Diana of the Crossways, v3
Part 2 out of 2
significance, that he would antecedently have read aloud in a drawing-
room, picking up the book by hazard, as your modern specimen of romantic
vapouring. Mr. Dacier however was at the time in observation of the
towers of Caen, fresh from her presence, animated to some conception of
her spirit. He drove into the streets, desiring, half determining, to
risk a drive back on the morrow.
The cold light of the morrow combined with his fear of distressing her to
restrain him. Perhaps he thought it well not to risk his gains. He was
a northerner in blood. He may have thought it well not further to run
the personal risk immediately.
RECORDS A VISIT TO DIANA FROM ONE OF THE WORLD'S GOOD WOMEN
Pure disengagement of contemplativeness had selected. Percy Dacier as
the model of her YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE, Diana supposed. Could she
otherwise have dared to sketch him? She certainly would not have done
That was a reflection similar to what is entertained by one who has
dropped from a precipice to the midway ledge over the abyss, where
caution of the whole sensitive being is required for simple self-
preservation. How could she have been induced to study and portray him!
It seemed a form of dementia.
She thought this while imagining the world to be interrogating her. When
she interrogated herself, she flew to Lugano and her celestial Salvatore,
that she might be defended from a charge of the dreadful weakness of her
sex. Surely she there had proof of her capacity for pure disengagement.
Even in recollection the springs of spiritual happiness renewed the
bubbling crystal play. She believed that a divineness had wakened in her
there, to strengthen her to the end, ward her from any complicity in her
sex's culprit blushing.
Dacier's cry of her name was the cause, she chose to think, of the
excessive circumspection she must henceforth practise; precariously
footing, embracing hardest earth, the plainest rules, to get back to
safety. Not that she was personally endangered, or at least not
spiritually; she could always fly in soul to her heights. But she had
now to be on guard, constantly in the fencing attitude. And watchful of
herself as well. That was admitted with a ready frankness, to save it
from being a necessitated and painful confession: for the voluntary-
acquiescence, if it involved her in her sex, claimed an individual
exemption. 'Women are women, and I am a woman but I am I, and unlike
them: I see we are weak, and weakness tempts: in owning the prudence of
guarded steps, I am armed. It is by dissembling, feigning immunity, that
we are imperilled.' She would have phrased it so, with some anger at her
feminine nature as well as at the subjection forced on her by
Besides, her position and Percy Dacier's threw the fancied danger into
remoteness. The world was her stepmother, vigilant to become her judge;
and the world was his taskmaster, hopeful of him, yet able to strike him
down for an offence. She saw their situation as he did. The course of
folly must be bravely taken, if taken at all: Disguise degraded her to
This was faced. Consequently there was no fear of it.
She had very easily proved that she had skill and self-possession to
keep him rational, and therefore they could continue to meet. A little
outburst of frenzy to a reputably handsome woman could be treated as the
froth of a passing wave. Men have the trick, infants their fevers.
Diana's days were spent in reasoning. Her nights were not so tuneable to
the superior mind. When asleep she was the sport of elves that danced
her into tangles too deliciously unravelled, and left new problems for
the wise-eyed and anxious morning. She solved them with the thought that
in sleep it was the mere ordinary woman who fell a prey to her
tormentors; awake, she dispersed the swarm, her sky was clear. Gradually
the persecution ceased, thanks to her active pen.
A letter from her legal adviser, old Mr. Braddock, informed her that no
grounds existed for apprehending marital annoyance, and late in May her
household had resumed its customary round.
She examined her accounts. The Debit and Credit sides presented much of
the appearance of male and female in our jog-trot civilization. They
matched middling well; with rather too marked a tendency to strain the
leash and run frolic on the part of friend Debit (the wanton male), which
deepened the blush of the comparison. Her father had noticed the same
funny thing in his effort to balance his tugging accounts: 'Now then for
a look at Man and Wife': except that he made Debit stand for the portly
frisky female, Credit the decorous and contracted other half, a prim
gentleman of a constitutionally lean habit of body, remonstrating with
her. 'You seem to forget that we are married, my dear, and must walk in
step or bundle into the Bench,' Dan Merion used to say.
Diana had not so much to rebuke in Mr. Debit; or not at the first
reckoning. But his ways were curious. She grew distrustful of him,
after dismissing him with a quiet admonition and discovering a series of
ambush bills, which he must have been aware of when he was allowed to
pass as an honourable citizen. His answer to her reproaches pleaded the
necessitousness of his purchases and expenditure: a capital plea; and
Mrs. Credit was requested by him, in a courteous manner, to drive her pen
the faster, so that she might wax to a corresponding size and satisfy the
world's idea of fitness in couples. She would have costly furniture,
because it pleased her taste; and a French cook, for a like reason, in
justice to her guests; and trained servants; and her tribe of pensioners;
flowers she would have profuse and fresh at her windows and over the
rooms; and the pictures and engravings on the walls were (always for the
good reason mentioned) choice ones; and she had a love of old lace, she
loved colours as she loved cheerfulness, and silks, and satin hangings,
Indian ivory carvings, countless mirrors, Oriental woods, chairs and
desks with some feature or a flourish in them, delicate tables with
antelope legs, of approved workmanship in the chronology of European
upholstery, and marble clocks of cunning device to symbol Time,
mantelpiece decorations, illustrated editions of her favourite authors;
her bed-chambers, too, gave the nest for sleep a dainty cosiness in
aerial draperies. Hence, more or less directly, the peccant bills.
Credit was reduced to reckon to a nicety the amount she could rely on
positively: her fixed income from her investments and the letting of The
Crossways: the days of half-yearly payments that would magnify her to
some proportions beside the alarming growth of her partner, who was proud
of it, and referred her to the treasures she could summon with her pen,
at a murmur of dissatisfaction. His compliments were sincere; they were
seductive. He assured her that she had struck a rich vein in an
inexhaustible mine; by writing only a very little faster she could double
her income; counting a broader popularity, treble it; and so on a tide of
success down the widening river to a sea sheer golden. Behold how it
sparkles! Are we then to stint our winged hours of youth for want of
courage to realize the riches we can command? Debit was eloquent, he was
Another calculator, an accustomed and lamentably-scrupulous
arithmetician, had been at work for some time upon a speculative summing
of the outlay of Diana's establishment, as to its chances of swamping the
income. Redworth could guess pretty closely the cost of a house hold, if
his care for the holder set him venturing on aver ages. He knew nothing
of her ten per cent. investment and considered her fixed income a
beggarly regiment to marshal against the invader. He fancied however, in
his ignorance of literary profits, that a popular writer, selling several
editions, had come to an El Dorado. There was the mine. It required a
diligent worker. Diana was often struck by hearing Redworth ask her when
her next book might be expected. He appeared to have an eagerness in
hurrying her to produce, and she had to say that she was not a nimble
writer. His flattering impatience was vexatious. He admired her work,
yet he did his utmost to render it little admirable. His literary taste
was not that of young Arthur Rhodes, to whom she could read her chapters,
appearing to take counsel upon them while drinking the eulogies: she
suspected him of prosaic ally wishing her to make money, and though her
exchequer was beginning to know the need of it, the author's lofty mind
disdained such sordidness: to be excused, possibly, for a failing
productive energy. She encountered obstacles to imaginative composition.
With the pen in her hand, she would fall into heavy musings; break a
sentence to muse, and not on the subject. She slept unevenly at night,
was drowsy by day, unless the open air was about her, or animating
friends. Redworth's urgency to get her to publish was particularly
annoying when she felt how greatly THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE would
have been improved had she retained the work to brood over it, polish,
re-write passages, perfect it. Her musings embraced long dialogues of
that work, never printed; they sprang up, they passed from memory;
leaving a distaste for her present work: THE CANTATRICE: far more
poetical than the preceding, in the opinion of Arthur Rhodes; and the
story was more romantic; modelled on a Prima Donna she had met at the
musical parties of Henry Wilmers, after hearing Redworth tell of Charles
Rainer's quaint passion for the woman, or the idea of the woman. Diana
had courted her, studied and liked her. The picture she was drawing of
the amiable and gifted Italian, of her villain Roumanian husband, and of
the eccentric, high-minded, devoted Englishman, was good in a fashion;
but considering the theme, she had reasonable apprehension that her
CANTATRICE would not repay her for the time and labour bestowed on it.
