Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by Pat Castevans
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL
By George Meredith
XXVIII. RELATES HOW PREPARATIONS FOR ACTION WERE
CONDUCTED UNDER THE APRIL OF LOVERS
XIX. IN WHICH THE LAST ACT OF THE COMEDY TAKES
THE PLACE OF THE FIRST
XXX. CELEBRATES THE BREAKFAST
XXXI. THE PHILOSOPHER APPEARS IN PERSON
XXXII. PROCESSION OF THE CAKE
XXXIII. NURSING THE DEVIL
Beauty, of course, is for the hero. Nevertheless, it is not always he on
whom beauty works its most conquering influence. It is the dull
commonplace man into whose slow brain she drops like a celestial light,
and burns lastingly. The poet, for instance, is a connoisseur of beauty:
to the artist she is a model. These gentlemen by much contemplation of
her charms wax critical. The days when they had hearts being gone, they
are haply divided between the blonde and the brunette; the aquiline nose
and the Proserpine; this shaped eye and that. But go about among simple
unprofessional fellows, boors, dunderheads, and here and there you shall
find some barbarous intelligence which has had just strength enough to
conceive, and has taken Beauty as its Goddess, and knows but one form to
worship, in its poor stupid fashion, and would perish for her. Nay,
more: the man would devote all his days to her, though he is dumb as a
dog. And, indeed, he is Beauty's Dog. Almost every Beauty has her Dog.
The hero possesses her; the poet proclaims her; the painter puts her upon
canvas; and the faithful Old Dog follows her: and the end of it all is
that the faithful Old Dog is her single attendant. Sir Hero is revelling
in the wars, or in Armida's bowers; Mr. Poet has spied a wrinkle; the
brush is for the rose in its season. She turns to her Old Dog then. She
hugs him; and he, who has subsisted on a bone and a pat till there he
squats decrepit, he turns his grateful old eyes up to her, and has not a
notion that she is hugging sad memories in him: Hero, Poet, Painter, in
one scrubby one! Then is she buried, and the village hears languid
howls, and there is a paragraph in the newspapers concerning the
extraordinary fidelity of an Old Dog.
Excited by suggestive recollections of Nooredeen and the Fair Persian,
and the change in the obscure monotony of his life by his having quarters
in a crack hotel, and living familiarly with West-End people--living on
the fat of the land (which forms a stout portion of an honest youth's
romance), Ripton Thompson breakfasted next morning with his chief at
half-past eight. The meal had been fixed overnight for seven, but Ripton
slept a great deal more than the nightingale, and (to chronicle his exact
state) even half-past eight rather afflicted his new aristocratic senses
and reminded him too keenly of law and bondage. He had preferred to
breakfast at Algernon's hour, who had left word for eleven. Him,
however, it was Richard's object to avoid, so they fell to, and Ripton no
longer envied Hippias in bed. Breakfast done, they bequeathed the
consoling information for Algernon that they were off to hear a popular
preacher, and departed.
"How happy everybody looks!" said Richard, in the quiet Sunday streets.
"Yes--jolly!" said Ripton.
"When I'm--when this is over, I'll see that they are, too--as many as I
can make happy," said the hero; adding softly: "Her blind was down at a
quarter to six. I think she slept well!"
"You've been there this morning?" Ripton exclaimed; and an idea of what
love was dawned upon his dull brain.
"Will she see me, Ricky?"
"Yes. She'll see you to-day. She was tired last night."
Richard assured him that the privilege would be his.
"Here," he said, coming under some trees in the park, "here's where I
talked to you last night. What a time it seems! How I hate the night!"
On the way, that Richard might have an exalted opinion of him, Ripton
hinted decorously at a somewhat intimate and mysterious acquaintance with
the sex. Headings of certain random adventures he gave.
"Well!" said his chief, "why not marry her?"
Then was Ripton shocked, and cried, "Oh!" and had a taste of the feeling
of superiority, destined that day to be crushed utterly.
He was again deposited in Mrs. Berry's charge for a term that caused him
dismal fears that the Fair Persian still refused to show her face, but
Richard called out to him, and up Ripton went, unaware of the
transformation he was to undergo. Hero and Beauty stood together to
receive him. From the bottom of the stairs he had his vivaciously
agreeable smile ready for them, and by the time he entered the room his
cheeks were painfully stiff, and his eyes had strained beyond their exact
meaning. Lucy, with one hand anchored to her lover, welcomed him kindly.
He relieved her shyness by looking so extremely silly. They sat down,
and tried to commence a conversation, but Ripton was as little master of
his tongue as he was of his eyes. After an interval, the Fair Persian
having done duty by showing herself, was glad to quit the room. Her lord
and possessor then turned inquiringly to Ripton.
"You don't wonder now, Rip?" he said.
"No, Richard!" Ripton waited to reply with sufficient solemnity, "indeed
He spoke differently; he looked differently. He had the Old Dog's eyes
in his head. They watched the door she had passed through; they listened
for her, as dogs' eyes do. When she came in, bonneted for a walk, his
agitation was dog-like. When she hung on her lover timidly, and went
forth, he followed without an idea of envy, or anything save the secret
raptures the sight of her gave him, which are the Old Dog's own. For
beneficent Nature requites him: His sensations cannot be heroic, but they
have a fulness and a wagging delight as good in their way. And this
capacity for humble unaspiring worship has its peculiar guerdon. When
Ripton comes to think of Miss Random now, what will he think of himself?
