Part 2 out of 9
time to show his merits because he was so much occupied in hiding
'Do you know the authoress, Mr. Neigh?' continued Ladywell.
'Can't say that I do,' he replied.
Neigh was a man who never disturbed the flesh upon his face except
when he was obliged to do so, and paused ten seconds where other
people only paused one; as he moved his chin in speaking, motes of
light from under the candle-shade caught, lost, and caught again the
outlying threads of his burnished beard.
'She will be famous some day; and you ought at any rate to read her
'Yes, I ought, I know. In fact, some years ago I should have done
it immediately, because I had a reason for pushing on that way just
'Ah, what was that?'
'Well, I thought of going in for Westminster Abbey myself at that
time; but a fellow has so much to do, and--'
'What a pity that you didn't follow it up. A man of your powers,
'Afterwards I found I was too steady for it, and had too much of the
respectable householder in me. Besides, so many other men are on
the same tack; and then I didn't care about it, somehow.'
'I don't understand high art, and am utterly in the dark on what are
the true laws of criticism,' a plain married lady, who wore
archaeological jewellery, was saying at this time. 'But I know that
I have derived an unusual amount of amusement from those verses, and
I am heartily thankful to "E." for them.'
'I am afraid,' said a gentleman who was suffering from a bad shirt-
front, 'that an estimate which depends upon feeling in that way is
not to be trusted as permanent opinion.'
The subject now flitted to the other end.
'Somebody has it that when the heart flies out before the
understanding, it saves the judgment a world of pains,' came from a
voice in that quarter.
'I, for my part, like something merry,' said an elderly woman, whose
face was bisected by the edge of a shadow, which toned her forehead
and eyelids to a livid neutral tint, and left her cheeks and mouth
like metal at a white heat in the uninterrupted light. 'I think the
liveliness of those ballads as great a recommendation as any. After
all, enough misery is known to us by our experiences and those of
our friends, and what we see in the newspapers, for all purposes of
chastening, without having gratuitous grief inflicted upon us.'
'But you would not have wished that "Romeo and Juliet" should have
ended happily, or that Othello should have discovered the perfidy of
his Ancient in time to prevent all fatal consequences?'
'I am not afraid to go so far as that,' said the old lady.
'Shakespeare is not everybody, and I am sure that thousands of
people who have seen those plays would have driven home more
cheerfully afterwards if by some contrivance the characters could
all have been joined together respectively. I uphold our anonymous
author on the general ground of her levity.'
'Well, it is an old and worn argument--that about the inexpedience
of tragedy--and much may be said on both sides. It is not to be
denied that the anonymous Sappho's verses--for it seems that she is
really a woman--are clever.'
'Clever!' said Ladywell--the young man who had been one of the
shooting-party at Sandbourne--'they are marvellously brilliant.'
'She is rather warm in her assumed character.'
'That's a sign of her actual coldness; she lets off her feeling in
theoretic grooves, and there is sure to be none left for practical
ones. Whatever seems to be the most prominent vice, or the most
prominent virtue in anybody's writing is the one thing you are
safest from in personal dealings with the writer.'
'O, I don't mean to call her warmth of feeling a vice or virtue
'I agree with you,' said Neigh to the last speaker but one, in tones
as emphatic as they possibly could be without losing their proper
character of indifference to the whole matter. 'Warm sentiment of
any sort, whenever we have it, disturbs us too much to leave us
repose enough for writing it down.'
'I am sure, when I was at the ardent age,' said the mistress of the
house, in a tone of pleasantly agreeing with every one, particularly
those who were diametrically opposed to each other, 'I could no more
have printed such emotions and made them public than I--could have
helped privately feeling them.'
'I wonder if she has gone through half she says? If so, what an
'O no--not at all likely,' said Mr. Neigh. 'It is as risky to
calculate people's ways of living from their writings as their
incomes from their way of living.'
'She is as true to nature as fashion is false,' said the painter, in
his warmth becoming scarcely complimentary, as sometimes happens
with young persons. 'I don't think that she has written a word more
than what every woman would deny feeling in a society where no woman
says what she means or does what she says. And can any praise be
greater than that?'
'All her verses seem to me,' said a rather stupid person, 'to be
When you take away the music there is nothing left. Yet she is
plainly a woman of great culture.'
'Have you seen what the London Light says about them--one of the
finest things I have ever read in the way of admiration?' continued
Ladywell, paying no attention to the previous speaker. He lingered
for a reply, and then impulsively quoted several lines from the
periodical he had named, without aid or hesitation. 'Good, is it
not?' added Ladywell.
They assented, but in such an unqualified manner that half as much
readiness would have meant more. But Ladywell, though not
experienced enough to be quite free from enthusiasm, was too
experienced to mind indifference for more than a minute or two.
When the ladies had withdrawn, the young man went on--
'Colonel Staff said a funny thing to me yesterday about these very
poems. He asked me if I knew her, and--'
'Her? Why, he knows that it is a lady all the time, and we were
only just now doubting whether the sex of the writer could be really
what it seems. Shame, Ladywell!' said his friend Neigh.
'Ah, Mr. Ladywell,' said another, 'now we have found you out. You
'Now--I say--ha-ha!' continued the painter, with a face expressing
that he had not at all tried to be found out as the man possessing
incomparably superior knowledge of the poetess. 'I beg pardon
really, but don't press me on the matter. Upon my word the secret
is not my own. As I was saying, the Colonel said, "Do you know
her?"--but you don't care to hear?'
'We shall be delighted!'
'So the Colonel said, "Do you know her?" adding, in a most comic
way, "Between U. and E., Ladywell, I believe there is a close
affinity"--meaning me, you know, by U. Just like the Colonel--ha-
The older men did not oblige Ladywell a second time with any attempt
at appreciation; but a weird silence ensued, during which the smile
upon Ladywell's face became frozen to painful permanence.
'Meaning by E., you know, the "E" of the poems--heh-heh!' he added.
'It was a very humorous incident certainly,' said his friend Neigh,
at which there was a laugh--not from anything connected with what he
said, but simply because it was the right thing to laugh when Neigh
meant you to do so.
'Now don't, Neigh--you are too hard upon me. But, seriously, two or
three fellows were there when I said it, and they all began
laughing--but, then, the Colonel said it in such a queer way, you
know. But you were asking me about her? Well, the fact is, between
ourselves, I do know that she is a lady; and I don't mind telling a
'But we would not for the world be the means of making you betray
her confidence--would we, Jones?'
'No, indeed; we would not.'
'No, no; it is not that at all--this is really too bad!--you must
listen just for a moment--'
'Ladywell, don't betray anybody on our account.'
'Whoever the illustrious young lady may be she has seen a great deal
of the world,' said Mr. Doncastle blandly, 'and puts her experience
of the comedy of its emotions, and of its method of showing them, in
a very vivid light.'
'I heard a man say that the novelty with which the ideas are
presented is more noticeable than the originality of the ideas
themselves,' observed Neigh. 'The woman has made a great talk about
herself; and I am quite weary of people asking of her condition,
place of abode, has she a father, has she a mother, or dearer one
yet than all other.'
'I would have burlesque quotation put down by Act of Parliament, and
all who dabble in it placed with him who can cite Scripture for his
purposes,' said Ladywell, in retaliation.
After a pause Neigh remarked half-privately to their host, who was
his uncle: 'Your butler Chickerel is a very intelligent man, as I
'Yes, he does very well,' said Mr. Doncastle.
'But is he not a--very extraordinary man?'
'Not to my knowledge,' said Doncastle, looking up surprised. 'Why
do you think that, Alfred?'
'Well, perhaps it was not a matter to mention. He reads a great
deal, I dare say?'
'I don't think so.'
'I noticed how wonderfully his face kindled when we began talking
about the poems during dinner. Perhaps he is a poet himself in
disguise. Did you observe it?'
'No. To the best of my belief he is a very trustworthy and
honourable man. He has been with us--let me see, how long?--five
months, I think, and he was fifteen years in his last place. It
certainly is a new side to his character if he publicly showed any
interest in the conversation, whatever he might have felt.'
'Since the matter has been mentioned,' said Mr. Jones, 'I may say
that I too noticed the singularity of it.'
'If you had not said otherwise,' replied Doncastle somewhat warmly,
'I should have asserted him to be the last man-servant in London to
infringe such an elementary rule. If he did so this evening, it is
certainly for the first time, and I sincerely hope that no annoyance
'O no, no--not at all--it might have been a mistake of mine,' said
Jones. 'I should quite have forgotten the circumstance if Mr.
Neigh's words had not brought it to my mind. It was really nothing
to notice, and I beg that you will not say a word to him about it on
'He has a taste that way, my dear uncle, nothing more, depend upon
it,' said Neigh. 'If I had such a man belonging to me I should only
be too proud. Certainly do not mention it.'
'Of course Chickerel is Chickerel,' Mr. Doncastle rejoined. 'We all
know what that means. And really, on reflecting, I do remember that
he is of a literary turn of mind--not further by an inch than is
commendable, you know. I am quite aware as I glance down the papers
and prints any morning that Chickerel's eyes have been over the
ground before mine, and that he generally forestalls the rest of us
by a chapter or so in the last new book sent home; but in these
vicious days that particular weakness is really virtue, just because
it is not quite a vice.'
'Yes,' said Mr. Jones, the reflective man in spectacles, 'positive
virtues are getting moved off the stage: negative ones are moved on
to the place of positives; we thank bare justice as we used only to
thank generosity; call a man honest who steals only by law, and
consider him a benefactor if he does not steal at all.'
'Hear, hear!' said Neigh. 'We will decide that Chickerel is even a
better trained fellow than if he had shown no interest at all in his
'The action being like those trifling irregularities in art at its
vigorous periods, which seemed designed to hide the unpleasant
monotony of absolute symmetry,' said Ladywell.
