Beauchamps Career, v4
Part 2 out of 2
housekeeper, any one you like, to whom you may appeal, and I too,
whenever your recollections are at fault.'
'I am competent,' said the doctor.
'But in justice to you,' urged Cecil considerately.
Dr. Shrapnel smoothed his chin hastily. 'Have you done?'
'Believe me, the instant I have an answer to my question, I have done.'
'Name your question.'
'Very well, sir. Now mark, I will be plain with you. There is no escape
for you from this. You destroy my cousin's professional prospects--I
request you to listen--you blast his career in the navy; it was
considered promising. He was a gallant officer and a smart seaman. Very
well. You set him up as a politician, to be knocked down, to a dead
certainty. You set him against his class; you embroil him with his
family . . .'
'On all those points,' interposed Dr. Shrapnel, after dashing a hand to
straighten his forelock; but Cecil vehemently entreated him to control
'I say you embroil him with his family, you cause him to be in
everlasting altercation with his uncle Mr. Romfrey, materially to his
personal detriment; and the question of his family is one that every man
of sense would apprehend on the spot; for we, you should know, have, sir,
an opinion of Captain Beauchamp's talents and abilities forbidding us to
think he could possibly be the total simpleton you make him appear,
unless to the seductions of your political instructions, other seductions
were added . . . . You apprehend me, I am sure.'
'I don't,' cried the doctor, descending from his height and swinging
'Oh! yes, you do; you do indeed, you cannot avoid it; you quite
apprehend me; it is admitted that you take my meaning: I insist on that.
I have nothing to say but what is complimentary of the young lady,
whoever she may turn out to be; bewitching, no doubt; and to speak
frankly, Dr. Shrapnel, I, and I am pretty certain every honest man would
think with me, I take it to be ten times more creditable to my cousin
Captain Beauchamp that he should be under a lady's influence than under
yours. Come, sir! I ask you. You must confess that a gallant officer
and great admirer of the sex does not look such a donkey if he is led in
silken strings by a beautiful creature. And mark--stop! mark this, Dr.
Shrapnel: I say, to the lady we can all excuse a good deal, and at the
same time you are to be congratulated on first-rate diplomacy in
employing so charming an agent. I wish, I really wish you did it
generally, I assure you: only, mark this--I do beg you to contain
yourself for a minute, if possible--I say, my cousin Captain Beauchamp is
fair game to hunt, and there is no law to prevent the chase, only you
must not expect us to be quiet spectators of your sport; and we have, I
say, undoubtedly a right to lay the case before the lady, and induce her
to be a peace-agent in the family if we can. Very well.'
'This garden is redolent of a lady's hand,' sighed Palmet, poetical in
'Have you taken too much wine, gentlemen?' said Dr. Shrapnel.
Cecil put this impertinence aside with a graceful sweep of his fingers.
'You attempt to elude me, sir.'
'Not I! You mention some lady.'
'Exactly. A young lady.'
'What is the name of the lady?'
'Oh! You ask the name of the lady. And I too. What is it? I have heard
two or three names.'
'Then you have heard villanies.'
'Denham, Jenny Denham, Miss Jenny Denham,' said Palmet, rejoiced at the
opportunity of trumpeting her name so that she should not fail to hear
'I stake my reputation I have heard her called Shrapnel--Miss Shrapnel,'
The doctor glanced hastily from one to the other of his visitors. 'The
young lady is my ward; I am her guardian,' he said.
Cecil pursed his mouth. 'I have heard her called your niece.'
'Niece--ward; she is a lady by birth and education, in manners,
accomplishments, and character; and she is under my protection,' cried
Cecil bowed. 'So you are for gentle birth? I forgot you are for
morality too, and for praying; exactly; I recollect. But now let me tell
you, entirely with the object of conciliation, my particular desire is to
see the young lady, in your presence of course, and endeavour to persuade
her, as I have very little doubt I shall do, assuming that you give me
fair play, to exercise her influence, on this occasion contrary to yours,
and save my cousin Captain Beauchamp from a fresh misunderstanding with
his uncle Mr. Romfrey. Now, sir; now, there!'
'You will not see Miss Denham with my sanction ever,' said Dr. Shrapnel.
'Oh! Then I perceive your policy. Mark, sir, my assumption was that the
young lady would, on hearing my representations, exert herself to heal
the breach between Captain Beauchamp and his family. You stand in the
way. You treat me as you treated the lady who came here formerly to
wrest your dupe from your clutches. If I mistake not, she saw the young
lady you acknowledge to be your ward.'
Dr. Shrapnel flashed back: 'I acknowledge? Mercy and justice! is there
no peace with the man? You walk here to me, I can't yet guess why, from
a town where I have enemies, and every scandal flies touching me and
mine; and you--' He stopped short to master his anger. He subdued it so
far as to cloak it in an attempt to speak reasoningly, as angry men
sometimes deceive themselves in doing, despite the good maxim for the
wrathful--speak not at all. 'See,' said he, 'I was never married. My
dear friend dies, and leaves me his child to protect and rear; and though
she bears her father's name, she is most wrongly and foully made to share
the blows levelled at her guardian. Ay, have at me, all of you, as much
as you will! Hold off from her. Were it true, the cowardice would be
not a whit the smaller. Why, casting a stone like that, were it the size
of a pebble and the weight of a glance, is to toss the whole cowardly
world on an innocent young girl. And why suspect evil? You talk of that
lady who paid me a visit here once, and whom I treated becomingly, I
swear. I never do otherwise. She was a handsome woman; and what was
she? The housekeeper of Captain Beauchamp's uncle. Hear me, if you
please! To go with the world, I have as good a right to suppose the
worst of an attractive lady in that situation as you regarding my ward:
better warrant for scandalizing, I think; to go with the world.
Cecil checked him, ejaculating, 'Thank you, Dr. Shrapnel; I thank you
most cordially,' with a shining smile. 'Stay, sir! no more. I take my
leave of you. Not another word. No "buts"! I recognize that
conciliation is out of the question: you are the natural protector of
poachers, and you will not grant me an interview with the young lady you
call your ward, that I may represent to her, as a person we presume to
have a chance of moving you, how easily--I am determined you shall hear
me, Dr. Shrapnel!--how easily the position of Captain Beauchamp may
become precarious with his uncle Mr. Romfrey. And let me add--"but" and
"but" me till Doomsday, sir!--if you were--I do hear you, sir, and you
shall hear me--if you were a younger man, I say, I would hold you
answerable to me for your scandalous and disgraceful insinuations.'
Dr. Shrapnel was adroitly fenced and over-shouted. He shrugged,
stuttered, swayed, wagged a bulrush-head, flapped his elbows, puffed like
a swimmer in the breakers, tried many times to expostulate, and finding
the effort useless, for his adversary was copious and commanding,
relapsed, eyeing him as an object far removed.
Cecil rounded one of his perplexingly empty sentences and turned on his
'War, then!' he said.
'As you like,' retorted the doctor.
