Part 5 out of 9
'I will own that to be always having the fellow dogging us, with his
dejected leer, is not agreeable. He watches us now, because my lips are
close by your cheek. He should be absent; he is one too many. Speed him
on his voyage with the souvenir he asks for.'
'I keep it for a journey of my own, which I may have to take,' said
'You will follow; you cannot help following me, Caseldy.'
He speculated on her front. She was tenderly smiling. 'You are happy,
'I have never known such happiness,' she said. The brilliancy of her
eyes confirmed it.
He glanced over at Duchess Susan, who was like a sunflower in the sun.
His glance lingered a moment. Her abundant and glowing young charms were
the richest fascination an eye like his could dwell on. 'That is right,'
said he. 'We will be perfectly happy till the month ends. And after it?
But get us rid of Monsieur le Jeune; toss him that trifle; I spare him
that. 'Twill be bliss to him, at the cost of a bit of silk thread to us.
Besides, if we keep him to cure him of his passion here, might it not be
--these boys veer suddenly, like the winds of Albion, from one fair
object to t' other--at the cost of the precious and simple lady you are
guarding? I merely hint. These two affect one another, as though it
could be. She speaks of him. It shall be as you please, but a trifle
like that, my Chloe, to be rid of a green eye!'
'You much wish him gone?' she said.
He shrugged. 'The fellow is in our way.'
'You think him a little perilous for my innocent lady?'
'Candidly, I do.'
She stretched the half-plaited silken rope in her two hands to try the
strength of it, made a second knot, and consigned it to her pocket.
At once she wore her liveliest playfellow air, in which character no one
was so enchanting as Chloe could be, for she became the comrade of men
without forfeit of her station among sage sweet ladies, and was like a
well-mannered sparkling boy, to whom his admiring seniors have given the
lead in sallies, whims, and fights; but pleasanter than a boy, the soft
hues of her sex toned her frolic spirit; she seemed her sex's deputy, to
tell the coarser where they could meet, as on a bridge above the torrent
separating them, gaily for interchange of the best of either, unfired and
untempted by fire, yet with all the elements which make fire burn to
animate their hearts.
'Lucky the man who wins for himself that life-long cordial!' Mr. Beamish
said to Duchess Susan.
She had small comprehension of metaphorical phrases, but she was quick at
reading faces; and comparing the enthusiasm on the face of the beau with
Caseldy's look of troubled wonderment and regret, she pitied the lover
conscious of not having the larger share of his mistress's affections.
When presently he looked at her, the tender-hearted woman could have
cried for very compassion, so sensible did he show himself of Chloe's
preference of the other.
That evening Duchess Susan played at the Pharaoh table and lost eight
hundred pounds, through desperation at the loss of twenty. After
encouraging her to proceed to this extremity, Caseldy checked her. He
was conducting her out of the Play room when a couple of young squires of
the Shepster order, and primed with wine, intercepted her to present
their condolences, which they performed with exaggerated gestures,
intended for broad mimicry of the courtliness imported from the
Continent, and a very dulcet harping on the popular variations of her
Christian name, not forgetting her singular title, 'my lovely, lovely
She was excited and stunned by her immediate experience in the transfer
of money, and she said, 'I 'm sure I don't know what you want.'
'Yes!' cried they, striking their bosoms as guitars, and attempting the
posture of the thrummer on the instrument; 'she knows. She does know.
Handsome Susie knows what we want.' And one ejaculated, mellifluously,
'Oh!' and the other 'Ah!' in flagrant derision of the foreign ways they
produced in boorish burlesque--a self-consolatory and a common trick of
Caseldy was behind. He pushed forward and bowed to them. 'Sirs, will
you mention to me what you want?'
He said it with a look that meant steel. It cooled them sufficiently to
let him place the duchess under the protectorship of Mr. Beamish, then
entering from another room with Chloe; whereupon the pair of rustic bucks
retired to reinvigorate their valiant blood.
Mr. Beamish had seen that there was cause for gratitude to Caseldy, to
whom he said, 'She has lost?' and he seemed satisfied on hearing the
amount of the loss, and commissioned Caseldy to escort the ladies to
their lodgings at once, observing, 'Adieu, Count!'
'You will find my foreign title of use to you here, after a bout or two,'
was the reply.
'No bouts, if possibly to be avoided; though I perceive how the flavour
of your countship may spread a wholesome alarm among our rurals, who will
readily have at you with fists, but relish not the tricky cold weapon.'
Mr. Beamish haughtily bowed the duchess away.
Caseldy seized the opportunity while handing her into her sedan to say,
'We will try the fortune-teller for a lucky day to have our revenge.'
She answered: 'Oh, don't talk to me about playing again ever; I'm nigh on
a clean pocket, and never knew such a sinful place as this. I feel I've
tumbled into a ditch. And there's Mr. Beamish, all top when he bows to
me. You're keeping Chloe waiting, sir.'
'Where was she while we were at the table?'
'Sure she was with Mr. Beamish.'
'Ah!' he groaned.
'The poor soul is in despair over her losses to-night,' he turned from
the boxed-up duchess to remark to Chloe. 'Give her a comfortable cry and
a few moral maxims.'
'I will,' she said. 'You love me, Caseldy?'
'Love you? I? Your own? What assurance would you have?'
'None, dear friend.'
Here was a woman easily deceived.
In the hearts of certain men, owing to an intellectual contempt of easy
dupes, compunction in deceiving is diminished by the lightness of their
task; and that soft confidence which will often, if but passingly, bid
betrayers reconsider the charms of the fair soul they are abandoning,
commends these armoured knights to pursue with redoubled earnest the
fruitful ways of treachery. Their feelings are warm for their prey,
moreover; and choosing to judge their victim by the present warmth of
their feelings, they can at will be hurt, even to being scandalized, by a
coldness that does not waken one suspicion of them. Jealousy would have
a chance of arresting, for it is not impossible to tease them back to
avowed allegiance; but sheer indifference also has a stronger hold on
them than a, dull, blind trustfulness. They hate the burden it imposes;
the blind aspect is only touching enough to remind them of the burden,
and they hate if for that, and for the enormous presumption of the belief
that they are everlastingly bound to such an imbecile. She walks about
with her eyes shut, expecting not to stumble, and when she does, am I to
blame? The injured man asks it in the course of his reasoning.
He recurs to his victim's merits, but only compassionately, and the
compassion is chilled by the thought that she may in the end start across
his path to thwart him. Thereat he is drawn to think of the prize she
may rob him of; and when one woman is an obstacle, the other shines
desirable as life beyond death; he must have her; he sees her in the hue
of his desire for her, and the obstacle in that of his repulsion.
Cruelty is no more than the man's effort to win the wished object.
She should not leave it to his imagination to conceive that in the end
the blind may awaken to thwart him. Better for her to cast him hence,
or let him know that she will do battle to keep him. But the pride of a
love that has hardened in the faithfulness of love cannot always be wise
Caseldy walked considerably in the rear of the couple of chairs. He saw
on his way what was coming. His two young squires were posted at Duchess
Susan's door when she arrived, and he received a blow from one of them in
clearing a way for her. She plucked at his hand. 'Have they hurt you?'
'Think of me to-night thanking them and heaven for this, my darling,' he
replied, with a pressure that lit the flying moment to kindle the after
Chloe had taken help of one of her bearers to jump out. She stretched a
finger at the unruly intruders, crying sternly, 'There is blood on you--
come not nigh me!' The loftiest harangue would not have been so cunning
to touch their wits. They stared at one another in the clear moonlight.
Which of them had blood on him? As they had not been for blood, but for
rough fun, and something to boast of next day, they gesticulated
according to the first instructions of the dancing master, by way of
gallantry, and were out of Caseldy's path when he placed himself at his
liege lady's service. 'Take no notice of them, dear,' she said.
'No, no,' said he; and 'What is it?' and his hoarse accent and shaking
clasp of her arm sickened her to the sensation of approaching death.
Upstairs Duchess Susan made a show of embracing her. Both were
trembling. The duchess ascribed her condition to those dreadful men.
'What makes them be at me so?' she said.
And Chloe said, 'Because you are beautiful.'
'Very beautiful; young and beautiful; beautiful in the bud. You will
learn to excuse them, madam.'
'But, Chloe--' The duchess shut her mouth. Out of a languid reverie, she
sighed: 'I suppose I must be! My duke--oh, don't talk of him. Dear man!
he's in bed and fast asleep long before this. I wonder how he came to
let me come here.
I did bother him, I know. Am I very, very beautiful, Chloe, so that men
can't help themselves?'
'There, good-night. I want to be in bed, and I can't kiss you because
you keep calling me madam, and freeze me to icicles; but I do love you,
'I am sure you do.'
'I'm quite certain I do. I know I never mean harm. But how are we women
expected to behave, then? Oh, I'm unhappy, I am.'
'You must abstain from playing.'
'It's that! I've lost my money--I forgot. And I shall have to confess
it to my duke, though he warned me. Old men hold their fingers up--so!
One finger: and you never forget the sight of it, never. It's a round
finger, like the handle of a jug, and won't point at you when they're
lecturing, and the skin's like an old coat on gaffer's shoulders--or,
Chloe! just like, when you look at the nail, a rumpled counterpane up to
the face of a corpse. I declare, it's just like! I feel as if I didn't
a bit mind talking of corpses tonight. And my money's gone, and I don't
much mind. I'm a wild girl again, handsomer than when that----he is a
dear, kind, good old nobleman, with his funny old finger: "Susan!
Susan!" I'm no worse than others. Everybody plays here; everybody
superior. Why, you have played, Chloe.'
'I've heard you say you played once, and a bigger stake it was, you said,
than anybody ever did play.'
'Goodness--yes! I understand. I understand everything to-night-men too.
So you did!--They're not so shamefully wicked, Chloe. Because I can't
see the wrong of human nature--if we're discreet, I mean. Now and then a
country dance and a game, and home to bed and dreams. There's no harm in
that, I vow. And that's why you stayed at this place. You like it,
'I am used to it.'
'But when you're married to Count Caseldy you'll go?'
She uttered it so joylessly that Duchess Susan added, with intense
affectionateness, 'You're not obliged to marry him, dear Chloe.'
'Nor he me, madam.'
The duchess caught at her impulsively to kiss her, and said she would
undress herself, as she wished to be alone.
From that night she was a creature inflamed.
