Diana of the Crossways, v2
Part 2 out of 2
meditating grandly on her independence of her sex and the passions.
Love! she did not know it, she was not acquainted with either the
criminal or the domestic God, and persuaded herself that she never could
be. She was a Diana of coldness, preferring friendship; she could be the
friend of men. There was another who could be the friend of women. Her
heart leapt to Redworth. Conjuring up his clear trusty face, at their
grasp of hands when parting, she thought of her visions of her future
about the period of the Dublin Ball, and acknowledged, despite the
erratic step to wedlock, a gain in having met and proved so true a
friend. His face, figure, character, lightest look, lightest word, all
were loyal signs of a man of honour, cold as she; he was the man to whom
she could have opened her heart for inspection. Rejoicing in her
independence of an emotional sex, the impulsive woman burned with a
regret that at their parting she had not broken down conventional
barriers and given her cheek to his lips in the antiinsular fashion with
a brotherly friend. And why not when both were cold? Spirit to spirit,
she did, delightfully refreshed by her capacity to do so without a throb.
He had held her hands and looked into her eyes half a minute, like a dear
comrade; as little arousing her instincts of defensiveness as the
clearing heavens; and sisterly love for it was his due, a sister's kiss.
He needed a sister, and should have one in her. Emma's recollected talk
of 'Tom Redworth' painted him from head to foot, brought the living man
over the waters to the deck of the yacht. A stout champion in the person
of Tom Redworth was left on British land; but for some reason past
analysis, intermixed, that is, among a swarm of sensations, Diana named
her champion to herself with the formal prefix: perhaps because she knew
a man's Christian name to be dangerous handling. They differed besides
frequently in opinion, when the habit of thinking of him as Mr. Redworth
would be best. Women are bound to such small observances, and especially
the beautiful of the sisterhood, whom the world soon warns that they
carry explosives and must particularly guard against the ignition of
petty sparks. She was less indiscreet in her thoughts than in her acts,
as is the way with the reflective daughter of impulse; though she had
fine mental distinctions: what she could offer to do 'spirit to spirit,'
for instance, held nothing to her mind of the intimacy of calling the
gentleman plain Tom in mere contemplation of him. Her friend and
champion was a volunteer, far from a mercenary, and he deserved the
reward, if she could bestow it unalarmed. They were to meet in Egypt.
Meanwhile England loomed the home of hostile forces ready to shock, had
she been a visible planet, and ready to secrete a virus of her past
history, had she been making new.
She was happily away, borne by a whiter than swan's wing on the sapphire
Mediterranean. Her letters to Emma were peeps of splendour for the
invalid: her way of life on board the yacht, and sketches of her host and
hostess as lovers in wedlock on the other side of our perilous forties;
sketches of the bays, the towns, the people-priests, dames, cavaliers,
urchins, infants, shifting groups of supple southerners-flashed across
the page like a web of silk, and were dashed off, redolent of herself,
as lightly as the silvery spray of the blue waves she furrowed; telling,
without allusions to the land behind her, that she had dipped in the
wells of blissful oblivion. Emma Dunstane, as is usual with those who
receive exhilarating correspondence from makers of books, condemned the
authoress in comparison, and now first saw that she had the gift of
writing. Only one cry: 'Italy, Eden of exiles!' betrayed the seeming of
a moan. She wrote of her poet and others immediately. Thither had they
fled; with adieu to England!
How many have waved the adieu! And it is England nourishing, England
protecting them, England clothing them in the honours they wear. Only
the posturing lower natures, on the level of their buskins, can pluck out
the pocket-knife of sentimental spite to cut themselves loose from her at
heart in earnest. The higher, bleed as they may, too pressingly feel
their debt. Diana had the Celtic vivid sense of country. In England she
was Irish, by hereditary, and by wilful opposition. Abroad, gazing along
the waters, observing, comparing, reflecting, above all, reading of the
struggles at home, the things done and attempted, her soul of generosity
made her, though not less Irish, a daughter of Britain. It is at a
distance that striving countries should be seen if we would have them in
the pure idea; and this young woman of fervid mind, a reader of public
speeches and speculator on the tides of politics (desirous, further, to
feel herself rather more in the pure idea), began to yearn for England
long before her term of holiday exile had ended. She had been flattered
by her friend, her 'wedded martyr at the stake,' as she named him, to
believe that she could exercise a judgement in politics--could think,
even speak acutely, on public affairs. The reports of speeches delivered
by the men she knew or knew of, set her thrilling; and she fancied the
sensibility to be as independent of her sympathy with the orators as her
political notions were sovereignty above a sex devoted to trifles,
and the feelings of a woman who had gone through fire. She fancied it
confidently, notwithstanding a peculiar intuition that the plunge into
the nobler business of the world would be a haven of safety for a woman
with blood and imagination, when writing to Emma: 'Mr. Redworth's great
success in Parliament is good in itself, whatever his views of present
questions; and I do not heed them when I look to what may be done by a
man of such power in striking at unjust laws, which keep the really
numerically better-half of the population in a state of slavery. If he
had been a lawyer! It must be a lawyer's initiative--a lawyer's Bill.
Mr. Percy Dacier also spoke well, as might have been expected, and his
uncle's compliment to him was merited. Should you meet him sound him.
He has read for the Bar, and is younger than Mr. Redworth. The very
young men and the old are our hope. The middleaged are hard and fast for
existing facts. We pick our leaders on the slopes, the incline and
decline of the mountain--not on the upper table-land midway, where all
appears to men so solid, so tolerably smooth, save for a few
excrescences, roughnesses, gradually to be levelled at their leisure;
which induces one to protest that the middle-age of men is their time of
delusion. It is no paradox. They may be publicly useful in a small way.
I do not deny it at all. They must be near the gates of life--the
opening or the closing--for their minds to be accessible to the urgency
of the greater questions. Otherwise the world presents itself to them
under too settled an aspect--unless, of course, Vesuvian Revolution
shakes the land. And that touches only their nerves. I dream of some
old Judge! There is one--if having caught we could keep him. But I
dread so tricksy a pilot. You have guessed him--the ancient Puck!
We have laughed all day over the paper telling us of his worrying the
Lords. Lady Esquart congratulates her husband on being out of it. Puck
'biens ride' and bewigged might perhaps--except that at the critical
moment he would be sure to plead allegiance to Oberon. However, the work
will be performed by some one: I am prophetic:--when maidens are
grandmothers!--when your Tony is wearing a perpetual laugh in the
unhusbanded regions where there is no institution of the wedding-tie.'
For the reason that she was not to participate in the result of the old
Judge's or young hero's happy championship of the cause of her sex, she
conceived her separateness high aloof, and actually supposed she was a
contemplative, simply speculative political spirit, impersonal albeit a
woman. This, as Emma, smiling at the lines, had not to learn, was always
her secret pride of fancy--the belief in her possession of a disengaged
The strange illusion, so clearly exposed to her correspondent, was
maintained through a series of letters very slightly descriptive, dated
from the Piraeus, the Bosphorus, the coasts of the Crimea, all more or
less relating to the latest news of the journals received on board the
yacht, and of English visitors fresh from the country she now seemed fond
of calling 'home.' Politics, and gentle allusions to the curious
exhibition of 'love in marriage' shown by her amiable host and hostess:
'these dear Esquarts, who are never tired of one another, but courtly
courting, tempting me to think it possible that a fortunate selection
and a mutual deference may subscribe to human happiness:--filled the
paragraphs. Reviews of her first literary venture were mentioned once:
'I was well advised by Mr. Redworth in putting ANTONIA for authoress.