'Oh! Very good. Good evening.' Cecil slightly lifted his hat, with the
short projection of the head of the stately peacock in its walk, and
passed out of the garden. Lord Palmet, deeply disappointed and
mystified, went after him, leaving Dr. Shrapnel to shorten his garden
walk with enormous long strides.
'I'm afraid you didn't manage the old boy,' Palmet complained. 'They're
people who have tea in their gardens; we might have sat down with them
and talked, the best friends in the world, and come again to-morrow might
have called her Jenny in a week. She didn't show her pretty nose at any
of the windows.'
His companion pooh-poohed and said: 'Foh! I'm afraid I permitted myself
to lose my self-command for a moment.'
Palmet sang out an amorous couplet to console himself. Captain Baskelett
respected the poetic art for its magical power over woman's virtue, but
he disliked hearing verses, and they were ill-suited to Palmet. He
abused his friend roundly, telling him it was contemptible to be quoting
verses. He was irritable still.
He declared himself nevertheless much refreshed by his visit to Dr.
Shrapnel. 'We shall have to sleep tonight in this unhallowed town,
but I needn't be off to Holdesbury in the morning; I've done my business.
I shall write to the baron to-night, and we can cross the water to-morrow
in time for operations.'
The letter to Mr. Romfrey was composed before midnight. It was a long
one, and when he had finished it, Cecil remembered that the act of
composition had been assisted by a cigar in his mouth, and Mr. Romfrey
detested the smell of tobacco. There was nothing to be done but to write
the letter over again, somewhat more briefly: it ran thus:
'Thinking to kill two birds at a blow, I went yesterday with Palmet after
the dinner at this place to Shrapnel's house, where, as I heard, I stood
a chance of catching friend Nevil. The young person living under the
man's protection was absent, and so was the "poor dear commander,"
perhaps attending on his bull. Shrapnel said he was expecting him. I
write to you to confess I thought myself a cleverer fellow than I am. I
talked to Shrapnel and tried hard to reason with him. I hope I can keep
my temper under ordinary circumstances. You will understand that it
required remarkable restraint when I make you acquainted with the fact
that a lady's name was introduced, which, as your representative in
relation to her, I was bound to defend from a gratuitous and scoundrelly
aspersion. Shrapnel's epistle to "brave Beauchamp" is Church
hymnification in comparison with his conversation. He is indubitably one
of the greatest ruffians of his time.
'I took the step with the best of intentions, and all I can plead is that
I am not a diplomatist of sixty. His last word was that he is for war
with us. As far as we men are concerned it is of small importance. I
should think that the sort of society he would scandalize a lady in is
not much to be feared. I have given him his warning. He tops me by
about a head, and loses his temper every two minutes. I could have drawn
him out deliciously if he had not rather disturbed mine. By this time my
equanimity is restored. The only thing I apprehend is your displeasure
with me for having gone to the man. I have done no good, and it prevents
me from running over to Holdesbury to see Nevil, for if "shindy letters,"
as you call them, are bad, shindy meetings are worse. I should be
telling him my opinion of Shrapnel, he would be firing out, I should
retort, he would yell, I should snap my fingers, and he would go into
convulsions. I am convinced that a cattle-breeder ought to keep himself
particularly calm. So unless I have further orders from you I refrain
'The dinner was enthusiastic. I sat three hours among my Commons, they
on me for that length of time--fatiguing, but a duty.'
Cecil subscribed his name with the warmest affection toward his uncle.
The brevity of the second letter had not brought him nearer to the truth
in rescinding the picturesque accessories of his altercation with Dr.
Shrapnel, but it veraciously expressed the sentiments he felt, and that
was the palpable truth for him.
He posted the letter next morning.
SHOWING A CHIVALROUS GENTLEMAN SET IN MOTION
About noon the day following, on board the steam-yacht of the Countess of
Menai, Cecil was very much astonished to see Mr. Romfrey descending into
a boat hard by, from Grancey Lespel's hired cutter. Steam was up, and
the countess was off for a cruise in the Channel, as it was not a race-
day, but seeing Mr. Romfrey's hand raised, she spoke to Cecil, and
immediately gave orders to wait for the boat. This lady was a fervent
admirer of the knightly gentleman, and had reason to like him, for he had
once been her champion. Mr. Romfrey mounted the steps, received her
greeting, and beckoned to Cecil. He carried a gold-headed horsewhip
under his arm. Lady Menai would gladly have persuaded him to be one of
her company for the day's voyage, but he said he had business in
Bevisham, and moving aside with Cecil, put the question to him abruptly:
'What were the words used by Shrapnel?'
'The identical words?' Captain Baskelett asked. He could have tripped
out the words with the fluency of ancient historians relating what great
kings, ambassadors, or Generals may well have uttered on State occasions,
but if you want the identical words, who is to remember them the day
after they have been delivered? He said:
'Well, as for the identical words, I really, and I was tolerably excited,
sir, and upon my honour, the identical words are rather difficult to....'
He glanced at the horsewhip, and pricked by the sight of it to proceed,
thought it good to soften the matter if possible. 'I don't quite
recollect . . . I wrote off to you rather hastily. I think he said--
but Palmet was there.'
'Shrapnel spoke the words before Lord Palmet?' said Mr. Romfrey
Captain Baskelett summoned Palmet to come near, and inquired of him what
he had heard Shrapnel say, suggesting: 'He spoke of a handsome woman for
a housekeeper, and all the world knew her character?'
Mr. Romfrey cleared his throat.
'Or knew she had no character,' Cecil pursued in a fit of gratified
spleen, in scorn of the woman. 'Don't you recollect his accent in
The menacing thunder sounded from Mr. Romfrey. He was patient in
appearance, and waited for Cecil's witness to corroborate the evidence.
It happened (and here we are in one of the circles of small things
producing great consequences, which have inspired diminutive philosophers
with ironical visions of history and the littleness of man), it happened
that Lord Palmet, the humanest of young aristocrats, well-disposed toward
the entire world, especially to women, also to men in any way related to
pretty women, had just lit a cigar, and it was a cigar that he had been
recommended to try the flavour of; and though he, having his wits about
him, was fully aware that shipboard is no good place for a trial of the
delicacy of tobacco in the leaf, he had begun puffing and sniffing in a
critical spirit, and scarcely knew for the moment what to decide as to
this particular cigar. He remembered, however, Mr. Romfrey's objection
to tobacco. Imagining that he saw the expression of a profound distaste
in that gentleman's more than usually serious face, he hesitated between
casting the cigar into the water and retaining it. He decided upon the
latter course, and held the cigar behind his back, bowing to Mr. Romfrey
at about a couple of yards distance, and saying to Cecil, 'Housekeeper;
yes, I remember hearing housekeeper. I think so. Housekeeper? yes, oh
'And handsome housekeepers were doubtful characters,' Captain Baskelett
Palmet laughed out a single 'Ha!' that seemed to excuse him for
lounging away to the forepart of the vessel, where he tugged at his fine
specimen of a cigar to rekindle it, and discharged it with a wry grimace,
so delicate is the flavour of that weed, and so adversely ever is it
affected by a breeze and a moist atmosphere. He could then return
undivided in his mind to Mr. Romfrey and Cecil, but the subject was not
resumed in his presence.
