Part 6 out of 10
"Boys do," said Mrs. Doria.
"But listen to me in earnest, aunt. I want you to be kind to Ralph.
Don't drive him to--You maybe sorry for it. Let him--do let him write to
her, and see her. I believe women are as cruel as men in these things."
"I never encourage absurdity, Richard."
"What objection have you to Ralph, aunt?"
"Oh, they're both good families. It's not that absurdity, Richard. It
will be to his credit to remember that his first fancy wasn't a
dairymaid." Mrs. Doria pitched her accent tellingly. It did not touch
"Don't you want Clare ever to marry?" He put the last point of reason to
Mrs. Doria laughed. "I hope so, child. We must find some comfortable
old gentleman for her."
"What infamy!" mutters Richard.
"And I engage Ralph shall be ready to dance at her wedding, or eat a
hearty breakfast--We don't dance at weddings now, and very properly.
It's a horrid sad business, not to be treated with levity.--Is that his
regiment?" she said, as they passed out of the hussar-sentinelled
gardens. "Tush, tush, child! Master Ralph will recover, as--hem! others
have done. A little headache--you call it heartache--and up you rise
again, looking better than ever. No doubt, to have a grain of sense
forced into your brains, you poor dear children! must be painful.. Girls
suffer as much as boys, I assure you. More, for their heads are weaker,
and their appetites less constant. Do I talk like your father now?
Whatever makes the boy fidget at his watch so?"
Richard stopped short. Time spoke urgently.
"I must go," he said.
His face did not seem good for trifling. Mrs. Doria would trifle in
"Listen, Clare! Richard is going. He says he has an engagement. What
possible engagement can a young man have at eleven o'clock in the
morning?--unless it's to be married!" Mrs. Doria laughed at the
ingenuity of her suggestion.
"Is the church handy, Ricky?" said Adrian. "You can still give us half-
an-hour if it is. The celibate hours strike at Twelve." And he also
laughed in his fashion.
"Won't you stay with us, Richard?" Clare asked. She blushed timidly, and
her voice shook.
Something indefinite--a sharp-edged thrill in the tones made the burning
bridegroom speak gently to her.
"Indeed, I would, Clare; I should like to please you, but I have a most
imperative appointment--that is, I promised--I must go. I shall see you
Mrs. Doria, took forcible possession of him. "Now, do come, and don't
waste words. I insist upon your having some breakfast first, and then,
if you really must go, you shall. Look! there's the house. At least you
will accompany your aunt to the door."
Richard conceded this. She little imagined what she required of him.
Two of his golden minutes melted into nothingness. They were growing to
be jewels of price, one by one more and more precious as they ran, and
now so costly-rare--rich as his blood! not to kindest relations, dearest
friends, could he give another. The die is cast! Ferryman! push off.
"Good-bye!" he cried, nodding bluffly at the three as one, and fled.
They watched his abrupt muscular stride through the grounds of the house.
He looked like resolution on the march. Mrs. Doria, as usual with her
out of her brother's hearing, began rating the System.
"See what becomes of that nonsensical education! The boy really does not
know how to behave like a common mortal. He has some paltry appointment,
or is mad after some ridiculous idea of his own, and everything must be
sacrificed to it! That's what Austin calls concentration of the
faculties. I think it's more likely to lead to downright insanity than
to greatness of any kind. And so I shall tell Austin. It's time he
should be spoken to seriously about him."
"He's an engine, my dear aunt," said Adrian. "He isn't a boy, or a man,
but an engine. And he appears to have been at high pressure since he
came to town--out all day and half the night."
"He's mad!" Mrs. Doria interjected.
"Not at all. Extremely shrewd is Master Ricky, and carries as open an
eye ahead of him as the ships before Troy. He's more than a match for
any of us. He is for me, I confess."
"Then," said Mrs. Doria, "he does astonish me!"
Adrian begged her to retain her astonishment till the right season, which
would not be long arriving.
Their common wisdom counselled them not to tell the Foreys of their
hopeful relative's ungracious behaviour. Clare had left them. When Mrs.
Doria went to her room her daughter was there, gazing down at something
in her hand, which she guiltily closed.
In answer to an inquiry why she had not gone to take off her things,
Clare said she was not hungry. Mrs. Doria lamented the obstinacy of a
constitution that no quantity of iron could affect, and eclipsed the
looking-glass, saying: "Take them off here, child, and learn to assist
She disentangled her bonnet from the array of her spreading hair, talking
of Richard, and his handsome appearance, and extraordinary conduct.
Clare kept opening and shutting her hand, in an attitude half-pensive,
half-listless. She did not stir to undress. A joyless dimple hung in
one pale cheek, and she drew long even breaths.
Mrs. Doria, assured by the glass that she was ready to show, came to her
"Now, really," she said, "you are too helpless, my dear. You cannot do a
thing without a dozen women at your elbow. What will become of you? You
will have to marry a millionaire.--What's the matter with you, child?"
Clare undid her tight-shut fingers, as if to some attraction of her eyes,
and displayed a small gold hoop on the palm of a green glove.
"A wedding-ring!" exclaimed Mrs. Doria, inspecting the curiosity most
There on Clare's pale green glove lay a wedding-ring!
Rapid questions as to where, when, how, it was found, beset Clare, who
replied: "In the Gardens, mama. This morning. When I was walking behind
"Are you sure he did not give it you, Clare?"
"Oh no, mama! he did not give it me."
"Of course not! only he does such absurd things!" Ithought, perhaps--
these boys are so exceedingly ridiculous!" Mrs. Doria had an idea that
it might have been concerted between the two young gentlemen, Richard and
Ralph, that the former should present this token of hymeneal devotion
from the latter to the young lady of his love; but a moment's reflection
exonerated boys even from such preposterous behaviour.
"Now, I wonder," she speculated on Clare's cold face, "I do wonder
whether it's lucky to find a wedding-ring. What very quick eyes you
have, my darling!" Mrs. Doria kissed her. She thought it must be lucky,
and the circumstance made her feel tender to her child. Her child did
not move to the kiss.
"Let's see whether it fits," said Mrs. Doria, almost infantine with
surprise and pleasure.
Clare suffered her glove to be drawn off. The ring slid down her long
thin finger, and settled comfortably.
"It does!" Mrs. Doria whispered. To find a wedding ring is open to any
woman; but to find a wedding-ring that fits may well cause a
superstitious emotion. Moreover, that it should be found while walking
in the neighbourhood of the identical youth whom a mother has destined
for her daughter, gives significance to the gentle perturbation of ideas
consequent on such a hint from Fortune.
"It really fits!" she pursued. "Now I never pay any attention to the
nonsense of omens and that kind of thing" (had the ring been a horseshoe
Mrs. Doria would have pinked it up and dragged it obediently home), "but
this, I must say, is odd--to find a ring that fits!--singular! It never
happened to me. Sixpence is the most I ever discovered, and I have it
now. Mind you keep it, Clare--this ring: And," she laughed, "offer it to
Richard when he comes; say, you think he must have dropped it."
The dimple in Clare's cheek quivered.
Mother and daughter had never spoken explicitly of Richard. Mrs. Doria,
by exquisite management, had contrived to be sure that on one side there
would be no obstacle to her project of general happiness, without, as she
thought, compromising her daughter's feelings unnecessarily. It could do
no harm to an obedient young girl to hear that there was no youth in the
world like a certain youth. He the prince of his generation, she might
softly consent, when requested, to be his princess; and if never
requested (for Mrs. Doria envisaged failure), she might easily transfer
her softness to squires of lower degree. Clare had always been blindly
obedient to her mother (Adrian called them Mrs. Doria Battledoria and the
fair Shuttlecockiana), and her mother accepted in this blind obedience
the text of her entire character. It is difficult for those who think
very earnestly for their children to know when their children are
thinking on their own account. The exercise of their volition we
construe as revolt. Our love does not like to be invalided and deposed
from its command, and here I think yonder old thrush on the lawn who has
just kicked the last of her lank offspring out of the nest to go shift
for itself, much the kinder of the two, though sentimental people do
shrug their shoulders at these unsentimental acts of the creatures who
never wander from nature. Now, excess of obedience is, to one who
manages most exquisitely, as bad as insurrection. Happily Mrs. Doria saw
nothing in her daughter's manner save a want of iron. Her pallor, her
lassitude, the tremulous nerves in her face, exhibited an imperious
requirement of the mineral.
"The reason why men and women are mysterious to us, and prove
disappointing," we learn from The Pilgrim's Scrip, "is, that we will read
them from our own book; just as we are perplexed by reading ourselves
Mrs. Doria read her daughter from her own book, and she was gay; she
laughed with Adrian at the breakfast-table, and mock-seriously joined in
his jocose assertion that Clare was positively and by all hymeneal
auspices betrothed to the owner of that ring, be he who he may, and must,
whenever he should choose to come and claim her, give her hand to him
(for everybody agreed the owner must be masculine, as no woman would drop
a wedding-ring), and follow him whither he listed all the world over.
Amiable giggling Forey girls called Clare, The Betrothed. Dark man, or
fair? was mooted. Adrian threw off the first strophe of Clare's fortune
in burlesque rhymes, with an insinuating gipsy twang. Her aunt Forey
warned her to have her dresses in readiness. Her grandpapa Forey
pretended to grumble at bridal presents being expected from grandpapas.
This one smelt orange-flower, another spoke solemnly of an old shoe. The
finding of a wedding-ring was celebrated through all the palpitating
accessories and rosy ceremonies involved by that famous instrument. In
the midst of the general hilarity, Clare showed her deplorable want of
iron by bursting into tears.
Did the poor mocked-at heart divine what might be then enacting?
Perhaps, dimly, as we say: that is, without eyes.
At an altar stand two fair young creatures, ready with their oaths. They
are asked to fix all time to the moment, and they do so. If there is
hesitation at the immense undertaking, it is but maidenly. She conceives
as little mental doubt of the sanity of the act as he. Over them hangs a
cool young curate in his raiment of office. Behind are two apparently
lucid people, distinguished from each other by sex and age: the foremost
a bunch of simmering black satin; under her shadow a cock-robin in the
dress of a gentleman, big joy swelling out his chest, and pert
satisfaction cocking his head. These be they who stand here in place of
parents to the young couple. All is well. The service proceeds.
