Part 3 out of 7
"We couldn't keep her away, weak as she was," said a neighbour, "as
soon as she heard the poor corpses were coming ashore."
"Hum?" said Tom. "True woman. Quaint,--that appetite for horrors the
sweet creatures have. Did you ever see a man hanged, Lieutenant?--No?
If you had, you would have seen two women in the crowd to one man. Can
you make out the philosophy of that?"
"I suppose they like it, as some people do hot peppers."
"Or donkeys thistles;--find a little pain pleasant! I had a patient
once in France, who read Dumas' 'Crimes Celebres' all the week, and
the 'Vies des Saints' on Sundays, and both, as far as I could see, for
just the same purpose,--to see how miserable people could be, and how
much pinching and pulling they could bear."
So they walked on, along a sheep-path, and over the Spur, and down to
It was such a morning as often follows a gale, when the great
firmament stares down upon the ruin which it has made, bright and
clear, and bold; and seems to say, with shameless smile,--"There,
I have done it; and am as merry as ever after it all!" Beneath a
cloudless sky, the breakers, still grey and foul from the tempest,
were tumbling in before a cold northern breeze. Half a mile out at
sea, the rough backs of the Chough and Crow loomed black and sulky in
the foam. At their feet, the rocks and shingle of the Cove were alive
with human beings--groups of women and children clustering round a
corpse or a chest; sailors, knee-deep in the surf hauling at floating
spars and ropes; oil-skinned coast-guardsmen pacing up and down in
charge of goods, while groups of farmers' men, who had hurried down
from the villages inland, lounged about on the top of the cliff,
looking sulkily on, hoping for plunder: and yet half afraid to mingle
with the sailors below, who looked on them as an inferior race, and
refused, in general, to intermarry with them.
The Lieutenant plainly held much the same opinion; for as a party of
them tried to descend the narrow path to the beach, he shouted after
them to come back.
"Eh! you won't?" and out rattled from its scabbard the old worthy's
sword. "Come back, I say, you loafing, miching, wrecking crow-keepers;
there are no pickings for you here. Brown, send those fellows back
with the bayonet. None but blue-jackets allowed on the beach!" And the
labourers go up again, grumbling.
"Can't trust those landsharks. They'll plunder even the rings off a
corpse's fingers. They think every wreck a godsend. I've known them,
after they've been driven off, roll great stones over the cliff at
night on the coast-guard, just out of spite; while these blue-jackets
here--I can depend on them. Can you tell me the reason of that, as you
seem a bit of a philosopher?"
"It is easy enough; the sailors have a fellow-feeling with sailors,
and the landsmen have none. Besides, the sailors are finer fellows,
body and soul; and the reason is that they have been brought up to
face danger, and the landsmen haven't."
"Well," said the Lieutenant, "unless a man has been taught to look
death in the face, he never will grow up, I believe, to be much of a
man at all."
"Danger, my good sir, is a better schoolmaster than all your new model
schools, diagrams, and scientific apparatus. It made our forefathers
the masters of the sea, though they never heard of popular science;
and I dare say couldn't, one out of ten of them, spell their own
This sentiment elicited from the Lieutenant a grunt of approbation, as
Tom intended that it should do; shrewdly arguing that the old martinet
was no friend to the modern superstition, that all which is required
to cast out the devil is a smattering of the 'ologies.
"Will the gentleman see the corpses?" asked Brown; "we have fourteen
already;"--and he led the way to where, along the shingle at
high-water mark, lay a ghastly row, some fearfully bruised and
mutilated, cramped together by the death-agony; others with the
peaceful smile which showed that they had sunk to sleep in that
strange water-death, amid a wilderness of pleasant dreams. Strong men
lay there, little children, women, whom the sailors' wives had covered
decently with cloaks and shawls; and at their heads stood Grace
Harvey, motionless, with folded hands, gazing into the dead faces
with her great solemn eyes. Her mother and Captain Willis stood by,
watching her with a sort of superstitions awe. She took no notice
either of Thurnall or of the Lieutenant, as the doctor identified the
bodies one by one, without a remark which indicated any human emotion.
"A very sensible man, Willis," said the Lieutenant apart, as Tom knelt
awhile to examine the crushed features of a sailor; and then looking
up said simply,--
"James Macgillivray, second mate. Cause of death, contusions; probably
by the fall of the main-mast."
"A very sensible man, and has seen a deal of life, and kept his eyes
open; but a terrible hard-plucked one. Talked like a book to me all
the way; but, be hanged if I don't think he has a thirty-two pound
shot under his ribs instead of a heart.--Doctor Thurnall, that is Miss
Harvey,--the young person who saved your life last night."
Tom rose, took off his hat (Frank Headley's), and made her a bow, of
which an ambassador need not have been ashamed.
"I am exceedingly shocked that Miss Harvey should have run so much
danger for anything so worthless as my life."
She looked up at him, and answered, not him, but her own thoughts.
"Strange, is it not, that it was a duty to pray for all these poor
things last night, and a sin to pray for them this morning?"
"Grace, dear!" interposed her mother, "don't you hear the gentleman
She started, as one awaking out of a dream, and looked into his face,
"Good heavens, what a beautiful creature!" said Tom to himself, as
quite a new emotion passed through him. Quite new it was, whatsoever
it was; and he was aware of it. He had had his passions, his
intrigues, in past years, and prided himself--few men more--on
understanding women; but the expression of the face, and the strange
words with which she had greeted him, added to the broad fact of
her having offered her own life for his, raised in him a feeling of
chivalrous awe and admiration, which no other woman had ever called
"Madam," he said again; "I can repay you with nothing but thanks: but,
to judge from your conduct last night, you are one of those people
who will find reward enough in knowing that you have done a noble and
She looked at him very steadfastly, blushing still. Thurnall, be it
understood, was (at least, while his face was in the state in which
Heaven intended it to be, half hidden in a silky-brown beard) a very
good-looking fellow; and (to use Mark Armsworth's description) "as
hard as a nail; as fresh as a rose; and stood on his legs like a
game-cock." Moreover, as Willis said approvingly, he had spoken to her
"as if he was a duke, and she was a duchess." Besides, by some blessed
moral law, the surest way to make oneself love any human being is to
go and do him a kindness; and therefore Grace had already a tender
interest in Tom, not because he had saved her, but she him. And so it
was, that a strange new emotion passed through her heart also, though
so little understood by her, that she put it forthwith into words.
"You might repay me," she said in a sad and tender tone.
"You have only to command me," said Tom, wincing a little as the words
passed his lips.
"Then turn to God, now in the day of His mercies. Unless you have
turned to Him already."
One glance at Tom's rising eyebrows told her what he thought upon
She looked at him sadly, lingeringly, as if conscious that she ought
not to look too long, and yet unable to withdraw her eyes.--"Ah! and
such a precious soul as yours must be; a precious soul--all taken, and
you alone left! God must have high things in store for you. He must
have a great work for you to do. Else, why are you not as one of
these! Oh, think! where would you have been at this moment if God had
dealt with you as with them?"
"Where I am now, I suppose," said Tom quietly.
"Where you are now?"
"Yes: where I ought to be. I am where I ought to be now. I suppose if
I had found myself anywhere else this morning, I should have taken it
as a sign that I was wanted there, and not here."
Grace heaved a sigh at words which were certainly startling. The Stoic
optimism of the world-hardened doctor was new and frightful to her.
"My good madam," said he, "the part of Scripture which I appreciate
best, just now, is the case of poor Job, where Satan has leave to rob
and torment him to the utmost of his wicked will, provided only he
does not touch his life, I wish," he went on, lowering his voice, "to
tell you something which I do not wish publicly talked of; but in
which you may help me. I had nearly fifteen hundred pounds about me
when I came ashore last night, sewed in a belt round my waist. It is
gone. That is all."
Tom looked steadily at her as he spoke. She turned pale, red, pale
again, her lips quivered: but she spoke no word.
"She has it, as I live!" thought Tom to himself. "'Frailty, thy name
is woman!' The canting, little, methodistical humbug! She must have
slipped it off my waist as I lay senseless. I suppose she means to
keep it in pawn, till I redeem it by marrying her. Well I might take
an uglier mate certainly; but when I do enter into the bitter bonds of
matrimony, I should like to be sure, beforehand, that my wife was not
Why, then, did not Tom, if he were so very sure of Grace's having the
belt, charge her with the theft? because he had found out already how
popular she was, and was afraid of merely making himself unpopular;
because, too, he took for granted that whosoever had his belt, had
hidden it already beyond the reach of a search warrant; and, because,
after all, an honourable shame restrained him. It would be a poor
return to the woman who had saved his life to charge her with theft
the next morning; and more, there was something about that girl's face
which had made him feel that, if he had seen her put the belt into her
pocket before his eyes, he could not have found the heart to have sent
her to gaol. "No!" thought he; "I'll get it out of her, or whoever has
it, and stay here till I do get it. One place is as good as another to
But what was Grace saying?
She had turned, after two or three minutes' astonished silence, to her
mother and Captain Willis--
"Belt! Mother! Uncle! What is this? The gentleman has lost a belt?"
"Dear me!--a belt! Well, child, that's not much to grieve over, when
the Lord has spared his life and soul from the pit!" said her mother,
"You don't understand. A belt, I say, full of money--fifteen hundred
pounds; he lost it last night. Uncle! Speak, quick! Did you see a
Willis shook his head meditatively. "I don't, and yet I do, and yet
I don't again. My brains were, well-nigh washed out of me, I know.
However, sir, I'll think, and talk it over with you too; for if it be
in the village, found it ought to be, and will be, with God's help."
"Found?" cried Grace, in so high a key, that Tom entreated her to calm
herself, and not make the matter public.--"Found? yes; and shall be
found, if there be justice in heaven. Shame that west-country folk
should turn robbers and wreckers! Mariners, too, and manners' wives,
who should be praying for those who are wandering far away, each man
with his life in his hand! Ah, what a world! When will it end? soon,
too soon, when west-country folk rob shipwrecked men! But you will
find your belt; yes, sir, you will find it. Wait till you have learnt
to do without it. Man does not live by bread alone. Do you think he
lives by gold? Only be patient; and when you are worthy of it, you
shall find it again, in the Lord's good time."
To the doctor this seemed a mere burst of jargon, invented for the
purpose of hiding guilt; and his faith in womankind was not heightened
when he heard Grace's mother say, _sotto voce_ to Willis, that--"In
wrecks, and fires, and such like, a many people complained of having
lost more than ever they had."
"Oh ho! my old lady, is that the way the fox is gone?" quoth Tom to
that trusty counsellor, himself; and began carefully scrutinising Mrs.
Harvey's face. It had been very handsome: it was still very clever:
but the eyebrows, crushed together downwards above her nose, and
rising high at the outer corners, indicated, as surely as the restless
down-dropt eye, a character self-conscious, furtive, capable of great
inconsistencies, possibly of great deceits.