No clever transcripts of the dialogue of the day occurred; no hair-
breadth 'scapes, perils by sea and land, heroisms of the hero, fine
shrieks of the heroine; no set scenes of catching pathos and humour; no
distinguishable points of social satire--equivalent to a smacking of the
public on the chaps, which excites it to grin with keen discernment of
the author's intention. She did not appeal to the senses nor to a
superficial discernment. So she had the anticipatory sense of its
failure; and she wrote her best, in perverseness; of course she wrote
slowly; she wrote more and more realistically of the characters and the
downright human emotions, less of the wooden supernumeraries of her
story, labelled for broad guffaw or deluge tears--the grappling natural
links between our public and an author. Her feelings were aloof. They
flowed at a hint of a scene of THE YOUNG MINISTER. She could not put
them into THE CANTATRICE. And Arthur Rhodes pronounced this work
poetical beyond its predecessors, for the reason that the chief
characters were alive and the reader felt their pulses. He meant
to say, they were poetical inasmuch as they were creations.
The slow progress of a work not driven by the author's feelings
necessitated frequent consultations between Debit and Credit, resulting
in altercations, recriminations, discord of the yoked and divergent
couple. To restore them to their proper trot in harness, Diana
reluctantly went to her publisher for an advance item of the sum she was
to receive, and the act increased her distaste. An idea came that she
would soon cease to be able to write at all. What then? Perhaps by
selling her invested money, and ultimately The Crossways, she would have
enough for her term upon earth. Necessarily she had to think that short,
in order to reckon it as nearly enough. 'I am sure,' she said to
herself, 'I shall not trouble the world very long.' A strange languor
beset her; scarcely melancholy, for she conceived the cheerfulness of
life and added to it in company; but a nervelessness, as though she had
been left by the stream on the banks, and saw beauty and pleasure sweep
along and away, while the sun that primed them dried her veins. At this
time she was gaining her widest reputation for brilliancy of wit. Only
to welcome guests were her evenings ever spent at home. She had no
intimate understanding of the deadly wrestle of the conventional woman
with her nature which she was undergoing below the surface. Perplexities
she acknowledged, and the prudence of guardedness. 'But as I am sure not
to live very long, we may as well meet.' Her meetings with Percy Dacier
were therefore hardly shunned; and his behaviour did not warn her to
discountenance them. It would have been cruel to exclude him from her
select little dinners of eight. Whitmonby, Westlake, Henry Wilmers and
the rest, she perhaps aiding, schooled him in the conversational art.
She heard it said of him, that the courted discarder of the sex, hitherto
a mere politician, was wonderfully humanized. Lady Pennon fell to
talking of him hopefully. She declared him to be one of the men who
unfold tardily, and only await the mastering passion. If the passion had
come, it was controlled. His command of himself melted Diana. How could
she forbid his entry to the houses she frequented? She was glad to see
him. He showed his pleasure in seeing her. Remembering his tentative
indiscretion on those foreign sands, she reflected that he had been
easily checked: and the like was not to be said of some others.
Beautiful women in her position provoke an intemperateness that contrasts
touchingly with the self-restraint of a particular admirer. Her
'impassioned Caledonian' was one of a host, to speak of whom and their
fits of lunacy even to her friend Emma, was repulsive. She bore with
them, foiled them, passed them, and recovered her equanimity; but the
contrast called to her to dwell on it, the self-restraint whispered of a
depth of passion . . . .
She was shocked at herself for a singular tremble 'she experienced,
without any beating of the heart, on hearing one day that the marriage of
Percy Dacier and Miss Asper was at last definitely fixed. Mary Paynham
brought her the news. She had it from a lady who had come across Miss
Asper at Lady Wathin's assemblies, and considered the great heiress
'A golden miracle,' Diana gave her words to say. 'Good looks and gold
together are rather superhuman. The report may be this time true.'
Next afternoon the card of Lady Wathin requested Mrs. Warwick to grant
her a private interview.
Lady Wathin, as one of the order of women who can do anything in a holy
cause, advanced toward Mrs. Warwick, unabashed by the burden of her
mission, and spinally prepared, behind benevolent smilings, to repay
dignity of mien with a similar erectness of dignity. They touched
fingers and sat. The preliminaries to the matter of the interview were
brief between ladies physically sensible of antagonism and mutually too
scornful of subterfuges in one another's presence to beat the bush.
Lady Wathin began. 'I am, you are aware, Mrs. Warwick, a cousin of your
friend Lady Dunstane.'
'You come to me on business?' Diana said.
'It may be so termed. I have no personal interest in it. I come to lay
certain facts before you which I think you should know. We think it
better that an acquaintance, and one of your sex, should state the case
to you, instead of having recourse to formal intermediaries, lawyers--'
'Well, my husband is a lawyer, it is true. In the course of his
professional vocations he became acquainted with Mr. Warwick. We have
latterly seen a good deal of him. He is, I regret to say, seriously
'I have heard of it.'
'He has no female relations, it appears. He needs more care than he can
receive from hirelings.'
'Are you empowered by him, Lady Wathin?'
'I am, Mrs. Warwick. We will not waste time in apologies. He is most
anxious for a reconciliation. It seems to Sir Cramborne and to me the
most desireable thing for all parties concerned, if you can be induced to
regard it in that light. Mr. Warwick may or may not live; but the
estrangement is quite undoubtedly the cause of his illness. I touch on
nothing connected with it. I simply wish that you should not be in
ignorance of his proposal and his condition.'
Diana bowed calmly. 'I grieve at his condition. His proposal has
already been made and replied to.'
'Oh, but, Mrs. Warwick, an immediate and decisive refusal of a proposal
so fraught with consequences . . . !'
'Ah, but, Lady Wathin, you are now outstepping the limits prescribed by
the office you have undertaken.'
'You will not lend ear to an intercession?'
'I will not.'
'Of course, Mrs. Warwick, it is not for me to hint at things that lawyers
could say on the subject.'
'Your forbearance is creditable, Lady Wathin.'
'Believe me, Mrs. Warwick, the step is--I speak in my husband's name as
well as my own--strongly to be advised.'
'If I hear one word more of it, I leave the country.'
'I should be sorry indeed at any piece of rashness depriving your
numerous friends of your society. We have recently become acquainted
with Mr. Redworth, and I know the loss you would be to them. I have not
attempted an appeal to your feelings, Mrs. Warwick.'
'I thank you warmly, Lady Wathin, for what you have not done.'
The aristocratic airs of Mrs. Warwick were annoying to Lady Wathin when
she considered that they were borrowed, and that a pattern morality could
regard the woman as ostracized: nor was it agreeable to be looked at
through eyelashes under partially lifted brows. She had come to appeal
to the feelings of the wife; at any rate, to discover if she had some and
was better than a wild adventuress.
'Our life below is short!' she said. To which Diana tacitly assented.
'We have our little term, Mrs. Warwick. It is soon over.'
'On the other hand, the platitudes concerning it are eternal.'
Lady Wathin closed her eyes, that the like effect might be produced on
her ears. 'Ah! they are the truths. But it is not my business to
preach. Permit me to say that I feel deeply for your husband.'
'I am glad of Mr. Warwick's having friends; and they are many, I hope.'
'They cannot behold him perishing, without an effort on his behalf.'
A chasm of silence intervened. Wifely pity was not sounded in it.
'He will question me, Mrs. Warwick.'
'You can report to him the heads of our conversation, Lady Wathin.'
'Would you--it is your husband's most earnest wish; and our house is open
to his wife and to him for the purpose; and it seems to us that . . .
indeed it might avert a catastrophe you would necessarily deplore:--would
you consent to meet him at my house?'
'It has already been asked, Lady Wathin, and refused.'
'But at my house-under our auspices!'
Diana glanced at the clock. 'Nowhere.'
'Is it not--pardon me--a wife's duty, Mrs. Warwick, at least to listen?'
'Lady Wathin, I have listened to you.'
'In the case of his extreme generosity so putting it, for the present,
Mrs. Warwick, that he asks only to be heard personally by his wife! It
may preclude so much.'
Diana felt a hot wind across her skin.
She smiled and said: 'Let me thank you for bringing to an end a mission
that must have been unpleasant to you.'
'But you will meditate on it, Mrs. Warwick, will you not? Give me that
'I shall not forget it,' said Diana.
Again the ladies touched fingers, with an interchange of the social
grimace of cordiality. A few words of compassion for poor Lady
Dunstane's invalided state covered Lady Wathin's retreat.
She left, it struck her ruffled sentiments, an icy libertine, whom any
husband caring for his dignity and comfort was well rid of; and if only
she could have contrived allusively to bring in the name of Mr. Percy
Dacier, just to show these arrant coquettes, or worse, that they were not
quite so privileged to pursue their intrigues obscurely as they imagined,
it would have soothed her exasperation.