Firmly the bridegroom tells forth his words. This hour of the complacent
giant at least is his, and that he means to hold him bound through the
eternities, men may hear. Clearly, and with brave modesty, speaks she:
no less firmly, though her body trembles: her voice just vibrating while
the tone travels on, like a smitten vase.
Time hears sentence pronounced on him: the frail hands bind his huge
limbs and lock the chains. He is used to it: he lets them do as they
Then comes that period when they are to give their troth to each other.
The Man with his right hand takes the Woman by her right hand: the Woman
with her right hand takes the Man by his right hand.--Devils dare not
laugh at whom Angels crowd to contemplate.
Their hands are joined; their blood flows as one stream. Adam and fair
Eve front the generations. Are they not lovely? Purer fountains of life
were never in two bosoms.
And then they loose their hands, and the cool curate doth bid the Man to
put a ring on the Woman's fourth finger, counting thumb. And the Man
thrusts his hand into one pocket, and into another, forward and back many
times into all his pockets. He remembers that he felt for it, and felt
it in his waistcoat pocket, when in the Gardens. And his hand comes
forth empty. And the Man is ghastly to look at!
Yet, though Angels smile, shall not Devils laugh! The curate
deliberates. The black satin bunch ceases to simmer. He in her shadow
changes from a beaming cock-robin to an inquisitive sparrow. Eyes
multiply questions: lips have no reply. Time ominously shakes his chain,
and in the pause a sound of mockery stings their ears.
Think ye a hero is one to be defeated in his first battle? Look at the
clock! there are but seven minutes to the stroke of the celibate hours:
the veteran is surely lifting his two hands to deliver fire, and his shot
will sunder them in twain so nearly united. All the jewellers of London
speeding down with sacks full of the nuptial circlet cannot save them!
The battle must be won on the field, and what does the hero now? It is
an inspiration! For who else would dream of such a reserve in the rear?
None see what he does; only that the black-satin bunch is remonstratingly
agitated, stormily shaken, and subdued: and as though the menacing cloud
had opened, and dropped the dear token from the skies at his demand, he
produces the symbol of their consent, and the service proceeds: "With
this ring I thee wed."
They are prayed over and blest. For good, or for ill, this deed is done.
The names are registered; fees fly right and left: they thank, and
salute, the curate, whose official coolness melts into a smile of
monastic gallantry: the beadle on the steps waves off a gaping world as
they issue forth bridegroom and bridesman recklessly scatter gold on him:
carriage doors are banged to: the coachmen drive off, and the scene
closes, everybody happy.
And the next moment the bride is weeping as if she would dissolve to one
of Dian's Virgin Fountains from the clasp of the Sun-God. She has nobly
preserved the mask imposed by comedies, till the curtain has fallen, and
now she weeps, streams with tears. Have patience, O impetuous young man!
It is your profession to be a hero. This poor heart is new to it, and
her duties involve such wild acts, such brigandage, such terrors and
tasks, she is quite unnerved. She did you honour till now. Bear with
her now. She does not cry the cry of ordinary maidens in like cases.
While the struggle went on her tender face was brave; but, alas! Omens
are against her: she holds an ever-present dreadful one on that fatal
fourth finger of hers, which has coiled itself round her dream of
delight, and takes her in its clutch like a horrid serpent. And yet she
must love it. She dares not part from it. She must love and hug it, and
feed on its strange honey, and all the bliss it gives her casts all the
deeper shadow on what is to come.
Say: Is it not enough to cause feminine apprehension, for a woman to be
married in another woman's ring?
You are amazons, ladies, at Saragossa, and a thousand citadels--wherever
there is strife, and Time is to be taken by the throat. Then shall few
men match your sublime fury. But what if you see a vulture, visible only
to yourselves, hovering over the house you are gaily led by the torch to
inhabit? Will you not crouch and be cowards?
As for the hero, in the hour of victory he pays no heed to omens. He
does his best to win his darling to confidence by caresses. Is she not
his? Is he not hers? And why, when the battle is won, does she weep?
Does she regret what she has done?
Oh, never! never! her soft blue eyes assure him, steadfast love seen
swimming on clear depths of faith in them, through the shower.
He is silenced by her exceeding beauty, and sits perplexed waiting for
the shower to pass.
Alone with Mrs. Berry, in her bedroom, Lucy gave tongue to her distress,
and a second character in the comedy changed her face.
"O Mrs. Berry! Mrs. Berry! what has happened! what has happened!"
"My darlin' child!" The bridal Berry gazed at the finger of doleful joy.
"I'd forgot all about it! And that's what've made me feel so queer ever
since, then! I've been seemin' as if I wasn't myself somehow, without my
ring. Dear! dear! what a wilful young gentleman! We ain't a match for
men in that state--Lord help us!"
Mrs. Berry sat on the edge of a chair: Lucy on the edge of the bed.
"What do you think of it, Mrs. Berry? Is it not terrible?"
"I can't say I should 'a liked it myself, my dear," Mrs. Berry candidly
"Oh! why, why, why did it happen!" the young bride bent to a flood of
fresh tears, murmuring that she felt already old--forsaken.
"Haven't you got a comfort in your religion for all accidents?" Mrs.
"None for this. I know it's wrong to cry when I am so happy. I hope he
will forgive me."
Mrs. Berry vowed her bride was the sweetest, softest, beautifulest thing
"I'll cry no more," said Lucy. "Leave me, Mrs. Berry, and come back when
She drew forth a little silver cross, and fell upon her knees to the bed.
Mrs. Berry left the room tiptoe.
When she was called to return, Lucy was calm and tearless, and smiled
kindly to her.
"It's over now," she said.
Mrs. Berry sedately looked for her ring to follow.
"He does not wish me to go in to the breakfast you have prepared, Mrs.
Berry. I begged to be excused. I cannot eat."
Mrs. Berry very much deplored it, as she had laid out a superior nuptial
breakfast, but with her mind on her ring she nodded assentingly.
"We shall not have much packing to do, Mrs. Berry."
"No, my dear. It's pretty well all done."
"We are going to the Isle of Wight, Mrs. Berry."
"And a very suitable spot ye've chose, my dear!"
"He loves the sea. He wishes to be near it."
"Don't ye cross to-night, if it's anyways rough, my dear. It isn't
advisable." Mrs. Berry sank her voice to say, "Don't ye be soft and give
way to him there, or you'll both be repenting it."
Lucy had only been staving off the unpleasantness she had to speak. She
saw Mrs. Berry's eyes pursuing her ring, and screwed up her courage at
"Yes, my dear."
"Mrs. Berry, you shall have another ring."
"Another, my dear?" Berry did not comprehend. "One's quite enough for
the objeck," she remarked.
"I mean," Lucy touched her fourth finger, "I cannot part with this." She
looked straight at Mrs. Berry.
That bewildered creature gazed at her, and at the ring, till she had
thoroughly exhausted the meaning of the words, and then exclaimed,
horror-struck: "Deary me, now! you don't say that? You're to be married
again in your own religion."
The young wife repeated: "I can never part with it."
"But, my dear!" the wretched Berry wrung her hands, divided between
compassion and a sense of injury. "My dear!" she kept expostulating like
"I know all that you would say, Mrs. Berry. I am very grieved to pain
you. It is mine now, and must be mine. I cannot give it back."
There she sat, suddenly developed to the most inflexible little heroine
in the three Kingdoms.
From her first perception of the meaning of the young bride's words, Mrs.
Berry, a shrewd physiognomist, knew that her case was hopeless, unless
she treated her as she herself had been treated, and seized the ring by
force of arms; and that she had not heart for.
"What!" she gasped faintly, "one's own lawful wedding-ring you wouldn't
give back to a body?"
"Because it is mine, Mrs. Berry. It was yours, but it is mine now. You
shall have whatever you ask for but that. Pray, forgive me! It must be
Mrs. Berry rocked on her chair, and sounded her hands together. It
amazed her that this soft little creature could be thus firm. She tried
"Don't ye know, my dear, it's the fatalest thing you're inflictin' upon
me, reelly! Don't ye know that bein' bereft of one's own lawful wedding-
ring's the fatalest thing in life, and there's no prosperity after it!
For what stands in place o' that, when that's gone, my dear? And what
could ye give me to compensate a body for the loss o' that? Don't ye
know--Oh, deary me!" The little bride's face was so set that poor Berry
wailed off in despair.
"I know it," said Lucy. "I know it all. I know what I do to you. Dear,
dear Mrs. Berry! forgive me! If I parted with my ring I know it would be
So this fair young freebooter took possession of her argument as well as
Berry racked her distracted wits for a further appeal.
"But, my child," she counter-argued, "you don't understand. It ain't as
you think. It ain't a hurt to you now. Not a bit, it ain't. It makes
no difference now! Any ring does while the wearer's a maid. And your
Mr. Richard will find the very ring he intended for ye. And, of course,
that's the one you'll wear as his wife. It's all the same now, my dear.
It's no shame to a maid. Now do--now do--there's a darlin'!"
Wheedling availed as little as argument.
"Mrs. Berry," said Lucy, "you know what my--he spoke: 'With this ring I
thee wed.' It was with this ring. Then how could it be with another?"
Berry was constrained despondently to acknowledge that was logic.
She hit upon an artful conjecture:
"Won't it be unlucky your wearin' of the ring which served me so? Think
"It may! it may! it may!" cried Lucy.
"And arn't you rushin' into it, my dear?"
"Mrs. Berry," Lucy said again, "it was this ring. It cannot--it never
can be another. It was this. What it brings me I must bear. I shall
wear it till I die!"
"Then what am I to do?" the ill-used woman groaned. "What shall I tell
my husband when he come back to me, and see I've got a new ring waitin'
for him? Won't that be a welcome?"
Quoth Lucy: "How can he know it is not the same; in a plain gold ring?"
"You never see so keen a eyed man in joolry as my Berry!" returned his
solitary spouse. "Not know, my dear? Why, any one would know that've
got eyes in his head. There's as much difference in wedding-rings as
there's in wedding people! Now, do pray be reasonable, my own sweet!"
"Pray, do not ask me," pleads Lucy.
"Pray, do think better of it," urges Berry.
"Pray, pray, Mrs. Berry!" pleads Lucy.
"--And not leave your old Berry all forlorn just when you're so happy!"
"Indeed I would not, you dear, kind old creature!" Lucy faltered.
Mrs. Berry thought she had her.
