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  • 1875
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world simply affected him by its contrast with the overpowering horrors, repugnances, despairs, pities, rushing at him, surcharging his senses. Those that live much by the heart in their youth have sharp foretastes of the issues imaged for the soul. St. Mark’s was in a minute struck black for him. He neither felt the sunlight nor understood why column and campanile rose, nor why the islands basked, and boats and people moved. All were as remote little bits of mechanism.

Nevil escaped, and walked in the direction of the Frari down calle and campiello. Only to see her–to compare her with the Renee of the past hour! But that Renee had been all the while a feast of delusion; she could never be resuscitated in the shape he had known, not even clearly visioned. Not a day of her, not an hour, not a single look had been his own. She had been sold when he first beheld her, and should, he muttered austerely, have been ticketed the property of a middle-aged man, a worn- out French marquis, whom she had agreed to marry, unwooed, without love –the creature of a transaction. But she was innocent, she was unaware of the sin residing in a loveless marriage; and this restored her to him somewhat as a drowned body is given back to mourners.

After aimless walking he found himself on the Zattere, where the lonely Giudecca lies in front, covering mud and marsh and lagune-flames of later afternoon, and you have sight of the high mainland hills which seem to fling forth one over other to a golden sea-cape.

Midway on this unadorned Zattere, with its young trees and spots of shade, he was met by Renee and her father. Their gondola was below, close to the riva, and the count said, ‘She is tired of standing gazing at pictures. There is a Veronese in one of the churches of the Giudecca opposite. Will you, M. Nevil, act as parade-escort to her here for half an hour, while I go over? Renee complains that she loses the vulgar art of walking in her complaisant attention to the fine Arts. I weary my poor child.’

Renee protested in a rapid chatter.

‘Must I avow it?’ said the count; ‘she damps my enthusiasm a little.’

Nevil mutely accepted the office.

Twice that day was she surrendered to him: once in his ignorance, when time appeared an expanse of many sunny fields. On this occasion it puffed steam; yet, after seeing the count embark, he commenced the parade in silence.

‘This is a nice walk,’ said Renee; ‘we have not the steps of the Riva dei Schiavoni. It is rather melancholy though. How did you discover it? I persuaded my papa to send the gondola round, and walk till we came to the water. Tell me about the Giudecca.’

‘The Giudecca was a place kept apart for the Jews, I believe. You have seen their burial-ground on the Lido. Those are, I think, the Euganean hills. You are fond of Petrarch.’

‘M. Nevil, omitting the allusion to the poet, you have, permit me to remark, the brevity without the precision of an accredited guide to notabilities.’

‘I tell you what I know,’ said Nevil, brooding on the finished tone and womanly aplomb of her language. It made him forget that she was a girl entrusted to his guardianship. His heart came out.

‘Renee, if you loved him, I, on my honour, would not utter a word for myself. Your heart’s inclinations are sacred for me. I would stand by, and be your friend and his. If he were young, that I might see a chance of it!’

She murmured, ‘You should not have listened to Roland.’

‘Roland should have warned me. How could I be near you and not . . . But I am nothing. Forget me; do not think I speak interestedly, except to save the dearest I have ever known from certain wretchedness. To yield yourself hand and foot for life! I warn you that it must end miserably. Your countrywomen . . . You have the habit in France; but like what are you treated? You! none like you in the whole world! You consent to be extinguished. And I have to look on! Listen to me now.’

Renee glanced at the gondola conveying her father. And he has not yet landed! she thought, and said, ‘Do you pretend to judge of my welfare better than my papa?’

‘Yes; in this. He follows a fashion. You submit to it. His anxiety is to provide for you. But I know the system is cursed by nature, and that means by heaven.’

‘Because it is not English?’

‘O Renee, my beloved for ever! Well, then, tell me, tell me you can say with pride and happiness that the Marquis de Rouaillout is to be your– there’s the word–husband!’

Renee looked across the water.

‘Friend, if my father knew you were asking me!’

‘I will speak to him.’


‘He is generous, he loves you.’

‘He cannot break an engagement binding his honour.’

‘Would you, Renee, would you–it must be said–consent to have it known to him–I beg for more than life–that your are not averse . . . that you support me?’

His failing breath softened the bluntness.

She replied, ‘I would not have him ever break an engagement binding his honour.’

‘You stretch the point of honour.’

‘It is our way. Dear friend, we are French. And I presume to think that our French system is not always wrong, for if my father had not broken it by treating you as one of us and leaving me with you, should I have heard . . . ?’

‘I have displeased you.’

‘Do not suppose that. But, I mean, a mother would not have left me.’

‘You wished to avoid it.’

‘Do not blame me. I had some instinct; you were very pale.’

‘You knew I loved you.’


‘Yes; for this morning . . .’

This morning it seemed to me, and I regretted my fancy, that you were inclined to trifle, as, they say, young men do.’

‘With Renee?’

‘With your friend Renee. And those are the hills of Petrarch’s tomb? They are mountains.’

They were purple beneath a large brooding cloud that hung against the sun, waiting for him to enfold him, and Nevil thought that a tomb there would be a welcome end, if he might lift Renee in one wild flight over the chasm gaping for her. He had no language for thoughts of such a kind, only tumultuous feeling.

She was immoveable, in perfect armour.

He said despairingly, ‘Can you have realized what you are consenting to?’

She answered, ‘It is my duty.’

‘Your duty! it’s like taking up a dice-box, and flinging once, to certain ruin!’

‘I must oppose my father to you, friend. Do you not understand duty to parents? They say the English are full of the idea of duty.’

‘Duty to country, duty to oaths and obligations; but with us the heart is free to choose.’

‘Free to choose, and when it is most ignorant?’

‘The heart? ask it. Nothing is surer.’

‘That is not what we are taught. We are taught that the heart deceives itself. The heart throws your dicebox; not prudent parents.’

She talked like a woman, to plead the cause of her obedience as a girl, and now silenced in the same manner that she had previously excited him.

‘Then you are lost to me,’ he said.

They saw the gondola returning.

