Part 5 out of 12
of veritable pain, and amiably said: "I feel a blow, but I am sure you
would not willingly strike. We are all involved in the regrets."
Miss Middleton spoke of having to see Mrs. Montague, the housekeeper,
with reference to the bath for Crossjay, and stepped off the grass. He
bowed, watched her a moment, and for parallel reasons, running close
enough to hit one mark, he commiserated his friend Willoughby. The
winning or the losing of that young lady struck him as equally
lamentable for Willoughby.
AN AGED AND A GREAT WINE
THE leisurely promenade up and down the lawn with ladies and
deferential gentlemen, in anticipation of the dinner-bell, was Dr.
Middleton's evening pleasure. He walked as one who had formerly danced
(in Apollo's time and the young god Cupid's), elastic on the muscles of
the calf and foot, bearing his broad iron-grey head in grand elevation.
The hard labour of the day approved the cooling exercise and the
crowning refreshments of French cookery and wines of known vintages. He
was happy at that hour in dispensing wisdom or nugae to his hearers,
like the Western sun whose habit it is, when he is fairly treated, to
break out in quiet splendours, which by no means exhaust his treasury.
Blessed indeed above his fellows, by the height of the bow-winged bird
in a fair weather sunset sky above the pecking sparrow, is he that ever
in the recurrent evening of his day sees the best of it ahead and soon
to come. He has the rich reward of a youth and manhood of virtuous
living. Dr. Middleton misdoubted the future as well as the past of the
man who did not, in becoming gravity, exult to dine. That man he
deemed unfit for this world and the next.
An example of the good fruit of temperance, he had a comfortable pride
in his digestion, and his political sentiments were attuned by his
veneration of the Powers rewarding virtue. We must have a stable world
where this is to be done.
The Rev. Doctor was a fine old picture; a specimen of art peculiarly
English; combining in himself piety and epicurism, learning and
gentlemanliness, with good room for each and a seat at one another's
table: for the rest, a strong man, an athlete in his youth, a keen
reader of facts and no reader of persons, genial, a giant at a task, a
steady worker besides, but easily discomposed. He loved his daughter
and he feared her. However much he liked her character, the dread of
her sex and age was constantly present to warn him that he was not tied
to perfect sanity while the damsel Clara remained unmarried. Her mother
had been an amiable woman, of the poetical temperament nevertheless,
too enthusiastic, imaginative, impulsive, for the repose of a sober
scholar; an admirable woman, still, as you see, a woman, a fire-work.
The girl resembled her. Why should she wish to run away from Patterne
Hall for a single hour? Simply because she was of the sex born mutable
and explosive. A husband was her proper custodian, justly relieving a
father. With demagogues abroad and daughters at home, philosophy is
needed for us to keep erect. Let the girl be Cicero's Tullia: well, she
dies! The choicest of them will furnish us examples of a strange
Miss Dale was beside Dr. Middleton. Clara came to them and took the
"I was telling Miss Dale that the signal for your subjection is my
enfranchisement," he said to her, sighing and smiling. "We know the
date. The date of an event to come certifies to it as a fact to be
"Are you anxious to lose me?" Clara faltered.
"My dear, you have planted me on a field where I am to expect the
trumpet, and when it blows I shall be quit of my nerves, no more."
Clara found nothing to seize on for a reply in these words. She thought
upon the silence of Laetitia.
Sir Willoughby advanced, appearing in a cordial mood.
"I need not ask you whether you are better," he said to Clara, sparkled
to Laetitia, and raised a key to the level of Dr. Middleton's breast,
remarking, "I am going down to my inner cellar."
"An inner cellar!" exclaimed the doctor.
"Sacred from the butler. It is interdicted to Stoneman. Shall I offer
myself as guide to you? My cellars are worth a visit."
"Cellars are not catacombs. They are, if rightly constructed, rightly
considered, cloisters, where the bottle meditates on joys to bestow,
not on dust misused! Have you anything great?"
"A wine aged ninety."
"Is it associated with your pedigree that you pronounce the age with
"My grandfather inherited it."
"Your grandfather, Sir Willoughby, had meritorious offspring, not to
speak of generous progenitors. What would have happened had it fallen
into the female line! I shall be glad to accompany you. Port?
"Ah! We are in England!"
"There will just be time," said Sir Willoughby, inducing Dr. Middleton
to step out.
A chirrup was in the reverend doctor's tone: "Hocks, too, have
compassed age. I have tasted senior Hocks. Their flavours are as a
brook of many voices; they have depth also. Senatorial Port! we say. We
cannot say that of any other wine. Port is deep-sea deep. It is in its
flavour deep; mark the difference. It is like a classic tragedy,
organic in conception. An ancient Hermitage has the light of the
antique; the merit that it can grow to an extreme old age; a merit.
Neither of Hermitage nor of Hock can you say that it is the blood of
those long years, retaining the strength of youth with the wisdom of
age. To Port for that! Port is our noblest legacy! Observe, I do not
compare the wines; I distinguish the qualities. Let them live together
for our enrichment; they are not rivals like the Idaean Three. Were
they rivals, a fourth would challenge them. Burgundy has great genius.
It does wonders within its period; it does all except to keep up in the
race; it is short-lived. An aged Burgundy runs with a beardless Port. I
cherish the fancy that Port speaks the sentences of wisdom, Burgundy
sings the inspired Ode. Or put it, that Port is the Homeric hexameter,
Burgundy the pindaric dithyramb. What do you say?"
"The comparison is excellent, sir."
"The distinction, you would remark. Pindar astounds. But his elder
brings us the more sustaining cup. One is a fountain of prodigious
ascent. One is the unsounded purple sea of marching billows."
"A very fine distinction."
"I conceive you to be now commending the similes. They pertain to the
time of the first critics of those poets. Touch the Greeks, and you can
nothing new; all has been said: 'Graiis . . . praeter, laudem nullius
avaris.' Genius dedicated to Fame is immortal. We, sir, dedicate genius
to the cloacaline floods. We do not address the unforgetting gods, but
the popular stomach."
Sir Willoughby was patient. He was about as accordantly coupled with
Dr. Middleton in discourse as a drum duetting with a bass-viol; and
when he struck in he received correction from the
paedagogue-instrument. If he thumped affirmative or negative, he was
wrong. However, he knew scholars to be an unmannered species; and the
doctor's learnedness would be a subject to dilate on.
In the cellar, it was the turn for the drum. Dr. Middleton was
tongue-tied there. Sir Willoughby gave the history of his wine in heads
of chapters; whence it came to the family originally, and how it had
come down to him in the quantity to be seen. "Curiously, my
grandfather, who inherited it, was a water-drinker. My father died
"Indeed! Dear me!" the doctor ejaculated in astonishment and
condolence. The former glanced at the contrariety of man, the latter
embraced his melancholy destiny.
He was impressed with respect for the family. This cool vaulted cellar,
and the central square block, or enceinte, where the thick darkness was
not penetrated by the intruding lamp, but rather took it as an eye,
bore witness to forethoughtful practical solidity in the man who had
built the house on such foundations. A house having a great wine stored
below lives in our imaginations as a joyful house, fast and splendidly
rooted in the soil. And imagination has a place for the heir of the
house. His grandfather a water-drinker, his father dying early, present
circumstances to us arguing predestination to an illustrious heirship
and career. Dr Middleton's musings were coloured by the friendly
vision of glasses of the great wine; his mind was festive; it pleased
him, and he chose to indulge in his whimsical, robustious,
grandiose-airy style of thinking: from which the festive mind will
sometimes take a certain print that we cannot obliterate immediately.
Expectation is grateful, you know; in the mood of gratitude we are
waxen. And he was a self-humouring gentleman.
He liked Sir Willoughby's tone in ordering the servant at his heels to
take up "those two bottles": it prescribed, without overdoing it, a
proper amount of caution, and it named an agreeable number.
Watching the man's hand keenly, he said:
"But here is the misfortune of a thing super-excellent:--not more than
one in twenty will do it justice."
Sir Willoughby replied: "Very true, sir; and I think we may pass over
"Women, for example; and most men."
"This wine would be a scaled book to them."
"I believe it would. It would be a grievous waste."
"Vernon is a claret man; and so is Horace De Craye. They are both below
the mark of this wine. They will join the ladies. Perhaps you and I,
sir, might remain together."
"With the utmost good-will on my part."
"I am anxious for your verdict, sir."
"You shall have it, sir, and not out of harmony with the chorus
preceding me, I can predict. Cool, not frigid." Dr. Middleton summed
the attributes of the cellar on quitting it. "North side and South. No
musty damp. A pure air. Everything requisite. One might lie down one's
self and keep sweet here."
Of all our venerable British of the two Isles professing a suckling
attachment to an ancient port-wine, lawyer, doctor, squire, rosy
admiral, city merchant, the classic scholar is he whose blood is most
nuptial to the webbed bottle. The reason must be, that he is full of
the old poets. He has their spirit to sing with, and the best that Time
has done on earth to feed it. He may also perceive a resemblance in the
wine to the studious mind, which is the obverse of our mortality, and
throws off acids and crusty particles in the piling of the years, until
it is fulgent by clarity. Port hymns to his conservatism. It is
magical: at one sip he is off swimming in the purple flood of the
By comparison, then, the enjoyment of others is brutish; they have not
the soul for it; but he is worthy of the wine, as are poets of Beauty.
In truth, these should be severally apportioned to them, scholar and
poet, as his own good thing. Let it be so.
Meanwhile Dr. Middleton sipped.
After the departure of the ladies, Sir Willoughby had practised a
studied curtness upon Vernon and Horace.
"You drink claret," he remarked to them, passing it round. "Port, I
think, Doctor Middleton? The wine before you may serve for a preface.
We shall have your wine in five minutes."
The claret jug empty, Sir Willoughby offered to send for more. De Craye
was languid over the question. Vernon rose from the table.
"We have a bottle of Doctor Middleton's port coming in," Willoughby
said to him.
