Beauchamps Career, complete
Part 6 out of 12
The allocution was not delivered in the presence of an audience other
than sympathetic, and Miss Halkett rightly guessed that it was intended
to strike Captain Beauchamp by ricochet. He puffed at the mention of
Beauchamp's name. He had read a reported speech or two of Beauchamp's,
and shook his head over a quotation of the stuff, as though he would have
sprung at him like a lion, but for his enrolment as a constable.
Not a whit the less did Mr. Tuckham drink his claret relishingly, and he
told stories incidental to his travels now and then, commended the
fishing here, the shooting there, and in some few places the cookery,
with much bright emphasis when it could be praised; it appeared to be an
endearing recollection to him. Still, as a man of progress, he declared
his belief that we English would ultimately turn out the best cooks,
having indubitably the best material. 'Our incomprehensible political
pusillanimity' was the one sad point about us: we had been driven from
surrender to surrender.
'Like geese upon a common, I have heard it said,' Miss Halkett assisted
him to Dr. Shrapnel's comparison.
Mr. Tuckham laughed, and half yawned and sighed, 'Dear me!'
His laughter was catching, and somehow more persuasive of the soundness
of the man's heart and head than his remarks.
She would have been astonished to know that a gentleman so uncourtly,
if not uncouth--judged by the standard of the circle she moved in--and so
unskilled in pleasing the sight and hearing of ladies as to treat them
like junior comrades, had raised the vow within himself on seeing her:
You, or no woman!
The colonel delighted in him, both as a strong and able young fellow, and
a refreshingly aggressive recruit of his party, who was for onslaught,
and invoked common sense, instead of waving the flag of sentiment in
retreat; a very horse-artillery man of Tories. Regretting immensely that
Mr. Tuckham had not reached England earlier, that he might have occupied
the seat for Bevisham, about to be given to Captain Baskelett, Colonel
Halkett set up a contrast of Blackburn Tuckham and Nevil Beauchamp; a
singular instance of unfairness, his daughter thought, considering that
the distinct contrast presented by the circumstances was that of Mr.
Tuckham and Captain Baskelett.
'It seems to me, papa,--that you are contrasting the idealist and the
realist,' she said.
'Ah, well, we don't want the idealist in politics,' muttered the colonel.
Latterly he also had taken to shaking his head over Nevil: Cecilia dared
not ask him why.
Mr. Tuckham arrived at Mount Laurels on the eve of the Nomination day in
Bevisham. An article in the Bevisham Gazette calling upon all true
Liberals to demonstrate their unanimity by a multitudinous show of hands,
he ascribed to the writing of a child of Erin; and he was highly diverted
by the Liberal's hiring of Paddy to 'pen and spout' for him.
'A Scotchman manages, and Paddy does the sermon for all their journals,'
he said off-hand; adding: 'And the English are the compositors,
I suppose.' You may take that for an instance of the national spirit
of Liberal newspapers!
'Ah!' sighed the colonel, as at a case clearly demonstrated against
A drive down to Bevisham to witness the ceremony of the nomination in the
town-hall sobered Mr. Tuckham's disposition to generalize. Beauchamp had
the show of hands, and to say with Captain Baskelett, that they were a
dirty majority, was beneath Mr. Tuckham's verbal antagonism. He fell
into a studious reserve, noting everything, listening to everybody,
greatly to Colonel Halkett's admiration of one by nature a talker and a
The show of hands Mr. Seymour Austin declared to be the most delusive of
electoral auspices; and it proved so. A little later than four o'clock
in the afternoon of the election-day, Cecilia received a message from her
father telling her that both of the Liberals were headed; 'Beauchamp
Mrs. Grancey Lespel was the next herald of Beauchamp's defeat. She
merely stated the fact that she had met the colonel and Mr. Blackburn
Tuckham driving on the outskirts of the town, and had promised to bring
Cecilia the final numbers of the poll. Without naming them, she unrolled
the greater business in her mind.
'A man who in the middle of an Election goes over to France to fight a
duel, can hardly expect to win; he has all the morality of an English
borough opposed to him,' she said; and seeing the young lady stiffen:
'Oh! the duel is positive,' she dropped her voice. 'With the husband.
Who else could it be? And returns invalided. That is evidence. My
nephew Palmet has it from Vivian Ducie, and he is acquainted with her
tolerably intimately, and the story is, she was overtaken in her flight
in the night, and the duel followed at eight o'clock in the morning; but
her brother insisted on fighting for Captain Beauchamp, and I cannot tell
you how--but his place in it I can't explain--there was a beau jeune
homme, and it's quite possible that he should have been the person to
stand up against the marquis. At any rate, he insulted Captain
Beauchamp, or thought your hero had insulted him, and the duel was with
one or the other. It matters exceedingly little with whom, if a duel was
fought, and you see we have quite established that.'
'I hope it is not true,' said Cecilia.
'My dear, that is the Christian thing to do,' said Mrs. Lespel.
'Duelling is horrible: though those Romfreys!--and the Beauchamps were
just as bad, or nearly. Colonel Richard fought for a friend's wife or
sister. But in these days duelling is incredible. It was an inhuman
practice always, and it is now worse--it is a reach of manners. I would
hope it is not true; and you may mean that I have it from Lord Palmet.
But I know Vivian Ducie as well as I know my nephew, and if he distinctly
mentions an occurrence, we may too surely rely on the truth of it; he is
not a man to spread mischief. Are you unaware that he met Captain
Beauchamp at the chateau of the marquise? The whole story was acted
under his eyes. He had only to take up his pen. Generally he favours
me with his French gossip. I suppose there were circumstances in this
affair more suitable to Palmet than to me. He wrote a description of
Madame de Rouaillout that set Palmet strutting about for an hour. I have
no doubt she must be a very beautiful woman, for a Frenchwoman: not
regular features; expressive, capricious. Vivian Ducie lays great stress
on her eyes and eyebrows, and, I think, her hair. With a Frenchwoman's
figure, that is enough to make men crazy. He says her husband deserves--
but what will not young men write? It is deeply to be regretted that
Englishmen abroad--women the same, I fear--get the Continental tone in
morals. But how Captain Beauchamp could expect to carry on an Election
and an intrigue together, only a head like his can tell us. Grancey is
in high indignation with him. It does not concern the Election, you can
imagine. Something that man Dr. Shrapnel has done, which he says Captain
Beauchamp could have prevented. Quarrels of men! I have instructed
Palmet to write to Vivian Ducie for a photograph of Madame de Rouaillout.
Do you know, one has a curiosity to see the face of the woman for whom a
man ruins himself. But I say again, he ought to be married.'
'That there may be two victims?' Cecilia said it smiling.
She was young in suffering, and thought, as the unseasoned and
inexperienced do, that a mask is a concealment.
'Married--settled; to have him bound in honour,' said Mrs. Lespel.
'I had a conversation with him when he was at Itchincope; and his look,
and what I know of his father, that gallant and handsome Colonel Richard
Beauchamp, would give one a kind of confidence in him; supposing always
that he is not struck with one of those deadly passions that are like
snakes, like magic. I positively believe in them. I have seen them.
And if they end, they end as if the man were burnt out, and was ashes
inside; as you see Mr. Stukely Culbrett, all cynicism. You would not now
suspect him of a passion! It is true. Oh, I know it! That is what the
men go to. The women die. Vera Winter died at twenty-three. Caroline
Ormond was hardly older. You know her story; everybody knows it. The
most singular and convincing case was that of Lord Alfred Burnley and
Lady Susan Gardiner, wife of the general; and there was an instance of
two similarly afflicted--a very rare case, most rare: they never could
meet to part! It was almost ludicrous. It is now quite certain that
they did not conspire to meet. At last the absolute fatality became so
well understood by the persons immediately interested--You laugh?'
'Do I laugh?' said Cecilia.
'We should all know the world, my dear, and you are a strong head. The
knowledge is only dangerous for fools. And if romance is occasionally
ridiculous, as I own it can be, humdrum, I protest, is everlastingly so.
By-the-by, I should have told you that Captain Beauchamp was one hundred
and ninety below Captain Baskelett when the state of the poll was handed
to me. The gentleman driving with your father compared the Liberals to a
parachute cut away from the balloon. Is he army or navy?'
'He is a barrister, and some cousin of Captain Beauchamp.'
'I should not have taken him for a Beauchamp,' said Mrs. Lespel; and,
resuming her worldly sagacity, 'I should not like to be in opposition to
that young man.'
She seemed to have a fancy unexpressed regarding Mr. Tuckham. Reminding
herself that she might be behind time at Itchincope, where the guests
would be numerous that evening, and the song of triumph loud, with
Captain Baskelett to lead it, she kissed the young lady she had
unintentionally been torturing so long, and drove away.
Cecilia hoped it was not true. Her heart sank heavily under the belief
that it was. She imagined the world abusing Nevil and casting him out,
as those electors of Bevisham had just done, and impulsively she pleaded
for him, and became drowned in criminal blushes that forced her to defend
herself with a determination not to believe the dreadful story, though
she continued mitigating the wickedness of it; as if, by a singular
inversion of the fact, her clear good sense excused, and it was her heart
that condemned him. She dwelt fondly on an image of the 'gallant and
handsome Colonel Richard Beauchamp,' conjured up in her mind from the
fervour of Mrs. Lespel when speaking of Nevil's father, whose chivalry
threw a light on the son's, and whose errors, condoned by time, and with
a certain brilliancy playing above them, interceded strangely on behalf
A SHORT SIDELOOK AT THE ELECTION
The brisk Election-day, unlike that wearisome but instructive canvass of
the Englishman in his castle vicatim, teaches little; and its humours are
those of a badly managed Christmas pantomime without a columbine--old
tricks, no graces. Nevertheless, things hang together so that it cannot
be passed over with a bare statement of the fact of the Liberal-Radical
defeat in Bevisham: the day was not without fruit in time to come for him
whom his commiserating admirers of the non-voting sex all round the
borough called the poor dear commander. Beauchamp's holiday out of
England had incited Dr. Shrapnel to break a positive restriction put upon
him by Jenny Denham, and actively pursue the canvass and the harangue in
person; by which conduct, as Jenny had foreseen, many temperate electors
were alienated from Commander Beauchamp, though no doubt the Radicals
were made compact: for they may be the skirmishing faction--poor
scattered fragments, none of them sufficiently downright for the other;
each outstripping each; rudimentary emperors, elementary prophets,
inspired physicians, nostrum-devouring patients, whatsoever you will;
and still here and there a man shall arise to march them in close
columns, if they can but trust him; in perfect subordination, a model
even for Tories while they keep shoulder to shoulder. And to behold such
a disciplined body is intoxicating to the eye of a leader accustomed to
count ahead upon vapourish abstractions, and therefore predisposed to add
a couple of noughts to every tangible figure in his grasp. Thus will a
realized fifty become five hundred or five thousand to him: the very
sense of number is instinct with multiplication in his mind; and those
years far on in advance, which he has been looking to with some fatigue
to the optics, will suddenly and rollickingly roll up to him at the
shutting of his eyes in a temporary fit of gratification. So, by looking
and by not looking, he achieves his phantom victory--embraces his cloud.
Dr. Shrapnel conceived that the day was to be a Radical success; and he,
a citizen aged and exercised in reverses, so rounded by the habit of them
indeed as to tumble and recover himself on the wind of the blow that
struck him, was, it must be acknowledged, staggered and cast down when he
saw Beauchamp drop, knowing full well his regiment had polled to a man.
Radicals poll early; they would poll at cockcrow if they might; they
dance on the morning. As for their chagrin at noon, you will find
descriptions of it in the poet's Inferno. They are for lifting our clay
soil on a lever of Archimedes, and are not great mathematicians. They
have perchance a foot of our earth, and perpetually do they seem to be
producing an effect, perpetually does the whole land roll back on them.