Let no one despise the Old Dog. Through him doth Beauty vindicate her
It did not please Ripton that others should have the bliss of beholding
her, and as, to his perceptions, everybody did, and observed her
offensively, and stared, and turned their heads back, and interchanged
comments on her, and became in a minute madly in love with her, he had to
smother low growls. They strolled about the pleasant gardens of
Kensington all the morning, under the young chestnut buds, and round the
windless waters, talking, and soothing the wild excitement of their
hearts. If Lucy spoke, Ripton pricked up his ears. She, too, made the
remark that everybody seemed to look happy, and he heard it with thrills
of joy. "So everybody is, where you are!" he would have wished to say,
if he dared, but was restrained by fears that his burning eloquence would
commit him. Ripton knew the people he met twice. It would have been
difficult to persuade him they were the creatures of accident.
From the Gardens, in contempt of Ripton's frowned protest, Richard boldly
struck into the park, where solitary carriages were beginning to perform
the circuit. Here Ripton had some justification for his jealous pangs.
The young girl's golden locks of hair; her sweet, now dreamily sad, face;
her gentle graceful figure in the black straight dress she wore; a sort
of half-conventual air she had--a mark of something not of class, that
was partly beauty's, partly maiden innocence growing conscious, partly
remorse at her weakness and dim fear of the future it was sowing--did
attract the eye-glasses. Ripton had to learn that eyes are bearable, but
eye-glasses an abomination. They fixed a spell upon his courage; for
somehow the youth had always ranked them as emblems of our nobility, and
hearing two exquisite eye-glasses, who had been to front and rear several
times, drawl in gibberish generally imputed to lords, that his heroine
was a charming little creature, just the size, but had no style,--he was
abashed; he did not fly at them and tear them. He became dejected.
Beauty's dog is affected by the eye-glass in a manner not unlike the
common animal's terror of the human eye.
Richard appeared to hear nothing, or it was homage that he heard. He
repeated to Lucy Diaper Sandoe's verses--
"The cockneys nod to each other aside,
The coxcombs lift their glasses,"
and projected hiring a horse for her to ride every day in the park, and
shine among the highest.
They had turned to the West, against the sky glittering through the bare
trees across the water, and the bright-edged rack. The lover, his
imagination just then occupied in clothing earthly glories in celestial,
felt where his senses were sharpest the hand of his darling falter, and
instinctively looked ahead. His uncle Algernon was leisurely jolting
towards them on his one sound leg. The dismembered Guardsman talked to a
friend whose arm supported him, and speculated from time to time on the
fair ladies driving by. The two white faces passed him unobserved.
Unfortunately Ripton, coming behind, went plump upon the Captain's live
toe--or so he pretended, crying, "Confound it, Mr. Thompson! you might
have chosen the other."
The horrible apparition did confound Ripton, who stammered that it was
"Not at all," said Algernon. "Everybody makes up to that fellow.
Instinct, I suppose!"
He had not to ask for his nephew. Richard turned to face the matter.
"Sorry I couldn't wait for you this morning, uncle," he said, with the
coolness of relationship. "I thought you never walked so far."
His voice was in perfect tone--the heroic mask admirable.
Algernon examined the downcast visage at his side, and contrived to
allude to the popular preacher. He was instantly introduced to Ripton's
sister, Miss Thompson.
The Captain bowed, smiling melancholy approval of his nephew's choice of
a minister. After a few stray remarks, and an affable salute to Miss
Thompson, he hobbled away, and then the three sealed volcanoes breathed,
and Lucy's arm ceased to be squeezed quite so much up to the heroic
This incident quickened their steps homeward to the sheltering wings of
Mrs. Berry. All that passed between them on the subject comprised a
stammered excuse from Ripton for his conduct, and a good-humoured
rejoinder from Richard, that he had gained a sister by it: at which
Ripton ventured to wish aloud Miss Desborough would only think so, and a
faint smile twitched poor Lucy's lips to please him. She hardly had
strength to reach her cage. She had none to eat of Mrs. Berry's nice
little dinner. To be alone, that she might cry and ease her heart of its
accusing weight of tears, was all she prayed for. Kind Mrs. Berry,
slipping into her bedroom to take off her things, found the fair body in
a fevered shudder, and finished by undressing her completely and putting
her to bed.
"Just an hour's sleep, or so," the mellifluous woman explained the case
to the two anxious gentlemen. "A quiet sleep and a cup of warm tea goes
for more than twenty doctors, it do--when there's the flutters," she
pursued. "I know it by myself. And a good cry beforehand's better than
the best of medicine."
She nursed them into a make-believe of eating, and retired to her softer
charge and sweeter babe, reflecting, "Lord! Lord! the three of 'em don't
make fifty! I'm as old as two and a half of 'em, to say the least."
Mrs. Berry used her apron, and by virtue of their tender years took them
all three into her heart.
Left alone, neither of the young men could swallow a morsel.
"Did you see the change come over her?" Richard whispered.
Ripton fiercely accused his prodigious stupidity.
The lover flung down his knife and fork: "What could I do? If I had said
nothing, we should have been suspected. I was obliged to speak. And she
hates a lie! See! it has struck her down. God forgive me!"
Ripton affected a serene mind: "It was a fright, Richard," he said.
"That's what Mrs. Berry means by flutters. Those old women talk in that
way. You heard what she said. And these old women know. I'll tell you
what it is. It's this, Richard!--it's because you've got a fool for your
"She regrets it," muttered the lover. "Good God! I think she fears me."
He dropped his face in his hands.