"Mine, you call it?" cried the doctor.
"It's a royal wine, that won't suffer sharing," said Vernon.
"We'll be with you, if you go into the billiard-room, Vernon."
"I shall hurry my drinking of good wine for no man," said the Rev.
"I'm beneath it, ephemeral, Willoughby. I am going to the ladies."
Vernon and De Craye retired upon the arrival of the wine; and Dr.
Middleton sipped. He sipped and looked at the owner of it.
"Some thirty dozen?" he said.
The doctor nodded humbly.
"I shall remember, sir," his host addressed him, "whenever I have the
honour of entertaining you, I am cellarer of that wine."
The Rev. Doctor set down his glass. "You have, sir, in some sense, an
enviable post. It is a responsible one, if that be a blessing. On you
it devolves to retard the day of the last dozen."
"Your opinion of the wine is favourable, sir?"
"I will say this:--shallow souls run to rhapsody:--I will say, that I
am consoled for not having lived ninety years back, or at any period
but the present, by this one glass of your ancestral wine."
"I am careful of it," Sir Willoughby said, modestly; "still its natural
destination is to those who can appreciate it. You do, sir."
"Still my good friend, still! It is a charge; it is a possession, but
part in trusteeship. Though we cannot declare it an entailed estate,
our consciences are in some sort pledged that it shall be a succession
not too considerably diminished."
"You will not object to drink it, sir, to the health of your
grandchildren. And may you live to toast them in it on their
"You colour the idea of a prolonged existence in seductive hues. Ha!
It is a wine for Tithonus. This wine would speed him to the rosy
"I will undertake to sit you through it up to morning," said Sir
Willoughby, innocent of the Bacchic nuptiality of the allusion.
Dr Middleton eyed the decanter. There is a grief in gladness, for a
premonition of our mortal state. The amount of wine in the decanter did
not promise to sustain the starry roof of night and greet the dawn.
"Old wine, my friend, denies us the full bottle!"
"Another bottle is to follow."
"It is ordered."
"It is uncorked."
"It is decanted."
"I submit. But, mark, it must be honest partnership. You are my worthy
host, sir, on that stipulation. Note the superiority of wine over
Venus!--I may say, the magnanimity of wine; our jealousy turns on him
that will not share! But the corks, Willoughby. The corks excite my
"The corking is examined at regular intervals. I remember the
occurrence in my father's time. I have seen to it once."
"It must be perilous as an operation for tracheotomy; which I should
assume it to resemble in surgical skill and firmness of hand, not to
mention the imminent gasp of the patient."
A fresh decanter was placed before the doctor.
He said: "I have but a girl to give!" He was melted.
Sir Willoughby replied: "I take her for the highest prize this world
"I have beaten some small stock of Latin into her head, and a note of
Greek. She contains a savour of the classics. I hoped once . . . But
she is a girl. The nymph of the woods is in her. Still she will bring
you her flower-cup of Hippocrene. She has that aristocracy--the
noblest. She is fair; a Beauty, some have said, who judge not by lines.
Fair to me, Willoughby! She is my sky. There were applicants. In Italy
she was besought of me. She has no history. You are the first heading
of the chapter. With you she will have her one tale, as it should be.
'Mulier tum bene olet', you know. Most fragrant she that smells of
naught. She goes to you from me, from me alone, from her father to her
husband. 'Ut flos in septis secretus nascitur hortis.'" He murmured on
the lines to, "'Sic virgo, dum . . .' I shall feel the parting. She
goes to one who will have my pride in her, and more. I will add, who
will be envied. Mr. Whitford must write you a Carmen Nuptiale."
The heart of the unfortunate gentleman listening to Dr. Middleton set
in for irregular leaps. His offended temper broke away from the image
of Clara, revealing her as he had seen her in the morning beside Horace
De Craye, distressingly sweet; sweet with the breezy radiance of an
English soft-breathing day; sweet with sharpness of young sap. Her
eyes, her lips, her fluttering dress that played happy mother across
her bosom, giving peeps of the veiled twins; and her laughter, her slim
figure, peerless carriage, all her terrible sweetness touched his wound
to the smarting quick.
Her wish to be free of him was his anguish. In his pain he thought
sincerely. When the pain was easier he muffled himself in the idea of
her jealousy of Laetitia Dale, and deemed the wish a fiction. But she
had expressed it. That was the wound he sought to comfort; for the
double reason, that he could love her better after punishing her, and
that to meditate on doing so masked the fear of losing her--the dread
abyss she had succeeded in forcing his nature to shudder at as a giddy
edge possibly near, in spite of his arts of self-defence.
"What I shall do to-morrow evening!" he exclaimed. "I do not care to
fling a bottle to Colonel De Craye and Vernon. I cannot open one for
myself. To sit with the ladies will be sitting in the cold for me. When
do you bring me back my bride, sir?"
"My dear Willoughby!" The Rev. Doctor puffed, composed himself, and
sipped. "The expedition is an absurdity. I am unable to see the aim of
it. She had a headache, vapours. They are over, and she will show a
return of good sense. I have ever maintained that nonsense is not to be
encouraged in girls. I can put my foot on it. My arrangements are for
staying here a further ten days, in the terms of your hospitable
invitation. And I stay."
"I applaud your resolution, sir. Will you prove firm?"
"I am never false to my engagement, Willoughby."
"Not under pressure?"
"Under no pressure."
"Persuasion, I should have said."
"Certainly not. The weakness is in the yielding, either to persuasion
or to pressure. The latter brings weight to bear on us; the former
blows at our want of it."
"You gratify me, Doctor Middleton, and relieve me."
"I cordially dislike a breach in good habits, Willoughby. But I do
remember--was I wrong?--informing Clara that you appeared light-hearted
in regard to a departure, or gap in a visit, that was not, I must
confess, to my liking."
"Simply, my dear doctor, your pleasure was my pleasure; but make my
pleasure yours, and you remain to crack many a bottle with your
"Excellently said. You have a courtly speech, Willoughby. I can imagine
you to conduct a lovers' quarrel with a politeness to read a lesson to
well-bred damsels. Aha?"
"Spare me the futility of the quarrel."
"Clara," replied Sir Willoughby, in dramatic epigram, "is perfection."
"I rejoice," the Rev. Doctor responded; taught thus to understand that
the lovers' quarrel between his daughter and his host was at an end.
He left the table a little after eleven o'clock. A short dialogue
ensued upon the subject of the ladies. They must have gone to bed?
Why, yes; of course they must. It is good that they should go to bed
early to preserve their complexions for us. Ladies are creation's
glory, but they are anti-climax, following a wine of a century old.
They are anti-climax, recoil, cross-current; morally, they are
repentance, penance; imagerially, the frozen North on the young brown
buds bursting to green. What know they of a critic in the palate, and a
frame all revelry! And mark you, revelry in sobriety, containment in
exultation; classic revelry. Can they, dear though they be to us, light
up candelabras in the brain, to illuminate all history and solve the
secret of the destiny of man? They cannot; they cannot sympathize with
them that can. So therefore this division is between us; yet are we not
turbaned Orientals, nor are they inmates of the harem. We are not
Moslem. Be assured of it in the contemplation of the table's decanter.
Dr Middleton said: "Then I go straight to bed."
"I will conduct you to your door, sir," said his host.
The piano was heard. Dr. Middleton laid his hand on the banisters, and
remarked: "The ladies must have gone to bed?"
Vernon came out of the library and was hailed, "Fellow-student!"
He waved a good-night to the Doctor, and said to Willoughby: "The
ladies are in the drawing-room."
"I am on my way upstairs," was the reply.
"Solitude and sleep, after such a wine as that; and forefend us human
society!" the Doctor shouted. "But, Willoughby!"
"You dispose of the cellar, sir."
"I am fitter to drive the horses of the sun. I would rigidly counsel,
one, and no more. We have made a breach in the fiftieth dozen. Daily
one will preserve us from having to name the fortieth quite so
unseasonably. The couple of bottles per diem prognosticates
disintegration, with its accompanying recklessness. Constitutionally,
let me add, I bear three. I speak for posterity."
During Dr. Middleton's allocution the ladies issued from the
drawing-room, Clara foremost, for she had heard her father's voice, and
desired to ask him this in reference to their departure: "Papa, will
you tell me the hour to-morrow?"
She ran up the stairs to kiss him, saying again: "When will you be
ready to-morrow morning?"
Dr Middleton announced a stoutly deliberative mind in the bugle-notes
of a repeated ahem. He bethought him of replying in his doctorial
tongue. Clara's eager face admonished him to brevity: it began to look
starved. Intruding on his vision of the houris couched in the inner
cellar to be the reward of valiant men, it annoyed him. His brows
joined. He said: "I shall not be ready to-morrow morning."
"In the afternoon?"
"Nor in the afternoon."
"My dear, I am ready for bed at this moment, and know of no other
readiness. Ladies," he bowed to the group in the hall below him, "may
fair dreams pay court to you this night!"
Sir Willoughby had hastily descended and shaken the hands of the
ladies, directed Horace De Craye to the laboratory for a smoking-room,
and returned to Dr. Middleton. Vexed by the scene, uncertain of his
temper if he stayed with Clara, for whom he had arranged that her
disappointment should take place on the morrow, in his absence, he
said: "Good-night, good-night," to her, with due fervour, bending over
her flaccid finger-tips; then offered his arm to the Rev. Doctor.
"Ay, son Willoughby, in friendliness, if you will, though I am a man to
bear my load," the father of the stupefied girl addressed him.
"Candles, I believe, are on the first landing. Good-night, my love.
"Oh!" she lifted her breast with the interjection, standing in shame of
the curtained conspiracy and herself, "good night".
Her father wound up the stairs. She stepped down.
"There was an understanding that papa and I should go to London
to-morrow early," she said, unconcernedly, to the ladies, and her voice
was clear, but her face too legible. De Craye was heartily unhappy at
Two were sleepless that night: Miss Middleton and Colonel De Craye.