The total disappearance of the pair of heroes who had been the latest in
the conspiracy to vex his delicate charge, gave Mr. Beamish a high
opinion of Caseldy as an assistant in such an office as he held. They
had gone, and nothing more was heard of them. Caseldy confined his
observations on the subject to the remark that he had employed the best
means to be rid of that kind of worthies; and whether their souls had
fled, or only their bodies, was unknown. But the duchess had quiet
promenades with Caseldy to guard her, while Mr. Beamish counted the
remaining days of her visit with the impatience of a man having cause to
cast eye on a clock. For Duchess Susan was not very manageable now; she
had fits of insurgency, and plainly said that her time was short, and she
meant to do as she liked, go where she liked, play when she liked, and be
an independent woman--if she was so soon to be taken away and boxed in a
castle that was only a bigger sedan.
Caseldy protested he was as helpless as the beau. He described the
annoyance of his incessant running about at her heels in all directions
amusingly, and suggested that she must be beating the district to recover
her 'strange cavalier,' of whom, or of one that had ridden beside her
carriage half a day on her journey to the Wells, he said she had dropped
a sort of hint. He complained of the impossibility of his getting an
hour in privacy with his Chloe.
'And I, accustomed to consult with her, see too little of her,' said Mr.
Beamish. 'I shall presently be seeing nothing, and already I am sensible
of my loss.'
He represented his case to Duchess Susan:--that she was for ever driving
out long distances and taking Chloe from him, when his occupation
precluded his accompanying them; and as Chloe soon was to be lost
to him for good, he deeply felt her absence.
The duchess flung him enigmatical rejoinders: 'You can change all that,
Mr. Beamish, if you like, and you know you can. Oh, yes, you can. But
you like being a butterfly, and when you've made ladies pale you're
happy: and there they're to stick and wither for you. Never!--I've that
pride. I may be worried, but I'll never sink to green and melancholy for
She bridled at herself in a mirror, wherein not a sign of paleness was
Mr. Beamish meditated, and he thought it prudent to speak to Caseldy
manfully of her childish suspicions, lest she should perchance in like
manner perturb the lover's mind.
'Oh, make your mind easy, my dear sir, as far as I am concerned,' said
Caseldy. 'But, to tell you the truth, I think I can interpret her creamy
ladyship's innuendos a little differently and quite as clearly. For my
part, I prefer the pale to the blowsy, and I stake my right hand on
Chloe's fidelity. Whatever harm I may have the senseless cruelty--
misfortune, I may rather call it--to do that heavenly-minded woman in our
days to come, none shall say of me that I was ever for an instant guilty
of the baseness of doubting her purity and constancy. And, sir, I will
add that I could perfectly rely also on your honour.'
Mr. Beamish bowed. 'You do but do me justice. But, say, what
'She began by fearing you,' said Caseldy, creating a stare that was
followed by a frown. 'She fancies you neglect her. Perhaps she has a
woman's suspicion that you do it to try her.'
Mr. Beamish frenetically cited his many occupations. 'How can I be ever
dancing attendance on her?' Then he said, 'Pooh,' and tenderly fingered
the ruffles of his wrist. 'Tush, tush,' said he, 'no, no: though if it
came to a struggle between us, I might in the interests of my old friend,
her lord, whom I have reasons for esteeming, interpose an influence that
would make the exercise of my authority agreeable. Hitherto I have seen
no actual need of it, and I watch keenly. Her eye has been on Colonel
Poltermore once or twice his on her. The woman is a rose in June, sir,
and I forgive the whole world for looking--and for longing too. But I
have observed nothing serious.'
'He is of our party to the beacon-head to-morrow,' said Caseldy. 'She
insisted that she would have him; and at least it will grant me furlough
for an hour.'
'Do me the service to report to me,' said Mr. Beamish.
In this fashion he engaged Caseldy to supply him with inventions, and
prepared himself to swallow them. It was Poltermore and Poltermore, the
Colonel here, the Colonel there until the chase grew so hot that Mr.
Beamish could no longer listen to young Mr. Camwell's fatiguing drone
upon his one theme of the double-dealing of Chloe's betrothed. He became
of her way of thinking, and treated the young gentleman almost as coldly
as she. In time he was ready to guess of his own acuteness that the
'strange cavalier' could have been no other than Colonel Poltermore.
When Caseldy hinted it, Mr. Beamish said, 'I have marked him.' He added,
in highly self-satisfied style, 'With all your foreign training, my
friend, you will learn that we English are not so far behind you in the
art of unravelling an intrigue in the dark.' To which Caseldy replied,
that the Continental world had little to teach Mr. Beamish.
Poor Colonel Poltermore, as he came to be called, was clearly a victim of
the sudden affability of Duchess Susan. The transformation of a stiff
military officer into a nimble Puck, a runner of errands and a sprightly
attendant, could not pass without notice. The first effect of her
discriminating condescension on this unfortunate gentleman was to make
him the champion of her claims to breeding. She had it by nature, she
was Nature's great lady, he would protest to the noble dames of the
circle he moved in; and they admitted that she was different in every way
from a bourgeoise elevated by marriage to lofty rank: she was not vulgar.
But they remained doubtful of the perfect simplicity of a young woman who
worked such changes in men as to render one of the famous conquerors of
the day her agitated humble servant. By rapid degrees the Colonel had
fallen to that. When not by her side, he was ever marching with sharp
strides, hurrying through rooms and down alleys and groves until he had
discovered and attached himself to her skirts. And, curiously, the
object of his jealousy was the devoted Alonzo! Mr. Beamish laughed when
he heard of it. The lady's excitement and giddy mien, however, accused
Poltermore of a stage of success requiring to be combated immediately.
There was mention of Duchess Susan's mighty wish to pay a visit to the
popular fortune-teller of the hut on the heath, and Mr. Beamish put his
veto on the expedition. She had obeyed him by abstaining from play of
late, so he fully expected, that his interdict would be obeyed; and
besides the fortune-teller was a rogue of a sham astrologer known to have
foretold to certain tender ladies things they were only too desirous to
imagine predestined by an extraordinary indication of the course of
planets through the zodiac, thus causing them to sin by the example of
celestial conjunctions--a piece of wanton impiety. The beau took high
ground in his objections to the adventure. Nevertheless, Duchess Susan
did go. She drove to the heath at an early hour of the morning, attended
by Chloe, Colonel Poltermore, and Caseldy. They subsequently breakfasted
at an inn where gipsy repasts were occasionally served to the fashion,
and they were back at the wells as soon as the world was abroad. Their
surprise then was prodigious when Mr. Beamish, accosting them full in
assembly, inquired whether they were satisfied with the report of their
fortunes, and yet more when he positively proved himself acquainted with
the fortunes which had been recounted to each of them in privacy.
'You, Colonel Poltermore, are to be in luck's way up to the tenth
milestone,--where your chariot will overset and you will be lamed for
'Not quite so bad,' said the Colonel cheerfully, he having been informed
of much better.
'And you, Count Caseldy, are to have it all your own way with good luck,
after committing a deed of slaughter, with the solitary penalty of
undergoing a visit every night from the corpse.'
'Ghost,' Caseldy smilingly corrected him.
'And Chloe would not have her fortune told, because she knew it!'
Mr. Beamish cast a paternal glance at her. 'And you, madam,' he bent
his brows on the duchess, 'received the communication that "All for Love"
will sink you as it raised you, put you down as it took you up, furnish
the feast to the raven gentleman which belongs of right to the golden
'Nothing of the sort! And I don't believe in any of their stories,'
cried the duchess, with a burning face.
'You deny it, madam?'
'I do. There was never a word of a raven or an eagle, that I'll swear,
'You deny that there was ever a word of "All for Love"? Speak, madam.'
'Their conjuror's rigmarole!' she murmured, huffing. 'As if I listened
to their nonsense!'
'Does the Duchess of Dewlap dare to give me the lie?' said Mr. Beamish.
'That's not my title, and you know it,' she retorted.
'What's this?' the angry beau sang out. 'What stuff is this you wear?'
He towered and laid hand on a border of lace of her morning dress, tore
it furiously and swung a length of it round him: and while the duchess
panted and trembled at an outrage that won for her the sympathy of every
lady present as well as the championship of the gentlemen, he tossed the
lace to the floor and trampled on it, making his big voice intelligible
over the uproar: 'Hear what she does! 'Tis a felony! She wears the stuff
with Betty Worcester's yellow starch on it for mock antique! And let who
else wears it strip it off before the town shall say we are disgraced--
when I tell you that Betty Worcester was hanged at Tyburn yesterday
morning for murder!'
There were shrieks.
Hardly had he finished speaking before the assembly began to melt; he
stood in the centre like a pole unwinding streamers, amid a confusion of
hurrying dresses, the sound and whirl and drift whereof was as that of
the autumnal strewn leaves on a wind rising in November. The troops of
ladies were off to bereave themselves of their fashionable imitation old
lace adornment, which denounced them in some sort abettors and associates
of the sanguinary loathed wretch, Mrs. Elizabeth Worcester, their
benefactress of the previous day, now hanged and dangling on the
Those ladies who wore not imitation lace or any lace in the morning, were
scarcely displeased with the beau for his exposure of them that did. The
gentlemen were confounded by his exhibition of audacious power. The two
gentlemen nighest upon violently resenting his brutality to Duchess
Susan, led her from the room in company with Chloe.
'The woman shall fear me to good purpose,' Mr. Beamish said to himself.
Mr. Camwell was in the ante-room as Chloe passed out behind the two
incensed supporters of Duchess Susan.
'I shall be by the fir-trees on the Mount at eight this evening,' she
'I will be there,' he replied.
'Drive Mr. Beamish into the country, that these gentlemen may have time
He promised her it should be done.
Close on the hour of her appointment, he stood under the fir-trees,
admiring the sunset along the western line of hills, and when Chloe
joined him he spoke of the beauty of the scene.
'Though nothing seems more eloquently to say farewell,' he added, with a
'We could say it now, and be friends,' she answered.
'Later than now, you think it unlikely that you could forgive me, Chloe.'
'In truth, sir, you are making it hard for me.'
'I have stayed here to keep watch; for no pleasure of my own,' said he.
'Mr. Beamish is an excellent protector of the duchess.'
'Excellent; and he is cleverly taught to suppose she fears him greatly;
and when she offends him, he makes a display of his Jupiter's awfulness,
with the effect on woman of natural spirit which you have seen, and
others had foreseen, that she is exasperated and grows reckless. Tie
another knot in your string, Chloe.'
She looked away, saying, 'Were you not the cause? You were in collusion
with that charlatan of the heath, who told them their fortunes this
morning. I see far, both in the dark and in the light.'
'But not through a curtain. I was present.'
'Hateful, hateful business of the spy! You have worked a great mischief
Mr. Camwell. And how can you reconcile it to, your conscience that you
should play so base a part?'
'I have but performed my duty, dear madam.'