Ripton went to the window, repeating energetically for his comfort: "It's
because you've got a fool for your friend!"
Sombre grew the street they had last night aroused. The sun was buried
alive in cloud. Ripton saw himself no more in the opposite window. He
watched the deplorable objects passing on the pavement. His aristocratic
visions had gone like his breakfast. Beauty had been struck down by his
egregious folly, and there he stood--a wretch!
Richard came to him: "Don't mumble on like that, Rip!" he said. "Nobody
"Ah! you're very kind, Richard," interposed the wretch, moved at the face
of misery he beheld.
"Listen to me, Rip! I shall take her home to-night. Yes! If she's
happier away from me!--do you think me a brute, Ripton? Rather than have
her shed a tear, I'd!--I'll take her home to-night!"
Ripton suggested that it was sudden; adding from his larger experience,
people perhaps might talk.
The lover could not understand what they should talk about, but he said:
"If I give him who came for her yesterday the clue? If no one sees or
hears of me, what can they say? O Rip! I'll give her up. I'm wrecked
for ever! What of that? Yes--let them take her! The world in arms
should never have torn her from me, but when she cries--Yes! all's over.
I'll find him at once."
He searched in out-of-the-way corners for the hat of resolve. Ripton
looked on, wretcheder than ever.
The idea struck him:--"Suppose, Richard, she doesn't want to go?"
It was a moment when, perhaps, one who sided with parents and guardians
and the old wise world, might have inclined them to pursue their
righteous wretched course, and have given small Cupid a smack and sent
him home to his naughty Mother. Alas!(it is The Pilgrim's Scrip
interjecting) women are the born accomplices of mischief! In bustles
Mrs. Berry to clear away the refection, and finds the two knights helmed,
and sees, though 'tis dusk, that they wear doubtful brows, and guesses
bad things for her dear God Hymen in a twinkling.
"Dear! dear!" she exclaimed, "and neither of you eaten a scrap! And
there's my dear young lady off into the prettiest sleep you ever see!"
"Ha?" cried the lover, illuminated.
"Soft as a baby!" Mrs. Berry averred. "I went to look at her this very
moment, and there's not a bit of trouble in her breath. It come and it
go like the sweetest regular instrument ever made. The Black Ox haven't
trod on her foot yet! Most like it was the air of London. But only
fancy, if you had called in a doctor! Why, I shouldn't have let her take
any of his quackery. Now, there!"
Ripton attentively observed his chief, and saw him doff his hat with a
curious caution, and peer into its recess, from which, during Mrs.
Berry's speech, he drew forth a little glove--dropped there by some freak
"Keep me, keep me, now you have me!" sang the little glove, and amused
the lover with a thousand conceits.
"When will she wake, do you think, Mrs. Berry?" he asked.
"Oh! we mustn't go for disturbing her," said the guileful good creature.
"Bless ye! let her sleep it out. And if you young gentlemen was to take
my advice, and go and take a walk for to get a appetite--everybody should
eat! it's their sacred duty, no matter what their feelings be! and I say
it who'm no chicken!--I'll frickashee this--which is a chicken--against
your return. I'm a cook, I can assure ye!"
The lover seized her two hands. "You're the best old soul in the world!"
he cried. Mrs. Berry appeared willing to kiss him. "We won't disturb
her. Let her sleep. Keep her in bed, Mrs. Berry. Will you? And we'll
call to inquire after her this evening, and come and see her to-morrow.
I'm sure you'll be kind to her. There! there!" Mrs. Berry was preparing
to whimper. "I trust her to you, you see. Good-bye, you dear old soul."
He smuggled a handful of gold into her keeping, and went to dine with his
uncles, happy and hungry.
Before they reached the hotel, they had agreed to draw Mrs. Berry into
their confidence, telling her (with embellishments) all save their names,
so that they might enjoy the counsel and assistance of that trump of a
woman, and yet have nothing to fear from her. Lucy was to receive the
name of Letitia, Ripton's youngest and best-looking sister. The
heartless fellow proposed it in cruel mockery of an old weakness of hers.
"Letitia!" mused Richard. "I like the name. Both begin with L. There's
something soft--womanlike--in the L.'s."
Material Ripton remarked that they looked like pounds on paper. The
lover roamed through his golden groves. "Lucy Feverel! that sounds
better! I wonder where Ralph is. I should like to help him. He's in
love with my cousin Clare. He'll never do anything till he marries. No
man can. I'm going to do a hundred things when it's over. We shall
travel first. I want to see the Alps. One doesn't know what the earth
is till one has seen the Alps. What a delight it will be to her! I
fancy I see her eyes gazing up at them.
'And oh, your dear blue eyes, that heavenward glance
With kindred beauty, banished humbleness,
Past weeping for mortality's distress--
Yet from your soul a tear hangs there in trance.
And fills, but does not fall;
Softly I hear it call
At heaven's gate, till Sister Seraphs press
To look on you their old love from the skies:
Those are the eyes of Seraphs bright on your blue eyes!
"Beautiful! These lines, Rip, were written by a man who was once a friend
of my father's. I intend to find him and make them friends again. You
don't care for poetry. It's no use your trying to swallow it, Rip!"
"It sounds very nice," said Ripton, modestly shutting his mouth.
"The Alps! Italy! Rome! and then I shall go to the East," the hero
continued. "She's ready to go anywhere with me, the dear brave heart!
