Diana of the Crossways, v1
Part 2 out of 2
hunting, good for the farmer and the country, let us hope.
Redworth nodded assent. It might be surmised that he was brooding over
those railways, in which he had embarked his fortune. Ah! those
railways! She was not long coming to the wailful exclamation upon them,
both to express her personal sorrow at the disfigurement of our dear
England, and lead to a little, modest, offering of a woman's counsel to
the rash adventurer; for thus could she serviceably put aside her
perplexity awhile. Those railways! When would there be peace in the
land? Where one single nook of shelter and escape from them! And the
English, blunt as their senses are to noise and hubbub, would be
revelling in hisses, shrieks, puffings and screeches, so that travelling
would become an intolerable affliction. 'I speak rather as an invalid,'
she admitted; 'I conjure up all sorts of horrors, the whistle in the
night beneath one's windows, and the smoke of trains defacing the
landscape; hideous accidents too. They will be wholesale and past help.
Imagine a collision! I have borne many changes with equanimity, I
pretend to a certain degree of philosophy, but this mania for cutting up
the land does really cause me to pity those who are to follow us. They
will not see the England we have seen. It will be patched and scored,
disfigured . . . a sort of barbarous Maori visage--England in a New
Zealand mask. You may call it the sentimental view. In this case, I am
decidedly sentimental: I love my country. I do love quiet, rural
England. Well, and I love beauty, I love simplicity. All that will be
destroyed by the refuse of the towns flooding the land--barring
accidents, as Lukin says. There seems nothing else to save us.'
Redworth acquiesced. 'Nothing.'
'And you do not regret it?' he was asked.
'Not a bit. We have already exchanged opinions on the subject.
Simplicity must go, and the townsman meet his equal in the countryman.
As for beauty, I would sacrifice that to circulate gumption. A bushelful
of nonsense is talked pro and con: it always is at an innovation. What
we are now doing, is to take a longer and a quicker stride, that is all.'
'And establishing a new field for the speculator.'
'Yes, and I am one, and this is the matter I wanted to discuss with you,
Lady Dunstane,' said Redworth, bending forward, the whole man devoted to
the point of business.
She declared she was complimented; she felt the compliment, and trusted
her advice might be useful, faintly remarking that she had a woman's
head: and 'not less' was implied as much as 'not more,' in order to give
strength to her prospective opposition.
All his money, she heard, was down on the railway table. He might within
a year have a tolerable fortune: and, of course, he might be ruined. He
did not expect it; still he fronted the risks. 'And now,' said he,
'I come to you for counsel. I am not held among my acquaintances to be
a marrying man, as it's called.'
He paused. Lady Dunstane thought it an occasion to praise him for his
'You involve no one but yourself, you mean?' Her eyes shed approval.
'Still the day may come . . . I say only that it may: and the wish
to marry is a rosy colouring . . . equal to a flying chariot in
conducting us across difficulties and obstructions to the deed.
And then one may have to regret a previous rashness.'
These practical men are sometimes obtuse: she dwelt on that vision
of the future.
He listened, and resumed: 'My view of marriage is, that no man should
ask a woman to be his wife unless he is well able to support her in the
comforts, not to say luxuries, she is accustomed to.' His gaze had
wandered to the desk; it fixed there. 'That is Miss Merion's writing,'
'The letter?' said Lady Dunstane, and she stretched out her hand to press
down a leaf of it. 'Yes; it is from her.'
'Is she quite well?'
'I suppose she is. She does not speak of her health.'
He looked pertinaciously in the direction of the letter, and it was not
rightly mannered. That letter, of all others, was covert and sacred to
the friend. It contained the weightiest of secrets.
'I have not written to her,' said Redworth.
He was astonishing: 'To whom? To Diana? You could very well have done
so, only I fancy she knows nothing, has never given a thought to railway
stocks and shares; she has a loathing for speculation.'
'And speculators too, I dare say!'
'It is extremely probable.' Lady Dunstane spoke with an emphasis, for
the man liked Diana, and would be moved by the idea of forfeiting her
'She might blame me if I did anything dishonourable!'
'She certainly would.'
'She will have no cause.'
Lady Dunstane began to look, as at a cloud charged with remote
explosions: and still for the moment she was unsuspecting. But it was
a flitting moment. When he went on, and very singularly droning to her
ear: 'The more a man loves a woman, the more he should be positive,
before asking her, that she will not have to consent to a loss of
position, and I would rather lose her than fail to give her all--not be
sure, as far as a man can be sure, of giving her all I think she's worthy
of': then the cloud shot a lightning flash, and the doors of her
understanding swung wide to the entry of a great wonderment. A shock of
pain succeeded it. Her sympathy was roused so acutely that she slipped
over the reflective rebuke she would have addressed to her silly delusion
concerning his purpose in speaking of his affairs to a woman. Though he
did not mention Diana by name, Diana was clearly the person. And why had
he delayed to speak to her?--Because of this venture of his money to make
him a fortune, for the assurance of her future comfort! Here was the
best of men for the girl, not displeasing to her; a good, strong,
trustworthy man, pleasant to hear and to see, only erring in being a
trifle too scrupulous in love: and a fortnight back she would have
imagined he had no chance; and now she knew that the chance was excellent
in those days, with this revelation in Diana's letter, which said that
all chance was over.
'The courtship of a woman,' he droned away, 'is in my mind not fair to
her until a man has to the full enough to sanction his asking her to
marry him. And if he throws all he possesses on a stake . . . to win
her--give her what she has a right to claim, he ought . . . . Only at
present the prospect seems good . . . . He ought of course to wait.
Well, the value of the stock I hold has doubled, and it increases. I am
a careful watcher of the market. I have friends--brokers and railway
Directors. I can rely on them.'
'Pray,' interposed Lady Dunstane, 'specify--I am rather in a mist--the
exact point upon which you do me the honour to consult me.' She
ridiculed herself for having imagined that such a man would come to
consult her upon a point of business.
'It is,' he replied, 'this: whether, as affairs now stand with me--I have
an income from my office, and personal property . . . say between
thirteen and fourteen hundred a year to start with--whether you think me
justified in asking a lady to share my lot?'
'Why not? But will you name the lady?'
'Then I may write at once? In your judgement. . . . Yes, the lady.
I have not named her. I had no right. Besides, the general question
first, in fairness to the petitioner. You might reasonably stipulate for
more for a friend. She could make a match, as you have said . . .' he
muttered of 'brilliant,' and 'the highest'; and his humbleness of the
honest man enamoured touched Lady Dunstane. She saw him now as the man
of strength that she would have selected from a thousand suitors to guide
her dear friend.
She caught at a straw: 'Tell me, it is not Diana?'
As soon as he had said it he perceived pity, and he drew himself tight
for the stroke. 'She's in love with some one?'
'She is engaged.'
He bore it well. He was a big-chested fellow, and that excruciating
twist within of the revolution of the wheels of the brain snapping their
course to grind the contrary to that of the heart, was revealed in one
short lift and gasp, a compression of the tremendous change he underwent.
'Why did you not speak before?' said Lady Dunstane. Her words were
'I should have had no justification!'
'You might have won her!' She could have wept; her sympathy and her
self-condolence under disappointment at Diana's conduct joined to swell
the feminine flood.
The poor fellow's quick breathing and blinking reminded her of cruelty in
a retrospect. She generalized, to ease her spirit of regret, by hinting
it without hurting: 'Women really are not puppets. They are not so
excessively luxurious. It is good for young women in the early days of
marriage to rough it a little.' She found herself droning, as he had
He had ears for nothing but the fact.
'Then I am too late!'
'I have heard it to-day.'
'She is engaged! Positively?'
Lady Dunstane glanced backward at the letter on her desk. She had to
answer the strangest of letters that had ever come to her, and it was
from her dear Tony, the baldest intimation of the weightiest piece of
intelligence which a woman can communicate to her heart's friend. The
task of answering it was now doubled. 'I fear so, I fancy so,' she said,
and she longed to cast eye over the letter again, to see if there might
possibly be a loophole behind the lines.
'Then I must make my mind up to it,' said Redworth. 'I think I'll take a
She smiled kindly. 'It will be our secret.'
'I thank you with all my heart, Lady Dunstane.'
He was not a weaver of phrases in distress. His blunt reserve was
eloquent of it to her, and she liked him the better; could have thanked
him, too, for leaving her promptly.
When she was alone she took in the contents of the letter at a hasty
glimpse. It was of one paragraph, and fired its shot like a cannon with
the muzzle at her breast:--
'MY OWN EMMY,--I have been asked in marriage by Mr. Warwick, and
have accepted him. Signify your approval, for I have decided that
it is the wisest thing a waif can do. We are to live at The
Crossways for four months of the year, so I shall have Dada in his
best days and all my youngest dreams, my sunrise and morning dew,
surrounding me; my old home for my new one. I write in haste, to
you first, burning to hear from you. Send your blessing to yours in
life and death, through all transformations,
That was all. Not a word of the lover about to be decorated with the
title of husband. No confession of love, nor a single supplicating word
to her friend, in excuse for the abrupt decision to so grave a step.
