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THE HOUSE ON THE BEACH
By George Meredith
A REALISTIC TALE
The experience of great officials who have laid down their dignities
before death, or have had the philosophic mind to review themselves while
still wielding the deputy sceptre, teaches them that in the exercise of
authority over men an eccentric behaviour in trifles has most exposed
them to hostile criticism and gone farthest to jeopardize their
popularity. It is their Achilles' heel; the place where their mother
Nature holds them as she dips them in our waters. The eccentricity of
common persons is the entertainment of the multitude, and the maternal
hand is perceived for a cherishing and endearing sign upon them; but
rarely can this be found suitable for the august in station; only,
indeed, when their sceptre is no more fearful than a grandmother's birch;
and these must learn from it sooner or later that they are uncomfortably
When herrings are at auction on a beach, for example, the man of chief
distinction in the town should not step in among a poor fraternity to
take advantage of an occasion of cheapness, though it be done, as he may
protest, to relieve the fishermen of a burden; nor should such a
dignitary as the bailiff of a Cinque Port carry home the spoil of
victorious bargaining on his arm in a basket. It is not that his conduct
is in itself objectionable, so much as that it causes him to be popularly
weighed; and during life, until the best of all advocates can plead
before our fellow Englishmen that we are out of their way, it is prudent
to avoid the process.
Mr. Tinman, however, this high-stepping person in question, happened to
have come of a marketing mother. She had started him from a small shop
to a big one. He, by the practice of her virtues, had been enabled to
start himself as a gentleman. He was a man of this ambition, and prouder
behind it. But having started himself precipitately, he took rank among
independent incomes, as they are called, only to take fright at the
perils of starvation besetting one who has been tempted to abandon the
source of fifty per cent. So, if noble imagery were allowable in our
time in prose, might alarms and partial regrets be assumed to animate the
splendid pumpkin cut loose from the suckers. Deprived of that prodigious
nourishment of the shop in the fashionable seaport of Helmstone, he
retired upon his native town, the Cinque Port of Crikswich, where he
rented the cheapest residence he could discover for his habitation, the
House on the Beach, and lived imposingly, though not in total disaccord
with his old mother's principles. His income, as he observed to his
widowed sister and solitary companion almost daily in their privacy, was
respectable. The descent from an altitude of fifty to five per cent.
cannot but be felt. Nevertheless it was a comforting midnight bolster
reflection for a man, turning over to the other side between a dream and
a wink, that he was making no bad debts, and one must pay to be addressed
as esquire. Once an esquire, you are off the ground in England and on
the ladder. An esquire can offer his hand in marriage to a lady in her
own right; plain esquires have married duchesses; they marry baronets'
daughters every day of the week.
Thoughts of this kind were as the rise and fall of waves in the bosom of
the new esquire. How often in his Helmstone shop had he not heard titled
ladies disdaining to talk a whit more prettily than ordinary women; and
he had been a match for the subtlety of their pride--he understood it.
He knew well that at the hint of a proposal from him they would have
spoken out in a manner very different to that of ordinary women. The
lightning, only to be warded by an esquire, was in them. He quitted
business at the age of forty, that he might pretend to espousals with a
born lady; or at least it was one of the ideas in his mind.
And here, I think, is the moment for the epitaph of anticipation over
him, and the exclamation, alas! I would not be premature, but it is
necessary to create some interest in him, and no one but a foreigner
could feel it at present for the Englishman who is bursting merely to do
like the rest of his countrymen, and rise above them to shake them class
by class as the dust from his heels. Alas! then an--undertaker's pathos
is better than none at all--he was not a single-minded aspirant to our
social honours. The old marketing mother; to whom he owed his fortunes,
was in his blood to confound his ambition; and so contradictory was the
man's nature, that in revenge for disappointments, there were times when
he turned against the saving spirit of parsimony. Readers deep in Greek
dramatic writings will see the fatal Sisters behind the chair of a man
who gives frequent and bigger dinners, that he may become important in
his neighbourhood, while decreasing the price he pays for his wine, that
he may miserably indemnify himself for the outlay. A sip of his wine
fetched the breath, as when men are in the presence of the tremendous
elements of nature. It sounded the constitution more darkly-awful, and
with a profounder testimony to stubborn health, than the physician's
instruments. Most of the guests at Mr. Tinman's table were so
constructed that they admired him for its powerful quality the more at
his announcement of the price of it; the combined strength and cheapness
probably flattering them, as by another mystic instance of the national
energy. It must have been so, since his townsmen rejoiced to hail him as
head of their town. Here and there a solitary esquire, fished out of the
bathing season to dine at the house on the beach, was guilty of raising
one of those clamours concerning subsequent headaches, which spread an
evil reputation as a pall. A resident esquire or two, in whom a
reminiscence of Tinman's table may be likened to the hook which some old
trout has borne away from the angler as the most vivid of warnings to him
to beware for the future, caught up the black report and propagated it.
The Lieutenant of the Coastguard, hearing the latest conscious victim, or
hearing of him, would nod his head and say he had never dined at Tinman's
table without a headache ensuing and a visit to the chemist's shop;
which, he was assured, was good for trade, and he acquiesced, as it was
right to do in a man devoted to his country. He dined with Tinman again.
We try our best to be social. For eight months in our year he had little
choice but to dine with Tinman or be a hermit attached to a telescope.
"Where are you going, Lieutenant?" His frank reply to the question was,
"I am going to be killed;" and it grew notorious that this meant Tinman's
table. We get on together as well as we can. Perhaps if we were an
acutely calculating people we should find it preferable both for trade
and our physical prosperity to turn and kill Tinman, in contempt of
consequences. But we are not, and so he does the business gradually for
us. A generous people we must be, for Tinman was not detested. The
recollection of "next morning" caused him to be dimly feared.
Tinman, meanwhile, was awake only to the Circumstance that he made no
progress as an esquire, except on the envelopes of letters, and in his
own esteem. That broad region he began to occupy to the exclusion of
other inhabitants; and the result of such a state of princely isolation
was a plunge of his whole being into deep thoughts. From the hour of his
investiture as the town's chief man, thoughts which were long shots took
possession of him. He had his wits about him; he was alive to ridicule;
he knew he was not popular below, or on easy terms with people above him,
and he meditated a surpassing stroke as one of the Band of Esq., that had
nothing original about it to perplex and annoy the native mind, yet was
dazzling. Few members of the privileged Band dare even imagine the
It will hardly be believed, but it is historical fact, that in the act of
carrying fresh herrings home on his arm, he entertained the idea of a
visit to the First Person and Head of the realm, and was indulging in
pleasing visions of the charms of a personal acquaintance. Nay, he had
already consulted with brother jurats. For you must know that one of the
princesses had recently suffered betrothal in the newspapers, and
supposing her to deign to ratify the engagement, what so reasonable on
the part of a Cinque Port chieftain as to congratulate his liege
mistress, her illustrious mother? These are thoughts and these are deeds
>which give emotional warmth and colour to the ejecter members of a
population wretchedly befogged. They are our sunlight, and our brighter
theme of conversation. They are necessary to the climate and the Saxon
mind; and it would be foolish to put them away, as it is foolish not to
do our utmost to be intimate with terrestrial splendours while we have
them--as it may be said of wardens, mayors, and bailiffs-at command.
Tinman was quite of this opinion. They are there to relieve our dulness.
We have them in the place of heavenly; and he would have argued that we
have a right to bother them too. He had a notion, up in the clouds, of a
Sailors' Convalescent Hospital at Crikswich to seduce a prince with, hand
him the trowel, make him "lay the stone," and then poor prince! refresh
him at table. But that was a matter for by and by.
His purchase of herrings completed, Mr. Tinman walked across the mound
of shingle to the house on the beach. He was rather a fresh-faced man,
of the Saxon colouring, and at a distance looking good-humoured. That he
should have been able to make such an appearance while doing daily battle
with his wine, was a proof of great physical vigour. His pace was
leisurely, as it must needs be over pebbles, where half a step is
subtracted from each whole one in passing; and, besides, he was aware of
a general breath at his departure that betokened a censorious assembly.
Why should he not market for himself? He threw dignity into his
retreating figure in response to the internal interrogation. The moment
>was one when conscious rectitude =pliers man should have a tail for its
just display. Philosophers have drawn attention to the power of the
human face to express pure virtue, but no sooner has it passed on than
the spirit erect within would seem helpless. The breadth of our
shoulders is apparently presented for our critics to write on. Poor duty
is done by the simple sense of moral worth, to supplant that absence of
feature in the plain flat back. We are below the animals in this. How
charged with language behind him is a dog! Everybody has noticed it.
Let a dog turn away from a hostile circle, and his crisp and wary tail
not merely defends him, it menaces; it is a weapon. Man has no choice
but to surge and boil, or stiffen preposterously. Knowing the popular
sentiment about his marketing--for men can see behind their backs, though
they may have nothing to speak with--Tinman resembled those persons of
principle who decline to pay for a "Bless your honour!" from a voluble
beggar-woman, and obtain the reverse of it after they have gone by. He
was sufficiently sensitive to feel that his back was chalked as on a
slate. The only remark following him was, "There he goes!"
He went to the seaward gate of the house on the beach, made practicable
in a low flint wall, where he was met by his sister Martha, to whom he
handed the basket. Apparently he named the cost of his purchase per
dozen. She touched the fish and pressed the bellies of the topmost, it
might be to question them tenderly concerning their roes. Then the
couple passed out of sight. Herrings were soon after this despatching
their odours through the chimneys of all Crikswich, and there was that
much of concord and festive union among the inhabitants.
The house on the beach had been posted where it stood, one supposes, for
the sake of the sea-view, from which it turned right about to face the
town across a patch of grass and salt scurf, looking like a square and
scornful corporal engaged in the perpetual review of an awkward squad of
recruits. Sea delighted it not, nor land either. Marine Parade fronting
it to the left, shaded sickly eyes, under a worn green verandah, from a
sun that rarely appeared, as the traducers of spinsters pretend those
virgins are ever keenly on their guard against him that cometh not.
Belle Vue Terrace stared out of lank glass panes without reserve,
unashamed of its yellow complexion. A gaping public-house, calling
itself newly Hotel, fell backward a step. Villas with the titles of
royalty and bloody battles claimed five feet of garden, and swelled in
bowwindows beside other villas which drew up firmly, commending to the
attention a decent straightness and unintrusive decorum in preference.
