Beauchamps Career, complete
Part 9 out of 12
gratified her to see that he was no actor fitted to carry a scene through
in virtue's name and vice's mask with this actress.
She replied, 'I have brought a man and a maid-servant. The establishment
will be in town the day after tomorrow, in time for my lord's return from
'You can have them up to-morrow morning.'
'I could,' Rosamund admitted the possibility. Her idolatry of him was
tried on hearing him press the hospitality of the house upon Madame de
Rouaillout, and observing the lady's transparent feint of a reluctant
yielding. For the voluble Frenchwoman scarcely found a word to utter:
she protested languidly that she preferred the independence of her hotel,
and fluttered a singular look at him, as if overcome by his vehement
determination to have her in the house. Undoubtedly she had a taking
face and style. His infatuation, nevertheless, appeared to Rosamund
utter dementedness, considering this woman's position, and Cecilia
Halkett's beauty and wealth, and that the house was no longer at his
disposal. He was really distracted, to judge by his forehead, or else he
was over-acting his part.
The absence of a cook in the house, Rosamund remarked, must prevent her
from seconding Captain Beauchamp's invitation.
He turned on her witheringly. 'The telegraph will do that. You're in
London; cooks can be had by dozens. Madame de Rouaillout is alone here;
she has come to see a little of England, and you will do the honours of
'M. le marquis is not in London?' said Rosamund, disregarding the dumb
imprecation she saw on Beauchamp's features.
'No, madame, my husband is not in London,' Renee rejoined collectedly.
'See to the necessary comforts of the house instantly,' said Beauchamp,
and telling Renee, without listening to her, that he had to issue orders,
he led Rosamund, who was out of breath at the effrontery of the pair,
toward the door. 'Are you blind, ma'am? Have you gone foolish? What
should I have sent for you for, but to protect her? I see your mind;
and off with the prude, pray! Madame will have my room; clear away every
sign of me there. I sleep out; I can find a bed anywhere. And bolt and
chain the house-door to-night against Cecil Baskelett; he informs me that
he has taken possession.'
Rosamund's countenance had become less austere.
'Captain Baskelett!' she exclaimed, leaning to Beauchamp's views on the
side of her animosity to Cecil; 'he has been promised by his uncle the
use of a set of rooms during the year, when the mistress of the house is
not in occupation. I stipulated expressly that he was to see you and
suit himself to your convenience, and to let me hear that you and he had
agreed to an arrangement, before he entered the house. He has no right
to be here, and I shall have no hesitation in locking him out.'
Beauchamp bade her go, and not be away more than five minutes; and then
he would drive to the hotel for the luggage.
She scanned him for a look of ingenuousness that might be trusted, and
laughed in her heart at her credulity for expecting it of a man in such a
case. She saw Renee sitting stonily, too proudly self-respecting to put
on a mask of flippant ease. These lovers might be accomplices in
deceiving her; they were not happy ones, and that appeared to her to be
some assurance that she did well in obeying him.
Beauchamp closed the door on her. He walked back to Renee with a
thoughtful air that was consciously acted; his only thought being--now
she knows me!
Renee looked up at him once. Her eyes were unaccusing, unquestioning.
With the violation of the secresy of her flight she had lost her
initiative and her intrepidity. The world of human eyes glared on her
through the windows of the two she had been exposed to, paralyzing her
brain and caging her spirit of revolt. That keen wakefulness of her
self-defensive social instinct helped her to an understanding of her
lover's plan to preserve her reputation, or rather to give her a corner
of retreat in shielding the worthless thing--twice detested as her cloak
of slavery coming from him! She comprehended no more. She was a house
of nerves crowding in against her soul like fiery thorns, and had no
space within her torture for a sensation of gratitude or suspicion; but
feeling herself hurried along at lightning speed to some dreadful shock,
her witless imagination apprehended it in his voice: not what he might
say, only the sound. She feared to hear him speak, as the shrinking ear
fears a thunder at the cavity; yet suspense was worse than the downward-
The pang struck her when he uttered some words about Mrs. Culling, and
protection, and Roland.
She thanked him.
So have common executioners been thanked by queenly ladies baring their
necks to the axe.
He called up the pain he suffered to vindicate him; and it was really an
agony of a man torn to pieces.
'I have done the best.'
This dogged and stupid piece of speech was pitiable to hear from Nevil
'You think so?' said she; and her glass-like voice rang a tremour in its
mildness that swelled through him on the plain submissive note, which was
more assent than question.
'I am sure of it. I believe it. I see it. At least I hope so.'
'We are chiefly led by hope,' said Renee.
'At least, if not!' Beauchamp cried. 'And it's not too late. I have no
right--I do what I can. I am at your mercy. Judge me later. If I am
ever to know what happiness is, it will be with you. It's not too late
either way. There is Roland--my brother as much as if you were my wife!'
He begged her to let him have Roland's exact address.
She named the regiment, the corps d'armee, the postal town, and the
'Roland will come at a signal,' he pursued; 'we are not bound to consult
Renee formed the French word of 'we' on her tongue.
He talked of Roland and Roland, his affection for him as a brother and as
a friend, and Roland's love of them both.
'It is true,' said Renee.
'We owe him this; he represents your father.'
'All that you say is true, my friend.'
'Thus, you have come on a visit to madame, your old friend here--oh!
your hand. What have I done?'
Renee motioned her hand as if it were free to be taken, and smiled
faintly to make light of it, but did not give it.
'If you had been widowed!' he broke down to the lover again.
'That man is attached to the remnant of his life: I could not wish him
dispossessed of it,' said Rende.
'Parted! who parts us? It's for a night. Tomorrow!'
She breathed: 'To-morrow.'
To his hearing it craved an answer. He had none. To talk like a lover,
or like a man of honour, was to lie. Falsehood hemmed him in to the
narrowest ring that ever statue stood on, if he meant to be stone.
'That woman will be returning,' he muttered, frowning at the vacant door.
'I could lay out my whole life before your eyes, and show you I am
unchanged in my love of you since the night when Roland and I walked on
the Piazzetta . . .'
'Do not remind me; let those days lie black!' A sympathetic vision of
her maiden's tears on the night of wonderful moonlight when, as it seemed
to her now, San Giorgio stood like a dark prophet of her present
abasement and chastisement, sprang tears of a different character, and
weak as she was with her soul's fever and for want of food, she was
piteously shaken. She said with some calmness: 'It is useless to look
back. I have no reproaches but for myself. Explain nothing to me.
Things that are not comprehended by one like me are riddles I must put
aside. I know where I am: I scarcely know more. Here is madame.'
The door had not opened, and it did not open immediately.
Beauchamp had time to say, 'Believe in me.' Even that was false to his
own hearing, and in a struggle with the painful impression of insincerity
which was denied and scorned by his impulse to fling his arms round her
and have her his for ever, he found himself deferentially accepting her
brief directions concerning her boxes at the hotel, with Rosamund Culling
She gave him her hand.
He bowed over the fingers. 'Until to-morrow, madame.'
'Adieu!' said Renee.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A wound of the same kind that we are inflicting
Affectedly gentle and unusually roundabout opening
Carry a scene through in virtue's name and vice's mask
Cordiality of an extreme relief in leaving
Dark-eyed Renee was not beauty but attraction
Decline to practise hypocrisy
Fine eye for celestially directed consequences is ever haunted
Fretted by his relatives he cannot be much of a giant
Given up his brains for a lodging to a single idea
He never calculated on the happening of mortal accidents
He smoked, Lord Avonley said of the second departure
Heights of humour beyond laughter
Irony provoked his laughter more than fun
Irritability at the intrusion of past disputes
Led him to impress his unchangeableness upon her
Money's a chain-cable for holding men to their senses
On which does the eye linger longest--which draws the heart?
Once called her beautiful; his praise had given her beauty
Passion is not invariably love
People is one of your Radical big words that burst at a query
Scotchman's metaphysics; you know nothing clear
Their not caring to think at all
There is no step backward in life
They have their thinking done for them
They may know how to make themselves happy in their climate
Thirst for the haranguing of crowds
Too many time-servers rot the State
We are chiefly led by hope
Welcomed and lured on an adversary to wild outhitting
What ninnies call Nature in books
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XLII. THE TWO PASSIONS
XLIII. THE EARL OF ROMFREY AND THE COUNTESS
XLIV. THE NEPHEWS OF THE EARL, AND ANOTHER EXHIBITION OF THE TWO
PASSIONS IN BEAUCHAMP.
XLV. A LITTLE PLOT AGAINST CECILIA
XLVI. AS IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN FORESEEN
XLVII. THE REFUSAL OF HIM
XLVIII. OF THE TRIAL AWAITING THE EARL OF ROMFREY
XLIX. A FABRIC OF BARONIAL DESPOTISM CRUMBLES
THE TWO PASSIONS
The foggy February night refreshed his head, and the business of fetching
the luggage from the hotel--a commission that necessitated the delivery
of his card and some very commanding language--kept his mind in order.
Subsequently he drove to his cousin Baskelett's Club, where he left a
short note to say the house was engaged for the night and perhaps a week
further. Concise, but sufficient: and he stated a hope to his cousin
that he would not be inconvenienced. This was courteous.
He had taken a bed at Renee's hotel, after wresting her boxes from the
vanquished hotel proprietor, and lay there, hearing the clear sound of
every little sentence of hers during the absence of Rosamund: her
'Adieu,' and the strange 'Do you think so?' and 'I know where I am; I
scarcely know more.' Her eyes and their darker lashes, and the fitful
little sensitive dimples of a smile without joy, came with her voice, but
hardened to an aspect unlike her. Not a word could he recover of what
she had spoken before Rosamund's intervention. He fancied she must have
related details of her journey. Especially there must have been mention,
he thought, of her drive to the station from Tourdestelle; and this
flashed on him the scene of his ride to the chateau, and the meeting her
on the road, and the white light on the branching river, and all that was
Renee in the spirit of the place she had abandoned for him, believing in
him. She had proved that she believed in him. What in the name of
sanity had been the meaning of his language? and what was it between
them that arrested him and caused him to mumble absurdly of 'doing best,'
when in fact he was her bondman, rejoiced to be so, by his pledged word?
and when she, for some reason that he was sure she had stated, though he
could recollect no more than the formless hideousness of it, was debarred
from returning to Tourdestelle?
