The Amazing Marriage, v5 by George Meredith

editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US unless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we usually do not keep etexts in compliance with any particular paper edition. The “legal small print” and other information about this book may now be found at the end of this file. Please read this
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
  • 1895
Tags:
FREE Audible 30 days

editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US unless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we usually do not keep etexts in compliance with any particular paper edition.

The “legal small print” and other information about this book may now be found at the end of this file. Please read this important information, as it gives you specific rights and tells you about restrictions in how the file may be used.

This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author’s ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]

THE AMAZING MARRIAGE

By George Meredith

1895

BOOK 5.

XXXIX. THE RED WARNING FROM A SON OF VAPOUR XL. A RECORD OF MINOR INCIDENTS
XLI. IN WHICH THE FATES ARE SEEN AND A CHOICE OF THE REFUGES FROM THEM
XLII. THE RETARDED COURTSHIP
XLIII. ON THE ROAD TO THE ACT OF PENANCE XLIV. BETWEEN THE EARL; THE COUNTESS AND HER BROTHER, AND OF A SILVER CROSS
XLV. CONTAINS A RECORD OF WHAT WAS FEARED, WHAT WAS HOPED, AND WHAT HAPPENED
XLVI. A CHAPTER OF UNDERCURRENTS AND SOME SURFACE FLASHES XLVII. THE LAST: WITH A CONCLUDING WORD BY THE DAME

CHAPTER XXXIX

THE RED WARNING FROM A SON OF VAPOUR

Desiring loneliness or else Lord Feltre’s company, Fleetwood had to grant a deferred audience at home to various tradesmen, absurdly fussy about having the house of his leased estate of Calesford furnished complete and habitable on the very day stipulated by his peremptory orders that the place should be both habitable and hospitable. They were right, they were excused; grand entertainments of London had been projected, and he fell into the weariful business with them, thinking of Henrietta’s insatiable appetite for the pleasures. He had taken the lease of this burdensome Calesford, at an eight-miles’ drive from the Northwest of town, to gratify the devouring woman’s taste which was, to have all the luxuries of the town in a framework of country scenery.

Gower Woodseer and he were dining together in the evening. The circumstance was just endurable, but Gower would play the secretary, and doggedly subjected him to hear a statement of the woeful plight of Countess Livia’s affairs. Gower, commissioned to examine them, remarked: ‘If we have all the figures!’

‘If we could stop the bleeding!’ Fleetwood replied. ‘Come to the Opera to-night; I promised. I promised Abrane for to-morrow. There’s no end to it. This gambling mania’s a flux. Not one of them except your old enemy, Corby, keeps clear of it; and they’re at him for subsidies, as they are at me, and would be at you or any passenger on the suspected of a purse. Corby shines among them.’

That was heavy judgement enough, Gower thought. No allusion to Esslemont ensued. The earl ate sparely, and silently for the most part.

He was warmed a little at the Opera by hearing Henrietta’s honest raptures over her Columelli in the Pirata. But Lord Brailstone sat behind her, and their exchange of ecstasies upon the tattered pathos of

E il mio tradito amor,

was not moderately offensive.

His countenance in Henrietta’s presence had to be studied and interpreted by Livia. Why did it darken? The demurest of fuliginous intriguers argued that Brail stone was but doing the spiriting required of him, and would have to pay the penalty unrewarded, let him Italianize as much as he pleased. Not many months longer, and there would be the bit of an outburst, the whiff of scandal, perhaps a shot, and the rupture of an improvident alliance, followed by Henrietta’s free hand to the moody young earl, who would then have possession of the only woman he could ever love: and at no cost. Jealousy of a man like Brailstone, however infatuated the man, was too foolish. He must perceive how matters were tending? The die-away acid eyeballs-at-the-ceiling of a pair of fanatics per la musica might irritate a husband, but the lover should read and know. Giddy as the beautiful creature deprived of her natural aliment seems in her excuseable hunger for it, she has learnt her lesson, she is not a reeling libertine.

Brailstone peered through his eyelashes at the same shadow of a frown where no frown sat on his friend’s brows. Displeasure was manifest, and why? Fleetwood had given him the dispossessing shrug of the man out of the run, and the hint of the tip for winning, with the aid of operatic arias; and though he was in Fleetwood’s books ever since the prize-fight, neither Fleetwood nor the husband nor any skittishness of a timorous wife could stop the pursuer bent to capture the fairest and most inflaming woman of her day.

‘I prefer your stage Columelli,’ Fleetwood said.

‘I come from exile!’ said Henrietta; and her plea in excuse of ecstatics wrote her down as confessedly treasonable to the place quitted.

Ambrose Mallard entered the box, beholding only his goddess Livia. Their eyebrows and inaudible lips conversed eloquently. He retired like a trumped card on the appearance of M. de St. Ombre. The courtly Frenchman won the ladies to join him in whipping the cream of the world for five minutes, and passed out before his flavour was exhausted. Brailstone took his lesson and departed, to spy at them from other boxes and heave an inflated shirt-front. Young Cressett, the bottle of effervescence, dashed in, and for him Livia’s face was motherly. He rattled a tale of the highway robbery of Sir Meeson Corby on one of his Yorkshire moors. The picture of the little baronet arose upon the narration, and it amused. Chumley Potts came to ‘confirm every item,’ as he said. ‘Plucked Corby clean. Pistol at his head. Quite old style. Time, ten P.M. Suspects Great Britain, King, Lords and Commons, and buttons twenty times tighter. Brosey Mallard down on him for a few fighting men. Perfect answer to Brosey.’

‘Mr. Mallard did not mention the robbery,’ Henrietta remarked.

‘Feared to shock: Corby such a favoured swain,’ Potts accounted for the omission.

‘Brosey spilling last night?’ Fleetwood asked.

‘At the palazzo, we were,’ said Potts. ‘Luck pretty fair first off. Brosey did his trick, and away and away and away went he! More old Brosey wins, the wiser he gets. I stayed.’ He swung to Gower: ‘Don’t drink dry Sillery after two A.M. You read me?’

‘Egyptian, but decipherable,’ said Gower.

The rising of the curtain drew his habitual groan from Potts, and he fled to collogue with the goodly number of honest fellows in the house of music who detested ‘squallery.’ Most of these afflicted pilgrims to the London conservatory were engaged upon the business of the Goddess richly inspiring the Heliconian choir, but rendering the fountain-waters heady. Here they had to be, if they would enjoy the spectacle of London’s biggest and choicest bouquet: and in them, too, there was an unattached air during Potts’ cooling discourse of turf and tables, except when he tossed them a morsel of tragedy, or the latest joke, not yet past the full gallop on its course. Their sparkle was transient; woman had them fast. Compelled to think of them as not serious members of our group, he assisted at the crush-room exit, and the happy riddance of the beautiful cousins dedicated to the merry London midnights’ further pastures.

Fleetwood’s word was extracted, that he would visit the ‘palazzo’ within a couple of hours.

Potts exclaimed: ‘Good. You promise. Hang me, if I don’t think it ‘s the only certain thing a man can depend upon in this world.’

He left the earl and Gower Woodseer to their lunatic talk. He still had his ideas about the association of the pair. ‘Hard-headed player of his own game, that Woodseer, spite of his Mumbo-Jumbo-oracle kind of talk.’

Mallard’s turn of luck downward to the deadly drop had come under Potts’ first inspection of the table. Admiring his friend’s audacity, deploring his rashness, reproving his persistency, Potts allowed his verdict to go by results; for it was clear that Mallard and Fortune were in opposition. Something like real awe of the tremendous encounter kept him from a plunge or a bet. Mallard had got the vertigo, he reported the gambler’s launch on dementedness to the earl. Gower’s less experienced optics perceived it. The plainly doomed duellist with the insensible Black Goddess offered her all the advantages of the Immortals challenged by flesh. His effort to smile was a line cut awry in wood; his big eyes were those of a cat for sociability; he looked cursed, and still he wore the smile. In this condition, the gambler runs to emptiness of everything he has, his money, his heart, his brains, like a coal-truck on the incline of the rails to a collier.

Mallard applied to the earl for a loan of fifty guineas. He had them and lost them, and he came, not begging, blustering for a second supply; quite in the wrong tone, Potts knew. Fleetwood said: ‘Back it with pistols, Brosey’; and, as Potts related subsequently, ‘Old Brosey had the look of a staked horse.’

Fortune and he having now closed the struggle, perforce of his total disarmament, he regained the wits we forfeit when we engage her. He said to his friend Chummy: ‘Abrane tomorrow? Ah, yes, punts a Thames waterman. Start of–how many yards? Sunbury-Walton: good reach. Course of two miles: Braney in good training. Straight business? I mayn’t be there. But you, Chummy, you mind, old Chums, all cases of the kind, safest back the professional. Unless–you understand!’

Fleetwood could not persuade Gower to join the party. The philosopher’s pretext of much occupation masked a bashfully sentimental dislike of the flooding of quiet country places by the city’s hordes. ‘You’re right, right,’ said Fleetwood, in sympathy, resigned to the prospect of despising his associates without a handy helper. He named Esslemont once, shot up a look at the sky, and glanced it Eastward.

Three coaches were bound for Sunbury from a common starting-point at nine of the morning. Lord Fleetwood, Lord Brailstone, and Lord Simon Pitscrew were the whips. Two hours in advance of them, the earl’s famous purveyors of picnic feasts bowled along to pitch the riverside tent and spread the tables. Our upper and lower London world reported the earl as out on another of his expeditions: and, say what we will, we must think kindly of a wealthy nobleman ever to the front to enliven the town’s dusty eyes and increase Old England’s reputation for pre-eminence in the Sports.

He is the husband of the Whitechapel Countess–got himself into that mess; but whatever he does, he puts the stamp of style on it. He and the thing he sets his hand to, they’re neat, they’re finished, they’re fitted to trot together, and they’ve a shining polish, natural, like a lily of the fields; or say Nature and Art, like the coat of a thoroughbred led into the paddock by his groom, if you’re of that mind.

Present at the start in Piccadilly, Gower took note of Lord Fleetwood’s military promptitude to do the work he had no taste for, and envied the self-compression which could assume so pleasant an air. He heard here and there crisp comments on his lordship’s coach and horses and personal smartness; the word ‘style,’ which reflects handsomely on the connoisseur conferring it, and the question whether one of the ladies up there was the countess. His task of unearthing and disentangling the monetary affairs of ‘one of the ladies’ compelled the wish to belong to the party soon to be towering out of the grasp of bricks, and delightfully gay, spirited, quick for fun. A fellow, he thought, may brood upon Nature, but the real children of Nature–or she loves them best–are those who have the careless chatter, the ready laugh, bright welcome for a holiday. In catching the hour, we are surely the bloom of the hour? Why, yes, and no need to lose the rosy wisdom of the children when we wrap ourselves in the patched old cloak of the man’s.