Her previous description of, him, as a 'gentlemanly official' in his
appearance, conjured him up most distastefully. True, she might have
made a more lamentable choice; a silly lordling, or a hero of scandals;
but if a gentlemanly official was of stabler mould, he failed to
harmonize quite so well with the idea of a creature like Tony. Perhaps
Mr. Redworth also failed in something. Where was the man fitly to mate
her! Mr. Redworth, however, was manly and trustworthy, of the finest
Saxon type in build and in character. He had great qualities, and his
excess of scrupulousness was most pitiable.
She read: 'The wisest thing a waif can do.' It bore a sound of
desperation. Avowedly Tony had accepted him without being in love.
Or was she masking the passion? No: had it been a case of love, she
would have written very differently to her friend.
Lady Dunstane controlled the pricking of the wound inflicted by Diana's
novel exercise in laconics where the fullest flow was due to tenderness,
and despatched felicitations upon the text of the initial line: 'Wonders
are always happening.' She wrote to hide vexation beneath surprise;
naturally betraying it. 'I must hope and pray that you have not been
precipitate.' Her curiosity to inspect the happiest of men, the most
genuine part of her letter, was expressed coldly.
When she had finished the composition she perused it, and did not
recognize herself in her language, though she had been so guarded to
cover the wound her Tony dealt their friendship--in some degree injuring
their sex. For it might now, after such an example, verily seem that
women are incapable of a translucent perfect confidence: their impulses,
caprices, desperations, tricks of concealment, trip a heart-whole
friendship. Well, to-morrow, if not to-day, the tripping may be
expected! Lady Dunstane resigned herself sadly to a lowered view of
her Tony's character. This was her unconscious act of reprisal.
Her brilliant beloved Tony, dazzling but in beauty and the gifted mind,
stood as one essentially with the common order of women. She wished to
be settled, Mr. Warwick proposed, and for the sake of living at The
Crossways she accepted him--she, the lofty scorner of loveless marriages!
who had said--how many times! that nothing save love excused it! She
degraded their mutual high standard of womankind. Diana was in eclipse,
full three parts. The bulk of the gentlemanly official she had chosen
obscured her. But I have written very carefully, thought Lady Dunstane,
dropping her answer into the post-bag. She had, indeed, been so care
ful, that to cloak her feelings, she had written as another person.
Women with otiose husbands have a task to preserve friendship.
Redworth carried his burden through the frosty air at a pace to melt
icicles in Greenland. He walked unthinkingly, right ahead, to the red
West, as he discovered when pausing to consult his watch. Time was left
to return at the same pace and dress for dinner; he swung round and
picked up remembrances of sensations he had strewn by the way. She knew
these woods; he was walking in her footprints; she was engaged to be
married. Yes, his principle, never to ask a woman to marry him, never to
court her, without bank-book assurance of his ability to support her in
cordial comfort, was right. He maintained it, and owned himself a donkey
for having stuck to it. Between him and his excellent principle there
was war, without the slightest division. Warned of the danger of losing
her, he would have done the same again, confessing himself donkey for his
pains. The principle was right, because it was due to the woman. His
rigid adherence to the principle set him belabouring his donkey-ribs, as
the proper due to himself. For he might have had a chance, all through
two Winters. The opportunities had been numberless. Here, in this beech
wood; near that thornbush; on the juniper slope; from the corner of chalk
and sand in junction, to the corner of clay and chalk; all the length of
the wooded ridge he had reminders of her presence and his priceless
chances: and still the standard of his conduct said No, while his heart
He felt that a chance had been. More sagacious than Lady Dunstane,
from his not nursing a wound, he divined in the abruptness of Diana's
resolution to accept a suitor, a sober reason, and a fitting one, for
the wish that she might be settled. And had he spoken!--If he had spoken
to her, she might have given her hand to him, to a dishonourable brute!
A blissful brute. But a worse than donkey. Yes, his principle was
right, and he lashed with it, and prodded with it, drove himself out into
the sour wilds where bachelordom crops noxious weeds without a hallowing
luminary, and clung to it, bruised and bleeding though he was.
The gentleness of Lady Dunstane soothed him during the term of a visit
that was rather like purgatory sweetened by angelical tears. He was glad
to go, wretched in having gone. She diverted the incessant conflict
between his insubordinate self and his castigating, but avowedly
sovereign, principle. Away from her, he was the victim of a flagellation
so dire that it almost drove him to revolt against the lord he served,
and somehow the many memories at Copsley kept him away. Sir Lukin, when
speaking of Diana's 'engagement to that fellow Warwick,' exalted her with
an extraordinary enthusiasm, exceedingly hard for the silly beast who had
lost her to bear. For the present the place dearest to Redworth of all
places on earth was unendurable.
Meanwhile the value of railway investments rose in the market, fast as
asparagus-heads for cutting: a circumstance that added stings to
reflection. Had he been only a little bolder, a little less the
fanatical devotee of his rule of masculine honour, less the slave to the
letter of success . . . . But why reflect at all? Here was a goodly
income approaching, perhaps a seat in Parliament; a station for the
airing of his opinions--and a social status for the wife now denied to
him. The wife was denied to him; he could conceive of no other. The
tyrant-ridden, reticent, tenacious creature had thoroughly wedded her
in mind; her view of things had a throne beside his own, even in their
differences. He perceived, agreeing or disagreeing, the motions of her
brain, as he did with none other of women; and this it is which stamps
character on her, divides her from them, upraises and enspheres. He
declined to live with any other of the sex.
Before he could hear of the sort of man Mr. Warwick was--a perpetual
object of his quest--the bridal bells had rung, and Diana Antonia Merion
lost her maiden name. She became the Mrs. Warwick of our footballing
Why she married, she never told. Possibly, in amazement at herself
subsequently, she forgot the specific reason. That which weighs heavily
in youth, and commits us to desperate action, will be a trifle under
older eyes, to blunter senses, a more enlightened understanding. Her
friend Emma probed for the reason vainly. It was partly revealed to
Redworth, by guess-work and a putting together of pieces, yet quite
luminously, as it were by touch of tentacle-feelers--one evening that he
passed with Sir Lukin Dunstane, when the lachrymose ex-dragoon and son of
Idlesse, had rather more than dined.
Six months a married woman, Diana came to Copsley to introduce her
husband. They had run over Italy: 'the Italian Peninsula,' she quoted
him in a letter to Lady Dunstane: and were furnishing their London house.
Her first letters from Italy appeared to have a little bloom of
sentiment. Augustus was mentioned as liking this and that in the land
of beauty. He patronized Art, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak
upon pictures and sculptures; he knew a great deal about them. 'He is
an authority.' Her humour soon began to play round the fortunate man,
who did not seem, to the reader's mind, to bear so well a sentimental
clothing. His pride was in being very English on the Continent, and
Diana's instances of his lofty appreciations of the garden of Art and
Nature, and statuesque walk through it, would have been more amusing if
her friend could have harmonized her idea of the couple. A description
of 'a bit of a wrangle between us' at Lucca, where an Italian post-master
on a journey of inspection, claimed a share of their carriage and
audaciously attempted entry, was laughable, but jarred. Would she some
day lose her relish for ridicule, and see him at a distance? He was
generous, Diana, said she saw fine qualities in him. It might be that he
was lavish on his bridal tour. She said he was unselfish, kind, affable
with his equals; he was cordial to the acquaintances he met. Perhaps his
worst fault was an affected superciliousness before the foreigner, not
uncommon in those days. 'You are to know, dear Emmy, that we English are
the aristocracy of Europeans.' Lady Dunstane inclined to think we were;
nevertheless, in the mouth of a 'gentlemanly official' the frigid
arrogance added a stroke of caricature to his deportment. On the other
hand, the reports of him gleaned by Sir Lukin sounded favourable. He was
not taken to be preternaturally stiff, nor bright, but a goodish sort of
fellow; good horseman, good shot, good character. In short, the average
Englishman, excelling as a cavalier, a slayer, and an orderly subject.
That was a somewhat elevated standard to the patriotic Emma. Only she
would never have stipulated for an average to espouse Diana. Would he
understand her, and value the best in her? Another and unanswered
question was, how could she have condescended to wed with an average?
There was transparently some secret not confided to her friend.