She left a woman the prey of panic.
Diana thought of Emma and Redworth, and of their foolish interposition
to save her character and keep her bound. She might now have been free!
The struggle with her manacles reduced her to a state of rebelliousness,
from which issued vivid illuminations of the one means of certain escape;
an abhorrent hissing cavern, that led to a place named Liberty, her
refuge, but a hectic place.
Unable to write, hating the house which held her a fixed mark for these
attacks, she had an idea of flying straight to her beloved Lugano lake,
and there hiding, abandoning her friends, casting off the slave's name
she bore, and living free in spirit. She went so far as to reckon the
cost of a small household there, and justify the violent step by an
exposition of retrenchment upon her large London expenditure. She had
but to say farewell to Emma, no other tie to cut! One morning on the
Salvatore heights would wash her clear of the webs defacing and
INDICATES A SOUL PREPARED FOR DESPERATION
The month was August, four days before the closing of Parliament, and
Diana fancied it good for Arthur Rhodes to run down with her to Copsley.
He came to her invitation joyfully, reminding her of Lady Dunstane's wish
to hear some chapters of THE CANTATRICE, and the MS. was packed. They
started, taking rail and fly, and winding up the distance on foot.
August is the month of sober maturity and majestic foliage, songless, but
a crowned and royal-robed queenly month; and the youngster's appreciation
of the homely scenery refreshed Diana; his delight in being with her was
also pleasant. She had no wish to exchange him for another; and that was
a strengthening thought.
At Copsley the arrival of their luggage had prepared the welcome. Warm
though it was, Diana perceived a change in Emma, an unwonted reserve,
a doubtfulness of her eyes, in spite of tenderness; and thus thrown back
on herself, thinking that if she had followed her own counsel (as she
called her impulse) in old days, there would have been no such present
misery, she at once, and unconsciously, assumed a guarded look. Based on
her knowledge of her honest footing, it was a little defiant. Secretly
in her bosom it was sharpened to a slight hostility by the knowledge that
her mind had been straying. The guilt and the innocence combined to
clothe her in mail, the innocence being positive, the guilt so vapoury.
But she was armed only if necessary, and there was no requirement for
armour. Emma did not question at all. She saw the alteration in her
Tony: she was too full of the tragic apprehensiveness, overmastering her
to speak of trifles. She had never confided to Tony the exact nature and
the growth of her malady, thinking it mortal, and fearing to alarm her
A portion of the manuscript was read out by Arthur Rhodes in the evening;
the remainder next morning. Redworth perceptibly was the model of the
English hero; and as to his person, no friend could complain of the
sketch; his clear-eyed heartiness, manliness, wholesomeness--a word of
Lady Dunstane's regarding him,--and his handsome braced figure, were well
painted. Emma forgave the: insistance on a certain bluntness of the
nose, in consideration of the fond limning of his honest and expressive
eyes, and the 'light on his temples,' which they had noticed together.
She could not so easily forgive the realistic picture of the man: an
exaggeration, she thought, of small foibles, that even if they existed,
should not have been stressed. The turn for 'calculating' was shown up
ridiculously; Mr. Cuthbert Dering was calculating in his impassioned
moods as well as in his cold. His head was a long division of ciphers.
He had statistics for spectacles, and beheld the world through them, and
the mistress he worshipped.
'I see,' said Emma, during a pause; 'he is a Saxon. You still affect to
have the race en grippe, Tony.'
'I give him every credit for what he is,' Diana replied. 'I admire the
finer qualities of the race as much as any one. You want to have them
presented to you in enamel, Emmy.'
But the worst was an indication that the mania for calculating in and
out of season would lead to the catastrophe destructive of his happiness.
Emma could not bear that. Without asking herself whether it could be
possible that Tony knew the secret, or whether she would have laid it
bare, her sympathy for Redworth revolted at the exposure. She was
chilled. She let it pass; she merely said: 'I like the writing.'
Diana understood that her story was condemned.
She put on her robes of philosophy to cloak discouragement. 'I am glad
the writing pleases you.'
'The characters are as true as life!' cried Arthur Rhodes. 'The
Cantatrice drinking porter from the pewter at the slips after harrowing
the hearts of her audience, is dearer to me than if she had tottered to a
sofa declining sustenance; and because her creatrix has infused such
blood of life into her that you accept naturally whatever she does. She
was exhausted, and required the porter, like a labourer in the
Emma looked at him, and perceived the poet swamped by the admirer. Taken
in conjunction with Mr. Cuthbert Dering's frenzy for calculating, she
disliked the incident of the porter and the pewter.
'While the Cantatrice swallowed her draught, I suppose Mr. Dering counted
the cost?' she said.
'It really might be hinted,' said Diana.
The discussion closed with the accustomed pro and con upon the wart of
Cromwell's nose, Realism rejoicing in it, Idealism objecting.
Arthur Rhodes was bidden to stretch his legs on a walk along the heights
in the afternoon, and Emma was further vexed by hearing Tony complain of
Redworth's treatment of the lad, whom he would not assist to any of the
snug little posts he was notoriously able to dispense.
'He has talked of Mr. Rhodes to me,' said Emma. 'He thinks the
profession of literature a delusion, and doubts the wisdom of having
poets for clerks.'
'John-Bullish!' Diana exclaimed. 'He speaks contemptuously of the poor
'Only inasmuch as the foolishness of the young man in throwing up the Law
provokes his practical mind to speak.'
'He might take my word for the "young man's" ability. I want him to have
the means of living, that he may write. He has genius.'
'He may have it. I like him, and have said so. If he were to go back to
his law-stool, I have no doubt that Redworth would manage to help him.'
'And make a worthy ancient Braddock of a youth of splendid promise! Have
I sketched him too Saxon?'
'It is the lens, and hot the tribe, Tony.'
THE CANTATRICE was not alluded to any more; but Emma's disapproval
blocked the current of composition, already subject to chokings in the
brain of the author. Diana stayed three days at Copsley, one longer than
she had intended, so that Arthur Rhodes might have his fill of country
'I would keep him, but I should be no companion for him,' Emma said.
'I suspect the gallant squire is only to be satisfied by landing me
safely,' said Diana, and that small remark grated, though Emma saw the
simple meaning. When they parted, she kissed her Tony many times. Tears
were in her eyes. It seemed to Diana that she was anxious to make amends
for the fit of alienation, and she was kissed in return warmly, quite
forgiven, notwithstanding the deadly blank she had caused in the
imagination of the writer for pay, distracted by the squabbles of Debit
Diana chatted spiritedly to young Rhodes on their drive to the train.
She was profoundly discouraged by Emma's disapproval of her work. It
wanted but that one drop to make a recurrence to the work impossible.
There it must lie! And what of the aspects of her household?--Perhaps,
after all, the Redworths of the world are right, and Literature as a
profession is a delusive pursuit. She did not assent to it without
hostility to the world's Redworths.--'They have no sensitiveness, we have
too much. We are made of bubbles that a wind will burst, and as the wind
is always blowing, your practical Redworths have their crow of us.'
She suggested advice to Arthur Rhodes upon the prudence of his resuming
the yoke of the Law.
He laughed at such a notion, saying that he had some expectations of
money to come.
'But I fear,' said he, 'that Lady Dunstane is very very ill. She begged
me to keep her informed of your address.'
Diana told him he was one of those who should know it whithersoever she
went. She spoke impulsively, her sentiments of friendliness for the
youth being temporarily brightened by the strangeness of Emma's conduct
in deputing it to him to fulfil a duty she had never omitted. 'What can
she think I am going to do!'
On her table at home lay, a letter from Mr. Warwick. She read it hastily
in the presence of Arthur Rhodes, having at a glance at the handwriting
anticipated the proposal it contained and the official phrasing.
Her gallant squire was invited to dine with her that evening, costume
They conversed of Literature as a profession, of poets dead and living,
of politics, which he abhorred and shied at, and of his prospects. He
wrote many rejected pages, enjoyed an income of eighty pounds per annum,
and eked out a subsistence upon the modest sum his pen procured him; a
sum extremely insignificant; but great Nature was his own, the world was
tributary to him, the future his bejewelled and expectant bride. Diana
envied his youthfulness. Nothing is more enviable, nothing richer to the
mind, than the aspect of a cheerful poverty. How much nobler it was,
contrasted with Redworth's amassing of wealth!
When alone, she went to her bedroom and tried to write, tried to sleep.