"You don't look me in the face, old lady!" quoth Tom to himself. "Very
well! between you two it lies; unless that old gentleman implicates
himself also, in his approaching confession."
He took his part at once. "Well, well, you will oblige me by saying
nothing more about it. After all, as this good lady says, the loss of
a little money is not worth complaining over, when one has escaped
with life. Good morning; and many thanks for all your kindness!"
And Tom made another grand bow, and went off to the Lieutenant.
Grace looked after him awhile, as one stunned; and then turned to her
"Let us go home."
"Go home? Why there, dear?"
"Let me go home; you need not come. I am sick of this world. Is it
not enough to have misery and death (and she pointed to the row of
corpses), but we must have sin, too, wherever we turn! Meanness and
theft:--and ingratitude too!" she added, in a lower tone.
She went homeward; her mother, in spite of her entreaties, accompanied
her; and, for some reason or other, did not lose sight of her all that
day, or for several days after.
Meanwhile, Willis had beckoned the Doctor aside. His face was serious
and sad, and his lips were trembling.
"This is a very shocking business, sir. Of course, you've told the
"Not yet, my good sir."
"But--excuse my boldness; what plainer way of getting it back from the
rascal, whoever he is?"
"Wait awhile," said Tom; "I have my reasons."
"But, sir--for the honour of the place, the matter should be cleared
up; and till the thief's found, suspicion will lie on a dozen innocent
men; myself among the rest, for that matter."
"You?" said Tom, smiling. "I don't know who I have the honour to speak
to; but you don't look much like a gentleman who wishes for a trip to
The old man chuckled, and then his face dropped again.
"I'm glad you take the thing so like a man, sir; but it is really no
laughing matter. It's a scoundrelly job, only fit for a Maltee off the
Nix Mangeery. If it had been a lot of those carter fellows that had
carried you up, I could have understood it; wrecking's born in the
bone of them: but for those four sailors that carried you up, 'gad
sir! they'd have been shot sooner. I've known 'em from boys!" and the
old man spoke quite fiercely, and looked up; his lip trembling, and
his eye moist.
"There's no doubt that you are honest--whoever is not," thought Tom;
so he ventured a further question.
"Then you were by all the while?"
"All the while? Who more? And that's just what puzzles me."
"Pray don't speak loud," said Tom. "I have my reasons for keeping
"I tell you, sir. I held the maid, and big John Beer (Gentleman Jan
they call him) held me; and the maid had both her hands tight in your
belt. I saw it as plain as I see you, just before the wave covered
us, though little I thought what was in it; and should never have
remembered you had a belt at all, if I hadn't thought over things in
the last five minutes."
"Well, sir, I am lucky in having come straight to the fountain head;
and must thank you for telling me so frankly what you know."
"Tell you, sir? What else should one do but tell you? I only wish I
knew more; and more I'll know, please the Lord. And you'll excuse an
old sailor (though not of your rank, sir) saying that he wonders a
little that you don't take the plain means of knowing more yourself."
"May I take the liberty of asking your name?" said Tom; who saw by
this time that the old man was worthy of his confidence.
"Willis, at your service, sir. Captain they call me, though I'm none.
Sailing-master I was, on board of His Majesty's ship Niobe, 84;" and
Willis raised his hat with such an air, that Tom raised his in return.
"Then, Captain Willis, let me have five words with you apart; first
thanking you for having helped to save my life."
"I'm very glad I did, sir; and thanked God for it on my knees this
morning: but you'll excuse me, sir, I was thinking--and no blame to
me--more of saving my poor maid's life than yours, and no offence to
you, for I hadn't the honour of knowing you; but for her, I'd have
been drowned a dozen times over."
"No offence, indeed," said Tom; and hardly knew what to say next. "May
I ask, is she your niece? I heard her call you uncle."
"Oh, no--no relation; only I look on her as my own, poor thing, having
no father; and she always calls me uncle, as most do us old men in the
"Well, then, sir," said Tom, "you will answer for none of the four
sailors having robbed me?"
"I've said it, sir."
"Was any one else close to her when we were brought ashore?"
"No one but I. I brought her round myself."
"And who took her home?"
"Her mother and I."
"Very good. And you never saw the belt after she had her hands in it?"
"No; I'm sure not."
"Was her mother by her when she was lying on the rock?"
"No; came up afterwards, just as I got her on her feet."
"Humph! What sort of a character is her mother?"
"Oh, a tidy, God-fearing person, enough. One of these Methodist
class-leaders, Brianites they call themselves. I don't hold with them,
though I do go to chapel at whiles: but there are good ones among
them; and I do believe she's one, though she's a little fretful
at times. Keeps a little shop that don't pay over well; and those
preachers live on her a good deal, I think. Creeping into widows'
houses, and making long prayers--you know the text."
"Well, now, Captain Willis, I don't want to hurt your feelings; but do
you not see that one of two things I must believe,--either that the
belt was torn off my waist, and washed back into the sea, as it may
have been after all; or else, that--"
"Do you mean that she took it?" asked Willis, in voice of such
indignant astonishment that Tom could only answer by a shrug of the
"Who else could have done so, on your own showing?"
"Sir!" said Willis, slowly. "I thought I had to do with a gentleman:
but I have my doubts of it now. A poor girl risks her life to drag you
out of that sea, which but for her would have hove your body up to lie
along with that line there,"--and Willis pointed to the ghastly row--"
and your soul gone to give in its last account--You only know what
that would have been like--And the first thing you do in payment is
to accuse her of robbing you--her, that the very angels in heaven, I
believe, are glad to keep company with;" and the old man turned and
paced the beach in fierce excitement.
"Captain Willis," said Tom, "I'll trouble you to listen patiently and
civilly to me a minute."
Willis stopped, drew himself up, and touched his hat mechanically.
"Just because I am a gentleman, I have not accused her; but held
my tongue, and spoken to you in confidence. Now, perhaps, you will
understand why I have said nothing to the Lieutenant."
Willis looked up at him.
"I beg your pardon, sir. I see now, and I'm sorry if I was rude; but
it took me aback, and does still. I tell you, sir," quoth he, warming
again, "whatever's true,--that's false. You're wrong there, if you
never are wrong again; and you'll say so yourself, before you've known
her a week. No, sir! If you could make me believe that, I should never
believe in goodness again on earth; but hold all men, and women too,
and those above, for aught I know, that are greater than men and
women, for liars together."
What was to be answered? Perhaps only what Tom did answer.
"My good sir, I will say no more. I would not have said that much if I
had thought I should have pained you so. I suppose that the belt was
washed into the sea. Why not?"
"Why not, indeed, sir? That's a much more Christian-like way of
looking at it, than to blacken your own soul before God by suspecting
that sweet innocent creature."
"Be it so, then. Only say nothing about the matter; and beg them to
say nothing. If it be jammed among the rocks (as it might be, heavy as
it is), talking about it will only set people looking for it; and
I suppose there is a man or two, even in Aberalva, who would find
fifteen hundred pounds a tempting bait. If, again, some one finds it,
and makes away with it, he will only be the more careful to hide it if
he knows that I am on the look-out. So just tell Miss Harvey and her
mother that I think it must have been lost, and beg them to keep my
secret And now shake hands with me."
"The best plan, I believe, though bad, is the best," said Willis,
holding out his hand; and he walked away sadly. His spirit had been
altogether ruffled by the imputation on Grace's character: and,
besides, the chances of Thurnall's recovering his money seemed to him
In five minutes he returned.
"If you would allow me, sir, there's a man there of whom I should like
to ask one question. He who held me, and, after that, helped to carry
you up;" and he pointed to Gentleman Jan, who stood, dripping from the
waist downward, over a chest which he had just secured. "Just let us
ask him, off-hand like, whether you had a belt on when he carried you
up. You may trust him, sir. He'd knock you down as soon as look at
you; but tell a lie, never."
They went to the giant; and, after cordial salutations, Tom propounded
his question carelessly, with something like a white lie.
"It's no great matter; but it was an old friend, you see, with
fittings for my knife and pistols, and I should be glad to find it
Jan thrust his red hand through his black curls, and meditated while
the water surged round his ankles.
"Never a belt seed I, sir; leastwise while you were in my hands. I had
you round the waist all the way up, so no one could have took it off.
Why should they? And I undressed you myself; and nothing, save your
presence, was there to get off, but jersey and trousers, and a lump of
backy against your skin that looked the right sort."
"Have some, then," said Tom, pulling out the honey-dew. "As for the
belt, I suppose it's gone to choke the dog-fish."
And there the matter ended, outwardly at least; but only outwardly.
Tom had his own opinion, gathered from Grace's seemingly guilty
face, and to it he held, and called old Willis, in his heart, a
simple-minded old dotard, who had been taken in by her hypocrisy.
And Tom accompanied the Lieutenant on his dreary errand that day, and
several days after, through depositions before a justice, interviews
with Lloyd's underwriters, and all the sad details which follow a
wreck. Ere the week's end, forty bodies and more had been recovered,
and brought up, ten or twelve at a time, to the churchyard, and upon
the down, and laid side by side in one long shallow pit, where Frank
Headley read over them the blessed words of hope, amid the sobs of
women, and the grand silence of stalwart men, who knew not how soon
their turn might come; and after each procession came Grace Harvey,
with all her little scholars two and two, to listen to the funeral
service; and when the last corpse was buried, they planted flowers
upon the mound, and went their way again to learn hymns and read
their Bible--little ministering angels to whom, as to most sailors'
children, death was too common a sight to have in it aught of hideous
And this was the end of the good ship Hesperus, and all her gallant
Verily, however important the mere animal lives of men may be, and
ought to be, at times, in our eyes, they never have been so, to judge
from floods and earthquakes, pestilence and storm, in the eyes of
Him who made and loves us all. It is a strange fact, better for us,
instead of shutting our eyes to it because it interferes with our
modern tenderness of pain, to ask honestly what it means.
THE WAY TO WIN THEM.
So, for a week or more, Tom went on thrivingly enough, and became a
general favourite in the town. Heale had no reason to complain of
boarding him; for he had dinner and supper thrust on him every day by
one and another, who were glad enough to have him for the sake of his
stories, and songs, and endless fun and good-humour. The Lieutenant,
above all, took the new-comer under his especial patronage, and was
paid for his services in some of Tom's incomparable honey-dew. The
old fellow soon found that the Doctor knew more than one old foreign
station of his, and ended by pouring out to him his ancient wrongs,
and the evil doings of the wicked admiral; all of which Tom heard with
deepest sympathy, and surprise that so much naval talent had remained
unappreciated by the unjust upper powers; and the Lieutenant, of
course, reported of him accordingly to Heale.
"A very civil spoken and intelligent youngster, Mr. Heale, d'ye see,
to my mind; and you can't do better than accept his offer; for you'll
find him a great help, especially among the ladies, d'ye see. They
like a good-looking chap, eh, Mrs. Jones?"