'On the other hand, an affected want of training of that sort would
be even a better disguise for an artful man than a perfectly
impassible demeanour. He is two removes from discovery in a hidden
scheme, whilst a neutral face is only one.'
'You quite alarm me by these subtle theories,' said Mr. Doncastle,
laughing; and the subject then became compounded with other matters,
till the speakers rose to rejoin the charming flock upstairs.
In the basement story at this hour Mr. Chickerel the butler, who had
formed the subject of discussion on the floor above, was busily
engaged in looking after his two subordinates as they bustled about
in the operations of clearing away. He was a man of whom, if the
shape of certain bones and muscles of the face is ever to be taken
as a guide to the character, one might safely have predicated
conscientiousness in the performance of duties, a thorough knowledge
of all that appertained to them, a general desire to live on without
troubling his mind about anything which did not concern him. Any
person interested in the matter would have assumed without
hesitation that the estimate his employer had given of Chickerel was
a true one--more, that not only would the butler under all ordinary
circumstances resolutely prevent his face from showing curiosity in
an unbecoming way, but that, with the soul of a true gentleman, he
would, if necessary, equivocate as readily as the noblest of his
betters to remove any stain upon his honour in such trifles. Hence
it is apparent that if Chickerel's countenance really appeared, as
Neigh had asserted, full of curiosity with regard to the gossip that
was going on, the feelings which led to the exhibition must have
been of a very unusual and irrepressible kind.
His hair was of that peculiar bluish-white which is to be observed
when the oncoming years, instead of singling out special locks of a
man's head for operating against, advance uniformly over the whole
field, and enfeeble the colour at all points before absolutely
extinguishing it anywhere; his nose was of the knotty shape in the
gristle and earthward tendency in the flesh which is commonly said
to carry sound judgment above it, his eyes were thoughtful, and his
face was thin--a contour which, if it at once abstracted from his
features that cheerful assurance of single-minded honesty which
adorns the exteriors of so many of his brethren, might have raised a
presumption in the minds of some beholders that perhaps in this case
the quality might not be altogether wanting within.
The coffee having been served to the people upstairs, one of the
footmen rushed into his bedroom on the lower floor, and in a few
minutes emerged again in the dress of a respectable clerk who had
been born for better things, with the trifling exceptions that he
wore a low-crowned hat, and instead of knocking his heels on the
pavement walked with a gait as delicate as a lady's. Going out of
the area-door with a cigar in his mouth, he mounted the steps
hastily to keep an appointment round the corner--the keeping of
which as a private gentleman necessitated the change of the greater
part of his clothes twice within a quarter of an hour--the limit of
his time of absence. The other footman was upstairs, and the
butler, finding that he had a few minutes to himself, sat down at
the table and wrote:--
'MY DEAR ETHELBERTA,--I did not intend to write to you for some few
days to come, but the way in which you have been talked about here
this evening makes me anxious to send a line or two at once, though
I have very little time to spare, as usual. We have just had a
dinner-party--indeed the carriages have not yet been brought round--
and the talk at dinner was about your verses, of course. The thing
was brought up by a young fellow named Ladywell--do you know him?
He is a painter by profession, but he has a pretty good private
income beyond what he gets by practising his line of business among
the nobility, and that I expect is not little, for he is well known,
and encouraged because he is young, and good-looking, and so forth.
His family own a good bit of land somewhere out Aldbrickham way.
However, I am before my story. From what they all said it is pretty
clear that you are thought a great deal of in fashionable society as
a poetess--but perhaps you know this as well as I--moving in it as
you do yourself, my dear.
'The ladies afterwards got very curious about your age, so curious,
in fact, and so full of certainty that you were thirty-five and a
blighted existence, if an hour, that I felt inclined to rap out
there and then, and hang what came of it: "My daughter, ladies, was
to my own and her mother's certain knowledge only twenty-one last
birthday, and has as bright a heart as anybody in London." One of
them actually said that you must be fifty to have got such an
experience. Her guess was a very shrewd one in the bottom of it,
however, for it was grounded upon the way you use those strange
experiences of mine in the society that I tell you of, and dress
them up as if they were yours; and, as you see, she hit off my own
age to a year. I thought it was very sharp of her to be so right,
although so wrong.
'I do not want to influence your plans in any way about things which
your school learning fits you to understand much better than I, who
never had such opportunities, but I think that if I were in your
place, Berta, I would not let my name be known just yet, for people
always want what's kept from them, and don't value what's given. I
am not sure, but I think that after the women had gone upstairs the
others turned their thoughts upon you again; what they said about
you I don't know, for if there's one thing I hate 'tis hanging about
the doors when the men begin to get moved by their wine, which they
did to a large extent to-night, and spoke very loud. They always do
here, for old Don is a hearty giver in his way. However, as you see
these people from their own level now, it is not much that I can
tell you in seeing them only from the under side, though I see
strange things sometimes, and of course--
"What great ones do the less will prattle of,"
as it says in that book of select pieces that you gave me.
'Well, my dear girl, I hope you will prosper. One thing above all
others you'll have to mind, and it is that folk must continually
strain to advance in order to remain where they are: and you
particularly. But as for trying too hard, I wouldn't do it. Much
lies in minding this, that your best plan for lightness of heart is
to raise yourself a little higher than your old mates, but not so
high as to be quite out of their reach. All human beings enjoy
themselves from the outside, and so getting on A LITTLE has this
good in it, you still keep in your old class where your feelings
are, and are thoughtfully treated by this class: while by getting
on TOO MUCH you are sneered at by your new acquaintance, who don't
know the skill of your rise, and you are parted from and forgot by
the old ones who do. Whatever happens, don't be too quick to feel.
You will surely get some hard blows when you are found out, for if
the great can find no excuse for hitting with a mind, they'll do it
and say 'twas in fun. But you are young and healthy, and youth and
health are power. I wish I could have a decent footman here with
me, but I suppose it is no use trying. It is such men as these that
provoke the contempt we get. Well, thank God a few years will see
the end of me, for I am growing ashamed of my company--so different
as they are to the servants of old times.--Your affectionate father,
'P.S.--Do not press Lady Petherwin any further to remove the rules
on which you live with her. She is quite right: she cannot keep
us, and to recognize us would do you no good, nor us either. We are
content to see you secretly, since it is best for you.'
8. CHRISTOPHER'S LODGINGS - THE GROUNDS ABOUT ROOKINGTON
Meanwhile, in the distant town of Sandbourne, Christopher Julian had
recovered from the weariness produced by his labours at the Wyndway
evening-party where Ethelberta had been a star. Instead of engaging
his energies to clear encumbrances from the tangled way of his life,
he now set about reading the popular 'Metres by E.' with more
interest and assiduity than ever; for though Julian was a thinker by
instinct, he was a worker by effort only; and the higher of these
kinds being dependent upon the lower for its exhibition, there was
often a lamentable lack of evidence of his power in either. It is a
provoking correlation, and has conduced to the obscurity of many a
'Kit,' said his sister, on reviving at the end of the bad headache
which had followed the dance, 'those poems seem to have increased in
value with you. The lady, lofty as she appears to be, would be
flattered if she only could know how much you study them. Have you
decided to thank her for them? Now let us talk it over--I like
having a chat about such a pretty new subject.'
'I would thank her in a moment if I were absolutely certain that she
had anything to do with sending them, or even writing them. I am
not quite sure of that yet.'
'How strange that a woman could bring herself to write those
'Not at all strange--they are natural outpourings.'
Faith looked critically at the remoter caverns of the fire.
'Why strange?' continued Christopher. 'There is no harm in them.'
'O no--no harm. But I cannot explain to you--unless you see it
partly of your own accord--that to write them she must be rather a
fast lady--not a bad fast lady; a nice fast lady, I mean, of course.
There, I have said it now, and I daresay you are vexed with me, for
your interest in her has deepened to what it originally was, I
think. I don't mean any absolute harm by "fast," Kit.'
'Bold, forward, you mean, I suppose?'
Faith tried to hit upon a better definition which should meet all
views; and, on failing to do so, looked concerned at her brother's
somewhat grieved appearance, and said, helplessly, 'Yes, I suppose I
'My idea of her is quite the reverse. A poetess must intrinsically
be sensitive, or she could never feel: but then, frankness is a
rhetorical necessity even with the most modest, if their
inspirations are to do any good in the world. You will, for
certain, not be interested in something I was going to tell you,
which I thought would have pleased you immensely; but it is not
worth mentioning now.'
'If you will not tell me, never mind. But don't be crabbed, Kit!
You know how interested I am in all your affairs.'
'It is only that I have composed an air to one of the prettiest of
her songs, "When tapers tall"--but I am not sure about the power of
it. This is how it begins--I threw it off in a few minutes, after
you had gone to bed.'
He went to the piano and lightly touched over an air, the manuscript
copy of which he placed in front of him, and listened to hear her
opinion, having proved its value frequently; for it was not that of
a woman merely, but impersonally human. Though she was unknown to
fame, this was a great gift in Faith, since to have an unsexed
judgment is as precious as to be an unsexed being is deplorable.
'It is very fair indeed,' said the sister, scarcely moving her lips
in her great attention. 'Now again, and again, and again. How
could you do it in the time!'
Kit knew that she admired his performance: passive assent was her
usual praise, and she seldom insisted vigorously upon any view of
his compositions unless for purposes of emendation.
'I was thinking that, as I cannot very well write to her, I may as
well send her this,' said Christopher, with lightened spirits, voice
to correspond, and eyes likewise; 'there can be no objection to it,
for such things are done continually. Consider while I am gone,
Faith. I shall be out this evening for an hour or two.'