"Just when you're going to be the happiest wife on earth--all you want
yours!" she pursued the tender strain. "A handsome young gentleman!
Love and Fortune smilin' on ye!"--
Lucy rose up.
"Mrs. Berry," she said, "I think we must not lose time in getting ready,
or he will be impatient."
Poor Berry surveyed her in abject wonder from the edge of her chair.
Dignity and resolve were in the ductile form she had hitherto folded
under her wing. In an hour the heroine had risen to the measure of the
hero. Without being exactly aware what creature she was dealing with,
Berry acknowledged to herself it was not one of the common run, and
sighed, and submitted.
"It's like a divorce, that it is!" she sobbed.
After putting the corners of her apron to her eyes, Berry bustled humbly
about the packing. Then Lucy, whose heart was full to her, came and
kissed her, and Berry bumped down and regularly cried. This over, she
had recourse to fatalism.
"I suppose it was to be, my dear! It's my punishment for meddlin' wi'
such matters. No, I'm not sorry. Bless ye both. Who'd 'a thought you
was so wilful?--you that any one might have taken for one of the silly-
softs! You're a pair, my dear! indeed you are! You was made to meet!
But we mustn't show him we've been crying.--Men don't like it when
they're happy. Let's wash our faces and try to bear our lot."
So saying the black-satin bunch careened to a renewed deluge. She
deserved some sympathy, for if it is sad to be married in another
person's ring, how much sadder to have one's own old accustomed lawful
ring violently torn off one's finger and eternally severed from one! But
where you have heroes and heroines, these terrible complications ensue.
They had now both fought their battle of the ring, and with equal honour
In the chamber of banquet Richard was giving Ripton his last directions.
Though it was a private wedding, Mrs. Berry had prepared a sumptuous
breakfast. Chickens offered their breasts: pies hinted savoury secrets:
things mystic, in a mash, with Gallic appellatives, jellies, creams,
fruits, strewed the table: as a tower in the midst, the cake colossal:
the priestly vesture of its nuptial white relieved by hymeneal
Many hours, much labour and anxiety of mind, Mrs. Berry had expended upon
this breakfast, and why? There is one who comes to all feasts that have
their basis in Folly, whom criminals of trained instinct are careful to
provide against: who will speak, and whose hateful voice must somehow be
silenced while the feast is going on. This personage is The Philosopher.
Mrs. Berry knew him. She knew that he would come. She provided against
him in the manner she thought most efficacious: that is, by cheating her
eyes and intoxicating her conscience with the due and proper glories
incident to weddings where fathers dilate, mothers collapse, and marriage
settlements are flourished on high by the family lawyer: and had there
been no show of the kind to greet her on her return from the church, she
would, and she foresaw she would, have stared at squalor and emptiness,
and repented her work. The Philosopher would have laid hold of her by
the ear, and called her bad names. Entrenched behind a breakfast-table
so legitimately adorned, Mrs. Berry defied him. In the presence of that
cake he dared not speak above a whisper. And there were wines to drown
him in, should he still think of protesting; fiery wines, and cool:
claret sent purposely by the bridegroom for the delectation of his
For one good hour, therefore, the labour of many hours kept him dumb.
Ripton was fortifying himself so as to forget him altogether, and the
world as well, till the next morning. Ripton was excited, overdone with
delight. He had already finished one bottle, and listened, pleasantly
flushed, to his emphatic and more abstemious chief. He had nothing to do
but to listen, and to drink. The hero would not allow him to shout
Victory! or hear a word of toasts; and as, from the quantity of oil
poured on it, his eloquence was becoming a natural force in his bosom,
the poor fellow was afflicted with a sort of elephantiasis of suppressed
emotion. At times he half-rose from his chair, and fell vacuously into
it again; or he chuckled in the face of weighty, severely-worded
instructions; tapped his chest, stretched his arms, yawned, and in short
behaved so singularly that Richard observed it, and said: "On my soul, I
don't think you know a word I'm saying."
"Every word, Ricky!" Ripton spirted through the opening. "I'm going down
to your governor, and tell him: Sir Austin! Here's your only chance of
being a happy father--no, no!--Oh! don't you fear me, Ricky! I shall
talk the old gentleman over."
His chief said:
"Look here. You had better not go down to-night. Go down the first
thing to-morrow, by the six o'clock train. Give him my letter. Listen
to me--give him my letter, and don't speak a word till he speaks. His
eyebrows will go up and down, he won't say much. I know him. If he asks
you about her, don't be a fool, but say what you think of her sensibly"--
No cork could hold in Ripton when she was alluded to. He shouted: "She's
Richard checked him: "Speak sensibly, I say--quietly. You can say how
gentle and good she is--my fleur-de-luce! And say, this was not her
doing. If any one's to blame, it's I. I made her marry me. Then go to
Lady Blandish, if you don't find her at the house. You may say whatever
you please to her. Give her my letter, and tell her I want to hear from
her immediately. She has seen Lucy, and I know what she thinks of her.
You will then go to Farmer Blaize. I told you Lucy happens to be his
niece--she has not lived long there. She lived with her aunt Desborough
in France while she was a child, and can hardly be called a relative to
the farmer--there's not a point of likeness between them. Poor darling!
she never knew her mother. Go to Mr. Blaize, and tell him. You will
treat him just as you would treat any other gentleman. If you are civil,
he is sure to be. And if he abuses me, for my sake and hers you will
still treat him with respect. You hear? And then write me a full
account of all that has been said and done. You will have my address the
day after to-morrow. By the way, Tom will be here this afternoon. Write
out for him where to call on you the day after to-morrow, in case you
have heard anything in the morning you think I ought to know at once, as
Tom will join me that night. Don't mention to anybody about my losing
the ring, Ripton. I wouldn't have Adrian get hold of that for a thousand
pounds. How on earth I came to lose it! How well she bore it, Rip! How
beautifully she behaved!"
Ripton again shouted: "An angel!" Throwing up the heels of his second
bottle, he said:
"You may trust your friend, Richard. Aha! when you pulled at old Mrs.
Berry I didn't know what was up. I do wish you'd let me drink her
"Here's to Penelope!" said Richard, just wetting his mouth. The carriage
was at the door: a couple of dire organs, each grinding the same tune,
and a vulture-scented itinerant band (from which not the secretest veiled
wedding can escape) worked harmoniously without in the production of
discord, and the noise acting on his nervous state made him begin to fume
and send in messages for his bride by the maid.
By and by the lovely young bride presented herself dressed for her
journey, and smiling from stained eyes.
Mrs. Berry was requested to drink some wine, which Ripton poured out for
her, enabling Mrs. Berry thereby to measure his condition.
The bride now kissed Mrs. Berry, and Mrs. Berry kissed the bridegroom, on
the plea of her softness. Lucy gave Ripton her hand, with a musical
"Good-bye, Mr. Thompson," and her extreme graciousness made him just
sensible enough to sit down before he murmured his fervent hopes for her
"I shall take good care of him," said Mrs. Berry, focussing her eyes to
the comprehension of the company.
"Farewell, Penelope!" cried Richard. "I shall tell the police everywhere
to look out for your lord."
"Oh my dears! good-bye, and Heaven bless ye both!"
Berry quavered, touched with compunction at the thoughts of approaching
loneliness. Ripton, his mouth drawn like a bow to his ears, brought up
the rear to the carriage, receiving a fair slap on the cheek from an old
shoe precipitated by Mrs. Berry's enthusiastic female domestic.
White handkerchiefs were waved, the adieux had fallen to signs: they were
off. Then did a thought of such urgency illumine Mrs. Berry, that she
telegraphed, hand in air; awakening Ripton's lungs, for the coachman to
stop, and ran back to the house. Richard chafed to be gone, but at his
bride's intercession he consented to wait. Presently they beheld the old
black-satin bunch stream through the street-door, down the bit of garden,
and up the astonished street; halting, panting, capless at the carriage
door, a book in her hand,--a much-used, dog-leaved, steamy, greasy book,
which; at the same time calling out in breathless jerks, "There! never ye
mind looks! I ain't got a new one. Read it, and don't ye forget it!"
she discharged into Lucy's lap, and retreated to the railings, a signal
for the coachman to drive away for good.
How Richard laughed at the Berry's bridal gift! Lucy, too, lost the omen
at her heart as she glanced at the title of the volume. It was Dr.
Kitchener on Domestic Cookery!
General withdrawing of heads from street-windows, emigration of organs
and bands, and a relaxed atmosphere in the circle of Mrs. Berry's abode,
proved that Dan Cupid had veritably flown to suck the life of fresh
regions. With a pensive mind she grasped Ripton's arm to regulate his
steps, and returned to the room where her creditor awaited her. In the
interval he had stormed her undefended fortress, the cake, from which
altitude he shook a dolorous head at the guilty woman. She smoothed her
excited apron, sighing. Let no one imagine that she regretted her
complicity. She was ready to cry torrents, but there must be absolute
castigation before this criminal shall conceive the sense of regret; and
probably then she will cling to her wickedness the more--such is the born
Pagan's tenacity! Mrs. Berry sighed, and gave him back his shake of the
head. O you wanton, improvident creature! said he. O you very wise old
gentleman! said she. He asked her the thing she had been doing. She
enlightened him with the fatalist's reply. He sounded a bogey's alarm of
contingent grave results. She retreated to the entrenched camp of the
fact she had helped to make.
"It's done!" she exclaimed. How could she regret what she felt comfort
to know was done? Convinced that events alone could stamp a mark on such
stubborn flesh, he determined to wait for them, and crouched silent on
the cake, with one finger downwards at Ripton's incision there, showing a
crumbling chasm and gloomy rich recess.
The eloquent indication was understood. "Dear! dear!" cried Mrs. Berry,
"what a heap o' cake, and no one to send it to!"
Ripton had resumed his seat by the table and his embrace of the claret.
Clear ideas of satisfaction had left him and resolved to a boiling geysir
of indistinguishable transports. He bubbled, and waggled, and nodded
amicably to nothing, and successfully, though not without effort,
preserved his uppermost member from the seductions of the nymph,
Gravitation, who was on the look-out for his whole length shortly.
"Ha! ha!" he shouted, about a minute after Mrs. Berry had spoken, and
almost abandoned himself to the nymph on the spot. Mrs. Berry's words
had just reached his wits.
"Why do you laugh, young man?" she inquired, familiar and motherly on
account of his condition.