Oh, the glorious golden East! I dream of the desert. I dream I'm chief
of an Arab tribe, and we fly all white in the moonlight on our mares, and
hurry to the rescue of my darling! And we push the spears, and we
scatter them, and I come to the tent where she crouches, and catch her to
my saddle, and away!--Rip! what a life!"
Ripton strove to imagine he could enjoy it.
"And then we shall come home, and I shall lead Austin's life, with her to
help me. First be virtuous, Rip! and then serve your country heart and
soul. A wise man told me that. I think I shall do something."
Sunshine and cloud, cloud and sunshine, passed over the lover. Now life
was a narrow ring; now the distances extended, were winged, flew
illimitably. An hour ago and food was hateful. Now he manfully
refreshed his nature, and joined in Algernon's encomiums on Miss Letitia
Meantime Beauty slept, watched by the veteran volunteer of the hero's
band. Lucy awoke from dreams which seemed reality, to the reality which
was a dream. She awoke calling for some friend, "Margaret!" and heard
one say, "My name is Bessy Berry, my love! not Margaret." Then she
asked piteously where she was, and where was Margaret, her dear friend,
and Mrs. Berry whispered, "Sure you've got a dearer!"
"Ah!" sighed Lucy, sinking on her pillow, overwhelmed by the strangeness
of her state.
Mrs. Berry closed the frill of her nightgown and adjusted the bedclothes
Her name was breathed.
"Yes, my love?" she said.
"Is he here?"
"He's gone, my dear."
"Gone?--Oh, where?" The young girl started up in disorder.
"Gone, to be back, my love! Ah! that young gentleman!" Mrs. Berry
chanted: "Not a morsel have he eat; not a drop have he drunk!"
"O Mrs. Berry! why did you not make him?" Lucy wept for the famine-struck
hero, who was just then feeding mightily.
Mrs. Berry explained that to make one eat who thought the darling of his
heart like to die, was a sheer impossibility for the cleverest of women;
and on this deep truth Lucy reflected, with her eyes wide at the candle.
She wanted one to pour her feelings out to. She slid her hand from under
the bedclothes, and took Mrs. Berry's, and kissed it. The good creature
required no further avowal of her secret, but forthwith leaned her
consummate bosom to the pillow, and petitioned heaven to bless them
both!--Then the little bride was alarmed, and wondered how Mrs. Berry
could have guessed it.
"Why," said Mrs. Berry, "your love is out of your eyes, and out of
everything ye do." And the little bride wondered more. She thought she
had been so very cautious not to betray it. The common woman in them
made cheer together after their own April fashion. Following which Mrs.
Berry probed for the sweet particulars of this beautiful love-match; but
the little bride's lips were locked. She only said her lover was above
her in station.
"And you're a Catholic, my dear!"
"Yes, Mrs. Berry!"
"And him a Protestant."
"Yes, Mrs. Berry!"
"Dear, dear!--And why shouldn't ye be?" she ejaculated, seeing sadness
return to the bridal babe. "So as you was born, so shall ye be! But
you'll have to make your arrangements about the children. The girls to
worship with yet, the boys with him. It's the same God, my dear! You
mustn't blush at it, though you do look so pretty. If my young gentleman
could see you now!"
"Please, Mrs. Berry!" Lucy murmured.
"Why, he will, you know, my dear!"
"Oh, please, Mrs. Berry!"
"And you that can't bear the thoughts of it! Well, I do wish there was
fathers and mothers on both sides and dock-ments signed, and bridesmaids,
and a breakfast! but love is love, and ever will be, in spite of them."
She made other and deeper dives into the little heart, but though she
drew up pearls, they were not of the kind she searched for. The one fact
that hung as a fruit upon her tree of Love, Lucy had given her; she would
not, in fealty to her lover, reveal its growth and history, however sadly
she yearned to pour out all to this dear old Mother Confessor.
Her conduct drove Mrs. Berry from the rosy to the autumnal view of
matrimony, generally heralded by the announcement that it is a lottery.
"And when you see your ticket," said Mrs. Berry, "you shan't know whether
it's a prize or a blank. And, Lord knows! some go on thinking it's a
prize when it turns on 'em and tears 'em. I'm one of the blanks, my
dear! I drew a blank in Berry. He was a black Berry to me, my dear!
Smile away! he truly was, and I a-prizin' him as proud as you can
conceive! My dear!" Mrs. Berry pressed her hands flat on her apron.
"We hadn't been a three months man and wife, when that man--it wasn't
the honeymoon, which some can't say--that man--Yes! he kicked me.
His wedded wife he kicked! Ah!" she sighedto Lucy's large eyes,
"I could have borne that. A blow don't touch the heart," the poor
creature tapped her sensitive side. "I went on loving of him, for
I'm a soft one. Tall as a Grenadier he is, and when out of service
grows his moustache. I used to call him my body-guardsman like a
Queen! I flattered him like the fools we women are. For, take my word
for it, my dear, there's nothing here below so vain as a man! That I
know. But I didn't deserve it.... I'm a superior cook .... I did not
deserve that noways." Mrs. Berry thumped her knee, and accentuated up
her climax: "I mended his linen. I saw to his adornments--he called his
clothes, the bad man! I was a servant to him, my dear! and there--it was
nine months--nine months from the day he swear to protect and cherish and
that--nine calendar months, and my gentleman is off with another woman!
Bone of his bone!--pish!" exclaimed Mrs. Berry, reckoning her wrongs over
vividly. "Here's my ring. A pretty ornament! What do it mean? I'm for
tearin' it off my finger a dozen times in the day. It's a symbol? I
call it a tomfoolery for the dead-alive to wear it, that's a widow and
not a widow, and haven't got a name for what she is in any Dixonary, I've
looked, my dear, and"--she spread out her arms--"Johnson haven't got a
name for me!"