On he went to his conclusions; but the Dame will have none of them, though here was a creature bent on masonry-work in his act of thinking, to build a traveller’s-rest for thinkers behind him; while the volatile were simply breaking their bubbles.

He was discontented all day, both with himself and the sentences he coined. A small street-boy at his run along the pavement nowhither, distanced him altogether in the race for the great Secret; precipitating the thought, that the conscious are too heavily handicapped. The unburdened unconscious win the goal. Ay, but they leave no legacy. So we must fret and stew, and look into ourselves, and seize the brute and scourge him, just to make one serviceable step forward: that is, utter a single sentence worth the pondering for guidance.

Gower imagined the fun upon middle Thames: the vulcan face of Captain Abrane; the cries of his backers, the smiles of the ladies, Lord Fleetwood’s happy style in the teeth of tattlean Aurora’s chariot for overriding it. One might hope, might almost see, that he was coming to his better senses on a certain subject. As for style overriding the worst of indignities, has not Scotia given her poet to the slack dependant of the gallows-tree, who so rantingly played his jig and wheeled it round in the shadow of that institution? Style was his, he hit on the right style to top the situation, and perpetually will he slip his head out of the noose to dance the poet’s verse.

In fact, style is the mantle of greatness; and say that the greatness is beyond our reach, we may at least pray to have the mantle.

Strangest of fancies, most unphilosophically, Gower conceived a woman’s love as that which would bestow the gift upon a man so bare of it as he. Where was the woman? He embraced the idea of the sex, and found it resolving to a form of one. He stood humbly before the one, and she waned into swarms of her sisters. So did she charge him with the loving of her sex, not her. And could it be denied, if he wanted a woman’s love just to give him a style? No, not that, but to make him feel proud of himself. That was the heart’s way of telling him a secret in owning to a weakness. Within it the one he had thought of forthwith obtained her lodgement. He discovered this truth, in this roundabout way, and knew it a truth by the warm fireside glow the contemplation of her cast over him.

Dining alone, as he usually had to do, he was astonished to see the earl enter his room.

‘Ah, you always make the right choice!’ Fleetwood said, and requested him to come to the library when he had done eating.

Gower imagined an accident. A metallic ring was in the earl’s voice.

One further mouthful finished dinner, for Gower was anxious concerning the ladies. He joined the earl and asked.

‘Safe. Oh yes. We managed to keep it from them,’ said Fleetwood. ‘Nothing particular, perhaps you’ll think. Poor devil of a fellow! Father and mother alive, too! He did it out of hearing, that ‘a one merit. Mallard: Ambrose Mallard. He has blown his brains out.’

Seated plunged in the armchair, with stretched legs and eyes at the black fire-grate, Fleetwood told of the gathering under the tent, and Mallard seen, seen drinking champagne; Mallard no longer seen, not missed.

‘He killed himself three fields off. He must have been careful to deaden the sound. Small pocket-pistol hardly big enough to–but anything serves. Couple of brats came running up to Chummy Potts:–“Gentleman’s body bloody in a ditch.” Chummy came to me, and we went. Clean dead; –in the mouth, pointed up; hole through the top of the skull. We’re crockery! crockery! I had to keep Chummy standing. I couldn’t bring him back to our party. We got help at a farm; the body lies there. And that’s not the worst. We found a letter to me in his pocket pencilled his last five minutes. I don’t see what he could have done except to go. I can’t tell you more. I had to keep my face, rowing and driving back. “But where is Mr. Potts? Where can Mr. Mallard be?” Queer sensation, to hear the ladies ask! Give me your hand.’

The earl squeezed Gower’s hand an instant; and it was an act unknown for him to touch or bear a touch; it said a great deal.

Late at night he mounted to Gower’s room. The funeral of the day’s impressions had not been skaken off. He kicked at it and sunk under it as his talk rambled. ‘Add five thousand,’ he commented, on the spread of Livia’s papers over the table. ‘I’ve been having an hour with her. Two thousand more, she says. Better multiply by two and a half for a woman’s confession. We have to trust to her for some of the debts of honour. See her in the morning. No one masters her but you. Mind, the first to be clear of must be St. Ombre. I like the fellow; but these Frenchmen –they don’t spare women. Ambrose,’–the earl’s eyelids quivered. ‘Jealousy fired that shot. Quite groundless. She ‘s cool as a marble Venus, as you said. Go straight from her house to Esslemont. I don’t plead a case. Make the best account you can of it. Say–you may say my eyes are opened. I respect her. If you think that says little, say more. It can’t mean more. Whatever the Countess of Fleetwood may think due to her, let her name it. Say my view of life, way of life, everything in me, has changed. I shall follow you. I don’t expect to march over the ground. She has a heap to forgive. Her father owns or boasts, in that book of his Rose Mackrell lent me, he never forgave an injury.’

Gower helped the quotation, rubbing his hands over it, for cover of his glee at the words he had been hearing. ‘Never forgave an injury without a return blow for it. The blow forgives. Good for the enemy to get it. He called his hearty old Pagan custom “an action of the lungs” with him. And it’s not in nature for injuries to digest in us. They poison the blood, if we try. But then, there’s a manner of hitting back. It is not to go an inch beyond the exact measure, Captain Kirby warns us.’

Fleetwood sighed down to a low groan.

‘Lord Feltre would have an answer for you. She’s a wife; and a wife hitting back is not a pleasant–well, petticoats make the difference. If she’s for amends, she shall exact them; and she may be hard to satisfy, she shall have her full revenge. Call it by any other term you like. I did her a wrong. I don’t defend myself; it ‘s not yet in the Law Courts. I beg to wipe it out, rectify it–choose your phrase– to the very fullest. I look for the alliance with her to . . .’

He sprang up and traversed the room: ‘We’re all guilty of mistakes at starting: I speak of men. Women are protected; and if they’re not, there’s the convent for them, Feltre says. But a man has to live it on before the world; and this life, with these flies of fellows . . . I fell into it in some way. Absolutely like the first bird I shot as a youngster, and stood over the battered head and bloody feathers, wondering! There was Ambrose Mallard–the same splintered bones–blood –come to his end; and for a woman; that woman the lady bearing the title of half-mother to me. God help me! What are my sins? She feels nothing, or about as much as the mortuary paragraph of the newspapers, for the dead man; and I have Ambrose Mallard’s look at her and St. Ombre talking together, before he left the tent to cross the fields. Borrow, beg, or steal for money to play for her! and not a glimpse of the winning post.

St. Ombre ‘s a cool player; that ‘s at the bottom of the story. He’s cool because play doesn’t bite him, as it did Ambrose. I should say the other passion has never bitten him. And he’s alive and presentable; Ambrose under a sheet, with Chummy Potts to watch. Chummy cried like a brat in the street for his lost mammy. I left him crying and sobbing. They have their feelings, these “children of vapour,” as you call them. But how did I fall into the line with a set I despised? She had my opinion of her gamblers, and retorted that young Cressett’s turn for the fling is my doing. I can’t swear it’s not. There’s one of my sins. What’s to wipe them out! She has a tender feeling for the boy; confessed she wanted governing. Why; she’s young, in a way. She has that particular vice of play. She might be managed. Here’s a lesson for her! Don’t you think she might? The right man,–the man she can respect, fancy incorruptible! He must let her see he has an eye for tricks. She’s not responsible for–his mad passion was the cause, cause of everything he did. The kind of woman to send the shaft. You called her “Diana seated.” You said, “She doesn’t hunt, she sits and lets fly her arrow.” Well, she showed feeling for young Cressett, and her hit at me was an answer. It struck me on the mouth. But she’s an eternal anxiety. A man she respects! A man to govern her!’

Fleetwood hurried his paces. ‘I couldn’t have allowed poor Ambrose. Besides, he had not a chance–never had in anything. It wants a head, wants the man who can say no to her. “The Reveller’s Aurora,” you called her. She has her beauty, yes. She respects you. I should be relieved –a load off me! Tell her, all debts paid; fifty thousand invested, in her name and her husband’s. Tell her, speak it, there’s my consent–if only the man to govern her! She has it from me, but repeat it, as from me. That sum and her portion would make a fair income for the two. Relieved? By heaven, what a relief! Go early. Coach to Esslemont at eleven. Do my work there. I haven’t to repeat my directions. I shall present myself two days after. I wish Lady Fleetwood to do the part of hostess at Calesford. Tell her I depute you to kiss my son for me. Now I leave you. Good-night. I shan’t sleep. I remember your saying, “bad visions come under the eyelids.” I shall keep mine open and read–read her father’s book of the Maxims; I generally find two or three at a dip to stimulate. No wonder she venerates him. That sort of progenitor is your “permanent aristocracy.” Hard enemy. She must have some of her mother in her, too. Abuse me to her, admit the justice of reproaches, but say, reason, good feeling–I needn’t grind at it. Say I respect her. Advise her to swallow the injury–not intended for insult. I don’t believe anything higher than respect can be offered to a woman. No defence of me to her, but I’ll tell you, that when I undertook to keep my word with her, I plainly said–never mind; good-night. If we meet in the morning, let this business rest until it ‘s done. I must drive to help poor Chums and see about the Inquest.’

Fleetwood nodded from the doorway. Gower was left with humming ears.

CHAPTER XL

RECORD OF MINOR INCIDENTS

They went to their beds doomed to lie and roam as the solitaries of a sleepless night. They met next day like a couple emerging from sirocco deserts, indisposed for conversation or even short companionship, much of the night’s dry turmoil in their heads. Each would have preferred the sight of an enemy; and it was hardly concealed by them, for they inclined to regard one another as the author of their infernal passage through the drear night’s wilderness.

Fleetwood was the civiller; his immediate prospective duties being clear, however abhorrent. But he had inflicted a monstrous disturbance on the man he meant in his rash, decisive way to elevate, if not benefit. Gower’s imagination, foreign to his desires and his projects, was playing juggler’s tricks with him, dramatizing upon hypotheses, which mounted in stages and could pretend to be soberly conceivable, assuming that the earl’s wild hints overnight were a credible basis. He transported himself to his first view of the Countess Livia, the fountain of similes born of his prostrate adoration, close upon the invasion and capture of him by the combined liqueurs in the giddy Batlen lights; and joining the Arabian magic in his breast at the time with the more magical reality now proposed as a sequel to it, he entered the land where dreams confess they are outstripped by revelations.

Yet it startled him to hear the earl say: ‘You’ll get audience at ten; I’ve arranged; make the most of the situation to her. I refuse to help. I foresee it ‘s the only way of solving this precious puzzle. You do me and every one of us a service past paying. Not a man of her set worth. . . . She–but you’ll stop it; no one else can. Of course, you’ve had your breakfast. Off, and walk yourself into a talkative mood, as you tell me you do.’

