The Celt and Saxon, v2 by George Meredith

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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.]

CELT AND SAXON

By George Meredith

1910

BOOK 2.

XII. MISS MATTOCK
XIII. THE DINNER-PARTY
XIV. OF ROCKNEY
XV. THE MATTOCK FAMILY
XVI. OF THE GREAT MR. BULL AND THE CELTIC AND SAXON VIEW OF HIM: AND SOMETHING OF RICHARD ROCKNEY
XVII. CROSSING THE RUBICON
XVIII. CAPTAIN CON’S LETTER
X1X. MARS CONVALESCENT

CHAPTER XII

MISS MATTOCK

Mrs. Adister O’Donnell, in common with her family, had an extreme dislike of the task of composing epistles, due to the circumstance that she was unable, unaided, to conceive an idea disconnected with the main theme of her communication, and regarded, as an art of conjuring, the use of words independent of ideas. Her native superiority caused her to despise the art, but the necessity for employing it at intervals subjected her to fits of admiration of the conjurer, it being then evident that a serviceable piece of work, beyond her capacity to do, was lightly performed by another. The lady’s practical intelligence admitted the service, and at the same time her addiction to the practical provoked disdain of so flimsy a genius, which was identified by her with the genius of the Irish race. If Irishmen had not been notoriously fighters, famous for their chivalry, she would have looked on them as a kind of footmen hired to talk and write, whose volubility might be encouraged and their affectionateness deserved by liberal wages. The promptitude of Irish blood to deliver the war-cry either upon a glove flung down or taken up, raised them to a first place in her esteem: and she was a peaceful woman abhorring sanguinary contention; but it was in her own blood to love such a disposition against her principles.

She led Patrick to her private room, where they both took seats and he selected a pen. Mr. Patrick supposed that his business would be to listen and put her words to paper; a mechanical occupation permitting the indulgence of personal phantasies; and he was flying high on them until the extraordinary delicacy of the mind seeking to deliver itself forced him to prick up all his apprehensiveness. She wished to convey that she was pleased with the news from Vienna, and desired her gratification to be imparted to her niece Caroline, yet not so as to be opposed to the peculiar feelings of her brother Edward, which had her fullest sympathy; and yet Caroline must by no means be requested to alter a sentence referring to Adiante, for that would commit her and the writer jointly to an insincerity.

‘It must be the whole truth, madam,’ said Patrick, and he wrote: ‘My dear Caroline,’ to get the start. At once a magnificently clear course for the complicated letter was distinguished by him. ‘Can I write on and read it to you afterward? I have the view,’ he said.

Mrs. Adister waved to him to write on.

Patrick followed his ‘My dear Caroline’ with greetings very warm, founded on a report of her flourishing good looks. The decision of Government to send reinforcements to Ireland was mentioned as a prelude to the information from Vienna of the birth of a son to the Princess Nikolas: and then; having conjoined the two entirely heterogeneous pieces of intelligence, the composer adroitly interfused them by a careless transposition of the prelude and the burden that enabled him to play ad libitum on regrets and rejoicings; by which device the lord of Earlsfont might be offered condolences while the lady could express her strong contentment, inasmuch as he deplored the state of affairs in the sister island, and she was glad of a crisis concluding a term of suspense thus the foreign-born baby was denounced and welcomed, the circumstances lamented and the mother congratulated, in a breath, all under cover of the happiest misunderstanding, as effective as the cabalism of Prospero’s wand among the Neapolitan mariners, by the skilful Irish development on a grand scale of the rhetorical figure anastrophe, or a turning about and about.

He read it out to her, enjoying his composition and pleased with his reconcilement of differences. ‘So you say what you feel yourself, madam, and allow for the feelings on the other side,’ he remarked. ‘Shall I fold it?

There was a smoothness in the letter particularly agreeable to her troubled wits, but with an awful taste. She hesitated to assent: it seemed like a drug that she was offered.

Patrick sketched a series of hooked noses on the blotter. He heard a lady’s name announced at the door, and glancing up from his work he beheld a fiery vision.

Mrs. Adister addressed her affectionately: ‘My dear Jane!’ Patrick was introduced to Miss Mattock.

His first impression was that the young lady could wrestle with him and render it doubtful of his keeping his legs. He was next engaged in imagining that she would certainly burn and be a light in the dark. Afterwards he discovered her feelings to be delicate, her looks pleasant. Thereupon came one of the most singular sensations he had ever known: he felt that he was unable to see the way to please her. She confirmed it by her remarks and manner of speaking. Apparently she was conducting a business.

‘You’re right, my dear Mrs. Adister, I’m on my way to the Laundry, and I called to get Captain Con to drive there with me and worry the manageress about the linen they turn out: for gentlemen are complaining of their shirt-fronts, and if we get a bad name with them it will ruin us. Women will listen to a man. I hear he has gone down to the city. I must go and do it alone. Our accounts are flourishing, I’m glad to say, though we cannot yet afford to pay for a secretary, and we want one. John and I verified them last night. We’re aiming at steam, you know. In three or four years we may found a steam laundry on our accumulated capital. If only we can establish it on a scale to let us give employment to at least as many women as we have working now! That is what I want to hear of. But if we wait for a great rival steam laundry to start ahead of us, we shall be beaten and have to depend on the charitable sentiments of rich people to support the Institution. And that won’t do. So it’s a serious question with us to think of taking the initiative: for steam must come. It ‘s a scandal every day that it doesn’t while we have coal. I’m for grand measures. At the same time we must not be imprudent: turning off hands, even temporarily, that have to feed infants, would be quite against my policy.’

Her age struck Patrick as being about twenty-three.

‘Could my nephew Arthur be of any use to you?’ said Mrs. Adister.

‘Colonel Adister?’ Miss Mattock shook her head. ‘No.’

‘Arthur can be very energetic when he takes up a thing.’ ‘Can he? But, Mrs. Adister, you are looking a little troubled. Sometimes you confide in me. You are so good to us with your subscriptions that I always feel in your debt.’

Patrick glanced at his hostess for a signal to rise and depart.

She gave none, but at once unfolded her perplexity, and requested Miss Mattock to peruse the composition of Mr. Patrick O’Donnell and deliver an opinion upon it.

The young lady took the letter without noticing its author. She read it through, handed it back, and sat with her opinion evidently formed within.

‘What do you think of it?’ she was asked.

‘Rank jesuitry,’ she replied.

‘I feared so!’ sighed Mrs. Adister. ‘Yet it says everything I wish to have said. It spares my brother and it does not belie me. The effect of a letter is often most important. I cannot but consider this letter very ingenious. But the moment I hear it is jesuitical I forswear it. But then my dilemma remains. I cannot consent to give pain to my brother Edward: nor will I speak an untruth, though it be to save him from a wound. I am indeed troubled. Mr. Patrick, I cannot consent to despatch a jesuitical letter. You are sure of your impression, my dear Jane?’

‘Perfectly,’ said Miss Mattock.

Patrick leaned to her. ‘But if the idea in the mind of the person supposed to be writing the letter is accurately expressed? Does it matter, if we call it jesuitical, if the emotion at work behind it happens to be a trifle so, according to your definition?’

She rejoined: ‘I should say, distinctly it matters.’

‘Then you’d not express the emotions at all?’

He flashed a comical look of astonishment as he spoke. She was not to be diverted; she settled into antagonism.

‘I should write what I felt.’

‘But it might be like discharging a bullet.’

‘How?’

‘If your writing in that way wounded the receiver.’

‘Of course I should endeavour not to wound!’

‘And there the bit of jesuitry begins. And it’s innocent while it ‘s no worse than an effort to do a disagreeable thing as delicately as you can.’

She shrugged as delicately as she could:

‘We cannot possibly please everybody in life.’

‘No: only we may spare them a shock: mayn’t we?’

‘Sophistries of any description, I detest.’

‘But sometimes you smile to please, don’t you?’

‘Do you detect falseness in that?’ she answered, after the demurest of pauses.

‘No: but isn’t there a soupcon of sophistry in it?’

‘I should say that it comes under the title of common civility.’

‘And on occasion a little extra civility is permitted!’

‘Perhaps: when we are not seeking a personal advantage.’

‘On behalf of the Steam Laundry?’

Miss Mattock grew restless: she was too serious in defending her position to submit to laugh, and his goodhumoured face forbade her taking offence.

‘Well, perhaps, for that is in the interest of others.’

‘In the interests of poor and helpless females. And I agree with you with all my heart. But you would not be so considerate for the sore feelings of a father hearing what he hates to hear as to write a roundabout word to soften bad news to him?’

She sought refuge in the reply that nothing excused jesuitry.

‘Except the necessities of civilisation,’ said Patrick.

‘Politeness is one thing,’ she remarked pointedly.

‘And domestic politeness is quite as needful as popular, you’ll admit. And what more have we done in the letter than to be guilty of that? And people declare it’s rarer: as if we were to be shut up in families to tread on one another’s corns! Dear me! and after a time we should be having rank jesuitry advertised as the specific balsam for an unhappy domesticated population treading with hard heels from desperate habit and not the slightest intention to wound.’

‘My dear Jane,’ Mrs. Adister interposed while the young lady sat between mildly staring and blinking, ‘you have, though still of a tender age, so excellent a head that I could trust to your counsel blindfolded. It is really deep concern for my brother. I am also strongly in sympathy with my niece, the princess, that beautiful Adiante: and my conscience declines to let me say that I am not.’

‘We might perhaps presume to beg for Miss Mattock’s assistance in the composition of a second letter more to her taste,’ Patrick said slyly.

The effect was prompt: she sprang from her seat.

‘Dear Mrs. Adister! I leave it to you. I am certain you and Mr. O’Donnell know best. It’s too difficult and delicate for me. I am horribly blunt. Forgive me if I seemed to pretend to casuistry. I am sure I had no such meaning. I said what I thought. I always do. I never meant that it was not a very clever letter; and if it does exactly what you require it should be satisfactory. To-morrow evening John and I dine with you, and I look forward to plenty of controversy and amusement. At present I have only a head for work.’

‘I wish I had that,’ said Patrick devoutly.

She dropped her eyes on him, but without letting him perceive that he was a step nearer to the point of pleasing her.

CHAPTER XIII

THE DINNER-PARTY

Miss Mattock ventured on a prediction in her mind:

She was sure the letter would go. And there was not much to signify if it did. But the curious fatality that a person of such a native uprightness as Mrs. Adister should have been drawn in among Irishmen, set her thoughts upon the composer of the letter, and upon the contrast of his ingenuous look with the powerful cast of his head. She fancied a certain danger about him; of what kind she could not quite distinguish, for it had no reference to woman’s heart, and he was too young to be much of a politician, and he was not in the priesthood. His transparency was of a totally different order from Captain Con’s, which proclaimed itself genuine by the inability to conceal a shoal of subterfuges. The younger cousin’s features carried a something invisible behind them, and she was just perceptive enough to spy it, and it excited her suspicions. Irishmen both she and her brother had to learn to like, owing to their bad repute for stability: they are, moreover, Papists: they are not given to ideas: that one of the working for the future has not struck them. In fine, they are not solid, not law-supporting, not disposed to be (humbly be it said) beneficent, like the good English. These were her views, and as she held it a weakness to have to confess that Irishmen are socially more fascinating than the good English, she was on her guard against them.

