Beauchamps Career, v5
Part 2 out of 2
She declined his visit: not now; 'not yet': and for that he presumed to
chide her, half-sincerely. As far as he knew he stood against everybody
save his old friend and Renee; and she certainly would have refreshed his
heart for a day. In writing, however, he had an ominous vision of the
morrow to the day; and, both for her sake and his own, he was not
unrejoiced to hear that she was engaged day and night in nursing her
husband. Pursuing his vision of the morrow of an unreproachful day with
Renee, the madness of taking her to himself, should she surrender at last
to a third persuasion, struck him sharply, now that he and his uncle were
foot to foot in downright conflict, and money was the question. He had
not much remaining of his inheritance--about fifteen hundred pounds.
He would have to vacate Holdesbury and his uncle's town-house in a month.
Let his passion be never so desperate, for a beggared man to think of
running away with a wife, or of marrying one, the folly is as big as the
worldly offence: no justification is to be imagined. Nay, and there is
no justification for the breach of a moral law. Beauchamp owned it,
and felt that Renee's resistance to him in Normandy placed her above him.
He remembered a saying of his moralist: 'We who interpret things heavenly
by things earthly must not hope to juggle with them for our pleasures,
and can look to no absolution of evil acts.' The school was a hard one.
It denied him holidays; it cut him off from dreams. It ran him in heavy
harness on a rough highroad, allowing no turnings to right or left, no
wayside croppings; with the simple permission to him that he should daily
get thoroughly tired. And what was it Jenny Denham had said on the
election day? 'Does incessant battling keep the intellect clear?'
His mind was clear enough to put the case, that either he beheld a
tremendous magnification of things, or else that other men did not attach
common importance to them; and he decided that the latter was the fact.
An incessant struggle of one man with the world, which position usually
ranks his relatives against him, does not conduce to soundness of
judgement. He may nevertheless be right in considering that he is right
in the main. The world in motion is not so wise that it can pretend to
silence the outcry of an ordinarily generous heart even--the very infant
of antagonism to its methods and establishments. It is not so difficult
to be right against the world when the heart is really active; but the
world is our book of humanity, and before insisting that his handwriting
shall occupy the next blank page of it, the noble rebel is bound for the
sake of his aim to ask himself how much of a giant he is, lest he fall
like a blot on the page, instead of inscribing intelligible characters
Moreover, his relatives are present to assure him that he did not jump
out of Jupiter's head or come of the doctor. They hang on him like an
ill-conditioned prickly garment; and if he complains of the irritation
they cause him, they one and all denounce his irritable skin.
Fretted by his relatives he cannot be much of a giant.
Beauchamp looked from Dr. Shrapnel in his invalid's chair to his uncle
Everard breathing robustly, and mixed his uncle's errors with those of
the world which honoured and upheld him. His remainder of equability
departed; his impatience increased. His appetite for work at Dr.
Shrapnel's writing-desk was voracious. He was ready for any labour, the
transcribing of papers, writing from dictation, whatsoever was of service
to Lord Avonley's victim: and he was not like the Spartan boy with the
wolf at his vitals; he betrayed it in the hue his uncle Everard detested,
in a visible nervousness, and indulgence in fits of scorn. Sharp
epigrams and notes of irony provoked his laughter more than fun. He
seemed to acquiesce in some of the current contemporary despair of our
immoveable England, though he winced at a satire on his country, and
attempted to show that the dull dominant class of moneymakers was the
ruin of her. Wherever he stood to represent Dr. Shrapnel, as against Mr.
Grancey Lespel on account of the Itchincope encroachments, he left a
sting that spread the rumour of his having become not only a black torch
of Radicalism--our modern provincial estateholders and their wives bestow
that reputation lightly--but a gentleman with the polish scratched off
him in parts. And he, though individually he did not understand how
there was to be game in the land if game-preserving was abolished, signed
his name R. C. S. NEVIL BEAUCHAMP for Dr. SHRAPNEL, in the
communications directed to solicitors of the persecutors of poachers.