He tossed in his bed as over a furnace, in the extremity of perplexity of
one accustomed to think himself ever demonstrably in the right, and now
with his whole nature in insurrection against that legitimate claim. It
led him to accuse her of a want of passionate warmth, in her not having
supplicated and upbraided him--not behaving theatrically, in fine, as the
ranting pen has made us expect of emergent ladies that they will
naturally do. Concerning himself, he thought commendingly, a tear would
have overcome him. She had not wept. The kaleidoscope was shaken in his
fragmentary mind, and she appeared thrice adorable for this noble
composure, he brutish.
Conscience and reason had resolved to a dead weight in him, like an
inanimate force, governing his acts despite the man, while he was with
Renee. Now his wishes and waverings conjured up a semblance of a
conscience and much reason to assure him that he had done foolishly as
well as unkindly, most unkindly: that he was even the ghastly spectacle
of a creature attempting to be more than he can be. Are we never to
embrace our inclinations? Are the laws regulating an old dry man like
his teacher and guide to be the same for the young and vigorous?
Is a good gift to be refused? And this was his first love! The
brilliant Renee, many-hued as a tropic bird! his lady of shining grace,
with her sole fault of want of courage devotedly amended! his pupil, he
might say, of whom he had foretold that she must come to such a pass, at
the same time prefixing his fidelity. And he was handing her over
knowingly to one kind of wretchedness--'son amour, mon ami,' shot through
him, lighting up the gulfs of a mind in wreck;--and one kind of happiness
could certainly be promised her!
All these and innumerable other handsome pleadings of the simulacra of
the powers he had set up to rule, were crushed at daybreak by the
realities in a sense of weight that pushed him mechanically on. He
telegraphed to Roland, and mentally gave chase to the message to recall
it. The slumberer roused in darkness by the relentless insane-seeming
bell which hales him to duty, melts at the charms of sleep, and feels
that logic is with him in his preference of his pillow; but the tireless
revolving world outside, nature's pitiless antagonist, has hung one of
its balances about him, and his actions are directed by the state of the
scales, wherein duty weighs deep and desireability swings like a pendant
doll: so he throws on his harness, astounded, till his blood quickens
with work, at the round of sacrifices demanded of nature: which is indeed
curious considering what we are taught here and there as to the
infallibility of our august mother. Well, the world of humanity had done
this for Beauchamp. His afflicted historian is compelled to fling his
net among prosaic similitudes for an illustration of one thus degradedly
in its grip. If he had been off with his love like the rover! why, then
the Muse would have loosened her lap like May showering flower-buds, and
we might have knocked great nature up from her sleep to embellish his
desperate proceedings with hurricanes to be danced over, to say nothing
of imitative spheres dashing out into hurly-burly after his example.
Conscious rectitude, too, after the pattern of the well-behaved AEneas
quitting the fair bosom of Carthage in obedience to the Gods, for an
example to his Roman progeny, might have stiffened his backbone and put a
crown upon his brows. It happened with him that his original training
rather imposed the idea that he was a figure to be derided. The approval
of him by the prudent was a disgust, and by the pious tasteless. He had
not any consolation in reverting to Dr. Shrapnel's heavy Puritanism. On
the contrary, such a general proposition as that of the sage of Bevisham
could not for a moment stand against the pathetic special case of Renee:
and as far as Beauchamp's active mind went, he was for demanding that
Society should take a new position in morality, considerably broader, and
adapted to very special cases.
Nevertheless he was hardly grieved in missing Renee at Rosamund's
breakfast-table. Rosamund informed him that Madame de Rouaillout's door
was locked. Her particular news for him was of a disgraceful alarum
raised by Captain Baskelett in the night, to obtain admission; and of an
interview she had with him in the early morning, when he subjected her to
great insolence. Beauchamp's attention was drawn to her repetition of
the phrase 'mistress of the house.' However, she did him justice in
regard to Renee, and thoroughly entered into the fiction of Renee's visit
to her as her guest: he passed over everything else.
To stop the mouth of a scandal-monger, he drove full speed to Cecil's
Club, where he heard that the captain had breakfasted and had just
departed for Romfrey Castle. He followed to the station. The train had
started. So mischief was rolling in that direction.
Late at night Rosamund was allowed to enter the chill unlighted chamber,
where the unhappy lady had been lying for hours in the gloom of a London
Winter's daylight and gaslight.
'Madame de Rouaillout is indisposed with headache,' was her report to
The conventional phraseology appeased him, though he saw his grief behind
Presently he asked if Renee had taken food.
'No: you know what a headache is,' Rosamund replied.
It is true that we do not care to eat when we are in pain.
He asked if she looked ill.
'She will not have lights in the room,' said Rosamund.
Piecemeal he gained the picture of Renee in an image of the death within
which welcomed a death without.
Rosamund was impatient with him for speaking of medical aid. These men!
She remarked very honestly:
'Oh, no; doctors are not needed.'
'Has she mentioned me?'
'Why do you swing your watch-chain, ma'am?' cried Beauchamp, bounding
off his chair.
He reproached her with either pretending to indifference or feeling it;
and then insisted on his privilege of going up-stairs-accompanied by her,
of course; and then it was to be only to the door; then an answer to a
message was to satisfy him.
'Any message would trouble her: what message would you send?' Rosamund
The weighty and the trivial contended; no fitting message could be
'You are unused to real suffering--that is for women!--and want to be
doing instead of enduring,' said Rosamund.
She was beginning to put faith in the innocence of these two mortally
sick lovers. Beauchamp's outcries against himself gave her the shadows
of their story. He stood in tears--a thing to see to believe of Nevil
Beauchamp; and plainly he did not know it, or else he would have taken
her advice to him to leave the house at an hour that was long past
midnight. Her method for inducing him to go was based on her intimate
knowledge of him: she made as if to soothe and kiss him compassionately.
In the morning there was a flying word from Roland, on his way to
England. Rosamund tempered her report of Renee by saying of her, that
she was very quiet. He turned to the window.
'Look, what a climate ours is!' Beauchamp abused the persistent fog.
'Dull, cold, no sky, a horrible air to breathe! This is what she has
come to! Has she spoken of me yet?'
'Is she dead silent?'
'She answers, if I speak to her.'
'I believe, ma'am,' said Beauchamp, 'that we are the coldest-hearted
people in Europe.'
Rosamund did not defend us, or the fog. Consequently nothing was left
for him to abuse but himself. In that she tried to moderate him, and
drew forth a torrent of self-vituperation, after which he sank into the
speechless misery he had been evading; until sophistical fancy, another
evolution of his nature, persuaded him that Roland, seeing Renee, would
for love's sake be friendly to them.
'I should have told you, Nevil, by the way, that the earl is dead,' said
'Her brother will be here to-day; he can't be later than the evening,'
said Beauchamp. 'Get her to eat, ma'am; you must. Command her to eat.
This terrible starvation!'
'You ate nothing yourself, Nevil, all day yesterday.'
He surveyed the table. 'You have your cook in town, I see. Here's a
breakfast to feed twenty hungry families in Spitalfields. Where does the
mass of meat go? One excess feeds another. You're overdone with
servants. Gluttony, laziness, and pilfering come of your host of
unmanageable footmen and maids; you stuff them, and wonder they're idle
and immoral. If--I suppose I must call him the earl now, or Colonel
Halkett, or any one of the army of rich men, hear of an increase of the
income-tax, or some poor wretch hints at a sliding scale of taxation,
they yell as if they were thumb-screwed: but five shillings in the pound
goes to the kitchen as a matter of course--to puff those pompous idiots!
and the parsons, who should be preaching against this sheer waste of food
and perversion of the strength of the nation, as a public sin, are
maundering about schism. There's another idle army! Then we have
artists, authors, lawyers, doctors--the honourable professions! all
hanging upon wealth, all ageing the rich, and all bearing upon labour!
it's incubus on incubus. In point of fact, the rider's too heavy for the
horse in England.'
He began to nibble at bread.
Rosamund pushed over to him a plate of the celebrated Steynham pie, of
her own invention, such as no douse in the county of Sussex could produce
'What would you have the parsons do?' she said.
'Take the rich by the throat and show them in the kitchen-mirror that
they're swine running down to the sea with a devil in them.' She had set
him off again, but she had enticed him to eating. 'Pooh! it has all
been said before. Stones are easier to move than your English. May I be
forgiven for saying it! an invasion is what they want to bring them to
their senses. I'm sick of the work. Why should I be denied--am I to
kill the woman I love that I may go on hammering at them? Their idea of
liberty is, an evasion of public duty. Dr. Shrapnel's right--it's a
money-logged Island! Men like the Earl of Romfrey, who have never done
work in their days except to kill bears and birds, I say they're stifled
by wealth: and he at least would have made an Admiral of mark, or a
General: not of much value, but useful in case of need. But he, like a
pretty woman, was under no obligation to contribute more than an
ornamental person to the common good. As to that, we count him by tens
of thousands now, and his footmen and maids by hundreds of thousands.
The rich love the nation through their possessions; otherwise they have
no country. If they loved the country they would care for the people.
Their hearts are eaten up by property. I am bidden to hold my tongue
because I have no knowledge. When men who have this "knowledge" will go
down to the people, speak to them, consult and argue with them, and come
into suitable relations with them--I don't say of lords and retainers,
but of knowers and doers, leaders and followers--out of consideration for
public safety, if not for the common good, I shall hang back gladly;
though I won't hear misstatements. My fault is, that I am too moderate.
I should respect myself more if I deserved their hatred. This flood of
luxury, which is, as Dr. Shrapnel says, the body's drunkenness and the
soul's death, cries for execration. I'm too moderate. But I shall quit
the country: I've no place here.'
Rosamund ahemed. 'France, Nevil? I should hardly think that France
would please you, in the present state of things over there.'
