Lord Ormont and his Aminta, v4
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XVII. LADY CHARLOTTE'S TRIUMPH
XVIII. A SCENE ON THE ROAD BACK
XIX. THE PURSUERS
XX. AT THE SIGN OF THE JOLLY CRICKETERS
XXI. UNDER-CURRENTS IN THE MINDS OF LADY CHARLOTTE AND LORD ORMONT
XXII. TREATS OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE CONTENTION OF BROTHER AND SISTER
XXIII. THE ORMONT JEWELS
LADY CHARLOTTE'S TRIUMPH
One of the days of sovereign splendour in England was riding down the
heavens, and drawing the royal mantle of the gold-fringed shadows over
plain and wavy turf, blue water and woods of the country round Steignton.
A white mansion shone to a length of oblong lake that held the sun-ball
suffused in mild yellow.
'There's the place,' Lady Charlotte said to Weyburn, as they had view of
it at a turn of the park. She said to herself--where I was born and
bred! and her sight gloated momentarily on the house and side avenues,
a great plane standing to the right of the house, the sparkle of a little
river running near; all the scenes she knew, all young and lively. She
sprang on her seat for a horse beneath her, and said, 'But this is
healthy excitement,' as in reply to her London physician's remonstrances.
'And there's my brother Rowsley, talking to one of the keepers,' she
cried. 'You see Lord Ormont? I can see a mile. Sight doesn't fail with
me. He 's insisting. 'Ware poachers when Rowsley's on his ground! You
smell the air here? Nobody dies round about Steignton. Their legs wear
out and they lie down to rest them. It 's the finest air in the world.
Now look, the third window left of the porch, first floor. That was my
room before I married. Strangers have been here and called the place
home. It can never be home to any but me and Rowsley. He sees the
carriage. He little thinks! He's dressed in his white corduroy and
knee-breeches. Age! he won't know age till he's ninety. Here he comes
marching. He can't bear surprises. I'll wave my hand and call.'
She called his name.
In a few strides he was at the carriage window. 'You, Charlotte?'
'Home again, Rowsley! Bring down your eyebrows, and let me hear you're
glad I 've come.'
'What made you expect you would find me here?'
'Anything-cats on the tiles at night. You can't keep a secret from me.
Here's Mr. Weyburn, good enough to be my escort. I 'll get out.'
She alighted, scorning help; Weyburn at her heels. The earl nodded to
him politely and not cordially. He was hardly cordial to Lady Charlotte.
That had no effect on her. 'A glorious day for Steignton,' she said.
'Ah, there's the Buridon group of beeches; grander trees than grow at
Buridon. Old timber now. I knew them slim as demoiselles. Where 's the
ash? We had a splendid ash on the west side.'
'Dead and cut down long since,' replied the earl.
'So we go!'
She bent her steps to the spot: a grass-covered heave of the soil.
'Dear old tree!' she said, in a music of elegy: and to Weyburn: 'Looks
like a stump of an arm lopped off a shoulder in bandages. Nature does it
so. All the tenants doing well, Rowsley?'
'About the same amount of trouble with them.'
'Ours at Olmer get worse.'
'It's a process for the extirpation of the landlords.'
'Then down goes the country.'
'They 've got their case, their papers tell us.'
'I know they have; but we've got the soil, and we'll make a, fight of
'They can fight too, they say.'
'I should be sorry to think they couldn't if they're Englishmen.'
She spoke so like his old Charlotte of the younger days that her brother
'Parliamentary fighting 's not much to your taste or mine. They 've lost
their stomach for any other. The battle they enjoy is the battle that
goes for the majority. Gauge their valour by that.'
'To be sure,' said his responsive sister. She changed her note. 'But
what I say is, let the nobles keep together and stick to their class.
There's nothing to fear then. They must marry among themselves, think
of the blood: it's their first duty. Or better a peasant girl! Middle
courses dilute it to the stuff in a publican's tankard. It 's an
adulterous beast who thinks of mixing old wine with anything.'
'Hulloa!' said the earl; and she drew up.
'You'll have me here till over to-morrow, Rowsley, so that I may have one
clear day at Steignton?'
He bowed. 'You will choose your room. Mr. Weyburn is welcome.'
Weyburn stated the purport of his visit, and was allowed to name an early
day for the end of his term of service.
Entering the house, Lady Charlotte glanced at the armour and stag
branches decorating corners of the hall, and straightway laid her head
forward, pushing after it in the direction of the drawing room. She went
in, stood for a minute, and came out. Her mouth was hard shut.
At dinner she had tales of uxorious men, of men who married mistresses,
of the fearful incubus the vulgar family of a woman of the inferior
classes ever must be; and her animadversions were strong in the matter of
gew-gaw modern furniture. The earl submitted to hear.
She was, however, keenly attentive whenever he proffered any item of
information touching Steignton. After dinner Weyburn strolled to the
points of view she cited as excellent for different aspects of her old
He found her waiting to hear his laudation when he came back; and in the
early morning she was on the terrace, impatient to lead him down to the
lake. There, at the boat-house, she commanded him to loosen a skiff and
give her a paddle. Between exclamations, designed to waken louder from
him, and not so successful as her cormorant hunger for praise of
Steignton required, she plied him to confirm with his opinion an opinion
that her reasoning mind had almost formed in the close neighbourhood of
the beloved and honoured person providing it; for abstract ideas were
unknown to her. She put it, however, as in the abstract:--
'How is it we meet people brave as lions before an enemy, and rank
cowards where there's a botheration among their friends at home? And
tell me, too, if you've thought the thing over, what's the meaning of
this? I 've met men in high places, and they've risen to distinction by
their own efforts, and they head the nation. Right enough, you'd say.
Well, I talk with them, and I find they've left their brains on the
ladder that led them up; they've only the ideas of their grandfather on
general subjects. I come across a common peasant or craftsman, and he
down there has a mind more open--he's wiser in his intelligence than his
rulers and lawgivers up above him. He understands what I say, and I
learn from him. I don't learn much from our senators, or great lawyers,
great doctors, professors, members of governing bodies--that lot. Policy
seems to petrify their minds when they 've got on an eminence. Now
explain it, if you can.'
'Responsibility has a certain effect on them, no doubt,' said Weyburn.
'Eminent station among men doesn't give a larger outlook. Most of them
confine their observation to their supports. It happens to be one of the
questions I have thought over. Here in England, and particularly on a
fortnight's run in the lowlands of Scotland once, I have, like you, my
lady, come now and then across the people we call common, men and women,
old wayside men especially; slow-minded, but hard in their grasp of
facts, and ready to learn, and logical, large in their ideas, though
going a roundabout way to express them. They were at the bottom of
wisdom, for they had in their heads the delicate sense of justice, upon
which wisdom is founded. That is what their rulers lack. Unless we have
the sense of justice abroad like a common air, there 's no peace, and no
steady advance. But these humble people had it. They reasoned from it,
and came to sound conclusions. I felt them to be my superiors. On the
other hand, I have not felt the same with "our senators, rulers, and
lawgivers." They are for the most part deficient in the liberal mind.'
'Ha! good, so far. How do you account for it?' said Lady Charlotte.
'I read it in this way: that the world being such as it is at present,
demanding and rewarding with honours and pay special services, the men
called great, who have risen to distinction, are not men of brains, but
the men of aptitudes. These men of aptitudes have a poor conception of
the facts of life to meet the necessities of modern expansion. They are
serviceable in departments. They go as they are driven, or they resist.
In either case, they explain how it is that we have a world moving so
sluggishly. They are not the men of brains, the men of insight and
outlook. Often enough they are foes of the men of brains.'
'Aptitudes; yes, that flashes a light into me,' said Lady Charlotte.
'I see it better. It helps to some comprehension of their muddle. A man
may be a first-rate soldier, doctor, banker--as we call the usurer now-a
-days---or brewer, orator, anything that leads up to a figure-head, and
prove a foolish fellow if you sound him. I 've thought something like
it, but wanted the word. They say themselves, "Get to know, and you see
with what little wisdom the world is governed!" You explain how it is.
I shall carry "aptitudes" away.'
She looked straight at Weyburn. 'If I were a younger woman I could kiss
you for it.'
He bowed to her very gratefully.
'Remember, my lady, there's a good deal of the Reformer in that
'I stick to my class. But they shall hear a true word when there's one
abroad, I can tell them. That reminds me---you ought to have asked; let
me tell you I'm friendly with the Rev. Mr. Hampton-Evey. We had a
wrestle for half an hour, and I threw him and helped him up, and he
apologized for tumbling, and I subscribed to one of his charities, and
gave up about the pew, but had an excuse for not sitting under the
sermon. A poor good creature. He 's got the aptitudes for his office.
He won't do much to save his Church. I knew another who had his aptitude
for the classics, and he has mounted. He was my tutor when I was a girl.
He was fond of declaiming passages from Lucian and Longus and Ovid. One
day he was at it with a piece out of Daphnis and Chloe, and I said, "Now
translate." He fetched a gurgle to say he couldn't, and I slapped his
check. Will you believe it? the man was indignant. I told him, if he
would like to know why I behaved in "that unmaidenly way," he had better
apply at home. I had no further intimations of his classical aptitudes;
but he took me for a cleverer pupil than I was. I hadn't a notion of the
stuff he recited. I read by his face. That was my aptitude--always has
been. But think of the donkeys parents are when they let a man have a
chance of pouring his barley-sugar and sulphur into the ears of a girl.
Lots of girls have no latent heckles and prickles to match his villany.
--There's my brother come back to breakfast from a round. You and I 'll
have a drive before lunch, and a ride or a stroll in the afternoon.
There's a lot to see. I mean you to get the whole place into your head.
I 've ordered the phaeton, and you shall take the whip, with me beside
you. That's how my husband and I spent three-quarters of our honeymoon.'
Each of the three breakfasted alone.
They met on the terrace. It was easily perceived that Lord Ormont stood
expecting an assault at any instant; prepared also to encounter and do
battle with his redoubtable sister. Only he wished to defer the
engagement. And he was magnanimous: he was in the right, she in the
wrong; he had no desire to grapple with her, fling and humiliate. The
Sphinx of Mrs. Pagnell had been communing with himself unwontedly during
the recent weeks.