His behaviour to Grancey Lespel was eclipsed by his treatment of Captain
Baskelett. Cecil had ample reason to suppose his cousin to be friendly
with him. He himself had forgotten Dr. Shrapnel, and all other
dissensions, in a supremely Christian spirit. He paid his cousin the
compliment to think that he had done likewise. At Romfrey and in London
he had spoken to Nevil of his designs upon the widow: Nevil said nothing
against it and it was under Mrs. Wardour-Devereux's eyes, and before a
man named Lydiard, that, never calling to him to put him on his guard,
Nevil fell foul of him with every capital charge that can be brought
against a gentleman, and did so abuse, worry, and disgrace him as to
reduce him to quit the house to avoid the scandal of a resort to a
gentleman's last appeal in vindication of his character. Mrs. Devereux
spoke of the terrible scene to Cecilia, and Lydiard to Miss Denham. The
injured person communicated it to Lord Avonley, who told Colonel Halkett
emphatically that his nephew Cecil deserved well of him in having kept
command of his temper out of consideration for the family. There was a
general murmur of the family over this incident. The widow was rich, and
it ranked among the unwritten crimes against blood for one offshoot of a
great house wantonly to thwart another in the wooing of her by humbling
him in her presence, doing his utmost to expose him as a schemer, a
culprit, and a poltroon.
Could it be that Beauchamp had reserved his wrath with his cousin to
avenge Dr. Shrapnel upon him signally? Miss Denham feared her guardian
was the cause. Lydiard was indefinitely of her opinion. The idea struck
Cecilia Halkett, and as an example of Beauchamp's tenacity of purpose and
sureness of aim it fascinated her. But Mrs. Wardour-Devereux did not
appear to share it. She objected to Beauchamp's intemperateness and
unsparingness, as if she was for conveying a sisterly warning to Cecilia;
and that being off her mind, she added, smiling a little and colouring a
little: 'We learn only from men what men are.' How the scene commenced
and whether it was provoked, she failed to recollect. She described
Beauchamp as very self-contained in manner throughout his tongue was the
scorpion. Cecilia fancied he must have resembled his uncle Everard.
Cecilia was conquered, but unclaimed. While supporting and approving him
in her heart she was dreading to receive some new problem of his conduct;
and still while she blamed him for not seeking an interview with her, she
liked him for this instance of delicacy in the present state of his
relations with Lord Avonley.
A problem of her own conduct disturbed the young lady's clear conception
of herself: and this was a ruffling of unfaithfulness in her love of
Beauchamp, that was betrayed to her by her forgetfulness of him whenever
she chanced to be with Seymour Austin. In Mr. Austin's company she
recovered her forfeited repose, her poetry of life, her image of the
independent Cecilia throned above our dust of battle, gazing on broad
heaven. She carried the feeling so far that Blackburn Tuckham's
enthusiasm for Mr. Austin gave him grace in her sight, and praise of her
father's favourite from Mr. Austin's mouth made him welcome to her. The
image of that grave capable head, dusty-grey about the temples, and the
darkly sanguine face of the tried man, which was that of a seasoned
warrior and inspired full trust in him, with his vivid look, his personal
distinction, his plain devotion to the country's business, and the
domestic solitude he lived in, admired, esteemed, loved perhaps, but
unpartnered, was often her refuge and haven from tempestuous Beauchamp.
She could see in vision the pride of Seymour Austin's mate. It flushed
her reflectively. Conquered but not claimed, Cecilia was like the frozen
earth insensibly moving round to sunshine in nature, with one white
flower in her breast as innocent a sign of strong sweet blood as a woman
may wear. She ascribed to that fair mate of Seymour Austin's many lofty
charms of womanhood; above all, stateliness: her especial dream of an
attainable superlative beauty in women. And supposing that lady to be
accused of the fickle breaking of another love, who walked beside him,
matched with his calm heart and one with him in counsel, would the
accusation be repeated by them that beheld her husband? might it not
rather be said that she had not deviated, but had only stepped higher?
She chose no youth, no glistener, no idler: it was her soul striving
upward to air like a seed in the earth that raised her to him: and she
could say to the man once enchaining her: Friend, by the good you taught
me I was led to this!
Cecilia's reveries fled like columns of mist before the gale when tidings
reached her of a positive rupture between Lord Avonley and Nevil
Beauchamp, and of the mandate to him to quit possession of Holdesbury and
the London house within a certain number of days, because of his refusal
to utter an apology to Mrs. Culling. Angrily on his behalf she prepared
to humble herself to him. Louise Wardour-Devereux brought them to a
meeting, at which Cecilia, with her heart in her hand, was icy. Mr.
Lydiard, prompted by Mrs. Devereux, gave him better reasons for her
singular coldness than Cecilia could give to herself, and some time
afterward Beauchamp went to Mount Laurels, where Colonel Halkett mounted
guard over his daughter, and behaved, to her thinking, cruelly. 'Now you
have ruined yourself there's nothing ahead for you but to go to the
Admiralty and apply for a ship,' he said, sugaring the unkindness with
the remark that the country would be the gainer. He let fly a side-shot
at London men calling themselves military men who sought to repair their
fortunes by chasing wealthy widows, and complimented Beauchamp: 'You're
not one of that sort.'