'You pretend that it is your devotion to me! I might be flattered if I
saw not so abject a figure in my service. Now have I but four days of my
month of happiness remaining, and my request to you is, leave me to enjoy
them. I beseech you to go. Very humbly, most earnestly, I beg your
departure. Grant it to me, and do not stay to poison my last days here.
Leave us to-morrow. I will admit your good intentions. I give you my
hand in gratitude. Adieu, Mr. Camwell.'
He took her hand. 'Adieu. I foresee an early separation, and this dear
hand is mine while I have it in mine. Adieu. It is a word to be
repeated at a parting like ours. We do not blow out our light with one
breath: we let it fade gradually, like yonder sunset.'
'Speak so,' said she.
'Ah, Chloe, to give one's life! And it is your happiness I have sought
more than your favor.'
'I believe it; but I have not liked the means. You leave us to-morrow?'
'It seems to me that to-morrow is the term.'
Her face clouded. 'That tells me a very uncertain promise.'
'You looked forth to a month of happiness--meaning a month of delusion.
The delusion expires to-night. You will awaken to see your end of it in
the morning. You have never looked beyond the month since the day of his
'Let him not be named, I supplicate you.'
'Then you consent that another shall be sacrificed for you to enjoy your
state of deception an hour longer?'
'I am not deceived, sir. I wish for peace, and crave it, and that is all
I would have.'
'And you make her your peace-offering, whom you have engaged to serve!
Too surely your eyes have been open as well as mine. Knot by knot--
I have watched you--where is it?--you have marked the points in that
silken string where the confirmation of a just suspicion was too strong
'I did it, and still I continued merry?' She subsided from her
scornfulness on an involuntary 'Ah!' that was a shudder.
'You acted Light Heart, madam, and too well to hoodwink me. Meanwhile
you allowed that mischief to proceed, rather than have your crazy lullaby
'Indeed, Mr. Camwell, you presume.'
'The time, and my knowledge of what it is fraught with, demand it and
excuse it. You and I, my dear and one only love on earth, stand outside
of ordinary rules. We are between life and death.'
'We are so always.'
'Listen further to the preacher: We have them close on us, with the
question, Which it shall be to-morrow. You are for sleeping on, but I
say no; nor shall that iniquity of double treachery be committed because
of your desire to be rocked in a cradle. Hear me out. The drug you have
swallowed to cheat yourself will not bear the shock awaiting you tomorrow
with the first light. Hear these birds! When next they sing, you will
be broad awake, and of me, and the worship and service I would have
dedicated to you, I do not . . . it is a spectral sunset of a day that
was never to be!--awake, and looking on what? Back from a monstrous
villainy to the forlorn wretch who winked at it with knots in a string.
Count them then, and where will be your answer to heaven? I begged it of
you, to save you from those blows of remorse; yes, terrible!'
'Terrible, I say!'
'You are mistaken, Mr. Camwell. It is my soother. I tell my beads on
'See how a persistent residence in this place has made a Pagan of the
purest soul among us! Had you . . . but that day was not to lighten
me! More adorable in your errors that you are than others by their
virtues, you have sinned through excess of the qualities men prize. Oh,
you have a boundless generosity, unhappily enwound with a pride as great.
There is your fault, that is the cause of your misery. Too generous!
too proud! You have trusted, and you will not cease to trust; you have
vowed yourself to love, never to remonstrate, never to seem to doubt;
it is too much your religion, rare verily. But bethink you of that
inexperienced and most silly good creature who is on the rapids to her
destruction. Is she not--you will cry it aloud to-morrow--your victim?
You hear it within you now.'
'Friend, my dear, true friend,' Chloe said in her deeper voice of melody,
'set your mind at ease about to-morrow and her. Her safety is assured.
I stake my life on it. She shall not be a victim. At the worst she will
but have learnt a lesson. So, then, adieu! The West hangs like a
garland of unwatered flowers, neglected by the mistress they adorned.
Remember the scene, and that here we parted, and that Chloe wished you
the happiness it was out of her power to bestow, because she was of
another world, with her history written out to the last red streak before
ever you knew her. Adieu; this time adieu for good!
Mr. Camwell stood in her path. 'Blind eyes, if you like,' he said, 'but
you shall not hear blind language. I forfeit the poor consideration for
me that I have treasured; hate me; better hated by you than shun my duty!
Your duchess is away at the first dawn this next morning; it has come to
that. I speak with full knowledge. Question her.'
Chloe threw a faltering scorn of him into her voice, as much as her
heart's sharp throbs would allow. 'I question you, sir, how you came to
this full knowledge you boast of?'
'I have it; let that suffice. Nay, I will be particular; his coach is
ordered for the time I name to you; her maid is already at a station on
the road of the flight.'
'You have their servants in your pay?'
'For the mine--the countermine. We must grub dirt to match deceivers.
You, madam, have chosen to be delicate to excess, and have thrown it upon
me to be gross, and if you please, abominable, in my means of defending
you. It is not too late for you to save the lady, nor too late to bring
him to the sense of honour.'
'I cannot think Colonel Poltermore so dishonourable.'
'Poor Colonel Poltermore! The office he is made to fill is an old one.
Are you not ashamed, Chloe?'
'I have listened too long,' she replied.
'Then, if it is your pleasure, depart.'
He made way for her. She passed him. Taking two hurried steps in the
gloom of the twilight, she stopped, held at her heart, and painfully
turning to him, threw her arms out, and let herself be seized and kissed.
On his asking pardon of her, which his long habit of respect forced him
to do in the thick of rapture and repetitions, she said, 'You rob no
'Oh,' he cried, 'there is a reward, then, for faithful love. But am I
the man I was a minute back? I have you; I embrace you; and I doubt that
I am I. Or is it Chloe's ghost?'
'She has died and visits you.'
'And will again?'
Chloe could not speak for languor.
The intensity of the happiness she gave by resting mutely where she was,
charmed her senses. But so long had the frost been on them that their
awakening to warmth was haunted by speculations on the sweet taste of
this reward of faithfulness to him, and the strange taste of her own
unfaithfulness to her. And reflecting on the cold act of speculation
while strong arm and glowing mouth were pressing her, she thought her
senses might really be dead, and she a ghost visiting the good youth for
his comfort. So feel ghosts, she thought, and what we call happiness in
love is a match between ecstasy and compliance. Another thought flew
through her like a mortal shot: 'Not so with those two! with them it will
be ecstasy meeting ecstasy; they will take and give happiness in equal
portions.' A pang of jealousy traversed her frame. She made the
shrewdness of it help to nerve her fervour in a last strain of him to her
bosom, and gently releasing herself, she said, 'No one is robbed. And
now, dear friend, promise me that you will not disturb Mr. Beamish.'
'Chloe,' said he, 'have you bribed me?'
'I do not wish him to be troubled.'
'The duchess, I have told you--'
'I know. But you have Chloe's word that she will watch over the
duchess and die to save her. It is an oath. You have heard of some
arrangements. I say they shall lead to nothing: it shall not take place.
Indeed, my friend, I am awake; I see as much as you see. And those. . .
after being where I have been, can you suppose I have a regret? But she
is my dear and peculiar charge, and if she runs a risk, trust to me that
there shall be no catastrophe; I swear it; so, now, adieu. We sup in
company to-night. They will be expecting some of Chloe's verses, and she
must sing to herself for a few minutes to stir the bed her songs take
wing from; therefore, we will part, and for her sake avoid her; do not be
present at our table, or in the room, or anywhere there. Yes, you rob no
one,' she said, in a voice that curled through him deliciously by
wavering; but I think I may blush at recollections, and I would rather
have you absent. Adieu! I will not ask for obedience from you beyond
to-night. Your word?'
He gave it in a stupor of felicity, and she fled.
Chloe drew the silken string from her bosom, as she descended the dim
pathway through the furies, and set her fingers travelling along it for
the number of the knots. 'I have no right to be living,' she said.
Seven was the number; seven years she had awaited her lover's return; she
counted her age and completed it in sevens. Fatalism had sustained her
during her lover's absence; it had fast hold of her now. Thereby had she
been enabled to say, 'He will come'; and saying, 'He has come,' her touch
rested on the first knot in the string. She had no power to displace her
fingers, and the cause of the tying of the knot stood across her brain
marked in dull red characters, legible neither to her eye nor to her
understanding, but a reviving of the hour that brought it on her spirit
with human distinctness, except of the light of day: she had a sense of
having forfeited light, and seeing perhaps more clearly. Everything
assured her that she saw more clearly than others; she saw too when it
was good to cease to live.
Hers was the unhappy lot of one gifted with poet-imagination to throb
with the woman supplanting her and share the fascination of the man who
deceived. At their first meeting, in her presence, she had seen that
they were not strangers; she pitied them for speaking falsely, and when
she vowed to thwart this course of evil it to save a younger creature of
her sex, not in rivalry. She treated them both with a proud generosity
surpassing gentleness. All that there was of selfishness in her bosom
resolved to the enjoyment of her one month of strongly willed delusion.
The kiss she had sunk to robbed no one, not even her body's purity, for
when this knot was tied she consigned herself to her end, and had become
a bag of dust. The other knots in the string pointed to verifications;
this first one was a suspicion, and it was the more precious, she felt it
to be more a certainty; it had come from the dark world beyond us, where
all is known. Her belief that it had come thence was nourished by
testimony, the space of blackness wherein she had lived since, exhausting
her last vitality in a simulation of infantile happiness, which was
nothing other than the carrying on of her emotion of the moment of sharp
sour sweet--such as it may be, the doomed below attain for their
knowledge of joy--when, at the first meeting with her lover, the
perception of his treachery to the soul confiding in him, told her she
had lived, and opened out the cherishable kingdom of insensibility to her
for her heritage.
She made her tragic humility speak thankfully to the wound that slew her.
'Had it not been so, I should not have seen him,' she said:--Her lover
would not have come to her but for his pursuit of another woman.
She pardoned him for being attracted by that beautiful transplant of the
fields: pardoned her likewise. 'He when I saw him first was as beautiful
to me. For him I might have done as much.'
Far away in a lighted hall of the West, her family raised hands of
reproach. They were minute objects, keenly discerned as diminished
figures cut in steel. Feeling could not be very warm for them, they were
so small, and a sea that had drowned her ran between; and looking that
way she had scarce any warmth of feeling save for a white rhaiadr leaping
out of broken cloud through branched rocks, where she had climbed and
dreamed when a child. The dream was then of the coloured days to come;
now she was more infant in her mind, and she watched the scattered water
broaden, and tasted the spray, sat there drinking the scene, untroubled
by hopes as a lamb, different only from an infant in knowing that she had
thrown off life to travel back to her home and be refreshed. She heard
her people talk; they were unending babblers in the waterfall. Truth was
with them, and wisdom. How, then, could she pretend to any right to
live? Already she had no name; she was less living than a tombstone.