Ripton laughed louder, and caught his chest on the edge of the table and
his nose on a chicken. "That's goo'!" he said, recovering, and rocking
under Mrs. Berry's eyes. "No friend!"
"I did not say, no friend," she remarked. "I said, no one; meanin', I
know not where for to send it to."
Ripton's response to this was: You put a Griffin on that cake.
Wheatsheaves each side."
"His crest?" Mrs. Berry said sweetly.
"Oldest baronetcy 'n England!" waved Ripton.
"Yes?" Mrs. Berry encouraged him on.
"You think he's Richards. We're oblige' be very close. And she's the
most lovely!--If I hear man say thing 'gainst her."
"You needn't for to cry over her, young man," said Mrs. Berry. "I wanted
for to drink their right healths by their right names, and then go about
my day's work, and I do hope you won't keep me."
Ripton stood bolt upright at her words.
"You do?" he said, and filling a bumper he with cheerfully vinous
articulation and glibness of tongue proposed the health of Richard and
Lucy Feverel, of Raynham Abbey! and that mankind should not require an
expeditious example of the way to accept the inspiring toast, he drained
his bumper at a gulp. It finished him. The farthing rushlight of his
reason leapt and expired. He tumbled to the sofa and there stretched.
Some minutes subsequent to Ripton's signalization of his devotion to the
bridal pair, Mrs. Berry's maid entered the room to say that a gentleman
was inquiring below after the young gentleman who had departed, and found
her mistress with a tottering wineglass in her hand, exhibiting every
symptom of unconsoled hysterics. Her mouth gaped, as if the fell
creditor had her by the swallow. She ejaculated with horrible exultation
that she had been and done it, as her disastrous aspect seemed to
testify, and her evident, but inexplicable, access of misery induced the
sympathetic maid to tender those caressing words that were all Mrs. Berry
wanted to go off into the self-caressing fit without delay; and she had
already given the preluding demoniac ironic outburst, when the maid
called heaven to witness that the gentleman would hear her; upon which
Mrs. Berry violently controlled her bosom, and ordered that he should be
shown upstairs instantly to see her the wretch she was. She repeated the
The maid did as she was told, and Mrs. Berry, wishing first to see
herself as she was, mutely accosted the looking-glass, and tried to look
a very little better. She dropped a shawl on Ripton and was settled,
smoothing her agitation when her visitor was announced.
The gentleman was Adrian Harley. An interview with Tom Bakewell had put
him on the track, and now a momentary survey of the table, and its white-
vestured cake, made him whistle.
Mrs. Berry plaintively begged him to do her the favour to be seated.
"A fine morning, ma'am," said Adrian.
"It have been!" Mrs. Berry answered, glancing over her shoulder at the
window, and gulping as if to get her heart down from her mouth.
"A very fine Spring," pursued Adrian, calmly anatomizing her countenance.
Mrs. Berry smothered an adjective to "weather" on a deep sigh. Her
wretchedness was palpable. In proportion to it, Adrian waned cheerful
and brisk. He divined enough of the business to see that there was some
strange intelligence to be fished out of the culprit who sat compressing
hysterics before him; and as he was never more in his element than when
he had a sinner, and a repentant prostrate abject sinner in hand, his
affable countenance might well deceive poor Berry.
"I presume these are Mr. Thompson's lodgings?" he remarked, with a look
at the table.
Mrs. Berry's head and the whites of her eyes informed him that they were
not Mr. Thompson's lodgings.
"No?" said Adrian, and threw a carelessly inquisitive eye about him.
"Mr. Feverel is out, I suppose?"
A convulsive start at the name, and two corroborating hands dropped on
her knees, formed Mrs. Berry's reply.
"Mr. Feverel's man," continued Adrian, "told me I should be certain to
find him here. I thought he would be with his friend, Mr. Thompson. I'm
too late, I perceive. Their entertainment is over. I fancy you have
been having a party of them here, ma'am?--a bachelors' breakfast!"
In the presence of that cake this observation seemed to mask an irony so
shrewd that Mrs. Berry could barely contain herself. She felt she must
speak. Making her face as deplorably propitiating as she could, she
"Sir, may I beg for to know your name?"
Mr. Harley accorded her request.
Groaning in the clutch of a pitiless truth, she continued:
"And you are Mr. Harley, that was--oh! and you've come for
Mr. Richard Feverel was the gentleman Mr. Harley had come for.
"Oh! and it's no mistake, and he's of Raynham Abbey?" Mrs. Berry
Adrian, very much amused, assured her that he was born and bred there.
"His father's Sir Austin?" wailed the black-satin bunch from behind her
Adrian verified Richard's descent.
"Oh, then, what have I been and done!" she cried, and stared blankly at
her visitor. "I been and married my baby! I been and married the bread
out of my own mouth. O Mr. Harley! Mr. Harley! I knew you when you was
a boy that big, and wore jackets; and all of you. And it's my softness
that's my ruin, for I never can resist a man's asking. Look at that
cake, Mr. Harley!"
Adrian followed her directions quite coolly. "Wedding-cake, ma'am!" he
"Bride-cake it is, Mr. Harley!"
"Did you make it yourself, ma'am?"
The quiet ease of the question overwhelmed Mrs. Berry and upset that
train of symbolic representations by which she was seeking to make him
guess the catastrophe and spare her the furnace of confession.
"I did not make it myself, Mr. Harley," she replied. "It's a bought
cake, and I'm a lost woman. Little I dreamed when I had him in my arms a
baby that I should some day be marrying him out of my own house! I
little dreamed that! Oh, why did he come to me! Don't you remember his
old nurse, when he was a baby in arms, that went away so sudden, and no
fault of hers, Mr. Harley! The very mornin' after the night you got into
Mr. Benson's cellar, and got so tipsy on his Madeary--I remember it as
clear as yesterday!--and Mr. Benson was that angry he threatened to use
the whip to you, and I helped put you to bed. I'm that very woman."
Adrian smiled placidly at these reminiscences of his guileless youthful
"Well, ma'am! well?" he said. He would bring her to the furnace.
"Won't you see it all, kind sir?" Mrs. Berry appealed to him in pathetic
Doubtless by this time Adrian did see it all, and was mentally cursing at
Folly, and reckoning the immediate consequences, but he looked
uninstructed, his peculiar dimple-smile was undisturbed, his comfortable
full-bodied posture was the same. "Well, ma'am?" he spurred her on.
Mrs. Berry burst forth: "It were done this mornin', Mr. Harley, in the
church, at half-past eleven of the clock, or twenty to, by licence."
Adrian was now obliged to comprehend a case of matrimony. "Oh!" he
said, like one who is as hard as facts, and as little to be moved:
"Somebody was married this morning; was it Mr. Thompson, or Mr. Feverel?"
Mrs. Berry shuffled up to Ripton, and removed the shawl from him, saying:
"Do he look like a new married bridegroom, Mr. Harley?"
Adrian inspected the oblivious Ripton with philosophic gravity.
"This young gentleman was at church this morning?" he asked.
"Oh! quite reasonable and proper then," Mrs. Berry begged him to
"Of course, ma'am." Adrian lifted and let fall the stupid inanimate
limbs of the gone wretch, puckering his mouth queerly. "You were all
reasonable and proper, ma'am. The principal male performer, then, is my
cousin, Mr. Feverel? He was married by you, this morning, by licence at
your parish church, and came here, and ate a hearty breakfast, and left
Mrs. Berry flew out. "He never drink a drop, sir. A more moderate young
gentleman you never see. Oh! don't ye think that now, Mr. Harley. He
was as upright and master of his mind as you be."
"Ay!" the wise youth nodded thanks to her for the comparison, "I mean the
other form of intoxication."
Mrs. Berry sighed. She could say nothing on that score.
Adrian desired her to sit down, and compose herself, and tell him
circumstantially what had been done.
She obeyed, in utter perplexity at his perfectly composed demeanour.
Mrs. Berry, as her recital declared, was no other than that identical
woman who once in old days had dared to behold the baronet behind his
mask, and had ever since lived in exile from the Raynham world on a
little pension regularly paid to her as an indemnity. She was that
woman, and the thought of it made her almost accuse Providence for the
betraying excess of softness it had endowed her with. How was she to
recognize her baby grown a man? He came in a feigned name; not a word of
the family was mentioned. He came like an ordinary mortal, though she
felt something more than ordinary to him--she knew she did. He came
bringing a beautiful young lady, and on what grounds could she turn her
back on them? Why, seeing that all was chaste and legal, why should she
interfere to make them unhappy--so few the chances of happiness in this
world! Mrs. Berry related the seizure of her ring.
"One wrench," said the sobbing culprit, "one, and my ring was off!"
She had no suspicions, and the task of writing her name in the vestry-
book had been too enacting for a thought upon the other signatures.
"I daresay you were exceedingly sorry for what you had done," said
"Indeed, sir," moaned Berry, "I were, and am."
"And would do your best to rectify the mischief--eh, ma'am?"
"Indeed, and indeed, sir, I would," she protested solemnly.
"--As, of course, you should--knowing the family. Where may these
lunatics have gone to spend the Moon?"
Mrs. Berry swimmingly replied: "To the Isle--I don't quite know, sir!"
she snapped the indication short, and jumped out of the pit she had
fallen into. Repentant as she might be, those dears should not be
pursued and cruelly balked of their young bliss! "To-morrow, if you
please, Mr. Harley: not to-day!"
"A pleasant spot," Adrian observed, smiling at his easy prey.
By a measurement of dates he discovered that the bridegroom had brought
his bride to the house on the day he had quitted Raynham, and this was
enough to satisfy Adrian's mind that there had been concoction and
chicanery. Chance, probably, had brought him to the old woman: chance
certainly had not brought him to the young one.
"Very well, ma'am," he said, in answer to her petitions for his
favourable offices with Sir Austin in behalf of her little pension and
the bridal pair, "I will tell him you were only a blind agent in the
affair, being naturally soft, and that you trust he will bless the
consummation. He will be in town
to-morrow morning; but one of you two must see him to-night. An emetic
kindly administered will set our friend here on his legs. A bath and a
clean shirt, and he might go. I don't see why your name should appear at
all. Brush him up, and send him to Bellingham by the seven o'clock
train. He will find his way to Raynham; he knows the neighbourhood best
in the dark. Let him go and state the case. Remember, one of you must
With this fair prospect of leaving a choice of a perdition between the
couple of unfortunates, for them to fight and lose all their virtues
over, Adrian said, "Good morning."