Half cynically, with great satisfaction, she had watched him fretting at
the savoury morsels of her pie with a fork like a sparrow-beak during the
monologue that would have been so dreary to her but for her appreciation
of the wholesome effect of the letting off of steam, and her admiration
of the fire of his eyes. After finishing his plate he had less the look
of a ship driving on to reef--some of his images of the country. He
called for claret and water, sighing as he munched bread in vast
portions, evidently conceiving that to eat unbuttered bread was to
abstain from luxury. He praised passingly the quality of the bread. It
came from Steynham, and so did the, milk and cream, the butter, chicken
and eggs. He was good enough not to object to the expenditure upon the
transmission of the accustomed dainties. Altogether the gradual act of
nibbling had conduced to his eating remarkably well-royally. Rosamund's
more than half-cynical ideas of men, and her custom of wringing unanimous
verdicts from a jury of temporary impressions, inclined her to imagine
him a lover that had not to be so very much condoled with, and a
politician less alarming in practice than in theory:--somewhat a
gentleman of domestic tirades on politics: as it is observed of your
generous young Radical of birth and fortune, that he will become on the
old high road to a round Conservatism.
He pitched one of the morning papers to the floor in disorderly sheets,
muttering: 'So they're at me!'
'Is Dr. Shrapnel better?' she asked. 'I hold to a good appetite as a
sign of a man's recovery.'
Beauchamp was confronting the fog at the window. He swung round: 'Dr.
Shrapnel is better. He has a particularly clever young female cook.'
'Ah! then . . .'
'Yes, then, naturally! He would naturally hasten to recover to partake
of the viands, ma'am.'
Rosamund murmured of her gladness that he should be able to enjoy them.
'Oddly enough, he is not an eater of meat,' said Beauchamp.
'I beg you not to mention the fact to my lord. You see, you yourself can
scarcely pardon it. He does not exclude flesh from his table. Blackburn
Tuckham dined there once. "You are a thorough revolutionist, Dr.
Shrapnel," he observed. The doctor does not exclude wine, but he does
not drink it. Poor Tuckham went away entirely opposed to a Radical he
could not even meet as a boon-fellow. I begged him not to mention the
circumstances, as I have begged you. He pledged me his word to that
effect solemnly; he correctly felt that if the truth were known, there
would be further cause for the reprobation of the man who had been his
'And that poor girl, Nevil?'
'Miss Denham? She contracted the habit of eating meat at school, and
drinking wine in Paris, and continues it, occasionally. Now run
upstairs. Insist on food. Inform Madame de Rouaillout that her brother
M. le comte de Croisnel will soon be here, and should not find her ill.
Talk to her as you women can talk. Keep the blinds down in her room;
light a dozen wax-candles. Tell her I have no thought but of her. It's
a lie: of no woman but of her: that you may say. But that you can't say.
You can say I am devoted--ha, what stuff! I've only to open my mouth!--
say nothing of me: let her think the worst--unless it comes to a question
of her life: then be a merciful good woman . . .' He squeezed her
fingers, communicating his muscular tremble to her sensitive woman's
frame, and electrically convincing her that he was a lover.
She went up-stairs. In ten minutes she descended, and found him pacing
up and down the hall. 'Madame de Rouaillout is much the same,' she said.
He nodded, looked up the stairs, and about for his hat and gloves, drew
on the gloves, fixed the buttons, blinked at his watch, and settled his
hat as he was accustomed to wear it, all very methodically, and talking
rapidly, but except for certain precise directions, which were not needed
by so careful a housekeeper and nurse as Rosamund was known to be, she
could not catch a word of meaning. He had some appointment, it seemed;
perhaps he was off for a doctor--a fresh instance of his masculine
incapacity to understand patient endurance. After opening the housedoor,
and returning to the foot of the stairs, listening and sighing, he
It struck her that he was trying to be two men at once.
The litter of newspaper sheets in the morning-room brought his
exclamation to her mind: 'They're at me!' Her eyes ran down the columns,
and were seized by the print of his name in large type. A leading
article was devoted to Commander's Beauchamp's recent speech delivered
in the great manufacturing town of Gunningham, at a meeting under the
presidency of the mayor, and his replies to particular questions
addressed to him; one being, what right did he conceive himself to have
to wear the Sovereign's uniform in professing Republican opinions?
Rosamund winced for her darling during her first perusal of the article.
It was of the sarcastically caressing kind, masterly in ease of style,
as the flourish of the executioner well may be with poor Bare-back hung
up to a leisurely administration of the scourge. An allusion to 'Jack on
shore' almost persuaded her that his uncle Everard had inspired the
writer of the article. Beauchamp's reply to the question of his loyalty
was not quoted: he was, however, complimented on his frankness. At the
same time he was assured that his error lay in a too great proneness to
make distinctions, and that there was no distinction between sovereign
and country in a loyal and contented land, which could thank him for
gallant services in war, while taking him for the solitary example to be
cited at the present period of the evils of a comparatively long peace.
'Doubtless the tedium of such a state to a man of the temperament of the
gallant commander,' etc., the termination of the article was indulgent.
Rosamund recurred to the final paragraph for comfort, and though she
loved Beauchamp, the test of her representative feminine sentiment
regarding his political career, when personal feeling on his behalf had
subsided, was, that the writer of the article must have received an
intimation to deal both smartly and forbearingly with the offender: and
from whom but her lord? Her notions of the conduct of the Press were
primitive. In a summary of the article Beauchamp was treated as naughty
boy, formerly brave boy, and likely by-and-by to be good boy. Her secret
heart would have spoken similarly, with more emphasis on the flattering
A telegram arrived from her lord. She was bidden to have the house clear
for him by noon of the next day.
How could that be done?
But to write blankly to inform the Earl of Romfrey that he was excluded
from his own house was another impossibility.
'Hateful man!' she apostrophized Captain Baskelett, and sat down,
supporting her chin in a prolonged meditation.
The card of a French lady, bearing the name of Madame d'Auffray, was
handed to her.
Beauchamp had gone off to his friend Lydiard, to fortify himself in his
resolve to reply to that newspaper article by eliciting counsel to the
contrary. Phrase by phrase he fought through the first half of his
composition of the reply against Lydiard, yielding to him on a point or
two of literary judgement, only the more vehemently to maintain his ideas
of discretion, which were, that he would not take shelter behind a single
subterfuge; that he would try this question nakedly, though he should
stand alone; that he would stake his position on it, and establish his
right to speak his opinions: and as for unseasonable times, he protested
it was the cry of a gorged middle-class, frightened of further action,
and making snug with compromise. Would it be a seasonable time when
there was uproar? Then it would be a time to be silent on such themes:
they could be discussed calmly now, and without danger; and whether he
was hunted or not, he cared nothing. He declined to consider the
peculiar nature of Englishmen: they must hear truth or perish.
Knowing the difficulty once afflicting Beauchamp in the art of speaking
on politics tersely, Lydiard was rather astonished at his well-delivered
cannonade; and he fancied that his modesty had been displaced by the new
acquirement; not knowing the nervous fever of his friend's condition, for
which the rattle of speech was balm, and contention a native element, and
the assumption of truth a necessity. Beauchamp hugged his politics like
some who show their love of the pleasures of life by taking to them
angrily. It was all he had: he had given up all for it. He forced
Lydiard to lay down his pen and walk back to the square with him, and
went on arguing, interjecting, sneering, thumping the old country,
raising and oversetting her, treating her alternately like a disrespected
grandmother, and like a woman anciently beloved; as a dead lump, and as a
garden of seeds; reviewing prominent political men, laughing at the
dwarf-giants; finally casting anchor on a Mechanics' Institute that he
had recently heard of, where working men met weekly for the purpose of
reading the British poets.
'That's the best thing I've heard of late,' he said, shaking Lydiard's
hand on the door-steps.
'Ah! You're Commander Beauchamp; I think I know you. I've seen you on a
platform,' cried a fresh-faced man in decent clothes, halting on his way
along the pavement; 'and if you were in your uniform, you damned
Republican dog! I'd strip you with my own hands, for the disloyal
scoundrel you are, with your pimping Republicanism and capsizing
everything in a country like Old England. It's the cat-o'-nine-tails you
want, and the bosen to lay on; and I'd do it myself. And mind me, when
next I catch sight of you in blue and gold lace, I'll compel you to show
cause why you wear it, and prove your case, or else I'll make a Cupid of
you, and no joke about it. I don't pay money for a nincompoop to outrage
my feelings of respect and loyalty, when he's in my pay, d' ye hear?
You're in my pay: and you do your duty, or I 'll kick ye out of it. It's
no empty threat. You look out for your next public speech, if it's
anywhere within forty mile of London. Get along.'
With a scowl, and a very ugly 'yah!' worthy of cannibal jaws, the man
Beauchamp kept eye on him. 'What class does a fellow like that come of?'
'He's a harmless enthusiast,' said Lydiard. 'He has been reading the
article, and has got excited over it.'
'I wish I had the fellow's address.' Beauchamp looked wistfully at
Lydiard, but he did not stimulate the generous offer to obtain it for
him. Perhaps it was as well to forget the fellow.
'You see the effect of those articles,' he said.
'You see what I mean by unseasonable times,' Lydiard retorted.
'He didn't talk like a tradesman,' Beauchamp mused.
'He may be one, for all that. It's better to class him as an
'An enthusiast!' Beauchamp stamped: 'for what?'
'For the existing order of things; for his beef and ale; for the titles
he is accustomed to read in the papers. You don't study your
'I'd study that fellow, if I had the chance.'
'You would probably find him one of the emptiest, with a rather worse
temper than most of them.'
Beauchamp shook Lydiard's hand, saying, 'The widow?'
'There's no woman like her!'
'Well, now you're free--why not? I think I put one man out of the
'Too early! Besides--'
'Repeat that, and you may have to say too late.'
'When shall you go down to Bevisham?'
'When? I can't tell: when I've gone through fire. There never was a
home for me like the cottage, and the old man, and the dear good girl--
the best of girls! if you hadn't a little spoilt her with your
philosophy of the two sides of the case.'
'I've not given her the brains.'
'She's always doubtful of doing, doubtful of action: she has no will. So
she is fatalistic, and an argument between us ends in her submitting, as
if she must submit to me, because I'm overbearing, instead of accepting
'She feels your influence.'