At this impressive woe Mrs. Berry's voice quavered into sobs. Lucy spoke
gentle words to the poor outcast from Johnson. The sorrows of Autumn
have no warning for April. The little bride, for all her tender pity,
felt happier when she had heard her landlady's moving tale of the
wickedness of man, which cast in bright relief the glory of that one hero
who was hers. Then from a short flight of inconceivable bliss, she fell,
shot by one of her hundred Argus-eyed fears.
"O Mrs. Berry! I'm so young! Think of me--only just seventeen!"
Mrs. Berry immediately dried her eyes to radiance. "Young, my dear!
Nonsense! There's no so much harm in being young, here and there. I
knew an Irish lady was married at fourteen. Her daughter married close
over fourteen. She was a grandmother by thirty! When any strange man
began, she used to ask him what pattern caps grandmothers wore. They'd
stare! Bless you! the grandmother could have married over and over
again. It was her daughter's fault, not hers, you know."
"She was three years younger," mused Lucy.
"She married beneath her, my dear. Ran off with her father's bailiff's
son. 'Ah, Berry!' she'd say, 'if I hadn't been foolish, I should be my
lady now--not Granny!' Her father never forgave her--left all his
estates out of the family."
"Did her husband always love her?" Lucy preferred to know.
"In his way, my dear, he did," said Mrs. Berry, coming upon her
matrimonial wisdom. "He couldn't help himself. If he left off, he began
again. She was so clever, and did make him so comfortable. Cook! there
wasn't such another cook out of a Alderman's kitchen; no, indeed! And
she a born lady! That tells ye it's the duty of all women! She had her
saying 'When the parlour fire gets low, put coals on the ketchen fire!'
and a good saying it is to treasure. Such is man! no use in havin' their
hearts if ye don't have their stomachs."
Perceiving that she grew abstruse, Mrs. Berry added briskly: "You know
nothing about that yet, my dear. Only mind me and mark me: don't neglect
your cookery. Kissing don't last: cookery do!"
Here, with an aphorism worthy a place in The Pilgrim'S Scrip, she broke
off to go posseting for her dear invalid. Lucy was quite well; very
eager to be allowed to rise and be ready when the knock should come.
Mrs. Berry, in her loving considerateness for the little bride,
positively commanded her to lie down, and be quiet, and submit to be
nursed and cherished. For Mrs. Berry well knew that ten minutes alone
with the hero could only be had while the little bride was in that
Thanks to her strategy, as she thought, her object was gained. The night
did not pass before she learnt, from the hero's own mouth, that Mr.
Richards, the father of the hero, and a stern lawyer, was adverse to his
union with this young lady he loved, because of a ward of his, heiress to
an immense property, whom he desired his son to espouse; and because his
darling Letitia was a Catholic--Letitia, the sole daughter of a brave
naval officer deceased, and in the hands of a savage uncle, who wanted to
sacrifice this beauty to a brute of a son. Mrs. Berry listened
credulously to the emphatic narrative, and spoke to the effect that the
wickedness of old people formed the excuse for the wildness of young
ones. The ceremonious administration of oaths of secrecy and devotion
over, she was enrolled in the hero's band, which now numbered three, and
entered upon the duties with feminine energy, for there are no
conspirators like women. Ripton's lieutenancy became a sinecure, his
rank merely titular. He had never been married--he knew nothing about
licences, except that they must be obtained, and were not difficult--he
had not an idea that so many days' warning must be given to the clergyman
of the parish where one of the parties was resident. How should he? All
his forethought was comprised in the ring, and whenever the discussion of
arrangements for the great event grew particularly hot and important, he
would say, with a shrewd nod: "We mustn't forget the ring, you know, Mrs.
Berry!" and the new member was only prevented by natural complacence from
shouting: "Oh, drat ye! and your ring too." Mrs. Berry had acted
conspicuously in fifteen marriages, by banns, and by licence, and to have
such an obvious requisite dinned in her ears was exasperating. They
could not have contracted alliance with an auxiliary more invaluable, an
authority so profound; and they acknowledged it to themselves. The hero
marched like an automaton at her bidding; Lieutenant Thompson was
rejoiced to perform services as errand-boy in the enterprise.
"It's in hopes you'll be happier than me, I do it," said the devout and
charitable Berry. "Marriages is made in heaven, they say; and if that's
the case, I say they don't take much account of us below!"
Her own woeful experiences had been given to the hero in exchange for his
story of cruel parents.
Richard vowed to her that he would henceforth hold it a duty to hunt out
the wanderer from wedded bonds, and bring him back bound and suppliant.
"Oh, he'll come!" said Mrs. Berry, pursing prophetic wrinkles: "he'll
come of his own accord. Never anywhere will he meet such a cook as Bessy
Berry! And he know her value in his heart of hearts. And I do believe,
when he do come, I shall be opening these arms to him again, and not
slapping his impidence in the face--I'm that soft! I always was--in
matrimony, Mr. Richards!"
As when nations are secretly preparing for war, the docks and arsenals
hammer night and day, and busy contractors measure time by inches, and
the air hums around: for leagues as it were myriads of bees, so the house
and neighbourhood of the matrimonial soft one resounded in the heroic
style, and knew little of the changes of light decreed by Creation. Mrs.