When Christopher left the house shortly after, instead of going into
the town on some errand, as was customary whenever he went from home
after dark, he ascended a back street, passed over the hills behind,
and walked at a brisk pace inland along the road to Rookington Park,
where, as he had learnt, Ethelberta and Lady Petherwin were staying
for a time, the day or two which they spent at Wyndway having formed
a short break in the middle of this visit. The moon was shining to-
night, and Christopher sped onwards over the pallid high-road as
readily as he could have done at noonday. In three-quarters of an
hour he reached the park gates; and entering now upon a tract which
he had never before explored, he went along more cautiously and with
some uncertainty as to the precise direction that the road would
take. A frosted expanse of even grass, on which the shadow of his
head appeared with an opal halo round it, soon allowed the house to
be discovered beyond, the other portions of the park abounding with
timber older and finer than that of any other spot in the
neighbourhood. Christopher withdrew into the shade, and wheeled
round to the front of the building that contained his old love.
Here he gazed and idled, as many a man has done before him--
wondering which room the fair poetess occupied, waiting till lights
began to appear in the upper windows--which they did as uncertainly
as glow-worms blinking up at eventide--and warming with currents of
revived feeling in perhaps the sweetest of all conditions. New love
is brightest, and long love is greatest; but revived love is the
tenderest thing known upon earth.
Occupied thus, Christopher was greatly surprised to see, on casually
glancing to one side, another man standing close to the shadowy
trunk of another tree, in a similar attitude to his own, gazing,
with arms folded, as blankly at the windows of the house as
Christopher himself had been gazing. Not willing to be discovered,
Christopher stuck closer to his tree. While he waited thus, the
stranger began murmuring words, in a slow soft voice. Christopher
listened till he heard the following:--
'Pale was the day and rayless, love,
That had an eve so dim.'
Two well-known lines from one of Ethelberta's poems.
Jealousy is a familiar kind of heat which disfigures, licks
playfully, clouds, blackens, and boils a man as a fire does a pot;
and on recognizing these pilferings from what he had grown to regard
as his own treasury, Christopher's fingers began to nestle with
great vigour in the palms of his hands. Three or four minutes
passed, when the unknown rival gave a last glance at the windows,
and walked away. Christopher did not like the look of that walk at
all--there was grace enough in it to suggest that his antagonist had
no mean chance of finding favour in a woman's eyes. A sigh, too,
seemed to proceed from the stranger's breast; but as their distance
apart was too great for any such sound to be heard by any
possibility, Christopher set down that to imagination, or to the
brushing of the wind over the trees.
The lighted windows went out one by one, and all the house was in
darkness. Julian then walked off himself, with a vigour that was
spasmodic only, and with much less brightness of mind than he had
experienced on his journey hither. The stranger had gone another
way, and Christopher saw no more of him. When he reached
Sandbourne, Faith was still sitting up.
'But I told you I was going to take a long walk,' he said.
'No, Christopher: really you did not. How tired and sad you do
look--though I always know beforehand when you are in that state:
one of your feet has a drag about it as you pass along the pavement
outside the window.'
'Yes, I forgot that I did not tell you.'
He could not begin to describe his pilgrimage: it was too silly a
thing even for her to hear of.
'It does not matter at all about my staying up,' said Faith
assuringly; 'that is, if exercise benefits you. Walking up and down
the lane, I suppose?'
'No; not walking up and down the lane.'
'The turnpike-road to Rookington is pleasant.'
'Faith, that is really where I have been. How came you to know?'
'I only guessed. Verses and an accidental meeting produce a special
'Ethelberta is a fine woman, physically and mentally, both. I
wonder people do not talk about her twice as much as they do.'
'Then surely you are getting attached to her again. You think you
discover in her more than anybody else does; and love begins with a
sense of superior discernment.'
'No, no. That is only nonsense,' he said hurriedly. 'However, love
her or love her not, I can keep a corner of my heart for you, Faith.
There is another brute after her too, it seems.'
'Of course there is: I expect there are many. Her position in
society is above ours, so that it is an unwise course to go
troubling yourself more about her.'
'No. If a needy man must be so foolish as to fall in love, it is
best to do so where he cannot double his foolishness by marrying the
'I don't like to hear you talk so slightingly of what poor father
Christopher fixed his attention on the supper. That night, late as
it was, when Faith was in bed and sleeping, he sat before a sheet of
music-paper, neatly copying his composition upon it. The manuscript
was intended as an offering to Ethelberta at the first convenient
'Well, after all my trouble to find out about Ethelberta, here comes
the clue unasked for,' said the musician to his sister a few days
She turned and saw that he was reading the Wessex Reflector.
'What is it?' asked Faith.
'The secret of the true authorship of the book is out at last, and
it is Ethelberta of course. I am so glad to have it proved hers.'
'But can we believe--?'
'O yes. Just hear what "Our London Correspondent" says. It is one
of the nicest bits of gossip that he has furnished us with for a
'Yes: now read it, do.'
'"The author of 'Metres by E.'"' Christopher began, '"a book of
which so much has been said and conjectured, and one, in fact, that
has been the chief talk for several weeks past of the literary
circles to which I belong, is a young lady who was a widow before
she reached the age of eighteen, and is now not far beyond her
fourth lustrum. I was additionally informed by a friend whom I met
yesterday on his way to the House of Lords, that her name is Mrs.
Petherwin--Christian name Ethelberta; and that she resides with her
mother-in-law at their house in Exonbury Crescent. She is,
moreover, the daughter of the late Bishop of Silchester (if report
may be believed), whose active benevolence, as your readers know,
left his family in comparatively straitened circumstances at his
death. The marriage was a secret one, and much against the wish of
her husband's friends, who are wealthy people on all sides. The
death of the bridegroom two or three weeks after the wedding led to
a reconciliation; and the young poetess was taken to the home which
she still occupies, devoted to the composition of such brilliant
effusions as those the world has lately been favoured with from her
'If you want to send her your music, you can do so now,' said Faith.
'I might have sent it before, but I wanted to deliver it personally.
However, it is all the same now, I suppose, whether I send it or
not. I always knew that our destinies would lie apart, though she
was once temporarily under a cloud. Her momentary inspiration to
write that "Cancelled Words" was the worst possible omen for me. It
showed that, thinking me no longer useful as a practical chance, she
would make me ornamental as a poetical regret. But I'll send the
manuscript of the song.'
'In the way of business, as a composer only; and you must say to
yourself, "Ethelberta, as thou art but woman, I dare; but as widow I
Notwithstanding Christopher's affected carelessness, that evening
saw a great deal of nicety bestowed upon the operation of wrapping
up and sending off the song. He dropped it into the box and heard
it fall, and with the curious power which he possessed of setting
his wisdom to watch any particular folly in himself that it could
not hinder, speculated as he walked on the result of this first
tangible step of return to his old position as Ethelberta's lover.
9. A LADY'S DRAWING-ROOMS - ETHELBERTA'S DRESSING-ROOM
It was a house on the north side of Hyde Park, between ten and
eleven in the evening, and several intelligent and courteous people
had assembled there to enjoy themselves as far as it was possible to
do so in a neutral way--all carefully keeping every variety of
feeling in a state of solution, in spite of any attempt such
feelings made from time to time to crystallize on interesting
subjects in hand.
'Neigh, who is that charming woman with her head built up in a novel
way even for hair architecture--the one with her back towards us?'
said a man whose coat fitted doubtfully to a friend whose coat
'Just going to ask for the same information,' said Mr. Neigh,
determining the very longest hair in his beard to an infinitesimal
nicety by drawing its lower portion through his fingers. 'I have
quite forgotten--cannot keep people's names in my head at all; nor
could my father either--nor any of my family--a very odd thing. But
my old friend Mrs. Napper knows for certain.' And he turned to one
of a small group of middle-aged persons near, who, instead of
skimming the surface of things in general, like the rest of the
company, were going into the very depths of them.
'O--that is the celebrated Mrs. Petherwin, the woman who makes
rhymes and prints 'em,' said Mrs. Napper, in a detached sentence,
and then continued talking again to those on the other side of her.
The two loungers went on with their observations of Ethelberta's
headdress, which, though not extraordinary or eccentric, did
certainly convey an idea of indefinable novelty. Observers were
sometimes half inclined to think that her cuts and modes were
acquired by some secret communication with the mysterious clique
which orders the livery of the fashionable world, for--and it
affords a parallel to cases in which clever thinkers in other
spheres arrive independently at one and the same conclusion--
Ethelberta's fashion often turned out to be the coming one.
'O, is that the woman at last?' said Neigh, diminishing his broad
general gaze at the room to a close criticism of Ethelberta.
'"The rhymes," as Mrs. Napper calls them, are not to be despised,'
said his companion. 'They are not quite virginibus puerisque, and
the writer's opinions of life and society differ very materially
from mine, but I cannot help admiring her in the more reflective
pieces; the songs I don't care for. The method in which she handles
curious subjects, and at the same time impresses us with a full
conviction of her modesty, is very adroit, and somewhat blinds us to
the fact that no such poems were demanded of her at all.'
'I have not read them,' said Neigh, secretly wrestling with his jaw,
to prevent a yawn; 'but I suppose I must. The truth is, that I
never care much for reading what one ought to read; I wish I did,
but I cannot help it. And, no doubt, you admire the lady immensely
for writing them: I don't. Everybody is so talented now-a-days
that the only people I care to honour as deserving real distinction
are those who remain in obscurity. I am myself hoping for a corner
in some biographical dictionary when the time comes for those works
only to contain lists of the exceptional individuals of whom nothing
is known but that they lived and died.'
'Ah--listen. They are going to sing one of her songs,' said his
friend, looking towards a bustling movement in the neighbourhood of
the piano. 'I believe that song, "When tapers tall," has been set
to music by three or four composers already.'
'Men of any note?' said Neigh, at last beaten by his yawn, which
courtesy nevertheless confined within his person to such an extent
that only a few unimportant symptoms, such as reduced eyes and a
certain rectangular manner of mouth in speaking, were visible.