Mr. Warwick's letter was looked at. It seemed to indicate a threat; but
for the moment it did not disturb her so much as the review of her moral
prostration. She wrote some lines to her lawyers, quoting one of Mr.
Warwick's sentences. That done, his letter was dismissed. Her
intolerable languor became alternately a defeating drowsiness and a
fever. She succeeded in the effort to smother the absolute cause: it was
not suffered to show a front; at the cost of her knowledge of a practised
self-deception. 'I wonder whether the world is as bad as a certain class
of writers tell us!' she sighed in weariness, and mused on their
soundings and probings of poor humanity, which the world accepts for the
very bottom truth if their dredge brings up sheer refuse of the
abominable. The world imagines those to be at our nature's depths who
are impudent enough to expose its muddy shallows. She was in the mood
for such a kind of writing: she could have started on it at once but that
the theme was wanting; and it may count on popularity, a great repute for
penetration. It is true of its kind, though the dredging of nature is
the miry form of art. When it flourishes we may be assured we have been
overenamelling the higher forms. She felt, and shuddered to feel, that
she could draw from dark stores. Hitherto in her works it had been a
triumph of the good. They revealed a gaping deficiency of the subtle
insight she now possessed. 'Exhibit humanity as it is, wallowing,
sensual, wicked, behind the mask,' a voice called to her; she was allured
by the contemplation of the wide-mouthed old dragon Ego, whose portrait,
decently painted, establishes an instant touch of exchange between author
and public, the latter detected and confessing. Next to the pantomime of
Humour and Pathos, a cynical surgical knife at the human bosom seems the
surest talisman for this agreeable exchange; and she could cut. She gave
herself a taste of her powers. She cut at herself mercilessly, and had
to bandage the wound in a hurry to keep in life.
Metaphors were her refuge. Metaphorically she could allow her mind to
distinguish the struggle she was undergoing, sinking under it. The
banished of Eden had to put on metaphors, and the common use of them has
helped largely to civilize us. The sluggish in intellect detest them,
but our civilization is not much indebted to that major faction.
Especially are they needed by the pedestalled woman in her conflict with
the natural. Diana saw herself through the haze she conjured up. 'Am I
worse than other women?' was a piercing twithought. Worse, would be
hideous isolation. The not worse, abased her sex. She could afford to
say that the world was bad: not that women were.
Sinking deeper, an anguish of humiliation smote her to a sense of
drowning. For what of the poetic ecstasy on her Salvatore heights had
not been of origin divine? had sprung from other than spiritual founts?
had sprung from the reddened sources she was compelled to conceal? Could
it be? She would not believe it. But there was matter to clip her
wings, quench her light, in the doubt.
She fell asleep like the wrecked flung ashore.
Danvers entered her room at an early hour for London to inform her that
Mr. Percy Dacier was below, and begged permission to wait.
Diana gave orders for breakfast to be proposed to him. She lay staring
at the wall until it became too visibly a reflection of her mind.
ONCE MORE THE CROSSWAYS AND A CHANGE OF TURNINGS
The suspicion of his having come to impart the news of his proximate
marriage ultimately endowed her with sovereign calmness. She had need to
think it, and she did. Tea was brought to her while she dressed; she
descended the stairs revolving phrases of happy congratulation and the
world's ordinary epigrams upon the marriage-tie, neatly mixed.
They read in one another's faces a different meaning from the empty words
of excuse and welcome. Dacier's expressed the buckling of a strong set
purpose; but, grieved by the look of her eyes, he wasted a moment to say:
'You have not slept. You have heard . . . ?'
'What?' said she, trying to speculate; and that was a sufficient answer.
'I hadn't the courage to call last night; I passed the windows. Give me
your hand, I beg.'
She gave her hand in wonderment, and more wonderingly felt it squeezed.
Her heart began the hammerthump. She spoke an unintelligible something;
saw herself melting away to utter weakness-pride, reserve, simple
prudence, all going; crumbled ruins where had stood a fortress imposing
to men. Was it love? Her heart thumped shiveringly.
He kept her hand, indifferent to the gentle tension.
'This is the point: I cannot live without you: I have gone on . . .
Who was here last night? Forgive me.'
'You know Arthur Rhodes.'
'I saw him leave the door at eleven. Why do you torture me? There's no
time to lose now. You will be claimed. Come, and let us two cut the
knot. It is the best thing in the world for me--the only thing. Be
brave! I have your hand. Give it for good, and for heaven's sake don't
play the sex. Be yourself. Dear soul of a woman! I never saw the soul
in one but in you. I have waited: nothing but the dread of losing you
sets me speaking now. And for you to be sacrificed a second time to
that--! Oh, no! You know you can trust me. On my honour, I take breath
from you. You are my better in everything--guide, goddess, dearest
heart! Trust me; make me master of your fate.'
'But my friend!' the murmur hung in her throat. He was marvellously
transformed; he allowed no space for the arts of defence and evasion.
'I wish I had the trick of courting. There's not time; and I 'm a
simpleton at the game. We can start this evening. Once away, we leave
it to them to settle the matter, and then you are free, and mine to the
'But speak, speak! What is it?' Diana said.
'That if we delay, I 'm in danger of losing you altogether.'
Her eyes lightened: 'You mean that you have heard he has determined--?'
'There's a process of the law. But stop it. Just this one step, and it
ends. Whether intended or not, it hangs over you, and you will be
perpetually tormented. Why waste your whole youth?--and mine as well!
For I am bound to you as much as if we had stood at the altar--where we
will stand together the instant you are free.'
'But where have you heard . . .?
'From an intimate friend. I will tell you--sufficiently intimate--from
Lady Wathin. Nothing of a friend, but I see this woman at times. She
chose to speak of it to me it doesn't matter why. She is in his
confidence, and pitched me a whimpering tale. Let those people chatter.
But it 's exactly for those people that you are hanging in chains, all
your youth shrivelling. Let them shout their worst! It's the bark of a
day; and you won't hear it; half a year, and it will be over, and I shall
bring you back--the husband of the noblest bride in Christendom! You
don't mistrust me?'
'It is not that,' said she. 'But now drop my hand. I am imprisoned.'
'It's asking too much. I've lost you--too many times. I have the hand
and I keep it. I take nothing but the hand. It's the hand I want.
I give you mine. I love you. Now I know what love is!--and the word
carries nothing of its weight. Tell me you do not doubt my honour.'
'Not at all. But be rational. I must think, and I cannot while you keep
He kissed it. 'I keep my own against the world.'
A cry of rebuke swelled to her lips at his conqueror's tone. It was not
uttered, for directness was in his character and his wooing loyal--save
for bitter circumstances, delicious to hear; and so narrow was the ring
he had wound about her senses, that her loathing of the circumstances
pushed her to acknowledge within her bell of a heart her love for him.
He was luckless enough to say: 'Diana!'
It rang horridly of her husband. She drew her hand to loosen it, with
repulsing brows. 'Not that name!'
Dacier was too full of his honest advocacy of the passionate lover to
take a rebuff. There lay his unconscious mastery, where the common arts
of attack would have tripped him with a quick-witted woman, and where a
man of passion, not allowing her to succumb in dignity, would have
alarmed her to the breaking loose from him.
'Lady Dunstane calls you Tony.'
'She is my dearest and oldest friend.'
'You and I don't count by years. You are the dearest to me on earth,
She debated as to forbidding that name.
The moment's pause wrapped her in a mental hurricane, out of which she
came with a heart stopped, her olive cheeks ashen-hued. She had seen
that the step was possible.
'Oh! Percy, Percy, are we mad?'
'Not mad. We take what is ours. Tell me, have I ever, ever disrespected
you? You were sacred to me; and you are, though now the change has come.
Look back on it--it is time lost, years that are dust. But look forward,
and you cannot imagine our separation. What I propose is plain sense for
us two. Since Rovio, I have been at your feet. Have I not some just
claim for recompense? Tell me! Tony!'
The sweetness of the secret name, the privileged name, in his mouth stole
through her blood, melting resistance.
She had consented. The swarthy flaming of her face avowed it even more
than the surrender of her hand. He gained much by claiming little: he
respected her, gave her no touches of fright and shame; and it was her
glory to fall with pride. An attempt at a caress would have awakened her
view of the whitherward: but she was treated as a sovereign lady
'Is it since Rovio, Percy?'
'Since the morning when you refused me one little flower.'
'If I had given it, you might have been saved!'
'I fancy I was doomed from the beginning.'
'I was worth a thought?'
'Worth a life! worth ten thousand!'