The Countess of Menai steamed into Bevisham to land Mr. Romfrey there.
'I can be out in the Channel any day; it is not every day that I see
you,' she said, in support of her proposal to take him over.
They sat together conversing, apart from the rest of the company, until
they sighted Bevisham, when Mr. Romfrey stood up, and a little crowd of
men came round him to enjoy his famous racy talk. Captain Baskelett
offered to land with him. He declined companionship. Dropping her hand
in his, the countess asked him what he had to do in that town, and he
replied, 'I have to demand an apology.'
Answering the direct look of his eyes, she said, 'Oh, I shall not speak
In his younger days, if the rumour was correct, he had done the same on
He stepped into the boat, and presently they saw him mount the pier-
steps, with the riding-whip under his arm, his head more than commonly
bent, a noticeable point in a man of his tall erect figure. The ladies
and some of the gentlemen thought he was looking particularly grave, even
Lady Menai inquired of Captain Baskelett whether he knew the nature of
his uncle's business in Bevisham, the town he despised.
What could Cecil say but no? His uncle had not imparted it to him.
She was flattered in being the sole confidante, and said no more.
The sprightly ingenuity of Captain Baskelett's mind would have informed
him of the nature of his uncle's expedition, we may be sure, had he put
it to the trial; for Mr. Romfrey was as plain to read as a rudimentary
sum in arithmetic, and like the tracings of a pedigree-map his
preliminary steps to deeds were seen pointing on their issue in lines of
straight descent. But Cecil could protest that he was not bound to know,
and considering that he was neither bound to know nor to speculate, he
determined to stand on his right. So effectually did he accomplish the
task, that he was frequently surprised during the evening and the night
by the effervescence of a secret exultation rising imp-like within him,
that was, he assured himself, perfectly unaccountable.
AN EFFORT TO CONQUER CECILIA IN BEAUCHAMP'S FASHION
The day after Mr. Romfrey's landing in Bevisham a full South-wester
stretched the canvas of yachts of all classes, schooner, cutter and yawl,
on the lively green water between the island and the forest shore.
Cecilia's noble schooner was sure to be out in such a ringing breeze, for
the pride of it as well as the pleasure. She landed her father at the
Club steps, and then bore away Eastward to sight a cutter race, the
breeze beginning to stiffen. Looking back against sun and wind, she saw
herself pursued by a saucy little 15-ton craft that had been in her track
since she left the Otley river before noon, dipping and straining, with
every inch of sail set; as mad a stern chase as ever was witnessed: and
who could the man at the tiller, clad cap-A-pie in tarpaulin, be? She
led him dancing away, to prove his resoluteness and laugh at him. She
had the powerful wings, and a glory in them coming of this pursuit: her
triumph was delicious, until the occasional sparkle of the tarpaulin was
lost, the small boat appeared a motionless object far behind, and all
ahead of her exceedingly dull, though the race hung there and the crowd
Cecilia's transient flutter of coquettry created by the animating air and
her queenly flight was over. She fled splendidly and she came back
graciously. But he refused her open hand, as it were. He made as if to
stand across her tack, and, reconsidering it, evidently scorned his
advantage and challenged the stately vessel for a beat up against the
wind. It was as pretty as a Court minuet. But presently Cecilia stood
too far on one tack, and returning to the centre of the channel, found
herself headed by seamanship. He waved an ironical salute with his
sou'wester. Her retort consisted in bringing her vessel to the wind, and
sending a boat for him.
She did it on the impulse; had she consulted her wishes she would rather
have seen him at his post, where he seemed in his element, facing the
spray and cunningly calculating to get wind and tide in his favour.
Partly with regret she saw him, stripped of his tarpaulin, jump into her
boat, as though she had once more to say farewell to sailor Nevil
Beauchamp; farewell the bright youth, the hero, the true servant of his
That feeling of hers changed when he was on board. The stirring cordial
day had put new breath in him.
'Should not the flag be dipped?' he said, looking up at the peak, where
the white flag streamed.
'Can you really mistake compassion for defeat?' said she, with a smile.
'Oh! before the wind of course I hadn't a chance.'
'How could you be so presumptuous as to give chase? And who has lent you
that little cutter?'
Beauchamp had hired her for a month, and he praised her sailing, and
pretended to say that the race was not always to the strong in a stiff
'But in point' of fact I was bent on trying how my boat swims, and had no
idea of overhauling you. To-day our salt-water lake is as fine as the
'Omitting the islands and the Mediterranean colour, it is. I have often
told you how I love it. I have landed papa at the Club. Are you aware
that we meet you at Steynham the day after to-morrow?'
'Well, we can ride on the downs. The downs between three and four of a
summer's morning are as lovely as anything in the world. They have the
softest outlines imaginable . . . and remind me of a friend's upper
lip when she deigns to smile.'
'Is one to rise at that hour to behold the effect? And let me remind you
further, Nevil, that the comparison of nature's minor work beside her
mighty is an error, if you will be poetical.'
She cited a well-known instance of degradation in verse.
But a young man who happens to be intimately acquainted with a certain
'dark eye in woman' will not so lightly be brought to consider that the
comparison of tempestuous night to the flashing of those eyes of hers
topples the scene headlong from grandeur. And if Beauchamp remembered
rightly, the scene was the Alps at night.
He was prepared to contest Cecilia's judgement. At that moment the
breeze freshened and the canvas lifted from due South the yacht swung her
sails to drive toward the West, and Cecilia's face and hair came out
golden in the sunlight. Speech was difficult, admiration natural, so he
sat beside her, admiring in silence.
She said a good word for the smartness of his little yacht.
'This is my first trial of her,' said Beauchamp. 'I hired her chiefly to
give Dr. Shrapnel a taste of salt air. I 've no real right to be idling
about. His ward Miss Denham is travelling in Switzerland; the dear old
man is alone, and not quite so well as I should wish. Change of scene
will do him good. I shall land him on the French coast for a couple of
days, or take him down Channel.'
Cecilia gazed abstractedly at a passing schooner.
'He works too hard,' said Beauchamp.
Some one else whom we have heard of works too hard, and it would be happy
for mankind if he did not.
Cecilia named the schooner; an American that had beaten our crack yachts.
Beauchamp sprang up to spy at the American.
'That's the Corinne, is she!'
Yankee craftiness on salt water always excited his respectful attention
as a spectator.
'And what is the name of your boat, Nevil?'
'The fool of an owner calls her the Petrel. It's not that I'm
superstitious, but to give a boat a name of bad augury to sailors appears
to me . . . however, I 've argued it with him and I will have her
called the Curlew. Carrying Dr. Shrapnel and me, Petrel would be thought
the proper title for her isn't that your idea?'
He laughed and she smiled, and then he became overcast with his political
face, and said, 'I hope--I believe--you will alter your opinion of him.
