Beauchamps Career, complete
Part 7 out of 12
that a lady's name was introduced, which, as your representative in
relation to her, I was bound to defend from a gratuitous and scoundrelly
aspersion. Shrapnel's epistle to "brave Beauchamp" is Church
hymnification in comparison with his conversation. He is indubitably one
of the greatest ruffians of his time.
'I took the step with the best of intentions, and all I can plead is that
I am not a diplomatist of sixty. His last word was that he is for war
with us. As far as we men are concerned it is of small importance. I
should think that the sort of society he would scandalize a lady in is
not much to be feared. I have given him his warning. He tops me by
about a head, and loses his temper every two minutes. I could have drawn
him out deliciously if he had not rather disturbed mine. By this time my
equanimity is restored. The only thing I apprehend is your displeasure
with me for having gone to the man. I have done no good, and it prevents
me from running over to Holdesbury to see Nevil, for if "shindy letters,"
as you call them, are bad, shindy meetings are worse. I should be
telling him my opinion of Shrapnel, he would be firing out, I should
retort, he would yell, I should snap my fingers, and he would go into
convulsions. I am convinced that a cattle-breeder ought to keep himself
particularly calm. So unless I have further orders from you I refrain
'The dinner was enthusiastic. I sat three hours among my Commons, they
on me for that length of time--fatiguing, but a duty.'
Cecil subscribed his name with the warmest affection toward his uncle.
The brevity of the second letter had not brought him nearer to the truth
in rescinding the picturesque accessories of his altercation with Dr.
Shrapnel, but it veraciously expressed the sentiments he felt, and that
was the palpable truth for him.
He posted the letter next morning.
SHOWING A CHIVALROUS GENTLEMAN SET IN MOTION
About noon the day following, on board the steam-yacht of the Countess of
Menai, Cecil was very much astonished to see Mr. Romfrey descending into
a boat hard by, from Grancey Lespel's hired cutter. Steam was up, and
the countess was off for a cruise in the Channel, as it was not a race-
day, but seeing Mr. Romfrey's hand raised, she spoke to Cecil, and
immediately gave orders to wait for the boat. This lady was a fervent
admirer of the knightly gentleman, and had reason to like him, for he had
once been her champion. Mr. Romfrey mounted the steps, received her
greeting, and beckoned to Cecil. He carried a gold-headed horsewhip
under his arm. Lady Menai would gladly have persuaded him to be one of
her company for the day's voyage, but he said he had business in
Bevisham, and moving aside with Cecil, put the question to him abruptly:
'What were the words used by Shrapnel?'
'The identical words?' Captain Baskelett asked. He could have tripped
out the words with the fluency of ancient historians relating what great
kings, ambassadors, or Generals may well have uttered on State occasions,
but if you want the identical words, who is to remember them the day
after they have been delivered? He said:
'Well, as for the identical words, I really, and I was tolerably excited,
sir, and upon my honour, the identical words are rather difficult to....'
He glanced at the horsewhip, and pricked by the sight of it to proceed,
thought it good to soften the matter if possible. 'I don't quite
recollect . . . I wrote off to you rather hastily. I think he said--
but Palmet was there.'
'Shrapnel spoke the words before Lord Palmet?' said Mr. Romfrey
Captain Baskelett summoned Palmet to come near, and inquired of him what
he had heard Shrapnel say, suggesting: 'He spoke of a handsome woman for
a housekeeper, and all the world knew her character?'
Mr. Romfrey cleared his throat.
'Or knew she had no character,' Cecil pursued in a fit of gratified
spleen, in scorn of the woman. 'Don't you recollect his accent in
The menacing thunder sounded from Mr. Romfrey. He was patient in
appearance, and waited for Cecil's witness to corroborate the evidence.
It happened (and here we are in one of the circles of small things
producing great consequences, which have inspired diminutive philosophers
with ironical visions of history and the littleness of man), it happened
that Lord Palmet, the humanest of young aristocrats, well-disposed toward
the entire world, especially to women, also to men in any way related to
pretty women, had just lit a cigar, and it was a cigar that he had been
recommended to try the flavour of; and though he, having his wits about
him, was fully aware that shipboard is no good place for a trial of the
delicacy of tobacco in the leaf, he had begun puffing and sniffing in a
critical spirit, and scarcely knew for the moment what to decide as to
this particular cigar. He remembered, however, Mr. Romfrey's objection
to tobacco. Imagining that he saw the expression of a profound distaste
in that gentleman's more than usually serious face, he hesitated between
casting the cigar into the water and retaining it. He decided upon the
latter course, and held the cigar behind his back, bowing to Mr. Romfrey
at about a couple of yards distance, and saying to Cecil, 'Housekeeper;
yes, I remember hearing housekeeper. I think so. Housekeeper? yes, oh
'And handsome housekeepers were doubtful characters,' Captain Baskelett
Palmet laughed out a single 'Ha!' that seemed to excuse him for
lounging away to the forepart of the vessel, where he tugged at his fine
specimen of a cigar to rekindle it, and discharged it with a wry grimace,
so delicate is the flavour of that weed, and so adversely ever is it
affected by a breeze and a moist atmosphere. He could then return
undivided in his mind to Mr. Romfrey and Cecil, but the subject was not
resumed in his presence.
The Countess of Menai steamed into Bevisham to land Mr. Romfrey there.
'I can be out in the Channel any day; it is not every day that I see
you,' she said, in support of her proposal to take him over.
They sat together conversing, apart from the rest of the company, until
they sighted Bevisham, when Mr. Romfrey stood up, and a little crowd of
men came round him to enjoy his famous racy talk. Captain Baskelett
offered to land with him. He declined companionship. Dropping her hand
in his, the countess asked him what he had to do in that town, and he
replied, 'I have to demand an apology.'
Answering the direct look of his eyes, she said, 'Oh, I shall not speak
In his younger days, if the rumour was correct, he had done the same on
He stepped into the boat, and presently they saw him mount the pier-
steps, with the riding-whip under his arm, his head more than commonly
bent, a noticeable point in a man of his tall erect figure. The ladies
and some of the gentlemen thought he was looking particularly grave, even
Lady Menai inquired of Captain Baskelett whether he knew the nature of
his uncle's business in Bevisham, the town he despised.
What could Cecil say but no? His uncle had not imparted it to him.
She was flattered in being the sole confidante, and said no more.
The sprightly ingenuity of Captain Baskelett's mind would have informed
him of the nature of his uncle's expedition, we may be sure, had he put
it to the trial; for Mr. Romfrey was as plain to read as a rudimentary
sum in arithmetic, and like the tracings of a pedigree-map his
preliminary steps to deeds were seen pointing on their issue in lines of
straight descent. But Cecil could protest that he was not bound to know,
and considering that he was neither bound to know nor to speculate, he
determined to stand on his right. So effectually did he accomplish the
task, that he was frequently surprised during the evening and the night
by the effervescence of a secret exultation rising imp-like within him,
that was, he assured himself, perfectly unaccountable.
AN EFFORT TO CONQUER CECILIA IN BEAUCHAMP'S FASHION
The day after Mr. Romfrey's landing in Bevisham a full South-wester
stretched the canvas of yachts of all classes, schooner, cutter and yawl,
on the lively green water between the island and the forest shore.
Cecilia's noble schooner was sure to be out in such a ringing breeze, for
the pride of it as well as the pleasure. She landed her father at the
Club steps, and then bore away Eastward to sight a cutter race, the
breeze beginning to stiffen. Looking back against sun and wind, she saw
herself pursued by a saucy little 15-ton craft that had been in her track
since she left the Otley river before noon, dipping and straining, with
every inch of sail set; as mad a stern chase as ever was witnessed: and
who could the man at the tiller, clad cap-A-pie in tarpaulin, be? She
led him dancing away, to prove his resoluteness and laugh at him. She
had the powerful wings, and a glory in them coming of this pursuit: her
triumph was delicious, until the occasional sparkle of the tarpaulin was
lost, the small boat appeared a motionless object far behind, and all
ahead of her exceedingly dull, though the race hung there and the crowd
Cecilia's transient flutter of coquettry created by the animating air and
her queenly flight was over. She fled splendidly and she came back
graciously. But he refused her open hand, as it were. He made as if to
stand across her tack, and, reconsidering it, evidently scorned his
advantage and challenged the stately vessel for a beat up against the
wind. It was as pretty as a Court minuet. But presently Cecilia stood
too far on one tack, and returning to the centre of the channel, found
herself headed by seamanship. He waved an ironical salute with his
sou'wester. Her retort consisted in bringing her vessel to the wind, and
sending a boat for him.
She did it on the impulse; had she consulted her wishes she would rather
have seen him at his post, where he seemed in his element, facing the
spray and cunningly calculating to get wind and tide in his favour.
Partly with regret she saw him, stripped of his tarpaulin, jump into her
boat, as though she had once more to say farewell to sailor Nevil
Beauchamp; farewell the bright youth, the hero, the true servant of his
That feeling of hers changed when he was on board. The stirring cordial
day had put new breath in him.
'Should not the flag be dipped?' he said, looking up at the peak, where
the white flag streamed.
'Can you really mistake compassion for defeat?' said she, with a smile.
'Oh! before the wind of course I hadn't a chance.'
'How could you be so presumptuous as to give chase? And who has lent you
that little cutter?'
Beauchamp had hired her for a month, and he praised her sailing, and
pretended to say that the race was not always to the strong in a stiff
'But in point' of fact I was bent on trying how my boat swims, and had no
idea of overhauling you. To-day our salt-water lake is as fine as the
'Omitting the islands and the Mediterranean colour, it is. I have often
told you how I love it. I have landed papa at the Club. Are you aware
that we meet you at Steynham the day after to-morrow?'
'Well, we can ride on the downs. The downs between three and four of a
summer's morning are as lovely as anything in the world. They have the
softest outlines imaginable . . . and remind me of a friend's upper
lip when she deigns to smile.'
'Is one to rise at that hour to behold the effect? And let me remind you
further, Nevil, that the comparison of nature's minor work beside her
mighty is an error, if you will be poetical.'
She cited a well-known instance of degradation in verse.