Of course the letter had gone. She heard of it before the commencement of the dinner, after Mrs. Adister had introduced Captain Philip O’Donnell to her, and while she was exchanging a word or two with Colonel Adister, who stood ready to conduct her to the table. If he addressed any remarks to the lady under his charge, Miss Mattock did not hear him; and she listened–who shall say why? His unlike likeness to his brother had struck her. Patrick opposite was flowing in speech. But Captain Philip O’Donnell’s taciturnity seemed no uncivil gloom: it wore nothing of that look of being beneath the table, which some of our good English are guilty of at their social festivities, or of towering aloof a Matterhorn above it, in the style of Colonel Adister. Her discourse with the latter amused her passing reflections. They started a subject, and he punctuated her observations, or she his, and so they speedily ran to earth.

‘I think,’ says she, ‘you were in Egypt this time last winter.’

He supplies her with a comma: ‘Rather later.’

Then he carries on the line. ‘Dull enough, if you don’t have the right sort of travelling crew in your boat.’

‘Naturally,’ she puts her semicolon, ominous of the full stop.

‘I fancy you have never been in Egypt?’

‘No’

There it is; for the tone betrays no curiosity about Egypt and her Nile, and he is led to suppose that she has a distaste for foreign places.

Condescending to attempt to please, which he has reason to wish to succeed in doing, the task of pursuing conversational intercourse devolves upon him

‘I missed Parlatti last spring. What opinion have you formed of her?’

‘I know her only by name at present.’

‘Ah, I fancy you are indifferent to Opera.’

‘Not at all; I enjoy it. I was as busy then as I am now.’

‘Meetings? Dorcas, so forth.’

‘Not Dorcas, I assure you. You might join if you would.’

‘Your most obliged.’

A period perfectly rounded. At the same time Miss Mattock exchanged a smile with her hostess, of whose benignant designs in handing her to the entertaining officer she was not conscious. She felt bound to look happy to gratify an excellent lady presiding over the duller half of a table of eighteen. She turned slightly to Captain O’Donnell. He had committed himself to speech at last, without tilting his shoulders to exclude the company by devoting himself to his partner, and as he faced the table Miss Mattock’s inclination to listen attracted him. He cast his eyes on her: a quiet look, neither languid nor frigid seeming to her both open and uninviting. She had the oddest little shiver, due to she knew not what. A scrutiny she could have borne, and she might have read a signification; but the look of those mild clear eyes which appeared to say nothing save that there was fire behind them, hit on some perplexity, or created it; for she was aware of his unhappy passion for the beautiful Miss Adister; the whole story had been poured into her ears; she had been moved by it. Possibly she had expected the eyes of such a lover to betray melancholy, and his power of containing the expression where the sentiment is imagined to be most transparent may have surprised her, thrilling her as melancholy orbs would not have done.

Captain Con could have thumped his platter with vexation. His wife’s diplomacy in giving the heiress to Colonel Adister for the evening had received his cordial support while he manoeuvred cleverly to place Philip on the other side of her; and now not a step did the senseless fellow take, though she offered him his chance, dead sick of her man on the right; not a word did he have in ordinary civility; he was a burning disgrace to the chivalry of Erin. She would certainly be snapped up by a man merely yawning to take the bite. And there’s another opportunity gone for the old country!–one’s family to boot!

Those two were in the middle of the table, and it is beyond mortal, beyond Irish, capacity, from one end of a table of eighteen to whip up the whole body of them into a lively unanimous froth, like a dish of cream fetched out of thickness to the airiest lightness. Politics, in the form of a firebrand or apple of Discord, might knead them together and cut them in batches, only he had pledged his word to his wife to shun politics as the plague, considering Mr. Mattock’s presence. And yet it was tempting: the recent Irish news had stung him; he could say sharp things from the heart, give neat thrusts; and they were fairly divided and well matched. There was himself, a giant; and there was an unrecognised bard of his country, no other than himself too; and there was a profound politician, profoundly hidden at present, like powder in a mine–the same person. And opposite to him was Mr. John Mattock, a worthy antagonist, delightful to rouse, for he carried big guns and took the noise of them for the shattering of the enemy, and this champion could be pricked on to a point of assertion sure to fire the phlegm in Philip; and then young Patrick might be trusted to warm to the work. Three heroes out skirmishing on our side. Then it begins to grow hot, and seeing them at it in earnest, Forbery glows and couches his gun, the heaviest weight of the Irish light brigade. Gallant deeds! and now Mr. Marbury Dyke opens on Forbery’s flank to support Mattock hardpressed, and this artillery of English Rockney resounds, with a similar object: the ladies to look on and award the crown of victory, Saxon though they be, excepting Rockney’s wife, a sure deserter to the camp of the brave, should fortune frown on them, for a punishment to Rockney for his carrying off to himself a flower of the Green Island and holding inveterate against her native land in his black ingratitude. Oh! but eloquence upon a good cause will win you the hearts of all women, Saxon or other, never doubt of it. And Jane Mattock there, imbibing forced doses of Arthur Adister, will find her patriotism dissolving in the natural human current; and she and Philip have a pretty wrangle, and like one another none the worse for not agreeing: patriotically speaking, she’s really unrooted by that half-thawed colonel, a creature snow-bound up to his chin; and already she’s leaping to be transplanted. Jane is one of the first to give her vote for the Irish party, in spite of her love for her brother John: in common justice, she says, and because she hopes for complete union between the two islands. And thereupon we debate upon union. On the whole, yes: union, on the understanding that we have justice, before you think of setting to work to sow the land with affection:–and that ‘s a crop in a clear soil will spring up harvest- thick in a single summer night across St. George’s Channel, ladies!….

Indeed a goodly vision of strife and peace: but, politics forbidden, it was entirely a dream, seeing that politics alone, and a vast amount of blowing even on the topic of politics, will stir these English to enter the arena and try a fall. You cannot, until you say ten times more than you began by meaning, and have heated yourself to fancy you mean more still, get them into any state of fluency at all. Forbery’s anecdote now and then serves its turn, but these English won’t take it up as a start for fresh pastures; they lend their ears and laugh a finale to it; you see them dwelling on the relish, chewing the cud, by way of mental note for their friends to-morrow, as if they were kettles come here merely for boiling purposes, to make tea elsewhere, and putting a damper on the fire that does the business for them. They laugh, but they laugh extinguishingly, and not a bit to spread a general conflagration and illumination.

The case appeared hopeless to Captain Con, bearing an eye on Philip. He surveyed his inanimate eights right and left, and folded his combative ardour around him, as the soldier’s martial cloak when he takes his rest on the field. Mrs. Marbury Dyke, the lady under his wing, honoured wife of the chairman of his imagined that a sigh escaped him, and said in sympathy: ‘Is the bad news from India confirmed?’

He feared it was not bright, and called to Philip for the latest.

‘Nothing that you have not had already in the newspapers,’ Philip replied, distinctly from afar, but very bluntly, as through a trumpet.

Miss Mattock was attentive. She had a look as good as handsome when she kindled.

The captain persevered to draw his cousin out.

‘Your chief has his orders?’

‘There’s a rumour to that effect.’

‘The fellow’s training for diplomacy,’ Con groaned.

Philip spoke to Miss Mattock: he was questioned and he answered, and answered dead as a newspaper telegraphic paragraph, presenting simply the corpse of the fact, and there an end. He was a rival of Arthur Adister for military brevity.

‘Your nephew is quite the diplomatist,’ said Mrs. Dyke, admiring Philip’s head.

‘Cousin, ma’am. Nephews I might drive to any market to make the most of them. Cousins pretend they’re better than pigs, and diverge bounding from the road at the hint of the stick. You can’t get them to grunt more than is exactly agreeable to them.’

‘My belief is that if our cause is just our flag will triumph,’ Miss Grace Barrow, Jane Mattock’s fellow-worker and particular friend, observed to Dr. Forbery.

‘You may be enjoying an original blessing that we in Ireland missed in the cradle,’ said he.

She emphasised: ‘I speak of the just cause; it must succeed.’

‘The stainless flag’ll be in the ascendant in the long run,’ he assented.

‘Is it the flag of Great Britain you’re speaking of, Forbery?’ the captain inquired.

‘There’s a harp or two in it,’ he responded pacifically.

Mrs. Dyke was not pleased with the tone. ‘And never will be out of it!’ she thumped her interjection.

‘Or where ‘s your music?’ said the captain, twinkling for an adversary among the males, too distant or too dull to distinguish a note of challenge. ‘You’d be having to mount your drum and fife in their places, ma’am.’

She saw no fear of the necessity.

‘But the fife’s a pretty instrument,’ he suggested, and with a candour that seduced the unwary lady to think dubiously whether she quite liked the fife. Miss Barrow pronounced it cheerful.

‘Oh, and martial!’ he exclaimed, happy to have caught Rockney’s deliberate gaze. ‘The effect of it, I’m told in the provinces is astonishing for promoting enlistment. Hear it any morning in your London parks, at the head of a marching regiment of your giant foot-Guards. Three bangs of the drum, like the famous mountain, and the fife announces himself to be born, and they follow him, left leg and right leg and bearskin. And what if he’s a small one and a trifle squeaky; so ‘s a prince when the attendant dignitaries receive him submissively and hear him informing the nation of his advent. It ‘s the idea that ‘s grand.’

‘The idea is everything in military affairs,’ a solemn dupe, a Mr. Rumford, partly bald, of benevolent aspect, and looking more copious than his flow, observed to the lady beside him. ‘The flag is only an idea.’

She protested against the barbarism of war, and he agreed with her, but thought it must be: it had always been: he deplored the fatality. Nevertheless, he esteemed our soldiers, our sailors too. A city man himself and a man of peace, he cordially esteemed and hailed the victories of a military body whose idea was Duty instead of Ambition.

‘One thing,’ said Mrs. Dyke, evading the ambiguous fife, ‘patriotic as I am, I hope, one thing I confess; I never have yet brought myself to venerate thoroughly our Royal Standard. I dare say it is because I do not understand it.’

A strong fraternal impulse moved Mr. Rumford to lean forward and show her the face of one who had long been harassed by the same incapacity to digest that one thing. He guessed it at once, without a doubt of the accuracy of the shot. Ever since he was a child the difficulty had haunted him; and as no one hitherto had even comprehended his dilemma, he beamed like a man preparing to embrace a recovered sister.

‘The Unicorn!’ he exclaimed.