On the fourth day, by good fortune, what should come ashore but
Tom's own chest--moneyless, alas! but with many useful matters still
unspoilt by salt water. So, all went well, and indeed somewhat too
well (if Tom would have let it), in the case of Miss Anna Maria Heale,
the Doctor's daughter.
She was just such a girl as her father's daughter was likely to be; a
short, stout, rosy, pretty body of twenty, with loose red lips, thwart
black eyebrows, and right naughty eyes under them; of which Tom took
good heed: for Miss Heale was exceedingly inclined, he saw, to make
use of them in his behoof. Let others who have experience in, and
taste for such matters, declare how she set her cap at the dapper
young surgeon; how she rushed into the shop with sweet _abandon_ ten
times a-day, to find her father; and, not finding him, giggled, and
blushed, and shook her shoulders, and retired, to peep at Tom through
the glass door which led into the parlour; how she discovered that
the muslin curtain of the said door would get out of order every ten
minutes; and at last called Mr. Thurnall to assist her in rearranging
it; how, bolder grown, she came into the shop to help herself to
various matters, inquiring tenderly for Tom's health, and giggling
vulgar sentiments about "absent friends, and hearts left behind;" in
the hope of fishing out whether Tom had a sweetheart or not. How, at
last, she was minded to confide her own health to Tom, and to instal
him as her private physician; yea, and would have made him feel her
pulse on the spot, had he not luckily found some assafoetida, and
therewith so perfumed the shop, that her "nerves" (of which she was
always talking, though she had nerves only in the sense wherein a
sirloin of beef has them) forced her to beat a retreat.
But she returned again to the charge next day, and rushed bravely
through that fearful smell, cleaver in hand, as the carrier set down
at the door a huge box, carriage-paid, all the way from London, and
directed to Thomas Thurnall, Esquire. She would help to open it: and
so she did, while old Heale and his wife stood by curious,--he with a
maudlin wonder and awe (for he regarded Tom already as an altogether
awful and incomprehensible "party"), and Mrs. Heale with a look of
incredulous scorn, as if she expected the box to be a mere sham,
filled probably with shavings. For (from reasons best known to
herself) she had never looked pleasantly on the arrangement which
entrusted to Tom the care of the bottles. She had given way from
motives of worldly prudence, even of necessity; for Heale had been
for the greater part of the week quite incapable of attending to his
business: but black envy and spite were seething in her foolish heart,
and seethed more and more fiercely when she saw that the box did
not contain shavings, but valuables of every sort and kind--drugs,
instruments, a large microscope (which Tom delivered out of Miss
Heale's fat clumsy fingers only by strong warnings that it would go
off and shoot her), books full of prints of unspeakable monsters; and
finally, a little packet, containing not one five-pound note, but
four, and a letter which Tom, after perusing, put into Mr. Heale's
hands, with a look of honest pride.
The Mumpsimus men, it appeared, had "sent round the hat" for him, and
here were the results; and they would send the hat round again every
month, if he wanted it; or, if he would come up, board, lodge, and
wash him gratis. The great Doctor Bellairs, House Physician, and
Carver, the famous operator (names at which Heale bowed his head
and worshipped), sent compliments, condolences, offers of
employment--never was so triumphant a testimonial; and Heale, in his
simplicity, thought himself (as indeed he was) the luckiest of country
doctors; while Mrs. Heale, after swelling and choking for five
minutes, tottered into the back room, and cast herself on the sofa in
As she came round again, Tom could not but overhear a little that
passed. And this he overheard among other matters:--
"Yes, Mr. Heale, I see, I see too well, which your natural blindness,
sir, and that fatal easiness of temper, will bring you to a premature
grave within the paupers' precincts; and this young designing infidel,
with his science and his magnifiers, and his callipers, and philosophy
falsely so called, which in our true Protestant youth there was none,
nor needed none, to supplant you in your old age, and take the bread
out of your grey hairs, which he will bring with sorrow to the grave,
and mine likewise, which am like my poor infant here, of only too
sensitive sensibilities! Oh, Anna Maria, my child, my poor lost child!
which I can feel for the tenderness of the inexperienced heart! My
Virgin Eve, which the Serpent has entered into your youthful paradise,
and you will find; alas! too late, that you have warmed an adder into
"Oh, Ma, how indelicate!" giggled Anna Maria, evidently not
displeased. "If you don't mind he will hear you, and I should never be
able to look him in the face again." And therewith she looked round to
the glass door.
What more passed, Tom did not choose to hear; for he began making all
the bustle he could in the shop, merely saying to himself,--
"That flood of eloquence is symptomatic enough: I'll lay my life the
old dame knows her way to the laudanum bottle."
Tom's next business was to ingratiate himself with the young curate.
He had found out already, cunning fellow, that any extreme intimacy
with Headley would not increase his general popularity; and, as we
have seen already, he bore no great affection to "the cloth" in
general: but the curate was an educated gentleman, and Tom wished for
some more rational conversation than that of the Lieutenant and Heale.
Besides, he was one of those men, with whom the possession of power,
sought at first from self-interest, has become a passion, a species of
sporting, which he follows for its own sake, To whomsoever he met he
must needs apply the moral stethoscope; sound him, lungs, heart, and
liver; put his tissues under the microscope, and try conclusions on
him to the uttermost. They might be useful hereafter; for knowledge
was power: or they might not. What matter? Every fresh specimen of
humanity which he examined was so much gained in general knowledge.
Very true, Thomas Thurnall; provided the method of examination be the
sound and the deep one, which will lead you down in each case to the
real living heart of humanity: but what if your method be altogether a
shallow and a cynical one, savouring much more of Gil Blas than of
St. Paul, grounded not on faith and love for human beings, but on
something very like suspicion and contempt? You will be but too
likely, Doctor, to make the coarsest mistakes, when you fancy yourself
most penetrating; to mistake the mere scurf and disease of the
character for its healthy organic tissue, and to find out at last,
somewhat to your confusion, that there are more things, not only in
heaven, but in the earthiest of the earth, than are dreamt of in your
philosophy. You have already set down Grace Harvey as a hypocrite, and
Willis as a dotard. Will you make up your mind in the same foolishness
of over-wisdom, that Frank Headley is a merely narrow-headed and
hard-hearted pedant, quite unaware that he is living an inner life of
doubts, struggles, prayers, self-reproaches, noble hunger after an
ideal of moral excellence, such as you, friend Tom, never yet dreamed
of, which would be to you as an unintelligible gibber of shadows out
of dreamland, but which is to him the only reality, the life of life,
for which everything is to be risked and suffered? You treat his
opinions (though he never thrusts them on you) about "the Church," and
his duty, and the souls of his parishioners, with civil indifference,
as much ado about nothing; and his rubrical eccentricities as
puerilities. You have already made up your mind to "try and put a
little common sense into him," not because it is any concern of yours
whether he has common sense or not, but because you think that it
will be better for you to have the parish at peace; but has it ever
occurred to you how noble the man is, even in his mistakes? How that
one thought, that the finest thing in the world is to be utterly good,
and to make others good also, puts him three heavens at least above
you, you most unangelic terrier-dog, bemired all day long by grubbing
after vermin! What if his idea of "the Church" be somewhat too narrow
for the year of grace 1854, is it no honour to him that he has such
an idea at all; that there has risen up before him the vision of a
perfect polity, a "Divine and wonderful Order," linking earth to
heaven, and to the very throne of Him, who died for men; witnessing to
each of its citizens what the world tries to make him forget, namely,
that he is the child of God himself; and guiding and strengthening
him, from the cradle to the grave, to do his Father's work? Is it a
shame to him that he has seen that such a polity must exist, that he
believes that it does exist; or that he thinks he finds it in its
highest, if not its perfect form, in the most ancient and august
traditions of his native land? True, he has much to learn, and you
may teach him something of it; but you will find some day, Thomas
Thurnall, that, granting you to be at one pole of the English
character, and Frank Headley at the other, he is as good an Englishman
as you, and can teach you more than you can him.
The two soon began to pass almost every evening together, pleasantly
enough; for the reckless and rattling manner which Tom assumed
with the mob, he laid aside with the curate, and showed himself as
agreeable a companion as man could need; while Tom in his turn found
that Headley was a rational and sweet-tempered man, who, even where
he had made up his mind to differ, could hear an adverse opinion, put
sometimes in a startling shape, without falling into any of those male
hysterics of sacred horror, which are the usual refuge of ignorance
and stupidity, terrified by what it cannot refute. And soon Tom began
to lay aside the reserve which he usually assumed to clergymen, and to
tread on ground which Headley would gladly have avoided. For, to tell
the truth, ever since Tom had heard of Grace's intended dismissal, the
curate's opinions had assumed a practical importance in his eyes; and
he had vowed in secret that, if his cunning failed him not, turned out
of her school she should not be. Whether she had stolen his money or
not, she had saved his life; and nobody should wrong her, if he could
help it. Besides, perhaps she had not his money. The belt might have
slipped off in the struggle; some one else might have taken it off in
carrying him up; he might have mistaken the shame of innocence in her
face for that of guilt. Be it as it might, he had not the heart
to make the matter public, and contented himself with staying at
Aberalva, and watching for every hint of his lost treasure.
By which it befell that he was thinking, the half of every day at
least, about Grace Harvey; and her face was seldom out of his mind's
eye; and the more he looked at it, either in fancy or in fact, the
more did it fascinate him. They met but rarely, and then interchanged
the most simple and modest of salutations: but Tom liked to meet her,
would have gladly stopped to chat with her; however, whether from
modesty or from a guilty conscience, she always hurried on in silence.
And she? Tom's request to her, through Willis, to say nothing about
the matter, she had obeyed, as her mother also had done. That Tom
suspected her was a thought which never crossed her mind; to suspect
any one herself was in her eyes a sin; and if the fancy that this man
or that, among the sailors who had carried Tom up to Heale's, might
have been capable of the baseness, she thrust the thought from her,
and prayed to be forgiven for her uncharitable judgment.
But night and day there weighed on that strange and delicate spirit
the shame of the deed, as heavily, if possible, as if she herself had
been the doer. There was another soul in danger of perdition; another
black spot of sin, making earth hideous to her. The village was
disgraced; not in the public eyes, true: but in the eye of heaven, and
in the eyes of that stranger for whom she was beginning to feel an
interest more intense than she ever had done in any human being
before. Her saintliness (for Grace was a saint in the truest sense of
that word) had long since made her free of that "communion of saints"
which consists not in Pharisaic isolation from "the world," not in the
mutual flatteries and congratulations of a self-conceited clique; but
which bears the sins and carries the sorrows of all around: whose
atmosphere is disappointed hopes and plans for good, and the
indignation which hates the sin because it loves the sinner, and
sacred fear and pity for the self-inflicted miseries of those who
might be (so runs the dream, and will run till it becomes a waking
reality) strong, and free, and safe, by being good and wise. To such
a spirit this bold cunning man had come, stiff-necked and
heaven-defiant, a "brand plucked from the burning:" and yet equally
unconscious of his danger, and thankless for his respite. Given, too,
as it were, into her hands; tossed at her feet out of the very mouth
of the pit,--why but that she might save him? A far duller heart, a
far narrower imagination than Grace's would have done what Grace's
did--concentrate themselves round the image of that man with all the
love of woman. For, ere long, Grace found that she did love that man,
as a woman loves but once in her life; perhaps in all time to come.