‘How swiftly it comes home; it loitered when it went,’ said Renee. ‘There sits my father, brimming with his picture; he has seen one more! We will congratulate him. This little boulevard is not much to speak of. The hills are lovely. Friend,’ she dropped her voice on the gondola’s approach, ‘we have conversed on common subjects.’

Nevil had her hand in his, to place her in the gondola.

She seemed thankful that he should prefer to go round on foot. At least, she did not join in her father’s invitation to him. She leaned back, nestling her chin and half closing her eyes, suffering herself to be divided from him, borne away by forces she acquiesced in.

Roland was not visible till near midnight on the Piazza. The promenaders, chiefly military of the garrison, were few at that period of social protestation, and he could declare his disappointment aloud, ringingly, as he strolled up to Nevil, looking as if the cigar in his mouth and the fists entrenched in his wide trowsers-pockets were mortally at feud. His adventure had not pursued its course luminously. He had expected romance, and had met merchandize, and his vanity was offended. To pacify him, Nevil related how he had heard that since the Venetian rising of ’49, Venetian ladies had issued from the ordeal of fire and famine of another pattern than the famous old Benzon one, in which they touched earthiest earth. He praised Republicanism for that. The spirit of the new and short-lived Republic wrought that change in Venice.

‘Oh, if they’re republican as well as utterly decayed,’ said Roland, ‘I give them up; let them die virtuous.’

Nevil told Roland that he had spoken to Renee. He won sympathy, but Roland could not give him encouragement. They crossed and recrossed the shadow of the great campanile, on the warm-white stones of the square, Nevil admitting the weight of whatsoever Roland pointed to him in favour of the arrangement according to French notions, and indeed, of aristocratic notions everywhere, saving that it was imperative for Renee to be disposed of in marriage early. Why rob her of her young springtime!

‘French girls,’ replied Roland, confused by the nature of the explication in his head–‘well, they’re not English; they want a hand to shape them, otherwise they grow all awry. My father will not have one of her aunts to live with him, so there she is. But, my dear Nevil, I owe my life to you, and I was no party to this affair. I would do anything to help you. What says Renee?’

‘She obeys.’

‘Exactly. You see! Our girls are chess-pieces until they ‘re married. Then they have life and character sometimes too much.’

‘She is not like them, Roland; she is like none. When I spoke to her first, she affected no astonishment; never was there a creature so nobly sincere. She’s a girl in heart, not in mind. Think of her sacrificed to this man thrice her age!’

‘She differs from other girls only on the surface, Nevil. As for the man, I wish she were going to marry a younger. I wish, yes, my friend,’ Roland squeezed Nevil’s hand, ‘I wish! I’m afraid it’s hopeless. She did not tell you to hope?’

‘Not by one single sign,’ said Nevil.

‘You see, my friend!’

‘For that reason,’ Nevil rejoined, with the calm fanaticism of the passion of love, ‘I hope all the more . . . because I will not believe that she, so pure and good, can be sacrificed. Put me aside–I am nothing. I hope to save her from that.’

‘We have now,’ said Roland, ‘struck the current of duplicity. You are really in love, my poor fellow.’

Lover and friend came to no conclusion, except that so lovely a night was not given for slumber. A small round brilliant moon hung almost globed in the depths of heaven, and the image of it fell deep between San Giorgio and the Dogana.

Renee had the scene from her window, like a dream given out of sleep. She lay with both arms thrown up beneath her head on the pillow, her eyelids wide open, and her visage set and stern. Her bosom rose and sank regularly but heavily. The fluctuations of a night stormy for her, hitherto unknown, had sunk her to this trance, in which she lay like a creature flung on shore by the waves. She heard her brother’s voice and Nevil’s, and the pacing of their feet. She saw the long shaft of moonlight broken to zigzags of mellow lightning, and wavering back to steadiness; dark San Giorgio, and the sheen of the Dogana’s front. But the visible beauty belonged to a night that had shivered repose, humiliated and wounded her, destroyed her confident happy half-infancy of heart, and she had flown for a refuge to hard feelings. Her predominant sentiment was anger; an anger that touched all and enveloped none, for it was quite fictitious, though she felt it, and suffered from it. She turned it on Nevil, as against an enemy, and became the victim in his place. Tears for him filled in her eyes, and ran over; she disdained to notice them, and blinked offendedly to have her sight clear of the weakness; but these interceding tears would flow; it was dangerous to blame him, harshly. She let them roll down, figuring to herself with quiet simplicity of mind that her spirit was independent of them as long as she restrained her hands from being accomplices by brushing them away, as weeping girls do that cry for comfort. Nevil had saved her brother’s life, and had succoured her countrymen; he loved her, and was a hero. He should not have said he loved her; that was wrong; and it was shameful that he should have urged her to disobey her father. But this hero’s love of her might plead excuses she did not know of; and if he was to be excused, he, unhappy that he was, had a claim on her for more than tears. She wept resentfully. Forces above her own swayed and hurried her like a lifeless body dragged by flying wheels: they could not unnerve her will, or rather, what it really was, her sense of submission to a destiny. Looked at from the height of the palm-waving cherubs over the fallen martyr in the picture, she seemed as nerveless as a dreamy girl. The raised arms and bent elbows were an illusion of indifference. Her shape was rigid from hands to feet, as if to keep in a knot the resolution of her mind; for the second and in that young season the stronger nature grafted by her education fixed her to the religious duty of obeying and pleasing her father, in contempt, almost in abhorrence, of personal inclinations tending to thwart him and imperil his pledged word. She knew she had inclinations to be tender. Her hands released, how promptly might she not have been confiding her innumerable perplexities of sentiment and emotion to paper, undermining self-governance; self- respect, perhaps! Further than that, she did not understand the feelings she struggled with; nor had she any impulse to gaze on him, the cause of her trouble, who walked beside her brother below, talking betweenwhiles in the night’s grave undertones. Her trouble was too overmastering; it had seized her too mysteriously, coming on her solitariness without warning in the first watch of the night, like a spark crackling serpentine along dry leaves to sudden flame. A thought of Nevil and a regret had done it.