What was the riddle of him? That, he did not read. But, expecting an
assault, and relieved by his sister Charlotte's departure with Weyburn,
he went to the drawing-room, where he had seen her sniff her strong
suspicions of a lady coming to throne it. Charlotte could believe that
he flouted the world with a beautiful young woman on his arm; she would
not believe him capable of doing that in his family home and native
county; so, then, her shrewd wits had nothing or little to learn. But
her vehement fighting against facts; her obstinate aristocratic
prejudices, which he shared; her stinger of a tongue: these in ebullition
formed a discomforting prospect. The battle might as well be conducted
through the post. Come it must!
Even her writing of the pointed truths she would deliver was an
unpleasant anticipation. His ears heated. Undoubtedly he could crush
her. Yet, supposing her to speak to his ears, she would say: 'You
married a young woman, and have been foiling and fooling her ever since,
giving her half a title to the name of wife, and allowing her in
consequence to be wholly disfigured before the world--your family
naturally her chief enemies, who would otherwise (Charlotte would
proclaim it) have been her friends. What! your intention was (one could
hear Charlotte's voice) to smack the world in the face, and you smacked
your young wife's instead!'
His intention had been nothing of the sort. He had married, in a foreign
city, a young woman who adored him, whose features, manners, and carriage
of her person satisfied his exacting taste in the sex; and he had
intended to cast gossipy England over the rail and be a traveller for the
remainder of his days. And at the first she had acquiesced, tacitly
accepted it as part of the contract. He bore with the burden of an
intolerable aunt of hers for her sake. The two fell to work to conspire.
Aminta 'tired of travelling,' Aminta must have a London house. She
continually expressed a hope that 'she might set her eyes on Steignton
some early day.' In fact, she as good as confessed her scheme to plot for
the acknowledged position of Countess of Ormont in the English social
world. That was a distinct breach of the contract.
As to the babble of the London world about a 'very young wife,' he
scorned it completely, but it belonged to the calculation. 'A very
handsome young wife,' would lay commands on a sexagenarian vigilance
while adding to his physical glory. The latter he could forego among
a people he despised. It would, however, be an annoyance to stand
constantly hand upon sword-hilt. There was, besides, the conflict with
his redoubtable sister. He had no dread of it, in contemplation of the
necessity; he could crush his Charlotte. The objection was, that his
Aminta should be pressing him to do it. Examine the situation at
present. Aminta has all she needs--every luxury. Her title as Countess
of Ormont is not denied. Her husband justly refuses to put foot into
English society. She, choosing to go where she may be received,
dissociates herself from him, and he does not complain. She does
complain. There is a difference between the two.
He had always shunned the closer yoke with a woman because of these
vexatious dissensions. For not only are women incapable of practising,
they cannot comprehend magnanimity.
Lord Ormont's argumentative reverie to the above effect had been pursued
over and over. He knew that the country which broke his military career
and ridiculed his newspaper controversy was unforgiven by him. He did
not reflect on the consequences of such an unpardoning spirit in its
operation on his mind.
If he could but have passed the injury, he would ultimately--for his
claims of service were admitted--have had employment of some kind.
Inoccupation was poison to him; travel juggled with his malady of
restlessness; really, a compression of the warrior's natural forces.
His Aminta, pushed to it by the woman Pagnell, declined to help him in
softening the virulence of the disease. She would not travel; she would
fix in this London of theirs, and scheme to be hailed the accepted
Countess of Ormont. She manoeuvred; she threw him on the veteran
soldier's instinct, and it resulted spontaneously that he manoeuvred.
Hence their game of Pull, which occupied him a little, tickled him and
amused. The watching of her pretty infantile tactics amused him too much
to permit of a sidethought on the cruelty of the part he played. She had
every luxury, more than her station by right of birth would have
But he was astonished to find that his Aminta proved herself clever,
though she had now and then said something pointed. She was in awe of
him: notwithstanding which, clearly she meant to win and pull him over.
He did not dislike her for it; she might use her weapons to play her
game; and that she should bewitch men--a, man like Morsfield--was not
wonderful. On the other hand, her conquest of Mrs. Lawrence Finchley
scored tellingly: that was unaccountably queer. What did Mrs. Lawrence
expect to gain? the sage lord asked. He had not known women devoid of a
positive practical object of their own when they bestirred themselves to
do a friendly deed.
Thanks to her conquest of Mrs. Lawrence, his Aminta was gaining ground
--daily she made an advance; insomuch that he had heard of himself as
harshly blamed in London for not having countenanced her recent and
rather imprudent move. In other words, whenever she gave a violent tug
at their game of Pull, he was expected to second it. But the world of
these English is too monstrously stupid in what it expects, for any of
its extravagances to be followed by interjections.
All the while he was trimming and rolling a field of armistice at
Steignton, where they could discuss the terms he had a right to dictate,
having yielded so far. Would she be satisfied with the rule of his
ancestral hall, and the dispensing of hospitalities to the county?
No, one may guess: no woman is ever satisfied. But she would have to
relinquish her game, counting her good round half of the honours.
Somewhat more, on the whole. Without beating, she certainly had
accomplished the miracle of bending him. To time and a wife it is no
disgrace for a man to bend. It is the form of submission of the bulrush
to the wind, of courtesy in the cavalier to a lady.
'Oh, here you are, Rowsley,' Lady Charlotte exclaimed at the drawing room
door. 'Well, and I don't like those Louis Quinze cabinets; and that
modern French mantelpiece clock is hideous. You seem to furnish in
downright contempt of the women you invite to sit in the room. Lord help
the wretched woman playing hostess in such a pinchbeck bric-a-brac shop,
if there were one! She 's spared, at all events.'
He stepped at slow march to one of the five windows. Lady Charlotte went
to another near by. She called to Weyburn--
'We had a regatta on that water when Lord Ormont came of age. I took an
oar in one of the boats, and we won a prize; and when I was landing I
didn't stride enough to the spring-plank, and plumped in.'
Some labourers of the estate passed in front.
Lord Ormont gave out a broken laugh. 'See those fellows walk! That 's
the raw material of the famous English infantry. They bend their knees
five-and-forty degrees for every stride; and when you drill them out of
that, they 're stiff as ramrods. I gymnasticized them in my regiment.
I'd have challenged any French regiment to out-walk or out-jump us, or
any crack Tyrolese Jagers to out-climb, though we were cavalry.'
'Yes, my lord, and exercised crack corps are wanted with us,' Weyburn
replied. 'The English authorities are adverse to it, but it 's against
nature--on the supposition that all Englishmen might enrol untrained in
Caesar's pet legion. Virgil shows knowledge of men when he says of the
row-boat straining in emulation, 'Possunt quia posse videntur.''
He talked on rapidly; he wondered that he did not hear Lady Charlotte
exclaim at what she must be seeing. From the nearest avenue a lady had
issued. She stood gazing at the house, erect--a gallant figure of a
woman--one hand holding her parasol, the other at her hip. He knew her.
She was a few paces ahead of Mrs. Pagnell, beside whom a gentleman
The cry came: 'It's that man Morsfield! Who brings that man Morsfield
here? He hunted me on the road; he seemed to be on the wrong scent. Who
are those women? Rowsley, are your grounds open every day of the week?
She threatens to come in!'
Lady Charlotte had noted that the foremost and younger of 'those women'
understood how to walk and how to dress to her shape and colour. She
inclined to think she was having to do with an intrepid foreign-bred
Aminta had been addressed by one of her companions, and had hastened
forward. It looked like the beginning of a run to enter the house.
Mrs. Pagnell ran after her. She ran cow-like.
The earl's gorge rose at the spectacle Charlotte was observing.
With Morsfield he could have settled accounts at any moment, despatching
Aminta to her chamber for an hour. He had, though he was offended, an
honourable guess that she had not of her free will travelled with the man
and brought him into the grounds. It was the presence of the intolerable
Pagnell under Charlotte's eyes which irritated him beyond the common
anger he felt at Aminta's pursuit of him right into Steignton. His mouth
locked. Lady Charlotte needed no speech from him for sign of the
boiling; she was too wary to speak while that went on.
He said to Weyburn, loud enough for his Charlotte to heir. 'Do me the
favour to go to the Countess of Ormont. Conduct her back to London. You
will say it is my command. Inform Mr. Morsfield, with my compliments, I
regret I have no weapons here. I understand him to complain of having to
wait. I shall be in town three days from this date.'
'My lord,' said Mr. Weyburn; and actually he did mean to supplicate. He
could imagine seeing Lord Ormont's eyebrows rising to alpine heights.
Lady Charlotte seized his arm.
'Go at once. Do as you are told. I'll have your portmanteau packed and
sent after you--the phaeton's out in the yard--to Rowsley, or Ashead, or
Dornton, wherever they put up. Now go, or we shall have hot work. Keep
your head on, and go.'
He went, without bowing.
Lady Charlotte rang for the footman.
The earl and she watched the scene on the sward below the terrace.
Aminta listened to Weyburn. Evidently there was no expostulation.
But it was otherwise with Mrs. Pagnell. She flung wild arms of a
semaphore signalling national events. She sprang before Aminta to stop
her retreat, and stamped and gibbed, for sign that she would not be
driven. She fell away to Mr. Morsfield, for simple hearing of her
plaint. He appeared emphatic. There was a passage between him and
'I suspect you've more than your match in young Weyburn, Mr. Morsfield,'
Lady Charlotte said, measuring them as they stood together. They turned
'You shall drive back to town with me, Rowsley,' said the fighting dame.
She breathed no hint of her triumph.
A SCENE ON THE ROAD BACK
After refusing to quit the grounds of Steignton, in spite of the
proprietor, Mrs. Pagnell burst into an agitation to have them be at
speed, that they might 'shake the dust of the place from the soles of
their feet'; and she hurried past Aminta and Lord Ormont's insolent
emissary, carrying Mr. Morsfield beside her, perforce of a series of
imperiously-toned vacuous questions, to which he listened in rigid
politeness, with the ejaculation steaming off from time to time, 'A
He shot glances behind him.