‘One of the things I do when I’ve nobody to hear,’ said Gower, speculating whether the black sprite in this young nobleman was for sending him as a rod to scourge the lady: an ingenious device, that smelt of mediaeval Courts and tickled his humour.

‘Will she listen?’ he said gravely.

‘She will listen; she has not to learn you admire. You admit she has helped to trim and polish, and the rest. She declares you’re incorruptible. There’s the ground open. I fling no single sovereign more into that quicksand, and I want not one word further on the subject. I follow you to Esslemont. Pray, go.’

Fleetwood pushed into the hall. A footman was ordered to pack and deposit Mr. Woodseer’s portmanteau at the coach-office.

‘The principal point is to make sure we have all the obligations,’ Gower said.

‘You know the principal point,’ said the earl. ‘Relieve me.’

He faced to the opening street door. Lord Feltre stood in the framing of it–a welcome sight. The ‘monastic man of fashion,’ of Gower’s phrase for him, entered, crooning condolences, with a stretched waxen hand for his friend, a partial nod for Nature’s worshipper–inefficient at any serious issue of our human affairs, as the earl would now discover.

Gower left the two young noblemen to their greetings. Happily for him, philosophy, in the present instance, after a round of profundities, turned her lantern upon the comic aspect of his errand. Considering the Countess Livia, and himself, and the tyrant, who benevolently and providentially, or sardonically, hurled them to their interview, the situation was comic, certainly, in the sense of its being an illumination of this life’s odd developments. For thus had things come about, that if it were possible even to think of the lady’s condescending, he, thanks to the fair one he would see before evening, was armed and proof against his old infatuation or any renewal of it. And he had been taught to read through the beautiful twilighted woman, as if she were burnt paper held at the fire consuming her. His hopes hung elsewhere. Nevertheless, an intellectual demon-imp very lively in his head urged him to speculate on such a contest between them, and weigh the engaging forces. Difficulties were perceived, the scornful laughter on her side was plainly heard; but his feeling of savage mastery, far from beaten down, swelled so as to become irritable for the trial; and when he was near her house he held a review of every personal disadvantage he could summon, incited by an array of limping deficiencies that flattered their arrogant leader with ideas of the power he had in spite of them.

In fact, his emancipation from sentiment inspired the genial mood to tease. Women, having to encounter a male adept at the weapon for the purpose, must be either voluble or supportingly proud to keep the skin from shrinking: which is a commencement of the retrogression; and that has frequently been the beginning of a rout. Now the Countess Livia was a lady of queenly pose and the servitorial conventional speech likely at a push to prove beggarly. When once on a common platform with a man of agile tongue instigated by his intellectual demon to pursue inquiries into her moral resources, after a ruthless exposure of the wrecked material, she would have to be, after the various fashions, defiant, if she was to hold her own against pressure; and seeing, as she must, the road of prudence point to conciliation, it was calculable that she would take it. Hence a string of possible events, astounding to mankind, but equally calculable, should one care to give imagination headway. Gower looked signally Captain Abrane’s ‘fiddler’ while he waited at Livia’s house door. A studious intimacy with such a lady was rather like the exposure of the silver moon to the astronomer’s telescope.

The Dame will have nought of an interview and colloquy not found mentioned in her collection of ballads, concerning a person quite secondary in Dr. Glossop’s voluminous papers. She as vehemently prohibits a narration of Gower Woodseer’s proposal some hours later, for the hand of the Countess of Fleetwood’s transfixed maid Madge, because of the insignificance of the couple; and though it was a quaint idyll of an affection slowly formed, rationally based while seeming preposterous, tending to bluntly funny utterances on both sides. The girl was a creature of the enthusiasms, and had lifted that passion of her constitution into higher than the worship of sheer physical bravery. She had pitied Mr. Gower Woodseer for his apparently extreme, albeit reverential, devotion to her mistress. The plainly worded terms of his asking a young woman of her position and her reputation to marry him came on her like an intrusion of dazzling day upon the closed eyelids of the night, requiring time, and her mistress’s consent, and his father’s expressed approval, before she could yield him an answer that might appear a forgetfulness of her station, her ignorance, her damaged character. Gower protested himself, with truth, a spotted pard, an ignoramus, and an outcast of all established classes, as the worshipper of Nature cannot well avoid being.

‘But what is it you like me for, Mr. Gower?’ Madge longed to know, that she might see a way in the strange land where he had planted her after a whirl; and he replied: ‘I ‘ve thought of you till I can say I love you because you have naturally everything I shoot at.’

The vastness of the compliment drove her to think herself empty of anything.

He named courage, and its offspring, honesty, and devotedness, constancy. Her bosom rose at the word.

‘Yes, constancy,’ he repeated; and ‘growing girls have to “turn corners,” as you told me once.’

‘I did?’ said she, reddening under a memory, and abashed by his recollection of a moment she knew to have been weak with her, or noisy of herself.

Madge went straightway to her mistress and related her great event, in the tone of a confession of crime. Her mistress’s approbation was timidly suggested rather than besought.

It came on a flood. Carinthia’s eyes filled; she exclaimed: ‘Oh, that good man!–he chooses my Madge for wife. She said it, Rebecca said it. Mrs. Wythan saw and said Mr. Woodseer loved my Madge. I hear her saying it. Then yes, and yes, from me for both your sakes, dear girl. He will have the faithfullest, he will have the kindest–Oh! and I shall know there can be a happy marriage in England.’

She summoned Gower; she clasped his hand, to thank him for appreciating her servant and sister, and for the happiness she had in hearing it; and she gazed at him and the laden brows of her Madge alternately, encouraging him to repeat his recital of his pecuniary means, for the poetry of the fact it verified, feasting on the sketch of a four-roomed cottage and an agricultural labourer’s widow for cook and housemaid; Madge to listen to his compositions of the day in the evening; Madge to praise him, Madge to correct his vanity.

Love was out of the count, but Carinthia’s leaping sympathy decorated the baldness of the sketch and spied his features through the daubed mask he chose to wear as a member of the order of husbands, without taking it for his fun. Dry material statements presented the reality she doated to think of. Moreover, the marriage of these two renewed her belief in true marriages, and their intention to unite was evidence of love.

‘My journey to England was worth all troubles for the meeting Madge,’ she said. ‘I can look with pleasure to that day of my meeting her first–the day, it was then!’

She stopped. Madge felt the quivering upward of a whimper to a sob in her breast. She slipped away.

‘It’s a day that has come round to be repaired, Lady Fleetwood,’ said Gower. ‘If you will. Will you not? He has had a blow–the death of a friend, violent death. It has broken him. He wants a month or so in your mountains. I have thought him hard to deal with; he is humane. His enormous wealth has been his tempter. Madge and I will owe him our means of livelihood, enough for cottagers, until I carve my way. His feelings are much more independent of his rank than those of most noblemen. He will repeat your kind words to Madge and me; I am sure of it. He has had heavy burdens; he is young, hardly formed yet. He needs a helper; I mean, one allied to him. You forgive me? I left him with a Catholic lord for comforter, who regards my prescript of the study of Nature, when we’re in grief, as about the same as an offer of a dish of cold boiled greens. Silver and ivory images are more consoling. Neither he nor I can offer the right thing for Lord Fleetwood. It will be found here. And then your mountains. More than I, nearly as much as you, he has a poet’s ardour for mountain land. He and Mr. Wythan would soon learn to understand one another on that head, if not as to management of mines.’

The pleading was crafty, and it was penetrative in the avoidance of stress. Carinthia shook herself to feel moved. The endeavour chilled her to a notion that she was but half alive. She let the question approach her, whether Chillon could pardon Lord Fleetwood. She, with no idea of benignness, might speak pardon’s word to him, on a late autumn evening years hence, perhaps, or to his friends to-morrow, if he would considerately keep distant. She was upheld by the thought of her brother’s more honourable likeness to their father, in the certainty of his refusal to speak pardon’s empty word or touch an offending hand, without their father’s warrant for the injury wiped out; and as she had no wish for that to be done, she could anticipate his withholding of the word.

For her brother at wrestle with his fallen fortunes was now the beating heart of Carinthia’s mind. Her husband was a shadow there. He did obscure it, and he might annoy, he was unable to set it in motion. He sat there somewhat like Youth’s apprehension of Death:–the dark spot seen mistily at times through people’s tears, or visioned as in an ambush beyond the hills; occasionally challenged to stimulate recklessness; oftener overlooked, acknowledged for the undesired remote of life’s conditions, life’s evil, fatal, ill-assorted yoke-fellow; and if it was in his power to burst out of his corner and be terrible to her, she could bring up a force unnamed and unmeasured, that being the blood of her father in her veins. Having done her utmost to guard her babe, she said her prayers; she stood for peace or the struggle.

‘Does Lord Fleetwood speak of coming here?’ she said.

‘To-morrow.’

‘I go to Croridge to-morrow.’

‘Your ladyship returns?’

‘Yes, I return Mr. Gower, you have fifty minutes before you dress for dinner.’

He thought only of the exceeding charity of the intimation; and he may be excused for his not seeing the feminine full answer it was, in an implied, unmeditated contrast. He went gladly to find his new comrade, his flower among grass-blades, the wonderful creature astonishing him and surcharging his world by setting her face at him, opening her breast to him, breathing a young man’s word of words from a woman’s mouth. His flower among grass-blades for a head looking studiously down, she was his fountain of wisdom as well, in the assurance she gave him of the wisdom of his choice.

But Madge had put up the ‘prize-fighter’s lass,’ by way of dolly defence, to cover her amazed confusion when the proposal of this well-liked gentleman to a girl such as she sounded churchy. He knocked it over easily; it left, however, a bee at his ear and an itch to transfer the buzzer’s attentions and tease his darling; for she had betrayed herself as right good game. Nor is there happier promise of life-long domestic enlivenment for a prescient man of Letters than he has in the contemplation of a pretty face showing the sensitiveness to the sting, which is not allowed to poison her temper, and is short of fetching tears. The dear innocent girl gave this pleasing promise; moreover, she could be twisted-to laugh at herself, just a little. Now, the young woman who can do that has already jumped the hedge into the highroad of philosophy, and may become a philosopher’s mate in its by-ways, where the minute discoveries are the notable treasures.