‘It is the Unicorn!’ she sighed. ‘The Lion is noble.’

‘The Unicorn, if I may speak by my own feelings, certainly does not inspire attachment, that is to say, the sense of devotion, which we should always be led to see in national symbols,’ Mr. Rumford resumed, and he looked humorously rueful while speaking with some earnestness; to show that he knew the subject to be of the minor sort, though it was not enough to trip and jar a loyal enthusiasm in the strictly meditative.

‘The Saxon should carry his White Horse, I suppose,’ Dr. Forbery said.

‘But how do we account for the horn on his forehead?’ Mr. Rumford sadly queried.

‘Two would have been better for the harmony of the Unicorn’s appearance,’ Captain Con remarked, desirous to play a floundering fish, and tender to the known simple goodness of the ingenuous man. ‘What do you say, Forbery? The poor brute had a fall on his pate and his horn grew of it, and it ‘s to prove that he has got something in his head, and is dangerous both fore and aft, which is not the case with other horses, who’re usually wicked at the heels alone. That’s it, be sure, or near it. And his horn’s there to file the subject nation’s grievances for the Lion to peruse at his leisure. And his colour’s prophetic of the Horse to come, that rides over all.’

‘Lion and Unicorn signify the conquest of the two hemispheres, Matter and Mind,’ said Dr. Forbery. ‘The Lion there’s no mistake about. The Unicorn sets you thinking. So it’s a splendid Standard, and means the more for not being perfectly intelligible at a glance.’

‘But if the Lion, as they’ve whispered of late, Forbery, happens to be stuffed with straw or with what’s worse, with sawdust, a fellow bearing a pointed horn at close quarters might do him mortal harm; and it must be a situation trying to the patience of them both. The Lion seems to say “No prancing!” as if he knew his peril; and the Unicorn to threaten a playful dig at his flank, as if he understood where he’s ticklish.’

Mr. Rumford drank some champagne and murmured with a shrug to the acquiescent lady beside him: ‘Irishmen!’ implying that the race could not be brought to treat serious themes as befitted the seriousness of the sentiments they stir in their bosoms. He was personally a little hurt, having unfolded a shy secret of his feelings, which were keenly patriotic in a phlegmatic frame, and he retired within himself, assuring the lady that he accepted our standard in its integrity; his objection was not really an objection; it was, he explained to her, a ridiculous desire to have a perfect comprehension of the idea in the symbol. But where there was no seriousness everything was made absurd. He could, he said, laugh as well as others on the proper occasion. As for the Lion being stuffed, he warned England’s enemies for their own sakes not to be deluded by any such patent calumny. The strong can afford to be magnanimous and forbearing. Only let not that be mistaken for weakness. A wag of his tail would suffice.

The lady agreed. But women are volatile. She was the next moment laughing at something she had heard with the largest part of her ear, and she thought the worthy gentleman too simple, though she knew him for one who had amassed wealth. Captain Con and Dr. Forbery had driven the Unicorn to shelter, and were now baiting the Lion. The tremendous import of that wag of his tail among the nations was burlesqued by them, and it came into collision with Mr. Rumford’s legendary forefinger threat. She excused herself for laughing:

‘They are so preposterous!’

‘Yes, yes, I can laugh,’ said he, soberly performing the act: and Mr. Rumford covered the wound his delicate sensations had experienced under an apology for Captain Con, that would redound to the credit of his artfulness were it not notorious our sensations are the creatures and born doctors of art in discovering unguents for healing their bruises. ‘O’Donnell has a shrewd head for business. He is sound at heart. There is not a drop of gout in his wine.’

The lady laughed again, as we do when we are fairly swung by the tide, and underneath her convulsion she quietly mused on the preference she would give to the simple English citizen for soundness.

‘What can they be discussing down there?’ Miss Mattock said to Philip, enviously as poor Londoners in November when they receive letters from the sapphire Riviera.

‘I will venture to guess at nonsense,’ he answered.

‘Nothing political, then.’

‘That scarcely follows; but a host at his own table may be trusted to shelve politics.’

‘I should not object.’

‘To controversy?’

‘Temperately conducted.’

‘One would go a long way to see the exhibition.’

‘But why cannot men be temperate in their political arguments?’

‘The questions raised are too close about the roots of us.’

‘That sounds very pessimist.’

‘More duels come from politics than from any other source.’

‘I fear it is true. Then women might set you an example.’

‘By avoiding it?’

‘I think you have been out of England for some time.’

‘I have been in America.’

‘We are not exactly on the pattern of the Americans.’ Philip hinted a bow. He praised the Republican people.

‘Yes, but in our own way we are working out our own problems over here,’ said she. ‘We have infinitely more to contend with: old institutions, monstrous prejudices, and a slower-minded people, I dare say: much slower, I admit. We are not shining to advantage at present. Still, that is not the fault of English women.’

‘Are they so spirited?’

Spirited was hardly the word Miss Mattock would have chosen to designate the spirit in them. She hummed a second or two, deliberating; it flashed through her during the pause that he had been guilty of irony, and she reddened: and remembering a foregoing strange sensation she reddened more. She had been in her girlhood a martyr to this malady of youth; it had tied her to the stake and enveloped her in flames for no accountable reason, causing her to suffer cruelly and feel humiliated. She knew the pangs of it in public, and in private as well. And she had not conquered it yet. She was angered to find herself such a merely physical victim of the rushing blood: which condition of her senses did not immediately restore her natural colour.

‘They mean nobly,’ she said, to fill an extending gap in the conversation under a blush; and conscious of an ultra-swollen phrase, she snatched at it nervously to correct it: ‘They are becoming alive to the necessity for action.’ But she was talking to a soldier! ‘I mean, their heads are opening.’ It sounded ludicrous. ‘They are educating themselves differently.’ Were they? ‘They wish to take their part in the work of the world.’ That was nearer the proper tone, though it had a ring of claptrap rhetoric hateful to her: she had read it and shrunk from it in reports of otherwise laudable meetings.

‘Well, spirited, yes. I think they are. I believe they are. One has need to hope so.’

Philip offered a polite affirmative, evidently formal.

Not a sign had he shown of noticing her state of scarlet. His grave liquid eyes were unalterable. She might have been grateful, but the reflection that she had made a step to unlock the antechamber of her dearest deepest matters to an ordinary military officer, whose notions of women were probably those of his professional brethren, impelled her to transfer his polished decorousness to the burden of his masculine antagonism-plainly visible. She brought the dialogue to a close. Colonel Adister sidled an eye at a three-quarter view of her face. ‘I fancy you’re feeling the heat of the room,’ he said.

Jane acknowledged a sensibility to some degree of warmth.

The colonel was her devoted squire on the instant for any practical service. His appeal to his aunt concerning one of the windows was answered by her appeal to Jane’s countenance for a disposition to rise and leave the gentlemen. Captain Con, holding the door for the passage of his wife and her train of ladies, received the injunction:

‘Ten,’ from her, and remarked: ‘Minutes,’ as he shut it. The shortness of the period of grace proposed dejection to him on the one hand, and on the other a stimulated activity to squeeze it for its juices without any delay. Winding past Dr. Forbery to the vacated seat of the hostess he frowned forbiddingly.

‘It’s I, is it!’ cried the doctor. Was it ever he that endangered the peace and placability of social gatherings! He sat down prepared rather for a bout with Captain Con than with their common opponents, notwithstanding that he had accurately read the mock thunder of his brows.

CHAPTER XIV

OF ROCKNEY

Battles have been won and the streams of History diverted to new channels in the space of ten minutes. Ladies have been won, a fresh posterity founded, and grand financial schemes devised, revolts arranged, a yoke shaken off, in less of mortal time. Excepting an inspired Epic song and an original Theory of the Heavens, almost anything noteworthy may be accomplished while old Father Scythe is taking a trot round a courtyard; and those reservations should allow the splendid conception to pass for the performance, when we bring to mind that the conception is the essential part of it, as a bard poorly known to fame was constantly urging. Captain Con had blown his Epic bubbles, not to speak of his projected tuneful narrative of the adventures of the great Cuchullin, and his Preaching of St. Patrick, and other national triumphs. He could own, however, that the world had a right to the inspection of the Epic books before it awarded him his crown. The celestial Theory likewise would have to be worked out to the last figure by the illustrious astronomers to whom he modestly ranked himself second as a benefactor of his kind, revering him. So that, whatever we may think in our own hearts, Epic and Theory have to remain the exception. Battles indeed have been fought, but when you survey the field in preparation for them you are summoned to observe the preluding courtesies of civilised warfare in a manner becoming a chivalrous gentleman. It never was the merely flinging of your leg across a frontier, not even with the abrupt Napoleon. You have besides to drill your men; and you have often to rouse your foe with a ringing slap, if he’s a sleepy one or shamming sleepiness. As here, for example: and that of itself devours more minutes than ten. Rockney and Mattock could be roused; but these English, slow to kindle, can’t subside in a twinkling; they are for preaching on when they have once begun; betray the past engagement, and the ladies are chilled, and your wife puts you the pungent question: ‘Did you avoid politics, Con?’ in the awful solitude of domestic life after a party. Now, if only there had been freedom of discourse during the dinner hour, the ten disembarrassed minutes allotted to close it would have afforded time sufficient for hearty finishing blows and a soothing word or so to dear old innocent Mr. Rumford, and perhaps a kindly clap of the shoulder to John Mattock, no bad fellow at bottom. Rockney too was no bad fellow in his way. He wanted no more than a beating and a thrashing. He was a journalist, a hard-headed rascal, none of your good old-fashioned order of regimental scribes who take their cue from their colonel, and march this way and that, right about face, with as little impediment of principles to hamper their twists and turns as the straw he tosses aloft at midnight to spy the drift of the wind to-morrow. Quite the contrary; Rockney was his own colonel; he pretended to think independently, and tried to be the statesman of a leading article, and showed his intention to stem the current of liberty, and was entirely deficient in sympathy with the oppressed, a fanatical advocate of force; he was an inveterate Saxon, good-hearted and in great need of a drubbing. Certain lines Rockney had written of late about Irish affairs recurred to Captain Con, and the political fires leaped in him; he sparkled and said: ‘Let me beg you to pass the claret over to Mr. Rockney, Mr. Rumford; I warrant it for the circulating medium of amity, if he’ll try it.’

“Tis the Comet Margaux,’ said Dr. Forbery, topping anything Rockney might have had to say, and anything would have served. The latter clasped the decanter, poured and drank in silence.

”Tis the doctor’s antidote, and best for being antedated,’ Captain Con rapped his friend’s knuckles.

‘As long as you’re contented with not dating in double numbers,’ retorted the doctor, absolutely scattering the precious minutes to the winds, for he hated a provocation.

‘There’s a golden mean, is there!’

‘There is; there’s a way between magnums of good wine and gout, and it’s generally discovered too late.’