On an elevated meadow to the right was the Crouch. The Hall of Elba
nestled among weather-beaten dwarf woods further toward the cliff.
Shavenness, featurelessness, emptiness, clamminess scurfiness, formed the
outward expression of a town to which people were reasonably glad to come
from London in summer-time, for there was nothing in Crikswich to
distract the naked pursuit of health. The sea tossed its renovating
brine to the determinedly sniffing animal, who went to his meals with an
appetite that rendered him cordially eulogistic of the place, in spite of
certain frank whiffs of sewerage coming off an open deposit on the common
to mingle with the brine. Tradition told of a French lady and gentleman
entering the town to take lodgings for a month, and that on the morrow
they took a boat from the shore, saying in their faint English to a
sailor veteran of the coastguard, whom they had consulted about the
weather, "It is better zis zan zat," as they shrugged between rough sea
and corpselike land. And they were not seen again. Their meaning none
knew. Having paid their bill at the lodging-house, their conduct was
ascribed to systematic madness. English people came to Crikswich for the
pure salt sea air, and they did not expect it to be cooked and dressed
and decorated for them. If these things are done to nature, it is nature
no longer that you have, but something Frenchified. Those French are for
trimming Neptune's beard! Only wait, and you are sure to find variety in
nature, more than you may like. You will find it in Neptune. What say
you to a breach of the sea-wall, and an inundation of the aromatic grass-
flat extending from the house on the beach to the tottering terraces,
villas, cottages: and public-house transformed by its ensign to Hotel,
along the frontage of the town? Such an event had occurred of old, and
had given the house on the beach the serious shaking great Neptune in his
wrath alone can give. But many years had intervened. Groynes had been
run down to intercept him and divert him. He generally did his winter
mischief on a mill and salt marshes lower westward. Mr. Tinman had
always been extremely zealous in promoting the expenditure of what moneys
the town had to spare upon the protection of the shore, as it were for
the propitiation or defiance of the sea-god. There was a kindly joke
against him an that subject among brother jurats. He retorted with the
joke, that the first thing for Englishmen to look to were England's
But it will not do to be dwelling too fondly on our eras of peace, for
which we make such splendid sacrifices. Peace, saving for the advent of
a German band, which troubled the repose of the town at intervals, had
imparted to the inhabitants of Crikswich, within and without, the
likeness to its most perfect image, together, it must be confessed, with
a degree of nervousness that invested common events with some of the
terrors of the Last Trump, when one night, just upon the passing of the
vernal equinox, something happened.
A carriage Stopped short in the ray of candlelight that was fitfully and
feebly capering on the windy blackness outside the open workshop of
Crickledon, the carpenter, fronting the sea-beach. Mr. Tinnnan's house
was inquired for. Crickledon left off planing; at half-sprawl over the
board, he bawled out, "Turn to the right; right ahead; can't mistake it."
He nodded to one of the cronies intent on watching his labours: "Not
unless they mean to be bait for whiting-pout. Who's that for Tinman, I
wonder?" The speculations of Crickledon's friends were lost in the
scream of the plane.
One cast an eye through the door and observed that the carriage was there
still. "Gentleman's got out and walked," said Crickledon. He was
informed that somebody was visible inside. "Gentleman's wife, mayhap,"
he said. His friends indulged in their privilege of thinking what they
liked, and there was the usual silence of tongues in the shop. He
furnished them sound and motion for their amusement, and now and then a
scrap of conversation; and the sedater spirits dwelling in his immediate
neighbourhood were accustomed to step in and see him work up to supper-
time, instead of resorting to the more turbid and costly excitement of
Crickledon looked up from the measurement of a thumb-line. In the
doorway stood a bearded gentleman, who announced himself with the
startling exclamation, "Here's a pretty pickle!" and bustled to make way
for a man well known to them as Ned Crummins, the upholsterer's man, on
whose back hung an article of furniture, the condition of which, with a
condensed brevity of humour worthy of literary admiration, he displayed
by mutely turning himself about as he entered.
"Smashed!" was the general outcry.
"I ran slap into him," said the gentleman. "Who the deuce!--no bones
broken, that's one thing. The fellow--there, look at him: he's like a
"It's a chiwal glass," Crickledon remarked, and laid finger on the star
in the centre.
"Gentleman ran slap into me," said Crummins, depositing the frame on the
floor of the shop.
"Never had such a shock in my life," continued the gentleman. "Upon my
soul, I took him for a door: I did indeed. A kind of light flashed from
one of your houses here, and in the pitch dark I thought I was at the
door of old Mart Tinman's house, and dash me if I did n't go in--crash!
But what the deuce do you do, carrying that great big looking-glass at
night, man? And, look here tell me; how was it you happened to be going
glass foremost when you'd got the glass on your back?"
"Well, 't ain't my fault, I knows that," rejoined Crummins. "I came
along as careful as a man could. I was just going to bawl out to Master
Tinman, 'I knows the way, never fear me'; for I thinks I hears him call
from his house, 'Do ye see the way?' and into me this gentleman runs all
his might, and smash goes the glass. I was just ten steps from Master
Tinman's gate, and that careful, I reckoned every foot I put down, that I
was; I knows I did, though."
"Why, it was me calling, 'I'm sure I can't see the way.'
"You heard me, you donkey!" retorted the bearded gentleman. "What was
the good of your turning that glass against me in the very nick when I
dashed on you?"
"Well, 't ain't my fault, I swear," said Crummins. "The wind catches
voices so on a pitch dark night, you never can tell whether they be on
one shoulder or the other. And if I'm to go and lose my place through no
fault of mine----"
"Have n't I told you, sir, I'm going to pay the damage? Here," said the
gentleman, fumbling at his waistcoat, "here, take this card. Read it."
For the first time during the scene in the carpenter's shop, a certain
pomposity swelled the gentleman's tone. His delivery of the card
appeared to act on him like the flourish of a trumpet before great men.
"Van Diemen Smith," he proclaimed himself for the assistance of Ned
Crummins in his task; the latter's look of sad concern on receiving the
card seeming to declare an unscholarly conscience.
An anxious feminine voice was heard close beside Mr. Van Diemen Smith.
"Oh, papa, has there been an accident? Are you hurt?"
"Not a bit, Netty; not a bit. Walked into a big looking-glass in the
dark, that's all. A matter of eight or ten pound, and that won't stump
us. But these are what I call queer doings in Old England, when you
can't take a step in the dark, on the seashore without plunging bang into
a glass. And it looks like bad luck to my visit to old Mart Tinman."
"Can you," he addressed the company, "tell me of a clean, wholesome
lodging-house? I was thinking of flinging myself, body and baggage, on
your mayor, or whatever he is--my old schoolmate; but I don't so much
like this beginning. A couple of bed-rooms and sitting-room; clean
sheets, well aired; good food, well cooked; payment per week in advance."
The pebble dropped into deep water speaks of its depth by the tardy
arrival of bubbles on the surface, and, in like manner, the very simple
question put by Mr. Van Diemen Smith pursued its course of penetration in
the assembled mind in the carpenter's shop for a considerable period,
with no sign to show that it had reached the bottom.
"Surely, papa, we can go to an inn? There must be some hotel," said his
"There's good accommodation at the Cliff Hotel hard by," said Crickledon.
"But," said one of his friends, "if you don't want to go so far, sir,
there's Master Crickledon's own house next door, and his wife lets
lodgings, and there's not a better cook along this coast."
"Then why did n't the man mention it? Is he afraid of having me?" asked
Mr. Smith, a little thunderingly. "I may n't be known much yet in
England; but I'll tell you, you inquire the route to Mr. Van Diemen Smith
over there in Australia."
"Yes, papa," interrupted his daughter, "only you must consider that it
may not be convenient to take us in at this hour--so late."
"It's not that, miss, begging your pardon," said Crickledon. "I make a
point of never recommending my own house. That's where it is. Otherwise
you're welcome to try us."
"I was thinking of falling bounce on my old schoolmate, and putting Old
English hospitality to the proof," Mr. Smith meditated. "But it's late.
Yes, and that confounded glass! No, we'll bide with you, Mr. Carpenter.
I'll send my card across to Mart Tinman to-morrow, and set him agog at
Mr. Van Diemen Smith waved his hand for Crickledon to lead the way.
Hereupon Ned Crummins looked up from the card he had been turning over
and over, more and more like one arriving at a condemnatory judgment of a
"I can't go and give my master a card instead of his glass," he remarked.
"Yes, that reminds me; and I should like to know what you meant by
bringing that glass away from Mr. Tinman's house at night," said Mr.
Smith. "If I'm to pay for it, I've a right to know. What's the meaning
of moving it at night? Eh, let's hear. Night's not the time for moving
big glasses like that. I'm not so sure I haven't got a case."
"If you'll step round to my master along o' me, sir," said Crummins,
"perhaps he'll explain."
Crummins was requested to state who his master was, and he replied,
"Phippun and Company;" but Mr. Smith positively refused to go with him.
"But here," said he, "is a crown for you, for you're a civil fellow.
You'll know where to find me in the morning; and mind, I shall expect
Phippun and Company to give me a very good account of their reason for
moving a big looking-glass on a night like this. There, be off."
The crown-piece in his hand effected a genial change in Crummins'
disposition to communicate. Crickledon spoke to him about the glass; two
or three of the others present jogged him. "What did Mr. Tinman want by
having the glass moved so late in the day, Ned? Your master wasn't
nervous about his property, was he?"
"Not he," said Crummins, and began to suck down his upper lip and agitate
his eyelids and stand uneasily, glimmering signs of the setting in of the
tide of narration.
He caught the eye of Mr. Smith, then looked abashed at Miss.
Crickledon saw his dilemma. "Say what's uppermost, Ned; never mind how
you says it. English is English. Mr. Tinman sent for you to take the
glass away, now, did n't he?"
"He did," said Crummins.
"And you went to him."
"Ay, that I did."
"And he fastened the chiwal glass upon your back"
"He did that."
"That's all plain sailing. Had he bought the glass?"
"No, he had n't bought it. He'd hired it."
As when upon an enforced visit to the dentist, people have had one tooth
out, the remaining offenders are more willingly submitted to the
operation, insomuch that a poetical licence might hazard the statement
that they shed them like leaves of the tree, so Crummins, who had shrunk
from speech, now volunteered whole sentences in succession, and how
important they were deemed by his fellow-townsman, Mr. Smith, and
especially Miss Annette Smith, could perceive in their ejaculations,
before they themselves were drawn into the strong current of interest.