She was in a fever, lying like stone, with her brain burning. Quick
natures run out to calamity in any little shadow of it flung before.
Terrors of apprehension drive them. They stop not short of the
uttermost when they are on the wings of dread. A frown means tempest, a
wind wreck; to see fire is to be seized by it. When it is the approach
of their loathing that they fear, they are in the tragedy of the
embrace at a breath; and then is the wrestle between themselves and
horror, between themselves and evil, which promises aid; themselves and
weakness, which calls on evil; themselves and the better part of them,
which whispers no beguilement.
The false course she had taken through sophistical cowardice appalled
the girl; she was lost. The advantage taken of it by Willoughby put on
the form of strength, and made her feel abject, reptilious; she was
lost, carried away on the flood of the cataract. He had won her father
for an ally. Strangely, she knew not how, he had succeeded in swaying
her father, who had previously not more than tolerated him. "Son
Willoughby" on her father's lips meant something that scenes and scenes
would have to struggle with, to the out-wearying of her father and
herself. She revolved the "Son Willoughby" through moods of
stupefaction, contempt, revolt, subjection. It meant that she was
vanquished. It meant that her father's esteem for her was forfeited.
She saw him a gigantic image of discomposure.
Her recognition of her cowardly feebleness brought the brood of
fatalism. What was the right of so miserable a creature as she to
excite disturbance, let her fortunes be good or ill? It would be
quieter to float, kinder to everybody. Thank heaven for the chances of
a short life! Once in a net, desperation is graceless. We may be
brutes in our earthly destinies: in our endurance of them we need not
She was now in the luxury of passivity, when we throw our burden on the
Powers above, and do not love them. The need to love them drew her out
of it, that she might strive with the unbearable, and by sheer
striving, even though she were graceless, come to love them humbly. It
is here that the seed of good teaching supports a soul, for the
condition might be mapped, and where kismet whispers us to shut eyes,
and instruction bids us look up, is at a well-marked cross-road of the
Quick of sensation, but not courageously resolved, she perceived how
blunderingly she had acted. For a punishment, it seemed to her that she
who had not known her mind must learn to conquer her nature, and
submit. She had accepted Willoughby; therefore she accepted him. The
fact became a matter of the past, past debating.
In the abstract this contemplation of circumstances went well. A plain
duty lay in her way. And then a disembodied thought flew round her,
comparing her with Vernon to her discredit. He had for years borne much
that was distasteful to him, for the purpose of studying, and with his
poor income helping the poorer than himself. She dwelt on him in pity
and envy; he had lived in this place, and so must she; and he had not
been dishonoured by his modesty: he had not failed of self-control,
because he had a life within. She was almost imagining she might
imitate him when the clash of a sharp physical thought, "The
difference! the difference!" told her she was woman and never could
submit. Can a woman have an inner life apart from him she is yoked to?
She tried to nestle deep away in herself: in some corner where the
abstract view had comforted her, to flee from thinking as her feminine
blood directed. It was a vain effort. The difference, the cruel fate,
the defencelessness of women, pursued her, strung her to wild horses'
backs, tossed her on savage wastes. In her case duty was shame: hence,
it could not be broadly duty. That intolerable difference proscribed
But the fire of a brain burning high and kindling everything lighted up
herself against herself.--Was one so volatile as she a person with a
will?--Were they not a multitude of flitting wishes that she took for a
will? Was she, feather-headed that she was, a person to make a stand on
physical pride?--If she could yield her hand without reflection (as she
conceived she had done, from incapacity to conceive herself doing it
reflectively) was she much better than purchaseable stuff that has
nothing to say to the bargain?
Furthermore, said her incandescent reason, she had not suspected such
art of cunning in Willoughby. Then might she not be deceived
altogether--might she not have misread him? Stronger than she had
fancied, might he not be likewise more estimable? The world was
favourable to him; he was prized by his friends.
She reviewed him. It was all in one flash. It was not much less
intentionally favourable than the world's review and that of his
friends, but, beginning with the idea of them, she recollected--heard
Willoughby's voice pronouncing his opinion of his friends and the
world; of Vernon Whitford and Colonel De Craye for example, and of men
and women. An undefined agreement to have the same regard for him as
his friends and the world had, provided that he kept at the same
distance from her, was the termination of this phase, occupying about a
minute in time, and reached through a series of intensely vivid
pictures:--his face, at her petition to be released, lowering behind
them for a background and a comment.
"I cannot! I cannot!" she cried, aloud; and it struck her that her
repulsion was a holy warning. Better be graceless than a loathing wife:
better appear inconsistent. Why should she not appear such as she was?
Why? We answer that question usually in angry reliance on certain
superb qualities, injured fine qualities of ours undiscovered by the
world, not much more than suspected by ourselves, which are still our
fortress, where pride sits at home, solitary and impervious as an
octogenarian conservative. But it is not possible to answer it so when
the brain is rageing like a pine-torch and the devouring illumination
leaves not a spot of our nature covert. The aspect of her weakness was
unrelieved, and frightened her back to her loathing. From her loathing,
as soon as her sensations had quickened to realize it, she was hurled
on her weakness. She was graceless, she was inconsistent, she was
volatile, she was unprincipled, she was worse than a prey to
wickedness--capable of it; she was only waiting to be misled. Nay, the
idea of being misled suffused her with languor; for then the battle
would be over and she a happy weed of the sea no longer suffering those
tugs at the roots, but leaving it to the sea to heave and contend. She
would be like Constantia then: like her in her fortunes: never so
brave, she feared.
Perhaps very like Constantia in her fortunes!
Poor troubled bodies waking up in the night to behold visually the
spectre cast forth from the perplexed machinery inside them, stare at
it for a space, till touching consciousness they dive down under the
sheets with fish-like alacrity. Clara looked at her thought, and
suddenly headed downward in a crimson gulf.
She must have obtained absolution, or else it was oblivion, below.
Soon after the plunge her first object of meditation was Colonel De
Craye. She thought of him calmly: he seemed a refuge. He was very nice,
he was a holiday character. His lithe figure, neat firm footing of the
stag, swift intelligent expression, and his ready frolicsomeness,
pleasant humour, cordial temper, and his Irishry, whereon he was at
liberty to play, as on the emblem harp of the Isle, were soothing to
think of. The suspicion that she tricked herself with this calm
observation of him was dismissed. Issuing out of torture, her young
nature eluded the irradiating brain in search of refreshment, and she
luxuriated at a feast in considering him--shower on a parched land that
he was! He spread new air abroad. She had no reason to suppose he was
not a good man: she could securely think of him. Besides he was bound
by his prospective office in support of his friend Willoughby to be
quite harmless. And besides (you are not to expect logical sequences)
the showery refreshment in thinking of him lay in the sort of assurance
it conveyed, that the more she thought, the less would he be likely to
figure as an obnoxious official--that is, as the man to do by
Willoughby at the altar what her father would, under the supposition,
be doing by her. Her mind reposed on Colonel De Craye.
His name was Horace. Her father had worked with her at Horace. She knew
most of the Odes and some of the Satires and Epistles of the poet. They
reflected benevolent beams on the gentleman of the poet's name. He too
was vivacious, had fun, common sense, elegance; loved rusticity, he
said, sighed for a country life, fancied retiring to Canada to
cultivate his own domain; "modus agri non ita magnus:" a delight. And
he, too, when in the country, sighed for town. There were strong
features of resemblance. He had hinted in fun at not being rich. "Quae
virtus et quanta sit vivere parvo." But that quotation applied to and
belonged to Vernon Whitford. Even so little disarranged her
She would have thought of Vernon, as her instinct of safety prompted,
had not his exactions been excessive. He proposed to help her with
advice only. She was to do everything for herself, do and dare
everything, decide upon everything. He told her flatly that so would
she learn to know her own mind; and flatly, that it was her penance.
She had gained nothing by breaking down and pouring herself out to him.
He would have her bring Willoughby and her father face to face, and be
witness of their interview--herself the theme. What alternative was
there?--obedience to the word she had pledged. He talked of patience,
of self-examination and patience. But all of her--she was all marked
urgent. This house was a cage, and the world--her brain was a cage,
until she could obtain her prospect of freedom.
As for the house, she might leave it; yonder was the dawn.
She went to her window to gaze at the first colour along the grey.
Small satisfaction came of gazing at that or at herself. She shunned
glass and sky. One and the other stamped her as a slave in a frame. It
seemed to her she had been so long in this place that she was fixed
here: it was her world, and to imagine an Alp was like seeking to get
back to childhood. Unless a miracle intervened here she would have to
pass her days. Men are so little chivalrous now that no miracle ever
intervenes. Consequently she was doomed.
She took a pen and began a letter to a dear friend, Lucy Darleton, a
promised bridesmaid, bidding her countermand orders for her bridal
dress, and purposing a tour in Switzerland. She wrote of the mountain
country with real abandonment to imagination. It became a visioned
loophole of escape. She rose and clasped a shawl over her night-dress
to ward off chillness, and sitting to the table again, could not
produce a word. The lines she had written were condemned: they were
ludicrously inefficient. The letter was torn to pieces. She stood very
After a fall of tears, upon looking at the scraps, she dressed herself,
and sat by the window and watched the blackbird on the lawn as he
hopped from shafts of dewy sunlight to the long-stretched dewy
tree-shadows, considering in her mind that dark dews are more
meaningful than bright, the beauty of the dews of woods more sweet than
meadow-dews. It signified only that she was quieter. She had gone
through her crisis in the anticipation of it. That is how quick natures
will often be cold and hard, or not much moved, when the positive
crisis arrives, and why it is that they are prepared for astonishing
leaps over the gradations which should render their conduct
comprehensible to us, if not excuseable. She watched the blackbird
throw up his head stiffly, and peck to right and left, dangling the
worm on each side his orange beak. Specklebreasted thrushes were at
work, and a wagtail that ran as with Clara's own rapid little steps.
