Part 8 out of 10
Richard's cheeks mounted bloom.
"Don't you adore champagne?" quoth the dame with a bosom to Ripton.
"Oh, yes!" answered Ripton, with more candour than accuracy, "I always
"Do you indeed?" said the enraptured bosom, ogling him. "You would be a
friend, now! I hope you don't object to a lady joining you now and then.
Champagne's my folly."
A laugh was circling among the ladies of whom Adrian was the centre;
first low, and as he continued some narration, peals resounded, till
those excluded from the fun demanded the cue, and ladies leaned behind
gentlemen to take it up, and formed an electric chain of laughter. Each
one, as her ear received it, caught up her handkerchief, and laughed, and
looked shocked afterwards, or looked shocked and then spouted laughter.
The anecdote might have been communicated to the bewildered cavaliers,
but coming to a lady of a demurer cast, she looked shocked without
laughing, and reproved the female table, in whose breasts it was
consigned to burial: but here and there a man's head was seen bent, and a
lady's mouth moved, though her face was not turned toward him, and a
man's broad laugh was presently heard, while the lady gazed unconsciously
before her, and preserved her gravity if she could escape any other
lady's eyes; failing in which, handkerchiefs were simultaneously seized,
and a second chime arose, till the tickling force subsided to a few
What nonsense it is that my father writes about women! thought Richard.
He says they can't laugh, and don't understand humour. It comes, he
reflected, of his shutting himself from the world. And the idea that he
was seeing the world, and feeling wiser, flattered him. He talked
fluently to his dangerous Bellona. He gave her some reminiscences of
"Oh!" said she, "that's your tutor, is it!" She eyed the young man as if
she thought he must go far and fast.
Ripton felt a push. "Look at that," said the bosom, fuming utter
disgust. He was directed to see a manly arm round the waist of the
mignonne. "Now that's what I don't like in company," the bosom inflated
to observe with sufficient emphasis. "She always will allow it with
everybody. Give her a nudge."
Ripton protested that he dared not; upon which she said, "Then I will";
and inclined her sumptuous bust across his lap, breathing wine in his
face, and gave the nudge. The mignonne turned an inquiring eye on
Ripton; a mischievous spark shot from it. She laughed, and said; "Aren't
you satisfied with the old girl?"
"Impudence!" muttered the bosom, growing grander and redder.
"Do, do fill her glass, and keep her quiet--she drinks port when there's
no more champagne," said the mignonne.
The bosom revenged herself by whispering to Ripton scandal of the
mignonne, and between them he was enabled to form a correcter estimate of
the company, and quite recovered from his original awe: so much so as to
feel a touch of jealousy at seeing his lively little neighbour still held
in absolute possession.
Mrs. Mount did not come out much; but there was a deferential manner in
the bearing of the men toward her, which those haughty creatures accord
not save to clever women; and she contrived to hold the talk with three
or four at the head of the table while she still had passages aside with
The port and claret went very well after the champagne. The ladies here
did not ignominiously surrender the field to the gentlemen; they
maintained their position with honour. Silver was seen far out on
Thames. The wine ebbed, and the laughter. Sentiment and cigars took up
the wondrous tale.
"Oh, what a lovely night!" said the ladies, looking above.
"Charming," said the gentlemen, looking below.
The faint-smelling cool Autumn air was pleasant after the feast.
Fragrant weeds burned bright about the garden.
"We are split into couples," said Adrian to Richard, who was standing
alone, eying the landscape. "Tis the influence of the moon! Apparently
we are in Cyprus. How has my son enjoyed himself? How likes he the
society of Aspasia? I feel like a wise Greek to-night."
Adrian was jolly, and rolled comfortably as he talked. Ripton had been
carried off by the sentimental bosom. He came up to them and whispered:
"By Jove, Ricky! do you know what sort of women these are?"
Richard said he thought them a nice sort.
"Puritan!" exclaimed Adrian, slapping Ripton on the back. "Why didn't
you get tipsy, sir? Don't you ever intoxicate yourself except at lawful
marriages? Reveal to us what you have done with the portly dame?"
Ripton endured his bantering that he might hang about Richard, and watch
over him. He was jealous of his innocent Beauty's husband being in
proximity with such women. Murmuring couples passed them to and fro.
"By Jove, Ricky!" Ripton favoured his friend with another hard whisper,
"there's a woman smoking!"
"And why not, O Riptonus?" said Adrian. "Art unaware that woman
cosmopolitan is woman consummate? and dost grumble to pay the small price
for the splendid gem?"
"Well, I don't like women to smoke," said plain Ripton.
"Why mayn't they do what men do?" the hero cried impetuously. "I hate
that contemptible narrow-mindedness. It's that makes the ruin and
horrors I see. Why mayn't they do what men do? I like the women who are
brave enough not to be hypocrites. By heaven! if these women are bad, I
like them better than a set of hypocritical creatures who are all show,
and deceive you in the end."
"Bravo!" shouted Adrian. "There speaks the regenerator."
Ripton, as usual, was crushed by his leader. He had no argument. He
still thought women ought not to smoke; and he thought of one far away,
lonely by the sea, who was perfect without being cosmopolitan.
The Pilgrim's Scrip remarks that: "Young men take joy in nothing so much
as the thinking women Angels: and nothing sours men of experience more
than knowing that all are not quite so."
The Aphorist would have pardoned Ripton Thompson his first Random
extravagance, had he perceived the simple warm-hearted worship of
feminine goodness Richard's young bride had inspired in the breast of the
youth. It might possibly have taught him to put deeper trust in our
Ripton thought of her, and had a feeling of sadness. He wandered about
the grounds by himself, went through an open postern, and threw himself
down among some bushes on the slope of the hill. Lying there, and
meditating, he became aware of voices conversing.
"What does he want?" said a woman's voice. "It's another of his
villanies, I know. Upon my honour, Brayder, when I think of what I have
to reproach him for, I think I must go mad, or kill him."
"Tragic!" said the Hon. Peter. "Haven't you revenged yourself, Bella,
pretty often? Best deal openly. This is a commercial transaction. You
ask for money, and you are to have it--on the conditions: double the sum,
and debts paid."
"He applies to me!"
"You know, my dear Bella, it has long been all up between you. I think
Mount has behaved very well, considering all he knows. He's not easily
hoodwinked, you know. He resigns himself to his fate and follows other
"Then the condition is, that I am to seduce this young man?"
"My dear Bella! you strike your bird like a hawk. I didn't say seduce.
Hold him in--play with him. Amuse him."
"I don't understand half-measures."
"Women seldom do."
"How I hate you, Brayder!"
"I thank your ladyship."
The two walked farther. Ripton had heard some little of the colloquy.
He left the spot in a serious mood, apprehensive of something dark to the
people he loved, though he had no idea of what the Hon. Peter's
On the voyage back to town, Richard was again selected to sit by Mrs.
Mount. Brayder and Adrian started the jokes. The pair of parasites got
on extremely well together. Soft fell the plash of the oars; softly the
moonlight curled around them; softly the banks glided by. The ladies
were in a state of high sentiment. They sang without request. All
deemed the British ballad-monger an appropriate interpreter of their
emotions. After good wine, and plenty thereof, fair throats will make
men of taste swallow that remarkable composer. Eyes, lips, hearts; darts
and smarts and sighs; beauty, duty; bosom, blossom; false one, farewell!
To this pathetic strain they melted. Mrs. Mount, though strongly
requested, declined to sing. She preserved her state. Under the tall
aspens of Brentford-ait, and on they swept, the white moon in their wake.
Richard's hand lay open by his side. Mrs. Mount's little white hand by
misadventure fell into it. It was not pressed, or soothed for its fall,
or made intimate with eloquent fingers. It lay there like a bit of snow
on the cold ground. A yellow leaf wavering down from the aspens struck
Richard's cheek, and he drew away the very hand to throw back his hair
and smooth his face, and then folded his arms, unconscious of offence.
He was thinking ambitiously of his life: his blood was untroubled, his
brain calmly working.
"Which is the more perilous?" is a problem put by the Pilgrim: "To meet
the temptings of Eve, or to pique her?"
Mrs. Mount stared at the young man as at a curiosity, and turned to flirt
with one of her Court. The Guardsmen were mostly sentimental. One or
two rattled, and one was such a good-humoured fellow that Adrian could
not make him ridiculous. The others seemed to give themselves up to a
silent waxing in length of limb. However far they sat removed, everybody
was entangled in their legs. Pursuing his studies, Adrian came to the
conclusion, that the same close intellectual and moral affinity which he
had discovered to exist between our nobility and our yeomanry, is to be
observed between the Guardsman class, and that of the corps de ballet:
they both live by the strength of their legs, where also their wits, if
they do not altogether reside there, are principally developed: both are
volage; wine, tobacco, and the moon, influence both alike; and admitting
the one marked difference that does exist, it is, after all, pretty
nearly the same thing to be coquetting and sinning on two legs as on the
point of a toe.
A long Guardsman with a deep bass voice sang a doleful song about the
twining tendrils of the heart ruthlessly torn, but required urgent
persuasions and heavy trumpeting of his lungs to get to the end: before
he had accomplished it, Adrian had contrived to raise a laugh in his
neighbourhood, so that the company was divided, and the camp split:
jollity returned to one-half, while sentiment held the other. Ripton,
blotted behind the bosom, was only lucky in securing a higher degree of
heat than was possible for the rest. "Are you cold?" she would ask,
"I am," said the mignonne, as if to excuse her conduct.
"You always appear to be," the fat one sniffed and snapped.
"Won't you warm two, Mrs. Mortimer?" said the naughty little woman.
Disdain prevented any further notice of her. Those familiar with the
ladies enjoyed their sparring, which was frequent. The mignonne was
heard to whisper: "That poor fellow will certainly be stewed."
Very prettily the ladies took and gave warmth, for the air on the water
was chill and misty. Adrian had beside him the demure one who had
stopped the circulation of his anecdote. She in nowise objected to the
fair exchange, but said "Hush!" betweenwhiles.
Past Kew and Hammersmith, on the cool smooth water; across Putney reach;
through Battersea bridge; and the City grew around them, and the shadows
of great mill-factories slept athwart the moonlight.