You have not surely to be reminded that it hurts them; the weight is
immense. Dr. Shrapnel, however, speedily looked out again on his vast
horizon, though prostrate. He regained his height of stature with no
man's help. Success was but postponed for a generation or two. Is it so
very distant? Gaze on it with the eye of our parent orb! 'I shall not
see it here; you may,' he said to Jenny Denham; and he fortified his
outlook by saying to Mr. Lydiard that the Tories of our time walked, or
rather stuck, in the track of the Radicals of a generation back. Note,
then, that Radicals, always marching to the triumph, never taste it; and
for Tories it is Dead Sea fruit, ashes in their mouths! Those Liberals,
those temporisers, compromisers, a concourse of atoms! glorify
themselves in the animal satisfaction of sucking the juice of the fruit,
for which they pay with their souls. They have no true cohesion, for
they have no vital principle.
Mr. Lydiard being a Liberal, bade the doctor not to forget the work of
the Liberals, who touched on Tory and Radical with a pretty steady swing,
from side to side, in the manner of the pendulum of a clock, which is the
clock's life, remember that. The Liberals are the professors of the
practicable in politics.
'A suitable image for time-servers!' Dr. Shrapnel exclaimed, intolerant
of any mention of the Liberals as a party, especially in the hour of
Radical discomfiture, when the fact that compromisers should exist
exasperates men of a principle. 'Your Liberals are the band of Pyrrhus,
an army of bastards, mercenaries professing the practicable for pay.
They know us the motive force, the Tories the resisting power, and they
feign to aid us in battering our enemy, that they may stop the shock.
We fight, they profit. What are they? Stranded Whigs, crotchetty
manufacturers; dissentient religionists; the half-minded, the hare-
hearted; the I would and I would-not--shifty creatures, with youth's
enthusiasm decaying in them, and a purse beginning to jingle; fearing
lest we do too much for safety, our enemy not enough for safety. They a
party? Let them take action and see! We stand a thousand defeats; they
not one! Compromise begat them. Once let them leave sucking the teats
of compromise, yea, once put on the air of men who fight and die for a
cause, they fly to pieces. And whither the fragments? Chiefly, my
friend, into the Tory ranks. Seriously so I say. You between future and
past are for the present--but with the hunted look behind of all godless
livers in the present. You Liberals are Tories with foresight, Radicals
without faith. You start, in fear of Toryism, on an errand of
Radicalism, and in fear of Radicalism to Toryism you draw back. There is
Lectures to this effect were delivered by Dr. Shrapnel throughout the
day, for his private spiritual solace it may be supposed, unto Lydiard,
Turbot, Beauchamp, or whomsoever the man chancing to be near him, and
never did Sir Oracle wear so extraordinary a garb. The favourite
missiles of the day were flour-bags. Dr. Shrapnel's uncommon height, and
his outrageous long brown coat, would have been sufficient to attract
them, without the reputation he had for desiring to subvert everything
old English. The first discharges gave him the appearance of a thawing
snowman. Drenchings of water turned the flour to ribs of paste, and in
colour at least he looked legitimately the cook's own spitted hare,
escaped from her basting ladle, elongated on two legs. It ensued that
whenever he was caught sight of, as he walked unconcernedly about, the
young street-professors of the decorative arts were seized with a frenzy
to add their share to the whitening of him, until he might have been
taken for a miller that had gone bodily through his meal. The popular
cry proclaimed him a ghost, and he walked like one, impassive, blanched,
and silent amid the uproar of mobs of jolly ruffians, for each of whom it
was a point of honour to have a shy at old Shrapnel.
Clad in this preparation of pie-crust, he called from time to time at
Beauchamp's hotel, and renewed his monologue upon that Radical empire in
the future which was for ever in the future for the pioneers of men, yet
not the less their empire. 'Do we live in our bodies?' quoth he,
replying to his fiery interrogation: 'Ay, the Tories! the Liberals!'
They lived in their bodies. Not one syllable of personal consolation did
he vouchsafe to Beauchamp. He did not imagine it could be required by a
man who had bathed in the pure springs of Radicalism; and it should be
remarked that Beauchamp deceived him by imitating his air of happy
abstraction, or subordination of the faculties to a distant view,
comparable to a ship's crew in difficulties receiving the report of the
man at the masthead. Beauchamp deceived Miss Denham too, and himself,
by saying, as if he cherished the philosophy of defeat, besides the
resolution to fight on:
'It's only a skirmish lost, and that counts for nothing in a battle
without end: it must be incessant.'
'But does incessant battling keep the intellect clear?' was her
He glanced at Lydiard, to indicate that it came of that gentleman's
influence upon her mind. It was impossible for him to think that women
thought. The idea of a pretty woman exercising her mind independently,
and moreover moving him to examine his own, made him smile. Could a
sweet-faced girl, the nearest to Renee in grace of manner and in feature
of all women known to him, originate a sentence that would set him
reflecting? He was unable to forget it, though he allowed her no credit
On the other hand, his admiration of her devotedness to Dr. Shrapnel was
unbounded. There shone a strictly feminine quality! according to the
romantic visions of the sex entertained by Commander Beauchamp, and by
others who would be the objects of it. But not alone the passive virtues
were exhibited by Jenny Denham: she proved that she had high courage.
No remonstrance could restrain Dr. Shrapnel from going out to watch the
struggle, and she went with him as a matter of course on each occasion.
Her dress bore witness to her running the gauntlet beside him.
'It was not thrown at me purposely,' she said, to quiet Beauchamp's
wrath. She saved the doctor from being rough mobbed. Once when they
were surrounded she fastened his arm under hers, and by simply moving on
with an unswerving air of serenity obtained a passage for him. So much
did she make herself respected, that the gallant rascals became emulous
in dexterity to avoid powdering her, by loudly execrating any but dead
shots at the detested one, and certain boys were maltreated for an ardour
involving clumsiness. A young genius of this horde conceiving, in the
spirit of the inventors of our improved modern ordnance, that it was vain
to cast missiles which left a thing standing, hurled a stone wrapped in
paper. It missed its mark. Jenny said nothing about it. The day closed
with a comfortable fight or two in by-quarters of the town, probably to
prove that an undaunted English spirit, spite of fickle Fortune, survived
in our muscles.
TOUCHING A YOUNG LADY'S HEART AND HER INTELLECT
Mr. Tuckham found his way to Dr. Shrapnel's cottage to see his kinsman on
the day after the election. There was a dinner in honour of the Members
for Bevisham at Mount Laurels in the evening, and he was five minutes
behind military time when he entered the restive drawing-room and stood
before the colonel. No sooner had he stated that he had been under the
roof of Dr. Shrapnel, than his unpunctuality was immediately overlooked
in the burst of impatience evoked by the name.
'That pestilent fellow!' Colonel Halkett ejaculated. 'I understand he
has had the impudence to serve a notice on Grancey Lespel about
encroachments on common land.'
Some one described Dr. Shrapnel's appearance under the flour storm.
'He deserves anything,' said the colonel, consulting his mantelpiece
Captain Baskelett observed: 'I shall have my account to settle with Dr.
Shrapnel.' He spoke like a man having a right to be indignant, but
excepting that the doctor had bestowed nicknames upon him in a speech at
a meeting, no one could discover the grounds for it. He nodded briefly.
A Radical apple had struck him on the left cheekbone as he performed his
triumphal drive through the town, and a slight disfigurement remained, to
which his hand was applied sympathetically at intervals, for the cheek-
bone was prominent in his countenance, and did not well bear enlargement.
And when a fortunate gentleman, desiring to be still more fortunate,
would display the winning amiability of his character, distension of one
cheek gives him an afflictingly false look of sweetness.
The bent of his mind, nevertheless, was to please Miss Halkett. He would
be smiling, and intimately smiling. Aware that she had a kind of pitiful
sentiment for Nevil, he smiled over Nevil--poor Nevil! 'I give you my
word, Miss Halkett, old Nevil was off his head yesterday. I daresay he
meant to be civil. I met him; I called out to him, "Good day, cousin,
I'm afraid you're beaten" and says he, "I fancy you've gained it, uncle."
He didn't know where he was; all abroad, poor boy. Uncle!--to me!'
Miss Halkett would have accepted the instance for a proof of Nevil's
distraction, had not Mr. Seymour Austin, who sat beside her, laughed and
said to her: 'I suppose "uncle" was a chance shot, but it's equal to a
poetic epithet in the light it casts on the story.' Then it seemed to
her that Nevil had been keenly quick, and Captain Baskelett's
impenetrability was a sign of his density. Her mood was to think Nevil
Beauchamp only too quick, too adventurous and restless: one that wrecked
brilliant gifts in a too general warfare; a lover of hazards, a hater of
laws. Her eyes flew over Captain Baskelett as she imagined Nevil
addressing him as uncle, and, to put aside a spirit of mockery rising
within her, she hinted a wish to hear Seymour Austin's opinion of Mr.
Tuckham. He condensed it in an interrogative tone: 'The other extreme?'
The Tory extreme of Radical Nevil Beauchamp. She assented. Mr. Tuckham
was at that moment prophesying the Torification of mankind; not as the
trembling venturesome idea which we cast on doubtful winds, but as a ship
is launched to ride the waters, with huzzas for a thing accomplished.
Mr. Austin raised his shoulders imperceptibly, saying to Miss Halkett:
'The turn will come to us as to others--and go. Nothing earthly can
escape that revolution. We have to meet it with a policy, and let it
pass with measures carried and our hands washed of some of our party
sins. I am, I hope, true to my party, but the enthusiasm of party I do
not share. He is right, however, when he accuses the nation of cowardice
for the last ten years. One third of the Liberals have been with us at
heart, and dared not speak, and we dared not say what we wished. We
accepted a compact that satisfied us both--satisfied us better than when
we were opposed by Whigs--that is, the Liberal reigned, and we governed:
and I should add, a very clever juggler was our common chief. Now we
have the consequences of hollow peacemaking, in a suffrage that bids fair
to extend to the wearing of hats and boots for a qualification. The
moral of it seems to be that cowardice is even worse for nations than for
individual men, though the consequences come on us more slowly.'
'You spoke of party sins,' Miss Halkett said incredulously.
'I shall think we are the redoubtable party when we admit the charge.'
'Are you alluding to the landowners?'
'Like the land itself, they have rich veins in heavy matter. For
instance, the increasing wealth of the country is largely recruiting our
ranks; and we shall be tempted to mistake numbers for strength, and
perhaps again be reading Conservatism for a special thing of our own--a
fortification. That would be a party sin. Conservatism is a principle
of government; the best because the safest for an old country; and the
guarantee that we do not lose the wisdom of past experience in our
struggle with what is doubtful. Liberalism stakes too much on the chance
of gain. It is uncomfortably seated on half-a-dozen horses; and it has
to feed them too, and on varieties of corn.'
'Yes,' Miss Halkett said, pausing, 'and I know you would not talk down to
me, but the use of imagery makes me feel that I am addressed as a
'That's the fault of my trying at condensation, as the hieroglyphists put
an animal for a paragraph. I am incorrigible, you see; but the lecture
in prose must be for by-and-by, if you care to have it.'
'If you care to read it to me. Did a single hieroglyphic figure stand
for so much?'
'I have never deciphered one.'
'You have been speaking to me too long in earnest, Mr. Austin!'
'I accept the admonition, though it is wider than the truth. Have you
ever consented to listen to politics before?'
Cecilia reddened faintly, thinking of him who had taught her to listen,
and of her previous contempt of the subject.
