had a wish to run to Switzerland or
Tyrol and see the Alps; a quaint idea, her father thought. She repeated
it seriously, and Dr. Middleton perceived a feminine shuttle of
indecision at work in her head, frightful to him, considering that they
signified hesitation between the excellent library and capital
wine-cellar of Patterne Hall, together with the society of that
promising young scholar, Mr. Vernon Whitford, on the one side, and a
career of hotels--equivalent to being rammed into monster artillery
with a crowd every night, and shot off on a day's journey through space
every morning--on the other.
"You will have your travelling and your Alps after the ceremony," he
"I think I would rather stay at home," said she.
Dr Middleton rejoined: "I would."
"But I am not married yet papa."
"As good, my dear."
"A little change of scene, I thought . . ."
"We have accepted Willoughby's invitation. And he helps me to a house
"You wish to be near me, papa?"
"Proximate--at a remove: communicable."
"Why should we separate?"
"For the reason, my dear, that you exchange a father for a husband."
"If I do not want to exchange?"
"To purchase, you must pay, my child. Husbands are not given for
"No. But I should have you, papa!"
"They have not yet parted us, dear papa."
"What does that mean?" he asked, fussily. He was in a gentle stew
already, apprehensive of a disturbance of the serenity precious to
scholars by postponements of the ceremony and a prolongation of a
"Oh, the common meaning, papa," she said, seeing how it was with him.
"Ah!" said he, nodding and blinking gradually back to a state of
composure, glad to be appeased on any terms; for mutability is but
another name for the sex, and it is the enemy of the scholar.
She suggested that two weeks of Patterne would offer plenty of time to
inspect the empty houses of the district, and should be sufficient,
considering the claims of friends, and the necessity of going the round
of London shops.
"Two or three weeks," he agreed, hurriedly, by way of compromise with
that fearful prospect.
During the drive from Upton to Patterne, Miss Middleton hoped, she
partly believed, that there was to be a change in Sir Willoughby's
manner of courtship. He had been so different a wooer. She remembered
with some half-conscious desperation of fervour what she had thought of
him at his first approaches, and in accepting him. Had she seen him
with the eyes of the world, thinking they were her own? That look of
his, the look of "indignant contentment", had then been a most noble
conquering look, splendid as a general's plume at the gallop. It could
not have altered. Was it that her eyes had altered?
The spirit of those days rose up within her to reproach, her and
whisper of their renewal: she remembered her rosy dreams and the image
she had of him, her throbbing pride in him, her choking richness of
happiness: and also her vain attempting to be very humble, usually
ending in a carol, quaint to think of, not without charm, but quaint,
Now men whose incomes have been restricted to the extent that they must
live on their capital, soon grow relieved of the forethoughtful anguish
wasting them by the hilarious comforts of the lap upon which they have
sunk back, insomuch that they are apt to solace themselves for their
intolerable anticipations of famine in the household by giving loose to
one fit or more of reckless lavishness. Lovers in like manner live on
their capital from failure of income: they, too, for the sake of
stifling apprehension and piping to the present hour, are lavish of
their stock, so as rapidly to attenuate it: they have their fits of
intoxication in view of coming famine: they force memory into play,
love retrospectively, enter the old house of the past and ravage the
larder, and would gladly, even resolutely, continue in illusion if it
were possible for the broadest honey-store of reminiscences to hold out
for a length of time against a mortal appetite: which in good sooth
stands on the alternative of a consumption of the hive or of the
creature it is for nourishing. Here do lovers show that they are
perishable. More than the poor clay world they need fresh supplies,
right wholesome juices; as it were, life in the burst of the bud,
fruits yet on the tree, rather than potted provender. The latter is
excellent for by-and-by, when there will be a vast deal more to
remember, and appetite shall have but one tooth remaining. Should their
minds perchance have been saturated by their first impressions and have
retained them, loving by the accountable light of reason, they may have
fair harvests, as in the early time; but that case is rare. In other
words, love is an affair of two, and is only for two that can be as
quick, as constant in intercommunication as are sun and earth, through
the cloud or face to face. They take their breath of life from one
another in signs of affection, proofs of faithfulness, incentives to
admiration. Thus it is with men and women in love's good season. But a
solitary soul dragging a log must make the log a God to rejoice in the
burden. That is not love.
Clara was the least fitted of all women to drag a log. Few girls would
be so rapid in exhausting capital. She was feminine indeed, but she
wanted comradeship, a living and frank exchange of the best in both,
with the deeper feelings untroubled. To be fixed at the mouth of a
mine, and to have to descend it daily, and not to discover great
opulence below; on the contrary, to be chilled in subterranean
sunlessness, without any substantial quality that she could grasp, only
the mystery of the inefficient tallow-light in those caverns of the
complacent-talking man: this appeared to her too extreme a probation
for two or three weeks. How of a lifetime of it!
She was compelled by her nature to hope, expect and believe that Sir
Willoughby would again be the man she had known when she accepted him.
Very singularly, to show her simple spirit at the time, she was unaware
of any physical coldness to him; she knew of nothing but her mind at
work, objecting to this and that, desiring changes. She did not dream
of being on the giddy ridge of the passive or negative sentiment of
love, where one step to the wrong side precipitates us into the state
Her eyes were lively at their meeting--so were his. She liked to see
him on the steps, with young Crossjay under his arm. Sir Willoughby
told her in his pleasantest humour of the boy's having got into the
laboratory that morning to escape his task-master, and blown out the
windows. She administered a chiding to the delinquent in the same
spirit, while Sir Willoughby led her on his arm across the threshold,
whispering: "Soon for good!" In reply to the whisper, she begged for
more of the story of young Crossjay. "Come into the laboratory": said
he, a little less laughingly than softly; and Clara begged her father
to come and see young Crossjay's latest pranks. Sir Willoughby
whispered to her of the length of their separation, and his joy to
welcome her to the house where she would reign as mistress very won. He
numbered the weeks. He whispered: "Come." In the hurry of the moment
she did not examine a lightning terror that shot through her. It
passed, and was no more than the shadow which bends the summer grasses,
leaving a ruffle of her ideas, in wonder of her having feared herself
for something. Her father was with them. She and Willoughby were not
Young Crossjay had not accomplished so fine a piece of destruction as
Sir Willoughby's humour proclaimed of him. He had connected a battery
with a train of gunpowder, shattering a window-frame and unsettling
some bricks. Dr. Middleton asked if the youth was excluded from the
library, and rejoiced to hear that it was a sealed door to him. Thither
they went. Vernon Whitford was away on one of his long walks.
"There, papa, you see he is not so very faithful to you," said Clara.
Dr Middleton stood frowning over MS notes on the table, in Vernon's
handwriting. He flung up the hair from his forehead and dropped into a
seat to inspect them closely. He was now immoveable. Clara was obliged
to leave him there. She was led to think that Willoughby had drawn them
to the library with the design to be rid of her protector, and she
began to fear him. She proposed to pay her respects to the ladies
Eleanor and Isabel. They were not seen, and a footman reported in the
drawing-room that they were out driving. She grasped young Crossjay's
hand. Sir Willoughby dispatched him to Mrs. Montague, the housekeeper,
for a tea of cakes and jam.
"Off!" he said, and the boy had to run.
Clara saw herself without a shield.
"And the garden!" she cried. "I love the garden; I must go and see what
flowers are up with you. In spring I care most for wild flowers, and if
you will show me daffodils and crocuses and anemones . . ."
"My dearest Clara! my bride!" said he.
"Because they are vulgar flowers?" she asked him, artlessly, to account
for his detaining her.
Why would he not wait to deserve her!--no, not deserve--to reconcile
her with her real position; not reconcile, but to repair the image of
him in her mind, before he claimed his apparent right!
He did not wait. He pressed her to his bosom.
"You are mine, my Clara--utterly mine; every thought, every feeling. We
are one: the world may do its worst. I have been longing for you,
looking forward. You save me from a thousand vexations. One is
perpetually crossed. That is all outside us. We two! With you I am
secure! Soon! I could not tell you whether the world's alive or dead.
She came out of it with the sensations of the frightened child that has
had its dip in sea-water, sharpened to think that after all it was not
so severe a trial. Such was her idea; and she said to herself
immediately: What am I that I should complain? Two minutes earlier she
would not have thought it; but humiliated pride falls lower than
She did not blame him; she fell in her own esteem; less because she was
the betrothed Clara Middleton, which was now palpable as a shot in the
breast of a bird, than that she was a captured woman, of whom it is
absolutely expected that she must submit, and when she would rather be
gazing at flowers. Clara had shame of her sex. They cannot take a step
without becoming bondwomen: into what a slavery! For herself, her trial
was over, she thought. As for herself, she merely complained of a
prematureness and crudity best unanalyzed. In truth, she could hardly
be said to complain. She did but criticize him and wonder that a man
was unable to perceive, or was not arrested by perceiving,
unwillingness, discordance, dull compliance; the bondwoman's due
instead of the bride's consent. Oh, sharp distinction, as between two
She meted him justice; she admitted that he had spoken in a lover-like
tone. Had it not been for the iteration of "the world", she would not
have objected critically to his words, though they were words of
downright appropriation. He had the right to use them, since she was to
be married to him. But if he had only waited before playing the
Sir Willoughby was enraptured with her. Even so purely coldly,
statue-like, Dian-like, would he have prescribed his bride's reception
of his caress. The suffusion of crimson coming over her subsequently,
showing her divinely feminine in reflective bashfulness, agreed with
his highest definitions of female character.
"Let me conduct you to the garden, my love," he said.
She replied: "I think I would rather go to my room."
"I will send you a wild-flower posy."
"Flowers, no; I do not like them to be gathered."
"I will wait for you on the lawn."