All the ladies prattled sweetly of a charming day when they alighted on
land. Several cavaliers crushed for the honour of conducting Mrs. Mount
to her home.
"My brougham's here; I shall go alone," said Mrs. Mount. "Some one
arrange my shawl."
She turned her back to Richard, who had a view of a delicate neck as he
manipulated with the bearing of a mailed knight.
"Which way are you going?" she asked carelessly, and, to his reply as to
the direction, said: "Then I can give you a lift," and she took his arm
with a matter-of-course air, and walked up the stairs with him.
Ripton saw what had happened. He was going to follow: the portly dame
retained him, and desired him to get her a cab.
"Oh, you happy fellow!" said the bright-eyed mignonne, passing by.
Ripton procured the cab, and stuffed it full without having to get into
"Try and let him come in too?" said the persecuting creature, again
"Take liberties with pour men--you shan't with me," retorted the angry
bosom, and drove off.
"So she's been and gone and run away and left him after all his trouble!"
cried the pert little thing, peering into Ripton's eyes. "Now you'll
never be so foolish as to pin your faith to fat women again. There! he
shall be made happy another time." She gave his nose a comical tap, and
tripped away with her possessor.
Ripton rather forgot his friend for some minutes: Random thoughts laid
hold of him. Cabs and carriages rattled past. He was sure he had been
among members of the nobility that day, though when they went by him now
they only recognized him with an effort of the eyelids. He began to
think of the day with exultation, as an event. Recollections of the
mignonne were captivating. "Blue eyes--just what I like! And such a
little impudent nose, and red lips, pouting--the very thing I like! And
her hair? darkish, I think--say brown. And so saucy, and light on her
feet. And kind she is, or she wouldn't have talked to me like that."
Thus, with a groaning soul, he pictured her. His reason voluntarily
consigned her to the aristocracy as a natural appanage: but he did
amorously wish that Fortune had made a lord of him.
Then his mind reverted to Mrs. Mount, and the strange bits of the
conversation he had heard on the hill. He was not one to suspect anybody
positively. He was timid of fixing a suspicion. It hovered
indefinitely, and clouded people, without stirring him to any resolve.
Still the attentions of the lady toward Richard were queer. He
endeavoured to imagine they were in the nature of things, because Richard
was so handsome that any woman must take to him. "But he's married,"
said Ripton, "and he mustn't go near these people if he's married." Not
a high morality, perhaps better than none at all: better for the world
were it practised more. He thought of Richard along with that sparkling
dame, alone with her. The adorable beauty of his dear bride, her pure
heavenly face, swam before him. Thinking of her, he lost sight of the
mignonne who had made him giddy.
He walked to Richard's hotel, and up and down the street there, hoping
every minute to hear his step; sometimes fancying he might have returned
and gone to bed. Two o'clock struck. Ripton could not go away. He was
sure he should not sleep if he did. At last the cold sent him homeward,
and leaving the street, on the moonlight side of Piccadilly he met his
friend patrolling with his head up and that swing of the feet proper to
men who are chanting verses.
"Old Rip!" cried Richard, cheerily. "What on earth are you doing here at
this hour of the morning?"
Ripton muttered of his pleasure at meeting him. "I wanted to shake your
hand before I went home."
Richard smiled on him in an amused kindly way. "That all? You may shake
my hand any day, like a true man as you are, old Rip! I've been speaking
about you. Do you know, that--Mrs. Mount--never saw you all the time at
Richmond, or in the boat!"
"Oh!" Ripton said, well assured that he was a dwarf "you saw her safe
"Yes. I've been there for the last couple of hours--talking. She talks
capitally: she's wonderfully clever. She's very like a man, only much
nicer. I like her."
"But, Richard, excuse me--I'm sure I don't mean to offend you--but now
you're married...perhaps you couldn't help seeing her home, but I think
you really indeed oughtn't to have gone upstairs."
Ripton delivered this opinion with a modest impressiveness.
"What do you mean?" said Richard. "You don't suppose I care for any
woman but my little darling down there." He laughed.
"No; of course not. That's absurd. What I mean is, that people perhaps
will--you know, they do--they say all manner of things, and that makes
unhappiness; and I do wish you were going home to-morrow, Ricky. I mean,
to your dear wife." Ripton blushed and looked away as he spoke.
The hero gave one of his scornful glances. "So you're anxious about my
reputation. I hate that way of looking on women. Because they have been
once misled--look how much weaker they are!--because the world has given
them an ill fame, you would treat them as contagious and keep away from
them for the sake of your character!
"It would be different with me," quoth Ripton.
"How?" asked the hero.
"Because I'm worse than you," was all the logical explanation Ripton was
"I do hope you will go home soon," he added.
"Yes," said Richard, "and I, so do I hope so. But I've work to do now.
I dare not, I cannot, leave it. Lucy would be the last to ask me;--you
saw her letter yesterday. Now listen to me, Rip. I want to make you be
just to women."
Then he read Ripton a lecture on erring women, speaking of them as if he
had known them and studied them for years. Clever, beautiful, but
betrayed by love, it was the first duty of all true men to cherish and
redeem them. "We turn them into curses, Rip; these divine creatures."
And the world suffered for it. That--that was the root of all the evil
in the world!
"I don't feel anger or horror at these poor women, Rip! It's strange. I
knew what they were when we came home in the boat. But I do--it tears my
heart to see a young girl given over to an old man--a man she doesn't
love. That's shame!--Don't speak of it."
Forgetting to contest the premiss, that all betrayed women are betrayed
by love, Ripton was quite silenced. He, like most young men, had
pondered somewhat on this matter, and was inclined to be sentimental when
be was not hungry. They walked in the moonlight by the railings of the
park. Richard harangued at leisure, while Ripton's teeth chattered.
Chivalry might be dead, but still there was something to do, went the
strain. The lady of the day had not been thrown in the hero's path
without an object, he said; and he was sadly right there. He did not
express the thing clearly; nevertheless Ripton understood him to mean, he
intended to rescue that lady from further transgressions, and show a
certain scorn of the world. That lady, and then other ladies unknown,
were to be rescued. Ripton was to help. He and Ripton were to be the
knights of this enterprise. When appealed to, Ripton acquiesced, and
shivered. Not only were they to be knights, they would have to be
Titans, for the powers of the world, the spurious ruling Social Gods,
would have to be defied and overthrown. And Titan number one flung up
his handsome bold face as if to challenge base Jove on the spot; and
Titan number two strained the upper button of his coat to meet across his
pocket-handkerchief on his chest, and warmed his fingers under his coat-
tails. The moon had fallen from her high seat and was in the mists of
the West, when he was allowed to seek his blankets, and the cold acting
on his friend's eloquence made Ripton's flesh very contrite. The poor
fellow had thinner blood than the hero; but his heart was good. By the
time he had got a little warmth about him, his heart gratefully strove to
encourage him in the conception of becoming a knight and a Titan; and so
striving Ripton fell asleep and dreamed.
Behold the hero embarked in the redemption of an erring beautiful woman.
"Alas!" writes the Pilgrim at this very time to Lady Blandish, "I cannot
get that legend of the Serpent from me, the more I think. Has he not
caught you, and ranked you foremost in his legions? For see: till you
were fashioned, the fruits hung immobile on the boughs. They swayed
before us, glistening and cold. The hand must be eager that plucked
them. They did not come down to us, and smile, and speak our language,
and read our thoughts, and know when to fly, when to follow! how surely
to have us!
"Do but mark one of you standing openly in the track of the Serpent.
What shall be done with her? I fear the world is wiser than its judges!
Turn from her, says the world. By day the sons of the world do. It
darkens, and they dance together downward. Then comes there one of the
world's elect who deems old counsel devilish; indifference to the end of
evil worse than its pursuit. He comes to reclaim her. From deepest bane
will he bring her back to highest blessing. Is not that a bait already?
Poor fish! 'tis wondrous flattering. The Serpent has slimed her so to
secure him! With slow weary steps he draws her into light: she clings to
him; she is human; part of his work, and he loves it. As they mount
upward, he looks on her more, while she, it may be, looks above. What
has touched him? What has passed out of her, and into him? The Serpent
laughs below. At the gateways of the Sun they fall together!"
This alliterative production was written without any sense of the peril
that makes prophecy.
It suited Sir Austin to write thus. It was a channel to his acrimony
moderated through his philosophy. The letter was a reply to a vehement
entreaty from Lady Blandish for him to come up to Richard and forgive him
thoroughly: Richard's name was not mentioned in it.
"He tries to be more than he is," thought the lady: and she began
insensibly to conceive him less than he was.
The baronet was conscious of a certain false gratification in his son's
apparent obedience to his wishes and complete submission; a gratification
he chose to accept as his due, without dissecting or accounting for it.
The intelligence reiterating that Richard waited, and still waited;
Richard's letters, and more his dumb abiding and practical penitence;
vindicated humanity sufficiently to stop the course of virulent
aphorisms. He could speak, we have seen, in sorrow for this frail nature
of ours, that he had once stood forth to champion. "But how long will
this last?" he demanded, with the air of Hippias. He did not reflect how
long it had lasted. Indeed, his indigestion of wrath had made of him a
It was not mere obedience that held Richard from the aims of his young
wife: nor was it this new knightly enterprise he had presumed to
undertake. Hero as he was, a youth, open to the insane promptings of hot
blood, he was not a fool. There had been talk between him and Mrs. Doria
of his mother. Now that he had broken from his father, his heart spoke
for her. She lived, he knew: he knew no more. Words painfully hovering
along the borders of plain speech had been communicated to him, filling
him with moody imaginings. If he thought of her, the red was on his
face, though he could not have said why. But now, after canvassing the
conduct of his father, and throwing him aside as a terrible riddle, he
asked Mrs. Doria to tell him of his other parent. As softly as she could
she told the story. To her the shame was past: she could weep for the
poor lady. Richard dropped no tears. Disgrace of this kind is always
present to a son, and, educated as he had been, these tidings were a
vivid fire in his brain. He resolved to hunt her out, and take her from
the man. Here was work set to his hand. All her dear husband did was
right to Lucy. She encouraged him to stay for that purpose, thinking it
also served another. There was Tom Bakewell to watch over Lucy: there
was work for him to do. Whether it would please his father he did not
stop to consider. As to the justice of the act, let us say nothing.