‘At the physician’s door, then! where the golden mean is generally discovered to be his fee. I’ve heard of poor souls packed off by him without an obolus to cross the ferry. Stripped they were in all conscience.’

‘You remind me of a fellow in Dublin who called on me for medical advice, and found he’d forgotten his purse. He offered to execute a deed to bequeath me his body, naked and not ashamed.’

‘You’d a right to cut him up at once, Forbery. Any Jury ‘d have pronounced him guilty of giving up the ghost before he called.’

‘I let him go, body and all. I never saw him again.’

‘The fellow was not a lunatic. As for your golden mean, there’s a saying: Prevention is better than cure: and another that caps it: Drink deep or taste not.’

‘That’s the Pierian Spring.’

‘And what is the wine on my table, sir?’

‘Exhaustless if your verses come of it.’

‘And pure, you may say of the verses and the fount.’

‘And neither heady nor over-composed; with a blush like Diana confessing her love for the young shepherd: it’s one of your own comparisons.’

‘Oh!’ Con could have roared his own comparisons out of hearing. He was angry with Forbery for his obstructive dulness and would not taste the sneaking compliment. What could Forbery mean by paying compliments and spoiling a game! The ten minutes were dancing away like harmless wood- nymphs when the Satyr slumbers. His eyes ranged over his guests despondently, and fixed in desperation on Mr. Rumford, whom his magnanimous nature would have spared but for the sharp necessity to sacrifice him.

The wine in Rumford at any rate let loose his original nature, if it failed to unlock the animal in these other unexcitable Saxons.

‘By the way, now I think of it, Mr. Rumford, the interpretation of your Royal Standard, which perplexes you so much, strikes me as easy if you ‘ll examine the powerfully different colours of the two beasts in it.’

Mr. Rumford protested that he had abandoned his inquiry: it was a piece of foolishness: he had no feeling in it whatever, none.

The man was a perfect snail’s horn for coyness.

The circumstances did not permit of his being suffered to slip away: and his complexion showed that he might already be classed among the roast.

‘Your Lion:–Mr. Rumford, you should know, is discomposed, as a thoughtful patriot, by the inexplicable presence of the Unicorn in the Royal Standard, and would be glad to account for his one horn and the sickly appearance of the beast. I’m prepared to say he’s there to represent the fair one half of the population.

Your Lion, my dear sir, may have nothing in his head, but his tawniness tells us he imbibes good sound stuff, worthy of the reputation of a noble brewery. Whereas your, Unicorn, true to the character of the numberless hosts he stands for, is manifestly a consumer of doctor’s drugs. And there you have the symbolism of your country. Right or left of the shield, I forget which, and it is of no importance to the point–you have Grandgosier or Great Turk in all his majesty, mane and tail; and on the other hand, you behold, as the showman says, Dyspepsia. And the pair are intended to indicate that you may see yourselves complete by looking at them separately; and so your Royal Standard is your national mirror; and when you gaze on it fondly you’re playing the part of a certain Mr. Narcissus, who got liker to the Lion than to the Unicorn in the act. Now will that satisfy you?’

‘Quite as you please, quite as you please,’ Mr. Rumford replied. ‘One loves the banner of one’s country–that is all.’ He rubbed his hands. ‘I for one am proud of it.’

‘Far be it from me to blame you, my dear sir. Or there’s the alternative of taking him to stand for your sole great festival holiday, and worshipping him as the personification of your Derbyshire race.’

A glittering look was in Captain Con’s eye to catch Rockney if he would but rise to it.

That doughty Saxon had been half listening, half chatting to Mr. Mattock, and wore on his drawn eyelids and slightly drawn upper lip a look of lambent pugnacity awake to the challenge, indifferent to the antagonist, and disdainful of the occasion.

‘We have too little of your enthusiasm for the flag,’ Philip said to Mr. Rumford to soothe him, in a form of apology for his relative.

‘Surely no! not in England?’ said Mr. Rumford, tempted to open his heart, for he could be a bellicose gentleman by deputy of the flag. He recollected that the speaker was a cousin of Captain Con’s, and withdrew into his wound for safety. ‘Here and there, perhaps; not when we are roused; we want rousing, we greatly prefer to live at peace with the world, if the world will let us.’

‘Not at any price?’ Philip fancied his tone too quakerly.

‘Indeed I am not one of that party!’ said Mr. Rumford, beginning to glow; but he feared a snare, and his wound drew him in again.

‘When are you ever at peace!’ quoth his host, shocked by the inconsiderate punctuality of Mrs. Adister O’Donnell’s household, for here was the coffee coming round, and Mattock and Rockney escaping without a scratch. ‘There’s hardly a day in the year when your scarlet mercenaries are not popping at niggers.’

Rockney had the flick on the cheek to his manhood now, it might be hoped.

‘Our what?’ asked Mr. Rumford, honestly unable to digest the opprobrious term.

‘Paid soldiery, hirelings, executioners, whom you call volunteers, by a charming euphemism, and send abroad to do the work of war while you propound the doctrines of peace at home.’

Rockney’s forehead was exquisitely eruptive, red and swelling. Mattock lurched on his chair. The wine was in them, and the captain commended the spiriting of it, as Prospero his Ariel.

Who should intervene at this instant but the wretched Philip, pricked on the point of honour as a soldier! Are we inevitably to be thwarted by our own people?

‘I suppose we all work for pay,’ said he. ‘It seems to me a cry of the streets to call us by hard names. The question is what we fight for.’

He spoke with a witless moderation that was most irritating, considering the latest news from the old country.

‘You fight to subjugate, to enslave,’ said Con, ‘that’s what you’re doing, and at the same time your journals are venting their fine irony at the Austrians and the Russians and the Prussians for tearing Poland to strips with their bloody beaks.’

‘We obey our orders, and leave you to settle the political business,’ Philip replied.

Forbery declined the fray. Patrick was eagerly watchful and dumb. Rockney finished his coffee with a rap of the cup in the saucer, an appeal for the close of the sitting; and as Dr. Forbery responded to it by pushing back his chair, he did likewise, and the other made a movement.

The disappointed hero of a fight unfought had to give the signal for rising. Double the number of the ten minutes had elapsed. He sprang up, hearing Rockney say: ‘Captain Con O’Donnell is a politician or nothing,’ and as he was the most placable of men concerning his personality, he took it lightly, with half a groan that it had not come earlier, and said, ‘He thinks and he feels, poor fellow!’

All hope of a general action was over.

‘That shall pass for the epitaph of the living,’ said Rockney.

It was too late to catch at a trifle to strain it to a tussle. Con was obliged to subjoin: ‘Inscribe it on the dungeon-door of tyranny.’ But the note was peaceful.

He expressed a wish that the fog had cleared for him to see the stars of heaven before he went to bed, informing Mr. Mattock that a long look in among them was often his prayer at night, and winter a holy season to him, for the reason of its showing them bigger and brighter.

‘I can tell my wife with a conscience we’ve had a quiet evening, and you’re a witness to it,’ he said to Patrick. That consolation remained.

‘You know the secret of your happiness,’ Patrick answered.

‘Know you one of the secrets of a young man’s fortune in life, and give us a thrilling song at the piano, my son,’ said Con: ‘though we don’t happen to have much choice of virgins for ye to-night. Irish or French. Irish are popular. They don’t mind having us musically. And if we’d go on joking to the end we should content them, if only by justifying their opinion that we’re born buffoons.’

His happy conscience enabled him to court his wife with assiduity and winsomeness, and the ladies were once more elated by seeing how chivalrously lover-like an Irish gentleman can be after years of wedlock.

Patrick was asked to sing. Miss Mattock accompanied him at the piano. Then he took her place on the music-stool, and she sang, and with an electrifying splendour of tone and style.

‘But it’s the very heart of an Italian you sing with!’ he cried.

‘It will surprise you perhaps to hear that I prefer German music,’ said she.

‘But where–who had the honour of boasting you his pupil?’

She mentioned a famous master. Patrick had heard of him in Paris. He begged for another song and she complied, accepting the one he selected as the favourite of his brother Philip’s, though she said: ‘That one?’ with a superior air. It was a mellifluous love-song from a popular Opera somewhat out of date. ‘Well, it’s in Italian!’ she summed up her impressions of the sickly words while scanning them for delivery. She had no great admiration of the sentimental Sicilian composer, she confessed, yet she sang as if possessed by him. Had she, Patrick thought, been bent upon charming Philip, she could not have thrown more fire into the notes. And when she had done, after thrilling the room, there was a gesture in her dismissal of the leaves displaying critical loftiness. Patrick noticed it and said, with the thrill of her voice lingering in him: ‘What is it you do like? I should so like to know.’

She was answering when Captain Con came up to the piano and remarked in an undertone to Patrick: ‘How is it you hit on the song Adiante Adister used to sing?’

Miss Mattock glanced at Philip. He had applauded her mechanically, and it was not that circumstance which caused the second rush of scarlet over her face. This time she could track it definitely to its origin. A lover’s favourite song is one that has been sung by his love. She detected herself now in the full apprehension of the fact before she had sung a bar: it had been a very dim fancy: and she denounced herself guilty of the knowledge that she was giving pain by singing the stuff fervidly, in the same breath that accused her of never feeling things at the right moment vividly. The reminiscences of those pale intuitions made them always affectingly vivid.

But what vanity in our emotional state in a great jarring world where we are excused for continuing to seek our individual happiness only if we ally it and subordinate it to the well being of our fellows! The interjection was her customary specific for the cure of these little tricks of her blood. Leaving her friend Miss Barrow at the piano, she took a chair in a corner and said; ‘Now, Mr. O’Donnell, you will hear the music that moves me.’

‘But it’s not to be singing,’ said Patrick. ‘And how can you sing so gloriously what you don’t care for? It puzzles me completely.’

She assured him she was no enigma: she hushed to him to hear.

He dropped his underlip, keeping on the conversation with his eyes until he was caught by the masterly playing of a sonata by the chief of the poets of sound.

He was caught by it, but he took the close of the introductory section, an allegro con brio, for the end, and she had to hush at him again, and could not resist smiling at her lullaby to the prattler. Patrick smiled in response. Exchanges of smiles upon an early acquaintance between two young people are peeps through the doorway of intimacy. She lost sight of the Jesuit. Under the influence of good music, too, a not unfavourable inclination towards the person sitting beside us and sharing that sweetness, will soften general prejudices–if he was Irish, he was boyishly Irish, not like his inscrutable brother; a better, or hopefuller edition of Captain Con; one with whom something could be done to steady him, direct him, improve him. He might be taught to appreciate Beethoven and work for his fellows. ‘Now does not that touch you more deeply than the Italian?’ said she, delicately mouthing: ‘I, mio tradito amor!’

‘Touch, I don’t know,’ he was honest enough to reply. ‘It’s you that haven’t given it a fair chance I’d like to hear it again. There’s a forest on fire in it.’