'You have reckoned it all like a sane man:--family, position, the world,
'All. I have long known that you were the mate for me. You have to
weather a gale, Tony. It won't last. My dearest! it won't last many
months. I regret the trial for you, but I shall be with you, burning for
the day to reinstate you and show you the queen you are.'
'Yes, we two can have no covert dealings, Percy,' said Diana. They would
be hateful--baseness! Rejecting any baseness, it seemed to her that she
stood in some brightness. The light was of a lurid sort. She called on
her heart to glory in it as the light of tried love, the love that defied
the world. Her heart rose. She and he would at a single step give proof
of their love for one another--and this kingdom of love--how different
from her recent craven languors!--this kingdom awaited her, was hers for
one word; and beset with the oceans of enemies, it was unassailable. If
only they were true to the love they vowed, no human force could subvert
it: and she doubted him as little as of herself. This new kingdom of
love, never entered by her, acclaiming her, was well-nigh unimaginable,
in spite of the many hooded messengers it had despatched to her of late.
She could hardly believe that it had come.
'But see me as I am,' she said; she faltered it through her direct gaze
'With chains to strike off? Certainly; it is done,' he replied.
'Rather heavier than those of the slave-market! I am the deadest of
burdens. It means that your enemies, personal--if you have any, and
political--you have numbers; will raise a cry . . . . Realize it.
You may still be my friend. I forgive the bit of wildness.'
She provoked a renewed kissing of her hand; for magnammity in love is
an overflowing danger; and when he said: 'The burden you have to bear
outweighs mine out of all comparison. What is it to a man--a public man
or not! The woman is always the victim. That's why I have held myself
in so long:--her strung frame softened. She half yielded to the tug on
'Is there no talking for us without foolishness?' she murmured. The
foolishness had wafted her to sea, far from sight of land. 'Now sit, and
speak soberly. Discuss the matter.--Yes, my hand, but I must have my
wits. Leave me free to use them till we choose our path. Let it be the
brains between us, as far as it can. You ask me to join my fate to
yours. It signifies a sharp battle for you, dear friend; perhaps the
blighting of the most promising life in England. One question is, can I
countervail the burden I shall be, by such help to you as I can afford?
Burden, is no word--I rake up a buried fever. I have partially lived it
down, and instantly I am covered with spots. The old false charges and
this plain offence make a monster of me.'
'And meanwhile you are at the disposal of the man who falsely charged you
and armed the world against you,' said Dacier.
'I can fly. The world is wide.'
'Time slips. Your youth is wasted. If you escape the man, he will have
triumphed in keeping you from me. And I thirst for you; I look to you
for aid and counsel; I want my mate. You have not to be told how you
inspire me? I am really less than half myself without you. If I am to
do anything in the world, it must be with your aid, you beside me.
Our hands are joined: one leap! Do you not see that after . . . well,
it cannot be friendship. It imposes rather more on me than I can bear.
You are not the woman to trifle; nor I; Tony, the man for it with a woman
like you. You are my spring of wisdom. You interdict me altogether--can
you?--or we unite our fates, like these hands now. Try to get yours
Her effort ended in a pressure. Resistance, nay, to hesitate at the
joining of her life with his after her submission to what was a scorching
fire in memory, though it was less than an embrace, accused her of worse
'Well, then,' said she, 'wait three days. Deliberate. Oh! try to know
yourself, for your clear reason to guide you. Let us be something better
than the crowd abusing us, not simple creatures of impulse--as we choose
to call the animal. What if we had to confess that we took to our heels
the moment the idea struck us! Three days. We may then pretend to a
philosophical resolve. Then come to me: or write to me.'
'How long is it since the old Rovio morning, Tony?'
'Date my deliberations from that day.'
The thought of hers having to be dated possibly from an earlier day,
robbed her of her summit of feminine isolation, and she trembled, chilled
and flushed; she lost all anchorage.
'So it must be to-morrow,' said he, reading her closely, 'not later.
Better at once. But women are not to be hurried.'
'Oh! don't class me, Percy, pray! I think of you, not of myself.'
'You suppose that in a day or two I might vary?'
She fixed her eyes on him, expressing certainty of his unalterable
stedfastness. The look allured. It changed: her head shook. She held
away and said: 'No, leave me; leave me, dear, dear friend. Percy, my
dearest! I will not "play the sex." I am yours if . . . if it is
your wish. It may as well be to-morrow. Here I am useless; I cannot
write, not screw a thought from my head. I dread that "process of the
Law" a second time. To-morrow, if it must be. But no impulses. Fortune
is blind; she may be kind to us. The blindness of Fortune is her one
merit, and fools accuse her of it, and they profit by it! I fear we all
of us have our turn of folly: we throw the stake for good luck. I hope
my sin is not very great. I know my position is desperate. I feel a
culprit. But I am sure I have courage, perhaps brains to help. At any
rate, I may say this: I bring no burden to my lover that he does not know
Dacier pressed her hand. 'Money we shall have enough. My uncle has left
me fairly supplied.'
'What would he think?' said Diana, half in a glimpse of meditation.
'Think me the luckiest of the breeched. I fancy I hear him thanking you
for "making a man" of me.'
She blushed. Some such phrase might have been spoken by Lord
'I have but a poor sum of money,' she said. 'I may be able to write
abroad. Here I cannot--if I am to be persecuted.'
'You shall write, with a new pen!' said Dacier. 'You shall live, my
darling Tony. You have been held too long in this miserable suspension,
neither maid nor wife, neither woman nor stockfish. Ah! shameful. But
we 'll right it. The step, for us, is the most reasonable that could be
considered. You shake your head. But the circumstances make it so.
Courage, and we come to happiness! And that, for you and me, means work.
Look at the case of Lord and Lady Dulac. It's identical, except that she
is no match beside you: and I do not compare her antecedents with yours.
But she braved the leap, and forced the world to swallow it, and now, you
see, she's perfectly honoured. I know a place on a peak of the Maritime
Alps, exquisite in summer, cool, perfectly solitary, no English, snow
round us, pastures at our feet, and the Mediterranean below. There! my
Tony. To-morrow night we start. You will meet me-shall I call here?--
well, then at the railway station, the South-Eastern, for Paris: say,
twenty minutes to eight. I have your pledge? You will come?'
She sighed it, then said it firmly, to be worthy of him. Kind Fortune,
peeping under the edge of her bandaged eyes, appeared willing to bestow
the beginning of happiness upon one who thought she had a claim to a
small taste of it before she died. It seemed distinguishingly done, to
give a bite of happiness to the starving!
'I fancied when you were announced that you came for congratulations upon
your approaching marriage, Percy.'
'I shall expect to hear them from you to-morrow evening at the station,
dear Tony,' said he.
The time was again stated, the pledge repeated. He forbore entreaties
for privileges, and won her gratitude.
They named once more the place of meeting and the hour: more significant
to them than phrases of intensest love and passion. Pressing hands
sharply for pledge of good faith, they sundered.
She still had him in her eyes when he had gone. Her old world lay
shattered; her new world was up without a dawn, with but one figure, the
sun of it, to light the swinging strangeness.
Was ever man more marvellously transformed? or woman more wildly swept
from earth into the clouds? So she mused in the hum of her tempest of
heart and brain, forgetful of the years and the conditions preparing both
of them for this explosion.
She had much to do: the arrangements to dismiss her servants, write to
house-agents and her lawyer, and write fully to Emma, write the enigmatic
farewell to the Esquarts and Lady Pennon, Mary Paynham, Arthur Rhodes,
Whitmonby (stanch in friendship, but requiring friendly touches), Henry
Wilmers, and Redworth. He was reserved to the last, for very enigmatical
adieux: he would hear the whole story from Emma; must be left to think as
The vague letters were excellently well composed: she was going abroad,
and knew not when she would return; bade her friends think the best they
could of her in the meantime. Whitmonby was favoured with an anecdote,
to be read as an apologue by the light of subsequent events. But the
letter to Emma tasked Diana. Intending to write fully, her pen committed
the briefest sentences: the tenderness she felt for Emma wakening her
heart to sing that she was loved, loved, and knew love at last; and
Emma's foreseen antagonism to the love and the step it involved rendered
her pleadings in exculpation a stammered confession of guiltiness,
ignominious, unworthy of the pride she felt in her lover. 'I am like a
cartridge rammed into a gun, to be discharged at a certain hour
tomorrow,' she wrote; and she sealed a letter so frigid that she could
not decide to post it. All day she imagined hearing a distant cannonade.
The light of the day following was not like earthly light. Danvers
assured her there was no fog in London.