On Ripton devolved the humbler task of grubbing for Sandoe's place of
residence; and as he was unacquainted with the name by which the poet now
went in private, his endeavours were not immediately successful. The
friends met in the evening at Lady Blandish's town-house, or at the
Foreys', where Mrs. Doria procured the reverer of the Royal Martyr, and
staunch conservative, a favourable reception. Pity, deep pity for
Richard's conduct Ripton saw breathing out of Mrs. Doria. Algernon
Feverel treated his nephew with a sort of rough commiseration, as a young
fellow who had run off the road.
Pity was in Lady Blandish's eyes, though for a different cause. She
doubted if she did well in seconding his father's unwise scheme--
supposing him to have a scheme. She saw the young husband encompassed by
dangers at a critical time. Not a word of Mrs. Mount had been breathed
to her, but the lady had some knowledge of life. She touched on delicate
verges to the baronet in her letters, and he understood her well enough.
"If he loves this person to whom he has bound himself, what fear for him?
Or are you coming to think it something that bears the name of love
because we have to veil the rightful appellation?" So he responded,
remote among the mountains. She tried very hard to speak plainly.
Finally he came to say that he denied himself the pleasure of seeing his
son specially, that he for a time might be put to the test the lady
seemed to dread. This was almost too much for Lady Blandish. Love's
charity boy so loftily serene now that she saw him half denuded--a thing
of shanks and wrists--was a trial for her true heart.
Going home at night Richard would laugh at the faces made about his
marriage. "We'll carry the day, Rip, my Lucy and I! or I'll do it alone-
-what there is to do." He slightly adverted to a natural want of courage
in women, which Ripton took to indicate that his Beauty was deficient in
that quality. Up leapt the Old Dog; "I'm sure there never was a braver
creature upon earth, Richard! She's as brave as she's lovely, I'll swear
she is! Look how she behaved that day! How her voice sounded! She was
trembling... Brave? She'd follow you into battle, Richard!"
And Richard rejoined: "Talk on, dear old Rip! She's my darling love,
whatever she is! And she is gloriously lovely. No eyes are like hers.
I'll go down to-morrow morning the first thing."
Ripton only wondered the husband of such a treasure could remain apart
from it. So thought Richard for a space.
"But if I go, Rip," he said despondently, "if I go for a day even I shall
have undone all my work with my father. She says it herself--you saw it
in her last letter."
"Yes," Ripton assented, and the words "Please remember me to dear Mr.
Thompson," fluttered about the Old Dog's heart.
It came to pass that Mrs. Berry, having certain business that led her
through Kensington Gardens, spied a figure that she had once dandled in
long clothes, and helped make a man of, if ever woman did. He was
walking under the trees beside a lady, talking to her, not indifferently.
The gentleman was her bridegroom and her babe. "I know his back," said
Mrs. Berry, as if she had branded a mark on it in infancy. But the lady
was not her bride. Mrs. Berry diverged from the path, and got before
them on the left flank; she stared, retreated, and came round upon the
right. There was that in the lady's face which Mrs. Berry did not like.
Her innermost question was, why he was not walking with his own wife?
She stopped in front of them. They broke, and passed about her. The
lady made a laughing remark to him, whereat he turned to look, and Mrs.
Berry bobbed. She had to bob a second time, and then he remembered the
worthy creature, and hailed her Penelope, shaking her hand so that he put
her in countenance again. Mrs. Berry was extremely agitated. He
dismissed her, promising to call upon her in the evening. She heard the
lady slip out something from a side of her lip, and they both laughed as
she toddled off to a sheltering tree to wipe a corner of each eye. "I
don't like the looks of that woman," she said, and repeated it
"Why doesn't he walk arm-in-arm with her?" was her neat inquiry.
"Where's his wife?" succeeded it. After many interrogations of the sort,
she arrived at naming the lady a bold-faced thing; adding subsequently,
brazen. The lady had apparently shown Mrs. Berry that she wished to get
rid of her, and had checked the outpouring of her emotions on the breast
of her babe. "I know a lady when I see one," said Mrs. Berry. "I
haven't lived with 'em for nothing; and if she's a lady bred and born, I
wasn't married in the church alive."
Then, if not a lady, what was she? Mrs. Berry desired to know: "She's
imitation lady, I'm sure she is!" Berry vowed. "I say she don't look
Establishing the lady to be a spurious article, however, what was one to
think of a married man in company with such? "Oh no! it ain't that!"
Mrs. Berry returned immediately on the charitable tack. "Belike it's
some one of his acquaintance 've married her for her looks, and he've
just met her.... Why it'd be as bad as my Berry!" the relinquished
spouse of Berry ejaculated, in horror at the idea of a second man being
so monstrous in wickedness. "Just coupled, too!" Mrs. Berry groaned on
the suspicious side of the debate. "And such a sweet young thing for his
wife! But no, I'll never believe it. Not if he tell me so himself! And
men don't do that," she whimpered.
Women are swift at coming to conclusions in these matters; soft women
exceedingly swift: and soft women who have been betrayed are rapid beyond
measure. Mrs. Berry had not cogitated long ere she pronounced distinctly
and without a shadow of dubiosity: "My opinion is--married or not
married, and wheresomever he pick her up--she's nothin' more nor less
than a Bella Donna!" as which poisonous plant she forthwith registered
the lady in the botanical note-book of her brain. It would have
astonished Mrs. Mount to have heard her person so accurately hit off at a
In the evening Richard made good his promise, accompanied by Ripton.
Mrs. Berry opened the door to them. She could not wait to get him into
the parlour. "You're my own blessed babe; and I'm as good as your
mother, though I didn't suck ye, bein' a maid!" she cried, falling into
his arms, while Richard did his best to support the unexpected burden.
Then reproaching him tenderly for his guile--at mention of which Ripton
chuckled, deeming it his own most honourable portion of the plot--Mrs.
Berry led them into the parlour, and revealed to Richard who she was, and
how she had tossed him, and hugged him, and kissed him all over, when he
was only that big--showing him her stumpy fat arm. "I kissed ye from
head to tail, I did," said Mrs. Berry, "and you needn't be ashamed of it.
It's be hoped you'll never have nothin' worse come t'ye, my dear!"
Richard assured her he was not a bit ashamed, but warned her that she
must not do it now, Mrs. Berry admitting it was out of the question now,
and now that he had a wife, moreover. The young men laughed, and Ripton
laughing over-loudly drew on himself Mrs. Berry's attention: "But that
Mr. Thompson there--however he can look me in the face after his
inn'cence! helping blindfold an old woman! though I ain't sorry for what
I did--that I'm free for to say, and its' over, and blessed be all!
Amen! So now where is she and how is she, Mr. Richard, my dear--it's
only cuttin' off the 's' and you are as you was.--Why didn't ye bring her
with ye to see her old Berry?"
Richard hurriedly explained that Lucy was still in the Isle of Wight.
"Oh! and you've left her for a day or two?" said Mrs. Berry.
"Good God! I wish it had been a day or two," cried Richard.
"Ah! and how long have it been?" asked Mrs. Berry, her heart beginning to
beat at his manner of speaking.
"Don't talk about it," said Richard.
"Oh! you never been dudgeonin' already? Oh! you haven't been peckin' at
one another yet?" Mrs. Berry exclaimed.
Ripton interposed to tell her such fears were unfounded.
"Then how long ha' you been divided?"
In a guilty voice Ripton stammered "since September."
"September!" breathed Mrs. Berry, counting on her fingers, "September,
October, Nov--two months and more! nigh three! A young married husband
away from the wife of his bosom nigh three months! Oh my! Oh my! what
do that mean?"
"My father sent for me--I'm waiting to see him," said Richard. A few
more words helped Mrs. Berry to comprehend the condition of affairs.
Then Mrs. Berry spread her lap, flattened out her hands, fixed her eyes,
"My dear young gentleman!--I'd like to call ye my darlin' babe! I'm
going to speak as a mother to ye, whether ye likes it or no; and what old
Berry says, you won't mind, for she's had ye when there was no
conventionals about ye, and she has the feelin's of a mother to you,
though humble her state. If there's one that know matrimony it's me, my
dear, though Berry did give me no more but nine months of it and I've
known the worst of matrimony, which, if you wants to be woeful wise,
there it is for ye. For what have been my gain? That man gave me
nothin' but his name; and Bessy Andrews was as good as Bessy Berry,
though both is 'Bs,' and says he, you was 'A,' and now you's 'B,' so
you're my A B, he says, write yourself down that, he says, the bad man,
with his jokes!--Berry went to service." Mrs. Berry's softness came upon
her. "So I tell ye, Berry went to service. He left the wife of his
bosom forlorn and he went to service; because he were allays an ambitious
man, and wasn't, so to speak, happy out of his uniform--which was his
livery--not even in my arms: and he let me know it. He got among them
kitchen sluts, which was my mournin' ready made, and worse than a widow's
cap to me, which is no shame to wear, and some say becoming. There's no
man as ever lived known better than my Berry how to show his legs to
advantage, and gals look at 'em. I don't wonder now that Berry was
prostrated. His temptations was strong, and his flesh was weak. Then
what I say is, that for a young married man--be he whomsoever he may be--
to be separated from the wife of his bosom--a young sweet thing, and he
an innocent young gentleman!--so to sunder, in their state, and be kep'
from each other, I say it's as bad as bad can be! For what is matrimony,
my dears? We're told it's a holy Ordnance. And why are ye so
comfortable in matrimony? For that ye are not a sinnin'! And they that
severs ye they tempts ye to stray: and you learn too late the meanin' o'
them blessin's of the priest--as it was ordained. Separate--what comes?
Fust it's like the circulation of your blood a-stoppin'--all goes wrong.