But a young man who happens to be intimately acquainted with a certain
'dark eye in woman' will not so lightly be brought to consider that the
comparison of tempestuous night to the flashing of those eyes of hers
topples the scene headlong from grandeur. And if Beauchamp remembered
rightly, the scene was the Alps at night.
He was prepared to contest Cecilia's judgement. At that moment the
breeze freshened and the canvas lifted from due South the yacht swung her
sails to drive toward the West, and Cecilia's face and hair came out
golden in the sunlight. Speech was difficult, admiration natural, so he
sat beside her, admiring in silence.
She said a good word for the smartness of his little yacht.
'This is my first trial of her,' said Beauchamp. 'I hired her chiefly to
give Dr. Shrapnel a taste of salt air. I 've no real right to be idling
about. His ward Miss Denham is travelling in Switzerland; the dear old
man is alone, and not quite so well as I should wish. Change of scene
will do him good. I shall land him on the French coast for a couple of
days, or take him down Channel.'
Cecilia gazed abstractedly at a passing schooner.
'He works too hard,' said Beauchamp.
Some one else whom we have heard of works too hard, and it would be happy
for mankind if he did not.
Cecilia named the schooner; an American that had beaten our crack yachts.
Beauchamp sprang up to spy at the American.
'That's the Corinne, is she!'
Yankee craftiness on salt water always excited his respectful attention
as a spectator.
'And what is the name of your boat, Nevil?'
'The fool of an owner calls her the Petrel. It's not that I'm
superstitious, but to give a boat a name of bad augury to sailors appears
to me . . . however, I 've argued it with him and I will have her
called the Curlew. Carrying Dr. Shrapnel and me, Petrel would be thought
the proper title for her isn't that your idea?'
He laughed and she smiled, and then he became overcast with his political
face, and said, 'I hope--I believe--you will alter your opinion of him.
Can it be an opinion when it's founded on nothing? You know really
nothing of him. I have in my pocket what I believe would alter your mind
about him entirely. I do think so; and I think so because I feel you
would appreciate his deep sincerity and real nobleness.'
'Is it a talisman that you have, Nevil?'
'No, it's a letter.'
Cecilia's cheeks took fire.
'I should so much like to read it to you,' said he.
'Do not, please,' she replied with a dash of supplication in her voice.
'Not the whole of it--an extract here and there? I want you so much to
'I am sure I should not.'
'Let me try you!'
'Pray do not.'
'Merely to show you...'
'But, Nevil, I do not wish to understand him.'
'But you have only to listen for a few minutes, and I want you to know
what good reason I have to reverence him as a teacher and a friend.'
Cecilia looked at Beauchamp with wonder. A confused recollection of the
contents of the letter declaimed at Mount Laurels in Captain Baskelett's
absurd sing-song, surged up in her mind revoltingly. She signified a
decided negative. Something of a shudder accompanied the expression of
But he as little as any member of the Romfrey blood was framed to let the
word no stand quietly opposed to him. And the no that a woman utters!
It calls for wholesome tyranny. Those old, those hoar-old duellists, Yes
and No, have rarely been better matched than in Beauchamp and Cecilia.
For if he was obstinate in attack she had great resisting power. Twice
to listen to that letter was beyond her endurance. Indeed it cast a
shadow on him and disfigured him; and when, affecting to plead, he said:
'You must listen to it to please me, for my sake, Cecilia,' she answered:
'It is for your sake, Nevil, I decline to.'
'Why, what do you know of it?' he exclaimed.
'I know the kind of writing it would be.'
'How do you know it?'
'I have heard of some of Dr. Shrapnel's opinions.'
'You imagine him to be subversive, intolerant, immoral, and the rest!
all that comes under your word revolutionary.'
'Possibly; but I must defend myself from hearing what I know will be
certain to annoy me.'
'But he is the reverse of immoral: and I intend to read you parts of the
letter to prove to you that he is not the man you would blame, but I, and
that if ever I am worthier . . . worthier of you, as I hope to become,
it will be owing to this admirable and good old man.'
Cecilia trembled: she was touched to the quick. Yet it was not pleasant
to her to be wooed obliquely, through Dr. Shrapnel.
She recognized the very letter, crowned with many stamps, thick with many
pages, in Beauchamp's hands.
'When you are at Steynham you will probably hear my uncle Everard's
version of this letter,' he said. 'The baron chooses to think everything
fair in war, and the letter came accidentally into his hands with the
seal broken; well, he read it. And, Cecilia, you can fancy the sort of
stuff he would make of it. Apart from that, I want you particularly to
know how much I am indebted to Dr. Shrapnel. Won't you learn to like him
a little? Won't you tolerate him?--I could almost say, for my sake! He
and I are at variance on certain points, but taking him altogether, I am
under deeper obligations to him than to any man on earth. He has found
where I bend and waver.'
'I recognize your chivalry, Nevil.'
'He has done his best to train me to be of some service. Where's the
chivalry in owning a debt? He is one of our true warriors; fearless and
blameless. I have had my heroes before. You know how I loved Robert
Hall: his death is a gap in my life. He is a light for fighting
Englishmen--who fight with the sword. But the scale of the war, the
cause, and the end in view, raise Dr. Shrapnel above the bravest I have
ever had the luck to meet. Soldiers and sailors have their excitement to
keep them up to the mark; praise and rewards. He is in his eight-and-
sixtieth year, and he has never received anything but obloquy for his
pains. Half of the small fortune he has goes in charities and
subscriptions. Will that touch you? But I think little of that, and so
does he. Charity is a common duty. The dedication of a man's life and
whole mind to a cause, there's heroism. I wish I were eloquent; I wish I
could move you.'
Cecilia turned her face to him. 'I listen to you with pleasure, Nevil;
but please do not read the letter.'
'Yes; a paragraph or two I must read.'
He was promptly by her side. 'If I say I ask you for one sign that you
care for me in some degree?'
'I have not for a moment ceased to be your friend, Nevil, since I was a
'But if you allow yourself to be so prejudiced against my best friend
that you will not hear a word of his writing, are you friendly?'
'Feminine, and obstinate,' said Cecilia.
'Give me your eyes an instant. I know you think me reckless and lawless:
now is not that true? You doubt whether, if a lady gave me her hand I
should hold to it in perfect faith. Or, perhaps not that: but you do
suspect I should be capable of every sophism under the sun to persuade a
woman to break her faith, if it suited me: supposing some passion to be
at work. Men who are open to passion have to be taught reflection before
they distinguish between the woman they should sue for love because she
would be their best mate, and the woman who has thrown a spell on them.
Now, what I beg you to let me read you in this letter is a truth nobly
stated that has gone into my blood, and changed me. It cannot fail, too,
in changeing your opinion of Dr. Shrapnel. It makes me wretched that you
should be divided from me in your ideas of him. I, you see--and I
confess I think it my chief title to honour--reverence him.'
'I regret that I am unable to utter the words of Ruth,' said Cecilia, in
a low voice. She felt rather tremulously; opposed only to the letter and
the writer of it, not at all to Beauchamp, except on account of his
idolatry of the wicked revolutionist. Far from having a sense of
opposition to Beauchamp; she pitied him for his infatuation, and in her
lofty mental serenity she warmed to him for the seeming boyishness of his
constant and extravagant worship of the man, though such an enthusiasm
cast shadows on his intellect.
He was reading a sentence of the letter.
'I hear nothing but the breeze, Nevil,' she said.
The breeze fluttered the letter-sheets: they threatened to fly. Cecilia
stepped two paces away.
'Hark; there is a military band playing on the pier,' said she. 'I am so
fond of hearing music a little off shore.'
Beauchamp consigned the letter to his pocket.
'You are not offended, Nevil?'
'Dear me, no. You haven't a mind for tonics, that's all.'
'Healthy persons rarely have,' she remarked, and asked him, smiling
softly, whether he had a mind for music.
His insensibility to music was curious, considering how impressionable he
was to verse, and to songs of birds. He listened with an oppressed look,
as to something the particular secret of which had to be reached by a
determined effort of sympathy for those whom it affected. He liked it if
she did, and said he liked it, reiterated that he liked it, clearly
trying hard to comprehend it, as unmoved by the swell and sigh of the
resonant brass as a man could be, while her romantic spirit thrilled to
it, and was bountiful in glowing visions and in tenderness.
There hung her hand. She would not have refused to yield it. The hero
of her childhood, the friend of her womanhood, and her hero still, might
have taken her with half a word.
Beauchamp was thinking: She can listen to that brass band, and she shuts
her ears to this letter:
The reading of it would have been a prelude to the opening of his heart
to her, at the same time that it vindicated his dear and honoured master,
as he called Dr. Shrapnel. To speak, without the explanation of his
previous reticence which this letter would afford, seemed useless: even
the desire to speak was absent, passion being absent.
'I see papa; he is getting into a boat with some one,' said Cecilia, and
gave orders for the yacht to stand in toward the Club steps. 'Do you
know, Nevil, the Italian common people are not so subject to the charm of
music as other races? They have more of the gift, and I think less of
the feeling. You do not hear much music in Italy. I remember in the
year of Revolution there was danger of a rising in some Austrian city,
and a colonel of a regiment commanded his band to play. The mob was put
in good humour immediately.'
'It's a soporific,' said Beauchamp.
'You would not rather have had them rise to be slaughtered?'
'Would you have them waltzed into perpetual servility?'
Cecilia hummed, and suggested: 'If one can have them happy in any way?'
'Then the day of destruction may almost be dated.'
'Nevil, your terrible view of life must be false.'
'I make it out worse to you than to any one else, because I want our
minds to be united.'
'Give me a respite now and then.'
'With all my heart. And forgive me for beating my drum. I see what
others don't see, or else I feel it more; I don't know; but it appears to
me our country needs rousing if it's to live. There 's a division
between poor and rich that you have no conception of, and it can't safely
be left unnoticed. I've done.'
He looked at her and saw tears on her under-lids.
'My dearest Cecilia!'
'Music makes me childish,' said she.
Her father was approaching in the boat. Beside him sat the Earl of
Lockrace, latterly classed among the suitors of the lady of Mount
A few minutes remained to Beauchamp of his lost opportunity. Instead of
seizing them with his usual promptitude, he let them slip, painfully
mindful of his treatment of her last year after the drive into Bevisham,
when she was England, and Renee holiday France.