She is a buff jerkin to the stripes, and I suspect that the signature of
D. E. M., written in full, would have cawed woefully to hear that her
style is affected, her characters nullities, her cleverness forced, etc.,
etc. As it is, I have much the same contempt for poor Antonia's
performance. Cease penning, little fool! She writes, "with some
comprehension of the passion of love." I know her to be a stranger to
the earliest cry. So you see, dear, that utter ignorance is the mother
of the Art. Dialogues "occasionally pointed." She has a sister who may
do better.--But why was I not apprenticed to a serviceable profession or
a trade? I perceive now that a hanger-on of the market had no right to
expect a happier fate than mine has been.'
On the Nile, in the winter of the year, Diana met the Hon. Percy Dacier.
He was introduced to her at Cairo by Redworth. The two gentlemen had
struck up a House of Commons acquaintanceship, and finding themselves
bound for the same destination, had grown friendly. Redworth's arrival
had been pleasantly expected. She remarked on Dacier's presence to Emma,
without sketch or note of him as other than much esteemed by Lord and
Lady Esquart. These, with Diana, Redworth, Dacier, the German Eastern
traveller Schweizerbarth, and the French Consul and Egyptologist
Duriette, composed a voyaging party up the river, of which expedition
Redworth was Lady Dunstane's chief writer of the records. His novel
perceptiveness and shrewdness of touch made them amusing; and his
tenderness to the Beauty's coquettry between the two foreign rivals,
moved a deeper feeling. The German had a guitar, the Frenchman a voice;
Diana joined them in harmony. They complained apart severally of the
accompaniment and the singer. Our English criticized them apart; and
that is at any rate to occupy a post, though it contributes nothing to
entertainment. At home the Esquarts had sung duets; Diana had assisted
Redworth's manly chest-notes at the piano. Each of them declined to be
vocal. Diana sang alone for the credit of the country, Italian and
French songs, Irish also. She was in her mood of Planxty Kelly and
Garryowen all the way. 'Madame est Irlandaise?' Redworth heard the
Frenchman say, and he owned to what was implied in the answering tone
of the question. 'We should be dull dogs without the Irish leaven!'
So Tony in exile still managed to do something for her darling Erin.
The solitary woman on her heights at Copsley raised an exclamation of,
'Oh! that those two had been or could be united!' She was conscious
of a mystic symbolism in the prayer.
She was not apprehensive of any ominous intervention of another. Writing
from Venice, Diana mentioned Mr. Percy Dacier as being engaged to an
heiress; 'A Miss Asper, niece of a mighty shipowner, Mr. Quintin Manx,
Lady Esquart tells me: money fabulous, and necessary to a younger son
devoured with ambition. The elder brother, Lord Creedmore, is a common
Nimrod, always absent in Hungary, Russia, America, hunting somewhere.
Mr. Dacier will be in the Cabinet with the next Ministry.' No more of
him. A new work by ANTONIA was progressing.
The Summer in South Tyrol passed like a royal procession before young
eyes for Diana, and at the close of it, descending the Stelvio, idling
through the Valtelline, Como Lake was reached, Diana full of her work,
living the double life of the author. At Bellagio one afternoon Mr.
Percy Dacier appeared. She remembered subsequently a disappointment
she felt in not beholding Mr. Redworth either with him or displacing him.
If engaged to a lady, he was not an ardent suitor; nor was he a pointedly
complimentary acquaintance. His enthusiasm was reserved for Italian
scenery. She had already formed a sort of estimate of his character, as
an indifferent observer may do, and any woman previous to the inflaming
of her imagination, if that is in store for her; and she now fell to work
resetting the puzzle it became as soon her positive conclusions had to be
shaped again. 'But women never can know young men,' she wrote to Emma,
after praising his good repute as one of the brotherhood. 'He drops
pretty sentences now and then: no compliments; milky nuts. Of course he
has a head, or he would not be where he is--and that seems always to me
the most enviable place a young man can occupy.' She observed in him a
singular conflicting of a buoyant animal nature with a curb of
studiousness, as if the fardels of age were piling on his shoulders
before youth had quitted its pastures.
His build of limbs and his features were those of the finely-bred
English; he had the English taste for sports, games, manly diversions;
and in the bloom of life, under thirty, his head was given to bend. The
head bending on a tall upright figure, where there was breadth of chest,
told of weights working. She recollected his open look, larger than
inquiring, at the introduction to her; and it recurred when she uttered
anything specially taking. What it meant was past a guess, though
comparing it with the frank directness of Redworth's eyes, she saw the
difference between a look that accepted her and one that dilated on two
Her thought of the gentleman was of a brilliant young charioteer in the
ruck of the race, watchful for his chance to push to the front; and she
could have said that a dubious consort might spoil a promising career.
It flattered her to think that she sometimes prompted him, sometimes
illumined. He repeated sentences she had spoken. 'I shall be better
able to describe Mr. Dacier when you and I sit together, my Emmy, and a
stroke here and there completes the painting. Set descriptions are good
for puppets. Living men and women are too various in the mixture
fashioning them--even the "external presentment"--to be livingly rendered
in a formal sketch. I may tell you his eyes are pale blue, his features
regular, his hair silky, brownish, his legs long, his head rather
stooping (only the head), his mouth commonly closed; these are the facts,
and you have seen much the same in a nursery doll. Such literary craft
is of the nursery. So with landscapes. The art of the pen (we write on
darkness) is to rouse the inward vision, instead of labouring with a
Drop-scene brush, as if it were to the eye; because our flying minds
cannot contain a protracted description. That is why the poets, who
spring imagination with a word or a phrase, paint lasting pictures. The
Shakespearian, the Dantesque, are in a line, two at most. He lends an
attentive ear when I speak, agrees or has a quaint pucker of the eyebrows
dissenting inwardly. He lacks mental liveliness--cheerfulness, I should
say, and is thankful to have it imparted. One suspects he would be a
dull domestic companion. He has a veritable thirst for hopeful views of
the world, and no spiritual distillery of his own. He leans to
depression. Why! The broken reed you call your Tony carries a cargo,
all of her manufacture--she reeks of secret stills; and here is a young
man--a sapling oak--inclined to droop. His nature has an air of
imploring me que je d'arrose! I begin to perform Mrs. Dr. Pangloss on
purpose to brighten him--the mind, the views. He is not altogether
deficient in conversational gaiety, and he shines in exercise. But the
world is a poor old ball bounding down a hill--to an Irish melody in the
evening generally, by request. So far of Mr. Percy Dacier, of whom I
have some hopes--distant, perhaps delusive--that he may be of use to
our cause. He listens. It is an auspicious commencement.'
Lugano is the Italian lake most lovingly encircled by mountain arms, and
every height about it may be scaled with esce. The heights have their
nest of waters below for a home scene, the southern Swiss peaks, with
celestial Monta Rosa, in prospect. It was there that Diana reawakened,
after the trance of a deadly draught, to the glory of the earth and her
share in it. She wakened like the Princess of the Kiss; happily not to
kisses; to no sign, touch or call that she could trace backward. The
change befell her without a warning. After writing deliberately to her
friend Emma, she laid down her pen and thought of nothing; and into this
dreamfulness a wine passed, filling her veins, suffusing her mind,
quickening her soul: and coming whence? out of air, out of the yonder of
air. She could have imagined a seraphic presence in the room, that bade
her arise and live; take the cup of the wells of youth arrested at her
lips by her marriage; quit her wintry bondage for warmth, light, space,
the quick of simple being. And the strange pure ecstasy was not a
transient electrification; it came in waves on a continuous tide; looking
was living; walking flying. She hardly knew that she slept. The heights
she had seen rosy at eve were marked for her ascent in the dawn. Sleep
was one wink, and fresh as the dewy field and rockflowers on her way
upward, she sprang to more and more of heaven, insatiable, happily
chirruping over her possessions. The threading of the town among the
dear common people before others were abroad, was a pleasure and pleasant
her solitariness threading the gardens at the base of the rock, only she
astir; and the first rough steps of the winding footpath, the first
closed buds, the sharper air, the uprising of the mountain with her
ascent; and pleasant too was her hunger and the nibble at a little loaf
of bread. A linnet sang in her breast, an eagle lifted her feet. The
feet were verily winged, as they are in a season of youth when the blood
leaps to light from the pressure of the under forces, like a source at
the wellheads, and the whole creature blooms, vital in every energy as a
spirit. To be a girl again was magical. She could fancy her having
risen from the dead. And to be a girl, with a woman's broader vision and
receptiveness of soul, with knowledge of evil, and winging to ethereal
happiness, this was a revelation of our human powers.