‘There is,’ she exclaimed. ‘I have often felt it, but never seen it. You exactly describe it. How true!’

‘But any music I could listen to all day and all the night,’ said he.

‘And be as proud of yourself the next morning?’

Patrick was rather at sea. What could she mean?

Mrs. Adister O’Donnell stepped over to them, with the object of installing Colonel Adister in Patrick’s place.

The object was possibly perceived. Mrs. Adister was allowed no time to set the manoeuvre in motion.

‘Mr. O’Donnell is a great enthusiast for music, and could listen to it all day and all night, he tells me,’ said Miss Mattock. ‘Would he not sicken of it in a week, Mrs. Adister?’

‘But why should I?’ cried Patrick. ‘It’s a gift of heaven.’

‘And, like other gifts of heaven, to the idle it would turn to evil.’

‘I can’t believe it.’

‘Work, and you will believe it.’

‘But, Miss Mattock, I want to work; I’m empty-handed. It ‘s true I want to travel and see a bit of the world to help me in my work by and by. I’m ready to try anything I can do, though.’

‘Has it ever struck you that you might try to help the poor?’

‘Arthur is really anxious, and only doubts his ability,’ said Mrs. Adister.

‘The doubt throws a shadow on the wish,’ said Miss Mattock. ‘And can one picture Colonel Adister the secretary of a Laundry Institution, receiving directions from Grace and me! We should have to release him long before the six months’ term, when we have resolved to incur the expense of a salaried secretary.’

Mrs. Adister turned her head to the colonel, who was then looking down the features of Mrs. Rockney.

Patrick said: ‘I’m ready, for a year, Miss Mattock.’

She answered him, half jocosely: ‘A whole year of free service? Reflect on what you are undertaking.’

‘It’s writing and accounts, no worse?’

‘Writing and accounts all day, and music in the evening only now and then.’

‘I can do it: I will, if you’ll have me.’

‘Do you hear Mr. O’Donnell, Mrs. Adister?’

Captain Con fluttered up to his wife, and heard the story from Miss Mattock.

He fancied he saw a thread of good luck for Philip in it. ‘Our house could be Patrick’s home capitally,’ he suggested to his wife. She was not a whit less hospitable, only hinting that she thought the refusal of the post was due to Arthur.

‘And if he accepts, imagine him on a stool, my dear madam; he couldn’t sit it!’

Miss Mattock laughed. ‘No, that is not to be thought of seriously. And with Mr. O’Donnell it would be probationary for the first fortnight or month. Does he know anything about steam?’

‘The rudimentary idea,’ said Patrick.

‘That’s good for a beginning,’ said the captain; and he added: ‘Miss Mattock, I’m proud if one of my family can be reckoned worthy of assisting in your noble work.’

She replied: ‘I warn everybody that they shall be taken at their word if they volunteer their services.’

She was bidden to know by the captain that the word of an Irish gentleman was his bond. ‘And not later than to-morrow evening I’ll land him at your office. Besides, he’ll find countrywomen of his among you, and there’s that to enliven him. You say they work well, diligently, intelligently.’

She deliberated. ‘Yes, on the whole; when they take to their work. Intelligently certainly compared with our English. We do not get the best of them in London. For that matter, we do not get the best of the English–not the women of the north. We have to put up with the rejected of other and better-paying departments of work. It breaks my heart sometimes to see how near they are to doing well, but for such a little want of ballast.’

‘If they’re Irish,’ said Patrick, excited by the breaking of her heart, ‘a whisper of cajolery in season is often the secret.’

Captain Con backed him for diplomacy. ‘You’ll learn he has a head, Miss Mattock.’

‘I am myself naturally blunt, and prefer the straightforward method,’ said she.

Patrick nodded. ‘But where there’s an obstruction in the road, it’s permissible to turn a corner.’

‘Take ’em in flank when you can’t break their centre,’ said Con.

‘Well, you shall really try whether you can endure the work for a short time if you are in earnest,’ Miss Mattock addressed the volunteer.

‘But I am,’ he said.

‘We are too poor at present to refuse the smallest help.’

‘And mine is about the smallest.’

‘I did not mean that, Mr. O’Donnell.’

‘But you’ll have me?’

‘Gladly.’

Captain Con applauded the final words between them. They had the genial ring, though she accepted the wrong young man for but a shadow of the right sort of engagement.

This being settled, by the sudden combination of enthusiastic Irish impulse and benevolent English scheming, she very considerately resigned herself to Mrs. Adister’s lead and submitted herself to a further jolting in the unprogressive conversational coach with Colonel Adister, whose fault as a driver was not in avoiding beaten ways, but whipping wooden horses.

Evidently those two were little adapted to make the journey of life together, though they were remarkably fine likenesses of a pair in the dead midway of the journey, Captain Con reflected, and he could have jumped at the thought of Patrick’s cleverness: it was the one bright thing of the evening. There was a clear gain in it somewhere. And if there was none, Jane Mattock was a good soul worth saving. Why not all the benefaction on our side, and a figo for rewards! Devotees or adventurers, he was ready in imagination to see his cousins play the part of either, as the cross-roads offered, the heavens appeared to decree. We turn to the right or the left, and this way we’re voluntary drudges, and that way we’re lucky dogs; it’s all according to the turn, the fate of it. But never forget that old Ireland is weeping!

O never forget that old Ireland is weeping The bitter salt tears of the mother bereft!

He hummed the spontaneous lines. He was accused of singing to himself, and a song was vigorously demanded of him by the ladies.

He shook his head. ‘I can’t,’ he sighed. ‘I was plucking the drowned body of a song out of the waters to give it decent burial. And if I sing I shall be charged with casting a firebrand at Mr. Rockney.’

Rockney assured him that he could listen to anything in verse.

‘Observe the sneer:–for our verses are smoke,’ said Con.

Miss Mattock pressed him to sing.

But he had saddened his mind about old Ireland: the Irish news weighed heavily on him, unrelieved by a tussle with Rockney. If he sang, it would be an Irish song, and he would break down in it, he said; and he hinted at an objection of his wife’s to spirited Irish songs of the sort which carry the sons of Erin bounding over the fences of tyranny and the brook of tears. And perhaps Mr. Rockney might hear a tale in verse as hard to bear as he sometimes found Irish prose!–Miss Mattock perceived that his depression was genuine, not less than his desire to please her. ‘Then it shall be on another occasion,’ she said.

‘Oh! on another occasion I’m the lark to the sky, my dear lady.’

Her carriage was announced. She gave Patrick a look, with a smile, for it was to be a curious experiment. He put on the proper gravity of a young man commissioned, without a dimple of a smile. Philip bowed to her stiffly, as we bow to a commanding officer who has insulted us and will hear of it. But for that, Con would have manoeuvred against his wife to send him downstairs at the lady’s heels. The fellow was a perfect riddle, hard to read as the zebra lines on the skin of a wild jackass– if Providence intended any meaning when she traced them! and it’s a moot point: as it is whether some of our poets have meaning and are not composers of zebra. ‘No one knows but them above!’ he said aloud, apparently to his wife.

‘What can you be signifying?’ she asked him. She had deputed Colonel Arthur to conduct Miss Mattock and Miss Barrow to their carriage, and she supposed the sentence might have a mysterious reference to the plan she had formed; therefore it might be a punishable offence. Her small round eyes were wide-open, her head was up and high.

She was easily appeased, too easily.

‘The question of rain, madam,’ he replied to her repetition of his words. ‘I dare say that was what I had in my mind, hearing Mr. Mattock and Mr. Rockney agree to walk in company to their clubs.’

He proposed to them that they should delay the march on a visit to his cabin near the clouds. They were forced to decline his invitation to the gentle lion’s mouth; as did Mr. Rumford, very briskly and thankfully. Mr. Rockney was taken away by Mr. and Mrs. Marbury Dyke. So the party separated, and the Englishmen were together, and the Irishmen together; and hardly a syllable relating to the Englishmen did the Irishmen say, beyond an allusion to an accident to John Mattock’s yacht off the Irish west-coast last autumn; but the Irishmen were subjected to some remarks by the Englishmen, wherein their qualities as individuals and specimens of a race were critically and neatly packed. Common sense is necessarily critical in its collision with vapours, and the conscious possessors of an exclusive common sense are called on to deliver a summary verdict, nor is it an unjust one either, if the verdict be taken simply for an estimate of what is presented upon the plain surface of to-day. Irishmen are queer fellows, never satisfied, thirsting for a shindy. Some of them get along pretty well in America. The air of their Ireland intoxicates them. They require the strong hand: fair legislation, but no show of weakness. Once let them imagine you are afraid of them, and they see perfect independence in their grasp. And what would be the spectacle if they were to cut themselves loose from England? The big ship might be inconvenienced by the loss of the tender; the tender would fall adrift on the Atlantic, with pilot and captain at sword and pistol, the crew playing Donnybrook freely. Their cooler heads are shrewd enough to see the folly, but it catches the Irish fancy to rush to the extreme, and we have allowed it to be supposed that it frightens us. There is the capital blunder, fons et origo.

Their leaders now pretend to work upon the Great Scale; they demand everything on the spot upon their own interpretation of equity. Concessions, hazy speeches, and the puling nonsense of our present Government, have encouraged them so far and got us into the mess. Treat them as policemen treat highwaymen: give them the law: and the law must be tightened, like the hold on a rogue by his collar, if they kick at it. Rockney was for sharp measures in repression, fair legislation in due course.

‘Fair legislation upon your own interpretation of fair,’ said Mattock, whose party opposed Rockney’s. ‘As to repression, you would have missed that instructive scene this evening at Con O’Donnell’s table, if you had done him the kindness to pick up his glove. It ‘s wisest to let them exhaust their energies upon one another. Hold off, and they’re soon at work.’

‘What kind of director of a City Company does he make?’ said Rockney.

Mattock bethought him that, on the whole, strange to say, Con O’Donnell comported himself decorously as a director, generally speaking on the reasonable side, not without shrewdness: he seemed to be sobered by the money question.

‘That wife of his is the salvation of him,’ Rockney said, to account for the Captain’s shrewdness. ‘She manages him cleverly. He knows the length of his line. She’s a woman of principle, and barring the marriage, good sense too. His wife keeps him quiet, or we should be hearing of him. Forbery ‘s a more dangerous man. There’s no intentional mischief in Con O’Donnell; it’s only effervescence. I saw his game, and declined to uncork him. He talks of a niece of his wife’s: have you ever seen her?–married to some Servian or Roumanian prince.’

Mattock answered: ‘Yes.’

‘Is she such a beauty?’

Again Mattock answered: ‘Yes,’ after affecting thoughtfulness.

‘They seem to marry oddly in that family.’

Mattock let fly a short laugh at the remark, which had the ring of some current phrase. ‘They do,’ he said.