'She's against the publication of THE DAWN--for the present. It's an
"unseasonable time." I argue with her: I don't get hold of her mind a
bit; but at last she says, "very well." She has your head.'
And you have her heart, Lydiard could have rejoined.
They said good-bye, neither of them aware of the other's task of
As they were parting, Beauchamp perceived his old comrade Jack Wilmore
'Jack!' he called.
Wilmore glanced round. 'How do you do, Beauchamp?'
'Where are you off to, Jack?'
'Down to the Admiralty. I'm rather in a hurry; I have an appointment.'
'Can't you stop just a minute?'
'I'm afraid I can't. Good morning.'
It was incredible; but this old friend, the simplest heart alive,
retreated without a touch of his hand, and with a sorely wounded air.
'That newspaper article appears to have been generally read,' Beauchamp
said to Lydiard, who answered:
'The article did not put the idea of you into men's minds, but gave
tongue to it: you may take it for an instance of the sagacity of the
'You wouldn't take that man and me to have been messmates for years!
Old Jack Wilmore! Don't go, Lydiard.'
Lydiard declared that he was bound to go: he was engaged to read Italian
for an hour with Mrs. Wardour-Devereux.
'Then go, by all means,' Beauchamp dismissed him.
He felt as if he had held a review of his friends and enemies on the
door-step, and found them of one colour. If it was an accident befalling
him in a London square during a space of a quarter of an hour, what of
the sentiments of universal England? Lady Barbara's elopement with Lord
Alfred last year did not rouse much execration; hardly worse than gossip
and compassion. Beauchamp drank a great deal of bitterness from his
They who provoke huge battles, and gain but lame victories over
themselves, insensibly harden to the habit of distilling sour thoughts
from their mischances and from most occurrences. So does the world they
combat win on them.
'For,' says Dr. Shrapnel, 'the world and nature, which are opposed in
relation to our vital interests, each agrees to demand of us a perfect
victory, on pain otherwise of proving it a stage performance; and the
victory over the world, as over nature, is over self: and this victory
lies in yielding perpetual service to the world, and none to nature: for
the world has to be wrought out, nature to be subdued.'
The interior of the house was like a change of elements to Beauchamp. He
had never before said to himself, 'I have done my best, and I am beaten!'
Outside of it, his native pugnacity had been stimulated; but here, within
the walls where Renee lay silently breathing, barely breathing, it might
be dying, he was overcome, and left it to circumstance to carry him to a
conclusion. He went up-stairs to the drawing-room, where he beheld
Madame d'Auffray in conversation with Rosamund.
'I was assured by Madame la Comtesse that I should see you to-day,' the
French lady said as she swam to meet him; 'it is a real pleasure': and
pressing his hand she continued, 'but I fear you will be disappointed of
seeing my sister. She would rashly try your climate at its worst period.
Believe me, I do not join in decrying it, except on her account: I could
have forewarned her of an English Winter and early Spring. You know her
impetuosity; suddenly she decided on accepting the invitation of Madame
la Comtesse; and though I have no fears of her health, she is at present
a victim of the inclement weather.'
'You have seen her, madame?' said Beauchamp. So well had the clever
lady played the dupe that he forgot there was a part for him to play.
Even the acquiescence of Rosamund in the title of countess bewildered
'Madame d'Auffray has been sitting for an hour with Madame de
Rouaillout,' said Rosamund.
He spoke of Roland's coming.
'Ah?' said Madame d'Auffray, and turned to Rosamund: 'you have
determined to surprise us: then you will have a gathering of the whole
family in your hospitable house, Madame la Comtesse!
'If M. la Marquis will do it that honour, madame!
'My brother is in London,' Madame d'Auffray said to Beauchamp.
The shattering blow was merited by one who could not rejoice that he had
THE EARL OF ROMFREY AND THE COUNTESS
An extraordinary telegraphic message, followed by a still more
extraordinary letter the next morning, from Rosamund Culling, all but
interdicted the immediate occupation of his house in town to Everard, now
Earl of Romfrey. She begged him briefly not to come until after the
funeral, and proposed to give him good reasons for her request at their
meeting. 'I repeat, I pledge myself to satisfy you on this point,' she
wrote. Her tone was that of one of your heroic women of history refusing
to surrender a fortress.
Everard's wrath was ever of a complexion that could suffer postponements
without his having to fear an abatement of it. He had no business to
transact in London, and he had much at the Castle, so he yielded himself
up to his new sensations, which are not commonly the portion of gentlemen
of his years. He anticipated that Nevil would at least come down to the
funeral, but there was no appearance of him, nor a word to excuse his
absence. Cecil was his only supporter. They walked together between the
double ranks of bare polls of the tenantry and peasantry, resembling in a
fashion old Froissart engravings the earl used to dote on in his boyhood,
representing bodies of manacled citizens, whose humbled heads looked like
nuts to be cracked, outside the gates of captured French towns, awaiting
the disposition of their conqueror, with his banner above him and
prancing knights around. That was a glory of the past. He had no
successor. The thought was chilling; the solitariness of childlessness
to an aged man, chief of a most ancient and martial House, and proud of
his blood, gave him the statue's outlook on a desert, and made him feel
that he was no more than a whirl of the dust, settling to the dust.
He listened to the parson curiously and consentingly. We are ashes. Ten
centuries had come to an end in him to prove the formula correct. The
chronicle of the House would state that the last Earl of Romfrey left no
Cecil was a fine figure walking beside him. Measured by feet, he might
be a worthy holder of great lands. But so heartily did the earl despise
this nephew that he never thought of trying strength with the fellow, and
hardly cared to know what his value was, beyond his immediate uses as an
instrument to strike with. Beauchamp of Romfrey had been his dream, not
Baskelett: and it increased his disgust of Beauchamp that Baskelett
should step forward as the man. No doubt Cecil would hunt the county
famously: he would preserve game with the sleepless eye of a General of
the Jesuits. These things were to be considered.
Two days after the funeral Lord Romfrey proceeded to London. He was met
at the station by Rosamund, and informed that his house was not yet
vacated by the French family.
'And where have you arranged for me to go, ma'am?' he asked her
She named an hotel where she had taken rooms for him.
He nodded, and was driven to the hotel, saying little on the road.
As she expected, he was heavily armed against her and Nevil.
'You're the slave of the fellow, ma'am. You are so infatuated that you
second his amours, in my house. I must wait for a clearance, it seems.'
He cast a comical glance of disapprobation on the fittings of the hotel
apartment, abhorring gilt.
'They leave us the day after to-morrow,' said Rosamund, out of breath
with nervousness at the commencement of the fray, and skipping over the
opening ground of a bold statement of facts. 'Madame de Rouaillout has
been unwell. She is not yet recovered; she has just risen. Her sister-
in-law has nursed her. Her husband seems much broken in health; he is
perfect on the points of courtesy.'
'That is lucky, ma'am.'
'Her brother, Nevil's comrade in the war, was there also.'
'Who came first?'
'My lord, you have only heard Captain Baskelett's version of the story.
She has been my guest since the first day of her landing in England.
There cannot possibly be an imputation on her.'
'Ma'am, if her husband manages to be satisfied, what on earth have I to
do with it?'
'I am thinking of Nevil, my lord.'
'You're never thinking of any one else, ma'am.'
'He sleeps here, at this hotel. He left the house to Madame de
Rouaillout. I bear witness to that.'
'You two seem to have made your preparations to stand a criminal trial.'
'It is pure truth, my lord.'
'Do you take me to be anxious about the fellow's virtue?'
'She is a lady who would please you.'
'A scandal in my house does not please me.'
'The only approach to a scandal was made by Captain Baskelett.'
'A poor devil locked out of his bed on a Winter's night hullabaloos with
pretty good reason. I suppose he felt the contrast.'
'My lord, this lady did me the honour to come to me on a visit. I have
not previously presumed to entertain a friend. She probably formed no
estimate of my exact position.'
The earl with a gesture implied Rosamund's privilege to act the hostess
'You invited her?' he said.
'That is, I had told her I hoped she would come to England.'
'She expected you to be at the house in town on her arrival?'
'It was her impulse to come.'
'She came alone?'
'She may have desired to be away from her own people for a time: there
may have been domestic differences. These cases are delicate.'
'This case appears to have been so delicate that you had to lock out a
'It is indelicate and base of Captain Baskelett to complain and to hint.
Nevil had to submit to the same; and Captain Baskelett took his revenge
on the housedoor and the bells. The house was visited by the police next
'Do you suspect him to have known you were inside the house that night?'
She could not say so: but hatred of Cecil urged her past the bounds of
habitual reticence to put it to her lord whether he, imagining the worst,
would have behaved like Cecil.
To this he did not reply, but remarked, 'I am sorry he annoyed you,
'It is not the annoyance to me; it is the shocking, the unmanly insolence
to a lady, and a foreign lady.'
'That's a matter between him and Nevil. I uphold him.'
'Then, my lord, I am silent.'
Silent she remained; but Lord Romfrey was also silent: and silence being
a weapon of offence only when it is practised by one out of two, she had
to reflect whether in speaking no further she had finished her business.
'Captain Baskelett stays at the Castle?' she asked.
'He likes his quarters there.'
'Nevil could not go down to Romfrey, my lord. He was obliged to wait,
and see, and help me to entertain, her brother and her husband.'
'Why, ma'am? But I have no objection to his making the marquis a happy
'He has done what few men would have done, that she may be a self-
'The parson's in that fellow!' Lord Romfrey exclaimed. 'Now I have the
story. She came to him, he declined the gift, and you were turned into
the curtain for them. If he had only been off with her, he would have
done the country good service. Here he's a failure and a nuisance; he's
a common cock-shy for the journals. I'm tired of hearing of him; he's a
stench in our nostrils. He's tired of the woman.'
'He loves her.'
'Ma'am, you're hoodwinked. If he refused to have her, there 's a
something he loves better. I don't believe we've bred a downright
lackadaisical donkey in our family: I know him. He's not a fellow for
abstract morality: I know him. It's bargain against bargain with him;
I'll do him that justice. I hear he has ordered the removal of the
Jersey bull from Holdesbury, and the beast is mine,' Lord Romfrey
concluded in a lower key.
'Nevil has taken him.'