'Scarcely,' replied the other man. 'Established writers of music do
not expend their energies upon new verse until they find that such
verse is likely to endure; for should the poet be soon forgotten,
their labour is in some degree lost.'
'Artful dogs--who would have thought it?' said Neigh, just as an
exercise in words; and they drew nearer to the piano, less to become
listeners to the singing than to be spectators of the scene in that
quarter. But among some others the interest in the songs seemed to
be very great; and it was unanimously wished that the young lady who
had practised the different pieces of music privately would sing
some of them now in the order of their composers' reputations. The
musical persons in the room unconsciously resolved themselves into a
committee of taste.
One and another had been tried, when, at the end of the third, a
lady spoke to Ethelberta.
'Now, Mrs. Petherwin,' she said, gracefully throwing back her face,
'your opinion is by far the most valuable. In which of the cases do
you consider the marriage of verse and tune to have been most
Ethelberta, finding these and other unexpected calls made upon
herself, came to the front without flinching.
'The sweetest and the best that I like by far,' she said, 'is none
of these. It is one which reached me by post only this morning from
a place in Wessex, and is written by an unheard-of man who lives
somewhere down there--a man who will be, nevertheless, heard a great
deal of some day, I hope--think. I have only practised it this
afternoon; but, if one's own judgment is worth anything, it is the
'Let us have your favourite, by all means,' said another friend of
Ethelberta's who was present--Mrs. Doncastle.
'I am so sorry that I cannot oblige you, since you wish to hear it,'
replied the poetess regretfully; 'but the music is at home. I had
not received it when I lent the others to Miss Belmaine, and it is
only in manuscript like the rest.'
'Could it not be sent for?' suggested an enthusiast who knew that
Ethelberta lived only in the next street, appealing by a look to
her, and then to the mistress of the house.
'Certainly, let us send for it,' said that lady. A footman was at
once quietly despatched with precise directions as to where
Christopher's sweet production might be found.
'What--is there going to be something interesting?' asked a young
married friend of Mrs. Napper, who had returned to her original
'Yes--the best song she has written is to be sung in the best manner
to the best air that has been composed for it. I should not wonder
if she were going to sing it herself.'
'Did you know anything of Mrs. Petherwin until her name leaked out
in connection with these ballads?'
'No; but I think I recollect seeing her once before. She is one of
those people who are known, as one may say, by subscription:
everybody knows a little, till she is astonishingly well known
altogether; but nobody knows her entirely. She was the orphan child
of some clergyman, I believe. Lady Petherwin, her mother-in-law,
has been taking her about a great deal latterly.'
'She has apparently a very good prospect.'
'Yes; and it is through her being of that curious undefined
character which interprets itself to each admirer as whatever he
would like to have it. Old men like her because she is so girlish;
youths because she is womanly; wicked men because she is good in
their eyes; good men because she is wicked in theirs.'
'She must be a very anomalous sort of woman, at that rate.'
'Yes. Like the British Constitution, she owes her success in
practice to her inconsistencies in principle.'
'These poems must have set her up. She appears to be quite the
correct spectacle. Happy Mrs. Petherwin!'
The subject of their dialogue was engaged in a conversation with
Mrs. Belmaine upon the management of households--a theme provoked by
a discussion that was in progress in the pages of some periodical of
the time. Mrs. Belmaine was very full of the argument, and went on
from point to point till she came to servants.
The face of Ethelberta showed caution at once.
'I consider that Lady Plamby pets her servants by far too much,'
said Mrs. Belmaine. 'O, you do not know her? Well, she is a woman
with theories; and she lends her maids and men books of the wrong
kind for their station, and sends them to picture exhibitions which
they don't in the least understand--all for the improvement of their
taste, and morals, and nobody knows what besides. It only makes
The face of Ethelberta showed venturesomeness. 'Yes, and dreadfully
ambitious!' she said.
'Yes, indeed. What a turn the times have taken! People of that
sort push on, and get into business, and get great warehouses, until
at last, without ancestors, or family, or name, or estate--'
'Or the merest scrap of heirloom or family jewel.'
'Or heirlooms, or family jewels, they are thought as much of as if
their forefathers had glided unobtrusively through the peerage--'
'Ever since the first edition.'
'Yes.' Mrs. Belmaine, who really sprang from a good old family, had
been going to say, 'for the last seven hundred years,' but fancying
from Ethelberta's addendum that she might not date back more than a
trifling century or so, adopted the suggestion with her usual well-
known courtesy, and blushed down to her locket at the thought of the
mistake that she might have made. This sensitiveness was a trait in
her character which gave great gratification to her husband, and,
indeed, to all who knew her.
'And have you any theory on the vexed question of servant-
government?' continued Mrs. Belmaine, smiling. 'But no--the subject
is of far too practical a nature for one of your bent, of course.'
'O no--it is not at all too practical. I have thought of the matter
often,' said Ethelberta. 'I think the best plan would be for
somebody to write a pamphlet, "The Shortest Way with the Servants,"
just as there was once written a terribly stinging one, "The
Shortest Way with the Dissenters," which had a great effect.'
'I have always understood that that was written by a dissenter as a
satire upon the Church?'
'Ah--so it was: but the example will do to illustrate my meaning.'
'Quite so--I understand--so it will,' said Mrs. Belmaine, with
Meanwhile Christopher's music had arrived. An accomplished
gentleman who had every musical talent except that of creation,
scanned the notes carefully from top to bottom, and sat down to
accompany the singer. There was no lady present of sufficient
confidence or skill to venture into a song she had never seen
before, and the only one who had seen it was Ethelberta herself; she
did not deny having practised it the greater part of the afternoon,
and was very willing to sing it now if anybody would derive pleasure
from the performance. Then she began, and the sweetness of her
singing was such that even the most unsympathetic honoured her by
looking as if they would be willing to listen to every note the song
contained if it were not quite so much trouble to do so. Some were
so interested that, instead of continuing their conversation, they
remained in silent consideration of how they would continue it when
she had finished; while the particularly civil people arranged their
countenances into every attentive form that the mind could devise.
One emotional gentleman looked at the corner of a chair as if, till
that moment, such an object had never crossed his vision before; the
movement of his finger to the imagined tune was, for a deaf old
clergyman, a perfect mine of interest; whilst a young man from the
country was powerless to put an end to an enchanted gaze at nothing
at all in the exact middle of the room before him. Neigh, and the
general phalanx of cool men and celebrated club yawners, were so
much affected that they raised their chronic look of great objection
to things, to an expression of scarcely any objection at all.
'What makes it so interesting,' said Mrs. Doncastle to Ethelberta,
when the song was over and she had retired from the focus of the
company, 'is, that it is played from the composer's own copy, which
has never met the public eye, or any other than his own before to-
day. And I see that he has actually sketched in the lines by hand,
instead of having ruled paper--just as the great old composers used
to do. You must have been as pleased to get it fresh from the
stocks like that as he probably was pleased to get your thanks.'
Ethelberta became reflective. She had not thanked Christopher;
moreover, she had decided, after some consideration, that she ought
not to thank him. What new thoughts were suggested by that remark
of Mrs. Doncastle's, and what new inclination resulted from the
public presentation of his tune and her words as parts of one
organic whole, are best explained by describing her doings at a
later hour, when, having left her friends somewhat early, she had
reached home and retired from public view for that evening.
Ethelberta went to her room, sent away the maid who did double duty
for herself and Lady Petherwin, walked in circles about the carpet
till the fire had grown haggard and cavernous, sighed, took a sheet
of paper and wrote:--
'DEAR MR. JULIAN,--I have said I would not write: I have said it
twice; but discretion, under some circumstances, is only another
name for unkindness. Before thanking you for your sweet gift, let
me tell you in a few words of something which may materially change
an aspect of affairs under which I appear to you to deserve it.
'With regard to my history and origin you are altogether mistaken;
and how can I tell whether your bitterness at my previous silence on
those points may not cause you to withdraw your act of courtesy now?
But the gratification of having at last been honest with you may
compensate even for the loss of your respect.
'The matter is a small one to tell, after all. What will you say on
learning that I am not the trodden-down "lady by birth" that you
have supposed me? That my father is not dead, as you probably
imagine; that he is working for his living as one among a peculiarly
stigmatized and ridiculed multitude?
'Had he been a brawny cottager, carpenter, mason, blacksmith, well-
digger, navvy, tree-feller--any effective and manly trade, in short,
a worker in which can stand up in the face of the noblest and
daintiest, and bare his gnarled arms and say, with a consciousness
of superior power, "Look at a real man!" I should have been able to
show you antecedents which, if not intensely romantic, are not
altogether antagonistic to romance. But the present fashion of
associating with one particular class everything that is ludicrous
and bombastic overpowers me when I think of it in relation to myself
and your known sensitiveness. When the well-born poetess of good
report melts into. . .'
Having got thus far, a faint-hearted look, which had begun to show
itself several sentences earlier, became pronounced. She threw the
writing into the dull fire, poked and stirred it till a red
inflammation crept over the sheet, and then started anew:--
'DEAR MR. JULIAN,--Not knowing your present rank as composer--
whether on the very brink of fame, or as yet a long way off--I
cannot decide what form of expression my earnest acknowledgments
should take. Let me simply say in one short phrase, I thank you
'I am no musician, and my opinion on music may not be worth much:
yet I know what I like (as everybody says, but I do not use the
words as a form to cover a hopeless blank on all connected with the
subject), and this sweet air I love. You must have glided like a
breeze about me--seen into a heart not worthy of scrutiny, jotted
down words that cannot justify attention--before you could have
apotheosized the song in so exquisite a manner. My gratitude took
the form of wretchedness when, on hearing the effect of the ballad
in public this evening, I thought that I had not power to withhold a
reply which might do us both more harm than good. Then I said,
"Away with all emotion--I wish the world was drained dry of it--I
will take no notice," when a lady whispered at my elbow to the
effect that of course I had expressed my gratification to you. I
ought first to have mentioned that your creation has been played to-
night to full drawing-rooms, and the original tones cooled the
artificial air like a fountain almost.