The lovers met after Roland had spoken to his sister–not exactly to advocate the cause of Nevil, though he was under the influence of that grave night’s walk with him, but to sound her and see whether she at all shared Nevil’s view of her situation. Roland felt the awfulness of a French family arrangement of a marriage, and the impertinence of a foreign Cupid’s intrusion, too keenly to plead for his friend: at the same time he loved his friend and his sister, and would have been very ready to smile blessings on them if favourable circumstances had raised a signal; if, for example, apoplexy or any other cordial ex machina intervention had removed the middle-aged marquis; and, perhaps, if Renee had shown the repugnance to her engagement which Nevil declared she must have in her heart, he would have done more than smile; he would have laid the case deferentially before his father. His own opinion was that young unmarried women were incapable of the passion of love, being, as it were, but half-feathered in that state, and unable to fly; and Renee confirmed it. The suspicion of an advocacy on Nevil’s behalf steeled her. His tentative observations were checked at the outset.

‘Can such things be spoken of to me, Roland? I am plighted. You know it.’

He shrugged, said a word of pity for Nevil, and went forth to let his friend know that it was as he had predicted: Renee was obedience in person, like a rightly educated French girl. He strongly advised his friend to banish all hope of her from his mind. But the mind he addressed was of a curious order; far-shooting, tough, persistent, and when acted on by the spell of devotion, indomitable. Nevil put hope aside, or rather, he clad it in other garments, in which it was hardly to be recognized by himself, and said to Roland: ‘You must bear this from me; you must let me follow you to the end, and if she wavers she will find me near.’

Roland could not avoid asking the use of it, considering that Renee, however much she admired and liked, was not in love with him.

Nevil resigned himself to admit that she was not: and therefore,’ said he, ‘you won’t object to my remaining.’

Renee greeted Nevil with as clear a conventional air as a woman could assume.

She was going, she said, to attend High Mass in the church of S. Moise, and she waved her devoutest Roman Catholicism to show the breadth of the division between them. He proposed to go likewise. She was mute. After some discourse she contrived to say inoffensively that people who strolled into her churches for the music, or out of curiosity, played the barbarian.

‘Well, I will not go,’ said Nevil.

‘But I do not wish to number you among them,’ she said.

‘Then,’ said Nevil, ‘I will go, for it cannot be barbarous to try to be with you.’

‘No, that is wickedness,’ said Renee.

She was sensible that conversation betrayed her, and Nevil’s apparently deliberate pursuit signified to her that he must be aware of his mastery, and she resented it, and stumbled into pitfalls whenever she opened her lips. It seemed to be denied to them to utter what she meant, if indeed she had a meaning in speaking, save to hurt herself cruelly by wounding the man who had caught her in the toils: and so long as she could imagine that she was the only one hurt, she was the braver and the harsher for it; but at the sight of Nevil in pain her heart relented and shifted, and discovering it to be so weak as to be almost at his mercy, she defended it with an aggressive unkindness, for which, in charity to her sweeter nature, she had to ask his pardon, and then had to fib to give reasons for her conduct, and then to pretend to herself that her pride was humbled by him; a most humiliating round, constantly recurring; the worse for the reflection that she created it. She attempted silence. Nevil spoke, and was like the magical piper: she was compelled to follow him and dance the round again, with the wretched thought that it must resemble coquettry. Nevil did not think so, but a very attentive observer now upon the scene, and possessed of his half of the secret, did, and warned him. Rosamund Culling added that the French girl might be only an unconscious coquette, for she was young. The critic would not undertake to pronounce on her suggestion, whether the candour apparent in merely coquettish instincts was not more dangerous than a battery of the arts of the sex. She had heard Nevil’s frank confession, and seen Renee twice, when she tried in his service, though not greatly wishing for success, to stir the sensitive girl for an answer to his attachment. Probably she went to work transparently, after the insular fashion of opening a spiritual mystery with the lancet. Renee suffered herself to be probed here and there, and revealed nothing of the pain of the operation. She said to Nevil, in Rosamund’s hearing:

‘Have you the sense of honour acute in your country?’ Nevil inquired for the apropos.

‘None,’ said she.

Such pointed insolence disposed Rosamund to an irritable antagonism, without reminding her that she had given some cause for it.

Renee said to her presently: ‘He saved my brother’s life’; the apropos being as little perceptible as before.

Her voice dropped to her sweetest deep tones, and there was a supplicating beam in her eyes, unintelligible to the direct Englishwoman, except under the heading of a power of witchery fearful to think of in one so young, and loved by Nevil.

The look was turned upon her, not upon her hero, and Rosamund thought, ‘Does she want to entangle me as well?’

It was, in truth, a look of entreaty from woman to woman, signifying need of womanly help. Renee would have made a confidante of her, if she had not known her to be Nevil’s, and devoted to him. ‘I would speak to you, but that I feel you would betray me,’ her eyes had said. The strong sincerity dwelling amid multiform complexities might have made itself comprehensible to the English lady for a moment or so, had Renee spoken words to her ears; but belief in it would hardly have survived the girl’s next convolutions. ‘She is intensely French,’ Rosamund said to Nevil– a volume of insular criticism in a sentence.

‘You do not know her, ma’am,’ said Nevil. ‘You think her older than she is, and that is the error I fell into. She is a child.’

‘A serpent in the egg is none the less a serpent, Nevil. Forgive me; but when she tells you the case is hopeless!’

‘No case is hopeless till a man consents to think it is; and I shall stay.’

‘But then again, Nevil, you have not consulted your uncle.’

‘Let him see her! let him only see her!’

Rosamund Culling reserved her opinion compassionately. His uncle would soon be calling to have him home: society panted for him to make much of him and here he was, cursed by one of his notions of duty, in attendance on a captious ‘young French beauty, who was the less to be excused for not dismissing him peremptorily, if she cared for him at all. His career, which promised to be so brilliant, was spoiling at the outset. Rosamund thought of Renee almost with detestation, as a species of sorceress that had dug a trench in her hero’s road, and unhorsed and fast fettered him.