'Ha! pull and pull, then!'
'He contends that he is bound by a promise to give an American gentleman
the refusal of the bull, and you must sign an engagement to keep the
animal no longer than two years.'
'I sign no engagement. I stick to the bull.'
'Consent to see Nevil to-night, my lord.'
'When he has apologized to you, I may, ma'am.'
'Surely he did more, in requesting me to render him a service.'
'There's not a creature living that fellow wouldn't get to serve him,
if he knew the trick. We should all of us be marching on London at
Shrapnel's heels. The political mania is just as incurable as
hydrophobia, and he's bitten. That's clear.'
'Bitten perhaps: but not mad. As you have always contended, the true
case is incurable, but it is very rare: and is this one?'
'It's uncommonly like a true case, though I haven't seen him foam at the
mouth, and shun water-as his mob does.'
Rosamund restrained some tears, betraying the effort to hide the
moisture. 'I am no match for you, my lord. I try to plead on his
behalf;--I do worse than if I were dumb. This I most earnestly say: he
is the Nevil Beauchamp who fought for his country, and did not abandon
her cause, though he stood there--we had it from Colonel Halkett--a
skeleton: and he is the Nevil who--I am poorly paying my debt to him!
--defended me from the aspersions of his cousin.'
'Boys!' Lord Romfrey ejaculated.
'It is the same dispute between them as men.'
'Have you forgotten my proposal to shield you from liars and
'Could I ever forget it?' Rosamund appeared to come shining out of a
cloud. 'Princeliest and truest gentleman, I thought you then, and I know
you to be, my dear lord. I fancied I had lived the scandal down. I was
under the delusion that I had grown to be past backbiting: and that no
man could stand before me to insult and vilify me. But, for a woman in
any so-called doubtful position, it seems that the coward will not be
wanting to strike her. In quitting your service, I am able to affirm
that only once during the whole term of it have I consciously overstepped
the line of my duties: it was for Nevil: and Captain Baskelett undertook
to defend your reputation, in consequence.'
'Has the rascal been questioning your conduct?' The earl frowned.
'Oh, no! not questioning: he does not question, he accuses: he never
doubted: and what he went shouting as a boy, is plain matter of fact to
him now. He is devoted to you. It was for your sake that he desired me
to keep my name from being mixed up in a scandal he foresaw the
occurrence of in your house.'
'He permitted himself to sneer at you?'
'He has the art of sneering. On this occasion he wished to be direct and
'What sort of hints were they?'
Lord Romfrey strode away from her chair that the answer might be easy to
her, for she was red, and evidently suffering from shame as well as
'The hints we call distinct.' said Rosamund.
'In hard words.'
'Then you won't meet Cecil?'
Such a question, and the tone of indifference in which it came, surprised
and revolted her so that the unreflecting reply leapt out:
'I would rather meet a devil.'
Of how tremblingly, vehemently, and hastily she had said it, she was
unaware. To her lord it was an outcry of nature, astutely touched by him
to put her to proof.
He continued his long leisurely strides, nodding over his feet.
Rosamund stood up. She looked a very noble figure in her broad black-
furred robe. 'I have one serious confession to make, sir.'
'What's that?' said he.
'I would avoid it, for it cannot lead to particular harm; but I have an
enemy who may poison your ear in my absence. And first I resign my
position. I have forfeited it.'
'Time goes forward, ma'am, and you go round. Speak to the point. Do you
mean that you toss up the reins of my household?'
'I do. You trace it to Nevil immediately?'
'I do. The fellow wants to upset the country, and he begins with me.'
'You are wrong, my lord. What I have done places me at Captain
Baskelett's mercy. It is too loathsome to think of: worse than the whip;
worse than your displeasure. It might never be known; but the thought
that it might gives me courage. You have said that to protect a woman
everything is permissible. It is your creed, my lord, and because the
world, I have heard you say, is unjust and implacable to women. In some
cases, I think so too. In reality I followed your instructions; I mean,
your example. Cheap chivalry on my part! But it pained me not a little.
I beg to urge that in my defence.'
'Well, ma'am, you have tied the knot tight enough; perhaps now you'll cut
it,' said the earl.
Rosamund gasped softly. 'M. le Marquis is a gentleman who, after a life
of dissipation, has been reminded by bad health that he has a young and
'He dug his pit to fall into it:--he's jealous?'
She shook her head to indicate the immeasurable.
'Senile jealousy is anxious to be deceived. He could hardly be deceived
so far as to imagine that Madame la Marquise would visit me, such as I
am, as my guest. Knowingly or not, his very clever sister, a good woman,
and a friend to husband and wife--a Frenchwoman of the purest type--gave
me the title. She insisted on it, and I presumed to guess that she
deemed it necessary for the sake of peace in that home.'
Lord Romfrey appeared merely inquisitive; his eyebrows were lifted in
permanence; his eyes were mild.
She continued: 'They leave England in a few hours. They are not likely
to return. I permitted him to address me with the title of countess.'
'Of Romfrey?' said the earl.
His mouth contracted. She did not expect thunder to issue from it, but
she did fear to hear a sarcasm, or that she would have to endure a deadly
silence: and she was gathering her own lips in imitation of his, to nerve
herself for some stroke to come, when he laughed in his peculiar close-
'I'm afraid you've dished yourself.'
'You cannot forgive me, my lord?'
He indulged in more of his laughter, and abruptly summoning gravity, bade
her talk to him of affairs. He himself talked of the condition of the
Castle, and with a certain off-hand contempt of the ladies of the family,
and Cecil's father, Sir John. 'What are they to me?' said he, and he
complained of having been called Last Earl of Romfrey.
'The line ends undegenerate,' said Rosamund fervidly, though she knew not
where she stood.
'Ends!' quoth the earl.
'I must see Stukely,' he added briskly, and stooped to her: 'I beg you to
drive me to my Club, countess.'
'Once a countess, always a countess!'
'But once an impostor, my lord?'
'Not always, we'll hope.'
He enjoyed this little variation in the language of comedy; letting it
drop, to say: 'Be here to-morrow early. Don't chase that family away
from the house. Do as you will, but not a word of Nevil to me: he's a
bad mess in any man's porringer; it's time for me to claim exemption of
him from mine.'
She dared not let her thoughts flow, for to think was to triumph, and
possibly to be deluded. They came in copious volumes when Lord Romfrey,
alighting at his Club, called to the coachman: 'Drive the countess home.'
They were not thoughts of triumph absolutely. In her cooler mind she
felt that it was a bad finish of a gallant battle. Few women had risen
against a tattling and pelting world so stedfastly; and would it not have
been better to keep her own ground, which she had won with tears and some
natural strength, and therewith her liberty, which she prized? The
hateful Cecil, a reminder of whom set her cheeks burning and turned her
heart to serpent, had forced her to it. So she honestly conceived, owing
to the circumstance of her honestly disliking the pomps of life and not
desiring to occupy any position of brilliancy. She thought assuredly of
her hoard of animosity toward the scandalmongers, and of the quiet glance
she would cast behind on them, and below. That thought came as a fruit,
not as a reflection.
But if ever two offending young gentlemen, nephews of a long-suffering
uncle, were circumvented, undermined, and struck to earth, with one blow,
here was the instance. This was accomplished by Lord Romfrey's
resolution to make the lady he had learnt to esteem his countess: and
more, it fixed to him for life one whom he could not bear to think of
losing: and still more, it might be; but what more was unwritten on his
Rosamund failed to recollect that Everard Romfrey never took a step
without seeing a combination of objects to be gained by it.
THE NEPHEWS OF THE EARL, AND ANOTHER EXHIBITION OF THE TWO PASSIONS IN
It was now the season when London is as a lighted tower to her provinces,
and, among other gentlemen hurried thither by attraction, Captain
Baskelett arrived. Although not a personage in the House of Commons, he
was a vote; and if he never committed himself to the perils of a speech,
he made himself heard. His was the part of chorus, which he performed
with a fairly close imitation of the original cries of periods before
parliaments were instituted, thus representing a stage in the human
development besides the borough of Bevisham. He arrived in the best of
moods for the emission of high-pitched vowel-sounds; otherwise in the
worst of tempers. His uncle had notified an addition of his income to
him at Romfrey, together with commands that he should quit the castle
instantly: and there did that woman, Mistress Culling, do the honours to
Nevil Beauchamp's French party. He assured Lord Palmet of his positive
knowledge of the fact, incredible as the sanction of such immoral
proceedings by the Earl of Romfrey must appear to that young nobleman.
Additions to income are of course acceptable, but in the form of a
palpable stipulation for silence, they neither awaken gratitude nor
effect their purpose. Quite the contrary; they prick the moral mind to
sit in judgement on the donor. It means, she fears me! Cecil
confidently thought and said of the intriguing woman who managed his
The town-house was open to him. Lord Romfrey was at Steynham. Cecil
could not suppose that he was falling into a pit in entering it. He
happened to be the favourite of the old housekeeper, who liked him for
his haughtiness, which was to her thinking the sign of real English
nobility, and perhaps it is the popular sign, and a tonic to the people.
She raised lamentations over the shame of the locking of the door against
him that awful night, declaring she had almost mustered courage to go
down to him herself, in spite of Mrs. Calling's orders. The old woman
lowered her voice to tell him that her official superior had permitted
the French gentleman and ladies to call her countess. This she knew for
a certainty, though she knew nothing of French; but the French lady who
came second brought a maid who knew English a little, and she said the
very words--the countess, and said also that her party took Mrs. Culling
for the Countess of Romfrey. What was more, my lord's coachman caught it
up, and he called her countess, and he had a quarrel about it with the
footman Kendall; and the day after a dreadful affair between them in the
mews, home drives madam, and Kendall is to go up to her, and down the
poor man comes, and not a word to be got out of him, but as if he had
seen a ghost. 'She have such power,' Cecil's admirer concluded.
'I wager I match her,' Cecil said to himself, pulling at his wristbands
and letting his lower teeth shine out. The means of matching her were
not so palpable as the resolution. First he took men into his
confidence. Then he touched lightly on the story to ladies, with the
question, 'What ought I to do?' In consideration for the Earl of Romfrey
he ought not to pass it over, he suggested. The ladies of the family
urged him to go to Steynham and boldly confront the woman. He was not
prepared for that. Better, it seemed to him, to blow the rumour, and
make it the topic of the season, until Lord Romfrey should hear of it.