She attributed the change to the influences of nature's beauty and
grandeur. Nor had her woman's consciousness to play the chrysalis in any
shy recesses of her heart; she was nowhere veiled or torpid; she was
illumined, like the Salvatore she saw in the evening beams and mounted in
the morning's; and she had not a spot of seeresy; all her nature flew and
bloomed; she was bird, flower, flowing river, a quivering sensibility
unweighted, enshrouded. Desires and hopes would surely have weighted and
shrouded her. She had none, save for the upper air, the eyes of the
Which was the dream--her past life or this ethereal existence? But this
ran spontaneously, and the other had often been stimulated--her
vivaciousness on the Nile-boat, for a recent example. She had not a
doubt that her past life was the dream, or deception: and for the reason
that now she was compassionate, large of heart toward all beneath her.
Let them but leave her free, they were forgiven, even to prayers for
their well-being! The plural number in the case was an involuntary
multiplying of the single, coming of her incapacity during this elevation
and rapture of the senses to think distinctly of that One who had
discoloured her opening life. Freedom to breathe, gaze, climb, grow with
the grasses, fly with the clouds, to muse, to sing, to be an unclaimed
self, dispersed upon earth, air, sky, to find a keener transfigured self
in that radiation--she craved no more.
Bear in mind her beauty, her charm of tongue, her present state of white
simplicity in fervour: was there ever so perilous a woman for the most
guarded and clearest-eyed of young men to meet at early morn upon a
TREATS OF A MIDNIGHT BELL, AND OF A SCENE OF EARLY MORNING
On a round of the mountains rising from Osteno, South eastward of Lugano,
the Esquart party rose from the natural grotto and headed their carriages
up and down the defiles, halting for a night at Rovio, a little village
below the Generoso, lively with waterfalls and watercourses; and they
fell so in love with the place, that after roaming along the flowery
borderways by moonlight, they resolved to rest there two or three days
and try some easy ascents. In the diurnal course of nature, being
pleasantly tired, they had the avowed intention of sleeping there; so
they went early to their beds, and carelessly wished one another good-
night, none of them supposing slumber to be anywhere one of the warlike
arts, a paradoxical thing you must battle for and can only win at last
when utterly beaten. Hard by their inn, close enough for a priestly
homily to have been audible, stood a church campanile, wherein hung a
Bell, not ostensibly communicating with the demons of the pit; in
daylight rather a merry comrade. But at night, when the children of
nerves lay stretched, he threw off the mask. As soon as they had fairly
nestled, he smote their pillows a shattering blow, loud for the retold
preluding quarters, incredibly clanging the number ten. Then he waited
for neighbouring campanili to box the ears of slumber's votaries in turn;
whereupon, under pretence of excessive conscientiousness, or else
oblivious of his antecedent, damnable misconduct, or perhaps in actual
league and trapdoor conspiracy with the surging goblin hosts beneath us,
he resumed his blaring strokes, a sonorous recapitulation of the number;
all the others likewise. It was an alarum fit to warn of Attila or
Alaric; and not, simply the maniacal noise invaded the fruitful provinces
of sleep like Hun and Vandal, the irrational repetition ploughed the
minds of those unhappy somnivolents, leaving them worse than sheared by
barbarians, disrupt, as by earthquake, with the unanswerable question to
Providence, Why!--Why twice?
Designing slumberers are such infants. When they have undressed and
stretched themselves, flat, it seems that they have really gone back to
their mothers' breasts, and they fret at whatsoever does not smack of
nature, or custom. The cause of a repetition so senseless in its
violence, and so unnecessary, set them querying and kicking until the
inevitable quarters recommenced. Then arose an insurgent rabble in their
bosoms, it might be the loosened imps of darkness, urging them to
speculate whether the proximate monster about to dole out the eleventh
hour in uproar would again forget himself and repeat his dreary
arithmetic a second time; for they were unaware of his religious
obligation, following the hour of the district, to inform them of the
tardy hour of Rome. They waited in suspense, curiosity enabling them to
bear the first crash callously. His performance was the same. And now
they took him for a crazy engine whose madness had infected the whole
neighbourhood. Now was the moment to fight for sleep in contempt of him,
and they began by simulating an entry into the fortress they were to
defend, plunging on their pillows, battening down their eyelids,
breathing with a dreadful regularity. Alas! it came to their knowledge
that the Bell was in possession and they the besiegers. Every resonant
quarter was anticipated up to the blow, without averting its murderous
abruptness; and an executioner Midnight that sounded, in addition to the
reiterated quarters, four and twenty ringing hammerstrokes, with the
aching pause between the twelves, left them the prey of the legions of
torturers which are summed, though not described, in the title of a
From that period the curse was milder, but the victims raged. They swam
on vasty deeps, they knocked at rusty gates, they shouldered all the
weapons of black Insomnia's armoury and became her soldiery, doing her
will upon themselves. Of her originally sprang the inspired teaching of
the doom of men to excruciation in endlessness. She is the fountain of
the infinite ocean whereon the exceedingly sensitive soul is tumbled
everlastingly, with the diversion of hot pincers to appease its appetite
Dacier was never the best of sleepers. He had taken to exercise his
brains prematurely, not only in learning, but also in reflection; and a
reflectiveness that is indulged before we have a rigid mastery of the
emotions, or have slain them, is apt to make a young man more than
commonly a child of nerves: nearly as much so as the dissipated, with the
difference that they are hilarious while wasting their treasury, which he
is not; and he may recover under favouring conditions, which is a point
of vantage denied to them. Physically he had stout reserves, for he had
not disgraced the temple. His intemperateness lay in the craving to rise
and lead: a precocious ambition. This apparently modest young man
started with an aim--and if in the distance and with but a slingstone,
like the slender shepherd fronting the Philistine, all his energies were
in his aim--at Government. He had hung on the fringe of an
Administration. His party was out, and he hoped for higher station on
its return to power. Many perplexities were therefore buzzing about his
head; among them at present one sufficiently magnified and voracious to
swallow the remainder. He added force to the interrogation as to why
that Bell should sound its inhuman strokes twice, by asking himself why
he was there to hear it! A strange suspicion of a bewitchment might have
enlightened him if he had been a man accustomed to yield to the peculiar
kind of sorcery issuing from that sex. He rather despised the power of
women over men: and nevertheless he was there, listening to that Bell,
instead of having obeyed the call of his family duties, when the latter
were urgent. He had received letters at Lugano, summoning him home,
before he set forth on his present expedition. The noisy alarum told him
he floundered in quags, like a silly creature chasing a marsh-lamp. But
was it so? Was it not, on the contrary, a serious pursuit of the secret
of a woman's character?--Oh, a woman and her character! Ordinary women
and their characters might set to work to get what relationship and
likeness they could. They had no secret to allure. This one had: she
had the secret of lake waters under rock, unfathomable in limpidness.