The marquis was expected immediately. Renee sent up a little note to Mrs. Calling’s chamber early in the morning, and it was with an air of one-day-more-to-ourselves, that, meeting her, she entreated the English lady to join the expedition mentioned in her note. Roland had hired a big Chioggian fishing-boat to sail into the gulf at night, and return at dawn, and have sight of Venice rising from the sea. Her father had declined; but M. Nevil wished to be one of the party, and in that case . . ? . . . Renee threw herself beseechingly into the mute interrogation, keeping both of Rosamund’s hands. They could slip away only by deciding to, and this rare Englishwoman had no taste for the petty overt hostilities. ‘If I can be of use to you,’ she said.

‘If you can bear sea-pitching and tossing for the sake of the loveliest sight in the whole world,’ said Renee.

‘I know it well,’ Rosamund replied.

Renee rippled her eyebrows. She divined a something behind that remark, and as she was aware of the grief of Rosamund’s life, her quick intuition whispered that it might be connected with the gallant officer dead on the battle-field.

‘Madame, if you know it too well . . .’ she said.

‘No; it is always worth seeing,’ said Rosamund, ‘and I think, mademoiselle, with your permission, I should accompany you.’

‘It is only a whim of mine, madame. I can stay on shore.’

‘Not when it is unnecessary to forego a pleasure.’

‘Say, my last day of freedom.’

Renee kissed her hand.

She is terribly winning, Rosamund avowed. Renee was in debate whether the woman devoted to Nevil would hear her and help.

Just then Roland and Nevil returned from their boat, where they had left carpenters and upholsterers at work, and the delicate chance for an understanding between the ladies passed by.

The young men were like waves of ocean overwhelming it, they were so full of their boat, and the scouring and cleaning out of it, and provisioning, and making it worthy of its freight. Nevil was surprised that Mrs. Culling should have consented to come, and asked her if she really wished it–really; and ‘Really,’ said Rosamund; ‘certainly.’

‘Without dubitation,’ cried Roland. ‘And now my little Renee has no more shore-qualms; she is smoothly chaperoned, and madame will present us tea on board. All the etcaeteras of life are there, and a mariner’s eye in me spies a breeze at sunset to waft us out of Malamocco.’

The count listened to the recital of their preparations with his usual absent interest in everything not turning upon Art, politics, or social intrigue. He said, ‘Yes, good, good,’ at the proper intervals, and walked down the riva to look at the busy boat, said to Nevil, ‘You are a sailor; I confide my family to you,’ and prudently counselled Renee to put on the dresses she could toss to the deep without regrets. Mrs. Culling he thanked fervently for a wonderful stretch of generosity in lending her presence to the madcaps.

Altogether the day was a reanimation of external Venice. But there was a thunderbolt in it; for about an hour before sunset, when the ladies were superintending and trying not to criticize the ingenious efforts to produce a make-believe of comfort on board for them, word was brought down to the boat by the count’s valet that the Marquis de Rouaillout had arrived. Renee turned her face to her brother superciliously. Roland shrugged. ‘Note this, my sister,’ he said; ‘an anticipation of dates in paying visits precludes the ripeness of the sentiment of welcome. It is, however, true that the marquis has less time to spare than others.’

‘We have started; we are on the open sea. How can we put back?’ said Renee.

‘You hear, Francois; we are on the open sea,’ Roland addressed the valet.

‘Monsieur has cut loose his communications with land,’ Francois responded, and bowed from the landing.

Nevil hastened to make this a true report; but they had to wait for tide as well as breeze, and pilot through intricate mud-channels before they could see the outside of the Lido, and meanwhile the sun lay like a golden altarplatter on mud-banks made bare by the ebb, and curled in drowsy yellow links along the currents. All they could do was to push off and hang loose, bumping to right and left in the midst of volleys and countervolleys of fishy Venetian, Chioggian, and Dalmatian, quite as strong as anything ever heard down the Canalaggio. The representatives of these dialects trotted the decks and hung their bodies half over the sides of the vessels to deliver fire, flashed eyes and snapped fingers, not a whit less fierce than hostile crews in the old wars hurling an interchange of stink-pots, and then resumed the trot, apparently in search of fresh ammunition. An Austrian sentinel looked on passively, and a police inspector peeringly. They were used to it. Happily, the combustible import of the language was unknown to the ladies, and Nevil’s attempts to keep his crew quiet, contrasting with Roland’s phlegm, which a Frenchman can assume so philosophically when his tongue is tied, amused them. During the clamour, Renee saw her father beckoning from the riva. She signified that she was no longer in command of circumstances; the vessel was off. But the count stamped his foot, and nodded imperatively. Thereupon Roland repeated the eloquent demonstrations of Renee, and the count lost patience, and Roland shouted, ‘For the love of heaven, don’t join this babel; we’re nearly bursting.’ The rage of the babel was allayed by degrees, though not appeased, for the boat was behaving wantonly, as the police officer pointed out to the count.

Renee stood up to bend her head. It was in reply to a salute from the Marquis de Rouaillout, and Nevil beheld his rival.

‘M. le Marquis, seeing it is out of the question that we can come to you, will you come to us?’ cried Roland.

The marquis gesticulated ‘With alacrity’ in every limb.

‘We will bring you back on to-morrow midnight’s tide, safe, we promise you.’

The marquis advanced a foot, and withdrew it. Could he have heard correctly? They were to be out a whole night at sea! The count dejectedly confessed his incapability to restrain them: the young desperadoes were ready for anything. He had tried the voice of authority, and was laughed at. As to Renee, an English lady was with her.

‘The English lady must be as mad as the rest,’ said the marquis.

‘The English are mad,’ said the count; ‘but their women are strict upon the proprieties.’

‘Possibly, my dear count; but what room is there for the proprieties on board a fishing-boat?’

‘It is even as you say, my dear marquis.’

‘You allow it?’

‘Can I help myself? Look at them. They tell me they have given the boat the fittings of a yacht.’

‘And the young man?’

‘That is the M. Beauchamp of whom I have spoken to you, the very pick of his country, fresh, lively, original; and he can converse. You will like him.’

‘I hope so,’ said the marquis, and roused a doleful laugh. ‘It would seem that one does not arrive by hastening!’

‘Oh! but my dear marquis, you have paid the compliment; you are like Spring thrusting in a bunch of lilac while the winds of winter blow. If you were not expected, your expeditiousness is appreciated, be sure.’