"My head is rather heavy."
His deep concern and tenderness brought him close.
She assured him sparklingly that she was well. She was ready to
accompany him to the garden and stroll over the park.
"Headache it is not," she added.
But she had to pay the fee for inviting a solicitous accepted
This time she blamed herself and him, and the world he abused, and
destiny into the bargain. And she cared less about the probation; but
she craved for liberty. With a frigidity that astonished her, she
marvelled at the act of kissing, and at the obligation it forced upon
an inanimate person to be an accomplice. Why was she not free? By what
strange right was it that she was treated as a possession?
"I will try to walk off the heaviness," she said.
"My own girl must not fatigue herself."
"Oh, no; I shall not."
"Sit with me. Your Willoughby is your devoted attendant."
"I have a desire for the air."
"Then we will walk out."
She was horrified to think how far she had drawn away from him, and now
placed her hand on his arm to appease her self-accusations and
propitiate duty. He spoke as she had wished, his manner was what she
had wished; she was his bride, almost his wife; her conduct was a kind
of madness; she could not understand it.
Good sense and duty counselled her to control her wayward spirit.
He fondled her hand, and to that she grew accustomed; her hand was at a
distance. And what is a hand? Leaving it where it was, she treated it
as a link between herself and dutiful goodness. Two months hence she
was a bondwoman for life! She regretted that she had not gone to her
room to strengthen herself with a review of her situation, and meet him
thoroughly resigned to her fate. She fancied she would have come down
to him amicably. It was his present respectfulness and easy
conversation that tricked her burning nerves with the fancy. Five weeks
of perfect liberty in the mountains, she thought, would have prepared
her for the days of bells. All that she required was a separation
offering new scenes, where she might reflect undisturbed, feel clear
He led her about the flower-beds; too much as if he were giving a
convalescent an airing. She chafed at it, and pricked herself with
remorse. In contrition she expatiated on the beauty of the garden.
"All is yours, my Clara."
An oppressive load it seemed to her! She passively yielded to the man
in his form of attentive courtier; his mansion, estate, and wealth
overwhelmed her. They suggested the price to be paid. Yet she
recollected that on her last departure through the park she had been
proud of the rolling green and spreading trees. Poison of some sort
must be operating in her. She had not come to him to-day with this
feeling of sullen antagonism; she had caught it here.
"You have been well, my Clara?"
"Not a hint of illness?"
"My bride must have her health if all the doctors in the kingdom die
for it! My darling!"
"And tell me: the dogs?"
"Dogs and horses are in very good condition."
"I am glad. Do you know, I love those ancient French chateaux and farms
in one, where salon windows look on poultry-yard and stalls. I like
that homeliness with beasts and peasants."
He bowed indulgently.
"I am afraid we can't do it for you in England, my Clara."
"And I like the farm," said he. "But I think our drawing-rooms have a
better atmosphere off the garden. As to our peasantry, we cannot, I
apprehend, modify our class demarcations without risk of disintegrating
the social structure."
"Perhaps. I proposed nothing."
"My love, I would entreat you to propose if I were convinced that I
"You are very good."
"I find my merit nowhere but in your satisfaction."
Although she was not thirsting for dulcet sayings, the peacefulness of
other than invitations to the exposition of his mysteries and of their
isolation in oneness, inspired her with such calm that she beat about
in her brain, as if it were in the brain, for the specific injury he
had committed. Sweeping from sensation to sensation, the young, whom
sensations impel and distract, can rarely date their disturbance from a
particular one; unless it be some great villain injury that has been
done; and Clara had not felt an individual shame in his caress; the
shame of her sex was but a passing protest, that left no stamp. So she
conceived she had been behaving cruelly, and said, "Willoughby";
because she was aware of the omission of his name in her previous
His whole attention was given to her.
She had to invent the sequel. "I was going to beg you, Willoughby, do
not seek to spoil me. You compliment me. Compliments are not suited to
me. You think too highly of me. It is nearly as bad as to be slighted.
I am . . . I am a . . ." But she could not follow his example; even as
far as she had gone, her prim little sketch of herself, set beside her
real, ugly, earnest feelings, rang of a mincing simplicity, and was a
step in falseness. How could she display what she was?
"Do I not know you?" he said.
The melodious bass notes, expressive of conviction on that point,
signified as well as the words that no answer was the right answer. She
could not dissent without turning his music to discord, his complacency
to amazement. She held her tongue, knowing that he did not know her,
and speculating on the division made bare by their degrees of the
knowledge, a deep cleft.
He alluded to friends in her neighbourhood and his own. The
bridesmaids were mentioned.
"Miss Dale, you will hear from my aunt Eleanor, declines, on the plea
of indifferent health. She is rather a morbid person, with all her
really estimable qualities. It will do no harm to have none but young
ladies of your own age; a bouquet of young buds: though one blowing
flower among them . . . However, she has decided. My principal
annoyance has been Vernon's refusal to act as my best man."
"Mr. Whitford refuses?"
"He half refuses. I do not take no from him. His pretext is a dislike
to the ceremony."
"I share it with him."
"I sympathize with you. If we might say the words and pass from sight!
There is a way of cutting off the world: I have it at times completely:
I lose it again, as if it were a cabalistic phrase one had to utter.
But with you! You give it me for good. It will be for ever, eternally,
my Clara. Nothing can harm, nothing touch us; we are one another's. Let
the world fight it out; we have nothing to do with it."
"If Mr. Whitford should persist in refusing?"
"So entirely one, that there never can be question of external
influences. I am, we will say, riding home from the hunt: I see you
awaiting me: I read your heart as though you were beside me. And I
know that I am coming to the one who reads mine! You have me, you have
me like an open book, you, and only you!"
"I am to be always at home?" Clara said, unheeded, and relieved by his
"Have you realized it?--that we are invulnerable! The world cannot hurt
us: it cannot touch us. Felicity is ours, and we are impervious in the
enjoyment of it. Something divine! surely something divine on earth?
Clara!--being to one another that between which the world can never
interpose! What I do is right: what you do is right. Perfect to one
another! Each new day we rise to study and delight in new secrets. Away
with the crowd! We have not even to say it; we are in an atmosphere
where the world cannot breathe."
"Oh, the world!" Clara partly carolled on a sigh that sunk deep.
Hearing him talk as one exulting on the mountain-top, when she knew him
to be in the abyss, was very strange, provocative of scorn.
"My letters?" he said, incitingly.
"I read them."
"Circumstances have imposed a long courtship on us, my Clara; and I,
perhaps lamenting the laws of decorum--I have done so!--still felt the
benefit of the gradual initiation. It is not good for women to be
surprised by a sudden revelation of man's character. We also have
things to learn--there is matter for learning everywhere. Some day you
will tell me the difference of what you think of me now, from what you
thought when we first . . . ?"
An impulse of double-minded acquiescence caused Clara to stammer as on
"I--I daresay I shall."
She added, "If it is necessary."
Then she cried out: "Why do you attack the world? You always make me
He smiled at her youthfulness. "I have passed through that stage. It
leads to my sentiment. Pity it, by all means."
"No," said she, "but pity it, side with it, not consider it so bad. The
world has faults; glaciers have crevices, mountains have chasms; but is
not the effect of the whole sublime? Not to admire the mountain and the
glacier because they can be cruel, seems to me . . . And the world is
"The world of nature, yes. The world of men?"
"My love, I suspect you to be thinking of the world of ballrooms."
"I am thinking of the world that contains real and great generosity,
true heroism. We see it round us."
"We read of it. The world of the romance writer!"
"No: the living world. I am sure it is our duty to love it. I am sure
we weaken ourselves if we do not. If I did not, I should be looking on
mist, hearing a perpetual boom instead of music. I remember hearing Mr.
Whitford say that cynicism is intellectual dandyism without the
coxcomb's feathers; and it seems to me that cynics are only happy in
making the world as barren to others as they have made it for
"Old Vernon!" ejaculated Sir Willoughby, with a countenance rather
uneasy, as if it had been flicked with a glove. "He strings his phrases
by the dozen."
"Papa contradicts that, and says he is very clever and very simple."
"As to cynics, my dear Clara, oh, certainly, certainly: you are right.
They are laughable, contemptible. But understand me. I mean, we cannot
feel, or if we feel we cannot so intensely feel, our oneness, except by
dividing ourselves from the world."
"Is it an art?"
"If you like. It is our poetry! But does not love shun the world? Two
that love must have their sustenance in isolation."
"No: they will be eating themselves up."
"The purer the beauty, the more it will be out of the world."
"But not opposed."
"Put it in this way," Willoughby condescended. "Has experience the same
opinion of the world as ignorance?"
"It should have more charity."
"Does virtue feel at home in the world?"
"Where it should be an example, to my idea."
"Is the world agreeable to holiness?"
"Then, are you in favour of monasteries?"
He poured a little runlet of half laughter over her head, of the sound
assumed by genial compassion.
It is irritating to hear that when we imagine we have spoken to the
"Now in my letters, Clara . . ."
"I have no memory, Willoughby!"
"You will, however, have observed that I am not completely myself in my
letters . . ."
"In your letters to men you may be."
The remark threw a pause across his thoughts. He was of a sensitiveness
terribly tender. A single stroke on it reverberated swellingly within
the man, and most, and infuriately searching, at the spots where he had
been wounded, especially where he feared the world might have guessed
the wound. Did she imply that he had no hand for love-letters? Was it
her meaning that women would not have much taste for his epistolary
correspondence? She had spoken in the plural, with an accent on "men".
Had she heard of Constantia? Had she formed her own judgement about the
creature? The supernatural sensitiveness of Sir Willoughby shrieked a
peal of affirmatives. He had often meditated on the moral obligation of
his unfolding to Clara the whole truth of his conduct to Constantia;
for whom, as for other suicides, there were excuses. He at least was
bound to supply them. She had behaved badly; but had he not given her
some cause? If so, manliness was bound to confess it.