They had their ramble, agreeable to both, despite the admonitory dose administered to one of them. They might have been espied at a point or two from across the parkpalings; their laughter would have caught an outside pedestrian’s hearing. Whatever the case, Owain Wythan, riding down off Croridge, big with news of her brother for the countess, dined at her table, and walking up the lane to the Esslemont Arms on a moonless night, to mount his horse, pitched against an active and, as it was deemed by Gower’s observation of his eyes, a scientific fist. The design to black them finely was attributable to the dyeing accuracy of the stroke. A single blow had done it. Mr. Wythan’s watch and purse were untouched; and a second look at the swollen blind peepers led Gower to surmise that they were, in the calculation of the striker, his own.

He walked next day to the Royal Sovereign inn. There he came upon the earl driving his phaeton. Fleetwood jumped down, and Gower told of the mysterious incident, as the chief thing he had to tell, not rendering it so mysterious in his narrative style. He had the art of indicating darkly.

‘Ines, you mean?’ Fleetwood cried, and he appeared as nauseated and perplexed as he felt. Why should Ines assault Mr. Wythan? It happened that the pugilist’s patron had, within the last fifteen minutes, driven past a certain thirty-acre meadow, sight of which on his way to Carinthia had stirred him. He had even then an idea of his old deeds dogging him to bind him, every one of them, the smallest.

‘But you’ve nothing to go by,’ he said. ‘Why guess at this rascal more than another?’

Gower quoted Mrs. Rundles and the ostler for witnesses to Kit’s visit yesterday to the Royal Sovereign, though Kit shunned the bar of the Esslemont Arms.

‘I guess pretty clearly, because I suspect he was hanging about and saw me and Madge together.’

‘Consolations for failures in town?–by the way, you are complimented, and I don’t think you deserved it. However, there was just the chance to stop a run to perdition. But, Madge? Madge? I’d swear to the girl!’

‘Not so hard as I,’ said Gower, and spoke of the oath to come between the girl and him.

Fleetwood’s dive into the girl’s eyes drew her before him. He checked a spirt of exclamations.

‘You fancy the brute had a crack for revenge and mistook his man?’

‘That’s what I want her ladyship to know,’ said Gower.

‘How could you let her hear of it?’

‘Nothing can be concealed from her.’

The earl was impressionable to the remark, in his disgust at the incident. It added a touch of a new kind of power to her image.

‘She’s aware of my coming?’

‘To-day or to-morrow.’

They scaled the phaeton and drove.

‘You undervalue Lord Feltre. You avoid your adversaries,’ Fleetwood now rebuked his hearer. ‘It ‘s an easy way to have the pull of them in your own mind. You might learn from him. He’s willing for controversy. Nature-worship–or “aboriginal genuflexion,” he calls it; Anglicanism, Methodism; he stands to engage them. It can’t be doubted, that in days of trouble he has a faith “stout as a rock, with an oracle in it,” as he says; and he’s right,” men who go into battle require a rock to back them or a staff to lean on.” You have your “secret,” you think; as far as I can see, it’s to keep you from going into any form of battle.’

The new influence at work on the young nobleman was evident, if only in the language used.

Gower answered mildly: ‘That can hardly be said of a man who’s going to marry.’

‘Perhaps not. Lady Fleetwood is aware?’

‘Lady Fleetwood does me the honour to approve my choice.’

‘You mean, you’re dead on to it with this girl?’

‘For a year or more.’

‘Fond of her?’

‘All my heart.’

‘In love!’

‘Yes, in love. The proof of it is, I ‘ve asked her now I can support her as a cottager leaning on the Three Per Cents.’

‘Well, it helps you to a human kind of talk. It carries out your theories. I never disbelieved in your honesty. The wisdom’s another matter. Did you ever tell any one, that there’s not an act of a man’s life lies dead behind him, but it is blessing or cursing him every step he takes?’

‘By that,’ rejoined Gower, ‘I can say Lord Feltre proves there’s wisdom in the truisms of devoutness.’

He thought the Catholic lord had gone a step or two to catch an eel.

Fleetwood was looking on the backward of his days, beholding a melancholy sunset, with a grimace in it.

‘Lord Feltre might show you the “leanness of Philosophy”;–you would learn from hearing him:–“an old gnawed bone for the dog that chooses to be no better than a dog.”‘

‘The vertiginous roast haunch is recommended,’ Gower said.

‘See a higher than your own head, good sir. But, hang the man! he manages to hit on the thing he wants.’ Fleetwood set his face at Gower with cutting heartiness. ‘In love, you say, and Madge: and mean it to be the holy business! Well, poor old Chummy always gave you credit for knowing how to play your game. She has given proof she ‘s a good girl. I don’t see why it shouldn’t end well. That attack on the Welshman’s the bad lookout. Explained, if you like, but women’s impressions won’t get explained away. We must down on our knees or they. Her ladyship attentive at all to affairs of the house?’

‘Every day with Queeney; at intervals with Leddings.’

‘Excellent! You speak like a fellow recording the devout observances of a great dame with her minor and superior, ecclesiastical comforters. Regular at church?’

‘Her ladyship goes.’

‘A woman without religion, Gower Woodseer, is a weed on the water, or she’s hard as nails. We shall see. Generally, Madge and the youngster parade the park at this hour. I drive round to the stables. Go in and offer your version of that rascally dog’s trick. It seems the nearest we can come at. He’s a sot, and drunken dogs ‘ll do anything. I’ve had him on my hands, and I’ve got the stain of him.’

They trotted through Esslemont Park gates. ‘I’ve got that place, Calesford, on my hands, too,’ the earl said, suddenly moved to a liking for his Kentish home.

He and Gower were struck by a common thought of the extraordinary burdens his indulgence in impulses drew upon him. Present circumstances pictured to Gower the opposing weighed and matured good reason for his choosing Madge, and he complimented himself in his pity for the earl. But Fleetwood, as he reviewed a body of acquaintances perfectly free from the wretched run in harness, though they had their fits and their whims, was pushed to the conclusion that fatalism marked his particular course through life. He could not hint at such an idea to the unsympathetic fellow, or rather, the burly antagonist to anything of the sort, beside him. Lord Feltre would have understood and appreciated it instantly. Where is aid to be had if we have the Fates against us? Feltre knew the Power, he said; was an example of ‘the efficacy of supplications’; he had been ‘fatally driven to find the Power,’ and had found it–on the road to Rome, of course: not a delectable road for an English nobleman, except that the noise of another convert in pilgrimage on it would deal our English world a lively smack, the very stroke that heavy body wants. But the figure of a ‘monastic man of fashion’ was antipathetic to the earl, and he flouted an English Protestant mass merely because of his being highly individual, and therefore revolutionary for the minority.

He cast his bitter cud aside. ‘My man should have arrived. Lady Fleetwood at home?’

Gower spoke of her having gone to Croridge in the morning.

‘Has she taken the child?’

‘She has, yes. For the air of the heights.’

‘For greater security. Lady Arpington praises the thoughtful mother. I rather expected to see the child.’

‘They can’t be much later,’ Gower supposed.

‘You don’t feel your long separation from “the object”?’

Letting him have his cushion for pins, Gower said ‘It needs all my philosophy:

He was pricked and probed for the next five minutes; not bad rallying, the earl could be smart when he smarted. Then they descended the terrace to meet Lady Fleetwood driving her pony-trap. She gave a brief single nod to the salute of her lord, quite in the town-lady’s manner, surprisingly.

CHAPTER XLI

IN WHICH THE FATES ARE SEEN AND A CHOICE OF THE REFUGES FROM THEM

The home of husband and wife was under one roof at last. Fleetwood went, like one deported, to his wing of the house, physically sensible, in the back turned to his wife’s along the corridor, that our ordinary comparison for the division of a wedded twain is correct. She was Arctic, and Antarctic he had to be, perforce of the distance she put between them. A removal of either of them from life–or from ‘the act of breathing,’ as Gower Woodseer’s contempt of the talk about death would call it–was an imaginable way of making it a wider division. Ambrose Mallard was far enough from his fatal lady now–farther than the Poles asunder. Ambrose, if the clergy will allow him, has found his peace. . But the road and the means he chose were a madman’s.

The blotting of our character, to close our troubles, is the final proof of our being ‘sons of vapour,’ according to Gower Woodseer’s heartless term for poor Ambrose and the lot. They have their souls; and above philosophy, ‘natural’ or unnatural, they may find a shelter. They can show in their desperation that they are made of blood, as philosophers rather fail of doing. An insignificant brainless creature like Feltre had wits, by the aid of his religion, to help or be charitable to his fellows, particularly the sinners, in the crisis of life, surpassing any philosopher’s.

Information of her ladyship’s having inspected the apartments, to see to the minutest of his customary luxuries, cut at him all round. His valet had it from the footmen and maids; and their speaking of it meant a liking for their mistress; and that liking, added to her official solicitude on his behalf, touched a soft place in him and blew an icy wind; he was frozen where he was warmed. Here was evidence of her intending the division to be a fixed gap. She had entered this room and looked about her. He was here to feel her presence in her absence.

Some one or something had schooled her, too. Her large-eyed directness of gaze was the same as at that inn and in Wales, but her easy sedateness was novel, her English, almost the tone of the English world: he gathered it, at least, from the few remarks below stairs.

His desire to be with her was the desire to escape the phantasm of the woman haunting to subjugate him when they were separate. He could kill illusion by magnifying and clawing at her visible angles and audible false notes; and he did it until his recollections joined to the sight of her, when a clash of the thought of what she had been and the thought of what she was had the effect of conjuring a bitter sweet image that was a more seductive illusion. Strange to think, this woman once loved the man who was not half the value of the man she no longer loved. He took a shot at cynicism, but hit no mark. This woman protected her whole sex.

They sat at the dinner-table alone, thanks to a handsome wench’s attractions for a philosopher. Married, and parents of a lusty son, this was their first sitting at table together. The mouth that said ‘I guard my rooms’ was not obtruded; she talked passingly of her brother, much of Lady Arpington and of old Mr. Woodseer; and, though she reserved a smile, there was no look of a lock on her face. She seemed pleased to be treated very courteously; she returned the stately politeness in exactest measure; very simply, as well. Her face had now an air of homeliness, well suited to an English household interior. She could chat. Any pauses occurring, he was the one guilty of them; she did not allow them to be barrier chasms, or ‘strids’ for the leap with effort; she crossed them like the mountain maid over a gorge’s plank–kept her tones perfectly. Her Madge and Mr. Gower Woodseer made a conversible topic. She was inquisitive for accounts of Spanish history and the land of Spain.

They passed into the drawing-room. She had heard of the fate of the poor child in Wales, she said, without a comment.

‘I see now, I ought to have backed your proposal,’ he confessed, and was near on shivering. She kept silent, proudly or regretfully.

Open on her workbasket was a Spanish guide-book and a map attached to it. She listened to descriptions of Cadiz, Malaga, Seville, Granada. Her curiosity was chiefly for detailed accounts of Catalonia and the Pyrenees.