He could not think of her without shooting at nature, and nature's very
sweetest and subtlest, for comparison. As to her sex, his active man's
contempt of the petticoated secret attractive to boys and graylings, made
him believe that in her he hunted the mind and the spirit: perchance a
double mind, a twilighted spirit; but not a mere woman. She bore no
resemblance to the bundle of women. Well, she was worth studying; she
had ideas, and could give ear to ideas. Furthermore, a couple of the
members of his family inclined to do her injustice. At least, they
judged her harshly, owing, he thought, to an inveterate opinion they held
regarding Lord Dannisburgh's obliquity in relation to women. He shared
it, and did not concur in, their verdict upon the woman implicated. That
is to say, knowing something of her now, he could see the possibility of
her innocence in the special charm that her mere sparkle of features and
speech, and her freshness would have for a man like his uncle. The
possibility pleaded strongly on her behalf, while the darker possibility
weighted by his uncle's reputation plucked at him from below.
She was delightful to hear, delightful to see; and her friends loved her
and had faith in her. So clever a woman might be too clever for her
friends! . . .
The circle he moved in hummed of women, prompting novices as well as
veterans to suspect that the multitude of them, and notably the fairest,
yet more the cleverest, concealed the serpent somewhere.
She certainly had not directed any of her arts upon him. Besides he was
half engaged. And that was a burning perplexity; not because of abstract
scruples touching the necessity for love in marriage. The young lady,
great heiress though she was, and willing, as she allowed him to assume;
graceful too, reputed a beauty; struck him cold. He fancied her
transparent, only Arctic. Her transparency displayed to him all the
common virtues, and a serene possession of the inestimable and eminent
one outweighing all; but charm, wit, ardour, intercommunicative
quickness, and kindling beauty, airy grace, were qualities that a man,
it seemed, had to look for in women spotted by a doubt of their having
the chief and priceless.
However, he was not absolutely plighted. Nor did it matter to him
whether this or that woman concealed the tail of the serpent and trail,
excepting the singular interest this woman managed to excite, and so
deeply as set him wondering how that Resurrection Bell might be affecting
her ability to sleep. Was she sleeping?--or waking? His nervous
imagination was a torch that alternately lighted her lying asleep with
the innocent, like a babe, and tossing beneath the overflow of her dark
hair, hounded by haggard memories. She fluttered before him in either
aspect; and another perplexity now was to distinguish within himself
which was the aspect he preferred. Great Nature brought him thus to
drink of her beauty, under the delusion that the act was a speculation
on her character.
The Bell, with its clash, throb and long swoon of sound, reminded him of
her name: Diana!--An attribute? or a derision?
It really mattered nothing to him, save for her being maligned; and if
most unfairly, then that face of the varying expressions, and the rich
voice, and the remembered gentle and taking words coming from her,
appealed to him with a supplicating vividness that pricked his heart to
He was dozing when the Bell burst through the thin division between
slumber and wakefulness, recounting what seemed innumerable peals, hard
on his cranium. Gray daylight blanched the window and the bed: his watch
said five of the morning. He thought of the pleasure of a bath beneath
some dashing spray-showers; and jumped up to dress, feeling a queer
sensation of skin in his clothes, the sign of a feverish night; and
yawning he went into the air. Leftward the narrow village street led to
the footway along which he could make for the mountain-wall. He cast one
look at the head of the campanile, silly as an owlish roysterer's glazed
stare at the young Aurora, and hurried his feet to check the yawns coming
alarmingly fast, in the place of ideas.
His elevation above the valley was about the kneecap of the Generoso.
Waters of past rain-clouds poured down the mountain-sides like veins of
metal, here and there flinging off a shower on the busy descent; only
dubiously animate in the lack lustre of the huge bulk piled against a
yellow East that wafted fleets of pinky cloudlets overhead. He mounted
his path to a level with inviting grassmounds where water circled,
running from scoops and cups to curves and brook-streams, and in his
fancy calling to him to hear them. To dip in them was his desire. To
roll and shiver braced by the icy flow was the spell to break that
baleful incantation of the intolerable night; so he struck across a ridge
of boulders, wreck of a landslip from the height he had hugged, to the
open space of shadowed undulations, and soon had his feet on turf.
Heights to right and to left, and between them, aloft, a sky the rosy
wheelcourse of the chariot of morn, and below, among the knolls, choice
of sheltered nooks where waters whispered of secresy to satisfy Diana
herself. They have that whisper and waving of secresy in secret scenery;
they beckon to the bath; and they conjure classic visions of the pudency
of the Goddess irate or unsighted. The semi-mythological state of mind,
built of old images and favouring haunts, was known to Dacier. The name
of Diana, playing vaguely on his consciousness, helped to it. He had no
definite thought of the mortal woman when the highest grass-roll near the
rock gave him view of a bowered source and of a pool under a chain of
cascades, bounded by polished shelves and slabs. The very spot for him,
he decided at the first peep; and at the second, with fingers
instinctively loosening his waist-coat buttons for a commencement, he
shouldered round and strolled away, though not at a rapid pace, nor far
before he halted.
That it could be no other than she, the figure he had seen standing
beside the pool, he was sure. Why had he turned? Thoughts thick and
swift as a blush in the cheeks of seventeen overcame him; and queen of
all, the thought bringing the picture of this mountain-solitude to
vindicate a woman shamefully assailed.--She who found her pleasure in
these haunts of nymph and Goddess, at the fresh cold bosom of nature,
must be clear as day. She trusted herself to the loneliness here, and to
the honour of men, from a like irreflective sincereness. She was unable
to imagine danger where her own impelling thirst was pure. . .
The thoughts, it will be discerned, were but flashes of a momentary
vivid sensibility. Where a woman's charm has won half the battle, her
character is an advancing standard and sings victory, let her do no more
than take a quiet morning walk before breakfast.
But why had he turned his back on her? There was nothing in his presence
to alarm, nothing in her appearance to forbid. The motive and the
movement were equally quaint; incomprehensible to him; for after putting
himself out of sight, he understood the absurdity of the supposition that
she would seek the secluded sylvan bath for the same purpose as he. Yet
now he was, debarred from going to meet her. She might have an impulse
to bathe her feet. Her name was Diana . . . .
Yes, and a married woman; and a proclaimed one!
And notwithstanding those brassy facts, he was ready to side with the
evidence declaring her free from stain; and further, to swear that her
blood was Diana's!
Nor had Dacier ever been particularly poetical about women. The present
Diana had wakened his curiosity, had stirred his interest in her, pricked
his admiration, but gradually, until a sleepless night with its flock of
raven-fancies under that dominant Bell, ended by colouring her, the
moment she stood in his eyes, as freshly as the morning heavens. We
are much influenced in youth by sleepless nights: they disarm, they
predispose us to submit to soft occasion; and in our youth occasion
is always coming.
He heard her voice. She had risen up the grass-mound, and he hung
brooding half-way down. She was dressed in some texture of the hue of
lavender. A violet scarf loosely knotted over the bosom opened on her
throat. The loop of her black hair curved under a hat of gray beaver.
Memorably radiant was her face.
They met, exchanged greetings, praised the beauty of the morning, and
struck together on the Bell. She laughed: 'I heard it at ten; I slept
till four. I never wake later. I was out in the air by half-past. Were
He alluded to his troubles with the Bell.
'It sounded like a felon's heart in skeleton ribs,' he said.
'Or a proser's tongue in a hollow skull,' said she.
He bowed to her conversible readiness, and at once fell into the
background, as he did only with her, to perform accordant bass in their
dialogue; for when a woman lightly caps our strained remarks, we
gallantly surrender the leadership, lest she should too cuttingly
assert her claim.
Some sweet wild cyclamen flowers were at her breast. She held in her
left hand a bunch of buds and blown cups of the pale purple meadow-
crocus. He admired them. She told him to look round. He confessed to
not having noticed them in the grass: what was the name? Colchicum, in
Botany, she said.