Cecilia looked at Beauchamp stedfastly. 'Speak,' said the look.
But he, though not blind, was keenly wounded.
'Money I must have,' he said, half to the colonel, half to himself.
Colonel Halkett shrugged. Cecilia waited for a directness in Beauchamp's
Her father was too wary to leave them.
Cecilia's intuition told her that by leading to a discussion of politics,
and adopting Beauchamp's views, she could kindle him. Why did she
refrain? It was that the conquered young lady was a captive, not an
ally. To touch the subject in cold blood, voluntarily to launch on those
vexed waters, as if his cause were her heart's, as much as her heart was
the man's, she felt to be impossible. He at the same time felt that the
heiress, endowing him with money to speed the good cause, should be his
match in ardour for it, otherwise he was but a common adventurer, winning
and despoiling an heiress.
They met in London. Beauchamp had not vacated either Holdesbury or the
town-house; he was defying his uncle Everard, and Cecilia thought with
him that it was a wise temerity. She thought with him passively
altogether. On this occasion she had not to wait for directness in his
eyes; she had to parry it. They were at a dinner-party at Lady Elsea's,
generally the last place for seeing Lord Palmet, but he was present, and
arranged things neatly for them, telling Beauchamp that he acted under
Mrs. Wardour-Devereux's orders. Never was an opportunity, more
propitious for a desperate lover. Had it been Renee next him, no petty
worldly scruples of honour would have held him back. And if Cecilia had
spoken feelingly of Dr. Shrapnel, or had she simulated a thoughtful
interest in his pursuits, his hesitations would have vanished. As it
was, he dared to look what he did not permit himself to speak. She was
nobly lovely, and the palpable envy of men around cried fool at his
delays. Beggar and heiress he said in his heart, to vitalize the three-
parts fiction of the point of honour which Cecilia's beauty was fast
submerging. When she was leaving he named a day for calling to see her.
Colonel Halkett stood by, and she answered, 'Come.'
Beauchamp kept the appointment. Cecilia was absent.
He was unaware that her father had taken her to old Mrs. Beauchamp's
death-bed. Her absence, after she had said, 'Come,' appeared a
confirmation of her glacial manner when they met at the house of Mrs.
Wardour-Devereux; and he charged her with waywardness. A wound of the
same kind that we are inflicting is about the severest we can feel.
Beauchamp received intelligence of his venerable great-aunt's death from
Blackburn Tuckham, and after the funeral he was informed that eighty
thousand pounds had been bequeathed to him: a goodly sum of money for a
gentleman recently beggared; yet, as the political enthusiast could not
help reckoning (apart from a fervent sentiment of gratitude toward his
benefactress), scarcely enough to do much more than start and push for
three or more years a commanding daily newspaper, devoted to Radical
interests, and to be entitled THE DAWN.
True, he might now conscientiously approach the heiress, take her hand
with an open countenance, and retain it.
Could he do so quite conscientiously? The point of honour had been
centred in his condition of beggary. Something still was in his way. A
quick spring of his blood for air, motion, excitement, holiday freedom,
sent his thoughts travelling whither they always shot away when his
redoubtable natural temper broke loose.
In the case of any other woman than Cecilia Halkett he would not have
been obstructed by the minor consideration as to whether he was wholly
heart-free to ask her in marriage that instant; for there was no
hindrance, and she was beautiful. She was exceedingly beautiful; and she
was an unequalled heiress. She would be able with her wealth to float
his newspaper, THE DAWN, so desired of Dr. Shrapnel!--the best
restorative that could be applied to him! Every temptation came
supplicating him to take the step which indeed he wished for: one feeling
opposed. He really respected Cecilia: it is not too much to say that he
worshipped her with the devout worship rendered to the ideal Englishwoman
by the heart of the nation. For him she was purity, charity, the keeper
of the keys of whatsoever is held precious by men; she was a midway
saint, a light between day and darkness, in whom the spirit in the flesh
shone like the growing star amid thin sanguine colour, the sweeter, the
brighter, the more translucent the longer known. And if the image will
allow it, the nearer down to him the holier she seemed.
How offer himself when he was not perfectly certain that he was worthy of
Some jugglery was played by the adept male heart in these later
hesitations. Up to the extent of his knowledge of himself, the man was
fairly sincere. Passion would have sped him to Cecilia, but passion is
not invariably love; and we know what it can be.