He appeared. Lady Dunstane's first impression of him recurred on his
departure. Her unanswered question drummed at her ears, though she
remembered that Tony's art in leading him out had moderated her rigidly
judicial summary of the union during a greater part of the visit. But
his requiring to be led out, was against him. Considering the subjects,
his talk was passable. The subjects treated of politics, pictures,
Continental travel, our manufactures, our wealth and the reasons for it
--excellent reasons well-weighed. He was handsome, as men go; rather
tall, not too stout, precise in the modern fashion of his dress, and the
pair of whiskers encasing a colourless depression up to a long, thin,
straight nose, and closed lips indicating an aperture. The contraction
of his mouth expressed an intelligence in the attitude of the firmly
The lips opened to smile, the teeth were faultless; an effect was
produced, if a cold one--the colder for the unparticipating northern
eyes; eyes of that half cloud and blue, which make a kind of hueless
grey, and are chiefly striking in an authoritative stage. Without
contradicting, for he was exactly polite, his look signified a person
conscious of being born to command: in fine, an aristocrat among the
'aristocracy of Europeans.' His differences of opinion were prefaced by
a 'Pardon me,' and pausing smile of the teeth; then a succinctly worded
sentence or two, a perfect settlement of the dispute. He disliked
argumentation. He said so, and Diana remarked it of him, speaking as,
a wife who merely noted a characteristic. Inside his boundary, he had
neat phrases, opinions in packets. Beyond it, apparently the world was
void of any particular interest. Sir Lukin, whose boundary would have
shown a narrower limitation had it been defined, stood no chance with
him. Tory versus Whig, he tried a wrestle, and was thrown. They agreed
on the topic of Wine. Mr. Warwick had a fine taste in wine. Their
after-dinner sittings were devoted to this and the alliterative cognate
theme, equally dear to the gallant ex-dragoon, from which it resulted
that Lady Dunstane received satisfactory information in a man's judgement
of him. 'Warwick is a clever fellow, and a thorough man of the world, I
can tell you, Emmy.' Sir Lukin further observed that he was a
gentlemanly fellow. 'A gentlemanly official!' Diana's primary dash of
portraiture stuck to him, so true it was! As for her, she seemed to have
forgotten it. Not only did she strive to show him to advantage by
leading him out; she played second to him; subserviently, fondly; she
quite submerged herself, content to be dull if he might shine; and her
talk of her husband in her friend's blue-chamber boudoir of the golden
stars, where they had discussed the world and taken counsel in her maiden
days, implied admiration of his merits. He rode superbly: he knew Law:
he was prepared for any position: he could speak really eloquently; she
had heard him at a local meeting. And he loved the old Crossways almost
as much as she did. 'He has promised me he will never ask me to sell
it,' she said, with a simpleness that could hardly have been acted.
When she was gone, Lady Dunstane thought she had worn a mask, in the
natural manner of women trying to make the best of their choice; and she
excused her poor Tony for the artful presentation of him at her own cost.
But she could not excuse her for having married the man. Her first and
her final impression likened him to a house locked up and empty: a London
house conventionally furnished and decorated by the upholsterer, and
empty of inhabitants. How a brilliant and beautiful girl could have
committed this rashness, was the perplexing riddle: the knottier because
the man was idle: and Diana had ambition; she despised and dreaded
idleness in men. Empty of inhabitants even to the ghost! Both human and
spiritual were wanting. The mind contemplating him became reflectively
I must not be unjust! Lady Dunstane hastened to exclaim, at a whisper
that he had at least proved his appreciation of Tony; whom he preferred
to call Diana, as she gladly remembered: and the two were bound together
for a moment warmly by her recollection of her beloved Tony's touching
little petition: 'You will invite us again?' and then there had flashed
in Tony's dear dark eyes the look of their old love drowning. They were
not to be thought of separately. She admitted that the introduction to
a woman of her friend's husband is crucially trying to him: he may well
show worse than he is. Yet his appreciation of Tony in espousing her,
was rather marred by Sir Lukin's report of him as a desperate admirer of
beautiful woman. It might be for her beauty only, not for her spiritual
qualities! At present he did not seem aware of their existence. But, to
be entirely just, she had hardly exhibited them or a sign of them during
the first interview: and sitting with his hostess alone, he had seized
the occasion to say, that he was the happiest of men. He said it with
the nearest approach to fervour she had noticed. Perhaps the very fact
of his not producing a highly favourable impression, should be set to
plead on his behalf. Such as he was, he was himself, no simulator. She
longed for Mr. Redworth's report of him.
Her compassion for Redworth's feelings when beholding the woman he loved
another man's wife, did not soften the urgency of her injunction that he
should go speedily, and see as much of them as he could. 'Because,' she
gave her reason, 'I wish Diana to know she has not lost a single friend
through her marriage, and is only one the richer.'
Redworth buckled himself to the task. He belonged to the class of his
countrymen who have a dungeon-vault for feelings that should not be
suffered to cry abroad, and into this oubliette he cast them, letting
them feed as they might, or perish. It was his heart down below, and in
no voluntary musings did he listen to it, to sustain the thing. Grimly
lord of himself, he stood emotionless before the world. Some worthy
fellows resemble him, and they are called deep-hearted. He was dungeon-
deep. The prisoner underneath might clamour and leap; none heard him
or knew of him; nor did he ever view the day. Diana's frank: 'Ah, Mr.
Redworth, how glad I am to see you!' was met by the calmest formalism
of the wish for her happiness. He became a guest at her London house,
and his report of the domesticity there, and notably of the lord of the
house, pleased Lady Dunstane more than her husband's. He saw the kind
of man accurately, as far as men are to be seen on the surface; and she
could say assentingly, without anxiety: 'Yes, yes,' to his remarks upon
Mr. Warwick, indicative of a man of capable head in worldly affairs,
commonplace beside his wife. The noble gentleman for Diana was yet
unborn, they tacitly agreed. Meantime one must not put a mortal husband
to the fiery ordeal of his wife's deserts, they agreed likewise.
'You may be sure she is a constant friend,' Lady Dunstane said for
his comfort; and she reminded herself subsequently of a shade of
disappointment at his imperturbable rejoinder: 'I could calculate on it.'
For though not at all desiring to witness the sentimental fit, she wished
to see that he held an image of Diana:--surely a woman to kindle poets
and heroes, the princes of the race; and it was a curious perversity that
the two men she had moved were merely excellent, emotionless, ordinary
men, with heads for business. Elsewhere, out of England, Diana would
have been a woman for a place in song, exalted to the skies. Here she
had the destiny to inflame Mr. Redworth and Mr. Warwick, two railway
Directors, bent upon scoring the country to the likeness of a child's
lines of hop-scotch in a gravel-yard.
As with all invalids, the pleasure of living backward was haunted by the
tortures it evoked, and two years later she recalled this outcry against
the Fates. She would then have prayed for Diana to inflame none but such
men as those two. The original error was; of course, that rash and most
inexplicable marriage, a step never alluded to by the driven victim of
it. Lady Dunstane heard rumours of dissensions. Diana did not mention
them. She spoke of her husband as unlucky in railway ventures, and of
a household necessity for money, nothing further. One day she wrote of
a Government appointment her husband had received, ending the letter:
'So there is the end of our troubles.' Her friend rejoiced, and
afterward looking back at her satisfaction, saw the dire beginning of
Lord Dannisburgh's name, as one of the admirers of Mrs. Warwick, was
dropped once or twice by Sir Lukin. He had dined with the Warwicks, and
met the eminent member of the Cabinet at their table. There is no harm
in admiration, especially on the part of one of a crowd observing a star.
No harm can be imputed when the husband of a beautiful woman accepts an
appointment from the potent Minister admiring her. So Lady Dunstane
thought, for she was sure of Diana to her inmost soul. But she soon
perceived in Sir Lukin that the old Dog-world was preparing to yelp on a
scent. He of his nature belonged to the hunting pack, and with a cordial
feeling for the quarry, he was quite with his world in expecting to see
her run, and readiness to join the chase. No great scandal had occurred
for several months. The world was in want of it; and he, too, with a
very cordial feeling for the quarry, piously hoping she would escape,
already had his nose to ground, collecting testimony in the track of her.
He said little to his wife, but his world was getting so noisy that he
could not help half pursing his lips, as with the soft whistle of an
innuendo at the heels of it. Redworth was in America, engaged in carving
up that hemisphere. She had no source of information but her husband's
chance gossip; and London was death to her; and Diana, writing faithfully
twice a week, kept silence as to Lord Dannisburgh, except in naming him
among her guests. She wrote this, which might have a secret personal
signification: 'We women are the verbs passive of the alliance; we have
to learn, and if we take to activity, with the best intentions, we
conjugate a frightful disturbance. We are to run on lines, like the
steam-trains, or we come to no station, dash to fragments. I have the
misfortune to know I was born an active. I take my chance.'
Once she coupled the names of Lord Larrian and Lord Dannisburgh,
remarking that she had a fatal attraction for antiques.