Mrs. Pagnell was going too fast. She, however, world not hear of a halt,
and she was his main apology for being present; he was excruciatingly
attached to the horrid woman.
Weyburn spoke the commonplaces about regrets to Aminta.
'Believe me, it's long since I have been so happy,' she said.
She had come out of her stupefaction, and she wore no theatrical looks of
'I regret that you should be dragged away. But, if you say you do not
mind, it will be pleasant to me. I can excuse Lord Ormont's anger.
I was ignorant of his presence here. I thought him in Paris. I supposed
the place empty. I wished to see it once. I travelled as the niece of
Mrs. Pagnell. She is a little infatuated. . . . Mr. Morsfield heard
of our expedition through her. I changed the route. I was not in want
of a defender. I could have defended myself in case of need. We slept
at Ashead, two hours from Steignton. He and a friend accompanied us, not
with my consent. Lord Ormont could not have been aware of that. These
accidental circumstances happen. There may be pardonable intentions on
She smiled. Her looks were open, and her voice light and spirited;
though the natural dark rose-glow was absent from her olive cheeks.
Weyburn puzzled over the mystery of so volatile a treatment of a serious
matter, on the part of a woman whose feelings he had reason to know were
quick and deep. She might be acting, as women so cleverly do.
It could hardly be acting when she pointed to peeps of scenery, with a
just eye for landscape.
'You leave us for Switzerland very soon?' she said.
'The Reversion I have been expecting has fallen in, besides my
inheritance. My mother was not to see the school. But I shall not
forget her counsels. I can now make my purchase of the house and
buildings, and buy out my partner at the end of a year. My boys are
jumping to start. I had last week a letter from Emile.'
'Dear little Emile!'
'You like him?'
'I could use a warmer word. He knew me when I was a girl.'
She wound the strings of his heart suddenly tense, and they sang to their
'You will let me hear of you, Mr. Weyburn?'
'I will write. Oh! certainly I will write, if I am told you are
interested in our doings, Lady Ormont.'
'I will let you know that I am.'
'I shall be happy in writing full reports.'
'Every detail, I beg. All concerning the school. Help me to feel I am a
boarder. I catch up an old sympathy I had for girls and boys. For boys!
any boys! the dear monkey boys! cherub monkeys! They are so funny. I am
sure I never have laughed as I did at Selina Collett's report, through
her brother, of the way the boys tried to take to my name; and their
sneezing at it, like a cat at a deceitful dish. "Aminta"--was that their
'Something--the young rascals!'
'But please repeat it as you heard them.'
He subdued the mouthing.
'It didn't, offend me at all. It is one of my amusements to think of it.
But after a time they liked the name; and then how did they say it?'
He had the beloved Aminta on his lips.
He checked it, or the power to speak it failed. She drew in a sharp
'I hope your boys will have plenty of fun in them. They will have you
for a providence and a friend. I should wish to propose to visit your
school some day. You will keep me informed whether the school has
vacancies. You will, please, keep me regularly informed?'
She broke into sobs.
Weyburn talked on of the school, for a cover to the resuming of her
fallen mask, as he fancied it.
She soon recovered, all save a steady voice for converse, and begged him
to proceed, and spoke in the flow of the subject; but the quaver of her
tones was a cause of further melting. The tears poured, she could not
explain why, beyond assuring him that they were no sign of unhappiness.
Winds on the great waters against a strong tidal current beat up the wave
and shear and wing the spray, as in Aminta's bosom. Only she could know
that it was not her heart weeping, though she had grounds for a woman's
weeping. But she alone could be aware of her heart's running counter to
Her agitation was untimely. Both Mrs. Pagnell and Mr. Morsfield observed
emotion at work. And who could wonder? A wife denied the admittance to
her husband's house by her husband! The most beautiful woman of her time
relentlessly humiliated, ordered to journey back the way she had come.
They had reached the gate of the park, and had turned.
Mr. Morsfield renewed his interjection vehemently, for an apology to his
politeness in breaking from Mrs. Pagnell.
Joining the lady, whose tears were of the nerves, he made offer of his
devotion in any shape; and she was again in the plight to which a
desperado can push a woman of the gentle kind. She had the fear of
provoking a collision if she reminded him, that despite her entreaties,
he had compelled her, seconded by her aunt as he had been, to submit to
his absurd protection on the walk across the park.
He seemed quite regardless of the mischief he had created; and,
reflecting upon how it served his purpose, he might well be. Intemperate
lover, of the ancient pattern, that he was, his aim to win the woman
acknowledged no obstacle in the means. Her pitiable position appealed to
the best of him; his inordinate desire of her aroused the worst. It was,
besides, an element of his coxcombry, that he should, in apeing the
utterly inconsiderate, rush swiftly to impersonate it when his passions
were cast on a die.
Weyburn he ignored as a stranger, an intruder, an inferior.
Aminta's chariot was at the gate.
She had to resign herself to the chances of a clash of men, and, as there
were two to one, she requested help of Weyburn's hand, that he might be
A mounted gentleman, smelling parasite in his bearing, held the bridle of
The ladies having entered the chariot, Morsfield sprang to the saddle,
and said: 'You, sir, had better stretch your legs to the inn.'
'There is room for you, Mr. Weyburn,' said Aminta.
Mrs. Pagnell puffed.
'I can't think we've room, my dear. I want that bit of seat in front for
Morsfield kicked at his horse's flanks, and between Weyburn and the
chariot step, cried: 'Back, sir!'
His reins were seized; the horse reared, the unexpected occurred.
Weyburn shouted 'Off!' to the postillion, and jumped in.
Morsfield was left to the shaking of a dusty coat, while the chariot
rolled its gentle course down the leafy lane into the high-road.
His friend had seized the horse's bridle-reins; and he remarked: 'I say,
Dolf, we don't prosper to-day.'
'He pays for it!' said Morsfield, foot in stirrup. 'You'll take him and
trounce him at the inn. I don't fight with servants. Better game. One
thing, Cumnock: the fellow's clever at the foils.'
'Foils to the devil! If I tackle the fellow, it won't be with the
buttons. But how has he pushed in?'
Morsfield reported 'the scandal!' in sharp headings.
'Turned her away. Won't have her enter his house--grandest woman in all
England! Sent his dog to guard. Think of it for an insult! It's insult
upon insult. I 've done my utmost to fire his marrow. I did myself a
good turn by following her up and entering that park with her. I shall
succeed; there 's a look of it. All I have--my life--is that woman's.
I never knew what this devil's torture was before I saw her.'
His friend was concerned for his veracity. 'Amy!'
'A common spotted snake. She caught me young, and she didn't carry me
off, as I mean to carry off this glory of her sex--she is: you've seen
her!--and free her, and devote every minute of the rest of my days to
her. I say I must win the woman if I stop at nothing, or I perish; and
if it 's a failure, exit 's my road. I 've watched every atom she
touched in a room, and would have heaped gold to have the chairs, tables,
cups, carpets, mine. I have two short letters written with her hand.
I 'd give two of my estates for two more. If I were a beggar, and kept
them, I should be rich. Relieve me of that dog, and I toss you a
thousand-pound note, and thank you from my soul, Cumnock. You know
what hangs on it. Spur, you dolt, or she'll be out of sight.'
They cantered upon application of the spur. Captain Cumnock was an
impecunious fearless rascal, therefore a parasite and a bully duellist;
a thick-built north-countryman; a burly ape of the ultra-elegant; hunter,
gamester, hard-drinker, man of pleasure. His known readiness to fight
was his trump-card at a period when the declining custom of the duel
taxed men's courage to brave the law and the Puritan in the interests of
a privileged and menaced aristocracy. An incident like the present was
the passion in the dice-box to Cumnock. Morsfield was of the order of
men who can be generous up to the pitch of their desires. Consequently,
the world accounted him open-handed and devoted when enamoured. Few men
liked him; he was a hero with some women. The women he trampled on; the
men he despised. To the lady of his choice he sincerely offered his
fortune and his life for the enjoyment of her favour. His ostentation
and his offensive daring combined the characteristics of the peacock and
the hawk. Always near upon madness, there were occasions when he could
eclipse the insane. He had a ringing renown in his class.
Chariot and horsemen arrived at the Roebuck Arms, at the centre of the
small town of Ashead, on the line from Steignton through Rowsley. The
pair of cavaliers dismounted and hustled Weyburn in assisting the ladies
The ladies entered the inn; they declined refection of any sort. They
had biscuits and sweetmeats, and looked forward to tea at a farther
stage. Captain Cumnock stooped to their verdict on themselves, with
marvel at the quantity of flesh they managed to put on their bones from
'By your courtesy, sir, a word with you in the inn yard, if you please,'
he said to Weyburn in the inn-porch.
Weyburn answered, 'Half a minute,' and was informed that it was exactly
the amount of time the captain could afford to wait.
Weyburn had seen the Steignton phaeton and coachman in the earl's light-
blue livery. It was at his orders, he heard. He told the coachman to
expect hire shortly, and he followed the captain, with a heavy trifle of
suspicion that some brew was at work. He said to Aminta in the passage--
'You have your settlement with the innkeeper. Don't, I beg, step into
the chariot till you see me.'
'Anything?' said she.
'Our posting horses will be harnessed soon, I hope. I burn to get away.'
Mrs. Pagnell paid the bill at the bar of the inn. Morsfield poured out
for the injured countess or no-countess a dram of the brandy of passion,
under the breath.
'Deny that you singled me once for your esteem. Hardest-hearted of the
women of earth and dearest! deny that you gave me reason to hope--and
now! I have ridden in your track all this way for the sight of you, as
you know, and you kill me with frost. Yes, I rejoice that we were seen
together. Look on me. I swear I perish for one look of kindness. You
have been shamefully used, madam.'
'It seems to me I am being so,' said Aminta, cutting herself loose from
the man of the close eyes that wavered as they shot the dart.
Her action was too decided for him to follow her up under the observation
of the inn windows and a staring street.
Mrs. Pagnell came out. She went boldly to Morsfield and they conferred.