Supposing Clara heard the world's version first! Men whose pride is
their backbone suffer convulsions where other men are barely aware of a
shock, and Sir Willoughby was taken with galvanic jumpings of the
spirit within him, at the idea of the world whispering to Clara that he
had been jilted.
"My letters to men, you say, my love?"
"Your letters of business."
"Completely myself in my letters of business?" He stared indeed.
She relaxed the tension of his figure by remarking: "You are able to
express yourself to men as your meaning dictates. In writing to . . .
to us it is, I suppose, more difficult."
"True, my love. I will not exactly say difficult. I can acknowledge no
difficulty. Language, I should say, is not fitted to express emotion.
Passion rejects it."
"For dumb-show and pantomime?"
"No; but the writing of it coldly."
"My letters disappoint you?"
"I have not implied that they do."
"My feelings, dearest, are too strong for transcription. I feel, pen in
hand, like the mythological Titan at war with Jove, strong enough to
hurl mountains, and finding nothing but pebbles. The simile is a good
one. You must not judge of me by my letters."
"I do not; I like them," said Clara.
She blushed, eyed him hurriedly, and seeing him complacent, resumed, "I
prefer the pebble to the mountain; but if you read poetry you would not
think human speech incapable of. . ."
"My love, I detest artifice. Poetry is a profession."
"Our poets would prove to you . . ."
"As I have often observed, Clara, I am no poet."
"I have not accused you, Willoughby."
"No poet, and with no wish to be a poet. Were I one, my life would
supply material, I can assure you, my love. My conscience is not
entirely at rest. Perhaps the heaviest matter troubling it is that in
which I was least wilfully guilty. You have heard of a Miss Durham?"
"I have heard--yes--of her."
"She may be happy. I trust she is. If she is not, I cannot escape some
blame. An instance of the difference between myself and the world, now.
The world charges it upon her. I have interceded to exonerate her."
"That was generous, Willoughby."
"Stay. I fear I was the primary offender. But I, Clara, I, under a
sense of honour, acting under a sense of honour, would have carried my
"What had you done?"
"The story is long, dating from an early day, in the 'downy antiquity
of my youth', as Vernon says."
"Mr. Whitford says that?"
"One of old Vernon's odd sayings. It's a story of an early
"Papa tells me Mr. Whitford speaks at times with wise humour."
"Family considerations--the lady's health among other things; her
position in the calculations of relatives--intervened. Still there was
the fascination. I have to own it. Grounds for feminine jealousy."
"Is it at an end?"
"Now? with you? my darling Clara! indeed at an end, or could I have
opened my inmost heart to you! Could I have spoken of myself so
unreservedly that in part you know me as I know myself! Oh, but would
it have been possible to enclose you with myself in that intimate
union? so secret, unassailable!"
"You did not speak to her as you speak to me?"
"In no degree."
"What could have! . . ." Clara checked the murmured exclamation.
Sir Willoughby's expoundings on his latest of texts would have poured
forth, had not a footman stepped across the lawn to inform him that his
builder was in the laboratory and requested permission to consult with
Clara's plea of a horror of the talk of bricks and joists excused her
from accompanying him. He had hardly been satisfied by her manner, he
knew not why. He left her, convinced that he must do and say more to
reach down to her female intelligence.
She saw young Crossjay, springing with pots of jam in him, join his
patron at a bound, and taking a lift of arms, fly aloft, clapping
heels. Her reflections were confused. Sir Willoughby was admirable with
the lad. "Is he two men?" she thought; and the thought ensued, "Am I
unjust?" She headed a run with young Crossjay to divert her mind.
A RUN WITH THE TRUANT; A WALK WITH THE MASTER
The sight of Miss Middleton running inflamed young Crossjay with the
passion of the game of hare and hounds. He shouted a view-halloo, and
flung up his legs. She was fleet; she ran as though a hundred little
feet were bearing her onward smooth as water over the lawn and the
sweeps of grass of the park, so swiftly did the hidden pair multiply
one another to speed her. So sweet was she in her flowing pace, that
the boy, as became his age, translated admiration into a dogged frenzy
of pursuit, and continued pounding along, when far outstripped,
determined to run her down or die. Suddenly her flight wound to an end
in a dozen twittering steps, and she sank. Young Crossjay attained her,
with just breath enough to say: "You are a runner!"
"I forgot you had been having your tea, my poor boy," said she.
"And you don't pant a bit!" was his encomium.
"Dear me, no; not more than a bird. You might as well try to catch a
Young Crossjay gave a knowing nod. "Wait till I get my second wind."
"Now you must confess that girls run faster than boys."
"They may at the start."
"They do everything better."
"They learn their lessons."
"You can't make soldiers or sailors of them, though."
"And that is untrue. Have you never read of Mary Ambree? and Mistress
Hannah Snell of Pondicherry? And there was the bride of the celebrated
William Taylor. And what do you say to Joan of Arc? What do you say to
Boadicea? I suppose you have never heard of the Amazons."
"They weren't English."
"Then it is your own countrywomen you decry, sir!"
Young Crossjay betrayed anxiety about his false position, and begged
for the stories of Mary Ambree and the others who were English.
"See, you will not read for yourself, you hide and play truant with Mr.
Whitford, and the consequence is you are ignorant of your country's
Miss Middleton rebuked him, enjoying his wriggle between a perception
of her fun and an acknowledgment of his peccancy. She commanded him to
tell her which was the glorious Valentine's day of our naval annals;
the name of the hero of the day, and the name of his ship. To these
questions his answers were as ready as the guns of the good ship
Captain, for the Spanish four-decker.
"And that you owe to Mr. Whitford," said Miss Middleton.
"He bought me the books," young Crossjay growled, and plucked at grass
blades and bit them, foreseeing dimly but certainly the termination of
Miss Middleton lay back on the grass and said: "Are you going to be
fond of me, Crossjay?"
The boy sat blinking. His desire was to prove to her that lie was
immoderately fond of her already; and he might have flown at her neck
had she been sitting up, but her recumbency and eyelids half closed
excited wonder in him and awe. His young heart beat fast.
"Because, my dear boy," she said, leaning on her elbow, "you are a very
nice boy, but an ungrateful boy, and there is no telling whether you
will not punish any one who cares for you. Come along with me; pluck me
some of these cowslips, and the speedwells near them; I think we both
love wild-flowers." She rose and took his arm. "You shall row me on the
lake while I talk to you seriously."
It was she, however, who took the sculls at the boat-house, for she had
been a playfellow with boys, and knew that one of them engaged in a
manly exercise is not likely to listen to a woman.
"Now, Crossjay," she said. Dense gloom overcame him like a cowl. She
bent across her hands to laugh. "As if I were going to lecture you, you
silly boy!" He began to brighten dubiously. "I used to be as fond of
birdsnesting as you are. I like brave boys, and I like you for wanting
to enter the Royal Navy. Only, how can you if you do not learn? You
must get the captains to pass you, you know. Somebody spoils you: Miss
Dale or Mr. Whitford."
"Do they?" sung out young Crossjay.
"Sir Willoughby does?"
"I don't know about spoil. I can come round him."
"I am sure he is very kind to you. I dare say you think Mr. Whitford
rather severe. You should remember he has to teach you, so that you may
pass for the navy. You must not dislike him because he makes you work.
Supposing you had blown yourself up to-day! You would have thought it
better to have been working with Mr. Whitford."
"Sir Willoughby says, when he's married, you won't let me hide."
"Ah! It is wrong to pet a big boy like you. Does not he what you call
tip you, Crossjay?"
"Generally half-crown pieces. I've had a crown-piece. I've had
"And for that you do as he bids you? And he indulges you because you
. . . Well, but though Mr. Whitford does not give you money, he gives you
his time, he tries to get you into the navy."
"He pays for me."
"What do you say?"
"My keep. And, as for liking him, if he were at the bottom of the water
here, I'd go down after him. I mean to learn. We're both of us here at
six o'clock in the morning, when it's light, and have a swim. He taught
me. Only, I never cared for schoolbooks."
"Are you quite certain that Mr. Whitford pays for you."
"My father told me he did, and I must obey him. He heard my father was
poor, with a family. He went down to see my father. My father came here
once, and Sir Willoughby wouldn't see him. I know Mr. Whitford does.
And Miss Dale told me he did. My mother says she thinks he does it to
make up to us for my father's long walk in the rain and the cold he
caught coming here to Patterne."
"So you see you should not vex him, Crossjay. He is a good friend to
your father and to you. You ought to love him."
"I like him, and I like his face."
"Why his face?"
"It's not like those faces! Miss Dale and I talk about him. She thinks
that Sir Willoughby is the best-looking man ever born."
"Were you not speaking of Mr. Whitford?"
"Yes; old Vernon. That's what Sir Willoughby calls him," young Crossjay
excused himself to her look of surprise. "Do you know what he makes me
think of?--his eyes, I mean. He makes me think of Robinson Crusoe's old
goat in the cavern. I like him because he's always the same, and you're
not positive about some people. Miss Middleton, if you look on at
cricket, in comes a safe man for ten runs. He may get more, and he
never gets less; and you should hear the old farmers talk of him in the
booth. That's just my feeling."
Miss Middleton understood that some illustration from the
cricketing-field was intended to throw light on the boy's feeling for
Mr. Whitford. Young Crossjay was evidently warming to speak from his
heart. But the sun was low, she had to dress for the dinner-table, and
she landed him with regret, as at a holiday over. Before they parted,
he offered to swim across the lake in his clothes, or dive to the bed
for anything she pleased to throw, declaring solemnly that it should
not be lost.