Berry was the general of the hour. Down to Doctors' Commons she
expedited the hero, instructing him how boldly to face the Law, and fib:
for that the Law never could mist a fib and a bold face. Down the hero
went, and proclaimed his presence. And lo! the Law danced to him its
sedatest lovely bear's-dance. Think ye the Lawless susceptible to him
than flesh and blood? With a beautiful confidence it put the few
familiar questions to him, and nodded to his replies: then stamped the
bond, and took the fee. It must be an old vagabond at heart that can
permit the irrevocable to go so cheap, even to a hero. For only mark him
when he is petitioned by heroes and heroines to undo what he does so
easily! That small archway of Doctors' Commons seems the eye of a
needle, through which the lean purse has a way, somehow, of slipping more
readily than the portly; but once through, all are camels alike, the lean
purse an especially big camel. Dispensing tremendous marriage as it
does, the Law can have no conscience.
"I hadn't the slightest difficulty," said the exulting hero.
"Of course not!" returns Mrs. Berry. "It's as easy, if ye're in earnest,
as buying a plum bun."
Likewise the ambassador of the hero went to claim the promise of the
Church to be in attendance on a certain spot, on a certain day, and there
hear oath of eternal fealty, and gird him about with all its forces:
which the Church, receiving a wink from the Law, obsequiously engaged to
do, for less than the price of a plum-cake.
Meantime, while craftsmen and skilled women, directed by Mrs. Berry, were
toiling to deck the day at hand, Raynham and Belthorpe slept,--the former
soundly; and one day was as another to them. Regularly every morning a
letter arrived from Richard to his father, containing observations on the
phenomena of London; remarks (mainly cynical) on the speeches and acts of
Parliament; and reasons for not having yet been able to call on the
Grandisons. They were certainly rather monotonous and spiritless. The
baronet did not complain. That cold dutiful tone assured him there was
no internal trouble or distraction. "The letters of a healthful
physique!" he said to Lady Blandish, with sure insight. Complacently he
sat and smiled, little witting that his son's ordeal was imminent, and
that his son's ordeal was to be his own. Hippias wrote that his nephew
was killing him by making appointments which he never kept, and
altogether neglecting him in the most shameless way, so that his
ganglionic centre was in a ten times worse state than when he left
Raynham. He wrote very bitterly, but it was hard to feel compassion for
his offended stomach.
On the other hand, young Tom Blaize was not forthcoming, and had
despatched no tidings whatever. Farmer Blaize smoked his pipe evening
after evening, vastly disturbed. London was a large place--young Tom
might be lost in it, he thought; and young Tom had his weaknesses. A
wolf at Belthorpe, he was likely to be a sheep in London, as yokels have
proved. But what had become of Lucy? This consideration almost sent
Farmer Blaize off to London direct, and he would have gone had not his
pipe enlightened him. A young fellow might play truant and get into a
scrape, but a young man and a young woman were sure to be heard of,
unless they were acting in complicity. Why, of course, young Tom had
behaved like a man, the rascal! and married her outright there, while he
had the chance. It was a long guess. Still it was the only reasonable
way of accounting for his extraordinary silence, and therefore the farmer
held to it that he had done the deed. He argued as modern men do who
think the hero, the upsetter of ordinary calculations, is gone from us.
So, after despatching a letter to a friend in town to be on the outlook
for son Tom, he continued awhile to smoke his pipe, rather elated than
not, and mused on the shrewd manner he should adopt when Master Honeymoon
Toward the middle of the second week of Richard's absence, Tom Bakewell
came to Raynham for Cassandra, and privately handed a letter to the
Eighteenth Century, containing a request for money, and a round sum. The
Eighteenth Century was as good as her word, and gave Tom a letter in
return, enclosing a cheque on her bankers, amply providing to keep the
heroic engine in motion at a moderate pace. Tom went back, and Raynham
and Lobourne slept and dreamed not of the morrow. The System, wedded to
Time, slept, and knew not how he had been outraged--anticipated by seven
pregnant seasons. For Time had heard the hero swear to that legalizing
instrument, and had also registered an oath. Ah me! venerable Hebrew
Time! he is unforgiving. Half the confusion and fever of the world comes
of this vendetta he declares against the hapless innocents who have once
done him a wrong. They cannot escape him. They will never outlive it.
The father of jokes, he is himself no joke; which it seems the business
of men to discover.
The days roll round. He is their servant now. Mrs. Berry has a new
satin gown, a beautiful bonnet, a gold brooch, and sweet gloves,
presented to her by the hero, wherein to stand by his bride at the altar
to-morrow; and, instead of being an old wary hen, she is as much a
chicken as any of the party, such has been the magic of these articles.
Fathers she sees accepting the facts produced for them by their children;
a world content to be carved out as it pleases the hero.
At last Time brings the bridal eve, and is blest as a benefactor. The
final arrangements are made; the bridegroom does depart; and Mrs. Berry
lights the little bride to her bed. Lucy stops on the landing where
there is an old clock eccentrically correct that night. 'Tis the
palpitating pause before the gates of her transfiguration. Mrs. Berry
sees her put her rosy finger on the One about to strike, and touch all
the hours successively till she comes to the Twelve that shall sound
"Wife" in her ears on the morrow, moving her lips the while, and looking
round archly solemn when she has done; and that sight so catches at Mrs.
Berry's heart that, not guessing Time to be the poor child's enemy, she
endangers her candle by folding Lucy warmly in her arms, whimpering;
"Bless you for a darling! you innocent lamb! You shall be happy! You
Old Time gazes grimly ahead.