Mrs. Berry touchingly arrested him. "You won't refuse a piece of his
cake, Mr. Harley?"
"Oh, dear, no, ma'am," Adrian turned to the cake with alacrity. "I shall
claim a very large piece. Richard has a great many friends who will
rejoice to eat his wedding-cake. Cut me a fair quarter, Mrs. Berry. Put
it in paper, if you please. I shall be delighted to carry it to them,
and apportion it equitably according to their several degrees of
Mrs. Berry cut the cake. Somehow, as she sliced through it, the
sweetness and hapless innocence of the bride was presented to her, and
she launched into eulogies of Lucy, and clearly showed how little she
regretted her conduct. She vowed that they seemed made for each other;
that both, were beautiful; both had spirit; both were innocent; and to
part them, or make them unhappy, would be, Mrs. Berry wrought herself to
cry aloud, oh, such a pity!
Adrian listened to it as the expression of a matter-of-fact opinion. He
took the huge quarter of cake, nodded multitudinous promises, and left
Mrs. Berry to bless his good heart.
"So dies the System!" was Adrian's comment in the street. "And now let
prophets roar! He dies respectably in a marriage-bed, which is more than
I should have foretold of the monster. Meantime," he gave the cake a
dramatic tap, "I'll go sow nightmares."
Adrian really bore the news he had heard with creditable
disinterestedness, and admirable repression of anything beneath the
dignity of a philosopher. When one has attained that felicitous point of
wisdom from which one sees all mankind to be fools, the diminutive
objects may make what new moves they please, one does not marvel at them:
their sedateness is as comical as their frolic, and their frenzies more
comical still. On this intellectual eminence the wise youth had built
his castle, and he had lived in it from an early period. Astonishment
never shook the foundations, nor did envy of greater heights tempt him to
relinquish the security of his stronghold, for he saw none. Jugglers he
saw running up ladders that overtopped him, and air-balloons scaling the
empyrean; but the former came precipitately down again, and the latter
were at the mercy of the winds; while he remained tranquil on his solid
unambitious ground, fitting his morality to the laws, his conscience to
his morality, his comfort to his conscience. Not that voluntarily he cut
himself off from his fellows: on the contrary, his sole amusement was
their society. Alone he was rather dull, as a man who beholds but one
thing must naturally be. Study of the animated varieties of that one
thing excited him sufficiently to think life a pleasant play; and the
faculties he had forfeited to hold his elevated position he could
serenely enjoy by contemplation of them in others. Thus:--wonder at
Master Richard's madness: though he himself did not experience it, he was
eager to mark the effect on his beloved relatives. As he carried along
his vindictive hunch of cake, he shaped out their different attitudes of
amaze, bewilderment, horror; passing by some personal chagrin in the
prospect. For his patron had projected a journey, commencing with Paris,
culminating on the Alps, and lapsing in Rome: a delightful journey to
show Richard the highways of History and tear him from the risk of
further ignoble fascinations, that his spirit might be altogether bathed
in freshness and revived. This had been planned during Richard's absence
to surprise him.
Now the dream of travel was to Adrian what the love of woman is to the
race of young men. It supplanted that foolishness. It was his Romance,
as we say; that buoyant anticipation on which in youth we ride the airs,
and which, as we wax older and too heavy for our atmosphere, hardens to
the Hobby, which, if an obstinate animal, is a safer horse, and conducts
man at a slower pace to the sexton. Adrian had never travelled. He was
aware that his romance was earthly and had discomforts only to be evaded
by the one potent talisman possessed by his patron. His Alp would hardly
be grand to him without an obsequious landlord in the foreground: he must
recline on Mammon's imperial cushions in order to moralize becomingly on
the ancient world. The search for pleasure at the expense of discomfort,
as frantic lovers woo their mistresses to partake the shelter of a but
and batten on a crust, Adrian deemed the bitterness of beggarliness. Let
his sweet mistress be given him in the pomp and splendour due to his
superior emotions, or not at all. Consequently the wise youth had long
nursed an ineffectual passion, and it argued a great nature in him, that
at the moment when his wishes were to be crowned, he should look with
such slight touches of spleen at the gorgeous composite fabric of
Parisian cookery and Roman antiquities crumbling into unsubstantial
mockery. Assuredly very few even of the philosophers would have turned
away uncomplainingly to meaner delights the moment after.
Hippias received the first portion of the cake.
He was sitting by the window in his hotel, reading. He had fought down
his breakfast with more than usual success, and was looking forward to
his dinner at the Foreys' with less than usual timidity.
"Ah! glad you've come, Adrian," he said, and expanded his chest. "I was
afraid I should have to ride down. This is kind of you. We'll walk down
together through the park. It's absolutely dangerous to walk alone in
these streets. My opinion is, that orange-peel lasts all through the
year now, and will till legislation puts a stop to it. I give you my
word I slipped on a piece of orange-peel yesterday afternoon in
Piccadilly, and I thought I was down! I saved myself by a miracle."
"You have an appetite, I hope?" asked Adrian.
"I think I shall get one, after a bit of a walk," chirped Hippias. "Yes.
I think I feel hungry now."
"Charmed to hear it," said Adrian, and began unpinning his parcel on his
knees. "How should you define Folly?" he checked the process to inquire.
"Hm!" Hippias meditated; he prided himself on being oracular when such
questions were addressed to him. "I think I should define it to be a
"Very good definition. In other words, a piece of orange-peel; once on
it, your life and limbs are in danger, and you are saved by a miracle.
You must present that to the Pilgrim. And the monument of folly, what
would that be?"
Hippias meditated anew. "All the human race on one another's shoulders."
He chuckled at the sweeping sourness of the instance.
"Very good," Adrian applauded, "or in default of that, some symbol of the
thing, say; such as this of which I have here brought you a chip."
Adrian displayed the quarter of the cake.
"This is the monument made portable--eh?"
"Cake!" cried Hippias, retreating to his chair to dramatize his intense
disgust. "You're right of them that eat it. If I--if I don't mistake,"
he peered at it, "the noxious composition bedizened in that way is what
they call wedding-cake. It's arrant poison! Who is it you want to kill?
What are you carrying such stuff about for?"
Adrian rang the bell for a knife. "To present you with your due and
proper portion. You will have friends and relatives, and can't be saved
from them, not even by miracle. It is a habit which exhibits, perhaps,
the unconscious inherent cynicism of the human mind, for people who
consider that they have reached the acme of mundane felicity, to
distribute this token of esteem to their friends, with the object
probably" (he took the knife from a waiter and went to the table to slice
the cake) "of enabling those friends (these edifices require very
delicate incision--each particular currant and subtle condiment hangs to
its neighbour--a wedding-cake is evidently the most highly civilized of
cakes, and partakes of the evils as well as the advantages of
civilization!)--I was saying, they send us these love-tokens, no doubt
(we shall have to weigh out the crumbs, if each is to have his fair
share) that we may the better estimate their state of bliss by passing
some hours in purgatory. This, as far as I can apportion it without
weights and scales, is your share, my uncle!"
He pushed the corner of the table bearing the cake towards Hippias.
"Get away!" Hippias vehemently motioned, and started from his chair.
"I'll have none of it, I tell you! It's death! It's fifty times worse
than that beastly compound Christmas pudding! What fool has been doing
this, then? Who dares send me cake? Me! It's an insult."
"You are not compelled to eat any before dinner," said Adrian, pointing
the corner of the table after him, "but your share you must take, and
appear to consume. One who has done so much to bring about the marriage
cannot in conscience refuse his allotment of the fruits. Maidens, I
hear, first cook it under their pillows, and extract nuptial dreams
therefrom--said to be of a lighter class, taken that way. It's a capital
cake, and, upon my honour, you have helped to make it--you have indeed!
So here it is."
The table again went at Hippias. He ran nimbly round it, and flung
himself on a sofa exhausted, crying: "There!... My appetite's gone for
"Then shall I tell Richard that you won't touch a morsel of his cake?"
said Adrian, leaning on his two hands over the table and looking at his
"Yes, your nephew: my cousin: Richard! Your companion since you've been
in town. He's married, you know. Married this morning at Kensington
parish church, by licence, at half-past eleven of the clock, or twenty
to. Married, and gone to spend his honeymoon in the Isle of Wight, a
very delectable place for a month's residence. I have to announce to you
that, thanks to your assistance, the experiment is launched, sir!"
There was something to think and to say in objection to it, but the wits
of poor Hippias were softened by the shock. His hand travelled half-way
to his forehead, spread out to smooth the surface of that seat of reason,
and then fell.
"Surely you knew all about it? you were so anxious to have him in town
under your charge...."
"Married?" Hippias jumped up--he had it. "Why, he's under age! he's an
"So he is. But the infant is not the less married. Fib like a man and
pay your fee--what does it matter? Any one who is breeched can obtain a
licence in our noble country. And the interests of morality demand that
it should not be difficult. Is it true--can you persuade anybody that
you have known nothing about it?"
"Ha! infamous joke! I wish, sir, you would play your pranks on somebody
else," said Hippias, sternly, as he sank back on the sofa. "You've done
me up for the day, I can assure you."
Adrian sat down to instil belief by gentle degrees, and put an artistic
finish to the work. He had the gratification of passing his uncle
through varied contortions, and at last Hippias perspired in conviction,
and exclaimed, "This accounts for his conduct to me. That boy must have
a cunning nothing short of infernal! I feel...I feel it just here, he
drew a hand along his midriff.
"I'm not equal to this world of fools," he added faintly, and shut his
eyes. "No, I can't dine. Eat? ha!...no. Go without me!"
Shortly after, Hippias went to bed, saying to himself, as he undressed,
"See what comes of our fine schemes! Poor Austin!" and as the pillow
swelled over his ears, "I'm not sure that a day's fast won't do me good."
The Dyspepsy had bought his philosophy at a heavy price; he had a right
to use it.
Adrian resumed the procession of the cake.
He sighted his melancholy uncle Algernon hunting an appetite in the Row,
and looking as if the hope ahead of him were also one-legged. The
Captain did not pass with out querying the ungainly parcel.
"I hope I carry it ostentatiously enough?" said Adrian.