She walked back at a slow pace, and sung to herself above her
darker-flowing thoughts, like the reed-warbler on the branch beside the
night-stream; a simple song of a lighthearted sound, independent of the
shifting black and grey of the flood underneath.
A step was at her heels.
"I see you have been petting my scapegrace."
"Mr. Whitford! Yes; not petting, I hope. I tried to give him a lecture.
He's a dear lad, but, I fancy, trying."
She was in fine sunset colour, unable to arrest the mounting tide. She
had been rowing, she said; and, as he directed his eyes, according to
his wont, penetratingly, she defended herself by fixing her mind on
Robinson Crusoe's old goat in the recess of the cavern.
"I must have him away from here very soon," said Vernon. "Here he's
quite spoiled. Speak of him to Willoughby. I can't guess at his ideas
of the boy's future, but the chance of passing for the navy won't bear
trifling with, and if ever there was a lad made for the navy, it's
The incident of the explosion in the laboratory was new to Vernon.
"And Willoughby laughed?" he said. "There are sea-port crammers who
stuff young fellows for examination, and we shall have to pack off the
boy at once to the best one of the lot we can find. I would rather have
had him under me up to the last three months, and have made sure of
some roots to what is knocked into his head. But he's ruined here. And
I am going. So I shall not trouble him for many weeks longer. Dr.
Middleton is well?"
"My father is well, yes. He pounced like a falcon on your notes in the
Vernon came out with a chuckle.
"They were left to attract him. I am in for a controversy."
"Papa will not spare you, to judge from his look."
"I know the look."
"Have you walked far to-day?"
"Nine and a half hours. My Flibbertigibbet is too much for me at
times, and I had to walk off my temper."
She cast her eyes on him, thinking of the pleasure of dealing with a
temper honestly coltish, and manfully open to a specific.
"All those hours were required?"
"Not quite so long."
"You are training for your Alpine tour."
"It's doubtful whether I shall get to the Alps this year. I leave the
Hall, and shall probably be in London with a pen to sell."
"Willoughby knows that you leave him?"
"As much as Mont Blanc knows that he is going to be climbed by a party
below. He sees a speck or two in the valley."
"He has not spoken of it."
"He would attribute it to changes . . ."
Vernon did not conclude the sentence.
She became breathless, without emotion, but checked by the barrier
confronting an impulse to ask, what changes? She stooped to pluck a
"I saw daffodils lower down the park," she said. "One or two; they're
"We are well off for wild flowers here," he answered.
"Do not leave him, Mr. Whitford."
"He will not want me."
"You are devoted to him."
"I can't pretend that."
"Then it is the changes you imagine you foresee . . . If any occur, why
should they drive you away?"
"Well, I'm two and thirty, and have never been in the fray: a kind of
nondescript, half scholar, and by nature half billman or bowman or
musketeer; if I'm worth anything, London's the field for me. But that's
what I have to try."
"Papa will not like your serving with your pen in London: he will say
you are worth too much for that."
"Good men are at it; I should not care to be ranked above them."
"They are wasted, he says."
"Error! If they have their private ambition, they may suppose they are
wasted. But the value to the world of a private ambition, I do not
"You have not an evil opinion of the world?" said Miss Middleton, sick
at heart as she spoke, with the sensation of having invited herself to
take a drop of poison.
He replied: "One might as well have an evil opinion of a river: here
it's muddy, there it's clear; one day troubled, another at rest. We
have to treat it with common sense."
"In the sense of serving it."
"Not think it beautiful?"
"Part of it is, part of it the reverse."
"Papa would quote the 'mulier formosa'".
"Except that 'fish' is too good for the black extremity. 'Woman' is
excellent for the upper."
"How do you say that?--not cynically, I believe. Your view commends
itself to my reason."
She was grateful to him for not stating it in ideal contrast with Sir
Willoughby's view. If he had, so intensely did her youthful blood
desire to be enamoured of the world, that she felt he would have lifted
her off her feet. For a moment a gulf beneath had been threatening.
When she said, "Love it?" a little enthusiasm would have wafted her
into space fierily as wine; but the sober, "In the sense of serving
it", entered her brain, and was matter for reflection upon it and him.
She could think of him in pleasant liberty, uncorrected by her woman's
instinct of peril. He had neither arts nor graces; nothing of his
cousin's easy social front-face. She had once witnessed the military
precision of his dancing, and had to learn to like him before she
ceased to pray that she might never be the victim of it as his partner.
He walked heroically, his pedestrian vigour being famous, but that
means one who walks away from the sex, not excelling in the recreations
where men and women join hands. He was not much of a horseman either.
Sir Willoughby enjoyed seeing him on horseback. And he could scarcely
be said to shine in a drawingroom, unless when seated beside a person
ready for real talk. Even more than his merits, his demerits pointed
him out as a man to be a friend to a young woman who wanted one. His
way of life pictured to her troubled spirit an enviable smoothness; and
his having achieved that smooth way she considered a sign of strength;
and she wished to lean in idea upon some friendly strength. His
reputation for indifference to the frivolous charms of girls clothed
him with a noble coldness, and gave him the distinction of a far-seen
solitary iceberg in Southern waters. The popular notion of hereditary
titled aristocracy resembles her sentiment for a man that would not
flatter and could not be flattered by her sex: he appeared superior
almost to awfulness. She was young, but she had received much flattery
in her ears, and by it she had been snared; and he, disdaining to
practise the fowler's arts or to cast a thought on small fowls,
appeared to her to have a pride founded on natural loftiness.
They had not spoken for awhile, when Vernon said abruptly, "The boy's
future rather depends on you, Miss Middleton. I mean to leave as soon
as possible, and I do not like his being here without me, though you
will look after him, I have no doubt. But you may not at first see
where the spoiling hurts him. He should be packed off at once to the
crammer, before you are Lady Patterne. Use your influence. Willoughby
will support the lad at your request. The cost cannot be great. There
are strong grounds against my having him in London, even if I could
manage it. May I count on you?"
"I will mention it: I will do my best," said Miss Middleton, strangely
They were now on the lawn, where Sir Willoughby was walking with the
ladies Eleanor and Isabel, his maiden aunts.
"You seem to have coursed the hare and captured the hart." he said to
"Started the truant and run down the paedagogue," said Vernon.
"Ay, you won't listen to me about the management of that boy," Sir
The ladies embraced Miss Middleton. One offered up an ejaculation in
eulogy of her looks, the other of her healthfulness: then both remarked
that with indulgence young Crossjay could be induced to do anything.
Clara wondered whether inclination or Sir Willoughby had disciplined
their individuality out of them and made them his shadows, his echoes.
She gazed from them to him, and feared him. But as yet she had not
experienced the power in him which could threaten and wrestle to
subject the members of his household to the state of satellites. Though
she had in fact been giving battle to it for several months, she had
held her own too well to perceive definitely the character of the
spirit opposing her.
She said to the ladies, "Ah, no! Mr. Whitford has chosen the only
method for teaching a boy like Crossjay."
"I propose to make a man of him," said Sir Willoughby.
"What is to become of him if he learns nothing?"
"If he pleases me, he will be provided for. I have never abandoned a
Clara let her eyes rest on his and, without turning or dropping, shut
The effect was discomforting to him. He was very sensitive to the
intentions of eyes and tones; which was one secret of his rigid grasp
of the dwellers in his household. They were taught that they had to
render agreement under sharp scrutiny. Studious eyes, devoid of warmth,
devoid of the shyness of sex, that suddenly closed on their look,
signified a want of comprehension of some kind, it might be hostility
of understanding. Was it possible he did not possess her utterly? He
Clara saw the lift of his brows, and thought, "My mind is my own,
married or not."
It was the point in dispute.
CLARA AND LAETITIA MEET: THEY ARE COMPARED
An hour before the time for lessons next morning young Crossjay was on
the lawn with a big bunch of wild flowers. He left them at the hall
door for Miss Middleton, and vanished into bushes.
These vulgar weeds were about to be dismissed to the dustheap by the
great officials of the household; but as it happened that Miss
Middleton had seen them from the window in Crossjay's hands, the
discovery was made that they were indeed his presentation-bouquet, and
a footman received orders to place them before her. She was very
pleased. The arrangement of the flowers bore witness to fairer fingers
than the boy's own in the disposition of the rings of colour, red
campion and anemone, cowslip and speedwell, primroses and
wood-hyacinths; and rising out of the blue was a branch bearing thick
white blossom, so thick, and of so pure a whiteness, that Miss
Middleton, while praising Crossjay for soliciting the aid of Miss Dale,
was at a loss to name the tree.
"It is a gardener's improvement on the Vestal of the forest, the wild
cherry," said Dr. Middleton, "and in this case we may admit the
gardener's claim to be valid, though I believe that, with his gift of
double blossom, he has improved away the fruit. Call this the Vestal of
civilization, then; he has at least done something to vindicate the
beauty of the office as well as the justness of the title."
"It is Vernon's Holy Tree the young rascal has been despoiling," said
Sir Willoughby merrily.
Miss Middleton was informed that this double-blossom wild cherry-tree
was worshipped by Mr. Whitford.
Sir Willoughby promised he would conduct her to it.
"You," he said to her, "can bear the trial; few complexions can; it is
to most ladies a crueller test than snow. Miss Dale, for example,
becomes old lace within a dozen yards of it. I should like to place her
under the tree beside you."
"Dear me, though; but that is investing the hamadryad with novel and
terrible functions," exclaimed Dr. Middleton.
Clara said: "Miss Dale could drag me into a superior Court to show me
fading beside her in gifts more valuable than a complexion."
"She has a fine ability," said Vernon.