Thrush and blackbird flew to the nest. They had wings. The lovely
morning breathed of sweet earth into her open window, and made it
painful, in the dense twitter, chirp, cheep, and song of the air, to
resist the innocent intoxication. O to love! was not said by her, but
if she had sung, as her nature prompted, it would have been. Her war
with Willoughby sprang of a desire to love repelled by distaste. Her
cry for freedom was a cry to be free to love: she discovered it, half
shuddering: to love, oh! no--no shape of man, nor impalpable nature
either: but to love unselfishness, and helpfulness, and planted
strength in something. Then, loving and being loved a little, what
strength would be hers! She could utter all the words needed to
Willoughby and to her father, locked in her love: walking in this
world, living in that.
Previously she had cried, despairing: If I were loved! Jealousy of
Constantia's happiness, envy of her escape, ruled her then: and she
remembered the cry, though not perfectly her plain-speaking to herself:
she chose to think she had meant: If Willoughby were capable of truly
loving! For now the fire of her brain had sunk, and refuges and
subterfuges were round about it. The thought of personal love was
encouraged, she chose to think, for the sake of the strength it lent
her to carve her way to freedom. She had just before felt rather the
reverse, but she could not exist with that feeling; and it was true
that freedom was not so indistinct in her fancy as the idea of love.
Were men, when they were known, like him she knew too well?
The arch-tempter's question to her was there.
She put it away. Wherever she turned it stood observing her. She knew
so much of one man, nothing of the rest: naturally she was curious.
Vernon might be sworn to be unlike. But he was exceptional. What of the
other in the house?
Maidens are commonly reduced to read the masters of their destinies by
their instincts; and when these have been edged by over-activity they
must hoodwink their maidenliness to suffer themselves to read; and then
they must dupe their minds, else men would soon see they were gifted to
discern. Total ignorance being their pledge of purity to men, they have
to expunge the writing of their perceptives on the tablets of the
brain: they have to know not when they do know. The instinct of seeking
to know, crossed by the task of blotting knowledge out, creates that
conflict of the natural with the artificial creature to which their
ultimately revealed double-face, complained of by ever-dissatisfied
men, is owing. Wonder in no degree that they indulge a craving to be
fools, or that many of them act the character. Jeer at them as little
for not showing growth. You have reared them to this pitch, and at this
pitch they have partly civilized you. Supposing you to want it done
wholly, you must yield just as many points in your requisitions as are
needed to let the wits of young women reap their due harvest and be of
good use to their souls. You will then have a fair battle, a braver,
with better results.
Clara's inner eye traversed Colonel De Craye at a shot.
She had immediately to blot out the vision of Captain Oxford in him,
the revelation of his laughing contempt for Willoughby, the view of
mercurial principles, the scribbled histories of light love-passages.
She blotted it out, kept it from her mind: so she knew him, knew him to
be a sweeter and a variable Willoughby, a generous kind of Willoughby,
a Willoughby-butterfly, without having the free mind to summarize him
and picture him for a warning. Scattered features of him, such as the
instincts call up, were not sufficiently impressive. Besides, the
clouded mind was opposed to her receiving impressions.
Young Crossjay's voice in the still morning air came to her cars. The
dear guileless chatter of the boy's voice. Why, assuredly it was young
Crossjay who was the man she loved. And he loved her. And he was going
to be an unselfish, sustaining, true, strong man, the man she longed
for, for anchorage. Oh, the dear voice! woodpecker and thrush in one.
He never ceased to chatter to Vernon Whitford walking beside him with a
swinging stride off to the lake for their morning swim. Happy couple!
The morning gave them both a freshness and innocence above human. They
seemed to Clara made of morning air and clear lake water. Crossjay's
voice ran up and down a diatonic scale with here and there a query in
semitone and a laugh on a ringing note. She wondered what he could have
to talk of so incessantly, and imagined all the dialogue. He prattled
of his yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, which did not imply past and
future, but his vivid present. She felt like one vainly trying to fly
in hearing him; she felt old. The consolation she arrived at was to
feel maternal. She wished to hug the boy.
Trot and stride, Crossjay and Vernon entered the park, careless about
wet grass, not once looking at the house. Crossjay ranged ahead and
picked flowers, bounding back to show them. Clara's heart beat at a
fancy that her name was mentioned. If those flowers were for her she
would prize them.
The two bathers dipped over an undulation.
Her loss of them rattled her chains.
Deeply dwelling on their troubles has the effect upon the young of
helping to forgetfulness; for they cannot think without imagining,
their imaginations are saturated with their Pleasures, and the
collision, though they are unable to exchange sad for sweet, distills
"Am I solemnly engaged?" she asked herself. She seemed to be awakening.
She glanced at her bed, where she had passed the night of ineffectual
moaning, and out on the high wave of grass, where Crossjay and his good
friend had vanished.
Was the struggle all to be gone over again?
Little by little her intelligence of her actual position crept up to
submerge her heart.
"I am in his house!" she said. It resembled a discovery, so strangely
had her opiate and power of dreaming wrought through her tortures. She
said it gasping. She was in his house, his guest, his betrothed, sworn
to him. The fact stood out cut in steel on the pitiless daylight.
That consideration drove her to be an early wanderer in the wake of
Her station was among the beeches on the flank of the boy's return; and
while waiting there the novelty of her waiting to waylay anyone--she
who had played the contrary part!--told her more than it pleased her to
think. Yet she could admit that she did desire to speak with Vernon, as
with a counsellor, harsh and curt, but wholesome.
The bathers reappeared on the grass-ridge, racing and flapping wet
Some one hailed them. A sound of the galloping hoof drew her attention
to the avenue. She saw Willoughby dash across the park level, and
dropping a word to Vernon, ride away. Then she allowed herself to be
Crossjay shouted. Willoughby turned his head, but not his horse's head.
The boy sprang up to Clara. He had swum across the lake and back; he
had raced Mr. Whitford--and beaten him! How he wished Miss Middleton
had been able to be one of them!
Clara listened to him enviously. Her thought was: We women are nailed
to our sex!
She said: "And you have just been talking to Sir Willoughby."
Crossjay drew himself up to give an imitation of the baronet's
hand-moving in adieu.
He would not have done that had he not smelled sympathy with the
She declined to smile. Crossjay repeated it, and laughed. He made a
broader exhibition of it to Vernon approaching: "I say. Mr. Whitford,
Vernon doubled to catch him. Crossjay fled and resumed his magnificent
air in the distance.
"Good-morning, Miss Middleton; you are out early," said Vernon, rather
pale and stringy from his cold swim, and rather hard-eyed with the
sharp exercise following it.
She had expected some of the kindness she wanted to reject, for he
could speak very kindly, and she regarded him as her doctor of
medicine, who would at least present the futile drug.
"Good morning," she replied.
"Willoughby will not be home till the evening."
"You could not have had a finer morning for your bath."
"I will walk as fast as you like."
"I'm perfectly warm."
"But you prefer fast walking."
"Ah! yes, that I understand. The walk back! Why is Willoughby away
"He has business."
After several steps she said: "He makes very sure of papa."
"Not without reason, you will find," said Vernon.
"Can it be? I am bewildered. I had papa's promise."
"To leave the Hall for a day or two."
"It would have been . . ."
"Possibly. But other heads are at work as well as yours. If you had
been in earnest about it you would have taken your father into your
confidence at once. That was the course I ventured to propose, on the
"In earnest! I cannot imagine that you doubt it. I wished to spare
"This is a case in which he can't be spared."
"If I had been bound to any other! I did not know then who held me a
prisoner. I thought I had only to speak to him sincerely."
"Not many men would give up their prize for a word, Willoughby the last
"Prize" rang through her thrillingly from Vernon's mouth, and soothed
She would have liked to protest that she was very little of a prize; a
poor prize; not one at all in general estimation; only one to a man
reckoning his property; no prize in the true sense.
The importunity of pain saved her.
"Does he think I can change again? Am I treated as something won in a
lottery? To stay here is indeed more than I can bear. And if he is
calculating--Mr. Whitford, if he calculates on another change, his
plotting to keep me here is inconsiderate, not very wise. Changes may
occur in absence."
"Wise or not, he has the right to scheme his best to keep you."
She looked on Vernon with a shade of wondering reproach.
"Why? What right?"
"The right you admit when you ask him to release you. He has the right
to think you deluded; and to think you may come to a better mood if you
remain--a mood more agreeable to him, I mean. He has that right
absolutely. You are bound to remember also that you stand in the wrong.
You confess it when you appeal to his generosity. And every man has the
right to retain a treasure in his hand if he can. Look straight at
"You expect me to be all reason!"
"Try to be. It's the way to learn whether you are really in earnest."
"I will try. It will drive me to worse!"
"Try honestly. What is wisest now is, in my opinion, for you to resolve
to stay. I speak in the character of the person you sketched for
yourself as requiring. Well, then, a friend repeats the same advice.
You might have gone with your father: now you will only disturb him and
annoy him. The chances are he will refuse to go."
"Are women ever so changeable as men, then? Papa consented; he agreed;
he had some of my feeling; I saw it. That was yesterday. And at night!
He spoke to each of us at night in a different tone from usual. With me
he was hardly affectionate. But when you advise me to stay, Mr.
Whitford, you do not perhaps reflect that it would be at the sacrifice
of all candour."
"Regard it as a probational term."
"It has gone too far with me."
"Take the matter into the head: try the case there."
"Are you not counselling me as if I were a woman of intellect?"
The crystal ring in her voice told him that tears were near to flowing.
He shuddered slightly. "You have intellect," he said, nodded, and
crossed the lawn, leaving her. He had to dress.
She was not permitted to feel lonely, for she was immediately joined by
Colonel De Craye.
Crossjay darted up to her a nose ahead of the colonel.