Although it blew hard when Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the passage of
that river is commonly calm; calm as Acheron. So long as he gets his
fare, the ferryman does not need to be told whom he carries: he pulls
with a will, and heroes may be over in half-an-hour. Only when they
stand on the opposite bank, do they see what a leap they have taken. The
shores they have relinquished shrink to an infinite remoteness. There
they have dreamed: here they must act. There lie youth and irresolution:
here manhood and purpose. They are veritably in another land: a moral
Acheron divides their life. Their memories scarce seem their own! The
Philosophical Geography (about to be published) observes that each man
has, one time or other, a little Rubicon--a clear or a foul water to
cross. It is asked him: "Wilt thou wed this Fate, and give up all behind
thee?" And "I will," firmly pronounced, speeds him over. The above-
named manuscript authority informs us, that by far the greater number of
caresses rolled by this heroic flood to its sister stream below, are
those of fellows who have repented their pledge, and have tried to swim
back to the bank they have blotted out. For though every man of us may
be a hero for one fatal minute, very few remain so after a day's march
even: and who wonders that Madam Fate is indignant, and wears the
features of the terrible Universal Fate to him? Fail before her, either
in heart or in act, and lo, how the alluring loves in her visage wither
and sicken to what it is modelled on! Be your Rubicon big or small,
clear or foul, it is the same: you shall not return. On--or to Acheron!-
-I subscribe to that saying of The Pilgrim's Scrip:
"The danger of a little knowledge of things is disputable: but beware the
little knowledge of one's self!"
Richard Feverel was now crossing the River of his Ordeal. Already the
mists were stealing over the land he had left: his life was cut in two,
and he breathed but the air that met his nostrils. His father, his
father's love, his boyhood and ambition, were shadowy. His poetic dreams
had taken a living attainable shape. He had a distincter impression of
the Autumnal Berry and her household than of anything at Raynham. And
yet the young man loved his father, loved his home: and I daresay Caesar
loved Rome: but whether he did or no, Caesar when he killed the Republic
was quite bald, and the hero we are dealing with is scarce beginning to
feel his despotic moustache. Did he know what he was made of?
Doubtless, nothing at all. But honest passion has an instinct that can
be safer than conscious wisdom. He was an arrow drawn to the head,
flying from the bow. His audacious mendacities and subterfuges did not
strike him as in any way criminal; for he was perfectly sure that the
winning and securing of Lucy would in the end be boisterously approved
of, and in that case, were not the means justified? Not that he took
trouble to argue thus, as older heroes and self-convicting villains are
in the habit of doing; to deduce a clear conscience. Conscience and Lucy
It was a soft fair day. The Rubicon sparkled in the morning sun. One of
those days when London embraces the prospect of summer, and troops forth
all its babies. The pavement, the squares, the parks, were early alive
with the cries of young Britain. Violet and primrose girls, and organ
boys with military monkeys, and systematic bands very determined in tone
if not in tune, filled the atmosphere, and crowned the blazing procession
of omnibuses, freighted with business men, Cityward, where a column of
reddish brown smoke,--blown aloft by the South-west, marked the scene of
conflict to which these persistent warriors repaired. Richard had seen
much of early London that morning. His plans were laid. He had taken
care to ensure his personal liberty against accidents, by leaving his
hotel and his injured uncle Hippias at sunrise. To-day or to-morrow his
father was to arrive. Farmer Blaize, Tom Bakewell reported to him, was
raging in town. Another day and she might be torn from him: but to-day
this miracle of creation would be his, and then from those glittering
banks yonder, let them summon him to surrender her who dared! The
position of things looked so propitious that he naturally thought the
powers waiting on love conspired in his behalf. And she, too--since she
must cross this river, she had sworn to him to be brave, and do him
honour, and wear the true gladness of her heart in her face. Without a
suspicion of folly in his acts, or fear of results, Richard strolled into
Kensington Gardens, breakfasting on the foreshadow of his great joy, now
with a vision of his bride, now of the new life opening to him. Mountain
masses of clouds, rounded in sunlight, swung up the blue. The flowering
chestnut pavilions overhead rustled and hummed. A sound in his ears as
of a banner unfolding in the joyful distance lulled him.
He was to meet his bride at the church at a quarter past eleven. His
watch said a quarter to ten. He strolled on beneath the long-stemmed
trees toward the well dedicated to a saint obscure. Some people were
drinking at the well. A florid lady stood by a younger one, who had a
little silver mug half-way to her mouth, and evinced undisguised dislike
to the liquor of the salutary saint.
"Drink, child!" said the maturer lady. "That is only your second mug. I
insist upon your drinking three full ones every morning we're in town.
Your constitution positively requires iron!"
"But, mama," the other expostulated, "it's so nasty. I shall be sick."
"Drink!" was the harsh injunction. "Nothing to the German waters, my
dear. Here, let me taste." She took the mug and gave it a flying kiss.
"I declare I think it almost nice--not at all objectionable. Pray, taste
it," she said to a gentleman standing below them to act as cup-bearer.
An unmistakable cis-Rubicon voice replied: "Certainly, if it's good
fellowship; though I confess I don't think mutual sickness a very
Can one never escape from one's relatives? Richard ejaculated inwardly.
Without a doubt those people were Mrs. Doria, Clare, and Adrian. He had
them under his eyes.
Clare, peeping up from her constitutional dose to make sure no man was
near to see the possible consequence of it, was the first to perceive
him. Her hand dropped.