'I prophesy great things of you. Perhaps, at the time when we are
each but a row of bones in our individual graves, your genius will
be remembered, while my mere cleverness will have been long
'But--you must allow a woman of experience to say this--the
undoubted power that you possess will do you socially no good unless
you mix with it the ingredient of ambition--a quality in which I
fear you are very deficient. It is in the hope of stimulating you
to a better opinion of yourself that I write this letter.
'Probably I shall never meet you again. Not that I think
circumstances to be particularly powerful to prevent such a meeting,
rather it is that I shall energetically avoid it. There can be no
such thing as strong friendship between a man and a woman not of one
'More than that there must not be, and this is why we will not meet.
You see that I do not mince matters at all; but it is hypocrisy to
avoid touching upon a subject which all men and women in our
position inevitably think of, no matter what they say. Some women
might have written distantly, and wept at the repression of their
real feeling; but it is better to be more frank, and keep a dry
Her feet felt cold and her heart weak as she directed the letter,
and she was overpowered with weariness. But murmuring, 'If I let it
stay till the morning I shall not send it, and a man may be lost to
fame because of a woman's squeamishness--it shall go,' she partially
dressed herself, wrapped a large cloak around her, descended the
stairs, and went out to the pillar-box at the corner, leaving the
door not quite close. No gust of wind had realized her misgivings
that it might be blown shut on her return, and she re-entered as
softly as she had emerged.
It will be seen that Ethelberta had said nothing about her family
10. LADY PETHERWIN'S HOUSE
The next day old Lady Petherwin, who had not accompanied Ethelberta
the night before, came into the morning-room, with a newspaper in
'What does this mean, Ethelberta?' she inquired in tones from which
every shade of human expressiveness was extracted by some awful and
imminent mood that lay behind. She was pointing to a paragraph
under the heading of 'Literary Notes,' which contained in a few
words the announcement of Ethelberta's authorship that had more
circumstantially appeared in the Wessex Reflector.
'It means what it says,' said Ethelberta quietly.
'Then it is true?'
'Yes. I must apologize for having kept it such a secret from you.
It was not done in the spirit that you may imagine: it was merely
to avoid disturbing your mind that I did it so privately.'
'But surely you have not written every one of those ribald verses?'
Ethelberta looked inclined to exclaim most vehemently against this;
but what she actually did say was, '"Ribald"--what do you mean by
that? I don't think that you are aware what "ribald" means.'
'I am not sure that I am. As regards some words as well as some
persons, the less you are acquainted with them the more it is to
'I don't quite deserve this, Lady Petherwin.'
'Really, one would imagine that women wrote their books during those
dreams in which people have no moral sense, to see how improper
some, even virtuous, ladies become when they get into print.'
'I might have done a much more unnatural thing than write those
poems. And perhaps I might have done a much better thing, and got
less praise. But that's the world's fault, not mine.'
'You might have left them unwritten, and shown more fidelity.'
'Fidelity! it is more a matter of humour than principle. What has
fidelity to do with it?'
'Fidelity to my dear boy's memory.'
'It would be difficult to show that because I have written so-called
tender and gay verse, I feel tender and gay. It is too often
assumed that a person's fancy is a person's real mind. I believe
that in the majority of cases one is fond of imagining the direct
opposite of one's principles in sheer effort after something fresh
and free; at any rate, some of the lightest of those rhymes were
composed between the deepest fits of dismals I have ever known.
However, I did expect that you might judge in the way you have
judged, and that was my chief reason for not telling you what I had
'You don't deny that you tried to escape from recollections you
ought to have cherished? There is only one thing that women of your
sort are as ready to do as to take a man's name, and that is, drop
'Dear Lady Petherwin--don't be so unreasonable as to blame a live
person for living! No woman's head is so small as to be filled for
life by a memory of a few months. Four years have passed since I
last saw my boy-husband. We were mere children; see how I have
altered since in mind, substance, and outline--I have even grown
half an inch taller since his death. Two years will exhaust the
regrets of widows who have long been faithful wives; and ought I not
to show a little new life when my husband died in the honeymoon?'
'No. Accepting the protection of your husband's mother was, in
effect, an avowal that you rejected the idea of being a widow to
prolong the idea of being a wife; and the sin against your
conventional state thus assumed is almost as bad as would have been
a sin against the married state itself. If you had gone off when he
died, saying, "Thank heaven, I am free!" you would, at any rate,
have shown some real honesty.'
'I should have been more virtuous by being more unfeeling. That
'I have taken to you, and made a great deal of you--given you the
inestimable advantages of foreign travel and good society to enlarge
your mind. In short, I have been like a Naomi to you in everything,
and I maintain that writing these poems saps the foundation of it
'I do own that you have been a very good Naomi to me thus far; but
Ruth was quite a fast widow in comparison with me, and yet Naomi
never blamed her. You are unfortunate in your illustration. But it
is dreadfully flippant of me to answer you like this, for you have
been kind. But why will you provoke me!'
'Yes, you are flippant, Ethelberta. You are too much given to that
sort of thing.'
'Well, I don't know how the secret of my name has leaked out; and I
am not ribald, or anything you say,' said Ethelberta, with a sigh.
'Then you own you do not feel so ardent as you seem in your book?'
'I do own it.'
'And that you are sorry your name has been published in connection
'And you think the verses may tend to misrepresent your character as
a gay and rapturous one, when it is not?'
'I do fear it.'
'Then, of course, you will suppress the poems instantly. That is
the only way in which you can regain the position you have hitherto
held with me.'
Ethelberta said nothing; and the dull winter atmosphere had far from
light enough in it to show by her face what she might be thinking.
'Well?' said Lady Petherwin.
'I did not expect such a command as that,' said Ethelberta. 'I have
been obedient for four years, and would continue so--but I cannot
suppress the poems. They are not mine now to suppress.'
'You must get them into your hands. Money will do it, I suppose?'
'Yes, I suppose it would--a thousand pounds.'
'Very well; the money shall be forthcoming,' said Lady Petherwin,
after a pause. 'You had better sit down and write about it at
'I cannot do it,' said Ethelberta; 'and I will not. I don't wish
them to be suppressed. I am not ashamed of them; there is nothing
to be ashamed of in them; and I shall not take any steps in the
'Then you are an ungrateful woman, and wanting in natural affection
for the dead! Considering your birth--'
'That's an intolerable--'
Lady Petherwin crashed out of the room in a wind of indignation, and
went upstairs and heard no more. Adjoining her chamber was a
smaller one called her study, and, on reaching this, she unlocked a
cabinet, took out a small deed-box, removed from it a folded packet,
unfolded it, crumpled it up, and turning round suddenly flung it
into the fire. Then she stood and beheld it eaten away word after
word by the flames, 'Testament '--'all that freehold'--'heirs and
assigns' appearing occasionally for a moment only to disappear for
ever. Nearly half the document had turned into a glossy black when
the lady clasped her hands.
'What have I done!' she exclaimed. Springing to the tongs she
seized with them the portion of the writing yet unconsumed, and
dragged it out of the fire. Ethelberta appeared at the door.
'Quick, Ethelberta!' said Lady Petherwin. 'Help me to put this
out!' And the two women went trampling wildly upon the document and
smothering it with a corner of the hearth-rug.
'What is it?' said Ethelberta.
'My will!' said Lady Petherwin. 'I have kept it by me lately, for I
have wished to look over it at leisure--'
'Good heavens!' said Ethelberta. 'And I was just coming in to tell
you that I would always cling to you, and never desert you, ill-use
me how you might!'
'Such an affectionate remark sounds curious at such a time,' said
Lady Petherwin, sinking down in a chair at the end of the struggle.
'But,' cried Ethelberta, 'you don't suppose--'
'Selfishness, my dear, has given me such crooked looks that I can
see it round a corner.'
'If you mean that what is yours to give may not be mine to take, it
would be as well to name it in an impersonal way, if you must name
it at all," said the daughter-in-law, with wet eyelids. 'God knows
I had no selfish thought in saying that. I came upstairs to ask you
to forgive me, and knew nothing about the will. But every
explanation distorts it all the more!'
'We two have got all awry, dear--it cannot be concealed--awry--awry.
Ah, who shall set us right again? However, now I must send for Mr.
Chancerly--no, I am going out on other business, and I will call
upon him. There, don't spoil your eyes: you may have to sell
She rang the bell and ordered the carriage; and half-an-hour later
Lady Petherwin's coachman drove his mistress up to the door of her
lawyer's office in Lincoln's Inn Fields.
11. SANDBOURNE AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD - SOME LONDON STREETS
While this was going on in town, Christopher, at his lodgings in
Sandbourne, had been thrown into rare old visions and dreams by the
appearance of Ethelberta's letter. Flattered and encouraged to
ambition as well as to love by her inspiriting sermon, he put off
now the last remnant of cynical doubt upon the genuineness of his
old mistress, and once and for all set down as disloyal a belief he
had latterly acquired that 'Come, woo me, woo me; for I am like
enough to consent,' was all a young woman had to tell.
All the reasoning of political and social economists would not have
convinced Christopher that he had a better chance in London than in
Sandbourne of making a decent income by reasonable and likely
labour; but a belief in a far more improbable proposition,
impetuously expressed, warmed him with the idea that he might become
famous there. The greater is frequently more readily credited than
the less, and an argument which will not convince on a matter of
halfpence appears unanswerable when applied to questions of glory
The regulation wet towel and strong coffee of the ambitious and
intellectual student floated before him in visions; but it was with
a sense of relief that he remembered that music, in spite of its
drawbacks as a means of sustenance, was a profession happily
unencumbered with those excruciating preliminaries to greatness.