"I say, Miss Middleton, we're to have the whole day to ourselves, after
morning lessons. Will you come and fish with me and see me
"Not for the satisfaction of beholding another cracked crown, my son,"
the colonel interposed: and bowing to Clara: "Miss Middleton is handed
over to my exclusive charge for the day, with her consent?"
"I scarcely know," said she, consulting a sensation of languor that
seemed to contain some reminiscence. "If I am here. My father's plans
are uncertain. I will speak to him. If I am here, perhaps Crossjay
would like a ride in the afternoon."
"Oh, yes," cried the boy; "out over Bournden, through Mewsey up to
Closharn Beacon, and down on Aspenwell, where there's a common for
racing. And ford the stream!"
"An inducement for you," De Craye said to her.
She smiled and squeezed the boy's hand.
"We won't go without you, Crossjay."
"You don't carry a comb, my man, when you bathe?"
At this remark of the colonel's young Crossjay conceived the appearance
of his matted locks in the eyes of his adorable lady. He gave her one
dear look through his redness, and fled.
"I like that boy," said De Craye.
"I love him," said Clara.
Crossjay's troubled eyelids in his honest young face became a picture
"After all, Miss Middleton, Willoughby's notions about him are not so
bad, if we consider that you will be in the place of a mother to him."
"I think them bad."
"You are disinclined to calculate the good fortune of the boy in having
more of you on land than he would have in crown and anchor buttons!"
"You have talked of him with Willoughby,"
"We had a talk last night."
Of how much? thought she.
"Willoughby returns?" she said.
"He dines here, I know; for he holds the key of the inner cellar, and
Doctor Middleton does him the honour to applaud his wine. Willoughby
was good enough to tell me that he thought I might contribute to amuse
She was brooding in stupefaction on her father and the wine as she
requested Colonel De Craye to persuade Willoughby to take the general
view of Crossjay's future and act on it.
"He seems fond of the boy, too," said De Craye, musingly.
"You speak in doubt?"
"Not at all. But is he not--men are queer fish!--make allowance for
us--a trifle tyrannical, pleasantly, with those he is fond of?"
"If they look right and left?"
It was meant for an interrogation; it was not with the sound of one
that the words dropped. "My dear Crossjay!" she sighed. "I would
willingly pay for him out of my own purse, and I will do so rather than
have him miss his chance. I have not mustered resolution to propose
"I may be mistaken, Miss Middleton. He talked of the boy's fondness of
"I suppose he is hardly peculiar in liking to play Pole-star."
"He may not be."
"For the rest, your influence should be all-powerful."
"It is not."
De Craye looked with a wandering eye at the heavens.
"We are having a spell of weather perfectly superb. And the odd thing
is, that whenever we have splendid weather at home we're all for
rushing abroad. I'm booked for a Mediterranean cruise--postponed to
give place to your ceremony."
"That?" she could not control her accent.
She was guilty of a pause.
De Craye saved it from an awkward length. "I have written half an essay
on Honeymoons, Miss Middleton."
"Is that the same as a half-written essay, Colonel De Craye?"
"Just the same, with the difference that it's a whole essay written all
on one side."
"On which side?"
"Why does he trouble himself with such topics?"
"To warm himself for being left out in the cold."
"Does he feel envy?"
"He has to confess it."
"He has liberty."
"A commodity he can't tell the value of if there's no one to buy."
"Why should he wish to sell?"
"He's bent on completing his essay."
"To make the reading dull."
"There we touch the key of the subject. For what is to rescue the pair
from a monotony multiplied by two? And so a bachelor's recommendation,
when each has discovered the right sort of person to be dull with,
pushes them from the churchdoor on a round of adventures containing a
spice of peril, if 'tis to be had. Let them be in danger of their lives
the first or second day. A bachelor's loneliness is a private affair of
his own; he hasn't to look into a face to be ashamed of feeling it and
inflicting it at the same time; 'tis his pillow; he can punch it an he
pleases, and turn it over t'other side, if he's for a mighty variation;
there's a dream in it. But our poor couple are staring wide awake. All
their dreaming's done. They've emptied their bottle of elixir, or
broken it; and she has a thirst for the use of the tongue, and he to
yawn with a crony; and they may converse, they're not aware of it, more
than the desert that has drunk a shower. So as soon as possible she's
away to the ladies, and he puts on his Club. That's what your bachelor
sees and would like to spare them; and if he didn't see something of
the sort he'd be off with a noose round his neck, on his knees in the
dew to the morning milkmaid."
"The bachelor is happily warned and on his guard," said Clara,
diverted, as he wished her to be. "Sketch me a few of the adventures
"I have a friend who rowed his bride from the Houses of Parliament up
the Thames to the Severn on into North Wales. They shot some pretty
weirs and rapids."
"That was nice."
"They had an infinity of adventures, and the best proof of the benefit
they derived is, that they forgot everything about them except that the
"Those two must have returned bright enough to please you."
"They returned, and shone like a wrecker's beacon to the mariner. You
see, Miss Middleton, there was the landscape, and the exercise, and the
occasional bit of danger. I think it's to be recommended. The scene is
always changing, and not too fast; and 'tis not too sublime, like big
mountains, to tire them of their everlasting big Ohs. There's the
difference between going into a howling wind and launching among
zephyrs. They have fresh air and movement, and not in a railway
carriage; they can take in what they look on. And she has the steering
ropes, and that's a wise commencement. And my lord is all day making an
exhibition of his manly strength, bowing before her some sixty to the
minute; and she, to help him, just inclines when she's in the mood. And
they're face to face in the nature of things, and are not under the
obligation of looking the unutterable, because, you see, there's
business in hand; and the boat's just the right sort of third party,
who never interferes, but must be attended to. And they feel they're
labouring together to get along, all in the proper proportion; and
whether he has to labour in life or not, he proves his ability. What do
you think of it, Miss Middleton?"
"I think you have only to propose it, Colonel De Craye."
"And if they capsize, why, 'tis a natural ducking!"
"You forgot the lady's dressing-bag."
"The stain on the metal for a constant reminder of his prowess in
saving it! Well, and there's an alternative to that scheme, and a
finer:--This, then: they read dramatic pieces during courtship, to stop
the saying of things over again till the drum of the car becomes
nothing but a drum to the poor head, and a little before they affix
their signatures to the fatal Registry-book of the vestry, they enter
into an engagement with a body of provincial actors to join the troop
on the day of their nuptials, and away they go in their coach and four,
and she is Lady Kitty Caper for a month, and he Sir Harry Highflyer.
See the honeymoon spinning! The marvel to me is that none of the young
couples do it. They could enjoy the world, see life, amuse the company,
and come back fresh to their own characters, instead of giving
themselves a dose of Africa without a savage to diversify it: an
impression they never get over, I'm told. Many a character of the
happiest auspices has irreparable mischief done it by the ordinary
honeymoon. For my part, I rather lean to the second plan of campaign."
Clara was expected to reply, and she said: "Probably because you are
fond of acting. It would require capacity on both sides."
"Miss Middleton, I would undertake to breathe the enthusiasm for the
stage and the adventure."
"You are recommending it generally."
"Let my gentleman only have a fund of enthusiasm. The lady will kindle.
She always does at a spark."
"If he has not any?"
"Then I'm afraid they must be mortally dull."
She allowed her silence to speak; she knew that it did so too
eloquently, and could not control the personal adumbration she gave to
the one point of light revealed in, "if he has not any". Her figure
seemed immediately to wear a cap and cloak of dulness.
She was full of revolt and anger, she was burning with her situation;
if sensible of shame now at anything that she did, it turned to wrath
and threw the burden on the author of her desperate distress. The hour
for blaming herself had gone by, to be renewed ultimately perhaps in a
season of freedom. She was bereft of her insight within at present, so
blind to herself that, while conscious of an accurate reading of
Willoughby's friend, she thanked him in her heart for seeking simply to
amuse her and slightly succeeding. The afternoon's ride with him and
Crossjay was an agreeable beguilement to her in prospect.
Laetitia came to divide her from Colonel De Craye. Dr. Middleton was
not seen before his appearance at the breakfast-table, where a certain
air of anxiety in his daughter's presence produced the semblance of a
raised map at intervals on his forehead. Few sights on earth are more
deserving of our sympathy than a good man who has a troubled conscience
thrust on him.
The Rev. Doctor's perturbation was observed. The ladies Eleanor and
Isabel, seeing his daughter to be the cause of it, blamed her, and
would have assisted him to escape, but Miss Dale, whom he courted with
that object, was of the opposite faction. She made way for Clara to
lead her father out. He called to Vernon, who merely nodded while
leaving the room by the window with Crossjay.
Half an eye on Dr. Middleton's pathetic exit in captivity sufficed to
tell Colonel De Craye that parties divided the house. At first he
thought how deplorable it would be to lose Miss Middleton for two days
or three: and it struck him that Vernon Whitford and Laetitia Dale were
acting oddly in seconding her, their aim not being discernible. For he
was of the order of gentlemen of the obscurely-clear in mind who have a
predetermined acuteness in their watch upon the human play, and mark
men and women as pieces of a bad game of chess, each pursuing an
interested course. His experience of a section of the world had
educated him--as gallant, frank, and manly a comrade as one could wish
for--up to this point. But he soon abandoned speculations, which may be
compared to a shaking anemometer that will not let the troubled
indicator take station. Reposing on his perceptions and his instincts,
he fixed his attention on the chief persons, only glancing at the
others to establish a postulate, that where there are parties in a
house the most bewitching person present is the origin of them. It is
ever Helen's achievement. Miss Middleton appeared to him bewitching
beyond mortal; sunny in her laughter, shadowy in her smiling; a young
lady shaped for perfect music with a lover.
She was that, and no less, to every man's eye on earth. High breeding
did not freeze her lovely girlishness.--But Willoughby did. This
reflection intervened to blot luxurious picturings of her, and made
itself acceptable by leading him back to several instances of an
evident want of harmony of the pair.