A political exposition devoid of imagery was given to her next day on the
sunny South-western terrace of Mount Laurels, when it was only by
mentally translating it into imagery that she could advance a step beside
her intellectual guide; and she was ashamed of the volatility of her
ideas. She was constantly comparing Mr. Austin and Nevil Beauchamp,
seeing that the senior and the junior both talked to her with the
familiar recognition of her understanding which was a compliment without
the gross corporeal phrase. But now she made another discovery, that
should have been infinitely more of a compliment, and it was bewildering,
if not repulsive to her:--could it be credited? Mr. Austin was a firm
believer in new and higher destinies for women. He went farther than she
could concede the right of human speculation to go; he was, in fact, as
Radical there as Nevil Beauchamp politically; and would not the latter
innovator stare, perchance frown conservatively, at a prospect of woman
taking counsel, in council, with men upon public affairs, like the women
in the Germania! Mr. Austin, if this time he talked in earnest, deemed
that Englishwomen were on the road to win such a promotion, and would win
it ultimately. He said soberly that he saw more certain indications of
the reality of progress among women than any at present shown by men.
And he was professedly temperate. He was but for opening avenues to the
means of livelihood for them, and leaving it to their strength to conquer
the position they might wish to win. His belief that they would do so
was the revolutionary sign.
'Are there points of likeness between Radicals and Tories?' she
'I suspect a cousinship in extremes,' he answered.
'If one might be present at an argument,' said she.
'We have only to meet to fly apart as wide as the Poles,' Mr. Austin
But she had not spoken of a particular person to meet him; and how, then,
had she betrayed herself? She fancied he looked unwontedly arch as he
'The end of the argument would see us each entrenched in his party.
Suppose me to be telling your Radical friend such truisms as that we
English have not grown in a day, and were not originally made free and
equal by decree; that we have grown, and must continue to grow, by the
aid and the development of our strength; that ours is a fairly legible
history, and a fair example of the good and the bad in human growth; that
his landowner and his peasant have no clear case of right and wrong to
divide them, one being the descendant of strong men, the other of weak
ones; and that the former may sink, the latter may rise--there is no
artificial obstruction; and if it is difficult to rise, it is easy to
sink. Your Radical friend, who would bring them to a level by
proclamation, could not adopt a surer method for destroying the manhood
of a people: he is for doctoring wooden men, and I for not letting our
stout English be cut down short as Laplanders; he would have them in a
forcing house, and I in open air, as hitherto. Do you perceive a
discussion? and you apprehend the nature of it. We have nerves. That is
why it is better for men of extremely opposite opinions not to meet. I
dare say Radicalism has a function, and so long as it respects the laws I
am ready to encounter it where it cannot be avoided. Pardon my prosing.'
'Recommend me some hard books to study through the Winter,' said Cecilia,
refreshed by a discourse that touched no emotions, as by a febrifuge.
Could Nevil reply to it? She fancied him replying, with that wild head
of his--wildest of natures. She fancied also that her wish was like Mr.
Austin's not to meet him. She was enjoying a little rest.
It was not quite generous in Mr. Austin to assume that 'her Radical
friend' had been prompting her. However, she thanked him in her heart
for the calm he had given her. To be able to imagine Nevil Beauchamp
intellectually erratic was a tonic satisfaction to the proud young lady,
ashamed of a bondage that the bracing and pointing of her critical powers
helped her to forget. She had always preferred the society of men of Mr.
Austin's age. How old was he? Her father would know. And why was he
unmarried? A light frost had settled on the hair about his temples; his
forehead was lightly wrinkled; but his mouth and smile, and his eyes,
were lively as a young man's, with more in them. His age must be
something less than fifty. O for peace! she sighed. When he stepped
into his carriage, and stood up in it to wave adieu to her, she thought
his face and figure a perfect example of an English gentleman in his
Captain Baskelett requested the favour of five minutes of conversation
with Miss Halkett before he followed Mr. Austin, on his way to Steynham.
She returned from that colloquy to her father and Mr. Tuckham. The
colonel looked straight in her face, with an elevation of the brows.
To these points of interrogation she answered with a placid fall of her
eyelids. He sounded a note of approbation in his throat.
All the company having departed, Mr. Tuckham for the first time spoke of
his interview with his kinsman Beauchamp. Yesterday evening he had
slurred it, as if he had nothing to relate, except the finding of an old
schoolfellow at Dr. Shrapnel's named Lydiard, a man of ability fool
enough to have turned author on no income. But that which had appeared
to Miss Halkett a want of observancy, became attributable to depth of
character on its being clear that he had waited for the departure of the
transient guests of the house, to pour forth his impressions without
holding up his kinsman to public scorn. He considered Shrapnel mad and
Beauchamp mad. No such grotesque old monster as Dr. Shrapnel had he seen
in the course of his travels. He had never listened to a madman running
loose who was at all up to Beauchamp. At a loss for words to paint him,
he said: 'Beauchamp seems to have a head like a firework manufactory,
he's perfectly pyrocephalic.' For an example of Dr. Shrapnel's talk: 'I
happened,' said Mr. Tuckham, 'casually, meaning no harm, and not
supposing I was throwing a lighted match on powder, to mention the word
Providence. I found myself immediately confronted by Shrapnel--
overtopped, I should say. He is a lank giant of about seven feet in
height; the kind of show man that used to go about in caravans over the
country; and he began rocking over me like a poplar in a gale, and cries
out: "Stay there! away with that! Providence? Can you set a thought on
Providence, not seeking to propitiate it? And have you not there the
damning proof that you are at the foot of an Idol?"--The old idea about a
special Providence, I suppose. These fellows have nothing new but their
trimmings. And he went on with: "Ay, invisible," and his arm chopping,
"but an Idol! an Idol!"--I was to think of "nought but Laws." He
admitted there might be one above the Laws. "To realize him is to fry
the brains in their pan," says he, and struck his forehead--a slap: and
off he walked down the garden, with his hands at his coat-tails. I
venture to say it may be taken for a proof of incipient insanity to care
to hear such a fellow twice. And Beauchamp holds him up for a sage and a
'He is a very dangerous dog,' said Colonel Halkett.
'The best of it is--and I take this for the strongest possible proof that
Beauchamp is mad--Shrapnel stands for an advocate of morality against
him. I'll speak of it . . . .'
Mr. Tuckham nodded to the colonel, who said: 'Speak out. My daughter has
been educated for a woman of the world.'
'Well, sir, it's nothing to offend a young lady's ears. Beauchamp is for
socially enfranchising the sex--that is all. Quite enough. Not a whit
politically. Love is to be the test: and if a lady ceases to love her
husband . . . if she sets her fancy elsewhere, she's bound to leave
him. The laws are tyrannical, our objections are cowardly. Well, this
Dr. Shrapnel harangued about society; and men as well as women are to
sacrifice their passions on that altar. If he could burlesque himself it
would be in coming out as a cleric--the old Pagan!'
'Did he convince Captain Beauchamp?' the colonel asked, manifestly for
his daughter to hear the reply; which was: 'Oh dear, no!'
'Were you able to gather from Captain Beauchamp's remarks whether he is
much disappointed by the result of the election?' said Cecilia.
Mr. Tuckham could tell her only that Captain Beauchamp was incensed
against an elector named Tomlinson for withdrawing a promised vote on
account of lying rumours, and elated by the conquest of a Mr. Carpendike,
who was reckoned a tough one to drag by the neck. 'The only sane
people in the house are a Miss Denham and the cook: I lunched there,'
Mr. Tuckham nodded approvingly. 'Lydiard must be mad. What he's wasting
his time there for I can't guess. He says he's engaged there in writing
a prefatory essay to a new publication of Harry Denham's poems--whoever
that may be. And why wasting it there? I don't like it. He ought to be
earning his bread. He'll be sure to be borrowing money by-and-by. We've
got ten thousand too many fellows writing already, and they 've seen a
few inches of the world, on the Continent! He can write. But it's all
unproductive-dead weight on the country, these fellows with their
writings! He says Beauchamp's praise of Miss Denham is quite deserved.
He tells me, that at great peril to herself--and she nearly had her arm
broken by a stone he saved Shrapnel from rough usage on the election-
'Hum!' Colonel Halkett grunted significantly.
'So I thought,' Mr. Tuckham responded. 'One doesn't want the man to be
hurt, but he ought to be put down in some way. My belief is he's a Fire-
worshipper. I warrant I would extinguish him if he came before me. He's
an incendiary, at any rate.'
'Do you think,' said Cecilia, 'that Captain Beauchamp is now satisfied
with his experience of politics?'
'Dear me, no,' said Mr. Tuckham. 'It's the opening of a campaign. He's
off to the North, after he has been to Sussex and Bucks. He's to be at
it all his life. One thing he shows common sense in. If I heard him
once I heard him say half-a-dozen times, that he must have money:--
"I must have money!" And so he must if he 's to head the Radicals. He
wants to start a newspaper! Is he likely to get money from his uncle
'Not for his present plan of campaign.' Colonel Halkett enunciated the
military word sarcastically. 'Let's hope he won't get money.'
'He says he must have it.'
'Who is to stand and deliver, then?'
'I don't know; I only repeat what he says: unless he has an eye on my
Aunt Beauchamp; and I doubt his luck there, if he wants money for
'Money!' Colonel Halkett ejaculated.
That word too was in the heart of the heiress.
Nevil must have money! Could he have said it? Ordinary men might say or
think it inoffensively; Captain Baskelett, for instance: but not Nevil
Captain Baskelett, as she had conveyed the information to her father for
his comfort in the dumb domestic language familiar between them on these
occasions, had proposed to her unavailingly. Italian and English
gentlemen were in the list of her rejected suitors: and hitherto she had
seen them come and go, one might say, from a watchtower in the skies.
None of them was the ideal she waited for: what their feelings were,
their wishes, their aims, she had not reflected on. They dotted the
landscape beneath the unassailable heights, busy after their fashion,
somewhat quaint, much like the pigmy husbandmen in the fields were to the
giant's daughter, who had more curiosity than Cecilia. But Nevil
Beauchamp had compelled her to quit her lofty station, pulled her low as
the littlest of women that throb and flush at one man's footstep: and
being well able to read the nature and aspirations of Captain Baskelett,
it was with the knowledge of her having been proposed to as heiress of a
great fortune that she chanced to hear of Nevil's resolve to have money.
If he did say it! And was anything likelier? was anything unlikelier?
His foreign love denied to him, why, now he devoted himself to money:
money--the last consideration of a man so single-mindedly generous as he!
But he must have money to pursue his contest! But would he forfeit the
truth in him for money for any purpose?
The debate on this question grew as incessant as the thought of him.
Was it not to be supposed that the madness of the pursuit of his
political chimaera might change his character?
She hoped he would not come to Mount Laurels, thinking she should esteem
him less if he did; knowing that her defence of him, on her own behalf,
against herself, depended now on an esteem lodged perhaps in her
wilfulness. Yet if he did not come, what an Arctic world!
He came on a November afternoon when the woods glowed, and no sun. The
day was narrowed in mist from earth to heaven: a moveless and possessing
mist. It left space overhead for one wreath of high cloud mixed with
touches of washed red upon moist blue, still as the mist, insensibly
passing into it. Wet webs crossed the grass, chill in the feeble light.
The last flowers of the garden bowed to decay. Dead leaves, red and
brown and spotted yellow, fell straight around the stems of trees, lying
thick. The glow was universal, and the chill.
Cecilia sat sketching the scene at a window of her study, on the level of
the drawing-room, and he stood by outside till she saw him. He greeted
her through the glass, then went round to the hall door, giving her time
to recover, if only her heart had been less shaken.
Their meeting was like the features of the day she set her brush to
picture: characteristic of a season rather than cheerless in tone, though
it breathed little cheer. Is there not a pleasure in contemplating that
which is characteristic? Her unfinished sketch recalled him after he had
gone: he lived in it, to startle her again, and bid her heart gallop and
her cheeks burn. The question occurred to her: May not one love, not
craving to be beloved? Such a love does not sap our pride, but supports
it; increases rather than diminishes our noble self-esteem. To attain
such a love the martyrs writhed up to the crown of saints. For a while
Cecilia revelled in the thought that she could love in this most saint-
like manner. How they fled, the sordid ideas of him which accused him
of the world's one passion, and were transferred to her own bosom in
reproach that she should have imagined them existing in his! He talked
simply and sweetly of his defeat, of time wasted away from the canvass,
of loss of money: and he had little to spare, he said. The water-colour
drawing interested him. He said he envied her that power of isolation,
and the eye for beauty in every season. She opened a portfolio of Mr.