'These are plucked to be sent to a friend; otherwise I'm reluctant to
take the life of flowers for a whim. Wild flowers, I mean. I am not
sentimental about garden flowers: they are cultivated for decoration,
grown for clipping.'
'I suppose they don't carry the same signification,' said Dacier, in the
tone of a pupil to such themes.
'They carry no feeling,' said she. 'And that is my excuse for plucking
these, where they seem to spring like our town-dream of happiness. I
believe they are sensible of it too; but these must do service to my
invalid friend, who cannot travel. Are you ever as much interested in
the woes of great ladies as of country damsels? I am not--not unless
they have natural distinction. You have met Lady Dunstane?'
The question sounded artless. Dacier answered that he thought he had
seen her somewhere once, and Diana shut her lips on a rising under-smile.
'She is the coeur d'or of our time; the one soul I would sacrifice these
'A bit of a blue-stocking, I think I have heard said.'
'She might have been admitted to the Hotel Rambouillet, without being
anything of a Precieuse. She is the woman of the largest heart now
'Mr. Redworth talked of her.'
'As she deserved, I am sure.'
'He told me you were the Damon and Pythias of women.'
'Her one fault is an extreme humility that makes her always play second
to me; and as I am apt to gabble, I take the lead; and I am froth in
comparison. I can reverence my superiors even when tried by intimacy
with them. She is the next heavenly thing to heaven that I know. Court
her, if ever you come across her. Or have you a man's horror of women
'Am I expressing it?' said he.
'Do not breathe London or Paris here on me.' She fanned the crocuses
under her chin. 'The early morning always has this--I wish I had a
word!--touch . . . whisper . . . gleam . . . beat of wings--I envy
poets now more than ever!--of Eden, I was going to say. Prose can paint
evening and moonlight, but poets are needed to sing the dawn. That is
because prose is equal to melancholy stuff. Gladness requires the finer
language. Otherwise we have it coarse--anything but a reproduction.
You politicians despise the little distinctions "twixt tweedledum and
tweedledee," I fancy.'
Of the poetic sort, Dacier's uncle certainly did. For himself he
confessed to not having thought much on them.
'But how divine is utterance!' she said. 'As we to the brutes, poets are
He listened somewhat with the head of the hanged. A beautiful woman
choosing to rhapsodize has her way, and is not subjected to the critical
commentary within us. He wondered whether she had discoursed in such a
fashion to his uncle.
'I can read good poetry,' said he.
'If you would have this valley--or mountain-cleft, one should call it--
described, only verse could do it for you,' Diana pursued, and stopped,
glanced at his face, and smiled. She had spied the end of a towel
peeping out of one of his pockets. 'You came out for a bath! Go back,
by all means, and mount that rise of grass where you first saw me; and
down on the other side, a little to the right, you will find the very
place for a bath, at a corner of the rock--a natural fountain; a bubbling
pool in a ring of brushwood, with falling water, so tempting that I could
have pardoned a push: about five feet deep. Lose no time.'
He begged to assure her that he would rather stroll with her: it had been
only a notion of bathing by chance when he pocketed the towel.
'Dear me,' she cried, 'if I had been a man I should have scurried off at
a signal of release, quick as a hare I once woke up in a field with my
foot on its back.'
Dacier's eyebrows knotted a trifle over her eagerness to dismiss him: he
was not used to it, but rather to be courted by women, and to condescend.
'I shall not long, I'm afraid, have the pleasure of walking beside you
and hearing you. I had letters at Lugano. My uncle is unwell, I hear.'
The name sprang from her lips unhesitatingly.
His nodded affirmative altered her face and her voice.
'It is not a grave illness?'
'They rather fear it.'
'You had the news at Lugano?'
He answered the implied reproach: 'I can be of no, service.'
'It's even doubtful that he would be bothered to receive me. We hold no
views in common--excepting one.'
'Could I?' she exclaimed. 'O that I might! If he is really ill ! But
if it is actually serious he would perhaps have a wish . . . I can
nurse. I know I have the power to cheer him. You ought indeed to be in
Dacier said he had thought it better to wait for later reports. 'I shall
drive to Lugano this afternoon, and act on the information I get there.
Probably it ends my holiday.'
'Will you do me the favour to write me word?--and especially tell me if
you think he would like to have me near him,' said Diana. 'And let him
know that if he wants nursing or cheerful companionship, I am at any
moment ready to come.'
The flattery of a beautiful young woman to wait on him would be very
agreeable to Lord Dannisburgh, Dacier conceived. Her offer to go was
possibly purely charitable. But the prudence of her occupation of the
post obscured whatever appeared admirable in her devotedness. Her choice
of a man like Lord Dannisburgh for the friend to whom she could sacrifice
her good name less falteringly than she gathered those field-flowers was
inexplicable; and she herself a darker riddle at each step of his
He promised curtly to write. 'I will do my best to hit a flying
'Your Club enables me to hit a permanent one that will establish the
communication,' said Diana. 'We shall not sleep another night at Rovio.
Lady Esquart is the lightest of sleepers, and if you had a restless time,
she and her husband must have been in purgatory. Besides, permit me to
say, you should be with your party. The times are troublous--not for
holidays! Your holiday has had a haunted look, creditably to your
conscience as a politician. These Corn Law agitations!'
'Ah, but no politics here!' said Dacier.
'Politics everywhere!--in the Courts of Faery! They are not discord to
'But not the last day--the last hour!' he pleaded.
'Well! only do not forget your assurance to me that you would give some
thoughts to Ireland--and the cause of women. Has it slipped from your
'If I see the chance of serving you, you may trust to me.'
She sent up an interjection on the misfortune of her not having been born
It was to him the one smart of sourness in her charm as a woman.
Among the boulder-stones of the ascent to the path, he ventured to
propose a little masculine assistance in a hand stretched mutely.
Although there was no great need for help, her natural kindliness checked
the inclination to refuse it. When their hands disjoined she found
herself reddening. She cast it on the exertion. Her heart was
throbbing. It might be the exertion likewise.
He walked and talked much more airily along the descending pathway,
as if he had suddenly become more intimately acquainted with her.
She listened, trying to think of the manner in which he might be taught
to serve that cause she had at heart; and the colour deepened on her
cheeks till it set fire to her underlying consciousness: blood to spirit.
A tremour of alarm ran through her.
His request for one of the crocuses to keep as a souvenir of the morning
was refused. 'They are sacred; they were all devoted to my friend when I
He pointed to a half-open one, with the petals in disparting pointing to
junction, and compared it to the famous tiptoe ballet-posture, arms above
head and fingers like swallows meeting in air, of an operatic danseuse of
'I do not see it, because I will not see it,' she said, and she found a
personal cooling and consolement in the phrase.--We have this power of
resisting invasion of the poetic by the commonplace, the spirit by the
blood, if we please, though you men may not think that we have! Her
alarmed sensibilities bristled and made head against him as an enemy.
She fancied (for the aforesaid reason--because she chose) that it was on
account of the offence to her shy morning pleasure by his Londonizing.
At any other moment her natural liveliness and trained social ease would
have taken any remark on the eddies of the tide of converse; and so she
told herself, and did not the less feel wounded, adverse, armed. He
seemed somehow--to have dealt a mortal blow to the happy girl she had
become again. The woman she was protested on behalf of the girl, while
the girl in her heart bent lowered sad eyelids to the woman; and which of
them was wiser of the truth she could not have said, for she was honestly
not aware of the truth, but she knew she was divided in halves, with one
half pitying the other, one rebuking: and all because of the incongruous
comparison of a wild flower to an opera dancer! Absurd indeed. We human
creatures are the silliest on earth, most certainly.
