Beauchamps Career, complete
Part 3 out of 12
his forehead, and it was apparently one of his life's labours to get it
to lie amid the mass, for his hand rarely ceased to be in motion without
an impulsive stroke at the refractory forelock. He peered through his
eyelashes ordinarily, but from no infirmity of sight. The truth was,
that the man's nature counteracted his spirit's intenser eagerness and
restlessness by alternating a state of repose that resembled dormancy,
and so preserved him. Rosamund was obliged to give him credit for
straightforward eyes when they did look out and flash. Their filmy blue,
half overflown with grey by age, was poignant while the fire in them
lasted. Her antipathy attributed something electrical to the light they
Dr. Shrapnel's account of Nevil stated him to have gone to call on
Colonel Halkett, a new resident at Mount Laurels, on the Otley river. He
offered the welcome of his house to the lady who was Captain Beauchamp's
friend, saying, with extraordinary fatuity (so it sounded in Rosamund's
ears), that Captain Beauchamp would certainly not let an evening pass
without coming to him. Rosamund suggested that he might stay late at
'Then he will arrive here after nightfall,' said the doctor. 'A bed is
at your service, ma'am.'
The offer was declined. 'I should like to have seen him to-day; but he
will be home shortly.'
'He will not quit Bevisham till this Election's decided unless to hunt a
stray borough vote, ma'am.'
'He goes to Mount Laurels.
'For that purpose.'
'I do not think he will persuade Colonel Halkett to vote in the Radical
'That is the probability with a landed proprietor, ma'am. We must knock,
whether the door opens or not. Like,' the doctor laughed to himself up
aloft, 'like a watchman in the night to say that he smells smoke on the
'Surely we may expect Captain Beauchamp to consult his family about so
serious a step as this he is taking,' Rosamund said, with an effort to be
Why should he?' asked the impending doctor.
His head continued in the interrogative position when it had resumed its
elevation. The challenge for a definite reply to so outrageous a
question irritated Rosamund's nerves, and, loth though she was to admit
him to the subject, she could not forbear from saying, 'Why? Surely his
family have the first claim on him!'
'Surely not, ma'am. There is no first claim. A man's wife and children
have a claim on him for bread. A man's parents have a claim on him for
obedience while he is a child. A man's uncles, aunts, and cousins have
no claim on him at all, except for help in necessity, which he can grant
and they require. None--wife, children, parents, relatives--none has a
claim to bar his judgement and his actions. Sound the conscience, and
sink the family! With a clear conscience, it is best to leave the family
to its own debates. No man ever did brave work who held counsel with his
family. The family view of a man's fit conduct is the weak point of the
country. It is no other view than, "Better thy condition for our sakes."
Ha! In this way we breed sheep, fatten oxen: men are dying off.
Resolution taken, consult the family means--waste your time! Those who
go to it want an excuse for altering their minds. The family view is
everlastingly the shopkeeper's! Purse, pence, ease, increase of worldly
goods, personal importance--the pound, the English pound! Dare do that,
and you forfeit your share of Port wine in this world; you won't be
dubbed with a title; you'll be fingered at! Lord, Lord! is it the region
inside a man, or out, that gives him peace? Out, they say; for they have
lost faith in the existence of an inner. They haven't it. Air-sucker,
blood-pump, cooking machinery, and a battery of trained instincts,
aptitudes, fill up their vacuum. I repeat, ma'am, why should young
Captain Beauchamp spend an hour consulting his family? They won't
approve him; he knows it. They may annoy him; and what is the gain of
that? They can't move him; on that I let my right hand burn. So it
would be useless on both sides. He thinks so. So do I. He is one of
the men to serve his country on the best field we can choose for him. In
a ship's cabin he is thrown away. Ay, ay, War, and he may go aboard.
But now we must have him ashore. Too few of such as he!'
'It is matter of opinion,' said Rosamund, very tightly compressed;
scarcely knowing what she said.
How strange, besides hateful, it was to her to hear her darling spoken
of by a stranger who not only pretended to appreciate but to possess him!
A stranger, a man of evil, with monstrous ideas! A terribly strong
inexhaustible man, of a magical power too; or would he otherwise have won
such a mastery over Nevil?
Of course she could have shot a rejoinder, to confute him with all the
force of her indignation, save that the words were tumbling about in her
head like a world in disruption, which made her feel a weakness at the
same time that she gloated on her capacity, as though she had an enormous
army, quite overwhelming if it could but be got to move in advance. This
very common condition of the silent-stricken, unused in dialectics,
heightened Rosamund's disgust by causing her to suppose that Nevil had
been similarly silenced, in his case vanquished, captured, ruined; and he
dwindled in her estimation for a moment or two. She felt that among a
sisterhood of gossips she would soon have found her voice, and struck
down the demagogue's audacious sophisms: not that they affected her in
the slightest degree for her own sake.
Shrapnel might think what he liked, and say what he liked, as far as she
was concerned, apart from the man she loved. Rosamund went through these
emotions altogether on Nevil's behalf, and longed for her affirmatizing
inspiring sisterhood until the thought of them threw another shade on
What champion was she to look to? To whom but to Mr. Everard Romfrey?
It was with a spasm of delighted reflection that she hit on Mr. Romfrey.
He was like a discovery to her. With his strength and skill, his robust
common sense and rough shrewd wit, his prompt comparisons, his chivalry,
his love of combat, his old knightly blood, was not he a match, and an
overmatch, for the ramping Radical who had tangled Nevil in his rough
snares? She ran her mind over Mr. Romfrey's virtues, down even to his
towering height and breadth. Could she but once draw these two giants
into collision in Nevil's presence, she was sure it would save him. The
method of doing it she did not stop to consider: she enjoyed her triumph
in the idea.
Meantime she had passed from Dr. Shrapnel to Miss Denham, and carried on
a conversation becomingly.
Tea had been made in the garden, and she had politely sipped half a cup,
which involved no step inside the guilty house, and therefore no distress
to her antagonism. The sun descended. She heard the doctor reciting.
Could it be poetry? In her imagination the sombre hues surrounding an
incendiary opposed that bright spirit. She listened, smiling
incredulously. Miss Denham could interpret looks, and said, 'Dr.
Shrapnel is very fond of those verses.'
Rosamund's astonishment caused her to say, 'Are they his own?'--a piece
of satiric innocency at which Miss Denham laughed softly as she answered,
Rosamund pleaded that she had not heard them with any distinctness.
'Are they written by the gentleman at his side?'
'Mr. Lydiard? No. He writes, but the verses are not his.'
'Does he know--has he met Captain Beauchamp?'
'Yes, once. Captain Beauchamp has taken a great liking to his works.'
Rosamund closed her eyes, feeling that she was in a nest that had
determined to appropriate Nevil. But at any rate there was the hope and
the probability that this Mr. Lydiard of the pen had taken a long start
of Nevil in the heart of Miss Denham: and struggling to be candid, to
ensure some meditative satisfaction, Rosamund admitted to herself that
the girl did not appear to be one of the wanton giddy-pated pusses who
play two gentlemen or more on their line. Appearances, however, could be
deceptive: never pretend to know a girl by her face, was one of
She was next informed of Dr. Shrapnel's partiality for music toward the
hour of sunset. Miss Denham mentioned it, and the doctor, presently
sauntering up, invited Rosamund to a seat on a bench near the open window
of the drawing-room. He nodded to his ward to go in.
'I am a fire-worshipper, ma'am,' he said. 'The God of day is the father
of poetry, medicine, music: our best friend. See him there! My Jenny
will spin a thread from us to him over the millions of miles, with one
touch of the chords, as quick as he shoots a beam on us. Ay! on her
wretched tinkler called a piano, which tries at the whole orchestra and
murders every instrument in the attempt. But it's convenient, like our
modern civilization--a taming and a diminishing of individuals for an
'You surely do not object to the organ?--I fear I cannot wait, though,'
Miss Denham entreated her. 'Oh! do, madam. Not to hear me--I am not so
perfect a player that I should wish it--but to see him. Captain
Beauchamp may now be coming at any instant.'
Mr. Lydiard added, 'I have an appointment with him here for this
'You build a cathedral of sound in the organ,' said Dr. Shrapnel, casting
out a league of leg as he sat beside his only half-persuaded fretful
guest. 'You subject the winds to serve you; that's a gain. You do
actually accomplish a resonant imitation of the various instruments; they
sing out as your two hands command them--trumpet, flute, dulcimer,
hautboy, drum, storm, earthquake, ethereal quire; you have them at your
option. But tell me of an organ in the open air? The sublimity would
vanish, ma'am, both from the notes and from the structure, because
accessories and circumstances produce its chief effects. Say that an
organ is a despotism, just as your piano is the Constitutional bourgeois.
Match them with the trained orchestral band of skilled individual
performers, indoors or out, where each grasps his instrument, and each
relies on his fellow with confidence, and an unrivalled concord comes of
it. That is our republic each one to his work; all in union! There's
the motto for us! Then you have music, harmony, the highest, fullest,
finest! Educate your men to form a band, you shame dexterous trickery
and imitation sounds. Then for the difference of real instruments from
clever shams! Oh, ay, one will set your organ going; that is, one in
front, with his couple of panting air-pumpers behind--his ministers!'
Dr. Shrapnel laughed at some undefined mental image, apparently careless
of any laughing companionship. 'One will do it for you, especially if
he's born to do it. Born!' A slap of the knee reported what seemed to
be an immensely contemptuous sentiment. 'But free mouths blowing into
brass and wood, ma'am, beat your bellows and your whifflers; your
artificial choruses--crash, crash! your unanimous plebiscitums! Beat
them? There's no contest: we're in another world; we're in the sun's
Miss Denham's opening notes on the despised piano put a curb on the
doctor. She began a Mass of Mozart's, without the usual preliminary
rattle of the keys, as of a crier announcing a performance, straight to
her task, for which Rosamund thanked her, liking that kind of composed
simplicity: she thanked her more for cutting short the doctor's fanatical
nonsense. It was perceptible to her that a species of mad metaphor had
been wriggling and tearing its passage through a thorn-bush in his
discourse, with the furious urgency of a sheep in a panic; but where the
ostensible subject ended and the metaphor commenced, and which was which
at the conclusion, she found it difficult to discern--much as the sheep
would, be when he had left his fleece behind him. She could now have
said, 'Silly old man!'
Dr. Shrapnel appeared most placable. He was gazing at his Authority in
the heavens, tangled among gold clouds and purple; his head bent acutely
on one side, and his eyes upturned in dim speculation. His great feet
planted on their heels faced him, suggesting the stocks; his arms hung
loose. Full many a hero of the alehouse, anciently amenable to leg-and-
foot imprisonment in the grip of the parish, has presented as respectable
an air. His forelock straggled as it willed.
Rosamund rose abruptly as soon as the terminating notes of the Mass had
Dr. Shrapnel seemed to be concluding his devotions before he followed her
'There, ma'am, you have a telegraphic system for the soul,' he said.