All the world knew, so Clara knew of Miss Dales romantic admiration of
Sir Willoughby; she was curious to see Miss Dale and study the nature
of a devotion that might be, within reason, imitable--for a man who
could speak with such steely coldness of the poor lady he had
fascinated? Well, perhaps it was good for the hearts of women to be
beneath a frost; to be schooled, restrained, turned inward on their
dreams. Yes, then, his coldness was desireable; it encouraged an ideal
of him. It suggested and seemed to propose to Clara's mind the
divineness of separation instead of the deadly accuracy of an intimate
perusal. She tried to look on him as Miss Dale might look, and while
partly despising her for the dupery she envied, and more than
criticizing him for the inhuman numbness of sentiment which offered up
his worshipper to point a complimentary comparison, she was able to
imagine a distance whence it would be possible to observe him
uncritically, kindly, admiringly; as the moon a handsome mortal, for
In the midst of her thoughts, she surprised herself by saying: "I
certainly was difficult to instruct. I might see things clearer if I
had a fine ability. I never remember to have been perfectly pleased
with my immediate lesson . . ."
She stopped, wondering whither her tongue was leading her; then added,
to save herself, "And that may be why I feel for poor Crossjay."
Mr. Whitford apparently did not think it remarkable that she should
have been set off gabbling of "a fine ability", though the eulogistic
phrase had been pronounced by him with an impressiveness to make his
ear aware of an echo.
Sir Willoughby dispersed her vapourish confusion. "Exactly," he said.
"I have insisted with Vernon, I don't know how often, that you must
have the lad by his affections. He won't bear driving. It had no effect
on me. Boys of spirit kick at it. I think I know boys, Clara."
He found himself addressing eyes that regarded him as though he were a
small speck, a pin's head, in the circle of their remote contemplation.
They were wide; they closed.
She opened them to gaze elsewhere.
He was very sensitive.
Even then, when knowingly wounding him, or because of it, she was
trying to climb back to that altitude of the thin division of neutral
ground, from which we see a lover's faults and are above them, pure
surveyors. She climbed unsuccessfully, it is true; soon despairing and
using the effort as a pretext to fall back lower.
Dr. Middleton withdrew Sir Willoughby's attention from the
imperceptible annoyance. "No, sir, no: the birch! the birch! Boys of
spirit commonly turn into solid men, and the solider the men the more
surely do they vote for Busby. For me, I pray he may be immortal in
Great Britain. Sea-air nor mountain-air is half so bracing. I venture
to say that the power to take a licking is better worth having than the
power to administer one. Horse him and birch him if Crossjay runs from
"It is your opinion, sir?" his host bowed to him affably, shocked on
behalf of the ladies.
"So positively so, sir, that I will undertake, without knowledge of
their antecedents, to lay my finger on the men in public life who have
not had early Busby. They are ill-balanced men. Their seat of reason is
not a concrete. They won't take rough and smooth as they come. They
make bad blood, can't forgive, sniff right and left for approbation,
and are excited to anger if an East wind does not flatter them. Why,
sir, when they have grown to be seniors, you find these men mixed up
with the nonsense of their youth; you see they are unthrashed. We
English beat the world because we take a licking well. I hold it for a
surety of a proper sweetness of blood."
The smile of Sir Willoughby waxed ever softer as the shakes of his head
increased in contradictoriness. "And yet," said he, with the air of
conceding a little after having answered the Rev. Doctor and convicted
him of error, "Jack requires it to keep him in order. On board ship
your argument may apply. Not, I suspect, among gentlemen. No."
"Good-night to you, gentlemen!" said Dr. Middleton.
Clara heard Miss Eleanor and Miss Isabel interchange remarks:
"Willoughby would not have suffered it!"
"It would entirely have altered him!"
She sighed and put a tooth on her under-lip. The gift of humourous
fancy is in women fenced round with forbidding placards; they have to
choke it; if they perceive a piece of humour, for instance, the young
Willoughby grasped by his master,--and his horrified relatives rigid at
the sight of preparations for the seed of sacrilege, they have to
blindfold the mind's eye. They are society's hard-drilled soldiery.
Prussians that must both march and think in step. It is for the
advantage of the civilized world, if you like, since men have decreed
it, or matrons have so read the decree; but here and there a younger
woman, haply an uncorrected insurgent of the sex matured here and
there, feels that her lot was cast with her head in a narrower pit than
Clara speculated as to whether Miss Dale might be perchance a person of
a certain liberty of mind. She asked for some little, only some little,
free play of mind in a house that seemed to wear, as it were, a cap of
iron. Sir Willoughby not merely ruled, he throned, he inspired: and
how? She had noticed an irascible sensitiveness in him alert against a
shadow of disagreement; and as he was kind when perfectly appeased, the
sop was offered by him for submission. She noticed that even Mr.
Whitford forbore to alarm the sentiment of authority in his cousin. If
he did not breathe Sir Willoughby, like the ladies Eleanor and Isabel,
he would either acquiesce in a syllable or be silent. He never strongly
dissented. The habit of the house, with its iron cap, was on him, as it
was on the servants, and would be, oh, shudders of the shipwrecked that
see their end in drowning! on the wife.
"When do I meet Miss Dale?" she inquired.
"This very evening, at dinner," replied Sir Willoughby.
Then, thought she, there is that to look forward to.
She indulged her morbid fit, and shut up her senses that she might live
in the anticipation of meeting Miss Dale; and, long before the approach
of the hour, her hope of encountering any other than another dull
adherent of Sir Willoughby had fled. So she was languid for two of the
three minutes when she sat alone with Laetitia in the drawing-room
before the rest had assembled.
"It is Miss Middleton?" Laetitia said, advancing to her. "My jealousy
tells me; for you have won my boy Crossjay's heart, and done more to
bring him to obedience in a few minutes than we have been able to do in
"His wild flowers were so welcome to me," said Clara.
"He was very modest over them. And I mention it because boys of his age
usually thrust their gifts in our faces fresh as they pluck them, and
you were to be treated quite differently."
"We saw his good fairy's hand."
"She resigns her office; but I pray you not to love him too well in
return; for he ought to be away reading with one of those men who get
boys through their examinations. He is, we all think, a born sailor,
and his place is in the navy."
"But, Miss Dale, I love him so well that I shall consult his interests
and not my own selfishness. And, if I have influence, he will not be a
week with you longer. It should have been spoke of to-day; I must have
been in some dream; I thought of it, I know. I will not forget to do
what may be in my power."
Clara's heart sank at the renewed engagement and plighting of herself
involved in her asking a favour, urging any sort of petition. The cause
was good. Besides, she was plighted already.
"Sir Willoughby is really fond of the boy," she said.
"He is fond of exciting fondness in the boy," said Miss Dale. "He has
not dealt much with children. I am sure he likes Crossjay; he could not
otherwise be so forbearing; it is wonderful what he endures and laughs
Sir Willoughby entered. The presence of Miss Dale illuminated him as
the burning taper lights up consecrated plate. Deeply respecting her
for her constancy, esteeming her for a model of taste, he was never in
her society without that happy consciousness of shining which calls
forth the treasures of the man; and these it is no exaggeration to term
unbounded, when all that comes from him is taken for gold.
The effect of the evening on Clara was to render her distrustful of her
later antagonism. She had unknowingly passed into the spirit of Miss
Dale, Sir Willoughby aiding; for she could sympathize with the view of
his constant admirer on seeing him so cordially and smoothly gay; as
one may say, domestically witty, the most agreeable form of wit. Mrs
Mountstuart Jenkinson discerned that he had a leg of physical
perfection; Miss Dale distinguished it in him in the vital essence; and
before either of these ladies he was not simply a radiant, he was a
productive creature, so true it is that praise is our fructifying sun.
He had even a touch of the romantic air which Clara remembered as her
first impression of the favourite of the county; and strange she found
it to observe this resuscitated idea confronting her experience. What
if she had been captious, inconsiderate? Oh, blissful revival of the
sense of peace! The happiness of pain departing was all that she looked
for, and her conception of liberty was to learn to love her chains,
provided that he would spare her the caress. In this mood she sternly
condemned Constantia. "We must try to do good; we must not be thinking
of ourselves; we must make the best of our path in life." She revolved
these infantile precepts with humble earnestness; and not to be tardy
in her striving to do good, with a remote but pleasurable glimpse of
Mr. Whitford hearing of it, she took the opportunity to speak to Sir
Willoughby on the subject of young Crossjay, at a moment when,
alighting from horseback, he had shown himself to advantage among a
gallant cantering company. He showed to great advantage on horseback
among men, being invariably the best mounted, and he had a cavalierly
style, possibly cultivated, but effective. On foot his raised head and
half-dropped eyelids too palpably assumed superiority. "Willoughby, I
want to speak," she said, and shrank as she spoke, lest he should
immediately grant everything in the mood of courtship, and invade her
respite; "I want to speak of that dear boy Crossjay. You are fond of
him. He is rather an idle boy here, and wasting time . . ."
"Now you are here, and when you are here for good, my love for good
. . ." he fluttered away in loverliness, forgetful of Crossjay, whom
he presently took up. "The boy recognizes his most sovereign lady, and
will do your bidding, though you should order him to learn his lessons!
Who would not obey? Your beauty alone commands. But what is there
beyond?--a grace, a hue divine, that sets you not so much above as
apart, severed from the world."
Clara produced an active smile in duty, and pursued: "If Crossjay were
sent at once to some house where men prepare boys to pass for the navy,
he would have his chance, and the navy is distinctly his profession.
His father is a brave man, and he inherits bravery, and he has a
passion for a sailor's life; only he must be able to pass his
examination, and he has not much time."
Sir Willoughby gave a slight laugh in sad amusement.