‘Hardly the place for you; there’s a perpetual heaving of Carlism in those mountains; your own are quieter for travellers,’ he remarked; and for a moment her lips moved to some likeness of a smile; a dimple in a flowing thought.

He remarked the come and go of it.

He regretted his inability to add to her knowledge of the Spanish Pyrenees.

Books helped her at present, she said.

Feeling acutely that hostility would have brought them closer than her uninviting civility, he spoke of the assault on Mr. Wythan, and Gower Woodseer’s conjecture, and of his having long since discharged the rascal Ines.

To which her unreproachful answer, ‘You made use of those men, my lord,’ sent a cry ringing through him, recalling Feltre’s words, as to the grip men progressively are held in by their deeds done.

‘Oh, quite true, we change our views and ways of life,’ he said, thinking she might set her considerations on other points of his character. But this reflection was a piece of humility not yet in his particular estimate of his character, and he spurned it: an act of pride that drove his mind, for occupation, to contemplate hers; which speedily became an embrace of her character, until he was asking whether the woman he called wife and dared not clasp was one of those rarest, who can be idealized by virtue of their being known. For the young man embracing a character loses grasp of his own, is plucked out of himself and passes into it, to see the creature he is with the other’s eyes, and feel for the other as a very self. Such is the privilege and the chastisement of the young.

Gower Woodseer’s engagement with the girl Madge was a happier subject for expatiation and agreement. Her deeper tones threw a light on Gower, and where she saw goodness, he could at least behold the natural philosopher practically philosophizing.

‘The girl shall have a dowry from me,’ he said; and the sum named was large. Her head bent acknowledgingly; money had small weight with her now. His perception of it stripped him and lamed him.

He wished her ladyship good-night. She stood up and performed a semi- ceremonious obeisance, neatly adapted to their mutual position. She had a well-bred mother.

Probably she would sleep. No such expectation could soothe the friend, and some might be thinking misleader, of Ambrose Mallard, before he had ocular proof that the body lay underground. His promise was given to follow it to the grave, a grave in consecrated earth. Ambrose died of the accidental shot of a pocket-pistol he customarily carried loaded. Two intimate associates of the dead man swore to that habit of his. They lied to get him undisputed Christian burial. Aha! The earl laughed outright at Chummy Potts’s nursery qualms. The old fellow had to do it, and he lied like a man for the sake of Ambrose Mallard’s family. So much is owing to our friend.

Can ecclesiastical casuists decide upon cases of conscience affecting men of the world?

A council sat upon the case the whole night long. A committee of the worldly held argumentation in a lower chamber.

These are nights that weaken us to below the level of women. A shuttle worked in Fleetwood’s head. He defended the men of the world. Lord Feltre oiled them, damned them, kindled them to a terrific expiatory blaze, and extinguishingly salved and wafted aloft the released essence of them. Maniacal for argument, Fleetwood rejected the forgiveness of sins, if sins they be. Prove them sins, and the suffering is of necessity everlasting, his insomnia logic insisted. Whichever side he took, his wife was against him; not in speech, but in her look. She was a dumb figure among the wranglers, clouded up to the neck. Her look said she knew more of him than they knew.

He departed next day for London, after kissing his child; and he would have done wisely to abstain from his exhibition of the paternal. Knowing it a step to conciliation, he checked his impulsive warmth, under the apprehension that the mother would take it for a piece of acting to propitiate–and his lips pecked the baby’s cheek. Its mother held arms for it immediately.

Not without reason did his heart denounce her as a mere mother, with little of a mind to see.

The recent series of feverishly sleepless nights disposed him to snappish irritability or the thirst for tenderness. Gower had singular experiences of him on the drive North-westward. He scarcely spoke; he said once: ‘If you mean to marry, you’ll be wanting to marry soon, of course,’ and his curt nod before the reply was formulated appeared to signify, the sooner the better, and deliverance for both of us. Honest though he might, be sometimes deep and sometimes picturesque, the philosopher’s day had come to an end. How can Philosophy minister to raw wounds, when we are in a rageing gale of the vexations, battered to right and left! Religion has a nourishing breast: Philosophy is breastless. Religion condones offences: Philosophy has no forgiveness, is an untenanted confessional: ‘wide air to a cry in anguish,’ Feltre says.

All the way to London Fleetwood endured his companion, letting him talk when he would.

He spent the greater part of the night discussing human affairs and spiritual with Lord Feltre, whose dialectical exhortations and insinuations were of the feeblest, but to an isolated young man, yearning for the tenderness of a woman thinking but of her grievances, the ointment brought comfort.

It soothed him during his march to and away from Ambrose Mallard’s grave; where it seemed to him curious and even pitiable that Chumley Potts should be so inconsolably shaken. Well, and if the priests have the secret of strengthening the backbone for a bend of the knee in calamity, why not go to the priests, Chummy? Potts’s hearing was not addressed; nor was the chief person in the meditation affected by a question that merely jumped out of his perturbed interior.

Business at Calesford kept Fleetwood hanging about London several days further; and his hatred of a place he wasted time and money to decorate grew immeasurable. It distorted the features of the beautiful woman for whose pleasure the grand entertainments to be held there had, somewhere or other–when felon spectres were abroad over earth–been conceived.

He could then return to Esslemont. Gower was told kindly, with intentional coldness, that he could take a seat in the phaeton if he liked; and he liked, and took it. Anything to get to that girl of his!

Whatever the earl’s inferiors did, their inferior station was not suffered to discolour it for his judgement. But an increasing antagonism to Woodseer’s philosophy–which the fellow carried through with perpetual scorings of satisfaction–caused him to set a hard eye on the damsel under the grisly spotting shadow of the sottish bruiser, of whom, after once touching the beast, he could not rub his hands clean; and he chose to consider the winning of the prize-fighter’s lass the final triumph or flag on the apex of the now despised philosophy. Vain to ask how he had come to be mixed up with the lot, or why the stolidly conceited, pretentious fellow had seat here, as by right, beside him! We sow and we reap; ‘plant for sugar and taste the cane,’ some one says–this Woodseer, probably; he can, when it suits him, tickle the ears of the worldlings. And there is worthier stuff to remember; stuff to nourish: Feltre’s ‘wisdom of our fathers,’ rightly named Religion.

More in the country, when he traversed sweep and rise of open land, Carinthia’s image began to shine, and she threw some of her light on Madge, who made Woodseer appear tolerable, sagacious, absurdly enviable, as when we have the fit to wish we were some four-foot. The fellow’s philosophy wore a look of practical craft.

He was going to the girl he liked, and she was, one could swear, an honest girl; and she was a comely girl, a girl to stick to a man. Her throwing over a sot was creditable. Her mistress loved her. That said much for any mortal creature. Man or woman loved by Carinthia could not be cowardly, could not be vile, must have high qualities. Next to Religion, she stood for a test of us. Had she any strong sense of Religion, in addition to the formal trooping to one of their pallid Protestant churches? Lord Feltre might prove useful to her. For merely the comprehension of the signification of Religion steadies us. It had done that for him, the earl owned.

He broke a prolonged silence by remarking to Gower ‘You haven’t much to say to-day’; and the answer was ‘Very little. When I’m walking, I’m picking up; and when I’m driving, I’m putting together.’

Gower was rallied on the pursuit of the personal object in both cases. He pointed at sheep, shepherd, farmer, over the hedge, all similarly occupied; and admitted shamelessly, that he had not a thought for company, scarce a word to fling. ‘Ideas in gestation are the dullest matter you can have.’

‘There I quite agree with you,’ said Fleetwood. Abrane, Chummy Potts, Brailstone, little Corby, were brighter comrades. And these were his Ixionides! Hitherto his carving of a way in the world had been sufficiently ill-considered. Was it preferable to be a loutish philosopher? Since the death of Ambrose Mallard, he felt Woodseer’s title for that crew grind harshly; and he tried to provoke a repetition of it, that he might burst out in wrathful defence of his friends–to be named friends when they were vilified: defence of poor Ambrose at least, the sinner who, or one as bad, might have reached to pardon through the priesthood.

Gower offered him no chance..

Entering Esslemont air, Fleetwood tossed his black mood to the winds. She breathed it. She was a mountain girl, and found it hard to forgive our lowlands. She would learn tolerance, taking her flights at seasons. The yacht, if she is anything of a sailor, may give her a taste of England’s pleasures. She will have a special allowance for distribution among old Mr. Woodseer’s people. As to the rest of the Countess of Fleetwood’s wishes, her family ranks with her husband’s in claims of any kind on him. There would be–she would require and had a right to demand–say, a warm half-hour of explanations: he knew the tone for them, and so little did he revolve it apprehensively, that his mind sprang beyond, to the hearing from her mouth of her not intending further to ‘guard her rooms.’ How quietly the words were spoken! There was a charm in the retrospect of her mouth and manner. One of the rare women who never pout or attitudinize, she could fling her glove gracefully– one might add, capturingly under every aspect, she was a handsome belligerent. The words he had to combat pleased his memory. Some good friend, Lady Arpington probably, had instructed her in the art of dressing to match her colour.

Concerning himself, he made no stipulation, but he reflected on Lord Feltre’s likely estimate of her as a bit of a heathen. And it might be to her advantage, were she and Feltre to have some conversations. Whatever the faith, a faith should exist, for without the sentiment of religion, a woman, he says, is where she was when she left the gates of Eden. A man is not much farther. Feltre might have saved Ambrose Mallard. He is, however, right in saying, that the woman with the sentiment of religion in her bosom is a box of holy incense distinguishing her from all other women. Empty of it, she is devil’s bait. At best, she is a creature who cannot overlook an injury, or must be exacting God knows what humiliations before she signs the treaty.

Informed at the house that her ladyship had been staying up on Croridge for the last two days, Fleetwood sent his hardest shot of the eyes at Gower. Let her be absent: it was equal to the first move of war, and absolved him from contemplated proposals to make amends. But the enforced solitary companionship with this ruminator of a fellow set him asking whether the godless dog he had picked up by the wayside was not incarnate another of the sins he had to expiate. Day after day, almost hourly, some new stroke fell on him. Why? Was he selected for persecution because he was wealthy? The Fates were driving him in one direction, no doubt of that.

This further black mood evaporated, and like a cessation of English storm-weather bequeathed him gloom. Ashamed of the mood, he was nevertheless directed by its final shadows to see the ruminating tramp in Gower, and in Madge the prize-fighter’s jilt: and round about Esslemont a world eyeing an Earl of Fleetwood, who painted himself the man he was, or was held to be, by getting together such a collection, from the daughter of the Old Buccaneer to the ghastly corpse of Ambrose Mallard. Why, clearly, wealth was the sole origin and agent of the mischief. With somewhat less of it, he might have walked in his place among the nation’s elect, the ‘herd of the gilt horns,’ untroubled by ambitions and ideas.