Next morning Jane Mattock spoke to her brother of her recruit. He entirely trusted to her discretion; the idea of a young Irish secretary was rather comical, nevertheless. He had his joke about it, requesting to have a sight of the secretary’s books at the expiry of the week, which was the length of time he granted this ardent volunteer for evaporating and vanishing.

‘If it releases poor Grace for a week, it will be useful to us,’ Jane said. ‘Women are educated so shamefully that we have not yet found one we can rely on as a competent person. And Mr. O’Donnell–did you notice him? I told you I met him a day or two back–seems willing to be of use. It cannot hurt him to try. Grace has too much on her hands.’

‘She has a dozen persons.’

‘They are zealous when they are led.’

‘Beware of letting them suspect that they are led.’

‘They are anxious to help the poor if they can discover how.’

‘Good men, I don’t doubt,’ said John Mattock. ‘Any proposals from curates recently?’

‘Not of late. Captain O’Donnell, the brother of our secretary, is handsomer, but we do not think him so trustworthy. Did you observe him at all?–he sat by me. He has a conspirator’s head.’

‘What is that?’ her brother asked her.

‘Only a notion of mine.’

She was directed to furnish a compendious report of the sayings, doings, and behaviour of the Irish secretary in the evening.

‘If I find him there,’ she said.

Her brother was of opinion that Mr. Patrick O’Donnell would be as good as his word, and might be expected to appear there while the novelty lasted.

CHAPTER XV

THE MATTOCK FAMILY

That evening’s report of the demeanour of the young Irish secretary in harness was not so exhilarating as John Mattock had expected, and he inclined to think his sister guilty of casting her protecting veil over the youth. It appeared that Mr. O’Donnell had been studious of his duties, had spoken upon no other topic, had asked pertinent questions, shown no flippancy, indulged in no extravagances. He seemed, Jane said, eager to master details. A certain eagerness of her own in speaking of it sharpened her clear features as if they were cutting through derision. She stated it to propitiate her brother, as it might have done but for the veracious picture of Patrick in the word ‘eager,’ which pricked the scepticism of a practical man. He locked his mouth, looking at her with a twinkle she refused to notice. ‘Determined to master details’ he could have accepted. One may be determined to find a needle in a dust-heap; one does not with any stiffness of purpose go at a dust-heap eagerly. Hungry men have eaten husks; they have not betrayed eagerness for such dry stuff. Patrick’s voracity after details exhibited a doubtfully genuine appetite, and John deferred his amusement until the termination of the week or month when his dear good Jane would visit the office to behold a vacated seat, or be assailed by the customary proposal. Irishmen were not likely to be far behind curates in besieging an heiress. For that matter, Jane was her own mistress and could very well take care of herself; he had confidence in her wisdom.

He was besides of an unsuspicious and an unexacting temperament. The things he would strongly object to he did not specify to himself because he was untroubled by any forethought of them. Business, political, commercial and marine, left few vacancies in his mind other than for the pleasures he could command and enjoy. He surveyed his England with a ruddy countenance, and saw the country in the reflection. His England saw much of itself in him. Behind each there was more, behind the country a great deal more, than could be displayed by a glass. The salient features wore a resemblance. Prosperity and heartiness; a ready hand on, and over, a full purse; a recognised ability of the second-rate order; a stout hold of patent principles; inherited and embraced, to make the day secure and supply a somniferous pillow for the night; occasional fits of anxiety about affairs, followed by an illuminating conviction that the world is a changing one and our construction not of granite, nevertheless that a justifiable faith in the ship, joined to a constant study of the chart, will pull us through, as it has done before, despite all assaults and underminings of the common enemy and the particular; these, with the humorous indifference of familiarity and constitutional annoyances, excepting when they grew acute and called for drugs, and with friendliness to the race of man of both colours, in the belief that our Creator originally composed in black and white, together with a liking for matters on their present footing in slow motion, partly under his conductorship, were the prominent characteristics of the grandson of the founder of the house, who had built it from a spade.

The story of the building was notorious; popular books for the inciting of young Englishmen to dig to fortune had a place for it among the chapters, where we read of the kind of man, and the means by which the country has executed its later giant strides of advancement. The first John Mattock was a representative of his time; he moved when the country was moving, and in the right direction, finding himself at the auspicious moment upon a line of rail. Elsewhere he would have moved, we may suppose, for the spade-like virtues bear their fruits; persistent and thrifty, solid and square, will fetch some sort of yield out of any soil; but he would not have gone far. The Lord, to whom an old man of a mind totally Hebrew ascribed the plenitude of material success, the Lord and he would have reared a garden in the desert; in proximity to an oasis, still on the sands, against obstacles. An accumulation of upwards of four hundred thousand pounds required, as the moral of the popular books does not sufficiently indicate, a moving country, an ardent sphere, to produce the sum: and since, where so much was done, we are bound to conceive others at work as well as he, it seems to follow that the exemplar outstripping them vastly must have profited by situation at the start, which is a lucky accident; and an accident is an indigestible lump in a moral tale, real though the story be. It was not mentioned in the popular books; nor did those worthy guides to the pursuit of wealth contain any reminder of old John Mattock’s dependence upon the conjoint labour of his fellows to push him to his elevation. As little did they think of foretelling a day, generations hence, when the empty heirs of his fellows might prefer a modest claim (confused in statement) to compensation against the estate he bequeathed: for such prophecy as that would have hinted at a tenderness for the mass to the detriment of the individual, and such tenderness as that is an element of our religion, not the drift of our teaching.

He grumbled at the heavy taxation of his estate during life: yearly this oppressed old man paid thousands of pounds to the Government. It was poor encouragement to shoulder and elbow your way from a hovel to a mansion!

He paid the money, dying sour; a splendid example of energy on the road, a forbidding one at the terminus. And here the moral of the popular books turned aside from him to snatch at humanity for an instance of our frailness and dealt in portentous shadows:–we are, it should be known, not the great creatures we assume ourselves to be. Six months before his death he appeared in the garb of a navvy, humbly soliciting employment at his own house-door. There he appealed to the white calves of his footmen for a day’s work, upon the plea that he had never been a democrat.

The scene had been described with humanely-moralising pathos in the various books of stories of Men who have come to Fortune, and it had for a length of seasons an annual position in the foremost rank (on the line, facing the door) in our exhibition of the chosen artists, where, as our popular words should do, it struck the spectator’s eye and his brain simultaneously with pugilistic force: a reference to the picture in the catalogue furnishing a recapitulation of the incident. ‘I’ve worked a good bit in my time, gentlemen, and I baint done yet’:–SEE PROFESSOR SUMMIT’S ‘MEN WHO HAVE COME TO FORTUNE.’ There is, we perceive at a glance, a contrast in the bowed master of the Mansion applying to his menials for a day’s work at the rate of pay to able-bodied men:–which he is not, but the deception is not disingenuous. The contrast flashed with the rapid exchange of two prizefighters in a ring, very popularly. The fustian suit and string below the knee, on the one side, and the purple plush breeches and twinkling airy calves (fascinating his attention as he makes his humble request to his own, these domestic knights) to right and left of the doorway and in front, hit straight out of the canvas. And as quickly as you perceive the contrast you swallow the moral. The dreaded thing is down in a trice, to do what salutary work it may within you. That it passed into the blood of England’s middle-class population, and set many heads philosophically shaking, and filled the sails of many a sermon, is known to those who lived in days when Art and the classes patronising our Native Art existed happily upon the terms of venerable School-Dame and studious pupils, before the sickly era displacing Exhibitions full of meaning for tricks of colour, monstrous atmospherical vagaries that teach nothing, strange experiments on the complexion of the human face divine–the feminine hyper-aethereally. Like the first John Mattock, it was formerly of, and yet by dint of sturdy energy, above the people. They learnt from it; they flocked to it thirsting and retired from it thoughtful, with some belief of having drunk of nature in art, as you will see the countless troops of urchins about the one cow of London, in the Great City’s Green Park.

A bequest to the nation of the best of these pictures of Old John, by a very old Yorkshire collector, makes it milk for all time, a perpetual contrast, and a rebuke. Compared with the portrait of Jane Mattock in her fiery aureole of hair on the walls of the breakfast-room, it marks that fatal period of degeneracy for us, which our critics of Literature as well as Art are one voice in denouncing, when the complex overwhelms the simple, and excess of signification is attempted, instead of letting plain nature speak her uncorrupted tongue to the contemplative mind. Degeneracy is the critical history of the Arts. Jane’s hair was of a reddish gold-inwoven cast that would, in her grandfather’s epoch, have shone unambiguously as carrots. The girl of his day thus adorned by Nature, would have been shown wearing her ridiculous crown with some decent sulkiness; and we should not have had her so unsparingly crowned; the truth would have been told in a dexterous concealment–a rope of it wound up for a bed of the tortoise-shell comb behind, and a pair of tight cornucopias at the temples. What does our modern artist do but flare it to right and left, lift it wavily over her forehead, revel in the oriental superabundance, and really seem to swear we shall admire it, against our traditions of the vegetable, as a poetical splendour. The head of the heiress is in a Jovian shower. Marigolds are in her hand. The whole square of canvas is like a meadow on the borders of June. It causes blinking.

Her brother also is presented: a fine portrait of him, with clipped red locks, in blue array, smiling, wearing the rose of briny breezes, a telescope under his left arm, his right forefinger on a map, a view of Spitzbergen through a cabin-window: for John had notions about the north- west passage, he had spent a winter in the ice, and if an amateur, was not the less a true sailor.

With his brass-buttoned blue coat, and his high coloured cheeks, and his convict hair–a layer of brickdust–and his air of princely wealth, and the icebergs and hummocks about him, he looks for adventure without a thought of his heroism–the country all over.

There he stands, a lover of the sea, and a scientific seaman and engineer to boot, practical in every line of his face, defying mankind to suspect that he cherishes a grain of romance. On the wall, just above his shoulder, is a sketch of a Viking putting the lighted brand to his ship in mid sea, and you are to understand that his time is come and so should a Viking die: further, if you will, the subject is a modern Viking, ready for the responsibilities of the title. Sketches of our ancient wooden walls and our iron and plated defences line the panellings. These degenerate artists do work hard for their money.