The death of her husband's uncle and illness of his aunt withdrew her
to The Crossways, where she remained nursing for several months, reading
diligently, as her letters showed, and watching the approaches of the
destroyer. She wrote like her former self, subdued by meditation in the
presence of that inevitable. The world ceased barking. Lady Dunstane
could suppose Mr. Warwick to have now a reconciling experience of his
wife's noble qualities. He probably did value them more. He spoke of
her to Sir Lukin in London with commendation. 'She is an attentive
nurse.' He inherited a considerable increase of income when he and his
wife were the sole tenants of The Crossways, but disliking the house,
for reasons hard to explain by a man previously professing to share her
attachment to it, he wished to sell or let the place, and his wife would
do neither. She proposed to continue living in their small London house
rather than be cut off from The Crossways, which, he said, was ludicrous:
people should live up to their position; and he sneered at the place, and
slightly wounded her, for she was open to a wound when the cold fire of a
renewed attempt at warmth between them was crackling and showing bits of
flame, after she had given proof of her power to serve. Service to
himself and his relatives affected him. He deferred to her craze for The
Crossways, and they lived in a larger London house, 'up to their
position,' which means ever a trifle beyond it, and gave choice dinner-
parties to the most eminent. His jealousy slumbered. Having ideas of a
seat in Parliament at this period, and preferment superior to the post he
held, Mr. Warwick deemed it sagacious to court the potent patron Lord
Dannisburgh could be; and his wife had his interests at heart, the fork-
tongued world said. The cry revived. Stories of Lord D. and Mrs. W.
whipped the hot pursuit. The moral repute of the great Whig lord and the
beauty of the lady composed inflammable material.
'Are you altogether cautious?' Lady Dunstane wrote to Diana; and her
friend sent a copious reply: 'You have the fullest right to ask your Tony
anything, and I will answer as at the Judgement bar. You allude to Lord
Dannisburgh. He is near what Dada's age would have been, and is, I think
I can affirm, next to my dead father and my Emmy, my dearest friend.
I love him. I could say it in the streets without shame; and you do not
imagine me shameless. Whatever his character in his younger days, he can
be honestly a woman's friend, believe me. I see straight to his heart;
he has no disguise; and unless I am to suppose that marriage is the end
of me, I must keep him among my treasures. I see him almost daily; it is
not possible to think I can be deceived; and as long as he does me the
honour to esteem my poor portion of brains by coming to me for what he is
good enough to call my counsel, I shall let the world wag its tongue.
Between ourselves, I trust to be doing some good. I know I am of use in
various ways. No doubt there is a danger of a woman's head being turned,
when she reflects that a powerful Minister governing a kingdom has not
considered her too insignificant to advise him; and I am sensible of it.
I am, I assure you, dearest, on my guard against it. That would not
attach me to him, as his homely friendliness does. He is the most
amiable, cheerful, benignant of men; he has no feeling of an enemy,
though naturally his enemies are numerous and venomous. He is full of
observation and humour. How he would amuse you! In many respects accord
with you. And I should not have a spark of jealousy. Some day I shall
beg permission to bring him to Copsley. At present, during the Session,
he is too busy, as you know. Me--his "crystal spring of wisdom"--he can
favour with no more than an hour in the afternoon, or a few minutes at
night. Or I get a pencilled note from the benches of the House, with an
anecdote, or news of a Division. I am sure to be enlivened.
'So I have written to you fully, simply, frankly. Have perfect faith in
your Tony, who would, she vows to heaven; die rather than disturb it and
her heart's beloved.'
The letter terminated with one of Lord Dannisburgh's anecdotes, exciting
to merriment in the season of its freshness;--and a postscript of
information: 'Augustus expects a mission--about a month; uncertain
whether I accompany him.'
Mr. Warwick departed on his mission. Diana remained in London. Lady
Dunstane wrote entreating her to pass the month--her favourite time of
the violet yielding to the cowslip--at Copsley. The invitation could not
be accepted, but the next day Diana sent word that she had a surprise for
the following Sunday, and would bring a friend to lunch, if Sir Lukin
would meet them at the corner of the road in the valley leading up to the
heights, at a stated hour.
Lady Dunstane gave the listless baronet his directions, observing: 'It's
odd, she never will come alone since her marriage.'
'Queer,' said he of the serenest absence of conscience; and that there
must be something not, entirely right going on, he strongly inclined to
It was a confirmed suspicion when he beheld Lord Dannisburgh on the box
of a four-in-hand, and the peerless Diana beside him, cockaded lackeys in
plain livery and the lady's maid to the rear. But Lord Dannisburgh's
visit was a compliment, and the freak of his driving down under the beams
of Aurora on a sober Sunday morning capital fun; so with a gaiety that
was kept alive for the invalid Emma to partake of it, they rattled away
to the heights, and climbed them, and Diana rushed to the arms of her
friend, whispering and cooing for pardon if she startled her, guilty
of a little whiff of blarney:--Lord Dannisburgh wanted so much to be
introduced to her, and she so much wanted her to know him, and she hoped
to be graciously excused for thus bringing them together, 'that she might
be chorus to them!' Chorus was a pretty fiction on the part of the
thrilling and topping voice. She was the very radiant Diana of her
earliest opening day, both in look and speech, a queenly comrade, and a
spirit leaping and shining like a mountain water. She did not seduce,
she ravished. The judgement was taken captive and flowed with her.
As to the prank of the visit, Emma heartily enjoyed it and hugged it
for a holiday of her own, and doating on the beautiful, darkeyed, fresh
creature, who bore the name of the divine Huntress, she thought her a
true Dian in stature, step, and attributes, the genius of laughter
superadded. None else on earth so sweetly laughed, none so
spontaneously, victoriously provoked the healthful openness.
Her delicious chatter, and her museful sparkle in listening, equally
quickened every sense of life. Adorable as she was to her friend Emma
at all times, she that day struck a new fountain in memory. And it was
pleasant to see the great lord's admiration of this wonder. One could
firmly believe in their friendship, and his winning ideas from the
abounding bubbling well. A recurrent smile beamed on his face when
hearing and observing her. Certain dishes provided at the table were
Diana's favourites, and he relished them, asking for a second help,
and remarking that her taste was good in that as in all things. They
lunched, eating like boys. They walked over the grounds of Copsley, and
into the lanes and across the meadows of the cowslip, rattling, chatting,
enlivening the frosty air, happy as children biting to the juices of ripe
apples off the tree. But Tony was the tree, the dispenser of the rosy
gifts. She had a moment of reflection, only a moment, and Emma felt the
pause as though a cloud had shadowed them and a spirit had been shut
away. Both spoke of their happiness at the kiss of parting. That
melancholy note at the top of the wave to human hearts conscious of its
enforced decline was repeated by them, and Diana's eyelids blinked to
dismiss a tear.
'You have no troubles?' Emma said.
'Only the pain of the good-bye to my beloved,' said Diana. 'I have
never been happier--never shall be! Now you know him you think with me?
I knew you would. You have seen him as he always is--except when he is
armed for battle. He is the kindest of souls. And soul I say. He is
the one man among men who gives me notions of a soul in men.'
The eulogy was exalted. Lady Dunstane made a little mouth for Oh, in
correction of the transcendental touch, though she remembered their
foregone conversations upon men--strange beings that they are!--and
understood Diana's meaning.
'Really! really! honour !' Diana emphasized her extravagant praise, to
print it fast. 'Hear him speak of Ireland.'
'Would he not speak of Ireland in a tone to catch the Irishwoman?'
'He is past thoughts of catching, dearest. At that age men are pools of
fish, or what you will: they are not anglers. Next year, if you invite
us, we will come again.'
'But you will come to stay in the Winter?'
'Certainly. But I am speaking of one of my holidays.'
They kissed fervently. The lady mounted; the grey and portly lord
followed her; Sir Lukin flourished his whip, and Emma was left to brood
over her friend's last words: 'One of my holidays.' Not a hint to the
detriment of her husband had passed. The stray beam balefully
illuminating her marriage slipped from her involuntarily. Sir Lukin was
troublesome with his ejaculations that evening, and kept speculating on
the time of the arrival of the four-in-hand in London; upon which he
thought a great deal depended. They had driven out of town early, and
if they drove back late they would not be seen, as all the cacklers were
sure then to be dressing for dinner, and he would not pass the Clubs.
'I couldn't suggest it,' he said. 'But Dannisburgh's an old hand.
But they say he snaps his fingers at tattle, and laughs. Well, it
doesn't matter for him, perhaps, but a game of two . . . . Oh! it'll
be all right. They can't reach London before dusk. And the cat's away.'
'It's more than ever incomprehensible to me how she could have married
that man,' said his wife.
'I've long since given it up,' said he.
Diana wrote her thanks for the delightful welcome, telling of her drive
home to smoke and solitude, with a new host of romantic sensations to
keep her company. She wrote thrice in the week, and the same addition of
one to the ordinary number next week. Then for three weeks not a line.