Dacier had observed the blush, and the check to her flowing tongue did
not escape him as they walked back to the inn down the narrow street of
black rooms, where the women gossiped at the fountain and the cobbler
threaded on his doorstep. His novel excitement supplied the deficiency,
sweeping him past minor reflections. He was, however, surprised to hear
her tell Lady Esquart, as soon as they were together at the breakfast-
table, that he had the intention of starting for England; and further
surprised, and slightly stung too, when on the poor lady's, moaning over
her recollection of the midnight Bell, and vowing she could not attempt
to sleep another night in the place, Diana declared her resolve to stay
there one day longer with her maid, and explore the neighbourhood for the
wild flowers in which it abounded. Lord and Lady Esquart agreed to
anything agreeable to her, after excusing themselves for the necessitated
flight, piteously relating the story of their sufferings. My lord could
have slept, but he had remained awake to comfort my lady.
'True knightliness!' Diana said, in praise of these long married lovers;
and she asked them what they had talked of during the night.
'You, my dear, partly,' said Lady Esquart.
'For an opiate?'
'An invocation of the morning,' said Dacier.
Lady Esquart looked at Diana and, at him. She thought it was well that
her fair friend should stay. It was then settled for Diana to rejoin
them the next evening at Lugano, thence to proceed to Luino on the
'I fear it is good-bye for me,' Dacier said to her, as he was about to
step into the carriage with the Esquarts.
'If you have not better news of your uncle, it must be,' she replied, and
gave him her hand promptly and formally, hardly diverting her eyes from
Lady Esquart to grace the temporary gift with a look. The last of her he
saw was a waving of her arm and finger pointing triumphantly at the Bell
in the tower. It said, to an understanding unpractised in the feminine
mysteries: 'I can sleep through anything.' What that revealed of her
state of conscience and her nature, his efforts to preserve the lovely
optical figure blocked his guessing. He was with her friends, who liked
her the more they knew her, and he was compelled to lean to their view of
the perplexing woman.
'She is a riddle to the world,' Lady Esquart said, 'but I know that she
is good. It is the best of signs when women take to her and are proud to
be her friend.'
My lord echoed his wife. She talked in this homely manner to stop any
notion of philandering that the young gentleman might be disposed to
entertain in regard to a lady so attractive to the pursuit as Diana's
beauty and delicate situation might make her seem.
'She is an exceedingly clever person, and handsomer than report, which is
uncommon,' said Dacier, becoming voluble on town-topics, Miss Asper
incidentally among them. He denied Lady Esquart's charge of an
engagement; the matter hung.
His letters at Lugano summoned him to England instantly.
'I have taken leave of Mrs. Warwick, but tell her I regret, et caetera,'
he said; 'and by the way, as my uncle's illness appears to be serious,
the longer she is absent the better, perhaps.'
'It would never do,' said Lady Esquart, understanding his drift
immediately. 'We winter in Rome. She will not abandon us--I have her
word for it. Next Easter we are in Paris; and so home, I suppose. There
will be no hurry before we are due at Cowes. We seem to have become
confirmed wanderers; for two of us at least it is likely to be our last
Dacier informed her that he had pledged his word to write to Mrs. Warwick
of his uncle's condition, and the several appointed halting-places of the
Esquarts between the lakes and Florence were named to him. Thus all
things were openly treated; all had an air of being on the surface; the
communications passing between Mrs. Warwick and the Hon. Percy Dacier
might have been perused by all the world. None but that portion of it,
sage in suspiciousness, which objects to such communications under any
circumstances, could have detected in their correspondence a spark of
coming fire or that there was common warmth. She did not feel it, nor
did he. The position of the two interdicted it to a couple honourably
sensible of social decencies; and who were, be it added, kept apart.
The blood is the treacherous element in the story of the nobly civilized,
of which secret Diana, a wife and no wife, a prisoner in liberty, a
blooming woman imagining herself restored to transcendent maiden
ecstacies--the highest youthful poetic--had received some faint
intimation when the blush flamed suddenly in her cheeks and her heart
knelled like the towers of a city given over to the devourer. She had no
wish to meet him again. Without telling herself why, she would have
shunned the meeting. Disturbers that thwarted her simple happiness in
sublime scenery were best avoided. She thought so the more for a fitful
blur to the simplicity of her sensations, and a task she sometimes had in
restoring and toning them, after that sweet morning time in Rovio.
'THE PRINCESS EGERIA'
London, say what we will of it, is after all the head of the British
giant, and if not the liveliest in bubbles, it is past competition the
largest broth-pot of brains anywhere simmering on the hob: over the
steadiest of furnaces too. And the oceans and the continents, as you
know, are perpetual and copious contributors, either to the heating
apparatus or to the contents of the pot. Let grander similes besought.
This one fits for the smoky receptacle cherishing millions, magnetic to
tens of millions more, with its caked outside of grime, and the inward
substance incessantly kicking the lid, prankish, but never casting it
off. A good stew, you perceive; not a parlous boiling. Weak as we may
be in our domestic cookery, our political has been sagaciously adjusted
as yet to catch the ardours of the furnace without being subject to their
That the social is also somewhat at fault, we have proof in occasional
outcries over the absence of these or those particular persons famous for
inspiriting. It sticks and clogs. The improvising songster is missed,
the convivial essayist, the humorous Dean, the travelled cynic, and he,
the one of his day, the iridescent Irishman, whose remembered repartees
are a feast, sharp and ringing, at divers tables descending from the
upper to the fat citizen's, where, instead of coming in the sequence of
talk, they are exposed by blasting, like fossil teeth of old Deluge
sharks in monotonous walls of our chalk-quarries. Nor are these the less
welcome for the violence of their introduction among a people glad to be
set burning rather briskly awhile by the most unexpected of digs in the
ribs. Dan Merion, to give an example. That was Dan Merion's joke with
the watchman: and he said that other thing to the Marquis of Kingsbury,
when the latter asked him if he had ever won a donkey-race. And old Dan
is dead, and we are the duller for it! which leads to the question: Is
genius hereditary? And the affirmative and negative are respectively
maintained, rather against the Yes is the dispute, until a member of the
audience speaks of Dan Merion's having left a daughter reputed for a
sparkling wit not much below the level of his own. Why, are you unaware
that the Mrs. Warwick of that scandal case of Warwick versus Dannisburgh
was old Dan Merion's girl--and his only child? It is true; for a friend
had it from a man who had it straight from Mr. Braddock, of the firm of
Braddock, Thorpe and Simnel, her solicitors in the action, who told him
he could sit listening to her for hours, and that she was as innocent as
day; a wonderful combination of a good woman and a clever woman and a
real beauty. Only her misfortune was to have a furiously jealous
husband, and they say he went mad after hearing the verdict.
Diana was talked of in the London circles. A witty woman is such salt
that where she has once been tasted she must perforce be missed more than
any of the absent, the dowering heavens not having yet showered her like
very plentifully upon us. Then it was first heard that Percy Dacier had
been travelling with her. Miss Asper heard of it. Her uncle, Mr.
Quintin Manx, the millionnaire, was an acquaintance of the new Judge
and titled dignitary, Sir Cramborne Wathin, and she visited Lady Wathin,
at whose table the report in the journals of the Nile-boat party was
mentioned. Lady Wathin's table could dispense with witty women, and,
for that matter, witty men. The intrusion of the spontaneous on the
stereotyped would have clashed. She preferred, as hostess, the old legal
anecdotes sure of their laugh, and the citations from the manufactories
of fun in the Press, which were current and instantly intelligible to all
her guests. She smiled suavely on an impromptu pun, because her
experience of the humorous appreciation of it by her guests bade her
welcome the upstart. Nothing else impromptu was acceptable. Mrs.
