Part 3 out of 7
"Hark to the merry merry Christchurch bells! She's up by this time;--
that don't sound like a drag now!" cries Tom, bursting desperately, with
elbow-guarded visage, through the tangled scrub.
"What's the matter, Trebooze? No, thanks! 'Modest quenchers' won't
improve the wind just now."
For Trebooze has halted, panting and bathed in perspiration; has been at
the brandy flask again; and now offers Tom a "quencher," as he calls it.
"As you like," says Trebooze, sulkily, having meant it as a token of
reconciliation, and pushes on.
They are now upon a little open meadow, girdled by green walls of wood;
and along the river-bank the hounds are fairly racing. Tom and Peter
hold on; Trebooze slackens.
"Your master don't look right this morning, Peter."
Peter lifts his hand to his mouth, to signify the habit of drinking; and
then shakes it in a melancholy fashion, to signify that the said habit
has reached a lamentable and desperate point.
Tom looks back. Trebooze has pulled up, and is walking, wiping still at
his face. The hounds have overrun the scent, and are back again,
flemishing about the plashed fence on the river brink.
"Over! over! over!" shouts Peter, tumbling over the fence into the
stream, and staggering across.
Trebooze comes up to it, tries to scramble over, mutters something, and
sits down astride of a bough.
"You are not well, Squire?"
"Well as ever I was in my life! only a little sick--have been several
times lately; couldn't sleep either--haven't slept an hour this week.--
Don't know what it is."
"What ducks of hounds those are!" says Tom, trying, for ulterior
purposes, to ingratiate himself. "How they are working there all by
themselves, like so many human beings. Perfect!"
"Yes--don't want us--may as well sit here a minute. Awfully hot, eh?
What a splendid creature that Miss St. Just is! I say, Peter!"
"Yes, sir," shouts Peter, from the other side.
"Those hounds ain't right!" with an oath.
"Not right, sir?"
"Didn't I tell you?--five couple and a half--no, five couple--no, six.
Hang it! I can't see, I think! How many hounds did I tell you to bring
"Five couple, sir."
"Then ... why did you bring out that other?"
"Which other?" shouts Peter, while Thurnall eyes Trebooze keenly.
"Why that! He's none o' mine! Nasty black cur, how did he get here?"
"Where? There's never no cur here!"
"You lie, you oaf--no--why--Doctor--How many hounds are there here?"
"I can't see," says Tom, "among those bushes."
"Can't see, eh? Why don't those brutes hit it off?" says Trebooze,
drawling, as if he had forgotten the matter, and lounging over the
fence, drops into the stream, followed by Tom, and wades across.
The hounds are all round him, and he is couraging them on, fussing again
more than ever; but without success.
"Gone to hole somewhere here," says Peter.
"....!" cries Trebooze, looking round, with a sudden shudder, and face
of terror. "There's that black brute again! there, behind me! Hang it,
he'll bite me next!" and he caught up his leg, and struck behind him
with his spear.
There was no dog there.
Peter was about to speak; but Tom silenced him by a look, and shouted,--
"Here we are! Gone to holt in this alder root!"
"Now then, little Carlingford! Out of the way, puppies!" cries Trebooze,
righted again for the moment by the excitement, and thrusting the hounds
right and left, he stoops down to put in the little terrier.
Suddenly he springs up, with something like a scream, and then bursts
out on Peter with a volley of oaths.
"Didn't I tell you to drive that cur away?"
"Which cur, sir?" cries Peter, trembling, and utterly confounded.
"That cur!... Can't I believe my own eyes? Will you tell me that the
beggar didn't bolt between my legs this moment, and went into the hole
before the terrier?"
Neither answered. Peter with utter astonishment; Tom because he saw what
was the matter.
"Don't stoop, Squire. You'll make the blood fly to your head. Let me--"
But Trebooze thrust him back with curses.
"I'll have the brute out, and send the spear through him!" and flinging
himself on his knees again, Trebooze began tearing madly at the roots
and stones, shouting to the half-buried terrier to tear the intruder.
Peter looked at Tom, and then wrung his hands in despair.
"Dirty work--beastly work!" muttered Trebooze. "Nothing but slugs and
evats!--Toads, too,--hang the toads! What a plague brings all this
vermin? Curse it!" shrieked he, springing back, "there's an adder! and
he's gone up my sleeve! Help me! Doctor! Thurnall! or I'm a dead man!"
Tom caught the arm, thrust his hand up the sleeve, and seemed to snatch
out the snake, and hurl it back into the river.
"All right now!--a near chance, though!"
Peter stood open mouthed.
"I never saw no snake!" cried he.
Tom caught him a buffet which sent him reeling. "Look after your hounds,
you blind ass! How are you now, Trebooze?" And he caught the squire
round the waist, for he was reeling.
"The world! The world upside down! rocking and swinging! Who's put me
feet upwards, like a fly on a ceiling? I'm falling, falling off, into
the clouds--into hell-fire--hold me!--Toads and adders! and wasps--to go
to holt in a wasp's nest! Drive 'em away,--get me a green bough! I shall
be stung to death!"
And tearing off a green bough, the wretched man rushed into the river,
beating wildly right and left at his fancied tormentors.
"What is it?" cry Campbell and Scoutbush, who have run up breathless.
"Delirium tremens. Campbell, get home as fast as you can, and send me up
a bottle of morphine. Peter, take the hounds home. I must go after him."
"I'll go home with Campbell, and send the bottle up by a man and horse,"
cries Scoutbush; and away the two trot at a gallant pace, for a
cross-country run home.
"Mr. Tardrew, come with me, there's a good man!--I shall want help."
Tardrew made no reply, but dashed through the river at his heels.
Trebooze had already climbed the plashed fence, and was running wildly
across the meadow. Tom dragged Tardrew up it after him.
"Thank 'ee, sir," but nothing more. The two had not met since the
Trebooze fell, and lay rolling, trying in vain to shield his face from
the phantom wasps.
They lifted him up, and spoke gently to him.
"Better get home to Mrs. Trebooze, sir," said Tardrew, with as much
tenderness as his gruff voice could convey.
"Yes, home! home to Molly! My Molly's always kind. She won't let me be
eaten up alive. Molly, Molly!"
And shrieking for his wife, the wretched man started to run again.
"Molly, I'm in hell! Only help me! you're always right! only forgive me!
and I'll never, never again--"
And then came out hideous confessions; then fresh hideous delusions.
* * * * *
Three weary up-hill miles lay between them and the house: but home they
got at last.
Trebooze dashed at the house-door, tore it open; slammed and bolted it
behind him, to shut out the pursuing fiends.
"Quick, round by the back-door!" said Tom, who had not opposed him for
fear of making him furious, but dreaded some tragedy if he were left
But his fear was needless. Trebooze looked into the breakfast-room. It
was empty; she was not out of bed yet. He rushed upstairs into her
bed-room, shrieking her name; she leaped up to meet him; and the poor
wretch buried his head in that faithful bosom, screaming to her to save
him from he knew not what.
She put her arms round him, soothed him, wept over him sacred tears. "My
William! my own William! Yes, I will take care of you! Nothing shall
hurt you,--my own, own!"
Vain, drunken, brutal, unfaithful. Yes: but her husband still.
There was a knock at the door.
"Who is that?" she cried, with her usual fierceness, terrified for his
character, not terrified for herself.
"Mr. Thurnall, madam. Have you any laudanum in the house?"
"Yes, here! Oh, come in! Thank God you are come! What is to be done?"
Tom looked for the laudanum bottle, and poured out a heavy dose.
"Make him take that, madam, and put him to bed. I will wait downstairs
"Thurnall, Thurnall!" calls Trebooze, "don't leave me, old fellow! you
are a good fellow. I say, forgive and forget. Don't leave me! Only don't
leave me, for the room is as full of devils as--"
* * * * *
An hour after, Tom and Tardrew were walking home together.
"He is quite quiet now, and fast asleep."
"Will he mend, sir?" asks Tardrew.
"Of course, he will: and perhaps in more ways than one. Best thing that
could have happened--will bring him to his senses, and he'll start
"We'll hope so,--he's been mad, I think, ever since he heard of that
"So have others: but not with brandy," thought Tom: but he said nothing.
"I say, sir," quoth Tardrew, after a while, "how's Parson Headley?"
"Getting well, I'm happy to say."
"Glad to hear it, sir. He's a good man, after all; though we did have
our differences. But he's a good man, and worked like one."
"Never heard such beautiful prayers in all my life, as he made over my
"I don't doubt it," said Tom. "He understands his business at heart,
though he may have his fancies."
"And so do some others," said Tardrew in a gruff tone, as if half to
himself, "who have no fancies.... Tell you what it is, sir: you was
right this time; and that's plain truth. I'm sorry to hear talk of your
"My good sir," quoth Tom, "I shall be very sorry to go. I have found
place and people here as pleasant as man could wish: but go I must."
"Glad you're satisfied, sir; wish you was going to stay," says Tardrew.
"Seen Miss Harvey this last day or two, sir?"
"Yes. You know she's to keep her school?"
"I know it. Nursed my girl like an angel."
"Like what she is," said Tom.
"You said one true word once: that she was too good for us."
"For this world," said Tom; and fell into a great musing.
By those curt and surly utterances did Tardrew, in true British bulldog
fashion, express a repentance too deep for words; too deep for all
confessionals, penances, and emotions or acts of contrition; the
repentance not of the excitable and theatric southern, unstable as
water, even in his most violent remorse: but of the still, deep-hearted
northern, whose pride breaks slowly and silently, but breaks once for
all; who tells to God what he will never tell to man; and having told
it, is a new creature from that day forth for ever.
The pleasant summer voyage is over. The Waterwitch is lounging off Port
Madoc, waiting for her crew. The said crow are busy on shore drinking
the ladies' healths, with a couple of sovereigns which Valencia has
given them, in her sister's name and her own. The ladies, under the care
of Elsley, and the far more practical care of Mr. Bowie, are rattling
along among children, maids, and boxes, over the sandy flats of the
Traeth Mawr, beside the long reaches of the lazy stream, with the blue
surges of the hills in front, and the silver sea behind. Soon they begin
to pass wooded knolls, islets of rock in the alluvial plain. The higher
peaks of Snowdon sink down behind the lower spurs in front; the plain
narrows; closes in, walled round with woodlands clinging to the steep
hill-sides; and, at last, they enter the narrow gorge of
Pont-Aberglaslyn,--pretty enough no doubt, but much over-praised; for there
are in Devon alone a dozen passes far grander, both for form and size.