'It is harder work to travel from this place to this' (he pointed at ear
and breast) 'than from here to yonder' (a similar indication traversed
the distance between earth and sun). 'Man's aim has hitherto been to
keep men from having a soul for this world: he takes it for something
infernal. He?--I mean, they that hold power. They shudder to think the
conservatism of the earth will be shaken by a change; they dread they
won't get men with souls to fetch and carry, dig, root, mine, for them.
Right!--what then? Digging and mining will be done; so will harping and
singing. But then we have a natural optimacy! Then, on the one hand,
we whip the man-beast and the man-sloth; on the other, we seize that old
fatted iniquity--that tyrant! that tempter! that legitimated swindler
cursed of Christ! that palpable Satan whose name is Capital! by the
neck, and have him disgorging within three gasps of his life. He is the
villain! Let him live, for he too comes of blood and bone. He shall not
grind the faces of the poor and helpless--that's all.'
The comicality of her having such remarks addressed to her provoked a
smile on Rosamund's lips.
'Don't go at him like Samson blind,' said Mr. Lydiard; and Miss Denham,
who had returned, begged her guardian to entreat the guest to stay.
She said in an undertone, 'I am very anxious you should see Captain
'I too; but he will write, and I really can wait no longer,' Rosamund
replied, in extreme apprehension lest a certain degree of pressure should
overbear her repugnance to the doctor's dinner-table. Miss Denham's look
was fixed on her; but, whatever it might mean, Rosamund's endurance was
at an end. She was invited to dine; she refused. She was exceedingly
glad to find herself on the high-road again, with a prospect of reaching
Steynham that night; for it was important that she should not have to
confess a visit to Bevisham now when she had so little of favourable to
tell Mr. Everard Romfrey of his chosen nephew. Whether she had acted
quite wisely in not remaining to see Nevil, was an agitating question
that had to be silenced by an appeal to her instincts of repulsion,
and a further appeal for justification of them to her imaginary
sisterhood of gossips. How could she sit and eat, how pass an evening
in that house, in the society of that man? Her tuneful chorus cried,
'How indeed.' Besides, it would have offended Mr. Romfrey to hear that
she had done so. Still she could not refuse to remember Miss Denham's
marked intimations of there being a reason for Nevil's friend to seize
the chance of an immediate interview with him; and in her distress at the
thought, Rosamund reluctantly, but as if compelled by necessity, ascribed
the young lady's conduct to a strong sense of personal interests.
'Evidently she has no desire he should run the risk of angering a rich
This shameful suspicion was unavoidable: there was no other opiate for
Rosamund's blame of herself after letting her instincts gain the
It will be found a common case, that when we have yielded to our
instincts, and then have to soothe conscience, we must slaughter
somebody, for a sacrificial offering to our sense of comfort.
A SUPERFINE CONSCIENCE
However much Mr. Everard Romfrey may have laughed at Nevil Beauchamp with
his 'banana-wreath,' he liked the fellow for having volunteered for that
African coast-service, and the news of his promotion by his admiral to
the post of commander through a death vacancy, had given him an exalted
satisfaction, for as he could always point to the cause of failures, he
strongly appreciated success. The circumstance had offered an occasion
for the new commander to hit him hard upon a matter of fact. Beauchamp
had sent word of his advance in rank, but requested his uncle not to
imagine him wearing an additional epaulette; and he corrected the
infallible gentleman's error (which had of course been reported to him
when he was dreaming of Renee, by Mrs. Culling) concerning a lieutenant's
shoulder decorations, most gravely; informing him of the anchor on the
lieutenant's pair of epaulettes, and the anchor and star on a
commander's, and the crown on a captain's, with a well-feigned
solicitousness to save his uncle from blundering further. This was done
in the dry neat manner which Mr. Romfrey could feel to be his own turned
He began to conceive a vague respect for the fellow who had proved him
wrong upon a matter of fact. Beauchamp came from Africa rather worn by
the climate, and immediately obtained the command of the Ariadne
corvette, which had been some time in commission in the Mediterranean,
whither he departed, without visiting Steynham; allowing Rosamund to
think him tenacious of his wrath as well as of love. Mr. Romfrey
considered him to be insatiable for service. Beauchamp, during his
absence, had shown himself awake to the affairs of his country once only,
in an urgent supplication he had forwarded for all his uncle's influence
to be used to get him appointed to the first vacancy in Robert Hall's
naval brigade, then forming a part of our handful in insurgent India.
The fate of that chivalrous Englishman, that born sailor-warrior, that
truest of heroes, imperishable in the memory of those who knew him, and
in our annals, young though he was when death took him, had wrung from
Nevil Beauchamp such a letter of tears as to make Mr. Romfrey believe the
naval crown of glory his highest ambition. Who on earth could have
guessed him to be bothering his head about politics all the while! Or
was the whole stupid business a freak of the moment?
It became necessary for Mr. Romfrey to contemplate his eccentric nephew
in the light of a mannikin once more. Consequently he called to mind,
and bade Rosamund Culling remember, that he had foreseen and had
predicted the mounting of Nevil Beauchamp on his political horse one day
or another; and perhaps the earlier the better. And a donkey could have
sworn that when he did mount he would come galloping in among the Radical
rough-riders. Letters were pouring upon Steynham from men and women of
Romfrey blood and relationship concerning the positive tone of Radicalism
in the commander's address. Everard laughed at them. As a practical
man, his objection lay against the poor fool's choice of the peccant
borough of Bevisham. Still, in view of the needfulness of his learning
wisdom, and rapidly, the disbursement of a lot of his money, certain to
be required by Bevisham's electors, seemed to be the surest method for
quickening his wits. Thus would he be acting as his own chirurgeon,
gaily practising phlebotomy on his person to cure him of his fever. Too
much money was not the origin of the fever in Nevil's case, but he had
too small a sense of the value of what he possessed, and the diminishing
stock would be likely to cry out shrilly.
To this effect, never complaining that Nevil Beauchamp had not come to
him to take counsel with him, the high-minded old gentleman talked. At
the same time, while indulging in so philosophical a picture of himself
as was presented by a Romfrey mildly accounting for events and smoothing
them under the infliction of an offence, he could not but feel that Nevil
had challenged him: such was the reading of it; and he waited for some
justifiable excitement to fetch him out of the magnanimous mood, rather
in the image of an angler, it must be owned.
'Nevil understands that I am not going to pay a farthing of his expenses
in Bevisham?' he said to Mrs. Culling.
She replied blandly and with innocence, 'I have not seen him, sir.'
He nodded. At the next mention of Nevil between them, he asked, 'Where
is it he's lying perdu, ma'am?'
'I fancy in that town, in Bevisham.'
'At the Liberal, Radical, hotel?'
'I dare say; some place; I am not certain . . . .'
'The rascal doctor's house there? Shrapnel's?'
'Really . . . I have not seen him.'
'Have you heard from him?'
'I have had a letter; a short one.'
'Where did he date his letter from?'
'From what house?'
Rosamund glanced about for a way of escaping the question. There was
none but the door. She replied, 'From Dr. Shrapnel's.'
'That's the Anti-Game-Law agitator.'
'You do not imagine, sir, that Nevil subscribes to every thing the horrid
man agitates for?'
'You don't like the man, ma'am?'
'I detest him.'
'Ha! So you have seen Shrapnel?'
'Only for a moment; a moment or two. I cannot endure him. I am sure I
Rosamund flushed exceedingly red. The visit to Dr. Shrapnel's house was
her secret, and the worming of it out made her feel guilty, and that
feeling revived and heated her antipathy to the Radical doctor.
'What reason?' said Mr. Romfrey, freshening at her display of colour.
She would not expose Nevil to the accusation of childishness by
confessing her positive reason, so she answered, 'The man is a kind of
man . . . I was not there long; I was glad to escape. He . . .'
she hesitated: for in truth it was difficult to shape the charge against
him, and the effort to be reticent concerning Nevil, and communicative,
now that he had been spoken of, as to the detested doctor, reduced her to
some confusion. She was also fatally anxious to be in the extreme degree
conscientious, and corrected and modified her remarks most suspiciously.
'Did he insult you, ma'am?' Mr. Romfrey inquired.
She replied hastily, 'Oh no. He may be a good man in his way. He is one
of those men who do not seem to think a woman may have opinions. He does
not scruple to outrage those we hold. I am afraid he is an infidel. His
ideas of family duties and ties, and his manner of expressing himself,
shocked me, that is all. He is absurd. I dare say there is no harm in
him, except for those who are so unfortunate as to fall under his
influence--and that, I feel sure, cannot be permanent. He could not
injure me personally. He could not offend me, I mean. Indeed, I have
nothing whatever to say against him, as far as I . . .'
'Did he fail to treat you as a lady, ma'am?'
Rosamund was getting frightened by the significant pertinacity of her
'I am sure, sir, he meant no harm.'
'Was the man uncivil to you, ma'am?' came the emphatic interrogation.
She asked herself, had Dr. Shrapnel been uncivil toward her? And so
conscientious was she, that she allowed the question to be debated in her
mind for half a minute, answering then, 'No, not uncivil. I cannot
exactly explain . . . . He certainly did not intend to be uncivil.
He is only an unpolished, vexatious man; enormously tall.'
Mr. Romfrey ejaculated, 'Ha! humph!'
His view of Dr. Shrapnel was taken from that instant. It was, that this
enormously big blustering agitator against the preservation of birds,
had behaved rudely toward the lady officially the chief of his household,
and might be considered in the light of an adversary one would like to
meet. The size of the man increased his aspect of villany, which in
return added largely to his giant size. Everard Romfrey's mental eye
could perceive an attractiveness about the man little short of magnetic;
for he thought of him so much that he had to think of what was due to his
pacifical disposition (deeply believed in by him) to spare himself the
trouble of a visit to Bevisham.
The young gentleman whom he regarded as the Radical doctor's dupe, fell
in for a share of his view of the doctor, and Mr. Romfrey became less
fitted to observe Nevil Beauchamp's doings with the Olympian gravity he
had originally assumed.
The extreme delicacy of Rosamund's conscience was fretted by a remorseful
doubt of her having conveyed a just impression of Dr. Shrapnel, somewhat
as though the fine sleek coat of it were brushed the wrong way.
Reflection warned her that her deliberative intensely sincere pause
before she responded to Mr. Romfrey's last demand, might have implied
more than her words. She consoled herself with the thought that it was
the dainty susceptibility of her conscientiousness which caused these
noble qualms, and so deeply does a refined nature esteem the gift, that
her pride in it helped her to overlook her moral perturbation. She was
consoled, moreover, up to the verge of triumph in her realization of the
image of a rivalling and excelling power presented by Mr. Romfrey, though
it had frightened her at the time. Let not Dr. Shrapnel come across him!