And this was the matter: Tinman had hired the glass for three days.
Latish, on the very first day of the hiring, close upon dark, he had
despatched imperative orders to Phippun and Company to take the glass out
of his house on the spot. And why? Because, as he maintained, there was
a fault in the glass causing an incongruous and absurd reflection; and he
was at that moment awaiting the arrival of another chiwal-glass.
"Cut along, Ned," said Crickledon.
"What the deuce does he want with a chiwal-glass at all?" cried Mr.
Smith, endangering the flow of the story by suggesting to the narrator
that he must "hark back," which to him was equivalent to the jumping of a
chasm hindward. Happily his brain had seized a picture:
"Mr. Tinman, he's a-standin' in his best Court suit."
Mr. Tinmau's old schoolmate gave a jump; and no wonder.
"Standing?" he cried; and as the act of standing was really not
extraordinary, he fixed upon the suit: "Court?"
"So Mrs. Cavely told me, it was what he was standin' in, and as I found
'm I left 'm," said Crummins.
"He's standing in it now?" said Mr. Van Diemen Smith, with a great gape.
Crummins doggedly repeated the statement. Many would have ornamented it
in the repetition, but he was for bare flat truth.
"He must be precious proud of having a Court suit," said Mr. Smith, and
gazed at his daughter so glassily that she smiled, though she was
impatient to proceed to Mrs. Crickledon's lodgings.
"Oh! there's where it is?" interjected the carpenter, with a funny frown
at a low word from Ned Crummins. "Practicing, is he? Mr. Tinman's
practicing before the glass preparatory to his going to the palace in
"He gave me a shillin'," said Crummins.
Crickledon comprehended him immediately. "We sha'n't speak about it,
What did you see? was thus cautiously suggested.
The shilling was on Crummins' tongue to check his betrayal of the secret
scene. But remembering that he had only witnessed it by accident, and
that Mr. Tinman had not completely taken him into his confidence, he
thrust his hand down his pocket to finger the crown-piece lying in
fellowship with the coin it multiplied five times, and was inspired to
think himself at liberty to say: "All I saw was when the door opened.
Not the house-door. It was the parlour-door. I saw him walk up to the
glass, and walk back from the glass. And when he'd got up to the glass
he bowed, he did, and he went back'ards just so."
Doubtless the presence of a lady was the active agent that prevented
Crummins from doubling his body entirely, and giving more than a rapid
indication of the posture of Mr. Tinman in his retreat before the glass.
But it was a glimpse of broad burlesque, and though it was received with
becoming sobriety by the men in the carpenter's shop, Annette plucked at
her father's arm.
She could not get him to depart. That picture of his old schoolmate
Martin Tinman practicing before a chiwal glass to present himself at the
palace in his Court suit, seemed to stupefy his Australian intelligence.
"What right has he got to go to Court?" Mr. Van Diemen Smith inquired,
like the foreigner he had become through exile.
"Mr. Tinman's bailiff of the town," said Crickledon.
"And what was his objection to that glass I smashed?"
"He's rather an irritable gentleman," Crickledon murmured, and turned to
Crummins growled: "He said it was misty, and gave him a twist."
"What a big fool he must be! eh?" Mr. Smith glanced at Crickledon and
the other faces for the verdict of Tinman's townsmen upon his character.
They had grounds for thinking differently of Tinman.
"He's no fool," said Crickledon.
Another shook his head. "Sharp at a bargain."
"That he be," said the chorus.
Mr. Smith was informed that Mr. Tinman would probably end by buying up
half the town.
"Then," said Mr. Smith, "he can afford to pay half the money for that
glass, and pay he shall."
A serious view of the recent catastrophe was presented by his
In the midst of a colloquy regarding the cost of the glass, during which
it began to be seen by Mr. Tinman's townsmen that there was laughing-
stuff for a year or so in the scene witnessed by Crummins, if they
postponed a bit their right to the laugh and took it in doses, Annette
induced her father to signal to Crickledon his readiness to go and see
the lodgings. No sooner had he done it than he said, "What on earth made
us wait all this time here? I'm hungry, my dear; I want supper."
"That is because you have had a disappointment. I know you, papa," said
"Yes, it's rather a damper about old Mart Tinman," her father assented.
"Or else I have n't recovered the shock of smashing that glass, and visit
it on him. But, upon my honour, he's my only friend in England, I have
n't a single relative that I know of, and to come and find your only
friend making a donkey of himself, is enough to make a man think of
eating and drinking."
Annette murmured reproachfully: "We can hardly say he is our only friend
in England, papa, can we?"
"Do you mean that young fellow? You'll take my appetite away if you talk
of him. He's a stranger. I don't believe he's worth a penny. He owns
he's what he calls a journalist."
These latter remarks were hurriedly exchanged at the threshold of
"It don't look promising," said Mr. Smith.
"I didn't recommend it," said Crickledon.
"Why the deuce do you let your lodgings, then?"
"People who have come once come again."
"Oh! I am in England," Annette sighed joyfully, feeling at home in some
trait she had detected in Crickledon.
The story of the shattered chiwal-glass and the visit of Tinman's old
schoolmate fresh from Australia, was at many a breakfast-table before.
Tinman heard a word of it, and when he did he had no time to spare for
such incidents, for he was reading to his widowed sister Martha, in an
impressive tone, at a tolerably high pitch of the voice, and with a
suppressed excitement that shook away all things external from his mind
as violently as it agitated his body. Not the waves without but the
engine within it is which gives the shock and tremor to the crazy
steamer, forcing it to cut through the waves and scatter them to spray;
and so did Martin Tinman make light of the external attack of the card of
VAN DIEMEN SMITH, and its pencilled line: "An old chum of yours, eh,
matey? "Even the communication of Phippun & Co. concerning the chiwal-
glass, failed to divert him from his particular task. It was indeed a
public duty; and the chiwal-glass, though pertaining to it, was a private
business. He that has broken the glass, let that man pay for it, he
pronounced--no doubt in simpler fashion, being at his ease in his home,
but with the serenity of one uplifted. As to the name VAN DIEMEN SMITH,
he knew it not, and so he said to himself while accurately recollecting
the identity of the old chum who alone of men would have thought of
writing eh, matey?
Mr. Van Diemen Smith did not present the card in person.
"At Crickledon's," he wrote, apparently expecting the bailiff of the
town to rush over to him before knowing who he was.
Tinman was far too busy. Anybody can read plain penmanship or print, but
ask anybody not a Cabinet Minister or a Lord-in-Waiting to read out loud
and clear in a Palace, before a Throne. Oh! the nature of reading is
distorted in a trice, and as Tinman said to his worthy sister: "I can do
it, but I must lose no time in preparing myself." Again, at a reperusal,
he informed her: "I must habituate myself." For this purpose he had put
on the suit overnight.
The articulation of faultless English was his object. His sister Martha
sat vice-regally to receive his loyal congratulations on the illustrious
marriage, and she was pensive, less nervous than her brother from not
having to speak continuously, yet somewhat perturbed. She also had her
task, and it was to avoid thinking herself the Person addressed by her
suppliant brother, while at the same time she took possession of the
scholarly training and perfect knowledge of diction and rules of
pronunciation which would infallibly be brought to bear on him in the
terrible hour of the delivery of the Address. It was no small task
moreover to be compelled to listen right through to the end of the
Address, before the very gentlest word of criticism was allowed. She did
not exactly complain of the renewal of the rehearsal: a fatigue can be
endured when it is a joy. What vexed her was her failing memory for the
points of objection, as in her imagined High Seat she conceived them;
for, in painful truth, the instant her brother had finished she entirely
lost her acuteness of ear, and with that her recollection: so there was
nothing to do but to say: "Excellent! Quite unobjectionable, dear
Martin, quite:" so she said, and emphatically; but the addition of the
word "only" was printed on her contracted brow, and every faculty of
Tinman's mind and nature being at strain just then, he asked her testily:
"What now? what's the fault now?" She assured him with languor that
there was not a fault. "It's not your way of talking," said he, and what
he said was true. His discernment was extraordinary; generally he
Not only were his perceptions quickened by the preparations for the day
of great splendour: day of a great furnace to be passed through likewise!
--he, was learning English at an astonishing rate into the bargain. A
pronouncing Dictionary lay open on his table. To this he flew at a hint
of a contrary method, and disputes, verifications and triumphs on one
side and the other ensued between brother and sister. In his heart the
agitated man believed his sister to be a misleading guide. He dared not
say it, he thought it, and previous to his African travel through the
Dictionary he had thought his sister infallible on these points. He
dared not say it, because he knew no one else before whom he could
practice, and as it was confidence that he chiefly wanted--above all
things, confidence and confidence comes of practice, he preferred the
going on with his practice to an absolute certainty as to correctness.
At midday came another card from Mr. Van Diemen Smith bearing the
superscription: alias Phil R.
"Can it be possible," Tinman asked his sister, "that Philip Ribstone has
had the audacity to return to this country? I think," he added,
"I am right in treating whoever sends me this card as a counterfeit."
Martha's advice was, that he should take no notice of the card.
"I am seriously engaged," said Tinman. With a "Now then, dear," he
resumed his labours.
Messages had passed between Tinman and Phippun; and in the afternoon
Phippun appeared to broach the question of payment for the chiwal-glass.
He had seen Mr. Van Diemen Smith, had found him very strange, rather
impracticable. He was obliged to tell Tinman that he must hold him
responsible for the glass; nor could he send a second until payment was
made for the first. It really seemed as if Tinman would be compelled, by
the force of circumstances, to go and shake his old friend by the hand.
Otherwise one could clearly see the man might be off: he might be off at
any minute, leaving a legal contention behind him. On the other hand,
supposing he had come to Crikswich for assistance in money? Friendship
is a good thing, and so is hospitality, which is an essentially English
thing, and consequently one that it behoves an Englishman to think it his
duty to perform, but we do not extend it to paupers. But should a pauper
get so close to us as to lay hold of us, vowing he was once our friend,
how shake him loose? Tinman foresaw that it might be a matter of five
pounds thrown to the dogs, perhaps ten, counting the glass. He put on
his hat, full of melancholy presentiments; and it was exactly half-past
five o'clock of the spring afternoon when he knocked at Crickledon's
Had he looked into Crickledon's shop as he went by, he would have
perceived Van Diemen Smith astride a piece of timber, smoking a pipe.