"My dear Clara, you adore the world; and I suppose you have to learn
that there is not a question in this wrangling world about which we
have not disputes and contests ad nauseam. I have my notions concerning
Crossjay, Vernon has his. I should wish to make a gentleman of him.
Vernon marks him for a sailor. But Vernon is the lad's protector, I am
not. Vernon took him from his father to instruct him, and he has a
right to say what shall be done with him. I do not interfere. Only I
can't prevent the lad from liking me. Old Vernon seems to feel it. I
assure you I hold entirely aloof. If I am asked, in spite of my
disapproval of Vernon's plans for the boy, to subscribe to his
departure, I can but shrug, because, as you see, I have never opposed.
Old Vernon pays for him, he is the master, he decides, and if Crossjay
is blown from the masthead in a gale, the blame does not fall on me.
These, my dear, are matters of reason."
"I would not venture to intrude on them," said Clara, "if I had not
suspected that money . . ."
"Yes," cried Willoughby; "and it is a part. And let old Vernon
surrender the boy to me, I will immediately relieve him of the burden
on his purse. Can I do that, my dear, for the furtherance of a scheme I
condemn? The point is thus: latterly I have invited Captain Patterne to
visit me: just previous to his departure for the African Coast, where
Government despatches Marines when there is no other way of killing
them, I sent him a special invitation. He thanked me and curtly
declined. The man, I may almost say, is my pensioner. Well, he calls
himself a Patterne, he is undoubtedly a man of courage, he has elements
of our blood, and the name. I think I am to be approved for desiring to
make a better gentleman of the son than I behold in the father: and
seeing that life from an early age on board ship has anything but made
a gentleman of the father, I hold that I am right in shaping another
course for the son."
"Naval officers . . ." Clara suggested.
"Some," said Willoughby. "But they must be men of birth, coming out of
homes of good breeding. Strip them of the halo of the title of naval
officers, and I fear you would not often say gentlemen when they step
into a drawing-room. I went so far as to fancy I had some claim to make
young Crossjay something different. It can be done: the Patterne comes
out in his behaviour to you, my love; it can be done. But if I take
him, I claim undisputed sway over him. I cannot make a gentleman of the
fellow if I am to compete with this person and that. In fine, he must
look up to me, he must have one model."
"Would you, then, provide for him subsequently?"
"According to his behaviour."
"Would not that be precarious for him?"
"More so than the profession you appear inclined to choose for him?"
"But there he would be under clear regulations."
"With me he would have to respond to affection."
"Would you secure to him a settled income? For an idle gentleman is bad
enough; a penniless gentleman . . ."
"He has only to please me, my dear, and he will be launched and
"But if he does not succeed in pleasing you?"
"Is it so difficult?"
"Oh!" Clara fretted.
"You see, my love, I answer you," said Sir Willoughby.
He resumed: "But let old Vernon have his trial with the lad. He has his
own ideas. Let him carry them out. I shall watch the experiment."
Clara was for abandoning her task in sheer faintness.
"Is not the question one of money?" she said, shyly, knowing Mr.
Whitford to be poor.
"Old Vernon chooses to spend his money that way." replied Sir
Willoughby. "If it saves him from breaking his shins and risking his
neck on his Alps, we may consider it well employed."
"Yes," Clara's voice occupied a pause.
She seized her languor as it were a curling snake and cast it off.
"But I understand that Mr. Whitford wants your assistance. Is he
not--not rich? When he leaves the Hall to try his fortune in literature
in London, he may not be so well able to support Crossjay and obtain
the instruction necessary for the boy: and it would be generous to help
"Leaves the Hall!" exclaimed Willoughby. "I have not heard a word of
it. He made a bad start at the beginning, and I should have thought
that would have tamed him: had to throw over his Fellowship; ahem. Then
he received a small legacy some time back, and wanted to be off to push
his luck in Literature: rank gambling, as I told him. Londonizing can
do him no good. I thought that nonsense of his was over years ago. What
is it he has from me?--about a hundred and fifty a year: and it might
be doubled for the asking: and all the books he requires: and these
writers and scholars no sooner think of a book than they must have it.
And do not suppose me to complain. I am a man who will not have a
single shilling expended by those who serve immediately about my
person. I confess to exacting that kind of dependency. Feudalism is not
an objectionable thing if you can be sure of the lord. You know, Clara,
and you should know me in my weakness too, I do not claim servitude, I
stipulate for affection. I claim to be surrounded by persons loving me.
And with one? . . . dearest! So that we two can shut out the world; we
live what is the dream of others. Nothing imaginable can be sweeter. It
is a veritable heaven on earth. To be the possessor of the whole of
you! Your thoughts, hopes, all."
Sir Willoughby intensified his imagination to conceive more: he could
not, or could not express it, and pursued: "But what is this talk of
Vernon's leaving me? He cannot leave. He has barely a hundred a year of
his own. You see, I consider him. I do not speak of the ingratitude of
the wish to leave. You know, my dear, I have a deadly abhorrence of
partings and such like. As far as I can, I surround myself with healthy
people specially to guard myself from having my feelings wrung; and
excepting Miss Dale, whom you like--my darling does like her?"--the
answer satisfied him; "with that one exception, I am not aware of a
case that threatens to torment me. And here is a man, under no
compulsion, talking of leaving the Hall! In the name of goodness, why?
But why? Am I to imagine that the sight of perfect felicity distresses
him? We are told that the world is 'desperately wicked'. I do not like
to think it of my friends; yet otherwise their conduct is often hard to
"If it were true, you would not punish Crossjay?" Clara feebly
"I should certainly take Crossjay and make a man of him after my own
model, my dear. But who spoke to you of this?"
"Mr. Whitford himself. And let me give you my opinion, Willoughby, that
he will take Crossjay with him rather than leave him, if there is a
fear of the boy's missing his chance of the navy."
"Marines appear to be in the ascendant," said Sir Willoughby,
astonished at the locution and pleading in the interests of a son of
one. "Then Crossjay he must take. I cannot accept half the boy. I am,"
he laughed, "the legitimate claimant in the application for judgement
before the wise king. Besides, the boy has a dose of my blood in him;
he has none of Vernon's, not one drop."
"You see, my love?"
"Oh, I do see; yes."
"I put forth no pretensions to perfection," Sir Willoughby continued.
"I can bear a considerable amount of provocation; still I can be
offended, and I am unforgiving when I have been offended. Speak to
Vernon, if a natural occasion should spring up. I shall, of course,
have to speak to him. You may, Clara, have observed a man who passed me
on the road as we were cantering home, without a hint of a touch to his
hat. That man is a tenant of mine, farming six hundred acres, Hoppner
by name: a man bound to remember that I have, independently of my
position, obliged him frequently. His lease of my ground has five years
to run. I must say I detest the churlishness of our country population,
and where it comes across me I chastise it. Vernon is a different
matter: he will only require to be spoken to. One would fancy the old
fellow laboured now and then under a magnetic attraction to beggary. My
love," he bent to her and checked their pacing up and down, "you are
"I am very tired to-day," said Clara.
His arm was offered. She laid two fingers on it, and they dropped when
he attempted to press them to his rib.
He did not insist. To walk beside her was to share in the stateliness
of her walking.
He placed himself at a corner of the door-way for her to pass him into
the house, and doated on her cheek, her ear, and the softly dusky nape
of her neck, where this way and that the little lighter-coloured
irreclaimable curls running truant from the comb and the knot--curls,
half-curls, root-curls, vine-ringlets, wedding-rings, fledgling
feathers, tufts of down, blown wisps--waved or fell, waved over or up
or involutedly, or strayed, loose and downward, in the form of small
silken paws, hardly any of them much thicker than a crayon shading,
cunninger than long round locks of gold to trick the heart.
Laetitia had nothing to show resembling such beauty.
IN WHICH SIR WILLOUGHBY CHANCES TO SUPPLY THE TITLE FOR HIMSELF
Now Vernon was useful to his cousin; he was the accomplished secretary
of a man who governed his estate shrewdly and diligently, but had been
once or twice unlucky in his judgements pronounced from the magisterial
bench as a justice of the Peace, on which occasions a half column of
trenchant English supported by an apposite classical quotation
impressed Sir Willoughby with the value of such a secretary in a
controversy. He had no fear of that fiery dragon of scorching
breath--the newspaper press--while Vernon was his right hand man; and
as he intended to enter Parliament, he foresaw the greater need of him.
Furthermore, he liked his cousin to date his own controversial
writings, on classical subjects, from Patterne Hall. It caused his
house to shine in a foreign field; proved the service of scholarship by
giving it a flavour of a bookish aristocracy that, though not so well
worth having, and indeed in itself contemptible, is above the material
and titular; one cannot quite say how. There, however, is the flavour.
Dainty sauces are the life, the nobility, of famous dishes; taken
alone, the former would be nauseating, the latter plebeian. It is thus,
or somewhat so, when you have a poet, still better a scholar, attached
to your household. Sir Willoughby deserved to have him, for he was
above his county friends in his apprehension of the flavour bestowed by
the man; and having him, he had made them conscious of their
deficiency. His cook, M. Dehors, pupil of the great Godefroy, was not
the only French cook in the county; but his cousin and secretary, the
rising scholar, the elegant essayist, was an unparalleled decoration;
of his kind, of course. Personally, we laugh at him; you had better
not, unless you are fain to show that the higher world of polite
literature is unknown to you. Sir Willoughby could create an abject
silence at a county dinner-table by an allusion to Vernon "at work at
home upon his Etruscans or his Dorians"; and he paused a moment to let
the allusion sink, laughed audibly to himself over his eccentric
cousin, and let him rest.