Roland fortunately did not hear the marquis compared to Spring. He was saying: ‘I wonder what those two elderly gentlemen are talking about’; and Nevil confused his senses by trying to realize that one of them was destined to be the husband of his now speechless Renee. The marquis was clad in a white silken suit, and a dash of red round the neck set off his black beard; but when he lifted his broad straw hat, a baldness of sconce shone. There was elegance in his gestures; he looked a gentleman, though an ultra-Gallican one, that is, too scrupulously finished for our taste, smelling of the valet. He had the habit of balancing his body on the hips, as if to emphasize a juvenile vigour, and his general attitude suggested an idea that he had an oration for you. Seen from a distance, his baldness and strong nasal projection were not winning features; the youthful standard he had evidently prescribed to himself in his dress and his ready jerks of acquiescence and delivery might lead a forlorn rival to conceive him something of an ogre straining at an Adonis. It could not be disputed that he bore his disappointment remarkably well; the more laudably, because his position was within a step of the ridiculous, for he had shot himself to the mark, despising sleep, heat, dust, dirt, diet, and lo, that charming object was deliberately slipping out of reach, proving his headlong journey an absurdity.

As he stood declining to participate in the lunatic voyage, and bidding them perforce good speed off the tips of his fingers, Renee turned her eyes on him, and away. She felt a little smart of pity, arising partly from her antagonism to Roland’s covert laughter: but it was the colder kind of feminine pity, which is nearer to contempt than to tenderness. She sat still, placid outwardly, in fear of herself, so strange she found it to be borne out to sea by her sailor lover under the eyes of her betrothed. She was conscious of a tumultuous rush of sensations, none of them of a very healthy kind, coming as it were from an unlocked chamber of her bosom, hitherto of unimagined contents; and the marquis being now on the spot to defend his own, she no longer blamed Nevil: it was otherwise utterly. All the sweeter side of pity was for him.

He was at first amazed by the sudden exquisite transition. Tenderness breathed from her, in voice, in look, in touch; for she accepted his help that he might lead her to the stern of the vessel, to gaze well on setting Venice, and sent lightnings up his veins; she leaned beside him over the vessel’s rails, not separated from him by the breadth of a fluttering riband. Like him, she scarcely heard her brother when for an instant he intervened, and with Nevil she said adieu to Venice, where the faint red Doge’s palace was like the fading of another sunset north- westward of the glory along the hills. Venice dropped lower and lower, breasting the waters, until it was a thin line in air. The line was broken, and ran in dots, with here and there a pillar standing on opal sky. At last the topmost campanile sank.

Renee looked up at the sails, and back for the submerged city.

‘It is gone!’ she said, as though a marvel had been worked; and swiftly: ‘we have one night!’

She breathed it half like a question, like a petition, catching her breath. The adieu to Venice was her assurance of liberty, but Venice hidden rolled on her the sense of the return and plucked shrewdly at her tether of bondage.

They set their eyes toward the dark gulf ahead. The night was growing starry. The softly ruffled Adriatic tossed no foam.

‘One night?’ said Nevil; ‘one? Why only one?’

Renee shuddered. ‘Oh! do not speak.’

‘Then, give me your hand.’

‘There, my friend.’

He pressed a hand that was like a quivering chord. She gave it as though it had been his own to claim. But that it meant no more than a hand he knew by the very frankness of her compliance, in the manner natural to her; and this was the charm, it filled him with her peculiar image and spirit, and while he held it he was subdued.

Lying on the deck at midnight, wrapt in his cloak and a coil of rope for a pillow, considerably apart from jesting Roland, the recollection of that little sanguine spot of time when Renee’s life-blood ran with his, began to heave under him like a swelling sea. For Nevil the starred black night was Renee. Half his heart was in it: but the combative division flew to the morning and the deadly iniquity of the marriage, from which he resolved to save her; in pure devotedness, he believed. And so he closed his eyes. She, a girl, with a heart fluttering open and fearing, felt only that she had lost herself somewhere, and she had neither sleep nor symbols, nothing but a sense of infinite strangeness, as though she were borne superhumanly through space.



The breeze blew steadily, enough to swell the sails and sweep the vessel on smoothly. The night air dropped no moisture on deck.

Nevil Beauchamp dozed for an hour. He was awakened by light on his eyelids, and starting up beheld the many pinnacles of grey and red rocks and shadowy high white regions at the head of the gulf waiting for the sun; and the sun struck them. One by one they came out in crimson flame, till the vivid host appeared to have stepped forward. The shadows on the snow-fields deepened to purple below an irradiation of rose and pink and dazzling silver. There of all the world you might imagine Gods to sit. A crowd of mountains endless in range, erect, or flowing, shattered and arid, or leaning in smooth lustre, hangs above the gulf. The mountains are sovereign Alps, and the sea is beneath them. The whole gigantic body keeps the sea, as with a hand, to right and left.

Nevil’s personal rapture craved for Renee with the second long breath he drew; and now the curtain of her tent-cabin parted, and greeting him with a half smile, she looked out. The Adriatic was dark, the Alps had heaven to themselves. Crescents and hollows, rosy mounds, white shelves, shining ledges, domes and peaks, all the towering heights were in illumination from Friuli into farthest Tyrol; beyond earth to the stricken senses of the gazers. Colour was stedfast on the massive front ranks: it wavered in the remoteness, and was quick and dim as though it fell on beating wings; but there too divine colour seized and shaped forth solid forms, and thence away to others in uttermost distances where the incredible flickering gleam of new heights arose, that soared, or stretched their white uncertain curves in sky like wings traversing infinity.

It seemed unlike morning to the lovers, but as if night had broken with a revelation of the kingdom in the heart of night. While the broad smooth waters rolled unlighted beneath that transfigured upper sphere, it was possible to think the scene might vanish like a view caught out of darkness by lightning. Alp over burning Alp, and around them a hueless dawn! The two exulted they threw off the load of wonderment, and in looking they had the delicious sensation of flight in their veins.

Renee stole toward Nevil. She was mystically shaken and at his mercy; and had he said then, ‘Over to the other land, away from Venice!’ she would have bent her head.