She hoped he would not. Ultimately she could say to herself, 'Perhaps I
need not have been so annoyed with the horrid man.' It was on Nevil's
account. Shrapnel's contempt of the claims of Nevil's family upon him
was actually a piece of impudence, impudently expressed, if she
remembered correctly. And Shrapnel was a black malignant, the foe of the
nation's Constitution, deserving of punishment if ever man was; with his
ridiculous metaphors, and talk of organs and pianos, orchestras and
despotisms, and flying to the sun! How could Nevil listen to the
creature! Shrapnel must be a shameless, hypocrite to mask his wickedness
from one so clear-sighted as Nevil, and no doubt he indulged in his
impudence out of wanton pleasure in it. His business was to catch young
gentlemen of family, and to turn them against their families, plainly.
That was thinking the best of him. No doubt he had his objects to gain.
'He might have been as impudent as he liked to me; I would have pardoned
him!' Rosamund exclaimed. Personally, you see, she was generous. On
the whole, knowing Everard Romfrey as she did, she wished that she had
behaved, albeit perfectly discreet in her behaviour, and conscientiously
just, a shade or two differently. But the evil was done.
THE LEADING ARTICLE AND MR. TIMOTHY TURBOT
Nevil declined to come to Steynham, clearly owing to a dread of hearing
Dr. Shrapnel abused, as Rosamund judged by the warmth of his written
eulogies of the man, and an ensuing allusion to Game. He said that he
had not made up his mind as to the Game Laws. Rosamund mentioned the
fact to Mr. Romfrey. 'So we may stick by our licences to shoot to-
morrow,' he rejoined. Of a letter that he also had received from Nevil,
he did not speak. She hinted at it, and he stared. He would have deemed
it as vain a subject to discourse of India, or Continental affairs, at a
period when his house was full for the opening day of sport, and the
expectation of keeping up his renown for great bags on that day so
entirely occupied his mind. Good shots were present who had contributed
to the fame of Steynham on other opening days. Birds were plentiful and
promised not to be too wild. He had the range of the Steynham estate in
his eye, dotted with covers; and after Steynham, Holdesbury, which had
never yielded him the same high celebrity, but both lay mapped out for
action under the profound calculations of the strategist, ready to show
the skill of the field tactician. He could not attend to Nevil. Even
the talk of the forthcoming Elections, hardly to be avoided at his table,
seemed a puerile distraction. Ware the foe of his partridges and
pheasants, be it man or vermin! The name of Shrapnel was frequently on
the tongue of Captain Baskelett. Rosamund heard him, in her room, and
his derisive shouts of laughter over it. Cecil was a fine shot, quite as
fond of the pastime as his uncle, and always in favour with him while
sport stalked the land. He was in gallant spirits, and Rosamund,
brooding over Nevil's fortunes, and sitting much alone, as she did when
there were guests in the house, gave way to her previous apprehensions.
She touched on them to Mr. Stukely Culbrett, her husband's old friend,
one of those happy men who enjoy perceptions without opinions, and are
not born to administer comfort to other than themselves. As far as she
could gather, he fancied Nevil Beauchamp was in danger of something, but
he delivered his mind only upon circumstances and characters: Nevil
risked his luck, Cecil knew his game, Everard Romfrey was the staunchest
of mankind: Stukely had nothing further to say regarding the situation.
She asked him what he thought, and he smiled. Could a reasonable head
venture to think anything in particular? He repeated the amazed, 'You
don't say so' of Colonel Halkett, on hearing the name of the new Liberal
candidate for Bevisham at the dinner-table, together with some of Cecil's
waggish embroidery upon the theme.
Rosamund exclaimed angrily, 'Oh! if I had been there he would not have
'Why not be there?' said Stukely. 'You have had your choice for a number
She shook her head, reddening.
But supposing that she had greater privileges than were hers now? The
idea flashed. A taint of personal pique, awakened by the fancied
necessity for putting her devotedness to Nevil to proof, asked her if she
would then be the official housekeeper to whom Captain Baskelett bowed
low with affected respect and impertinent affability, ironically praising
her abroad as a wonder among women, that could at one time have played
the deuce in the family, had she chosen to do so.
'Just as you like,' Mr. Culbrett remarked. It was his ironical habit of
mind to believe that the wishes of men and women--women as well as men--
were expressed by their utterances.
'But speak of Nevil to Colonel Halkett,' said Rosamund, earnestly
carrying on what was in her heart. 'Persuade the colonel you do not
think Nevil foolish--not more than just a little impetuous. I want
that marriage to come off! Not on account of her wealth. She is to
inherit a Welsh mine from her uncle, you know, besides being an only
child. Recall what Nevil was during the war. Miss Halkett has not
forgotten it, I am sure, and a good word for him from a man of the world
would, I am certain, counteract Captain Baskelett's--are they designs?
At any rate, you can if you like help Nevil with the colonel. I am
convinced they are doing him a mischief. Colonel Halkett has bought an
estate--and what a misfortune that is!--close to Bevisham. I fancy he is
Toryish. Will you not speak to him? At my request? I am so helpless I
'Fancy you have no handkerchief,' said Mr. Culbrett, 'and give up
scheming, pray. One has only to begin to scheme, to shorten life to
half-a-dozen hops and jumps. I could say to the colonel, "Young
Beauchamp's a political cub: he ought to have a motherly wife."'
'Yes, yes, you are right; don't speak to him at all,' said Rosamund,
feeling that there must be a conspiracy to rob her of her proud
independence, since not a soul could be won to spare her from taking
some energetic step, if she would be useful to him she loved.
Colonel Halkett was one of the guests at Steynham who knew and respected
her, and he paid her a visit and alluded to Nevil's candidature,
apparently not thinking much the worse of him. 'We can't allow him to
succeed,' he said, and looked for a smiling approval of such natural
opposition, which Rosamund gave him readily after he had expressed the
hope that Nevil Beauchamp would take advantage of his proximity to Mount
Laurels during the contest to try the hospitality of the house. 'He
won't mind meeting his uncle?' The colonel's eyes twinkled. 'My daughter
has engaged Mr. Romfrey and Captain Baskelett to come to us when they
have shot Holdesbury.'
And Captain Baskelett! thought Rosamund; her jealousy whispering that the
mention of his name close upon Cecilia Halkett's might have a nuptial
She was a witness from her window--a prisoner's window, her 'eager heart
could have termed it--of a remarkable ostentation of cordiality between
the colonel and Cecil, in the presence of Mr. Romfrey. Was it his humour
to conspire to hand Miss Halkett to Cecil, and then to show Nevil the
prize he had forfeited by his folly? The three were on the lawn a little
before Colonel Halkett's departure. The colonel's arm was linked with
Cecil's while they conversed. Presently the latter received his
afternoon's letters, and a newspaper. He soon had the paper out at a
square stretch, and sprightly information for the other two was visible
in his crowing throat. Mr. Romfrey raised the gun from his shoulder-pad,
and grounded it. Colonel Halkett wished to peruse the matter with his
own eyes, but Cecil could not permit it; he must read it aloud for them,
and he suited his action to his sentences. Had Rosamund been accustomed
to leading articles which are the composition of men of an imposing
vocabulary, she would have recognized and as good as read one in Cecil's
gestures as he tilted his lofty stature forward and back, marking his
commas and semicolons with flapping of his elbows, and all but doubling
his body at his periods. Mr. Romfrey had enough of it half-way down the
column; his head went sharply to left and right. Cecil's peculiar
foppish slicing down of his hand pictured him protesting that there was
more and finer of the inimitable stuff to follow. The end of the scene
exhibited the paper on the turf, and Colonel Halkett's hand on Cecil's
shoulder, Mr. Romfrey nodding some sort of acquiescence over the muzzle
of his gun, whether reflective or positive Rosamund could not decide.
She sent out a footman for the paper, and was presently communing with
its eloquent large type, quite unable to perceive where the comicality or
the impropriety of it lay, for it would have struck her that never were
truer things of Nevil Beauchamp better said in the tone befitting them.
This perhaps was because she never heard fervid praises of him, or of
anybody, delivered from the mouth, and it is not common to hear
Englishmen phrasing great eulogies of one another. Still, as a rule,
they do not object to have it performed in that region of our national
eloquence, the Press, by an Irishman or a Scotchman. And what could
there be to warrant Captain Baskelett's malicious derision, and Mr.
Romfrey's nodding assent to it, in an article where all was truth?
The truth was mounted on an unusually high wind. It was indeed a leading
article of a banner-like bravery, and the unrolling of it was designed to
stir emotions. Beauchamp was the theme. Nevil had it under his eyes
earlier than Cecil. The paper was brought into his room with the beams
of day, damp from the presses of the Bevisham Gazette, exactly opposite
to him in the White Hart Hotel, and a glance at the paragraphs gave him a
lively ardour to spring to his feet. What writing! He was uplifted as
'The heroical Commander Beauchamp, of the Royal Navy,' and 'Commander
Beauchamp, R.N., a gentleman of the highest connections': he was 'that
illustrious Commander Beauchamp, of our matchless, navy, who proved on
every field of the last glorious war of this country that the traditional
valour of the noble and indomitable blood transmitted to his veins had
lost none of its edge and weight since the battle-axes of the Lords de
Romfrey, ever to the fore, clove the skulls of our national enemy on the
wide and fertile campaigns of France.' This was pageantry.
There was more of it. Then the serious afflatus of the article
condescended, as it were, to blow a shrill and well-known whistle:--the
study of the science of navigation made by Commander Beauchamp, R.N., was
cited for a jocose warranty of a seaman's aptness to assist in steering
the Vessel of the State. After thus heeling over, to tip a familiar wink
to the multitude, the leader tone resumed its fit deportment. Commander
Beauchamp, in responding to the invitation of the great and united
Liberal party of the borough of Bevisham, obeyed the inspirations of
genius, the dictates of humanity, and what he rightly considered the
paramount duty, as it is the proudest ambition, of the citizen of a free
But for an occasional drop and bump of the sailing gasbag upon catch-
words of enthusiasm, which are the rhetoric of the merely windy, and a
collapse on a poetic line, which too often signalizes the rhetorician's
emptiness of his wind, the article was eminent for flight, sweep, and
dash, and sailed along far more grandly than ordinary provincial organs
for the promoting or seconding of public opinion, that are as little to
be compared with the mighty metropolitan as are the fife and bugle boys
practising on their instruments round melancholy outskirts of garrison
towns with the regimental marching full band under the presidency of its
drum-major. No signature to the article was needed for Bevisham to know
who had returned to the town to pen it. Those long-stretching sentences,
comparable to the very ship Leviathan, spanning two Atlantic billows,
appertained to none but the renowned Mr. Timothy Turbot, of the Corn Law
campaigns, Reform agitations, and all manifestly popular movements
requiring the heaven-endowed man of speech, an interpreter of multitudes,
and a prompter. Like most men who have little to say, he was an orator
in print, but that was a poor medium for him--his body without his fire.