Soon they emerge again on flat meadows, mountain-cradled; and the grave
of the mythic greyhound, and the fair old church, shrouded in tall
trees; and last, but not least, at the famous Leek Hotel, where ruleth
Mrs. Lewis, great and wise, over the four months' Babylon of guides,
cars, chambermaids, tourists, artists, and reading-parties, camp-stools,
telescopes, poetry-books, blue uglies, red petticoats, and parasols of
There they settle down in the best rooms in the house, and all goes as
merrily as it can, while the horrors which they have left behind them
hang, like a black background, to all their thoughts. However, both
Scoutbush and Campbell send as cheerful reports as they honestly can;
and gradually the exceeding beauty of the scenery, and the amusing
bustle of the village, make them forget, perhaps, a good deal which they
ought to have remembered.
As for poor Lucia, no one will complain of her for being happy; for
feeling that she has got a holiday, the first for now four years, and
trying to enjoy it to the utmost. She has no household cares. Mr. Bowie
manages everything, and does so, in order to keep up the honour of the
family, on a somewhat magnificent scale. The children, in that bracing
air, are better than she has ever seen them. She has Valencia all to
herself; and Elsley, in spite of the dark fancies over which he has been
brooding, is better behaved, on the whole, than usual.
He has escaped--so he considers--escaped from Campbell, above all from
Thurnall. From himself, indeed, he has not escaped; but the company of
self is, on the whole, more pleasant to him than otherwise just now. For
though he may turn up his nose at tourists and reading-parties, and long
for contemplative solitude, yet there is a certain pleasure to some
people, and often strongest in those who pretend most shyness, in the
"digito monstrari, et diceri, hic est:" in taking for granted that
everybody has read his poems; that everybody is saying in their hearts,
"There goes Mr. Vavasour the distinguished poet. I wonder what he is
writing now? I wonder where he has been to-day, and what he has been
So Elsley went up Hebog, and looked over the glorious vista of the vale,
over the twin lakes, and the rich sheets of woodland, with Aran and Moel
Meirch guarding them right and left, and the greystone glaciers of the
Glyder walling up the valley miles above. And they went up Snowdon, too,
and saw little beside fifty fog-blinded tourists, five-and-twenty
dripping ponies, and five hundred empty porter-bottles; wherefrom they
returned, as do many, disgusted, and with great colds in their heads.
But most they loved to scramble up the crags of Dinas Emrys, and muse
over the ruins of the old tower, "where Merlin taught Vortigern the
courses of the stars;" till the stars set and rose as they had done for
Merlin and his pupil, behind the four great peaks of Aran, Siabod,
Cnicht, and Hebog, which point to the four quarters of the heavens: or
to lie by the side of the boggy spring, which once was the magic well of
the magic castle, till they saw in fancy the white dragon and the red
rise from its depths once more, and fight high in air the battle which
foretold the fall of the Cymry before the Sassenach invader.
One thing, indeed, troubled Elsley,--that Claude was his only companion;
for Valencia avoided carefully any more _tete-a-tete_ walks with him.
She had found out her mistake, and devoted herself now to Lucia. She had
a fair excuse enough, for Lucia was not just then in a state for rambles
and scrambles; and of that Elsley certainly had no right to complain; so
that he was forced to leave them both at home, with as good grace as he
could muster, and to wander by himself, scribbling his fancies, while
they lounged and worked in the pleasant garden of the hotel, with Bowie
fetching and carrying for them all day long, and intimating pretty
roundly to Miss Clara his "opeeenion," that he "was very proud and
thankful of the office: but he did think that he had to do a great many
things for Mrs. Vavasour every day which would come with a much better
grace from Mr. Vavasour himself: and that, when he married, he should
not leave his wife to be nursed by other men." Which last words were
spoken with an ulterior object, well understood by the hearer; for
between Clara and Bowie there was one of those patient and honourable
attachments so common between worthy servants. They had both "kept
company," though only by letter, for the most part, for now five years;
they had both saved a fair sum of money; and Clara might have married
Bowie when she chose, had she not thought it her duty to take care of
her mistress; while Bowie considered himself equally indispensable to
the welfare of that "puir feckless laddie," his master.
So they waited patiently, amusing the time by little squabbles of
jealousy, real or pretended; and Bowie was faithful, though Clara was
past thirty now, and losing her good looks.
"So ye'll see your lassie, Mr. Bowie!" said Sergeant MacArthur, his
intimate, when he started for Aberalva that summer. "I'm thinking ye'd
better put her out of her pain soon. Five years is ower lang courting,
and she's na pullet by now, saving your pardon."
"Hoooo--," says Bowie; "leave the green gooseberries to the lads, and
gi' me the ripe fruit, Sergeant."
However, he found love-making in his own fashion so pleasant, that, not
content with carrying Mrs. Vavasour's babies about all day long, he had
several times to be gently turned out of the nursery, where he wanted to
assist in washing and dressing them, on the ground that an old soldier
could turn his hand to anything.
So slipped away a fortnight and more, during which Valencia was the
cynosure of all eyes, and knew it also: for Claude Mellot, half to amuse
her, and half to tease Elsley, made her laugh many a time by retailing
little sayings and doings in her praise and dispraise, picked up from
rich Manchester gentlemen, who would fain have married her without a
penny, and from strong-minded Manchester ladies, who envied her beauty a
little, and set her down, of course, as an empty-minded worldling, and a
proud aristocrat. The majority of the reading-parties, meanwhile,
thought a great deal more about Valencia than about their books. The
Oxford men, it seemed, though of the same mind as the Cambridge men in
considering her the model of all perfection, were divided as to their
method of testifying the same. Two or three of them, who were given to
that simpering and flirting tone with young ladies to which Oxford
would-be-fine gentlemen are so pitiably prone, hung about the inn-door
to ogle her: contrived always to be walking in the garden when she was
there, dressed out as if for High Street at four o'clock on a May
afternoon; tormented Claude by fruitless attempts to get from him an
introduction, which he had neither the right nor the mind to give; and
at last (so Bowie told Claude one night, and Claude told the whole party
next morning) tried to bribe and flatter Valencia's maid into giving
them a bit of ribbon, or a cast-off glove, which had belonged to the
idol. Whereon that maiden, in virtuous indignation, told Mr. Bowie, and
complained moreover (as maids are bound to do to valets for whom they
have a penchant), of their having dared to compliment her on her own
good looks: by which act she succeeded, of course, in making Mr. Bowie
understand that other people still thought her pretty, if he did not;
and also in arousing in him that jealousy which is often the best
helpmate of sweet love. So Mr. Bowie went forth in his might that very
evening, and finding two of the Oxford men, informed them in plain
Scotch, that, "Gin he caught them, or any ither such skellums,
philandering after his leddies, or his leddies' maids, he'd jist knock
their empty pows togither." To which there was no reply but silence; for
Mr. Bowie stood six feet four without his shoes, and had but the week
before performed, for the edification of the Cambridge men, who held him
in high honour, a few old Guards' feats; such, as cutting in two at one
sword-blow a suspended shoulder of mutton; lifting a long table by his
teeth; squeezing a quart pewter pot flat between his fingers; and other
little recreations of those who are "born unto Rapha."
But the Cantabs, and a couple of gallant Oxford boating men who had
fraternised with them, testified their admiration in their simple honest
way, by putting down their pipes whenever they saw Valencia coming, and
just lifting their hats when they met her close. It was taking a
liberty, no doubt. "But I tell you, Mellot," said Wynd, as brave and
pure-minded a fellow as ever pulled in the University eight, "the Arabs,
when they see such a creature, say, 'Praise Allah for beautiful women,'
and quite right; they may remind some fellows of worse things, but they
always remind me of heaven and the angels; and my hat goes off to her by
instinct, just as it does when I go into a church."
That was all; simple chivalrous admiration, and delight in her
loveliness, as in that of a lake, or a mountain sunset; but nothing
more. The good fellows had no time, indeed, to fancy themselves in love
with her, or her with them, for every day was too short for them; what
with reading all the morning, and starting out in the afternoon in
strange garments (which became shabbier and more ragged very rapidly as
the weeks slipped on) upon all manner of desperate errands; walking
unheard-of-distances, and losing their way upon the mountains;
scrambling cliffs and now and then falling down them; camping all night
by unpronounceable lakes, in the hope of catching mythical trout; trying
in all ways how hungry, thirsty, dirty, and tired a man could make
himself, and how far he could go without breaking his neck, any approach
to which catastrophe was hailed (as were all other mishaps) as "all in
the day's work," and "the finest fun in the world," by that
unconquerable English "lebensglueckseligkeit," which is a perpetual
wonder to our sober German cousins. Ah, glorious twenty-one, with your
inexhaustible powers of doing and enjoying, eating and hungering,
sleeping and sitting up, reading and playing! Happy are those who still
possess you, and can take their fill of your golden cup, steadied, but
not saddened, by the remembrance, that for all things a good and loving
God will bring them into judgment. Happier still those who (like a few)
retain in body and soul the health and buoyancy of twenty-one on to the
very verge of forty, and seeming to grow younger-hearted as they grow
older-headed, can cast off care and work at a moment's warning, laugh
and frolic now as they did twenty years ago, and say with Wordsworth--
"So was it when I was a boy,
So let it be when I am old,
Or let me die!"
Unfortunately, as will appear hereafter, Elsley's especial _betes
noirs_ were this very Wynd and his inseparable companion, Naylor, who
happened to be not only the best men of the set, but Mellot's especial
friends. Both were Rugby men, now reading for their degree. Wynd was a
Shropshire squire's son, a lissom fair-haired man, the handiest of
boxers, rowers, riders, shots, fishermen, with a noisy superabundance of
animal spirits, which maddened Elsley. Yet Wynd had sentiment in his
way, though he took good care never to show it Elsley; could repeat
Tennyson from end to end; spouted the Mort d'Arthur up hill and down
dale, and chaunted rapturously, "Come into the garden, Maud!" while he
expressed his opinion of Maud's lover in terms more forcible than
delicate. Naylor, fidus Achates, was a Gloucestershire parson's son, a
huge heavy-looking man, with a thick curling lip, and a sleepy eye; but
he had brains enough to become a first-rate classic; and in that same
sleepy eye and heavy lip lay an infinity of quiet humour; racy old
country stories, quaint scraps of out-of-the-way learning, jovial old
ballads, which he sang with the mellowest of voices, and a slang
vocabulary, which made him the dread of all bargees from Newnham pool to
Upware. Him also Elsley hated, because Naylor looked always as if he was
laughing at him, which indeed he was.