This feeling he fervently translated into the reflection that the bride
who would bring him beauty and wealth, and her especial gift of tender
womanliness, was not yet so thoroughly mastered as to grant her husband
his just prevalence with her, or even indeed his complete independence of
action, without which life itself was not desireable.
Colonel Halkett stared at Beauchamp as if he had risen from the deep.
'Have you been in that town this morning?' was one of his first
questions to him when he stood on board.
'I came through it,' said Beauchamp, and pointed to his little cutter
labouring in the distance. 'She's mine for a month; I came from
Holdesbury to try her; and then he stated how he had danced attendance on
the schooner for a couple of hours before any notice was taken of him,
and Cecilia with her graceful humour held up his presumption to scorn.
Her father was eyeing Beauchamp narrowly, and appeared troubled.
'Did you see Mr. Romfrey yesterday, or this morning?' the colonel asked
him, mentioning that Mr. Romfrey had been somewhere about the island
yesterday, at which Beauchamp expressed astonishment, for his uncle
Everard seldom visited a yachting station.
Colonel Halkett exchanged looks with Cecilia. Hers were inquiring, and
he confirmed her side-glance at Beauchamp. She raised her brows; he
nodded, to signify that there was gravity in the case. Here the
signalling stopped short; she had to carry on a conversation with Lord
Lockrace, one of those men who betray the latent despot in an exhibition
of discontentment unless they have all a lady's hundred eyes attentive to
At last Beauchamp quitted the vessel.
When he was out of hearing, Colonel Halkett said to Cecilia: 'Grancey
Lespel tells me that Mr. Romfrey called on the man Shrapnel yesterday
evening at six o'clock.'
'Now come and see the fittings below,' the colonel addressed Lord
Lockrace, and murmured to his daughter:
'And soundly horsewhipped him!'
Cecilia turned on the instant to gaze after Nevil Beauchamp. She could
have wept for pity. Her father's emphasis on 'soundly' declared an
approval of the deed, and she was chilled by a sickening abhorrence and
dread of the cruel brute in men, such as, awakened by she knew not what,
had haunted her for a year of her girlhood.
'And he deserved it!' the colonel pursued, on emerging from the cabin at
Lord Lockrace's heels. 'I've no doubt he richly deserved it. The writer
of that letter we heard Captain Baskelett read the other day deserves the
very worst he gets.'
'Baskelett bored the Club the other night with a letter of a Radical
fellow,' said Lord Lockrace. 'Men who write that stuff should be strung
up and whipped by the common hangman.'
'It was a private letter,' said Cecilia.
'Public or private, Miss Halkett.'
Her mind flew back to Seymour Austin for the sense of stedfastness when
she heard such language as this, which, taken in conjunction with Dr.
Shrapnel's, seemed to uncloak our Constitutional realm and show it
boiling up with the frightful elements of primitive societies.
'I suppose we are but half civilized,' she said.
'If that,' said the earl.
Colonel Halkett protested that he never could quite make out what
Radicals were driving at.
'The rents,' Lord Lockrace observed in the conclusive tone of brevity.
He did not stay very long.
The schooner was boarded subsequently by another nobleman, an Admiral of
the Fleet and ex-minister of the Whig Government, Lord Croyston, who was
a friend of Mr. Romfrey's, and thought well of Nevil Beauchamp as a
seaman and naval officer, but shook an old head over him as a politician.
He came to beg a passage across the water to his marine Lodge, an
accident having happened early in the morning to his yacht, the Lady
Violet. He was able to communicate the latest version of the
horsewhipping of Dr. Shrapnel, from which it appeared that after Mr.
Romfrey had handsomely flogged the man he flung his card on the prostrate
body, to let men know who was responsible for the act. He expected that
Mr. Romfrey would be subjected to legal proceedings. 'But if there's a
pleasure worth paying for it's the trouncing of a villain,' said he; and
he had been informed that Dr. Shrapnel was a big one. Lord Croyston's
favourite country residence was in the neighbourhood of old Mrs.
Beauchamp, on the Upper Thames. Speaking of Nevil Beauchamp a second
time, he alluded to his relations with his great-aunt, said his prospects
were bad, that she had interdicted her house to him, and was devoted to
her other great-nephew.
'And so she should be,' said Colonel Halkett. 'That's a young man who's
an Englishman without French gunpowder notions in his head. He works for
us down at the mine in Wales a good part of the year, and has tided us
over a threatening strike there: gratuitously: I can't get him to accept
anything. I can't think why he does it.'
'He'll have plenty,' said Lord Croyston, levelling his telescope to sight
the racing cutters.
Cecilia fancied she descried Nevil's Petrel, dubbed Curlew, to Eastward,
and had a faint gladness in the thought that his knowledge of his uncle
Everard's deed of violence would be deferred for another two or three
She tried to persuade her father to wait for Nevil, and invite him to
dine at Mount Laurels, and break the news to him gently. Colonel Halkett
argued that in speaking of the affair he should certainly not commiserate
the man who had got his deserts, and saying this he burst into a petty
fury against the epistle of Dr. Shrapnel, which appeared to be growing
more monstrous in proportion to his forgetfulness of the details, as
mountains gather vastness to the eye at a certain remove. Though he
could not guess the reason for Mr. Romfrey's visit to Bevisham, he was,
he said, quite prepared to maintain that Mr. Romfrey had a perfect
justification for his conduct.
Cecilia hinted at barbarism. The colonel hinted at high police duties
that gentlemen were sometimes called on to perform for the protection of
society. 'In defiance of its laws?' she asked; and he answered: 'Women
must not be judging things out of their sphere,' with the familiar accent
on 'women' which proves their inferiority. He was rarely guilty of it
toward his daughter. Evidently he had resolved to back Mr. Romfrey
blindly. That epistle of Dr. Shrapnel's merited condign punishment and
had met with it, he seemed to rejoice in saying: and this was his
abstract of the same: 'An old charlatan who tells his dupe to pray every
night of his life for the beheading of kings and princes, and scattering
of the clergy, and disbanding the army, that he and his rabble may fall
upon the wealthy, and show us numbers win; and he'll undertake to make
'I wish we were not going to Steynham,' said Cecilia.
'So do I. Well, no, I don't,' the colonel corrected himself, 'no; it 's
an engagement. I gave my consent so far. We shall see whether Nevil
Beauchamp's a man of any sense.'
Her heart sank. This was as much as to let her know that if Nevil broke
with his uncle, the treaty of union between the two families, which her
father submitted to entertain out of consideration for Mr. Romfrey, would
be at an end.
The wind had fallen. Entering her river, Cecilia gazed back at the
smooth broad water, and the band of golden beams flung across it from the
evening sun over the forest. No little cutter was visible. She could
not write to Nevil to bid him come and concert with her in what spirit to
encounter his uncle Everard at Steynham. And guests would be at Mount
Laurels next day; Lord Lockrace, Lord Croyston, and the Lespels; she
could not drive down to Bevisham on the chance of seeing him. Nor was it
to be acknowledged even to herself that she so greatly desired to see him
and advise him. Why not? Because she was one of the artificial
creatures called women (with the accent) who dare not be spontaneous, and
cannot act independently if they would continue to be admirable in the
world's eye, and who for that object must remain fixed on shelves, like
other marketable wares, avoiding motion to avoid shattering or
tarnishing. This is their fate, only in degree less inhuman than that of
Hellenic and Trojan princesses offered up to the Gods, or pretty slaves
to the dealers. Their artificiality is at once their bane and their
source of superior pride.
Seymour Austin might have reason for seeking to emancipate them, she
thought, and blushed in thought that she could never be learning anything
but from her own immediate sensations.
Of course it was in her power to write to Beauchamp, just as it had been
in his to speak to her, but the fire was wanting in her blood and absent
from his mood, so they were kept apart.
Her father knew as little as she what was the positive cause of Mr.
Romfrey's chastisement of Dr. Shrapnel. 'Cause enough, I don't doubt,'
he said, and cited the mephitic letter.
Cecilia was not given to suspicions, or she would have had them kindled
by a certain wilfulness in his incessant reference to the letter, and
exoneration, if not approval, of Mr. Romfrey's conduct.
How did that chivalrous gentleman justify himself for condescending to
such an extreme as the use of personal violence? Was there a possibility
of his justifying it to Nevil? She was most wretched in her reiteration
of these inquiries, for, with a heart subdued, she had still a mind whose
habit of independent judgement was not to be constrained, and while she
felt that it was only by siding with Nevil submissively and blindly in
this lamentable case that she could hope for happiness, she foresaw the
likelihood of her not being able to do so as much as he would desire and
demand. This she took for the protest of her pure reason. In reality,
grieved though she was on account of that Dr. Shrapnel, her captive heart
resented the anticipated challenge to her to espouse his cause or
THE FIRST ENCOUNTER AT STEYNHAM
The judge pronouncing sentence of condemnation on the criminal is
proverbially a sorrowfully-minded man; and still more would he be so had
he to undertake the part of executioner as well. This is equivalent to
saying that the simple pleasures are no longer with us; it must be a
personal enemy now to give us any satisfaction in chastising and slaying.
Perhaps by-and-by that will be savourless: we degenerate. There is,
nevertheless, ever (and let nature be praised for it) a strong
sustainment in the dutiful exertion of our physical energies, and Mr.
Everard Romfrey experienced it after he had fulfilled his double office
on the person of Dr. Shrapnel by carrying out his own decree. His
conscience approved him cheerlessly, as it is the habit of that secret
monitor to do when we have no particular advantage coming of the act we
have performed; but the righteous labour of his arm gave him high
breathing and an appetite.
He foresaw that he and Nevil would soon be having a wrestle over the
matter, hand and thigh; but a gentleman in the right engaged with a
fellow in the wrong has nothing to apprehend; is, in fact, in the
position of a game-preserver with a poacher. The nearest approach to
gratification in that day's work which Mr. Romfrey knew was offered by
the picture of Nevil's lamentable attitude above his dirty idol. He
conceived it in the mock-mediaeval style of our caricaturists:--Shrapnel
stretched at his length, half a league, in slashed yellows and blacks,
with his bauble beside him, and prodigious pointed toes; Nevil in parti-
coloured tights, on one leg, raising his fists in imprecation to a nose
in the firmament.