Van Diemen saw Tinman. His eyes cocked and watered. It is a disgraceful
fact to record of him without periphrasis. In truth, the bearded fellow
was almost a woman at heart, and had come from the Antipodes throbbing to
slap Martin Tinman on the back, squeeze his hand, run over England with
him, treat him, and talk of old times in the presence of a trotting
regiment of champagne. That affair of the chiwal-glass had temporarily
damped his enthusiasm. The absence of a reply to his double transmission
of cards had wounded him; and something in the look of Tinman disgusted
his rough taste. But the well-known features recalled the days of youth.
Tinman was his one living link to the country he admired as the conqueror
of the world, and imaginatively delighted in as the seat of pleasures,
and he could not discard the feeling of some love for Tinman without
losing his grasp of the reason why, he had longed so fervently and
travelled so breathlessly to return hither. In the days of their youth,
Van Diemen had been Tinman's cordial spirit, at whom he sipped for
cheerful visions of life, and a good honest glow of emotion now and then.
Whether it was odd or not that the sipper should be oblivious, and the
cordial spirit heartily reminiscent of those times, we will not stay to
Their meeting took place in Crickledon's shop. Tinman was led in by Mrs.
Crickledon. His voice made a sound of metal in his throat, and his air
was that of a man buttoned up to the palate, as he read from the card,
glancing over his eyelids, "Mr. Van Diemen Smith, I believe."
"Phil Ribstone, if you like," said the other, without rising.
"Oh, ah, indeed!" Tinman temperately coughed.
"Yes, dear me. So it is. It strikes you as odd?"
"The change of name," said Tinman.
"Not nature, though!"
"Ah! Have you been long in England?"
"Time to run to Helmstone, and on here. You've been lucky in business,
"Thank you; as things go. Do you think of remaining in England?"
"I've got to settle about a glass I broke last night."
"Ah! I have heard of it. Yes, I fear there will have to be a
"I shall pay half of the damage. You'll have to stump up your part."
Van Diemen smiled roguishly.
"We must discuss that," said Tinman, smiling too, as a patient in bed may
smile at a doctor's joke; for he was, as Crickledon had said of him, no
fool on practical points, and Van Diemen's mention of the half-payment
reassured him as to his old friend's position in the world, and softly
thawed him. "Will you dine with me to-day?"
"I don't mind if I do. I've a girl. You remember little Netty? She's
walking out on the beach with a young fellow named Fellingham, whose
acquaintance we made on the voyage, and has n't left us long to
ourselves. Will you have her as well? And I suppose you must ask him.
He's a newspaper man; been round the world; seen a lot."
Tinman hesitated. An electrical idea of putting sherry at fifteen
shillings per dozen on his table instead of the ceremonial wine at
twenty-five shillings, assisted him to say hospitably, "Oh! ah! yes; any
friend of yours."
"And now perhaps you'll shake my fist," said Van Diemen.
"With pleasure," said Tinman. "It was your change of name, you know, Philip."
Look here, Martin. Van Diemen Smith was a convict, and my benefactor.
Why the deuce he was so fond of that name, I can't tell you; but his
dying wish was for me to take it and carry it on. He left me his
fortune, for Van Diemen Smith to enjoy life, as he never did, poor
fellow, when he was alive. The money was got honestly, by hard labour at
a store. He did evil once, and repented after. But, by Heaven!"--Van
Diemen jumped up and thundered out of a broad chest--"the man was one of
the finest hearts that ever beat. He was! and I'm proud of him. When he
died, I turned my thoughts home to Old England and you, Martin."
"Oh!" said Tinman; and reminded by Van Diemen's way of speaking, that
cordiality was expected of him, he shook his limbs to some briskness, and
continued, "Well, yes, we must all die in our native land if we can.
I hope you're comfortable in your lodgings?"
"I'll give you one of Mrs. Crickledon's dinners to try. You're as good
as mayor of this town, I hear?"
"I am the bailiff of the town," said Mr. Tinman.
"You're going to Court, I'm told."
"The appointment," replied Mr. Tinman, "will soon be made. I have not
yet an appointed day."
On the great highroad of life there is Expectation, and there is
Attainment, and also there is Envy. Mr. Tinman's posture stood for
Attainment shadowing Expectation, and sunning itself in the glass of
Envy, as he spoke of the appointed day. It was involuntary, and
naturally evanescent, a momentary view of the spirit.
He unbent, and begged to be excused for the present, that he might go and
apprise his sister of guests coming.
"All right. I daresay we shall see, enough of one another," said Van
Diemen. And almost before the creak of Tinman's heels was deadened on
the road outside the shop, he put the funny question to Crickledon, "Do
"I make 'em," Crickledon replied.
"Because I should like to have a go in at something, my friend."
Van Diemen stretched and yawned.
Crickledon recommended the taking of a walk.
"I think I will," said the other, and turned back abruptly. "How long do
you work in the day?"
"Generally, all the hours of light," Crickledon replied; "and always up
"You're healthy and happy?"
"Nothing to complain of."
"You never take a holiday?"
"You'd like to be working then?"
"I won't say that."
"But you're glad to be up Monday morning?"
"It feels cheerfuller in the shop."
"And carpentering's your joy?"
"I think I may say so."
Van Diemen slapped his thigh. "There's life in Old England yet!"
Crickledon eyed him as he walked away to the beach to look for his
daughter, and conceived that there was a touch of the soldier in him.
Annette Smith's delight in her native England made her see beauty and
kindness everywhere around her; it put a halo about the house on the
beach, and thrilled her at Tinman's table when she heard the thunder of
the waves hard by. She fancied it had been a most agreeable dinner to
her father and Mr. Herbert Fellingham--especially to the latter, who had
laughed very much; and she was astonished to hear them at breakfast both
complaining of their evening. In answer to which, she exclaimed, "Oh, I
think the situation of the house is so romantic!"
"The situation of the host is exceedingly so," said Mr. Fellingham; "but
I think his wine the most unromantic liquid I have ever tasted."
"It must be that!" cried Van Diemen, puzzled by novel pains in the head.
"Old Martin woke up a little like his old self after dinner."
"He drank sparingly," said Mr. Fellingham.
"I am sure you were satirical last night," Annette said reproachfully.
"On the contrary, I told him I thought he was in a romantic situation."
"But I have had a French mademoiselle for my governess and an Oxford
gentleman for my tutor; and I know you accepted French and English from
Mr. Tinman and his sister that I should not have approved."
"Netty," said Van Diemen, "has had the best instruction money could
procure; and if she says you were satirical, you may depend on it you
"Oh, in that case, of course!" Mr. Fellingham rejoined. "Who could help
He thought himself warranted in giving the rein to his wicked satirical
spirit, and talked lightly of the accidental character of the letter H in
Tinman's pronunciation; of how, like somebody else's hat in a high wind,
it descended on somebody else's head, and of how his words walked about
asking one another who they were and what they were doing, danced
together madly, snapping their fingers at signification; and so forth.
He was flippant.
Annette glanced at her father, and dropped her eyelids.
Mr. Fellingham perceived that he was enjoined to be on his guard.
He went one step farther in his fun; upon which Van Diemen said, with a
frown, "If you please!"
Nothing could withstand that.
"Hang old Mart Tinman's wine!" Van Diemen burst out in the dead pause.
"My head's a bullet. I'm in a shocking bad temper. I can hardly see.
Mr. Fellingham counselled his lying down for an hour, and he went
grumbling, complaining of Mart Tinman's incredulity about the towering
beauty of a place in Australia called Gippsland.
Annette confided to Mr. Fellingham, as soon as they were alone, the
chivalrous nature of her father in his friendships, and his indisposition
to hear a satirical remark upon his old schoolmate, the moment he
understood it to be satire.
Fellingham pleaded: "The man's a perfect burlesque. He's as distinctly
made to be laughed at as a mask in a pantomime."
"Papa will not think so," said Annette; "and papa has been told that he
is not to be laughed at as a man of business."
"Do you prize him for that?"
"I am no judge. I am too happy to be in England to be a judge of
"You did not touch his wine!"
"You men attach so much importance to wine!"
"They do say that powders is a good thing after Mr. Tinman's wine,"
observed Mrs. Crickledon, who had come into the sitting-room to take away
the breakfast things.
Mr. Fellingham gave a peal of laughter; but Mrs Crickledon bade him be
hushed, for Mr. Van Diemen Smith had gone to lay down his poor aching
head on his pillow. Annette ran upstairs to speak to her father about
During her absence, Mr. Fellingham received the popular portrait of Mr.
Tinman from the lips of Mrs. Crickledon. He subsequently strolled to the
carpenter's shop, and endeavoured to get a confirmation of it.
"My wife talks too much," said Crickledon.
When questioned by a gentleman, however, he was naturally bound to answer
to the extent of his knowledge.
"What a funny old country it is!" Mr. Fellingham said to Annette, on
their walk to the beach.
She implored him not to laugh at anything English.
"I don't, I assure you," said he. "I love the country, too. But when
one comes back from abroad, and plunges into their daily life, it's
difficult to retain the real figure of the old country seen from outside,
and one has to remember half a dozen great names to right oneself. And
Englishmen are so funny! Your father comes here to see his old friend,
and begins boasting of the Gippsland he has left behind. Tinman
immediately brags of Helvellyn, and they fling mountains at one another
till, on their first evening together, there's earthquake and rupture--
they were nearly at fisticuffs at one time."
"Oh! surely no," said Annette. "I did not hear them. They were good
friends when you came to the drawingroom. Perhaps the wine did affect
poor papa, if it was bad wine. I wish men would never drink any. How
much happier they would be."
"But then there would cease to be social meetings in England. What
should we do?"
"I know that is a sneer; and you were nearly as enthusiastic as I was on
board the vessel," Annette said, sadly.
"Quite true. I was. But see what quaint creatures we have about us!
Tinman practicing in his Court suit before the chiwal-glass! And that
good fellow, the carpenter, Crickledon, who has lived with the sea
fronting him all his life, and has never been in a boat, and he confesses
he has only once gone inland, and has never seen an acorn!"
"I wish I could see one--of a real English oak," said Annette.
"And after being in England a few months you will be sighing for the
"You think you will be quite contented here?"
"I am sure I shall be. May papa and I never be exiles again! I did not
feel it when I was three years old, going out to Australia; but it would
be like death to me now. Oh!" Annette shivered, as with the exile's
"On my honour," said Mr. Fellingham, as softly as he could with the wind
in his teeth, "I love the old country ten times more from your love of
"That is not how I want England to be loved," returned Annette.