Arriving thus far, he chanced to behold Gower and Madge walking over the grounds near the western plantation, and he regretted the disappearance of them, with the fellow talking hard into the girl’s ear. Those two could think he had been of some use. The man pretending to philosophical depth was at any rate honest; one could swear to the honesty of the girl, though she had been a reckless hussy. Their humble little hopes and means to come to union approached, after a fashion, hymning at his ears. Those two were pleasanter to look on than amorous lords and great ladies, who are interesting only when they are wicked.

Four days of desolate wanderings over the estate were occupied chiefly in his decreeing the fall of timber that obstructed views, and was the more imperatively doomed for his bailiff’s intercession. ‘Sound wood’ the trees might be: they had to assist in defraying the expense of separate establishments. A messenger to Queeney from Croridge then announced the Countess’s return ‘for a couple of hours.’ Queeney said it was the day when her ladyship examined the weekly bills of the household. That was in the early morning. The post brought my lord a letter from Countess Livia, a most infrequent writer. She had his word to pay her debts; what next was she for asking? He shrugged, opened the letter, and stared at the half dozen lines. The signification of them rapped on his consciousness of another heavy blow before he was perfectly intelligent.

All possible anticipation seemed here outdone: insomuch that he held palpable evidence of the Fates at work to harass and drive him. She was married to the young Earl of Cressett!’

Fleetwood printed the lines on his eyeballs. They were the politely flowing feminine of a statement of the fact, which might have been in one line. They flourished wantonly: they were deadly blunt. And of all men, this youngster, who struck at him through her lips with the reproach, that he had sped the good-looking little beast upon his road to ruin:– perhaps to Ambrose Mallard’s end!

CHAPTER XLII

THE RETARDED COURTSHIP

Carinthia reached Esslemont near noon. She came on foot, and had come unaccompanied, stick in hand, her dress looped for the roads. Madge bustled her shorter steps up the park beside her; Fleetwood met her on the terrace.

‘No one can be spared at Croridge,’ she said. ‘I go back before dark.’ Apology was not thought of; she seemed wound to the pitch.

He bowed; he led into the morning-room. ‘The boy is at Croridge?’

‘With me. He has his nurse. Madge was at home here more than there.’

‘Why do you go back?’

‘I am of use to my brother.’

‘Forgive me–in what way?’

‘He has enemies about him. They are the workmen of Lord Levellier. They attacked Lekkatts the other night, and my uncle fired at them out of a window and wounded a man. They have sworn they will be revenged. Mr. Wythan is with my brother to protect him.’

‘Two men, very well; they don’t want, if there’s danger, a woman’s aid in protecting him?’

She smiled, and her smile was like the hint of the steel blade an inch out of sheath.

‘My brother does not count me a weak woman.’

‘Oh no! No one would think that,’ Fleetwood said hurriedly and heartily. ‘Least of all men, I, Carinthia. But you might be rash.’

‘My brother knows me cautious.’

‘Chillon?’

‘It is my brother’s name.’

‘You used to call him by his name.

‘I love his name.’

‘Ah, well! I may be pardoned for wishing to hear what part you play there.’

‘I go the rounds with my brother.’

‘Armed?’

‘We carry arms.’

‘Queer sight to see in England. But there are rascals in this country, too.’

She was guilty of saying, though not pointedly: ‘We do not hire defenders.’

‘In civilized lands . . .’ he began and stopped ‘You have Mr. Wythan?’

‘Yes, we are three.’

‘You call him, I think, Owain?’

‘I do.’

‘In your brother’s hearing?’

‘Yes, my lord; it would be in your hearing if you were near.’

‘No harm, no doubt.’

‘There is none.’

‘But you will not call your brother Chillon to me.’

‘You dislike the name.’

‘I learn to like everything you do and say; and every person you like.’

‘It is by Mr. Wythan’s dead wife’s request that I call him by his name. He is our friend. He is a man to trust.’

‘The situation . . .’ Fleetwood hung swaying between the worldly view of it and the white light of this woman’s nature flashed on his emotion into his mind. ‘You shall be trusted for judging. If he is your friend, he is my friend. I have missed the sight of our boy. You heard I was at Esslemont?’

‘I heard from Madge!’

‘It is positive you must return to Croridge?’

‘I must be with my brother, yes.’

‘Your ladyship will permit me to conduct you.’

Her head assented. There was nothing to complain of, but he had not gained a step.

The rule is, that when we have yielded initiative to a woman, we are unable to recover it without uncivil bluster. So, therefore, women dealing with gentlemen are allowed unreasonable advantages. He had never granted it in colloquy or act to any woman but this one. Consequently, he was to see, that if the gentleman in him was not put aside, the lady would continue moving on lines of the independence he had likewise yielded, or rather flung, to her. Unless, as a result, he besieged and wooed his wife, his wife would hold on a course inclining constantly farther from the union he desired. Yet how could he begin to woo her if he saw no spark of womanly tenderness? He asked himself, because the beginning of the wooing might be checked by the call on him for words of repentance only just possible to conceive. Imagine them uttered, and she has the initiative for life.

She would not have it, certainly, with a downright brute. But he was not that. In an extremity of bitterness, he fished up a drowned old thought, of all his torments being due to the impulsive half-brute he was. And between the good and the bad in him, the sole point of strength was a pride likely, as the smooth simplicity of her indifference showed him, soon to be going down prostrate beneath her feet. Wholly a brute–well? He had to say, that playing the perfect brute with any other woman he would have his mastery. The summoning of an idea of personal power to match this woman in a contest was an effort exhausting the idea.

They passed out of Esslemont gates together at that hour of the late afternoon when South-westerly breezes, after a summer gale, drive their huge white flocks over blue fields fresh as morning, on the march to pile the crown of the sphere, and end a troubled day with grandeur. Up the lane by the park they had open land to the heights of Croridge.

‘Splendid clouds,’ Fleetwood remarked.

She looked up, thinking of the happy long day’s walk with her brother to the Styrian Baths. Pleasure in the sight made her face shine superbly. ‘A flying Switzerland, Mr. Woodseer says,’ she replied. ‘England is beautiful on days like these.–For walking, I think the English climate very good.’

He dropped a murmur: ‘It should suit so good a walker,’ and burned to compliment–her spirited easy stepping, and scorned himself for the sycophancy it would be before they were on the common ground of a restored understanding. But an approval of any of her acts threatened him with enthusiasm for the whole of them, her person included; and a dam in his breast had to keep back the flood.

‘You quote Woodseer to me, Carinthia. I wish you knew Lord Feltre. He can tell you of every cathedral, convent, and monastery in Europe and Syria. Nature is well enough; she is, as he says, a savage. Men’s works, acting under divine direction to escape from that tangle, are better worthy of study, perhaps. If one has done wrong, for example.’

‘I could listen to him,’ she said.

‘You would not need–except, yes, one thing. Your father’s book speaks of not forgiving an injury.’

‘My father does. He thinks it weakness to forgive an injury. Women do, and are disgraced, they are thought slavish. My brother is much stronger than I am. He is my father alive in that.’

‘It is anti-Christian, some would think.’

‘Let offending people go. He would not punish them. They may go where they will be forgiven. For them our religion is a happy retreat; we are glad they have it. My father and my brother say that injury forbids us to be friends again. My father was injured by the English Admiralty: he never forgave it; but he would have fought one of their ships and offered his blood any day, if his country called to battle.’

‘You have the same feeling, you mean.’

‘I am a woman. I follow my brother, whatever he decides. It is not to say he is the enemy of persons offending him; only that they have put the division.’

‘They repent?’

‘If they do, they do well for themselves.’

‘You would see them in sackcloth and ashes?’

‘I would pray to be spared seeing them.’

‘You can entirely forget–well, other moments, other feelings?’

‘They may heighten the injury.’

‘Carinthia, I should wish to speak plainly, if I could, and tell you….’

‘You speak quite plainly, my lord.’

‘You and I cannot be strangers or enemies.’

‘We cannot be, I would not be. To be friends, we should be separate.’

‘You say you are a woman; you have a heart, then?’–for, if not, what have you? was added in the tone.

‘My heart is my brother’s,’ she said.

‘All your heart?’

‘My heart is my brother’s until one of us drops.’

‘There is not another on earth beside your brother Chillon?’

‘There is my child.’

The dwarf square tower of Croridge village church fronted them against the sky, seen of both.

‘You remember it,’ he said; and she answered: ‘I was married there.’

‘You have not forgotten that injury, Carinthia?’

‘I am a mother.’

‘By all the saints! you hit hard. Justly. Not you. Our deeds are the hard hitters. We learn when they begin to flagellate, stroke upon stroke! Suppose we hold a costly thing in the hand and dash it to the ground–no recovery of it, none! That must be what your father meant. I can’t regret you are a mother. We have a son, a bond. How can I describe the man I was!’ he muttered,–‘possessed! sort of werewolf! You are my wife?’

‘I was married to you, my lord.’

‘It’s a tie of a kind.’

‘It binds me.’

‘Obey, you said.’

‘Obey it. I do.’

‘You consider it holy?’

‘My father and my mother spoke to me of the marriage-tie. I read the service before I stood at the altar. It is holy. It is dreadful. I will be true to it.’

‘To your husband?’

‘To his name, to his honour.’

‘To the vow to live with him?’

‘My husband broke that for me.’

‘Carinthia, if he bids you, begs you to renew it? God knows what you may save me from!’

‘Pray to God. Do not beg of me, my lord. I have my brother and my little son. No more of husband for me! God has given me a friend, too, –a man of humble heart, my brother’s friend, my dear Rebecca’s husband. He can take them from me: no one but God. See the splendid sky we have.’

With those words she barred the gates on him; at the same time she bestowed the frank look of an amiable face brilliant in the lively red of her exercise, in its bent-bow curve along the forehead, out of the line of beauty, touching, as her voice was, to make an undertone of anguish swell an ecstasy. So he felt it, for his mood was now the lover’s. A torture smote him, to find himself transported by that voice at his ear to the scene of the young bride in thirty-acre meadow.

‘I propose to call on Captain Kirby-Levellier tomorrow, Carinthia,’ he said. ‘The name of his house?’

‘My brother is not now any more in the English army,’ she replied. ‘He has hired a furnished house named Stoneridge.’

‘He will receive me, I presume?’

‘My brother is a courteous gentleman, my lord.’

‘Here is the church, and here we have to part for today. Do we?’

‘Good-bye to you, my lord,’ she said.

He took her hand and dropped the dead thing.

‘Your idea is, to return to Esslemont some day or other?’

‘For the present,’ was her strange answer.