Gentlemen of an unpractised imaginative capacity cannot vision for
themselves exactly what they would, being unable to exercise authority
over the proportions and the hues of the objects they conceive, which are
very much at the mercy of their sportive caprices; and the state of mind
of Mr. Romfrey is not to be judged by his ridiculous view of the pair.
In the abstract he could be sorry for Shrapnel. As he knew himself
magnanimous, he promised himself to be forbearing with Nevil.
Moreover, the month of September was drawing nigh; he had plenty to think
of. The entire land (signifying all but all of those who occupy the
situation of thinkers in it) may be said to have been exhaling the same
thought in connection with September. Our England holds possession of a
considerable portion of the globe, and it keeps the world in awe to see
her bestowing so considerable a portion of her intelligence upon her
recreations. To prosecute them with her whole heart is an ingenious
exhibition of her power. Mr. Romfrey was of those who said to his
countrymen, 'Go yachting; go cricketing; go boat-racing; go shooting; go
horseracing, nine months of the year, while the other Europeans go
marching and drilling.' Those occupations he considered good for us; and
our much talking, writing, and thinking about them characteristic, and
therefore good. And he was not one of those who do penance for that
sweating indolence in the fits of desperate panic. Beauchamp's argument
that the rich idler begets the idling vagabond, the rich wagerer the
brutal swindler, the general thirst for a mad round of recreation a
generally-increasing disposition to avoid serious work, and the unbraced
moral tone of the country an indifference to national responsibility (an
argument doubtless extracted from Shrapnel, talk tall as the very
demagogue when he stood upright), Mr. Romfrey laughed at scornfully,
affirming that our manufactures could take care of themselves. As for
invasion, we are circled by the sea. Providence has done that for us,
and may be relied on to do more in an emergency.--The children of wealth
and the children of the sun alike believe that Providence is for them,
and it would seem that the former can do without it less than the latter,
though the former are less inclined to give it personification.
This year, however, the array of armaments on the Continent made Mr.
Romfrey anxious about our navy. Almost his first topic in welcoming
Colonel Halkett and Cecilia to Steynham was the rottenness of navy
administration; for if Providence is to do anything for us it must have a
sea-worthy fleet for the operation. How loudly would his contemptuous
laughter have repudiated the charge that he trusted to supernatural
agency for assistance in case of need! But so it was: and he owned to
believing in English luck. Partly of course he meant that steady fire of
combat which his countrymen have got heated to of old till fortune
'Nevil is not here?' the colonel asked.
'No, I suspect he's gruelling and plastering a doctor of his
acquaintance,' Mr. Romfrey said, with his nasal laugh composed of scorn
'Yes, yes, I've heard,' said Colonel Halkett hastily.
He would have liked to be informed of Dr. Shrapnel's particular offence:
he mentioned the execrable letter.
Mr. Romfrey complacently interjected: 'Drug-vomit!' and after an
'That man has done Nevil Beauchamp a world of mischief, Romfrey.'
'We'll hope for a cure, colonel.'
'Did the man come across you?'
Mr. Romfrey was mute on the subject. Colonel Halkett abstained from
pushing his inquiries.
Cecilia could only tell her father when they were alone in the drawing-
room a few minutes before dinner that Mrs. Culling was entirely ignorant
of any cause to which Nevil's absence might be attributed.
'Mr. Romfrey had good cause,' the colonel said, emphatically.
He repeated it next day, without being a bit wiser of the cause.
Cecilia's happiness or hope was too sensitive to allow of a beloved
father's deceiving her in his opposition to it.
She saw clearly now that he had fastened on this miserable incident,
expecting an imbroglio that would divide Nevil and his uncle, and be an
excuse for dividing her and Nevil. O for the passionate will to make
head against what appeared as a fate in this matter! She had it not.
Mr. and Mrs. Wardour-Devereux, Sir John and Lady Baskelett, and the
Countess of Welshpool, another sister of Mr. Romfrey's, arrived at
Steynham for a day and a night. Lady Baskelett and Lady Welshpool came
to see their brother, not to countenance his household; and Mr. Wardour-
Devereux could not stay longer than a certain number of hours under a
roof where tobacco was in evil odour. From her friend Louise, his wife,
Cecilia learnt that Mr. Lydiard had been summoned to Dr. Shrapnel's
bedside, as Mrs. Devereux knew by a letter she had received from Mr.
Lydiard, who was no political devotee of that man, she assured Cecilia,
but had an extraordinary admiration for the Miss Denham living with him.
This was kindly intended to imply that Beauchamp was released from his
attendance on Dr. Shrapnel, and also that it was not he whom the Miss
'She is in Switzerland,' said Cecilia.
'She is better there,' said Mrs. Devereux.
Mr. Stukely Culbrett succeeded to these visitors. He heard of the case
of Dr. Shrapnel from Colonel Halkett, and of Beauchamp's missing of his
chance with the heiress from Mr. Romfrey.
Rosamund Culling was in great perplexity about Beauchamp's prolonged
absence; for he had engaged to come, he had written to her to say he
would be sure to come; and she feared he was ill. She would have
persuaded Mr. Culbrett to go down to Bevisham to see him: she declared
that she could even persuade herself to call on Dr. Shrapnel a second
time, in spite of her horror of the man. Her anger at the thought of his
keeping Nevil away from good fortune and happiness caused her to speak in
resentment and loathing of the man.
'He behaved badly when you saw him, did he?' said Stukely.
'Badly, is no word. He is detestable,' Rosamund replied.
'You think he ought to be whipped?'
She feigned an extremity of vindictiveness, and twisted her brows in
comic apology for the unfeminine sentiment, as she said: 'I really do.'
The feminine gentleness of her character was known to Stukely, so she
could afford to exaggerate the expression of her anger, and she did not
modify it, forgetful that a woman is the representative of the sex with
cynical men, and escapes from contempt at the cost of her sisterhood.
Looking out of an upper window in the afternoon she beheld Nevil
Beauchamp in a group with his uncle Everard, the colonel and Cecilia, and
Mr. Culbrett. Nevil was on his feet; the others were seated under the
great tulip-tree on the lawn.
A little observation of them warned her that something was wrong. There
was a vacant chair; Nevil took it in his hand at times, stamped it to the
ground, walked away and sharply back fronting his uncle, speaking
vehemently, she perceived, and vainly, as she judged by the cast of his
uncle's figure. Mr. Romfrey's head was bent, and wagged slightly, as he
screwed his brows up and shot his eyes, queerly at the agitated young
man. Colonel Halkett's arms crossed his chest. Cecilia's eyelids
drooped their, lashes. Mr. Culbrett was balancing on the hind-legs of
his chair. No one appeared to be speaking but Nevil.
It became evident that Nevil was putting a series of questions to his
uncle. Mechanical nods were given him in reply.
Presently Mr. Romfrey rose, thundering out a word or two, without a
Colonel Halkett rose.
Nevil flung his hand out straight to the house.
Mr. Romfrey seemed to consent; the colonel shook his head: Nevil
A footman carrying a tea-tray to Miss Halkett received some commission
and swiftly disappeared, making Rosamund wonder whether sugar, milk or
cream had been omitted.
She met him on the first landing, and heard that Mr. Romfrey requested
her to step out on the lawn.
Expecting to hear of a piece of misconduct on the part of the household
servants, she hurried forth, and found that she had to traverse the whole
space of the lawn up to the tuliptree. Colonel Halkett and Mr. Romfrey
had resumed their seats. The colonel stood up and bowed to her.
Mr. Romfrey said: 'One question to you, ma'am, and you shall not be
detained. Did not that man Shrapnel grossly insult you on the day you
called on him to see Captain Beauchamp about a couple of months before
'Look at me when you speak, ma'am,' said Beauchamp.
Rosamund looked at him.
The whiteness of his face paralyzed her tongue. A dreadful levelling of
his eyes penetrated and chilled her. Instead of thinking of her answer
she thought of what could possibly have happened.
'Did he insult you at all, ma'am?' said Beauchamp.
Mr. Romfrey reminded him that he was not a cross-examining criminal
They waited for her to speak.
She hesitated, coloured, betrayed confusion; her senses telling her of a
catastrophe, her conscience accusing her as the origin of it.
'Did Dr. Shrapnel, to your belief, intentionally hurt your feelings or
your dignity?' said Beauchamp, and made the answer easier:
'Not intentionally, surely: not . . . I certainly do not accuse him.'
'Can you tell me you feel that he wounded you in the smallest degree?
And if so, how? I ask you this, because he is anxious, if he lives, to
apologize to you for any offence that he may have been guilty of: he was
ignorant of it. I have his word for that, and his commands to me to bear
it to you. I may tell you I have never known him injure the most feeble
thing--anything alive, or wish to.'
Beauchamp's voice choked. Rosamund saw tears leap out of the stern face
of her dearest now in wrath with her.
'Is he ill?' she faltered.
'He is. You own to a strong dislike of him, do you not?'
'But not to desire any harm to him.'
'Not a whipping,' Mr. Culbrett murmured.
Everard Romfrey overheard it.
He had allowed Mrs. Culling to be sent for, that she might with a bare
affirmative silence Nevil, when his conduct was becoming intolerable
before the guests of the house.
'That will do, ma'am,' he dismissed her.
Beauchamp would not let her depart.
'I must have your distinct reply, and in Mr. Romfrey's presence:--say,
that if you accused him you were mistaken, or that they were mistaken who
supposed you had accused him. I must have the answer before you go.'
'Sir, will you learn manners!' Mr. Romfrey said to him, with a rattle of
Beauchamp turned his face from-her.
Colonel Halkett offered her his arm to lead her away.
'What is it? Oh, what is it?' she whispered, scarcely able to walk, but
declining the colonel's arm.
'You ought not to have been dragged out here,' said he. 'Any one might
have known there would be no convincing of Captain Beauchamp. That old
rascal in Bevisham has been having a beating; that's all. And a very
beautiful day it is!--a little too hot, though. Before we leave, you
must give me a lesson or two in gardening.'
'Dr. Shrapnel--Mr. Romfrey!' said Rosamund half audibly under the
oppression of the more she saw than what she said.
The colonel talked of her renown in landscape-gardening. He added
casually: 'They met the other day.'