Mr. Timothy's place was the platform. A wise discernment, or else a
lucky accident (for he came hurriedly from the soil of his native isle,
needing occupation), set him on that side in politics which happened to
be making an established current and strong headway. Oratory will not
work against the stream, or on languid tides. Driblets of movements that
allowed the world to doubt whether they were so much movements as
illusions of the optics, did not suit his genius. Thus he was a Liberal,
no Radical, fountain. Liberalism had the attraction for the orator of
being the active force in politics, between two passive opposing bodies,
the aspect of either of which it can assume for a menace to the other,
Toryish as against Radicals; a trifle red in the eyes of the Tory. It
can seem to lean back on the Past; it can seem to be amorous of the
Future. It is actually the thing of the Present and its urgencies,
therefore popular, pouring forth the pure waters of moderation, strong in
their copiousness. Delicious and rapturous effects are to be produced in
the flood of a Liberal oration by a chance infusion of the fierier
spirit, a flavour of Radicalism. That is the thing to set an audience
bounding and quirking. Whereas if you commence by tilling a Triton
pitcher full of the neat liquor upon them, 'you have to resort to the
natural element for the orator's art of variation, you are diluted--and
that's bathos, to quote Mr. Timothy. It was a fine piece of discernment
in him. Let Liberalism be your feast, Radicalism your spice. And now
and then, off and on, for a change, for diversion, for a new emotion,
just for half an hour or so-now and then the Sunday coat of Toryism will
give you an air. You have only to complain of the fit, to release your
shoulders in a trice. Mr. Timothy felt for his art as poets do for
theirs, and considered what was best adapted to speaking, purely to
speaking. Upon no creature did he look with such contempt as upon Dr.
Shrapnel, whose loose disjunct audiences he was conscious he could,
giving the doctor any start he liked, whirl away from him and have
compact, enchained, at his first flourish; yea, though they were composed
of 'the poor man,' with a stomach for the political distillery fit to
drain relishingly every private bogside or mountain-side tap in old
Ireland in its best days--the illicit, you understand.
Further, to quote Mr. Timothy's points of view, the Radical orator has
but two notes, and one is the drawling pathetic, and the other is the
ultra-furious; and the effect of the former we liken to the English
working man's wife's hob-set queasy brew of well-meant villany, that she
calls by the innocent name of tea; and the latter is to be blown, asks to
be blown, and never should be blown without at least seeming to be blown,
with an accompaniment of a house on fire. Sir, we must adapt ourselves
to our times. Perhaps a spark or two does lurk about our house, but we
have vigilant watchmen in plenty, and the house has been pretty fairly
insured. Shrieking in it is an annoyance to the inmates, nonsensical;
weeping is a sickly business. The times are against Radicalism to the
full as much as great oratory is opposed to extremes. These drag the
orator too near to the matter. So it is that one Radical speech is
amazingly like another--they all have the earth-spots. They smell, too;
they smell of brimstone. Soaring is impossible among that faction; but
this they can do, they can furnish the Tory his opportunity to soar.
When hear you a thrilling Tory speech that carries the country with it,
save when the incendiary Radical has shrieked? If there was envy in the
soul of Timothy, it was addressed to the fine occasions offered to the
Tory speaker for vindicating our ancient principles and our sacred homes.
He admired the tone to be assumed for that purpose: it was a good note.
Then could the Tory, delivering at the right season the Shakesperian
'This England . . .' and Byronic--'The inviolate Island . . .'
shake the frame, as though smiting it with the tail of the gymnotus
electricus. Ah, and then could he thump out his Horace, the Tory's
mentor and his cordial, with other great ancient comic and satiric poets,
his old Port of the classical cellarage, reflecting veneration upon him
who did but name them to an audience of good dispositions. The Tory
possessed also an innate inimitably easy style of humour, that had the
long reach, the jolly lordly indifference, the comfortable masterfulness,
of the whip of a four-in-hand driver, capable of flicking and stinging,
and of being ironically caressing. Timothy appreciated it, for he had
winced under it. No professor of Liberalism could venture on it, unless
it were in the remote district of a back parlour, in the society of a
cherishing friend or two, and with a slice of lemon requiring to be
refloated in the glass.
But gifts of this description were of a minor order. Liberalism gave the
heading cry, devoid of which parties are dogs without a scent, orators
mere pump-handles. The Tory's cry was but a whistle to his pack, the
Radical howled to the moon like any chained hound. And no wonder, for
these parties had no established current, they were as hard-bound waters;
the Radical being dyked and dammed most soundly, the Tory resembling a
placid lake of the plains, fed by springs and no confluents. For such
good reasons, Mr. Timothy rejoiced in the happy circumstances which had
expelled him from the shores of his native isle to find a refuge and a
vocation in Manchester at a period when an orator happened to be in
request because dozens were wanted. That centre of convulsions and
source of streams possessed the statistical orator, the reasoning orator,
and the inspired; with others of quality; and yet it had need of an ever-
ready spontaneous imperturbable speaker, whose bubbling generalizations
and ability to beat the drum humorous could swing halls of meeting from
the grasp of an enemy, and then ascend on incalescent adjectives to the
popular idea of the sublime. He was the artistic orator of Corn Law
Repeal--the Manchester flood, before which time Whigs were, since which
they have walked like spectral antediluvians, or floated as dead canine
bodies that are sucked away on the ebb of tides and flung back on the
flow, ignorant whether they be progressive or retrograde. Timothy Turbot
assisted in that vast effort. It should have elevated him beyond the
editorship of a country newspaper. Why it did not do so his antagonists
pretended to know, and his friends would smile to hear. The report was
that he worshipped the nymph Whisky.
Timothy's article had plucked Beauchamp out of bed; Beauchamp's card in
return did the same for him.
'Commander Beauchamp? I am heartily glad to make your acquaintance,
sir; I've been absent, at work, on the big business we have in common,
I rejoice to say, and am behind my fellow townsmen in this pleasure and
lucky I slept here in my room above, where I don't often sleep, for the
row of the machinery--it 's like a steamer that won't go, though it's
always starting ye,' Mr. Timothy said in a single breath, upon entering
the back office of the Gazette, like unto those accomplished violinists
who can hold on the bow to finger an incredible number of notes, and may
be imaged as representing slow paternal Time, that rolls his capering
dot-headed generation of mortals over the wheel, hundreds to the minute.
'You'll excuse my not shaving, sir, to come down to your summons without
an extra touch to the neck-band.'
Beauchamp beheld a middle-sized round man, with loose lips and pendant
indigo jowl, whose eyes twinkled watery, like pebbles under the shore-
wash, and whose neck-band needed an extra touch from fingers other than
'I am sorry to have disturbed you so early,' he replied.
'Not a bit, Commander Beauchamp, not a bit, sir. Early or late, and ay
ready--with the Napiers; I'll wash, I'll wash.'
'I came to speak to you of this article of yours on me. They tell me in
the office that you are the writer. Pray don't "Commander" me so much.
--It's not customary, and I object to it.'
'Certainly, certainly,' Timothy acquiesced.
'And for the future, Mr. Turbot, please to be good enough not to allude
in print to any of my performances here and there. Your intentions are
complimentary, but it happens that I don't like a public patting on the
'No, and that's true,' said Timothy.
His appreciative and sympathetic agreement with these sharp strictures on
the article brought Beauchamp to a stop.
Timothy waited for him; then, smoothing his prickly cheek, remarked:
'If I'd guessed your errand, Commander Beauchamp, I'd have called in the
barber before I came down, just to make myself decent for a 'first
Beauchamp was not insensible to the slyness of the poke at him.
'You see, I come to the borough unknown to it, and as quietly as
possible, and I want to be taken as a politician,' he continued, for the
sake of showing that he had sufficient to say to account for his hasty
and peremptory summons of the writer of that article to his presence.
'It's excessively disagreeable to have one's family lugged into notice in
a newspaper--especially if they are of different politics. I feel it.'
All would, sir,' said Timothy.
'Then why the deuce did you do it?'
Timothy drew a lading of air into his lungs. 'Politics, Commander
Beauchamp, involves the doing of lots of disagreeable things to ourselves
and our relations; it 's positive. I'm a soldier of the Great Campaign:
and who knows it better than I, sir? It's climbing the greasy pole for
the leg o' mutton, that makes the mother's heart ache for the jacket and
the nether garments she mended neatly, if she didn't make them. Mutton
or no mutton, there's grease for certain! Since it's sure we can't be
disconnected from the family, the trick is to turn the misfortune to a
profit; and allow me the observation, that an old family, sir, and a high
and titled family, is not to be despised for a background of a portrait
in naval uniform, with medal and clasps, and some small smoke of powder
clearing off over there:--that's if we're to act sagaciously in
introducing an unknown candidate to a borough that has a sneaking liking
for the kind of person, more honour to it. I'm a political veteran, sir;
I speak from experience. We must employ our weapons, every one of them,
and all off the grindstone.'
'Very well,' said Beauchamp. 'Now understand; you are not in future to
employ the weapons, as you call them, that I have objected to.'
Timothy gaped slightly.
'Whatever you will, but no puffery,' Beauchamp added. 'Can I by any
means arrest--purchase--is it possible, tell me, to lay an embargo--stop
to-day's issue of the Gazette?'
'No more--than the bite of a mad dog,' Timothy replied, before he had
considered upon the monstrous nature of the proposal.
Beauchamp humphed, and tossed his head. The simile of the dog struck him
with intense effect.
'There'd be a second edition,' said Timothy, 'and you might buy up that.
But there'll be a third, and you may buy up that; but there'll be a
fourth and a fifth, and so on ad infinitum, with the advertisement of the
sale of the foregoing creating a demand like a rageing thirst in a
shipwreck, in Bligh's boat, in the tropics. I'm afraid, Com--Captain
Beauchamp, sir, there's no stopping the Press while the people have an
appetite for it--and a Company's at the back of it.'
'Pooh, don't talk to me in that way; all I complain of is the figure you
have made of me,' said Beauchamp, fetching him smartly out of his
nonsense; 'and all I ask of you is not to be at it again. Who would
suppose from reading an article like that, that I am a candidate with a
single political idea!'
'An article like that,' said Timothy, winking, and a little surer of his
man now that he suggested his possession of ideas, 'an article like that
is the best cloak you can put on a candidate with too many of 'em,
Captain Beauchamp. I'll tell you, sir; I came, I heard of your
candidature, I had your sketch, the pattern of ye, before me, and I was
told that Dr. Shrapnel fathered you politically. There was my brief!
I had to persuade our constituents that you, Commander Beauchamp of the
Royal Navy, and the great family of the Earls of Romfrey, one of the
heroes of the war, and the recipient of a Royal Humane Society's medal
for saving life in Bevisham waters, were something more than the Radical
doctor's political son; and, sir, it was to this end, aim, and object,
that I wrote the article I am not ashamed to avow as mine, and I do so,
sir, because of the solitary merit it has of serving your political
interests as the liberal candidate for Bevisham by counteracting the
unpopularity of Dr. Shrapnel's name, on the one part, and of reviving the
credit due to your valour and high bearing on the field of battle in
defence of your country, on the other, so that Bevisham may apprehend, in
spite of party distinctions, that it has the option, and had better seize
upon the honour, of making a M.P. of a hero.'
Beauchamp interposed hastily: 'Thank you, thank you for the best of
intentions. But let me tell you I am prepared to stand or fall with
Dr. Shrapnel, and be hanged to all that humbug.'