He was led by her to the chariot, where she pointed to a small padded
slab of a seat back to the horses. Turning to the bar, he said:--
My friend will look to my horse. Both want watering and a bucketful.
There!'--he threw silver--'I have to protect the ladies.'
Aminta was at the chariot door talking to her aunt inside.
'But I say I have been insulted--is the word--more than enough by Lord
Ormont to-day!' Mrs. Pagnell exclaimed; 'and I won't, I positively refuse
to ride up to London with any servant of his. It's quite sufficient that
it's his servant. I'm not titled, but I 'in not quite dirt. Mr.
Morsfield kindly offers his protection, and I accept. He is company.'
Nodding and smirking at Morsfield's approach, she entreated Aminta to
step up and in, for the horses were coming out of the yard.
Aminta looked round. Weyburn was perceived; and Morsfield's features
cramped at thought of a hitch in the plot.
'Possession,' Mrs. Pagnell murmured significantly. She patted the seat.
Morsfield sprang to Weyburn's place.
That was witnessed by Aminta and Weyburn. She stepped to consult him.
He said to the earl's coachman--a young fellow with a bright eye for
'Drive as fast as you can pelt for Dornton. I'm doing my lord's
'Trust yourself to me, madam.' His hand stretched for Aminta to mount.
She took it without a word and climbed to the seat. A clatter of hoofs
rang out with the crack of the whip. They were away behind a pair of
steppers that could go the pace.
For promptitude, the lady, the gentleman, and the coachman were in such
unison as to make it a reasonable deduction that the flight had been
Never did any departure from the Roebuck leave so wide-mouthed a body of
spectators. Mrs. Pagnell's shrieks of 'Stop, oh! stop!' to the backs of
the coachman and Aminta were continued until they were far down the
street. She called to the innkeeper, called to the landlady and to
invisible constables for help. But her pangs were childish compared with
Morsfield's, who, with the rage of a conceited schemer tricked and the
fury of a lover beholding the rape of his beautiful, bellowed impotently
at Weyburn and the coachman out of hearing, 'Stop! you!' He was in the
state of men who believe that there is a virtue in imprecations, and he
shot loud oaths after them, shook his fist, cursed his friend Cumnock,
whose name he vociferated as a summons to him,--generally the baffled
plotter misconducted himself to an extreme degree, that might have
apprised Mrs. Pagnell of a more than legitimate disappointment on his
Pursuit was one of the immediate ideas which rush forward to look
back woefully on impediments and fret to fever over the tardiness of
operations. A glance at the thing of wrinkles receiving orders to buckle
at his horses and pursue convinced them of the hopelessness; and
Morsfield was pricked to intensest hatred of the woman by hearing the
dire exclamation, 'One night, and her character's gone!'
'Be quiet, ma'am, if you please, or nothing can be done,' he cried.
'I tell you, Mr. Morsfield--don't you see?--he has thrown them
together. It is Lord Ormont's wicked conspiracy to rid himself of her.
A secretary! He'll beat any one alive in plots. She can't show her face
in London after this, if you don't overtake her. And she might have seen
Lord Ormont's plot to ruin her. He tired of her, and was ashamed of her
inferior birth to his own, after the first year, except on the Continent,
where she had her rights. Me he never forgave for helping make him the
happy man he might have been in spite of his age. For she is lovely!
But it's worse for a lovely woman with a damaged reputation. And that 's
his cunning. How she could be so silly as to play into it! She can't
have demeaned herself to look on that secretary! I said from the first
he seemed as if thrown into her way for a purpose. But she has pride: my
niece Aminta has pride. She might well have listened to flatterers--she
had every temptation--if it hadn't been for her pride. It may save her
yet. However good-looking, she will remember her dignity--unless he's a
villain. Runnings away! drivings together! inns oh! the story over
London! I do believe she has a true friend in you, Mr. Morsfield; and I
say, as I have said before, the sight of a devoted admirer would have
brought any husband of more than sixty to his senses, if he hadn't hoped
a catastrophe and determined on it. Catch them we can't, unless she
repents and relents; and prayers for that are our only resource. Now,
start, man, do!'
The postillion had his foot in position to spring. Morsfield bawled
Cumnock's name, and bestrode his horse. Captain Cumnock emerged from the
inn-yard with a dubitative step, pressing a handkerchief to his nose,
blinking, and scrutinizing the persistent fresh stains on it.
Stable-boys were at the rear. These, ducking and springing, surcharged
and copious exponents of the play they had seen, related, for the benefit
of the town, how that the two gentlemen had exchanged words in the yard,
which were about beastly pistols, which the slim gentleman would have
none of; and then the big one trips up, like dancing, to the other one
and flicks him a soft clap on the check--quite friendly, you may say;
and before he can square to it, the slim one he steps his hind leg half a
foot back, and he drives a straight left like lightning off the shoulder
slick on to t' other one's nob, and over he rolls, like a cart with the
shafts up down a bank; and he' a been washing his 'chops' and threatening
bullets ever since.
The exact account of the captain's framework in the process of the fall
was graphically portrayed in our blunt and racy vernacular, which a
society nourished upon Norman-English and English-Latin banishes from
print, largely to its impoverishment, some think.
By the time the primary narrative of the encounter in the inn yard had
given ground for fancy and ornament to present it in yet more luscious
dress, Lord Ormont's phaeton was a good mile on the road. Morsfield and
Captain Cumnock--the latter inquisitive of the handkerchief pressed
occasionally at his nose--trotted on tired steeds along dusty wheel-
tracks. Mrs. Pagnell was the solitary of the chariot, having a horrid
couple of loaded pistols to intimidate her for her protection, and the
provoking back view of a regularly jogging mannikin under a big white hat
with blue riband, who played the part of Time in dragging her along, with
worse than no countenance for her anxieties.
News of the fugitives was obtained at the rampant Red Lion in Dudsworth,
nine miles on along the London road, to the extent that the Earl of
Ormont's phaeton, containing a lady and a gentleman, had stopped there
a minute to send back word to Steignton of their comfortable progress,
and expectations of crossing the borders into Hampshire before sunset.
Morsfield and Cumnock shrugged at the bumpkin artifice. They left their
line of route to be communicated to the chariot, and chose, with
practised acumen, that very course, which was the main road, and rewarded
them at the end of half an hour with sight of the Steignton phaeton.
But it was returning. A nearer view showed it empty of the couple.
Morsfield bade the coachman pull up, and he was readily obeyed. Answers
Although provincial acting is not of the high class which conceals the
art, this man's look beside him and behind him at vacant seats had
incontestable evidence in support of his declaration, that the lady and
gentleman had gone on by themselves: the phaeton was a box of flown
'Where did you say they got out, you dog?' said Cumnock.
The coachman stood up to spy a point below. 'Down there at the bottom of
the road, to the right, where there's a stile across the meadows, making
a short cut by way of a bridge over the river to Busley and North
Tothill, on the high-road to Hocklebourne. The lady and gentleman
thought they 'd walk for a bit of exercise the remains of the journey.'
'Can't prove the rascal's a liar,' Cumnock said to Morsfield, who rallied
him savagely on his lucky escape from another knock-down blow, and tossed
silver on the seat, and said--
'We 'll see if there is a stile.'
'You'll see the stile, sir,' rejoined the man, and winked at their backs.
Both cavaliers, being famished besides baffled, were in sour tempers,
expecting to see just the dead wooden stile, and see it as a grin at
them. Cumnock called on Jove to witness that they had been donkeys
enough to forget to ask the driver how far round on the road it was to
the other end of the cross-cut.
Morsfield, entirely objecting to asinine harness with him, mocked at his
invocation and intonation of the name of Jove.
Cumnock was thereupon stung to a keen recollection of the allusion to his
knock-down blow, and he retorted that there were some men whose wit was
Morsfield complimented him over the exhibition of a vastly superior and
more serviceable wit, in losing sight of his antagonist after one trial
Cumnock protested that the loss of time was caused by his friend's
dalliance with the Venus in the chariot.
Morsfield's gall seethed at a flying picture of Mrs. Pagnell, coupled
with the retarding reddened handkerchief business, and he recommended
Cumnock to pay court to the old woman, as the only chance he would have
of acquaintanceship with the mother of Love.
Upon that Cumnock confessed in humility to his not being wealthy.
Morsfield looked a willingness to do the deed he might have to pay for in
tenderer places than the pocket, and named the head as a seat of poverty
Cumnock then yawned a town fop's advice to a hustling street passenger to
apologize for his rudeness before it was too late. Whereat Morsfield,
certain that his parasitic thrasyleon apeing coxcomb would avoid
extremities, mimicked him execrably.
Now this was a second breach of the implied convention existing among the
exquisitely fine-bred silken-slender on the summits of our mundane
sphere, which demands of them all, that they respect one another's
affectations. It is commonly done, and so the costly people of a single
pattern contrive to push forth, flatteringly to themselves, luxuriant
shoots of individuality in their orchidean glass-house. A violation of
the rule is a really deadly personal attack. Captain Cumnock was
particularly sensitive regarding it, inasmuch as he knew himself not the
natural performer he strove to be, and a mimicry affected him as a
He burst out: 'Damned if I don't understand why you're hated by men and
Morsfield took a shock. 'Infernal hornet!' he muttered; for his
conquests had their secret history.
'May and his wife have a balance to pay will trip you yet, you 'll find.'
'Reserve your wrath, sir, for the man who stretched you on your back.'
The batteries of the two continued exchangeing redhot shots, with the
effect, that they had to call to mind they were looking at the stile.
A path across a buttercup meadow was beyond it. They were damped to
some coolness by the sight.
'Upon my word, the trick seems neat!' said Cumnock staring at the
'Whose trick?' he was asked sternly.
'Here or there 's not much matter; they 're off, unless they 're under a
An ache of jealousy and spite was driven through the lover, who groaned,
and presently said--
'I ride on. That old woman can follow. I don't want to hear her
gibberish. We've lost the game--there 's no reckoning the luck. If
there's a chance, it's this way. It smells a trick. He and she--by all
the devils! It has been done in my family--might have been done again.