And the worst was, that Elsley had always to face them both at once. If
Wynd vaulted over a gate into his very face, with a "How de' do, Mr.
Vavasour? Had any verses this morning?" in the same tone as if he had
asked, "Had any sport?" Naylor's round face was sure to look over the
stone-wall, pipe in mouth, with a "Don't disturb the gentleman, Tom;
don't you see he's a composing of his rhymes!" in a strong provincial
dialect put on for the nonce. In fact, the two young rogues, having no
respect whatsoever for genius, perhaps because they had each of them a
little genius of their own, made a butt of the poet, as soon as they
found out that he was afraid of them.
But worse _betes noirs_ than either Wynd or Naylor were on their way to
fill up the cup of Elsley's discomfort. And at last, without a note of
warning, appeared in Beddgelert a phenomenon which rejoiced some hearts,
but perturbed also the spirits not only of the Oxford "philanderers,"
but those of Elsley Vavasour, and, what is more, of Valencia herself.
She was sitting one evening at the window with Lucia, looking out into
the village and the pleasure-grounds before the hotel. They were both
laughing and chatting over the groups of tourists in their pretty Irish
way, just as they had done when they were girls; for Lucia's heart was
expanding under the quiet beauty of the place, the freedom from
household care, and what was more, from money anxieties; for Valencia
had slipped into her hand a cheque for fifty pounds from Scoutbush, and
assured her that he would be quite angry if she spoke of paying the rent
of the rooms; Elsley was mooning down the river by himself; Claude was
entertaining his Cambridge acquaintances, as he did every night, with
his endless fun and sentiment. Gradually the tourists slipt in one by
one, as the last rays of the sun faded off the peaks of Aran, and the
mist settled down upon the dark valley beneath, and darkness fell upon
that rock-girdled paradise; when up to the door below there drove a car,
at sight whereof out rushed, not waiters only and landlady, but Mr.
Bowie himself, who helped out a very short figure in a pea-jacket and a
shining boating hat, and then a very tall one in a wild shooting-coat
and a military cap.
"My brother, and mon Saint Pere! Lucia! too delightful! This is why they
did not write." And Valencia sprang up, and was going to run down stairs
to them, when she paused at Lucia's call.
"Who have they with them'? Val,--come and look! who can it be?"
Campbell and Bowie were helping out carefully a tall man, covered up in
many wrappers. It was too dark to see the face; but a fancy crossed
Valencia's mind which made her look grave, in spite of her pleasure.
He was evidently weak, as from recent illness; for his two supporters
led him up the steps, and Scoutbush seemed full of directions and
inquiries, and fussed about with the landlady, till she was tired of
curtseying to "my lord."
A minute afterwards Bowie threw open the door grandly. "My lord, my
ladies!" and in trotted Scoutbush, and began kissing them fiercely, and
then dancing about.
"Oh my dears! Here at last--out of that horrid city of the plague! Such
sights as I have seen--" and then he paused. "Do you know, Val and
Lucia, I'm glad I've seen it: I don't know, but I feel as if I should be
a better man all my life; and those poor people, how well they did
behave! And the Major, he's an angel! And so's that brick of a doctor,
and the mad schoolmistress, and the curate. Everybody, I think, but me.
Hang it, Val! but your words shan't come true! I will be of some use yet
before I die! But I've--" and Valencia went up to him and kissed him,
while he ran on, and Lucia said,--
"You have been of use already, dear Fred. You have sent me and the dear
children to this sweet place, where we have been safer and happier
than--" (she checked herself); "and your generous present too. I feel quite
a girl again, thanks to you. Val and I have done nothing but laugh all day
long;" and she began kissing him too.
"'How happy could I be with either,
Were t'other dear charmer away!'"
broke out Scoutbush. "What a pity it is now, that I should have two such
sweet creatures making love to me, and can't marry either of them? Why
did ye go and be my father's daughters, mavourneen? I'd have made a
peeress of the one of ye, if ye'd had the sense to be anybody else's
At which they all laughed, and laughed, and chattered broad Irish
together as they used to do for fun in old Kilanbaggan Castle, before
Lucia was a weary wife, and Valencia a worldly fine lady, and Scoutbush
a rackety guardsman, breaking half of the ten commandments every week,
rather from ignorance than vice.
"Well, I'm glad ye're pleased with me, asthore," said he at last to
Lucia; "but I've done another little good deed, I flatter myself; for
I've brought away the poor spalpeen of a priest, and have got him safe
in the house."
Valencia stopped short in her fun.
"Why, what have ye to say against that, Miss Val?"
"Why, won't he be a little in the way?" said Valencia, not knowing what
"Faith, he needn't trouble you; and I shall take very good care--I
wonder when the supper is coming--that neither he nor any else troubles
me. But really," said he, in his natural voice, and with some feeling,
"I was ashamed to go away and leave him there. He would have died if we
had. He worked day and night. Talk of saints and martyrs! Campbell
himself said he was an idler by the side of him."
"Oh! I hope Major Campbell has not over-exerted himself!"
"He? nothing hurts him. He's as hard as his own sword. But the poor
curate worked on till he got the cholera himself. He always expected it,
longed for it; Campbell said--wanted to die. Some love affair, I
suppose, poor fellow?--and a terrible bout he had for eight-and-forty
hours. Thurnall thought him gone again and again; but he pulled the poor
fellow through, after all, and we got some one (that is, Campbell did)
to take his duty; and brought him away, after a good deal of persuasion;
for he would not move as long as there was a fresh case in the town;
that is why we never wrote. We did not know till the last hour when we
should start; and we expected to be with you in two days, and give you a
pleasant surprise. He was half dead when we got him on board; but the
week's sea-air helped him through; so I must not grumble at these
northerly breezes. 'It's an ill wind that blows nobody good,' they say!"
Valencia heard all this as in a dream; and watched her chattering
brother with a stupefied air. She comprehended all now; and bitterly she
blamed herself. He had really loved her, then; set himself manfully to
die at his post, that he might forget her in a better world. How
shamefully she had trifled with that noble heart! How should she ever
meet--how have courage to look him in the face? And not love, or
anything like love, but sacred pity and self-abasement filled her heart,
as his fair, delicate face rose up before her, all wan and shrunken,
with sad upbraiding eyes; and round it such a halo, pure and pale, as
crowns, in some old German picture, a martyr's head.
"He has had the cholera! he has been actually dying?" asked she at last,
with that strange wish to hear over again bad news, which one knows too
"Of course he has. Why, you are not going away, Valencia? You need not
be afraid of infection. Campbell, and Thurnall, too, says that's all
nonsense; and they must know, having seen it so often. Here comes Bowie
at last with supper!"
"Has Mr. Headley had anything to eat?" asked Valencia, who longed to run
away to her own room, but dared not.
"He is eating now like any ged, ma'am; and Major Campbell's making him
"He must be very ill," thought she, "for mon Saint Pere never to have
come near us yet:" and then she thought with terror that her Saint Pere
might have guessed the truth, and be angry with her. And yet she trusted
in Frank's secrecy. He would not betray her.
Take care, Valencia. When a woman has to trust a man not to betray her,
and does trust him, she may soon find it not only easy, but necessary,
to do more than trust him.
However, in five minutes Campbell came in. Valencia saw at once that
there was no change in his feelings to her: but he could talk of nothing
but Headley, his self-devotion, courage, angelic gentleness, and
humility; and every word of his praise was a fresh arrow in Valencia's
conscience; at last,--
"One knows well enough what is the matter," said he, almost bitterly--
"what is the matter, I sometimes think, with half the noblest men in the
world, and nine-tenths of the noblest women; and with many a one, too,
God help them! who is none of the noblest, and therefore does not know
how to take the bitter cup, as he knows--"
"What does the philosopher mean now?" asked Scoutbush, looking up from
the cold lamb. Valencia knew but too well what he meant.
"He has a history, my dear lord."
"A history? What! is he writing a book?"
Campbell laughed a quiet under-laugh, half sad, half humorous.
"I am very tired," said Valencia; "I really think I shall go to bed."
She went to her room; but to bed she did not go: she sat down and cried
till she could cry no more, and lay awake the greater part of the night,
tossing miserably. She would have done better if she had prayed; but
prayer, about such a matter, was what Valencia knew nothing of. She was
regular enough at church, of course, and said her prayers and confessed
her sins in a general way, and prayed about her "soul," as she had been
taught to do,--unless she was too tired: but to pray really, about a
real sorrow, a real sin like this, was a thought which never entered her
mind; and if it had, she would have driven it away again: just because
the anxiety was so real, practical, human, it was a matter which had
nothing to do with religion; which it seemed impertinent--almost wrong
to lay before the Throne of God.
So she came downstairs next morning, pale, restless, unrefreshed in body
or mind; and her peace of mind was not improved by seeing, seated at the
breakfast-table, Frank Headley, whom Lucia and Scoutbush were stuffing
with all manner of good things.
She blushed scarlet--do what she would she could not help it--when he
rose and bowed to her. Half choked, she came forward and offered her
hand. She was so "shocked to hear that he had been so dangerously ill,--
no one had even told them of it,--it had come upon them so suddenly;"
and so forth.
She spoke kindly, but avoided the least tone of tenderness: for she felt
that if she gave way, she might be only too tender; and to re-awaken
hope in his heart would be only cruelty. And, therefore, and for other
reasons also, she did not look him in the face as she spoke.
He answered so cheerfully that she was half disappointed, in spite of
her remorse, at his not being as miserable as she had expected. Still,
if he had overcome the passion, it was so much better for him. But yet
Valencia hardly wished that he should have overcome it, so
self-contradictory is woman's heart; and her pity had sunk to half-ebb,
and her self-complacency was rising with a flowing tide, as he chatted on
quietly, but genially, about the voyage, and the scenery, and Snowdon,
which he had never seen, and which he would ascend that very day.
"You will do nothing of the kind, Mr. Headley!" cried Lucia. "Is he not
mad, Major Campbell, quite mad?"
"I know I am mad, my dear Mrs. Vavasour; I have been so a long time: but
Snowdon ponies are in their sober senses,--and I shall take one of
"Fulfil the old pun?--Begin beside yourself, and end beside your horse!
I am sure he is not strong enough to sit over those rocks. No, you shall
stay at home comfortably here; Valencia and I will take care of you."
"And mon Saint Pere too. I have a thousand things to say to him."
"And so has he to Queen Whims."
So Scoutbush sent Bowie for "John Jones Clerk," the fisherman (may his
days be as many as his salmon, and as good as his flies!), and the four
stayed at home, and talked over the Aberalva tragedies, till, as it
befell, both Lucia and Campbell left the room awhile.