Sir Lukin brought news from London that Warwick had returned, nothing to
explain the silence. A letter addressed to The Crossways was likewise
unnoticed. The supposition that they must be visiting on a round,
appeared rational; but many weeks elapsed, until Sir Lukin received a
printed sheet in the superscription of a former military comrade, who had
marked a paragraph. It was one of those journals, now barely credible,
dedicated to the putrid of the upper circle, wherein initials raised
sewer-lamps, and Asmodeus lifted a roof, leering hideously. Thousands
detested it, and fattened their crops on it. Domesticated beasts of
superior habits to the common will indulge themselves with a luxurious
roll in carrion, for a revival of their original instincts. Society was
largely a purchaser. The ghastly thing was dreaded as a scourge, hailed
as a refreshment, nourished as a parasite. It professed undaunted
honesty, and operated in the fashion of the worms bred of decay. Success
was its boasted justification. The animal world, when not rigorously
watched, will always crown with success the machine supplying its
appetites. The old dog-world took signal from it. The one-legged devil-
god waved his wooden hoof, and the creatures in view, the hunt was
uproarious. Why should we seem better than we are? down with hypocrisy,
cried the censor morum, spicing the lamentable derelictions of this and
that great person, male and female. The plea of corruption of blood in
the world, to excuse the public chafing of a grievous itch, is not less
old than sin; and it offers a merry day of frisky truant running to the
animal made unashamed by another and another stripped, branded, and
stretched flat. Sir Lukin read of Mr. and Mrs. W. and a distinguished
Peer of the realm. The paragraph was brief; it had a flavour. Promise
of more to come, pricked curiosity. He read it enraged, feeling for his
wife; and again indignant, feeling for Diana. His third reading found
him out: he felt for both, but as a member of the whispering world, much
behind the scenes, he had a longing for the promised insinuations, just
to know what they could say, or dared say. The paper was not shown to
Lady Dunstane. A run to London put him in the tide of the broken dam of
gossip. The names were openly spoken and swept from mouth to mouth of
the scandalmongers, gathering matter as they flew. He knocked at Diana's
door, where he was informed that the mistress of the house was absent.
More than official gravity accompanied the announcement. Her address was
unknown. Sir Lukin thought it now time to tell his wife. He began with
a hesitating circumlocution, in order to prepare her mind for bad news.
She divined immediately that it concerned Diana, and forcing him to speak
to the point, she had the story jerked out to her in a sentence. It
stopped her heart.
The chill of death was tasted in that wavering ascent from oblivion to
recollection. Why had not Diana come to her, she asked herself, and
asked her husband; who, as usual, was absolutely unable to say. Under
compulsory squeezing, he would have answered, that she did not come
because she could not fib so easily to her bosom friend: and this he
thought, notwithstanding his personal experience of Diana's generosity.
But he had other personal experiences of her sex, and her sex plucked at
the bright star and drowned it.
The happy day of Lord Dannisburgh's visit settled in Emma's belief as the
cause of Mr. Warwick's unpardonable suspicions and cruelty. Arguing from
her own sensations of a day that had been like the return of sweet health
to her frame, she could see nothing but the loveliest freakish innocence
in Diana's conduct, and she recalled her looks, her words, every fleeting
gesture, even to the ingenuousness of the noble statesman's admiration of
her, for the confusion of her unmanly and unworthy husband. And Emma was
nevertheless a thoughtful person; only her heart was at the head of her
thoughts, and led the file, whose reasoning was accurate on erratic
tracks. All night her heart went at fever pace. She brought the
repentant husband to his knees, and then doubted, strongly doubted,
whether she would, whether in consideration for her friend she could,
intercede with Diana to forgive him. In the morning she slept heavily.
Sir Lukin had gone to London early for further tidings. She awoke about
midday, and found a letter on her pillow. It was Diana's. Then while
her fingers eagerly tore it open, her heart, the champion rider over-
night, sank. It needed support of facts, and feared them: not in
distrust of that dear persecuted soul, but because the very bravest of
hearts is of its nature a shivering defender, sensitive in the presence
of any hostile array, much craving for material support, until the mind
and spirit displace it, depute it to second them instead of leading.
She read by a dull November fog-light a mixture of the dreadful and the
comforting, and dwelt upon the latter in abandonment, hugged it, though
conscious of evil and the little that there was to veritably console.
The close of the letter struck the blow. After bluntly stating that Mr.
Warwick had served her with a process, and that he had no case without
suborning witnesses, Diana said: 'But I leave the case, and him, to the
world. Ireland, or else America, it is a guiltless kind of suicide to
bury myself abroad. He has my letters. They are such as I can own to
you; and ask you to kiss me--and kiss me when you have heard all the
evidence, all that I can add to it, kiss me. You know me too well to
think I would ask you to kiss criminal lips. But I cannot face the
world. In the dock, yes. Not where I am expected to smile and sparkle,
on pain of incurring suspicion if I show a sign of oppression. I cannot
do that. I see myself wearing a false grin--your Tony! No, I do well to
go. This is my resolution; and in consequence,--my beloved! my only
truly loved on earth! I do not come to you, to grieve you, as I surely
should. Nor would it soothe me, dearest. This will be to you the best
of reasons. It could not soothe me to see myself giving pain to Emma.
I am like a pestilence, and let me swing away to the desert, for there
I do no harm. I know I am right. I have questioned myself--it is not
cowardice. I do not quail. I abhor the part of actress. I should do it
well--too well; destroy my soul in the performance. Is a good name
before such a world as this worth that sacrifice? A convent and self-
quenching;--cloisters would seem to me like holy dew. But that would be
sleep, and I feel the powers of life. Never have I felt them so
mightily. If it were not for being called on to act and mew, I would
stay, fight, meet a bayonet-hedge of charges and rebut them. I have my
natural weapons and my cause. It must be confessed that I have also more
knowledge of men and the secret contempt--it must be--the best of them
entertain for us. Oh! and we confirm it if we trust them. But they have
been at a wicked school.
'I will write. From whatever place, you shall have letters, and
constant. I write no more now. In my present mood I find no alternative
between rageing and drivelling. I am henceforth dead to the world.
Never dead to Emma till my breath is gone--poor flame! I blow at a bed-
room candle, by which I write in a brown fog, and behold what I am--
though not even serving to write such a tangled scrawl as this. I am of
no mortal service. In two days I shall be out of England. Within a week
you shall hear where. I long for your heart on mine, your dear eyes.
You have faith in me, and I fly from you!--I must be mad. Yet I feel
calmly reasonable. I know that this is the thing to do. Some years
hence a grey woman may return, to hear of a butterfly Diana, that had her
day and disappeared. Better than a mewing and courtseying simulacrum of
the woman--I drivel again. Adieu. I suppose I am not liable to capture
and imprisonment until the day when my name is cited to appear. I have
left London. This letter and I quit the scene by different routes--I
would they were one. My beloved! I have an ache--I think I am wronging
you. I am not mistress of myself, and do as something within me, wiser,
than I, dictates.--You will write kindly. Write your whole heart. It is
not compassion I want, I want you. I can bear stripes from you. Let me
hear Emma's voice--the true voice. This running away merits your
reproaches. It will look like--. I have more to confess: the tigress in
me wishes it were! I should then have a reckless passion to fold me
about, and the glory infernal, if you name it so, and so it would be--
of suffering for and with some one else. As it is, I am utterly
solitary, sustained neither from above nor below, except within myself,
and that is all fire and smoke, like their new engines.--I kiss this
miserable sheet of paper. Yes, I judge that I have run off a line--and
what a line! which hardly shows a trace for breathing things to follow
until they feel the transgression in wreck. How immensely nature seems
to prefer men to women!--But this paper is happier than the writer.
That was the end. Emma kissed it in tears. They had often talked of the
possibility of a classic friendship between women, the alliance of a
mutual devotedness men choose to doubt of. She caught herself accusing
Tony of the lapse from friendship. Hither should the true friend have
The blunt ending of the letter likewise dealt a wound. She reperused it,
perused and meditated. The flight of Mrs. Warwick! She heard that cry-
fatal! But she had no means of putting a hand on her. 'Your Tony.' The
coldness might be set down to exhaustion: it might, yet her not coming to
her friend for counsel and love was a positive weight in the indifferent
scale. She read the letter backwards, and by snatches here and there;
many perusals and hours passed before the scattered creature exhibited in
its pages came to her out of the flying threads of the web as her living
Tony, whom she loved and prized and was ready to defend gainst the world.
By that time the fog had lifted; she saw the sky on the borders of milky
cloudfolds. Her invalid's chill sensitiveness conceived a sympathy in
the baring heavens, and lying on her sofa in the drawing-room she gained
strength of meditative vision, weak though she was to help, through
ceasing to brood on her wound and herself. She cast herself into her
dear Tony's feelings; and thus it came, that she imagined Tony would
visit The Crossways, where she kept souvenirs of her father, his cane,
and his writing-desk, and a precious miniature of him hanging above it,
before leaving England forever. The fancy sprang to certainty; every
speculation confirmed it.