Tell the men on the plain they can drive home. There's a hundred-pound
weight on your tongue for silence.'
Cumnock cried: 'But we needn't be parting, Dolf! Stick together. Bad
luck's not repeated every day. Keep heart for the good.'
'My heart's shattered, Cumnock. I say it's impossible she can love a
husband twice her age, who treats her--you 've seen. Contempt of that
By heaven! once in my power, I swear she would have been sacred to me.
But she would have been compelled to face the public and take my hand.
I swear she would have been congratulated on the end of her sufferings.
Worship!--that's what I feel. No woman ever alive had eyes in her head
like that lady's. I repeat her name ten times every night before I go to
sleep. If I had her hand, no, not one kiss would I press on it without
her sanction. I could be in love with her cruelty, if only I had her
near me. I 've lost her--by the Lord, I 've lost her!'
'Pro tem.,' said the captain. 'A plate of red beef and a glass of port
wine alters the view. Too much in the breast, too little in the belly,
capsizes lovers. Old story. Horses that ought to be having a mash
between their ribs make riders despond. Say, shall we back to the town
behind us, or on? Back's the safest, if the chase is up.'
Morsfield declared himself incapable of turning and meeting that chariot.
He sighed heavily. Cumnock offered to cheer him with a song of Captain
Chanter's famous collection, if he liked; but Morsfield gesticulated
abhorrence, and set out at a trot. Song in defeat was a hiss of derision
He had failed. Having failed, he for the first time perceived the
wildness of a plot that had previously appeared to him as one of the
Yorkshire Morsfields' moves to win an object. Traditionally they stopped
at nothing. There would have been a sunburst of notoriety in the capture
and carrying off of the beautiful Countess of Ormont.
She had eluded him during the downward journey to Steignton. He came on
her track at the village at the junction of the roads above Ashead, and
thence, confiding in the half-connivance or utter stupidity of the fair
one's duenna, despatched a mounted man-servant to his coachman and
footmen, stationed ten miles behind, with orders that they should drive
forthwith to the great plain, and be ready at a point there for two
succeeding days. That was the plot, promptly devised upon receipt of
Mrs. Pagnell's communication; for the wealthy man of pleasure was a
strategist fit to be a soldier, in dexterity not far from rivalling the
man by whom he had been outdone.
An ascetic on the road to success, he dedicated himself to a term of hard
drinking under a reverse; and the question addressed to the chief towns
in the sketch counties his head contained was, which one near would be
likely to supply the port wine for floating him through garlanding dreams
of possession most tastily to blest oblivion.
He was a lover, nevertheless, honest in his fashion, and meant not worse
than to pull his lady through a mire, and wash her with Morsfield soap,
and crown her, and worship. She was in his blood, about him, above him;
he had plunged into her image, as into deeps that broke away in
phosphorescent waves on all sides, reflecting every remembered, every
imagined, aspect of the adored beautiful woman piercing him to extinction
with that last look of her at the moment of flight.
Had he been just a trifle more sincere in the respect he professed for
his lady's duenna, he would have turned on the road to Dornton and a
better fortune. Mrs. Pagnell had now become the ridiculous Paggy of Mrs.
Lawrence Finchley and her circle for the hypocritical gentleman; and he
remarked to Captain Cumnock, when their mutual trot was established:
'Paggy enough for me for a month--good Lord! I can't stand another dose
of her by herself.'
'It's a bird that won't roast or boil or stew,' said the captain.
They were observed trotting along below by Lord Ormont's groom of the
stables on promotion, as he surveyed the country from the chalk-hill rise
and brought the phaeton to a stand, Jonathan Boon, a sharp lad, whose
comprehension was a little muddled by 'the rights of it' in this
adventure. He knew, however, that he did well to follow the directions
of one who was in his lordship's pay, and stretched out the fee with the
air of a shake of the hand, and had a look of the winning side, moreover.
A born countryman could see that.
Boon watched the pair of horsemen trotting to confusion, and clicked in
his cheek. The provincial of the period when coaches were beginning to
be threatened by talk of new-fangled rails was proud to boast of his
outwitting Londoners on material points; and Boon had numerous tales of
how it had been done, to have the laugh of fellows thinking themselves
such razors. They compensated him for the slavish abasement of his whole
neighbourhood under the hectoring of the grand new manufacture of wit in
London:--the inimitable Metropolitan PUN, which came down to the country
by four-in-hand, and stopped all other conversation wherever it was
reported, and would have the roar--there was no resisting it. Indeed,
to be able to see the thing smartly was an entry into community with the
elect of the district; and when the roaring ceased and the thing was
examined, astonishment at the cleverness of it, and the wonderful
shallowness of the seeming deep hole, and the unexhausted bang it had to
go off like a patent cracker, fetched it out for telling over again; and
up went the roar, and up it went at home and in stable-yards, and at the
net puffing of churchwardens on a summer's bench, or in a cricket-booth
after a feast, or round the old inn's taproom fine. The pun, the
wonderful bo-peep of double meanings darting out to surprise and smack
one another from behind words of the same sound, sometimes the same
spelling, overwhelmed the provincial mind with awe of London's occult and
Yet down yonder you may behold a pair of London gentlemen trotting along
on as fine a fool's errand as ever was undertaken by nincompoops bearing
a scaled letter, marked urgent, to a castle, and the request in it that
the steward would immediately upon perusal down with their you-know-what
and hoist them and birch them a jolly two dozen without parley.
Boon smacked his leg, and then drove ahead merrily.
For this had happened to his knowledge: the gentleman accompanying the
lady had refused to make anything of a halt at the Red Lion, and had said
he was sure there would be a small public-house at the outskirts of the
town, for there always was one; and he proved right, and the lady and he
had descended at the sign of the Jolly Cricketers, and Boon had driven on
for half an hour by order.
This, too, had happened, external to Boon's knowledge: the lady and the
gentleman had witnessed, through the small diamond window-panes of the
Jolly Cricketers' parlour, the passing-by of the two horsemen in pursuit
of them; and the gentleman had stopped the chariot coming on some fifteen
minutes later, but he did not do it at the instigation of the lady.
AT THE SIGN OF THE JOLLY CRICKETERS
The passing by of the pair of horsemen, who so little suspected the
treasure existing behind the small inn's narrow window did homage in
Aminta's mind to her protector's adroitness. Their eyes met without a
smile, though they perceived the grisly comic of the incident. Their
thoughts were on the chariot to follow.
Aminta had barely uttered a syllable since the start of the flight from
Ashead. She had rocked in a swing between sensation and imagination,
exultant, rich with the broad valley of the plain and the high green
waves of the downs at their giant's bound in the flow of curves and sunny
creases to the final fling-off of the dip on sky. Here was a twisted
hawthorn carved clean to the way of the wind; a sheltered clump of
chestnuts holding their blossoms up, as with a thousand cresset-clasping
hands; here were grasses that nodded swept from green to grey; flowers
yellow, white, and blue, significant of a marvellous unknown through the
gates of colour; and gorse-covers giving out the bird, squares of young
wheat, a single fallow threaded by a hare, and cottage gardens, shadowy
garths, wayside flint-heap, woods of the mounds and the dells, fluttering
leaves, clouds: all were swallowed, all were the one unworried
significance. Scenery flew, shifted, returned; again the line of the
downs raced and the hollows reposed simultaneously. They were the same
in change to an eye grown older; they promised, as at the first,
happiness for recklessness. The whole woman was urged to delirious
recklessness in happiness, and she drank the flying scenery as an
indication, a likeness, an encouragement.
When her wild music of the blood had fallen to stillness with the stopped
wheels, she was in the musky, small, low room of the diamond window-
panes, at her companion's disposal for what he might deem the best: he
was her fate. But the more she leaned on a man of self-control, the more
she admired; and an admiration that may not speak itself to the object
present drops inward, stirs the founts; and if these are repressed, the
tenderness which is not allowed to weep will drown self-pity, hardening
the woman to summon scruples in relation to her unworthiness. He might
choose to forget, but the more she admired, the less could her feminine
conscience permit of an utter or of any forgetfulness that she was not
the girl Browny, whom he once loved--perhaps loved now, under some
illusion of his old passion for her--does love now, ill-omened as he is
in that! She read him by her startled reading of her own heart, and she
constrained her will to keep from doing, saying, looking aught that would
burden without gracing his fortunes. For, as she felt, a look, a word, a
touch would do the mischief; she had no resistance behind her cold face,
only the physical scruple, which would become the moral unworthiness if
in any way she induced him to break his guard and blow hers to shreds.
An honourable conscience before the world has not the same certificate in
love's pure realm. They are different kingdoms. A girl may be of both;
a married woman, peering outside the narrow circle of her wedding-ring,
should let her eyelids fall and the unseen fires consume her.
Their common thought was now, Will the chariot follow?
What will he do if it comes? was an unformed question with Aminta.
He had formed and not answered it, holding himself, sincerely at the
moment, bound to her wishes. Near the end of Ashead main street she had
turned to him in her seat beside the driver, and conveyed silently, with
the dental play of her tongue and pouted lips, 'No title.'
Upon that sign, waxen to those lips, he had said to the driver, 'You took
your orders from Lady Charlotte?
And the reply, 'Her ladyship directed me sir, exonerated Lord Ormont so
Weyburn remembered then a passage of one of her steady looks, wherein an
oracle was mute. He tried several of the diviner's shots to interpret
it: she was beyond his reach. She was in her blissful delirium of the
flight, and reproached him with giving her the little bit less to resent
--she who had no sense of resentment, except the claim on it to excuse.
Their landlady entered the room to lay the cloth for tea and eggs. She
made offer of bacon as well, homecured. She was a Hampshire woman, and
understood the rearing of pigs. Her husband had been a cricketer, and
played for his county. He didn't often beat Hampshire! They had a good
garden of vegetables, and grass-land enough for two cows. They made
their own bread, their own butter, but did not brew.
Weyburn pronounced for a plate of her home-cured. She had children, the
woman told him--two boys and a girl. Her husband wished for a girl. Her
eldest boy wished to be a sailor, and would walk miles to a pond to sail
bits of wood on it, though there had never been a sea-faring man in her
husband's family or her own. She agreed with the lady and gentleman that
it might be unwise to go contrary to the boy's bent. Going to school or
coming home, a trickle of water would stop him.