Immediately Frank rose, and walking across to Valencia, laid the fatal
ring on the arm of her chair, and returned to his seat without a word.
"You are very--. I hope that it--," stammered Valencia.
"You hope that it was a comfort to me? It was; and I shall be always
grateful to you for it."
Valencia heard an emphasis on the "was." It checked the impulse (foolish
enough) which rose in her, to bid him keep the ring.
So, prim and dignified, she slipped it into its place on her finger, and
went on with her work; merely saying,--
"I need not say that I am happy that anything which I could do should
have been of use to you in such a fearful time."
"It was a fearful time! but for myself, I cannot be too glad of it. God
grant that it may have been as useful to others as to me! It cured me of
a great folly. Now I look back, I am astonished at my own absurdity,
rudeness, presumption.--You must let me say it!--I do not know how to
thank you enough, I cannot trust myself with the fit words, they would
be so strong: but I owe this confession to you, and to your exceeding
goodness and kindness, when you would have been justified in treating me
as a madman. I was mad, I believe: but I am in my right mind now, I
assure you," said he gaily. "Had I not been, I need hardly say you would
not have seen me here. What a prospect this is!" And he rose and looked
out of the window.
Valencia had heard all this with downcast eyes and unmoved face. Was she
pleased at it? Not in the least, the naughty child that she was; and
more, she grew quite angry with herself, ashamed of herself, for having
thought and felt so much about him the night before. "How silly of me!
He is very well, and does not care for me. And who is he, pray, that I
should even look at him?"
And, as if in order to put her words into practice, she looked at him
there and then. He was gazing out of the window, leaning gracefully and
yet feebly against the shutter, with the full glory of the forenoon sun
upon his sharp-cut profile and rich chestnut locks; and after all,
having looked at him once, she could not help looking at him again. He
was certainly a most gentleman-like man, elegant from head to foot;
there was not an ungraceful line about him, to his very boots, and the
white nails of his slender fingers; even the defects of his figure--the
too great length of the neck and slope of the shoulders--increased his
likeness to those saintly pictures with which he had been mixed up in
her mind the night before. He was at one extreme pole of the different
types of manhood, and that burly doctor who had saved his life at the
other: but her Saint Pere alone perfectly combined the two. There was
nobody like him, after all. Perhaps her wisest plan, as Headley had
forgotten his fancy, was to confess all to the Saint Pere (as she
usually did her little sins), and get some sort of absolution from him.
However, she must say something in answer--
"Yes, it is a very lovely view; but really I must say one more word
about this matter. I have to thank you, you know, for the good faith
which you have kept with me."
He looked round, seemingly amused. "_Cela va sans dire_!" and he bowed;
"pray do not say any more about the matter;" and he looked at her with
such humble and thankful eyes, that Valencia was sorry not to hear more
from him than--
"Pray tell me--for of course you know--the name of this exquisite valley
up which I am looking."
"Gwynnant. You must go up it when you are well enough; and see the
lakes; they are the only ones in Snowdon from the banks of which the
primaeval forest has not disappeared."
"Indeed? I must make shift to go there this very afternoon, for--do not
laugh at me--but I never saw a lake in my life."
"Never saw a lake?"
"No. I am a true Lowlander: born and bred among bleak Norfolk sands and
fens--so much the worse for this chest of mine; and this is my first
sight of mountains. It is all like a dream to me, and a dream which I
never expected to be realised."
"Ah, you should see our Irish lakes and mountains--you should see
"I am content with these; I suppose it is as wrong to break the tenth
commandment about scenery, as about anything else."
"Ah, but it seems so hard that you, who I am sure would appreciate fine
scenery, should have been debarred from it, while hundreds of stupid
people run over the Alps and Italy every summer, and come home, as far
as I can see, rather more stupid than they went; having made confusion
worse confounded by filling their poor brains with hard names out of
"Not quite so hard as that thousands, every day, who would enjoy a meat
dinner, should have nothing but dry bread, and not enough of that. I
fancy sometimes, that, in some mysterious way, that want will be made up
to them in the next life; and so with all the beautiful things which
travelled people talk of--I comfort myself with the fancy, that I see as
much as is good for me here, and that if I make good use of that, I
shall see the Alps and the Andes in the world to come, or something much
more worth seeing. Tell me now, how far may that range of crags be from
us? I am sure that I could walk there after luncheon, this mountain air
is strengthening me so."
"Walk thither? I assure you they are at least four miles off."
"Four? And I thought them one! So clear and sharp as they stand out
against the sky, one fancies that one could almost stretch out a hand
and touch those knolls and slabs of rock, as distinct as in a
photograph; and yet so soft and rich withal, dappled with pearly-grey
stone and purple heath. Ah!--So it must be, I suppose. The first time
that one sees a glorious thing, one's heart is lifted up towards it in
love and awe, till it seems near to one--ground on which one may freely
tread, because one appreciates and admires; and so one forgets the
distance between its grandeur and one's own littleness."
The allusion was palpable: but did he intend it? Surely not, after what
he had just said. And yet there was a sadness in the tone which made
Valencia fancy that some feeling for her might still linger: but he
evidently had been speaking to himself, forgetful, for the moment, of
her presence; for he turned to her with a start and a blush--"But now--I
have been troubling you too long with this stupid _tete-a-tete_
sentimentality of mine. I will make my bow, and find the Major. I am
afraid, if it be possible for him to forget any one, he has forgotten me
in some new moss or other."
He went out, and to Valencia's chagrin she saw him no more that day. He
spent the forenoon in the garden, and the afternoon in lying down, and
at night complained of fatigue, and stayed in his own room the whole
evening, while Campbell read him to sleep. Next morning, however, he
made his appearance at breakfast, well and cheerful.
"I must play at sick man no more, or I shall rob you, I see, of Major
Campbell's company; and I owe you all for too much already."
"Unless you are better than you were last night, you must play at sick
man," said the Major. "I cannot conceive what exhausted you so; unless
you ladies are better nurses, I must let no one come near him but
myself. If you had been scolding him the whole morning, instead of
praising him as he deserves, he could not have been more tired last
"Pray do not!" cried Frank, evidently much pained; "I had such a
delightful morning, and every one is so kind--you only make me wretched,
when I feel all the trouble I am giving."
"My dear fellow," said Scoutbush _en grand serieux_, "after all that you
have done for our people at Aberalva, I should be very much shocked if
any of my family thought any service shown to you a trouble."
"Pray do not speak so," said Frank, "I am fallen among angels, when I
"Scoutbush as an angel!" shrieked Lucia, clapping her hands. "Elsley,
don't you see the wings sprouting already, under his shooting jacket?"
"They are my braces, I suppose, of course," said Scoutbush, who never
understood a joke about himself, though he liked one about other people;
while Elsley, who hated all jokes, made no answer--at least none worth
recording. In fact, as the reader may have discovered, Elsley, save
_tete-a-tete_ with some one who took his fancy, was somewhat of a silent
and morose animal, and, as little Scoutbush confided to Mellot, there
was no getting a rise out of him. All which Lucia saw as keenly as any
one, and tried to pass off by chattering nervously and fussily for him,
as well as for herself; whereby she only made him the more cross, for he
could not the least understand her argument--"Why, my dear, if you don't
talk to people, I must!"
"But why should people be talked to?"
"Because they like it, and expect it!"
"The more foolish they. Much better to hold their tongues and think."
"Or read your poetry, I suppose?" And then would begin a squabble.
Meanwhile there was one, at least, of the party, who was watching Lucia
with most deep and painful interest. Lord Scoutbush was too busy with
his own comforts, especially with his fishing, to think much of this
moroseness of Elsley's. "If he suited Lucia, very well. His taste and
hers differed: but it was her concern, not his"--was a very easy way of
freeing himself from all anxiety on the matter: but not so with Major
Campbell. He saw all this; and knew enough of human nature to suspect
that the self-seeking which showed as moroseness in company, might show
as downright bad temper in private. Longing to know more of Elsley, if
possible, to guide and help him, he tried to be intimate with him, as he
had tried at Aberalva; paid him court, asked his opinion, talked to him
on all subjects which he thought would interest him. His conclusion was
more favourable to Elsley's head than to his heart. He saw that Elsley
was vain, and liked his attentions; and that lowered him in his eyes:
but he saw too that Elsley shrank from him; at first he thought it
pride, but he soon found that it was fear; and that lowered him still
more in his eyes.
Perhaps Campbell was too hard on the poet: but his own purity itself
told against Elsley. "Who am I, that any one should be afraid of me,
unless they have done something wrong?" So, with his dark suspicions
roused, he watched intently every word and every tone of Elsley's to his
wife; and here he came to a more unpleasant conclusion still. He saw
that they were, sometimes at least, not happy together; and from this he
took for granted, too hastily, that they were never happy together; that
Lucia was an utterly ill-used person; that Elsley was a bad fellow, who
ill-treated her: and a black and awful indignation against the man grew
up within him; all the more fierce because it seemed utterly righteous,
and because, too, it had, under heavy penalties, to be utterly concealed
beneath a courteous and genial manner: till many a time he felt inclined
to knock Elsley down for little roughnesses to her, which were really
the fruit of mere _gaucherie_; and then accused himself for a hypocrite,
because he was keeping up the courtesies of life with such a man. For
Campbell, like most men of his temperament, was over-stern, and
sometimes a little cruel and unjust, in demanding of others the same
lofty code which he had laid down for himself, and in demanding it, too,
of some more than of others, by a very questionable exercise of private
judgment. On the whole, he was right, no doubt, in being as indulgent as
he dared to the publicans and sinners like Scoutbush; and in being as
severe as he dared on all Pharisees, and pretentious persons whatsoever:
but he was too much inclined to draw between the two classes one of
those strong lines of demarcation which exist only in the fancies of the
human brain; for sins, like all diseased matters, are complicated and
confused matters; many a seeming Pharisee is at heart a self-condemned
publican, and ought to be comforted, and not cursed; while many a
publican is, in the midst of all his foul sins, a thorough exclusive and
self-complacent Pharisee, and needs not the right hand of mercy, but the
strong arm of punishment.
Campbell, like other men, had his faults: and his were those of a man
wrapped up in a pure and stately, but an austere and lonely creed,
distrusted with the world in all its forms, and looking down upon men in
general nearly as much as Thurnall did. So he set down Elsley for a bad
man, to whom he was forced by hard circumstances to behave as if he were
a good one.