Christopher talked about the new move to his sister, and he was
vexed that her hopefulness was not roused to quite the pitch of his
own. As with others of his sort, his too general habit of accepting
the most clouded possibility that chances offered was only
transcended by his readiness to kindle with a fitful excitement now
and then. Faith was much more equable. 'If you were not the most
melancholy man God ever created,' she said, kindly looking at his
vague deep eyes and thin face, which was but a few degrees too
refined and poetical to escape the epithet of lantern-jawed from any
one who had quarrelled with him, 'you would not mind my coolness
about this. It is a good thing of course to go; I have always
fancied that we were mistaken in coming here. Mediocrity stamped
"London" fetches more than talent marked "provincial." But I cannot
feel so enthusiastic.'
'Still, if we are to go, we may as well go by enthusiasm as by
calculation; it is a sensation pleasanter to the nerves, and leads
to just as good a result when there is only one result possible.'
'Very well,' said Faith. 'I will not depress you. If I had to
describe you I should say you were a child in your impulses, and an
old man in your reflections. Have you considered when we shall
'What have you thought?'
'That we may very well leave the place in six weeks if we wish.'
'We really may?'
'Yes. And what is more, we will.'
Christopher and Faith arrived in London on an afternoon at the end
of winter, and beheld from one of the river bridges snow-white
scrolls of steam from the tall chimneys of Lambeth, rising against
the livid sky behind, as if drawn in chalk on toned cardboard.
The first thing he did that evening, when settled in their
apartments near the British Museum, before applying himself to the
beginning of the means by which success in life might be attained,
was to go out in the direction of Ethelberta's door, leaving Faith
unpacking the things, and sniffing extraordinary smoke-smells which
she discovered in all nooks and crannies of the rooms. It was some
satisfaction to see Ethelberta's house, although the single feature
in which it differed from the other houses in the Crescent was that
no lamp shone from the fanlight over the entrance--a speciality
which, if he cared for omens, was hardly encouraging. Fearing to
linger near lest he might be detected, Christopher stole a glimpse
at the door and at the steps, imagined what a trifle of the
depression worn in each step her feet had tended to produce, and
strolled home again.
Feeling that his reasons for calling just now were scarcely
sufficient, he went next day about the business that had brought him
to town, which referred to a situation as organist in a large church
in the north-west district. The post was half ensured already, and
he intended to make of it the nucleus of a professional occupation
and income. Then he sat down to think of the preliminary steps
towards publishing the song that had so pleased her, and had also,
as far as he could understand from her letter, hit the popular taste
very successfully; a fact which, however little it may say for the
virtues of the song as a composition, was a great recommendation to
it as a property. Christopher was delighted to perceive that out of
this position he could frame an admissible, if not an unimpeachable,
reason for calling upon Ethelberta. He determined to do so at once,
and obtain the required permission by word of mouth.
He was greatly surprised, when the front of the house appeared in
view on this spring afternoon, to see what a white and sightless
aspect pervaded all the windows. He came close: the eyeball
blankness was caused by all the shutters and blinds being shut tight
from top to bottom. Possibly this had been the case for some time--
he could not tell. In one of the windows was a card bearing the
announcement, 'This House to be let Furnished.' Here was a
merciless clash between fancy and fact. Regretting now his faint-
heartedness in not letting her know beforehand by some means that he
was about to make a new start in the world, and coming to dwell near
her, Christopher rang the bell to make inquiries. A gloomy
caretaker appeared after a while, and the young man asked whither
the ladies had gone to live. He was beyond measure depressed to
learn that they were in the South of France--Arles, the man thought
the place was called--the time of their return to town being very
uncertain; though one thing was clear, they meant to miss the
forthcoming London season altogether.
As Christopher's hope to see her again had brought a resolve to do
so, so now resolve led to dogged patience. Instead of attempting
anything by letter, he decided to wait; and he waited well,
occupying himself in publishing a 'March' and a 'Morning and Evening
Service in E flat.' Some four-part songs, too, engaged his
attention when the heavier duties of the day were over--these duties
being the giving of lessons in harmony and counterpoint, in which he
was aided by the introductions of a man well known in the musical
world, who had been acquainted with young Julian as a promising
amateur long before he adopted music as the staff of his pilgrimage.
It was the end of summer when he again tried his fortune at the
house in Exonbury Crescent. Scarcely calculating upon finding her
at this stagnant time of the town year, and only hoping for
information, Julian was surprised and excited to see the shutters
open, and the house wearing altogether a living look, its neighbours
having decidedly died off meanwhile.
'The family here,' said a footman in answer to his inquiry, 'are
only temporary tenants of the house. It is not Lady Petherwin's
'Do you know the Petherwins' present address?'
'Underground, sir, for the old lady. She died some time ago in
Switzerland, and was buried there, I believe.'
'And Mrs. Petherwin--the young lady,' said Christopher, starting.
'We are not acquainted personally with the family,' the man replied.
'My master has only taken the house for a few months, whilst
extensive alterations are being made in his own on the other side of
the park, which he goes to look after every day. If you want any
further information about Lady Petherwin, Mrs. Petherwin will
probably give it. I can let you have her address.'
'Ah, yes; thank you,' said Christopher.
The footman handed him one of some cards which appeared to have been
left for the purpose. Julian, though tremblingly anxious to know
where Ethelberta was, did not look at it till he could take a cool
survey in private. The address was 'Arrowthorne Lodge, Upper
'Dear me!' said Christopher to himself, 'not far from Melchester;
and not dreadfully far from Sandbourne.'
12. ARROWTHORNE PARK AND LODGE
Summer was just over when Christopher Julian found himself rattling
along in the train to Sandbourne on some trifling business
appertaining to his late father's affairs, which would afford him an
excuse for calling at Arrowthorne about the song of hers that he
wished to produce. He alighted in the afternoon at a little station
some twenty miles short of Sandbourne, and leaving his portmanteau
behind him there, decided to walk across the fields, obtain if
possible the interview with the lady, and return then to the station
to finish the journey to Sandbourne, which he could thus reach at a
convenient hour in the evening, and, if he chose, take leave of
again the next day.
It was an afternoon which had a fungous smell out of doors, all
being sunless and stagnant overhead and around. The various species
of trees had begun to assume the more distinctive colours of their
decline, and where there had been one pervasive green were now
twenty greenish yellows, the air in the vistas between them being
half opaque with blue exhalation. Christopher in his walk overtook
a countryman, and inquired if the path they were following would
lead him to Arrowthorne Lodge.
''Twill take 'ee into Arr'thorne Park,' the man replied. 'But you
won't come anigh the Lodge, unless you bear round to the left as
'Mrs. Petherwin lives there, I believe?'
'No, sir. Leastwise unless she's but lately come. I have never
heard of such a woman.'
'She may possibly be only visiting there.'
'Ah, perhaps that's the shape o't. Well, now you tell o't, I have
seen a strange face thereabouts once or twice lately. A young good-
looking maid enough, seemingly.'
'Yes, she's considered a very handsome lady.'
'I've heard the woodmen say, now that you tell o't, that they meet
her every now and then, just at the closing in of the day, as they
come home along with their nitches of sticks; ay, stalking about
under the trees by herself--a tall black martel, so long-legged and
awful-like that you'd think 'twas the old feller himself a-coming,
they say. Now a woman must be a queer body to my thinking, to roam
about by night so lonesome and that? Ay, now that you tell o't,
there is such a woman, but 'a never have showed in the parish; sure
I never thought who the body was--no, not once about her, nor where
'a was living and that--not I, till you spoke. Well, there, sir,
that's Arr'thorne Lodge; do you see they three elms?' He pointed
across the glade towards some confused foliage a long way off.
'I am not sure about the sort of tree you mean,' said Christopher,
'I see a number of trees with edges shaped like edges of clouds.'
'Ay, ay, they be oaks; I mean the elms to the left hand.'
'But a man can hardly tell oaks from elms at that distance, my good
'That 'a can very well--leastwise, if he's got the sense.'
'Well, I think I see what you mean,' said Christopher 'What next?'
'When you get there, you bear away smart to nor'-west, and you'll
come straight as a line to the Lodge.'
'How the deuce am I to know which is north-west in a strange place,
with no sun to tell me?'
'What, not know nor-west? Well, I should think a boy could never
live and grow up to be a man without knowing the four quarters. I
knowed 'em when I was a mossel of a chiel. We be no great scholars
here, that's true, but there isn't a Tom-rig or Jack-straw in these
parts that don't know where they lie as well as I. Now I've lived,
man and boy, these eight-and-sixty years, and never met a man in my
life afore who hadn't learnt such a common thing as the four
Christopher parted from his companion and soon reached a stile,
clambering over which he entered a park. Here he threaded his way,
and rounding a clump of aged trees the young man came in view of a
light and elegant country-house in the half-timbered Gothic style of
the late revival, apparently only a few years old. Surprised at
finding himself so near, Christopher's heart fluttered unmanageably
till he had taken an abstract view of his position, and, in
impatience at his want of nerve, adopted a sombre train of reasoning
to convince himself that, far from indulgence in the passion of love
bringing bliss, it was a folly, leading to grief and disquiet--
certainly one which would do him no good. Cooled down by this, he
stepped into the drive and went up to the house.
'Is Mrs. Petherwin at home?' he said modestly.
'Who did you say, sir?'
He repeated the name.
'Don't know the person.'
'The lady may be a visitor--I call on business.'
'She is not visiting in this house, sir.'
'Is not this Arrowthorne Lodge?'
'Then where is Arrowthorne Lodge, please?'
'Well, it is nearly a mile from here. Under the trees by the high-
road. If you go across by that footpath it will bring you out
quicker than by following the bend of the drive.'
Christopher wondered how he could have managed to get into the wrong
park; but, setting it down to his ignorance of the difference
between oak and elm, he immediately retraced his steps, passing
across the park again, through the gate at the end of the drive, and
into the turnpike road. No other gate, park, or country seat of any
description was within view.