The portrait of John’s father, dated a generation back, is just the man and little else, phantomly the man. His brown coat struggles out of the obscurity of the background, but it is chiefly background clothing him. His features are distinguishable and delicate: you would suppose him appearing to you under the beams of a common candle, or cottage coalfire –ferruginously opaque. The object of the artist (apart from the triumph of tone on the canvas) is to introduce him as an elegant and faded gentleman, rather retiring into darkness than emerging. He is the ghost of the painter’s impasto. Yet this is Ezra Mattock, who multipled the inheritance of the hundreds of thousands into millions, and died, after covering Europe, Asia, and the Americas with iron rails, one of the few Christians that can hold up their heads beside the banking Jew as magnates in the lists of gold. The portrait is clearly no frontispiece of his qualities. He married an accomplished and charitable lady, and she did not spoil the stock in refining it. His life passed quietly; his death shook the country: for though it had been known that he had been one of our potentates, how mightily he was one had not entered into the calculations of the public until the will of the late Ezra Mattock, cited in our prints, received comments from various newspaper articles. A chuckle of collateral satisfaction ran through the empire. All England and her dependencies felt the state of cousinship with the fruits of energy; and it was an agreeable sentiment, coming opportunely, as it did, at the tail of articles that had been discussing a curious manifestation of late–to-wit, the awakening energy of the foreigner–a prodigious apparition on our horizon. Others were energetic too! We were not, the sermon ran, to imagine we were without rivals in the field. We were possessed of certain positive advantages; we had coal, iron, and an industrious population, but we were, it was to be feared, by no means a thrifty race, and there was reason for doubt whether in the matter of industry we were quite up to the mark of our forefathers. No deterioration of the stock was apprehended, still the nation must be accused of a lack of vigilance. We must look round us, and accept the facts as they stood. So accustomed had we become to the predominance of our position that it was difficult at first to realise a position of rivalry that threatened our manufacturing interests in their hitherto undisputed lead in the world’s markets. The tale of our exports for the last five years conveys at once its moral and its warning. Statistics were then cited.

As when the gloomy pedagogue has concluded his exhortation, statistics birched the land. They were started at our dinner-tables, and scourged the social converse. Not less than in the articles, they were perhaps livelier than in the preface; they were distressing nevertheless; they led invariably to the question of our decadence. Carthage was named; a great mercantile community absolutely obliterated! Senatorial men were led to propose in their thoughtfullest tones that we should turn our attention to Art. Why should we not learn to excel in Art? We excelled in Poetry. Our Poets were cited: not that there was a notion that poems would pay as an export but to show that if we excel in one of the Arts we may in others of them. The poetry was not cited, nor was it necessary, the object being to inflate the balloon of paradox with a light-flying gas, and prove a poem-producing people to be of their nature born artists; if they did but know it. The explosion of a particular trade points to your taking up another. Energy is adapted to flourish equally in every branch of labour.

It is the genius of the will, commanding all the crossroads. A country breeding hugely must prove its energy likewise in the departments of the mind, or it will ultimately be unable to feed its young–nay, to feast its aldermen! Let us be up and alive.–Such was the exhortation of a profound depression. Outside these dismal assemblies, in the streets, an ancient song of raven recurrence croaked of ‘Old England a-going down the hill’; for there is a link of electricity between the street-boy and the leading article in days when the Poles exchange salutations.

Mr. Ezra’s legacy of his millions to son and daughter broke like a golden evening on the borders of the raincloud. Things could not be so bad when a plain untitled English gentleman bequeathed in the simplest manner possible such giant heaps, a very Pelion upon Ossa, of wealth to his children. The minds of the readers of journals were now directed to think of the hoarded treasures of this favoured country. They might approximately be counted, but even if counted they would be past conception, like the sidereal system. The contemplation of a million stupefies: consider the figures of millions and millions! Articles were written on Lombard Street, the world’s gold-mine, our granary of energy, surpassing all actual and fabulous gold-mines ever spoken of: Aladdin’s magician would find his purse contracting and squeaking in the comparison. Then, too, the store of jewels held by certain private families called for remark and an allusion to Sindbad the sailor, whose eyes were to dilate wider than they did in the valley of diamonds. Why, we could, if we pleased, lie by and pass two or three decades as jolly cricketers and scullers, and resume the race for wealth with the rest of mankind, hardly sensible of the holiday in our pockets though we were the last people to do it, we were the sole people that had the option. Our Fortunatus’ cap was put to better purposes, but to have the cap, and not to be emasculated by the possession, might excuse a little reasonable pride in ourselves.

Thus did Optimism and Pessimism have their turn, like the two great parties in the State, and the subsiding see-saw restored a proper balance, much to the nation’s comfort. Unhappily, it was remembered, there are spectators of its method of getting to an equipoise out of the agitation of extremes. The peep at our treasures to regain composure had, we fear, given the foreigner glimpses, and whetted the appetite of our masses. No sooner are we at peace than these are heard uttering low howls, and those are seen enviously glaring. The spectre, Panic, that ever dogs the optimistic feast, warns us of a sack under our beds, and robbers about to try a barely-bolted door. . . Then do we, who have so sweetly sung our senses to sleep, start up, in their grip, rush to the doctor and the blacksmith, rig alarums, proclaim ourselves intestinally torn, defenceless, a prey to foes within and without. It is discovered to be no worse than an alderman’s dream, but the pessimist frenzy of the night has tossed a quieting sop to the Radical, and summoned the volunteers to a review. Laudatory articles upon the soldierly ‘march past’ of our volunteers permit of a spell of soft repose, deeper than prudent, at the end of it, India and Ireland consenting.

So much for a passing outline of John Bull–the shadow on the wall of John Mattock. The unostentatious millionaire’s legacy to his two children affected Mr. Bull thrillingly, pretty nearly as it has here been dotted in lining. That is historical. Could he believe in the existence of a son of his, a master of millions, who had never sighed (and he had only to sigh) to die a peer, or a baronet, or simple Knight? The downright hard-nailed coffin fact was there; the wealthiest man in the country had flown away to Shadowland a common Mr.! You see the straight deduction from the circumstances:–we are, say what you will, a Republican people! Newspaper articles on the watch sympathetically for Mr. Bull’s latest view of himself, preached on the theme of our peculiar Republicanism. Soon after he was observed fondling the Crown Insignia. His bards flung out their breezy columns, reverentially monarchial. The Republican was informed that they were despised as a blatant minority. A maudlin fit of worship of our nobility had hold of him next, and English aristocracy received the paean. Lectures were addressed to democrats; our House of Lords was pledged solemnly in reams of print. We were told that ‘blood’ may always be betted on to win the race; blood that is blue will beat the red hollow. Who could pretend to despise the honour of admission to the ranks of the proudest peerage the world has known! Is not a great territorial aristocracy the strongest guarantee of national stability? The loudness of the interrogation, like the thunder of Jove, precluded thought of an answer.

Mr. Bull, though he is not of lucid memory, kept an eye on the owner of those millions. His bards were awake to his anxiety, and celebrated John Mattock’s doings with a trump and flourish somewhat displeasing to a quietly-disposed commoner. John’s entry into Parliament as a Liberal was taken for a sign of steersman who knew where the tide ran. But your Liberals are sometimes Radicals in their youth, and his choice of parties might not be so much sagacity as an instance of unripe lightheadedness. A young conservative millionaire is less disturbing. The very wealthy young peer is never wanton in his politics, which seems to admonish us that the heir of vast wealth should have it imposed on him to accept a peerage, and be locked up as it were. A coronet steadies the brain. You may let out your heels at the social laws, you are almost expected to do it, but you are to shake that young pate of yours restively under such a splendid encumbrance. Private reports of John, however, gave him credit for sound opinions: he was moderate, merely progressive. When it was added that the man had the habit of taking counsel with his sister, he was at once considered as fast and safe, not because of any public knowledge of the character of Jane Mattock. We pay this homage to the settled common sense of women. Distinctly does she discountenance leaps in the dark, wild driving, and the freaks of Radicalism.

John, as it happened, had not so grave a respect for the sex as for the individual Jane. He thought women capable of acts of foolishness; his bright-faced sister he could thoroughly trust for prudent conduct. He gave her a good portion of his heart in confidence, and all of it in affection. There were matters which he excluded from confidence, even from intimate communication with himself. These he could not reveal; nor could she perfectly open her heart to him, for the same reason. They both had an established ideal of their personal qualities, not far above the positive, since they were neither of them pretentious, yet it was a trifle higher and fairer than the working pattern; and albeit they were sincere enough, quite sincere in their mutual intercourse, they had, by what each knew at times of the thumping organ within them, cause for doubting that they were as transparent as the other supposed; and they were separately aware of an inward smile at one another’s partial deception; which did not thwart their honest power of working up to the respected ideal. The stroke of the deeper self-knowledge rarely shook them; they were able to live with full sensations in the animated picture they were to the eyes best loved by them. This in fact was their life. Anything beside it was a dream, and we do not speak of our dreams–not of every dream. Especially do we reserve our speech concerning the dream in which we had a revelation of the proud frame deprived of a guiding will, flung rudderless on the waves. Ah that abject! The dismantled ship has the grandeur of the tempest about it, but the soul swayed by passion is ignominiously bare-poled, detected, hooted by its old assumption. If instinct plays fantastical tricks when we are sleeping, let it be ever behind a curtain. We can be held guilty only if we court exposure. The ideal of English gentleman and gentlewoman is closely Roman in the self- repression it exacts, and that it should be but occasionally difficult to them shows an affinity with the type. Do you perchance, O continental observers of the race, call it hypocritical? It is their nature disciplined to the regimental step of civilisation. Socially these island men and women of a certain middle rank are veterans of an army, and some of the latest enrolled are the stoutest defenders of the flag.

Brother and sister preserved their little secrets of character apart. They could not be expected to unfold what they declined personally to examine. But they were not so successful with the lady governing the household, their widowed maternal aunt, Mrs. Lackstraw, a woman of decisive penetration, and an insubordinate recruit of the army aforesaid. To her they were without a mask; John was passion’s slave, Jane the most romantic of Eve’s daughters. She pointed to incidents of their youth; her vision was acutely retrospective. The wealth of her nephew and niece caused such a view of them to be, as she remarked, anxious past endurance. She had grounds for fearing that John, who might step to an alliance with any one of the proudest houses in the Kingdom, would marry a beggar-maid. As for Jane, she was the natural prey of a threadbare poet. Mrs. Lackstraw heard of Mr. Patrick O’Donnell, and demanded the right to inspect him. She doubted such perfect disinterestedness in any young man as that he should slave at account-keeping to that Laundry without a prospect of rich remuneration, and the tale of his going down to the city for a couple of hours each day to learn the art of keeping books was of very dubious import in a cousin of Captain Con O’Donnell. ‘Let me see your prodigy,’ she said, with the emphasis on each word. Patrick was presented at her table. She had steeled herself against an Irish tongue. He spoke little, appeared simple, professed no enthusiasm for the Laundry. And he paid no compliments to Jane: of the two he was more interested by the elder lady, whose farm and dairy in Surrey he heard her tell of with a shining glance, observing that he liked thick cream: there was a touch of home in it. The innocent sensuality in the candid avowal of his tastes inspired confidence. Mrs. Lackstraw fished for some account of his home. He was open to flow on the subject; he dashed a few sketches of mother and sisters, dowerless girls, fresh as trout in the stream, and of his own poor estate, and the peasantry, with whom he was on friendly terms. He was an absentee for his education. Sweet water, pure milk, potatoes and bread, were the things he coveted in plenty for his people and himself, he said, calling forth an echo from Mrs. Lackstraw, and an invitation to come down to her farm in the Spring. ‘That is, Mr. O’Donnell, if you are still in London.’