Aminta said to her companion in French, 'Have you money?'
She chased his blood. 'Some: sufficient. I think.' It stamped their
'I have but a small amount. Aunt was our paymaster. We will buy the
little boy a boat to sail. You are pale.'
'I 've no notion of it.'
'Something happened it Ashead.'
'It would not have damaged my complexion.'
He counted his money. Aminta covertly handed him her purse. Their
fingers touched. The very minor circumstance of their landlady being in
the room dammed a flood.
Her money and his amounted to seventeen pounds. The sum-total was a
symbol of days that were a fiery wheel.
Honour and blest adventure might travel together two days or three, he
thought. If the chariot did not pass:--Lord Ormont had willed it. A man
could not be said to swerve in his duty when acting to fulfil the
master's orders, and Mrs. Pagnell was proved a hoodwinked duenna, and
Morsfield was in the air. The breathing Aminta had now a common purse
with her first lover. For three days or more they were, it would seem,
to journey together, alone together: the prosecution of his duty imposed
it on him. Sooth to say, Weyburn knew that a spice of passion added to a
bowl of reason makes a sophist's mess; but he fancied an absolute
reliance on Aminta's dignity, and his respect for her was another
barrier. He begged the landlady's acceptance of two shillings for her
boy's purchase of a boat, advising her to have him taught early to swim.
Both he and Aminta had a feeling that they could be helpful in some
little things on the road if the chariot did not pass.
Justification began to speak loudly against the stopping of the chariot
if it did pass. The fact that sweet wishes come second, and not so
loudly, assured him they were quite secondary; for the lover sunk to
sophist may be self-beguiled by the arts which render him the potent
'We are safe here,' he said, and thrilled her with the 'we' behind the
curtaining leaded window-panes.
'What is it you propose?' Her voice was lower than she intended. To
that she ascribed his vivid flush. It kindled the deeper of her dark
He mentioned her want of luggage, and the purchase of a kit.
She said, 'Have we the means?'
'We can adjust the means to the ends.'
'We must be sparing of expenses.'
'Will you walk part of the way?'
'I should like it.'
'We shall be longer on the journey.'
'We shall not find it tiresome, I hope.'
'We can say so, if we do.'
'We are not strangers.'
The recurrence of the 'we' had an effect of wedding: it was fatalistic,
it would come; but, in truth, there was pleasure in it, and the pleasure
was close to consciousness of some guilt when vowing itself innocent.
And, no, they were not strangers; hardly a word could they utter without
cutting memory to the quick; their present breath was out of the far
Love told them both that they were trembling into one another's arms,
not voluntarily, against the will with each of them; they knew it would
be for life; and Aminta's shamed reserves were matched to make an
obstacle by his consideration for her good name and her station,
for his own claim to honest citizenship also.
Weyburn acted on his instinct at sight of the postillion and the chariot;
he flung the window wide and shouted. Then he said, 'It is decided,' and
he felt the rightness of the decision, like a man who has given a
condemned limb to the surgeon.
Aminta was passive as a water-weed in the sway of the tide. Hearing it
to be decided, she was relieved. What her secret heart desired, she kept
secret, almost a secret from herself. He was not to leave her; so she
had her permitted wish, she had her companion plus her exclamatory aunt,
who was a protection, and she had learnt her need of the smallest
'I can scarcely believe I see you, my dear, dear child!' Mrs. Pagnell
cried, upon entering the small inn parlour; and so genuine was her
satisfaction that for a time she paid no heed to the stuffiness of the
room, the meanness of the place, the unfitness of such a hostelry to
entertain ladies--the Countess of Ormont!
'Eat here?' Mrs. Pagnell asked, observing the preparations for the meal.
Her pride quailed, her stomach abjured appetite. But she forbore from
asking how it was that the Countess of Ormont had come to the place.
At a symptom of her intention to indulge in disgust; Aminta brought up
Mr. Morsfield by name; whereupon Mrs. Pagnell showed she had reflected on
her conduct in relation to the gentleman, and with the fear of the earl
if she were questioned.
Home-made bread and butter, fresh eggs and sparkling fat of bacon invited
her to satisfy her hunger. Aminta let her sniff at the teapot
unpunished; the tea had a rustic aroma of ground-ivy, reminding Weyburn
of his mother's curiosity to know the object of an old man's plucking of
hedgeside leaves in the environs of Bruges one day, and the simple reply
to her French, 'Tea for the English.' A hint of an anecdote interested
and enriched the stores of Mrs. Pagnell, so she capped it and partook of
the infusion ruefully.
'But the bread is really good,' she said, 'and we are unlikely to be seen
leaving the place by any person of importance.'
'Unless Mr. Morsfield should be advised to return this way,' said Aminta.
Her aunt proposed for a second cup. She was a manageable woman; the same
scourge had its instant wholesome effect on her when she snubbed the
So she complimented his trencherman's knife, of which the remarkably fine
edge was proof enough that he had come heart-whole out of the trial of an
hour or so's intimate companionship with a beautiful woman, who had never
been loved, never could be loved by man, as poor Mr. Morsfield loved her!
He had sworn to having fasted three whole days and nights after his first
sight of Aminta. Once, he said, her eyes pierced him so that he dreamed
of a dagger in his bosom, and woke himself plucking at it. That was
love, as a born gentleman connected with a baronetcy and richer than many
lords took the dreadful passion. A secretary would have no conception of
such devoted extravagance. At the most he might have attempted to
insinuate a few absurd, sheepish soft nothings, and the Countess of
Ormont would know right well how to shrivel him with one of her looks.
No lady of the land could convey so much either way, to attract or to
repel, as Aminta, Countess of Ormont! And the man, the only man,
insensible to her charm or her scorn, was her own wedded lord and
husband. Old, to be sure, and haughty, his pride might not allow him to
overlook poor Mr. Morsfield's unintentional offence. But the presence of
the countess's aunt was a reply to any charge he might seek to establish.
Unhappily, the case is one between men on their touchiest point, when
women are pushed aside, and justice and religion as well. We might be
living in a heathen land, for aught that morality has to say.
Mrs. Pagnell fussed about being seen on her emergence from the Jolly
Cricketers. Aminta sent Weyburn to spy for the possible reappearance of
Mr. Morsfield. He reported a horseman; a butcher-boy clattered by.
Aminta took the landlady's hand, under her aunt's astonished gaze, and
said: 'I shall not forget your house and your attention to us.' She spoke
with a shake of her voice. The landlady curtseyed and smiled, curtseyed
and almost whimpered. The house was a poor one, she begged to say; they
didn't often have such guests, but whoever came to it they did their best
to give good food and drink.
Hearing from Weyburn that the chariot was bound to go through Winchester,
she spoke of a brother, a baker there, the last surviving member of her
family and, after some talk, Weyburn offered to deliver a message of
health and greeting at the baker's shop. There was a waving of hands,
much nodding and curtseying, as the postillion resumed his demi-volts--
all to the stupefaction of Mrs. Pagnell; but she dared not speak, she had
Morsfield on the mouth. Nor could she deny the excellent quality of the
bread and butter, and milk, too, at the sign of the Jolly Cricketers.
She admitted, moreover, that the food and service of the little inn
belonged in their unpretentious honesty to the, kind we call old English:
the dear old simple country English of the brotherly interchange in sight
of heaven--good stuff for good money, a matter with a blessing on it.
'But,' said she, 'my dear Aminta, I do not and I cannot understand looks
of grateful affection at a small innkeeper's wife paid, and I don't doubt
handsomely paid, for her entertainment of you.'
'I feel it,' said Aminta; tears rushed to her eyelids, overflowing, and
her features were steady.
'Ah, poor dear! that I do understand,' her aunt observed. 'Any little
kindness moves you to-day; and well it may.'
'Yes, aunty,' said Aminta, and in relation to the cause of her tears she
was the less candid of the two.
So far did she carry her thanks for a kindness as to glance back through
her dropping tears at the sign-board of the Jolly Cricketers; where two
brave batsmen cross for the second of a certain three runs, if only the
fellow wheeling legs, face up after the ball in the clouds, does but miss
his catch: a grand suspensory moment of the game, admirably chosen by the
artist to arrest the wayfarer and promote speculation. For will he let
her slip through his fingers when she comes down? or will he have her
fast and tight? And in the former case, the bats are tearing their legs
off for just number nought. And in the latter, there 's a wicket down,
and what you may call a widower walking it bat on shoulder, parted from
his mate for that mortal innings, and likely to get more chaff than
consolation when he joins the booth.
UNDER-CURRENTS IN THE MINDS OF LADY CHARLOTTE AND LORD ORMONT
Another journey of travellers to London, in the rear of the chariot, was
not diversified by a single incident or refreshed by scraps of dialogue.
Lady Charlotte had her brother Rowsley with her, and he might be
taciturn,--she drove her flocks of thoughts, she was busily and
contentedly occupied. Although separation from him stirred her mind more
excitedly over their days and deeds of boy and girl, her having him near,
and having now won him to herself, struck her as that old time's harvest,
about as much as can be hoped for us from life, when we have tasted it.
The scene of the invasion of Steignton by the woman and her aunt, and
that man Morsfield, was a steel engraving among her many rapid and
featureless cogitations. She magnified the rakishness of the woman's
hand on hip in view of the house, and she magnified the woman's insolence
in bringing that man Morsfield--to share probably the hospitality of
Steignton during the master's absence! Her trick of caricature, whenever
she dealt with adversaries, was active upon the three persons under
observation of the windows. It was potent to convince her that her
brother Rowsley had cast the woman to her native obscurity. However,
Lady Charlotte could be just: the woman's figure, and as far as could be
seen of her face, accounted for Rowsley's entanglement.