And now (for purely undirected impulse all within us is not, though we
may be eye-bandaged agents under direction) it became necessary for an
honourable gentleman to cast vehement rebukes at the fellow who did not
comprehend the jewel he had won. How could Willoughby behave like so
complete a donkey! De Craye knew him to be in his interior stiff,
strange, exacting: women had talked of him; he had been too much for
one woman--the dashing Constantia: he had worn one woman, sacrificing
far more for him than Constantia, to death. Still, with such a prize as
Clara Middleton, Willoughby's behaviour was past calculating in its
contemptible absurdity. And during courtship! And courtship of that
girl! It was the way of a man ten years after marriage.
The idea drew him to picture her doatingly in her young matronly bloom
ten years after marriage: without a touch of age, matronly wise,
womanly sweet: perhaps with a couple of little ones to love, never
having known the love of a man.
To think of a girl like Clara Middleton never having at
nine-and-twenty, and with two fair children! known the love of a man or
the loving of a man, possibly, became torture to the Colonel.
For a pacification he had to reconsider that she was as yet only
nineteen and unmarried.
But she was engaged, and she was unloved. One might swear to it, that
she was unloved. And she was not a girl to be satisfied with a big
house and a high-nosed husband.
There was a rapid alteration of the sad history of Clara the unloved
matron solaced by two little ones. A childless Clara tragically loving
and beloved flashed across the dark glass of the future.
Either way her fate was cruel.
Some astonishment moved De Craye in the contemplation of the distance
he had stepped in this morass of fancy. He distinguished the choice
open to him of forward or back, and he selected forward. But fancy was
dead: the poetry hovering about her grew invisible to him: he stood in
the morass; that was all he knew; and momently he plunged deeper; and
he was aware of an intense desire to see her face, that he might study
her features again: he understood no more.
It was the clouding of the brain by the man's heart, which had come to
the knowledge that it was caught.
A certain measure of astonishment moved him still. It had hitherto been
his portion to do mischief to women and avoid the vengeance of the sex.
What was there in Miss Middleton's face and air to ensnare a veteran
handsome man of society numbering six-and-thirty years, nearly as many
conquests? "Each bullet has got its commission." He was hit at last.
That accident effected by Mr. Flitch had fired the shot. Clean through
the heart, does not tell us of our misfortune, till the heart is asked
to renew its natural beating. It fell into the condition of the
porcelain vase over a thought of Miss Middleton standing above his
prostrate form on the road, and walking beside him to the Hall. Her
words? What have they been? She had not uttered words, she had shed
meanings. He did not for an instant conceive that he had charmed her:
the charm she had cast on him was too thrilling for coxcombry to lift a
head; still she had enjoyed his prattle. In return for her touch upon
the Irish fountain in him, he had manifestly given her relief And could
not one see that so sprightly a girl would soon be deadened by a man
like Willoughby? Deadened she was: she had not responded to a
compliment on her approaching marriage. An allusion to it killed her
smiling. The case of Mr. Flitch, with the half wager about his
reinstation in the service of the Hall, was conclusive evidence of her
opinion of Willoughby.
It became again necessary that he should abuse Willoughby for his
folly. Why was the man worrying her? In some way he was worrying her.
What if Willoughby as well as Miss Middleton wished to be quit of the
engagement? . . .
For just a second, the handsome, woman-flattered officer proved his
man's heart more whole than he supposed it. That great organ, instead
of leaping at the thought, suffered a check.
Bear in mind that his heart was not merely man's, it was a conqueror's.
He was of the race of amorous heroes who glory in pursuing, overtaking,
subduing: wresting the prize from a rival, having her ripe from
exquisitely feminine inward conflicts, plucking her out of resistance
in good old primitive fashion. You win the creature in her delicious
flutterings. He liked her thus, in cooler blood, because of society's
admiration of the capturer, and somewhat because of the strife, which
always enhances the value of a prize, and refreshes our vanity in
Moreover, he had been matched against Willoughby: the circumstance had
occurred two or three times. He could name a lady he had won, a lady he
had lost. Willoughby's large fortune and grandeur of style had given
him advantages at the start. But the start often means the race--with
women, and a bit of luck.
The gentle check upon the galloping heart of Colonel De Craye endured
no longer than a second--a simple side-glance in a headlong pace.
Clara's enchantingness for a temperament like his, which is to say, for
him specially, in part through the testimony her conquest of himself
presented as to her power of sway over the universal heart known as
man's, assured him she was worth winning even from a hand that dropped
He had now a double reason for exclaiming at the folly of Willoughby.
Willoughby's treatment of her showed either temper or weariness. Vanity
and judgement led De Craye to guess the former. Regarding her
sentiments for Willoughby, he had come to his own conclusion. The
certainty of it caused him to assume that he possessed an absolute
knowledge of her character: she was an angel, born supple; she was a
heavenly soul, with half a dozen of the tricks of earth. Skittish filly
was among his phrases; but she had a bearing and a gaze that forbade
the dip in the common gutter for wherewithal to paint the creature she
Now, then, to see whether he was wrong for the first time in his life!
If not wrong, he had a chance.
There could be nothing dishonourable in rescuing a girl from an
engagement she detested. An attempt to think it a service to Willoughby
faded midway. De Craye dismissed that chicanery. It would be a service
to Willoughby in the end, without question. There was that to soothe
his manly honour. Meanwhile he had to face the thought of Willoughby as
an antagonist, and the world looking heavy on his honour as a friend.
Such considerations drew him tenderly close to Miss Middleton. It must,
however, be confessed that the mental ardour of Colonel De Craye had
been a little sobered by his glance at the possibility of both of the
couple being of one mind on the subject of their betrothal. Desirable
as it was that they should be united in disagreeing, it reduced the
romance to platitude, and the third person in the drama to the
appearance of a stick. No man likes to play that part. Memoirs of the
favourites of Goddesses, if we had them, would confirm it of men's
tastes in this respect, though the divinest be the prize. We behold
what part they played.
De Craye chanced to be crossing the hall from the laboratory to the
stables when Clara shut the library-door behind her. He said something
whimsical, and did not stop, nor did he look twice at the face he had
been longing for.
What he had seen made him fear there would be no ride out with her that
day. Their next meeting reassured him; she was dressed in her
riding-habit, and wore a countenance resolutely cheerful. He gave
himself the word of command to take his tone from her.
He was of a nature as quick as Clara's. Experience pushed him farther
than she could go in fancy; but experience laid a sobering finger on
his practical steps, and bade them hang upon her initiative. She talked
little. Young Crossjay cantering ahead was her favourite subject. She
was very much changed since the early morning: his liveliness, essayed
by him at a hazard, was unsuccessful; grave English pleased her best.
The descent from that was naturally to melancholy. She mentioned a
regret she had that the Veil was interdicted to women in Protestant
countries. De Craye was fortunately silent; he could think of no other
veil than the Moslem, and when her meaning struck his witless head, he
admitted to himself that devout attendance on a young lady's mind
stupefies man's intelligence. Half an hour later, he was as foolish in
supposing it a confidence. He was again saved by silence.
In Aspenwell village she drew a letter from her bosom and called to
Crossjay to post it. The boy sang out, "Miss Lucy Darleton! What a
Clara did not show that the name betrayed anything.
She said to De Craye. "It proves he should not be here thinking of nice
Her companion replied, "You may be right." He added, to avoid feeling
too subservient: "Boys will."
"Not if they have stern masters to teach them their daily lessons, and
some of the lessons of existence."
"Vernon Whitford is not stern enough?"
"Mr. Whitford has to contend with other influences here."
"Not with Willoughby."
He understood her. She touched the delicate indication firmly. The
man's, heart respected her for it; not many girls could be so
thoughtful or dare to be so direct; he saw that she had become deeply
serious, and he felt her love of the boy to be maternal, past maiden
By this light of her seriousness, the posting of her letter in a
distant village, not entrusting it to the Hall post-box, might have
import; not that she would apprehend the violation of her private
correspondence, but we like to see our letter of weighty meaning pass
into the mouth of the public box.
Consequently this letter was important. It was to suppose a sequency in
the conduct of a variable damsel. Coupled with her remark about the
Veil, and with other things, not words, breathing from her (which were
the breath of her condition), it was not unreasonably to be supposed.
She might even be a very consistent person. If one only had the key of
She spoke once of an immediate visit to London, supposing that she
could induce her father to go. De Craye remembered the occurrence in
the Hall at night, and her aspect of distress.
They raced along Aspenwell Common to the ford; shallow, to the chagrin
of young Crossjay, between whom and themselves they left a fitting
space for his rapture in leading his pony to splash up and down, lord
of the stream.
Swiftness of motion so strikes the blood on the brain that our thoughts
are lightnings, the heart is master of them.
De Craye was heated by his gallop to venture on the angling question:
"Am I to hear the names of the bridesmaids?"
The pace had nerved Clara to speak to it sharply: "There is no need."
"Have I no claim?"
She was mute.
"Miss Lucy Darleton, for instance; whose name I am almost as much in
love with as Crossjay."
"She will not be bridesmaid to me."
"She declines? Add my petition, I beg."
"To all? or to her?"
"Do all the bridesmaids decline?"
"The scene is too ghastly."
"Girls have grown sick of it."
"Of weddings? We'll overcome the sickness."
"Not with Miss Darleton? You tempt my eloquence."
"You wish it?"
"To win her consent? Certainly."
"Do I wish that?"
"Marriage!" exclaimed Clara, dashing into the ford, fearful of her
ungovernable wildness and of what it might have kindled.--You, father!
you have driven me to unmaidenliness!--She forgot Willoughby, in her
father, who would not quit a comfortable house for her all but
prostrate beseeching; would not bend his mind to her explanations,
answered her with the horrid iteration of such deaf misunderstanding as
may be associated with a tolling bell.