She asked his permission to rouse her brother and madame, so that they should not miss the scene.

Roland lay in the folds of his military greatcoat, too completely happy to be disturbed, Nevil Beauchamp chose to think; and Rosamund Culling, he told Renee, had been separated from her husband last on these waters.

‘Ah! to be unhappy here,’ sighed Renee. ‘I fancied it when I begged her to join us. It was in her voice.’

The impressionable girl trembled. He knew he was dear to her, and for that reason, judging of her by himself, he forbore to urge his advantage, conceiving it base to fear that loving him she could yield her hand to another; and it was the critical instant. She was almost in his grasp. A word of sharp entreaty would have swung her round to see her situation with his eyes, and detest and shrink from it. He committed the capital fault of treating her as his equal in passion and courage, not as metal ready to run into the mould under temporary stress of fire.

Even later in the morning, when she was cooler and he had come to speak, more than her own strength was needed to resist him. The struggle was hard. The boat’s head had been put about for Venice, and they were among the dusky-red Chioggian sails in fishing quarters, expecting momently a campanile to signal the sea-city over the level. Renee waited for it in suspense. To her it stood for the implacable key of a close and stifling chamber, so different from this brilliant boundless region of air, that she sickened with the apprehension; but she knew it must appear, and soon, and therewith the contraction and the gloom it indicated to her mind. He talked of the beauty. She fretted at it, and was her petulant self again in an epigrammatic note of discord.

He let that pass.

‘Last night you said “one night,”‘ he whispered. ‘We will have another sail before we leave Venice.’

‘One night, and in a little time one hour! and next one minute! and there’s the end,’ said Renee.

Her tone alarmed him. ‘Have you forgotten that you gave me your hand?’

‘I gave my hand to my friend.’

‘You gave it to me for good.’

‘No; I dared not; it is not mine.’

‘It is mine,’ said Beauchamp.

Renee pointed to the dots and severed lines and isolated columns of the rising city, black over bright sea.

‘Mine there as well as here,’ said Beauchamp, and looked at her with the fiery zeal of eyes intent on minutest signs for a confirmation, to shake that sad negation of her face.

‘Renee, you cannot break the pledge of the hand you gave me last night.’

‘You tell me how weak a creature I am.’

‘You are me, myself; more, better than me. And say, would you not rather coast here and keep the city under water?’

She could not refrain from confessing that she would be glad never to land there.

‘So, when you land, go straight to your father,’ said Beauchamp, to whose conception it was a simple act resulting from the avowal.

‘Oh! you torture me,’ she cried. Her eyelashes were heavy with tears. ‘I cannot do it. Think what you will of me! And, my friend, help me. Should you not help me? I have not once actually disobeyed my father, and he has indulged me, but he has been sure of me as a dutiful girl. That is my source of self-respect. My friend can always be my friend.’

‘Yes, while it’s not too late,’ said Beauchamp.

She observed a sudden stringing of his features. He called to the chief boatman, made his command intelligible to that portly capitano, and went on to Roland, who was puffing his after-breakfast cigarette in conversation with the tolerant English lady.

‘You condescend to notice us, Signor Beauchamp,’ said Roland. ‘The vessel is up to some manoeuvre?’

‘We have decided not to land,’ replied Beauchamp. ‘And Roland,’ he checked the Frenchman’s shout of laughter, ‘I think of making for Trieste. Let me speak to you, to both. Renee is in misery. She must not go back.’

Roland sprang to his feet, stared, and walked over to Renee.

‘Nevil,’ said Rosamund Culling, ‘do you know what you are doing?’

‘Perfectly,’ said he. ‘Come to her. She is a girl, and I must think and act for her.’

Roland met them.

‘My dear Nevil, are you in a state of delusion? Renee denies . . .’

‘There’s no delusion, Roland. I am determined to stop a catastrophe. I see it as plainly as those Alps. There is only one way, and that’s the one I have chosen.’

‘Chosen! my friend’. But allow me to remind you that you have others to consult. And Renee herself . . .’

‘She is a girl. She loves me, and I speak for her.’

‘She has said it?’

‘She has more than said it.’

‘You strike me to the deck, Nevil. Either you are downright mad–which seems the likeliest, or we are all in a nightmare. Can you suppose I will let my sister be carried away the deuce knows where, while her father is expecting her, and to fulfil an engagement affecting his pledged word?’

Beauchamp simply replied:

‘Come to her.’



The four sat together under the shadow of the helmsman, by whom they were regarded as voyagers in debate upon the question of some hours further on salt water. ‘No bora,’ he threw in at intervals, to assure them that the obnoxious wind of the Adriatic need not disturb their calculations.

It was an extraordinary sitting, but none of the parties to it thought of it so when Nevil Beauchamp had plunged them into it. He compelled them, even Renee–and she would have flown had there been wings on her shoulders–to feel something of the life and death issues present to his soul, and submit to the discussion, in plain language of the market- place, of the most delicate of human subjects for her, for him, and hardly less for the other two. An overmastering fervour can do this. It upsets the vessel we float in, and we have to swim our way out of deep waters by the directest use of the natural faculties, without much reflection on the change in our habits. To others not under such an influence the position seems impossible. This discussion occurred. Beauchamp opened the case in a couple of sentences, and when the turn came for Renee to speak, and she shrank from the task in manifest pain, he spoke for her, and no one heard her contradiction. She would have wished the fearful impetuous youth to succeed if she could have slept through the storm he was rousing.

Roland appealed to her. ‘You! my sister! it is you that consent to this wild freak, enough to break your father’s heart?’

He had really forgotten his knowledge of her character–what much he knew–in the dust of the desperation flung about her by Nevil Beauchamp.

She shook her head; she had not consented.

‘The man she loves is her voice and her will,’ said Beauchamp. ‘She gives me her hand and I lead her.’

Roland questioned her. It could not be denied that she had given her hand, and her bewildered senses made her think that it had been with an entire abandonment; and in the heat of her conflict of feelings, the deliciousness of yielding to him curled round and enclosed her, as in a cool humming sea-shell.

‘Renee!’ said Roland.

‘Brother!’ she cried.