Tuckham's water-colour drawings in every clime; scenes of Europe, Asia,
and the Americas; and he was to be excused for not caring to look through
them. His remark, that they seemed hard and dogged, was not so unjust,
she thought, smiling to think of the critic criticized. His wonderment
that a young man like his Lancastrian cousin should be 'an unmitigated
Tory' was perhaps natural.
Cecilia said, 'Yet I cannot discern in him a veneration for aristocracy.'
'That's not wanted for modern Toryism,' said Nevil. 'One may venerate
old families when they show the blood of the founder, and are not dead
wood. I do. And I believe the blood of the founder, though the man may
have been a savage and a robber, had in his day finer elements in it than
were common. But let me say at a meeting that I respect true
aristocracy, I hear a growl and a hiss beginning: why? Don't judge them
hastily: because the people have seen the aristocracy opposed to the
cause that was weak, and only submitting to it when it commanded them to
resist at their peril; clinging to traditions, and not anywhere standing
for humanity: much more a herd than the people themselves. Ah! well, we
won't talk of it now. I say that is no aristocracy, if it does not head
the people in virtue--military, political, national: I mean the qualities
required by the times for leadership. I won't bother you with my ideas
now. I love to see you paint-brush in hand.'
Her brush trembled on the illumination of a scarlet maple. 'In this
country we were not originally made free and equal by decree, Nevil.'
'No,' said he, 'and I cast no blame on our farthest ancestors.'
It struck her that this might be an outline of a reply to Mr. Austin.
'So you have been thinking over it?' he asked.
'Not to conclusions,' she said, trying to retain in her mind the
evanescent suggestiveness of his previous remark, and vexed to find
herself upon nothing but a devious phosphorescent trail there.
Her forehead betrayed the unwonted mental action. He cried out for
pardon. 'What right have I to bother you? I see it annoys you. The
truth is, I came for peace. I think of you when they talk of English
She felt then that he was comparing her home with another, a foreign
home. After he had gone she felt that there had been a comparison of two
persons. She remembered one of his observations: 'Few women seem to have
courage'; when his look at her was for an instant one of scrutiny or
calculation. Under a look like that we perceive that we are being
weighed. She had no clue to tell her what it signified.
Glorious and solely glorious love, that has risen above emotion, quite
independent of craving! That is to be the bird of upper air, poised on
his wings. It is a home in the sky. Cecilia took possession of it
systematically, not questioning whether it would last; like one who is
too enamoured of the habitation to object to be a tenant-at-will. If it
was cold, it was in recompense immeasurably lofty, a star-girdled place;
and dwelling in it she could avow to herself the secret which was now
working self-deception, and still preserve her pride unwounded. Her
womanly pride, she would have said in vindication of it: but Cecilia
Halkett's pride went far beyond the merely womanly.
Thus she was assisted to endure a journey down to Wales, where Nevil
would surely not be. She passed a Winter without seeing him. She
returned to Mount Laurels from London at Easter, and went on a visit to
Steynham, and back to London, having sight of him nowhere, still firm in
the thought that she loved ethereally, to bless, forgive, direct,
encourage, pray for him, impersonally. She read certain speeches
delivered by Nevil at assemblies of Liberals or Radicals, which were
reported in papers in the easy irony of the style of here and there a
sentence, here and there a summary: salient quotations interspersed with
running abstracts: a style terrible to friends of the speaker so
reported, overwhelming if they differ in opinion: yet her charity was a
match for it. She was obliged to have recourse to charity, it should be
observed. Her father drew her attention to the spectacle of R. C. S.
Nevil Beauchamp, Commander R.N., fighting those reporters with letters in
the newspapers, and the dry editorial comment flanked by three stars on
the left. He was shocked to see a gentleman writing such letters to the
papers. 'But one thing hangs on another,' said he.
'But you seem angry with Nevil, papa,' said she.
'I do hate a turbulent, restless fellow, my dear,' the colonel burst out.
'Papa, he has really been unfairly reported.'
Cecilia laid three privately-printed full reports of Commander
Beauchamp's speeches (very carefully corrected by him) before her father.
He suffered his eye to run down a page. 'Is it possible you read this?--
this trash!--dangerous folly, I call it.'
Cecilia's reply, 'In the interests of justice, I do,' was meant to
express her pure impartiality. By a toleration of what is detested we
expose ourselves to the keenness of an adverse mind.
'Does he write to you, too?' said the colonel.
She answered: 'Oh, no; I am not a politician.'
'He seems to have expected you to read those tracts of his, though.'
'Yes, I think he would convert me if he could,' said Cecilia.
'Though you're not a politician.'
'He relies on the views he delivers in public, rather than on writing to
persuade; that was my meaning, papa.'
'Very well,' said the colonel, not caring to show his anxiety.
Mr. Tuckham dined with them frequently in London. This gentleman betrayed
his accomplishments one by one. He sketched, and was no artist; he
planted, and was no gardener; he touched the piano neatly, and was no
musician; he sang, and he had no voice. Apparently he tried his hand at
anything, for the privilege of speaking decisively upon all things. He
accompanied the colonel and his daughter on a day's expedition to Mrs.
Beauchamp, on the Upper Thames, and they agreed that he shone to great
advantage in her society. Mrs. Beauchamp said she had seen her great-
nephew Nevil, but without a comment on his conduct or his person; grave
silence. Reflecting on it, Cecilia grew indignant at the thought that
Mr. Tuckham might have been acting a sinister part. Mrs. Beauchamp
alluded to a newspaper article of her favourite great-nephew Blackburn,
written, Cecilia knew through her father, to controvert some tremendous
proposition of Nevil's. That was writing, Mrs. Beauchamp said. 'I am
not in the habit of fearing a conflict, so long as we have stout
defenders. I rather like it,' she said.
The colonel entertained Mrs. Beauchamp, while Mr. Tuckham led Miss
Halkett over the garden. Cecilia considered that his remarks upon Nevil
'Seriously, Miss Halkett, to take him at his best, he is a very good
fellow, I don't doubt; I am told so; and a capital fellow among men, a
good friend and not a bad boon-fellow, and for that matter, the smoking-
room is a better test than the drawing-room; all he wants is emphatically
school--school--school. I have recommended the simple iteration of that
one word in answer to him at his meetings, and the printing of it as a
foot-note to his letters.'
Cecilia's combative spirit precipitated her to say, 'I hear the mob in it
shouting Captain Beauchamp down.'
'Ay,' said Mr. Tuckham, 'it would be setting the mob to shout wisely at
'The mob is a wild beast.'
'Then we should hear wisdom coming out of the mouth of the wild beast.'
'Men have the phrase, "fair play."'
'Fair play, I say, is not applicable to a man who deliberately goes about
to stir the wild beast. He is laughed at, plucked, hustled, and robbed,
by those who deafen him with their "plaudits"--their roars. Did you see
his advertisement of a great-coat, lost at some rapscallion gathering
down in the North, near my part of the country? A great-coat and a
packet of letters. He offers a reward of L10. But that's honest robbery
compared with the bleeding he'll get.'
'Do you know Mr. Seymour Austin?' Miss Halkett asked him.
'I met him once at your father's table. Why?'
'I think you would like to listen to him.'
'Yes, my fault is not listening enough,' said Mr. Tuckham.
He was capable of receiving correction.
Her father told her he was indebted to Mr. Tuckham past payment in coin,
for services rendered by him on a trying occasion among the miners in
Wales during the first spring month. 'I dare say he can speak
effectively to miners,' Cecilia said, outvying the contemptuous young man
in superciliousness, but with effort and not with satisfaction.
She left London in July, two days before her father could be induced to
return to Mount Laurels. Feverish, and strangely subject to caprices
now, she chose the longer way round by Sussex, and alighted at the
station near Steynham to call on Mrs. Culling, whom she knew to be at the
Hall, preparing it for Mr. Romfrey's occupation. In imitation of her
father she was Rosamund's fast friend, though she had never quite
realized her position, and did not thoroughly understand her. Would it
not please her father to hear that she had chosen the tedious route for
the purpose of visiting this lady, whose champion he was?
So she went to Steynham, and for hours she heard talk of no one, of
nothing, but her friend Nevil. Cecilia was on her guard against
Rosamund's defence of his conduct in France. The declaration that there
had been no misbehaviour at all could not be accepted; but the news of
Mr. Romfrey's having installed Nevil in Holdesbury to manage that
property, and of his having mooted to her father the question of an
alliance between her and Nevil, was wonderful. Rosamund could not say
what answer her father had made: hardly favourable, Cecilia supposed,
since he had not spoken of the circumstance to her. But Mr. Romfrey's
influence with him would certainly be powerful.
It was to be assumed, also, that Nevil had been consulted by his uncle.
Rosamund said full-heartedly that this alliance had for years been her
life's desire, and then she let the matter pass, nor did she once loop at
Cecilia searchingly, or seem to wish to probe her. Cecilia disagreed
with Rosamund on an insignificant point in relation to something Mr.
Romfrey and Captain Baskelett had done, and, as far as she could
recollect subsequently, there was a packet of letters, or a pocket-book
containing letters of Nevil's which he had lost, and which had been
forwarded to Mr. Romfrey; for the pocket-book was originally his, and his
address was printed inside. But among these letters was one from Dr.
Shrapnel to Nevil: a letter so horrible that Rosamund frowned at the
reminiscence of it, holding it to be too horrible for the quotation of a
sentence. She owned she had forgotten any three consecutive words. Her
known dislike of Captain Baskelett, however, was insufficient to make her
see that it was unjustifiable in him to run about London reading it, with
comments of the cruellest. Rosamund's greater detestation of Dr.
Shrapnel blinded her to the offence committed by the man she would
otherwise have been very ready to scorn. So small did the circumstance
appear to Cecilia, notwithstanding her gentle opposition at the time she
listened to it, that she never thought of mentioning it to her father,
and only remembered it when Captain Baskelett, with Lord Palmet in his
company, presented himself at Mount Laurels, and proposed to the colonel
to read to him 'a letter from that scoundrelly old Shrapnel to Nevil
Beauchamp, upon women, wives, thrones, republics, British loyalty, et
caetera,'--an et caetera that rolled a series of tremendous
reverberations down the list of all things held precious by freeborn
She would have prevented the reading. But the colonel would have it.
'Read on,' said he. 'Mr. Romfrey saw no harm.'
Captain Baskelett held up Dr. Shrapnel's letter to Commander Beauchamp,
at about half a yard's distance on the level of his chin, as a big-
chested singer in a concert-room holds his music-scroll.
THE EPISTLE OF DR. SHRAPNEL TO COMMANDER BEAUCHAMP
Before we give ear to the recital of Dr. Shrapnel's letter to his pupil
in politics by the mouth of Captain Baskelett, it is necessary to defend
this gentleman, as he would handsomely have defended himself, from the
charge that he entertained ultimate designs in regard to the really
abominable scrawl, which was like a child's drawing of ocean with here
and there a sail capsized, and excited his disgust almost as much as did
the contents his great indignation. He was prepared to read it, and
stood blown out for the task, but it was temporarily too much for him.
'My dear Colonel, look at it, I entreat you,' he said, handing the letter
for exhibition, after fixing his eye-glass, and dropping it in repulsion.