De Craye allowed her to catch Crossjay by herself They entered a narrow
lane, mysterious with possible birds' eggs in the May-green hedges. As
there was not room for three abreast, the colonel made up the
rear-guard, and was consoled by having Miss Middleton's figure to
contemplate; but the readiness of her joining in Crossjay's pastime of
the nest-hunt was not so pleasing to a man that she had wound to a
pitch of excitement. Her scornful accent on "Marriage" rang through
him. Apparently she was beginning to do with him just as she liked,
herself entirely unconcerned.
She kept Crossjay beside her till she dismounted, and the colonel was
left to the procession of elephantine ideas in his head, whose
ponderousness he took for natural weight. We do not with impunity
abandon the initiative. Men who have yielded it are like cavalry put on
the defensive; a very small force with an ictus will scatter them.
Anxiety to recover lost ground reduced the dimensions of his ideas to a
Two ideas were opposed like duellists bent on the slaughter of one
another. Either she amazed him by confirming the suspicions he had
gathered of her sentiments for Willoughby in the moments of his
introduction to her; or she amazed him as a model for coquettes--the
married and the widow might apply to her for lessons.
These combatants exchanged shots, but remained standing; the encounter
was undecided. Whatever the result, no person so seductive as Clara
Middleton had he ever met. Her cry of loathing, "Marriage!" coming from
a girl, rang faintly clear of an ancient virginal aspiration of the sex
to escape from their coil, and bespoke a pure, cold, savage pride that
transplanted his thirst for her to higher fields.
TREATS OF THE UNION OF TEMPER AND POLICY
Sir Willoughby meanwhile was on a line of conduct suiting his
appreciation of his duty to himself. He had deluded himself with the
simple notion that good fruit would come of the union of temper and
No delusion is older, none apparently so promising, both parties being
eager for the alliance. Yet, the theorist upon human nature will say,
they are obviously of adverse disposition. And this is true, inasmuch
as neither of them win submit to the yoke of an established union; as
soon as they have done their mischief, they set to work tugging for a
divorce. But they have attractions, the one for the other, which
precipitate them to embrace whenever they meet in a breast; each is
earnest with the owner of it to get him to officiate forthwith as
wedding-priest. And here is the reason: temper, to warrant its
appearance, desires to be thought as deliberative as policy, and
policy, the sooner to prove its shrewdness, is impatient for the quick
blood of temper.
It will be well for men to resolve at the first approaches of the
amorous but fickle pair upon interdicting even an accidental temporary
junction: for the astonishing sweetness of the couple when no more than
the ghosts of them have come together in a projecting mind is an
intoxication beyond fermented grapejuice or a witch's brewage; and
under the guise of active wits they will lead us to the parental
meditation of antics compared with which a Pagan Saturnalia were less
impious in the sight of sanity. This is full-mouthed language; but on
our studious way through any human career we are subject to fits of
moral elevation; the theme inspires it, and the sage residing in every
civilized bosom approves it.
Decide at the outset, that temper is fatal to policy: hold them with
both hands in division. One might add, be doubtful of your policy and
repress your temper: it would be to suppose you wise. You can,
however, by incorporating two or three captains of the great army of
truisms bequeathed to us by ancient wisdom, fix in your service those
veteran old standfasts to check you. They will not be serviceless in
their admonitions to your understanding, and they will so contrive to
reconcile with it the natural caperings of the wayward young sprig
Conduct, that the latter, who commonly learns to walk upright and
straight from nothing softer than raps of a bludgeon on his crown,
shall foot soberly, appearing at least wary of dangerous corners.
Now Willoughby had not to be taught that temper is fatal to policy; he
was beginning to see in addition that the temper he encouraged was
particularly obnoxious to the policy he adopted; and although his
purpose in mounting horse after yesterday frowning on his bride was
definite, and might be deemed sagacious, he bemoaned already the
fatality pushing him ever farther from her in chase of a satisfaction
impossible to grasp.
But the bare fact that her behaviour demanded a line of policy crossed
the grain of his temper: it was very offensive.
Considering that she wounded him severely, her reversal of their proper
parts, by taking the part belonging to him, and requiring his
watchfulness, and the careful dealings he was accustomed to expect from
others, and had a right to exact of her, was injuriously unjust. The
feelings of a man hereditarily sensitive to property accused her of a
trespassing imprudence, and knowing himself, by testimony of his
household, his tenants, and the neighbourhood, and the world as well,
amiable when he received his dues, he contemplated her with an air of
stiff-backed ill-treatment, not devoid of a certain sanctification of
His bitterest enemy would hardly declare that it was he who was in the
Clara herself had never been audacious enough to say that. Distaste of
his person was inconceivable to the favourite of society. The
capricious creature probably wanted a whipping to bring her to the
understanding of the principle called mastery, which is in man.
But was he administering it? If he retained a hold on her, he could
undoubtedly apply the scourge at leisure; any kind of scourge; he could
shun her, look on her frigidly, unbend to her to find a warmer place
for sarcasm, pityingly smile, ridicule, pay court elsewhere. He could
do these things if he retained a hold on her; and he could do them well
because of the faith he had in his renowned amiability; for in doing
them, he could feel that he was other than he seemed, and his own
cordial nature was there to comfort him while he bestowed punishment.
Cordial indeed, the chills he endured were flung from the world. His
heart was in that fiction: half the hearts now beating have a mild form
of it to keep them merry: and the chastisement he desired to inflict
was really no more than righteous vengeance for an offended goodness of
heart. Clara figuratively, absolutely perhaps, on her knees, he would
raise her and forgive her. He yearned for the situation. To let her
understand how little she had known him! It would be worth the pain she
had dealt, to pour forth the stream of re-established confidences, to
paint himself to her as he was; as he was in the spirit, not as he was
to the world: though the world had reason to do him honour.
First, however, she would have to be humbled.
Something whispered that his hold on her was lost.
In such a case, every blow he struck would set her flying farther, till
the breach between them would be past bridging.
Determination not to let her go was the best finish to this perpetually
revolving round which went like the same old wheel-planks of a water
mill in his head at a review of the injury he sustained. He had come to
it before, and he came to it again. There was his vengeance. It melted
him, she was so sweet! She shone for him like the sunny breeze on
water. Thinking of her caused a catch of his breath.
The dreadful young woman had a keener edge for the senses of men than
It would be madness to let her go.
She affected him like an outlook on the great Patterne estate after an
absence, when his welcoming flag wept for pride above Patterne Hall!
It would be treason to let her go.
It would be cruelty to her.
He was bound to reflect that she was of tender age, and the foolishness
of the wretch was excusable to extreme youth.
We toss away a flower that we are tired of smelling and do not wish to
carry. But the rose--young woman--is not cast off with impunity. A
fiend in shape of man is always behind us to appropriate her. He that
touches that rejected thing is larcenous. Willoughby had been sensible
of it in the person of Laetitia: and by all the more that Clara's
charms exceeded the faded creature's, he felt it now. Ten thousand
Furies thickened about him at a thought of her lying by the road-side
without his having crushed all bloom and odour out of her which might
tempt even the curiosity of the fiend, man.
On the other hand, supposing her to be there untouched, universally
declined by the sniffling, sagacious dog-fiend, a miserable spinster
for years, he could conceive notions of his remorse. A soft remorse may
be adopted as an agreeable sensation within view of the wasted penitent
whom we have struck a trifle too hard. Seeing her penitent, he
certainly would be willing to surround her with little offices of
compromising kindness. It would depend on her age. Supposing her still
youngish, there might be captivating passages between them, as thus, in
a style not unfamiliar:
"And was it my fault, my poor girl? Am I to blame, that you have passed
a lonely, unloved youth?"
"No, Willoughby! The irreparable error was mine, the blame is mine,
mine only. I live to repent it. I do not seek, for I have not deserved,
your pardon. Had I it, I should need my own self-esteem to presume to
clasp it to a bosom ever unworthy of you."
"I may have been impatient, Clara: we are human!"
"Never be it mine to accuse one on whom I laid so heavy a weight of
"Still, my old love!--for I am merely quoting history in naming you
so--I cannot have been perfectly blameless."
"To me you were, and are."
"Must I recognize the bitter truth that we two, once nearly one! so
nearly one! are eternally separated?"
"I have envisaged it. My friend--I may call you friend; you have ever
been my friend, my best friend! oh, that eyes had been mine to know the
friend I had!--Willoughby, in the darkness of night, and during days
that were as night to my soul, I have seen the inexorable finger
pointing my solitary way through the wilderness from a Paradise
forfeited by my most wilful, my wanton, sin. We have met. It is more
than I have merited. We part. In mercy let it be for ever. Oh, terrible
word! Coined by the passions of our youth, it comes to us for our sole
riches when we are bankrupt of earthly treasures, and is the passport
given by Abnegation unto Woe that prays to quit this probationary
sphere. Willoughby, we part. It is better so."
"Clara! one--one only--one last--one holy kiss!"
"If these poor lips, that once were sweet to you . . ."
The kiss, to continue the language of the imaginative composition of
his time, favourite readings in which had inspired Sir Willoughby with
a colloquy so pathetic, was imprinted.
Ay, she had the kiss, and no mean one. It was intended to swallow every
vestige of dwindling attractiveness out of her, and there was a bit of
scandal springing of it in the background that satisfactorily settled
her business, and left her 'enshrined in memory, a divine recollection
to him,' as his popular romances would say, and have said for years.
Unhappily, the fancied salute of her lips encircled him with the
breathing Clara. She rushed up from vacancy like a wind summoned to
wreck a stately vessel.
His reverie had thrown him into severe commotion. The slave of a
passion thinks in a ring, as hares run: he will cease where he began.
Her sweetness had set him off, and he whirled back to her sweetness:
and that being incalculable and he insatiable, you have the picture of
his torments when you consider that her behaviour made her as a cloud
Riding slack, horse and man, in the likeness of those two ajog homeward
from the miry hunt, the horse pricked his cars, and Willoughby looked
down from his road along the bills on the race headed by young Crossjay
with a short start over Aspenwell Common to the ford. There was no
mistaking who they were, though they were well-nigh a mile distant
below. He noticed that they did not overtake the boy. They drew rein at
the ford, talking not simply face to face, but face in face.