Can it be an opinion when it's founded on nothing? You know really
nothing of him. I have in my pocket what I believe would alter your mind
about him entirely. I do think so; and I think so because I feel you
would appreciate his deep sincerity and real nobleness.'
'Is it a talisman that you have, Nevil?'
'No, it's a letter.'
Cecilia's cheeks took fire.
'I should so much like to read it to you,' said he.
'Do not, please,' she replied with a dash of supplication in her voice.
'Not the whole of it--an extract here and there? I want you so much to
'I am sure I should not.'
'Let me try you!'
'Pray do not.'
'Merely to show you...'
'But, Nevil, I do not wish to understand him.'
'But you have only to listen for a few minutes, and I want you to know
what good reason I have to reverence him as a teacher and a friend.'
Cecilia looked at Beauchamp with wonder. A confused recollection of the
contents of the letter declaimed at Mount Laurels in Captain Baskelett's
absurd sing-song, surged up in her mind revoltingly. She signified a
decided negative. Something of a shudder accompanied the expression of
But he as little as any member of the Romfrey blood was framed to let the
word no stand quietly opposed to him. And the no that a woman utters!
It calls for wholesome tyranny. Those old, those hoar-old duellists, Yes
and No, have rarely been better matched than in Beauchamp and Cecilia.
For if he was obstinate in attack she had great resisting power. Twice
to listen to that letter was beyond her endurance. Indeed it cast a
shadow on him and disfigured him; and when, affecting to plead, he said:
'You must listen to it to please me, for my sake, Cecilia,' she answered:
'It is for your sake, Nevil, I decline to.'
'Why, what do you know of it?' he exclaimed.
'I know the kind of writing it would be.'
'How do you know it?'
'I have heard of some of Dr. Shrapnel's opinions.'
'You imagine him to be subversive, intolerant, immoral, and the rest!
all that comes under your word revolutionary.'
'Possibly; but I must defend myself from hearing what I know will be
certain to annoy me.'
'But he is the reverse of immoral: and I intend to read you parts of the
letter to prove to you that he is not the man you would blame, but I, and
that if ever I am worthier . . . worthier of you, as I hope to become,
it will be owing to this admirable and good old man.'
Cecilia trembled: she was touched to the quick. Yet it was not pleasant
to her to be wooed obliquely, through Dr. Shrapnel.
She recognized the very letter, crowned with many stamps, thick with many
pages, in Beauchamp's hands.
'When you are at Steynham you will probably hear my uncle Everard's
version of this letter,' he said. 'The baron chooses to think everything
fair in war, and the letter came accidentally into his hands with the
seal broken; well, he read it. And, Cecilia, you can fancy the sort of
stuff he would make of it. Apart from that, I want you particularly to
know how much I am indebted to Dr. Shrapnel. Won't you learn to like him
a little? Won't you tolerate him?--I could almost say, for my sake! He
and I are at variance on certain points, but taking him altogether, I am
under deeper obligations to him than to any man on earth. He has found
where I bend and waver.'
'I recognize your chivalry, Nevil.'
'He has done his best to train me to be of some service. Where's the
chivalry in owning a debt? He is one of our true warriors; fearless and
blameless. I have had my heroes before. You know how I loved Robert
Hall: his death is a gap in my life. He is a light for fighting
Englishmen--who fight with the sword. But the scale of the war, the
cause, and the end in view, raise Dr. Shrapnel above the bravest I have
ever had the luck to meet. Soldiers and sailors have their excitement to
keep them up to the mark; praise and rewards. He is in his eight-and-
sixtieth year, and he has never received anything but obloquy for his
pains. Half of the small fortune he has goes in charities and
subscriptions. Will that touch you? But I think little of that, and so
does he. Charity is a common duty. The dedication of a man's life and
whole mind to a cause, there's heroism. I wish I were eloquent; I wish I
could move you.'
Cecilia turned her face to him. 'I listen to you with pleasure, Nevil;
but please do not read the letter.'
'Yes; a paragraph or two I must read.'
He was promptly by her side. 'If I say I ask you for one sign that you
care for me in some degree?'
'I have not for a moment ceased to be your friend, Nevil, since I was a
'But if you allow yourself to be so prejudiced against my best friend
that you will not hear a word of his writing, are you friendly?'
'Feminine, and obstinate,' said Cecilia.
'Give me your eyes an instant. I know you think me reckless and lawless:
now is not that true? You doubt whether, if a lady gave me her hand I
should hold to it in perfect faith. Or, perhaps not that: but you do
suspect I should be capable of every sophism under the sun to persuade a
woman to break her faith, if it suited me: supposing some passion to be
at work. Men who are open to passion have to be taught reflection before
they distinguish between the woman they should sue for love because she
would be their best mate, and the woman who has thrown a spell on them.
Now, what I beg you to let me read you in this letter is a truth nobly
stated that has gone into my blood, and changed me. It cannot fail, too,
in changeing your opinion of Dr. Shrapnel. It makes me wretched that you
should be divided from me in your ideas of him. I, you see--and I
confess I think it my chief title to honour--reverence him.'
'I regret that I am unable to utter the words of Ruth,' said Cecilia, in
a low voice. She felt rather tremulously; opposed only to the letter and
the writer of it, not at all to Beauchamp, except on account of his
idolatry of the wicked revolutionist. Far from having a sense of
opposition to Beauchamp; she pitied him for his infatuation, and in her
lofty mental serenity she warmed to him for the seeming boyishness of his
constant and extravagant worship of the man, though such an enthusiasm
cast shadows on his intellect.
He was reading a sentence of the letter.
'I hear nothing but the breeze, Nevil,' she said.
The breeze fluttered the letter-sheets: they threatened to fly. Cecilia
stepped two paces away.
'Hark; there is a military band playing on the pier,' said she. 'I am so
fond of hearing music a little off shore.'
Beauchamp consigned the letter to his pocket.
'You are not offended, Nevil?'
'Dear me, no. You haven't a mind for tonics, that's all.'
'Healthy persons rarely have,' she remarked, and asked him, smiling
softly, whether he had a mind for music.
His insensibility to music was curious, considering how impressionable he
was to verse, and to songs of birds. He listened with an oppressed look,
as to something the particular secret of which had to be reached by a
determined effort of sympathy for those whom it affected. He liked it if
she did, and said he liked it, reiterated that he liked it, clearly
trying hard to comprehend it, as unmoved by the swell and sigh of the
resonant brass as a man could be, while her romantic spirit thrilled to
it, and was bountiful in glowing visions and in tenderness.
There hung her hand. She would not have refused to yield it. The hero
of her childhood, the friend of her womanhood, and her hero still, might
have taken her with half a word.
Beauchamp was thinking: She can listen to that brass band, and she shuts
her ears to this letter:
The reading of it would have been a prelude to the opening of his heart
to her, at the same time that it vindicated his dear and honoured master,
as he called Dr. Shrapnel. To speak, without the explanation of his
previous reticence which this letter would afford, seemed useless: even
the desire to speak was absent, passion being absent.