'London is insupportable; I am going to Paris, and shall send for you in
a week or two,' said Diana.
'Allow me to say, ma'am, that you had better take me with you,' said
'Are you afraid of travelling by yourself, you foolish creature?'
'No, ma'am, but I don't like any hands to undress and dress my mistress
but my own.'
'I have not lost the art,' said Diana, chafing for a magic spell to
extinguish the woman, to whom, immediately pitying her, she said: 'You
are a good faithful soul. I think you have never kissed me. Kiss me on
Danvers put her lips to her mistress's forehead, and was asked: 'You
still consider yourself attached to my fortunes?'
'I do, ma'am, at home or abroad; and if you will take me with you . . '
'Not for a week or so.'
'I shall not be in the way, ma'am.'
They played at shutting eyes. The petition of Danvers was declined;
which taught her the more; and she was emboldened to say: 'Wherever my
mistress goes, she ought to have her attendant with her.' There was no
answer to it but the refusal.
The hours crumbled slowly, each with a blow at the passages of retreat.
Diana thought of herself as another person, whom she observed, not
counselling her, because it was a creature visibly pushed by the Fates.
In her own mind she could not perceive a stone of solidity anywhere, nor
a face that had the appearance of our common life. She heard the cannon
at intervals. The things she said set Danvers laughing, and she wondered
at the woman's mingled mirth and stiffness. Five o'clock struck. Her
letters were sent to the post. Her boxes were piled from stairs to door.
She read the labels, for her good-bye to the hated name of Warwick:--why
ever adopted! Emma might well have questioned why! Women are guilty of
such unreasoning acts! But this was the close to that chapter. The hour
of six went by. Between six and seven came a sound of knocker and bell
at the street-door. Danvers rushed into the sitting-room to announce
that it was Mr. Redworth. Before a word could be mustered, Redworth was
in the room. He said: 'You must come with me at once!'
IN WHICH A DISAPPOINTED LOVER RECEIVES A MULTITUDE OF LESSONS
Dacier welted at the station, a good figure of a sentinel over his
luggage and a spy for one among the inpouring passengers. Tickets had
been confidently taken, the private division of the carriages happily
secured. On board the boat she would be veiled. Landed on French soil,
they threw off disguises, breasted the facts. And those? They
lightened. He smarted with his eagerness.
He had come well in advance of the appointed time, for he would not have
had her hang about there one minute alone.
Strange as this adventure was to a man of prominent station before the
world, and electrical as the turning-point of a destiny that he was given
to weigh deliberately and far-sightedly, Diana's image strung him to the
pitch of it. He looked nowhere but ahead, like an archer putting hand
for his arrow.
Presently he compared his watch and the terminus clock. She should now
be arriving. He went out to meet her and do service. Many cabs and
carriages were peered into, couples inspected, ladies and their maids,
wives and their husbands--an August exodus to the Continent. Nowhere the
starry she. But he had a fund of patience. She was now in some block of
the streets. He was sure of her, sure of her courage. Tony and
recreancy could not go together. Now that he called her Tony, she was
his close comrade, known; the name was a caress and a promise, breathing
of her, as the rose of sweetest earth. He counted it to be a month ere
his family would have wind of the altered position of his affairs,
possibly a year to the day of his making the dear woman his own in the
eyes of the world. She was dear past computation, womanly, yet quite
unlike the womanish woman, unlike the semi-males courteously called
dashing, unlike the sentimental. His present passion for her lineaments,
declared her surpassingly beautiful, though his critical taste was rather
for the white statue that gave no warmth. She had brains and ardour, she
had grace and sweetness, a playful petulancy enlivening our atmosphere,
and withal a refinement, a distinction, not to be classed; and justly
might she dislike the being classed. Her humour was a perennial
refreshment, a running well, that caught all the colours of light; her
wit studded the heavens of the recollection of her. In his heart he felt
that it was a stepping down for the brilliant woman to give him her hand;
a condescension and an act of valour. She who always led or prompted
when they conversed, had now in her generosity abandoned the lead and
herself to him, and she deserved his utmost honouring.
But where was she? He looked at his watch, looked at the clock. They
said the same: ten minutes to the moment of the train's departure.
A man may still afford to dwell on the charms and merits of his heart's
mistress while he has ten minutes to spare. The dropping minutes,
however, detract one by one from her individuality and threaten to sink
her in her sex entirely. It is the inexorable clock that says she is as
other women. Dacier began to chafe. He was unaccustomed to the part he
was performing:--and if she failed him? She would not. She would be
late, though. No, she was in time! His long legs crossed the platform
to overtake a tall lady veiled and dressed in black. He lifted his hat;
he heard an alarmed little cry and retired. The clock said, Five
minutes: a secret chiromancy in addition indicating on its face the word
Fool. An odd word to be cast at him! It rocked the icy pillar of pride
in the background of his nature. Certainly standing solos at the hour of
eight P.M., he would stand for a fool. Hitherto he had never allowed a
woman to chance to posture him in that character. He strode out,
returned, scanned every lady's shape, and for a distraction watched the
veiled lady whom he had accosted. Her figure suggested pleasant
features. Either she was disappointed or she was an adept. At the
shutting of the gates she glided through, not without a fearful look
around and at him. She disappeared. Dacier shrugged. His novel
assimilation to the rat-rabble of amatory intriguers tapped him on the
shoulder unpleasantly. A luckless member of the fraternity too! The
bell, the clock and the train gave him his title. 'And I was ready to
fling down everything for the woman!' The trial of a superb London
gentleman's resources in the love-passion could not have been much
keener. No sign of her.
He who stands ready to defy the world, and is baffled by the absence of
his fair assistant, is the fool doubled, so completely the fool that he
heads the universal shout; he does not spare himself. The sole
consolation he has is to revile the sex. Women! women! Whom have they
not made a fool of! His uncle as much as any--and professing to know
them. Him also! the man proud of escaping their wiles. 'For this woman
. . . !' he went on saying after he had lost sight of her in her sex's
trickeries. The nearest he could get to her was to conceive that the
arrant coquette was now laughing at her utter subjugation and befooling
of the man popularly supposed invincible. If it were known of him!
The idea of his being a puppet fixed for derision was madly distempering.
He had only to ask the affirmative of Constance Asper to-morrow!
A vision of his determination to do it, somewhat comforted him.
Dacier walked up and down the platform, passing his pile of luggage,
solitary and eloquent on the barrow. Never in his life having been made
to look a fool, he felt the red heat of the thing, as a man who has not
blessedly become acquainted with the swish in boyhood finds his
untempered blood turn to poison at a blow; he cannot healthily take a
licking. But then it had been so splendid an insanity when he urged
Diana to fly with him. Any one but a woman would have appreciated the
His luggage had to be removed. He dropped his porter a lordly fee and
drove home. From that astonished solitude he strolled to his Club.
Curiosity mastering the wrath it was mixed with, he left his Club and
crossed the park southward in the direction of Diana's house, abusing her
for her inveterate attachment to the regions of Westminster. There she
used to receive Lord Dannisburgh; innocently, no doubt-assuredly quite
innocently; and her husband had quitted the district. Still it was
rather childish for a woman to-be always haunting the seats of
Parliament. Her disposition to imagine that she was able to inspire
statesmen came in for a share of ridicule; for when we know ourselves
to be ridiculous, a retort in kind, unjust upon consideration, is balm.
The woman dragged him down to the level of common men; that was the
peculiar injury, and it swept her undistinguished into the stream of
women. In appearance, as he had proved to the fellows at his Club, he
was perfectly self-possessed, mentally distracted and bitter, hating
himself for it, snapping at the cause of it. She had not merely
disappointed, she had slashed his high conceit of himself, curbed him at
the first animal dash forward, and he champed the bit with the fury of a
Twice he passed her house. Of course no light was shown at her windows.
They were scanned malignly.
He held it due to her to call and inquire whether there was any truth in
the report of Mrs. Warwick's illness. Mrs. Warwick! She meant to keep
A maid-servant came to the door with a candle in her hand revealing red
eyelids. She was not aware that her mistress was unwell. Her mistress
had left home some time after six o'clock with a gentleman. She was
unable to tell him the gentleman's name. William, the footman, had
opened the door to him. Her mistress's maid Mrs. Danvers had gone to the
Play--with William. She thought that Mrs. Danvers might know who the
gentleman was. The girl's eyelids blinked, and she turned aside. Dacier
consoled her with a piece of gold, saying he would come and see Mrs.
Danvers in the morning.