‘Oh, I’m bound apprentice for a year,’ said he.

He was asked whether he did not find it tiresome work.

‘A trifle so,’ he confessed.

Then why did he pursue it, the question was put.

He was not alive for his own pleasure, and would like to feel he was doing a bit of good, was the answer.

Could one, Mrs. Lackstraw asked herself, have faith in this young Irishman? He possessed an estate. His brogue rather added to his air of truthfulness. His easy manners and the occasional streak of correct French in his dialogue cast a shadow on it. Yet he might be an ingenuous creature precisely because of the suspicion roused by his quaint unworldliness that he might be a terrible actor. Why not?–his heart was evidently much more interested in her pursuits than in her niece’s. The juvenility of him was catching, if it was indeed the man, and not one of the actor’s properties. Mrs. Lackstraw thought it prudent to hint at the latter idea to Jane while she decided in her generosity to embrace the former. Oh! if all Irishmen shared his taste for sweet water, pure milk and wholesome bread, what a true Union we should have! She had always insisted on those three things as most to be desired on earth for the masses, and she reminded Jane of it as a curious fact. Jane acquiesced, having always considered it a curious fact that her aunt should combine the relish of a country life with the intensest social ambition– a passion so sensitive as to make the name her husband had inflicted on her a pain and a burden. The name of Mattock gave her horrors. She spoke of it openly to prove that Jane must marry a title and John become a peer. Never was there such a name to smell of the soil. She declared her incapacity to die happy until the two had buried Mattock. Her own one fatal step condemned her, owing to the opinion she held upon the sacredness of marriage, as Lackstraw on her tombstone, and to Lackstraw above the earthly martyr would go bearing the designation which marked her to be claimed by him. But for John and Jane the index of Providence pointed a brighter passage through life. They had only to conquer the weakness native to them–the dreadful tendency downward. They had, in the spiritual sense, frail hearts. The girl had been secretive about the early activity of hers, though her aunt knew of two or three adventures wanting in nothing save boldness to have put an end to her independence and her prospects:–hence this Laundry business! a clear sign of some internal disappointment. The boy, however, had betrayed himself in his mother’s days, when it required all her influence and his father’s authority, with proof positive of the woman’s unworthiness, to rescue him from immediate disaster.

Mrs. Lackstraw’s confidences on the theme of the family she watched over were extended to Patrick during their strolls among the ducks and fowls and pheasants at her farm. She dealt them out in exclamations, as much as telling him that now they knew him they trusted him, notwithstanding the unaccountable part he played as honorary secretary to that Laundry. The confidences, he was aware, were common property of the visitors one after another, but he had the knowledge of his being trusted as not every Irishman would have been. A service of six months to the secretaryship established his reputation as the strange bird of a queer species: not much less quiet, honest, methodical, than an Englishman, and still impulsive, Irish still; a very strange bird.

The disposition of the English to love the children of Erin, when not fretted by them, was shown in the treatment Patrick received from the Mattock family. It is a love resembling the affection of the stage-box for a set of favourite performers, and Patrick, a Celt who had schooled his wits to observe and meditate, understood his position with them as one of the gallant and amusing race, as well as the reason why he had won their private esteem. They are not willingly suspicious: it agitates their minds to be so; and they are most easily lulled by the flattery of seeing their special virtues grafted on an alien stock: for in this admiration of virtues that are so necessary to the stalwart growth of man, they become just sensible of a minor deficiency; the tree, if we jump out of it to examine its appearance, should not be all trunk. Six months of ungrudging unremunerated service, showing devotion to the good cause and perfect candour from first to last, was English, and a poetic touch beyond: so that John Mattock, if he had finished the sentence instead of lopping it with an interjection, would have said: ‘These Irish fellows, when they’re genuine and first rate!–are pretty well the pick of the land.’ Perhaps his pause on the interjection expressed a doubt of our getting them genuine. Mr. O’Donnell was a sort of exceptional Irishman, not devoid of practical ability in a small way–he did his duties of secretary fairly well; apparently sincere–he had refrained from courting Jane; an odd creature enough, what with his mixture of impulsiveness and discretion; likeable, pleasant to entertain and talk to; not one of your lunatics concerning his country–he could listen to an Englishman’s opinion on that head, listen composedly to Rockney, merely seeming to take notes; and Rockney was, as Captain Con termed him, Press Dragoon about Ireland, a trying doctor for a child of the patient.

On the whole, John Mattock could shake his hand heartily when he was leaving our shores. Patrick was released by Miss Grace Barrow’s discovery at last of a lady capable of filling his place: a circumstance that he did not pretend to regret. He relinquished his post and stood aside with the air of a disciplined soldier. This was at the expiration of seven months and two weeks of service. Only after he had gone, upon her receiving his first letter from the Continent, did Jane distinguish in herself the warmth of friendliness she felt for him, and know that of all around her she, reproaching every one who had hinted a doubt, had been the most suspicious of his pure simplicity. It was the vice of her condition to be suspicious of the honesty of men. She thought of her looks as less attractive than they were; of her wealth she had reason to think that the scent transformed our sad sex into dogs under various disguises. Remembering her chill once on hearing Patrick in a green lane where they botanised among spring flowers call himself her Irish cousin, as if he had advanced a step and betrayed the hoof, she called him her Irish cousin now in good earnest. Her nation was retrospectively enthusiastic. The cordiality of her letter of reply to the wandering Patrick astonished him on the part of so cool a young lady; and Captain Con, when he heard Miss Mattock speak of Patrick to his wife, came to the conclusion that the leery lad had gone a far way toward doing the trick for himself, though Jane said his correspondence was full of the deeds of his brother in India. She quite sparkled in speaking of this boy.

She and the captain had an interchange of sparklings over absent Patrick, at a discovery made by Miss Colesworth, the lady replacing him, in a nook of the amateur secretary’s official desk, under heaps of pamphlets and slips, French and English and Irish journals, not at all bearing upon the business of the Laundry. It was a blotting-pad stuffed with Patrick’s jottings. Jane brought it to Con as to the proper keeper of the reliquary. He persuaded her to join him in examining it, and together they bent their heads, turning leaf by leaf, facing, laughing, pursuing the search for more, sometimes freely shouting.

Her inspection of the contents had previously been shy; she had just enough to tell her they were funny. Dozens of scraps, insides of torn envelopes, invitation-cards, ends of bills received from home, whatever was handy to him at the moment, had done service for the overflow of Mr. Secretary’s private notes and reflections; the blotting-paper as well; though that was devoted chiefly to sketches of the human countenance, the same being almost entirely of the fair. Jane fancied she spied herself among the number. Con saw the likeness, but not considering it a complimentary one, he whisked over the leaf. Grace Barrow was unmistakeable. Her dimpled cushion features, and very intent eyes gazing out of the knolls and dingles, were given without caricature. Miss Colesworth appeared on the last page, a half-length holding a big key, demure between curls. The key was explained by a cage on a stool, and a bird flying out. She had unlocked the cage for Patrick.

‘He never seemed anxious to be released while he was at work,’ said Jane, after she and the captain had spelt the symbolling in turns.

‘And never thirsted to fly till he flew, I warrant him,’ said Con.

A repeated sketch of some beauty confused them both; neither of them could guess the proud owner of those lineaments. Con proclaimed it to be merely one of the lad’s recollections, perhaps a French face. He thought he might have seen a face rather resembling it, but could not call to mind whose face it was.

‘I dare say it’s just a youngster’s dream on a stool at a desk, as poets write sonnets in their youth to nobody, till they’re pierced by somebody, and then there’s a difference in their handwriting,’ he said, vexed with Patrick for squandering his opportunity to leave a compliment to the heiress behind him.

Jane flipped the leaves back to the lady with stormy hair.

‘But you’ll have the whole book, and hand it to him when he returns; it ‘ll come best from you,’ said Con. ‘The man on horseback, out of uniform, ‘s brother Philip, of course. And man and horse are done to the life. Pray, take it, Miss Mattock. I should lose it to a certainty; I should; I can’t be trusted. You’ll take it!’

He pressed her so warmly to retain the bundle in her custody that she carried it away.

Strange to say the things she had laughed at had been the things which struck her feelings and sympathies. Patrick’s notes here and there recalled conversations he had more listened to than taken part in between herself and Grace Barrow. Who could help laughing at his ideas about women! But if they were crude, they were shrewd–or so she thought them; and the jejuneness was, to her mind, chiefly in the dressing of them. Grace agreed with her, for Grace had as good a right to inspect the papers as she, and a glance had shown that there was nothing of peculiar personal import in his notes: he did not brood on himself.

Here was one which tickled the ladies and formed a text for discussion.

‘Women must take the fate of market-fruit till they earn their own pennies, and then they ‘ll regulate the market. It is a tussle for money with them as with us, meaning power. They’d do it as little by oratory as they have done by millinery, for their oratory, just like their millinery, appeals to a sentiment, and to a weaker; and nothing solid comes of a sentiment. Power is built on work.’

To this was appended: ‘The better for mankind in the developing process, ay, and a bad day for us, boys, when study masks the charming eyes in gig-lamps, and there is no pretty flying before us. Good-night to Cupid, I fear. May be I am not seeing far enough, and am asking for the devil to have the loveliest women as of old. Retro S. M.’

The youthful eye on their sex, the Irish voice, and the perceptible moral earnestness in the background, made up a quaint mixture.

CHAPTER XVI

OF THE GREAT MR. BULL AND THE CELTIC AND SAXON VIEW OF HIM: AND SOMETHING OF RICHARD ROCKNEY

Meanwhile India, our lubber giant, had ceased to kick a leg, and Ireland, our fever-invalid, wore the aspect of an opiate slumber. The volcano we couch on was quiet, the gritty morsel unabsorbed within us at an armistice with the gastric juices. Once more the personification of the country’s prosperity had returned to the humming state of roundness. Trade whipped him merrily, and he spun.

A fuller sketch of the figure of this remarkable emanation of us and object of our worship, Bull, is required that we may breathe the atmosphere of a story dealing with such very different views of the idol, and learn to tolerate plain-speaking about him.

Fancy yourself delayed by stress of weather at an inn or an excursion, and snapped up by some gossip drone of the district, who hearing whither you are bound, recounts the history and nature of the place, to your ultimate advantage, though you groan for the outer downpour to abate.– Of Bull, then: our image, before the world: our lord and tyrant, ourself in short–the lower part of us. Coldly worshipped on the whole, he can create an enthusiasm when his roast-beef influence mounts up to peaceful skies and the domestic English world spins with him. What he does not like will then be the forbidding law of a most governable people, what he does like the consenting. If it is declared that argument will be inefficacious to move him, he is adored in the form of post. A hint of his willingness in any direction, causes a perilous rush of his devotees. Nor is there reason to suppose we have drawn the fanatical subserviency