She found that her heart throbbed, her cheek flushed, when his name
was mentioned; that she watched, almost unawares to herself, for his
passing; and she was not ashamed at the discovery. It was a sort of
melancholy comfort to her that there was a great gulf fixed between
them. His station, his acquirements, his great connections and friends
in London (for all Tom's matters were the gossip of the town, as,
indeed, he took care that they should be), made it impossible that he
should ever think of her; and therefore she held herself excused
for thinking of him, without any fear of that "self-seeking," and
"inordinate affection," and "unsanctified passions," which her
religious books had taught her to dread. Besides, he was not "a
Christian." That five minutes on the shore had told her that; and even
if her station had been the same as his, she must not be "unequally
yoked with an unbeliever." And thus the very hopelessness of her love
became its food and strength; the feeling which she would have checked
with maidenly modesty, had it been connected even remotely with
marriage, was allowed to take immediate and entire dominion; and she
held herself permitted to keep him next her heart of hearts, because
she could do nothing for him but pray for his conversion.
And pray for him she did, the noble, guileless girl, day and night,
that he might be converted; that he might prosper, and become--perhaps
rich, at least useful; a mighty instrument in some good work. And then
she would build up one beautiful castle in the air after another, out
of her fancies about what such a man, whom she had invested in her own
mind with all the wisdom of Solomon, might do if his "talents were
sanctified." Then she prayed that he might recover his lost gold--when
it was good for him; that he might discover the thief: no, that would
only involve fresh shame and sorrow: that the thief, then, might be
brought to repentance, and confession, and restitution. That was the
solution of the dark problem, and for that she prayed; while her face
grew sadder and sadder day by day.
For a while, over and above the pain which the theft caused her, there
came--how could it be otherwise?--sudden pangs of regret that this
same love was hopeless, at least upon this side of the grave.
Inconsistent they were with the chivalrous unselfishness of her usual
temper; and as such she dashed them from her, and conquered them,
after a while, by a method which many a woman knows too well. It was
but "one cross more;" a natural part of her destiny--the child of
sorrow and heaviness of heart. Pleasure in joy she was never to find
on earth; she would find it, then, in grief. And nursing her own
melancholy, she went on her way, sad, sweet, and steadfast, and
lavished more care and tenderness, and even gaiety, than ever upon her
neighbours' children, because she knew that she should never have a
child of her own.
But there is a third damsel, to whom, whether more or less engaging
than Grace Harvey or Miss Heale, my readers must needs be introduced.
Let Miss Heale herself do it, with eyes full of jealous curiosity.
"There is a foreign letter for Mr. Thurnall, marked Montreal, and sent
on here from Whitbury," said she, one morning at breakfast, and in a
significant tone; for the address was evidently in a woman's hand.
"For me--ah, yes; I see," said Tom, taking it carelessly, and
thrusting it into his pocket.
"Won't you read it at once, Mr. Thurnall? I'm sure you must be anxious
to hear from friends abroad;" with an emphasis on the word friends.
"I have a good many acquaintances all over the world, but no friends
that I am aware of," said Tom, and went on with his breakfast.
"Ah--but some people are more than friends. Are the Montreal ladies
pretty, Mr. Thurnall?"
"Don't know; for I never was there."
Miss Heale was silent, being mystified: and, moreover, not quite sure
whether Montreal was in India or in Australia, and not willing to show
She watched Tom through the glass door all the morning to see if he
read the letter, and betrayed any emotion at its contents: but Tom
went about his business as usual, and, as far as she saw, never read
it at all.
However, it was read in due time; for, finding himself in a lonely
place that afternoon, Tom pulled it out with an anxious face, and read
a letter written in a hasty ill-formed hand, underscored at every
fifth word, and plentifully bedecked with notes of exclamation.
"What? my dearest friend, and fortune still frowns upon you? Your
father blind and ruined! Ah, that I were there to comfort him for your
sake! And ah, that I were anywhere, doing any drudgery, which might
prevent my being still a burden to my benefactors. Not that they are
unkind; not that they are not angels! I told them at once that you
could send me no more money till you reached England, perhaps not
then; and they answered that God would send it; that He who had sent
me to them would send the means of supporting me; and ever since they
have redoubled their kindness: but it is intolerable, this dependence,
and on you, too, who have a father to support in his darkness. Oh,
how I feel for you! But to tell you the truth, I pay a price for this
dependence. I must needs be staid and sober; I must needs dress
like any Quakeress; I must not read this book nor that; and my
Shelley--taken from me, I suppose, because it spoke too much
'Liberty,' though, of course, the reason given was its infidel
opinions--is replaced by 'Law's Serious Call.' 'Tis all right and
good, I doubt not: but it is very dreary; as dreary as these black
fir-forests, and brown snake fences, and that dreadful, dreadful
Canadian winter which is past, which went to my very heart, day after
day, like a sword of ice. Another such winter, and I shall die, as one
of my own humming-birds would die, did you cage him here, and prevent
him from fleeing home to the sunny South when the first leaves begin
to fall. Dear children of the sun! my heart goes forth to them; and
the whir of their wings is music to me, for it tells me of the South,
the glaring South, with its glorious flowers, and glorious woods, its
luxuriance, life, fierce enjoyments--let fierce sorrows come with
them, if it must be so! Let me take the evil with the good, and live
my rich wild life through bliss and agony, like a true daughter of the
sun, instead of crystallising slowly here into ice, amid countenances
rigid with respectability, sharpened by the lust of gain; without
taste, without emotion, without even sorrow! Let who will be the
stagnant mill-head, crawling in its ugly spade-cut ditch to turn the
mill. Let me be the wild mountain brook, which foams and flashes over
the rocks--what if they tear it?--it leaps them nevertheless, and goes
laughing on its way. Let me go thus, for weal or woe! And if I sleep
awhile, let it be like the brook, beneath the shade of fragrant
magnolias and luxuriant vines, and image, meanwhile, in my bosom
nothing but the beauty around.
"Yes, my friend, I can live no longer this dull chrysalid life, in
comparison with which, at times, even that past dark dream seems
tolerable--for amid its lurid smoke were flashes of brightness. A
slave? Well; I ask myself at times, and what were women meant for
but to be slaves? Free them, and they enslave themselves again, or
languish unsatisfied; for they must love. And what blame to them
if they love a white man, tyrant though he be, rather than a
fellow-slave? If the men of our own race will claim us, let them prove
themselves worthy of us! Let them rise, exterminate their tyrants, or,
failing that, show that they know how to die. Till then, those who are
the masters of their bodies will be the masters of our hearts. If they
crouch before the white like brutes, what wonder if we look up to him
as to a god? Woman must worship, or be wretched. Do I not know it?
Have I not had my dream--too beautiful for earth? Was there not one
whom you knew, to hear whom call me slave would have been rapture; to
whom I would have answered on my knees, Master, I have no will but
yours! But that is past--past. One happiness alone was possible for a
slave, and even that they tore from me; and now I have no thought, no
purpose, save revenge.
"These good people bid me forgive my enemies. Easy enough for
them, who have no enemies to forgive. Forgive? Forgive injustice,
oppression, baseness, cruelty? Forgive the devil, and bid him go in
peace, and work his wicked will? Why have they put into my hands,
these last three years, books worthy of a free nation?--books which
call patriotism divine; which tell me how in every age and clime men
have been called heroes who rose against their conquerors; women
martyrs who stabbed their tyrants, and then died? Hypocrites! Did
their grandfathers meekly turn the other cheek when your English taxed
them somewhat too heavily? Do they not now teach every school-child to
glory in their own revolution, their own declaration of independence,
and to flatter themselves into the conceit that they are the lords of
creation, and the examples of the world, because they asserted that
sacred right of resistance which is discovered to be unchristian in
the African? They will free us, forsooth, in good time (is it to be
in God's good time, or in their own?) if we will but be patient,
and endure the rice-swamp, the scourge, the slave-market, and shame
unspeakable, a few years more, till all is ready and safe,--for them.
Dreamers as well as hypocrites! What nation was ever freed by others'
help? I have been reading history to see,--you do not know how much
I have been reading,--and I find that freemen have always freed
themselves, as we must do; and as they will never let us do, because
they know that with freedom must come retribution; that our Southern
tyrants have an account to render, which the cold Northerner has no
heart to see him pay. For, after all, he loves the Southerner better
than the slave; and fears him more also. What if the Southern
aristocrat, who lords it over him as the panther does over the ox,
should transfer (as he has threatened many a time) the cowhide from
the negro's loins to his? No; we must free ourselves! And there lives
one woman, at least, who, having gained her freedom, knows how to use
it in eternal war against all tyrants. Oh, I could go down, I think at
moments, down to New Orleans itself, with a brain and lips of fire,
and speak words--you know how I could speak them--which would bring me
in a week to the scourge, perhaps to the stake. The scourge I could
endure. Have I not felt it already? Do I not bear its scars even now,
and glory in them; for they were won by speaking as a woman should
speak? And even the fire?--Have not women been martyrs already?
and could not I be one? Might not my torments madden a people into
manhood, and my name become a war-cry in the sacred fight? And yet,
oh my friend, life is sweet!--and my little day has been so dark and
gloomy!--may I not have one hour's sunshine, ere youth and vigour are
gone, and my swift-vanishing Southern womanhood wrinkles itself
up into despised old age? Oh, counsel me,--help me, my friend, my
preserver, my true master now, so brave, so wise, so all-knowing;
under whose mask of cynicism lies hid (have I not cause to know it?)
the heart of a hero.
If Miss Heale could have watched Tom's face as he read, much more
could she have heard his words as he finished, all jealousy would have
passed from her mind: for as he read, the cynical smile grew sharper
and sharper, forming a fit prelude for the "Little fool!" which was
his only comment.
"I thought you would have fallen in love with some honest farmer
years ago: but a martyr you shan't be, even if I have to send for you
hither; though how to get you bread to eat I don't know. However, you
have been reading your book, it seems,--clever enough you always were,
and too clever; so you could go out as governess, or something. Why,
here's a postscript dated three months afterwards! Ah, I see; this
letter was written last July, in answer to my Australian one. What's
the meaning of this?" And he began reading again.