The glance he cast over the water at Normandy was withdrawn. He went to
Bevisham to consult with Dr. Shrapnel about the starting of a weekly
journal, instead of a daily, and a name for it--a serious question: for
though it is oftener weekly than daily that the dawn is visible in
England, titles must not invite the public jest; and the glorious project
of the daily DAWN was prudently abandoned for by-and-by. He thought
himself rich enough to put a Radical champion weekly in the field and
this matter, excepting the title, was arranged in Bevisham. Thence he
proceeded to Holdesbury, where he heard that the house, grounds, and farm
were let to a tenant preparing to enter. Indifferent to the blow, he
kept an engagement to deliver a speech at the great manufacturing town of
Gunningham, and then went to London, visiting his uncle's town-house for
recent letters. Not one was from Renee: she had not written for six
weeks, not once for his thrice! A letter from Cecil Baskelett informed
him that 'my lord' had placed the town-house at his disposal. Returning
to dress for dinner on a thick and murky evening of February, Beauchamp
encountered his cousin on the steps. He said to Cecil, 'I sleep here to-
night: I leave the house to you tomorrow.'
Cecil struck out his underjaw to reply: 'Oh! good. You sleep here to-
night. You are a fortunate man. I congratulate you. I shall not
disturb you. I have just entered on my occupation of the house. I have
my key. Allow me to recommend you to go straight to the drawing-room.
And I may inform you that the Earl of Romfrey is at the point of death.
My lord is at the castle.'
Cecil accompanied his descent of the steps with the humming of an opera
melody: Beauchamp tripped into the hall-passage. A young maid-servant
held the door open, and she accosted him: 'If you please, there is a lady
up-stairs in the drawing-room; she speaks foreign English, sir.'
Beauchamp asked if the lady was alone, and not waiting for the answer,
though he listened while writing, and heard that she was heavily veiled,
he tore a strip from his notebook, and carefully traced half-a-dozen
telegraphic words to Mrs. Culling at Steynham. His rarely failing
promptness, which was like an inspiration, to conceive and execute
measures for averting peril, set him on the thought of possibly
counteracting his cousin Cecil's malignant tongue by means of a message
to Rosamund, summoning her by telegraph to come to town by the next train
that night. He despatched the old woman keeping the house, as trustier
than the young one, to the nearest office, and went up to the drawing-
room, with a quick thumping heart that was nevertheless as little
apprehensive of an especial trial and danger as if he had done nothing at
all to obviate it. Indeed he forgot that he had done anything when he
turned the handle of the drawing-room door.
A TRIAL OF HIM
A low-burning lamp and fire cast a narrow ring on the shadows of the
dusky London room. One of the window-blinds was drawn up. Beauchamp
discerned a shape at that window, and the fear seized him that it might
be Madame d'Auffray with evil news of Renee: but it was Renee's name he
called. She rose from her chair, saying, 'I!'
She was trembling.
Beauchamp asked her whisperingly if she had come alone.
'Alone; without even a maid,' she murmured.
He pulled down the blind of the window exposing them to the square, and
led her into the light to see her face.
The dimness of light annoyed him, and the miserable reception of her;
this English weather, and the gloomy house! And how long had she been
waiting for him? and what was the mystery? Renee in England seemed
magical; yet it was nothing stranger than an old dream realized. He
wound up the lamp, holding her still with one hand. She was woefully
pale; scarcely able to bear the increase of light.
'It is I who come to you': she was half audible.
'This time!' said he. 'You have been suffering?'
Her tone was brief; not reassuring.
'You came straight to me?'
'Without a deviation that I know of.'
'You have not forgotten Tourdestelle, Nevil?'
The memory of it quickened his rapture in reading her features. It was
his first love, his enchantress, who was here: and how? Conjectures shot
through him like lightnings in the dark.
Irrationally, at a moment when reason stood in awe, he fancied it must be
that her husband was dead. He forced himself to think it, and could have
smiled at the hurry of her coming, one, without even a maid: and deeper
down in him the devouring question burned which dreaded the answer.
But of old, in Normandy, she had pledged herself to join him with no
delay when free, if ever free!
So now she was free.
One side of him glowed in illumination; the other was black as Winter
night; but light subdues darkness; and in a situation like Beauchamp's,
the blood is livelier than the prophetic mind.
'Why did you tell me to marry? What did that mean?' said he. 'Did you
wish me to be the one in chains? And you have come quite alone!--you
will give me an account of everything presently:--You are here! in
England! and what a welcome for you! You are cold.'
'I am warmly clad,' said Renee, suffering her hand to be drawn to his
breast at her arm's-length, not bending with it.
Alive to his own indirectness, he was conscious at once of the slight
sign of reservation, and said: 'Tell me . . .' and swerved sheer away
from his question: 'how is Madame d'Auffray?'
'Agnes? I left her at Tourdestelle,' said Renee.
'And Roland? He never writes to me.'
'Neither he nor I write much. He is at the military camp of instruction
in the North.'