For who was Chloe? Her family might pass the grave of Chloe without
weeping, without moralizing. They had foreseen her ruin, they had
foretold it, they noised it in the waters, and on they sped to the
plains, telling the world of their prophecy, and making what was untold
as yet a lighter thing to do.
The lamps in an irregularly dotted line underneath the hill beckoned her
to her task of appearing as the gayest of them that draw their breath for
the day and have pulses for the morrow.
At midnight the great supper party to celebrate the reconciliation of
Mr. Beamish and Duchess Susan broke up, and beneath a soft fair sky the
ladies, with their silvery chatter of gratitude for amusement, caught
Chloe in their arms to kiss her, rendering it natural for their cavaliers
to exclaim that Chloe was blest above mortals. The duchess preferred to
walk. Her spirits were excited, and her language smelt of her origin,
but the superb fleshly beauty of the woman was aglow, and crying, 'I
declare I should burst in one of those boxes--just as if you'd stalled
me!' she fanned a wind on her face, and sumptuously spread her spherical
skirts, attended by the vanquished and captive Colonel Poltermore, a
gentleman manifestly bent on insinuating sly slips of speech to serve for
here a pinch of powder, there a match. 'Am I?' she was heard to say.
She blew prodigious deep-chested sighs of a coquette that has taken to
Presently her voice tossed out: 'As if I would!' These vivid
illuminations of the Colonel's proceedings were a pasture to the rearward
groups, composed of two very grand ladies, Caseldy, Mr. Beamish, a lord,
'You man! Oh!' sprang from the duchess. 'What do I hear? I won't
listen; I can't, I mustn't, I oughtn't.'
So she said, but her head careened, she gave him her coy reluctant ear,
with total abandonment to the seductions of his whispers, and the lord
let fly a peal of laughter. It had been a supper of copious wine, and
the songs which rise from wine. Nature was excused by our midnight
The two great dames, admonished by the violence of the nobleman's
laughter, laid claim on Mr. Beamish to accompany them at their parting
with Chloe and Duchess Susan.
In the momentary shuffling of couples incident to adieux among a company,
the duchess murmured to Caseldy:
'Have I done it well.'
He praised her for perfection in her acting. 'I am at your door at
'My heart's in my mouth,' said she.
Colonel Poltermore still had the privilege of conducting her the few
farther steps to her lodgings.
Caseldy walked beside Chloe, and silently, until he said, 'If I have not
yet mentioned the subject--'
'If it is an allusion to money let me not hear it to-night,' she replied.
'I can only say that my lawyers have instructions. But my lawyers cannot
pay you in gratitude. Do not think me in your hardest review of my
misconduct ungrateful. I have ever esteemed you above all women; I do,
and I shall; you are too much above me. I am afraid I am a composition
of bad stuff; I did not win a very particularly good name on the
Continent; I begin to know myself, and in comparison with you, dear
'You speak to Chloe,' she said. 'Catherine is a buried person. She died
without pain. She is by this time dust.'
The man heaved his breast. 'Women have not an idea of our temptations.'
'You are excused by me for all your errors, Caseldy. Always remember
He sighed profoundly. 'Ay, you have a Christian's heart.'
She answered, 'I have come to the conclusion that it is a Pagan's.'
'As for me,' he rejoined, 'I am a fatalist. Through life I have seen my
destiny. What is to be, will be; we can do nothing.'
'I have heard of one who expired of a surfeit that he anticipated, nay
proclaimed, when indulging in the last desired morsel,' said Chloe.
'He was driven to it.'
Caseldy acquiesced; his wits were clouded, and an illustration even
coarser and more grotesque would have won a serious nod and a sigh from
him. 'Yes, we are moved by other hands!'
'It is pleasant to think so: and think it of me tomorrow. Will you!'
He promised it heartily, to induce her to think the same of him.
Their separation was in no way remarkable. The pretty formalities were
executed at the door, and the pair of gentlemen departed.
'It's quite dark still,' Duchess Susan said, looking up at the sky, and
she ran upstairs, and sank, complaining of the weakness of her legs, in a
chair of the ante-chamber of her bedroom, where Chloe slept. Then she
asked the time of the night. She could not suppress her hushed 'Oh!'
of heavy throbbing from minute to minute. Suddenly she started off at
a quick stride to her own room, saying that it must be sleepiness which
affected her so.
Her bedroom had a door to the sitting-room, and thence, as also from
Chloe's room, the landing on the stairs was reached, for the room ran
parallel with both bed-chambers. She walked in it and threw the window
open, but closed it immediately; opened and shut the door, and returned
and called for Chloe. She wanted to be read to. Chloe named certain
composing books. The duchess chose a book of sermons. 'But we're all
such dreadful sinners, it's better not to bother ourselves late at
night.' She dismissed that suggestion. Chloe proposed books of poetry.
'Only I don't understand them except about larks, and buttercups, and
hayfields, and that's no comfort to a woman burning,' was the answer.
'Are you feverish, madam?' said Chloe. And the duchess was sharp on her:
'Yes, madam, I am.'
She reproved herself in a change of tone: 'No, Chloe, not feverish, only
this air of yours here is such an exciting air, as the doctor says; and
they made me drink wine, and I played before supper--Oh! my money; I used
to say I could get more, but now!' she sighed--'but there's better in the
world than money. You know that, don't you, you dear? Tell me. And
I want you to be happy; that you'll find. I do wish we could all be!'
She wept, and spoke of requiring a little music to compose her.
Chloe stretched a hand for her guitar. Duchess Susan listened to some
notes, and cried that it went to her heart and hurt her. 'Everything we
like a lot has a fence and a board against trespassers, because of such a
lot of people in the world,' she moaned. 'Don't play, put down that
thing, please, dear. You're the cleverest creature anybody has ever met;
they all say so. I wish I----Lovely women catch men, and clever women
keep them: I've heard that said in this wretched place, and it 's a nice
prospect for me, next door to a fool! I know I am.'
'The duke adores you, madam.'
'Poor duke! Do let him be--sleeping so woebegone with his mouth so, and
that chin of a baby, like as if he dreamed of a penny whistle. He
shouldn't have let me come here. Talk of Mr. Beamish. How he will miss
'He will,' Chloe said sadly.
'If you go, dear.'
'I am going.'
'Why should you leave him, Chloe?'
'And there, the thought of it makes you miserable!'
'You needn't, I'm sure.'
Chloe looked at her.
The duchess turned her head. 'Why can't you be gay, as you were at the
supper-table, Chloe? You're out to him like a flower when the sun jumps
over the hill; you're up like a lark in the dews; as I used to be when I
thought of nothing. Oh, the early morning; and I'm sleepy. What a beast
I feel, with my grandeur, and the time in an hour or two for the birds to
sing, and me ready to drop. I must go and undress.'
She rushed on Chloe, kissed her hastily, declaring that she was quite
dead of fatigue, and dismissed her. 'I don't want help, I can undress
myself. As if Susan Barley couldn't do that for herself! and you may
shut your door, I sha'n't have any frights to-night, I'm so tired out.'
'Another kiss,' Chloe said tenderly.
'Yes, take it'--the duchess leaned her cheek--'but I'm so tired I don't
know what I'm doing.'
'It will not be on your conscience,' Chloe answered, kissing her warmly.
Will those words she withdrew, and the duchess closed the door. She ran
a bolt in it immediately.
'I'm too tired to know anything I'm doing,' she said to herself, and
stood with shut eyes to hug certain thoughts which set her bosom heaving.
There was the bed, there was the clock. She had the option of lying down
and floating quietly into the day, all peril past. It seemed sweet for a
minute. But it soon seemed an old, a worn, an end-of-autumn life, chill,
without aim, like a something that was hungry and toothless. The bed
proposing innocent sleep repelled her and drove her to the clock. The
clock was awful: the hand at the hour, the finger following the minute,
commanded her to stir actively, and drove her to gentle meditations on
the bed. She lay down dressed, after setting her light beside the clock,
that she might see it at will, and considering it necessary for the bed
to appear to have been lain on. Considering also that she ought to be
heard moving about in the process of undressing, she rose from the bed
to make sure of her reading of the guilty clock. An hour and twenty
minutes! she had no more time than that: and it was not enough for her
various preparations, though it was true that her maid had packed and
taken a box of the things chiefly needful; but the duchess had to change
her shoes and her dress, and run at bo-peep with the changes of her mind,
a sedative preface to any fatal step among women of her complexion, for
so they invite indecision to exhaust their scruples, and they let the
blood have its way. Having so short a space of time, she thought the
matter decided, and with some relief she flung despairing on the bed, and
lay down for good with her duke. In a little while her head was at work
reviewing him sternly, estimating him not less accurately than the male
moralist charitable to her sex would do. She quitted the bed, with a
spring to escape her imagined lord; and as if she had felt him to be
there, she lay down no more. A quiet life like that was flatter to her
idea than a handsomely bound big book without any print on the pages, and
without a picture. Her contemplation of it, contrasted with the life
waved to her view by the timepiece, set her whole system rageing; she
burned to fly. Providently, nevertheless, she thumped a pillow, and
threw the bedclothes into proper disorder, to inform the world that her
limbs had warmed them, and that all had been impulse with her. She then
proceeded to disrobe, murmuring to herself that she could stop now, and
could stop now, at each stage of the advance to a fresh dressing of her
person, and moralizing on her singular fate, in the mouth of an observer.
'She was shot up suddenly over everybody's head, and suddenly down she
went.' Susan whispered to herself: 'But it was for love!' Possessed by
the rosiness of love, she finished her business, with an attention to
everything needed that was equal to perfect serenity of mind. After
which there was nothing to do, save to sit humped in a chair, cover her
face and count the clock-tickings, that said, Yes--no; do--don't; fly--
stay; fly--fly! It seemed to her she heard a moving. Well she might
with that dreadful heart of hers!
Chloe was asleep, at peace by this time, she thought; and how she envied
Chloe! She might be as happy, if she pleased. Why not? But what kind
of happiness was it? She likened it to that of the corpse underground,
and shrank distastefully.
Susan stood at her glass to have a look at the creature about whom there
was all this disturbance, and she threw up her arms high for a languid,
not unlovely yawn, that closed in blissful shuddering with the sensation
of her lover's arms having wormed round her waist and taken her while she
was defenceless. For surely they would. She took a jewelled ring, his
gift, from her purse, and kissed it, and drew it on and off her finger,
leaving it on. Now she might wear it without fear of inquiries and
virtuous eyebrows. O heavenly now--if only it were an hour hence; and
going behind galloping horses!