'By chance, I suppose. Shrapnel defends one of your Steynham poaching
'Mr. Romfrey struck him?--for that? Oh, never!' Rosamund exclaimed.
'I suppose he had a long account to settle.'
She fetched her breath painfully. 'I shall never be forgiven.'
'And I say that a gentleman has no business with idols,' the colonel
fumed as he spoke. 'Those letters of Shrapnel to Nevil Beauchamp are a
scandal on the name of Englishman.'
'You have read that shocking one, Colonel Halkett?'
'Captain Baskelett read it out to us.'
'He? Oh! then . . .' She stopped:--Then the author of this mischief
is clear to me! her divining hatred of Cecil would have said, but her
humble position did not warrant such speech. A consideration of the
lowliness necessitating this restraint at a moment when loudly to
denounce another's infamy with triumphant insight would have solaced and
supported her, kept Rosamund dumb.
She could not bear to think of her part in the mischief.
She was not bound to think of it, knowing actually nothing of the
Still she felt that she was on her trial. She detected herself running
in and out of her nature to fortify it against accusations rather than
cleanse it for inspection. It was narrowing in her own sight. The
prospect of her having to submit to a further interrogatory, shut it up
entrenched in the declaration that Dr. Shrapnel had so far outraged her
sentiments as to be said to have offended her: not insulted, perhaps, but
And this was a generous distinction. It was generous; and, having
recognized the generosity, she was unable to go beyond it.
She was presently making the distinction to Miss Halkett. The colonel
had left her at the door of the house: Miss Halkett sought admission to
her private room on an errand of condolence, for she had sympathized with
her very much in the semi-indignity Nevil had forced her to undergo: and
very little indeed had she been able to sympathize with Nevil, who had
been guilty of the serious fault of allowing himself to appear moved by
his own commonplace utterances; or, in other words, the theme being
hostile to his audience, he had betrayed emotion over it without first
evoking the spirit of pathos.
'As for me,' Rosamund replied, to some comforting remarks of Miss
Halkett's, 'I do not understand why I should be mixed up in Dr.
Shrapnel's misfortunes: I really am quite unable to recollect his words
to me or his behaviour: I have only a positive impression that I left his
house, where I had gone to see Captain Beauchamp, in utter disgust, so
repelled by his language that I could hardly trust myself to speak of the
man to Mr. Romfrey when he questioned me. I did not volunteer it. I am
ready to say that I believe Dr. Shrapnel did not intend to be insulting.
I cannot say that he was not offensive.
You know, Miss Halkett, I would willingly, gladly have saved him from
anything like punishment.'
'You are too gentle to have thought of it,' said Cecilia.
'But I shall never be forgiven by Captain Beauchamp. I see in his eyes
that he accuses me and despises me.'
'He will not be so unjust, Mrs. Culling.'
Rosamund begged that she might hear what Nevil had first said on his
Cecilia related that they had seen him walking swiftly across the park,
and that Mr. Romfrey had hailed him, and held his hand out; and that
Captain Beauchamp had overlooked it, saying he feared Mr. Romfrey's work
was complete. He had taken her father's hand and hers and his touch was
'His worship of that Dr. Shrapnel is extraordinary,' quoth Rosamund.
'And how did Mr. Romfrey behave to him?'
'My father thinks, very forbearingly.'
Rosamund sighed and made a semblance of wringing her hands. 'It seems to
me that I anticipated ever since I heard of the man . . . or at least
ever since I saw him and heard him, he would be the evil genius of us
all: if I dare include myself. But I am not permitted to escape! And,
Miss Halkett, can you tell me how it was that my name--that I became
involved? I cannot imagine the circumstances which would bring me
forward in this unhappy affair.'
Cecilia replied: 'The occasion was, that Captain Beauchamp so scornfully
contrasted the sort of injury done by Dr. Shrapnel's defence of a poacher
on his uncle's estate, with the severe chastisement inflicted by Mr.
Romfrey in revenge for it. He would not leave the subject.'
'I see him--see his eyes!' cried Rosamund, her bosom heaving and sinking
deep, as her conscience quavered within her. 'At last Mr. Romfrey
'He stood up and said you had been personally insulted by Dr. Shrapnel.'
Rosamund meditated in a distressing doubt of her conscientious
'Captain Beauchamp will be coming to me; and how can I answer him?
Heaven knows I would have shielded the poor man, if possible--poor
wretch! Wicked though he is, one has only to hear of him suffering!
But what can I answer? I do recollect now that Mr. Romfrey compelled
me from question to question to confess that the man had vexed me.
Insulted, I never said. At the worst, I said vexed. I would not have
said insulted, or even offended, because Mr. Romfrey . . . ah! we
know him. What I did say, I forget. I have no guide to what I said but
my present feelings, and they are pity for the unfortunate man much more
than dislike.--Well, I must go through the scene with Nevil!' Rosamund
concluded her outcry of ostensible exculpation.
She asked in a cooler moment how it was that Captain Beauchamp had so far
forgotten himself as to burst out on his uncle before the guests of the
house. It appeared that he had wished his uncle to withdraw with him,
and Mr. Romfrey had bidden him postpone private communications. Rosamund
gathered from one or two words of Cecilia's that Mr. Romfrey, until
finally stung by Nevil, had indulged in his best-humoured banter.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Alike believe that Providence is for them
Better for men of extremely opposite opinions not to meet
Convict it by instinct without the ceremony of a jury
Cowardice is even worse for nations than for individual men
Give our courage as hostage for the fulfilment of what we hope
Good maxim for the wrathful--speak not at all
Impossible for him to think that women thought
Leader accustomed to count ahead upon vapourish abstractions
Love, that has risen above emotion, quite independent of craving
Made of his creed a strait-jacket for humanity
Mankind is offended by heterodoxy in mean attire
May not one love, not craving to be beloved?
People with whom a mute conformity is as good as worship
Prayer for an object is the cajolery of an idol
Rebellion against society and advocacy of humanity run counter
Small things producing great consequences
That a mask is a concealment
The girl could not know her own mind, for she suited him exactly
The religion of this vast English middle-class--Comfort
The turn will come to us as to others--and go
Women must not be judging things out of their sphere
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXXIV. THE FACE OF RENEE
XXXV. THE RIDE IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
XXXVI. PURSUIT OF THE APOLOGY OF MR. ROMFREY TO DR. SHRAPNEL
XXXVII. CECILIA CONQUERED
XXXVIII. LORD AVONLEY
XXXIX. BETWEEN BEAUCHAMP AND CECILIA
XL. A TRIAL OF HIM
XLI. A LAME VICTORY
THE FACE OF RENEE
Shortly before the ringing of the dinner-bell Rosamund knocked at
Beauchamp's dressing-room door, the bearer of a telegram from Bevisham.
He read it in one swift run of the eyes, and said: 'Come in, ma'am, I
have something for you. Madame de Rouaillout sends you this.'
Rosamund saw her name written in a French hand on the back of the card.
'You stay with us, Nevil?'
'To-night and to-morrow, perhaps. The danger seems to be over.'
'Has Dr. Shrapnel been in danger?'
'He has. If it's quite over now!'
'I declare to you, Nevil . . .'
'Listen to me, ma'am; I'm in the dark about this murderous business:--an
old man, defenceless, harmless as a child!--but I know this, that you are
somewhere in it.'
'Nevil, do you not guess at some one else?'
'He! yes, he! But Cecil Baskelett led no blind man to Dr. Shrapnel's
'Nevil, as I live, I knew nothing of it!'
'No, but you set fire to the train. You hated the old man, and you
taught Mr. Romfrey to think that you had been insulted. I see it all.
Now you must have the courage to tell him of your error. There's no
other course for you. I mean to take Mr. Romfrey to Dr. Shrapnel, to
save the honour of our family, as far as it can be saved.'
'What? Nevil!' exclaimed Rosamund, gaping.
'It seems little enough, ma'am. But he must go. I will have the apology
spoken, and man to man.'
'But you would never tell your uncle that?'
He laughed in his uncle's manner.
'But, Nevil, my dearest, forgive me, I think of you--why are the Halketts
here? It is not entirely with Colonel Halkett's consent. It is your
uncle's influence with him that gives you your chance. Do you not care
to avail yourself of it? Ever since he heard Dr. Shrapnel's letter to
you, Colonel Halkett has, I am sure, been tempted to confound you with
him in his mind: ah! Nevil, but recollect that it is only Mr. Romfrey who
can help to give you your Cecilia. There is no dispensing with him.
Postpone your attempt to humiliate--I mean, that is, Oh! Nevil, whatever
you intend to do to overcome your uncle, trust to time, be friends with
him; be a little worldly! for her sake! to ensure her happiness!'
Beauchamp obtained the information that his cousin Cecil had read out the
letter of Dr. Shrapnel at Mount Laurels.
The bell rang.
'Do you imagine I should sit at my uncle's table if I did not intend to
force him to repair the wrong he has done to himself and to us?' he said.
'Oh! Nevil, do you not see Captain Baskelett at work here?'
'What amends can Cecil Baskelett make? My uncle is a man of honour: it
is in his power. There, I leave you to speak to him; you will do it
to-night, after we break up in the drawing-room.'
Rosamund groaned: 'An apology to Dr. Shrapnel from Mr. Romfrey! It is an
impossibility, Nevil! utter!'
'So you say to sit idle: but do as I tell you.'
He went downstairs.
He had barely reproached her. She wondered at that; and then remembered
his alien sad half-smile in quitting the room.
Rosamund would not present herself at her lord's dinner-table when there
were any guests at Steynham. She prepared to receive Miss Halkett in the
drawing-room, as the guests of the house this evening chanced to be her
Madame de Rouaillout's present to her was a photograph of M. de Croisnel,
his daughter and son in a group. Rosamund could not bear to look at the
face of Renee, and she put it out of sight. But she had looked. She was
reduced to look again.
Roland stood beside his father's chair; Renee sat at his feet, clasping
his right hand. M. de Croisnel's fallen eyelids and unshorn white chin
told the story of the family reunion. He was dying: his two children
were nursing him to the end.
Decidedly Cecilia was a more beautiful woman than Renee: but on which
does the eye linger longest--which draws the heart? a radiant landscape,
where the tall ripe wheat flashes between shadow and shine in the stately
march of Summer, or the peep into dewy woodland on to dark water?