"I wrote so far; but I had not the heart to send it: it was so full
of repinings. And since then,--must I tell the truth?--I have made a
step; do not call it a desperate one; do not blame me, for your blame
I cannot bear: but I have gone on the stage. There was no other means
of independence open to me; and I had a dream, I have it still, that
there, if anywhere, I might do my work. You told me that I might
become a great actress: I have set my heart on becoming one; on
learning to move the hearts of men, till the time comes when I can
tell them, show them, in living flesh and blood, upon the stage, the
secrets of a slave's sorrows, and that slave a woman. The time has not
come for that yet here: but I have had my success already, more than I
could have expected; and not only in Canada, but in the States. I have
been at New York, acting to crowded houses. Ah, when they applauded
me, how I longed to speak! to pour out my whole soul to them, and call
upon them, as men, to--. But that will come in time. I have found a
friend, who has promised to write dramas especially for me. Merely
republican ones at first; in which I can give full vent to my passion,
and hurl forth the eternal laws of liberty, which their consciences
may--must--at last, apply for themselves. But soon, he says, we shall
be able to dare to approach the real subject, if not in America, still
in Europe; and then, I trust, the coloured actress will stand forth
as the championess of her race, of all who are oppressed, in every
capital in Europe, save, alas! Italy and the Austria who crushes her.
I have taken, I should tell you, an Italian name. It was better, I
thought, to hide my African taint, forsooth, for awhile. So the wise
New Yorkers have been feting, as Maria Cordifiamma, the white woman
(for am I not fairer than many an Italian signora?), whom they
would have looked upon as an inferior being under the name of Marie
Lavington: though there is finer old English blood running in
my veins, from your native Berkshire, they say, than in any a
Down-Easter's who hangs upon my lips. Address me henceforth, then, as
La Signora Maria Cordifiamma. I am learning fast, by the by, to speak
Italian. I shall be at Quebec till the end of the month. Then, I
believe, I come to London; and we shall meet once more: and I shall
thank you, thank you, thank you, once more, for all your marvellous
"Humph!" said Tom, after a while. "Well, she is old enough to choose
for herself. Five-and-twenty she must be by now.... As for the stage,
I suppose it is the best place for her; better, at least, than turning
governess, and going mad, as she would do, over her drudgery and
her dreams. But who is this friend? Singing-master, scribbler, or
political refugee? or perhaps all three together? A dark lot, those
fellows. I must keep my eye on him; though it's no concern of mine.
I've done my duty by the poor thing; the devil himself can't deny
that. But, somehow, if this play-writing worthy plays her false, I
feel very much as if I should be fool enough to try whether I have
forgotten my pistol-shooting."
AN OLD FOE WITH A NEW FACE.
"This child's head is dreadfully hot; and how yellow he does look!"
says Mrs. Vavasour, fussing about in her little nursery. "Oh, Clara,
what shall I do? I really dare not give them any more medicine myself;
and that horrid old Doctor Heale is worse than no one."
"Ah, ma'am," says Clara, who is privileged to bemoan herself, and to
have sad confidences made to her, "if we were but in town now, to see
Mr. Chilvers, or any one that could be trusted; but in this dreadful
"Don't talk of it, Clara! Oh, what will become of the poor children?"
And Mrs. Vavasour sits down and cries, as she does three times at
least every week.
"But indeed, ma'am, if you thought you could trust him, there is that
"The man who was saved from the wreck? Why, nobody knows who he is."
"Oh, but indeed, ma'am, he is a very nice gentleman, I can say that;
and so wonderfully clever; and has cured so many people already, they
say, and got down a lot of new medicines (for he has great friends
among the doctors in town), and such a wonderful magnifying glass,
with which he showed me himself, as I dropped into the shop
promiscuous, such horrible things, ma'am, in a drop of water, that I
haven't dared hardly to wash my face since."
"And what good will the magnifying glass do to us?" says the poor
little Irish soul, laughing up through its tears. "He won't want it
to see how ill poor Frederick is, I'm sure; but you may send for him,
"I'll go myself, ma'am, and make sure," says Clara; glad enough of a
run, and chance of a chat with the young Doctor.
And in half an hour Mr. Thurnall is announced.
Though Mrs. Vavasour has a flannel apron on (for she will wash the
children herself, in spite of Elsley's grumblings), Tom sees that she
is a lady; and puts on, accordingly, his very best manner, which, as
his experience has long since taught him, is no manner at all.
He does his work quietly and kindly, and bows himself out.
"You will be sure to send the medicine immediately, Mr. Thurnall."
"I will bring it myself, madam; and, if you like, administer it.
I think the young gentleman has made friends with me sufficiently
Tom keeps his word, and is back, and away again to his shop, in a
marvellously short space, having "struck a fresh root," as he calls
"What a very well-behaved sensible man that Mr. Thurnall is," says
Lucia to Elsley, an hour after, as she meets him coming in from
the garden, where he has been polishing his "Wreck." "I am sure he
understands his business; he was so kind and quiet, and yet so ready,
and seemed to know all the child's symptoms beforehand, in such a
strange way. I do hope he'll stay here. I feel happier about the poor
children than I have for a long time."
"Thurnall?" asks Elsley, who is too absorbed in the "Wreck" to ask
after the children; but the name catches his ear.
"Mr. Heale's new assistant--the man who was wrecked," answers she,
too absorbed, in her turn, in the children to notice her husband's
"Thurnall? Which Thurnall?"
"Do you know the name? It's not a common one," says she, moving to the
"No--not a common one at all! You said the children were not well?"!
"I am glad that you thought of asking after the poor things."
"Why, really, my dear--" But before he can finish his excuse (probably
not worth hearing), she has trotted up-stairs again to the nest, and
is as busy as ever. Possibly Clara might do the greater part of what
she does, and do it better: but still, are they not her children? Let
those who will call a mother's care mere animal instinct, and liken it
to that of the sparrow or the spider: shall we not rather call it a
Divine inspiration, and doubt whether the sparrow and the spider must
not have souls to be saved, if they, too, show forth that faculty of
maternal love which is, of all human feelings, most inexplicable and
most self-sacrificing; and therefore, surely, most heavenly? If that
does not come down straight from heaven, a "good and perfect gift,"
then what is heaven, and what the gifts which it sends down?
But poor Elsley may have had solid reasons for thinking more of the
name of Thurnall than of his children's health: we will hope so for
his sake; for, after sundry melodramatic pacings and starts (Elsley
was of a melodramatic turn, and fond of a scene, even when he had no
spectator, not even a looking-glass;) besides ejaculations of "It
cannot be!" "If it were!" "I trust not!" "A fresh ghost to torment
me!" "When will come the end of this accursed coil which I have wound
round my life?" and so forth, he decided aloud that the suspense was
intolerable; and enclosing himself in his poetical cloak and Mazzini
wide-awake, strode down to the town, and into the shop. And as he
entered it, "his heart sank to his midriff, and his knees below were
loosed." For there, making up pills, in a pair of brown holland
sleeves of his own manufacture (for Tom was a good seamster, as all
travellers should be), whistled Lilliburlero, as of old, the Tom of
other days, which Elsley's muse would fain have buried in a thousand
Elsley came forward to the counter carelessly, nevertheless, after a
moment. "What with my beard, and the lapse of time," thought he, "he
cannot know me." So he spoke,--
"I understand you have been visiting my children, sir. I hope you did
not find them seriously indisposed?"
"Mr. Vavasour?" says Tom, with a low bow.
"I am Mr. Vavasour!" But Elsley was a bad actor, and hesitated and
coloured so much as he spoke, that if Tom had known nothing, he might
have guessed something.
"Nothing serious, I assure you, sir: unless you are come to announce
any fresh symptom."
"Oh, no--not at all--that is--I was passing on my way to the quay, and
thought it as well to have your own assurance; Mrs. Vavasour is so
"You seem to partake of her infirmity, sir," says Tom, with a smile
and a bow. "However, it is one which does you both honour."
An awkward pause.
"I hope I am not taking a liberty, sir; but I think I am bound to--"
"What in heaven is he going to say?" thought Elsley to himself,
feeling very much inclined to run away.
"Thank you for all the pleasure and instruction which your writings
have given me in lonely hours, and lonely places too. Your first
volume of poems has been read by one man, at least, beside wild
watchfires in the Rocky Mountains."
Tom did not say that he pitched the said volume into the river in
disgust; and that it was, probably, long since used up as house
material by the caddis-baits of those parts,--for doubtless there are
caddises there as elsewhere.
Poor Elsley rose at the bait, and smiled and bowed in silence.
"I have been so long absent from England, and in utterly wild
countries, too, that I need hardly be ashamed to ask if you have
written anything since 'The Soul's Agonies'? No doubt if you have, I
might have found it at Melbourne, on my way home: but my visit there
was a very hurried one. However, the loss is mine, and the fault too,
as I ought to call it."
"Pray make no excuses," says Elsley, delighted. "I have written, of
course. Who can help writing, sir, while Nature is so glorious, and
man so wretched? One cannot but take refuge from the pettiness of the
real in the contemplation of the ideal. Yes, I have written. I will
send you my last book down. I don't know whether you will find me
"How can I doubt that I shall?"
"Saddened, perhaps; perhaps more severe in my taste; but we will not
talk of that. I owe you a debt, sir, for having furnished me with
one of the most striking 'motifs' I ever had. I mean that miraculous
escape of yours. It is seldom enough, in this dull every-day world,
one stumbles on such an incident ready made to one's hands, and
needing only to be described as one sees it."
And the weak, vain man chatted on, and ended by telling Tom all about
his poem of "The Wreck," in a tone which seemed to imply that he had
done Tom a serious favour, perhaps raised him to immortality, by
putting him in a book.
Tom thanked him gravely for the said honour, bowed him at last out of
the shop, and then vaulted back clean over the counter, as soon as
Elsley was out of sight, and commenced an Indian war-dance of frantic
character, accompanying himself by an extemporary chaunt, with which
the name of John Briggs was frequently intermingled;--
"If I don't know you, Johnny, my boy,
In spite of all your beard;
Why then I am a slower fellow,
Than ever has yet appeared,
"Oh if it was but he! what a card for me! What a world it is for poor
honest rascals like me to try a fall with!--
"Why didn't I take bad verse to make,
And call it poetry;
And so make up to an earl's daughter,
Which was of high degree?
"But perhaps I am wrong after all: no--I saw he knew me, the humbug;
though he never was a humbug, never rose above the rank of fool.
However, I'll make assurance doubly sure, and then,--if it pays me not
to tell him I know him, I won't tell him; and if it pays me to tell
him, I will tell him. Just as you choose, my good Mr. Poet." And Tom
returned to his work, singing an extempore parody of "We met, 'twas in
a crowd," ending with--
"And thou art the cause of this anguish, my pill-box,"
in a howl so doleful, that Mrs. Heale marched into the shop, evidently
making up her mind for an explosion.