In addition, Sir Willoughby abhorred the loss of a familiar face in his
domestic circle. He thought ill of servants who could accept their
dismissal without petitioning to stay with him. A servant that gave
warning partook of a certain fiendishness. Vernon's project of leaving
the Hall offended and alarmed the sensitive gentleman. "I shall have to
hand Letty Dale to him at last!" he thought, yielding in bitter
generosity to the conditions imposed on him by the ungenerousness of
another. For, since his engagement to Miss Middleton, his electrically
forethoughtful mind had seen in Miss Dale, if she stayed in the
neighbourhood, and remained unmarried, the governess of his infant
children, often consulting with him. But here was a prospect dashed
out. The two, then, may marry, and live in a cottage on the borders of
his park; and Vernon can retain his post, and Laetitia her devotion.
The risk of her casting it of had to be faced. Marriage has been known
to have such an effect on the most faithful of women that a great
passion fades to naught in their volatile bosoms when they have taken a
husband. We see in women especially the triumph of the animal over the
spiritual. Nevertheless, risks must be run for a purpose in view.
Having no taste for a discussion with Vernon, whom it was his habit to
confound by breaking away from him abruptly when he had delivered his
opinion, he left it to both the persons interesting themselves in young
Crossjay to imagine that he was meditating on the question of the lad,
and to imagine that it would be wise to leave him to meditate; for he
could be preternaturally acute in reading any of his fellow-creatures
if they crossed the current of his feelings. And, meanwhile, he
instructed the ladies Eleanor and Isabel to bring Laetitia Dale on a
visit to the Hall, where dinner-parties were soon to be given and a
pleasing talker would be wanted, where also a woman of intellect,
steeped in a splendid sentiment, hitherto a miracle of female
constancy, might stir a younger woman to some emulation. Definitely to
resolve to bestow Laetitia upon Vernon was more than he could do;
enough that he held the card.
Regarding Clara, his genius for perusing the heart which was not in
perfect harmony with him through the series of responsive movements to
his own, informed him of a something in her character that might have
suggested to Mrs Mountstuart Jenkinson her indefensible, absurd "rogue
in porcelain". Idea there was none in that phrase; yet, if you looked
on Clara as a delicately inimitable porcelain beauty, the suspicion of
a delicately inimitable ripple over her features touched a thought of
innocent roguery, wildwood roguery; the likeness to the costly and
lovely substance appeared to admit a fitness in the dubious epithet. He
detested but was haunted by the phrase.
She certainly had at times the look of the nymph that has gazed too
long on the faun, and has unwittingly copied his lurking lip and long
sliding eye. Her play with young Crossjay resembled a return of the
lady to the cat; she flung herself into it as if her real vitality had
been in suspense till she saw the boy. Sir Willoughby by no means
disapproved of a physical liveliness that promised him health in his
mate; but he began to feel in their conversations that she did not
sufficiently think of making herself a nest for him. Steely points were
opposed to him when he, figuratively, bared his bosom to be taken to
the softest and fairest. She reasoned: in other words, armed her
ignorance. She reasoned against him publicly, and lured Vernon to
support her. Influence is to be counted for power, and her influence
over Vernon was displayed in her persuading him to dance one evening at
Lady Culmer's, after his melancholy exhibitions of himself in the art;
and not only did she persuade him to stand up fronting her, she
manoeuvred him through the dance like a clever boy cajoling a top to
come to him without reeling, both to Vernon's contentment and to Sir
Willoughby's; for he was the last man to object to a manifestation of
power in his bride. Considering her influence with Vernon, he renewed
the discourse upon young Crossjay; and, as he was addicted to system,
he took her into his confidence, that she might be taught to look to
him and act for him.
"Old Vernon has not spoken to you again of that lad?" he said.
"Yes, Mr. Whitford has asked me."
"He does not ask me, my dear!"
"He may fancy me of greater aid than I am."
"You see, my love, if he puts Crossjay on me, he will be off. He has
this craze for 'enlisting' his pen in London, as he calls it; and I am
accustomed to him; I don't like to think of him as a hack scribe,
writing nonsense from dictation to earn a pitiful subsistence; I want
him here; and, supposing he goes, he offends me; he loses a friend; and
it will not be the first time that a friend has tried me too far; but
if he offends me, he is extinct."
"Is what?" cried Clara, with a look of fright.
"He becomes to me at once as if he had never been. He is extinct."
"In spite of your affection?"
"On account of it, I might say. Our nature is mysterious, and mine as
much so as any. Whatever my regrets, he goes out. This is not a
language I talk to the world. I do the man no harm; I am not to be
named unchristian. But . . . !"
Sir Willoughby mildly shrugged, and indicated a spreading out of the
"But do, do talk to me as you talk to the world, Willoughby; give me
"My own Clara, we are one. You should know me at my worst, we will say,
if you like, as well as at my best."
"Should I speak too?"
"What could you have to confess?"
She hung silent; the wave of an insane resolution swelled in her bosom
and subsided before she said, "Cowardice, incapacity to speak."
"Women!" said he.
We do not expect so much of women; the heroic virtues as little as the
vices. They have not to unfold the scroll of character.
He resumed, and by his tone she understood that she was now in the
inner temple of him: "I tell you these things; I quite acknowledge they
do not elevate me. They help to constitute my character. I tell you
most humbly that I have in me much--too much of the fallen archangel's
Clara bowed her head over a sustained in-drawn breath.
"It must be pride," he said, in a reverie superinduced by her
thoughtfulness over the revelation, and glorying in the black flames
demoniacal wherewith he crowned himself.
"Can you not correct it?" said she.
He replied, profoundly vexed by disappointment: "I am what I am. It
might be demonstrated to you mathematically that it is corrected by
equivalents or substitutions in my character. If it be a
"It seems one to me: so cruelly to punish Mr. Whitford for seeking to
improve his fortunes."
"He reflects on my share in his fortunes. He has had but to apply to me
for his honorarium to be doubled."
"He wishes for independence."
"Independence of me!"
"At my expense!"
"Ay, but this is the world, and I know it, my love; and beautiful as
your incredulity may be, you will find it more comforting to confide in
my knowledge of the selfishness of the world. My sweetest, you
will?--you do! For a breath of difference between us is intolerable. Do
you not feel how it breaks our magic ring? One small fissure, and we
have the world with its muddy deluge!--But my subject was old Vernon.
Yes, I pay for Crossjay, if Vernon consents to stay. I waive my own
scheme for the lad, though I think it the better one. Now, then, to
induce Vernon to stay. He has his ideas about staying under a mistress
of the household; and therefore, not to contest it--he is a man of no
argument; a sort of lunatic determination takes the place of it with
old Vernon!--let him settle close by me, in one of my cottages; very
well, and to settle him we must marry him."
"Who is there?" said Clara, beating for the lady in her mind.
"Women," said Willoughby, "are born match-makers, and the most
persuasive is a young bride. With a man--and a man like old Vernon!--
she is irresistible. It is my wish, and that arms you. It is your wish,
that subjugates him. If he goes, he goes for good. If he stays, he is
my friend. I deal simply with him, as with every one. It is the secret
of authority. Now Miss Dale will soon lose her father. He exists on a
pension; she has the prospect of having to leave the neighbourhood of
the Hall, unless she is established near us. Her whole heart is in this
region; it is the poor soul's passion. Count on her agreeing. But she
will require a little wooing: and old Vernon wooing! Picture the scene
to yourself, my love. His notion of wooing. I suspect, will be to treat
the lady like a lexicon, and turn over the leaves for the word, and fly
through the leaves for another word, and so get a sentence. Don't frown
at the poor old fellow, my Clara; some have the language on their
tongues, and some have not. Some are very dry sticks; manly men, honest
fellows, but so cut away, so polished away from the sex, that they are
in absolute want of outsiders to supply the silken filaments to attach
them. Actually!" Sir Willoughby laughed in Clara's face to relax the
dreamy stoniness of her look. "But I can assure you, my dearest, I have
seen it. Vernon does not know how to speak--as we speak. He has, or he
had, what is called a sneaking affection for Miss Dale. It was the most
amusing thing possible; his courtship!--the air of a dog with an uneasy
conscience, trying to reconcile himself with his master! We were all in
fits of laughter. Of course it came to nothing."
"Will Mr. Whitford," said Clara, "offend you to extinction if he
Willoughby breathed an affectionate "Tush!" to her silliness.
"We bring them together, as we best can. You see, Clara, I desire, and
I will make some sacrifices to detain him."
"But what do you sacrifice?--a cottage?" said Clara, combative at all
"An ideal, perhaps. I lay no stress on sacrifice. I strongly object to
separations. And therefore, you will say, I prepare the ground for
unions? Put your influence to good service, my love. I believe you
could persuade him to give us the Highland fling on the drawing-room
"There is nothing to say to him of Crossjay?"
"We hold Crossjay in reserve."
"It is urgent."
"Trust me. I have my ideas. I am not idle. That boy bids fair for a
capital horseman. Eventualities might . . ." Sir Willoughby murmured to
himself, and addressing his bride, "The cavalry? If we put him into the
cavalry, we might make a gentleman of him--not be ashamed of him. Or,
under certain eventualities, the Guards. Think it over, my love. De
Craye, who will, I suppose, act best man for me, supposing old Vernon
to pull at the collar, is a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Guards, a
thorough gentleman--of the brainless class, if you like, but an elegant
fellow; an Irishman; you will see him, and I should like to set a naval
lieutenant beside him in a drawingroom, for you to compare them and
consider the model you would choose for a boy you are interested in.
Horace is grace and gallantry incarnate; fatuous, probably: I have
always been too friendly with him to examine closely. He made himself
one of my dogs, though my elder, and seemed to like to be at my heels.
One of the few men's faces I can call admirably handsome;--with
nothing behind it, perhaps. As Vernon says, 'a nothing picked by the
vultures and bleached by the desert'. Not a bad talker, if you are
satisfied with keeping up the ball. He will amuse you. Old Horace does
not know how amusing he is!"