"The love is in your hands."
She seemed indifferent on hearing it.
He should have seen that the way to woo her was to humour her
prepossession by another passion. He could feel that it ennobled her in
the abstract, but a latent spite at Tinman on account of his wine, to
which he continued angrily to attribute as unwonted dizziness of the head
and slight irascibility, made him urgent in his desire that she should
separate herself from Tinman and his sister by the sharp division of
Annette declined to laugh at the most risible caricatures of Tinman.
In her antagonism she forced her simplicity so far as to say that she did
not think him absurd. And supposing Mr. Tinman to have proposed to the
titled widow, Lady Ray, as she had heard, and to other ladies young and
middle-aged in the neighbourhood, why should he not, if he wished to
marry? If he was economical, surely he had a right to manage his own
affairs. Her dread was lest Mr. Tinman and her father should quarrel
over the payment for the broken chiwal-glass: that she honestly admitted,
and Fellingham was so indiscreet as to roar aloud, not so very cordially.
Annette thought him unkindly satirical; and his thoughts of her reduced
her to the condition of a commonplace girl with expressive eyes.
She had to return to her father. Mr. Fellingham took a walk on the
springy turf along the cliffs; and "certainly she is a commonplace girl,"
he began by reflecting; with a side eye at the fact that his meditations
were excited by Tinman's poisoning of his bile. "A girl who can't see
the absurdity of Tinman must be destitute of common intelligence."
After a while he sniffed the fine sharp air of mingled earth and sea
delightedly, and he strode back to the town late in the afternoon,
laughing at himself in scorn of his wretched susceptibility to bilious
impressions, and really all but hating Tinman as the cause of his
weakness--in the manner of the criminal hating the detective, perhaps.
He cast it altogether on Tinman that Annette's complexion of character
had become discoloured to his mind; for, in spite of the physical
freshness with which he returned to her society, he was incapable of
throwing off the idea of her being commonplace; and it was with regret
that he acknowledged he had gained from his walk only a higher opinion of
Her father was the victim of a sick headache, [Migraine--D.W.]and lay, a
groaning man, on his bed, ministered to by Mrs. Crickledon chiefly.
Annette had to conduct the business with Mr. Phippun and Mr. Tinman as to
payment for the chiwal-glass. She was commissioned to offer half the
price for the glass on her father's part; more he would not pay. Tinman
and Phippun sat with her in Crickledon's cottage, and Mrs. Crickledon
brought down two messages from her invalid, each positive, to the effect
that he would fight with all the arms of English law rather than yield
Tinman declared it to be quite out of the question that he should pay a
penny. Phippun vowed that from one or the other of them he would have
Annette naturally was in deep distress, and Fellingham postponed the
discussion to the morrow.
Even after such a taste of Tinman as that, Annette could not be induced
to join in deriding him privately. She looked pained by Mr. Fellingham's
cruel jests. It was monstrous, Fellingham considered, that he should
draw on himself a second reprimand from Van Diemen Smith, while they were
consulting in entire agreement upon the case of the chiwal-glass.
"I must tell you this, mister sir," said Van Diemen, "I like you, but
I'll be straightforward and truthful, or I'm not worthy the name of
Englishman; and I do like you, or I should n't have given you leave to
come down here after us two. You must respect my friend if you care for
my respect. That's it. There it is. Now you know my conditions."
"I 'm afraid I can't sign the treaty," said Fellingham.
"Here's more," said Van Diemen. "I'm a chilly man myself if I hear a
laugh and think I know the aim of it. I'll meet what you like except
scorn. I can't stand contempt. So I feel for another. And now you
"It puts a stopper on the play of fancy, and checks the throwing off of
steam," Fellingham remonstrated. "I promise to do my best, but of all
the men I've ever met in my life--Tinman!--the ridiculous! Pray pardon
me; but the donkey and his looking-glass! The glass was misty! He--as
particular about his reflection in the glass as a poet with his verses!
Advance, retire, bow; and such murder of the Queen's English in the very
presence! If I thought he was going to take his wine with him, I'd have
him arrested for high treason."
"You've chosen, and you know what you best like," said Van Diemen,
pointing his accents--by which is produced the awkward pause, the pitfall
of conversation, and sometimes of amity.
Thus it happened that Mr. Herbert Fellingham journeyed back to London a
day earlier than he had intended, and without saying what he meant to
A month later, after a night of sharp frost on the verge of the warmer
days of spring, Mr. Fellingham entered Crikswich under a sky of perfect
blue that was in brilliant harmony with the green downs, the white cliffs
and sparkling sea, and no doubt it was the beauty before his eyes which
persuaded him of his delusion in having taken Annette for a commonplace
girl. He had come in a merely curious mood to discover whether she was
one or not. Who but a commonplace girl would care to reside in
Crikswich, he had asked himself; and now he was full sure that no
commonplace girl would ever have had the idea. Exquisitely simple, she
certainly was; but that may well be a distinction in a young lady whose
eyes are expressive.
The sound of sawing attracted him to Crickledon's shop, and the
industrious carpenter soon put him on the tide of affairs.
Crickledon pointed to the house on the beach as the place where Mr. Van
Diemen Smith and his daughter were staying.
"Dear me! and how does he look?" said Fellingham.
"Our town seems to agree with him, sir."
"Well, I must not say any more, I suppose." Fellingham checked his
tongue. "How have they settled that dispute about the chiwal-glass?"
"Mr. Tinman had to give way."
"But," Crickledon stopped work, "Mr. Tinman sold him a meadow."
"Mr. Smith has been buying a goodish bit of ground here. They tell me
he's about purchasing Elba. He has bought the Crouch. He and Mr. Tinman
are always out together. They're over at Helmstone now. They've been to
"Are they likely to be back to-day?"
"Certain, I should think. Mr. Tinman has to be in London to-morrow."
Crickledon looked. He was not the man to look artful, but there was a
lighted corner in his look that revived Fellingham's recollections, and
the latter burst out:
"The Address? I 'd half forgotten it. That's not over yet? Has he been
"No more glasses ha' been broken."
"And how is your wife, Crickledon?"
"She's at home, sir, ready for a talk, if you've a mind to try her."
Mrs. Crickledon proved to be very ready. "That Tinman," was her theme.
He had taken away her lodgers, and she knew his objects. Mr. Smith
repented of leaving her, she knew, though he dared not say it in plain
words. She knew Miss Smith was tired to death of constant companionship
with Mrs. Cavely, Tinman's sister. She generally came once in the day
just to escape from Mrs. Cavely, who would not, bless you! step into a
cottager's house where she was not allowed to patronize. Fortunately
Miss Smith had induced her father to get his own wine from the merchants.
"A happy resolution," said Fellingham; "and a saving one."
He heard further that Mr. Smith would take possession of the Crouch next
month, and that Mrs. Cavely hung over Miss Smith like a kite.
"And that old Tinman, old enough to be her father!" said Mrs. Crickledon.
She dealt in the flashes which connect ideas. Fellingham, though a man,
and an Englishman, was nervously wakeful enough to see the connection.
"They'll have to consult the young lady first, ma'am."
"If it's her father's nod she'll bow to it; now mark me," Mrs. Crickledon
said, with emphasis. "She's a young lady who thinks for herself, but she
takes her start from her father where it's feeling. And he's gone stone-
blind over that Tinman."
While they were speaking, Annette appeared.
"I saw you," she said to Fellingham; gladly and openly, in the most
"Are you going to give me a walk along the beach?" said he.
She proposed the country behind the town, and that was quite as much to
his taste. But it was not a happy walk. He had decided that he admired
her, and the notion of having Tinman for a rival annoyed him. He
overflowed with ridicule of Tinman, and this was distressing to Annette,
because not only did she see that he would not control himself before her
father, but he kindled her own satirical spirit in opposition to her
father's friendly sentiments toward his old schoolmate.
"Mr. Tinman has been extremely hospitable to us," she said, a little
"May I ask you, has he consented to receive instruction in deportment and
Annette did not answer.
"If practice makes perfect, he must be near the mark by this time."
She continued silent.
"I dare say, in domestic life, he's as amiable as he is hospitable, and
it must be a daily gratification to see him in his Court suit."
"I have not seen him in his Court suit."
"That is his coyness."
"People talk of those things."
"The common people scandalize the great, about whom they know nothing,
you mean! I am sure that is true, and living in Courts one must be
keenly aware of it. But what a splendid sky and-sea!"
"Is it not?"
Annette echoed his false rapture with a candour that melted him.
He was preparing to make up for lost time, when the wild waving of a
parasol down a road to the right, coming from the town, caused Annette to
stop and say, "I think that must be Mrs. Cavely. We ought to meet her."
Fellingham asked why.
"She is so fond of walks," Anisette replied, with a tooth on her lip
Fellingham thought she seemed fond of runs.
Mrs. Cavely joined them, breathless. "My dear! the pace you go at!"
she shouted. "I saw you starting. I followed, I ran, I tore along.
I feared I never should catch you. And to lose such a morning of
"Is it not heavenly?"
"One can't say more," Fellingham observed, bowing.
"I am sure I am very glad to see you again, sir. You enjoy Crikswich?"
"Once visited, always desired, like Venice, ma'am. May I venture to
inquire whether Mr. Tinman has presented his Address?"
"The day after to-morrow. The appointment is made with him," said Mrs.
Cavely, more officially in manner, "for the day after to-morrow. He is
excited, as you may well believe. But Mr. Smith is an immense relief to
him--the very distraction he wanted. We have become one family, you
"Indeed, ma'am, I did not know it," said Fellingham.
The communication imparted such satiric venom to his further remarks,
that Annette resolved to break her walk and dismiss him for the day.
He called at the house on the beach after the dinner-hour, to see Mr. Van
Diemen Smith, when there was literally a duel between him and Tinman; for
Van Diemen's contribution to the table was champagne, and that had been
drunk, but Tinman's sherry remained. Tinman would insist on Fellingham's
taking a glass. Fellingham parried him with a sedate gravity of irony
that was painfully perceptible to Anisette. Van Diemen at last backed
Tinman's hospitable intent, and, to Fellingham's astonishment, he found
that he had been supposed by these two men to be bashfully retreating
from a seductive offer all the time that his tricks of fence and
transpiercings of one of them had been marvels of skill.
Tinman pushed the glass into his hand.