Then there's misunderstandings--ye've both lost the key. Then, behold
ye, there's birds o' prey hoverin' over each on ye, and it's which'll be
snapped up fust. Then--Oh, dear! Oh, dear! it be like the devil come
into the world again." Mrs. Berry struck her hands and moaned. "A day
I'll give ye: I'll go so far as a week: but there's the outside. Three
months dwellin' apart! That's not matrimony, it's divorcin'! what can it
be to her but widowhood? widowhood with no cap to show for it! And what
can it be to you, my dear? Think! you been a bachelor three months! and
a bachelor man," Mrs. Berry shook her head most dolefully, "he ain't
widow woman. I don't go to compare you to Berry, my dear young
gentleman. Some men's hearts is vagabonds born--they must go astray--
it's their natur' to. But all men are men, and I know the foundation of
'em, by reason of my woe."
Mrs. Berry paused. Richard was humorously respectful to the sermon. The
truth in the good creature's address was not to be disputed, or despised,
notwithstanding the inclination to laugh provoked by her quaint way of
putting it. Ripton nodded encouragingly at every sentence, for he saw
her drift, and wished to second it.
Seeking for an illustration of her meaning, Mrs. Berry solemnly
continued: "We all know what checked prespiration is." But neither of
the young gentlemen could resist this. Out they burst in a roar of
"Laugh away," said Mrs. Berry. "I don't mind ye. I say again, we all do
know what checked prespiration is. It fly to the lungs, it gives ye
mortal inflammation, and it carries ye off. Then I say checked matrimony
is as bad. It fly to the heart, and it carries off the virtue that's in
ye, and you might as well be dead! Them that is joined it's their
salvation not to separate! It don't so much matter before it. That Mr.
Thompson there--if he go astray, it ain't from the blessed fold. He hurt
himself alone--not double, and belike treble, for who can say now what
may be? There's time for it. I'm for holding back young people so that
they knows their minds, howsomever they rattles about their hearts. I
ain't a speeder of matrimony, and good's my reason! but where it's been
done--where they're lawfully joined, and their bodies made one, I do say
this, that to put division between 'em then, it's to make wanderin'
comets of 'em--creatures without a objeck, and no soul can say what
they's good for but to rush about!"
Mrs. Berry here took a heavy breath, as one who has said her utmost for
the time being.
"My dear old girl," Richard went up to her and, applauding her on the
shoulder, "you're a very wise old woman. But you mustn't speak to me as
if I wanted to stop here. I'm compelled to. I do it for her good
"It's your father that's doin' it, my dear?"
"Well, I'm waiting his pleasure."
"A pretty pleasure! puttin' a snake in the nest of young turtle-doves!
And why don't she come up to you?"
"Well, that you must ask her. The fact is, she's a little timid girl--
she wants me to see him first, and when I've made all right, then she'll
"A little timid girl!" cried Mrs. Berry. "Oh, lor', how she must ha'
deceived ye to make ye think that! Look at that ring," she held out her
finger, "he's a stranger: he's not my lawful! You know what ye did to
me, my dear. Could I get my own wedding-ring back from her? "No!" says
she, firm as a rock, 'he said, with this ring I thee wed'--I think I
see her now, with her pretty eyes and lovesome locks--a darlin'!--And
that ring she'd keep to, come life, came death. And she must ha' been a
rock for me to give in to her in that. For what's the consequence? Here
am I," Mrs. Berry smoothed down the back of her hand mournfully, "here am
I in a strange ring, that's like a strange man holdin' of me, and me a-
wearin' of it just to seem decent, and feelin' all over no better than a
b--a big--that nasty came I can't abide!--I tell you, my dear, she ain't
soft, no!--except to the man of her heart; and the best of women's too
soft there--mores our sorrow!"
"Well, well!" said Richard, who thought he knew.
"I agree with you, Mrs. Berry," Ripton struck in, "Mrs. Richard would do
anything in the world her husband asked her, I'm quite sure."
"Bless you for your good opinion, Mr. Thompson! Why, see her! she ain't
frail on her feet; she looks ye straight in the eyes; she ain't one of
your hang-down misses. Look how she behaved at the ceremony!"
"Ah!" sighed Ripton.
"And if you'd ha' seen her when she spoke to me about my ring! Depend
upon it, my dear Mr. Richard, if she blinded you about the nerve she've
got, it was somethin' she thought she ought to do for your sake, and I
wish I'd been by to counsel her, poor blessed babe!--And how much longer,
now, can ye stay divided from that darlin'?"
Richard paced up and down.
"A father's will," urged Mrs. Berry, "that's a son's law; but he mustn't
go again' the laws of his nature to do it."
"Just be quiet at present--talk of other things, there's a good woman,"
Mrs. Berry meekly folded her arms.
"How strange, now, our meetin' like this! meetin' at all, too!" she
remarked contemplatively. "It's them advertisements! They brings people
together from the ends of the earth, for good or for bad. I often say,
there's more lucky accidents, or unlucky ones, since advertisements was
the rule, than ever there was before. They make a number of romances,
depend upon it! Do you walk much in the Gardens, my dear?"
"Now and then," said Richard.
"Very pleasant it is there with the fine folks and flowers and titled
people," continued Mrs. Berry. "That was a handsome woman you was a-
walkin' beside, this mornin'."
Very," said Richard.
"She was a handsome woman! or I should say, is, for her day ain't past,
and she know it. I thought at first--by her back--it might ha' been your
aunt, Mrs. Forey; for she do step out well and hold up her shoulders:
straight as a dart she be! But when I come to see her face--Oh, dear me!
says I, this ain't one of the family. They none of 'em got such bold
faces--nor no lady as I know have. But she's a fine woman--that nobody
Mrs. Berry talked further of the fine woman. It was a liberty she took
to speak in this disrespectful tone of her, and Mrs. Berry was quite
aware that she was laying herself open to rebuke. She had her end in
view. No rebuke was uttered, and during her talk she observed
intercourse passing between the eyes of the young men.
"Look here, Penelope," Richard stopped her at last. "Will it make you
comfortable if I tell you I'll obey the laws of my nature and go down at
the end of the week?"
"I'll thank the Lord of heaven if you do!" she exclaimed.
"Very well, then--be happy--I will. Now listen. I want you to keep your
rooms for me--those she had. I expect, in a day or two, to bring a lady
"A lady?" faltered Mrs. Berry.
"Yes. A lady."
"May I make so bold as to ask what lady?"
"You may not. Not now. Of course you will know."
Mrs. Berry's short neck made the best imitation it could of an offended
swan's action. She was very angry. She said she did not like so many
ladies, which natural objection Richard met by saying that there was only
"And Mrs. Berry," he added, dropping his voice. "You will treat her as
you did my dear girl, for she will require not only shelter but kindness.
I would rather leave her with you than with any one. She has been very
His serious air and habitual tone of command fascinated the softness of
Berry, and it was not until he had gone that she spoke out.
"Unfort'nate! He's going to bring me an unfort'nate female! Oh! not
from my babe can I bear that! Never will I have her here! I see it.
It's that bold-faced woman he's got mixed up in, and she've been and made
the young man think he'll go for to reform her. It's one o' their arts--
that is; and he's too innocent a young man to mean anythin' else. But I
ain't a house of Magdalens no! and sooner than have her here I'd have the
roof fall over me, I would."
She sat down to eat her supper on the sublime resolve.
In love, Mrs. Berry's charity was all on the side of the law, and this is
the case with many of her sisters. The Pilgrim sneers at them for it,
and would have us credit that it is their admirable instinct which, at
the expense of every virtue save one, preserves the artificial barrier
simply to impose upon us. Men, I presume, are hardly fair judges, and
should stand aside and mark.
Early next day Mrs. Berry bundled off to Richard's hotel to let him know
her determination. She did not find him there. Returning homeward
through the park, she beheld him on horseback riding by the side of the
The sight of this public exposure shocked her more than the secret walk
under the trees... "You don't look near your reform yet," Mrs. Berry
apostrophized her. "You don't look to me one that'd come the Fair
Penitent till you've left off bein' fair--if then you do, which some of
ye don't. Laugh away and show yet airs! Spite o' your hat and feather,
and your ridin' habit, you're a Belle Donna." Setting her down again
absolutely for such, whatever it might signify, Mrs. Berry had a virtuous
In the evening she heard the noise of wheels stopping at the door.
"Never!" she rose from her chair to exclaim. "He ain't rided her out in
the mornin', and been and made a Magdalen of her afore dark?"
A lady veiled was brought into the house by Richard. Mrs. Berry feebly
tried to bar his progress in the passage. He pushed past her, and
conducted the lady into the parlour without speaking. Mrs. Berry did not
follow. She heard him murmur a few sentences within. Then he came out.
All her crest stood up, as she whispered vigorously, "Mr. Richard! if
that woman stay here, I go forth. My house ain't a penitentiary for
unfort'nate females, sir"--
He frowned at her curiously; but as she was on the point of renewing her
indignant protest, he clapped his hand across her mouth, and spoke words
in her ear that had awful import to her. She trembled, breathing low:
"My God, forgive, me!
"Richard?" And her virtue was humbled. "Lady Feverel is it? Your
mother, Mr. Richard?" And her virtue was humbled.
One may suppose that a prematurely aged, oily little man; a poet in bad
circumstances; a decrepit butterfly chained to a disappointed inkstand,
will not put out strenuous energies to retain his ancient paramour when a
robust young man comes imperatively to demand his mother of him in her
person. The colloquy was short between Diaper Sandoe and Richard. The
question was referred to the poor spiritless lady, who, seeing that her
son made no question of it, cast herself on his hands. Small loss to her
was Diaper; but he was the loss of habit, and that is something to a
woman who has lived. The blood of her son had been running so long alien
from her that the sense of her motherhood smote he now with strangeness,
and Richard's stern gentleness seemed like dreadful justice come upon
her. Her heart had almost forgotten its maternal functions. She called
him Sir, till he bade her remember he was her son. Her voice sounded to
him like that of a broken-throated lamb, so painful and weak it was, with
the plaintive stop in the utterance. When he kissed her, her skin was
cold. Her thin hand fell out of his when his grasp related. "Can sin
hunt one like this?" he asked, bitterly reproaching himself for the shame
she had caused him to endure, and a deep compassion filled his breast.