Had Sir Lukin been at home she would have despatched him to The Crossways
at once. The West wind blew, and gave her a view of the Downs beyond the
Weald from her southern window. She thought it even possible to drive
there and reach the place, on the chance of her vivid suggestion, some
time after nightfall; but a walk across the room to try her forces was
too convincing of her inability. She walked with an ebony silver-mounted
stick, a present from Mr. Redworth. She was leaning on it when the card
of Thomas Redworth was handed to her.
IN WHICH IS EXHIBITED HOW A PRACTICAL MAN AND A DIVINING WOMAN LEARN TO
RESPECT ONE ANOTHER
'You see, you are my crutch,' Lady Dunstane said to him,--raising the
stick in reminder of the present.
He offered his arm and hurriedly informed her, to dispose of dull
personal matter, that he had just landed. She looked at the clock.
'Lukin is in town. You know the song: "Alas, I scarce can go or creep
While Lukin is away." I do not doubt you have succeeded in your business
over there. Ah! Now I suppose you have confidence in your success.
I should have predicted it, had you come to me.' She stood, either
musing or in weakness, and said abruptly: 'Will you object to lunching at
'The sooner the better,' said Redworth. She had sighed: her voice
betrayed some agitation, strange in so serenely-minded a person.
His partial acquaintance with the Herculean Sir Lukin's reputation in
town inspired a fear of his being about to receive admission to the
distressful confidences of the wife, and he asked if Mrs. Warwick was
well. The answer sounded ominous, with its accompaniment of evident
pain: 'I think her health is good.'
Had they quarrelled? He said he had not heard a word of Mrs. Warwick for
'I--heard from her this morning,' said Lady Dunstane, and motioned him to
a chair beside the sofa, where she half reclined, closing her eyes. The
sight of tears on the eyelashes frightened him. She roused herself to
look at the clock. 'Providence or accident, you are here,' she said.
'I could not have prayed for the coming of a truer' man. Mrs. Warwick is
in great danger . . . . You know our love. She is the best of me,
heart and soul. Her husband has chosen to act on vile suspicions--
baseless, I could hold my hand in the fire and swear. She has enemies,
or the jealous fury is on the man--I know little of him. He has
commenced an action against her. He will rue it. But she . . . you
understand this of women at least;--they are not cowards in all things!
--but the horror of facing a public scandal: my poor girl writes of the
hatefulness of having to act the complacent--put on her accustomed self!
She would have to go about, a mark for the talkers, and behave as if
nothing were in the air-full of darts! Oh, that general whisper!--it
makes a coup de massue--a gale to sink the bravest vessel: and a woman
must preserve her smoothest front; chat, smile--or else!--Well, she
shrinks from it. I should too. She is leaving the country.'
'Wrong!' cried Redworth.
'Wrong indeed. She writes, that in two days she will be out of it.
Judge her as I do, though you are a man, I pray. You have seen the
hunted hare. It is our education--we have something of the hare in us
when the hounds are full cry. Our bravest, our best, have an impulse to
run. "By this, poor Wat far off upon a hill." Shakespeare would have
the divine comprehension. I have thought all round it and come back to
him. She is one of Shakespeare's women: another character, but one of
his own:--another Hermione! I dream of him--seeing her with that eye of
steady flame. The bravest and best of us at bay in the world need an eye
like his, to read deep and not be baffled by inconsistencies.'
Insensibly Redworth blinked. His consciousness of an exalted compassion
for the lady was heated by these flights of advocacy to feel that he was
almost seated beside the sovereign poet thus eulogized, and he was of a
'But you are practical,' pursued Lady Dunstane, observing signs that she
took for impatience. 'You are thinking of what can be done. If Lukin
were here I would send him to The Crossways without a moment's delay, on
the chance, the mere chance:--it shines to me! If I were only a little
stronger! I fear I might break down, and it would be unfair to my
husband. He has trouble enough with my premature infirmities already.
I am certain she will go to The Crossways. Tony is one of the women who
burn to give last kisses to things they love. And she has her little
treasures hoarded there. She was born there. Her father died there.
She is three parts Irish--superstitious in affection. I know her so
well. At this moment I see her there. If not, she has grown unlike
'Have you a stout horse in the stables?' Redworth asked.
'You remember the mare Bertha; you have ridden her.'
'The mare would do, and better than a dozen horses.' He consulted his
watch. 'Let me mount Bertha, I engage to deliver a letter at The
Lady Dunstane half inclined to act hesitation in accepting the aid she
sought, but said: 'Will you find your way?'
He spoke of three hours of daylight and a moon to rise. 'She has often
pointed out to me from your ridges where The Crossways lies, about three
miles from the Downs, near a village named Storling, on the road to
The house has a small plantation of firs behind it, and a bit of river--
rare for Sussex--to the right. An old straggling red brick house at
Crossways, a stone's throw from a fingerpost on a square of green: roads
to Brasted, London, Wickford, Riddlehurst. I shall find it. Write what
you have to say, my lady, and confide it to me. She shall have it to-
night, if she's where you suppose. I 'll go, with your permission, and
take a look at the mare. Sussex roads are heavy in this damp weather,
and the frost coming on won't improve them for a tired beast. We haven't
our rails laid down there yet.'
'You make me admit some virtues in the practical,' said Lady Dunstane;
and had the poor fellow vollied forth a tale of the everlastingness of
his passion for Diana, it would have touched her far less than his exact
memory of Diana's description of her loved birthplace.
'I trust my messenger to tell you how I hang on you. I see my ship
making for the rocks. You break your Emma's heart. It will be the
second wrong step. I shall not survive it. The threat has made me
incapable of rushing to you, as I might have had strength to do
yesterday. I am shattered, and I wait panting for Mr. Redworth's
return with you. He has called, by accident, as we say. Trust to
him. If ever heaven was active to avert a fatal mischance it is to-
day. You will not stand against my supplication. It is my life I
cry for. I have no more time. He starts. He leaves me to pray--
like the mother seeing her child on the edge of the cliff. Come.
This is your breast, my Tony? And your soul warns you it is right
to come. Do rightly. Scorn other counsel--the coward's. Come with
our friend--the one man known to me who can be a friend of women.
Redworth was in the room. 'The mare 'll do it well,' he said. 'She has
had her feed, and in five minutes will be saddled at the door.'
'But you must eat, dear friend,' said the hostess.
'I'll munch at a packet of sandwiches on the way. There seems a chance,
and the time for lunching may miss it.'
'You understand . . . ?'
'Everything, I fancy.'
'If she is there!'
'One break in the run will turn her back.'
The sensitive invalid felt a blow in his following up the simile of the
hunted hare for her friend, but it had a promise of hopefulness. And
this was all that could be done by earthly agents, under direction of
spiritual, as her imagination encouraged her to believe.
She saw him start, after fortifying him with a tumbler of choice
Bordeaux, thinking how Tony would have said she was like a lady arming
her knight for battle. On the back of the mare he passed her window,
after lifting his hat, and he thumped at his breast-pocket, to show her
where the letter housed safely. The packet of provision bulged on his
hip, absurdly and blessedly to her sight, not unlike the man, in his
combination of robust serviceable qualities, as she reflected during the
later hours, until the sun fell on smouldering November woods, and
sensations of the frost he foretold bade her remember that he had gone
forth riding like a huntsman. His great-coat lay on a chair in the hall,
and his travelling-bag was beside it. He had carried it up from the
valley, expecting hospitality, and she had sent him forth half naked to
weather a frosty November night! She called in the groom, whose derision
of a great-coat for any gentleman upon Bertha, meaning work for the mare,
appeased her remorsefulness. Brisby, the groom, reckoned how long the
mare would take to do the distance to Storling, with a rider like Mr.
Redworth on her back. By seven, Brisby calculated, Mr. Redworth would be
knocking at the door of the Three Ravens Inn, at Storling, when the mare
would have a decent grooming, and Mr. Redworth was not the gentleman to
let her be fed out of his eye. More than that, Brisby had some
acquaintance with the people of the inn. He begged to inform her
ladyship that he was half a Sussex man, though not exactly born in the
county; his parents had removed to Sussex after the great event; and the
Downs were his first field of horse-exercise, and no place in the world
was like them, fair weather or foul, Summer or Winter, and snow ten feet
deep in the gullies. The grandest air in England, he had heard say.
His mistress kept him to the discourse, for the comfort of hearing hard
bald matter-of-fact; and she was amused and rebuked by his assumption
that she must be entertaining an anxiety about master's favourite mare.