'Can you tell me the way to Arrowthorne Lodge?' he inquired of the
first person he met, who was a little girl.
'You are just coming away from it, sir,' said she. 'I'll show you;
I am going that way.'
They walked along together. Getting abreast the entrance of the
park he had just emerged from, the child said, 'There it is, sir; I
live there too.'
Christopher, with a dazed countenance, looked towards a cottage
which stood nestling in the shrubbery and ivy like a mushroom among
grass. 'Is that Arrowthorne Lodge?' he repeated.
'Yes, and if you go up the drive, you come to Arrowthorne House.'
'Arrowthorne Lodge--where Mrs. Petherwin lives, I mean.'
'Yes. She lives there along wi' mother and we. But she don't want
anybody to know it, sir, cause she's celebrate, and 'twouldn't do at
Christopher said no more, and the little girl became interested in
the products of the bank and ditch by the wayside. He left her,
pushed open the heavy gate, and tapped at the Lodge door.
The latch was lifted. 'Does Mrs. Petherwin,' he began, and,
determined that there should be no mistake, repeated, 'Does Mrs.
Ethelberta Petherwin, the poetess, live here?' turning full upon the
person who opened the door.
'She does, sir,' said a faltering voice; and he found himself face
to face with the pupil-teacher of Sandbourne.
13. THE LODGE (continued) - THE COPSE BEHIND
'This is indeed a surprise; I--am glad to see you!' Christopher
stammered, with a wire-drawn, radically different smile from the one
he had intended--a smile not without a tinge of ghastliness.
'Yes--I am home for the holidays,' said the blushing maiden; and,
after a critical pause, she added, 'If you wish to speak to my
sister, she is in the plantation with the children.'
'O no--no, thank you--not necessary at all,' said Christopher, in
haste. 'I only wish for an interview with a lady called Mrs.
'Yes; Mrs Petherwin--my sister,' said Picotee. 'She is in the
plantation. That little path will take you to her in five minutes.'
The amazed Christopher persuaded himself that this discovery was
very delightful, and went on persuading so long that at last he felt
it to be so. Unable, like many other people, to enjoy being
satirized in words because of the irritation it caused him as aimed-
at victim, he sometimes had philosophy enough to appreciate a satire
of circumstance, because nobody intended it. Pursuing the path
indicated, he found himself in a thicket of scrubby undergrowth,
which covered an area enclosed from the park proper by a decaying
fence. The boughs were so tangled that he was obliged to screen his
face with his hands, to escape the risk of having his eyes filliped
out by the twigs that impeded his progress. Thus slowly advancing,
his ear caught, between the rustles, the tones of a voice in earnest
declamation; and, pushing round in that direction, he beheld through
some beech boughs an open space about ten yards in diameter, floored
at the bottom with deep beds of curled old leaves, and cushions of
furry moss. In the middle of this natural theatre was the stump of
a tree that had been felled by a saw, and upon the flat stool thus
formed stood Ethelberta, whom Christopher had not beheld since the
ball at Wyndway House.
Round her, leaning against branches or prostrate on the ground, were
five or six individuals. Two were young mechanics--one of them
evidently a carpenter. Then there was a boy about thirteen, and two
or three younger children. Ethelberta's appearance answered as
fully as ever to that of an English lady skilfully perfected in
manner, carriage, look, and accent; and the incongruity of her
present position among lives which had had many of Nature's beauties
stamped out of them, and few of the beauties of Art stamped in,
brought him, as a second feeling, a pride in her that almost
equalled his first sentiment of surprise. Christopher's attention
was meanwhile attracted from the constitution of the group to the
words of the speaker in the centre of it--words to which her
auditors were listening with still attention.
It appeared to Christopher that Ethelberta had lately been
undergoing some very extraordinary experiences. What the beginning
of them had been he could not in the least understand, but the
portion she was describing came distinctly to his ears, and he
wondered more and more.
'He came forward till he, like myself, was about twenty yards from
the edge. I instinctively grasped my useless stiletto. How I
longed for the assistance which a little earlier I had so much
despised! Reaching the block or boulder upon which I had been
sitting, he clasped his arms around from behind; his hands closed
upon the empty seat, and he jumped up with an oath. This method of
attack told me a new thing with wretched distinctness; he had, as I
suppose, discovered my sex, male attire was to serve my turn no
longer. The next instant, indeed, made it clear, for he exclaimed,
"You don't escape me, masquerading madam," or some such words, and
came on. My only hope was that in his excitement he might forget to
notice where the grass terminated near the edge of the cliff, though
this could be easily felt by a careful walker: to make my own
feeling more distinct on this point I hastily bared my feet.'
The listeners moistened their lips, Ethelberta took breath, and then
went on to describe the scene that ensued, 'A dreadful variation on
the game of Blindman's buff,' being the words by which she
Ethelberta's manner had become so impassioned at this point that the
lips of her audience parted, the children clung to their elders, and
Christopher could control himself no longer. He thrust aside the
boughs, and broke in upon the group.
'For Heaven's sake, Ethelberta,' he exclaimed with great excitement,
'where did you meet with such a terrible experience as that?'
The children shrieked, as if they thought that the interruption was
in some way the catastrophe of the events in course of narration.
Every one started up; the two young mechanics stared, and one of
them inquired, in return, 'What's the matter, friend?'
Christopher had not yet made reply when Ethelberta stepped from her
pedestal down upon the crackling carpet of deep leaves.
'Mr. Julian!' said she, in a serene voice, turning upon him eyes of
such a disputable stage of colour, between brown and grey, as would
have commended itself to a gallant duellist of the last century as a
point on which it was absolutely necessary to take some friend's
life or other. But the calmness was artificially done, and the
astonishment that did not appear in Ethelberta's tones was expressed
by her gaze. Christopher was not in a mood to draw fine
distinctions between recognized and unrecognized organs of speech.
He replied to the eyes.
'I own that your surprise is natural,' he said, with an anxious look
into her face, as if he wished to get beyond this interpolated scene
to something more congenial and understood. 'But my concern at such
a history of yourself since I last saw you is even more natural than
your surprise at my manner of breaking in.'
'That history would justify any conduct in one who hears it--'
'If it were true,' added Ethelberta, smiling. 'But it is as false
as--' She could name nothing notoriously false without raising an
image of what was disagreeable, and she continued in a better
manner: 'The story I was telling is entirely a fiction, which I am
getting up for a particular purpose--very different from what
appears at present.'
'I am sorry there was such a misunderstanding,' Christopher
stammered, looking upon the ground uncertain and ashamed. 'Yet I am
not, either, for I am very glad you have not undergone such trials,
of course. But the fact is, I--being in the neighbourhood--I
ventured to call on a matter of business, relating to a poem which I
had the pleasure of setting to music at the beginning of the year.'
Ethelberta was only a little less ill at ease than Christopher
showed himself to be by this way of talking.
'Will you walk slowly on?' she said gently to the two young men,
'and take the children with you; this gentleman wishes to speak to
me on business.'
The biggest young man caught up a little one under his arm, and
plunged amid the boughs; another little one lingered behind for a
few moments to look shyly at Christopher, with an oblique manner of
hiding her mouth against her shoulder and her eyes behind her
pinafore. Then she vanished, the boy and the second young man
followed, and Ethelberta and Christopher stood within the wood-bound
'I hope I have caused no inconvenience by interrupting the
proceedings,' said Christopher softly; 'but I so very much wished to
'Did you, indeed--really wish to see me?' she said gladly. 'Never
mind inconvenience then; it is a word which seems shallow in meaning
under the circumstances. I surely must say that a visit is to my
advantage, must I not? I am not as I was, you see, and may receive
as advantages what I used to consider as troubles.'
'Has your life really changed so much?'
'It has changed. But what I first meant was that an interesting
visitor at a wrong time is better than a stupid one at a right
'I had been behind the trees for some minutes, looking at you, and
thinking of you; but what you were doing rather interrupted my first
meditation. I had thought of a meeting in which we should continue
our intercourse at the point at which it was broken off years ago,
as if the omitted part had not existed at all; but something, I
cannot tell what, has upset all that feeling, and--'
'I can soon tell you the meaning of my extraordinary performance,'
Ethelberta broke in quickly, and with a little trepidation. 'My
mother-in-law, Lady Petherwin, is dead; and she has left me nothing
but her house and furniture in London--more than I deserve, but less
than she had distinctly led me to expect; and so I am somewhat in a
'It is always so.'
'Not always, I think. But this is how it happened. Lady Petherwin
was very capricious; when she was not foolishly kind she was
unjustly harsh. A great many are like it, never thinking what a
good thing it would be, instead of going on tacking from side to
side between favour and cruelty, to keep to a mean line of common
justice. And so we quarrelled, and she, being absolute mistress of
all her wealth, destroyed her will that was in my favour, and made
another, leaving me nothing but the fag-end of the lease of the
town-house and the furniture in it. Then, when we were abroad, she
turned to me again, forgave everything, and, becoming ill
afterwards, wrote a letter to the brother, to whom she had left the
bulk of her property, stating that I was to have twenty-thousand of
the one-hundred-thousand pounds she had bequeathed to him--as in the
original will--doing this by letter in case anything should happen
to her before a new will could be considered, drawn, and signed, and
trusting to his honour quite that he would obey her expressed wish
should she die abroad. Well, she did die, in the full persuasion
that I was provided for; but her brother (as I secretly expected all
the time) refused to be morally bound by a document which had no
legal value, and the result is that he has everything, except, of
course, the furniture and the lease. It would have been enough to
break the heart of a person who had calculated upon getting a
fortune, which I never did; for I felt always like an intruder and a
bondswoman, and had wished myself out of the Petherwin family a
hundred times, with my crust of bread and liberty. For one thing, I
was always forbidden to see my relatives, and it pained me much.