Timothy rubbed his hands with an abstracted air of washing. 'Well,
commander, well, sir, they say a candidate's to be humoured in his
infancy, for he has to do all the humouring before he's many weeks old at
it; only there's the fact!--he soon finds out he has to pay for his first
fling, like the son of a family sowing his oats to reap his Jews. Credit
me, sir, I thought it prudent to counteract a bit of an apothecary's shop
odour in the junior Liberal candidate's address. I found the town
sniffing, they scented Shrapnel in the composition.'
'Every line of it was mine,' said Beauchamp.
'Of course it was, and the address was admirably worded, sir, I make bold
to say it to your face; but most indubitably it threatened powerful drugs
for weak stomachs, and it blew cold on votes, which are sensitive plants
like nothing else in botany.'
'If they are only to be got by abandoning principles, and by anything but
honesty in stating them, they may go,' said Beauchamp.
'I repeat, my dear sir, I repeat, the infant candidate delights in his
honesty, like the babe in its nakedness, the beautiful virgin in her
innocence. So he does; but he discovers it's time for him to wear
clothes in a contested election. And what's that but to preserve the
outlines pretty correctly, whilst he doesn't shock and horrify the
optics? A dash of conventionalism makes the whole civilized world kin,
ye know. That's the truth. You must appear to be one of them, for them
to choose you. After all, there's no harm in a dyer's hand; and, sir, a
candidate looking at his own, when he has won the Election . . .'
'Ah, well,' said Beauchamp, swinging on his heel, 'and now I'll take my
leave of you, and I apologize for bringing you down here so early.
Please attend to what I have said; it's peremptory. You will give me
great pleasure by dining with me to-night, at the hotel opposite. Will
you? I don't know what kind of wine I shall be able to offer you.
Perhaps you know the cellar, and may help me in that.'
Timothy grasped his hand, 'With pleasure, Commander Beauchamp. They have
a bucellas over there that 's old, and a tolerable claret, and a Port to
be inquired for under the breath, in a mysteriously intimate tone of
voice, as one says, "I know of your treasure, and the corner under ground
where it lies." Avoid the champagne: 'tis the banqueting wine. Ditto
the sherry. One can drink them, one can drink them.'
'At a quarter to eight this evening, then,' said Nevil.
'I'll be there at the stroke of the clock, sure as the date of a bill,'
And it's early to guess whether you'll catch Bevisham or you won't, he
reflected, as he gazed at the young gentleman crossing the road; but
female Bevisham's with you, if that counts for much. Timothy confessed,
that without the employment of any weapon save arrogance and a look of
candour, the commander had gone some way toward catching the feminine
side of himself.
Beauchamp walked down to the pier, where he took a boat for H.M.S. Isis,
to see Jack Wilmore, whom he had not met since his return from his last
cruise, and first he tried the efficacy of a dive in salt water, as a
specific for irritation. It gave the edge to a fine appetite that he
continued to satisfy while Wilmore talked of those famous dogs to which
the navy has ever been going.
'We want another panic, Beauchamp,' said Lieutenant Wilmore. 'No one
knows better than you what a naval man has to complain of, so I hope
you'll get your Election, if only that we may reckon on a good look-out
for the interests of the service. A regular Board with a permanent Lord
High Admiral, and a regular vote of money to keep it up to the mark.
Stick to that. Hardist has a vote in Bevisham. I think I can get one or
two more. Why aren't you a Tory? No Whigs nor Liberals look after us
half so well as the Tories. It's enough to break a man's heart to see
the troops of dockyard workmen marching out as soon as ever a Liberal
Government marches in. Then it's one of our infernal panics again, and
patch here, patch there; every inch of it make-believe! I'll prove to
you from examples that the humbug of Government causes exactly the same
humbugging workmanship. It seems as if it were a game of "rascals all."
Let them sink us! but, by heaven! one can't help feeling for the country.
And I do say it's the doing of those Liberals. Skilled workmen, mind
you, not to be netted again so easily. America reaps the benefit of our
folly . . . . That was a lucky run of yours up the Niger; the admiral
was friendly, but you deserved your luck. For God's sake, don't forget
the state of our service when you're one of our cherubs up aloft,
Beauchamp. This I'll say, I've never heard a man talk about it as you
used to in old midshipmite days, whole watches through--don't you
remember? on the North American station, and in the Black Sea, and the
Mediterranean. And that girl at Malta! I wonder what has become of her?
What a beauty she was! I dare say she wasn't so fine a girl as the
Armenian you unearthed on the Bosphorus, but she had something about her
a fellow can't forget. That was a lovely creature coming down the hills
over Granada on her mule. Ay, we've seen handsome women, Nevil
Beauchamp. But you always were lucky, invariably, and I should bet on
you for the Election.'
'Canvass for me, Jack,' said Beauchamp, smiling at his friend's
unconscious double-skeining of subjects. 'If I turn out as good a
politician as you are a seaman, I shall do. Pounce on Hardist's vote
without losing a day. I would go to him, but I've missed the Halketts
twice. They 're on the Otley river, at a place called Mount Laurels,
and I particularly want to see the colonel. Can you give me a boat
there, and come?'
'Certainly,' said Wilmore. 'I've danced there with the lady, the
handsomest girl, English style, of her time. And come, come, our English
style's the best. It wears best, it looks best. Foreign women . . .
they're capital to flirt with. But a girl like Cecilia Halkett--one
can't call her a girl, and it won't do to say Goddess, and queen and
charmer are out of the question, though she's both, and angel into the
bargain; but, by George! what a woman to call wife, you say; and a man
attached to a woman like that never can let himself look small. No such
luck for me; only I swear if I stood between a good and a bad action, the
thought of that girl would keep me straight, and I've only danced with
Not long after sketching this rough presentation of the lady, with a
masculine hand, Wilmore was able to point to her in person on the deck of
her father's yacht, the Esperanza, standing out of Otley river. There
was a gallant splendour in the vessel that threw a touch of glory on its
mistress in the minds of the two young naval officers, as they pulled for
her in the ship's gig.
Wilmore sang out, 'Give way, men!'
The sailors bent to their oars, and presently the schooner's head was put
to the wind.
'She sees we're giving chase,' Wilmore said. 'She can't be expecting me,
so it must be you. No, the colonel doesn't race her. They've only been
back from Italy six months: I mean the schooner. I remember she talked
of you when I had her for a partner. Yes, now I mean Miss Halkett.
Blest if I think she talked of anything else. She sees us. I'll tell
you what she likes: she likes yachting, she likes Italy, she likes
painting, likes things old English, awfully fond of heroes. I told her a
tale of one of our men saving life. "Oh!" said she, "didn't your friend
Nevil Beauchamp save a man from drowning, off the guardship, in exactly
the same place?" And next day she sent me a cheque for three pounds for
the fellow. Steady, men! I keep her letter.'
The boat went smoothly alongside the schooner. Miss Halkett had come to
the side. The oars swung fore and aft, and Beauchamp sprang on deck.
Wilmore had to decline Miss Halkett's invitation to him as well as his
friend, and returned in his boat. He left the pair with a ruffling
breeze, and a sky all sail, prepared, it seemed to him, to enjoy the most
delicious you-and-I on salt water that a sailor could dream of; and
placidly envying, devoid of jealousy, there was just enough of fancy
quickened in Lieutenant Wilmore to give him pictures of them without
disturbance of his feelings--one of the conditions of the singular
visitation we call happiness, if he could have known it.
For a time his visionary eye followed them pretty correctly. So long
since they had parted last! such changes in the interval! and great
animation in Beauchamp's gaze, and a blush on Miss Halkett's cheeks.
She said once, 'Captain Beauchamp.' He retorted with a solemn formality.
They smiled, and immediately took footing on their previous intimacy.
'How good it was of you to come twice to Mount Laurels,' said she.
'I have not missed you to-day. No address was on your card. Where are
you staying in the neighbourhood? At Mr. Lespel's?'
'I'm staying at a Bevisham hotel,' said Beauchamp.
'You have not been to Steynham yet? Papa comes home from Steynham to-
'Does he? Well, the Ariadne is only just paid off, and I can't well go
to Steynham yet. I--' Beauchamp was astonished at the hesitation he
found in himself to name it: 'I have business in Bevisham.'
'Naval business?' she remarked.
'No,' said he.
The sensitive prescience we have of a critical distaste of our
proceedings is, the world is aware, keener than our intuition of contrary
opinions; and for the sake of preserving the sweet outward forms of
friendliness, Beauchamp was anxious not to speak of the business in
Bevisham just then, but she looked and he had hesitated, so he said
flatly, 'I am one of the candidates for the borough.'
'And I want the colonel to give me his vote.'
The young lady breathed a melodious 'Oh!' not condemnatory or
reproachful--a sound to fill a pause. But she was beginning to reflect.
'Italy and our English Channel are my two Poles,' she said. 'I am
constantly swaying between them. I have told papa we will not lay up the
yacht while the weather holds fair. Except for the absence of deep
colour and bright colour, what can be more beautiful than these green
waves and that dark forest's edge, and the garden of an island! The
yachting-water here is an unrivalled lake; and if I miss colour, which I
love, I remind myself that we have temperate air here, not a sun that
fiends you under cover. We can have our fruits too, you see.' One of
the yachtsmen was handing her a basket of hot-house grapes, reclining
beside crisp home-made loaflets. 'This is my luncheon. Will you share
His Christian name was pleasant to hear from her lips. She held out a
bunch to him.
'Grapes take one back to the South,' said he. 'How do you bear
compliments? You have been in Italy some years, and it must be the South
that has worked the miracle.'
'In my growth?' said Cecilia, smiling. 'I have grown out of my
Circassian dress, Nevil.'
'You received it, then?'
'I wrote you a letter of thanks--and abuse, for your not coming to
Steynham. You may recognize these pearls.'
The pearls were round her right wrist. He looked at the blue veins.
'They're not pearls of price,' he said.
'I do not wear them to fascinate the jewellers,' rejoined Miss Halkett.
'So you are a candidate at an Election. You still have a tinge of
Africa, do you know? But you have not abandoned the navy?'
'Oh! no, no: I hope not. I have heard of you, . . . but who has not?
We cannot spare officers like you. Papa was delighted to hear of your
The exclamation was contemptuous.
'It's the highest we can aim at,' Beauchamp observed meekly.
'I think I recollect you used to talk politics when you were a
midshipman,' she said. 'You headed the aristocracy, did you not?'
'The aristocracy wants a head,' said Beauchamp.
'Parliament, in my opinion, is the best of occupations for idle men,'
'It shows that it is a little too full of them.'
'Surely the country can go on very well without so much speech-making?'
'It can go on very well for the rich.'
Miss Halkett tapped with her foot.
'I should expect a Radical to talk in that way, Nevil.'
'Take me for one.'
'I would not even imagine it.'
'Say Liberal, then.'
'Are you not'--her eyes opened on him largely, and narrowed from surprise
to reproach, and then to pain--are you not one of us? Have you gone over
to the enemy, Nevil?'