"Now, pray, drink, and do not fuss!" said Mrs. Doria.
"Mama!" Clare gasped.
Richard came forward and capitulated honourably, since retreat was out of
the question. Mrs. Doria swam to meet him: "My own boy! My dear
Richard!" profuse of exclamations. Clare shyly greeted him. Adrian kept
in the background.
"Why, we were coming for you to-day, Richard," said Mrs. Doria, smiling
effusion; and rattled on, "We want another cavalier. This is delightful!
My dear nephew! You have grown from a boy to a man. And there's down on
his lip! And what brings you here at such an hour in the morning?
Poetry, I suppose! Here, take my, arm, child.--Clare! finish that mug
and thank your cousin for sparing you the third. I always bring her,
when we are by a chalybeate, to take the waters before breakfast. We
have to get up at unearthly hours. Think, my dear boy! Mothers are
sacrifices! And so you've been alone a fortnight with your agreeable
uncle! A charming time of it you must have had! Poor Hippias! what may
be his last nostrum?"
"Nephew!" Adrian stretched his head round to the couple. "Doses of
nephew taken morning and night fourteen days! And he guarantees that it
shall destroy an iron constitution in a month."
Richard mechanically shook Adrian's hand as he spoke.
"Quite well, Ricky?"
"Yes: well enough," Richard answered.
"Well?" resumed his vigorous aunt, walking on with him, while Clare and
Adrian followed. "I really never saw you looking so handsome. There's
something about your face--look at me--you needn't blush. You've grown
to an Apollo. That blue buttoned-up frock coat becomes you admirably--
and those gloves, and that easy neck-tie. Your style is irreproachable,
quite a style of your own! And nothing eccentric. You have the instinct
of dress. Dress shows blood, my dear boy, as much as anything else.
Boy!--you see, I can't forget old habits. You were a boy when I left,
and now!--Do you see any change in him, Clare?" she turned half round to
"Richard is looking very well, mama," said Clare, glancing at him under
"I wish I could say the same of you, my dear.--Take my arm, Richard. Are
you afraid of your aunt? I want to get used to you. Won't it be
pleasant, our being all in town together in the season? How fresh the
Opera will be to you! Austin, I hear, takes stalls. You can come to the
Forey's box when you like. We are staying with the Foreys close by here.
I think it's a little too far out, you know; but they like the
neighbourhood. This is what I have always said: Give him more liberty!
Austin has seen it at last. How do you think Clare looking?"
The question had to be repeated. Richard surveyed his cousin hastily,
and praised her looks.
"Pale!" Mrs. Doria sighed.
"Rather pale, aunt."
"Grown very much--don't you think, Richard?"
"Very tall girl indeed, aunt."
"If she had but a little more colour, my dear Richard! I'm sure I give
her all the iron she can swallow, but that pallor still continues. I
think she does not prosper away from her old companion. She was
accustomed to look up to you, Richard"--
"Did you get Ralph's letter, aunt?" Richard interrupted her.
"Absurd!" Mrs. Doria pressed his arm. "The nonsense of a boy! Why did
you undertake to forward such stuff?"
"I'm certain he loves her," said Richard, in a serious way.
The maternal eyes narrowed on him. "Life, my dear Richard, is a game of
cross-purposes," she observed, dropping her fluency, and was rather
angered to hear him laugh. He excused himself by saying that she spoke
so like his father.
"You breakfast with us," she freshened off again. "The Foreys wish to
see you; the girls are dying to know you. Do you know, you have a
reputation on account of that"--she crushed an intruding adjective--
"System you were brought up on. You mustn't mind it. For my part, I
think you look a credit to it. Don't be bashful with young women, mind!
As much as you please with the old ones. You know how to behave among
men. There you have your Drawing-room Guide! I'm sure I shall be proud
of you. Am I not?"
Mrs. Doria addressed his eyes coaxingly.
A benevolent idea struck Richard, that he might employ the minutes to
spare, in pleading the case of poor Ralph; and, as he was drawn along, he
pulled out his watch to note the precise number of minutes he could
dedicate to this charitable office.
"Pardon me," said Mrs. Doria. "You want manners, my dear boy. I think
it never happened to me before that a man consulted his watch in my
Richard mildly replied that he had an engagement at a particular hour, up
to which he was her servant.
"Fiddlededee!" the vivacious lady sang. "Now I've got you, I mean to
keep you. Oh! I've heard all about you. This ridiculous indifference
that your father makes so much of! Why, of course, you wanted to see the
world! A strong healthy young man shut up all his life in a lonely
house--no friends, no society, no amusements but those of rustics! Of
course you were indifferent! Your intelligence and superior mind alone
saved you from becoming a dissipated country boor.--Where are the
Clare and Adrian came up at a quick pace.
"My damozel dropped something," Adrian explained.
Her mother asked what it was.
"Nothing, mama," said Clare, demurely, and they proceeded as before.
Overborne by his aunt's fluency of tongue, and occupied in acute
calculation of the flying minutes, Richard let many pass before he edged
in a word for Ralph. When he did, Mrs. Doria stopped him immediately.
"I must tell you, child, that I refuse to listen to such rank idiotcy."
"It's nothing of the kind, aunt."
"The fancy of a boy."
"He's not a boy. He's half-a-year older than I am!"
"You silly child! The moment you fall in love, you all think yourselves
"On my honour, aunt! I believe he loves her thoroughly."
"Did he tell you so, child?"
"Men don't speak openly of those things," said Richard.
"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