Dark-eyed Renee was not beauty but attraction; she touched the double
chords within us which are we know not whether harmony or discord,
but a divine discord if an uncertified harmony, memorable beyond plain
sweetness or majesty. There are touches of bliss in anguish that
superhumanize bliss, touches of mystery in simplicity, of the eternal in
the variable. These two chords of poignant antiphony she struck
throughout the range of the hearts of men, and strangely intervolved them
in vibrating unison. Only to look at her face, without hearing her
voice, without the charm of her speech, was to feel it. On Cecilia's
entering the drawing-room sofa, while the gentlemen drank claret,
Rosamund handed her the card of the photographic artist of Tours,
mentioning no names.
'I should say the portrait is correct. A want of spirituality,' Rosamund
said critically, using one of the insular commonplaces, after that manner
of fastening upon what there is not in a piece of Art or nature.
Cecilia's avidity to see and study the face preserved her at a higher
She knew the person instantly; had no occasion to ask who this was. She
sat over the portrait blushing burningly: 'And that is a brother?' she
'That is her brother Roland, and very like her, except in complexion,'
Cecilia murmured of a general resemblance in the features. Renee
enchained her. Though but a sun-shadow, the vividness of this French
face came out surprisingly; air was in the nostrils and speech flew from
the tremulous mouth. The eyes? were they quivering with internal light,
or were they set to seem so in the sensitive strange curves of the
eyelids whose awakened lashes appeared to tremble on some borderland
between lustreful significance and the mists? She caught at the nerves
like certain aoristic combinations in music, like tones of a stringed
instrument swept by the wind, enticing, unseizable. Yet she sat there at
her father's feet gazing out into the world indifferent to spectators,
indifferent even to the common sentiment of gracefulness. Her left hand
clasped his right, and she supported herself on the floor with the other
hand leaning away from him, to the destruction of conventional symmetry
in the picture. None but a woman of consummate breeding dared have done
as she did. It was not Southern suppleness that saved her from the
charge of harsh audacity, but something of the kind of genius in her mood
which has hurried the greater poets of sound and speech to impose their
naturalness upon accepted laws, or show the laws to have been our meagre
The writer in this country will, however, be made safest, and the
excellent body of self-appointed thongmen, who walk up and down our ranks
flapping their leathern straps to terrorize us from experiments in
imagery, will best be satisfied, by the statement that she was
indescribable: a term that exacts no labour of mind from him or from
them, for it flows off the pen as readily as it fills a vacuum.
That posture of Renee displeased Cecilia and fascinated her. In an
exhibition of paintings she would have passed by it in pure displeasure:
but here was Nevil's first love, the woman who loved him; and she was
French. After a continued study of her Cecilia's growing jealousy
betrayed itself in a conscious rivalry of race, coming to the admission
that Englishwomen cannot fling themselves about on the floor without
agonizing the graces: possibly, too, they cannot look singularly without
risks in the direction of slyness and brazen archness; or talk animatedly
without dipping in slang. Conventional situations preserve them and
interchange dignity with them; still life befits them; pre-eminently that
judicial seat from which in briefest speech they deliver their judgements
upon their foreign sisters. Jealousy it was that plucked Cecilia from
her majestic place and caused her to envy in Renee things she would
otherwise have disapproved.
At last she had seen the French lady's likeness! The effect of it was a
horrid trouble in Cecilia's cool blood, abasement, a sense of eclipse,
hardly any sense of deserving worthiness: 'What am I but an heiress!'
Nevil had once called her beautiful; his praise had given her beauty.
But what is beauty when it is outshone! Ask the owners of gems. You
think them rich; they are pining.
Then, too, this Renee, who looked electrical in repose, might really love
Nevil with a love that sent her heart out to him in his enterprises,
justifying and adoring him, piercing to the hero in his very thoughts.
Would she not see that his championship of the unfortunate man
Dr. Shrapnel was heroic?
Cecilia surrendered the card to Rosamund, and it was out of sight when
Beauchamp stepped in the drawing-room. His cheeks were flushed; he had
been one against three for the better part of an hour.
'Are you going to show me the downs to-morrow morning?' Cecilia said to
him; and he replied, 'You will have to be up early.'
'What's that?' asked the colonel, at Beauchamp's heels.
He was volunteering to join the party of two for the early morning's ride
to the downs. Mr. Romfrey pressed his shoulder, saying, 'There's no
third horse can do it in my stables.'
Colonel Halkett turned to him.
'I had your promise to come over the kennels with me and see how I treat
a cry of mad dog, which is ninety-nine times out of a hundred mad fool
man,' Mr. Romfrey added.
By that the colonel knew he meant to stand by Nevil still and offer him
his chance of winning Cecilia.
Having pledged his word not to interfere, Colonel Halkett submitted, and
muttered, 'Ah! the kennels.' Considering however what he had been
witnessing of Nevil's behaviour to his uncle, the colonel was amazed at
Mr. Romfrey's magnanimity in not cutting him off and disowning him.
'Why the downs?' he said.
'Why the deuce, colonel?' A question quite as reasonable, and Mr.
Romfrey laughed under his breath. To relieve an uncertainty in Cecilia's
face, that might soon have become confusion, he described the downs
fronting the paleness of earliest dawn, and then their arch and curve and
dip against the pearly grey of the half-glow; and then, among their
hollows, lo, the illumination of the East all around, and up and away,
and a gallop for miles along the turfy thymy rolling billows, land to
left, sea to right, below you. 'It's the nearest hit to wings we can
make, Cecilia.' He surprised her with her Christian name, which kindled
in her the secret of something he expected from that ride on the downs.
Compare you the Alps with them? If you could jump on the back of an
eagle, you might. The Alps have height. But the downs have swiftness.
Those long stretching lines of the downs are greyhounds in full career.
To look at them is to set the blood racing! Speed is on the downs,
glorious motion, odorous air of sea and herb, exquisite as in the isles
of Greece. And the Continental travelling ninnies leave England for
health!--run off and forth from the downs to the steamboat, the railway,
the steaming hotel, the tourist's shivering mountain-top, in search of
sensations! There on the downs the finest and liveliest are at their
bidding ready to fly through them like hosts of angels.
He spoke somewhat in that strain, either to relieve Cecilia or prepare
the road for Nevil, not in his ordinary style; on the contrary, with a
swing of enthusiasm that seemed to spring of ancient heartfelt fervours.
And indeed soon afterward he was telling her that there on those downs,
in full view of Steynham, he and his wife had first joined hands.
Beauchamp sat silent. Mr. Romfrey despatched orders to the stables,
and Rosamund to the kitchen. Cecilia was rather dismayed by the formal
preparations for the ride. She declined the early cup of coffee. Mr.
Romfrey begged her to take it. 'Who knows the hour when you 'll be
back?' he said. Beauchamp said nothing.
The room grew insufferable to Cecilia. She would have liked to be wafted
to her chamber in a veil, so shamefully unveiled did she seem to be. But
the French lady would have been happy in her place! Her father kissed
her as fathers do when they hand the bride into the travelling-carriage.
His 'Good-night, my darling!' was in the voice of a soldier on duty.
For a concluding sign that her dim apprehensions pointed correctly, Mr.
Romfrey kissed her on the forehead. She could not understand how it had
come to pass that she found herself suddenly on this incline,
precipitated whither she would fain be going, only less hurriedly, less
openly, and with her secret merely peeping, like a dove in the breast.
THE RIDE IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
That pure opaque of the line of downs ran luminously edged against the
pearly morning sky, with its dark landward face crepusculine yet clear in
every combe, every dotting copse and furze-bush, every wavy fall, and the
ripple, crease, and rill-like descent of the turf. Beauty of darkness
was there, as well as beauty of light above.
Beauchamp and Cecilia rode forth before the sun was over the line, while
the West and North-west sides of the rolling downs were stamped with such
firmness of dusky feature as you see on the indentations of a shield of
tarnished silver. The mounting of the sun behind threw an obscurer
gloom, and gradually a black mask overcame them, until the rays shot
among their folds and windings, and shadows rich as the black pansy,
steady as on a dialplate rounded with the hour.
Mr. Everard Romfrey embraced this view from Steynham windows, and loved
it. The lengths of gigantic 'greyhound backs' coursing along the South
were his vision of delight; no image of repose for him, but of the life
in swiftness. He had known them when the great bird of the downs was not
a mere tradition, and though he owned conscientiously to never having
beheld the bird, a certain mystery of holiness hung about the region
where the bird had been in his time. There, too, with a timely word he
had gained a wealthy and good wife. He had now sent Nevil to do the
This astute gentleman had caught at the idea of a ride of the young
couple to the downs with his customary alacrity of perception as being
the very best arrangement for hurrying them to the point. At Steynham
Nevil was sure to be howling all day over his tumbled joss Shrapnel.
Once away in the heart of the downs, and Cecilia beside him, it was a
matter of calculation that two or three hours of the sharpening air would
screw his human nature to the pitch. In fact, unless each of them was
reluctant, they could hardly return unbetrothed. Cecilia's consent was
foreshadowed by her submission in going: Mr. Romfrey had noticed her
fright at the suggestive formalities he cast round the expedition, and
felt sure of her. Taking Nevil for a man who could smell the perfume of
a ripe affirmative on the sweetest of lips, he was pretty well sure of
him likewise. And then a truce to all that Radical rageing and hot-
pokering of the country! and lie in peace, old Shrapnel! and get on your
legs when you can, and offend no more; especially be mindful not to let
fly one word against a woman! With Cecilia for wife, and a year of
marriage devoted to a son and heir, Nevil might be expected to resume his
duties as a naval officer, and win an honourable name for the inheritance
of the young one he kissed.
There was benevolence in these previsions of Mr. Romfrey, proving how
good it is for us to bow to despotic authority, if only we will bring
ourselves unquestioningly to accept the previous deeds of the directing
Colonel Halkett gave up his daughter for lost when she did not appear at
the breakfast-table: for yet more decidedly lost when the luncheon saw
her empty place; and as time drew on toward the dinner-hour, he began to
think her lost beyond hope, embarked for good and all with the madbrain.