‘You see that I cannot suffer you to be borne away.’

‘No; do not!’

But the boat was flying fast from Venice, and she could have fallen at his feet and kissed them for not countermanding it.

‘You are in my charge, my sister.’


‘And now, Nevil, between us two,’ said Roland.

Beauchamp required no challenge. He seemed, to Rosamund Culling, twice older than he was, strangely adept, yet more strangely wise of worldly matters, and eloquent too. But it was the eloquence of frenzy, madness, in Roland’s ear. The arrogation of a terrible foresight that harped on present and future to persuade him of the righteousness of this headlong proceeding advocated by his friend, vexed his natural equanimity. The argument was out of the domain of logic. He could hardly sit to listen, and tore at his moustache at each end. Nevertheless his sister listened. The mad Englishman accomplished the miracle of making her listen, and appear to consent.

Roland laughed scornfully. ‘Why Trieste? I ask you, why Trieste? You can’t have a Catholic priest at your bidding, without her father’s sanction.’

‘We leave Renee at Trieste, under the care of madame,’ said Beauchamp, ‘and we return to Venice, and I go to your father. This method protects Renee from annoyance.’

‘It strikes me that if she arrives at any determination she must take the consequences.’

‘She does. She is brave enough for that. But she is a girl; she has to fight the battle of her life in a day, and I am her lover, and she leaves it to me.’

‘Is my sister such a coward?’ said Roland.

Renee could only call out his name.

‘It will never do, my dear Nevil; Roland tried to deal with his unreasonable friend affectionately. ‘I am responsible for her. It’s your own fault–if you had not saved my life I should not have been in your way. Here I am, and your proposal can’t be heard of. Do as you will, both of you, when you step ashore in Venice.’

‘If she goes back she is lost,’ said Beauchamp, and he attacked Roland on the side of his love for Renee, and for him.

Roland was inflexible. Seeing which, Renee said, ‘To Venice, quickly, my brother!’ and now she almost sighed with relief to think that she was escaping from this hurricane of a youth, who swept her off her feet and wrapt her whole being in a delirium.

‘We were in sight of the city just now!’ cried Roland, staring and frowning. ‘What’s this?’

Beauchamp answered him calmly, ‘The boat’s under my orders.’

‘Talk madness, but don’t act it,’ said Roland. ‘Round with the boat at once. Hundred devils! you haven’t your wits.’

To his amazement, Beauchamp refused to alter the boat’s present course.

‘You heard my sister?’ said Roland.

‘You frighten her,’ said Beauchamp.

‘You heard her wish to return to Venice, I say.’

‘She has no wish that is not mine.’

It came to Roland’s shouting his command to the men, while Beauchamp pointed the course on for them.

‘You will make this a ghastly pleasantry,’ said Roland.

‘I do what I know to be right,’ said Beauchamp.

‘You want an altercation before these fellows?’

‘There won’t be one; they obey me.’

Roland blinked rapidly in wrath and doubt of mind.

‘Madame,’ he stooped to Rosamund Culling, with a happy inspiration, ‘convince him; you have known him longer than I, and I desire not to lose my friend. And tell me, madame–I can trust you to be truth itself, and you can see it is actually the time for truth to be spoken–is he justified in taking my sister’s hand? You perceive that I am obliged to appeal to you. Is he not dependent on his uncle? And is he not, therefore, in your opinion, bound in reason as well as in honour to wait for his uncle’s approbation before he undertakes to speak for my sister? And, since the occasion is urgent, let me ask you one thing more: whether, by your knowledge of his position, you think him entitled to presume to decide upon my sister’s destiny? She, you are aware, is not so young but that she can speak for herself . . .’

‘There you are wrong, Roland,’ said Beauchamp; ‘she can neither speak nor think for herself: you lead her blindfolded.’

‘And you, my friend, suppose that you are wiser than any of us. It is understood. I venture to appeal to madame on the point in question.’

The poor lady’s heart beat dismally. She was constrained to answer, and said, ‘His uncle is one who must be consulted.’

‘You hear that, Nevil,’ said Roland.

Beauchamp looked at her sharply; angrily, Rosamund feared. She had struck his hot brain with the vision of Everard Romfrey as with a bar of iron. If Rosamund had inclined to the view that he was sure of his uncle’s support, it would have seemed to him a simple confirmation of his sentiments, but he was not of the same temper now as when he exclaimed, ‘Let him see her!’ and could imagine, give him only Renee’s love, the world of men subservient to his wishes.

Then he was dreaming; he was now in fiery earnest, for that reason accessible to facts presented to him; and Rosamund’s reluctantly spoken words brought his stubborn uncle before his eyes, inflicting a sense of helplessness of the bitterest kind.

They were all silent. Beauchamp stared at the lines of the deck-planks.

His scheme to rescue Renee was right and good; but was he the man that should do it? And was she, moreover, he thought–speculating on her bent head–the woman to be forced to brave the world with him, and poverty? She gave him no sign. He was assuredly not the man to pretend to powers he did not feel himself to possess, and though from a personal, and still more from a lover’s, inability to see all round him at one time and accurately to weigh the forces at his disposal, he had gone far, he was not a wilful dreamer nor so very selfish a lover. The instant his consciousness of a superior strength failed him he acknowledged it.

Renee did not look up. She had none of those lightnings of primitive energy, nor the noble rashness and reliance on her lover, which his imagination had filled her with; none. That was plain. She could not even venture to second him. Had she done so he would have held out. He walked to the head of the boat without replying.

Soon after this the boat was set for Venice again.

When he rejoined his companions he kissed Rosamund’s hand, and Renee, despite a confused feeling of humiliation and anger, loved him for it.

Glittering Venice was now in sight; the dome of Sta. Maria Salute shining like a globe of salt.

Roland flung his arm round his friend’s neck, and said, ‘Forgive me.’

‘You do what you think right,’ said Beauchamp.

‘You are a perfect man of honour, my friend, and a woman would adore you. Girls are straws. It’s part of Renee’s religion to obey her father. That’s why I was astonished! . . . I owe you my life, and I would willingly give you my sister in part payment, if I had the giving of her; most willingly. The case is, that she’s a child, and you?’