The clock was at the terrible moment. She hesitated internally and
hastened; once her feet stuck fast, and firmly she said, 'No'; but the
clock was her lord. The clock was her lover and her lord; and obeying
it, she managed to get into the sitting-room, on the pretext that she
merely wished to see through the front window whether daylight was
How well she knew that half-light of the ebb of the wave of darkness.
Strange enough it was to see it showing houses regaining their solidity
of the foregone day, instead of still fields, black hedges, familiar
shapes of trees. The houses had no wakefulness, they were but seen to
stand, and the light was a revelation of emptiness. Susan's heart was
cunning to reproach her duke for the difference of the scene she beheld
from that of the innocent open-breasted land. Yes, it was dawn in a
wicked place that she never should have been allowed to visit. But where
was he whom she looked for? There! The cloaked figure of a man was at
the corner of the street. It was he. Her heart froze; but her limbs
were strung to throw off the house, and reach air, breathe, and (as her
thoughts ran) swoon, well-protected. To her senses the house was a house
on fire, and crying to her to escape.
Yet she stepped deliberately, to be sure-footed in a dusky room; she
touched along the wall and came to the door, where a foot-stool nearly
tripped her. Here her touch was at fault, for though she knew she must
be close by the door, she was met by an obstruction unlike wood, and the
door seemed neither shut nor open. She could not find the handle;
something hung over it. Thinking coolly, she fancied the thing must be a
gown or dressing-gown; it hung heavily. Her fingers were sensible of the
touch of silk; she distinguished a depending bulk, and she felt at it
very carefully and mechanically, saying within herself, in her anxiety
to pass it without noise, 'If I should awake poor Chloe, of all people!'
Her alarm was that the door might creak. Before any other alarm had
struck her brain, the hand she felt with was in a palsy, her mouth gaped,
her throat thickened, the dust-ball rose in her throat, and the effort to
swallow it down and get breath kept her from acute speculation while she
felt again, pinched, plucked at the thing, ready to laugh, ready to
shriek. Above her head, all on one side, the thing had a round white
top. Could it be a hand that her touch had slid across? An arm too!
this was an arm! She clutched it, imagining that it clung to her. She
pulled it to release herself from it, desperately she pulled, and a lump
descended, and a flash of all the torn nerves of her body told her that a
dead human body was upon her.
At a quarter to four o'clock of a midsummer morning, as Mr. Beamish
relates of his last share in the Tale of Chloe, a woman's voice, in
piercing notes of anguish, rang out three shrieks consecutively, which
were heard by him at the instant of his quitting his front doorstep,
in obedience to the summons of young Mr. Camwell, delivered ten minutes
previously, with great urgency, by that gentleman's lacquey. On his
reaching the street of the house inhabited by Duchess Susan, he perceived
many night-capped heads at windows, and one window of the house in
question lifted but vacant. His first impression accused the pair of
gentlemen, whom he saw bearing drawn swords in no friendly attitude of an
ugly brawl that had probably affrighted her Grace, or her personal
attendant, a woman capable of screaming, for he was well assured that it
could not have been Chloe, the least likely of her sex to abandon herself
to the use of their weapons either in terror or in jeopardy. The
antagonists were Mr. Camwell and Count Caseldy. On his approaching them,
Mr. Camwell sheathed his sword, saying that his work was done. Caseldy
was convulsed with wrath, to such a degree as to make the part of an
intermediary perilous. There had been passes between them, and Caseldy
cried aloud that he would have his enemy's blood. The night-watch was
nowhere. Soon, however, certain shopmen and their apprentices assisted
Mr. Beamish to preserve the peace, despite the fury of Caseldy and the
provocations--'not easy to withstand,' says the chronicler--offered by
him to young Camwell. The latter said to Mr. Beamish: 'I knew I should
be no match, so I sent for you,' causing his friend astonishment,
inasmuch as he was assured of the youth's natural valour.
Mr. Beamish was about to deliver an allocution of reproof to them in
equal shares, being entirely unsuspicious of any other reason for the
alarum than this palpable outbreak of a rivalry that he would have
inclined to attribute to the charms of Chloe, when the house-door swung
wide for them to enter, and the landlady of the house, holding clasped
hands at full stretch, implored them to run up to the poor lady: 'Oh,
she's dead; she's dead, dead!'
Caseldy rushed past her.
'How, dead! good woman?' Mr. Beamish questioned her most incredulously,
She answered among her moans: 'Dead by the neck; off the door--Oh!'
Young Camwell pressed his forehead, with a call on his Maker's name. As
they reached the landing upstairs, Caseldy came out of the sitting-room.
'Which?' said Camwell to the speaking of his face.
'She !' said the other.
'The duchess?' Mr. Beamish exclaimed.
But Camwell walked into the room. He had nothing to ask after that
The figure stretched along the floor was covered with a sheet. The young
man fell at his length beside it, and his face was downward.
Mr. Beamish relates: 'To this day, when I write at an interval of fifteen
years, I have the tragic ague of that hour in my blood, and I behold the
shrouded form of the most admirable of women, whose heart was broken by a
faithless man ere she devoted her wreck of life to arrest one weaker than
herself on the descent to perdition. Therein it was beneficently granted
her to be of the service she prayed to be through her death. She died to
save. In a last letter, found upon her pincushion, addressed to me under
seal of secrecy toward the parties principally concerned, she anticipates
the whole confession of the unhappy duchess. Nay, she prophesies: "The
duchess will tell you truly she has had enough of love!" Those actual
words were reiterated to me by the poor lady daily until her lord arrived
to head the funeral procession, and assist in nursing back the shattered
health of his wife to a state that should fit her for travelling. To me,
at least, she was constant in repeating, "No more of love!" By her
behaviour to her duke, I can judge her to have been sincere. She spoke
of feeling Chloe's eyes go through her with every word of hers that she
recollected. Nor was the end of Chloe less effective upon the traitor.
He was in the procession to her grave. He spoke to none. There is a
line of the verse bearing the superscription, "My Reasons for Dying,"
that shows her to have been apprehensive to secure the safety of Mr.
I die because my heart is dead
To warn a soul from sin I die:
I die that blood may not be shed, etc.
She feared he would be somewhere on the road to mar the fugitives, and
she knew him, as indeed he knew himself, no match for one trained in the
foreign tricks of steel, ready though he was to dispute the traitor's
way. She remembers Mr. Camwell's petition for the knotted silken string
in her request that it shall be cut from her throat and given to him.'
Mr. Beamish indulges in verses above the grave of Chloe. They are of a
character to cool emotion. But when we find a man, who is commonly of
the quickest susceptibility to ridicule as well as to what is befitting,
careless of exposure, we may reflect on the truthfulness of feeling by
which he is drawn to pass his own guard and come forth in his nakedness;
something of the poet's tongue may breathe to us through his mortal
stammering, even if we have to acknowledge that a quotation would scatter
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
All flattery is at somebody's expense
Be philosophical, but accept your personal dues
But I leave it to you
Distrust us, and it is a declaration of war
Happiness in love is a match between ecstasy and compliance
If I do not speak of payment
Intellectual contempt of easy dupes
Invite indecision to exhaust their scruples
Is not one month of brightness as much as we can ask for?
No flattery for me at the expense of my sisters
Nothing desirable will you have which is not coveted
Primitive appetite for noise
She might turn out good, if well guarded for a time
The alternative is, a garter and the bedpost
They miss their pleasure in pursuing it
This mania of young people for pleasure, eternal pleasure
Wits, which are ordinarily less productive than land
THE HOUSE ON THE BEACH
By George Meredith
A REALISTIC TALE
The experience of great officials who have laid down their dignities
before death, or have had the philosophic mind to review themselves while
still wielding the deputy sceptre, teaches them that in the exercise of
authority over men an eccentric behaviour in trifles has most exposed
them to hostile criticism and gone farthest to jeopardize their
popularity. It is their Achilles' heel; the place where their mother
Nature holds them as she dips them in our waters. The eccentricity of
common persons is the entertainment of the multitude, and the maternal
hand is perceived for a cherishing and endearing sign upon them; but
rarely can this be found suitable for the august in station; only,
indeed, when their sceptre is no more fearful than a grandmother's birch;
and these must learn from it sooner or later that they are uncomfortably
When herrings are at auction on a beach, for example, the man of chief
distinction in the town should not step in among a poor fraternity to
take advantage of an occasion of cheapness, though it be done, as he may
protest, to relieve the fishermen of a burden; nor should such a
dignitary as the bailiff of a Cinque Port carry home the spoil of
victorious bargaining on his arm in a basket. It is not that his conduct
is in itself objectionable, so much as that it causes him to be popularly
weighed; and during life, until the best of all advocates can plead
before our fellow Englishmen that we are out of their way, it is prudent
to avoid the process.
Mr. Tinman, however, this high-stepping person in question, happened to
have come of a marketing mother. She had started him from a small shop
to a big one. He, by the practice of her virtues, had been enabled to
start himself as a gentleman. He was a man of this ambition, and prouder
behind it. But having started himself precipitately, he took rank among
independent incomes, as they are called, only to take fright at the
perils of starvation besetting one who has been tempted to abandon the
source of fifty per cent. So, if noble imagery were allowable in our
time in prose, might alarms and partial regrets be assumed to animate the
splendid pumpkin cut loose from the suckers. Deprived of that prodigious
nourishment of the shop in the fashionable seaport of Helmstone, he
retired upon his native town, the Cinque Port of Crikswich, where he
rented the cheapest residence he could discover for his habitation, the
House on the Beach, and lived imposingly, though not in total disaccord
with his old mother's principles. His income, as he observed to his
widowed sister and solitary companion almost daily in their privacy, was
respectable. The descent from an altitude of fifty to five per cent.
cannot but be felt. Nevertheless it was a comforting midnight bolster
reflection for a man, turning over to the other side between a dream and
a wink, that he was making no bad debts, and one must pay to be addressed
as esquire. Once an esquire, you are off the ground in England and on
the ladder. An esquire can offer his hand in marriage to a lady in her
own right; plain esquires have married duchesses; they marry baronets'
daughters every day of the week.
Thoughts of this kind were as the rise and fall of waves in the bosom of
the new esquire. How often in his Helmstone shop had he not heard titled
ladies disdaining to talk a whit more prettily than ordinary women; and
he had been a match for the subtlety of their pride--he understood it.