'I see papa; he is getting into a boat with some one,' said Cecilia, and
gave orders for the yacht to stand in toward the Club steps. 'Do you
know, Nevil, the Italian common people are not so subject to the charm of
music as other races? They have more of the gift, and I think less of
the feeling. You do not hear much music in Italy. I remember in the
year of Revolution there was danger of a rising in some Austrian city,
and a colonel of a regiment commanded his band to play. The mob was put
in good humour immediately.'
'It's a soporific,' said Beauchamp.
'You would not rather have had them rise to be slaughtered?'
'Would you have them waltzed into perpetual servility?'
Cecilia hummed, and suggested: 'If one can have them happy in any way?'
'Then the day of destruction may almost be dated.'
'Nevil, your terrible view of life must be false.'
'I make it out worse to you than to any one else, because I want our
minds to be united.'
'Give me a respite now and then.'
'With all my heart. And forgive me for beating my drum. I see what
others don't see, or else I feel it more; I don't know; but it appears to
me our country needs rousing if it's to live. There 's a division
between poor and rich that you have no conception of, and it can't safely
be left unnoticed. I've done.'
He looked at her and saw tears on her under-lids.
'My dearest Cecilia!'
'Music makes me childish,' said she.
Her father was approaching in the boat. Beside him sat the Earl of
Lockrace, latterly classed among the suitors of the lady of Mount
A few minutes remained to Beauchamp of his lost opportunity. Instead of
seizing them with his usual promptitude, he let them slip, painfully
mindful of his treatment of her last year after the drive into Bevisham,
when she was England, and Renee holiday France.
This feeling he fervently translated into the reflection that the bride
who would bring him beauty and wealth, and her especial gift of tender
womanliness, was not yet so thoroughly mastered as to grant her husband
his just prevalence with her, or even indeed his complete independence of
action, without which life itself was not desireable.
Colonel Halkett stared at Beauchamp as if he had risen from the deep.
'Have you been in that town this morning?' was one of his first
questions to him when he stood on board.
'I came through it,' said Beauchamp, and pointed to his little cutter
labouring in the distance. 'She's mine for a month; I came from
Holdesbury to try her; and then he stated how he had danced attendance on
the schooner for a couple of hours before any notice was taken of him,
and Cecilia with her graceful humour held up his presumption to scorn.
Her father was eyeing Beauchamp narrowly, and appeared troubled.
'Did you see Mr. Romfrey yesterday, or this morning?' the colonel asked
him, mentioning that Mr. Romfrey had been somewhere about the island
yesterday, at which Beauchamp expressed astonishment, for his uncle
Everard seldom visited a yachting station.
Colonel Halkett exchanged looks with Cecilia. Hers were inquiring, and
he confirmed her side-glance at Beauchamp. She raised her brows; he
nodded, to signify that there was gravity in the case. Here the
signalling stopped short; she had to carry on a conversation with Lord
Lockrace, one of those men who betray the latent despot in an exhibition
of discontentment unless they have all a lady's hundred eyes attentive to
At last Beauchamp quitted the vessel.
When he was out of hearing, Colonel Halkett said to Cecilia: 'Grancey
Lespel tells me that Mr. Romfrey called on the man Shrapnel yesterday
evening at six o'clock.'
'Now come and see the fittings below,' the colonel addressed Lord
Lockrace, and murmured to his daughter:
'And soundly horsewhipped him!'
Cecilia turned on the instant to gaze after Nevil Beauchamp. She could
have wept for pity. Her father's emphasis on 'soundly' declared an
approval of the deed, and she was chilled by a sickening abhorrence and
dread of the cruel brute in men, such as, awakened by she knew not what,
had haunted her for a year of her girlhood.
'And he deserved it!' the colonel pursued, on emerging from the cabin at
Lord Lockrace's heels. 'I've no doubt he richly deserved it. The writer
of that letter we heard Captain Baskelett read the other day deserves the
very worst he gets.'
'Baskelett bored the Club the other night with a letter of a Radical
fellow,' said Lord Lockrace. 'Men who write that stuff should be strung
up and whipped by the common hangman.'
'It was a private letter,' said Cecilia.
'Public or private, Miss Halkett.'
Her mind flew back to Seymour Austin for the sense of stedfastness when
she heard such language as this, which, taken in conjunction with Dr.
Shrapnel's, seemed to uncloak our Constitutional realm and show it
boiling up with the frightful elements of primitive societies.
'I suppose we are but half civilized,' she said.
'If that,' said the earl.
Colonel Halkett protested that he never could quite make out what
Radicals were driving at.
'The rents,' Lord Lockrace observed in the conclusive tone of brevity.
He did not stay very long.
The schooner was boarded subsequently by another nobleman, an Admiral of
the Fleet and ex-minister of the Whig Government, Lord Croyston, who was
a friend of Mr. Romfrey's, and thought well of Nevil Beauchamp as a
seaman and naval officer, but shook an old head over him as a politician.
He came to beg a passage across the water to his marine Lodge, an
accident having happened early in the morning to his yacht, the Lady
Violet. He was able to communicate the latest version of the
horsewhipping of Dr. Shrapnel, from which it appeared that after Mr.
Romfrey had handsomely flogged the man he flung his card on the prostrate
body, to let men know who was responsible for the act. He expected that
Mr. Romfrey would be subjected to legal proceedings. 'But if there's a
pleasure worth paying for it's the trouncing of a villain,' said he; and
he had been informed that Dr. Shrapnel was a big one. Lord Croyston's
favourite country residence was in the neighbourhood of old Mrs.
Beauchamp, on the Upper Thames. Speaking of Nevil Beauchamp a second
time, he alluded to his relations with his great-aunt, said his prospects
were bad, that she had interdicted her house to him, and was devoted to
her other great-nephew.
'And so she should be,' said Colonel Halkett. 'That's a young man who's
an Englishman without French gunpowder notions in his head. He works for
us down at the mine in Wales a good part of the year, and has tided us
over a threatening strike there: gratuitously: I can't get him to accept
anything. I can't think why he does it.'
'He'll have plenty,' said Lord Croyston, levelling his telescope to sight
the racing cutters.
Cecilia fancied she descried Nevil's Petrel, dubbed Curlew, to Eastward,
and had a faint gladness in the thought that his knowledge of his uncle
Everard's deed of violence would be deferred for another two or three
She tried to persuade her father to wait for Nevil, and invite him to
dine at Mount Laurels, and break the news to him gently. Colonel Halkett
argued that in speaking of the affair he should certainly not commiserate
the man who had got his deserts, and saying this he burst into a petty
fury against the epistle of Dr. Shrapnel, which appeared to be growing
more monstrous in proportion to his forgetfulness of the details, as
mountains gather vastness to the eye at a certain remove. Though he
could not guess the reason for Mr. Romfrey's visit to Bevisham, he was,
he said, quite prepared to maintain that Mr. Romfrey had a perfect
justification for his conduct.