"I am very sorry, sir, to have to speak to you upon such a subject,
but I must say, that the profane songs, sir, which our house is not at
all accustomed to them; not to mention that at your time of life, and
in your position, sir, as my husband's assistant, though there's no
saying (with a meaning toss of the head) how long it may last,"--and
there, her grammar having got into a hopeless knot, she stopped.
Tom looked at her cheerfully and fixedly. "I had been expecting this,"
said he to himself. "Better show the old cat at once that I carry
claws as well as she."
"There _is_ saying, madam, humbly begging your pardon, how long my
present engagement will last. It will last just as long as I like."
Mrs. Heale boiled over with rage: but ere the geyser could explode,
Tom had continued in that dogged, nasal Yankee twang which he assumed
when he was venomous:
"As for the songs, ma'am, there are two ways of making oneself happy
in this life; you can judge for yourself which is best. One is to do
one's work like a man, and hum a tune, to keep one's spirits up; the
other is to let the work go to rack and ruin, and keep one's spirits
up, if one is a gentleman, by a little too much brandy;--if one is a
lady, by a little too much laudanum."
"Laudanum, sir?" almost screamed Mrs. Heale, turning pale as death.
"The pint bottle of best laudanum, which I had from town a fortnight
ago, ma'am, is now nearly empty, ma'am. I will make affidavit that I
have not used a hundred drops, or drunk one. I suppose it was the cat.
Cats have queer tastes in the west, I believe. I have heard the cat
coming down stairs into the surgery, once or twice after I was in bed;
so I set my door ajar a little, and saw her come up again: but whether
she had a vial in her paws--"
"Oh, sir!" says Mrs. Heale, bursting into tears. "And after the
dreadful toothache which I have had this fortnight, which nothing but
a little laudanum would ease it; and at my time of life, to mock a
poor elderly lady's infirmities, which I did not look for this cruelty
"Dry your tears, my dear madam," says Tom, in his most winning tone.
"You will always find me the thorough gentleman, I am sure. If I had
not been one, it would have been easy enough for me, with my powerful
London connections,--though I won't boast,--to set up in opposition to
your good husband, instead of saving him labour in his good old age.
Only, my dear madam, how shall I get the laudanum-bottle refilled
without the doctor's--you understand?"
The wretched old woman hurried upstairs, and brought him down a
half-sovereign out of her private hoard, trembling like an aspen leaf,
"So--scotched, but not killed. You'll gossip and lie too. Never
trust a laudanum-drinker. You'll see me, by the eye of imagination,
committing all the seven deadly sins; and by the tongue of inspiration
go forth and proclaim the same at the town-head. I can't kill you, and
I can't cure you, so I must endure you. What said old Goethe, in all
the German I ever cared to recollect:--
"'Der Wallfisch hat doch seine Laus;
Muss auch die meine haben.'
"Now, then, for Mrs. Penberthy's draughts. I wonder how that pretty
schoolmistress goes on. If she were but honest, now, and had fifty
thousand pounds--why then, she wouldn't marry me; and so why now, I
wouldn't marry she,--as my native Berkshire grammar would render it."
This chapter shall begin, good reader, with one of those startling
bursts of "illustration," with which our most popular preachers are
wont now to astonish and edify their hearers, and after starting with
them at the opening of the sermon from the north-pole, the Crystal
Palace, or the nearest cabbage-garden, float them safe, upon the
gushing stream of oratory, to the safe and well-known shores of
doctrinal commonplace, lost in admiration at the skill of the good man
who can thus make all roads lead, if not to heaven, at least to strong
language about its opposite. True, the logical sequence of their
periods may be, like that of the coming one, somewhat questionable,
reminding one at moments of Fluellen's comparison between Macedon and
Monmouth, Henry the Fifth and Alexander: but, in the logic of the
pulpit, all's well that ends well, and the end must needs sanctify
the means. There is, of course, some connection or other between all
things in heaven and earth, or how would the universe hold together?
And if one has not time to find out the true connection, what is left
but to invent the best one can for oneself? Thus argues, probably,
the popular preacher, and fills his pews, proving thereby clearly the
excellence of his method. So argue also, probably, the popular poets,
to whose "luxuriant fancy" everything suggests anything, and thought
plays leap-frog with thought down one page and up the next, till
one fancies at moments that they had got permission from the higher
powers, before looking at the universe, to stir it all up a few times
with a spoon. It is notorious, of course, that poets and preachers
alike pride themselves upon this method of astonishing; that
the former call it, "seeing the infinite in the finite;" the
latter--"pressing secular matters into the service of the sanctuary,"
and other pretty phrases which, for reverence' sake, shall be omitted.
No doubt they have their reasons and their reward. The style takes;
the style pays; and what more would you have? Let them go on
rejoicing, in spite of the cynical pedants in the Saturday Review, who
dare to accuse (will it be believed?) these luminaries of the age
of talking merely irreverent nonsense. Meanwhile, so evident is the
success (sole test of merit) which has attended the new method, that
it is worth while trying whether it will not be as taking in the novel
as it is in the chapel; and therefore the reader is requested to pay
special attention to the following paragraph, modelled carefully after
the exordiums of a famous Irish preacher, now drawing crowded houses
at the West End of Town. As thus;--"It is the pleasant month of May,
when, as in old Chaucer's time, the--
"Smale foules maken melodie,
That slepen alle night with open eye
So priketh hem nature in their corages.
Then longen folk to goe on pilgrimages,
And specially from every shire's end
Of Englelond, to Exeter-hall they wend,"
till the low places of the Strand blossom with white cravats, those
lilies of the valley, types of meekness and humility, at least in the
pious palmer--and why not of similar virtues in the undertaker, the
concert-singer, the groom, the tavern-waiter, the croupier at
the gaming-table, and Frederick Augustus Lord Scoutbush, who,
white-cravated like the rest, is just getting into his cab at the door
of the Never-mind-what Theatre, to spend an hour at Kensington before
sauntering in to Lady M----'s ball?
Why not, I ask, at least in the case of little Scoutbush? For
Guardsman though he be, coming from a theatre and going to a ball,
there is meekness and humility in him at this moment, as well as in
the average of the white-cravated gentlemen who trotted along that
same pavement about eleven o'clock this forenoon. Why should not his
white cravat, like theirs, be held symbolic of that fact? However,
Scoutbush belongs rather to the former than the latter of Chaucer's
categories; for a "smale foule" he is, a little bird-like fellow, who
maketh melodie also, and warbles like a cock-robin; we cannot liken
him to any more dignified songster. Moreover, he will sleep all night
with open eye; for he will not be in bed till five to-morrow morning;
and pricked he is, and that sorely, in his courage; for he is as much,
in love as his little nature can be, with the new actress, La Signora
Cordifiamma, of the Never-mind-what Theatre.
How exquisitely, now (for this is one of the rare occasions in which
a man is permitted to praise himself), is established hereby an
unexpected bond of linked sweetness long drawn out between things
which had, ere they came beneath the magic touch of genius, no more
to do with each other than this book has with the Stock Exchange. Who
would have dreamed of travelling from the Tabard in Southwark to the
last new singer, _via_ Exeter-hall and the lilies of the valley, and
touching en passant on to cardinal virtues and an Irish Viscount? But
see; given only a little impudence, and less logic, and hey presto!
the thing is done; and all that remains to be done is to dilate (as
the Rev. Dionysius O'Blareaway would do at this stage of the process)
upon the moral question which has been so cunningly raised, and to
inquire, firstly,--how the virtues of meekness and humility could be
predicated of Frederick Augustus St. Just, Viscount Scoutbush and
Baron Torytown, in the peerage of Ireland; and secondly,--how those
virtues were called into special action by his questionably wise
attachment to a new actress, to whom he had never spoken a word in his
First, then, "Little Freddy Scoutbush," as his compeers irreverently
termed him, was, by common consent of her Majesty's Guards, a "good
fellow." Whether the St. James' Street definition of that adjective
be the perfect one or not, we will not stay to inquire; but in the
Guards' club-house it meant this: that Scoutbush had not an enemy in
the world, because he deserved none; that he lent, and borrowed not;
gave, and asked not again; envied not; hustled not; slandered not;
never bore malice, never said a cruel word, never played a dirty
trick, would hear a fellow's troubles out to the end, and if he could
not counsel, at least would not laugh at them, and at all times and
in all places lived and let live, and was accordingly a general
favourite. His morality was neither better nor worse than the average
of his companions; but if he was sensual, he was at least not base;
and there were frail women who blessed "little Freddy," and his shy
and secret generosity, from having saved them from the lowest pit.
_Au reste_, he was idle, frivolous, useless; but with these two
palliating facts, that he knew it and regretted it; and that he never
had a chance of being aught else. His father and mother had died when
he was a child. He had been sent to Eton at seven, where he learnt
nothing, and into the Guards at seventeen, where he learnt less than
nothing. His aunt, old Lady Knockdown, who was a kind old Irish woman,
an ex-blue and ex-beauty, now a high Evangelical professor, but as
worldly as her neighbours in practice, had tried to make him a good
boy in old times: but she had given him up, long before he left Eton,
as a "vessel of wrath" (which he certainly was, with his hot Irish
temper); and since then she had only spoken of him with moans, and to
him just as if he and she had made a compact to be as worldly as they
could, and as if the fact that he was going, as she used to tell
her private friends, straight to the wrong place, was to be utterly
ignored before the pressing reality of getting him and his sisters
well married. And so it befell, that Lady Knockdown, like many more,
having begun with too high (or at least precise) a spiritual standard,
was forced to end practically in having no standard at all; and that
for ten years of Scoutbush's life, neither she nor any other human
being had spoken to him as if he had a soul to be saved, or any duty
on earth save to eat, drink, and be merry.
And all the while there was a quaint and pathetic consciousness in the
little man's heart that he was meant for something better; that he was
no fool, and was not intended to be one. He would thrust his head into
lectures at the Polytechnic and the British Institution, with a dim
endeavour to guess what they were all about, and a good-natured envy
of the clever fellows who knew about "science, and all that." He would
sit and listen, puzzled and admiring, to the talk of statesmen, and
confide his woe afterwards to some chum.--"Ah, if I had had the chance
now that my cousin Chalkclere has! If I had had two or three tutors,
and a good mother, too, keeping me in a coop, and cramming me with
learning, as they cram chickens for the market, I fancy I could have
shown my comb and hackles in the House as well as some of them. I
fancy I could make a speech in parliament now, with the help of a
little Irish impudence, if I only knew anything to speak about."
So Scoutbush clung, in a childish way, to any superior man who would
take notice of him, and not treat him as the fribble which he seemed.