He knew well that at the hint of a proposal from him they would have
spoken out in a manner very different to that of ordinary women. The
lightning, only to be warded by an esquire, was in them. He quitted
business at the age of forty, that he might pretend to espousals with a
born lady; or at least it was one of the ideas in his mind.
And here, I think, is the moment for the epitaph of anticipation over
him, and the exclamation, alas! I would not be premature, but it is
necessary to create some interest in him, and no one but a foreigner
could feel it at present for the Englishman who is bursting merely to do
like the rest of his countrymen, and rise above them to shake them class
by class as the dust from his heels. Alas! then an--undertaker's pathos
is better than none at all--he was not a single-minded aspirant to our
social honours. The old marketing mother; to whom he owed his fortunes,
was in his blood to confound his ambition; and so contradictory was the
man's nature, that in revenge for disappointments, there were times when
he turned against the saving spirit of parsimony. Readers deep in Greek
dramatic writings will see the fatal Sisters behind the chair of a man
who gives frequent and bigger dinners, that he may become important in
his neighbourhood, while decreasing the price he pays for his wine, that
he may miserably indemnify himself for the outlay. A sip of his wine
fetched the breath, as when men are in the presence of the tremendous
elements of nature. It sounded the constitution more darkly-awful, and
with a profounder testimony to stubborn health, than the physician's
instruments. Most of the guests at Mr. Tinman's table were so
constructed that they admired him for its powerful quality the more at
his announcement of the price of it; the combined strength and cheapness
probably flattering them, as by another mystic instance of the national
energy. It must have been so, since his townsmen rejoiced to hail him as
head of their town. Here and there a solitary esquire, fished out of the
bathing season to dine at the house on the beach, was guilty of raising
one of those clamours concerning subsequent headaches, which spread an
evil reputation as a pall. A resident esquire or two, in whom a
reminiscence of Tinman's table may be likened to the hook which some old
trout has borne away from the angler as the most vivid of warnings to him
to beware for the future, caught up the black report and propagated it.
The Lieutenant of the Coastguard, hearing the latest conscious victim, or
hearing of him, would nod his head and say he had never dined at Tinman's
table without a headache ensuing and a visit to the chemist's shop;
which, he was assured, was good for trade, and he acquiesced, as it was
right to do in a man devoted to his country. He dined with Tinman again.
We try our best to be social. For eight months in our year he had little
choice but to dine with Tinman or be a hermit attached to a telescope.
"Where are you going, Lieutenant?" His frank reply to the question was,
"I am going to be killed;" and it grew notorious that this meant Tinman's
table. We get on together as well as we can. Perhaps if we were an
acutely calculating people we should find it preferable both for trade
and our physical prosperity to turn and kill Tinman, in contempt of
consequences. But we are not, and so he does the business gradually for
us. A generous people we must be, for Tinman was not detested. The
recollection of "next morning" caused him to be dimly feared.
Tinman, meanwhile, was awake only to the Circumstance that he made no
progress as an esquire, except on the envelopes of letters, and in his
own esteem. That broad region he began to occupy to the exclusion of
other inhabitants; and the result of such a state of princely isolation
was a plunge of his whole being into deep thoughts. From the hour of his
investiture as the town's chief man, thoughts which were long shots took
possession of him. He had his wits about him; he was alive to ridicule;
he knew he was not popular below, or on easy terms with people above him,
and he meditated a surpassing stroke as one of the Band of Esq., that had
nothing original about it to perplex and annoy the native mind, yet was
dazzling. Few members of the privileged Band dare even imagine the
It will hardly be believed, but it is historical fact, that in the act of
carrying fresh herrings home on his arm, he entertained the idea of a
visit to the First Person and Head of the realm, and was indulging in
pleasing visions of the charms of a personal acquaintance. Nay, he had
already consulted with brother jurats. For you must know that one of the
princesses had recently suffered betrothal in the newspapers, and
supposing her to deign to ratify the engagement, what so reasonable on
the part of a Cinque Port chieftain as to congratulate his liege
mistress, her illustrious mother? These are thoughts and these are deeds
>which give emotional warmth and colour to the ejecter members of a
population wretchedly befogged. They are our sunlight, and our brighter
theme of conversation. They are necessary to the climate and the Saxon
mind; and it would be foolish to put them away, as it is foolish not to
do our utmost to be intimate with terrestrial splendours while we have
them--as it may be said of wardens, mayors, and bailiffs-at command.
Tinman was quite of this opinion. They are there to relieve our dulness.
We have them in the place of heavenly; and he would have argued that we
have a right to bother them too. He had a notion, up in the clouds, of a
Sailors' Convalescent Hospital at Crikswich to seduce a prince with, hand
him the trowel, make him "lay the stone," and then poor prince! refresh
him at table. But that was a matter for by and by.
His purchase of herrings completed, Mr. Tinman walked across the mound
of shingle to the house on the beach. He was rather a fresh-faced man,
of the Saxon colouring, and at a distance looking good-humoured. That he
should have been able to make such an appearance while doing daily battle
with his wine, was a proof of great physical vigour. His pace was
leisurely, as it must needs be over pebbles, where half a step is
subtracted from each whole one in passing; and, besides, he was aware of
a general breath at his departure that betokened a censorious assembly.
Why should he not market for himself? He threw dignity into his
retreating figure in response to the internal interrogation. The moment
>was one when conscious rectitude =pliers man should have a tail for its
just display. Philosophers have drawn attention to the power of the
human face to express pure virtue, but no sooner has it passed on than
the spirit erect within would seem helpless. The breadth of our
shoulders is apparently presented for our critics to write on. Poor duty
is done by the simple sense of moral worth, to supplant that absence of
feature in the plain flat back. We are below the animals in this. How
charged with language behind him is a dog! Everybody has noticed it.
Let a dog turn away from a hostile circle, and his crisp and wary tail
not merely defends him, it menaces; it is a weapon. Man has no choice
but to surge and boil, or stiffen preposterously. Knowing the popular
sentiment about his marketing--for men can see behind their backs, though
they may have nothing to speak with--Tinman resembled those persons of
principle who decline to pay for a "Bless your honour!" from a voluble
beggar-woman, and obtain the reverse of it after they have gone by. He
was sufficiently sensitive to feel that his back was chalked as on a
slate. The only remark following him was, "There he goes!"
He went to the seaward gate of the house on the beach, made practicable
in a low flint wall, where he was met by his sister Martha, to whom he
handed the basket. Apparently he named the cost of his purchase per
dozen. She touched the fish and pressed the bellies of the topmost, it
might be to question them tenderly concerning their roes. Then the
couple passed out of sight. Herrings were soon after this despatching
their odours through the chimneys of all Crikswich, and there was that
much of concord and festive union among the inhabitants.
The house on the beach had been posted where it stood, one supposes, for
the sake of the sea-view, from which it turned right about to face the
town across a patch of grass and salt scurf, looking like a square and
scornful corporal engaged in the perpetual review of an awkward squad of
recruits. Sea delighted it not, nor land either. Marine Parade fronting
it to the left, shaded sickly eyes, under a worn green verandah, from a
sun that rarely appeared, as the traducers of spinsters pretend those
virgins are ever keenly on their guard against him that cometh not.
Belle Vue Terrace stared out of lank glass panes without reserve,
unashamed of its yellow complexion. A gaping public-house, calling
itself newly Hotel, fell backward a step. Villas with the titles of
royalty and bloody battles claimed five feet of garden, and swelled in
bowwindows beside other villas which drew up firmly, commending to the
attention a decent straightness and unintrusive decorum in preference.
On an elevated meadow to the right was the Crouch. The Hall of Elba
nestled among weather-beaten dwarf woods further toward the cliff.
Shavenness, featurelessness, emptiness, clamminess scurfiness, formed the
outward expression of a town to which people were reasonably glad to come
from London in summer-time, for there was nothing in Crikswich to
distract the naked pursuit of health. The sea tossed its renovating
brine to the determinedly sniffing animal, who went to his meals with an
appetite that rendered him cordially eulogistic of the place, in spite of
certain frank whiffs of sewerage coming off an open deposit on the common
to mingle with the brine. Tradition told of a French lady and gentleman
entering the town to take lodgings for a month, and that on the morrow
they took a boat from the shore, saying in their faint English to a
sailor veteran of the coastguard, whom they had consulted about the
weather, "It is better zis zan zat," as they shrugged between rough sea
and corpselike land. And they were not seen again. Their meaning none
knew. Having paid their bill at the lodging-house, their conduct was
ascribed to systematic madness. English people came to Crikswich for the
pure salt sea air, and they did not expect it to be cooked and dressed
and decorated for them. If these things are done to nature, it is nature
no longer that you have, but something Frenchified. Those French are for
trimming Neptune's beard! Only wait, and you are sure to find variety in
nature, more than you may like. You will find it in Neptune. What say
you to a breach of the sea-wall, and an inundation of the aromatic grass-
flat extending from the house on the beach to the tottering terraces,
villas, cottages: and public-house transformed by its ensign to Hotel,
along the frontage of the town? Such an event had occurred of old, and
had given the house on the beach the serious shaking great Neptune in his
wrath alone can give. But many years had intervened. Groynes had been
run down to intercept him and divert him. He generally did his winter
mischief on a mill and salt marshes lower westward. Mr. Tinman had
always been extremely zealous in promoting the expenditure of what moneys
the town had to spare upon the protection of the shore, as it were for
the propitiation or defiance of the sea-god. There was a kindly joke
against him an that subject among brother jurats. He retorted with the
joke, that the first thing for Englishmen to look to were England's
But it will not do to be dwelling too fondly on our eras of peace, for
which we make such splendid sacrifices. Peace, saving for the advent of
a German band, which troubled the repose of the town at intervals, had
imparted to the inhabitants of Crikswich, within and without, the
likeness to its most perfect image, together, it must be confessed, with
a degree of nervousness that invested common events with some of the
terrors of the Last Trump, when one night, just upon the passing of the
vernal equinox, something happened.
A carriage Stopped short in the ray of candlelight that was fitfully and
feebly capering on the windy blackness outside the open workshop of
Crickledon, the carpenter, fronting the sea-beach. Mr. Tinnnan's house
was inquired for. Crickledon left off planing; at half-sprawl over the
board, he bawled out, "Turn to the right; right ahead; can't mistake it."
He nodded to one of the cronies intent on watching his labours: "Not
unless they mean to be bait for whiting-pout. Who's that for Tinman, I
wonder?" The speculations of Crickledon's friends were lost in the
scream of the plane.