'I have taken my side, Cecilia; but we, on our side, don't talk of an
'Most unfortunate! We are Tories, you know, Nevil. Papa is a thorough
Tory. He cannot vote for you. Indeed I have heard him say he is anxious
to defeat the plots of an old Republican in Bevisham--some doctor there;
and I believe he went to London to look out for a second Tory candidate
to oppose to the Liberals. Our present Member is quite safe, of course.
Nevil, this makes me unhappy. Do you not feel that it is playing traitor
to one's class to join those men?'
Such was the Tory way of thinking, Nevil Beauchamp said: the Tories
upheld their Toryism in the place of patriotism.
'But do we not owe the grandeur of the country to the Tories?' she said,
with a lovely air of conviction. 'Papa has told me how false the Whigs
played the Duke in the Peninsula: ruining his supplies, writing him down,
declaring, all the time he was fighting his first hard battles, that his
cause was hopeless--that resistance to Napoleon was impossible. The Duke
never, never had loyal support but from the Tory Government. The Whigs,
papa says, absolutely preached submission to Napoleon! The Whigs, I
hear, were the Liberals of those days. The two Pitts were Tories. The
greatness of England has been built up by the Tories. I do and will
defend them: it is the fashion to decry them now. They have the honour
and safety of the country at heart. They do not play disgracefully at
reductions of taxes, as the Liberals do. They have given us all our
heroes. Non fu mai gloria senza invidia. They have done service enough
to despise the envious mob. They never condescend to supplicate brute
force for aid to crush their opponents. You feel in all they do that the
instincts of gentlemen are active.'
'Do I speak too warmly?' she asked. 'Papa and I have talked over it
often, and especially of late. You will find him your delighted host
and your inveterate opponent.'
'Just the same. You will have to pardon me; I am a terrible foe.'
'I declare to you, Cecilia, I would prefer having you against me to
having you indifferent.'
'I wish I had not to think it right that you should be beaten. And now--
can you throw off political Nevil, and be sailor Nevil? I distinguish
between my old friend, and my . . .our . . .'
'Not so dreadful, except in the shock he gives us to find him in the
opposite ranks. I am grieved. But we will finish our sail in peace.
I detest controversy. I suppose, Nevil, you would have no such things
as yachts? they are the enjoyments of the rich!'
He reminded her that she wished to finish her sail in peace; and he
had to remind her of it more than once. Her scattered resources for
argumentation sprang up from various suggestions, such as the flight of
yachts, mention of the shooting season, sight of a royal palace; and
adopted a continually heightened satirical form, oddly intermixed with an
undisguised affectionate friendliness. Apparently she thought it
possible to worry him out of his adhesion to the wrong side in politics.
She certainly had no conception of the nature of his political views,
for one or two extreme propositions flung to him in jest, he swallowed
with every sign of a perfect facility, as if the Radical had come to
regard stupendous questions as morsels barely sufficient for his daily
sustenance. Cecilia reflected that he must be playing, and as it was
not a subject for play she tacitly reproved him by letting him be the
last to speak of it. He may not have been susceptible to the delicate
chastisement, probably was not, for when he ceased it was to look on the
beauty of her lowered eyelids, rather with an idea that the weight of his
argument lay on them. It breathed from him; both in the department of
logic and of feeling, in his plea for the poor man and his exposition of
the poor man's rightful claims, he evidently imagined that he had spoken
overwhelmingly; and to undeceive him in this respect, for his own good,
Cecilia calmly awaited the occasion when she might show the vanity of
arguments in their effort to overcome convictions. He stood up to take
his leave of her, on their return to the mouth of the Otley river,
unexpectedly, so that the occasion did not arrive; but on his mentioning
an engagement he had to give a dinner to a journalist and a tradesman of
the town of Bevisham, by way of excuse for not complying with her gentle
entreaty that he would go to Mount Laurels and wait to see the colonel
that evening, 'Oh! then your choice must be made irrevocably, I am sure,'
Miss Halkett said, relying upon intonation and manner to convey a great
deal more, and not without a minor touch of resentment for his having
dragged her into the discussion of politics, which she considered as a
slime wherein men hustled and tussled, no doubt worthily enough, and as
became them; not however to impose the strife upon the elect ladies of
earth. What gentleman ever did talk to a young lady upon the dreary
topic seriously? Least of all should Nevil Beauchamp have done it. That
object of her high imagination belonged to the exquisite sphere of the
feminine vision of the pure poetic, and she was vexed by the discord he
threw between her long-cherished dream and her unanticipated realization
of him:, if indeed it was he presenting himself to her in his own
character, and not trifling, or not passing through a phase of young
Possibly he might be the victim of the latter and more pardonable state,
and so thinking she gave him her hand.
'Good-bye, Nevil. I may tell papa to expect you tomorrow?'
'Do, and tell him to prepare for a field-day.'
She smiled. 'A sham fight that will not win you a vote! I hope you will
find your guests this evening agreeable companions.'
Beauchamp half-shrugged involuntarily. He obliterated the piece of
treason toward them by saying that he hoped so; as though the meeting
them, instead of slipping on to Mount Laurels with her, were an enjoyable
He was dropped by the Esperanza's boat near Otley ferry, to walk along
the beach to Bevisham, and he kept eye on the elegant vessel as she
glided swan-like to her moorings off Mount Laurels park through dusky
merchant craft, colliers, and trawlers, loosely shaking her towering
snow-white sails, unchallenged in her scornful supremacy; an image of a
refinement of beauty, and of a beautiful servicelessness.
As the yacht, so the mistress: things of wealth, owing their graces to
wealth, devoting them to wealth--splendid achievements of art both! and
dedicated to the gratification of the superior senses.
Say that they were precious examples of an accomplished civilization; and
perhaps they did offer a visible ideal of grace for the rough world to
aim at. They might in the abstract address a bit of a monition to the
uncultivated, and encourage the soul to strive toward perfection, in
beauty: and there is no contesting the value of beauty when the soul is
taken into account. But were they not in too great a profusion in
proportion to their utility? That was the question for Nevil Beauchamp.
The democratic spirit inhabiting him, temporarily or permanently, asked
whether they were not increasing to numbers which were oppressive? And
further, whether it was good, for the country, the race, ay, the species,
that they should be so distinctly removed from the thousands who fought
the grand, and the grisly, old battle with nature for bread of life.
Those grimy sails of the colliers and fishing-smacks, set them in a great
sea, would have beauty for eyes and soul beyond that of elegance and
refinement. And do but look on them thoughtfully, the poor are
everlastingly, unrelievedly, in the abysses of the great sea . . . .
One cannot pursue to conclusions a line of meditation that is half-built
on the sensations as well as on the mind. Did Beauchamp at all desire to
have those idly lovely adornments of riches, the Yacht and the Lady,
swept away? Oh, dear, no. He admired them, he was at home with them.
They were much to his taste. Standing on a point of the beach for a last
look at them before he set his face to the town, he prolonged the look in
a manner to indicate that the place where business called him was not in
comparison at all so pleasing: and just as little enjoyable were his
meditations opposed to predilections. Beauty plucked the heart from his
breast. But he had taken up arms; he had drunk of the questioning cup,
that which denieth peace to us, and which projects us upon the missionary
search of the How, the Wherefore, and the Why not, ever afterward. He
questioned his justification, and yours, for gratifying tastes in an ill-
regulated world of wrong-doing, suffering, sin, and bounties
unrighteously dispensed--not sufficiently dispersed. He said by-and-by
to pleasure, battle to-day. From his point of observation, and with the
store of ideas and images his fiery yet reflective youth had gathered, he
presented himself as it were saddled to that hard-riding force known as
the logical impetus, which spying its quarry over precipices, across
oceans and deserts, and through systems and webs, and into shops and
cabinets of costliest china, will come at it, will not be refused, let
the distances and the breakages be what they may. He went like the
meteoric man with the mechanical legs in the song, too quick for a cry of
protestation, and reached results amazing to his instincts, his tastes,
and his training, not less rapidly and naturally than tremendous Ergo is
shot forth from the clash of a syllogism.
A PARTIAL DISPLAY OF BEAUCHAMP IN HIS COLOURS
Beauchamp presented himself at Mount Laurels next day, and formally asked
Colonel Halkett for his vote, in the presence of Cecilia.
She took it for a playful glance at his new profession of politician: he
spoke half-playfully. Was it possible to speak in earnest?
'I 'm of the opposite party,' said the colonel; as conclusive a reply
as could be: but he at once fell upon the rotten navy of a Liberal
Government. How could a true sailor think of joining those Liberals!
The question referred to the country, not to a section of it, Beauchamp
protested with impending emphasis: Tories and Liberals were much the same
in regard to the care of the navy. 'Nevil!' exclaimed Cecilia. He cited
beneficial Liberal bills recently passed, which she accepted for a
concession of the navy to the Tories, and she smiled. In spite of her
dislike of politics, she had only to listen a few minutes to be drawn
into the contest: and thus it is that one hot politician makes many among
women and men of a people that have the genius of strife, or else in this
case the young lady did unconsciously feel a deep interest in refuting
and overcoming Nevil Beauchamp. Colonel Halkett denied the benefits of
those bills. 'Look,' said he, 'at the scarecrow plight of the army under
a Liberal Government!' This laid him open to the charge that he was for
backing Administrations instead of principles.
'I do,' said the colonel. 'I would rather have a good Administration
than all your talk of principles: one's a fact, but principles?
principles?' He languished for a phrase to describe the hazy things.
'I have mine, and you have yours. It's like a dispute between religions.
There's no settling it except by main force. That's what principles lead
Principles may be hazy, but heavy artillery is disposable in defence of
them, and Beauchamp fired some reverberating guns for the eternal against
the transitory; with less of the gentlemanly fine taste, the light and
easy social semi-irony, than Cecilia liked and would have expected from
him. However, as to principles, no doubt Nevil was right, and Cecilia
drew her father to another position. 'Are not we Tories to have
principles as well as the Liberals, Nevil?'
'They may have what they call principles,' he admitted, intent on
pursuing his advantage over the colonel, who said, to shorten the
controversy: 'It's a question of my vote, and my liking. I like a Tory
Government, and I don't like the Liberals. I like gentlemen; I don't
like a party that attacks everything, and beats up the mob for power, and
repays it with sops, and is dragging us down from all we were proud of.'
'But the country is growing, the country wants expansion,' said
Beauchamp; 'and if your gentlemen by birth are not up to the mark, you
must have leaders that are.'
'Leaders who cut down expenditure, to create a panic that doubles the
outlay! I know them.'
'A panic, Nevil.' Cecilia threw stress on the memorable word.
He would hear no reminder in it. The internal condition of the country
was now the point for seriously-minded Englishmen.
'My dear boy, what have you seen of the country?' Colonel Halkett
'Every time I have landed, colonel, I have gone to the mining and the
manufacturing districts, the centres of industry; wherever there was
dissatisfaction. I have attended meetings, to see and hear for myself.
I have read the papers . . . .'
'Well, they're the mirror of the country.'