The only way, therefore, in which he could vent his feeling, was by
showing to Lucia that studied attention which sympathy and chivalry
demand of a man toward an injured woman. Not that he dared, or wished,
to conduct himself with her as he did with Valencia, even had she not
been a married woman; he did not know her as intimately as he did her
sister; but still he had a right to behave as the most intimate friend
of her family, and he asserted that right; and all the more determinedly
because Elsley seemed now and then not to like it. "I will teach him how
to behave to a charming woman," said he to himself; and perhaps he had
been wiser if he had not said it: but every man has his weak point, and
chivalry was Major Campbell's.
"What do you think of that poet, Mellot?" said he once, on returning
from a pic-nic, during which Elsley had never noticed his wife; and, at
last, finding Valencia engaged with Headley, had actually gone off,
_pour pis aller_, to watch Lord Scoutbush fishing.
"Oh, clever enough, and to spare; and as well read a man as I know. One
of the Sturm-und-drang party, of course:--the express locomotive school,
scream-and-go-head: and thinks me, with my classicism, a benighted
pagan. Still, every man has a right to his opinion. Live and let live."
"I don't care about his taste," said the Major impatiently. "What sort
of man is he?--man, Claude?"
"Ahem, humph! 'Irritabile genus poetarum.' But one is so accustomed to
that among literary men, one never expects them to be like anybody else,
and so takes their whims and oddities for granted."
"And their sins too, eh?"
"Sins? I know of none on his part."
"Don't you call temper a sin?"
"No; I call it a determination of blood to the head, or of animal
spirits to the wrong place, or--my dear Major, I am no moralist. I take
people, you know, as I find them. But he is a bore; and I should not
wonder if that sweet little woman had found it out ere now."
Campbell ground something between his teeth. He fancied himself full of
righteous wrath: he was really in a very unchristian temper. Be it so:
perhaps there were excuses for him (as there are for many men) of which
we know nothing.
Elsley, meanwhile, watched Campbell with fast lowering brow. Losing a
woman's affections? He who does so deserves his fate. Had he been in the
habit of paying proper attention to Lucia, he would have liked Campbell
all the more for his conduct. There are few greater pleasures to a man
who is what he should be to his wife, than to see other men admiring
what he admires, and trying to rival him where he knows that he can have
no rival. Let them worship as much as they will. Let her make herself as
charming to them as she can. What matter? He smiles at them in his
heart; for has he not, over and above all the pretty things which he can
say and do ten times as well as they, a talisman--a dozen talismans
which are beyond their reach?--in the strength of which he will go home
and laugh over with her, amid sacred caresses, all which makes mean men
mad? But Elsley, alas for him, had neglected Lucia himself, and
therefore dreaded comparison with any other man; and the suspicions
which had taken root in him at Aberalva grew into ugly shape and
strength. However he was silent, and contented himself with coldness and
all but rudeness.
There were excuses for him. In the first place, it would have been an
ugly thing to take notice of any man's attentions to a wife; it could
not be done but upon the strongest grounds, and done in a way which
would make a complete rupture necessary, so breaking up the party in a
sufficiently unpleasant way. Besides, to move in the matter at all would
be to implicate Lucia; for, of whatsoever kind Campbell's attentions
were, she evidently liked them; and a quarrel with her on that score was
more than Elsley dared face. He was not a man of strong moral courage;
he hated a scene of any kind; and he was afraid of being worsted in any
really serious quarrel, not merely by Campbell, but by Lucia. It may
seem strange that he should be afraid of her, though not so that he
should be afraid of Campbell. But the truth is, that the man who bullies
his wife very often does so--as Elsley had done more than once--simply
to prove to himself his own strength, and hide his fear of her. He knew
well that woman's tongue, when once the "fair beast" is brought to bay,
is a weapon far too trenchant to be faced by any shield but that of a
very clear conscience toward her; which was more than Elsley had.
Beside--and it is an honour to Elsley Vavasour, amid all his weakness,
that he had justice and chivalry enough left to know what nine men out
of ten ignore--behind all, let the worst come to the worst, lay one
just and terrible rejoinder, which he, though he had been no worse than
the average of men, could only answer by silent shame,--
"At least, sir, I was pure when I came to you! You best know whether you
were so likewise."
And yet even that, so all-forgiving is woman, might, have been faced by
some means: but the miserable complication about the false name still
remained. Elsley believed that he was in his wife's power; that she
could, if she chose, turn upon him, and proclaim him to the world as a
scoundrel and an impostor. And, as it is of the nature of man to hate
those whom he fears, Elsley began to have dark and ugly feelings toward
Lucia. Instead of throwing them away, as a strong man would have done,
he pampered them almost without meaning to do so. For he let them run
riot through his too vivid imagination, in the form of possible
speeches, possible scenes, till he had looked and looked through a
hundred thoughts which no man has a right to entertain for a moment.
True; he had entertained them with horror; but he ought not to have
entertained them at all; he ought to have kicked them contemptuously out
and back to the devil, from whence they came. It may be again, that this
is impossible to man; that prayer is the only refuge against that
Walpurgis-dance of the witches and the fiends, which will, at hapless
moments, whirl unbidden through a mortal brain: but Elsley did not pray.
So, leaving these fancies in his head too long, he soon became
accustomed to them; and accustomed too, to the Nemesis which they bring
with them; of chronic moodiness and concealed rage. Day by day he was
lashing himself up into fresh fury, and yet day by day he was becoming
more careful to conceal that fury. He had many reasons: moral cowardice,
which made him shrink from the tremendous consequences of an explosion--
equally tremendous, were he right or wrong. Then the secret hope,
perhaps the secret consciousness, that he was wrong, and was only saying
to God, like the self-deceiving prophet, "I do well to be angry;" then
the honest fear of going too far; of being surprised at last into some
hideous and irreparable speech or deed, which he might find out too late
was utterly unjust: then at moments (for even that would cross him) the
devilish notion, that, by concealment, he might lure Lucia on to give
him a safe ground for attack. All these, and more, tormented him for a
wretched fortnight, during which he became, at such an expense of
self-control as he had not exercised for years, courteous to Campbell,
more than courteous to Lucia; hiding under a smiling face, wrath which
increased with the pressure brought to bear upon it.
Campbell and Lucia, Mellot, Valencia, and Frank, utterly deceived, went
on more merrily than ever, little dreaming that they walked and talked
daily with a man who was fast becoming glad to flee to the pit of hell,
but for the fear that "God would be there also." They, meanwhile,
chatted on, enjoying, as human souls are allowed to do at rare and
precious moments, the mere sensation of being; of which they would talk
at times in a way which led them down into deep matters: for instance,--
"How pleasant to sit here for ever!" said Claude, one afternoon, in the
inn garden at Beddgelert, "and say, not with Descartes, 'I think,
therefore I exist;' but simply, 'I enjoy, therefore I exist.' I almost
think those Emersonians are right at times, when they crave the 'life of
plants, and stones, and rain.' Stangrave said to me once, that his ideal
of perfect bliss was that of an oyster in the Indian seas, drinking the
warm salt water motionless, and troubling himself about nothing, while
nothing troubled itself about him."
"Till a diver came and tore him up for the sake of his pearls?" said
"He did not intend to contain any pearls. A pearl, you know, is a
disease of the oyster, the product of some irritation. He wished to be
the oyster pure and simple, a part of nature."
"And to be of no use?" asked Frank.
"Of none whatsoever. Nature had made him what he was, and all beside was
her business, and not his. I don't deny that I laughed at him, and made
him wroth by telling him that his doctrine was 'the apotheosis of
loafing.' But my heart went with him, and the jolly oyster too. It is
very beautiful after all, that careless nymph and shepherd life of the
old Greeks, and that Marquesas romance of Herman Melville's--to enjoy
the simple fact of living, like a Neapolitan lazzaroni, or a fly upon a
"But the old Greek heroes fought and laboured to till the land, and rid
it of giants and monsters," said Frank. "And as for the Marquesas, Mr.
Melville found out, did he not--as you did once--that they were only
petting and fattening him for the purpose of eating him? There is a dark
side to that pretty picture, Mr. Mellot."
"_Tant pis pour eux_! But that is an unnecessary appendage to the idea,
purely. It must be possible to realise such a simple, rich, healthy
life, without wickedness, if not without human sorrow. It is no dream,
and no one shall rob me of it. I have seen fragments of it scattered up
and down the world; and I believe they will all meet in Paradise--where
and when I care not; but they will meet. I was very happy in the South
Sea Islands, after that, when nobody meant to eat me; and I am very
happy here, and do not intend to be eaten, unless it will be any
pleasure to Miss St. Just. No; let man enjoy himself when he can, and
take his fill of those flaming red geraniums, and glossy rhododendrons,
and feathered crown-ferns, and the gold green lace of those acacias
tossing and whispering overhead, and the purple mountains sleeping there
aloft, and the murmur of the brook over the stones; and drink in scents
with every breath,--what was his nose made for, save to smell? I used to
torment myself once by asking them all what they meant. Now, I am
content to have done with symbolisms, and say, 'What you all mean, I
care not, all I know is, that I can draw pleasure from the mere sight of
you, as, perhaps, you do from the mere sight of me; so let us sit
together, Nature and I, and stare into each other's eyes like two young
lovers, careless of the morrow and its griefs.' I will not even take the
trouble to paint her. Why make ugly copies of perfect pictures? Let
those who wish to see her take a railway ticket, and save us
academicians colours and canvas. _Quant a moi_, the public must go to
the mountains, as Mahomet had to do; for the mountains shall not come to
"One of your wilful paradoxes, Mr. Mellot; why, you are photographing
them all day long."
"Not quite all day long, madam. And after all, _il faut vivre:_ I want a
few luxuries; I have no capacity for keeping a shop; photographing pays
better than painting, considering the time it takes; and it is only
Nature reproducing herself, not caricaturing her. But if any one will
ensure me a poor two thousand a year, I will promise to photograph no
more, but vanish to Sicily or Calabria, and sit with Sabina in an
orchard all my days, twining rose garlands for her pretty head, like
Theocritus and his friends, while the 'pears drop on our shoulders, and
the apples by our side.'"
"What do you think of all this?" asked Valencia of Frank.
"That I am too like the Emersonian oyster here, very happy, and very
useless; and, therefore, very anxious to be gone."
"Surely you have earned the right to be idle awhile?"
"No one has a right to be idle."
"Oh!" groaned Claude; "where did you find that eleventh commandment?"
"I have done with all eleventh commandments; for I find it quite hard
work enough to keep the ancient ten. But I find it, Mellot, in the
deepest abyss of all; in the very depth from which the commandments
sprang. But we will not talk about it here."