"Did Mr. Whitford say that of Colonel De Craye?"
"I forget the person of whom he said it. So you have noticed old
Vernon's foible? Quote him one of his epigrams, and he is in motion
head and heels! It is an infallible receipt for tuning him. If I want
to have him in good temper, I have only to remark, 'as you said'. I
straighten his back instantly."
"I," said Clara, "have noticed chiefly his anxiety concerning the boy;
for which I admire him."
"Creditable, if not particularly far-sighted and sagacious. Well, then,
my dear, attack him at once; lead him to the subject of our fair
neighbour. She is to be our guest for a week or so, and the whole
affair might be concluded far enough to fix him before she leaves. She
is at present awaiting the arrival of a cousin to attend on her father.
A little gentle pushing will precipitate old Vernon on his knees as far
as he ever can unbend them; but when a lady is made ready to expect a
declaration, you know, why, she does not--does she?--demand the entire
formula?--though some beautiful fortresses . . ."
He enfolded her. Clara was growing hardened to it. To this she was
fated; and not seeing any way to escape, she invoked a friendly frost
to strike her blood, and passed through the minute unfeelingly. Having
passed it, she reproached herself for making so much of it, thinking it
a lesser endurance than to listen to him. What could she do?--she was
caged; by her word of honour, as she at one time thought; by her
cowardice, at another; and dimly sensible that the latter was a
stronger lock than the former, she mused on the abstract question
whether a woman's cowardice can be so absolute as to cast her into the
jaws of her aversion. Is it to be conceived? Is there not a moment when
it stands at bay? But haggard-visaged Honour then starts up claiming to
be dealt with in turn; for having courage restored to her, she must
have the courage to break with honour, she must dare to be faithless,
and not merely say, I will be brave, but be brave enough to be
dishonourable. The cage of a plighted woman hungering for her
disengagement has two keepers, a noble and a vile; where on earth is
creature so dreadfully enclosed? It lies with her to overcome what
degrades her, that she may win to liberty by overcoming what exalts.
Contemplating her situation, this idea (or vapour of youth taking the
god-like semblance of an idea) sprang, born of her present sickness, in
Clara's mind; that it must be an ill-constructed tumbling world where
the hour of ignorance is made the creator of our destiny by being
forced to the decisive elections upon which life's main issues hang.
Her teacher had brought her to contemplate his view of the world.
She thought likewise: how must a man despise women, who can expose
himself as he does to me!
Miss Middleton owed it to Sir Willoughby Patterne that she ceased to
think like a girl. When had the great change begun? Glancing back, she
could imagine that it was near the period we call in love the
first--almost from the first. And she was led to imagine it through
having become barred from imagining her own emotions of that season.
They were so dead as not to arise even under the form of shadows in
fancy. Without imputing blame to him, for she was reasonable so far,
she deemed herself a person entrapped. In a dream somehow she had
committed herself to a life-long imprisonment; and, oh terror! not in a
quiet dungeon; the barren walls closed round her, talked, called for
ardour, expected admiration.
She was unable to say why she could not give it; why she retreated more
and more inwardly; why she invoked the frost to kill her tenderest
feelings. She was in revolt, until a whisper of the day of bells
reduced her to blank submission; out of which a breath of peace drew
her to revolt again in gradual rapid stages, and once more the aspect
of that singular day of merry blackness felled her to earth. It was
alive, it advanced, it had a mouth, it had a song. She received letters
of bridesmaids writing of it, and felt them as waves that hurl a log of
wreck to shore. Following which afflicting sense of antagonism to the
whole circle sweeping on with her, she considered the possibility of
her being in a commencement of madness. Otherwise might she not be
accused of a capriciousness quite as deplorable to consider? She had
written to certain of these young ladies not very long since of this
gentleman--how?--in what tone? And was it her madness then?--her
recovery now? It seemed to her that to have written of him
enthusiastically resembled madness more than to shudder away from the
union; but standing alone, opposing all she has consented to set in
motion, is too strange to a girl for perfect justification to be found
in reason when she seeks it.
Sir Willoughby was destined himself to supply her with that key of
special insight which revealed and stamped him in a title to fortify
her spirit of revolt, consecrate it almost.
The popular physician of the county and famous anecdotal wit, Dr.
Corney, had been a guest at dinner overnight, and the next day there
was talk of him, and of the resources of his art displayed by Armand
Dehors on his hearing that he was to minister to the tastes of a
gathering of hommes d'esprit. Sir Willoughby glanced at Dehors with his
customary benevolent irony in speaking of the persons, great in their
way, who served him. "Why he cannot give us daily so good a dinner, one
must, I suppose, go to French nature to learn. The French are in the
habit of making up for all their deficiencies with enthusiasm. They
have no reverence; if I had said to him, 'I want something particularly
excellent, Dehors', I should have had a commonplace dinner. But they
have enthusiasm on draught, and that is what we must pull at. Know one
Frenchman and you know France. I have had Dehors under my eye two
years, and I can mount his enthusiasm at a word. He took hommes
d'esprit to denote men of letters. Frenchmen have destroyed their
nobility, so, for the sake of excitement, they put up the literary
man--not to worship him; that they can't do; it's to put themselves in
a state of effervescence. They will not have real greatness above them,
so they have sham. That they may justly call it equality, perhaps! Ay,
for all your shake of the head, my good Vernon! You see, human nature
comes round again, try as we may to upset it, and the French only
differ from us in wading through blood to discover that they are at
their old trick once more; 'I am your equal, sir, your born equal. Oh!
you are a man of letters? Allow me to be in a bubble about you!' Yes,
Vernon, and I believe the fellow looks up to you as the head of the
establishment. I am not jealous. Provided he attends to his functions!
There's a French philosopher who's for naming the days of the year
after the birthdays of French men of letters. Voltaire-day,
Rousseau-day, Racine-day, so on. Perhaps Vernon will inform us who
takes April 1st."
"A few trifling errors are of no consequence when you are in the vein
of satire," said Vernon. "Be satisfied with knowing a nation in the
person of a cook."
"They may be reading us English off in a jockey!" said Dr. Middleton.
"I believe that jockeys are the exchange we make for cooks; and our
neighbours do not get the best of the bargain."
"No; but, my dear good Vernon, it's nonsensical," said Sir Willoughby;
"why be bawling every day the name of men of letters?"
"Of all countries and times. And they are the benefactors of humanity."
"Bene--!" Sir Willoughby's derisive laugh broke the word. "There's a
pretension in all that, irreconcilable with English sound sense. Surely
you see it?"
"We might," said Vernon, "if you like, give alternative titles to the
days, or have alternating days, devoted to our great families that
performed meritorious deeds upon such a day."
The rebel Clara, delighting in his banter, was heard: "Can we furnish
"A poet or two could help us."
"Perhaps a statesman," she suggested.
"A pugilist, if wanted."
"For blowy days," observed Dr. Middleton, and hastily in penitence
picked up the conversation he had unintentionally prostrated, with a
general remark on new-fangled notions, and a word aside to Vernon;
which created the blissful suspicion in Clara that her father was
indisposed to second Sir Willoughby's opinions even when sharing them.
Sir Willoughby had led the conversation. Displeased that the lead
should be withdrawn from him, he turned to Clara and related one of the
after-dinner anecdotes of Dr. Corney; and another, with a vast deal of
human nature in it, concerning a valetudinarian gentleman, whose wife
chanced to be desperately ill, and he went to the physicians assembled
in consultation outside the sick-room, imploring them by all he valued,
and in tears, to save the poor patient for him, saying: "She is
everything to me, everything; and if she dies I am compelled to run the
risks of marrying again; I must marry again; for she has accustomed me
so to the little attentions of a wife, that in truth I can't. I can't
lose her! She must be saved!" And the loving husband of any devoted
wife wrung his hands.
"Now, there, Clara, there you have the Egoist," added Sir Willoughby.
"That is the perfect Egoist. You see what he comes to--and his wife!
The man was utterly unconscious of giving vent to the grossest
"An Egoist!" said Clara.
"Beware of marrying an Egoist, my dear!" He bowed gallantly; and so
blindly fatuous did he appear to her, that she could hardly believe him
guilty of uttering the words she had heard from him, and kept her eyes
on him vacantly till she came to a sudden full stop in the thoughts
directing her gaze. She looked at Vernon, she looked at her father, and
at the ladies Eleanor and Isabel. None of them saw the man in the
word, none noticed the word; yet this word was her medical herb, her
illuminating lamp, the key of him (and, alas, but she thought it by
feeling her need of one), the advocate pleading in apology for her.
Egoist! She beheld him--unfortunate, selfdesignated man that he
was!--in his good qualities as well as bad under the implacable lamp,
and his good were drenched in his first person singular. His generosity
roared of I louder than the rest. Conceive him at the age of Dr.
Corney's hero: "Pray, save my wife for me. I shall positively have to
get another if I lose her, and one who may not love me half so well, or
understand the peculiarities of my character and appreciate my
attitudes." He was in his thirty-second year, therefore a young man,
strong and healthy, yet his garrulous return to his principal theme,
his emphasis on I and me, lent him the seeming of an old man spotted
with decaying youth.
"Beware of marrying an Egoist."
Would he help her to escape? The idea of the scene ensuing upon her
petition for release, and the being dragged round the walls of his
egoism, and having her head knocked against the corners, alarmed her
with sensations of sickness.
There was the example of Constantia. But that desperate young lady had
been assisted by a gallant, loving gentleman; she had met a Captain
Clara brooded on those two until they seemed heroic. She questioned
herself. Could she . . . ? were one to come? She shut her eyes in
languor, leaning the wrong way of her wishes, yet unable to say No.