Warwick therefore was not missed by Lady Wathin. 'I have met her,' she
said. 'I confess I am not one of the fanatics about Mrs. Warwick. She
has a sort of skill in getting men to clamour. If you stoop to tickle
them, they will applaud. It is a way of winning a reputation.' When the
ladies were separated from the gentlemen by the stream of Claret, Miss
Asper heard Lady Wathin speak of Mrs. Warwick again. An allusion to Lord
Dannisburgh's fit of illness in the House of Lords led to her saying that
there was no doubt he had been fascinated, and that, in her opinion, Mrs.
Warwick was a dangerous woman. Sir Cramborne knew something of Mr.
Warwick; 'Poor man!' she added. A lady present put a question concerning
Mrs. Warwick's beauty. 'Yes,' Lady Wathin said, 'she has good looks to
aid her. Judging from what I hear and have seen, her thirst is for
notoriety. Sooner or later we shall have her making a noise, you may be
certain. Yes, she has the secret of dressing well--in the French style.'
A simple newspaper report of the expedition of a Nileboat party could
stir the Powers to take her up and turn her on their wheel in this
But others of the sons and daughters of London were regretting her
prolonged absence. The great and exclusive Whitmonby, who had dined once
at Lady Wathin's table, and vowed never more to repeat that offence to
his patience, lamented bitterly to Henry Wilmers that the sole woman
worthy of sitting at a little Sunday evening dinner with the cream of the
choicest men of the time was away wasting herself in that insane modern
chase of the picturesque! He called her a perverted Celimene.
Redworth had less to regret than the rest of her male friends, as he was
receiving at intervals pleasant descriptive letters, besides manuscript
sheets of ANTONIA'S new piece of composition, to correct the proofs for
the press, and he read them critically, he thought. He read them with a
watchful eye to guard them from the critics. ANTONIA, whatever her
faults as a writer, was not one of the order whose Muse is the Public
Taste. She did at least draw her inspiration from herself, and there was
much to be feared in her work, if a sale was the object. Otherwise
Redworth's highly critical perusal led him flatly to admire. This was
like her, and that was like her, and here and there a phrase gave him the
very play of her mouth, the flash of her eyes. Could he possibly wish,
or bear, to, have anything altered? But she had reason to desire an
extended sale of the work. Her aim, in the teeth of her independent
style, was at the means of independence--a feminine method of attempting
to conciliate contraries; and after despatching the last sheets to the
printer, he meditated upon the several ways which might serve to, assist
her; the main way running thus in his mind:--We have a work of genius.
Genius is good for the public. What is good for the public should be
recommended by the critics. It should be. How then to come at them to,
get it done? As he was not a member of the honourable literary craft,
and regarded its arcana altogether externally, it may be confessed of him
that he deemed the Incorruptible corruptible;--not, of course, with
filthy coin slid into sticky palms. Critics are human, and exceedingly,
beyond the common lot, when touched; and they are excited by mysterious
hints of loftiness in authorship; by rumours of veiled loveliness;
whispers, of a general anticipation; and also Editors can jog them.
Redworth was rising to be a Railway King of a period soon to glitter with
rails, iron in the concrete, golden in the visionary. He had already his
Court, much against his will. The powerful magnetic attractions of those
who can help the world to fortune, was exercised by him in spite of his
disgust of sycophants. He dropped words to right and left of a coming
work by ANTONIA. And who was ANTONIA?--Ah! there hung the riddle.--An
exalted personage?--So much so that he dared not name her even in
confidence to ladies; he named the publishers. To men he said he was at
liberty to speak of her only as the most beautiful woman of her time.
His courtiers of both sexes were recommended to read the new story, THE
Oddly, one great lady of his Court had heard a forthcoming work of this
title spoken of by Percy Dacier, not a man to read silly fiction, unless
there was meaning behind the lines: that is, rich scandal of the
aristocracy, diversified by stinging epigrams to the address of
discernible personages. She talked of THE PRINCESS EGERIA: nay, laid her
finger on the identical Princess. Others followed her. Dozens were soon
flying with the torch: a new work immediately to be published from the
pen of the Duchess of Stars!--And the Princess who lends her title to the
book is a living portrait of the Princess of Highest Eminence, the Hope
of all Civilization.--Orders for copies of THE PRINCESS EGERIA reached
the astonished publishers before the book was advertized.
Speaking to editors, Redworth complimented them with friendly intimations
of the real authorship of the remarkable work appearing. He used a
certain penetrative mildness of tone in saying that 'he hoped the book
would succeed': it deserved to; it was original; but the originality
might tell against it. All would depend upon a favourable launching of
such a book. 'Mrs. Warwick? Mrs. Warwick?' said the most influential of
editors, Mr. Marcus Tonans; 'what! that singularly handsome woman? . .
The Dannisburgh affair? . . . She's Whitmonby's heroine. If she
writes as cleverly as she talks, her work is worth trumpeting.' He
promised to see that it went into good hands for the review, and a prompt
review--an essential point; none of your long digestions of the contents.
Diana's indefatigable friend had fair assurances that her book would be
noticed before it dropped dead to the public appetite for novelty. He
was anxious next, notwithstanding his admiration of the originality of
the conception and the cleverness of the writing, lest the Literary
Reviews should fail 'to do it justice': he used the term; for if they
wounded her, they would take the pleasure out of success; and he had
always present to him that picture of the beloved woman kneeling at the
fire-grate at The Crossways, which made the thought of her suffering any
wound his personal anguish, so crucially sweet and saintly had her image
then been stamped on him. He bethought him, in consequence, while
sitting in the House of Commons; engaged upon the affairs of the nation,
and honestly engaged, for he was a vigilant worker--that the Irish
Secretary, Charles Raiser, with whom he stood in amicable relations,
had an interest, to the extent of reputed ownership, in the chief of the
Literary Reviews. He saw Raiser on the benches, and marked him to speak
for him. Looking for him shortly afterward, the man was gone. 'Off to
the Opera, if he's not too late for the drop,' a neighbour said, smiling
queerly, as though he ought to know; and then Redworth recollected
current stories of Raiser's fantastical devotion to the popular prima
donna of the angelical voice.--He hurried to the Opera and met the vomit,
and heard in the crushroom how divine she had been that night. A fellow
member of the House, tolerably intimate with Raiser, informed him,
between frightful stomachic roulades of her final aria, of the likeliest
place where Raiser might be found when the Opera was over: not at his
Club, nor at his chambers: on one of the bridges--Westminster,
There was no need for Redworth to run hunting the man at so late an hour,
but he was drawn on by the similarity in dissimilarity of this devotee of
a woman, who could worship her at a distance, and talk of her to
everybody. Not till he beheld Raiser's tall figure cutting the bridge-
parapet, with a star over his shoulder, did he reflect on the views the
other might entertain of the nocturnal solicitation to see 'justice done'
to a lady's new book in a particular Review, and the absurd outside of
the request was immediately smothered by the natural simplicity and
pressing necessity of its inside.
He crossed the road and said, 'Ah?' in recognition. 'Were you at the
Opera this evening?'
'Oh, just at the end,' said Raiser, pacing forward. 'It's a fine night.
Did you hear her?'
'No; too late.'
Raiser pressed ahead, to meditate by himself, as was his wont. Finding
Redworth beside him, he monologuized in his depths: 'They'll kill her.
She puts her soul into it, gives her blood. There 's no failing of the
voice. You see how it wears her. She's doomed. Half a year's rest on
Como . . . somewhere . . . she might be saved! She won't refuse to
'Have you spoken to her?' said Redworth.
'And next to Berlin! Vienna! A horse would be . . . .
I? I don't know her,' Raiser replied. 'Some of their women stand it.
She's delicately built. You can't treat a lute like a drum without
destroying the instrument. We look on at a murder!'
The haggard prospect from that step of the climax checked his delivery.