"You have spilt some," said Fellingham.
"It won't hurt the carpet," said Tinman.
"Won't it?" Fellingham gazed at the carpet, as if expecting a flame to
He then related the tale of the magnanimous Alexander drinking off the
potion, in scorn of the slanderer, to show faith in his friend.
"Alexander--Who was that?" said Tinman, foiled in his historical
recollections by the absence of the surname.
"General Alexander," said Fellingham. "Alexander Philipson, or he
declared it was Joveson; and very fond of wine. But his sherry did for
him at last."
"Ah! he drank too much, then," said Tinman.
"Of his own!"
Anisette admonished the vindictive young gentleman by saying, "How long
do you stay in Crikswich, Mr. Fellingham?"
He had grossly misconducted himself. But an adversary at once offensive
and helpless provokes brutality. Anisette prudently avoided letting her
father understand that satire was in the air; and neither he nor Tinman
was conscious of it exactly: yet both shrank within themselves under the
sensation of a devilish blast blowing. Fellingham accompanied them and
certain jurats to London next day.
Yes, if you like: when a mayor visits Majesty, it is an important
circumstance, and you are at liberty to argue at length that it means
more than a desire on his part to show his writing power and his reading
power: it is full of comfort the people, as an exhibition of their
majesty likewise; and it is an encouragement to men to strive to become
mayors, bailiffs, or prime men of any sort; but a stress in the reporting
of it--the making it appear too important a circumstance--will surely
breathe the intimation to a politically-minded people that satire is in
the air, and however dearly they cherish the privilege of knocking at the
first door of the kingdom, and walking ceremoniously in to read their
writings, they will, if they are not in one of their moods for
prostration, laugh. They will laugh at the report.
All the greater reason is it that we should not indulge them at such
periods; and I say woe's me for any brother of the pen, and one in some
esteem, who dressed the report of that presentation of the Address of
congratulation by Mr. Bailiff Tinman, of Crikswich! Herbert Fellingham
wreaked his personal spite on Tinman. He should have bethought him that
it involved another than Tinman that is to say, an office--which the
fitful beast rejoices to paw and play with contemptuously now and then,
one may think, as a solace to his pride, and an indemnification for those
caprices of abject worship so strongly recalling the days we see through
Mr. Darwin's glasses.
He should not have written the report. It sent a titter over England.
He was so unwise as to despatch a copy of the newspaper containing it to
Van Diemen Smith. Van Diemen perused it with satisfaction. So did
Tinman. Both of these praised the able young writer. But they handed
the paper to the Coastguard Lieutenant, who asked Tinman how he liked it;
and visitors were beginning to drop in to Crikswich, who made a point of
asking for a sight of the chief man; and then came a comic publication,
all in the Republican tone of the time, with Man's Dignity for the
standpoint, and the wheezy laughter residing in old puns to back it, in
eulogy of the satiric report of the famous Address of congratulation of
the Bailiff of Crikswich.
"Annette," Van Diemen said to his daughter, "you'll not encourage that
newspaper fellow to come down here any more. He had his warning."
One of the most difficult lessons for spirited young men to learn is,
that good jokes are not always good policy. They have to be paid for,
like good dinners, though dinner and joke shall seem to have been at
somebody else's expense. Young Fellingham was treated rudely by Van
Diemen Smith, and with some cold reserve by Annette: in consequence of
which he thought her more than ever commonplace. He wrote her a letter
of playful remonstrance, followed by one that appealed to her sentiments.
But she replied to neither of them. So his visits to Crikswich came to
Shall a girl who has no appreciation of fun affect us? Her expressive
eyes, and her quaint simplicity, and her enthusiasm for England, haunted
Mr. Fellingham; being conjured up by contrast with what he met about him.
But shall a girl who would impose upon us the task of holding in our
laughter at Tinman be much regretted? There could be no companionship
between us, Fellingham thought.
On an excursion to the English Lakes he saw the name of Van Diemen
Smith in a visitors' book, and changed his ideas on the subject of
companionship. Among mountains, or on the sea, or reading history,
Annette was one in a thousand. He happened to be at a public ball at
Helmstone in the Winter season, and who but Annette herself came whirling
before him on the arm of an officer! Fellingham did not miss his chance
of talking to her. She greeted him gaily, and speaking with the
excitement of the dance upon her, appeared a stranger to the serious
emotions he was willing to cherish. She had been to the Lakes and to
Scotland. Next summer she was going to Wales. All her experiences were
delicious. She was insatiable, but satisfied.
"I wish I had been with you," said Fellingham.
"I wish you had," said she.
Mrs. Cavely was her chaperon at the ball, and he was not permitted to
enjoy a lengthened conversation sitting with Annette. What was he to
think of a girl who could be submissive to Mrs. Cavely, and danced with
any number of officers, and had no idea save of running incessantly over
England in the pursuit of pleasure? Her tone of saying, "I wish you
had," was that of the most ordinary of wishes, distinctly, if not
designedly different from his own melodious depth.
She granted him one waltz, and he talked of her father and his whimsical
vagrancies and feeling he had a positive liking for Van Diemen, and he
sagaciously said so.
Annette's eyes brightened. "Then why do you never go to see him? He has
bought Elba. We move into the Hall after Christmas. We are at the
Crouch at present. Papa will be sure to make you welcome. Do you not
know that he never forgets a friend or breaks a friendship?"
"I do, and I love him for it," said Fellingham.
If he was not greatly mistaken a gentle pressure on the fingers of his
left hand rewarded him.
This determined him. It should here be observed that he was by birth the
superior of Annette's parentage, and such is the sentiment of a better
blood that the flattery of her warm touch was needed for him to overlook
Two of his visits to Crikswich resulted simply in interviews and
conversations with Mrs. Crickledon. Van Diemen and his daughter were in
London with Tinman and Mrs. Cavely, purchasing furniture for Elba Hall.
Mrs. Crickledon had no scruple in saying, that Mrs. Cavely meant her
brother to inhabit the Hall, though Mr. Smith had outbid him in the
purchase. According to her, Tinman and Mr. Smith had their differences;
for Mr. Smith was a very outspoken gentleman, and had been known to call
Tinman names that no man of spirit would bear if he was not scheming.
Fellingham returned to London, where he roamed the streets famous for
furniture warehouses, in the vain hope of encountering the new owner of
Failing in this endeavour, he wrote a love-letter to Annette.
It was her first. She had liked him. Her manner of thinking she might
love him was through the reflection that no one stood in the way. The
letter opened a world to her, broader than Great Britain.
Fellingham begged her, if she thought favourably of him, to prepare her
father for the purport of his visit. If otherwise, she was to interdict
the visit with as little delay as possible and cut him adrift.
A decided line of conduct was imperative. Yet you have seen that she was
not in love. She was only not unwilling to be in love. And Fellingham
was just a trifle warmed. Now mark what events will do to light the
Van Diemen and Tinman, old chums re-united, and both successful in life,
had nevertheless, as Mrs. Crickledon said, their differences. They
commenced with an opposition to Tinman's views regarding the expenditure
of town moneys. Tinman was ever for devoting them to the patriotic
defence of "our shores;" whereas Van Diemen, pointing in detestation of
the town sewerage reeking across the common under the beach, loudly
called on him to preserve our lives, by way of commencement. Then Van
Diemen precipitately purchased Elba at a high valuation, and Tinman had
expected by waiting to buy it at his own valuation, and sell it out of
friendly consideration to his friend afterwards, for a friendly
consideration. Van Diemen had joined the hunt. Tinman could not mount
a horse. They had not quarrelled, but they had snapped about these and
other affairs. Van Diemen fancied Tinman was jealous of his wealth.
Tinman shrewdly suspected Van Diemen to be contemptuous of his dignity.
He suffered a loss in a loan of money; and instead of pitying him, Van
Diemen had laughed him to scorn for expecting security for investments at
ten per cent. The bitterness of the pinch to Tinman made him frightfully
sensitive to strictures on his discretion. In his anguish he told his
sister he was ruined, and she advised him to marry before the crash. She
was aware that he exaggerated, but she repeated her advice. She went so
far as to name the person. This is known, because she was overheard by
her housemaid, a gossip of Mrs. Crickledon's, the subsequently famous
Now, Annette had shyly intimated to her father the nature of Herbert
Fellingham's letter, at the same time professing a perfect readiness to
submit to his directions; and her father's perplexity was very great, for
Annette had rather fervently dramatized the young man's words at the ball
at Helmstone, which had pleasantly tickled him, and, besides, he liked
the young man. On the other hand, he did not at all like the prospect of
losing his daughter; and he would have desired her to be a lady of title.
He hinted at her right to claim a high position. Annette shrank from the
prospect, saying, "Never let me marry one who might be ashamed of my
"I shouldn't stomach that," said Van Diemen, more disposed in favour of
the present suitor.
Annette was now in a tremor. She had a lover; he was coming. And if he
did not come, did it matter? Not so very much, except to her pride. And
if he did, what was she to say to him? She felt like an actress who may
in a few minutes be called on the stage, without knowing her part. This
was painfully unlike love, and the poor girl feared it would be her
conscientious duty to dismiss him--most gently, of course; and perhaps,
should he be impetuous and picturesque, relent enough to let him hope,
and so bring about a happy postponement of the question. Her father had
been to a neighbouring town on business with Mr. Tinman. He knocked at
her door at midnight; and she, in dread of she knew not what--chiefly
that the Hour of the Scene had somehow struck--stepped out to him
trembling. He was alone. She thought herself the most childish of
mortals in supposing that she could have been summoned at midnight to
declare her sentiments, and hardly noticed his gloomy depression. He
asked her to give him five minutes; then asked her for a kiss, and told
her to go to bed and sleep. But Annette had seen that a great present
affliction was on him, and she would not be sent to sleep. She promised
to listen patiently, to bear anything, to be brave. "Is it bad news from
home?" she said, speaking of the old home where she had not left her
heart, and where his money was invested.
"It's this, my dear Netty," said Van Diemen, suffering her to lead him
into her sitting-room; "we shall have to leave the shores of England."
"Then we are ruined."
"We're not; the rascal can't do that. We might be off to the Continent,
or we might go to America; we've money. But we can't stay here. I'll
not live at any man's mercy."
"The Continent! America!" exclaimed the enthusiast for England.
"Oh, papa, you love living in England so!"