His wrath was partially quieted by the new speculations offered up to it.
He could not conjure a suspicion of treachery in Diana Warwick; and a
treachery so foully cynical! She had gone with a gentleman. He guessed
on all sides; he struck at walls, as in complete obscurity.
The mystery of her conduct troubling his wits for the many hours was
explained by Danvers. With a sympathy that she was at pains to show, she
informed him that her mistress was not at all unwell, and related of how
Mr. Redworth had arrived just when her mistress was on the point of
starting for Paris and the Continent; because poor Lady Dunstane was
this very day to undergo an operation under the surgeons at Copsley, and
she did not wish her mistress to be present, but Mr. Redworth thought her
mistress ought to be there, and he had gone down thinking she was there,
and then came back in hot haste to fetch her, and was just in time, as it
happened, by two or three minutes.
Dacier rewarded the sympathetic woman for her intelligence, which
appeared to him to have shot so far as to require a bribe. Gratitude to
the person soothing his unwontedly ruffled temper was the cause of the
indiscretion in the amount he gave.
It appeared to him that he ought to proceed to Copsley for tidings of
Lady Dunstane. Thither he sped by the handy railway and a timely train.
He reached the parkgates at three in the afternoon, telling his flyman to
wait. As he advanced by short cuts over the grass, he studied the look
of the rows of windows. She was within, and strangely to his clouded
senses she was no longer Tony, no longer the deceptive woman he could in
justice abuse. He and she, so close to union, were divided. A hand
resembling the palpable interposition of Fate had swept them asunder.
Having the poorest right--not any--to reproach her, he was disarmed, he
felt himself a miserable intruder; he summoned his passion to excuse him,
and gained some unsatisfied repose of mind by contemplating its devoted
sincerity; which roused an effort to feel for the sufferer--Diana
Warwick's friend. With the pair of surgeons named, the most eminent of
their day, in attendance, the case must be serious. To vindicate the
breaker of her pledge, his present plight likewise assured him of that,
and nearing the house he adopted instinctively the funeral step and mood,
just sensible of a novel smallness. For the fortifying testimony of his
passion had to be put aside, he was obliged to disavow it for a simpler
motive if he applied at the door. He stressed the motive, produced the
sentiment, and passed thus naturally into hypocrisy, as lovers
precipitated by their blood among the crises of human conditions are
often forced to do. He had come to inquire after Lady Dunstane. He
remembered that it had struck him as a duty, on hearing of her dangerous
The door opened before he touched the bell. Sir Lukin knocked against
him and stared.
'Ah!--who--?--you?' he said, and took him by the arm and pressed him on
along the gravel. 'Dacier, are you? Redworth's in there. Come on a
step, come! It's the time for us to pray. Good God! There's mercy for
sinners. If ever there was a man! . . . But, oh, good God! she's in
their hands this minute. My saint is under the knife.'
Dacier was hurried forward by a powerful hand. 'They say it lasts about
five minutes, four and a half--or more! My God! When they turned me out
of her room, she smiled to keep me calm. She said: "Dear husband": the
veriest wretch and brutallest husband ever poor woman . . . and a
saint! a saint on earth! Emmy!' Tears burst from him.
He pulled forth his watch and asked Dacier for the time.
'A minute's gone in a minute. It's three minutes and a half. Come
faster. They're at their work! It's life or death. I've had death
about me. But for a woman! and your wife! and that brave soul! She
bears it so. Women are the bravest creatures afloat. If they make her
shriek, it'll be only if she thinks I 'm out of hearing. No: I see her.
She bears it!--They mayn't have begun yet. It may all be over! Come
into the wood. I must pray. I must go on my knees.'
Two or three steps in the wood, at the mossed roots of a beech, he fell
kneeling, muttering, exclaiming.
The tempest of penitence closed with a blind look at his watch, which he
left dangling. He had to talk to drug his thoughts.
'And mind you,' said he, when he had rejoined Dacier and was pushing his
arm again, rounding beneath the trees to a view of the house, 'for a man
steeped in damnable iniquity! She bears it all for me, because I begged
her, for the chance of her living. It's my doing--this knife!
Macpherson swears there is a chance. Thomson backs him. But they're at
her, cutting! . . . The pain must be awful--the mere pain! The
gentlest creature ever drew breath! And women fear blood--and her own!
And a head! She ought to have married the best man alive, not a--! I
can't remember her once complaining of me--not once. A common donkey
compared to her! All I can do is to pray. And she knows the beast I am,
and has forgiven me. There isn't a blessed text of Scripture that
doesn't cry out in praise of her. And they cut and hack . . . !' He
dropped his head. The vehement big man heaved, shuddering. His lips
'She is not alone with them, unsupported?' said Dacier.
Sir Lukin moaned for relief. He caught his watch swinging and stared at
it. 'What a good fellow you were to come! Now 's the time to know your
friends. There's Diana Warwick, true as steel. Redworth came on her
tiptoe for the Continent; he had only to mention . . . Emmy wanted
to spare her. She would not have sent--wanted to spare her the sight.
I offered to stand by . . . Chased me out. Diana Warwick's there:--
worth fifty of me! Dacier, I've had my sword-blade tried by Indian
horsemen, and I know what true as steel means. She's there. And I know
she shrinks from the sight of blood. My oath on it, she won't quiver a
muscle! Next to my wife, you may take my word for it, Dacier, Diana
Warwick is the pick of living women. I could prove it. They go
together. I could prove it over and over. She 's the loyallest woman
anywhere. Her one error was that marriage of hers, and how she ever
pitched herself into it, none of us can guess.' After a while, he said:
'Look at your watch.'
'Nearly twenty minutes gone.'
'Are they afraid to send out word? It's that window !' He covered his
eyes, and muttered, sighed. He became abruptly composed in appearance.
'The worst of a black sheep like me is, I'm such an infernal sinner, that
Providence! . . . But both surgeons gave me their word of honour that
there was a chance. A chance! But it's the end of me if Emmy . . . .
Good God! no! the knife's enough; don't let her be killed! It would be
murder. Here am I talking! I ought to be praying. I should have sent
for the parson to help me; I can't get the proper words--bellow like a
rascal trooper strung up for the cat. It must be twenty-five minutes
now. Who's alive now!'
Dacier thought of the Persian Queen crying for news of the slaughtered,
with her mind on her lord and husband: 'Who is not dead?' Diana exalted
poets, and here was an example of the truth of one to nature, and of the
poor husband's depth of feeling. They said not the same thing, but it
was the same cry de profundis.
He saw Redworth coming at a quick pace.
Redworth raised his hand. Sir Lukin stopped. 'He's waving!'
'It's good,' said Dacier.
'Speak! are you sure?'
'I judge by the look.'
Redworth stepped unfalteringly.
'It's over, all well,' he said. He brushed his forehead and looked
'My dear fellow! my dear fellow!' Sir Lukin grasped his hand. 'It's more
than I deserve. Over? She has borne it! She would have gone to heaven
and left me!
Is she safe?'
'Have you seen the surgeons?'
'What did she say?'
'A nod of the head.'
'You saw her?'
'She came to the stairs.'
'Diana Warwick never lies. She wouldn't lie, not with a nod! They've
saved Emmy--do you think?'
'It looks well.'
My girl has passed the worst of it?'
Sir Lukin gazed glassily. The necessity of his agony was to lean to the
belief, at a beckoning, that Providence pardoned him, in tenderness for
what would have been his loss. He realized it, and experienced a sudden
calm: testifying to the positive pardon.
'Now, look here, you two fellows, listen half a moment,' he addressed
Redworth and Dacier; 'I've been the biggest scoundrel of a husband
unhung, and married to a saint; and if she's only saved to me; I'll swear
to serve her faithfully, or may a thunderbolt knock me to perdition!
and thank God for his justice! Prayers are answered, mind you, though
a fellow may be as black as a sweep. Take a warning from me. I've had
Dacier soon after talked of going. The hope of seeing Diana had
abandoned him, the desire was almost extinct.
Sir Lukin could not let him go. He yearned to preach to him or any one
from his personal text of the sinner honourably remorseful on account of
and notwithstanding the forgiveness of Providence, and he implored Dacier
and Redworth by turns to be careful when they married of how they behaved
to--the sainted women their wives; never to lend ear to the devil, nor to
believe, as he had done, that there is no such thing as a devil, for he
had been the victim of him, and he knew. The devil, he loudly
proclaimed, has a multiplicity of lures, and none more deadly than when
he baits with a petticoat. He had been hooked, and had found the devil
in person. He begged them urgently to keep his example in memory. By
following this and that wildfire he had stuck himself in a bog--a common
result with those who would not see the devil at work upon them; and it
required his dear suffering saint to be at death's doors, cut to pieces
and gasping, to open his eyes. But, thank heaven, they were opened at
last! Now he saw the beast he was: a filthy beast! unworthy of tying
his wife's shoestring. No confessions could expose to them the beast he
was. But let them not fancy there was no such thing as an active DEVIL
about the world.