'He will run over to us.'
'Do not expect it.'
Renee sighed. 'We shall have to live longer than I look for . . .'
she stopped. 'Why do you ask me why not? He is fond of us both, and
sorry for us; but have you forgotten Roland that morning on the
Beauchamp pressed her hand. The stroke of Then and Now rang in his
breast like a bell instead of a bounding heart. Something had stunned
his heart. He had no clear central feeling; he tried to gather it from
her touch, from his joy in beholding her and sitting with her alone, from
the grace of her figure, the wild sweetness of her eyes, and the beloved
foreign lips bewitching him with their exquisite French and perfection of
His nature was too prompt in responding to such a call on it for resolute
'If I had been firmer then, or you one year older!' he said.
'That girl in Venice had no courage,' said Renee.
She raised her head and looked about the room.
Her instinct of love sounded her lover through, and felt the deficiency
or the contrariety in him, as surely as musical ears are pained by a
discord that they require no touchstone to detect. Passion has the
sensitiveness of fever, and is as cruelly chilled by a tepid air.
'Yes, a London house after Venice and Normandy!' said Beauchamp,
following her look.
'Sicily: do not omit Syracuse; you were in your naval uniform: Normandy
was our third meeting,' said Renee. 'This is the fourth. I should have
'We cannot be entirely wise when we have staked our fate. Sailors are
credulous: you know them. Women are like them when they embark . . .
Three chances! Who can boast of so many, and expect one more! Will you
take me to my hotel, Nevil?'
The fiction of her being free could not be sustained.
'Take you and leave you? I am absolutely at your command. But leave
you? You are alone: and you have told me nothing.'
What was there to tell? The desperate act was apparent, and told all.
Renee's dark eyelashes lifted on him, and dropped.
'Then things are as I left them in Normandy?' said he.
She replied: 'Almost.'
He quivered at the solitary word; for his conscience was on edge. It ran
the shrewdest irony through him, inexplicably. 'Almost': that is, 'with
this poor difference of one person, now finding herself worthless,
subtracted from the list; no other; it should be little to them as it is
little to you': or, reversing it, the substance of the word became
magnified and intensified by its humble slightness: 'Things are the same,
but for the jewel of the province, a lustre of France, lured hither to
her eclipse'--meanings various, indistinguishable, thrilling and piercing
sad as the half-tones humming round the note of a strung wire, which is a
blunt single note to the common ear.
Beauchamp sprang to his feet and bent above her: 'You have come to me,
for the love of me, to give yourself to me, and for ever, for good, till
death? Speak, my beloved Renee.'
Her eyes were raised to his: 'You see me here. It is for you to speak.'
'I do. There's nothing I ask for now--if the step can't be retrieved.'
'The step retrieved, my friend? There is no step backward in life.'
'I am thinking of you, Renee.'
'Yes, I know,' she answered hurriedly.
'If we discover that the step is a wrong one?' he pursued: 'why is there
no step backward?'
'I am talking of women,' said Renee.
'Why not for women?'
'Honourable women, I mean,' said Renee.
Beauchamp inclined to forget his position in finding matter to contest.
Yet it is beyond contest that there is no step backward in life. She
spoke well; better than he, and she won his deference by it. Not only
she spoke better: she was truer, distincter, braver: and a man ever on
the look-out for superior qualities, and ready to bow to them, could not
refuse her homage. With that a saving sense of power quitted him.
'You wrote to me that you were unchanged, Nevil.'
'So, then, I came.'
His rejoinder was the dumb one, commonly eloquent and satisfactory.
Renee shut her eyes with a painful rigour of endurance. She opened them
to look at him steadily.
The desperate act of her flight demanded immediate recognition from him
in simple language and a practical seconding of it. There was the test.
'I cannot stay in this house, Nevil; take me away.'
She named her hotel in her French English, and the sound of it penetrated
him with remorseful pity. It was for him, and of his doing, that she was
in an alien land and an outcast!
'This house is wretched for you,' said he: 'and you must be hungry. Let
me . . .'
'I cannot eat. I will ask you': she paused, drawing on her energies, and
keeping down the throbs of her heart: 'this: do you love me?'
'I love you with all my heart and soul.'
'As in Normandy?'
'As from the first, Renee! That I can swear.'
'Oaths are foolish. I meant to ask you--my friend, there is no question
in my mind of any other woman: I see you love me: I am so used to
consider myself the vain and cowardly creature, and you the boldest and
faithfullest of men, that I could not abandon the habit if I would: I
started confiding in you, sure that I should come to land. But I have to
ask you: to me you are truth: I have no claim on my lover for anything
but the answer to this:--Am I a burden to you?'