'Does one see everything in a mirror, Nevil?' said Cecilia: 'even in the
He retorted softly: 'I should be glad to see what you see,' and felled
her with a blush.
For an example of the mirror offered by the Press, Colonel Halkett
touched on Mr. Timothy Turbot's article in eulogy of the great Commander
Beauchamp. 'Did you like it?' he asked. 'Ah, but if you meddle with
politics, you must submit to be held up on the prongs of a fork, my boy;
soaped by your backers and shaved by the foe; and there's a figure for a
gentleman! as your uncle Romfrey says.'
Cecilia did not join this discussion, though she had heard from her
father that something grotesque had been written of Nevil. Her
foolishness in blushing vexed body and mind. She was incensed by a silly
compliment that struck at her feminine nature when her intellect stood in
arms. Yet more hurt was she by the reflection that a too lively
sensibility might have conjured up the idea of the compliment. And
again, she wondered at herself for not resenting so rare a presumption
as it implied, and not disdaining so outworn a form of flattery. She
wondered at herself too for thinking of resentment and disdain in
relation to the familiar commonplaces of licenced impertinence. Over all
which hung a darkened image of her spirit of independence, like a moon in
Where lay his weakness? Evidently in the belief that he had thought
profoundly. But what minor item of insufficiency or feebleness was
discernible? She discovered that he could be easily fretted by similes
and metaphors they set him staggering and groping like an ancient knight
of faery in a forest bewitched.
'Your specific for the country is, then, Radicalism,' she said, after
listening to an attack on the Tories for their want of a policy and
indifference to the union of classes.
'I would prescribe a course of it, Cecilia; yes,' he turned to her.
'The Dr. Dulcamara of a single drug?'
'Now you have a name for me! Tory arguments always come to epithets.'
'It should not be objectionable. Is it not honest to pretend to have
only one cure for mortal maladies? There can hardly be two panaceas,
can there be?'
'So you call me quack?'
'No, Nevil, no,' she breathed a rich contralto note of denial: 'but if
the country is the patient, and you will have it swallow your
prescription . . .'
'There's nothing like a metaphor for an evasion,' said Nevil, blinking
She drew him another analogy, longer than was at all necessary; so
tedious that her father struck through it with the remark:
'Concerning that quack--that's one in the background, though!'
'I know of none,' said Beauchamp, well-advised enough to forbear mention
of the name of Shrapnel.
Cecilia petitioned that her stumbling ignorance, which sought the road of
wisdom, might be heard out. She had a reserve entanglement for her
argumentative friend. 'You were saying, Nevil, that you were for
principles rather than for individuals, and you instanced Mr. Cougham,
the senior Liberal candidate of Bevisham, as one whom you would prefer to
see in Parliament instead of Seymour Austin, though you confess to Mr.
Austin's far superior merits as a politician and servant of his country:
but Mr. Cougham supports Liberalism while Mr. Austin is a Tory. You are
for the principle.'
'I am,' said he, bowing.
She asked: 'Is not that equivalent to the doctrine of election by Grace?'
Beauchamp interjected: 'Grace! election?'
Cecilia was tender to his inability to follow her allusion.
'Thou art a Liberal--then rise to membership,' she said. 'Accept my
creed, and thou art of the chosen. Yes, Nevil, you cannot escape from
it. Papa, he preaches Calvinism in politics.'
'We stick to men, and good men,' the colonel flourished. 'Old English
'You might as well say, old timber vessels, when Iron's afloat, colonel.'
'I suspect you have the worst of it there, papa,' said Cecilia, taken by
the unexpectedness and smartness of the comparison coming from wits that
she had been undervaluing.
'I shall not own I'm worsted until I surrender my vote,' the colonel
'I won't despair of it,' said Beauchamp.
Colonel Halkett bade him come for it as often as he liked. You'll be
beaten in Bevisham, I warn you. Tory reckonings are safest: it's an
admitted fact: and we know you can't win. According to my judgement a
man owes a duty to his class.'
'A man owes a duty to his class as long as he sees his class doing its
duty to the country,' said Beauchamp; and he added, rather prettily in
contrast with the sententious commencement, Cecilia thought, that the
apathy of his class was proved when such as he deemed it an obligation on
them to come forward and do what little they could. The deduction of the
proof was not clearly consequent, but a meaning was expressed; and in
that form it brought him nearer to her abstract idea of Nevil Beauchamp
than when he raged and was precise.
After his departure she talked of him with her father, to be charitably
satirical over him, it seemed.
The critic in her ear had pounced on his repetition of certain words that
betrayed a dialectical stiffness and hinted a narrow vocabulary: his use
of emphasis, rather reminding her of his uncle Everard, was, in a young
man, a little distressing. 'The apathy of the country, papa; the apathy
of the rich; a state of universal apathy. Will you inform me, papa, what
the Tories are doing? Do we really give our consciences to the keeping
of the parsons once a week, and let them dogmatize for us to save us from
exertion? We must attach ourselves to principles; nothing is permanent
but principles. Poor Nevil! And still I am sure you have, as I have,
the feeling that one must respect him. I am quite convinced that he
supposes he is doing his best to serve his country by trying for
Parliament, fancying himself a Radical. I forgot to ask him whether he
had visited his great-aunt, Mrs. Beauchamp. They say the dear old lady
has influence with him.'
'I don't think he's been anywhere,' Colonel Halkett half laughed at the
quaint fellow. 'I wish the other great-nephew of hers were in England,
for us to run him against Nevil Beauchamp. He's touring the world. I'm
told he's orthodox, and a tough debater. We have to take what we can
'My best wishes for your success, and you and I will not talk of politics
any more, papa. I hope Nevil will come often, for his own good; he will
meet his own set of people here. And if he should dogmatize so much as
to rouse our apathy to denounce his principles, we will remember that we
are British, and can be sweet-blooded in opposition. Perhaps he may
change, even tra le tre ore a le quattro: electioneering should be a
lesson. From my recollection of Blackburn Tuckham, he was a boisterous
'He writes uncommonly clever letters home to his aunt Beauchamp. She has
handed them to me to read,' said the colonel. 'I do like to see
tolerably solid young fellows: they give one some hope of the stability
of the country.'
'They are not so interesting to study, and not half so amusing,' said
Colonel Halkett muttered his objections to the sort of amusement
furnished by firebrands.
'Firebrand is too strong a word for poor Nevil,' she remonstrated.
In that estimate of the character of Nevil Beauchamp, Cecilia soon had to
confess that she had been deceived, though not by him.
HIS FRIEND AND FOE
Looking from her window very early on a Sunday morning, Miss Halkett saw
Beauchamp strolling across the grass of the park. She dressed hurriedly
and went out to greet him, smiling and thanking him for his friendliness
He said he was delighted, and appeared so, but dashed the sweetness.
'You know I can't canvass on Sundays!
'I suppose not,' she replied. 'Have you walked up from Bevisham? You
must be tired.'
'Nothing tires me,' said he.
With that they stepped on together.
Mount Laurels, a fair broad house backed by a wood of beeches and firs,
lay open to view on the higher grassed knoll of a series of descending
turfy mounds dotted with gorseclumps, and faced South-westerly along the
run of the Otley river to the gleaming broad water and its opposite
border of forest, beyond which the downs of the island threw long
interlapping curves. Great ships passed on the line of the water to and
fro; and a little mist of masts of the fishing and coasting craft by
Otley village, near the river's mouth, was like a web in air. Cecilia
led him to her dusky wood of firs, where she had raised a bower for a
place of poetical contemplation and reading when the clear lapping salt
river beneath her was at high tide. She could hail the Esperanza from
that cover; she could step from her drawing-room window, over the flower-
beds, down the gravel walk to the hard, and be on board her yacht within
seven minutes, out on her salt-water lake within twenty, closing her
wings in a French harbour by nightfall of a summer's day, whenever she
had the whim to fly abroad. Of these enviable privileges she boasted
with some happy pride.
'It's the finest yachting-station in England,' said Beauchamp.
She expressed herself very glad that he should like it so much.
Unfortunately she added, 'I hope you will find it pleasanter to be here
'I have no pleasure in canvassing,' said he. 'I canvass poor men
accustomed to be paid for their votes, and who get nothing from me but
what the baron would call a parsonical exhortation. I'm in the thick of
the most spiritless crew in the kingdom. Our southern men will not
compare with the men of the north. But still, even among these fellows,
I see danger for the country if our commerce were to fail, if distress
came on them. There's always danger in disunion. That's what the rich
won't see. They see simply nothing out of their own circle; and they
won't take a thought of the overpowering contrast between their luxury
and the way of living, that's half-starving, of the poor. They
understand it when fever comes up from back alleys and cottages, and then
they join their efforts to sweep the poor out of the district. The poor
are to get to their work anyhow, after a long morning's walk over the
proscribed space; for we must have poor, you know. The wife of a parson
I canvassed yesterday, said to me, "Who is to work for us, if you do away
with the poor, Captain Beauchamp?"'
Cecilia quitted her bower and traversed the wood silently.
'So you would blow up my poor Mount Laurels for a peace-offering to the
'I should hope to put it on a stronger foundation, Cecilia.'
'By means of some convulsion?'
'By forestalling one.'
'That must be one of the new ironclads,' observed Cecilia, gazing at the
black smoke-pennon of a tower that slipped along the water-line. 'Yes?
You were saying? Put us on a stronger----?'
'It's, I think, the Hastings: she broke down the other day on her trial
trip,' said Beauchamp, watching the ship's progress animatedly. 'Peppel
commands her--a capital officer. I suppose we must have these costly big
floating barracks. I don't like to hear of everything being done for the
defensive. The defensive is perilous policy in war. It's true, the
English don't wake up to their work under half a year. But, no:
defending and looking to defences is bad for the fighting power; and
there's half a million gone on that ship. Half a million! Do you know
how many poor taxpayers it takes to make up that sum, Cecilia?'
'A great many,' she slurred over them; 'but we must have big ships, and
the best that are to be had.'
'Powerful fast rams, sea-worthy and fit for running over shallows,
carrying one big gun; swarms of harryers and worriers known to be kept
ready for immediate service; readiness for the offensive in case of war
--there's the best defence against a declaration of war by a foreign
'I like to hear you, Nevil,' said Cecilia, beaming: 'Papa thinks we have
a miserable army--in numbers. He says, the wealthier we become the more
difficult it is to recruit able-bodied men on the volunteering system.
Yet the wealthier we are the more an army is wanted, both to defend our
wealth and to preserve order. I fancy he half inclines to compulsory
enlistment. Do speak to him on that subject.'
Cecilia must have been innocent of a design to awaken the fire-flash in
Nevil's eyes. She had no design, but hostility was latent, and hence
perhaps the offending phrase.
He nodded and spoke coolly. 'An army to preserve order? So, then, an
army to threaten civil war!'
'To crush revolutionists.'
'Agitators, you mean. My dear good old colonel--I have always loved him
--must not have more troops at his command.'
'Do you object to the drilling of the whole of the people?'
'Does not the colonel, Cecilia? I am sure he does in his heart, and, for
different reasons, I do. He won't trust the working-classes, nor I the
'Does Dr. Shrapnel hate the middle-class?'