Redworth divined that the simply sensational man abased himself before
Providence and heaped his gratitude on the awful Power in order to render
it difficult for the promise of the safety of his wife to be withdrawn.
He said: 'There is good hope'; and drew an admonition upon himself.
'Ah! my dear good Redworth,' Sir Lukin sighed from his elevation of
outspoken penitence: 'you will see as I do some day. It is the devil,
think as you like of it. When you have pulled down all the Institutions
of the Country, what do you expect but ruins? That Radicalism of yours
has its day. You have to go through a wrestle like mine to understand
it. You say, the day is fine, let's have our game. Old England pays for
it! Then you'll find how you love the old land of your birth--the
noblest ever called a nation!--with your Corn Law Repeals!--eh, Dacier?
--You 'll own it was the devil tempted you. I hear you apologizing.
Pray God, it mayn't be too late!'
He looked up at the windows. 'She may be sinking!'
'Have no fears,' Redworth said; 'Mrs. Warwick would send for you.'
'She would. Diana Warwick would be sure to send. Next to my wife, Diana
Warwick's . . . she'd send, never fear. I dread that room. I'd
rather go through a regiment of sabres--though it 's over now. And Diana
Warwick stood it. The worst is over, you told me. By heaven! women are
wonderful creatures. But she hasn't a peer for courage. I could trust
her--most extraordinary thing; that marriage of hers!--not a soul has
ever been able to explain it:--trust her to the death.'
Redworth left them, and Sir Lukin ejaculated on the merits of Diana
Warwick to Dacier. He laughed scornfully: 'And that's the woman the
world attacks for want of virtue! Why, a fellow hasn't a chance with
her, not a chance. She comes out in blazing armour if you unmask a
battery. I don't know how it might be if she were in love with a fellow.
I doubt her thinking men worth the trouble. I never met the man. But if
she were to take fire, Troy 'd be nothing to it. I wonder whether we
might go in: I dread the house.'
Dacier spoke of departing.
'No, no, wait,' Sir Lukin begged him. 'I was talking about women. They
are the devil--or he makes most use of them: and you must learn to see
the cloven foot under their petticoats, if you're to escape them.
There's no protection in being in love with your wife; I married for
love; I am, I always have been, in love with her; and I went to the
deuce. The music struck up and away I waltzed. A woman like Diana
Warwick might keep a fellow straight, because she,'s all round you; she's
man and woman in brains; and legged like a deer, and breasted like a
swan, and a regular sheaf of arrows--in her eyes. Dark women--ah!
But she has a contempt for us, you know. That's the secret of her.--
Redworth 's at the door. Bad? Is it bad? I never was particularly fond
of that house--hated it. I love it now for Emmy's sake. I couldn't live
in another--though I should be haunted. Rather her ghost than nothing--
though I'm an infernal coward about the next world. But if you're right
with religion you needn't fear. What I can't comprehend in Redworth is
his Radicalism, and getting richer and richer.'
'It's not a vow of poverty,' said Dacier.
'He'll find they don't coalesce, or his children will. Once the masses
are uppermost! It's a bad day, Dacier, when we 've no more gentlemen in
the land. Emmy backs him, so I hold my tongue. To-morrow's a Sunday.
I wish you were staying here; I 'd take you to church with me-we shirk
it when we haven't a care. It couldn't do you harm. I've heard capital
sermons. I've always had the good habit of going to church, Dacier.
Now 's the time for remembering them. Ah, my dear fellow, I 'm not a
parson. It would have been better for me if I had been.'
And for you too! his look added plainly. He longed to preach; he was
impelled to chatter.
Redworth reported the patient perfectly quiet, breathing calmly.
'Laudanum?' asked Sir Lukin. 'Now there's a poison we've got to bless!
And we set up in our wisdom for knowing what is good for us!'
He had talked his hearers into a stupefied assent to anything he uttered.
'Mrs. Warwick would like to see you in two or three minutes; she will
come down,' Redworth said to Dacier.
'That looks well, eh? That looks bravely,' Sir Lukin cried. 'Diana,
Warwick wouldn't leave the room without a certainty. I dread the look of
those men; I shall have to shake their hands! And so I do, with all my
heart: only--But God bless them! But we must go in, if she's coming
They entered the house, and sat in the drawing-room, where Sir Lukin took
up from the table one of his wife's Latin books, a Persius, bearing her
marginal notes. He dropped his head on it, with sobs.
The voice of Diana recalled him to the present. She counselled him to
control himself; in that case he might for one moment go to the chamber-
door and assure himself by the silence that his wife was resting. She
brought permission from the surgeons and doctor, on his promise to be
Redworth supported Sir Lukin tottering out.
Dacier had risen. He was petrified by Diana's face, and thought of her
as whirled from him in a storm, bearing the marks of it. Her underlip
hung for short breaths; the big drops of her recent anguish still
gathered on her brows; her eyes were tearless, lustreless; she looked
ancient in youth, and distant by a century, like a tall woman of the
vaults, issuing white-ringed, not of our light.
She shut her mouth for strength to speak to him.
He said: 'You are not ill? You are strong?'
'I? Oh, strong. I will sit. I cannot be absent longer than two
minutes. The trial of her strength is to come. If it were courage,
we might be sure. The day is fine?'
'A perfect August day.'
'I held her through it. I am thankful to heaven it was no other hand
than mine. She wished to spare me. She was glad of her Tony when the
time came. I thought I was a coward--I could have changed with her to
save her; I am a strong woman, fit to submit to that work. I should not
have borne it as she did. She expected to sink under it. All her
dispositions were made for death-bequests to servants and to . . . to
friends: every secret liking they had, thought of!'
Diana clenched her hands.
'I hope!' Dacier said.
'You shall hear regularly. Call at Sir William's house to-morrow. He
sleeps here to-night. The suspense must last for days. It is a question
of vital power to bear the shock. She has a mind so like a flying spirit
that, just before the moment, she made Mr. Lanyan Thomson smile by
quoting some saying of her Tony's.'
'Try by-and-by to recollect it,' said Dacier.
'And you were with that poor man! How did he pass the terrible time? I
'He suffered; he prayed.'
'It was the best he could do. Mr. Redworth was as he always is at the
trial, a pillar. Happy the friend who knows him for one! He never
thinks of himself in a crisis. He is sheer strength to comfort and aid.
They will drive you to the station with Mr. Thomson. He returns to
relieve Sir William to-morrow. I have learnt to admire the men of the
knife! No profession equals theirs in self-command and beneficence.
Dr. Bridgenorth is permanent here.'
'I have a fly, and go back immediately,' said Dacier.
'She shall hear of your coming. Adieu.'
Diana gave him her hand. It was gently pressed.
A wonderment at the utter change of circumstances took Dacier passingly
at the sight of her vanishing figure.
He left the house, feeling he dared have no personal wishes. It had
ceased to be the lover's hypocrisy with him.
The crisis of mortal peril in that house enveloped its inmates, and so
wrought in him as to enshroud the stripped outcrying husband, of whom he
had no clear recollection, save of the man's agony. The two women,
striving against death, devoted in friendship, were the sole living
images he brought away; they were a new vision of the world and our life.
He hoped with Diana, bled with her. She rose above him high, beyond his
transient human claims. He envied Redworth the common friendly right to
be near her. In reflection, long after, her simplicity of speech, washed
pure of the blood-emotions, for token of her great nature, during those
two minutes of their sitting together, was, dearer, sweeter to the lover
than if she had shown by touch or word that a faint allusion to their
severance was in her mind; and this despite a certain vacancy it created.
He received formal information of Lady Dunstane's progress to
convalescence. By degrees the simply official tone of Diana's letters
combined with the ceasing of them and the absence of her personal charm
to make a gentleman not remarkable for violence in the passion so calmly
reasonable as to think the dangerous presence best avoided for a time.
Subject to fits of the passion, he certainly was, but his position in the
world was a counselling spouse, jealous of his good name. He did not
regret his proposal to take the leap; he would not have regretted it if
taken. On the safe side of the abyss, however, it wore a gruesome look
to his cool blood.
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