His brows flew up in furrows. He drew a heavy breath, for never had he
loved her more admiringly, and never on such equal terms. She was his
mate in love and daring at least. A sorrowful comparison struck him, of
a little boat sailing out to a vessel in deep seas and left to founder.
Without knotting his mind to acknowledge or deny the burden, for he could
do neither, he stood silent, staring at her, not so much in weakness as
in positive mental division. No, would be false; and Yes, not less
false; and if the step was irretrievable, to say Yes would be to plunge a
dagger in her bosom; but No was a vain deceit involving a double wreck.
Assuredly a man standing against the world in a good cause, with a
runaway wife on his hands, carries a burden, however precious it be to
A smile of her lips, parted in an anguish of expectancy, went to death
over Renee's face. She looked at him tenderly. 'The truth,' she
murmured to herself, and her eyelids fell.
'I am ready to bear anything,' said Beauchamp. 'I weigh what you ask me,
that is all. You a burden to me? But when you ask me, you make me turn
round and inquire how we stand before the world.'
'The world does not stone men,' said Renee.
'Can't I make you feel that I am not thinking of myself?' Beauchamp
stamped in his extreme perplexity. He was gagged; he could not possibly
talk to her, who had cast the die, of his later notions of morality and
the world's dues, fees, and claims on us.
'No, friend, I am not complaining.' Renee put out her hand to him; with
compassionate irony feigning to have heard excuses. 'What right have I
to complain? I have not the sensation. I could not expect you to be
everlastingly the sentinel of love. Three times I rejected you! Now
that I have lost my father--Oh! poor father: I trifled with my lover,
I tricked him that my father might live in peace. He is dead. I wished
you to marry one of your own countrywomen, Nevil. You said it was
impossible; and I, with my snake at my heart, and a husband grateful
for nursing and whimpering to me for his youth like a beggar on the road,
I thought I owed you this debt of body and soul, to prove to you I have
some courage; and for myself, to reward myself for my long captivity and
misery with one year of life: and adieu to Roland my brother! adieu to
friends! adieu to France! Italy was our home. I dreamed of one year in
Italy; I fancied it might be two; more than that was unimaginable.
Prisoners of long date do not hope; they do not calculate: air, light,
they say; to breathe freely and drop down! They are reduced to the
instincts of the beasts. I thought I might give you happiness, pay part
of my debt to you. Are you remembering Count Henri? That paints what I
was! I could fly to that for a taste of life! a dance to death! And
again you ask: Why, if I loved you then, not turn to you in preference?
No, you have answered it yourself, Nevil;--on that day in the boat, when
generosity in a man so surprised me, it seemed a miracle to me; and it
was, in its divination. How I thank my dear brother Roland for saving me
the sight of you condemned to fight, against your conscience! He taught
poor M. d'Henriel his lesson. You, Nevil, were my teacher. And see how
it hangs: there was mercy for me in not having drawn down my father's
anger on my heart's beloved. He loved you. He pitied us. He reproached
himself. In his last days he was taught to suspect our story: perhaps
from Roland; perhaps I breathed it without speaking. He called heaven's
blessings on you. He spoke of you with tears, clutching my hand. He
made me feel he would have cried out: "If I were leaving her with Nevil
Beauchamp!" and "Beauchamp," I heard him murmuring once: "take down
Froissart": he named a chapter. It was curious: if he uttered my name
Renee, yours, "Nevil," soon followed. That was noticed by Roland. Hope
for us, he could not have had; as little as I! But we were his two: his
children. I buried him--I thought he would know our innocence, and now
pardon our love. I read your letters, from my name at the beginning, to
yours at the end, and from yours back to mine, and between the lines, for
any doubtful spot: and oh, rash! But I would not retrace the step for my
own sake. I am certain of your love for me, though . . .' She paused:
'Yes, I am certain of it. And if I am a burden to you?'
'About as much as the air, which I can't do without since I began to
breathe it,' said Beauchamp, more clear-mindedly now that he supposed he
was addressing a mind, and with a peril to himself that escaped his
vigilance. There was a secret intoxication for him already in the half-
certainty that the step could not be retraced. The idea that he might
reason with her, made her seductive to the heart and head of him.
'I am passably rich, Nevil,' she said. 'I do not care for money, except
that it gives wings. Roland inherits the chateau in Touraine. I have
one in Burgundy, and rentes and shares, my notary informs me.'
'I have money,' said he. His heart began beating violently. He lost
sight of his intention of reasoning. 'Good God! if you were free!'
She faltered: 'At Tourdestelle . . .'