Why chastize that man Morsfield at all? Calling him out would give a
further dip to the name of Ormont. A pretty idea, to be punishing a roan
for what you thank him for! He did a service; and if he's as mad about
her as he boasts, he can take her and marry her now Rowsley 's free of
Morsfield says he wants to marry her--wants nothing better. Then let
him. Rowsley has shown him there 's no legal impediment. Pity that
young Weyburn had to be sent to do watch-dog duty. But Rowsley would
not have turned her back to travel alone: that is, without a man to
guard. He 's too chivalrous.
The sending of Weyburn, she now fancied, was her own doing, and Lady
Charlotte attributed it to her interpretation of her brother's heart of
chivalry; though it would have been the wiser course, tending straight
and swift to the natural end, if the two women and their Morsfield had
received the dismissal to travel as they came.
One sees it after the event. Yes, only Rowsley would not have dismissed
her without surety that she would be protected. So it was the right
thing prompted on the impulse of the moment. And young Weyburn would
meet some difficulty in protecting his 'Lady Ormont,' if she had no
inclination for it.
Analyzing her impulse of the moment, Lady Charlotte credited herself, not
unjustly, with a certain considerateness for the woman, notwithstanding
the woman's violent intrusion between brother and sister. Knowing the
world, and knowing the upper or Beanstalk world intimately, she winked at
nature's passions. But when the legitimate affection of a brother and
sister finds them interposing, they are, as little parsonically as
possible, reproved. If persistently intrusive, they are handed to the
How, supposing the case of a wife? Well, then comes the contest; and it
is with an inferior, because not a born, legitimacy of union; which may
be, which here and there is, affection; is generally the habit of
partnership. It is inferior, from not being the union of the blood; it
is a matter merely of the laws and the tastes. No love, she reasoned, is
equal to the love of brother and sister: not even the love of parents for
offspring, or of children for mother and father. Brother and sister have
the holy young days in common; they have lastingly the recollection of
their youth, the golden time when they were themselves, or the best of
themselves. A wife is a stranger from the beginning; she is necessarily
three parts a stranger up to the finish of the history. She thinks she
can absorb the husband. Not if her husband has a sister living! She may
cry and tear for what she calls her own: she will act prudently in bowing
her head to the stronger tie. Is there a wife in Europe who broods on
her husband's merits and his injuries as the sister of Thomas Rowsley,
Earl of Ormont does? or one to defend his good name, one to work for his
fortunes, as devotedly?
Over and over Lady Charlotte drove her flocks, of much the same pattern,
like billows before a piping gale. They might be similar--a puffed
iteration, and might be meaningless and wearisome; the gale was a power
Her brother sat locked-up. She did as a wife would not have done, and
held her peace. He spoke; she replied in a few words--blunt, to the
point, as no wife would have done.
Her dear, warm-hearted Rowsley was shaken by the blow he had been obliged
to deal to the woman--poor woman!--if she felt it. He was always the
principal sufferer where the feelings were concerned. He was never for
hurting any but the enemy.
His 'Ha, here we dine!' an exclamation of a man of imprisoned yawns at
the apparition of the turnkey, was delightful to her, for a proof of
health and sanity and enjoyment of the journey.
'Yes, and I've one bottle left, in the hamper, of the hock you like,' she
said. 'That Mr. Weyburn likes it too. He drank a couple coming down.'
She did not press for talk; his ready appetite was the flower of
conversation to her. And he slept well, he said. Her personal
experience on that head was reserved.
London enfolded them in the late evening of a day brewing storm. My lord
heard at the door of his house that Lady Ormont had not arrived. Yet she
had started a day in advance of him. He looked down, up and round at
Charlotte. He looked into an empty hall. Pagnell was not there. A
sight of Pagnell would, strange to say, have been agreeable.
Storm was in the air, and Aminta was on the road. Lightning has, before
now, frightened carriage-horses. She would not misconduct herself; she
would sit firm. No woman in England had stouter nerve--few men.
But the carriage might be smashed. He was ignorant of the road she had
chosen for her return. Out of Wiltshire there would be no cliffs,
quarries, river-banks, presenting dangers. Those dangers, however,
spring up when horses have the frenzy.
Charlotte was nodded at, for a signal to depart; and she drove off,
speculating on the bullet of a grey eye, which was her brother's adieu
The earl had apparently a curiosity to inspect vacant rooms. His
Aminta's drawing-room, her boudoir, her bed-chamber, were submissive in
showing bed, knickknacks, furniture. They told the tale of a corpse.
He washed and dressed, and went out to his club to dine, hating the faces
of the servants of the house, just able to bear with the attentions of
Thunder was rattling at ten at night. The house was again the tomb.
She had high courage, that girl. She might be in a bed, with her window-
blind up, calmly waiting for the flashes: lightning excited her. He had
seen her lying at her length quietly, her black hair scattered on the
pillow, like shadow of twigs and sprays on moonlit grass, illuminated
intermittently; smiling to him, but her heart out and abroad, wild as any
witch's. If on the road, she would not quail. But it was necessary to
be certain of her having a trusty postillion.
He walked through the drench and scream of a burst cloud to the posting-
office. There, after some trouble, he obtained information directing him
to the neighbouring mews. He had thence to find his way to the
The report of the postillion was, on the whole, favourable. The man
understood horses--was middle-aged--no sot; he was also a man with an
eye for weather, proverbially in the stables a cautious hand--slow 'Old
Slow-and-sure,' he was called; by name, Joshua Abnett.
'Oh, Joshua Abnett?' said the earl, and imprinted it on his memory, for
the service it was to do during the night.
Slow-and-sure Joshua Abnett would conduct her safely, barring accidents.
For accidents we must all be prepared. She was a heroine in an accident.
The earl recalled one and more: her calm face, brightened eyes, easy
laughter. Hysterics were not in her family.
She did wrong to let that fellow Morsfield accompany her. Possibly he
had come across her on the road, and she could not shake him off.
Judging by all he knew of her, the earl believed she would not have
brought the fellow into the grounds of Steignton of her free will. She
had always a particular regard for decency.
According to the rumour, Morsfield and the woman Pagnell were very thick
together. He barked over London of his being a bitten dog. He was near
to the mad dog's fate, as soon as a convenient apology for stopping his
career could be invented.
The thinking of the lesson to Morsfield on the one hand, and of the slow-
and-sure postillion Joshua Abriett on the other, lulled Lord Ormont to a
short repose in his desolate house. Of Weyburn he had a glancing
thought, that the young man would be a good dog to guard the countess
from a mad dog, as he had reckoned in commissioning him.
Next day was the day of sunlight Aminta loved.
It happens with the men who can strike, supposing them of the order of
civilized creatures, that when they have struck heavily, however deserved
the blow, a liking for the victim will assail them, if they discover no
support in hatred; and no sooner is the spot of softness touched than
they are invaded by hosts of the stricken person's qualities, which plead
to be taken as virtues, and are persuasive. The executioner did rightly.
But it is the turn for the victim to declare the blow excessive.
Now, a just man, who has overdone the stroke, will indemnify and console
in every way, short of humiliating himself.
He had an unusually clear vision of the scene at Steignton. Surprise and
wrath obscured it at the moment, for reflection to bring it out in sharp
outline; and he was able now to read and translate into inoffensive
English the inherited Spanish of it, which violated nothing of Aminta's
native 'donayre,' though it might look on English soil outlandish or
Aminta stood in sunlight on the greensward. She stood hand on hip,
gazing at the house she had so long desired to see, without a notion that
she committed an offence. Implicitly upon all occasions she took her
husband's word for anything he stated, and she did not consequently
imagine him to be at Steignton. So, then, she had no thought of running
down from London to hunt and confound him, as at first it appeared. The
presence of that white-faced Morsfield vindicated her sufficiently so
far. And let that fellow hang till the time for cutting him down! Not
she, but Pagnell, seems to have been the responsible party. And, by the
way, one might prick the affair with Morsfield by telling him publicly
that his visit to inspect Steignton was waste of pains, for he would not
be accepted as a tenant in the kennels, et caetera.
Well, poor girl, she satisfied her curiosity, not aware that a few weeks
farther on would have done it to the full.
As to Morsfield, never once, either in Vienna or in Paris, had she,
warmly admired though she was, all eyes telescoping and sun-glassing on
her, given her husband an hour or half an hour or two minutes of anxiety.
Letters came. The place getting hot, she proposed to leave it.
She had been rather hardly tried. There are flowers we cannot keep
growing in pots. Her fault was, that instead of flinging down her glove
and fighting it out openly, she listened to Pagnell, and began the game
of Pull. If he had a zest for the game, it was to stump the woman
Pagnell. So the veteran fancied in his amended mind.
This intrusive sunlight chased him from the breakfast-table and out of
the house. She would be enjoying it somewhere; but the house empty of a
person it was used to contain had an atmosphere of the vaults, and inside
it the sunlight she loved had an effect of taunting him singularly.
He called on his upholsterer and heard news to please her. The house
hired for a month above Great Marlow was ready; her ladyship could enter
it to-morrow. It pleased my lord to think that she might do so, and not
bother him any more about the presentation at Court during the current
year. In spite of certain overtures from the military authorities, and
roused eulogistic citations of his name in the newspapers and magazines,
he was not on friendly terms with his country yet, having contracted the
fatal habit of irony, which, whether hitting or musing its object, stirs
old venom in our wound, twitches the feelings. Unfortunately for him,
they had not adequate expression unless he raged within; so he had to
shake up wrath over his grievances, that he might be satisfactorily
delivered; and he was judged irreconcilable when he had subsided into the
quietest contempt, from the prospective seat of a country estate, in the
society of a young wife who adored him.
An exile from the sepulchre of that house void of the consecration of
ashes, he walked the streets and became reconciled to street sunlight.
There were no carriage accidents to disturb him with apprehensions.
Besides, the slowness of the postillion Joshua Abnett, which probably
helped to the delay, was warrant of his sureness. And in an accident the
stringy fellow, young Weyburn, could be trusted for giving his attention
to the ladies--especially to the younger of the two, taking him for the
man his elders were at his age. As for Pagnell, a Providence watches
over the Pagnells! Mortals have no business to interfere.