She bowed, she stepped on. On she sped, leaving him at the stammered beginning of his appeal to her.

Their parting by the graveyard of the church that had united them was what the world would class as curious. To him it was a further and a well-marked stroke of the fatality pursuing him. He sauntered by the graveyard wall until her figure slipped out of sight. It went like a puffed candle, and still it haunted the corner where last seen. Her vanishing seemed to say, that less of her belonged to him than the phantom his eyes retained behind them somewhere.

There was in his pocket a memento of Ambrose Mallard, that the family had given him at his request. He felt the lump. It had an answer for all perplexities. It had been charged and emptied since it was in his possession; and it could be charged again. The thing was a volume as big as the world to study. For the touch of a finger, one could have its entirely satisfying contents, and fly and be a raven of that night wherein poor Ambrose wanders lost, but cured of human wounds.

He leaned on the churchyard wall, having the graves to the front of eyes bent inward. They were Protestant graves, not so impressive to him as the wreathed and gilt of those under dedication to Feltre’s Madonna. But whatever they were, they had ceased to nurse an injury or feel the pain for having inflicted it. Their wrinkles had gone from them, whether of anger or suffering. Ambrose Mallard lay as peaceful in consecrated ground: and Chumley Potts would be unlikely to think that the helping to lay Ambrose in his quiet last home would cost him a roasting until priestly intercession availed. So Chummy continues a Protestant; dull consciences can! But this is incomprehensible, that she, nursing her injury, should be perfectly civil. She is a woman without emotion. She is a woman full of emotion, one man knows. She ties him to her, to make him feel the lash of his remorse. He feels it because of her casting him from her–and so civilly. If this were a Catholic church, one might go in and give the stained soul free way to get a cleansing. As it is, here are the graves; the dead everywhere have their sanctity, even the heathen.

Fleetwood read the name of the family of Meek on several boards at the head of the graves. Jonathan Meek died at the age of ninety-five. A female Meek had eighty-nine years in this life. Ezra Meek gave up the ghost prematurely, with a couplet, at eighty-one. A healthy spot, Croridge, or there were virtues in the Meek family, he reflected, and had a shudder that he did not trace to its cause, beyond an acknowledgement of a desire for the warm smell of incense.

CHAPTER XLIII

ON THE ROAD TO THE ACT OF PENANCE

His customary wrestle with the night drove Lord Fleetwood in the stillness of the hour after matins from his hated empty Esslemont up again to the village of the long-lived people, enjoying the moist earthiness of the air off the ironstone. He rode fasting, a good preparatory state for the simple pleasures, which are virtually the Great Nourisher’s teats to her young. The earl was relieved of his dejection by a sudden filling of his nostrils. Fat Esslemont underneath had no such air. Except on the mornings of his walk over the Salzkammergut and Black Forest regions, he had never consciously drawn that deep breath of the satisfied rapture, charging the whole breast with thankfulness. Huntsmen would know it, if the chase were not urgent to pull them at the tail of the running beast. Once or twice on board his yacht he might have known something like it, but the salt sea-breeze could not be disconnected from his companion Lord Feltre, and a thought of Feltre swung vapour of incense all about him. Breathing this air of the young sun’s kiss of earth, his invigoration repelled the seductions of the burnt Oriental gums.

Besides, as he had told his friend, it was the sincerity of the Catholic religion, not the seductiveness, that won him to a form of homage–the bend of the head of a foreign observer at a midnight mass. Asceticism, though it may not justify error, is a truth in itself, it is the essence extracted of the scourge, flesh vanquished; and it stands apart from controversy. Those monks of the forested mountain heights, rambling for their herbs, know the blessedness to be found in mere breathing: a neighbour readiness to yield the breath inspires it the more. For when we do not dread our end, the sense of a free existence comes back to us: we have the prized gift to infancy under the piloting of manhood. But before we taste that happiness we must perform our penance; ‘No living happiness can be for the unclean,’ as the holy father preached to his flock of the monastery dispersing at matins.

Ay, but penance? penance? Is there not such a thing as the doing of penance out of the Church, in the manly fashion? So to regain the right to be numbered among the captains of the world’s fighting men, incontestably the best of comrades, whether or no they led away on a cataract leap at the gates of life. Boldly to say we did a wrong will clear our sky for a few shattering peals.

The penitential act means, youth put behind us, and a steady course ahead. But, for the keeping of a steady course, men made of blood in the walks of the world must be steadied. Say it plainly-mated. There is the humiliating point of our human condition. We must have beside us and close beside us the woman we have learned to respect; supposing ourselves lucky enough to have found her; ‘that required other scale of the human balance,’ as Woodseer calls her now he has got her, wiser than Lord Feltre in reference to men and women. We get no balance without her. That is apparently the positive law; and by reason of men’s wretched enslavement, it is the dance to dissolution when we have not honourable union with women. Feltre’s view of women sees the devilish or the angelical; and to most men women are knaves or ninnies. Hence do we behold rascals or imbeciles in the offspring of most men.

He embraced the respected woman’s character, with the usual effect: –to see with her sight; and she beheld a speckled creature of the intermittent whims and moods and spites; the universal Patron, whose ambition to be leader of his world made him handle foul brutes–corrupt and cause their damnation, they retort, with curses, in their pangs. She was expected to pardon the husband, who had not abstained from his revenge on her for keeping him to the pledge of his word. And what a revenge!–he had flung the world at her. She is consequently to be the young bride she was on the memorable morning of the drive off these heights of Croridge down to thirty-acre meadow! It must be a saint to forgive such offences; and she is not one, she is deliciously not one, neither a Genevieve nor a Griselda. He handed her the rod to chastise him. Her exchange of Christian names with the Welshman would not do it; she was too transparently sisterly, provincially simple; she was, in fact, respected. Any whipping from her was child’s play to him, on whom, if he was to be made to suffer, the vision of the intense felicity of austerest asceticism brought the sensation as bracingly as the Boreal morning animates men of high blood in ice regions. She could but gently sting, even if vindictive.

Along the heights, outside the village, some way below a turn of the road to Lekkatts, a gentleman waved hand. The earl saluted with his whip, and waited for him.

‘Nothing wrong, Mr. Wythan?’

‘Nothing to fear, my lord.’

‘I get a trifle uneasy.’

‘The countess will not leave her brother.’

A glow of his countess’s friendliness for this open-faced, prompt- speaking, good fellow of the faintly inky eyelids, and possibly sheepish inclinations, melted Fleetwood. Our downright repentance of misconduct toward a woman binds us at least to the tolerant recognition of what poor scraps of consolement she may have picked up between then and now–when we can stretch fist in flame to defy it on the oath of her being a woman of honour.

The earl alighted and said: ‘Her brother, I suspect, is the key of the position.’

‘He’s worth it–she loves her brother,’ said Mr. Wythan, betraying a feature of his quick race, with whom the reflection upon a statement is its lightning in advance.

Gratified by the instant apprehension of his meaning, Fleetwood interpreted the Welshman’s. ‘I have to see the brother worthy of her love. Can you tell me the hour likely to be convenient?’. . . . .

Mr. Wythan thought an appointment unnecessary which conveyed the sufficient assurance of audience granted.

‘You know her brother well, Mr. Wythan?’

‘Know him as if I had known him for years. They both come to the mind as faith comes–no saying how; one swears by them.’

Fleetwood eyed the Welsh gentleman, with an idea that he might readily do the same by him.

Mr. Wythan’s quarters were at the small village inn, whither he was on his way to breakfast. The earl slipped an arm through the bridle reins and walked beside him, listening to an account of the situation at Lekkatts. It was that extraordinary complication of moves and checks which presents in the main a knot, for the powers above to cut. A miserly old lord withholds arrears of wages; his workmen strike at a critical moment; his nephew, moved by common humanity, draws upon crippled resources to supply their extremer needs, though they are ruining his interests. They made one night a demonstration of the terrorizing sort round Lekkatts, to give him a chorus; and the old lord fired at them out of window and wounded a man. For that they vowed vengeance. All the new gunpowder milled in Surrey was, for some purpose of his own, stored by Lord Levellier on the alder island of the pond near his workshops, a quarter of a mile below the house. They refused, whatever their object, to let a pound of it be moved, at a time when at last the Government had undertaken to submit it to experiments. And there they stood on ground too strong for ‘the Captain,’ as they called him, to force, because of the quantity stored at Lekkatts being largely beyond the amount under cover of Lord Levellier’s licence. The old lord was very ill, and he declined to see a doctor, but obstinately kept from dying. His nephew had to guard him and at the same time support an enemy having just cause of complaint. This, however, his narrow means would not much longer permit him to do. The alternative was then offered him of either siding arbitrarily against the men and his conscience or of taking a course ‘imprudent on the part of a presumptive heir,’ Mr. Wythan said hurriedly at the little inn’s doorsteps.

‘You make one of his lordship’s guard?’ said Fleetwood.

‘The countess, her brother, and I, yes’

‘Danger at all?’

‘Not so much to fear while the countess is with us.’

‘Fear is not a word for Carinthia.’

Her name on the earl’s lips drew a keen shot of the eye from Mr. Wythan, and he read the signification of the spoken name. ‘You know what every Cambrian living thinks of her, my lord.’

‘She shall not have one friend the less for me.’

Fleetwood’s hand was out for a good-bye, and the hand was grasped by one who looked happy in doing it. He understood and trusted the man after that, warmed in thinking how politic his impulses could be.

His intention of riding up to Croridge at noon to request his interview with Mr. Kirby-Levellier was then stated.

‘The key of the position, as you said,’ Mr. Wythan remarked, not proffering an opinion of it more than was expressed by a hearty, rosy countenance, that had to win its way with the earl before excuse was found for the venturesome repetition of his phrase.

Cantering back to that home of the loves of Gower Woodseer and Madge Winch, the thought of his first act of penance done, without his feeling the poorer for it, reconciled Fleetwood to the aspect of the hollow place.

He could not stay beneath the roof. His task of breakfasting done, he was off before the morning’s delivery of letters, riding round the country under Croridge, soon up there again. And Henrietta might be at home, he was reminded by hearing band-music as he followed the directions to the house named Stoneridge. The band consisted of eight wind instruments; they played astonishingly well for itinerant musicians. By curious chance, they were playing a selection from the Pirata; presently he heard the notes to ‘il mio tradito amor.’ They had hit upon Henrietta’s favourite piece!