'Yes, and I am unchanged,' Beauchamp cried out. 'Your life there was
horrible, and mine's intolerable.' He stretched his arms cramped like
the yawning of a wretch in fetters. That which he would and would not
became so intervolved that he deemed it reasonable to instance their
common misery as a ground for their union against the world. And what
has that world done for us, that a joy so immeasurable should be rejected
on its behalf? And what have we succeeded in doing, that the childish
effort to move it should be continued at such a cost?
For years, down to one year back, and less--yesterday, it could be said--
all human blessedness appeared to him in the person of Renee, given him
under any condition whatsoever. She was not less adorable now. In her
decision, and a courage that he especially prized in women, she was a
sweeter to him than when he was with her in France: too sweet to be
looked at and refused.
'But we must live in England,' he cried abruptly out of his inner mind.
'Oh! not England, Italy, Italy!' Renee exclaimed: 'Italy, or Greece:
anywhere where we have sunlight. Mountains and valleys are my dream.
Promise it, Nevil. I will obey you; but this is my wish. Take me
through Venice, that I may look at myself and wonder. We can live at
sea, in a yacht; anywhere with you but in England. This country frowns
on me; I can hardly fetch my breath here, I am suffocated. The people
all walk in lines in England. Not here, Nevil! They are good people,
I am sure; and it is your country: but their faces chill me, their voices
grate; I should never understand them; they would be to me like their
fogs eternally; and I to them? O me! it would be like hearing sentence
in the dampness of the shroud perpetually. Again I say I do not doubt
that they are very good: they claim to be; they judge others; they may
know how to make themselves happy in their climate; it is common to most
creatures to do so, or to imagine it. Nevil! not England!'
Truly 'the mad commander and his French marquise' of the Bevisham
Election ballad would make a pretty figure in England!
His friends of his own class would be mouthing it. The story would be
a dogging shadow of his public life, and, quite as bad, a reflection on
his party. He heard the yelping tongues of the cynics. He saw the
consternation and grief of his old Bevisham hero, his leader and his
'Florence,' he said, musing on the prospect of exile and idleness:
'there's a kind of society to be had in Florence.'
Renee asked him if he cared so much for society.
He replied that women must have it, just as men must have exercise.
'Old women, Nevil; intriguers, tattlers.'
'Young women, Renee.'
She signified no.
He shook the head of superior knowledge paternally.
Her instinct of comedy set a dimple faintly working in her cheek.
'Not if they love, Nevil.'
'At least,' said he, 'a man does not like to see the woman he loves
banished by society and browbeaten.'
'Putting me aside, do you care for it, Nevil?'
'Personally not a jot.'
'I am convinced of that,' said Renee.
She spoke suspiciously sweetly, appearing perfect candour.
The change in him was perceptible to her. The nature of the change was
She tried her wits at the riddle. But though she could be an actress
before him with little difficulty, the torment of her situation roused
the fever within her at a bare effort to think acutely. Scarlet suffused
her face: her brain whirled.
'Remember, dearest, I have but offered myself: you have your choice.
I can pass on. Yes, I know well I speak to Nevil Beauchamp; you have
drilled me to trust you and your word as a soldier trusts to his officer
--once a faint-hearted soldier! I need not remind you: fronting the
enemy now, in hard truth. But I want your whole heart to decide. Give
me no silly, compassion! Would it have been better to me to have written
to you? If I had written I should have clipped my glorious impulse,
brought myself down to earth with my own arrow. I did not write, for I
believed in you.'
So firm had been her faith in him that her visions of him on the passage
to England had resolved all to one flash of blood-warm welcome awaiting
her: and it says much for her natural generosity that the savage delicacy
of a woman placed as she now was, did not take a mortal hurt from the
apparent voidness of this home of his bosom. The passionate gladness of
the lover was wanting: the chivalrous valiancy of manful joy.
Renee shivered at the cloud thickening over her new light of intrepid
'Think it not improbable that I have weighed everything I surrender in
quitting France,' she said.
Remorse wrestled with Beauchamp and flung him at her feet.
Renee remarked on the lateness of the hour.
He promised to conduct her to her hotel immediately.
'And to-morrow?' said Renee, simply, but breathlessly.
'To-morrow, let it be Italy! But first I telegraph to Roland and
Tourdestelle. I can't run and hide. The step may be retrieved: or no,
you are right; the step cannot, but the next to it may be stopped--that
was the meaning I had! I 'll try. It 's cutting my hand off, tearing my
heart out; but I will. O that you were free! You left your husband at
'I presume he is there at present: he was in Paris when I left.'