Cecilia hinted at barbarism. The colonel hinted at high police duties
that gentlemen were sometimes called on to perform for the protection of
society. 'In defiance of its laws?' she asked; and he answered: 'Women
must not be judging things out of their sphere,' with the familiar accent
on 'women' which proves their inferiority. He was rarely guilty of it
toward his daughter. Evidently he had resolved to back Mr. Romfrey
blindly. That epistle of Dr. Shrapnel's merited condign punishment and
had met with it, he seemed to rejoice in saying: and this was his
abstract of the same: 'An old charlatan who tells his dupe to pray every
night of his life for the beheading of kings and princes, and scattering
of the clergy, and disbanding the army, that he and his rabble may fall
upon the wealthy, and show us numbers win; and he'll undertake to make
'I wish we were not going to Steynham,' said Cecilia.
'So do I. Well, no, I don't,' the colonel corrected himself, 'no; it 's
an engagement. I gave my consent so far. We shall see whether Nevil
Beauchamp's a man of any sense.'
Her heart sank. This was as much as to let her know that if Nevil broke
with his uncle, the treaty of union between the two families, which her
father submitted to entertain out of consideration for Mr. Romfrey, would
be at an end.
The wind had fallen. Entering her river, Cecilia gazed back at the
smooth broad water, and the band of golden beams flung across it from the
evening sun over the forest. No little cutter was visible. She could
not write to Nevil to bid him come and concert with her in what spirit to
encounter his uncle Everard at Steynham. And guests would be at Mount
Laurels next day; Lord Lockrace, Lord Croyston, and the Lespels; she
could not drive down to Bevisham on the chance of seeing him. Nor was it
to be acknowledged even to herself that she so greatly desired to see him
and advise him. Why not? Because she was one of the artificial
creatures called women (with the accent) who dare not be spontaneous, and
cannot act independently if they would continue to be admirable in the
world's eye, and who for that object must remain fixed on shelves, like
other marketable wares, avoiding motion to avoid shattering or
tarnishing. This is their fate, only in degree less inhuman than that of
Hellenic and Trojan princesses offered up to the Gods, or pretty slaves
to the dealers. Their artificiality is at once their bane and their
source of superior pride.
Seymour Austin might have reason for seeking to emancipate them, she
thought, and blushed in thought that she could never be learning anything
but from her own immediate sensations.
Of course it was in her power to write to Beauchamp, just as it had been
in his to speak to her, but the fire was wanting in her blood and absent
from his mood, so they were kept apart.
Her father knew as little as she what was the positive cause of Mr.
Romfrey's chastisement of Dr. Shrapnel. 'Cause enough, I don't doubt,'
he said, and cited the mephitic letter.
Cecilia was not given to suspicions, or she would have had them kindled
by a certain wilfulness in his incessant reference to the letter, and
exoneration, if not approval, of Mr. Romfrey's conduct.
How did that chivalrous gentleman justify himself for condescending to
such an extreme as the use of personal violence? Was there a possibility
of his justifying it to Nevil? She was most wretched in her reiteration
of these inquiries, for, with a heart subdued, she had still a mind whose
habit of independent judgement was not to be constrained, and while she
felt that it was only by siding with Nevil submissively and blindly in
this lamentable case that she could hope for happiness, she foresaw the
likelihood of her not being able to do so as much as he would desire and
demand. This she took for the protest of her pure reason. In reality,
grieved though she was on account of that Dr. Shrapnel, her captive heart
resented the anticipated challenge to her to espouse his cause or
THE FIRST ENCOUNTER AT STEYNHAM
The judge pronouncing sentence of condemnation on the criminal is
proverbially a sorrowfully-minded man; and still more would he be so had
he to undertake the part of executioner as well. This is equivalent to
saying that the simple pleasures are no longer with us; it must be a
personal enemy now to give us any satisfaction in chastising and slaying.
Perhaps by-and-by that will be savourless: we degenerate. There is,
nevertheless, ever (and let nature be praised for it) a strong
sustainment in the dutiful exertion of our physical energies, and Mr.
Everard Romfrey experienced it after he had fulfilled his double office
on the person of Dr. Shrapnel by carrying out his own decree. His
conscience approved him cheerlessly, as it is the habit of that secret
monitor to do when we have no particular advantage coming of the act we
have performed; but the righteous labour of his arm gave him high
breathing and an appetite.
He foresaw that he and Nevil would soon be having a wrestle over the
matter, hand and thigh; but a gentleman in the right engaged with a
fellow in the wrong has nothing to apprehend; is, in fact, in the
position of a game-preserver with a poacher. The nearest approach to
gratification in that day's work which Mr. Romfrey knew was offered by
the picture of Nevil's lamentable attitude above his dirty idol. He
conceived it in the mock-mediaeval style of our caricaturists:--Shrapnel
stretched at his length, half a league, in slashed yellows and blacks,
with his bauble beside him, and prodigious pointed toes; Nevil in parti-
coloured tights, on one leg, raising his fists in imprecation to a nose
in the firmament.
Gentlemen of an unpractised imaginative capacity cannot vision for
themselves exactly what they would, being unable to exercise authority
over the proportions and the hues of the objects they conceive, which are
very much at the mercy of their sportive caprices; and the state of mind
of Mr. Romfrey is not to be judged by his ridiculous view of the pair.
In the abstract he could be sorry for Shrapnel. As he knew himself
magnanimous, he promised himself to be forbearing with Nevil.
Moreover, the month of September was drawing nigh; he had plenty to think
of. The entire land (signifying all but all of those who occupy the
situation of thinkers in it) may be said to have been exhaling the same
thought in connection with September. Our England holds possession of a
considerable portion of the globe, and it keeps the world in awe to see
her bestowing so considerable a portion of her intelligence upon her
recreations. To prosecute them with her whole heart is an ingenious
exhibition of her power. Mr. Romfrey was of those who said to his
countrymen, 'Go yachting; go cricketing; go boat-racing; go shooting; go
horseracing, nine months of the year, while the other Europeans go
marching and drilling.' Those occupations he considered good for us; and
our much talking, writing, and thinking about them characteristic, and
therefore good. And he was not one of those who do penance for that
sweating indolence in the fits of desperate panic. Beauchamp's argument
that the rich idler begets the idling vagabond, the rich wagerer the
brutal swindler, the general thirst for a mad round of recreation a
generally-increasing disposition to avoid serious work, and the unbraced
moral tone of the country an indifference to national responsibility (an
argument doubtless extracted from Shrapnel, talk tall as the very
demagogue when he stood upright), Mr. Romfrey laughed at scornfully,
affirming that our manufactures could take care of themselves. As for
invasion, we are circled by the sea. Providence has done that for us,
and may be relied on to do more in an emergency.--The children of wealth
and the children of the sun alike believe that Providence is for them,
and it would seem that the former can do without it less than the latter,
though the former are less inclined to give it personification.
This year, however, the array of armaments on the Continent made Mr.