At the close of it he dismounted, flung the reins to his groom, and, addressing a compliment to the leader, was deferentially saluted with a ‘my lord.’ Henrietta stood at the window, a servant held the door open for him to enter; he went in, and the beautiful young woman welcomed him: ‘Oh, my dear lord, you have given me such true delight! How very generous of you!’ He protested ignorance. She had seen him speak to the conductor and receive the patron’s homage; and who but he knew her adored of operas, or would have had the benevolent impulse to think of solacing her exile from music in the manner so sure of her taste! She was at her loveliest: her features were one sweet bloom, as of the sunny flower garden; and, touched to the heart by the music and the kindness, she looked the look that kisses; innocently, he felt, feeling himself on the same good ground while he could own he admired the honey creature, much as an amateur may admire one of the pictures belonging to the nation.

‘And you have come . . .?’ she said. ‘We are to believe in happy endings?’

He shrugged, as the modest man should, who says:

‘If it depends on me’; but the words were firmly spoken and could be credited.

‘Janey is with her brother down at Lekkatts. Things are at a deadlock. A spice of danger, enough to relieve the dulness; and where there is danger Janey’s at home.’ Henrietta mimicked her Janey. ‘Parades with her brother at night; old military cap on her head; firearms primed; sings her Austrian mountain songs or the Light Cavalry call, till it rings all day in my ears–she has a thrilling contralto. You are not to think her wild, my lord. She’s for adventure or domesticity, “whichever the Fates decree.” She really is coming to the perfect tone.’

‘Speak of her,’ said the earl. ‘She can’t yet overlook . . . ?’

‘It’s in the family. She will overlook anything her brother excuses.’

‘I’m here to see him.’

‘I heard it from Mr. Wythan.’

‘”Owain,” I believe?’

Henrietta sketched apologies, with a sidled head, soft pout, wavy hand. ‘He belongs to the order of primitive people. His wife–the same pattern, one supposes–pledged them to their Christian names. The man is a simpleton, but a gentleman; and Janey holds his dying wife’s wish sacred. We are all indebted to him.’

‘Whatever she thinks right!’ said Fleetwood.

The fair young woman’s warm nature flew out to him on a sparkle of grateful tenderness in return for his magnanimity, oblivious of the inflamer it was: and her heart thanked him more warmly, without the perilous show of emotion, when she found herself secure.

She was beautiful, she was tempting, and probably the weakest of players in the ancient game of two; and clearly she was not disposed to the outlaw game; was only a creature of ardour. That he could see, seeing the misinterpretation a fellow like Brailstone would put upon a temporary flush of the feminine, and the advantage he would take of it, perhaps not unsuccessfully–the dog! He committed the absurdity of casting a mental imprecation at the cunning tricksters of emotional women, and yelled at himself in the worn old surplice of the converted rake. But letting his mind run this way, the tradito amor of the band outside the lady’s window was instantly traced to Lord Brailstone; so convictingly, that he now became a very counsel for an injured husband in denunciation of the seductive compliment.

Henrietta prepared to conduct him to Lekkatts; her bonnet was brought. She drew forth a letter from a silken work-bag, and raised it,–Livia’s handwriting. ‘I ‘ve written my opinion,’ he said.

‘Not too severe, pray.’

‘Posted.’

‘Livia wanted a protector.’

‘And chose–what on earth are you saying!’

Livia and her boyish lord were abandoned on the spot, though Henrietta could have affirmed stoutly that there was much to be pleaded, if a female advocate dared it, and a man would but hear.

His fingers were at the leaves of a Spanish dictionary.

‘Oh yes, and here we have a book of Travels in Spain,’ she said. ‘Everything Spanish for Janey now. You are aware?–no?’

He was unaware and desired to be told.

‘Janey’s latest idea; only she would have conceived the notion. You solve our puzzle, my lord.’

She renewed the thanks she persisted in offering for the military music now just ceasing: vexatiously, considering that it was bad policy for him to be unmasking Brailstone to her. At the same time, the blindness which rendered her unconscious of Brailstone’s hand in sending members of a military band to play selections from the favourite opera they had jointly drunk of to ecstasy, was creditable; touching, when one thought of the pursuer’s many devices, not omitting some treason on the part of her present friend.

‘Tell me–I solve?’ he said . . . .

Henrietta spied the donkey-basket bearing the two little ones.

‘Yes, I hope so–on our way down,’ she made answer. ‘I want you to see the pair of love-birds in a nest.’

The boy and girl were seen lying side by side, both fast asleep; fair- haired girl, dark-haired boy, faced to one another.

‘Temper?’ said Fleetwood, when he had taken observation of them.

‘Very imperious–Mr. Boy!’ she replied, straightening her back under a pretty frown, to convey the humour of the infant tyrant.

The father’s mind ran swiftly on a comparison of the destinies of the two children, from his estimate of their parents; many of Gower Woodseer’s dicta converging to reawaken thoughts upon Nature’s laws, which a knowledge of his own nature blackened. He had to persuade himself that this child of his was issue of a loving union; he had to do it violently, conjuring a vivid picture of the mother in bud, and his recognition of her young charm; the pain of keeping to his resolve to quit her, lest she should subjugate him and despoil him of his wrath; the fatalism in his coming and going; the romantic freak it had been,–a situation then so clearly wrought, now blurred past comprehension. But there must have been love, or some love on his part. Otherwise he was bound to pray for the mother to predominate in the child, all but excluding its father.

Carinthia’s image, as a result, ascended sovereignty, and he hung to it.

For if we are human creatures with consciences, nothing is more certain than that we make our taskmasters of those to whom we have done a wrong, the philosopher says. Between Lord Feltre and Gower Woodseer, influenced pretty equally by each of them, this young nobleman was wakening to the claims of others–Youth’s infant conscience. Fleetwood now conceived the verbal supplication for his wife’s forgiveness involved in the act of penance; and verbal meant abject; with him, going so far, it would mean naked, precise, no slurring. That he knew, and a tremor went over him. Women, then, are really the half of the world in power as much as in their number, if men pretend to a step above the savage. Or, well, his wife was a power.

He had forgotten the puzzle spoken of by Henrietta, when she used the word again and expressed her happiness in the prospect before them– caused by his presence, of course.

‘You are aware, my dear lord, Janey worships her brother. He was defeated, by some dastardly contrivance, in a wager to do wonderful feats–for money! money! money! a large stake. How we come off our high horses! I hadn’t an idea of money before I was married. I think of little else. My husband has notions of honour; he engaged himself to pay a legacy of debts; his uncle would not pay debts long due to him. He was reduced to the shift of wagering on his great strength and skill. He could have done it. His enemy managed–enemy there was! He had to sell out of the army in consequence. I shall never have Janey’s face of suffering away from my sight. He is a soldier above all things. It seems hard on me, but I cannot blame him for snatching at an opportunity to win military distinction. He is in treaty for the post of aide to the Colonel–the General of the English contingent bound for Spain, for the cause of the Queen. My husband will undertake to be at the orders of his chief as soon as he can leave this place. Janey goes with him, according to present arrangements.’

Passing through a turnstile, that led from the road across a meadow-slope to the, broken land below, Henrietta had view of the earl’s hard white face, and she hastened to say: ‘You have altered that, my lord. She is devoted to her brother; and her brother running dangers . . . and danger in itself is an attraction to her. But her husband will have the first claim. She has her good sense. She will never insist on going, if you oppose. She will be ready to fill her station. It will be-her pride and her pleasure.’

Henrietta continued in the vein of these assurances; and Carinthia’s character was shooting lightnings through him, withering that of the woman who referred to his wife’s good sense and her station; and certainly would not have betrayed herself by such drawlings if she had been very positive that Carinthia’s disposition toward wealth and luxury resembled hers. She knew the reverse; or so his contemptuously generous effort to frame an apology for the stuff he was hearing considered it. His wife was lost to him. That fact smote on his breast the moment he heard of her desire to go with her brother.

Wildest of enterprises! But a criminal saw himself guilty of a large part in the disaster the two heroical souls were striving desperately to repair. If her Chillon went, Carinthia would go–sure as flame is drawn to air. The exceeding splendour in the character of a young woman, injured as she had been, soft to love, as he knew her, and giving her husband no other rival than a beloved brother, no ground of complaint save her devotion to her brother, pervaded him, without illuminating or lifting; rather with an indication of a foul contrast, that prostrated him.

Half of our funny heathen lives we are bent double to gather things we have tossed away! was one of the numbers of apposite sayings that hummed about him, for a chorus of the world’s old wisdom in derision, when he descended the heathy path and had sight of Carinthia beside her Chillon. Would it be the same thing if he had it in hand again? Did he wish it to be the same? Was not he another man? By the leap of his heart to the woman standing down there, he was a better man.

But recent spiritual exercises brought him to see superstitiously how by that sign she was lost to him; for everlastingly in this life the better pays for the worse; thus is the better a proved thing.

Both Chillon and Carinthia, it is probable, might have been stirred to deeper than compassion, had the proud young nobleman taken them into his breast to the scouring of it; exposing the grounds of his former brutality, his gradual enlightenment, his ultimate acknowledgement of the pricelessness of the woman he had won to lose her. An imploring of forgiveness would not have been necessary with those two, however great their–or the woman’s–astonishment at the revelation of an abysmal male humanity. A complete exposure of past meanness is the deed of present courage certain of its reward without as well as within; for then we show our fellows that the slough is cast. But life is a continuous fight; and members of the social world display its degree of civilization by fighting in armour; most of them are born in it; and their armour is more sensitive than their skins. It was Fleetwood’s instinct of his inability to fling it off utterly which warned him of his loss of the wife, whose enthusiasm to wait on her brother in danger might have subsided into the channel of duty, even tenderness, had he been able resolutely to strip himself bare. This was the further impossible to him, because of a belief he now imposed upon himself, to cover the cowardly shrinking from so extreme a penitential act, that such confessions are due from men to the priest only, and that he could confess wholly and absolutely to the priest–to heaven, therefore, under seal, and in safety, but with perfect repentance.

So, compelled to keep his inner self unknown, he fronted Chillon; courteously, in the somewhat lofty seeming of a guarded manner, he requested audience for a few minutes; observing the princely figure of the once hated man, and understanding Henrietta’s sheer womanly choice of him; Carinthia’s idolatry, too, as soon as he had spoken. The man was in his voice.

Chillon said: ‘It concerns my sister, I have to think. In that case, her wish is to be present. Your lordship will shorten the number of minutes for the interview by permitting it.’

Fleetwood encountered Carinthia’s eyes. They did not entreat or defy. They seconded her brother, and were a civil shining naught on her husband. He bowed his head, constrained, feeling heavily the two to one.

She replied to the look: ‘My brother and I have a single mind. We save time by speaking three together, my lord.’

He was led into the long room of the workshop, where various patterns of muskets, rifles, pistols, and swords were stars, crosses, wedges, over the walls, and a varnished wooden model of a piece of cannon occupied the middle place, on a block.

Contempt of military weapons and ridicule of the art of war were common