Some little hope of a dissension between the pair, arising from the
natural antagonism of her strong sense to Nevil's extravagance, had
buoyed him until it was evident that they must have alighted at an inn to
eat, which signified that they had overleaped the world and its hurdles,
and were as dreamy a leash of lovers as ever made a dreamland of hard
earth. The downs looked like dreamland through the long afternoon. They
shone as in a veil of silk-softly fair, softly dark. No spot of
harshness was on them save where a quarry South-westward gaped at the
Red light struck into that round chalk maw, and the green slopes and
channels and half-circle hollows were brought a mile-stride higher
Steynham by the level beams.
The poor old colonel fell to a more frequent repetition of the 'Well!'
with which he had been unconsciously expressing his perplexed mind in the
kennels and through the covers during the day. None of the gentlemen
went to dress. Mr. Culbrett was indoors conversing with Rosamund
'What's come to them?' the colonel asked of Mr. Romfrey, who said
shrugging, 'Something wrong with one of the horses.' It had happened to
him on one occasion to set foot in the hole of a baked hedgehog that had
furnished a repast, not without succulence, to some shepherd of the
downs. Such a case might have recurred; it was more likely to cause an
upset at a walk than at a gallop: or perhaps a shoe had been cast; and
young people break no bones at a walking fall; ten to one if they do at
their top speed. Horses manage to kill their seniors for them: the young
are exempt from accident.
Colonel Halkett nodded and sighed: 'I daresay they're safe. It's that
man Shrapnel's letter--that letter, Romfrey! A private letter, I know;
but I've not heard Nevil disown the opinions expressed in it. I submit.
It's no use resisting. I treat my daughter as a woman capable of judging
for herself. I repeat, I submit. I haven't a word against Nevil except
on the score of his politics. I like him. All I have to say is, I don't
approve of a republican and a sceptic for my son-in-law. I yield to you,
and my daughter, if she . . . !'
'I think she does, colonel. Marriage 'll cure the fellow. Nevil will
slough his craze. Off! old coat. Cissy will drive him in strings.
"My wife!" I hear him.' Mr. Romfrey laughed quietly. 'It's all "my
country," now. The dog'll be uxorious. He wants fixing; nothing worse.'
'How he goes on about Shrapnel!'
'I shouldn't think much of him if he didn't.'
'You're one in a thousand, Romfrey. I object to seeing a man
'It's Nevil's green-sickness, and Shrapnel's the god of it.'
'I trust to heaven you're right. It seems to me young fellows ought to
be out of it earlier.'
'They generally are.' Mr. Romfrey named some of the processes by which
they are relieved of brain-flightiness, adding philosophically, 'This way
His quick ear caught a sound of hoofs cantering down the avenue on the
Northern front of the house.
He consulted his watch. 'Ten minutes to eight. Say a quarter-past for
dinner. They're here, colonel.'
Mr. Romfrey met Nevil returning from the stables. Cecilia had
'Had a good day?' said Mr. Romfrey.
Beauchamp replied: 'I'll tell you of it after dinner,' and passed by him.
Mr. Romfrey edged round to Colonel Halkett, conjecturing in his mind:
They have not hit it; as he remarked: 'Breakfast and luncheon have been
omitted in this day's fare,' which appeared to the colonel a confirmation
of his worst fears, or rather the extinction of his last spark of hope.
He knocked at his daughter's door in going upstairs to dress.
Cecilia presented herself and kissed him.
'Well?' said he.
'By-and-by, papa,' she answered. 'I have a headache. Beg Mr. Romfrey to
'No news for me?'
She had no news.
Mrs. Culling was with her. The colonel stepped on mystified to his room.
When the door had closed Cecilia turned to Rosamund and burst into tears.
Rosamund felt that it must be something grave indeed for the proud young
lady so to betray a troubled spirit.
'He is ill--Dr. Shrapnel is very ill,' Cecilia responded to one or two
subdued inquiries in as clear a voice as she could command.
'Where have you heard of him?' Rosamund asked.
'We have been there.'
'Bevisham? to Bevisham?' Rosamund was considering the opinion Mr.
Romfrey would form of the matter from the point of view of his horses.
'It was Nevil's wish,' said Cecilia.
'Yes? and you went with him,' Rosamund encouraged her to proceed,
gladdened at hearing her speak of Nevil by that name; 'you have not been
on the downs at all?'
Cecilia mentioned a junction railway station they had ridden to; and
thence, boxing the horses, by train to Bevisham. Rosamund understood
that some haunting anxiety had fretted Nevil during the night; in the
morning he could not withstand it, and he begged Cecilia to change their
destination, apparently with a vehemence of entreaty that had been
irresistible, or else it was utter affection for him had reduced her to
undertake the distasteful journey. She admitted that she was not the
most sympathetic companion Nevil could have had on the way, either going
or coming. She had not entered Dr. Shrapnel's cottage. Remaining on
horseback she had seen the poor man reclining in his garden chair. Mr.
Lydiard was with him, and also his ward Miss Denham, who had been
summoned by telegraph by one of the servants from Switzerland. And
Cecilia had heard Nevil speak of his uncle to her, and too humbly, she
hinted. Nor had the expression of Miss Denham's countenance in listening
to him pleased her; but it was true that a heavily burdened heart cannot
be expected to look pleasing. On the way home Cecilia had been compelled
in some degree to defend Mr. Romfrey. Blushing through her tears at the
remembrance of a past emotion that had been mixed with foresight, she
confessed to Rosamund she thought it now too late to prevent a rupture
between Nevil and his uncle. Had some one whom Nevil trusted and cared
for taken counsel with him and advised him before uncle and nephew met to
discuss this most unhappy matter, then there might have been hope. As it
was, the fate of Dr. Shrapnel had gained entire possession of Nevil.
Every retort of his uncle's in reference to it rose up in him: he used
language of contempt neighbouring abhorrence: he stipulated for one sole
thing to win back his esteem for his uncle; and that was, the apology to
'And to-night,' Cecilia concluded, 'he will request Mr. Romfrey to
accompany. him to Bevisham to-morrow morning, to make the apology in
person. He will not accept the slightest evasion. He thinks Dr.
Shrapnel may die, and the honour of the family--what is it he says of
it?' Cecilia raised her eyes to the ceiling, while Rosamund blinked in
impatience and grief, just apprehending the alien state of the young
lady's mind in her absence of recollection, as well as her bondage in the
effort to recollect accurately.
'Have you not eaten any food to-day, Miss Halkett?' she said; for it
might be the want of food which had broken her and changed her manner.
Cecilia replied that she had ridden for an hour to Mount Laurels.
'Alone? Mr. Romfrey must not hear of that,' said Rosamund.
Cecilia consented to lie down on her bed. She declined the dainties
Rosamund pressed on her. She was feverish with a deep and unconcealed
affliction, and behaved as if her pride had gone. But if her pride had
gone she would have eased her heart by sobbing outright. A similar
division harassed her as when her friend Nevil was the candidate for
Bevisham. She condemned his extreme wrath with his uncle, yet was
attracted and enchained by the fire of passionate attachment which
aroused it: and she was conscious that she had but shown obedience to
his wishes throughout the day, not sympathy with his feelings. Under
cover of a patient desire to please she had nursed irritation and
jealousy; the degradation of the sense of jealousy increasing the
irritation. Having consented to the ride to Dr. Shrapnel, should she
not, to be consistent, have dismounted there? O half heart! A whole
one, though it be an erring, like that of the French lady, does at least
live, and has a history, and makes music: but the faint and uncertain is
jarred in action, jarred in memory, ever behind the day and in the shadow
of it! Cecilia reviewed herself: jealous, disappointed, vexed, ashamed,
she had been all day a graceless companion, a bad actress: and at the
day's close she was loving Nevil the better for what had dissatisfied,
distressed, and wounded her. She was loving him in emulation of his
devotedness to another person: and that other was a revolutionary common
people's doctor! an infidel, a traitor to his country's dearest
interests! But Nevil loved him, and it had become impossible for her not
to covet the love, or to think of the old offender without the halo cast
by Nevil's attachment being upon him. So intensely was she moved by her
intertwisting reflections that in an access of bodily fever she stood up
and moved before the glass, to behold the image of the woman who could be
the victim of these childish emotions: and no wonderful contrast struck
her eyes; she appeared to herself as poor and small as they. How could
she aspire to a man like Nevil Beauchamp? If he had made her happy by
wooing her she would not have adored him as she did now. He likes my
hair, she said, smoothing it out, and then pressing her temples, like one
insane. Two minutes afterward she was telling Rosamund her head ached
'This terrible Dr. Shrapnel!' Rosamund exclaimed, but reported that no
loud voices were raised in the dining-room.
Colonel Halkett came to see his daughter, full of anxiety and curiosity.
Affairs had been peaceful below, for he was ignorant of the expedition to
Bevisham. On hearing of it he frowned, questioned Cecilia as to whether
she had set foot on that man's grounds, then said: 'Ah! well, we leave
to-morrow: I must go, I have business at home; I can't delay it. I
sanctioned no calling there, nothing of the kind. From Steynham to
Bevisham? Goodness, it's rank madness. I'm not astonished you're sick
He waited till he was assured Cecilia had no special matter to relate,
and recommending her to drink the tea Mrs. Culling had made for her, and
then go to bed and sleep, he went down to the drawing-room, charged with
the worst form of hostility toward Nevil, the partly diplomatic.
Cecilia smiled at her father's mention of sleep. She was in the contest
of the two men, however inanimately she might be lying overhead, and the
assurance in her mind that neither of them would give ground, so similar
were they in their tenacity of will, dissimilar in all else, dragged her
this way and that till she swayed lifeless between them. One may be as a
weed of the sea while one's fate is being decided. To love is to be on
the sea, out of sight of land: to love a man like Nevil Beauchamp is to
be on the sea in tempest. Still to persist in loving would be noble,
and but for this humiliation of utter helplessness an enviable power.