Now I am going to move for myself, and consider that I have a good
chance of success in what I may undertake, because of an
indifference I feel about succeeding which gives the necessary
coolness that any great task requires.'
'I presume you mean to write more poems?'
'I cannot--that is, I can write no more that satisfy me. To blossom
into rhyme on the sparkling pleasures of life, you must be under the
influence of those pleasures, and I am at present quite removed from
them--surrounded by gaunt realities of a very different
'Then try the mournful. Trade upon your sufferings: many do, and
'It is no use to say that--no use at all. I cannot write a line of
verse. And yet the others flowed from my heart like a stream. But
nothing is so easy as to seem clever when you have money.'
'Except to seem stupid when you have none,' said Christopher,
looking at the dead leaves.
Ethelberta allowed herself to linger on that thought for a few
seconds; and continued, 'Then the question arose, what was I to do?
I felt that to write prose would be an uncongenial occupation, and
altogether a poor prospect for a woman like me. Finally I have
decided to appear in public.'
'Not on the stage?'
'Certainly not on the stage. There is no novelty in a poor lady
turning actress, and novelty is what I want. Ordinary powers
exhibited in a new way effect as much as extraordinary powers
exhibited in an old way.'
'Yes--so they do. And extraordinary powers, and a new way too,
would be irresistible.'
'I don't calculate upon both. I had written a prose story by
request, when it was found that I had grown utterly inane over
verse. It was written in the first person, and the style was
modelled after De Foe's. The night before sending it off, when I
had already packed it up, I was reading about the professional
story-tellers of Eastern countries, who devoted their lives to the
telling of tales. I unfastened the manuscript and retained it,
convinced that I should do better by TELLING the story.'
'Well thought of!' exclaimed Christopher, looking into her face.
'There is a way for everybody to live, if they can only find it
'It occurred to me,' she continued, blushing slightly, 'that tales
of the weird kind were made to be told, not written. The action of
a teller is wanted to give due effect to all stories of incident;
and I hope that a time will come when, as of old, instead of an
unsocial reading of fiction at home alone, people will meet together
cordially, and sit at the feet of a professed romancer. I am going
to tell my tales before a London public. As a child, I had a
considerable power in arresting the attention of other children by
recounting adventures which had never happened; and men and women
are but children enlarged a little. Look at this.'
She drew from her pocket a folded paper, shook it abroad, and
disclosed a rough draft of an announcement to the effect that Mrs.
Petherwin, Professed Story-teller, would devote an evening to that
ancient form of the romancer's art, at a well-known fashionable hall
in London. 'Now you see,' she continued, 'the meaning of what you
observed going on here. That you heard was one of three tales I am
preparing, with a view of selecting the best. As a reserved one, I
have the tale of my own life--to be played as a last card. It was a
private rehearsal before my brothers and sisters--not with any view
of obtaining their criticism, but that I might become accustomed to
my own voice in the presence of listeners.'
'If I only had had half your enterprise, what I might have done in
'Now did you ever consider what a power De Foe's manner would have
if practised by word of mouth? Indeed, it is a style which suits
itself infinitely better to telling than to writing, abounding as it
does in colloquialisms that are somewhat out of place on paper in
these days, but have a wonderful power in making a narrative seem
real. And so, in short, I am going to talk De Foe on a subject of
my own. Well?'
The last word had been given tenderly, with a long-drawn sweetness,
and was caused by a look that Christopher was bending upon her at
the moment, in which he revealed that he was thinking less of the
subject she was so eagerly and hopefully descanting upon than upon
her aspect in explaining it. It is a fault of manner particularly
common among men newly imported into the society of bright and
beautiful women; and we will hope that, springing as it does from no
unworthy source, it is as soon forgiven in the general world as it
'I was only following a thought,' said Christopher:--'a thought of
how I used to know you, and then lost sight of you, and then
discovered you famous, and how we are here under these sad autumn
trees, and nobody in sight.'
'I think it must be tea-time,' she said suddenly. 'Tea is a great
meal with us here--you will join us, will you not?' And Ethelberta
began to make for herself a passage through the boughs. Another
rustle was heard a little way off, and one of the children appeared.
'Emmeline wants to know, please, if the gentleman that come to see
'ee will stay to tea; because, if so, she's agoing to put in another
spoonful for him and a bit of best green.'
'O Georgina--how candid! Yes, put in some best green.'
Before Christopher could say any more to her, they were emerging by
the corner of the cottage, and one of the brothers drew near them.
'Mr. Julian, you'll bide and have a cup of tea wi' us?' he inquired
of Christopher. 'An old friend of yours, is he not, Mrs. Petherwin?
Dan and I be going back to Sandbourne to-night, and we can walk with
'ee as far as the station.'
'I shall be delighted,' said Christopher; and they all entered the
cottage. The evening had grown clearer by this time; the sun was
peeping out just previous to departure, and sent gold wires of light
across the glades and into the windows, throwing a pattern of the
diamond quarries, and outlines of the geraniums in pots, against the
opposite wall. One end of the room was polygonal, such a shape
being dictated by the exterior design; in this part the windows were
placed, as at the east end of continental churches. Thus, from the
combined effects of the ecclesiastical lancet lights and the apsidal
shape of the room, it occurred to Christopher that the sisters were
all a delightful set of pretty saints, exhibiting themselves in a
lady chapel, and backed up by unkempt major prophets, as represented
by the forms of their big brothers.
Christopher sat down to tea as invited, squeezing himself in between
two children whose names were almost as long as their persons, and
whose tin cups discoursed primitive music by means of spoons rattled
inside them until they were filled. The tea proceeded pleasantly,
notwithstanding that the cake, being a little burnt, tasted on the
outside like the latter plums in snapdragon. Christopher never
could meet the eye of Picotee, who continued in a wild state of
flushing all the time, fixing her looks upon the sugar-basin, except
when she glanced out of the window to see how the evening was going
on, and speaking no word at all unless it was to correct a small
sister of somewhat crude manners as regards filling the mouth, which
Picotee did in a whisper, and a gentle inclination of her mouth to
the little one's ear, and a still deeper blush than before.
Their visitor next noticed that an additional cup-and-saucer and
plate made their appearance occasionally at the table, were silently
replenished, and then carried off by one of the children to an inner
'Our mother is bedridden,' said Ethelberta, noticing Christopher's
look at the proceeding. 'Emmeline attends to the household, except
when Picotee is at home, and Joey attends to the gate; but our
mother's affliction is a very unfortunate thing for the poor
children. We are thinking of a plan of living which will, I hope,
be more convenient than this is; but we have not yet decided what to
do.' At this minute a carriage and pair of horses became visible
through one of the angular windows of the apse, in the act of
turning in from the highway towards the park gate. The boy who
answered to the name of Joey sprang up from the table with the
promptness of a Jack-in-the-box, and ran out at the door. Everybody
turned as the carriage passed through the gate, which Joey held
open, putting his other hand where the brim of his hat would have
been if he had worn one, and lapsing into a careless boy again the
instant that the vehicle had gone by.
'There's a tremendous large dinner-party at the House to-night,'
said Emmeline methodically, looking at the equipage over the edge of
her teacup, without leaving off sipping. 'That was Lord Mountclere.
He's a wicked old man, they say.'
'Lord Mountclere?' said Ethelberta musingly. 'I used to know some
friends of his. In what way is he wicked?'
'I don't know,' said Emmeline, with simplicity. 'I suppose it is
because he breaks the commandments. But I wonder how a big rich
lord can want to steal anything.' Emmeline's thoughts of breaking
commandments instinctively fell upon the eighth, as being in her
ideas the only case wherein the gain could be considered as at all
worth the hazard.
Ethelberta said nothing; but Christopher thought that a shade of
depression passed over her.
'Hook back the gate, Joey,' shouted Emmeline, when the carriage had
proceeded up the drive. 'There's more to come.'
Joey did as ordered, and by the time he got indoors another carriage
turned in from the public road--a one-horse brougham this time.
'I know who that is: that's Mr. Ladywell,' said Emmeline, in the
same matter-of-fact tone. 'He's been here afore: he's a distant
relation of the squire's, and he once gave me sixpence for picking
up his gloves.'
'What shall I live to see?' murmured the poetess, under her breath,
nearly dropping her teacup in an involuntary trepidation, from which
she made it a point of dignity to recover in a moment.
Christopher's eyes, at that exhibition from Ethelberta, entered her
own like a pair of lances. Picotee, seeing Christopher's quick look
of jealousy, became involved in her turn, and grew pale as a lily in
her endeavours to conceal the complications to which it gave birth
in her poor little breast likewise.
'You judge me very wrongly,' said Ethelberta, in answer to
Christopher's hasty look of resentment.
'In supposing Mr. Ladywell to be a great friend of yours?' said
Christopher, who had in some indescribable way suddenly assumed a
right to Ethelberta as his old property.
'Yes: for I hardly know him, and certainly do not value him.'
After this there was something in the mutual look of the two, though
their words had been private, which did not tend to remove the
anguish of fragile Picotee. Christopher, assured that Ethelberta's
embarrassment had been caused by nothing more than the sense of her
odd social subsidence, recovered more bliss than he had lost, and
regarded calmly the profile of young Ladywell between the two
windows of his brougham as it passed the open cottage door, bearing
him along unconscious as the dead of the nearness of his beloved
one, and of the sad buffoonery that fate, fortune, and the guardian
angels had been playing with Ethelberta of late. He recognized the
face as that of the young man whom he had encountered when watching
Ethelberta's window from Rookington Park.
'Perhaps you remember seeing him at the Christmas dance at Wyndway?'
she inquired. 'He is a good-natured fellow. Afterwards he sent me
that portfolio of sketches you see in the corner. He might possibly
do something in the world as a painter if he were obliged to work at
the art for his bread, which he is not.' She added with bitter
pleasantry: 'In bare mercy to his self-respect I must remain unseen