But, ah! that Diana had delayed in choosing a mate; had avoided her
disastrous union with perhaps a more imposing man, to see the true beauty
of masculine character in Mr. Redworth, as he showed himself to-day. How
could he have doubted succeeding? One grain more of faith in his energy,
and Diana might have been mated to the right husband for her--an open-
minded clear-faced English gentleman. Her speculative ethereal mind
clung to bald matter-of-fact to-day. She would have vowed that it was
the sole potentially heroical. Even Brisby partook of the reflected
rays, and he was very benevolently considered by her. She dismissed him
only when his recounting of the stages of Bertha's journey began to
fatigue her and deaden the medical efficacy of him and his like.
Stretched on the sofa, she watched the early sinking sun in South-western
cloud, and the changes from saffron to intensest crimson, the crown of a
November evening, and one of frost.
Redworth struck on a southward line from chalk-ridge to sand, where he
had a pleasant footing in familiar country, under beeches that browned
the ways, along beside a meadowbrook fed by the heights, through pines
and across deep sand-ruts to full view of weald and Downs. Diana had
been with him here in her maiden days. The coloured back of a coach put
an end to that dream. He lightened his pocket, surveying the land as he
munched. A favourable land for rails: and she had looked over it: and he
was now becoming a wealthy man: and she was a married woman straining the
leash. His errand would not bear examination, it seemed such a desperate
long shot. He shut his inner vision on it, and pricked forward. When
the burning sunset shot waves above the juniper and yews behind him, he
was far on the weald, trotting down an interminable road. That the
people opposing railways were not people of business, was his reflection,
and it returned persistently: for practical men, even the most devoted
among them, will think for themselves; their army, which is the rational,
calls them to its banners, in opposition to the sentimental; and Redworth
joined it in the abstract, summoning the horrible state of the roads to
testify against an enemy wanting almost in common humaneness. A slip of
his excellent stepper in one of the half-frozen pits of the highway was
the principal cause of his confusion of logic; she was half on her knees.
Beyond the market town the roads were so bad that he quitted them, and
with the indifference of an engineer, struck a line of his own
Southeastward over fields and ditches, favoured by a round horizon moon
on his left. So for a couple of hours he went ahead over rolling fallow
land to the meadow-flats and a pale shining of freshets; then hit on a
lane skirting the water, and reached an amphibious village; five miles
from Storling, he was informed, and a clear traverse of lanes, not to be
mistaken, 'if he kept a sharp eye open.' The sharpness of his eyes was
divided between the sword-belt of the starry Hunter and the shifting
lanes that zig-tagged his course below. The Downs were softly illumined;
still it amazed him to think of a woman like Diana Warwick having an
attachment to this district, so hard of yield, mucky, featureless, fit
but for the rails she sided with her friend in detesting. Reasonable
women, too! The moon, stood high on her march as he entered Storling.
He led his good beast to the stables of The Three Ravens, thanking her
and caressing her. The ostler conjectured from the look of the mare that
he had been out with the hounds and lost his way. It appeared to
Redworth singularly, that near the ending of a wild goose chase, his
plight was pretty well described by the fellow. However, he had to knock
at the door of The Crossways now, in the silent night time, a certainly
empty house, to his fancy. He fed on a snack of cold meat and tea,
standing, and set forth, clearly directed, 'if he kept a sharp eye open.'
Hitherto he had proved his capacity, and he rather smiled at the
repetition of the formula to him, of all men. A turning to the right
was taken, one to the left, and through the churchyard, out of the gate,
round to the right, and on. By this route, after an hour, he found
himself passing beneath the bare chestnuts of the churchyard wall of
Storling, and the sparkle of the edges of the dead chestnut-leaves at
his feet reminded him of the very ideas he had entertained when treading
them. The loss of an hour strung him to pursue the chase in earnest,
and he had a beating of the heart as he thought that it might be serious.
He recollected thinking it so at Copsley. The long ride, and nightfall,
with nothing in view, had obscured his mind to the possible behind the
thick obstruction of the probable; again the possible waved its marsh-
light. To help in saving her from a fatal step, supposing a dozen
combinations of the conditional mood, became his fixed object, since here
he was--of that there was no doubt; and he was not here to play the fool,
though the errand were foolish. He entered the churchyard, crossed the
shadow of the tower, and hastened along the path, fancying he beheld a
couple of figures vanishing before him. He shouted; he hoped to obtain
directions from these natives: the moon was bright, the gravestones
legible; but no answer came back, and the place appeared to belong
entirely to the dead. 'I've frightened them,' he thought. They left a
queerish sensation in his frame. A ride down to Sussex to see ghosts
would be an odd experience; but an undigested dinner of tea is the very
grandmother of ghosts; and he accused it of confusing him, sight and
mind. Out of the gate, now for the turning to the right, and on. He
turned. He must have previously turned wrongly somewhere--and where?
A light in a cottage invited him to apply for the needed directions.
The door was opened by a woman, who had never heard tell of The
Crossways, nor had her husband, nor any of the children crowding round
them. A voice within ejaculated: 'Crassways!' and soon upon the grating
of a chair, an old man, whom the woman named her lodger, by way of
introduction, presented himself with his hat on, saying: 'I knows the
spot they calls Crassways,' and he led. Redworth understood the
intention that a job was to be made of it, and submitting, said: 'To the
right, I think.' He was bidden to come along, if he wanted 'they
Crassways,' and from the right they turned to the left, and further sharp
round, and on to a turn, where the old man, otherwise incommunicative,
said: 'There, down thik theer road, and a post in the middle.'
'I want a house, not a post!' roared Redworth, spying a bare space.
The old man despatched a finger travelling to his nob. 'Naw, there's
ne'er a house. But that's crassways for four roads, if it 's crassways,
They journeyed backward. They were in such a maze of lanes that the old
man was master, and Redworth vowed to be rid of him at the first cottage.
This, however, they were long in reaching, and the old man was promptly
through the garden-gate, hailing the people and securing 'information,
before Redworth could well hear. He smiled at the dogged astuteness of a
dense-headed old creature determined to establish a claim to his fee.
They struck a lane sharp to the left.
'You're Sussex?' Redworth asked him, and was answered: 'Naw; the Sheers.'
Emerging from deliberation, the old man said: 'Ah'm a Hampshireman.'
'A capital county!'
'Heigh!' The old man heaved his chest. 'Once!'
'Why, what has happened to it?'
'Once it were a capital county, I say. Hah! you asks me what have
happened to it. You take and go and look at it now. And down heer'll be
no better soon, I tells 'em. When ah was a boy, old Hampshire was a
proud country, wi' the old coaches and the old squires, and Harvest
Homes, and Christmas merryings.--Cutting up the land! There's no pride
in livin' theer, nor anywhere, as I sees, now.'
'You mean the railways.'
'It's the Devil come up and abroad ower all England!' exclaimed the
melancholy ancient patriot.
A little cheering was tried on him, but vainly. He saw with unerring
distinctness the triumph of the Foul Potentate, nay his personal
appearance 'in they theer puffin' engines.' The country which had
produced Andrew Hedger, as he stated his name to be, would never show the
same old cricketing commons it did when he was a boy. Old England, he
declared, was done for.
When Redworth applied to his watch under the brilliant moonbeams,
he discovered that he had been listening to this natural outcry of a
decaying and shunted class full three-quarters of an hour, and The
Crossways was not in sight. He remonstrated. The old man plodded along.
'We must do as we're directed,' he said.
Further walking brought them to a turn. Any turn seemed hopeful.
Another turn offered the welcome sight of a blazing doorway on a rise of
ground off the road. Approaching it, the old man requested him to 'bide
a bit,' and stalked the ascent at long strides. A vigorous old fellow.
Redworth waited below, observing how he joined the group at the lighted
door, and, as it was apparent, put his question of the whereabout of The
Crossways. Finally, in extreme impatience, he walked up to the group of
spectators. They were all, and Andrew Hedger among them, the most
entranced and profoundly reverent, observing the dissection of a pig.
Unable to awaken his hearing, Redworth jogged his arm, and the shake was
ineffective until it grew in force.
'I've no time to lose; have they told you the way?'
Andrew Hedger yielded his arm. He slowly withdrew his intent fond gaze
from the fair outstretched white carcase, and with drooping eyelids, he
said: 'Ah could eat hog a solid hower!'
He had forgotten to ask the way, intoxicated by the aspect of the pig;
and when he did ask it, he was hard of understanding, given wholly to his
Redworth got the directions. He would have dismissed Mr. Andrew Hedger,
but there was no doing so. 'I'll show ye on to The Crossways House,' the
latter said, implying that he had already earned something by showing him
The Crossways post.
'Hog's my feed,' said Andrew Hedger. The gastric springs of eloquence
moved him to discourse, and he unburdened himself between succulent
pauses. 'They've killed him early. He 's fat; and he might ha' been
fatter. But he's fat. They've got their Christmas ready, that they
have. Lord! you should see the chitterlings, and--the sausages hung up
to and along the beams. That's a crown for any dwellin'! They runs 'em
round the top of the room--it's like a May-day wreath in old times.