Her thoughts ran thus in shame and yearning and regret, dimly discerning
where her heart failed in the strength which was Nevil's, though it was
a full heart, faithful and not void of courage. But he never brooded,
he never blushed from insufficiency-the faintness of a desire, the callow
passion that cannot fly and feed itself: he never tottered; he walked
straight to his mark. She set up his image and Renee's, and cowered
under the heroical shapes till she felt almost extinct. With her weak
limbs and head worthlessly paining, the little infantile I within her
ceased to wail, dwindled beyond sensation. Rosamund, waiting on her in
the place of her maid, saw two big drops come through her closed eyelids,
and thought that if it could be granted to Nevil to look for a moment on
this fair and proud young lady's loveliness in abandonment, it would
tame, melt, and save him. The Gods presiding over custom do not permit
such renovating sights to men.
PURSUIT OF THE APOLOGY OF Mr. ROMFREY TO DR. SHRAPNEL
The contest, which was an alternation of hard hitting and close
wrestling, had recommenced when Colonel Halkett stepped into the drawing-
'Colonel, I find they've been galloping to Bevisham and back,' said Mr.
'I've heard of it,' the colonel replied. Not perceiving a sign of
dissatisfaction on his friend's face, he continued:: 'To that man
'Cecilia did not dismount,' said Beauchamp.
'You took her to that man's gate. It was not with my sanction. You know
my ideas of the man.'
'If you were to see him now, colonel, I don't think you would speak
harshly of him.'
'We 're not obliged to go and look on men who have, had their measure
'Barbarously,' said Beauchamp.
Mr. Romfrey in the most placid manner took a chair. 'Windy talk, that!'
Colonel Halkett seated himself. Stukely Culbrett turned a sheet of
manuscript he was reading.
Beauchamp began a caged lion's walk on the rug under the mantelpiece.
'I shall not spare you from hearing what I think of it, sir.'
'We 've had what you think of it twice over,' said Mr. Romfrey.
'I suppose it was the first time for information, the second time for
emphasis, and the rest counts to keep it alive in your recollection.'
'This is what you have to take to heart, sir; that Dr. Shrapnel is now
'I'm sorry for it, and I'll pay the doctor's bill.'
'You make it hard for me to treat you with respect.'
'Fire away. Those Radical friends of yours have to learn a lesson, and
it's worth a purse to teach them that a lady, however feeble she may seem
to them, is exactly of the strength of the best man of her acquaintance.'
'That's well said!' came from Colonel Halkett.
Beauchamp stared at him, amazed by the commendation of empty language.
'You acted in error; barbarously, but in error,' he addressed his uncle.
'And you have got a fine topic for mouthing,' Mr. Romfrey rejoined.
'You mean to sit still under Dr. Shrapnel's forgiveness?'
'He's taken to copy the Christian religion, has he?'
'You know you were deluded when you struck him.'
'Not a whit.'
'Yes, you know it now: Mrs. Culling--'
'Drag in no woman, Nevil Beauchamp!'
'She has confessed to you that Dr. Shrapnel neither insulted her nor
meant to ruffle her.'
'She has done no such nonsense.'
'If she has not!--but I trust her to have done it.'
'You play the trumpeter, you terrorize her.'
'Into opening her lips wider; nothing else. I'll have the truth from
her, and no mincing: and from Cecil Baskelett and Palmet.'
'Give Cecil a second licking, if you can, and have him off to Shrapnel.'
'You!' cried Beauchamp.
At this juncture Stukely Culbrett closed the manuscript in his hands, and
holding it out to Beauchamp, said:
'Here's your letter, Nevil. It's tolerably hard to decipher. It's mild
enough; it's middling good pulpit. I like it.'
'What have you got there?' Colonel Halkett asked him.
'A letter of his friend Dr. Shrapnel on the Country. Read a bit,
'I? That letter! Mild, do you call it?' The colonel started back his
chair in declining to touch the letter.
'Try it,' said Stukely. 'It's the letter they have been making the noise
about. It ought to be printed. There's a hit or two at the middle-class
that I should like to see in print. It's really not bad pulpit; and I
suspect that what you object to, colonel, is only the dust of a well-
thumped cushion. Shrapnel thumps with his fist. He doesn't say much
that's new. If the parsons were men they'd be saying it every Sunday.
If they did, colonel, I should hear you saying, amen.'
'Wait till they do say it.'
'That's a long stretch. They're turn-cocks of one Water-company--to wash
the greasy citizens!'
'You're keeping Nevil on the gape;' said Mr. Romfrey, with a whimsical
shrewd cast of the eye at Beauchamp, who stood alert not to be foiled,
arrow-like in look and readiness to repeat his home-shot. Mr. Romfrey
wanted to hear more of that unintelligible 'You!' of Beauchamp's. But
Stukely Culbrett intended that the latter should be foiled, and he
continued his diversion from the angry subject.
'We'll drop the sacerdotals,' he said. 'They're behind a veil for us,
and so are we for them. I'm with you, colonel; I wouldn't have them
persecuted; they sting fearfully when whipped. No one listens to them
now except the class that goes to sleep under them, to "set an example"
to the class that can't understand them. Shrapnel is like the breeze
shaking the turf-grass outside the church-doors; a trifle fresher. He
knocks nothing down.'
'He can't!' ejaculated the colonel.
'He sermonizes to shake, that's all. I know the kind of man.'
'Thank heaven, it's not a common species in England!'
'Common enough to be classed.'
Beauchamp struck through the conversation of the pair: 'Can I see you
alone to-night, sir, or to-morrow morning?'
'You may catch me where you can,' was Mr. Romfrey's answer.
'Where's that? It's for your sake and mine, not for Dr. Shrapnel's.
I have to speak to you, and must. You have done your worst with him;
you can't undo it. You have to think of your honour as a gentleman.
I intend to treat you with respect, but wolf is the title now, whether
I say it or not.'
'Shrapnel's a rather long-legged sheep?'
'He asks for nothing from you.'
'He would have got nothing, at a cry of peccavi!'
'He was innocent, perfectly blameless; he would not lie to save himself.
You mistook that for--but you were an engine shot along a line of rails.
He does you the justice to say you acted in error.'
'And you're his parrot.'
'He pardons you.'
'Ha! t' other cheek!'
'You went on that brute's errand in ignorance. Will you keep to the
character now you know the truth? Hesitation about it doubles the
infamy. An old man! the best of men! the kindest and truest! the most
'He tops me by half a head, and he's my junior.'
Beauchamp suffered himself to give out a groan of sick derision: 'Ah!'
'And it was no joke holding him tight,' said Mr. Romfrey, 'I 'd as lief
snap an ash. The fellow (he leaned round to Colonel Halkett) must be a
fellow of a fine constitution. And he took his punishment like a man.
I've known worse: and far worse: gentlemen by birth. There's the choice
of taking it upright or fighting like a rabbit with a weasel in his hole.
Leave him to think it over, he'll come right. I think no harm of him,
I've no animus. A man must have his lesson at some time of life. I did
what I had to do.'
'Look here, Nevil,' Stukely Culbrett checked Beauchamp in season: 'I beg
to inquire what Dr. Shrapnel means by "the people." We have in our
country the nobles and the squires, and after them, as I understand it,
the people: that's to say, the middle-class and the working-class--fat
and lean. I'm quite with Shrapnel when he lashes the fleshpots. They
want it, and they don't get it from "their organ," the Press. I fancy
you and I agree about their organ; the dismallest organ that ever ground
a hackneyed set of songs and hymns to madden the thoroughfares.'
'The Press of our country!' interjected Colonel Halkett in moaning
'It's the week-day Parson of the middle-class, colonel. They have their
thinking done for them as the Chinese have their dancing. But, Nevil,
your Dr. Shrapnel seems to treat the traders as identical with the
aristocracy in opposition to his "people." The traders are the cursed
middlemen, bad friends of the "people," and infernally treacherous to the
nobles till money hoists them. It's they who pull down the country.
They hold up the nobles to the hatred of the democracy, and the democracy
to scare the nobles. One's when they want to swallow a privilege, and
the other's when they want to ring-fence their gains. How is it Shrapnel
doesn't expose the trick? He must see through it. I like that letter of
his. People is one of your Radical big words that burst at a query.
He can't mean Quince, and Bottom, and Starveling, Christopher Sly, Jack
Cade, Caliban, and poor old Hodge? No, no, Nevil. Our clowns are the
stupidest in Europe. They can't cook their meals. They can't spell;
they can scarcely speak. They haven't a jig in their legs. And I
believe they're losing their grin! They're nasty when their blood's up.
Shakespeare's Cade tells you what he thought of Radicalizing the people.
"And as for your mother, I 'll make her a duke"; that 's one of their
songs. The word people, in England, is a dyspeptic agitator's dream when
he falls nodding over the red chapter of French history. Who won the
great liberties for England? My book says, the nobles. And who made the
great stand later?--the squires. What have the middlemen done but bid
for the people they despise and fear, dishonour us abroad and make a hash
of us at home? Shrapnel sees that. Only he has got the word people in
his mouth. The people of England, my dear fellow, want heading. Since
the traders obtained power we have been a country on all fours. Of
course Shrapnel sees it: I say so. But talk to him and teach him where
to look for the rescue.'
Colonel Halkett said to Stukely: 'If you have had a clear idea in what
you have just spoken, my head's no place for it!'
Stukely's unusually lengthy observations had somewhat heated him, and he
protested with earnestness: 'It was pure Tory, my dear colonel.'
But the habitually and professedly cynical should not deliver themselves
at length: for as soon as they miss their customary incision of speech
they are apt to aim to recover it in loquacity, and thus it may be that
the survey of their ideas becomes disordered.
Mr. Culbrett endangered his reputation for epigram in a good cause, it
shall be said.
These interruptions were torture to Beauchamp. Nevertheless the end was
gained. He sank into a chair silent.
Mr. Romfrey wished to have it out with his nephew, of whose comic
appearance as a man full of thunder, and occasionally rattling, yet all
the while trying to be decorous and politic, he was getting tired. He
foresaw that a tussle between them in private would possibly be too hot
for his temper, admirably under control though it was.
'Why not drag Cecil to Shrapnel?' he said, for a provocation.
Beauchamp would not be goaded.
Colonel Halkett remarked that he would have to leave Steynham the next
day. His host remonstrated with him. The colonel said: 'Early.' He had
very particular business at home. He was positive, and declined every
inducement to stay. Mr. Romfrey glanced at Nevil, thinking, You poor
fool! And then he determined to let the fellow have five minutes alone
This occurred at midnight, in that half-armoury, half-library, which was
his private room.
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