Poetic justice had been dealt to Diaper the poet. He thought of all he
had sacrificed for this woman--the comfortable quarters, the friend, the
happy flights. He could not but accuse her of unfaithfulness in leaving
him in his old age. Habit had legalized his union with her. He wrote as
pathetically of the break of habit as men feel at the death of love, and
when we are old and have no fair hope tossing golden locks before us, a
wound to this our second nature is quite as sad. I know not even if it
be not actually sadder.
Day by day Richard visited his mother. Lady Blandish and Ripton alone
were in the secret. Adrian let him do as he pleased. He thought proper
to tell him that the public recognition he accorded to a particular lady
was, in the present state of the world, scarcely prudent.
"'Tis a proof to me of your moral rectitude, my son, but the world will
not think so. No one character is sufficient to cover two--in a
Protestant country especially. The divinity that doth hedge a Bishop
would have no chance, in contact with your Madam Danae. Drop the woman,
my son. Or permit me to speak what you would have her hear."
Richard listened to him with disgust. "Well, you've had my doctorial
warning," said Adrian; and plunged back into his book.
When Lady Feverel had revived to take part in the consultations Mrs.
Berry perpetually opened on the subject of Richard's matrimonial duty,
another chain was cast about him. "Do not, oh, do not offend your
father!" was her one repeated supplication. Sir Austin had grown to be a
vindictive phantom in her mind. She never wept but when she said this.
So Mrs. Berry, to whom Richard had once made mention of Lady Blandish as
the only friend he had among women, bundled off in her black-satin dress
to obtain an interview with her, and an ally. After coming to an
understanding on the matter of the visit, and reiterating many of her
views concerning young married people, Mrs. Berry said: "My lady, if I
may speak so bold, I'd say the sin that's bein' done is the sin o' the
lookers-on. And when everybody appear frightened by that young
gentleman's father, I'll say--hopin' your pardon--they no cause be
frighted at all. For though it's nigh twenty year since I knew him, and
I knew him then just sixteen months--no more--I'll say his heart's as
soft as a woman's, which I've cause for to know. And that's it. That's
where everybody's deceived by him, and I was. It's because he keeps his
face, and makes ye think you're dealin' with a man of iron, and all the
while there's a woman underneath. And a man that's like a woman he's the
puzzle o' life! We can see through ourselves, my lady, and we can see
through men, but one o' that sort--he's like somethin' out of nature.
Then I say--hopin' be excused--what's to do is for to treat him like a
woman, and not for to let him have his own way--which he don't know
himself, and is why nobody else do. Let that sweet young couple come
together, and be wholesome in spite of him, I say; and then give him time
to come round, just like a woman; and round he'll come, and give 'em his
blessin', and we shall know we've made him comfortable. He's angry
because matrimony have come between him and his son, and he, woman-like,
he's wantin' to treat what is as if it isn't. But matrimony's a holier
than him. It began long long before him, and it's be hoped will endoor
longs the time after, if the world's not coming to rack--wishin' him no
Now Mrs. Berry only put Lady Blandish's thoughts in bad English. The
lady took upon herself seriously to advise Richard to send for his wife.
He wrote, bidding her come. Lucy, however, had wits, and inexperienced
wits are as a little knowledge. In pursuance of her sage plan to make
the family feel her worth, and to conquer the members of it one by one,
she had got up a correspondence with Adrian, whom it tickled. Adrian
constantly assured her all was going well: time would heal the wound if
both the offenders had the fortitude to be patient: he fancied he saw
signs of the baronet's relenting: they must do nothing to arrest those
favourable symptoms. Indeed the wise youth was languidly seeking to
produce them. He wrote, and felt, as Lucy's benefactor. So Lucy replied
to her husband a cheerful rigmarole he could make nothing of, save that
she was happy in hope, and still had fears. Then Mrs. Berry trained her
fist to indite a letter to her bride. Her bride answered it by saying
she trusted to time. "You poor marter" Mrs. Berry wrote back, "I know
what your sufferin's be. They is the only kind a wife should never hide
from her husband. He thinks all sorts of things if she can abide being
away. And you trusting to time, why it's like trusting not to catch cold
out of your natural clothes." There was no shaking Lucy's firmness.
Richard gave it up. He began to think that the life lying behind him was
the life of a fool. What had he done in it? He had burnt a rick and got
married! He associated the two acts of his existence. Where was the
hero he was to have carved out of Tom Bakewell!--a wretch he had taught
to lie and chicane: and for what? Great heavens! how ignoble did a flash
from the light of his aspirations make his marriage appear! The young
man sought amusement. He allowed his aunt to drag him into society, and
sick of that he made late evening calls on Mrs. Mount, oblivious of the
purpose he had in visiting her at all. Her man-like conversation, which
he took for honesty, was a refreshing change on fair lips.
"Call me Bella: I'll call you Dick," said she. And it came to be Bella
and Dick between them. No mention of Bella occurred in Richard's letters
Mrs. Mount spoke quite openly of herself. "I pretend to be no better
than I am," she said, "and I know I'm no worse than many a woman who
holds her head high." To back this she told him stories of blooming
dames of good repute, and poured a little social sewerage into his ears.
Also she understood him. "What you want, my dear Dick, is something to
do. You went and got married like a--hum!--friends must be respectful.
Go into the Army. Try the turf. I can put you up to a trick or two--
friends should make themselves useful."
She told him what she liked in him. "You're the only man I was ever
alone with who don't talk to me of love and make me feel sick. I hate
men who can't speak to a woman sensibly.--Just wait a minute." She left
him and presently returned with, "Ah, Dick! old fellow! how are you?"--
arrayed like a cavalier, one arm stuck in her side, her hat jauntily
cocked, and a pretty oath on her lips to give reality to the costume.
"What do you think of me? Wasn't it a shame to make a woman of me when I
was born to be a man?"
"I don't know that," said Richard, for the contrast in her attire to
those shooting eyes and lips, aired her sex bewitchingly.
"What! you think I don't do it well?"
"Charming! but I can't forget..."
"Now that is too bad!" she pouted.
Then she proposed that they should go out into the midnight streets arm-
in-arm, and out they went and had great fits of laughter at her
impertinent manner of using her eyeglass, and outrageous affectation of
the supreme dandy.
"They take up men, Dick, for going about in women's clothes, and vice
versaw, I suppose. You'll bail me, old fellaa, if I have to make my bow
to the beak, won't you? Say it's becas I'm an honest woman and don't
care to hide the--a--unmentionables when I wear them--as the t'others
do," sprinkled with the dandy's famous invocations.
He began to conceive romance in that sort of fun.
"You're a wopper, my brave Dick! won't let any peeler take me? by Jove!"
And he with many assurances guaranteed to stand by her, while she bent
her thin fingers trying the muscle of his arm; and reposed upon it more.
There was delicacy in her dandyism. She was a graceful cavalier.
"Sir Julius," as they named the dandy's attire, was frequently called for
on his evening visits to Mrs. Mount. When he beheld Sir Julius he
thought of the lady, and "vice versaw," as Sir Julius was fond of
Was ever hero in this fashion wooed?
The woman now and then would peep through Sir Julius. Or she would sit,
and talk, and altogether forget she was impersonating that worthy fop.
She never uttered an idea or a reflection, but Richard thought her the
cleverest woman he had ever met.
All kinds of problematic notions beset him. She was cold as ice, she
hated talk about love, and she was branded by the world.
A rumour spread that reached Mrs. Doria's ears. She rushed to Adrian
first. The wise youth believed there was nothing in it. She sailed down
upon Richard. "Is this true? that you have been seen going publicly
about with an infamous woman, Richard? Tell me! pray, relieve me!"
Richard knew of no person answering to his aunt's description in whose
company he could have been seen.
"Tell me, I say! Don't quibble. Do you know any woman of bad
The acquaintance of a lady very much misjudged and ill-used by the world,
Richard admitted to.
Urgent grave advice Mrs. Doria tendered her nephew, both from the moral
and the worldly point of view, mentally ejaculating all the while: "That
ridiculous System! That disgraceful marriage!" Sir Austin in his
mountain solitude was furnished with serious stuff to brood over.
The rumour came to Lady Blandish. She likewise lectured Richard, and
with her he condescended to argue. But he found himself obliged to
instance something he had quite neglected. "Instead of her doing me
harm, it's I that will do her good."
Lady Blandish shook her head and held up her finger. "This person must
be very clever to have given you that delusion, dear."
"She is clever. And the world treats her shamefully."
"She complains of her position to you?"
"Not a word. But I will stand by her. She has no friend but me."
"My poor boy! has she made you think that?"
"How unjust you all are!" cried Richard.
"How mad and wicked is the man who can let him be tempted so!" thought
He would pronounce no promise not to visit her, not to address her
publicly. The world that condemned her and cast her out was no better--
worse for its miserable hypocrisy. He knew the world now, the young man
"My child! the world may be very bad. I am not going to defend it. But
you have some one else to think of. Have you forgotten you have a wife,
"Ay! you all speak of her now. There's my aunt: 'Remember you have a
wife!' "Do you think I love any one but Lucy? poor little thing!
Because I am married am I to give up the society of women?"
"Isn't she a woman?"
"Too much so!" sighed the defender of her sex.
Adrian became more emphatic in his warnings. Richard laughed at him.
The wise youth sneered at Mrs. Mount. The hero then favoured him with a
warning equal to his own in emphasis, and surpassing it in sincerity.
"We won't quarrel, my dear boy," said Adrian. "I'm a man of peace.
Besides, we are not fairly proportioned for a combat. Ride your steed to
virtue's goal! All I say is, that I think he'll upset you, and it's
better to go at a slow pace and in companionship with the children of the
sun. You have a very nice little woman for a wife--well, good-bye!"
To have his wife and the world thrown at his face, was unendurable to
Richard; he associated them somewhat after the manner of the rick and the
marriage. Charming Sir Julius, always gay, always honest, dispersed his
"Why, you're taller," Richard made the discovery.
"Of course I am. Don't you remember you said I was such a little thing
when I came out of my woman's shell?"
"And how have you done it?"
"Grown to please you."
"Now, if you can do that, you can do anything."
"And so I would do anything."
"Then"...his project recurred to him. But the incongruity of speaking
seriously to Sir Julius struck him dumb.
"Then what?" asked she.