"Enclosed is wherewithal to quiet the alarm of the land. Now may the
maids and wives of Merry England sleep secure. I had half a mind to fix
it on a pole, and engage a band to parade it. This is our dear Richard's
wedding-cake. Married at half-past eleven this morning, by licence, at
the Kensington parish church; his own ring being lost he employed the
ring of his beautiful bride's lachrymose land-lady, she standing adjacent
by the altar. His farewell to you as a bachelor, and hers as a maid, you
can claim on the spot if you think proper, and digest according to your
Algernon let off steam in a whistle. "Thompson, the solicitor's
daughter!" he said. "I met them the other day, somewhere about here. He
introduced me to her. A pretty little baggage.
"No." Adrian set him right. "'Tis a Miss Desborough, a Roman Catholic
dairymaid. Reminds one of pastoral England in the time of the
Plantagenets! He's quite equal to introducing her as Thompson's
daughter, and himself as Beelzebub's son. However, the wild animal is in
Hymen's chains, and the cake is cut. Will you have your morsel?"
"Oh, by all means!--not now." Algernon had an unwonted air of
reflection.--" Father know it?"
"Not yet. He will to-night by nine o'clock."
"Then I must see him by seven. Don't say you met me." He nodded, and
pricked his horse.
"Wants money!" said Adrian, putting the combustible he carried once more
The women were the crowning joy of his contemplative mind. He had
reserved them for his final discharge. Dear demonstrative creatures!
Dyspepsia would not weaken their poignant outcries, or self-interest
check their fainting fits. On the generic woman one could calculate.
Well might The Pilgrim's Scrip say of her that, "She is always at
Nature's breast"; not intending it as a compliment. Each woman is Eve
throughout the ages; whereas the Pilgrim would have us believe that the
Adam in men has become warier, if not wiser; and weak as he is, has
learnt a lesson from time. Probably the Pilgrim's meaning may be taken
to be, that Man grows, and Woman does not.
At any rate, Adrian hoped for such natural choruses as you hear in the
nursery when a bauble is lost. He was awake to Mrs. Doria's maternal
predestinations, and guessed that Clare stood ready with the best form of
filial obedience. They were only a poor couple to gratify his
Mephistophelian humour, to be sure, but Mrs. Doria was equal to twenty,
and they would proclaim the diverse ways with which maidenhood and
womanhood took disappointment, while the surrounding Forey girls and
other females of the family assembly were expected to develop the finer
shades and tapering edges of an agitation to which no woman could be
All went well. He managed cleverly to leave the cake unchallenged in a
conspicuous part of the drawing-room, and stepped gaily down to dinner.
Much of the conversation adverted to Richard. Mrs. Doria asked him if he
had seen the youth, or heard of him.
"Seen him? no! Heard of him? yes!" said Adrian. "I have heard of him.
I heard that he was sublimely happy, and had eaten such a breakfast that
dinner was impossible; claret and cold chicken, cake and"--
"Cake at breakfast!" they all interjected.,
"That seems to be his fancy just now."
"What an extraordinary taste!"
"You know, he is educated on a System."
One fast young male Forey allied the System and the cake in a miserable
pun. Adrian, a hater of puns, looked at him, and held the table silent,
as if he were going to speak; but he said nothing, and the young
gentleman vanished from the conversation in a blush, extinguished by his
Mrs. Doria peevishly exclaimed, "Oh! fish-cake, I suppose! I wish he
understood a little better the obligations of relationship."
"Whether he understands them, I can't say," observed Adrian, "but I
assure you he is very energetic in extending them."
The wise youth talked innuendoes whenever he had an opportunity, that his
dear relative might be rendered sufficiently inflammable by and by at the
aspect of the cake; but he was not thought more than commonly mysterious
"Was his appointment at the house of those Grandison people?" Mrs. Doria
asked, with a hostile upper-lip.
Adrian warmed the blindfolded parties by replying, "Do they keep a beadle
at the door?"
Mrs. Doria's animosity to Mrs. Grandison made her treat this as a piece
of satirical ingenuousness. "I daresay they do," she said.
"And a curate on hand?"
"Oh, I should think a dozen!"
Old Mr. Forey advised his punning grandson Clarence to give that house a
wide berth, where he might be disposed of and dished-up at a moment's
notice, and the scent ran off at a jest.
The Foreys gave good dinners, and with the old gentleman the excellent
old fashion remained in permanence of trooping off the ladies as soon as
they had taken their sustenance and just exchanged a smile with the
flowers and the dessert, when they rose to fade with a beautiful accord,
and the gallant males breathed under easier waistcoats, and settled to
the business of the table, sure that an hour for unbosoming and imbibing
was their own. Adrian took a chair by Brandon Forey, a barrister of
"I want to ask you," he said, "whether an infant in law can legally bind
"If he's old enough to affix his signature to an instrument, I suppose he
can," yawned Brandon.
"Is he responsible for his acts?"
"I've no doubt we could hang him."
"Then what he could do for himself, you could do for him?"
"Not quite so much; pretty near."
"For instance, he can marry?"
"That's not a criminal case, you know."
"And the marriage is valid?"
"You can dispute it."
"Yes, and the Greeks and the Trojans can fight. It holds then?"
"Both water and fire!"
The patriarch of the table sang out to Adrian that he stopped the
vigorous circulation of the claret.
"Dear me, sir!" said Adrian, "I beg pardon. The circumstances must
excuse me. The fact is, my cousin Richard got married to a dairymaid
this morning, and I wanted to know whether it held in law."
It was amusing to watch the manly coolness with which the announcement
was taken. Nothing was heard more energetic than, "Deuce he has!" and,
"I thought it better to let the ladies dine in peace," Adrian continued.
"I wanted to be able to console my aunt"--
"Well, but--well, but," the old gentleman, much the most excited, puffed-
-"eh, Brandon? He's a boy, this young ass! Do you mean to tell me a boy
can go and marry when he pleases, and any troll he pleases, and the
marriage is good? If I thought that I'd turn every woman off my
premises. I would! from the housekeeper to the scullery-maid. I'd have
no woman near him till--till"--
"Till the young greenhorn was grey, sir?" suggested Brandon.
"Till he knew what women are made of, sir!" the old gentleman finished
his sentence vehemently. "What, d'ye think, will Feverel say to it, Mr.
"He has been trying the very System you have proposed sir--one that does
not reckon on the powerful action of curiosity on the juvenile
intelligence. I'm afraid it's the very worst way of solving the
"Of course it is," said Clarence. "None but a fool!"--
"At your age," Adrian relieved his embarrassment, "it is natural, my dear
Clarence, that you should consider the idea of an isolated or imprisoned
manhood something monstrous, and we do not expect you to see what amount
of wisdom it contains. You follow one extreme, and we the other. I
don't say that a middle course exists. The history of mankind shows our
painful efforts to find one, but they have invariably resolved themselves
into asceticism, or laxity, acting and reacting. The moral question is,
if a naughty little man, by reason of his naughtiness, releases himself
from foolishness, does a foolish little man, by reason of his
foolishness, save himself from naughtiness?"
A discussion, peculiar to men of the world, succeeded the laugh at Mr.
Clarence. Then coffee was handed round and the footman informed Adrian,
in a low voice, that Mrs. Doria Forey particularly wished to speak with
him. Adrian preferred not to go in alone. "Very well," he said, and
sipped his coffee. They talked on, sounding the depths of law in Brandon
Forey, and receiving nought but hollow echoes from that profound cavity.
He would not affirm that the marriage was invalid: he would not affirm
that it could not be annulled. He thought not: still he thought it would
be worth trying. A consummated and a non-consummated union were two
"Dear me!" said Adrian, "does the Law recognize that? Why, that's almost
Another message was brought to Adrian that Mrs. Doria Forey very
particularly wished to speak with him.
"What can be the matter?" he exclaimed, pleased to have his faith in
woman strengthened. The cake had exploded, no doubt.
So it proved, when the gentlemen joined the fair society. All the
younger ladies stood about the table, whereon the cake stood displayed,
gaps being left for those sitting to feast their vision, and intrude the
comments and speculations continually arising from fresh shocks of wonder
at the unaccountable apparition. Entering with the half-guilty air of
men who know they have come from a grosser atmosphere, the gallant males
also ranged themselves round the common object of curiosity.
"Here! Adrian!" Mrs. Doria cried. "Where is Adrian? Pray, come here.
Tell me! Where did this cake come from? Whose is it? What does it do
here? You know all about it, for you brought it. Clare saw you bring it
into the room. What does it mean? I insist upon a direct answer. Now
do not make me impatient, Adrian."
Certainly Mrs. Doria was equal to twenty. By her concentrated rapidity
and volcanic complexion it was evident that suspicion had kindled.
"I was really bound to bring it," Adrian protested.
The wise youth bowed: "Categorically. This cake came from the house of a
person, a female, of the name of Berry. It belongs to you partly, partly
to me, partly to Clare, and to the rest of our family, on the principle
of equal division for which purpose it is present...."
"It means, my dear aunt, what that kind of cake usually does mean."
"This, then, is the Breakfast! And the ring! Adrian! where is Richard?"
Mrs. Doria still clung to unbelief in the monstrous horror.
But when Adrian told her that Richard had left town, her struggling hope
sank. "The wretched boy has ruined himself!" she said, and sat down
Oh! that System! The delicate vituperations gentle ladies use instead of
oaths, Mrs. Doria showered on that System. She hesitated not to say that
her brother had got what he deserved. Opinionated, morbid, weak, justice
had overtaken him. Now he would see! but at what a price! at what a
Mrs. Doria, commanded Adrian to confirm her fears.
Sadly the wise youth recapitulated Berry's words. "He was married this
morning at half-past eleven of the clock, or twenty to twelve, by
licence, at the Kensington parish church."
"Then that was his appointment!" Mrs. Doria murmured.
"That was the cake for breakfast!" breathed a second of her sex.
"And it was his ring!" exclaimed a third.
The men were silent, and made long faces.
Clare stood cold and sedate. She and her mother avoided each other's
"Is it that abominable country person, Adrian?"
"The happy damsel is, I regret to say, the Papist dairymaid," said
Adrian, in sorrowful but deliberate accents.
Then arose a feminine hum, in the midst of which Mrs. Doria cried,
"Brandon!" She was a woman of energy. Her thoughts resolved to action
"Brandon," she drew the barrister a little aside, "can they not be
followed, and separated? I want your advice. Cannot we separate them?