‘Yes, I’m dependent,’ Beauchamp assented. ‘I can’t act; I see it. That scheme wants two to carry it out: she has no courage. I feel that I could carry the day with my uncle, but I can’t subject her to the risks, since she dreads them; I see it. Yes, I see that! I should have done well, I believe; I should have saved her.’

‘Run to England, get your uncle’s consent, and then try.’

‘No; I shall go to her father.’

‘My dear Nevil, and supposing you have Renee to back you–supposing it, I say–won’t you be falling on exactly the same bayonet-point?’

‘If I leave her!’ Beauchamp interjected. He perceived the quality of Renee’s unformed character which he could not express.

‘But we are to suppose that she loves you?’

‘She is a girl.’

‘You return, my friend, to the place you started from, as you did on the canal without knowing it. In my opinion, frankly, she is best married. And I think so all the more after this morning’s lesson. You understand plainly that if you leave her she will soon be pliant to the legitimate authorities; and why not?’

‘Listen to me, Roland. I tell you she loves me. I am bound to her, and when–if ever I see her unhappy, I will not stand by and look on quietly.’

Roland shrugged. ‘The future not being born, my friend, we will abstain from baptizing it. For me, less privileged than my fellows, I have never seen the future. Consequently I am not in love with it, and to declare myself candidly I do not care for it one snap of the fingers. Let us follow our usages, and attend to the future at the hour of its delivery. I prefer the sage-femme to the prophet. From my heart, Nevil, I wish I could help you. We have charged great guns together, but a family arrangement is something different from a hostile battery. There’s Venice! and, as soon as you land, my responsibility’s ended. Reflect, I pray you, on what I have said about girls. Upon my word, I discover myself talking wisdom to you. Girls are precious fragilities. Marriage is the mould for them; they get shape, substance, solidity: that is to say, sense, passion, a will of their own: and grace and tenderness, delicacy; all out of the rude, raw, quaking creatures we call girls. Paris! my dear Nevil. Paris! It’s the book of women.’

The grandeur of the decayed sea-city, where folly had danced Parisianly of old, spread brooding along the waters in morning light; beautiful; but with that inner light of history seen through the beauty Venice was like a lowered banner. The great white dome and the campanili watching above her were still brave emblems. Would Paris leave signs of an ancient vigour standing to vindicate dignity when her fall came? Nevil thought of Renee in Paris.

She avoided him. She had retired behind her tent-curtains, and reappeared only when her father’s voice hailed the boat from a gondola. The count and the marquis were sitting together, and there was a spare gondola for the voyagers, so that they should not have to encounter another babel of the riva. Salutes were performed with lifted hats, nods, and bows.

‘Well, my dear child, it has all been very wonderful and uncomfortable?’ said the count.

‘Wonderful, papa; splendid.’

‘No qualms of any kind?’

‘None, I assure you.’ And madame?’

‘Madame will confirm it, if you find a seat for her.’

Rosamund Culling was received in the count’s gondola, cordially thanked, and placed beside the marquis.

‘I stay on board and pay these fellows,’ said Roland.

Renee was told by her father to follow madame. He had jumped into the spare gondola and offered a seat to Beauchamp.

‘No,’ cried Renee, arresting Beauchamp, ‘it is I who mean to sit with papa.’

Up sprang the marquis with an entreating, ‘Mademoiselle!’

‘M. Beauchamp will entertain you, M. le Marquis.’

‘I want him here,’ said the count; and Beauchamp showed that his wish was to enter the count’s gondola, but Renee had recovered her aplomb, and decisively said ‘No,’ and Beauchamp had to yield.

That would have been an opportunity of speaking to her father without a formal asking of leave. She knew it as well as Nevil Beauchamp.

Renee took his hand to be assisted in the step down to her father’s arms, murmuring:

‘Do nothing–nothing! until you hear from me.’


A bone in a boy’s mind for him to gnaw and worry A kind of anchorage in case of indiscretion A night that had shivered repose
Am I thy master, or thou mine?
An instinct labouring to supply the deficiencies of stupidity And now came war, the purifier and the pestilence And one gets the worst of it (in any bargain) Anticipate opposition by initiating measures Appetite to flourish at the cost of the weaker As for titles, the way to defend them is to be worthy of them Boys are unjust
Braggadocioing in deeds is only next bad to mouthing it Calm fanaticism of the passion of love
Compassionate sentiments veered round to irate amazement Despises the pomades and curling-irons of modern romance Disqualification of constantly offending prejudices Efforts to weary him out of his project were unsuccessful Empty magnanimity which his uncle presented to him Energy to something, that was not to be had in a market Feminine pity, which is nearer to contempt than to tenderness Fit of Republicanism in the nursery
Forewarn readers of this history that there is no plot in it Haunted many pillows
He had expected romance, and had met merchandize He was too much on fire to know the taste of absurdity Holding to his work after the strain’s over–That tells the man Humour preserved her from excesses of sentiment I cannot say less, and will say no more
Impudent boy’s fling at superiority over the superior In India they sacrifice the widows, in France the virgins Incessantly speaking of the necessity we granted it unknowingly Levelling a finger at the taxpayer
Men had not pleased him of late
Mental and moral neuters
Never was a word fitter for a quack’s mouth than “humanity” No case is hopeless till a man consents to think it is Peace-party which opposed was the actual cause of the war Peculiar subdued form of laughter through the nose Play the great game of blunders
Please to be pathetic on that subject after I am wrinkled Politics as well as the other diseases
Press, which had kindled, proceeded to extinguished Presumptuous belief
Ready is the ardent mind to take footing on the last thing done She was not, happily, one of the women who betray strong feeling Shuns the statuesque pathetic, or any kind of posturing Straining for common talk, and showing the strain Style resembling either early architecture or utter dilapidation The people always wait for the winner
The system is cursed by nature, and that means by heaven The tragedy of the mirror is one for a woman to write Times when an example is needed by brave men Tongue flew, thought followed
We could row and ride and fish and shoot, and breed largely We dare not be weak if we would
We were unarmed, and the spectacle was distressing We’re treated like old-fashioned ornaments! You’re talking to me, not to a gallery