"Then you're a gallant fellow."
"Isn't it enough?"
"Not quite. You were going to say something. I saw it in your eyes."
"You saw that I admired you."
"Yes, but a man mustn't admire a man."
"I suppose I had an idea you were a woman."
"What! when I had the heels of my boots raised half an inch," Sir Julius
turned one heel, and volleyed out silver laughter.
"I don't come much above your shoulder even now," she said, and proceeded
to measure her height beside him with arch up-glances.
"You must grow more."
"'Fraid I can't, Dick! Bootmakers can't do it."
"I'll show you how," and he lifted Sir Julius lightly, and bore the fair
gentleman to the looking-glass, holding him there exactly on a level with
his head. "Will that do?"
"Yes! Oh but I can't stay here."
"Why can't you?"
"Why can't I?"
He should have known then--it was thundered at a closed door in him, that
he played with fire. But the door being closed, he thought himself
Their eyes met. He put her down instantly.
Sir Julius, charming as he was, lost his vogue. Seeing that, the wily
woman resumed her shell. The memory, of Sir Julius breathing about her
still, doubled the feminine attraction.
"I ought to have been an actress," she said.
Richard told her he found all natural women had a similar wish.
"Yes! Ah! then! if I had been!" sighed Mrs. Mount, gazing on the pattern
of the carpet.
He took her hand, and pressed it.
"You are not happy as you are?"
"May I speak to you?"
Her nearest eye, setting a dimple of her cheek in motion, slid to the
corner toward her ear, as she sat with her head sideways to him,
listening. When he had gone, she said to herself: "Old hypocrites talk
in that way; but I never heard of a young man doing it, and not making
love at the same time."
Their next meeting displayed her quieter: subdued as one who had been set
thinking. He lauded her fair looks.
"Don't make me thrice ashamed," she petitioned.
But it was not only that mood with her. Dauntless defiance, that
splendidly befitted her gallant outline and gave a wildness to her bright
bold eyes, when she would call out: "Happy? who dares say I'm not happy?
D'you think if the world whips me I'll wince? D'you think I care for
what they say or do? Let them kill me! they shall never get one cry out
of me!" and flashing on the young man as if he were the congregated
enemy, add: "There! now you know me!"--that was a mood that well became
her, and helped the work. She ought to have been an actress.
"This must not go on," said Lady Blandish and Mrs. Doria in unison. A
common object brought them together. They confined their talk to it, and
did not disagree. Mrs. Doria engaged to go down to the baronet. Both
ladies knew it was a dangerous, likely to turn out a disastrous,
expedition. They agreed to it because it was something to do, and doing
anything is better than doing nothing. "Do it," said the wise youth,
when they made him a third, "do it, if you want him to be a hermit for
life. You will bring back nothing but his dead body, ladies--a Hellenic,
rather than a Roman, triumph. He will listen to you--he will accompany
you to the station--he will hand you into the carriage--and when you
point to his seat he will bow profoundly, and retire into his congenial
Adrian spoke their thoughts. They fretted; they relapsed.
"Speak to him, you, Adrian," said Mrs. Doria. "Speak to the boy
solemnly. It would be almost better he should go back to that little
thing he has married."
"Almost?" Lady Blandish opened her eyes. "I have been advising it for
the last month and more."
"A choice of evils," said Mrs. Doria's sour-sweet face and shake of the
Each lady saw a point of dissension, and mutually agreed, with heroic
effort, to avoid it by shutting their mouths. What was more, they
preserved the peace in spite of Adrian's artifices.
"Well, I'll talk to him again," he said. "I'll try to get the Engine on
the conventional line."
"Command him!" exclaimed Mrs. Doria.
"Gentle means are, I think, the only means with Richard," said Lady
Throwing banter aside, as much as he could, Adrian spoke to Richard.
"You want to reform this woman. Her manner is open--fair and free--the
traditional characteristic. We won't stop to canvass how that particular
honesty of deportment that wins your approbation has been gained. In her
college it is not uncommon. Girls, you know, are not like boys. At a
certain age they can't be quite natural. It's a bad sign if they don't
blush, and fib, and affect this and that. It wears off when they're
women. But a woman who speaks like a man, and has all those excellent
virtues you admire--where has she learned the trick? She tells you. You
don't surely approve of the school? Well, what is there in it, then?
Reform her, of course. The task is worthy of your energies. But, if you
are appointed to do it, don't do it publicly, and don't attempt it just
now. May I ask you whether your wife participates in this undertaking?"
Richard walked away from the interrogation. The wise youth, who hated
long unrelieved speeches and had healed his conscience, said no more.
Dear tender Lucy! Poor darling! Richard's eyes moistened. Her letters
seemed sadder latterly. Yet she never called to him to come, or he would
have gone. His heart leapt up to her. He announced to Adrian that he
should wait no longer for his father. Adrian placidly nodded.
The enchantress observed that her knight had a clouded brow and an absent
"Richard--I can't call you Dick now, I really don't know why"--she said,
"I want to beg a favour of you."
"Name it. I can still call you Bella, I suppose?"
"If you care to. What I want to say is this: when you meet me out--to
cut it short--please not to recognize me."
"Do you ask to be told that?"
"Certainly I do."
"Then look: I won't compromise you."
"I see no harm, Bella."
"No," she caressed his hand, "and there is none. I know that. But,"
modest eyelids were drooped, "other people do," struggling eyes were
"What do we care for other people?"
"Nothing. I don't. Not that!" snapping her finger, "I care for you,
though." A prolonged look followed the declaration.
"You're foolish, Bella."
"Not quite so giddy--that's all."
He did not combat it with his usual impetuosity. Adrian's abrupt inquiry
had sunk in his mind, as the wise youth intended it should. He had
instinctively refrained from speaking to Lucy of this lady. But what a
noble creature the woman was!
So they met in the park; Mrs. Mount whipped past him; and secresy added a
new sense to their intimacy.
Adrian was gratified at the result produced by his eloquence.
Though this lady never expressed an idea, Richard was not mistaken in her
cleverness. She could make evenings pass gaily, and one was not the
fellow to the other. She could make you forget she was a woman, and then
bring the fact startlingly home to you. She could read men with one
quiver of her half-closed eye-lashes. She could catch the coming mood in
a man, and fit herself to it. What does a woman want with ideas, who can
do thus much? Keenness of perception, conformity, delicacy of handling,
these be all the qualities necessary to parasites.
Love would have scared the youth: she banished it from her tongue. It
may also have been true that it sickened her. She played on his higher
nature. She understood spontaneously what would be most strange and
taking to him in a woman. Various as the Serpent of old Nile, she acted
fallen beauty, humorous indifference, reckless daring, arrogance in ruin.
And acting thus, what think you?--She did it so well because she was
growing half in earnest.
"Richard! I am not what I was since I knew you. You will not give me up
"I am not so bad as I'm painted!"
"You are only unfortunate."
"Now that I know you I think so, and yet I am happier."
She told him her history when this soft horizon of repentance seemed to
throw heaven's twilight across it. A woman's history, you know: certain
chapters expunged. It was dark enough to Richard.
"Did you love the man?" he asked. "You say you love no one now."
"Did I love him? He was a nobleman and I a tradesman's daughter. No. I
did not love him. I have lived to learn it. And now I should hate him,
if I did not despise him."
"Can you be deceived in love?" said Richard, more to himself than to her.
"Yes. When we're young we can be very easily deceived. If there is such
a thing as love, we discover it after we have tossed about and roughed
it. Then we find the man, or the woman, that suits us:--and then it's
too late! we can't have him."
"Singular!" murmured Richard, "she says just what my father said."
He spoke aloud: "I could forgive you if you had loved him."
"Don't be harsh, grave judge! How is a girl to distinguish?"
"You had some affection for him? He was the first?"
She chose to admit that. "Yes. And the first who talks of love to a
girl must be a fool if he doesn't blind her."
"That makes what is called first love nonsense."
He repelled the insinuation. "Because I know it is not, Bella."
Nevertheless she had opened a wider view of the world to him, and a
colder. He thought poorly of girls. A woman a sensible, brave,
beautiful woman seemed, on comparison, infinitely nobler than those weak
She was best in her character of lovely rebel accusing foul injustice.
"What am I to do? You tell me to be different. How can I? What am I to
do? Will virtuous people let me earn my bread? I could not get a
housemaid's place! They wouldn't have me--I see their noses smelling!
Yes I can go to the hospital and sing behind a screen! Do you expect me
to bury myself alive? Why, man, I have blood: I can't become a stone.
You say I am honest, and I will be. Then let me till you that I have
been used to luxuries, and I can't do without them. I might have married
men--lots would have had me. But who marries one like me but a fool? and
I could not marry a fool. The man I marry I must respect. He could not
respect me--I should know him to be a fools and I should be worse off
than I am now. As I am now, they may look as pious as they like--I laugh
And so forth: direr things. Imputations upon wives: horrible exultation
at the universal peccancy of husbands. This lovely outcast almost made
him think she had the right on her side, so keenly her Parthian arrows
pierced the holy centres of society, and exposed its rottenness.
Mrs. Mount's house was discreetly conducted: nothing ever occurred to
shock him there. The young man would ask himself where the difference
was between her and the Women of society? How base, too, was the army of
banded hypocrites! He was ready to declare war against them on her
behalf. His casus beli, accurately worded, would have read curiously.
Because the world refused to lure the lady to virtue with the offer of a
housemaid's place, our knight threw down his challenge. But the lady had
scornfully rebutted this prospect of a return to chastity. Then the form
of the challenge must be: Because the world declined to support the lady
in luxury for nothing! But what did that mean? In other words: she was
to receive the devil's wages without rendering him her services. Such an
arrangement appears hardly fair on the world or on the devil. Heroes
will have to conquer both before they will get them to subscribe to it.
Heroes, however, are not in the habit of wording their declarations of
war at all. Lance in rest they challenge and they charge. Like women
they trust to instinct, and graft on it the muscle of men. Wide fly the
leisurely-remonstrating hosts: institutions are scattered, they know not
wherefore, heads are broken that have not the balm of a reason why. 'Tis
instinct strikes! Surely there is something divine in instinct.