Home-fed hog! They've a treat in store, they have. And snap your
fingers at the world for many a long day. And the hams! They cure their
own hams at that house. Old style! That's what I say of a hog. He's
good from end to end, and beats a Christian hollow. Everybody knows it
and owns it.'
Redworth was getting tired. In sympathy with current conversation, he
said a word for the railways: they would certainly make the flesh of
swine cheaper, bring a heap of hams into the market. But Andrew Hedger
remarked with contempt that he had not much opinion of foreign hams:
nobody, knew what they fed on. Hog, he said, would feed on anything,
where there was no choice they had wonderful stomachs for food. Only,
when they had a choice, they left the worst for last, and home-fed filled
them with stuff to make good meat and fat 'what we calls prime bacon.'
As it is not right to damp a native enthusiasm, Redworth let him dilate
on his theme, and mused on his boast to eat hog a solid hour, which
roused some distant classic recollection:--an odd jumble.
They crossed the wooden bridge of a flooded stream.
'Now ye have it,' said the hog-worshipper; 'that may be the house, I
A dark mass of building, with the moon behind it, shining in spires
through a mound of firs, met Redworth's gaze. The windows all were
blind, no smoke rose from the chimneys. He noted the dusky square of
green, and the finger-post signalling the centre of the four roads.
Andrew Hedger repeated that it was The Crossways house, ne'er a doubt.
Redworth paid him his expected fee, whereupon Andrew, shouldering off,
wished him a hearty good night, and forthwith departed at high pedestrian
pace, manifestly to have a concluding look at the beloved anatomy.
There stood the house. Absolutely empty! thought Redworth. The sound
of the gate-bell he rang was like an echo to him. The gate was unlocked.
He felt a return of his queer churchyard sensation when walking up the
garden-path, in the shadow of the house. Here she was born: here her
father died: and this was the station of her dreams, as a girl at school
near London and in Paris. Her heart was here. He looked at the windows
facing the Downs with dead eyes. The vivid idea of her was a phantom
presence, and cold, assuring him that the bodily Diana was absent. Had
Lady Dunstane guessed rightly, he might perhaps have been of service!
Anticipating the blank silence, he rang the house-bell. It seemed to set
wagging a weariful tongue in a corpse. The bell did its duty to the last
note, and one thin revival stroke, for a finish, as in days when it
responded livingly to the guest. He pulled, and had the reply, just
the same, with the faint terminal touch, resembling exactly a 'There!'
at the close of a voluble delivery in the negative. Absolutely empty.
He pulled and pulled. The bell wagged, wagged. This had been a house of
a witty host, a merry girl, junketting guests; a house of hilarious
thunders, lightnings of fun and fancy. Death never seemed more voiceful
than in that wagging of the bell.
For conscience' sake, as became a trusty emissary, he walked round to the
back of the house, to verify the total emptiness. His apprehensive
despondency had said that it was absolutely empty, but upon consideration
he supposed the house must have some guardian: likely enough, an old
gardener and his wife, lost in deafness double-shotted by sleep! There
was no sign of them. The night air waxed sensibly crisper. He thumped
the backdoors. Blank hollowness retorted on the blow. He banged and
kicked. The violent altercation with wood and wall lasted several
minutes, ending as it had begun.
Flesh may worry, but is sure to be worsted in such an argument.
'Well, my dear lady !'--Redworth addressed Lady Dunstane aloud, while
driving his hands into his pockets for warmth--'we've done what we could.
The next best thing is to go to bed and see what morning brings us.'
The temptation to glance at the wild divinings of dreamy-witted women
from the point of view of the practical man, was aided by the intense
frigidity of the atmosphere in leading him to criticize a sex not much
used to the exercise of brains. 'And they hate railways!' He associated
them, in the matter of intelligence, with Andrew Hedger and Company.
They sank to the level of the temperature in his esteem--as regarded
their intellects. He approved their warmth of heart. The nipping of
the victim's toes and finger-tips testified powerfully to that.
Round to the front of the house at a trot, he stood in moonlight. Then,
for involuntarily he now did everything running, with a dash up the steps
he seized the sullen pendant bell-handle, and worked it pumpwise, till he
perceived a smaller bell-knob beside the door, at which he worked piston-
wise. Pump and piston, the hurly-burly and the tinkler created an alarm
to scare cat and mouse and Cardinal spider, all that run or weave in
desolate houses, with the good result of a certain degree of heat to his
frame. He ceased, panting. No stir within, nor light. That white stare
of windows at the moon was undisturbed.
The Downs were like a wavy robe of shadowy grey silk. No wonder that she
had loved to look on them!
And it was no wonder that Andrew Hedger enjoyed prime bacon. Bacon
frizzling, fat rashers of real homefed on the fire-none of your foreign-
suggested a genial refreshment and resistance to antagonistic elements.
Nor was it, granting health, granting a sharp night--the temperature at
least fifteen below zero--an excessive boast for a man to say he could go
on eating for a solid hour.
These were notions darting through a half nourished gentleman nipped
in the frame by a severely frosty night. Truly a most beautiful night!
She would have delighted to see it here. The Downs were like floating
islands, like fairy-laden vapours; solid, as Andrew Hedger's hour of
eating; visionary, as too often his desire!
Redworth muttered to himself, after taking the picture of the house and
surrounding country from the sward, that he thought it about the sharpest
night he had ever encountered in England. He was cold, hungry,
dispirited, and astoundingly stricken with an incapacity to separate any
of his thoughts from old Andrew Hedger. Nature was at her pranks upon
He left the garden briskly, as to the legs, and reluctantly. He would
have liked to know whether Diana had recently visited the house, or was
expected. It could be learnt in the morning; but his mission was urgent
and he on the wings of it. He was vexed and saddened.
Scarcely had he closed the garden-gate when the noise of an opening
window arrested him, and he called. The answer was in a feminine voice,
youngish, not disagreeable, though not Diana's.
He heard none of the words, but rejoined in a bawl: 'Mrs. Warwick!--Mr.
That was loud enough for the deaf or the dead.
The window closed. He went to the door and waited. It swung wide to
him; and O marvel of a woman's divination of a woman! there stood Diana.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A witty woman is a treasure; a witty Beauty is a power
At war with ourselves, means the best happiness we can have
Beauty is rare; luckily is it rare
Between love grown old and indifference ageing to love
But they were a hopeless couple, they were so friendly
Charitable mercifulness; better than sentimental ointment
Dedicated to the putrid of the upper circle
Dreaded as a scourge, hailed as a refreshment (Scandalsheet)
Elderly martyr for the advancement of his juniors
Favour can't help coming by rotation
Flashes bits of speech that catch men in their unguarded corner
For 'tis Ireland gives England her soldiers, her generals too
Get back what we give
Goodish sort of fellow; good horseman, good shot, good character
Grossly unlike in likeness (portraits)
He had by nature a tarnishing eye that cast discolouration
He had neat phrases, opinions in packets
He was not a weaver of phrases in distress
He's good from end to end, and beats a Christian hollow (a hog)
Her final impression likened him to a house locked up and empty
Herself, content to be dull if he might shine
His gaze and one of his ears, if not the pair, were given
How immensely nature seems to prefer men to women!
Human nature to feel an interest in the dog that has bitten you
I have and hold--you shall hunger and covet
Idea is the only vital breath
If I'm struck, I strike back
Inclined to act hesitation in accepting the aid she sought
Lengthened term of peace bred maggots in the heads of the people
Loathing for speculation
Mare would do, and better than a dozen horses
Matter that is not nourishing to brains
Music was resumed to confuse the hearing of the eavesdroppers
Needed support of facts, and feared them
O self! self! self!
Or where you will, so that's in Ireland
Our bravest, our best, have an impulse to run
Perused it, and did not recognize herself in her language
Pride in being always myself
Procrastination and excessive scrupulousness
Read deep and not be baffled by inconsistencies
Service of watering the dry and drying the damp (Whiskey)
She had a fatal attraction for antiques
She marries, and it's the end of her sparkling
Smart remarks have their measured distances
Something of the hare in us when the hounds are full cry
Swell and illuminate citizen prose to a princely poetic
That is life--when we dare death to live!
That's the natural shamrock, after the artificial
The burlesque Irishman can't be caricatured
The well of true wit is truth itself
They create by stoppage a volcano
This love they rattle about and rave about
Tooth that received a stone when it expected candy
We live alone, and do not much feel it till we are visited
Weather and women have some resemblance they say
What a woman thinks of women, is the test of her nature
Where she appears, the first person falls to second rank
You are entreated to repress alarm
You beat me with the fists, but my spirit is towering
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