"Why not?" asked Valencia, looking up. "Are we so very naughty as to be
unworthy to listen?"
"And are these mountains," asked Claude, "so ugly and ill-made, that
they are an unfit pulpit for a sermon? No; tell me what you mean. After
all, I am half in jest"
"Do not courtesy, pity, chivalry, generosity, self-sacrifice,--in
short, being of use,--do not our hearts tell us that they are the most
beautiful, noble, lovely things in the world?"
"I suppose it is so," said Valencia.
"Why does one admire a soldier? Not for his epaulettes and red coat, but
because one knows that, coxcomb though he be at home here, there is the
power in him of that same self-sacrifice; that, when he is called, he
will go and die, that he may be of use to his country. And yet--it may
seem invidious to say so just now--but there are other sorts of
self-sacrifice, less showy, but even more beautiful."
"Oh, Mr. Headley, what can a man do more than die for his countrymen?"
"Live for them. It is a longer work, and therefore a more difficult and
a nobler one."
Frank spoke in a somewhat sad and abstracted tone.
"But, tell me," she said, "what all this has to do with--with the deep
matter of which you spoke?"
"Simply that it is the law of all earth, and heaven, and Him who made
them.--That God is perfectly powerful, because He is perfectly and
infinitely of use; and perfectly good, because he delights utterly and
always in being of use; and that, therefore, we can become like God--as
the very heathens felt that we can, and ought to become--only in
proportion as we become of use. I did not see it once. I tried to be
good, not knowing what good meant. I tried to be good, because I thought
it would pay me in the world to come. But, at last, I saw that all life,
all devotion, all piety, were only worth anything, only Divine, and
God-like, and God-beloved, as they were means to that one end--to be
"It is a noble thought, Headley," said Claude: but Valencia was silent.
"It is a noble thought, Mellot; and all thoughts become clear in the
light of it; even that most difficult thought of all, which so often
torments good people, when they feel, 'I ought to love God, and yet I do
not love him.' Easy to love Him, if one can once think of Him as the
concentration, the ideal perfection, of all which is most noble,
admirable, lovely in human character! And easy to work, too, when one
once feels that one is working for such a Being, and with such a Being;
as that! The whole world round us, and the future of the world too, seem
full of light even down to its murkiest and foulest depths, when we can
but remember that great idea,--An infinitely useful God over all, who is
trying to make each of us useful in his place. If that be not the
beatific vision of which old Mystics spoke so rapturously, one glimpse
of which was perfect bliss, I at least know none nobler, desire none
more blessed. Pray forgive me, Miss St. Just! I ought not to intrude
"Go on!" said Valencia.
"I--I really have no more to say. I have said too much. I do not know
how I have been betrayed so far," stammered Frank, who had the just
dislike of his school of anything like display on such solemn matters.
"Can you tell us too much truth? Mr. Headley is right, Mr. Mellot, and
you are wrong."
"It will not be the first time, Miss St. Just. But what I spoke in jest,
he has answered in earnest."
"He was quite right. We are none of us half earnest enough. There is
Lucia with the children." And she rose and walked across the garden.
"You have moved the fair trifler somewhat," said Claude.
"God grant it! but I cannot think what made me."
"Why think? You spoke out nobly, and I shall not forget your sermon."
"I was not preaching at you, most affectionate and kindly of men."
"And laziest of men, likewise. What can I do now, at this moment, to be
of use to any one? Set me my task."
But Frank was following with his eyes Valencia, as she went hurriedly
across to Lucia. He saw her take two of the children at once off her
sister's hands, and carry them away down a walk. A few minutes
afterwards he could hear her romping with them; but he could not have
guessed, from the silver din of those merry voices, that Valencia's
heart was heavy within her.
For her conscience was really smitten. Of what use was she in the world?
Major Campbell had talked to her often about her duties to this person
and to that, of this same necessity of being useful; but she had escaped
from the thought, as we have seen her, in laughing at poor little
Scoutbush on the very same score. But why had not Major Campbell's
sermons touched her heart as this one had? Who can tell? Who is there
among us to whom an oft-heard truth has not become a tiresome and
superfluous commonplace, till one day it has flashed before us utterly
new, indubitable, not to be disobeyed, written in letters of fire across
the whole vault of heaven? All one can say is, that her time was not
come. Besides, she looked on Major Campbell as a being utterly superior
to herself; and that very superiority, while it allowed her to be as
familiar with him as she chose, excused her in her own eyes from opening
to him her real heart. She could safely jest with him, let him pet her,
play at being his daughter, while she felt that between him and her lay
a gulf as wide as between earth and heaven; and that very notion
comforted her in her naughtiness; for in that case, of course, his code
of morals was not meant for her; and while she took his warnings (as
many of them at least as she chose), she thought herself by no means
bound to follow his examples. She all but worshipped him as her guardian
angel: but she was not meant for an angel herself; so she could indulge
freely in those little escapades and frivolities for which she was born,
and then, whenever frightened, run for shelter under his wings. But to
hear the same, and even loftier words, from the lips of the curate, whom
she had made her toy, almost her butt, was to have them brought down
unexpectedly and painfully to her own level. If this was his ideal, why
ought it not to be hers? Was she not his equal, perhaps his superior?
And so her very pride humbled her, as she said to herself,--"Then I
ought to be useful. I can be;--will be!"
"Lucia," asked she, that very afternoon, "will you let me take the
children off your hands while Clara is busy in the morning?"
"Oh, you dear good creature? but it would be such a _gene_! They are
really stupid, I am afraid sometimes, or else I am. They make me so
miserably cross at times."
"I will take them. It would be a relief to you, would it not?"
"My clear!" said poor Lucia, with a doleful smile, which seemed to
Valencia's self-accusing heart to say, "Have you only now discovered
From that day Valencia courted Headley's company more and more. To fall
in love with him was of course absurd; and he had cured himself of his
passing fancy for her. There could be no harm, then, in her making the
most of conversation so different from what she heard in the world, and
which in her heart of hearts she liked so much better. For it was with
Valencia as with all women; in this common fault of frivolity, as in
most others, the men rather than they are to blame. Valencia had
cultivated in herself those qualities which she saw admired by the men
whom she met, and some one of whom, of course, she meant to marry; and
as their female ideal was a butterfly ideal, a butterfly she became. But
beneath all lay, deep and strong, the woman's love of nobleness and
wisdom, the woman's longing to learn and to be led, which has shown
itself in every age in so many a fantastic and even ugly shape, and
which is their real excuse for the flirting with, "geniuses," casting
themselves at the feet of directors; which had tempted her to coquette
with Elsley, and was now bringing her into "undesirable" intimacy with
the poor curate.
She had heard that day, with some sorrow, his announcement that he
wished to be gone; but as he did not refer to it again, she left the
thought alone, and all but forgot it. The subject, however, was renewed
about a week afterwards. "When you return to Aberalva," she had said, in
reference to some commission.
"I shall never return to Aberalva."
"No; I have already resigned the curacy. I believe your uncle has
appointed to it the man whom Campbell found for me: and an excellent
man, I hear, he is. At least, he will do better there than I."
"But what could have induced you? How sorry all the people will be!"
"I am not sure of that," said he with a smile. "I did what I could at
last to win back at least their respect, and to leave at least not
hatred behind me: but I am unfit for them. I did not understand them. I
meant--no matter what I meant? but I failed. God forgive me! I shall now
go somewhere where I shall have simpler work to do, where I shall at
least have a chance of practising the lesson which I learnt there. I
learnt it all, strange to say, from the two people in the parish from
whom I expected to learn least."
"Whom do you mean?"
"The doctor and the schoolmistress."
"Why from them less than from any in the parish? She so good, and he so
"That I shall never tell to any one now. Suffice it that I was
Valencia could obtain no further answer; and so the days ran on, every
one becoming more and more intimate, till a certain afternoon, on which
they were all to go and pic-nic, under Claude's pilotage, above the lake
of Gwynnant. Scoutbush was to have been with them; but a heavy day's
rain in the meanwhile swelled the streams into fishing order, so the
little man ordered a car, and started at three in the morning for Bettws
with Mr. Bowie, who, however loth to give up the arrangement of plates
and the extraction of champagne corks, considered his presence by the
river-side a natural necessity.
"My dear Miss Clara, ye see, there'll be nobody to see that his lordship
pits on dry stockings; and he's always getting over the tops of his
water-boots, being young and daft, as we've all been, and no offence to
you; and to tell you truth, I can stand all temptations--in moderation,
that is, save an' except the chance o' cleiking a fish."
BOTH SIDES OF THE MOON AT ONCE.
The spot which Claude had chosen for the pic-nic was on one of the lower
spurs of that great mountain of The Maiden's Peak, which bounds the vale
of Gwynnant to the south. Above, a wilderness of gnarled volcanic dykes,
and purple heather ledges; below, broken into glens, in which still
linger pale green ashwoods, relics of that great primaeval forest in
which, in Bess's days, great Leicester used to rouse the hart with hound
Among these Claude had found a little lawn, guarded by great rocks, out
of every cranny of which the ashes grew as freely as on flat ground.
Their feet were bedded deep in sweet fern and wild raspberries, and
golden-rod, and purple scabious, and tall blue campanulas. Above them,
and before them, and below them, the ashes shook their green filigree in
the bright sunshine; and through them glimpses were seen of the purple
cliffs above, and, right in front, of the great cataract of Nant
Gwynnant, a long snow-white line zigzagging down coal-black cliffs for
many a hundred feet, and above it, depth beyond depth of purple shadow
away into the very heart of Snowdon, up the long valley of Cwm-dyli, to
the great amphitheatre of Clogwyn-y-Garnedd; while over all the cone of
Snowdon rose, in perfect symmetry, between his attendant peaks of
Lliwedd and Crib Coch.
There they sat, and laughed, and talked, the pleasant summer afternoon,
in their pleasant summer bower; and never regretted the silence of the
birds, so sweetly did Valencia's song go up, in many a rich sad Irish
melody; while the lowing of the milch kine, and the wild cooing of the
herd-boys, came softly up from the vale below, "and all the air was
filled with pleasant noise of waters."
Then Claude must needs photograph them all, as they sat, and group them
first according to his fancy; and among his fancies was one, that
Valencia should sit as queen, with Headley and the Major at her feet.
And Headley lounged there, and looked into the grass, and thought it
well for him could he lie there for ever.
Then Claude must photograph the mountain itself; and all began to talk
"See the breadth of light and shadow," said Claude; "how the purple
depth of the great lap of the mountain is thrown back by the sheet of
green light on Lliwedd, and the red glory on the cliffs of Crib Coch,
till you seem to look away into the bosom of the hill, mile after mile."