Still, war declared, where were these hosts? The hero could not charge
down on the ladies and gentlemen in a ballroom, and spoil the quadrille.
He had sufficient reticence to avoid sounding his challenge in the Law
Courts; nor could he well go into the Houses of Parliament with a
trumpet, though to come to a tussle with the nation's direct
representatives did seem the likelier method. It was likewise out of the
question that he should enter every house and shop, and battle with its
master in the cause of Mrs. Mount. Where, then, was his enemy?
Everybody was his enemy, and everybody was nowhere! Shall he convoke
multitudes on Wimbledon Common? Blue Policemen, and a distant dread of
ridicule, bar all his projects. Alas for the hero in our day!
Nothing teaches a strong arm its impotence so much as knocking at empty
"What can I do for this poor woman?" cried Richard, after fighting his
phantom enemy till he was worn out.
"O Rip! old Rip!" he addressed his friend, "I'm distracted. I wish I was
dead! What good am I for? Miserable! selfish! What have I done but
make every soul I know wretched about me? I follow my own inclinations--
I make people help me by lying as hard as they can--and I'm a liar. And
when I've got it I'm ashamed of myself. And now when I do see something
unselfish for me to do, I come upon grins--I don't know where to turn--
how to act--and I laugh at myself like a devil!"
It was only friend Ripton's ear that was required, so his words went for
little: but Ripton did say he thought there was small matter to be
ashamed of in winning and wearing the Beauty of Earth. Richard added his
customary comment of "Poor little thing!"
He fought his duello with empty air till he was exhausted. A last letter
written to his father procured him no reply. Then, said he, I have tried
my utmost. I have tried to be dutiful--my father won't listen to me.
One thing I can do--I can go down to my dear girl, and make her happy,
and save her at least from some of the consequences of my rashness.
"There's nothing better for me!" he groaned. His great ambition must be
covered by a house-top: he and the cat must warm themselves on the
domestic hearth! The hero was not aware that his heart moved him to
this. His heart was not now in open communion with his mind.
Mrs. Mount heard that her friend was going--would go. She knew he was
going to his wife. Far from discouraging him, she said nobly: "Go--I
believe I have kept you. Let us have an evening together, and then go:
for good, if you like. If not, then to meet again another time. Forget
me. I shan't forget you. You're the best fellow I ever knew, Richard.
You are, on my honour! I swear I would not step in between you and your
wife to cause either of you a moment's unhappiness. When I can be
another woman I will, and I shall think of you then."
Lady Blandish heard from Adrian that Richard was positively going to his
wife. The wise youth modestly veiled his own merit in bringing it about
by saying: "I couldn't see that poor little woman left alone down there
"Well! Yes!" said Mrs. Doria, to whom the modest speech was repeated, "I
suppose, poor boy, it's the best he can do now."
Richard bade them adieu, and went to spend his last evening with Mrs.
The enchantress received him in state.
"Do you know this dress? No? It's the dress I wore when I first met
you--not when I first saw you. I think I remarked you, sir, before you
deigned to cast an eye upon humble me. When we first met we drank
champagne together, and I intend to celebrate our parting in the same
liquor. Will you liquor with me, old boy?"
She was gay. She revived Sir Julius occasionally. He, dispirited, left
the talking all to her.
Mrs. Mount kept a footman. At a late hour the man of calves dressed the
table for supper. It was a point of honour for Richard to sit down to it
and try to eat. Drinking, thanks to the kindly mother nature, who loves
to see her children made fools of, is always an easier matter. The
footman was diligent; the champagne corks feebly recalled the file-firing
"We'll drink to what we might have been, Dick," said the enchantress.
Oh, the glorious wreck she looked.
His heart choked as he gulped the buzzing wine.
"What! down, my boy?" she cried. "They shall never see me hoist signals
of distress. We must all die, and the secret of the thing is to die
game, by Jove! Did you ever hear of Laura Fern? a superb girl!
handsomer than your humble servant--if you'll believe it--a 'Miss' in the
bargain, and as a consequence, I suppose, a much greater rake. She was
in the hunting-field. Her horse threw her, and she fell plump on a
stake. It went into her left breast. All the fellows crowded round her,
and one young man, who was in love with her--he sits in the House of
Peers now--we used to call him `Duck' because he was such a dear--he
dropped from his horse to his knees: 'Laura! Laura! my darling! speak a
word to me!--the last!' She turned over all white and bloody! 'I--I
shan't be in at the death!' and gave up the ghost! Wasn't that dying
game? Here's to the example of Laura Fenn! Why, what's the matter?
See! it makes a man turn pale to hear how a woman can die. Fill the
glasses, John. Why, you're as bad!"
"It's give me a turn, my lady," pleaded John, and the man's hand was
unsteady as he poured out the wine.
"You ought not to listen. Go, and, drink some brandy."
John footman went from the room.
"My brave Dick! Richard! what a face you've got!"
He showed a deep frown on a colourless face.
"Can't you bear to hear of blood? You know, it was only one naughty
woman out of the world. The clergyman of the parish didn't refuse to
give her decent burial. We Christians! Hurrah!"
She cheered, and laughed. A lurid splendour glanced about her like
lights from the pit.
"Pledge me, Dick! Drink, and recover yourself. Who minds? We must all
die--the good and the bad. Ashes to ashes--dust to dust--and wine for
living lips! That's poetry--almost. Sentiment: `May we never say die
till we've drunk our fill! Not bad--eh? A little vulgar, perhaps, by
Jove! Do you think me horrid?"
"Where's the wine?" Richard shouted. He drank a couple of glasses in
succession, and stared about. Was he in hell, with a lost soul raving to
"Nobly spoken! and nobly acted upon, my brave Dick! Now we'll be
companions." She wished that heaven had made her such a man. "Ah! Dick!
Dick! too late! too late!"
Softly fell her voice. Her eyes threw slanting beams.
"Do you see this?"
She pointed to a symbolic golden anchor studded with gems and coiled with
a rope of hair in her bosom. It was a gift of his.
"Do you know when I stole the lock? Foolish Dick! you gave me an anchor
without a rope. Come and see."
She rose from the table, and threw herself on the sofa.
"Don't you recognize your own hair! I should know a thread of mine among
Something of the strength of Samson went out of him as he inspected his
hair on the bosom of Delilah.
"And you knew nothing of it! You hardly know it now you see it! What
couldn't a woman steal from you? But you're not vain, and that's a
protection. You're a miracle, Dick: a man that's not vain! Sit here."
She curled up her feet to give him place on the sofa. "Now let us talk
like friends that part to meet no more. You found a ship with fever on
board, and you weren't afraid to come alongside and keep her company.
The fever isn't catching, you see. Let us mingle our tears together.
Ha! ha! a man said that once to me. The hypocrite wanted to catch the
fever, but he was too old. How old are you, Dick?"
Richard pushed a few months forward.
"Twenty-one? You just look it, you blooming boy. Now tell me my age,
Richard had given the lady twenty-five years.
She laughed violently. "You don't pay compliments, Dick. Best to be
honest; guess again. You don't like to? Not twenty-five, or twenty-
four, or twenty-three, or see how he begins to stare!---twenty-two. Just
twenty-one, my dear. I think my birthday's somewhere in next month.
Why, look at me, close--closer. Have I a wrinkle?"
"And when, in heaven's name!"...he stopped short.
"I understand you. When did I commence for to live? At the ripe age of
sixteen I saw a nobleman in despair because of my beauty. He vowed he'd
die. I didn't want him to do that. So to save the poor man for his
family, I ran away with him, and I dare say they didn't appreciate the
sacrifice, and he soon forgot to, if he ever did. It's the way of the
Richard seized some dead champagne, emptied the bottle into a tumbler,
and drank it off.
John footman entered to clear the table, and they were left without
"Bella! Bella!" Richard uttered in a deep sad voice, as he walked the
She leaned on her arm, her hair crushed against a reddened cheek, her
eyes half-shut and dreamy.
"Bella!" he dropped beside her. "You are unhappy."
She blinked and yawned, as one who is awakened suddenly. "I think you
spoke," said she.
"You are unhappy, Bella. You can't conceal it. Your laugh sounds like
madness. You must be unhappy. So young, too! Only twenty-one!"
"What does it matter? Who cares for me?"
The mighty pity falling from his eyes took in her whole shape. She did
not mistake it for tenderness, as another would have done.
"Who cares for you, Bella? I do. What makes my misery now, but to see
you there, and know of no way of helping you? Father of mercy! it seems
too much to have to stand by powerless while such ruin is going on!"
Her hand was shaken in his by the passion of torment with which his frame
Involuntarily a tear started between her eyelids. She glanced up at him
quickly, then looked down, drew her hand from his, and smoothed it, eying
"Bella! you have a father alive!"
"A linendraper, dear. He wears a white neck-cloth."
This article of apparel instantaneously changed the tone of the
conversation, for he, rising abruptly, nearly squashed the lady's lap-
dog, whose squeaks and howls were piteous, and demanded the most fervent
caresses of its mistress. It was: "Oh, my poor pet Mumpsy, and he didn't
like a nasty great big ugly heavy foot an his poor soft silky--mum--mum--
back, he didn't, and he soodn't that he--mum--mum--soodn't; and he cried
out and knew the place to come to, and was oh so sorry for what had
happened to him--mum--mum--mum--and now he was going to be made happy,
his mistress make him happy--mum--mum--mum--moo-o-o-o."
"Yes!" said Richard, savagely, from the other end of the room, "you care
for the happiness of your dog."
"A course se does," Mumpsy was simperingly assured in the thick of his
Richard looked for his hat. Mumpsy was deposited on the sofa in a
"Now," said the lady, "you must come and beg Mumpsy's pardon, whether you
meant to do it or no, because little doggies can't tell that--how should
they? And there's poor Mumpsy thinking you're a great terrible rival
that tries to squash him all flat to nothing, on purpose, pretending you
didn't see; and he's trembling, poor dear wee pet! And I may love my
dog, sir, if I like; and I do; and I won't have him ill-treated, for he's
never been jealous of you, and he is a darling, ten times truer than men,
and I love him fifty times better. So come to him with me."