The common sentiment of mankind is offended by heterodoxy in mean attire;
for there we see the self-convicted villain--the criminal caught in the
act; we try it and convict it by instinct without the ceremony of a jury;
and so thoroughly aware of our promptitude in this respect has our arch-
enemy become since his mediaeval disgraces that his particular advice to
his followers is now to scrupulously copy the world in externals; never
to appear poorly clothed, nor to impart deceptive communications in bad
handwriting. We can tell black from white, and our sagacity has taught
him a lesson.
Colonel Halkett glanced at the detestable penmanship. Lord Palmet did
the same, and cried, 'Why, it's worse than mine!'
Cecilia had protested against the reading of the letter, and she declined
to look at the writing. She was entreated, adjured to look, in Captain
Baskelett's peculiarly pursuing fashion; a 'nay, but you shall,' that she
had been subjected to previously, and would have consented to run like a
schoolgirl to escape from.
To resume the defence of him: he was a man incapable of forming plots,
because his head would not hold them. He was an impulsive man, who could
impale a character of either sex by narrating fables touching persons of
whom he thought lightly, and that being done he was devoid of malice,
unless by chance his feelings or his interests were so aggrieved that his
original haphazard impulse was bent to embrace new circumstances and be
the parent of a line of successive impulses, in the main resembling an
extremely far-sighted plot, whereat he gazed back with fondness, all the
while protesting sincerely his perfect innocence of anything of the kind.
Circumstances will often interwind with the moods of simply irritated
men. In the present instance he could just perceive what might
immediately come of his reading out of this atrocious epistle wherein
Nevil Beauchamp was displayed the dangling puppet of a mountebank wire-
pulley, infidel, agitator, leveller, and scoundrel. Cognizant of Mr.
Romfrey's overtures to Colonel Halkett, he traced them to that scheming
woman in the house at Steynham, and he was of opinion that it was a
friendly and good thing to do to let the old colonel and Cissy Halkett
know Mr. Nevil through a bit of his correspondence. This, then, was a
matter of business and duty that furnished an excuse for his going out of
his, way to call at Mount Laurels on the old familiar footing, so as not
to alarm the heiress.
A warrior accustomed to wear the burnished breastplates between London
and Windsor has, we know, more need to withstand than to discharge the
shafts of amorous passion; he is indeed, as an object of beauty,
notoriously compelled to be of the fair sex in his tactics, and must
practise the arts and whims of nymphs to preserve himself: and no doubt
it was the case with the famous Captain Baskelett, in whose mind sweet
ladies held the place that the pensive politician gives to the masses,
dreadful in their hatred, almost as dreadful in their affection. But an
heiress is a distinct species among women; he hungered for the heiress;
his elevation to Parliament made him regard her as both the ornament and
the prop of his position; and it should be added that his pride, all the
habits of thought of a conqueror of women, had been shocked by that
stupefying rejection of him, which Cecilia had intimated to her father
with the mere lowering of her eyelids. Conceive the highest bidder at an
auction hearing the article announce that it will not have him! Captain
Baskelett talked of it everywhere for a month or so:--the girl could not
know her own mind, for she suited him exactly! and he requested the world
to partake of his astonishment. Chronicles of the season in London
informed him that he was not the only fellow to whom the gates were shut.
She could hardly be thinking of Nevil? However, let the epistle be read.
'Now for the Shrapnel shot,' he nodded finally to Colonel Halkett,
expanded his bosom, or natural cuirass, as before-mentioned, and was
vocable above the common pitch:--
'"MY BRAVE BEAUCHAMP,--On with your mission, and never a summing of
results in hand, nor thirst for prospects, nor counting upon
harvests; for seed sown in faith day by day is the nightly harvest
of the soul, and with the soul we work. With the soul we see."'
Captain Baskelett intervened: 'Ahem! I beg to observe that this
delectable rubbish is underlined by old Nevil's pencil.' He promised to
do a little roaring whenever it occurred, and continued with ghastly
false accentuation, an intermittent sprightliness and depression of tone
in the wrong places.
'"The soul," et caetera. Here we are!
"Desires to realize our gains are akin to the passion of usury;
these are tricks of the usurer to grasp his gold in act and
imagination. Have none of them. Work at the people!"
--At them, remark!--
"Moveless do they seem to you? Why, so is the earth to the sowing
husbandman, and though we cannot forecast a reaping season, we have
in history durable testification that our seasons come in the souls
of men, yea, as a planet that we have set in motion, and faster and
faster are we spinning it, and firmer and firmer shall we set it to
regularity of revolution. That means life!"
--Shrapnel roars: you will have Nevil in a minute.
"Recognize that now we have bare life; at best for the bulk of men
the Saurian lizard's broad back soaking and roasting in primeval
slime; or say, in the so-called teachers of men, as much of life as
pricks the frog in March to stir and yawn, and up on a flaccid leap
that rolls him over some three inches nearer to the ditchwater
besought by his instinct."
'I ask you, did you ever hear? The flaccid frog! But on we go.'
'"Professors, prophets, masters, each hitherto has had his creed and
system to offer, good mayhap for the term; and each has put it forth
for the truth everlasting, to drive the dagger to the heart of time,
and put the axe to human growth!--that one circle of wisdom issuing
of the experience and needs of their day, should act the despot over
all other circles for ever!--so where at first light shone to light
the yawning frog to his wet ditch, there, with the necessitated
revolution of men's minds in the course of ages, darkness radiates."
'That's old Nevil. Upon my honour, I haven't a notion of what it all
means, and I don't believe the old rascal Shrapnel has himself. And pray
be patient, my dear colonel. You will find him practical presently.
I'll skip, if you tell me to. Darkness radiates, does it!
'"The creed that rose in heaven sets below; and where we had an
angel we have claw-feet and fangs. Ask how that is! The creed is
much what it was when the followers diverged it from the Founder.
But humanity is not where it was when that creed was food and
guidance. Creeds will not die not fighting. We cannot root them up
out of us without blood."
'He threatens blood!--'
'"Ours, my Beauchamp, is the belief that humanity advances beyond
the limits of creeds, is to be tied to none. We reverence the
Master in his teachings; we behold the limits of him in his creed--
and that is not his work. We truly are his disciples, who see how
far it was in him to do service; not they that made of his creed a
strait-jacket for humanity. So, in our prayers we dedicate the
world to God, not calling him great for a title, no--showing him we
know him great in a limitless world, lord of a truth we tend to,
have not grasped. I say Prayer is good. I counsel it to you again
and again: in joy, in sickness of heart. The infidel will not pray;
the creed-slave prays to the image in his box."'
'I've had enough!' Colonel Halkett ejaculated.
'"We,"' Captain Baskelett put out his hand for silence with an ineffable
look of entreaty, for here was Shrapnel's hypocrisy in full bloom:
'"We make prayer a part of us, praying for no gifts, no
interventions; through the faith in prayer opening the soul to the
undiscerned. And take this, my Beauchamp, for the good in prayer,
that it makes us repose on the unknown with confidence, makes us
flexible to change, makes us ready for revolution--for life, then!
He who has the fountain of prayer in him will not complain of
hazards. Prayer is the recognition of laws; the soul's exercise and
source of strength; its thread of conjunction with them. Prayer for
an object is the cajolery of an idol; the resource of superstition.
There you misread it, Beauchamp. We that fight the living world
must have the universal for succour of the truth in it. Cast forth
the soul in prayer, you meet the efuence of the outer truth, you
join with the creative elements giving breath to you; and that crust
of habit which is the soul's tomb; and custom, the soul's tyrant;
and pride, our volcano-peak that sinks us in a crater; and fear,
which plucks the feathers from the wings of the soul and sits it
naked and shivering in a vault, where the passing of a common
hodman's foot above sounds like the king of terrors coming,--you are
free of them, you live in the day and for the future, by this
exercise and discipline of the soul's faith. Me it keeps young
everlastingly, like the fountain of . . ."'
'I say I cannot sit and hear any more of it!' exclaimed the colonel,
chafing out of patience.
Lord Palmet said to Miss Halkett: 'Isn't it like what we used to remember
of a sermon?'
Cecilia waited for her father to break away, but Captain Baskelett had
undertaken to skip, and was murmuring in sing-song some of the phrases
that warned him off:
'"History--Bible of Humanity; . . . Permanency--enthusiast's dream--
despot's aim--clutch of dead men's fingers in live flesh . . . Man
animal; man angel; man rooted; man winged": . . . Really, all this is
too bad. Ah! here we are: "At them with outspeaking, Beauchamp!" Here
we are, colonel, and you will tell me whether you think it treasonable or
not. "At them," et caetera: "We have signed no convention to respect
their"--he speaks of Englishmen, Colonel Halkett--"their passive
idolatries; a people with whom a mute conformity is as good as worship,
but a word of dissent holds you up to execration; and only for the
freedom won in foregone days their hate would be active. As we have them
in their present stage,"--old Nevil's mark--"We are not parties to the
tacit agreement to fill our mouths and shut our eyes. We speak because
it is better they be roused to lapidate us than soused in their sty, with
none to let them hear they live like swine, craving only not to be
disturbed at the trough. The religion of this vast English middle-class
ruling the land is Comfort. It is their central thought; their idea of
necessity; their sole aim. Whatsoever ministers to Comfort, seems to
belong to it, pretends to support it, they yield their passive worship
to. Whatsoever alarms it they join to crush. There you get at their
point of unity. They will pay for the security of Comfort, calling it
national worship, or national defence, if too much money is not
subtracted from the means of individual comfort: if too much foresight
is not demanded for the comfort of their brains. Have at them there.
Speak. Moveless as you find them, they are not yet all gross clay, and I
say again, the true word spoken has its chance of somewhere alighting and
striking root. Look not to that. Seeds perish in nature; good men fail.
Look to the truth in you, and deliver it, with no afterthought of hope,
for hope is dogged by dread; we give our courage as hostage for the
fulfilment of what we hope. Meditate on that transaction. Hope is for
boys and girls, to whom nature is kind. For men to hope is to tremble.
Let prayer--the soul's overflow, the heart's resignation--supplant it .
'Pardon, colonel; I forgot to roar, but old Nevil marks all down that
page for encomium,' said Captain Baskelett. 'Oh! here we are. English
loyalty is the subject. Now, pray attend to this, colonel. Shrapnel
communicates to Beauchamp that if ten Beauchamps were spouting over the
country without intermission he might condescend to hope. So on--to
British loyalty. We are, so long as our sovereigns are well-conducted
persons, and we cannot unseat them--observe; he is eminently explicit,
the old traitor!--we are to submit to the outward forms of respect, but
we are frankly to say we are Republicans; he has the impudence to swear
that England is a Republican country, and calls our thoroughgoing loyalty
--yours and mine, colonel--disloyalty. Hark: "Where kings lead, it is to
be supposed they are wanted. Service is the noble office on earth, and
where kings do service let them take the first honours of the State:
but"--hark at this--"the English middle-class, which has absorbed the
upper, and despises, when it is not quaking before it, the lower, will
have nothing above it but a ricketty ornament like that you see on a
'The man deserves hanging!' said Colonel Halkett.