A boy! it is really shameful if he should be allowed to fall into the
toils of a designing creature to ruin himself irrevocably. Can we not,
The worthy barrister felt inclined to laugh, but he answered her
entreaties: "From what I hear of the young groom I should imagine the
"I'm speaking of law, Brandon. Can we not obtain an order from one of
your Courts to pursue them and separate them instantly?"
Brandon was sorry to say she decidedly could not.
"You might call on one of your Judges, Brandon."
Brandon assured her that the Judges were a hard-worked race, and to a man
slept heavily after dinner.
"Will you do so to-morrow, the first thing in the morning? Will you
promise me to do so, Brandon?--Or a magistrate! A magistrate would send
a policeman after them. My dear Brandon! I beg--I beg you to assist us
in this dreadful extremity. It will be the death of my poor brother. I
believe he would forgive anything but this. You have no idea what his
notions are of blood."
Brandon tipped Adrian a significant nod to step in and aid.
"What is it, aunt?" asked the wise youth. "You want them followed and
torn asunder by wild policemen?"
"To-morrow!" Brandon queerly interposed.
"Won't that be--just too late?" Adrian suggested.
Mrs. Doria, sighed out her last spark of hope.
"You see," said Adrian....
"Yes! yes!" Mrs. Doria did not require any of his elucidations. "Pray be
quiet, Adrian, and let me speak. Brandon! it cannot be! it's quite
impossible! Can you stand there and tell me that boy is legally married?
I never will believe it! The law cannot be so shamefully bad as to
permit a boy--a mere child--to do such absurd things. Grandpapa!" she
beckoned to the old gentleman. "Grandpapa! pray do make Brandon speak.
These lawyers never will. He might stop it, if he would. If I were a
man, do you think I would stand here?"
"Well, my dear," the old gentleman toddled to compose her, "I'm quite of
your opinion. I believe he knows no more than you or I. My belief is
they none of them know anything till they join issue and go into Court.
I want to see a few female lawyers."
"To encourage the bankrupt perruquier, sir?" said Adrian. "They would
have to keep a large supply of wigs on hand."
"And you can jest, Adrian!" his aunt reproached him. "But I will not be
beaten. I know--I am firmly convinced that no law would ever allow a boy
to disgrace his family and ruin himself like that, and nothing shall
persuade me that it is so. Now, tell me, Brandon, and pray do speak in
answer to my questions, and please to forget you are dealing with a
woman. Can my nephew be rescued from the consequences of his folly? Is
what he has done legitimate? Is he bound for life by what he has done
while a boy?
"Well--a," Brandon breathed through his teeth. "A--hm! the matter's so
very delicate, you see, Helen."
"You're to forget that," Adrian remarked.
"A--hm! well!" pursued Brandon. "Perhaps if you could arrest and divide
them before nightfall, and make affidavit of certain facts"...
"Yes?" the eager woman hastened his lagging mouth.
"Well...hm! a...in that case...a... Or if a lunatic, you could prove him
to have been of unsound mind."...
"Oh! there's no doubt of his madness on my mind, Brandon."
"Yes! well! in that case... Or if of different religious persuasions"...
"She is a Catholic!" Mrs. Doria joyfully interjected.
"Yes! well! in that case...objections might be taken to the form of the
marriage... Might be proved fictitious... Or if he's under, say,
"He can't be much more," cried Mrs. Doria. "I think," she appeared to
reflect, and then faltered imploringly to Adrian, "What is Richard's
The kind wise youth could not find it in his heart to strike away the
phantom straw she caught at.
"Oh! about that, I should fancy," he muttered; and found it necessary at
the same time to duck and turn his head for concealment. Mrs. Doria
surpassed his expectations.
"Yes I well, then..." Brandon was resuming with a shrug, which was meant
to say he still pledged himself to nothing, when Clare's voice was heard
from out the buzzing circle of her cousins: "Richard is nineteen years
and six months old to-day, mama."
"He is, mama." Clare's voice was very steadfast.
"Nonsense, I tell you. How can you know?"
"Richard is one year and nine months older than me, mama."
Mrs. Doria fought the fact by years and finally by months. Clare was too
strong for her.
"Singular child!" she mentally apostrophized the girl who scornfully
rejected straws while drowning.
"But there's the religion still!" she comforted herself, and sat down to
The men smiled and looked vacuous.
Music was proposed. There are times when soft music hath not charms;
when it is put to as base uses as Imperial Caesar's dust and is taken to
fill horrid pauses. Angelica Forey thumped the piano, and sang: "I'm a
laughing Gitana, ha-ha! ha-ha!" Matilda Forey and her cousin Mary
Branksburne wedded their voices, and songfully incited all young people
to Haste to the bower that love has built, and defy the wise ones of the
world; but the wise ones of the world were in a majority there, and very
few places of assembly will be found where they are not; so the glowing
appeal of the British ballad-monger passed into the bosom of the
emptiness he addressed. Clare was asked to entertain the company. The
singular child calmly marched to the instrument, and turned over the
appropriate illustrations to the ballad-monger's repertory.
Clare sang a little Irish air. Her duty done, she marched from the
piano. Mothers are rarely deceived by their daughters in these matters;
but Clare deceived her mother; and Mrs. Doria only persisted in feeling
an agony of pity for her child, that she might the more warrantably pity
herself--a not uncommon form of the emotion, for there is no juggler like
that heart the ballad-monger puts into our mouths so boldly. Remember
that she saw years of self-denial, years of a ripening scheme, rendered
fruitless in a minute, and by the System which had almost reduced her to
the condition of constitutional hypocrite. She had enough of bitterness
to brood over, and some excuse for self-pity.
Still, even when she was cooler, Mrs. Doria's energetic nature prevented
her from giving up. Straws were straws, and the frailer they were the
harder she clutched them.
She rose from her chair, and left the room, calling to Adrian to follow
"Adrian," she said, turning upon him in the passage, "you mentioned a
house where this horrible cake...where he was this morning. I desire you
to take me to that woman immediately."
The wise youth had not bargained for personal servitude. He had hoped he
should be in time for the last act of the opera that night, after
enjoying the comedy of real life.
"My dear aunt"...he was beginning to insinuate.
"Order a cab to be sent for, and get your hat," said Mrs. Doria.
There was nothing for it but to obey. He stamped his assent to the
Pilgrim's dictum, that Women are practical creatures, and now reflected
on his own account, that relationship to a young fool may be a vexation
and a nuisance. However, Mrs. Doria compensated him.
What Mrs. Doria intended to do, the practical creature did not plainly
know; but her energy positively demanded to be used in some way or other,
and her instinct directed her to the offender on whom she could use it in
wrath. She wanted somebody to be angry with, somebody to abuse. She
dared not abuse her brother to his face: him she would have to console.
Adrian was a fellow-hypocrite to the System, and would, she was aware,
bring her into painfully delicate, albeit highly philosophic, ground by a
discussion of the case. So she drove to Bessy Berry simply to inquire
whither her nephew had flown.
When a soft woman, and that soft woman a sinner, is matched with a woman
of energy, she does not show much fight, and she meets no mercy. Bessy
Berry's creditor came to her in female form that night. She then beheld
it in all its terrors. Hitherto it had appeared to her as a male, a
disembodied spirit of her imagination possessing male attributes, and the
peculiar male characteristic of being moved, and ultimately silenced, by
tears. As female, her creditor was terrible indeed. Still, had it not
been a late hour, Bessy Berry would have died rather than speak openly
that her babes had sped to make their nest in the Isle of Wight. They
had a long start, they were out of the reach of pursuers, they were safe,
and she told what she had to tell. She told more than was wise of her to
tell. She made mention of her early service in the family, and of her
little pension. Alas! her little pension! Her creditor had come
expecting no payment--come; as creditors are wont in such moods, just to
take it out of her--to employ the familiar term. At once Mrs. Doria
pounced upon the pension.
"That, of course, you know is at an end," she said in the calmest manner,
and Berry did not plead for the little bit of bread to her. She only
asked a little consideration for her feelings.
True admirers of women had better stand aside from the scene.
Undoubtedly it was very sad for Adrian to be compelled to witness it.
Mrs. Doria was not generous. The Pilgrim may be wrong about the sex not
growing; but its fashion of conducting warfare we must allow to be
barbarous, and according to what is deemed the pristine, or wild cat,
method. Ruin, nothing short of it, accompanied poor Berry to her bed
that night, and her character bled till morning on her pillow.
The scene over, Adrian reconducted Mrs. Doria to her home. Mice had been
at the cake during her absence apparently. The ladies and gentlemen
present put it on the greedy mice, who were accused of having gorged and
gone to bed.
"I'm sure they're quite welcome," said Mrs. Doria. "It's a farce, this
marriage, and Adrian has quite come to my way of thinking. I would not
touch an atom of it. Why, they were married in a married woman's ring!
Can that be legal, as you call it? Oh, I'm convinced! Don't tell me.
Austin will be in town to-morrow, and if he is true to his principles, he
will instantly adopt measures to rescue his son from infamy. I want no
legal advice. I go upon common sense, common decency. This marriage is
Mrs. Doria's fine scheme had become so much a part of her life, that she
could not give it up. She took Clare to her bed, and caressed and wept
over her, as she would not have done had she known the singular child,
saying, "Poor Richard! my dear poor boy! we must save him, Clare! we must
save him!" Of the two the mother showed the greater want of iron on this
occasion. Clare lay in her arms rigid and emotionless, with one of her
hands tight-locked. All she said was: "I knew it in the morning, mama."
She slept clasping Richard's nuptial ring.
By this time all specially concerned in the System knew it. The
honeymoon was shoring placidly above them. Is not happiness like another
circulating medium? When we have a very great deal of it, some poor
hearts are aching for what is taken away from them. When we have gone
out and seized it on the highways, certain inscrutable laws are sure to
be at work to bring us to the criminal bar, sooner or later. Who knows
the honeymoon that did not steal somebody's sweetness? Richard Turpin
went forth, singing "Money or life" to the world: Richard Feverel has
done the same, substituting "Happiness" for "Money," frequently synonyms.