"And so you do," said Headley. "I have learnt to distinguish mountain
distances since I have been here. That peak is four miles from us now;
and yet the shadowed cliffs at its foot seem double that distance."
"And look, look," said Valencia, "at the long line of glory with which
the western sun is gilding the edge of the left hand slope, bringing it
nearer and nearer to us every moment, against the deep blue sky!"
"But what a form! Perfect lightness, perfect symmetry!" said Claude.
"Curve sweeping over curve, peak towering over peak, to the highest
point, and then sinking down again as gracefully as they rose. One can
hardly help fancying that the mountain moves; that those dancing lines
are not instinct with life."
"At least," said Headley, "that the mountain is a leaping wave, frozen
just ere it fell."
"Perfect," said Valencia. "That is the very expression! So concise, and
yet so complete."
And Headley, poor fool, felt as happy as if he had found a gold mine.
"To me," said Elsley, "the fancy rises of some great Eastern monarch
sitting in royal state; with ample shoulders sloping right and left, he
lays his purple-mantled arms upon the heads of two of those Titan guards
who stand on either side his footstool."
"While from beneath his throne," said Headley, "as Eastern poets would
say, flow everlasting streams, life-giving, to fertilise broad lands
"I did not know that you, too, were a poet," said Valencia. "Nor I,
madam. But if such scenes as these, and in such company, cannot inspire
the fancy of even a poor country curate to something of exaltation, he
must be dull indeed."
"Why not put some of these thoughts into poetry?"
"What use?" answered he in so low, sad, and meaning a tone, meant only
for her ear, that Valencia looked down at him: but he was gazing
intently upon the glorious scene. Was he hinting at the vanity and
vexation of poor Elsley's versifying? Or did he mean that he had now no
purpose in life,--no prize for which it was worth while to win honour?
She did not answer him: but he answered himself,--perhaps to explain
away his own speech,--
"No, madam! God has written the poetry already; and there it is before
me. My business is not to re-write it clumsily but to read it humbly,
and give Him thanks for it."
More and more had Valencia been attracted by Headley, during the last
few weeks. Accustomed to men who tried to make the greatest possible
show of what small wits they possessed, she was surprised to find one
who seemed to think it a duty to keep his knowledge and taste in the
background. She gave him credit for more talent than appeared; for more,
perhaps, than he really had. She was piqued, too, at his very modesty
and self-restraint. Why did not he, like the rest who dangled about her,
spread out his peacock's train for her eyes; and try to show his worship
of her, by setting himself off in his brightest colours? And yet this
modesty awed her into respect of him; for she could not forget that,
whether he had sentiment much or little, sentiment was not the staple of
his manhood: she could not forget his cholera work; and she knew that,
under that delicate and bashful outside, lay virtue and heroism, enough
and to spare.
"But, if you put these thoughts into words, you would teach others to
read that poetry."
"My business is to teach people to do right; and if I cannot, to pray
God to find some one who can."
"Right, Headley!" said Major Campbell, laying his hand on the Curate's
shoulder. "God dwells no more in books written with pens than in temples
made with hands; and the sacrifice which pleases Him is not verse, but
righteousness. Do you recollect, Queen Whims, what I wrote once in your
'Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long,
So making life, death, and that vast for ever,
One grand, sweet song.'"
"But, you naughty, hypocritical Saint Pere, you write poetry yourself,
"Yes, as I smoke my cigar, to comfort my poor rheumatic old soul. But if
I lived only to write poetry, I should think myself as wise as if I
lived only to smoke tobacco."
Valencia's eyes could not help glancing at Elsley, who had wandered away
to the neighbouring brook, and was gazing with all his eyes upon a ferny
rock, having left Lucia to help Claude with his photographing.
Frank saw her look, and read its meaning; and answered her thoughts,
perhaps too hastily.
"And what a really well-read and agreeable man he is, all the while!
What a mine of quaint learning, and beautiful old legend!--If he would
but bring it into the common stock for every one's amusement, instead of
hoarding it up for himself!" "Why, what else does he do but bring it
into the common stock, when he publishes a book which every one can
read!" said Valencia, half out of the spirit of contradiction.
"And few understand," said Headley, quietly.
"You are very unjust; he is a very discerning and agreeable person, and
I shall go and talk to him." And away went Valencia to Elsley, somewhat
cross. Woman-like, she allowed, for the sake of her sister's honour, no
one but herself to depreciate Vavasour, and chose to think it
impertinent on Headley's part.
Headley began quietly talking to Major Campbell about botany, while
Valencia, a little ashamed of herself all the while, took her revenge on
Elsley by scolding him for his unsocial ways, in the very terms which
Headley had been using.
At last Claude, having finished his photographing, departed downward to
get some new view from the road below, and Lucia returned to the rest of
the party. Valencia joined them at once, bringing up Elsley, who was not
in the best of humours after her diatribes; and the whole party wandered
about the woodland, and scrambled down beside the torrent beds.
At last they came to a point where they could descend no further; for
the stream, falling over a cliff, had worn itself a narrow chasm in the
rock, and thundered down it into a deep narrow pool.
Lucia, who was basking in the sunshine and the flowers as simple as a
child, would needs peep over the brink, and made Elsley hold her while
she looked down. A quiet happiness, as of old recollections, came into
her eyes, as she watched the sparkling and foaming water--
"And beauty, born of murmuring sound,
Did pass into her face."
Campbell started. The Lucia of seven years ago seemed to bloom out
again in that pale face and wrinkled forehead; and a smile came over his
face, too, as he looked.
"Just like the dear old waterfall at Kilanbaggan. You recollect it,
Elsley always disliked recollections of Kilanbaggan; recollections of
her life before he knew her; recollections of pleasures in which he had
not shared: especially recollections of her old acquaintance with the
"I do not, I am ashamed to say," replied the Major.
"Why, you were there a whole summer. Ah! I suppose you thought about
nothing but your salmon fishing. If Elsley had been there he would not
have forgotten a rock or a pool. Would you, Elsley?"
"Really, in spite of all salmon, I have not forgotten a rock or a pool
about the place which I ever saw: but at the waterfall I never was."
"So he has not forgotten? What cause had he to remember so carefully?"
"Oh, Elsley, look! What is that exquisite flower, like a ball of gold,
hanging just over the water?"
If Elsley had not had the evil spirit haunting about him, he would have
joined in Lucia's admiration of the beautiful creature, as it dropped
into the foam from its narrow ledge, with its fan of palmate leaves
bright green against the black mosses of the rock, and its golden petals
glowing like a tiny sun in the darkness of the chasm: as it was, he
"Only a buttercup."
"I am sure it's not a buttercup! It is three times as large, and a so
much paler yellow! Is it a buttercup, now, Major Campbell?"
Campbell looked down.
"Very nearly one, after all: but its real name is the globe flower. It
is common enough here in spring; you may see the leaves in every
pasture. But I suppose this plant, hidden from the light, has kept its
flowers till the autumn."
"And till I came to see it, darling that it is! I should like to reward
it by wearing it home."
"I daresay it would be very proud of the honour; especially if Mr.
Vavasour would embalm it in verse, after it had done service to you."
"It is doing good enough service where it is," said Elsley. "Why pluck
out the very eye of that perfect picture?"
"Strange," said Lucia, "that such, a beautiful thing should be born
there all alone upon these rocks, with no one to look at it."
"It enjoys itself sufficiently without us, no doubt," said Elsley.
"Yes; but I want to enjoy it. Oh, if you could but get it for me?"
Elsley looked down. There were fifteen feet of somewhat slippery rock;
then a ragged ledge a foot broad, in a crack of which the flower grew;
then the dark boiling pool. Elsley shrugged his shoulders, and said,
smiling, as if it were a fine thing to say--"Really, my dear, all men
are not knight errants enough to endanger their necks for a bit of weed;
and I cannot say that such rough _tours de force_ are at all to my
Lucia turned away: but she was vexed. Campbell could see that a strange
fancy for the plant had seized her. As she walked from the spot, he
could hear her talking about its beauty to Valencia.
Campbell's blood boiled. To be asked by that woman--by any woman--to get
her that flower: and to be afraid! It was bad enough to be ill-tempered;
but to be a coward, and to be proud thereof! He yielded to a temptation,
which he had much better have left alone, seeing that Lucia had not
asked him; swung himself easily enough down the ledge; got the flower,
and put it, quietly bowing, into Mrs. Vavasour's hand.
He was frightened when he had done it; for he saw, to his surprise, that
she was frightened. She took the flower, smiling thanks, and expressing
a little commonplace horror and astonishment at his having gone down
such a dangerous cliff: but she took it to Elsley, drew his arm through
hers, and seemed determined to make as much of him as possible for the
rest of the afternoon. "The fellow was jealous, then, in addition to his
other sins!" And Campbell, who felt that he had put himself
unnecessarily forward between husband and wife, grew more and more
angry; and somehow, unlike his usual wont, refused to confess himself in
the wrong, because he was in the wrong. Certainly it was not pleasant
for poor Elsley; and so Lucia felt, and bore with him when he refused to
be comforted, and rendered blessing for railing when he said to her more
than one angry word; but she had been accustomed to angry words by this
All might have passed off, but for that careless Valencia, who had not
seen the details of what had passed; and so advised herself to ask where
Lucia got that beautiful plant?
"Major Campbell picked it up for her from the cliff," said Elsley,
"Ah? at the risk of his neck, I don't doubt. He is the most matchless
"I shall leave Mrs. Vavasour to his care, then--that is, for the
present," said Elsley, drawing his arm from Lucia's.
"I assure you," answered she, roused in her turn by his determined bad
temper, "I am not the least afraid of being left in the charge of so old
Elsley made no answer, but sprang down through the thickets, calling
loudly to Claude Mellot.
It was very naughty of Lucia, no doubt: but even a worm will turn; and
there are times when people who have not courage to hold their peace
must say something or other; and do not always, in the hurry, get out
what they ought, but only what they have time to think of. And she
forgot what she had said the next minute, in Major Campbell's question--
"Am I, then, so old a friend, Mrs. Vavasour?"
"Of course; who older?"
Campbell was silent a moment. If he was inclined to choke, at least
Lucia did not see it.
"I trust I have not offended your--Mr. Vavasour?"
"Oh!" she said, with a forced gaiety, "only one of his poetic fancies.
He wanted so much to see Mr. Mellot photograph the waterfall. I hope he
will be in time to find him."
"I am a plain soldier, Mrs. Vavasour, and I only ask because I do not
understand. What are poetic fancies?"