One cast an eye through the door and observed that the carriage was there
still. "Gentleman's got out and walked," said Crickledon. He was
informed that somebody was visible inside. "Gentleman's wife, mayhap,"
he said. His friends indulged in their privilege of thinking what they
liked, and there was the usual silence of tongues in the shop. He
furnished them sound and motion for their amusement, and now and then a
scrap of conversation; and the sedater spirits dwelling in his immediate
neighbourhood were accustomed to step in and see him work up to supper-
time, instead of resorting to the more turbid and costly excitement of
Crickledon looked up from the measurement of a thumb-line. In the
doorway stood a bearded gentleman, who announced himself with the
startling exclamation, "Here's a pretty pickle!" and bustled to make way
for a man well known to them as Ned Crummins, the upholsterer's man, on
whose back hung an article of furniture, the condition of which, with a
condensed brevity of humour worthy of literary admiration, he displayed
by mutely turning himself about as he entered.
"Smashed!" was the general outcry.
"I ran slap into him," said the gentleman. "Who the deuce!--no bones
broken, that's one thing. The fellow--there, look at him: he's like a
"It's a chiwal glass," Crickledon remarked, and laid finger on the star
in the centre.
"Gentleman ran slap into me," said Crummins, depositing the frame on the
floor of the shop.
"Never had such a shock in my life," continued the gentleman. "Upon my
soul, I took him for a door: I did indeed. A kind of light flashed from
one of your houses here, and in the pitch dark I thought I was at the
door of old Mart Tinman's house, and dash me if I did n't go in--crash!
But what the deuce do you do, carrying that great big looking-glass at
night, man? And, look here tell me; how was it you happened to be going
glass foremost when you'd got the glass on your back?"
"Well, 't ain't my fault, I knows that," rejoined Crummins. "I came
along as careful as a man could. I was just going to bawl out to Master
Tinman, 'I knows the way, never fear me'; for I thinks I hears him call
from his house, 'Do ye see the way?' and into me this gentleman runs all
his might, and smash goes the glass. I was just ten steps from Master
Tinman's gate, and that careful, I reckoned every foot I put down, that I
was; I knows I did, though."
"Why, it was me calling, 'I'm sure I can't see the way.'
"You heard me, you donkey!" retorted the bearded gentleman. "What was
the good of your turning that glass against me in the very nick when I
dashed on you?"
"Well, 't ain't my fault, I swear," said Crummins. "The wind catches
voices so on a pitch dark night, you never can tell whether they be on
one shoulder or the other. And if I'm to go and lose my place through no
fault of mine----"
"Have n't I told you, sir, I'm going to pay the damage? Here," said the
gentleman, fumbling at his waistcoat, "here, take this card. Read it."
For the first time during the scene in the carpenter's shop, a certain
pomposity swelled the gentleman's tone. His delivery of the card
appeared to act on him like the flourish of a trumpet before great men.
"Van Diemen Smith," he proclaimed himself for the assistance of Ned
Crummins in his task; the latter's look of sad concern on receiving the
card seeming to declare an unscholarly conscience.
An anxious feminine voice was heard close beside Mr. Van Diemen Smith.
"Oh, papa, has there been an accident? Are you hurt?"
"Not a bit, Netty; not a bit. Walked into a big looking-glass in the
dark, that's all. A matter of eight or ten pound, and that won't stump
us. But these are what I call queer doings in Old England, when you
can't take a step in the dark, on the seashore without plunging bang into
a glass. And it looks like bad luck to my visit to old Mart Tinman."
"Can you," he addressed the company, "tell me of a clean, wholesome
lodging-house? I was thinking of flinging myself, body and baggage, on
your mayor, or whatever he is--my old schoolmate; but I don't so much
like this beginning. A couple of bed-rooms and sitting-room; clean
sheets, well aired; good food, well cooked; payment per week in advance."
The pebble dropped into deep water speaks of its depth by the tardy
arrival of bubbles on the surface, and, in like manner, the very simple
question put by Mr. Van Diemen Smith pursued its course of penetration in
the assembled mind in the carpenter's shop for a considerable period,
with no sign to show that it had reached the bottom.
"Surely, papa, we can go to an inn? There must be some hotel," said his
"There's good accommodation at the Cliff Hotel hard by," said Crickledon.
"But," said one of his friends, "if you don't want to go so far, sir,
there's Master Crickledon's own house next door, and his wife lets
lodgings, and there's not a better cook along this coast."
"Then why did n't the man mention it? Is he afraid of having me?" asked
Mr. Smith, a little thunderingly. "I may n't be known much yet in
England; but I'll tell you, you inquire the route to Mr. Van Diemen Smith
over there in Australia."
"Yes, papa," interrupted his daughter, "only you must consider that it
may not be convenient to take us in at this hour--so late."
"It's not that, miss, begging your pardon," said Crickledon. "I make a
point of never recommending my own house. That's where it is. Otherwise
you're welcome to try us."
"I was thinking of falling bounce on my old schoolmate, and putting Old
English hospitality to the proof," Mr. Smith meditated. "But it's late.
Yes, and that confounded glass! No, we'll bide with you, Mr. Carpenter.
I'll send my card across to Mart Tinman to-morrow, and set him agog at
Mr. Van Diemen Smith waved his hand for Crickledon to lead the way.
Hereupon Ned Crummins looked up from the card he had been turning over
and over, more and more like one arriving at a condemnatory judgment of a
"I can't go and give my master a card instead of his glass," he remarked.
"Yes, that reminds me; and I should like to know what you meant by
bringing that glass away from Mr. Tinman's house at night," said Mr.
Smith. "If I'm to pay for it, I've a right to know. What's the meaning
of moving it at night? Eh, let's hear. Night's not the time for moving
big glasses like that. I'm not so sure I haven't got a case."
"If you'll step round to my master along o' me, sir," said Crummins,
"perhaps he'll explain."
Crummins was requested to state who his master was, and he replied,
"Phippun and Company;" but Mr. Smith positively refused to go with him.
"But here," said he, "is a crown for you, for you're a civil fellow.
You'll know where to find me in the morning; and mind, I shall expect
Phippun and Company to give me a very good account of their reason for
moving a big looking-glass on a night like this. There, be off."
The crown-piece in his hand effected a genial change in Crummins'
disposition to communicate. Crickledon spoke to him about the glass; two
or three of the others present jogged him. "What did Mr. Tinman want by
having the glass moved so late in the day, Ned? Your master wasn't
nervous about his property, was he?"
"Not he," said Crummins, and began to suck down his upper lip and agitate
his eyelids and stand uneasily, glimmering signs of the setting in of the
tide of narration.
He caught the eye of Mr. Smith, then looked abashed at Miss.
Crickledon saw his dilemma. "Say what's uppermost, Ned; never mind how
you says it. English is English. Mr. Tinman sent for you to take the
glass away, now, did n't he?"
"He did," said Crummins.
"And you went to him."
"Ay, that I did."
"And he fastened the chiwal glass upon your back"
"He did that."
"That's all plain sailing. Had he bought the glass?"
"No, he had n't bought it. He'd hired it."
As when upon an enforced visit to the dentist, people have had one tooth
out, the remaining offenders are more willingly submitted to the
operation, insomuch that a poetical licence might hazard the statement
that they shed them like leaves of the tree, so Crummins, who had shrunk
from speech, now volunteered whole sentences in succession, and how
important they were deemed by his fellow-townsman, Mr. Smith, and
especially Miss Annette Smith, could perceive in their ejaculations,
before they themselves were drawn into the strong current of interest.
And this was the matter: Tinman had hired the glass for three days.
Latish, on the very first day of the hiring, close upon dark, he had
despatched imperative orders to Phippun and Company to take the glass out
of his house on the spot. And why? Because, as he maintained, there was
a fault in the glass causing an incongruous and absurd reflection; and he
was at that moment awaiting the arrival of another chiwal-glass.
"Cut along, Ned," said Crickledon.
"What the deuce does he want with a chiwal-glass at all?" cried Mr.
Smith, endangering the flow of the story by suggesting to the narrator
that he must "hark back," which to him was equivalent to the jumping of a
chasm hindward. Happily his brain had seized a picture:
"Mr. Tinman, he's a-standin' in his best Court suit."
Mr. Tinmau's old schoolmate gave a jump; and no wonder.
"Standing?" he cried; and as the act of standing was really not
extraordinary, he fixed upon the suit: "Court?"
"So Mrs. Cavely told me, it was what he was standin' in, and as I found
'm I left 'm," said Crummins.
"He's standing in it now?" said Mr. Van Diemen Smith, with a great gape.
Crummins doggedly repeated the statement. Many would have ornamented it
in the repetition, but he was for bare flat truth.
"He must be precious proud of having a Court suit," said Mr. Smith, and
gazed at his daughter so glassily that she smiled, though she was
impatient to proceed to Mrs. Crickledon's lodgings.
"Oh! there's where it is?" interjected the carpenter, with a funny frown
at a low word from Ned Crummins. "Practicing, is he? Mr. Tinman's
practicing before the glass preparatory to his going to the palace in
"He gave me a shillin'," said Crummins.
Crickledon comprehended him immediately. "We sha'n't speak about it,
What did you see? was thus cautiously suggested.
The shilling was on Crummins' tongue to check his betrayal of the secret
scene. But remembering that he had only witnessed it by accident, and
that Mr. Tinman had not completely taken him into his confidence, he
thrust his hand down his pocket to finger the crown-piece lying in
fellowship with the coin it multiplied five times, and was inspired to
think himself at liberty to say: "All I saw was when the door opened.
Not the house-door. It was the parlour-door. I saw him walk up to the
glass, and walk back from the glass. And when he'd got up to the glass
he bowed, he did, and he went back'ards just so."
Doubtless the presence of a lady was the active agent that prevented
Crummins from doubling his body entirely, and giving more than a rapid
indication of the posture of Mr. Tinman in his retreat before the glass.
But it was a glimpse of broad burlesque, and though it was received with
becoming sobriety by the men in the carpenter's shop, Annette plucked at
her father's arm.
She could not get him to depart. That picture of his old schoolmate
Martin Tinman practicing before a chiwal glass to present himself at the
palace in his Court suit, seemed to stupefy his Australian intelligence.
"What right has he got to go to Court?" Mr. Van Diemen Smith inquired,
like the foreigner he had become through exile.
"Mr. Tinman's bailiff of the town," said Crickledon.
"And what was his objection to that glass I smashed?"
"He's rather an irritable gentleman," Crickledon murmured, and turned to
Crummins growled: "He said it was misty, and gave him a twist."
"What a big fool he must be! eh?" Mr. Smith glanced at Crickledon and
the other faces for the verdict of Tinman's townsmen upon his character.
They had grounds for thinking differently of Tinman.
"He's no fool," said Crickledon.