Beauchamp spoke hoarsely and incoherently in contrast with her composure:
'You will misunderstand me for a day or two, Renee. I say if you were
free I should have my first love mine for ever. Don't fear me: I have no
right even to press your fingers. He may throw you into my arms. Now
you are the same as if you were in your own home: and you must accept me
for your guide. By all I hope for in life, I'll see you through it, and
keep the dogs from barking, if I can. Thousands are ready to give
tongue. And if they can get me in the character of a law-breaker!--
I hear them.'
'Are you imagining, Nevil, that there is a possibility of my returning to
'To your place in the world! You have not had to endure tyranny?'
'I should have had a certain respect for a tyrant, Nevil. At least I
should have had an occupation in mocking him and conspiring against him.
Tyranny! There would have been some amusement to me in that.'
'It was neglect.'
'If I could still charge it on neglect, Nevil! Neglect is very
endurable. He rewards me for nursing him . . . he rewards me with a
little persecution: wives should be flattered by it: it comes late.'
'What?' cried Beauchamp, oppressed and impatient.
Renee sank her voice.
Something in the run of the unaccented French: 'Son amour, mon ami':
drove the significance of the bitterness of the life she had left behind
her burningly through him. This was to have fled from a dragon! was the
lover's thought: he perceived the motive of her flight: and it was a
vindication of it that appealed to him irresistibly. The proposal for
her return grew hideous: and this ever multiplying horror and sting of
the love of a married woman came on him with a fresh throbbing shock,
He felt for himself now, and now he was full of feeling for her.
Impossible that she should return! Tourdestelle shone to him like a
gaping chasm of fire. And becoming entirely selfish he impressed his
total abnegation of self upon Renee so that she could have worshipped
him. A lover that was like a starry frost, froze her veins, bewildered
her intelligence. She yearned for meridian warmth, for repose in a
directing hand; and let it be hard as one that grasps a sword: what
matter? unhesitatingness was the warrior virtue of her desire. And for
herself the worst might happen if only she were borne along. Let her
life be torn and streaming like the flag of battle, it must be forward to
That was a quality of godless young heroism not unexhausted in
Beauchamp's blood. Reanimated by him, she awakened his imagination of
the vagrant splendours of existence and the rebel delights which have
their own laws and 'nature' for an applauding mother. Radiant Alps rose
in his eyes, and the morning born in the night suns that from mountain
and valley, over sea and desert, called on all earth to witness their
death. The magnificence of the contempt of humanity posed before him
superbly satanesque, grand as thunder among the crags and it was not a
sensual cry that summoned him from his pedlar labours, pack on back along
the level road, to live and breathe deep, gloriously mated: Renee kindled
his romantic spirit, and could strike the feeling into him that to be
proud of his possession of her was to conquer the fretful vanity to
possess. She was not a woman of wiles and lures.
Once or twice she consulted her watch: but as she professed to have no
hunger, Beauchamp's entreaty to her to stay prevailed, and the subtle
form of compliment to his knightly manliness in her remaining with him,
gave him a new sense of pleasure that hung round her companionable
conversation, deepening the meaning of the words, or sometimes
contrasting the sweet surface commonplace with the undercurrent of
strangeness in their hearts, and the reality of a tragic position. Her
musical volubility flowed to entrance and divert him, as it did.
Suddenly Beauchamp glanced upward.
Renee turned from a startled contemplation of his frown, and beheld Mrs.
Rosamund Culling in the room.
A LAME VICTORY
The intruder was not a person that had power to divide them; yet she came
between their hearts with a touch of steel.
'I am here in obedience to your commands in your telegram of this
evening,' Rosamund replied to Beauchamp's hard stare at her; she
courteously spoke French, and acquitted herself demurely of a bow to the
Renee withdrew her serious eyes from Beauchamp. She rose and
acknowledged the bow.
'It is my first visit to England, madame!
'I could have desired, Madame la marquise, more agreeable weather for
'My friends in England will dispel the bad weather for me, madame'; Renee
smiled softly: 'I have been studying my French-English phrase-book, that
I may learn how dialogues are conducted in your country to lead to
certain ceremonies when old friends meet, and without my book I am at
fault. I am longing to be embraced by you . . . if it will not be
offending your rules?'
Rosamund succumbed to the seductive woman, whose gentle tooth bit through
her tutored simplicity of manner and natural graciousness, administering
its reproof, and eluding a retort or an excuse.
She gave the embrace. In doing so she fell upon her conscious
awkwardness for an expression of reserve that should be as good as irony
for irony, though where Madame de Rouaillout's irony lay, or whether it
was irony at all, our excellent English dame could not have stated, after
the feeling of indignant prudery responding to it so guiltily had
Beauchamp asked her if she had brought servants with her; and it
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
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