Redworth knew him to be a sober man in office, a man with a head for
statecraft: he had made a weighty speech in the House a couple of hours
back. This Opera cantatrice, no beauty, though gentle, thrilling,
winning, was his corner of romance.
'Do you come here often?' he asked.
'Yes, I can't sleep.'
'London at night, from the bridge, looks fine. By the way . . .'
'It 's lonely here, that's the advantage,' said Rainer; 'I keep silver in
my pocket for poor girls going to their homes, and I'm left in peace. An
hour later, there's the dawn down yonder.'
'By the way,' Redworth interposed, and was told that after these nights
of her singing she never slept till morning. He swallowed the fact,
sympathized, and resumed: 'I want a small favour.'
'No business here, please!'
'Not a bit of it. You know Mrs. Warwick. . . . You know of her.
She 's publishing a book. I want you to use your influence to get it
noticed quickly, if you can.'
'Warwick? Oh, yes, a handsome woman. Ah, yes; the Dannisburgh affair,
yes. What did I hear!--They say she 's thick with Percy Dacier at
present. Who was talking of her! Yes, old Lady Dacier. So she 's a
friend of yours?'
'She's an old friend,' said Redworth, composing himself; for the dose he
had taken was not of the sweetest, and no protestations could be uttered
by a man of the world to repel a charge of tattlers. 'The truth is, her
book is clever. I have read the proofs. She must have an income, and
she won't apply to her husband, and literature should help her, if she 's
fairly treated. She 's Irish by descent; Merion's daughter, witty as her
father. It's odd you haven't met her. The mere writing of the book is
extraordinarily good. If it 's put into capable hands for review!
that's all it requires. And full of life . . . bright dialogue . .
capital sketches. The book's a piece of literature. Only it must have
So he talked while Rainer ejaculated: 'Warwick? Warwick?' in the
irritating tone of dozens of others. 'What did I hear of her husband?
He has a post . . . . Yes, yes. Some one said the verdict in that
case knocked him over--heart disease, or something.'
He glanced at the dark Thames water. 'Take my word for it, the groves of
Academe won't compare with one of our bridges at night, if you seek
philosophy. You see the London above and the London below: round us the
sleepy city, and the stars in the water looking like souls of suicides.
I caught a girl with a bad fit on her once. I had to lecture her!
It's when we become parsons we find out our cousinship with these poor
peripatetics, whose "last philosophy" is a jump across the parapet. The
bridge at night is a bath for a public man. But choose another; leave me
Redworth took the hint. He stated the title of Mrs. Warwick's book, and
imagined from the thoughtful cast of Rainer's head, that he was
impressing THE PRINCESS EGERIA On his memory.
Rainer burst out, with clenched fists: 'He beats her! The fellow lives
on her and beats her; strikes that woman! He drags her about to every
Capital in Europe to make money for him, and the scoundrel pays her with
In the course of a heavy tirade against the scoundrel, Redworth
apprehended that it was the cantatrice's husband. He expressed his
horror and regret; paused, and named THE PRINCESS EGERIA and a certain
Critical Review. Another outburst seemed to be in preparation. Nothing
further was to be done for the book at that hour. So, with a blunt 'Good
night,' he left Charles Rainer pacing, and thought on his walk home of
the strange effects wrought by women unwittingly upon men (Englishmen);
those women, or some of them, as little knowing it as the moon her
traditional influence upon the tides. He thought of Percy Dacier too.
In his bed he could have wished himself peregrinating a bridge.
The PRINCESS EGERIA appeared, with the reviews at her heels, a pack of
clappers, causing her to fly over editions clean as a doe the gates and
hedges--to quote Mr. Sullivan Smith, who knew not a sentence of the work
save what he gathered of it from Redworth, at their chance meeting on
Piccadilly pavement, and then immediately he knew enough to blow his
huntsman's horn in honour of the sale. His hallali rang high. 'Here's
another Irish girl to win their laurels! 'Tis one of the blazing
successes. A most enthralling work, beautifully composed. And where is
she now, Mr. Redworth, since she broke away from that husband of hers,
that wears the clothes of the worst tailor ever begotten by a thread
on a needle, as I tell every soul of 'em in my part of the country?'
'You have seen him?' said Redworth.
'Why, sir, wasn't he on show at the Court he applied to for relief and
damages? as we heard when we were watching the case daily, scarce
drawing our breath for fear the innocent--and one of our own blood, would
be crushed. Sure, there he stood; ay, and looking the very donkey for a
woman to flip off her fingers, like the dust from my great uncle's prise
of snuff! She's a glory to the old country. And better you than
another, I'd say, since it wasn't an Irishman to have her: but what
induced the dear lady to take him, is the question we 're all of us
asking! And it's mournful to think that somehow you contrive to get the
pick of us in the girls! If ever we 're united, 'twill be by a trick of
circumvention of that sort, pretty sure. There's a turn in the market
when they shut their eyes and drop to the handiest: and London's a vortex
that poor dear dull old Dublin can't compete with. I 'll beg you for the
address of the lady her friend, Lady Dunstane.'
Mr. Sullivan Smith walked with Redworth through the park to the House of
Commons, discoursing of Rails and his excellent old friend's rise to the
top rung of the ladder and Beanstalk land, so elevated that one had to
look up at him with watery eyes, as if one had flung a ball at the
meridian sun. Arrived at famed St. Stephen's, he sent in his compliments
to the noble patriot and accepted an invitation to dinner.
'And mind you read THE PRINCESS EGERIA,' said Redworth.
'Again and again, my friend. The book is bought.' Sullivan Smith
slapped his breastpocket.
'There's a bit of Erin in it.'
'It sprouts from Erin.'
'Loud as cavalry to the charge!'
Once with the title stamped on his memory, the zealous Irishman might be
trusted to become an ambulant advertizer. Others, personal friends,
adherents, courtiers of Redworth's, were active. Lady Pennon and Henry
Wilmers, in the upper circle; Whitmonby and Westlake, in the literary;
spread the fever for this new book. The chief interpreter of public
opinion caught the way of the wind and headed the gale.
Editions of the book did really run like fires in summer furze; and to
such an extent that a simple literary performance grew to be respected in
Great Britain, as representing Money.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A kindly sense of superiority
By resisting, I made him a tyrant
Carry explosives and must particularly guard against sparks
Depending for dialogue upon perpetual fresh supplies of scandal
Dose he had taken was not of the sweetest
Friendship, I fancy, means one heart between two
He was the maddest of tyrants--a weak one
He, by insisting, made me a rebel
Her feelings--trustier guides than her judgement in this crisis
I do not see it, because I will not see it
Inducement to act the hypocrite before the hypocrite world
Insistency upon there being two sides to a case--to every case
Intrusion of the spontaneous on the stereotyped would clash
Irony that seemed to spring from aversion
It is the best of signs when women take to her
Mistaking of her desires for her reasons
Never fell far short of outstripping the sturdy pedestrian Time
Observation is the most, enduring of the pleasures of life
One might build up a respectable figure in negatives
Openly treated; all had an air of being on the surface
Owner of such a woman, and to lose her!
Paint themselves pure white, to the obliteration of minor spots
Quixottry is agreeable reading, a silly performance
Real happiness is a state of dulness
Reluctant to take the life of flowers for a whim
Rewards, together with the expectations, of the virtuous
Smoky receptacle cherishing millions
Terrible decree, that all must act who would prevail
Vowed never more to repeat that offence to his patience
Was not one of the order whose Muse is the Public Taste
Wife and no wife, a prisoner in liberty
Women are taken to be the second thoughts of the Creator
World is ruthless, dear friends, because the world is hypocrite
World prefers decorum to honesty
Yawns coming alarmingly fast, in the place of ideas
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