Cecil had the ear of the town for a month. He was in the act of slicing
the air with his right hand in his accustomed style, one evening at Lady
Elsea's, to protest how vast was the dishonour done to the family by
Mistress Culling, when Stukely Culbrett stopped him, saying, 'The lady
you speak of is the Countess of Romfrey. I was present at the marriage.'
Cecil received the shock in the attitude of those martial figures we see
wielding two wooden swords in provincial gardens to tell the disposition
of the wind: abruptly abandoned by it, they stand transfixed, one sword
aloft, the other at their heels. The resemblance extended to his
astonished countenance. His big chest heaved. Like many another wounded
giant before him, he experienced the insufficiency of interjections to
solace pain. For them, however, the rocks were handy to fling, the trees
to uproot; heaven's concave resounded companionably to their bellowings.
Relief of so concrete a kind is not to be obtained in crowded London
'You are jesting?--you are a jester,' he contrived to say.
'It was a private marriage, and I was a witness,' replied Stukely.
'Lord Romfrey has made an honest woman of her, has he?'
'A peeress, you mean.'
Cecil bowed. 'Exactly. I am corrected. I mean a peeress.'
He got out of the room with as high an air as he could command, feeling
as if a bar of iron had flattened his head.
Next day it was intimated to him by one of the Steynham servants that
apartments were ready for him at the residence of the late earl: Lord
Romfrey's house was about to be occupied by the Countess of Romfrey.
Cecil had to quit, and he chose to be enamoured of that dignity of
sulking so seductive to the wounded spirit of man.
Rosamund, Countess of Romfrey, had worse to endure from Beauchamp.
He indeed came to the house, and he went through the formalities of
congratulation, but his opinion of her step was unconcealed, that she had
taken it for the title. He distressed her by reviving the case of Dr.
Shrapnel, as though it were a matter of yesterday, telling her she had
married a man with a stain on him; she should have exacted the Apology
as a nuptial present; ay, and she would have done it if she had cared
for the earl's honour or her own. So little did he understand men! so
tenacious was he of his ideas! She had almost forgotten the case of
Dr. Shrapnel, and to see it shooting up again in the new path of her
life was really irritating.
Rosamund did not defend herself.
'I am very glad you have come, Nevil,' she said; 'your uncle holds to the
ceremony. I may be of real use to you now; I wish to be.'
'You have only to prove it,' said he. 'If you can turn his mind to
marriage, you can send him to Bevisham.'
'My chief thought is to serve you.'
'I know it is, I know it is,' he rejoined with some fervour. 'You have
served me, and made me miserable for life, and rightly. Never mind,
all's well while the hand's to the axe.' Beauchamp smoothed his forehead
roughly, trying hard to inspire himself with the tonic draughts of
sentiments cast in the form of proverbs. 'Lord Romfrey saw her, you
'He did, Nevil, and admired her.'
'Well, if I suffer, let me think of her! For courage and nobleness I
shall never find her equal. Have you changed your ideas of Frenchwomen
now? Not a word, you say, not a look, to show her disdain of me whenever
my name was mentioned!'
'She could scarcely feel disdain. She was guilty of a sad error.'
'Through trusting in me. Will nothing teach you where the fault lies?
You women have no mercy for women. She went through the parade to
Romfrey Castle and back, and she must have been perishing at heart.
That, you English call acting. In history you have a respect for such
acting up to the scaffold. Good-bye to her! There's a story ended.
One thing you must promise: you're a peeress, ma'am: the story's out,
everybody has heard of it; that babbler has done his worst: if you have
a becoming appreciation of your title, you will promise me honestly--no,
give me your word as a woman I can esteem--that you will not run about
excusing me. Whatever you hear said or suggested, say nothing yourself.
I insist on your keeping silence. Press my hand.'
'Nevil, how foolish!'
'It's my will.'
'It is unreasonable. You give your enemies licence.'
'I know what's in your head. Take my hand, and let me have your word for
'But if persons you like very much, Nevil, should hear?'
'Promise. You are a woman not to break your word.'
'If I decline?'
'Your hand! I'll kiss it.'
'Oh! my darling.' Rosamund flung her arms round him and strained him an
instant to her bosom. 'What have I but you in the world? My comfort was
the hope that I might serve you.'
'Yes! by slaying one woman as an offering to another. It would be
impossible for you to speak the truth. Don't you see, it would be a lie
against her, and making a figure of me that a man would rather drop to
the ground than have shown of him? I was to blame, and only I. Madame
de Rouaillout was as utterly deceived by me as ever a trusting woman by a
brute. I look at myself and hardly believe it 's the same man. I wrote
to her that I was unchanged--and I was entirely changed, another
creature, anything Lord Romfrey may please to call me.'
'But, Nevil, I repeat, if Miss Halkett should hear . . . ?'
'She knows by this time.'
'At present she is ignorant of it.'
'And what is Miss Halkett to me?'
'More than you imagined in that struggle you underwent, I think, Nevil.
Oh! if only to save her from Captain Baskelett! He gained your uncle's
consent when they were at the Castle, to support him in proposing for
her. He is persistent. Women have been snared without loving. She is
a great heiress. Reflect on his use of her wealth. You respect her,
if you have no warmer feeling. Let me assure you that the husband of
Cecilia, if he is of Romfrey blood, has the fairest chance of the
estates. That man will employ every weapon. He will soon be here bowing
to me to turn me to his purposes.'
'Cecilia can see through Baskelett,' said Beauchamp.
'Single-mindedly selfish men may be seen through and through, and still
be dangerous, Nevil. The supposition is, that we know the worst of them.
He carries a story to poison her mind. She could resist it, if you and
she were in full confidence together. If she did not love you, she could
resist it. She does, and for some strange reason beyond my capacity to
fathom, you have not come to an understanding. Sanction my speaking to
her, just to put her on her guard, privately: not to injure that poor
lady, but to explain. Shall she not know the truth? I need say but very
little. Indeed, all I can say is, that finding the marquise in London
one evening, you telegraphed for me to attend on her, and I joined you.
You shake your head. But surely it is due to Miss Halkett. She should
be protected from what will certainly wound her deeply. Her father is
afraid of you, on the score of your theories. I foresee it: he will hear
the scandal: he will imagine you as bad in morals as in politics. And
you have lost your friend in Lord Romfrey--though he shall not be your
enemy. Colonel Halkett and Cecilia called on us at Steynham. She was
looking beautiful; a trifle melancholy. The talk was of your--that--I do
not like it, but you hold those opinions--the Republicanism. She had
read your published letters. She spoke to me of your sincerity. Colonel
Halkett of course was vexed.
It is the same with all your friends. She, however, by her tone, led me
to think that she sees you as you are, more than in what you do. They
are now in Wales. They will be in town after Easter. Then you must
expect that her feeling for you will be tried, unless but you will! You
will let me speak to her, Nevil. My position allows me certain liberties
I was previously debarred from. You have not been so very tender to your
Cecilia that you can afford to give her fresh reasons for sorrowful
perplexity. And why should you stand to be blackened by scandalmongers
when a few words of mine will prove that instead of weak you have been
strong, instead of libertine blameless? I am not using fine phrases: I
would not. I would be as thoughtful of you as if you were present. And
for her sake, I repeat, the truth should be told to her. I have a lock
of her hair.'
'Cecilia's? Where?' said Beauchamp.
'It is at Steynham.' Rosamund primmed her lips at the success of her
probing touch; but she was unaware of the chief reason for his doting on
those fair locks, and how they coloured his imagination since the day of
the drive into Bevisham.
'Now leave me, my dear Nevil,' she said. 'Lord Romfrey will soon be
here, and it is as well for the moment that you should not meet him, if
it can be avoided.'
Beauchamp left her, like a man out-argued and overcome. He had no wish
to meet his uncle, whose behaviour in contracting a misalliance and
casting a shadow on the family, in a manner so perfectly objectless and
senseless, appeared to him to call for the reverse of compliments.
Cecilia's lock of hair lying at Steynham hung in his mind. He saw the
smooth flat curl lying secret like a smile.
The graceful head it had fallen from was dimmer in his mental eye. He
went so far in this charmed meditation as to feel envy of the possessor
of the severed lock: passingly he wondered, with the wonder of reproach,
that the possessor should deem it enough to possess the lock, and resign
it to a drawer or a desk. And as when life rolls back on us after the
long ebb of illness, little whispers and diminutive images of the old
joys and prizes of life arrest and fill our hearts; or as, to men who
have been beaten down by storms, the opening of a daisy is dearer than
the blazing orient which bids it open; so the visionary lock of Cecilia's
hair became Cecilia's self to Beauchamp, yielding him as much of her as
he could bear to think of, for his heart was shattered.
Why had she given it to his warmest friend? For the asking, probably.
This question was the first ripple of the breeze from other emotions
beginning to flow fast.
He walked out of London, to be alone, and to think and from the palings
of a road on a South-western run of high land, he gazed, at the great
city--a place conquerable yet, with the proper appliances for subjugating
it: the starting of his daily newspaper, THE DAWN, say, as a
commencement. It began to seem a possible enterprise. It soon seemed a
proximate one. If Cecilia! He left the exclamation a blank, but not an
empty dash in the brain; rather like the shroud of night on a vast and
gloriously imagined land.
Nay, the prospect was partly visible, as the unknown country becomes by
degrees to the traveller's optics on the dark hill-tops. It is much, of
course, to be domestically well-mated: but to be fortified and armed by
one's wife with a weapon to fight the world, is rare good fortune; a
rapturous and an infinite satisfaction. He could now support of his own
resources a weekly paper. A paper published weekly, however, is a poor
thing, out of the tide, behind the date, mainly a literary periodical, no
foremost combatant in politics, no champion in the arena; hardly better
than a commentator on the events of the six past days; an echo, not a
voice. It sits on a Saturday bench and pretends to sum up. Who listens?