The coin he wanted he would have, and was just as much a highway robber
as his fellow Dick, so that those who have failed to recognize him as a
hero before, may now regard him in that light. Meanwhile the world he
has squeezed looks exceedingly patient and beautiful. His coin chinks
delicious music to him. Nature and the order of things on earth have no
warmer admirer than a jolly brigand or a young man made happy by the
And now the author of the System was on trial under the eyes of the lady
who loved him. What so kind as they? Yet are they very rigorous, those
soft watchful woman's eyes. If you are below the measure they have made
of you, you will feel it in the fulness of time. She cannot but show you
that she took you for a giant, and has had to come down a bit. You feel
yourself strangely diminishing in those sweet mirrors, till at last they
drop on you complacently level. But, oh beware, vain man, of ever waxing
enamoured of that wonderful elongation of a male creature you saw
reflected in her adoring upcast orbs! Beware of assisting to delude her!
A woman who is not quite a fool will forgive your being but a man, if you
are surely that: she will haply learn to acknowledge that no mortal
tailor could have fitted that figure she made of you respectably, and
that practically (though she sighs to think it) her ideal of you was on
the pattern of an overgrown charity-boy in the regulation jacket and
breech. For this she first scorns the narrow capacities of the tailor,
and then smiles at herself. But shouldst thou, when the hour says
plainly, Be thyself, and the woman is willing to take thee as thou art,
shouldst thou still aspire to be that thing of shanks and wrests, wilt
thou not seem contemptible as well as ridiculous? And when the fall
comes, will it not be flat on thy face, instead of to the common height
of men? You may fall miles below her measure of you, and be safe:
nothing is damaged save an overgrown charity-boy; but if you fall below
the common height of men, you must make up your mind to see her rustle
her gown, spy at the looking-glass, and transfer her allegiance. The
moral of which is, that if we pretend to be what we are not, woman, for
whose amusement the farce is performed, will find us out and punish us
for it. And it is usually the end of a sentimental dalliance.
Had Sir Austin given vent to the pain and wrath it was natural he should
feel, he might have gone to unphilosophic excesses, and, however much he
lowered his reputation as a sage, Lady Blandish would have excused him:
she would not have loved him less for seeing him closer. But the poor
gentleman tasked his soul and stretched his muscles to act up to her
conception of him. He, a man of science in life, who was bound to be
surprised by nothing in nature, it was not for him to do more than lift
his eyebrows and draw in his lips at the news delivered by Ripton
Thompson, that ill bird at Raynham.
All he said, after Ripton had handed the letters and carried his
penitential headache to bed, was: "You see, Emmeline, it is useless to
base any system on a human being."
A very philosophical remark for one who has been busily at work building
for nearly twenty years. Too philosophical to seem genuine. It revealed
where the blow struck sharpest. Richard was no longer the Richard of his
creation--his pride and his joy--but simply a human being with the rest.
The bright star had sunk among the mass.
And yet, what had the young man done? And in what had the System failed?
The lady could not but ask herself this, while she condoled with the
"My friend," she said, tenderly taking his hand before she retired, "I
know how deeply you must be grieved. I know what your disappointment
must be. I do not beg of you to forgive him now. You cannot doubt his
love for this young person, and according to his light, has he not
behaved honourably, and as you would have wished, rather than bring her
to shame? You will think of that. It has been an accident--a
misfortune--a terrible misfortune"...
"The God of this world is in the machine--not out of it," Sir Austin
interrupted her, and pressed her hand to get the good-night over.
At any other time her mind would have been arrested to admire the phrase;
now it seemed perverse, vain, false, and she was tempted to turn the
meaning that was in it against himself, much as she pitied him.
"You know, Emmeline," he added, "I believe very little in the fortune, or
misfortune, to which men attribute their successes and reverses. They
are useful impersonations to novelists; but my opinion is sufficiently
high of flesh and blood to believe that we make our own history without
intervention. Accidents?--Terrible misfortunes?--What are they?--Good-
"Good-night," she said, looking sad and troubled. "When I said,
'misfortune,' I meant, of course, that he is to blame; but--shall I leave
you his letter to me?"
"I think I have enough to meditate upon," he replied, coldly bowing.
"God bless you," she whispered. "And--may I say it? do not shut your
He assured her that he hoped not to do so and the moment she was gone he
set about shutting it as tight as he could.
If, instead of saying, Base no system on a human being, he had said,
Never experimentalize with one, he would have been nearer the truth of
his own case. He had experimented on humanity in the person of the son
he loved as his life, and at once, when the experiment appeared to have
failed, all humanity's failings fell on the shoulders of his son.
Richard's parting laugh in the train--it was explicable now: it sounded
in his ears like the mockery of this base nature of ours at every
endeavour to exalt and chasten it. The young man had plotted this. From
step to step Sir Austin traced the plot. The curious mask he had worn
since his illness; the selection of his incapable uncle Hippias for a
companion in preference to Adrian; it was an evident, well-perfected
plot. That hideous laugh would not be silenced: Base, like the rest,
treacherous, a creature of passions using his abilities solely to gratify
them--never surely had humanity such chances as in him! A Manichaean
tendency, from which the sententious eulogist of nature had been
struggling for years (and which was partly at the bottom of the System),
now began to cloud and usurp dominion of his mind. As he sat alone in
the forlorn dead-hush of his library, he saw the devil.
How are we to know when we are at the head and fountain of the fates of
them we love?
There by the springs of Richard's future, his father sat: and the devil
said to him: "Only be quiet: do nothing: resolutely do nothing: your
object now is to keep a brave face to the world, so that all may know you
superior to this human nature that has deceived you. For it is the
shameless deception, not the marriage, that has wounded you."
"Ay!" answered the baronet, "the shameless deception, not the marriage:
wicked and ruinous as it must be; a destroyer of my tenderest hopes! my
dearest schemes! Not the marriage--the shameless deception!" and he
crumpled up his son's letter to him, and tossed it into the fire.
How are we to distinguish the dark chief of the Manichaeans when he talks
our own thoughts to us?
Further he whispered, "And your System:--if you would be brave to the
world, have courage to cast the dream of it out of you: relinquish an
impossible project; see it as it is--dead: too good for men!"
"Ay!" muttered the baronet: "all who would save them perish on the
And so he sat nursing the devil.
By and by he took his lamp, and put on the old cloak and cap, and went to
gaze at Ripton. That exhausted debauchee and youth without a destiny
slept a dead sleep. A handkerchief was bound about his forehead, and his
helpless sunken chin and snoring nose projected up the pillow, made him
look absurdly piteous. The baronet remembered how often he had compared
his boy with this one: his own bright boy! And where was the difference
"Mere outward gilding!" said his familiar.
"Yes," he responded, "I daresay this one never positively plotted to
deceive his father: he followed his appetites unchecked, and is
internally the sounder of the two."
Ripton, with his sunken chin and snoring nose under the light of the
lamp, stood for human nature, honest, however abject.
"Miss Random, I fear very much, is a necessary establishment!" whispered
"Does the evil in us demand its natural food, or it corrupts the whole?"
ejaculated Sir Austin. "And is no angel of avail till that is drawn off?
And is that our conflict--to see whether we can escape the contagion of
its embrace, and come uncorrupted out of that?"
"The world is wise in its way," said the voice.
"Though it look on itself through Port wine?" he suggested, remembering
his lawyer Thompson.
"Wise in not seeking to be too wise," said the voice.
"And getting intoxicated on its drug of comfort!"
"Human nature is weak."
"And Miss Random is an establishment, and Wild Oats an institution!"
"It always has been so."
"And always will be?"
"So I fear! in spite of your very noble efforts."
"And leads--whither? And ends--where?"
Richard's laugh, taken up by horrid reverberations, as it were through
the lengths of the Lower Halls, replied.
This colloquy of two voices in a brain was concluded by Sir Austin asking
again if there were no actual difference between the flower of his hopes
and yonder drunken weed, and receiving for answer that there was a
decided dissimilarity in the smell of the couple; becoming cognizant of
which he retreated.
Sir Austin did not battle with the tempter. He took him into his bosom
at once, as if he had been ripe for him, and received his suggestions and
bowed to his dictates. Because he suffered, and decreed that he would
suffer silently, and be the only sufferer, it seemed to him that he was
great-minded in his calamity. He had stood against the world. The world
had beaten him. What then? He must shut his heart and mask his face;
that was all. To be far in advance of the mass, is as fruitless to
mankind, he reflected, as straggling in the rear. For how do we know
that they move behind us at all, or move in our track? What we win for
them is lost; and where we are overthrown we lie!
It was thus that a fine mind and a fine heart at the bounds of a nature
not great, chose to colour his retrogression and countenance his
shortcoming; and it was thus that he set about ruining the work he had
done. He might well say, as he once did, that there are hours when the
clearest soul becomes a cunning fox. For a grief that was private and
peculiar, he unhesitatingly cast the blame upon humanity; just as he had
accused it in the period of what he termed his own ordeal. How had he
borne that? By masking his face. And he prepared the ordeal for his son
by doing the same. This was by no means his idea of a man's duty in
tribulation, about which he could be strenuously eloquent.
But it was his instinct so to act, and in times of trial great natures
alone are not at the mercy of their instincts. Moreover it would cost
him pain to mask his face; pain worse than that he endured when there
still remained an object for him to open his heart to in proportion; and
he always reposed upon the Spartan comfort of bearing pain and being
passive. "Do nothing," said the devil he nursed; which meant in his
case, "Take me into you and don't cast me out." Excellent and sane is
the outburst of wrath to men, when it stops short of slaughter. For who
that locks it up to eat in solitary, can say that it is consumed? Sir
Austin had as weak a digestion for wrath, as poor Hippias for a green
duckling. Instead of eating it, it ate him. The wild beast in him was
not the less deadly because it did not roar, and the devil in him not the
less active because he resolved to do nothing.
He sat at the springs of Richard's future, in the forlorn dead-hush of
his library there, hearing the cinders click in the extinguished fire,
and that humming stillness in which one may fancy one hears the midnight
Fates busily stirring their embryos. The lamp glowed mildly on the bust
Toward morning a gentle knock fell at his door. Lady Blandish glided in.
With hasty step she came straight to him, and took both his hands.
"My friend," she said, speaking tearfully, and trembling, "I feared I
should find you here. I could not sleep. How is it with you?"
"Well! Emmeline, well!" he replied, torturing his brows to fix the mask.
He wished it had been Adrian who had come to him. He had an
extraordinary longing for Adrian's society. He knew that the wise youth
would divine how to treat him, and he mentally confessed to just enough