Another shook his head. "Sharp at a bargain."
"That he be," said the chorus.
Mr. Smith was informed that Mr. Tinman would probably end by buying up
half the town.
"Then," said Mr. Smith, "he can afford to pay half the money for that
glass, and pay he shall."
A serious view of the recent catastrophe was presented by his
In the midst of a colloquy regarding the cost of the glass, during which
it began to be seen by Mr. Tinman's townsmen that there was laughing-
stuff for a year or so in the scene witnessed by Crummins, if they
postponed a bit their right to the laugh and took it in doses, Annette
induced her father to signal to Crickledon his readiness to go and see
the lodgings. No sooner had he done it than he said, "What on earth made
us wait all this time here? I'm hungry, my dear; I want supper."
"That is because you have had a disappointment. I know you, papa," said
"Yes, it's rather a damper about old Mart Tinman," her father assented.
"Or else I have n't recovered the shock of smashing that glass, and visit
it on him. But, upon my honour, he's my only friend in England, I have
n't a single relative that I know of, and to come and find your only
friend making a donkey of himself, is enough to make a man think of
eating and drinking."
Annette murmured reproachfully: "We can hardly say he is our only friend
in England, papa, can we?"
"Do you mean that young fellow? You'll take my appetite away if you talk
of him. He's a stranger. I don't believe he's worth a penny. He owns
he's what he calls a journalist."
These latter remarks were hurriedly exchanged at the threshold of
"It don't look promising," said Mr. Smith.
"I didn't recommend it," said Crickledon.
"Why the deuce do you let your lodgings, then?"
"People who have come once come again."
"Oh! I am in England," Annette sighed joyfully, feeling at home in some
trait she had detected in Crickledon.
The story of the shattered chiwal-glass and the visit of Tinman's old
schoolmate fresh from Australia, was at many a breakfast-table before.
Tinman heard a word of it, and when he did he had no time to spare for
such incidents, for he was reading to his widowed sister Martha, in an
impressive tone, at a tolerably high pitch of the voice, and with a
suppressed excitement that shook away all things external from his mind
as violently as it agitated his body. Not the waves without but the
engine within it is which gives the shock and tremor to the crazy
steamer, forcing it to cut through the waves and scatter them to spray;
and so did Martin Tinman make light of the external attack of the card of
VAN DIEMEN SMITH, and its pencilled line: "An old chum of yours, eh,
matey? "Even the communication of Phippun & Co. concerning the chiwal-
glass, failed to divert him from his particular task. It was indeed a
public duty; and the chiwal-glass, though pertaining to it, was a private
business. He that has broken the glass, let that man pay for it, he
pronounced--no doubt in simpler fashion, being at his ease in his home,
but with the serenity of one uplifted. As to the name VAN DIEMEN SMITH,
he knew it not, and so he said to himself while accurately recollecting
the identity of the old chum who alone of men would have thought of
writing eh, matey?
Mr. Van Diemen Smith did not present the card in person.
"At Crickledon's," he wrote, apparently expecting the bailiff of the
town to rush over to him before knowing who he was.
Tinman was far too busy. Anybody can read plain penmanship or print, but
ask anybody not a Cabinet Minister or a Lord-in-Waiting to read out loud
and clear in a Palace, before a Throne. Oh! the nature of reading is
distorted in a trice, and as Tinman said to his worthy sister: "I can do
it, but I must lose no time in preparing myself." Again, at a reperusal,
he informed her: "I must habituate myself." For this purpose he had put
on the suit overnight.
The articulation of faultless English was his object. His sister Martha
sat vice-regally to receive his loyal congratulations on the illustrious
marriage, and she was pensive, less nervous than her brother from not
having to speak continuously, yet somewhat perturbed. She also had her
task, and it was to avoid thinking herself the Person addressed by her
suppliant brother, while at the same time she took possession of the
scholarly training and perfect knowledge of diction and rules of
pronunciation which would infallibly be brought to bear on him in the
terrible hour of the delivery of the Address. It was no small task
moreover to be compelled to listen right through to the end of the
Address, before the very gentlest word of criticism was allowed. She did
not exactly complain of the renewal of the rehearsal: a fatigue can be
endured when it is a joy. What vexed her was her failing memory for the
points of objection, as in her imagined High Seat she conceived them;
for, in painful truth, the instant her brother had finished she entirely
lost her acuteness of ear, and with that her recollection: so there was
nothing to do but to say: "Excellent! Quite unobjectionable, dear
Martin, quite:" so she said, and emphatically; but the addition of the
word "only" was printed on her contracted brow, and every faculty of
Tinman's mind and nature being at strain just then, he asked her testily:
"What now? what's the fault now?" She assured him with languor that
there was not a fault. "It's not your way of talking," said he, and what
he said was true. His discernment was extraordinary; generally he
Not only were his perceptions quickened by the preparations for the day
of great splendour: day of a great furnace to be passed through likewise!
--he, was learning English at an astonishing rate into the bargain. A
pronouncing Dictionary lay open on his table. To this he flew at a hint
of a contrary method, and disputes, verifications and triumphs on one
side and the other ensued between brother and sister. In his heart the
agitated man believed his sister to be a misleading guide. He dared not
say it, he thought it, and previous to his African travel through the
Dictionary he had thought his sister infallible on these points. He
dared not say it, because he knew no one else before whom he could
practice, and as it was confidence that he chiefly wanted--above all
things, confidence and confidence comes of practice, he preferred the
going on with his practice to an absolute certainty as to correctness.
At midday came another card from Mr. Van Diemen Smith bearing the
superscription: alias Phil R.
"Can it be possible," Tinman asked his sister, "that Philip Ribstone has
had the audacity to return to this country? I think," he added,
"I am right in treating whoever sends me this card as a counterfeit."
Martha's advice was, that he should take no notice of the card.
"I am seriously engaged," said Tinman. With a "Now then, dear," he
resumed his labours.
Messages had passed between Tinman and Phippun; and in the afternoon
Phippun appeared to broach the question of payment for the chiwal-glass.
He had seen Mr. Van Diemen Smith, had found him very strange, rather
impracticable. He was obliged to tell Tinman that he must hold him
responsible for the glass; nor could he send a second until payment was
made for the first. It really seemed as if Tinman would be compelled, by
the force of circumstances, to go and shake his old friend by the hand.
Otherwise one could clearly see the man might be off: he might be off at
any minute, leaving a legal contention behind him. On the other hand,
supposing he had come to Crikswich for assistance in money? Friendship
is a good thing, and so is hospitality, which is an essentially English
thing, and consequently one that it behoves an Englishman to think it his
duty to perform, but we do not extend it to paupers. But should a pauper
get so close to us as to lay hold of us, vowing he was once our friend,
how shake him loose? Tinman foresaw that it might be a matter of five
pounds thrown to the dogs, perhaps ten, counting the glass. He put on
his hat, full of melancholy presentiments; and it was exactly half-past
five o'clock of the spring afternoon when he knocked at Crickledon's
Had he looked into Crickledon's shop as he went by, he would have
perceived Van Diemen Smith astride a piece of timber, smoking a pipe.
Van Diemen saw Tinman. His eyes cocked and watered. It is a disgraceful
fact to record of him without periphrasis. In truth, the bearded fellow
was almost a woman at heart, and had come from the Antipodes throbbing to
slap Martin Tinman on the back, squeeze his hand, run over England with
him, treat him, and talk of old times in the presence of a trotting
regiment of champagne. That affair of the chiwal-glass had temporarily
damped his enthusiasm. The absence of a reply to his double transmission
of cards had wounded him; and something in the look of Tinman disgusted
his rough taste. But the well-known features recalled the days of youth.
Tinman was his one living link to the country he admired as the conqueror
of the world, and imaginatively delighted in as the seat of pleasures,
and he could not discard the feeling of some love for Tinman without
losing his grasp of the reason why, he had longed so fervently and
travelled so breathlessly to return hither. In the days of their youth,
Van Diemen had been Tinman's cordial spirit, at whom he sipped for
cheerful visions of life, and a good honest glow of emotion now and then.
Whether it was odd or not that the sipper should be oblivious, and the
cordial spirit heartily reminiscent of those times, we will not stay to
Their meeting took place in Crickledon's shop. Tinman was led in by Mrs.
Crickledon. His voice made a sound of metal in his throat, and his air
was that of a man buttoned up to the palate, as he read from the card,
glancing over his eyelids, "Mr. Van Diemen Smith, I believe."
"Phil Ribstone, if you like," said the other, without rising.
"Oh, ah, indeed!" Tinman temperately coughed.
"Yes, dear me. So it is. It strikes you as odd?"
"The change of name," said Tinman.
"Not nature, though!"
"Ah! Have you been long in England?"
"Time to run to Helmstone, and on here. You've been lucky in business,
"Thank you; as things go. Do you think of remaining in England?"
"I've got to settle about a glass I broke last night."
"Ah! I have heard of it. Yes, I fear there will have to be a
"I shall pay half of the damage. You'll have to stump up your part."
Van Diemen smiled roguishly.
"We must discuss that," said Tinman, smiling too, as a patient in bed may
smile at a doctor's joke; for he was, as Crickledon had said of him, no
fool on practical points, and Van Diemen's mention of the half-payment
reassured him as to his old friend's position in the world, and softly
thawed him. "Will you dine with me to-day?"
"I don't mind if I do. I've a girl. You remember little Netty? She's
walking out on the beach with a young fellow named Fellingham, whose
acquaintance we made on the voyage, and has n't left us long to
ourselves. Will you have her as well? And I suppose you must ask him.
He's a newspaper man; been round the world; seen a lot."
Tinman hesitated. An electrical idea of putting sherry at fifteen
shillings per dozen on his table instead of the ceremonial wine at
twenty-five shillings, assisted him to say hospitably, "Oh! ah! yes; any
friend of yours."
"And now perhaps you'll shake my fist," said Van Diemen.
"With pleasure," said Tinman. "It was your change of name, you know, Philip."
Look here, Martin. Van Diemen Smith was a convict, and my benefactor.
Why the deuce he was so fond of that name, I can't tell you; but his
dying wish was for me to take it and carry it on. He left me his
fortune, for Van Diemen Smith to enjoy life, as he never did, poor
fellow, when he was alive. The money was got honestly, by hard labour at
a store. He did evil once, and repented after. But, by Heaven!"--Van
Diemen jumped up and thundered out of a broad chest--"the man was one of
the finest hearts that ever beat. He was! and I'm proud of him. When he
died, I turned my thoughts home to Old England and you, Martin."
"Oh!" said Tinman; and reminded by Van Diemen's way of speaking, that