'Further, my dear colonel, and Nevil marks it pretty much throughout:
"This loyalty smacks of a terrible perfidy. Pass the lords and squires;
they are old trees, old foundations, or joined to them, whether old or
new; they naturally apprehend dislocation when a wind blows, a river
rises, or a man speaks;--that comes of age or aping age: their hearts are
in their holdings! For the loyalty of the rest of the land, it is the
shopkeeper's loyalty, which is to be computed by the exact annual sum of
his net profits. It is now at high tide. It will last with the
prosperity of our commerce."--The insolent old vagabond!--"Let commercial
disasters come on us, and what of the loyalty now paying its hundreds of
thousands, and howling down questioners! In a day of bankruptcies, how
much would you bid for the loyalty of a class shivering under deprivation
of luxuries, with its God Comfort beggared? Ay, my Beauchamp,"--the most
offensive thing to me is that "my Beauchamp," but old Nevil has evidently
given himself up hand and foot to this ruffian--"ay, when you reflect
that fear of the so-called rabble, i.e. the people, the unmoneyed class,
which knows not Comfort, tastes not of luxuries, is the main component of
their noisy frigid loyalty, and that the people are not with them but
against, and yet that the people might be won by visible forthright
kingly service to a loyalty outdoing theirs as the sun the moon; ay, that
the people verily thirst to love and reverence; and that their love is
the only love worth having, because it is disinterested love, and
endures, and takes heat in adversity,--reflect on it and wonder at the
inversion of things! So with a Church. It lives if it is at home with
the poor. In the arms of enriched shopkeepers it rots, goes to decay in
vestments--vestments! flakes of mummy-wraps for it! or else they use it
for one of their political truncheons--to awe the ignorant masses: I
quote them. So. Not much ahead of ancient Egyptians in spirituality or
in priestcraft! They call it statesmanship. O for a word for it! Let
Palsy and Cunning go to form a word. Deadmanship, I call it."--To quote
my uncle the baron, this is lunatic dribble!--"Parsons and princes are
happy with the homage of this huge passive fleshpot class. It is enough
for them. Why not? The taxes are paid and the tithes. Whilst
commercial prosperity lasts!"'
Colonel Halkett threw his arms aloft.
'"Meanwhile, note this: the people are the Power to come.
Oppressed, unprotected, abandoned; left to the ebb and flow of the
tides of the market, now taken on to work, now cast off to starve,
committed to the shifting laws of demand and supply, slaves of
Capital-the whited name for old accursed. Mammon: and of all the.
ranked and black-uniformed host no pastor to come out of the
association of shepherds, and proclaim before heaven and man the
primary claim of their cause; they are, I say, the power, worth the
seduction of by another Power not mighty in England now: and likely
in time to set up yet another Power not existing in England now.
What if a passive comfortable clergy hand them over to men on the
models of Irish pastors, who will succour, console, enfold, champion
them? what if, when they have learnt to use their majority, sick of
deceptions and the endless pulling of interests, they raise ONE
representative to force the current of action with an authority as
little fictitious as their preponderance of numbers? The despot and
the priest! There I see our danger, Beauchamp. You and I and some
dozen labour to tie and knot them to manliness. We are few; they
are many and weak. Rome offers them real comfort in return for
their mites in coin, and--poor souls! mites in conscience, many of
them. A Tyrant offers them to be directly their friend. Ask,
Beauchamp, why they should not have comfort for pay as well as the
Captain Baskelett stopped and laid the letter out for Colonel Halkett to
read an unmentionable word, shamelessly marked by Nevil's pencil:
"--belly-class!" Ask, too, whether the comfort they wish for is not
approaching divine compared with the stagnant fleshliness of that
fat shopkeeper's Comfort.
'"Warn the people of this. Ay, warn the clergy. It is not only the
poor that are caught by ranters. Endeavour to make those
accommodating shepherds understand that they stand a chance of
losing rich as well as poor! It should awaken them. The helpless
poor and the uneasy rich are alike open to the seductions of Romish
priests and intoxicated ranters. I say so it will be if that band
of forty thousand go on slumbering and nodding. They walk in a
dream. The flesh is a dream. The soul only is life."
'Now for you, colonel.
'"No extension of the army--no! A thousand times no. Let India go,
then! Good for India that we hold India? Ay, good: but not at such
a cost as an extra tax, or compulsory service of our working man.
If India is to be held for the good of India, throw open India to
the civilized nations, that they help us in a task that overstrains
us. At present India means utter perversion of the policy of
England. Adrift India! rather than England red-coated. We dissent,
Beauchamp! For by-and-by."
'That is,' Captain Baskelett explained, 'by-and-by Shrapnel will have old
Nevil fast enough.'
'Is there more of it?' said Colonel Halkett, flapping his forehead for
'The impudence of this dog in presuming to talk about India!--eh,
colonel? Only a paragraph or two more: I skip a lot . . . . Ah!
here we are.' Captain Baskelett read to himself and laughed in derision:
'He calls our Constitution a compact unsigned by the larger number
involved in it. What's this? "A band of dealers in fleshpottery." Do
you detect a gleam of sense? He underscores it. Then he comes to this':
Captain Baskelett requested Colonel Halkett to read for himself: 'The
stench of the trail of Ego in our History.'
The colonel perused it with an unsavoury expression of his features, and
'Oddly, Mr. Romfrey thought this rather clever,' said Captain Baskelett,
and read rapidly:
'"Trace the course of Ego for them: first the king who conquers and
can govern. In his egoism he dubs him holy; his family is of a
selected blood; he makes the crown hereditary--Ego. Son by son the
shame of egoism increases; valour abates; hereditary Crown, no
hereditary qualities. The Barons rise. They in turn hold sway, and
for their order--Ego. The traders overturn them: each class rides
the classes under it while it can. It is ego--ego, the fountain
cry, origin, sole source of war! Then death to ego, I say! If
those traders had ruled for other than ego, power might have rested
with them on broad basis enough to carry us forward for centuries.
The workmen have ever been too anxious to be ruled. Now comes on
the workman's era. Numbers win in the end: proof of small wisdom in
the world. Anyhow, with numbers there is rough nature's wisdom and
justice. With numbers ego is inter-dependent and dispersed; it is
universalized. Yet these may require correctives. If so, they will
have it in a series of despots and revolutions that toss, mix, and
bind the classes together: despots, revolutions; panting
alternations of the quickened heart of humanity."
'Marked by our friend Nevil in notes of admiration.'
'Mad as the writer,' groaned Colonel Halkett. 'Never in my life have I
heard such stuff.'
'Stay, colonel; here's Shrapnel defending Morality and Society,' said
Colonel Halkett vowed he was under no penal law to listen, and would not;
but Captain Baskelett persuaded him: 'Yes, here it is: I give you my
word. Apparently old Nevil has been standing up for every man's right to
run away with . . . Yes, really! I give you my word; and here we have
Shrapnel insisting on respect for the marriage laws. Do hear this; here
it is in black and white:--
"Society is our one tangible gain, our one roofing and flooring in a
world of most uncertain structures built on morasses. Toward the
laws that support it men hopeful of progress give their adhesion.
If it is martyrdom, what then? Let the martyrdom be. Contumacy is
animalism. And attend to me," says Shrapnel, "the truer the love
the readier for sacrifice! A thousand times yes. Rebellion against
Society, and advocacy of Humanity, run counter. Tell me Society is
the whited sepulchre, that it is blotched, hideous, hollow: and I
say, add not another disfigurement to it; add to the purification of
it. And you, if you answer, what can only one? I say that is the
animal's answer, and applies also to politics, where the question,
what can one? put in the relapsing tone, shows the country decaying
in the individual. Society is the protection of the weaker,
therefore a shield of women, who are our temple of civilization, to
be kept sacred; and he that loves a woman will assuredly esteem and
pity her sex, and not drag her down for another example of their
frailty. Fight this out within you--!"
But you are right, colonel; we have had sufficient. I shall be getting a
democratic orator's twang, or a crazy parson's, if I go on much further.
He covers thirty-two pages of letter-paper. The conclusion is:--"Jenny
sends you her compliments, respects, and best wishes, and hopes she may
see you before she goes to her friend Clara Sherwin and the General."'
'Sherwin? Why, General Sherwin's a perfect gentleman,' Colonel Halkett
interjected; and Lord Palmet caught the other name: 'Jenny? That's Miss
Denham, Jenny Denham; an amazingly pretty girl: beautiful thick brown
hair, real hazel eyes, and walks like a yacht before the wind.'
'Perhaps, colonel, Jenny accounts for the defence of society,' said
Captain Baskelett. 'I have no doubt Shrapnel has a scheme for Jenny.
The old communist and socialist!' He folded up the letter: 'A curious
composition, is it not, Miss Halkett?'
Cecilia was thinking that he tempted her to be the apologist of even such
'One likes to know the worst, and what's possible,' said the colonel.
After Captain Baskelett had gone, Colonel Halkett persisted in talking of
the letter, and would have impressed on his daughter that the person to
whom the letter was addressed must be partly responsible for the contents
of it. Cecilia put on the argumentative air of a Court of Equity to
discuss the point with him.
'Then you defend that letter?' he cried.
Oh, no: she did not defend the letter; she thought it wicked and
senseless. 'But,' said she, 'the superior strength of men to women seems
to me to come from their examining all subjects, shrinking from none. At
least, I should not condemn Nevil on account of his correspondence.'
'We shall see,' said her father, sighing rather heavily. 'I must have a
talk with Mr. Romfrey about that letter.'
THE BAITING OF DR. SHRAPNEL
Captain Baskelett went down from Mount Laurels to Bevisham to arrange for
the giving of a dinner to certain of his chief supporters in the borough,
that they might know he was not obliged literally to sit in Parliament in
order to pay a close attention to their affairs. He had not
distinguished himself by a speech during the session, but he had stored
a political precept or two in his memory, and, as he told Lord Palmet,
he thought a dinner was due to his villains. 'The way to manage your
Englishman, Palmet, is to dine him.' As the dinner would decidedly be
dull, he insisted on having Lord Palmet's company.
They crossed over to the yachting island, where portions of the letter
of Commander Beauchamp's correspondent were read at the Club, under the
verandah, and the question put, whether a man who held those opinions had
a right to wear his uniform.
The letter was transmitted to Steynham in time to be consigned to the
pocket-book before Beauchamp arrived there on one of his rare visits.
Mr. Romfrey handed him the pocketbook with the frank declaration that he
had read Shrapnel's letter. 'All is fair in war, Sir!' Beauchamp quoted
The thieves had amused Mr. Romfrey by their scrupulous honesty in
returning what was useless to them, while reserving the coat: but
subsequently seeing the advertized reward, they had written to claim it;
and, according to Rosamund Culling, he had been so tickled that he had
deigned to reply to them, very briefly, but very comically.
Speaking of the matter with her, Beauchamp said (so greatly was he
infatuated with the dangerous man) that the reading of a letter of Dr.
Shrapnel's could do nothing but good to any reflecting human creature:
he admitted that as the lost pocket-book was addressed to Mr. Romfrey,
it might have been by mistake that he had opened it, and read the topmost
letter lying open. But he pressed Rosamund to say whether that one only
had been read.
'Only Dr. Shrapnel's letter,' Rosamund affirmed. 'The letter from
Normandy was untouched by him.'
'Untouched by anybody?'
'Unopened, Nevil. You look incredulous.'
'Not if I have your word, ma'am.'
He glanced somewhat contemptuously at his uncle Everard's anachronistic
notions of what was fair in war.
To prove to him Mr. Romfrey's affectionate interest in his fortunes,
Rosamund mentioned the overtures which had been made to Colonel Halkett
for a nuptial alliance between the two houses; and she said: 'Your uncle
Everard was completely won by your manly way of taking his opposition to
you in Bevisham. He pays for Captain Baskelett, but you and your
fortunes are nearest his heart, Nevil.'
Beauchamp hung silent. His first remark was, 'Yes, I want money. I must
have money.' By degrees he seemed to warm to some sense of gratitude.
'It was kind of the baron,' he said.
'He has a great affection for you, Nevil, though you know he spares no
one who chooses to be antagonistic. All that is over. But do you not
second him, Nevil? You admire her? You are not adverse?'
Beauchamp signified the horrid intermixture of yes and no, frowned in
pain of mind, and Walked up and down. 'There's no living woman I admire
'She has refused the highest matches.'
'I hold her in every way incomparable.'
'She tries to understand your political ideas, if she cannot quite
sympathize with them, Nevil. And consider how hard it is for a young
English lady, bred in refinement, to understand such things.'
'Yes,' Beauchamp nodded; yes. Well, more 's the pity for me!'
'Ah! Nevil, that fatal Renee!'