'Dr. Shrapnel cannot hate. He and I are of opinion, that as the middle-
class are the party in power, they would not, if they knew the use of
arms, move an inch farther in Reform, for they would no longer be in fear
of the class below them.'
'But what horrible notions of your country have you, Nevil! It is
dreadful to hear. Oh! do let us avoid politics for ever. Fear!'
'All concessions to the people have been won from fear.'
'I have not heard so.'
'I will read it to you in the History of England.'
'You paint us in a condition of Revolution.'
'Happily it's not a condition unnatural to us. The danger would be in
not letting it be progressive, and there's a little danger too at times
in our slowness. We change our blood or we perish.'
'Yes, I have heard Dr. Shrapnel say that. And, by-the-way, Cecilia--will
you? can you?--take me for the witness to his character. He is the most
guileless of men, and he's the most unguarded. My good Rosamund saw him.
She is easily prejudiced when she is a trifle jealous, and you may hear
from her that he rambles, talks wildly. It may seem so. I maintain
there is wisdom in him when conventional minds would think him at his
wildest. Believe me, he is the humanest, the best of men, tenderhearted
as a child: the most benevolent, simple-minded, admirable old man--the
man I am proudest to think of as an Englishman and a man living in my
time, of all men existing. I can't overpraise him.'
'He has a bad reputation.'
'Only with the class that will not meet him and answer him.'
'Must we invite him to our houses?'
'It would be difficult to get him to come, if you did. I mean, meet him
in debate and answer his arguments. Try the question by brains.'
'Not before mobs. I punish you by answering you seriously.'
'I am sensible of the flattery.'
'Before mobs!' Nevil ejaculated. 'It's the Tories that mob together and
cry down every man who appears to them to threaten their privileges. Can
you guess what Dr. Shrapnel compares them to?'
'Indeed, Nevil, I have not an idea. I only wish your patriotism were
large enough to embrace them.'
'He compares them to geese claiming possession of the whole common, and
hissing at every foot of ground they have to yield. They're always
having to retire and always hissing. "Retreat and menace," that's the
motto for them.'
'Very well, Nevil, I am a goose upon a common.'
So saying, Cecilia swam forward like a swan on water to give the morning
kiss to her papa, by the open window of the breakfast-room.
Never did bird of Michaelmas fling off water from her feathers more
thoroughly than this fair young lady the false title she pretended to
'I hear you're of the dinner party at Grancey Lespel's on Wednesday,'
the colonel said to Beauchamp. 'You'll have to stand fire.'
'They will, papa,' murmured Cecilia. 'Will Mr. Austin be there?'
'I particularly wish to meet Mr. Austin,' said Beauchamp.
'Listen to him, if you do meet him,' she replied.
His look was rather grave.
'Lespel 's a Whig,' he said.
The colonel answered. 'Lespel was a Whig. Once a Tory always a Tory,--
but court the people and you're on quicksands, and that's where the Whigs
are. What he is now I don't think he knows himself. You won't get a
Cecilia watched her friend Nevil recovering from his short fit of gloom.
He dismissed politics at breakfast and grew companionable, with the charm
of his earlier day. He was willing to accompany her to church too.
'You will hear a long sermon,' she warned him.
'Forty minutes.' Colonel Halkett smothered a yawn that was both retro
'It has been fifty, papa.'
'It has been an hour, my dear.'
It was good discipline nevertheless, the colonel affirmed, and Cecilia
praised the Rev. Mr. Brisk of Urplesdon vicarage as one of our few
remaining Protestant clergymen.
'Then he ought to be supported,' said Beauchamp. 'In the dissensions of
religious bodies it is wise to pat the weaker party on the back--I quote
'I 've heard him,' sighed the colonel. 'He calls the Protestant clergy
the social police of the English middle-class. Those are the things he
lets fly. I have heard that man say that the Church stands to show the
passion of the human race for the drama. He said it in my presence. And
there 's a man who calls himself a Tory
You have rather too much of that playing at grudges and dislikes at
Steynham, with squibs, nicknames, and jests at things that--well, that
our stability is bound up in. I hate squibs.'
'And I,' said Beauchamp. Some shadow of a frown crossed him; but Stukely
Culbrett's humour seemed to be a refuge. 'Protestant parson-not clergy,'
he corrected the colonel. 'Can't you hear Mr. Culbrett, Cecilia? The
Protestant parson is the policeman set to watch over the respectability
of the middle-class. He has sharp eyes for the sins of the poor. As for
the rich, they support his church; they listen to his sermon--to set an
example: discipline, colonel. You discipline the tradesman, who's afraid
of losing your custom, and the labourer, who might be deprived of his
bread. But the people? It's put down to the wickedness of human nature
that the parson has not got hold of the people. The parsons have lost
them by senseless Conservatism, because they look to the Tories for the
support of their Church, and let the religion run down the gutters. And
how many thousands have you at work in the pulpit every Sunday? I'm told
the Dissenting ministers have some vitality.'
Colonel Halkett shrugged with disgust at the mention of Dissenters.
'And those thirty or forty thousand, colonel, call the men that do the
work they ought to be doing demagogues. The parsonry are a power
absolutely to be counted for waste, as to progress.'
Cecilia perceived that her father was beginning to be fretted.
She said, with a tact that effected its object: 'I am one who hear Mr.
Culbrett without admiring his wit.'
'No, and I see no good in this kind of Steynham talk,' Colonel Halkett
said, rising. 'We're none of us perfect. Heaven save us from political
Beauchamp was heard to utter, 'Humanity.'
The colonel left the room with Cecilia, muttering the Steynham tail to
that word: 'tomtity,' for the solace of an aside repartee.
She was on her way to dress for church. He drew her into the library,
and there threw open a vast placard lying on the table. It was printed
in blue characters and red. 'This is what I got by the post this
morning. I suppose Nevil knows about it. He wants tickling, but I don't
like this kind of thing. It 's not fair war. It 's as bad as using
explosive bullets in my old game.'
'Can he expect his adversaries to be tender with him?' Cecilia simulated
vehemence in an underbreath. She glanced down the page:
'FRENCH MARQUEES' caught her eye.
It was a page of verse. And, oh! could it have issued from a Tory
'The Liberals are as bad, and worse,' her father said.
She became more and more distressed. 'It seems so very mean, papa; so
base. Ungenerous is no word for it. And how vulgar! Now I remember,
Nevil said he wished to see Mr. Austin.'
'Seymour Austin would not sanction it.'
'No, but Nevil might hold him responsible for it.'
'I suspect Mr. Stukely Culbrett, whom he quotes, and that smoking-room
lot at Lespel's. I distinctly discountenance it. So I shall tell them
on Wednesday night. Can you keep a secret?'
'And after all Nevil Beauchamp is very young, papa!--of course I can keep
The colonel exacted no word of honour, feeling quite sure of her.
He whispered the secret in six words, and her cheeks glowed vermilion.
'But they will meet on Wednesday after this,' she said, and her sight
went dancing down the column of verse, of which the following trotting
couplet is a specimen:--
'O did you ever, hot in love, a little British middy see,
Like Orpheus asking what the deuce to do without Eurydice?'
The middy is jilted by his FRENCH MARQUEES, whom he 'did adore,' and in
his wrath he recommends himself to the wealthy widow Bevisham, concerning
whose choice of her suitors there is a doubt: but the middy is encouraged
'Up, up, my pretty middy; take a draught of foaming Sillery;
Go in and win the uriddy with your Radical artillery.'
And if Sillery will not do, he is advised, he being for superlatives,
to try the sparkling Sillery of the Radical vintage, selected grapes.
This was but impudent nonsense. But the reiterated apostrophe to
'MY FRENCH MARQUEES' was considered by Cecilia to be a brutal offence.
She was shocked that her party should have been guilty of it. Nevil
certainly provoked, and he required, hard blows; and his uncle Everard
might be right in telling her father that they were the best means of
teaching him to come to his understanding. Still a foul and stupid squib
did appear to her a debasing weapon to use.
'I cannot congratulate you on your choice of a second candidate, papa,'
she said scornfully.
'I don't much congratulate myself,' said the colonel.
'Here's a letter from Mrs. Beauchamp informing me that her boy Blackburn
will be home in a month. There would have been plenty of time for him.
However, we must make up our minds to it. Those two 'll be meeting on
Wednesday, so keep your secret. It will be out tomorrow week.'
'But Nevil will be accusing Mr. Austin.'
'Austin won't be at Lespel's. And he must bear it, for the sake of
'Is Nevil ruined with his uncle, papa?'
'Not a bit, I should imagine. It's Romfrey's fun.'
'And this disgraceful squib is a part of the fun?'
'That I know nothing about, my dear. I'm sorry, but there's pitch and
tar in politics as well as on shipboard.'
'I do not see that there should be,' said Cecilia resolutely.
'We can't hope to have what should be.'
'Why not? I would have it: I would do my utmost to have it,' she flamed
'Your utmost?' Her father was glancing at her foregone mimicry of
Beauchamp's occasional strokes of emphasis. 'Do your utmost to have your
bonnet on in time for us to walk to church. I can't bear driving there.'
Cecilia went to her room with the curious reflection, awakened by what
her father had chanced to suggest to her mind, that she likewise could be
fervid, positive, uncompromising--who knows? Radicalish, perhaps, when
she looked eye to eye on an evil. For a moment or so she espied within
herself a gulf of possibilities, wherein black night-birds, known as
queries, roused by shot of light, do flap their wings.--Her utmost to
have be what should be! And why not?
But the intemperate feeling subsided while she was doing duty before her
mirror, and the visionary gulf closed immediately.
She had merely been very angry on Nevil Beauchamp's behalf, and had dimly
seen that a woman can feel insurgent, almost revolutionary, for a
personal cause, Tory though her instinct of safety and love of smoothness
No reflection upon this casual piece of self or sex revelation troubled
her head. She did, however, think of her position as the friend of Nevil
in utter antagonism to him. It beset her with contradictions that blew
rough on her cherished serenity; for she was of the order of ladies who,
by virtue of their pride and spirit, their port and their beauty, decree
unto themselves the rank of princesses among women, before our world has
tried their claim to it. She had lived hitherto in upper air, high above
the clouds of earth. Her ideal of a man was of one similarly disengaged
and lofty-loftier. Nevil, she could honestly say, was not her ideal;
he was only her old friend, and she was opposed to him in his present
adventure. The striking at him to cure him of his mental errors and
excesses was an obligation; she could descend upon him calmly with the
chastening rod, pointing to the better way; but the shielding of him was
a different thing; it dragged her down so low, that in her condemnation
of the Tory squib she found herself asking herself whether haply Nevil
had flung off the yoke of the French lady; with the foolish excuse for
the question, that if he had not, he must be bitterly sensitive to the
slightest public allusion to her. Had he? And if not, how desperately
faithful he was! or else how marvellously seductive she!
Perhaps it was a lover's despair that had precipitated him into the mire
of politics. She conceived the impression that it must be so, and
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