He had taken to that well-known artist, Claude Mellot, of late, simply
from admiration of his brilliant talk about art and poetry; and boldly
confessed that he preferred one of Mellot's orations on the sublime
and beautiful, though he didn't understand a word of them, to the
songs and jokes (very excellent ones in their way) of Mr. Hector
Harkaway, the distinguished Irish novelist, and boon companion of her
Majesty's Life Guards Green. His special intimate and Mentor, however,
was a certain Major Campbell, of whom more hereafter; who, however,
being a lofty-minded and perhaps somewhat Pharisaic person, made
heavier demands on Scoutbush's conscience than he had yet been able to
meet; for fully as he agreed that Hercules' choice between pleasure
and virtue was the right one, still he could not yet follow that
ancient hero along the thorny path, and confined his conception of
"duty" to the minimum guard and drill. He had estates in Ireland,
which had almost cleared themselves during his long minority, but
which, since the famine, had cost him about as much as they brought
him in; and estates in the West, which, with a Welsh slate-quarry,
brought him in some seven or eight thousand a-year; and so kept his
poor little head above water, to look pitifully round the universe,
longing for the life of him to make out what it all meant, and hoping
that somebody would come and tell him.
So much for his meekness and humility in general; as for the
particular display of those virtues which he has shown to-day, it must
be understood that he has given a promise to Mrs. Mellot not to make
love to La Cordifiamma; and, on that only condition, has been allowed
to meet her to-night at one of Claude Mellot's petits soupers.
La Cordifiamma has been staying, ever since she came to England, with
the Mellots in the wilds of Brompton; unapproachable there, as in all
other places. In public, she is a very Zenobia, who keeps all animals
of the other sex at an awful distance; and of the fifty young puppies
who are raving about her beauty, her air, and her voice, not one has
obtained an introduction; while Claude, whose studio used to be a
favourite lounge of young Guardsmen, has, as civilly as he can, closed
his doors to those magnificent personages ever since the new singer
became his guest.
Claude Mellot seems to have come into a fortune of late years, large
enough, at least, for his few wants. He paints no longer, save when he
chooses; and has taken a little old house in one of those back lanes
of Brompton, where islands of primaeval nursery garden still remain
undevoured by the advancing surges of the brick and mortar deluge.
There he lives, happy in a green lawn, and windows opening thereon;
in three elms, a cork, an ilex, and a mulberry, with a great standard
pear, for flower and foliage the queen of all suburban trees. There he
lies on the lawn, upon strange skins, the summer's day, playing with
cats and dogs, and making love to his Sabina, who has not lost
her beauty in the least, though she is on the wrong side of
five-and-thirty. He deludes himself, too, into the belief that he is
doing something, because he is writing a treatise on the "Principles
of Beauty;" which will be published, probably, about the time the
Thames is purified, in the season of Latter Lammas and the Greek
Kalends; and the more certainly so, because he has wandered into the
abyss of conic sections and curves of double curvature, of which, if
the truth must be spoken, he knows no more than his friends of the
Life Guards Green.
To this charming little nest has Lord Scoutbush procured an evening's
admission after abject supplication to Sabina, who pets him because he
is musical, and solemn promises neither to talk or look any manner of
"My dearest Mrs. Mellot," says the poor wretch, "I will be good,
indeed I will; I will not even speak to her. Only let me sit and
look,--and--and--why, I thought you understood all about such things,
and could pity a poor fellow who was spoony."
And Sabina, who prides herself much on understanding such things,
and on having, indeed, reduced them to a science in which she
gives gratuitous lessons to all young gentlemen and ladies of her
acquaintance, receives him pityingly, in that delicious little back
drawing-room, whither whosoever enters is in no hurry to go out again.
Claude's house is arranged with his usual defiance of all
conventionalities. Dining or drawing-room proper there is none; the
large front room is the studio, where he and Sabina eat and drink, as
well as work and paint but out of it opens a little room, the walls of
which are so covered with gems of art (where the rogue finds money to
buy them is a puzzle), that the eye can turn nowhere without taking
in some new beauty, and wandering on from picture to statue, from
portrait to landscape, dreaming and learning afresh after every
glance. At the back, a glass bay has been thrown out, and forms a
little conservatory, for ever fresh and gay with tropic ferns and
flowers; gaudy orchids dangle from the roof, creepers hide the
framework, and you hardly see where the room ends, and the
winter-garden begins; and in the centre an ottoman invites you
to lounge. It costs Claude money, doubtless; but he has his
excuse,--"Having once seen the tropics, I cannot live without some
love-tokens from their lost paradises; and which is the wiser plan, to
spend money on a horse and brougham, which we don't care to use, and
on scrambling into society at the price of one great stupid party a
year, or to make our little world as pretty as we can, and let those
who wish to see us, take us as they find us?"
In this "nest," as Claude and Sabina call it, sacred to the
everlasting billing and cooing of that sweet little pair of human
love-birds who have built it, was supper set. La Cordifiamma, all the
more beautiful from the languor produced by the excitement of acting,
lay upon a sofa; Claude attended, talking earnestly; Sabina, according
to her custom, was fluttering in and out, and arranging supper with
her own hands; both husband and wife were as busy as bees; and yet any
one accustomed to watch the little ins and outs of married life, could
have seen that neither forgot for a moment that the other was in the
room, but basked and purred, like two blissful cats, each in the
sunshine of the other's presence; and he could have seen, too, that La
Cordifiamma was divining their thoughts, and studying all their little
expressions, perhaps that she might use them on the stage; perhaps,
too, happy in sympathy with their happiness: and yet there was a shade
of sadness on her forehead.
Scoutbush enters, is introduced, and receives a salutation from the
actress haughty and cold enough to check the forwardest; puts on the
air of languid nonchalance which is considered (or was before the
little experiences of the Crimea) fit and proper for young gentlemen
of rank and fashion. So he sits down, and feasts his foolish eyes upon
his idol, hoping for a few words before the evening is over. Did I not
say well, then, that there was as much meekness and humility under
Scoutbush's white cravat as under others? But his little joy is
soon dashed; for the black boy announces (seemingly much to his own
pleasure) a tall personage, whom, from his dress and his moustachio,
Scoutbush takes for a Frenchman, till he hears him called Stangrave.
The intruder is introduced to Lord Scoutbush, which ceremony is
consummated by a microscopic nod on either side; he then walks
straight up to La Cordifiamma; and Scoutbush sees her cheeks flush as
he does so. He takes her hand, speaks to her in a low voice, and sits
down by her, Claude making room for him; and the two engage earnestly
Scoutbush is much inclined to walk out of the room;--was he brought
there to see that? Of course, however, he sits still, keeps his own
counsel, and makes himself agreeable enough all the evening, like a
good-natured kind-hearted little man, as he is. Whereby he is repaid;
for the conversation soon becomes deep, and even too deep for him; and
he is fain to drop out of the race, and leave it to his idol and to
the new-comer, who seems to have seen, and done, and read everything
in heaven and earth, and probably bought everything also; not to
mention that he would be happy to sell the said universe again, at a
very cheap price, if any one would kindly take it off his hands. Not
that he boasts, or takes any undue share of the conversation; he
is evidently too well bred for that; but every sentence shows an
acquaintance with facts of which Eton has told Scoutbush nothing, the
barrack-room less, and after which he still craves, the good little
fellow, in a very honest way, and would soon have learnt, had he had a
chance; for of native Irish smartness he had no lack.
"Poor Flake was half mad about you, Signora, in the stage-box
to-night," said Sabina. "He says that he shall not sleep till he has
"Do let him!" cried Scoutbush: "what a picture he will make!"
"He may paint a picture, but not me; it is quite enough, Lord
Scoutbush, to be some one else for two hours every night, without
going down to posterity, as some one else for ever. If I am painted, I
will be painted by no one who cannot represent my very self."
"You are right!" said Stangrave: "and you will do the man himself good
by refusing; he has some notion still of what a portrait ought to be.
If he once begins by attempting passing expressions of passion, which
is all stage portraits can give, he will find them so much easier than
honest representations of character, that he will end, where all our
moderns seem to do, in merest melodrama."
"Explain!" said she.
"Portrait painters now depend for their effect on the mere accidents
of the _entourage_; on dress, on landscape, even on broad hints of a
man's occupation, putting a plan on the engineer's table, and a roll
in the statesman's hands, like the old Greek who wrote 'this is an ox'
under his picture. If they wish to give the face expression, though
they seldom aim so high, all they can compass is a passing emotion;
and one sitter goes down to posterity with an eternal frown, another
with an eternal smile."
"Or, if he be a poet," said Sabina, "rolls his eye for ever in a fine
"But would you forbid them to paint passion?"
"Not in its place; when the picture gives the causes of the passion,
and the scene tells its own story. But then let us not have merely
Kean as Hamlet, but Hamlet's self; let the painter sit down and
conceive for himself a Hamlet, such as Shakspeare conceived; not
merely give us as much of him as could be pressed at a given moment
into the face of Mr. Kean. He will be only unjust to both actor and
character. If Flake paints Marie as Lady Macbeth, he will give us
neither her nor Lady Macbeth; but only the single point at which their
two characters can coincide."
"How rude!" said Sabina, laughing; "what is he doing but hinting
that La Signora's conception of Lady Macbeth is a very partial and
"And why should it not be?" asked the actress, humbly enough.
"I meant," he answered warmly, "that there was more, far more in her
than in any character which she assumes; and I do not want a painter
to copy only one aspect, and let a part go down to posterity as a
representation of the whole."
"If you mean that, you shall be forgiven. No; when she is painted, she
shall be painted as herself, as she is now. Claude shall paint her."
"I have not known La Signora long enough," said Claude, "to aspire to
such an honour. I paint no face which I have not studied for a year."
"Faith!" said Scoutbush, "you would find no more in most faces at the
year's end, than you did the first day."
"Then I would not paint them. If I paint a portrait, which I seldom
do, I wish to make it such a one as the old masters aimed at,--to give
the sum total of the whole character; traces of every emotion, if it
were possible, and glances of every expression which have passed over
it since it was born into the world. They are all here, the whole past
and future of the man; and every man, as the Mohammedans say, carries
his destiny on his forehead."
"But who has eyes to see it?"
"The old masters had; some of them at least. Raphael had; Sebastian
del Piombo had; and Titian, and Giorgione. There are portraits painted
by them which carry a whole life-history concentrated into one
"But they," said Stangrave, "are the portraits of men such as they saw
around them; natures who were strong for good and evil, who were not
ashamed to show their strength. Where will a painter find such among
the poor, thin, unable mortals who come to him to buy immortality at
a hundred and fifty guineas apiece, after having spent their lives in
religiously rubbing off their angles against each other, and forming
their characters, as you form shot, by shaking them together in a bag
till they have polished each other into dullest uniformity?"
"It's very true," said Scoutbush, who suffered much at times from a
certain wild Irish vein, which stirred him up to kick over the traces.
"People are horribly like each other; and if a poor fellow is bored,
and tries to do anything spicy or original, he has half-a-dozen people
pooh-poohing him down on the score of bad taste."
"Men can be just as original now as ever," said La Signora, "if they
had but the courage, even the insight. Heroic souls in old times had
no more opportunities than we have: but they used them. There were
daring deeds to be done then--are there none now? Sacrifices to be
made--are there none now? Wrongs to be redressed--are there none now?