'Ma'am, I acquit you of any suspicion of your having read her letter in
this pocket-book. She wishes me to marry. You would have seen it
written here. She wishes it.'
'Fly, clipped wing!' murmured Rosamund, and purposely sent a buzz into
her ears to shut out his extravagant talk of Renee's friendly wishes.
'How is it you women will not believe in the sincerity of a woman!' he
'Nevil, I am not alluding to the damage done to your election.'
'To my candidature, ma'am. You mean those rumours, those lies of the
enemy. Tell me how I could suppose you were alluding to them. You bring
them forward now to justify your charge of "fatal" against her. She has
one fault; she wants courage; she has none other, not one that is not
excuseable. We won't speak of France. What did her father say?'
'Colonel Halkett? I do not know. He and his daughter come here next
week, and the colonel will expect to meet you here. That does not look
like so positive an objection to you?'
'To me personally, no,' said Beauchamp. 'But Mr. Romfrey has not told me
that I am to meet them.'
'Perhaps he has not thought it worth while. It is not his way. He has
asked you to come. You and Miss Halkett will be left to yourselves. Her
father assured Mr. Romfrey that he should not go beyond advising her.
His advice might not be exactly favourable to you at present, but if you
sued and she accepted--and she would, I am convinced she would; she was
here with me, talking of you a whole afternoon, and I have eyes--then he
would not oppose the match, and then I should see you settled, the
husband of the handsomest wife and richest heiress in England.'
A vision of Cecilia swam before him, gracious in stateliness.
Two weeks back Renee's expression of a wish that he would marry had
seemed to him an idle sentence in a letter breathing of her own
intolerable situation. The marquis had been struck down by illness.
What if she were to be soon suddenly free? But Renee could not be
looking to freedom, otherwise she never would have written the wish for
him to marry. She wrote perhaps hearing temptation whisper; perhaps
wishing to save herself and him by the aid of a tie that would bring his
honour into play and fix his loyalty. He remembered Dr. Shrapnel's
written words: 'Rebellion against society and advocacy of humanity run
counter.' They had a stronger effect on him than when he was ignorant of
his uncle Everard's plan to match him with Cecilia. He took refuge from
them in the image of that beautiful desolate Renee, born to be beloved,
now wasted, worse than trodden under foot--perverted; a life that looked
to him for direction and resuscitation. She was as good as dead in her
marriage. It was impossible for him ever to think of Renee without the
surprising thrill of his enchantment with her, and tender pity that drew
her closer to him by darkening her brightness.
Still a man may love his wife. A wife like Cecilia was not to be
imagined coldly. Let the knot once be tied, it would not be regretted,
could not be; hers was a character, and hers a smile, firmly assuring him
He told Mr. Romfrey that he should be glad to meet Colonel Halkett and
Cecilia. Business called him to Holdesbury. Thence he betook himself to
Dr. Shrapnel's cottage to say farewell to Jenny Denham previous to her
departure for Switzerland with her friend Clara Sherwin. She had never
seen a snow-mountain, and it was pleasant to him to observe in her eyes,
which he had known weighing and balancing intellectual questions more
than he quite liked, a childlike effort to conjure in imagination the
glories of the Alps. She appeared very happy, only a little anxious
about leaving Dr. Shrapnel with no one to take care of him for a whole
month. Beauchamp promised he would run over to him from Holdesbury, only
an hour by rail, as often as he could. He envied her the sight of the
Alps, he said, and tried to give her an idea of them, from which he broke
off to boast of a famous little Jersey bull that he had won from a rival,
an American, deeply in love with the bull; cutting him out by telegraph
by just five minutes. The latter had examined the bull in the island and
had passed on to Paris, not suspecting there would be haste to sell him.
Beauchamp, seeing the bull advertized, took him on trust, galloped to the
nearest telegraph station forthwith, and so obtained possession of him;
and the bull was now shipped on the voyage. But for this precious bull,
however, and other business, he would have been able to spend almost the
entire month with Dr. Shrapnel, he said regretfully. Miss Denham on the
contrary did not regret his active occupation. The story of his rush
from the breakfast-table to the stables, and gallop away to the station,
while the American Quaker gentleman soberly paced down a street in Paris
on the same errand, in invisible rivalry, touched her risible fancy. She
was especially pleased to think of him living in harmony with his uncle--
that strange, lofty, powerful man, who by plot or by violence punished
opposition to his will, but who must be kind at heart, as well as
forethoughtful of his nephew's good; the assurance of it being, that when
the conflict was at an end he had immediately installed him as manager of
one of his estates, to give his energy play and make him practically
The day before she left home was passed by the three in botanizing, some
miles distant from Bevisham, over sand country, marsh and meadow; Dr.
Shrapnel, deep in the science, on one side of her, and Beauchamp,
requiring instruction in the names and properties of every plant and
simple, on the other. It was a day of summer sweetness, gentle laughter,
conversation, and the happiest homeliness. The politicians uttered
barely a syllable of politics. The dinner basket was emptied heartily to
make way for herb and flower, and at night the expedition homeward was
crowned with stars along a road refreshed by mid-day thunder-showers and
smelling of the rain in the dust, past meadows keenly scenting, gardens
giving out their innermost balm and odour. Late at night they drank tea
in Jenny's own garden. They separated a little after two in the morning,
when the faded Western light still lay warm on a bow of sky, and on the
level of the East it quickened. Jenny felt sure she should long for that
yesterday when she was among foreign scenes, even among high Alps-those
mysterious eminences which seemed in her imagination to know of heaven
and have the dawn of a new life for her beyond their peaks.
Her last words when stepping into the railway carriage were to Beauchamp:
'Will you take care of him?' She flung her arms round Dr. Shrapnel's
neck, and gazed at him under troubled eyelids which seemed to be passing
in review every vision of possible harm that might come to him during her
absence; and so she continued gazing, and at no one but Dr. Shrapnel
until the bend of the line cut him from her sight. Beauchamp was a very
secondary person on that occasion, and he was unused to being so in the
society of women--unused to find himself entirely eclipsed by their
interest in another. He speculated on it, wondering at her concentrated
fervency; for he had not supposed her to possess much warmth.
After she was fairly off on her journey, Dr. Shrapnel mentioned to
Beauchamp a case of a Steynham poacher, whom he had thought it his duty
to supply with means of defence. It was a common poaching case.
Beauchamp was not surprised that Mr. Romfrey and Dr. Shrapnel should come
to a collision; the marvel was that it had never occurred before, and
Beauchamp said at once: 'Oh, my uncle Mr. Romfrey would rather see them
stand their ground than not.' He was disposed to think well of his
uncle. The Jersey bull called him away to Holdesbury.
Captain Baskelett heard of this poaching case at Steynham, where he had
to appear in person when he was in want of cheques, and the Bevisham
dinner furnished an excuse for demanding one. He would have preferred a
positive sum annually. Mr. Romfrey, however, though he wrote his cheques
out like the lord he was by nature, exacted the request for them; a
system that kept the gallant gentleman on his good behaviour, probably at
a lower cost than the regular stipend. In handing the cheque to Cecil
Baskelett, Mr. Romfrey spoke of a poacher, of an old poaching family
called the Dicketts, who wanted punishment and was to have it, but Mr.
Romfrey's local lawyer had informed him that the man Shrapnel was, as
usual, supplying the means of defence. For his own part, Mr. Romfrey
said, he had no objection to one rascal's backing another, and Shrapnel
might hit his hardest, only perhaps Nevil might somehow get mixed up in
it, and Nevil was going on quietly now--he had in fact just done
capitally in lassoing with a shot of the telegraph a splendid little
Jersey bull that a Yankee was after: and on the whole it was best to try
to keep him quiet, for he was mad about that man Shrapnel; Shrapnel was
his joss: and if legal knocks came of this business Nevil might be
thinking of interfering: 'Or he and I may be getting to exchange a lot of
shindy letters,' Mr. Romfrey said. 'Tell him I take Shrapnel just like
any other man, and don't want to hear apologies, and I don't mix him up
in it. Tell him if he likes to have an explanation from me, I'll give it
him when he comes here. You can run over to Holdesbury the morning after
Captain Baskelett said he would go. He was pleased with his cheque at
the time, but hearing subsequently that Nevil was coming to Steynham to
meet Colonel Halkett and his daughter, he became displeased, considering
it a very silly commission. The more he thought of it the more
ridiculous and unworthy it appeared. He asked himself and Lord Palmet
also why he should have to go to Nevil at Holdesbury to tell him of
circumstances that he would hear of two or three days later at Steynham.
There was no sense in it. The only conclusion for him was that the
scheming woman Culling had determined to bring down every man concerned
in the Bevisham election, and particularly Mr. Romfrey, on his knees
before Nevil. Holdesbury had been placed at his disposal, and the use of
the house in London, which latter would have been extremely serviceable
to Cecil as a place of dinners to the Parliament of Great Britain in lieu
of the speech-making generally expected of Members, and not so
effectively performed. One would think the baron had grown afraid of old
Nevil! He had spoken as if he were.
Cecil railed unreservedly to Lord Palmet against that woman 'Mistress
Culling,' as it pleased him to term her, and who could be offended by his
calling her so? His fine wit revelled in bestowing titles that were at
once batteries directed upon persons he hated, and entrenchments for
At four o'clock on a sultry afternoon he sat at table with his Bevisham
supporters, and pledged them correspondingly in English hotel champagne,
sherry and claret. At seven he was rid of them, but parched and heated,
as he deserved to be, he owned, for drinking the poison. It would be a
good subject for Parliament if he could get it up, he reflected.
'And now,' said he to Palmet, 'we might be crossing over to the Club if I
hadn't to go about that stupid business to Holdesbury to-morrow morning.
We shall miss the race, or, at least, the start.'
The idea struck him: 'Ten to one old Nevil 's with Shrapnel,' and no idea
could be more natural.
'We 'll call on Shrapnel,' said Palmet. 'We shall see Jenny Denham.
He gives her out as his niece. Whatever she is she's a brimming little
beauty. I assure you, Bask, you seldom see so pretty a girl.'
Wine, which has directed men's footsteps upon more marvellous adventures,
took them to a chemist's shop for a cooling effervescent draught, and
thence through the town to the address, furnished to them by the chemist,
of Dr. Shrapnel on the common.
Bad wine, which is responsible for the fate of half the dismal bodies
hanging from trees, weltering by rocks, grovelling and bleaching round
the bedabbled mouth of the poet's Cave of Despair, had rendered Captain
Baskelett's temper extremely irascible; so when he caught sight of Dr.
Shrapnel walling in his garden, and perceived him of a giant's height,
his eyes fastened on the writer of the abominable letter with an
exultation peculiar to men having a devil inside them that kicks to be
out. The sun was low, blazing among the thicker branches of the pollard
forest trees, and through sprays of hawthorn. Dr. Shrapnel stopped,
facing the visible master of men, at the end of his walk before he turned
his back to continue the exercise and some discourse he was holding aloud
either to the heavens or bands of invisible men.
'Ahem, Dr. Shrapnel!' He was accosted twice, the second time
He saw two gentlemen outside the garden-hedge.
'I spoke, sir,' said Captain Baskelett.
'I hear you now, sir,' said the doctor, walking in a parallel line with
'I desired to know, sir, if you are Dr. Shrapnel?'
They arrived at the garden-gate.
'You have a charming garden, Dr. Shrapnel,' said Lord Palmet, very
affably and loudly, with a steady observation of the cottage windows.
Dr. Shrapnel flung the gate open.
Lord Palmet raised his hat and entered, crying loudly, 'A very charming
garden, upon my word!'
Captain Baskelett followed him, bowing stiffly.
'I am,' he said, 'Captain Beauchamp's cousin. I am Captain Baskelett,
one of the Members for the borough.'
The doctor said, 'Ah.'
'I wish to see Captain Beauchamp, sir. He is absent?'