Willoughby's novel feeling of he knew not what drew them up to him,
enabling him to fancy them bathing in one another's eyes. Then she
sprang through the ford, De Craye following, but not close after--and
why not close? She had flicked him with one of her peremptorily saucy
speeches when she was bold with the gallop. They were not unknown to
Willoughby. They signified intimacy.
Last night he had proposed to De Craye to take Miss Middleton for a
ride the next afternoon. It never came to his mind then that he and his
friend had formerly been rivals. He wished Clara to be amused. Policy
dictated that every thread should be used to attach her to her
residence at the Hall until he could command his temper to talk to her
calmly and overwhelm her, as any man in earnest, with command of temper
and a point of vantage, may be sure to whelm a young woman. Policy,
adulterated by temper, yet policy it was that had sent him on his
errand in the early morning to beat about for a house and garden
suitable to Dr. Middleton within a circuit of five, six, or seven miles
of Patterne Hall. If the Rev. Doctor liked the house and took it (and
Willoughby had seen the place to suit him), the neighbourhood would be
a chain upon Clara: and if the house did not please a gentleman rather
hard to please (except in a venerable wine), an excuse would have been
started for his visiting other houses, and he had that response to his
importunate daughter, that he believed an excellent house was on view.
Dr. Middleton had been prepared by numerous hints to meet Clara's black
misreading of a lovers' quarrel, so that everything looked full of
promise as far as Willoughby's exercise of policy went.
But the strange pang traversing him now convicted him of a large
adulteration of profitless temper with it. The loyalty of De Craye to a
friend, where a woman walked in the drama, was notorious. It was there,
and a most flexible thing it was: and it soon resembled reason
manipulated by the sophists. Not to have reckoned on his peculiar
loyalty was proof of the blindness cast on us by temper.
And De Craye had an Irish tongue; and he had it under control, so that
he could talk good sense and airy nonsense at discretion. The strongest
overboiling of English Puritan contempt of a gabbler, would not stop
women from liking it. Evidently Clara did like it, and Willoughby
thundered on her sex. Unto such brainless things as these do we, under
the irony of circumstances, confide our honour!
For he was no gabbler. He remembered having rattled in earlier days; he
had rattled with an object to gain, desiring to be taken for an easy,
careless, vivacious, charming fellow, as any young gentleman may be who
gaily wears the golden dish of Fifty thousand pounds per annum, nailed
to the back of his very saintly young pate. The growth of the critical
spirit in him, however, had informed him that slang had been a
principal component of his rattling; and as he justly supposed it a
betraying art for his race and for him, he passed through the prim and
the yawning phases of affected indifference, to the pine Puritanism of
a leaden contempt of gabblers.
They snare women, you see--girls! How despicable the host of girls!--at
least, that girl below there!
Married women understood him: widows did. He placed an exceedingly
handsome and flattering young widow of his acquaintance, Lady Mary
Lewison, beside Clara for a comparison, involuntarily; and at once, in
a flash, in despite of him (he would rather it had been otherwise), and
in despite of Lady Mary's high birth and connections as well, the
silver lustre of the maid sicklied the poor widow.
The effect of the luckless comparison was to produce an image of
surpassingness in the features of Clara that gave him the final, or
mace-blow. Jealousy invaded him.
He had hitherto been free of it, regarding jealousy as a foreign devil,
the accursed familiar of the vulgar. Luckless fellows might be victims
of the disease; he was not; and neither Captain Oxford, nor Vernon, nor
De Craye, nor any of his compeers, had given him one shrewd pinch: the
woman had, not the man; and she in quite a different fashion from his
present wallowing anguish: she had never pulled him to earth's level,
where jealousy gnaws the grasses. He had boasted himself above the
If that had been the case, we should not have needed to trouble
ourselves much about him. A run or two with the pack of imps would have
satisfied us. But he desired Clara Middleton manfully enough at an
intimation of rivalry to be jealous; in a minute the foreign devil had
him, he was flame: flaming verdigris, one might almost dare to say, for
an exact illustration; such was actually the colour; but accept it as
Remember the poets upon jealousy. It is to be haunted in the heaven of
two by a Third; preceded or succeeded, therefore surrounded, embraced,
bugged by this infernal Third: it is Love's bed of burning marl; to see
and taste the withering Third in the bosom of sweetness; to be dragged
through the past and find the fair Eden of it sulphurous; to be dragged
to the gates of the future and glory to behold them blood: to adore the
bitter creature trebly and with treble power to clutch her by the
windpipe: it is to be cheated, derided, shamed, and abject and
supplicating, and consciously demoniacal in treacherousness, and
victoriously self-justified in revenge.
And still there is no change in what men feel, though in what they do
the modern may be judicious.
You know the many paintings of man transformed to rageing beast by the
curse: and this, the fieriest trial of our egoism, worked in the Egoist
to produce division of himself from himself, a concentration of his
thoughts upon another object, still himself, but in another breast,
which had to be looked at and into for the discovery of him. By the
gaping jaw-chasm of his greed we may gather comprehension of his
insatiate force of jealousy. Let her go? Not though he were to become a
mark of public scorn in strangling her with the yoke! His concentration
was marvellous. Unused to the exercise of imaginative powers, he
nevertheless conjured her before him visually till his eyeballs ached.
He saw none but Clara, hated none, loved none, save the intolerable
woman. What logic was in him deduced her to be individual and most
distinctive from the circumstance that only she had ever wrought these
pangs. She had made him ready for them, as we know. An idea of De Craye
being no stranger to her when he arrived at the Hall, dashed him at De
Craye for a second: it might be or might not be that they had a
secret;--Clara was the spell. So prodigiously did he love and hate,
that he had no permanent sense except for her. The soul of him writhed
under her eyes at one moment, and the next it closed on her without
mercy. She was his possession escaping; his own gliding away to the
There would be pangs for him too, that Third! Standing at the altar to
see her fast-bound, soul and body, to another, would be good roasting
It would be good roasting fire for her too, should she be averse. To
conceive her aversion was to burn her and devour her. She would then be
his!--what say you? Burned and devoured! Rivals would vanish then. Her
reluctance to espouse the man she was plighted to would cease to be
uttered, cease to be felt.
At last he believed in her reluctance. All that had been wanted to
bring him to the belief was the scene on the common; such a mere spark,
or an imagined spark! But the presence of the Third was necessary;
otherwise he would have had to suppose himself personally distasteful.
Women have us back to the conditions of primitive man, or they shoot us
higher than the topmost star. But it is as we please. Let them tell us
what we are to them: for us, they are our back and front of life: the
poet's Lesbia, the poet's Beatrice; ours is the choice. And were it
proved that some of the bright things are in the pay of Darkness, with
the stamp of his coin on their palms, and that some are the very angels
we hear sung of, not the less might we say that they find us out; they
have us by our leanings. They are to us what we hold of best or worst
within. By their state is our civilization judged: and if it is hugely
animal still, that is because primitive men abound and will have their
pasture. Since the lead is ours, the leaders must bow their heads to
the sentence. Jealousy of a woman is the primitive egoism seeking to
refine in a blood gone to savagery under apprehension of an invasion of
rights; it is in action the tiger threatened by a rifle when his paw is
rigid on quick flesh; he tears the flesh for rage at the intruder. The
Egoist, who is our original male in giant form, had no bleeding victim
beneath his paw, but there was the sex to mangle. Much as he prefers
the well-behaved among women, who can worship and fawn, and in whom
terror can be inspired, in his wrath he would make of Beatrice a Lesbia
Let women tell us of their side of the battle. We are not so much the
test of the Egoist in them as they to us. Movements of similarity shown
in crowned and undiademed ladies of intrepid independence, suggest
their occasional capacity to be like men when it is given to them to
hunt. At present they fly, and there is the difference. Our manner of
the chase informs them of the creature we are.
Dimly as young women are informed, they have a youthful ardour of
detestation that renders them less tolerant of the Egoist than their
perceptive elder sisters. What they do perceive, however, they have a
redoubtable grasp of, and Clara's behaviour would be indefensible if
her detective feminine vision might not sanction her acting on its
direction. Seeing him as she did, she turned from him and shunned his
house as the antre of an ogre. She had posted her letter to Lucy
Darleton. Otherwise, if it had been open to her to dismiss Colonel De
Craye, she might, with a warm kiss to Vernon's pupil, have seriously
thought of the next shrill steam-whistle across yonder hills for a
travelling companion on the way to her friend Lucy; so abhorrent was to
her the putting of her horse's head toward the Hall. Oh, the breaking
of bread there! It had to be gone through for another day and more;
that is to say, forty hours, it might be six-and-forty hours; and no
prospect of sleep to speed any of them on wings!
Such were Clara's inward interjections while poor Willoughby burned
himself out with verdigris flame having the savour of bad metal, till
the hollow of his breast was not unlike to a corroded old cuirass,
found, we will assume, by criminal lantern-beams in a digging beside
green-mantled pools of the sullen soil, lumped with a strange adhesive
concrete. How else picture the sad man?--the cavity felt empty to him,
and heavy; sick of an ancient and mortal combat, and burning; deeply
With the starry hole
Whence fled the soul:
very sore; important for aught save sluggish agony; a specimen and the
issue of strife.
Measurelessly to loathe was not sufficient to save him from pain: he
tried it: nor to despise; he went to a depth there also. The fact that
she was a healthy young woman returned to the surface of his thoughts
like the murdered body pitched into the river, which will not drown,
and calls upon the elements of dissolution to float it. His grand
hereditary desire to transmit his estates, wealth and name to a solid
posterity, while it prompted him in his loathing and contempt of a
nature mean and ephemeral compared with his, attached him desperately
to her splendid healthiness. The council of elders, whose descendant he
was, pointed to this young woman for his mate. He had wooed her with