First a smile changed Richard's face; then laughing a melancholy laugh,
he surrendered to her humour, and went through the form of begging
"The dear dog! I do believe he saw we were getting dull," said she.
"And immolated himself intentionally? Noble animal!"
"Well, we'll act as if we thought so. Let us be gay, Richard, and not
part like ancient fogies. Where's your fun? You can rattle; why don't
you? You haven't seen me in one of my characters--not Sir Julius: wait a
couple of minutes." She ran out.
A white visage reappeared behind a spring of flame. Her black hair was
scattered over her shoulders and fell half across her brows. She moved
slowly, and came up to him, fastening weird eyes on him, pointing a
finger at the region of witches. Sepulchral cadences accompanied the
representation. He did not listen, for he was thinking what a deadly
charming and exquisitely horrid witch she was. Something in the way her
underlids worked seemed to remind him of a forgotten picture; but a veil
hung on the picture. There could be no analogy, for this was beautiful
and devilish, and that, if he remembered rightly, had the beauty of
His reflections and her performance were stayed by a shriek. The spirits
of wine had run over the plate she held to the floor. She had the
coolness to put the plate down on the table, while he stamped out the
flame on the carpet. Again she shrieked: she thought she was on fire.
He fell on his knees and clasped her skirts all round, drawing his arms
down them several times.
Still kneeling, he looked up, and asked, "Do you feel safe now?"
She bent her face glaring down till the ends of her hair touched his
Said she, "Do you?"
Was she a witch verily? There was sorcery in her breath; sorcery in her
hair: the ends of it stung him like little snakes.
"How do I do it, Dick?" she flung back, laughing.
"Like you do everything, Bella," he said, and took breath.
"There! I won't be a witch; I won't be a witch: they may burn me to a
cinder, but I won't be a witch!"
She sang, throwing her hair about, and stamping her feet.
"I suppose I look a figure. I must go and tidy myself."
"No, don't change. I like to see you so." He gazed at her with a
mixture of wonder and admiration. "I can't think you the same person--
not even when you laugh."
"Richard," her tone was serious, "you were going to speak to me of my
"How wild and awful you looked, Bella!"
"My father, Richard, was a very respectable man."
"Bella, you'll haunt me like a ghost."
"My mother died in my infancy, Richard."
"Don't put up your hair, Bella."
"I was an only child!"
Her head shook sorrowfully at the glistening fire-irons. He followed the
abstracted intentness of her look, and came upon her words.
"Ah, yes! speak of your father, Bella. Speak of him."
"Shall I haunt you, and come to your bedside, and cry, '`Tis time'?"
"Dear Bella! if you will tell me where he lives, I will go to him. He
shall receive you. He shall not refuse--he shall forgive you."
"If I haunt you, you can't forget me, Richard."
"Let me go to your father, Bella let me go to him to-morrow. I'll give
you my time. It's all I can give. O Bella! let me save you."
"So you like me best dishevelled, do you, you naughty boy! Ha! ha!" and
away she burst from him, and up flew her hair, as she danced across the
room, and fell at full length on the sofa.
He felt giddy: bewitched.
"We'll talk of everyday things, Dick," she called to him from the sofa.
"It's our last evening. Our last? Heigho! It makes me sentimental.
How's that Mr. Ripson, Pipson, Nipson?--it's not complimentary, but I
can't remember names of that sort. Why do you have friends of that sort?
He's not a gentleman. Better is he? Well, he's rather too insignificant
for me. Why do you sit off there? Come to me instantly. There--I'll
sit up, and be proper, and you'll have plenty of room. Talk, Dick!"
He was reflecting on the fact that her eyes were brown. They had a
haughty sparkle when she pleased, and when she pleased a soft languor
circled them. Excitement had dyed her cheeks deep red. He was a youth,
and she an enchantress. He a hero; she a female will-o'-the-wisp.
The eyes were languid now, set in rosy colour.
"You will not leave me yet, Richard? not yet?"
He had no thought of departing:
"It's our last night--I suppose it's our last hour together in this
world--and I don't want to meet you in the next, for poor Dick will have
to come to such a very, very disagreeable place to make the visit."
He grasped her hand at this.
"Yes, he will! too true! can't be helped: they say I'm handsome."
"You're lovely, Bella."
She drank in his homage.
"Well, we'll admit it. His Highness below likes lovely women, I hear
say. A gentleman of taste! You don't know all my accomplishments yet,
"I shan't be astonished at anything new, Bella."
"Then hear, and wonder." Her voice trolled out some lively roulades.
"Don't you think he'll make me his prima donna below? It's nonsense to
tell me there's no singing there. And the atmosphere will be favourable
to the voice. No damp, you know. You saw the piano--why didn't you ask
me to sing before? I can sing Italian. I had a master--who made love to
me. I forgave him because of the music-stool--men can't help it on a
music-stool, poor dears!"
She went to the piano, struck the notes, and sang--
"'My heart, my heart--I think 'twill break.'
"Because I'm such a rake. I don't know any other reason. No; I hate
sentimental songs. Won't sing that. Ta-tiddy-tiddy-iddy--a...e! How
ridiculous those women were, coming home from Richmond!
'Once the sweet romance of story
Clad thy moving form with grace;
Once the world and all its glory
Was but framework to thy face.
Ah, too fair!--what I remember
Might my soul recall--but no!
To the winds this wretched ember
Of a fire that falls so low!'
"Hum! don't much like that. Tum-te-tum-tum--accanto al fuoco--heigho! I
don't want to show off, Dick--or to break down--so I won't try that.
'Oh! but for thee, oh! but for thee,
I might have been a happy wife,
And nursed a baby on my knee,
And never blushed to give it life.'
"I used to sing that when I was a girl, sweet Richard, and didn't know at
all, at all, what it meant. Mustn't sing that sort of song in company.
We're oh! so proper--even we!
'If I had a husband, what think you I'd do?
I'd make it my business to keep him a lover;
For when a young gentleman ceases to woo,
Some other amusement he'll quickly discover.'
"For such are young gentlemen made of--made of: such are young gentlemen
After this trifling she sang a Spanish ballad sweetly. He was in the
mood when imagination intensely vivifies everything. Mere suggestions of
music sufficed. The lady in the ballad had been wronged. Lo! it was the
lady before him; and soft horns blew; he smelt the languid night-flowers;
he saw the stars crowd large and close above the arid plain this lady
leaning at her window desolate, pouring out her abandoned heart.
Heroes know little what they owe to champagne.
The lady wandered to Venice. Thither he followed her at a leap. In
Venice she was not happy. He was prepared for the misery of any woman
anywhere. But, oh! to be with her! To glide with phantom-motion through
throbbing street; past houses muffled in shadow and gloomy legends; under
storied bridges; past palaces charged with full life in dead quietness;
past grand old towers, colossal squares, gleaming quays, and out, and on
with her, on into the silver infinity shaking over seas!
Was it the champagne? the music? or the poetry? Something of the two
former, perhaps: but most the enchantress playing upon him. How many
instruments cannot clever women play upon at the same moment! And this
enchantress was not too clever, or he might have felt her touch. She was
no longer absolutely bent on winning him, or he might have seen a
manoeuvre. She liked him--liked none better. She wished him well. Her
pique was satisfied. Still he was handsome, and he was going. What she
liked him for, she rather--very slightly--wished to do away with, or see
if it could be done away with: just as one wishes to catch a pretty
butterfly, without hurting its patterned wings. No harm intended to the
innocent insect, only one wants to inspect it thoroughly, and enjoy the
marvel of it, in one's tender possession, and have the felicity of
thinking one could crush it, if one would.
He knew her what she was, this lady. In Seville, or in Venice, the spot
was on her. Sailing the pathways of the moon it was not celestial light
that illumined her beauty. Her sin was there: but in dreaming to save,
he was soft to her sin--drowned it in deep mournfulness.
Silence, and the rustle of her dress, awoke him from his musing. She
swam wave-like to the sofa. She was at his feet.
"I have been light and careless to-night, Richard. Of course I meant it.
I must be happy with my best friend going to leave me."
Those witch underlids were working brightly.
"You will not forget me? and I shall try...try..."
Her lips twitched. She thought him such a very handsome fellow.
"If I change--if I can change... Oh! if you could know what a net I'm
Now at those words, as he looked down on her haggard loveliness, not
divine sorrow but a devouring jealousy sprang like fire in his breast,
and set him rocking with horrid pain. He bent closer to her pale
beseeching face. Her eyes still drew him down.
"Bella! No! no! promise me! swear it!"
"Lost, Richard! lost for ever! give me up!"
He cried: "I never will!" and strained her in his arms, and kissed her
passionately on the lips.
She was not acting now as she sidled and slunk her half-averted head with
a kind of maiden shame under his arm, sighing heavily, weeping, clinging
to him. It was wicked truth.
Not a word of love between them!
Was ever hero in this fashion won?
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A woman who has mastered sauces sits on the apex of civilization
Behold the hero embarked in the redemption of an erring beauty
Come prepared to be not very well satisfied with anything
Habit had legalized his union with her
Hero embarked in the redemption of an erring beautiful woman
His equanimity was fictitious
His fancy performed miraculous feats
How many instruments cannot clever women play upon
I ain't a speeder of matrimony
Opened a wider view of the world to him, and a colder
The Pilgrim's Scrip remarks that: Young men take joy in nothing
Threats of prayer, however, that harp upon their sincerity
To be passive in calamity is the province of no woman
Unaccustomed to have his will thwarted
Women are swift at coming to conclusions in these matters
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXXIX. THE LITTLE BIRD AND THE FALCON: A BERRY
TO THE RESCUE!
XL. CLARE'S DIARY
XLI. AUSTIN RETURNS
XLII. NATURE SPEAKS
XLIII. AGAIN THE MAGIAN CONFLICT
XLIV. THE LAST SCENE
XLV. LADY BLANDISH TO AUSTIN WENTWORTH
At a season when the pleasant South-western Island has few attractions to
other than invalids and hermits enamoured of wind and rain, the potent
nobleman, Lord Mountfalcon, still lingered there to the disgust of his
friends and special parasite. "Mount's in for it again," they said among
themselves. "Hang the women!" was a natural sequence. For, don't you