The verdict knocks dust out of a cushion. It has no steady continuous
pressure of influence. It is the organ of sleepers. Of all the bigger
instruments of money, it is the feeblest, Beauchamp thought. His
constant faith in the good effects of utterance naturally inclined him to
value six occasions per week above one; and in the fight he was for
waging, it was necessary that he should enter the ring and hit blow for
blow sans intermission. A statement that he could call false must be
challenged hot the next morning. The covert Toryism, the fits of
flunkeyism, the cowardice, of the relapsing middle-class, which is now
England before mankind, because it fills the sails of the Press, must be
exposed. It supports the Press in its own interests, affecting to speak
for the people. It belies the people. And this Press, declaring itself
independent, can hardly walk for fear of treading on an interest here, an
interest there. It cannot have a conscience. It is a bad guide, a false
guardian; its abject claim to be our national and popular interpreter-
even that is hollow and a mockery! It is powerful only while
subservient. An engine of money, appealing to the sensitiveness of
money, it has no connection with the mind of the nation. And that it is
not of, but apart from, the people, may be seen when great crises come.
Can it stop a war? The people would, and with thunder, had they the
medium. But in strong gales the power of the Press collapses; it wheezes
like a pricked pigskin of a piper. At its best Beauchamp regarded our
lordly Press as a curiously diapered curtain and delusive mask, behind
which the country struggles vainly to show an honest feature; and as a
trumpet that deafened and terrorized the people; a mere engine of
leaguers banded to keep a smooth face upon affairs, quite soullessly:
he meanwhile having to be dumb.
But a Journal that should be actually independent of circulation and
advertisements: a popular journal in the true sense, very lungs to the
people, for them to breathe freely through at last, and be heard out of
it, with well-paid men of mark to head and aid them;--the establishment
of such a Journal seemed to him brave work of a life, though one should
die early. The money launching it would be coin washed pure of its
iniquity of selfish reproduction, by service to mankind. This DAWN of
his conception stood over him like a rosier Aurora for the country. He
beheld it in imagination as a new light rising above hugeous London. You
turn the sheets of THE DAWN, and it is the manhood of the land addressing
you, no longer that alternately puling and insolent cry of the coffers.
The health, wealth, comfort, contentment of the greater number are there
to be striven for, in contempt of compromise and 'unseasonable times.'
Beauchamp's illuminated dream of the power of his DAWN to vitalize old
England, liberated him singularly from his wearing regrets and heart-
Surely Cecilia, who judged him sincere, might be bent to join hands with
him for so good a work! She would bring riches to her husband:
sufficient. He required the ablest men of the country to write for him,
and it was just that they should be largely paid. They at least in their
present public apathy would demand it. To fight the brewers, distillers,
publicans, the shopkeepers, the parsons, the landlords, the law limpets,
and also the indifferents, the logs, the cravens and the fools, high
talent was needed, and an ardour stimulated by rates of pay outdoing the
offers of the lucre-journals. A large annual outlay would therefore be
needed; possibly for as long as a quarter of a century. Cecilia and her
husband would have to live modestly. But her inheritance would be
immense. Colonel Halkett had never spent a tenth of his income. In time
he might be taught to perceive in THE DAWN the one greatly beneficent
enterprise of his day. He might through his daughter's eyes, and the
growing success of the Journal. Benevolent and gallant old man,
patriotic as he was, and kind at heart, he might learn to see in THE DAWN
a broader channel of philanthropy and chivalry than any we have yet had a
notion of in England!--a school of popular education into the bargain.
Beauchamp reverted to the shining curl. It could not have been clearer
to vision if it had lain under his eyes.
Ay, that first wild life of his was dead. He had slain it. Now for the
second and sober life! Who can say? The Countess of Romfrey suggested
it:--Cecilia may have prompted him in his unknown heart to the sacrifice
of a lawless love, though he took it for simply barren iron duty.
Brooding on her, he began to fancy the victory over himself less and less
a lame one: for it waxed less and less difficult in his contemplation of
it. He was looking forward instead of back.
Who cut off the lock? Probably Cecilia herself; and thinking at the
moment that he would see it, perhaps beg for it. The lustrous little
ring of hair wound round his heart; smiled both on its emotions and its
aims; bound them in one.
But proportionately as he grew tender to Cecilia, his consideration for
Renee increased; that became a law to him: pity nourished it, and
glimpses of self-contempt, and something like worship of her high-
He wrote to the countess, forbidding her sharply and absolutely to
attempt a vindication of him by explanations to any persons whomsoever;
and stating that he would have no falsehoods told, he desired her to keep
to the original tale of the visit of the French family to her as guests
of the Countess of Romfrey. Contradictory indeed. Rosamund shook her
head over him. For a wilful character that is guilty of issuing
contradictory commands to friends who would be friends in spite of him,
appears to be expressly angling for the cynical spirit, so surely does it
rise and snap at such provocation. He was even more emphatic when they
next met. He would not listen to a remonstrance; and though, of course,
her love of him granted him the liberty to speak to her in what tone he
pleased, there were sensations proper to her new rank which his
intemperateness wounded and tempted to revolt when he vexed her with
unreason. She had a glimpse of the face he might wear to his enemies.
He was quite as resolute, too, about that slight matter of the Jersey
bull. He had the bull in Bevisham, and would not give him up without the
sign manual of Lord Romfrey to an agreement to resign him over to the
American Quaker gentleman, after a certain term. Moreover, not once had
he, by exclamation or innuendo, during the period of his recent grief for
the loss of his first love, complained of his uncle Everard's refusal in
the old days to aid him in suing for Renee. Rosamund had expected that
he would. She thought it unloverlike in him not to stir the past, and to
bow to intolerable facts. This idea of him, coming in conjunction with
his present behaviour, convinced her that there existed a contradiction
in his nature: whence it ensued that she lost her warmth as an advocate
designing to intercede for him with Cecilia; and warmth being gone, the
power of the scandal seemed to her unassailable. How she could ever have
presumed to combat it, was an astonishment to her. Cecilia might be
indulgent, she might have faith in Nevil. Little else could be hoped
The occupations, duties, and ceremonies of her new position contributed
to the lassitude into which Rosamund sank. And she soon had a
communication to make to her lord, the nature of which was more startling
to herself, even tragic. The bondwoman is a free woman compared with the
Lord Romfrey's friends noticed a glow of hearty health in the splendid
old man, and a prouder animation of eye and stature; and it was agreed
that matrimony suited him well. Luckily for Cecil he did not sulk very
long. A spectator of the earl's first introduction to the House of
Peers, he called on his uncle the following day, and Rosamund accepted
his homage in her husband's presence. He vowed that my lord was the
noblest figure in the whole assembly; that it had been to him the most
moving sight he had ever witnessed; that Nevil should have been there to
see it and experience what he had felt; it would have done old Nevil
incalculable good! and as far as his grief at the idea and some reticence
would let him venture, he sighed to think of the last Earl of Romfrey
having been seen by him taking the seat of his fathers.
Lord Romfrey shouted 'Ha!' like a checked peal of laughter, and glanced
at his wife.
A LITTLE PLOT AGAINST CECILIA
Some days before Easter week Seymour Austin went to Mount Laurels for
rest, at an express invitation from Colonel Halkett. The working
barrister, who is also a working member of Parliament, is occasionally
reminded that this mortal machine cannot adapt itself in perpetuity to
the long hours of labour by night in the House of Commons as well as by
day in the Courts, which would seem to have been arranged by a compliant
country for the purpose of aiding his particular, and most honourable,
ambition to climb, while continuing to fill his purse. Mr. Austin
broke down early in the year. He attributed it to a cold. Other
representative gentlemen were on their backs, of whom he could admit that
the protracted nightwork had done them harm, with the reservation that
their constitutions were originally unsound. But the House cannot get on
without lawyers, and lawyers must practise their profession, and if they
manage both to practise all day and sit half the night, others should be
able to do the simple late sitting; and we English are an energetic
people, we must toil or be beaten: and besides, 'night brings counsel,'
men are cooler and wiser by night. Any amount of work can be performed
by careful feeders: it is the stomach that kills the Englishman. Brains
are never the worse for activity; they subsist on it.
These arguments and citations, good and absurd, of a man more at home in
his harness than out of it, were addressed to the colonel to stop his
remonstrances and idle talk about burning the candle at both ends. To
that illustration Mr. Austin replied that he did not burn it in the
'But you don't want money, Austin.'
'No; but since I've had the habit of making it I have taken to like it.'
'But you're not ambitious.'
'Very little; but I should be sorry to be out of the tideway.'
'I call it a system of slaughter,' said the colonel; and Mr. Austin said,
'The world goes in that way--love and slaughter.'
'Not suicide though,' Colonel Halkett muttered.
'No, that's only incidental.'
The casual word 'love' led Colonel Halkett to speak to Cecilia of an old
love-affair of Seymour Austin's, in discussing the state of his health
with her. The lady was the daughter of a famous admiral, handsome, and
latterly of light fame. Mr. Austin had nothing to regret in her having
married a man richer than himself.
'I wish he had married a good woman,' said the colonel.
'He looks unwell, papa.'
'He thinks you're looking unwell, my dear.'
'He thinks that of me?'
Cecilia prepared a radiant face for Mr. Austin.
She forgot to keep it kindled, and he suspected her to be a victim of one
of the forms of youthful melancholy, and laid stress on the benefit to
health of a change of scene.
'We have just returned from Wales,' she said.
He remarked that it was hardly a change to be within shot of our
The colour left her cheeks. She fancied her father had betrayed her to
the last man who should know her secret. Beauchamp and the newspapers
were rolled together in her mind by the fever of apprehension wasting her
ever since his declaration of Republicanism, and defence of it, and an
allusion to one must imply the other, she feared: feared, but far from
quailingly. She had come to think that she could read the man she loved,
and detect a reasonableness in his extravagance. Her father had
discovered the impolicy of attacking Beauchamp in her hearing. The fever
by which Cecilia was possessed on her lover's behalf, often overcame
discretion, set her judgement in a whirl, was like a delirium. How it
had happened she knew not. She knew only her wretched state; a frenzy
seized her whenever his name was uttered, to excuse, account for, all but
glorify him publicly. And the immodesty of her conduct was perceptible
to her while she thus made her heart bare. She exposed herself once of
late at Itchincope, and had tried to school her tongue before she went
there. She felt that she should inevitably be seen through by Seymour
Austin if he took the world's view of Beauchamp, and this to her was like
a descent on the rapids to an end one shuts eyes from.