"Not so much as all that, my dear. You do, that I know. But I don't see
how it's to be managed. Mart Tinman and I have been at tooth and claw
to-day and half the night; and he has thrown off the mask, or he's dashed
something from my sight, I don't know which. I knocked him down."
"I picked him up."
"Oh," cried Annette, "has Mr. Tinman been hurt?"
"He called me a Deserter!"
She did not know what this thing was, but the name of it opened a cabinet
of horrors, and she touched her father timidly, to assure him of her
constant love, and a little to reassure herself of his substantial
"And I am one," Van Diemen made the confession at the pitch of his voice.
"I am a Deserter; I'm liable to be branded on the back. And it's in Mart
Tinman's power to have me marched away to-morrow morning in the sight of
Crikswich, and all I can say for myself, as a man and a Briton, is, I did
not desert before the enemy. That I swear I never would have done.
Death, if death's in front; but your poor mother was a handsome woman, my
child, and there--I could not go on living in barracks and leaving her
unprotected. I can't tell a young woman the tale. A hundred pounds came
on me for a legacy, as plump in my hands out of open heaven, and your
poor mother and I saw our chance; we consulted, and we determined to risk
it, and I got on board with her and you, and over the seas we went, first
to shipwreck, ultimately to fortune."
Van Diemen laughed miserably. "They noticed in the hunting-field here I
had a soldier-like seat. A soldier-like seat it'll be, with a brand on
it. I sha'n't be asked to take a soldier-like seat at any of their
tables again. I may at Mart Tinman's, out of pity, after I've undergone
my punishment. There's a year still to run out of the twenty of my term
of service due. He knows it; he's been reckoning; he has me. But the
worst cat-o'-nine-tails for me is the disgrace. To have myself pointed
at, 'There goes the Deserter' He was a private in the Carbineers, and he
deserted.' No one'll say, 'Ay, but he clung to the idea of his old
schoolmate when abroad, and came back loving him, and trusted him, and
Van Diemen produced a spasmodic cough with a blow on his chest. Anisette
"There, now go to bed," said he. "I wish you might have known no more
than you did of our flight when I got you on board the ship with your
poor mother; but you're a young woman now, and you must help me to think
of another cut and run, and what baggage we can scrape together in a
jiffy, for I won't live here at Mart Tinman's mercy."
Drying her eyes to weep again, Annette said, when she could speak: "Will
nothing quiet him? I was going to bother you with all sorts of silly
questions, poor dear papa; but I see I can understand if I try. Will
nothing--Is he so very angry? Can we not do something to pacify him? He
is fond of money. He--oh, the thought of leaving England! Papa, it will
kill you; you set your whole heart on England. We could--I could--could
I not, do you not think?--step between you as a peacemaker. Mr. Tinman
is always very courteous to me."
At these words of Annette's, Van Diemen burst into a short snap of savage
laughter. "But that's far away in the background, Mr. Mart Tinman!" he
said. "You stick to your game, I know that; but you'll find me flown,
though I leave a name to stink like your common behind me. And," he
added, as a chill reminder, "that name the name of my benefactor. Poor
old Van Diemen! He thought it a safe bequest to make."
"It was; it is! We will stay; we will not be exiled," said Annette. "I
will do anything. What was the quarrel about, papa?"
"The fact is, my dear, I just wanted to show him--and take down his
pride--I'm by my Australian education a shrewder hand than his old
country. I bought the house on the beach while he was chaffering, and
then I sold it him at a rise when the town was looking up--only to make
him see. Then he burst up about something I said of Australia. I will
have the common clean. Let him live at the Crouch as my tenant if he
finds the house on the beach in danger."
"Papa, I am sure," Annette repeated--"sure I have influence with Mr.
"There are those lips of yours shutting tight," said her father. "Just
listen, and they make a big O. The donkey! He owns you've got
influence, and he offers he'll be silent if you'll pledge your word to
marry him. I'm not sure he didn't say, within the year. I told him to
look sharp not to be knocked down again. Mart Tinman for my son-in-law!
That's an upside down of my expectations, as good as being at the
antipodes without a second voyage back! I let him know you were
Annette gazed at her father open-mouthed, as he had predicted; now with
a little chilly dimple at one corner of the mouth, now at another--as a
breeze curves the leaden winter lake here and there. She could not get
his meaning into her sight, and she sought, by looking hard, to
understand it better; much as when some solitary maiden lady, passing
into her bedchamber in the hours of darkness, beholds--tradition telling
us she has absolutely beheld foot of burglar under bed; and lo! she
stares, and, cunningly to moderate her horror, doubts, yet cannot but
believe that there is a leg, and a trunk, and a head, and two terrible
arms, bearing pistols, to follow. Sick, she palpitates; she compresses
her trepidation; she coughs, perchance she sings a bar or two of an aria.
Glancing down again, thrice horrible to her is it to discover that there
is no foot! For had it remained, it might have been imagined a harmless,
empty boot. But the withdrawal has a deadly significance of animal life
. . . .
In like manner our stricken Annette perceived the object; so did she
gradually apprehend the fact of her being asked for Tinman's bride, and
she could not think it credible. She half scented, she devised her plan
of escape from another single mention of it. But on her father's
remarking, with a shuffle, frightened by her countenance, "Don't listen
to what I said, Netty. I won't paint him blacker than he is"--then
Annette was sure she had been proposed for by Mr. Tinman, and she fancied
her father might have revolved it in his mind that there was this means
of keeping Tinman silent, silent for ever, in his own interests.
"It was not true, when you told Mr. Tinman I was engaged, papa," she
"No, I know that. Mart Tinman only half-kind of hinted. Come, I say!
Where's the unmarried man wouldn't like to have a girl like you, Netty!
They say he's been rejected all round a circuit of fifteen miles; and
he's not bad-looking, neither--he looks fresh and fair. But I thought it
as well to let him know he might get me at a disadvantage, but he
couldn't you. Now, don't think about it, my love."
"Not if it is not necessary, papa," said Annette; and employed her
familiar sweetness in persuading him to go to bed, as though he were the
afflicted one requiring to be petted.
Round under the cliffs by the sea, facing South, are warm seats in
winter. The sun that shines there on a day of frost wraps you as in a
mantle. Here it was that Mr. Herbert Fellingham found Annette, a chalk-
block for her chair, and a mound of chalk-rubble defending her from the
keen-tipped breath of the east, now and then shadowing the smooth blue
water, faintly, like reflections of a flight of gulls.
Infants are said to have their ideas, and why not young ladies? Those
who write of their perplexities in descriptions comical in their length
are unkind to them, by making them appear the simplest of the creatures
of fiction; and most of us, I am sure, would incline to believe in them
if they were only some bit more lightly touched. Those troubled
sentiments of our young lady of the comfortable classes are quite worthy
of mention. Her poor little eye poring as little fishlike as possible
upon the intricate, which she takes for the infinite, has its place in
our history, nor should we any of us miss the pathos of it were it not
that so large a space is claimed for the exposure. As it is, one has
almost to fight a battle to persuade the world that she has downright
thoughts and feelings, and really a superhuman delicacy is required in
presenting her that she may be credible. Even then--so much being
accomplished the thousands accustomed to chapters of her when she is in
the situation of Annette will be disappointed by short sentences, just as
of old the Continental eater of oysters would have been offended at the
offer of an exchange of two live for two dozen dead ones. Annette was in
the grand crucial position of English imaginative prose. I recognize it,
and that to this the streamlets flow, thence pours the flood. But what
was the plain truth? She had brought herself to think she ought to
sacrifice herself to Tinman, and her evasions with Herbert, manifested in
tricks of coldness alternating with tones of regret, ended, as they had
commenced, in a mysterious half-sullenness. She had hardly a word to
say. Let me step in again to observe that she had at the moment no
pointed intention of marrying Tinman. To her mind the circumstances
compelled her to embark on the idea of doing so, and she saw the
extremity in an extreme distance, as those who are taking voyages may see
death by drowning. Still she had embarked.
"At all events, I have your word for it that you don't dislike me?" said
"Oh! no," she sighed. She liked him as emigrants the land they are
"And you have not promised your hand?"
"No," she said, but sighed in thinking that if she could be induced to
promise it, there would not be a word of leaving England.
"Then, as you are not engaged, and don't hate me, I have a chance?" he
said, in the semi-wailful interrogative of an organ making a mere windy
Ocean sent up a tiny wave at their feet.
"A day like this in winter is rarer than a summer day," Herbert resumed
Annette was replying, "People abuse our climate--"
But the thought of having to go out away from this climate in the
darkness of exile, with her father to suffer under it worse than herself,
overwhelmed her, and fetched the reality of her sorrow in the form of
Tinman swimming before her soul with the velocity of a telegraph-pole to
the window of the flying train. It was past as soon as seen, but it gave
her a desperate sensation of speed.
She began to feel that this was life in earnest.
And Herbert should have been more resolute, fierier. She needed a strong
But he was not on the rapids of the masterful passion. For though going
at a certain pace, it was by his own impulsion; and I am afraid I must,
with many apologies, compare him to the skater--to the skater on easy,
slippery ice, be it understood; but he could perform gyrations as he
went, and he rather sailed along than dashed; he was careful of his
figuring. Some lovers, right honest lovers, never get beyond this quaint
skating-stage; and some ladies, a right goodly number in a foggy climate,
deceived by their occasional runs ahead, take them for vessels on the
very torrent of love. Let them take them, and let the race continue.
Only we perceive that they are skating; they are careering over a smooth
icy floor, and they can stop at a signal, with just half-a-yard of
grating on the heel at the outside. Ice, and not fire nor falling water,
has been their medium of progression.
Whether a man should unveil his own sex is quite another question.
If we are detected, not solely are we done for, but our love-tales too.
However, there is not much ground for anxiety on that head. Each member
of the other party is blind on her own account.
To Annette the figuring of Herbert was graceful, but it did not catch her
up and carry her; it hardly touched her: He spoke well enough to make her
sorry for him, and not warmly enough to make her forget her sorrow for
Herbert could obtain no explanation of the singularity of her conduct
from Annette, and he went straight to her father, who was nearly as
inexplicable for a time. At last he said:
"If you are ready to quit the country with us, you may have my consent."
"Why quit the country?" Herbert asked, in natural amazement.
Van Diemen declined to tell him.
But seeing the young man look stupefied and wretched he took a turn about
the room, and said: "I have n't robbed," and after more turns, "I have
n't murdered." He growled in his menagerie trot within the four walls.