'I shall have him here shortly, sir.'
'Oh, you will have him!' Cecil paused.
'Admirable roses!' exclaimed Lord Palmet.
'You have him, I think,' said Cecil, 'if what we hear is correct. I wish
to know, sir, whether the case you are conducting against his uncle is
one you have communicated to Captain Beauchamp. I repeat, I am here to
inquire if he is privy to it. You may hold family ties in contempt--Now,
sir! I request you abstain from provocations with me.'
Dr. Shrapnel had raised his head, with something of the rush of a rocket,
from the stooping posture to listen, and his frown of non-intelligence
might be interpreted as the coming on of the fury Radicals are prone to,
by a gentleman who believed in their constant disposition to explode.
Cecil made play with a pacifying hand. 'We shall arrive at no
understanding unless you are good enough to be perfectly calm. I repeat,
my cousin Captain Beauchamp is more or less at variance with his family,
owing to these doctrines of yours, and your extraordinary Michael-Scott-
the-wizard kind of spell you seem to have cast upon his common sense as a
man of the world. You have him, as you say. I do not dispute it. I
have no, doubt you have him fast. But here is a case demanding a certain
respect for decency. Pray, if I may ask you, be still, be quiet, and
hear me out if you can. I am accustomed to explain myself to the
comprehension of most men who are at large, and I tell you candidly I am
not to be deceived or diverted from my path by a show of ignorance.'
'What is your immediate object, sir?' said Dr. Shrapnel, chagrined by
the mystification within him, and a fear that his patience was going.
'Exactly,' Cecil nodded. He was acute enough to see that he had
established the happy commencement of fretfulness in the victim, which is
equivalent to a hook well struck in the mouth of your fish, and with an
angler's joy he prepared to play his man. 'Exactly. I have stated it.
And you ask me. But I really must decline to run over the whole ground
again for you. I am here to fulfil a duty to my family; a highly
disagreeable one to me. I may fail, like the lady who came here previous
to the Election, for the result of which I am assured I ought to thank
your eminently disinterested services. I do. You recollect a lady
calling on you?'
Dr. Shrapnel consulted his memory. 'I think I have a recollection of
some lady calling.'
'Oh! you think you have a recollection of some lady calling.'
'Do you mean a lady connected with Captain Beauchamp?'
'A lady connected with Captain Beauchamp. You are not aware of the
situation of the lady?'
'If I remember, she was a kind of confidential housekeeper, some one
said, to Captain Beauchamp's uncle.'
'A kind of confidential housekeeper! She is recognized in our family as
a lady, sir. I can hardly expect better treatment at your hands than she
met with, but I do positively request you to keep your temper whilst I am
explaining my business to you. Now, sir! what now?'
A trifling breeze will set the tall tree bending, and Dr. Shrapnel did
indeed appear to display the agitation of a full-driving storm when he
was but harassed and vexed.
'Will you mention your business concisely, if you Please?' he said.
'Precisely; it is my endeavour. I supposed I had done so. To be frank,
I would advise you to summon a member of your household, wife, daughter,
housekeeper, any one you like, to whom you may appeal, and I too,
whenever your recollections are at fault.'
'I am competent,' said the doctor.
'But in justice to you,' urged Cecil considerately.
Dr. Shrapnel smoothed his chin hastily. 'Have you done?'
'Believe me, the instant I have an answer to my question, I have done.'
'Name your question.'
'Very well, sir. Now mark, I will be plain with you. There is no escape
for you from this. You destroy my cousin's professional prospects--I
request you to listen--you blast his career in the navy; it was
considered promising. He was a gallant officer and a smart seaman. Very
well. You set him up as a politician, to be knocked down, to a dead
certainty. You set him against his class; you embroil him with his
family . . .'
'On all those points,' interposed Dr. Shrapnel, after dashing a hand to
straighten his forelock; but Cecil vehemently entreated him to control
'I say you embroil him with his family, you cause him to be in
everlasting altercation with his uncle Mr. Romfrey, materially to his
personal detriment; and the question of his family is one that every man
of sense would apprehend on the spot; for we, you should know, have, sir,
an opinion of Captain Beauchamp's talents and abilities forbidding us to
think he could possibly be the total simpleton you make him appear,
unless to the seductions of your political instructions, other seductions
were added . . . . You apprehend me, I am sure.'
'I don't,' cried the doctor, descending from his height and swinging
'Oh! yes, you do; you do indeed, you cannot avoid it; you quite
apprehend me; it is admitted that you take my meaning: I insist on that.
I have nothing to say but what is complimentary of the young lady,
whoever she may turn out to be; bewitching, no doubt; and to speak
frankly, Dr. Shrapnel, I, and I am pretty certain every honest man would
think with me, I take it to be ten times more creditable to my cousin
Captain Beauchamp that he should be under a lady's influence than under
yours. Come, sir! I ask you. You must confess that a gallant officer
and great admirer of the sex does not look such a donkey if he is led in
silken strings by a beautiful creature. And mark--stop! mark this, Dr.
Shrapnel: I say, to the lady we can all excuse a good deal, and at the
same time you are to be congratulated on first-rate diplomacy in
employing so charming an agent. I wish, I really wish you did it
generally, I assure you: only, mark this--I do beg you to contain
yourself for a minute, if possible--I say, my cousin Captain Beauchamp is
fair game to hunt, and there is no law to prevent the chase, only you
must not expect us to be quiet spectators of your sport; and we have, I
say, undoubtedly a right to lay the case before the lady, and induce her
to be a peace-agent in the family if we can. Very well.'
'This garden is redolent of a lady's hand,' sighed Palmet, poetical in
'Have you taken too much wine, gentlemen?' said Dr. Shrapnel.
Cecil put this impertinence aside with a graceful sweep of his fingers.
'You attempt to elude me, sir.'
'Not I! You mention some lady.'
'Exactly. A young lady.'
'What is the name of the lady?'
'Oh! You ask the name of the lady. And I too. What is it? I have heard
two or three names.'
'Then you have heard villanies.'
'Denham, Jenny Denham, Miss Jenny Denham,' said Palmet, rejoiced at the
opportunity of trumpeting her name so that she should not fail to hear
'I stake my reputation I have heard her called Shrapnel--Miss Shrapnel,'
The doctor glanced hastily from one to the other of his visitors. 'The
young lady is my ward; I am her guardian,' he said.
Cecil pursed his mouth. 'I have heard her called your niece.'
'Niece--ward; she is a lady by birth and education, in manners,
accomplishments, and character; and she is under my protection,' cried
Cecil bowed. 'So you are for gentle birth? I forgot you are for
morality too, and for praying; exactly; I recollect. But now let me tell
you, entirely with the object of conciliation, my particular desire is to
see the young lady, in your presence of course, and endeavour to persuade
her, as I have very little doubt I shall do, assuming that you give me
fair play, to exercise her influence, on this occasion contrary to yours,
and save my cousin Captain Beauchamp from a fresh misunderstanding with
his uncle Mr. Romfrey. Now, sir; now, there!'
'You will not see Miss Denham with my sanction ever,' said Dr. Shrapnel.
'Oh! Then I perceive your policy. Mark, sir, my assumption was that the
young lady would, on hearing my representations, exert herself to heal
the breach between Captain Beauchamp and his family. You stand in the
way. You treat me as you treated the lady who came here formerly to
wrest your dupe from your clutches. If I mistake not, she saw the young
lady you acknowledge to be your ward.'
Dr. Shrapnel flashed back: 'I acknowledge? Mercy and justice! is there
no peace with the man? You walk here to me, I can't yet guess why, from
a town where I have enemies, and every scandal flies touching me and
mine; and you--' He stopped short to master his anger. He subdued it so
far as to cloak it in an attempt to speak reasoningly, as angry men
sometimes deceive themselves in doing, despite the good maxim for the
wrathful--speak not at all. 'See,' said he, 'I was never married. My
dear friend dies, and leaves me his child to protect and rear; and though
she bears her father's name, she is most wrongly and foully made to share
the blows levelled at her guardian. Ay, have at me, all of you, as much
as you will! Hold off from her. Were it true, the cowardice would be
not a whit the smaller. Why, casting a stone like that, were it the size
of a pebble and the weight of a glance, is to toss the whole cowardly
world on an innocent young girl. And why suspect evil? You talk of that
lady who paid me a visit here once, and whom I treated becomingly, I
swear. I never do otherwise. She was a handsome woman; and what was
she? The housekeeper of Captain Beauchamp's uncle. Hear me, if you
please! To go with the world, I have as good a right to suppose the
worst of an attractive lady in that situation as you regarding my ward:
better warrant for scandalizing, I think; to go with the world.
Cecil checked him, ejaculating, 'Thank you, Dr. Shrapnel; I thank you
most cordially,' with a shining smile. 'Stay, sir! no more. I take my
leave of you. Not another word. No "buts"! I recognize that
conciliation is out of the question: you are the natural protector of
poachers, and you will not grant me an interview with the young lady you
call your ward, that I may represent to her, as a person we presume to
have a chance of moving you, how easily--I am determined you shall hear
me, Dr. Shrapnel!--how easily the position of Captain Beauchamp may
become precarious with his uncle Mr. Romfrey. And let me add--"but" and
"but" me till Doomsday, sir!--if you were--I do hear you, sir, and you
shall hear me--if you were a younger man, I say, I would hold you
answerable to me for your scandalous and disgraceful insinuations.'
Dr. Shrapnel was adroitly fenced and over-shouted. He shrugged,
stuttered, swayed, wagged a bulrush-head, flapped his elbows, puffed like
a swimmer in the breakers, tried many times to expostulate, and finding
the effort useless, for his adversary was copious and commanding,
relapsed, eyeing him as an object far removed.
Cecil rounded one of his perplexingly empty sentences and turned on his
'War, then!' he said.
'As you like,' retorted the doctor.
'Oh! Very good. Good evening.' Cecil slightly lifted his hat, with the
short projection of the head of the stately peacock in its walk, and
passed out of the garden. Lord Palmet, deeply disappointed and
mystified, went after him, leaving Dr. Shrapnel to shorten his garden
walk with enormous long strides.
'I'm afraid you didn't manage the old boy,' Palmet complained. 'They're
people who have tea in their gardens; we might have sat down with them
and talked, the best friends in the world, and come again to-morrow might
have called her Jenny in a week. She didn't show her pretty nose at any
of the windows.'
His companion pooh-poohed and said: 'Foh! I'm afraid I permitted myself
to lose my self-command for a moment.'
Palmet sang out an amorous couplet to console himself. Captain Baskelett
respected the poetic art for its magical power over woman's virtue, but
he disliked hearing verses, and they were ill-suited to Palmet. He
abused his friend roundly, telling him it was contemptible to be quoting
verses. He was irritable still.
He declared himself nevertheless much refreshed by his visit to Dr.
Shrapnel. 'We shall have to sleep tonight in this unhallowed town,
but I needn't be off to Holdesbury in the morning; I've done my business.
I shall write to the baron to-night, and we can cross the water to-morrow
in time for operations.'
The letter to Mr. Romfrey was composed before midnight. It was a long
one, and when he had finished it, Cecil remembered that the act of
composition had been assisted by a cigar in his mouth, and Mr. Romfrey
detested the smell of tobacco. There was nothing to be done but to write
the letter over again, somewhat more briefly: it ran thus:
'Thinking to kill two birds at a blow, I went yesterday with Palmet after
the dinner at this place to Shrapnel's house, where, as I heard, I stood
a chance of catching friend Nevil. The young person living under the
man's protection was absent, and so was the "poor dear commander,"
perhaps attending on his bull. Shrapnel said he was expecting him. I
write to you to confess I thought myself a cleverer fellow than I am. I
talked to Shrapnel and tried hard to reason with him. I hope I can keep
my temper under ordinary circumstances. You will understand that it
required remarkable restraint when I make you acquainted with the fact
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