Romfrey anxious about our navy. Almost his first topic in welcoming
Colonel Halkett and Cecilia to Steynham was the rottenness of navy
administration; for if Providence is to do anything for us it must have a
sea-worthy fleet for the operation. How loudly would his contemptuous
laughter have repudiated the charge that he trusted to supernatural
agency for assistance in case of need! But so it was: and he owned to
believing in English luck. Partly of course he meant that steady fire of
combat which his countrymen have got heated to of old till fortune
'Nevil is not here?' the colonel asked.
'No, I suspect he's gruelling and plastering a doctor of his
acquaintance,' Mr. Romfrey said, with his nasal laugh composed of scorn
'Yes, yes, I've heard,' said Colonel Halkett hastily.
He would have liked to be informed of Dr. Shrapnel's particular offence:
he mentioned the execrable letter.
Mr. Romfrey complacently interjected: 'Drug-vomit!' and after an
'That man has done Nevil Beauchamp a world of mischief, Romfrey.'
'We'll hope for a cure, colonel.'
'Did the man come across you?'
Mr. Romfrey was mute on the subject. Colonel Halkett abstained from
pushing his inquiries.
Cecilia could only tell her father when they were alone in the drawing-
room a few minutes before dinner that Mrs. Culling was entirely ignorant
of any cause to which Nevil's absence might be attributed.
'Mr. Romfrey had good cause,' the colonel said, emphatically.
He repeated it next day, without being a bit wiser of the cause.
Cecilia's happiness or hope was too sensitive to allow of a beloved
father's deceiving her in his opposition to it.
She saw clearly now that he had fastened on this miserable incident,
expecting an imbroglio that would divide Nevil and his uncle, and be an
excuse for dividing her and Nevil. O for the passionate will to make
head against what appeared as a fate in this matter! She had it not.
Mr. and Mrs. Wardour-Devereux, Sir John and Lady Baskelett, and the
Countess of Welshpool, another sister of Mr. Romfrey's, arrived at
Steynham for a day and a night. Lady Baskelett and Lady Welshpool came
to see their brother, not to countenance his household; and Mr. Wardour-
Devereux could not stay longer than a certain number of hours under a
roof where tobacco was in evil odour. From her friend Louise, his wife,
Cecilia learnt that Mr. Lydiard had been summoned to Dr. Shrapnel's
bedside, as Mrs. Devereux knew by a letter she had received from Mr.
Lydiard, who was no political devotee of that man, she assured Cecilia,
but had an extraordinary admiration for the Miss Denham living with him.
This was kindly intended to imply that Beauchamp was released from his
attendance on Dr. Shrapnel, and also that it was not he whom the Miss
'She is in Switzerland,' said Cecilia.
'She is better there,' said Mrs. Devereux.
Mr. Stukely Culbrett succeeded to these visitors. He heard of the case
of Dr. Shrapnel from Colonel Halkett, and of Beauchamp's missing of his
chance with the heiress from Mr. Romfrey.
Rosamund Culling was in great perplexity about Beauchamp's prolonged
absence; for he had engaged to come, he had written to her to say he
would be sure to come; and she feared he was ill. She would have
persuaded Mr. Culbrett to go down to Bevisham to see him: she declared
that she could even persuade herself to call on Dr. Shrapnel a second
time, in spite of her horror of the man. Her anger at the thought of his
keeping Nevil away from good fortune and happiness caused her to speak in
resentment and loathing of the man.
'He behaved badly when you saw him, did he?' said Stukely.
'Badly, is no word. He is detestable,' Rosamund replied.
'You think he ought to be whipped?'
She feigned an extremity of vindictiveness, and twisted her brows in
comic apology for the unfeminine sentiment, as she said: 'I really do.'
The feminine gentleness of her character was known to Stukely, so she
could afford to exaggerate the expression of her anger, and she did not
modify it, forgetful that a woman is the representative of the sex with
cynical men, and escapes from contempt at the cost of her sisterhood.
Looking out of an upper window in the afternoon she beheld Nevil
Beauchamp in a group with his uncle Everard, the colonel and Cecilia, and
Mr. Culbrett. Nevil was on his feet; the others were seated under the
great tulip-tree on the lawn.
A little observation of them warned her that something was wrong. There
was a vacant chair; Nevil took it in his hand at times, stamped it to the
ground, walked away and sharply back fronting his uncle, speaking
vehemently, she perceived, and vainly, as she judged by the cast of his
uncle's figure. Mr. Romfrey's head was bent, and wagged slightly, as he
screwed his brows up and shot his eyes, queerly at the agitated young
man. Colonel Halkett's arms crossed his chest. Cecilia's eyelids
drooped their, lashes. Mr. Culbrett was balancing on the hind-legs of
his chair. No one appeared to be speaking but Nevil.
It became evident that Nevil was putting a series of questions to his
uncle. Mechanical nods were given him in reply.
Presently Mr. Romfrey rose, thundering out a word or two, without a
Colonel Halkett rose.
Nevil flung his hand out straight to the house.
Mr. Romfrey seemed to consent; the colonel shook his head: Nevil
A footman carrying a tea-tray to Miss Halkett received some commission
and swiftly disappeared, making Rosamund wonder whether sugar, milk or
cream had been omitted.
She met him on the first landing, and heard that Mr. Romfrey requested
her to step out on the lawn.
Expecting to hear of a piece of misconduct on the part of the household
servants, she hurried forth, and found that she had to traverse the whole
space of the lawn up to the tuliptree. Colonel Halkett and Mr. Romfrey
had resumed their seats. The colonel stood up and bowed to her.
Mr. Romfrey said: 'One question to you, ma'am, and you shall not be
detained. Did not that man Shrapnel grossly insult you on the day you
called on him to see Captain Beauchamp about a couple of months before
'Look at me when you speak, ma'am,' said Beauchamp.
Rosamund looked at him.
The whiteness of his face paralyzed her tongue. A dreadful levelling of
his eyes penetrated and chilled her. Instead of thinking of her answer
she thought of what could possibly have happened.
'Did he insult you at all, ma'am?' said Beauchamp.
Mr. Romfrey reminded him that he was not a cross-examining criminal
They waited for her to speak.
She hesitated, coloured, betrayed confusion; her senses telling her of a
catastrophe, her conscience accusing her as the origin of it.
'Did Dr. Shrapnel, to your belief, intentionally hurt your feelings or
your dignity?' said Beauchamp, and made the answer easier:
'Not intentionally, surely: not . . . I certainly do not accuse him.'
'Can you tell me you feel that he wounded you in the smallest degree?
And if so, how? I ask you this, because he is anxious, if he lives, to
apologize to you for any offence that he may have been guilty of: he was
ignorant of it. I have his word for that, and his commands to me to bear
it to you. I may tell you I have never known him injure the most feeble
thing--anything alive, or wish to.'
Beauchamp's voice choked. Rosamund saw tears leap out of the stern face
of her dearest now in wrath with her.
'Is he ill?' she faltered.
'He is. You own to a strong dislike of him, do you not?'
'But not to desire any harm to him.'
'Not a whipping,' Mr. Culbrett murmured.