Lucia looked up in his face puzzled, and saw there an expression so
grave, pitying, tender, that her heart leaped up toward him, and then
sank back again.
"Why do you ask? Why need you know? You are no poet."
"And for that very cause I ask you."
"Oh, but," said she, guessing at what was in his mind, and trying,
woman-like, to play purposely at cross purposes, and to defend her
husband at all risks; "he has an extraordinary poetic faculty; all the
world agrees to that, Major Campbell."
"What matter?" said he. Lucia would have been very angry, and perhaps
ought to have been so; for what business of Campbell's was it whether
her husband were kind to her or not? But there was a deep sadness,
almost despair, in the tone, which disarmed her.
"Oh, Major Campbell, is it not a glorious thing to be a poet? And is it
not a glorious thing to be a poet's wife? Oh, for the sake of that--if I
could but see him honoured, appreciated, famous, as he will be some day!
Though I think" (and she spoke with all a woman's pride) "he is somewhat
famous now, is he not?"
"Famous? Yes," answered Campbell, with an abstracted voice, and then
rejoined quickly, "If you could but see that, what then?"
"Why then," said she, with a half smile (for she had nearly entrapped
herself into an admission of what she was determined to conceal)--"why
then, I should be still more what I am now, his devoted little wife, who
cares for nobody and nothing but putting his study to rights, and
bringing up his children."
"Happy children!" said he, after a pause, and half to himself, "who have
such a mother to bring them up."
"Do you really think so? But flattery used not to be one of your sins.
Ah, I wish you could give me some advice about how I am to teach them."
"So it is she who has the work of education, not he!" thought Campbell
to himself; and then answered gaily,--
"My dear madam, what can a confirmed old bachelor like me know about
"Oh, don't you know" (and she gave one of her pretty Irish laughs) "that
it is the old maids who always write the children's books, for the
benefit of us poor ignorant married women? But" (and she spoke earnestly
again) "we all know how wise and good you are. I did not know it in old
times. I am afraid I used to torment you when I was young and foolish."
"Where on earth can Mellot and Mr. Vavasour be?" asked Campbell.
"Oh, never mind! Mr. Mellot has gone wandering down the glen with his
apparatus, and my Elsley has gone wandering after him, and will find him
in due time, with his head in a black bag, and a great bull just going
to charge him from behind, like that hapless man in 'Punch.' I always
tell Mr. Mellot that will be his end."
Campbell was deeply shocked to hear the light tone in which she talked
of the passionate temper of a man whom she so surely loved. How many
outbursts of it there must have been; how many paroxysms of
astonishment, shame, and grief,--perhaps, alas! counterbursts of anger--
ere that heart could have become thus proof against the ever-lowering
"Well," he said, "all we can do is to walk down to the car, and let them
follow; and, meanwhile, I will give you my wise opinion about this
education question, whereof I know nothing."
"It will be all oracular to me, for I know nothing either;" and she put
her arm through his, and walked on.
"Did you hurt yourself then? I am sure you are in pain."
"I? Never less free from it, with many thanks to you. What made you
"I heard you breathe so hard, and quite stamp your feet, I thought. I
suppose it was fancy."
It was not fancy, nevertheless. Major Campbell was stamping down
something; and succeeded too in crushing it.
They walked on toward the car, Valencia and Headley following them: ere
they arrived at the place where they were to meet it, it was quite dark:
but what was more important, the car was not there.
"The stupid man must have mistaken his orders, and gone home."
"Or let his horse go home of itself, while he was asleep inside. He was
more than half tipsy when we started."
So spoke the Major, divining the exact truth. There was nothing to be
done but to walk the four miles home, and let the two truants follow as
"We shall have plenty of time for our educational lecture," said Lucia.
"Plenty of time to waste, then, my clear lady."
"Oh, I never talk with you five minutes--I do not know why--without
feeling wiser and happier. I envy Valencia for having seen so much of
you of late."
Little thought poor Lucia, as she spoke those innocent words, that
within four yards of her, crouched behind the wall, his face and every
limb writhing with mingled curiosity and rage, was none other but her
He had given place to the devil: and the devil (for the "superstitious"
and "old-world" notion which attributes such frenzies to the devil has
not yet been superseded by a better one) had entered into him, and
concentrated all the evil habits and passions which he had indulged for
years into one flaming hell within him.
Miserable man! His torments were sevenfold: and if he had sinned, he was
at least punished. Not merely by all which a husband has a right to feel
in such a case, or fancies that he has a right; not merely by tortured
vanity and self-conceit, by the agony of seeing any man preferred to
him, which to a man of Elsley's character was of itself unbearable;--not
merely by the loss of trust in one whom he hail once trusted utterly:--
but, over and above all, and worst of all, by the feeling of shame,
self-reproach, self-hatred, which haunts a jealous man, and which ought
to haunt him; for few men lose the love of women who have once loved
them, save by their own folly or baseness:--by the recollection that he
had traded on her trust; that he had drugged his own conscience with the
fancy that she must love him always, let him do what he would; and had
neglected and insulted her affection, because he fancied, in his
conceit, that it was inalienable. And with the loss of self-respect,
came recklessness of it, and drove him on, as it has jealous men in all
ages, to meannesses unspeakable, which have made them for centuries,
poor wretches, the butts of worthless playwrights, and the scorn of
Elsley had wandered, he hardly knew how or whither, for his calling to
Mellot was the merest blind,--stumbling over rocks, bruising himself
against tree-trunks, to this wall. He knew they must pass it. He waited
for them, and had his reward. Blind with rage, he hardly waited for the
sound of their footsteps to die away, before he had sprung into the
road, and hurried up in the opposite direction,--anywhere, everywhere,--
to escape from them, and from self. Whipt by the furies, he fled along
the road and up the vale, he cared not whither.
And what were Headley and Valencia, who of necessity had paired off
together, doing all the while? They walked on silently side by side for
ten minutes; then Frank said,--
"I have been impertinent, Miss St. Just, and I beg your pardon."
"No, you have not," said she, quite hastily. "You were right, too
right,--has it not been proved within the last five minutes? My poor
sister! What can be done to mend Mr. Vavasour's temper? I wish you could
talk to him, Mr. Headley."
"He is beyond my art. His age, and his talents, and his--his
consciousness of them," said Frank, using the mildest term he could
find, "would prevent so insignificant a person as me having any
influence. But what I cannot do, God's grace may."
"Can it change a man's character, Mr. Headley? It may make good men
better--but can it cure temper?"
"Major Campbell must have told you that it can do anything."
"Ah, yes: with men as wise, and strong, and noble as he is; but with
such a weak, vain man--"
"Miss St. Just, I know one who is neither wise, nor strong, nor noble:
but as weak and vain as any man; in whom God has conquered--as He may
conquer yet in Mr. Vavasour--all which makes man cling to life."
"What all?" asked she, suspecting, and not wrongly, that he spoke of
"All, I suppose, which it is good for them to have crushed. There are
feelings which last on, in spite of all struggles to quench them--I
suppose, because they ought to last; because, while they torture, they
still ennoble. Death will quench them: or if not, satisfy them: or if
not, set them at rest somehow."
"Death?" answered she, in a startled tone.
"Yes. Our friend, Major Campbell's friend, Death. We have been seeing a
good deal of him together lately, and have come to the conclusion that
he is the most useful, pleasant, and instructive of all friends."
"Oh, Mr. Headley, do not speak so! Are you in earnest?"
"So much in earnest, that I have resolved to go out as an army chaplain,
to see in the war somewhat more of my new friend."
"Impossible! Mr. Headley; it will kill you!--All that horrible fever and
"And what possible harm can it do me, if it does kill me, Miss St.
"Mr. Headley, this is madness! I--we cannot allow you to throw away your
life thus--so young, and--and such prospects before you! And there is
nothing that my brother would not do for you, were it only for your
heroism at Aberalva. There is not one of the family who does not love
and respect you, and long to see all the world appreciating you as we
do; and your poor mother--"
"I have told my mother all, Miss St. Just. And she has said 'Go; it is
your only hope.' She has other sons to comfort her. Let us say no more
of it. Had I thought that you would have disapproved of it, I would
never have mentioned the thing."
"Disapprove of--your going to die? You shall not! And for me, too: for I
guess all--all is my fault!"
"All is mine," said he quietly: "who was fool enough to fancy that I
could forget you--conquer my love for;" and at these words his whole
voice and manner changed in an instant into wildest passion. "I must
speak--now and never more--I love you still, fool that I am! Would God I
had never seen you! No, not that. Thank God for that to the last: but
would God I had died of that cholera! that I had never come here,
conceited fool that I was, fancying that it was possible, after having
once--No! Let me go, go anywhere, where I may burden you no more with my
absurd dreams!--You, who have had the same thing said to you, and in
finer words, a hundred times, by men who would not deign to speak to
me!" and covering his face in his hands, he strode on, as if to escape.
"I never had the same thing said to me!"
"Never? How often have fine gentlemen, noblemen, sworn that they were
dying for you?"
"They never have said to me what you have done."
"No--I am clumsy, I suppose--"
"Mr. Headley, indeed you are unjust to yourself--unjust to me!"
"I--to you? Never! I know you better than you know yourself--see in you
what no one else sees. Oh, what fools they are who say that love is
blind! Blind? He sees souls in God's own light; not as they have become:
but as they ought to become--can become--are already in the sight of Him
who made them!"
"And what might I become?" asked she, half-frightened by the new
earnestness of his utterance.
"How can I tell! Something infinitely too high for me, at least, who
even now am not worthy to kiss the dust off your feet."
"Oh, do not speak so: little do you know--! No, Mr. Headley, it is you
who are too good for me; too noble, single-eyed, self-sacrificing, to
endure my vanity and meanness for a day."
"Madam, do not speak thus! Give me no word which my folly can distort
into a ray of hope, unless you wish to drive me mad. No! it is
impossible; and, were it possible, what but ruin to my soul? I should
live for you, and not for my work. I should become a schemer, ambitious,
intriguing, in the vain hope of proving myself to the world worthy of
you. No; let it be. 'Let the dead bury their dead, and follow thou me.'"
She made no answer--what answer was there to make? And he strode on by
her side in silence for full ten minutes. At last she was forced to
"Mr. Headley, recollect that this conversation has gone too far for us
to avoid coming to some definite understanding--"
"Then it shall, Miss St. Just. Then it shall, once and for all: formally
and deliberately, it shall end now. Suppose,--I only say suppose,--that
I could, without failing in my own honour, my duty to my calling, make