"But I'm, in a man's power. Will that satisfy you? You'll tell me,
because I'm rich, to snap my fingers. I can't. I've got feelings. I'm
in his power to hurt me and disgrace me. It's the disgrace--to my
disgrace I say it--I dread most. You'd be up to my reason if you had
ever served in a regiment. I mean, discipline--if ever you'd known
discipline--in the police if you like--anything--anywhere where there's
what we used to call spiny de cor. I mean, at school. And I'm," said
Van Diemen, "a rank idiot double D. dolt, and flat as a pancake, and
transparent as a pane of glass. You see through me. Anybody could.
I can't talk of my botheration without betraying myself. What good am
I among you sharp fellows in England?"
Language of this kind, by virtue of its unintelligibility, set Mr.
Herbert Fellingham's acute speculations at work. He was obliged to lean
on Van Diemen's assertion, that he had not robbed and had not murdered,
to be comforted by the belief that he was not once a notorious
bushranger, or a defaulting manager of mines, or any other thing
that is naughtily Australian and kangarooly.
He sat at the dinner-table at Elba, eating like the rest of mankind, and
looking like a starved beggarman all the while.
Annette, in pity of his bewilderment, would have had her father take him
into their confidence. She suggested it covertly, and next she spoke of
it to him as a prudent measure, seeing that Mr. Fellingham might find out
his exact degree of liability. Van Diemen shouted; he betrayed himself
in his weakness as she could not have imagined him. He was ready to go,
he said--go on the spot, give up Elba, fly from Old England: what he
could not do was to let his countrymen know what he was, and live among
them afterwards. He declared that the fact had eternally been present to
his mind, devouring him; and Annette remembered his kindness to the
artillerymen posted along the shore westward of Crikswich, though she
could recall no sign of remorse. Van Diemen said: "We have to do with
Martin Tinman; that's one who has a hold on me, and one's enough. Leak
out my secret to a second fellow, you double my risks." He would not be
taught to see how the second might counteract the first. The singularity
of the action of his character on her position was, that though she knew
not a soul to whom she could unburden her wretchedness, and stood far
more isolated than in her Australian home, fever and chill struck her
blood in contemplation of the necessity of quitting England.
Deep, then, was her gratitude to dear good Mrs. Cavely for stepping in to
mediate between her father and Mr. Tinman. And well might she be amazed
to hear the origin of their recent dispute.
"It was," Mrs. Cavely said, "that Gippsland."
Annette cried: "What?"
"That Gippsland of yours, my dear. Your father will praise Gippsland
whenever my Martin asks him to admire the beauties of our neighbourhood.
Many a time has Martin come home to me complaining of it. We have no
doubt on earth that Gippsland is a very fine place; but my brother has
his idea's of dignity, you must know, and I only wish he had been more
used to contradiction, you may believe me. He is a lamb by nature. And,
as he says, 'Why underrate one's own country?' He cannot bear to hear
boasting. Well! I put it to you, dear Annette, is he so unimportant a
person? He asks to be respected, and especially by his dearest friend.
From that to blows! It's the way with men. They begin about trifles,
they drink, they quarrel, and one does what he is sorry for, and one says
more than he means. All my Martin desires is to shake your dear father's
hand, forgive and forget. To win your esteem, darling Annette, he would
humble himself in the dust. Will you not help me to bring these two dear
old friends together once more? It is unreasonable of your dear papa to
go on boasting of Gippsland if he is so fond of England, now is it not?
My brother is the offended party in the eye of the law. That is quite
certain. Do you suppose he dreams of taking advantage of it? He is
waiting at home to be told he may call on your father. Rank, dignity,
wounded feelings, is nothing to him in comparison with friendship."
Annette thought of the blow which had felled him, and spoke the truth of
her heart in saying, "He is very generous."
"You understand him." Mrs. Cavely pressed her hand. "We will both go to
your dear father. He may," she added, not without a gleam of feminine
archness, "praise Gippsland above the Himalayas to me. What my Martin so
much objected to was, the speaking of Gippsland at all when there was
mention of our Lake scenery. As for me, I know how men love to boast of
things nobody else has seen."
The two ladies went in company to Van Diemen, who allowed himself to be
melted. He was reserved nevertheless. His reception of Mr. Tinman
displeased his daughter. Annette attached the blackest importance to a
blow of the fist. In her mind it blazed fiendlike, and the man who
forgave it rose a step or two on the sublime. Especially did he do so
considering that he had it in his power to dismiss her father and herself
from bright beaming England before she had looked on all the cathedrals
and churches, the sea-shores and spots named in printed poetry, to say
nothing of the nobility.
"Papa, you were not so kind to Mr. Tinman as I could have hoped," said
"Mart Tinman has me at his mercy, and he'll make me know it," her father
returned gloomily. "He may let me off with the Commander-in-chief.
He'll blast my reputation some day, though. I shall be hanging my head
in society, through him."
Van Diemen imitated the disconsolate appearance of a gallows body, in one
of those rapid flashes of spontaneous veri-similitude which spring of an
inborn horror painting itself on the outside.
"A Deserter!" he moaned.
He succeeded in impressing the terrible nature of the stigma upon
The guest at Elba was busy in adding up the sum of his own impressions,
and dividing it by this and that new circumstance; for he was totally in
the dark. He was attracted by the mysterious interview of Mrs. Cavely
and Annette. Tinman's calling and departing set him upon new
calculations. Annette grew cold and visibly distressed by her
consciousness of it.
She endeavoured to account for this variation of mood. "We have been
invited to dine at the house on the beach to-morrow. I would not have
accepted, but papa . . . we seemed to think it a duty. Of course the
invitation extends to you. We fancy you do not greatly enjoy dining
there. The table will be laid for you here, if you prefer."
Herbert preferred to try the skill of Mrs. Crickledon.
Now, for positive penetration the head prepossessed by a suspicion is
unmatched; for where there is no daylight; this one at least goes about
with a lantern. Herbert begged Mrs. Crickledon to cook a dinner for him,
and then to give the right colour to his absence from the table of Mr.
Tinman, he started for a winter day's walk over the downs as sharpening a
business as any young fellow, blunt or keen, may undertake; excellent for
men of the pen, whether they be creative, and produce, or slaughtering,
and review; good, then, for the silly sheep of letters and the butchers.
He sat down to Mrs. Crickledon's table at half-past six. She was, as she
had previously informed him, a forty-pound-a-year cook at the period of
her courting by Crickledon. That zealous and devoted husband had made
his first excursion inland to drop over the downs to the great house, and
fetch her away as his bride, on the death of her master, Sir Alfred
Pooney, who never would have parted with her in life; and every day of
that man's life he dirtied thirteen plates at dinner, nor more, nor less,
but exactly that number, as if he believed there was luck in it. And as
Crickledon said, it was odd. But it was always a pleasure to cook for
him. Mrs. Crickledon could not abide cooking for a mean eater. And when
Crickledon said he had never seen an acorn, he might have seen one had he
looked about him in the great park, under the oaks, on the day when he
came to be married.
"Then it's a standing compliment to you, Mrs. Crickledon, that he did
not," said Herbert.
He remarked with the sententiousness of enforced philosophy, that no wine
was better than bad wine.
Mrs. Crickledon spoke of a bottle left by her summer lodgers, who had
indeed left two, calling the wine invalid's wine; and she and her husband
had opened one on the anniversary of their marriage day in October. It
had the taste of doctor's shop, they both agreed; and as no friend of
theirs could be tempted beyond a sip, they were advised, because it was
called a tonic, to mix it with the pig-wash, so that it should not be
entirely lost, but benefit the constitution of the pig. Herbert sipped
at the remaining bottle, and finding himself in the superior society of
an old Manzanilla, refilled his glass.
"Nothing I knows of proves the difference between gentlefolks and poor
persons as tastes in wine," said Mrs. Crickledon, admiring him as she
brought in a dish of cutlets,--with Sir Alfred Pooney's favourite sauce
Soubise, wherein rightly onion should be delicate as the idea of love in
maidens' thoughts, albeit constituting the element of flavour. Something
of such a dictum Sir Alfred Pooney had imparted to his cook, and she
repeated it with the fresh elegance of, such sweet sayings when
transfused through the native mind:
"He said, I like as it was what you would call a young gal's blush at a
kiss round a corner."
The epicurean baronet had the habit of talking in that way.
Herbert drank to his memory. He was well-filled; he had no work to do,
and he was exuberant in spirits, as Mrs. Crickledon knew her countrymen
should and would be under those conditions. And suddenly he drew his
hand across a forehead so wrinkled and dark, that Mrs. Crickledon
exclaimed, "Heart or stomach?"
"Oh, no," said he. "I'm sound enough in both, I hope."
That old Tinman's up to one of his games," she observed.
"Do you think so?"
"He's circumventing Miss Annette Smith."
"Pooh! Crickledon. A man of his age can't be seriously thinking of
proposing for a young lady."
He's a well-kept man. He's never racketed. He had n't the rackets in
him. And she may n't care for him. But we hear things drop."
"What things have you heard drop, Crickledon? In a profound silence you
may hear pins; in a hubbub you may hear cannon-balls. But I never
believe in eavesdropping gossip."
"He was heard to say to Mr. Smith," Crickledon pursued, and she lowered
her voice, "he was heard to say, it was when they were quarreling over
that chiwal, and they went at one another pretty hard before Mr. Smith
beat him and he sold Mr. Smith that meadow; he was heard to say, there
was worse than transportation for Mr. Smith if he but lifted his finger.
They Tinmans have awful tempers. His old mother died malignant, though
she was a saving woman, and never owed a penny to a Christian a hour
longer than it took to pay the money. And old Tinman's just such
"Transportation!" Herbert ejaculated, "that's sheer nonsense, Crickledon.
I'm sure your husband would tell you so."
"It was my husband brought me the words," Mrs. Crickledon rejoined with
some triumph. "He did tell me, I own, to keep it shut: but my speaking
to you, a friend of Mr. Smith's, won't do no harm. He heard them under
the battery, over that chiwal glass: 'And you shall pay,' says Mr. Smith,
and 'I sha'n't,' says old Tinman. Mr. Smith said he would have it if he
had to squeeze a deathbed confession from a sinner. Then old Tinman
fires out, 'You!' he says, 'you' and he stammered. 'Mr. Smith,' my
husband said and you never saw a man so shocked as my husband at being
obliged to hear them at one another Mr. Smith used the word damn. 'You
may laugh, sir.'"