He noticed her perturbation, and spoke of it to her father.
'Yes, I'm very miserable about her,' the colonel confessed. 'Girls don't
see . . . they can't guess . . . they have no idea of the right
kind of man for them. A man like Blackburn Tuckham, now, a man a father
could leave his girl to, with confidence! He works for me like a slave;
I can't guess why. He doesn't look as if he were attracted. There's a
man! but, no; harum-scarum fellows take their fancy.'
'Is she that kind of young lady?' said Mr. Austin.
'No one would have thought so. She pretends to have opinions upon
politics now. It's of no use to talk of it!'
But Beauchamp was fully indicated.
Mr. Austin proposed to Cecilia that they should spend Easter week in
Her face lighted and clouded.
'I should like it,' she said, negatively.
'What's the objection?'
'None, except that Mount Laurels in Spring has grown dear to me; and we
have engagements in London. I am not quick, I suppose, at new projects.
I have ordered the yacht to be fitted out for a cruise in the
Mediterranean early in the Summer. There is an objection, I am sure--
yes; papa has invited Mr. Tuckham here for Easter.'
'We could carry him with us.'
'Yes, but I should wish to be entirely under your tutelage in Rome.'
'We would pair: your father and he; you and I.'
'We might do that. But Mr. Tuckham is like you, devoted to work; and,
unlike you, careless of Antiquities and Art.'
'He is a hard and serious worker, and therefore the best of companions
for a holiday. At present he is working for the colonel, who would
easily persuade him to give over, and come with us.'
'He certainly does love papa,' said Cecilia.
Mr. Austin dwelt on that subject.
Cecilia perceived that she had praised Mr. Tuckham for his devotedness to
her father without recognizing the beauty of nature in the young man who
could voluntarily take service under the elder he esteemed, in simple
admiration of him. Mr. Austin scarcely said so much, or expected her to
see the half of it, but she wished to be extremely grateful, and could
only see at all by kindling altogether.
'He does himself injustice in his manner,' said Cecilia.
'That has become somewhat tempered,' Mr. Austin assured her, and he
acknowledged what it had been with a smile that she reciprocated.
A rough man of rare quality civilizing under various influences, and half
ludicrous, a little irritating, wholly estimable, has frequently won the
benign approbation of the sex. In addition, this rough man over whom she
smiled was one of the few that never worried her concerning her hand.
There was not a whisper of it in him. He simply loved her father.
Cecilia welcomed him to Mount Laurels with grateful gladness. The
colonel had hastened Mr. Tuckham's visit in view of the expedition to
Rome, and they discoursed of it at the luncheon table. Mr. Tuckham let
fall that he had just seen Beauchamp.
'Did he thank you for his inheritance?' Colonel Halkett inquired.
'Not he!' Tuckham replied jovially.
Cecilia's eyes, quick to flash, were dropped.
The colonel said: 'I suppose you told him nothing of what you had done
for him?' and said Tuckham: 'Oh no: what anybody else would have done';
and proceeded to recount that he had called at Dr. Shrapnel's on the
chance of an interview with his friend Lydiard, who used generally to be
hanging about the cottage. 'But now he's free: his lunatic wife is dead,
and I'm happy to think I was mistaken as to Miss Denham. Men practising
literature should marry women with money. The poor girl changed colour
when I informed her he had been released for upwards of three months.
The old Radical's not the thing in health. He's anxious about leaving
her alone in the world; he said so to me. Beauchamp's for rigging out a
yacht to give him a sail. It seems that salt water did him some good
last year. They're both of them rather the worse for a row at one of
their meetings in the North in support of that public nuisance, the
democrat and atheist Roughleigh. The Radical doctor lost a hat, and
Beauchamp almost lost an eye. He would have been a Nelson of politics,
if he had been a monops, with an excuse for not seeing. It's a trifle to
them; part of their education. They call themselves students. Rome will
be capital, Miss Halkett. You're an Italian scholar, and I beg to be
accepted as a pupil.'
'I fear we have postponed the expedition too long,' said Cecilia. She
could have sunk with languor.
'Too long?' cried Colonel Halkett, mystified.
'Until too late, I mean, papa. Do you not think, Mr. Austin, that a
fortnight in Rome is too short a time?'
'Not if we make it a month, my dear Cecilia.'
'Is not our salt air better for you? The yacht shall be fitted out.'
'I'm a poor sailor!'
'Besides, a hasty excursion to Italy brings one's anticipated regrets at
the farewell too close to the pleasure of beholding it, for the enjoyment
of that luxury of delight which I associate with the name of Italy.'
'Why, my dear child,' said her father, 'you were all for going, the other
'I do not remember it,' said she. 'One plans agreeable schemes. At
least we need not hurry from home so very soon after our return. We have
been travelling incessantly. The cottage in Wales is not home. It is
hardly fair to Mount Laurels to quit it without observing the changes of
the season in our flowers and birds here. And we have visitors coming.
Of course, papa, I would not chain you to England. If I am not well
enough to accompany you, I can go to Louise for a few weeks.'
Was ever transparency so threadbare? Cecilia shrank from herself in
contemplating it when she was alone; and Colonel Halkett put the question
to Mr. Austin, saying to him privately, with no further reserve: 'It's
that fellow Beauchamp in the neighbourhood; I'm not so blind. He'll be
knocking at my door, and I can't lock him out. Austin, would you guess
it was my girl speaking? I never in my life had such an example of
intoxication before me. I 'm perfectly miserable at the sight. You.
know her; she was the proudest girl living. Her ideas were orderly and
sound; she had a good intellect. Now she more than half defends him--
a naval officer! good Lord!--for getting up in a public room to announce
that he 's a Republican, and writing heaps of mad letters to justify
himself. He's ruined in his profession: hopeless! He can never get a
ship: his career's cut short, he's a rudderless boat. A gentleman
drifting to Bedlam, his uncle calls him. I call his treatment of Grancey
Lespel anything but gentlemanly. This is the sort of fellow my girl
worships! What can I do? I can't interdict the house to him: it would
only make matters worse. Thank God, the fellow hangs fire somehow, and
doesn't come to me. I expect it every day, either in a letter or the man
in person. And I declare to heaven I'd rather be threading a Khyber Pass
with my poor old friend who fell to a shot there.'
'She certainly has another voice,' Mr. Austin assented gravely.
He did not look on Beauchamp as the best of possible husbands for
'Let her see that you're anxious, Austin,' said the colonel. 'I'm her
old opponent in this affair. She loves me, but she's accustomed to think
me prejudiced: you she won't. You may have a good effect.'
'Not by speaking.'
'No, no; no assault: not a word, and not a word against him. Lay the
wind to catch a gossamer. I've had my experience of blowing cold, and
trying to run her down. He's at Shrapnel's. He'll be up here to-day,
and I have an engagement in the town. Don't quit her side. Let her
fancy you are interested in some discussion--Radicalism, if you like.'
Mr. Austin readily undertook to mount guard over her while her father
rode into Bevisham on business.
The enemy appeared.
Cecilia saw him, and could not step to meet him for trouble of heart.
It was bliss to know that he lived and was near.
A transient coldness following the fit of ecstasy enabled her to swin
through the terrible first minutes face to face with him.
He folded her round like a mist; but it grew a problem to understand why
Mr. Austin should be perpetually at hand, in the garden, in the woods, in
the drawing-room, wheresoever she wakened up from one of her trances to
see things as they were.
Yet Beauchamp, with a daring and cunning at which her soul exulted, and
her feminine nature trembled, as at the divinely terrible, had managed to
convey to her no less than if they had been alone together.
His parting words were: 'I must have five minutes with your father to-
How had she behaved? What could be Seymour Austin's idea of her?
She saw the blind thing that she was, the senseless thing, the shameless;
and vulture-like in her scorn of herself, she alighted on that disgraced
Cecilia and picked her to pieces hungrily. It was clear: Beauchamp had
meant nothing beyond friendly civility: it was only her abject greediness
pecking at crumbs. No! he loved her. Could a woman's heart be mistaken?
She melted and wept, thanking him: she offered him her remnant of pride,
pitiful to behold.
And still she asked herself between-whiles whether it could be true of an
English lady of our day, that she, the fairest stature under sun, was
ever knowingly twisted to this convulsion. She seemed to look forth from
a barred window on flower, and field, and hill. Quietness existed as a
vision. Was it impossible to embrace it? How pass into it? By
surrendering herself to the flames, like a soul unto death! For why, if
they were overpowering, attempt to resist them? It flattered her to
imagine that she had been resisting them in their present burning might
ever since her lover stepped on the Esperanza's deck at the mouth of
Otley River. How foolish, seeing that they are fatal! A thrill of
satisfaction swept her in reflecting that her ability to reason was thus
active. And she was instantly rewarded for surrendering; pain fled, to
prove her reasoning good; the flames devoured her gently they cared not
to torture so long as they had her to themselves.
At night, candle in hand, on the corridor, her father told her he had
come across Grancey Lespel in Bevisham, and heard what he had not quite
relished of the Countess of Romfrey. The glittering of Cecilia's eyes
frightened him. Taking her for the moment to know almost as much as he,
the colonel doubted the weight his communication would have on her; he
talked obscurely of a scandalous affair at Lord Romfrey's house in town,
and Beauchamp and that Frenchwoman. 'But,' said he, 'Mrs. Grancey will
be here to-morrow.'
'So will Nevil, papa,' said Cecilia.
'Ah! he's coming, yes; well!' the colonel puffed. 'Well, I shall see
him, of course, but I . . . I can only say that if his oath 's worth
having, I . . . and I think you too, my dear, if you . . . but it's
no use anticipating. I shall stand out for your honour and happiness.
There, your cheeks are flushed. Go and sleep.'
Some idle tale! Cecilia murmured to herself a dozen times, undisturbed
by the recurrence of it. Nevil was coming to speak to her father
Back to Full Books