Everard Romfrey overheard it.
He had allowed Mrs. Culling to be sent for, that she might with a bare
affirmative silence Nevil, when his conduct was becoming intolerable
before the guests of the house.
'That will do, ma'am,' he dismissed her.
Beauchamp would not let her depart.
'I must have your distinct reply, and in Mr. Romfrey's presence:--say,
that if you accused him you were mistaken, or that they were mistaken who
supposed you had accused him. I must have the answer before you go.'
'Sir, will you learn manners!' Mr. Romfrey said to him, with a rattle of
Beauchamp turned his face from-her.
Colonel Halkett offered her his arm to lead her away.
'What is it? Oh, what is it?' she whispered, scarcely able to walk, but
declining the colonel's arm.
'You ought not to have been dragged out here,' said he. 'Any one might
have known there would be no convincing of Captain Beauchamp. That old
rascal in Bevisham has been having a beating; that's all. And a very
beautiful day it is!--a little too hot, though. Before we leave, you
must give me a lesson or two in gardening.'
'Dr. Shrapnel--Mr. Romfrey!' said Rosamund half audibly under the
oppression of the more she saw than what she said.
The colonel talked of her renown in landscape-gardening. He added
casually: 'They met the other day.'
'By chance, I suppose. Shrapnel defends one of your Steynham poaching
'Mr. Romfrey struck him?--for that? Oh, never!' Rosamund exclaimed.
'I suppose he had a long account to settle.'
She fetched her breath painfully. 'I shall never be forgiven.'
'And I say that a gentleman has no business with idols,' the colonel
fumed as he spoke. 'Those letters of Shrapnel to Nevil Beauchamp are a
scandal on the name of Englishman.'
'You have read that shocking one, Colonel Halkett?'
'Captain Baskelett read it out to us.'
'He? Oh! then . . .' She stopped:--Then the author of this mischief
is clear to me! her divining hatred of Cecil would have said, but her
humble position did not warrant such speech. A consideration of the
lowliness necessitating this restraint at a moment when loudly to
denounce another's infamy with triumphant insight would have solaced and
supported her, kept Rosamund dumb.
She could not bear to think of her part in the mischief.
She was not bound to think of it, knowing actually nothing of the
Still she felt that she was on her trial. She detected herself running
in and out of her nature to fortify it against accusations rather than
cleanse it for inspection. It was narrowing in her own sight. The
prospect of her having to submit to a further interrogatory, shut it up
entrenched in the declaration that Dr. Shrapnel had so far outraged her
sentiments as to be said to have offended her: not insulted, perhaps, but
And this was a generous distinction. It was generous; and, having
recognized the generosity, she was unable to go beyond it.
She was presently making the distinction to Miss Halkett. The colonel
had left her at the door of the house: Miss Halkett sought admission to
her private room on an errand of condolence, for she had sympathized with
her very much in the semi-indignity Nevil had forced her to undergo: and
very little indeed had she been able to sympathize with Nevil, who had
been guilty of the serious fault of allowing himself to appear moved by
his own commonplace utterances; or, in other words, the theme being
hostile to his audience, he had betrayed emotion over it without first
evoking the spirit of pathos.
'As for me,' Rosamund replied, to some comforting remarks of Miss
Halkett's, 'I do not understand why I should be mixed up in Dr.
Shrapnel's misfortunes: I really am quite unable to recollect his words
to me or his behaviour: I have only a positive impression that I left his
house, where I had gone to see Captain Beauchamp, in utter disgust, so
repelled by his language that I could hardly trust myself to speak of the
man to Mr. Romfrey when he questioned me. I did not volunteer it. I am
ready to say that I believe Dr. Shrapnel did not intend to be insulting.
I cannot say that he was not offensive.
You know, Miss Halkett, I would willingly, gladly have saved him from
anything like punishment.'
'You are too gentle to have thought of it,' said Cecilia.
'But I shall never be forgiven by Captain Beauchamp. I see in his eyes
that he accuses me and despises me.'
'He will not be so unjust, Mrs. Culling.'
Rosamund begged that she might hear what Nevil had first said on his
Cecilia related that they had seen him walking swiftly across the park,
and that Mr. Romfrey had hailed him, and held his hand out; and that
Captain Beauchamp had overlooked it, saying he feared Mr. Romfrey's work
was complete. He had taken her father's hand and hers and his touch was
'His worship of that Dr. Shrapnel is extraordinary,' quoth Rosamund.
'And how did Mr. Romfrey behave to him?'
'My father thinks, very forbearingly.'
Rosamund sighed and made a semblance of wringing her hands. 'It seems to
me that I anticipated ever since I heard of the man . . . or at least
ever since I saw him and heard him, he would be the evil genius of us
all: if I dare include myself. But I am not permitted to escape! And,
Miss Halkett, can you tell me how it was that my name--that I became
involved? I cannot imagine the circumstances which would bring me
forward in this unhappy affair.'
Cecilia replied: 'The occasion was, that Captain Beauchamp so scornfully
contrasted the sort of injury done by Dr. Shrapnel's defence of a poacher
on his uncle's estate, with the severe chastisement inflicted by Mr.
Romfrey in revenge for it. He would not leave the subject.'
'I see him--see his eyes!' cried Rosamund, her bosom heaving and sinking
deep, as her conscience quavered within her. 'At last Mr. Romfrey
'He stood up and said you had been personally insulted by Dr. Shrapnel.'
Rosamund meditated in a distressing doubt of her conscientious
'Captain Beauchamp will be coming to me; and how can I answer him?
Heaven knows I would have shielded the poor man, if possible--poor
wretch! Wicked though he is, one has only to hear of him suffering!
But what can I answer? I do recollect now that Mr. Romfrey compelled
me from question to question to confess that the man had vexed me.
Insulted, I never said. At the worst, I said vexed. I would not have
said insulted, or even offended, because Mr. Romfrey . . . ah! we
know him. What I did say, I forget. I have no guide to what I said but
my present feelings, and they are pity for the unfortunate man much more
than dislike.--Well, I must go through the scene with Nevil!' Rosamund
concluded her outcry of ostensible exculpation.
She asked in a cooler moment how it was that Captain Beauchamp had so far
forgotten himself as to burst out on his uncle before the guests of the
house. It appeared that he had wished his uncle to withdraw with him,
and Mr. Romfrey had bidden him postpone private communications. Rosamund
gathered from one or two words of Cecilia's that Mr. Romfrey, until
finally stung by Nevil, had indulged in his best-humoured banter.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Alike believe that Providence is for them
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Convict it by instinct without the ceremony of a jury
Cowardice is even worse for nations than for individual men
Give our courage as hostage for the fulfilment of what we hope
Good maxim for the wrathful--speak not at all
Impossible for him to think that women thought
Leader accustomed to count ahead upon vapourish abstractions
Love, that has risen above emotion, quite independent of craving
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People with whom a mute conformity is as good as worship
Prayer for an object is the cajolery of an idol
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Small things producing great consequences
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