Let any one set his heart, in these days, to do what is right, and
nothing else; and it will not be long ere his brow is stamped with all
that goes to make up the heroical expression--with noble indignation,
noble self-restraint, great hopes, great sorrows; perhaps, even, with
the print of the martyr's crown of thorns."
She looked at Stangrave as she spoke, with an expression which
Scoutbush tried in vain to read. The American made no answer, and
seemed to hang his head awhile. After a minute he said tenderly:--
"You will tire yourself if you talk thus, after the evening's fatigue.
Mrs. Mellot will sing to us, and give us leisure to think over our
And Sabina sang; and then Lord Scoutbush was made to sing; and sang
his best, no doubt.
So the evening slipt on, till it was past eleven o'clock, and
Stangrave rose. "And now," said he, "I must go to Lady M----'s ball;
and Marie must rest."
As he went, he just leaned over La Cordifiamma.
"Shall I come in to-morrow morning? We ought to read over that scene
together before the rehearsal."
"Early then, or Sabina will be gone out; and she must play soubrette
to our hero and heroine."
"You will rest? Mrs. Mellot, you will see that she does not sit up."
"It is not very polite to rob us of her, as soon as you cannot enjoy
"I must take care of people who do not take care of themselves;" and
Great was Scoutbush's wrath when he saw Marie rise and obey orders.
"Who was this man? what right had he to command her?"
He asked as much of Sabina the moment La Cordifiamma had retired.
"Are you not going to Lady M---- 's, too?"
"No; that is, I won't go yet; not till you have explained all this to
"Explained what?" asked Sabina, looking as demure as a little brown
"Why, what did you ask me here for?"
"Lord Scoutbush should recollect that he asked himself."
"You cruel venomous creature! do you think I would have come, if I had
known that I was to see another man making love to her before my very
eyes? I could kill the fellow;--who is he?"
"A New York merchant, unworthy of your aristocratic powder and ball."
"The confounded Yankee!" muttered Scoutbush.
"If people swear in my house, I fine them a dozen of kid gloves. Did
you not promise me that you would not make love to her yourself?"
"Well--but, it is too cruel of you, before my very eyes."
"I saw no love-making to-night."
"None? Were you blind?"
"Not in the least; but you cannot well see a thing making which has
been made long ago."
"What! Is he her husband?"
"Engaged to her?"
"Don't you know already that this is a house of mystery, full of
mysterious people? I tell you this only, that if she ever marries any
one, she will marry him; and that if I can, I will make her."
"Then you are my enemy after all."
"I! Do you think that Sabina Mellot can see a young viscount loose
upon the universe, without trying to make up a match for him? No; I
have such a prize for you,--young, handsome, better educated than any
woman whom you will meet to-night. True, she is a Manchester girl: but
then she has eighty thousand pounds."
"Eighty thousand nonsense? I'd sooner have that divine creature
without a penny, than--"
"And would my lord viscount so far debase himself as to marry an
"Humph! Faith, my grandmother was an actress; and we St. Justs are
none the worse for that fact, as far as I can see,--and certainly none
the uglier--the women at least. Oh Sabina--Mrs. Mellot, I mean--only
help me this once!"
"This once? Do you intend to marry by my assistance this time, and by
your own the next? How many viscountesses are there to be?"
"Don't laugh at me, you cruel woman: you don't know; you fancy that
I am not in love--" and the poor fellow began pouring out these
commonplaces, which one has heard too often to take the trouble of
repeating, and yet which are real enough, and pathetic too; for in
every man, however frivolous, or even worthless, love calls up to the
surface the real heroism, the real depth of character--all the more
deep because common to poet and philosopher, guardsman and country
"I'll leave town to-morrow. I'll go to the Land's-end,--to Norway,--to
"And forget her in the bliss of lion-hunting."
"Don't, I tell you; here I will not stay to be driven mad. To think
that she is here, and that hateful Yankee at her elbow. I'll go--"
"To Lady M----'s ball?"
"No, confound it; to meet that fellow there! I should quarrel
with him, as sure as there is hot Irish blood in my veins. The
self-satisfied puppy! to be flirting and strutting there, while such a
creature as that is lying thinking of him."
"Would you have him shut himself up in his hotel, and write poetry; or
walk the streets all night, sighing at the moon?"
"No; but the cool way in which he went off himself, and sent her to
bed. Confound him! commanding her. It made my blood boil."
"Claude, get Lord Scoutbush some iced soda-water."
"If you laugh at me, I'll never speak to you again."
"Or buy any of Claude's pictures?"
"Why do you torment me so? I'll go, I say,--leave town
to-morrow,--only I can't with this horrid depot work! What shall I do?
It's too cruel of you, while Campbell is away in Ireland, too; and I
have not a soul but you to ask advice of, for Valencia is as great a
goose as I am;" and the poor little fellow buried his hands in his
curls, and stared fiercely into the fire, as if to draw from thence
omens of his love, by the spodomantic augury of the ancient Greeks;
while Sabina tripped up and down the room, putting things to rights
for the night, and enjoying his torments as a cat does those of the
mouse between her paws; and yet not out of spite, but from pure and
Sabina is one of those charming bodies who knows everybody's business,
and manages it. She lives in a world of intrigue, but without a
thought of intriguing for her own benefit. She has always a match
to make, a disconsolate lover to comfort, a young artist to bring
forward, a refugee to conceal, a spendthrift to get out of a scrape;
and, like David in the mountains, "every one that is discontented, and
every one that is in debt, gather themselves to her." The strangest
people, on the strangest errands, run over each other in that cosy
little nest of hers. Fine ladies with over-full hearts, and seedy
gentlemen with over-empty pockets, jostle each other at her door; and
she has a smile, and a repartee, and good, cunning, practical wisdom
for each and every one of them, and then dismisses them to bill and
coo with Claude, and laugh over everybody and everything. The only
price which she demands for her services is, to be allowed to laugh;
and if that be permitted, she will be as busy, and earnest, and
tender, as Saint Elizabeth herself. "I have no children of my own,"
she says, "so I just make everybody my children, Claude included; and
play with them, and laugh at them, and pet them, and help them out of
their scrapes, just as I should if they were in my own nursery." And
so it befalls that she is every one's confidant; and though every one
seems on the point of taking liberties with her, yet no one does:
partly because they are in her power, and partly because, like an
Eastern sultana, she carries a poniard, and can use it, though only in
self-defence. So if great people, or small people either (who can give
themselves airs as well as their betters), take her plain speaking
unkindly, she just speaks a little more plainly, once for all, and
goes off smiling to some one else; as a hummingbird, if a flower has
no honey in it, whirs away, with a saucy flirt of its pretty little
tail, to the next branch on the bush.
"I must know more of this American," said Scoutbush, at last.
"Well, he would be very improving company for you; and I know you like
"I mean--what has he to do with her?"
"That is just what I will not tell you. One thing I will tell you,
though, for it may help to quench any vain hopes on your part; and
that is, the reason which she gives for not marrying him."
"Because he is an idler."
"What would she say of me, then?" groaned Scoutbush.
"Very true; for, you must understand, this Mr. Stangrave is not what
you or I should call an idle man. He has travelled over half the world
and made the best use of his eyes. He has filled his house in New
York, they say, with gems of art gathered from every country in
Europe. He is a finished scholar; talks half-a-dozen different
languages, sings, draws, writes poetry, reads hard every day, at every
subject, from gardening to German metaphysics--altogether, one of the
most highly cultivated men I know, and quite an Admirable Crichton in
"Then why does she call him an idler?"
"Because, she says, he has no great purpose in life. She will marry
no one who will not devote himself, and all he has, to some great,
chivalrous, heroic enterprise; whose one object is to be of use, even
if he has to sacrifice his life to it. She says that there must be
such men still left in the world; and that if she finds one, him she
will marry, and no one else."
"Why, there are none such to be found now-a-days, I thought?"
"You heard what she herself said on that very point."
There was a silence for a minute or two. Scout-bush had heard, and was
pondering it in his heart. At last,--
"I am not cut out for a hero; so I suppose I must give her up. But I
wish sometimes I could be of use, Mrs. Mellot: but what can a fellow
"I thought there was an Irish tenantry to be looked after, my lord,
and a Cornish tenantry too."
"That's what Campbell is always saying: but what more can I do than I
do? As for those poor Paddies, I never ask them for rent; if I did, I
should not get it; so there is no generosity in that. And as for the
Aberalva people, they have got on very well without me for twenty
years; and I don't know them, nor what they want; nor even if they do
want anything, except fish enough, and I can't put more fish into the
sea, Mrs. Mellot?"
"Try and be a good soldier, then," said she, laughing. "Why should not
Lord Scoutbush emulate his illustrious countryman, conquer at a second
Waterloo, and die a duke?"
"I'm not cut out for a general, I am afraid; but if--I don't say if I
could marry that woman--I suppose it would be a foolish thing--though
I shall break my heart, I believe, if I do not. Oh, Mrs. Mellot, you
cannot tell what a fool I have made myself about her; and I cannot
help it! It's not her beauty merely; but there is something so noble
in her face, like one of those Greek goddesses Claude talks of;
and when she is acting, if she has to say anything grand, or
generous--or--you know the sort of thing,--she brings it out with such
a voice, and such a look, from the very bottom of her heart,--it makes
me shudder; just as she did when she told that Yankee, that every one
could be a hero, or a martyr, if he chose. Mrs. Mellot, I am sure she
is one, or she could not look and speak as she does."
"She is one!" said Sabina; "a heroine, and a martyr too."
"If I could,--that was what I was going to say,--if I could but win
that woman's respect--as I live, I ask no more; only to be sure she
didn't despise me. I'd do--I don't know what I wouldn't do. I'd--I'd
study the art of war: I know there are books about it. I'd get out
to the East, away from this depot work; and if there is no fighting
there, as every one says there will not be, I'd go into a marching
regiment, and see service. I'd,--hang it, if they'd have me,--I'd even
go to the senior department at Sandhurst, and read mathematics!"
Sabina kept her countenance (though with difficulty) at this
magnificent bathos; for she saw that the little man was really in
earnest; and that the looks and words of the strange actress had
awakened in him something far deeper and nobler than the mere sensual
passion of a boy.
"Ah, if I had but gone out to Varna with the rest! I thought myself a
lucky fellow to be left here."
"Do you know that it is getting very late?"
So Frederick Lord Scoutbush went home to his rooms: and there sat
for three hours and more with his feet on the fender, rejecting the
entreaties of Mr. Bowie, his servant, either to have something, or to
go to bed; yea, he forgot even to smoke, by which Mr. Bowie "jaloused"
that he was hit very hard indeed: but made no remark, being a
Scotchman, and of a cautious temperament.
However, from that night Scoutbush was a changed man, and tried to be
so. He read of nothing but sieges and stockades, brigade evolutions,