An accident on water would be a frolic to his girl. Swimming was a gift
she had from nature. Pagnell vowed she swam out a mile at Dover when she
was twelve. He had seen her in blue water: he had seen her readiness to
jump to the rescue once when a market-woman, stepping out of a boat to
his yacht on the Tabus, plumped in. She had the two kinds of courage--
the impulsive and the reasoned. What is life to man or woman if we are
not to live it honourably? Men worthy of the name say this. The woman
who says and acts on it is--well, she is fit company for them. But only
the woman of natural courage can say it and act on it.
Would she come by Winchester, or choose the lower road by Salisbury and
Southampton, to smell the sea? perhaps-like her!--dismissing the chariot
and hiring a yacht for a voyage round the coast and up the Thames. She
had an extraordinary love of the sea, yet she preferred soldiers to
sailors. A woman? Never one of them more a woman! But it came of her
quickness to take the colour and share the tastes of the man to whom she
My lord was beginning to distinguish qualities in a character.
He was informed at the mews that Joshua Abnett was on the road still.
Joshua seemed to be a roadster of uncommon unprogressiveness, proper to a
While debating whether to lunch at his loathed club or at a home loathed
more, but open to bright enlivenment any instant, Lord Ormont beheld a
hat lifted and Captain May saluting him. They were near a famous
gambling-house in St. James's Street.
'Good! I am glad to see you,' he said. 'Tell me you know Mr. Morsfield
pretty well. I'm speaking of my affair. He has been trespassing down
on my grounds at Steignton, and I think of taking the prosecution of him
into my own hands. Is he in town?'
'I 've just left his lame devil Cumnock, my lord,' said May, after a
slight grimace. 'They generally run in tandem.'
'Will you let me know?'
'At once, when I hear.'
'You will call on me? Before noon?'
'Any service required?'
'My respects to your wife.'
'Your lordship is very good.'
Captain May bloomed at a civility paid to his wife. He was a smallish,
springy, firm-faced man, devotee of the lady bearing his name and
wielding him. In the days when duelling flourished on our land, frail
women could be powerful.
The earl turned from him to greet Lord Adderwood and a superior officer
of his Profession, on whom he dropped a frigid nod. He held that all but
the rank and file, and a few subalterns, of the service had abandoned him
to do homage to the authorities. The Club he frequented was not his
military Club. Indeed, lunching at any Club in solitariness that day,
with Aminta away from home, was bitter penance. He was rejoiced by Lord
Adderwood's invitation, and hung to him after the lunch; for a horrible
prospect of a bachelor dinner intimated astonishingly that he must have
become unawares a domesticated man.
The solitary later meal of a bachelor was consumed, if the word will suit
a rabbit's form of feeding. He fatigued his body by walking the streets
and the bridge of the Houses of Parliament, and he had some sleep under a
roof where a life like death, or death apeing life, would have seemed to
him the Joshua Abnett, if he had been one to take up images.
Next day he was under the obligation to wait at home till noon. Shortly
before noon a noise of wheels drew him to the window. A young lady, in
whom he recognized Aminta's little school friend, of some name, stepped
out of a fly. He met her in the hall.
She had expected to be welcomed by Aminta, and she was very timid on
finding herself alone with the earl. He, however, treated her as the
harbinger bird, wryneck of the nightingale, sure that Aminta would keep
her appointment unless an accident delayed. He had forgotten her name,
but not her favourite pursuit of botany; and upon that he discoursed,
and he was interested, not quite independently of the sentiment of her
being there as a guarantee of Aminta's return. Still he knew his English
earth, and the counties and soil for particular wild-flowers, grasses,
mosses; and he could instruct her and inspire a receptive pupil on the
theme of birds, beasts, fishes, insects, in England and other lands.
He remained discoursing without much weariness till four of the
afternoon. Then he had his reward. The chariot was at the door, and the
mounted figure of Joshua Abnett, on which he cast not a look or a
thought. Aminta was alone. She embraced Selina Collett warmly, and
said, in friendly tones, 'Ah! my lord, you are in advance of me.'
She had dropped Mrs. Pagnell and Mr. Weyburn at two suburban houses;
working upon her aunt's dread of the earl's interrogations as regarded
Mr. Morsfield. She had, she said, chosen to take the journey easily on
her return, and enjoyed it greatly.
My lord studied her manner more than her speech. He would have
interpreted a man's accurately enough. He read hers to signify that she
had really enjoyed her journey, 'made the best of it,' and did not intend
to be humble about her visit to Steignton without his permission; but
that, if hurt at the time, she had recovered her spirits, and was ready
for a shot or two--to be nothing like a pitched battle. And she might
fire away to her heart's content: wordy retorts would not come from him;
he had material surprises in reserve for her. His question concerning
Morsfield knew its answer, and would only be put under pressure.
Comparison of the friends Aminta and Selina was forced by their standing
together, and the representation in little Selina of the inferiority of
the world of women to his Aminta; he thought of several, and splendid
women, foreign and English. The comparison rose sharply now, with
Aminta's novel, airy, homely, unchallengeing assumption of an equal
footing beside her lord, in looks and in tones that had cast off
constraint of the adoring handmaid, to show the full-blown woman,
rightful queen of her half of the dominion. Between the Aminta of then
and now, the difference was marked as between Northern and Southern
women: the frozen-mouthed Northerner and the pearl and rose-nipped
Southerner; those who smirk in dropping congealed monosyllables, and
those who radiantly laugh out the voluble chatter.
Conceiving this to the full in a mind destitute of imagery, but
indicative of the thing as clearly as the planed, unpolished woodwork of
a cabinet in a carpenter's shop, Lord Ormont liked her the better for the
change, though she was not the woman whose absence from his house had
caused him to go mooning half a night through the streets, and though it
forewarned him of a tougher bit of battle, if battle there was to be.
He was a close reader of surfaces. But in truth, the change so notable
came of the circumstance, that some little way down below the surface he
perused, where heart weds mind, or nature joins intellect, for the two to
beget a resolution, the battle of the man and the woman had been fought,
and the man beaten.
TREATS OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE CONTENTION OF BROTHER AND SISTER
In the contest rageing at mid-sea still between the man and the woman,
it is the one who is hard to the attractions of the other that will make
choice of the spot and have the advantages. A short time earlier Lord
Ormont could have marked it out at his leisure. He would have been
unable to comprehend why it was denied him to do so now; for he was
master of himself, untroubled by conscience, unaware, since he was
assured of his Aminta's perfect safety and his restored sense of
possession, that any taint of softness in him had reversed the condition
of their alliance. He felt benevolently the much he had to bestow, and
was about to bestow. Meanwhile, without complicity on his part, without
his knowledge, yet absolutely involving his fate, the battle had gone
against him in Aminta's breast.
Like many of his class and kind, he was thoroughly acquainted with the
physical woman, and he took that first and very engrossing volume of
the great Book of Mulier for all the history. A powerful wing of
imagination, strong as the flappers of the great Roc of Arabian story,
is needed to lift the known physical woman even a very little way up into
azure heavens. It is far easier to take a snap-shot at the psychic, and
tumble her down from her fictitious heights to earth. The mixing of the
two make nonsense of her. She was created to attract the man, for an
excellent purpose in the main. We behold her at work incessantly. One
is a fish to her hook; another a moth to her light. By the various arts
at her disposal she will have us, unless early in life we tear away the
creature's coloured gauzes and penetrate to her absurdly simple
mechanism. That done, we may, if we please, dominate her. High priests
of every religion have successively denounced her as the chief enemy.
To subdue and bid her minister to our satisfaction is therefore a right
employment of man's unperverted superior strength. Of course, we keep to
ourselves the woman we prefer; but we have to beware of an uxorious
preference, or we are likely to resemble the Irishman with his wolf, and
dance imprisoned in the hug of our captive.
For it is the creature's characteristic to be lastingly awake, in her
moments of utmost slavishness most keenly awake to the chances of the
snaring of the stronger. Be on guard, then. Lord Ormont had been on
guard then and always: his instinct of commandership kept him on guard.
He was on guard now when his Aminta played, not the indignant and the
frozen, but the genially indifferent. She did it well, he admitted.
Had it been the indignant she played, he might have stooped to cajole the
handsome queen of gypsies she was, without acknowledgement of her right
to complain. Feeling that he was about to be generous, he shrugged. He
meant to speak in deeds.
Lady Charlotte's house was at the distance of a stroller's half-hour
across Hyde Park westward from his own. Thither he walked, a few minutes
after noon, prepared for cattishness. He could fancy that he had
hitherto postponed the visit rather on her account, considering that
he would have to crush her if she humped and spat, and he hoped to
be allowed to do it gently. There would certainly be a scene.
Lady Charlotte was at home.
'Always at home to you, Rowsley, at any hour. Mr. Eglett has driven down
to the City. There 's a doctor in a square there's got a reputation for
treating weak children, and he has taken down your grand-nephew Bobby to
be inspected. Poor boy comes of a poor stock on the father's side. Mr.
Eglett would have that marriage. Now he sees wealth isn't everything.
Those Benlews are rushlights. However, Elizabeth stood with her father
to have Robert Benlew, and this poor child 's the result. I wonder
whether they have consciences!'
My lord prolonged the sibilation of his 'Yes,' in the way of absent-
minded men. He liked little Bobby, but had to class the boy second
for the present.
'You have our family jewels in your keeping, Charlotte?'
'No, I haven't,--and you know I haven't, Rowsley.' She sprang to arms,
the perfect porcupine, at his opening words, as he had anticipated.
'Where are the jewels?'
'They're in the cellars of my bankers, and safe there, you may rely on
'I want them.'
'I want to have them safe; and there they stop.'
'You must get them and hand them over.'
'They will be worn by the Countess of Ormont'
'Who 's she?'
'The lady who bears the title.'
'The only Countess of Ormont I know of is your mother and mine, Rowsley;
and she's dead.'
'The Countess of Ormont I speak of is alive.'
Lady Charlotte squared to him. 'Who gives her the title?'
'She bears it by right.'
'Do you mean to say, Rowsley, you have gone and married the woman since
we came up from Steignton?'
'She is my wife.'
'Anyhow, she won't have our family jewels.'
'If you had swallowed them, you'd have to disgorge.'
'I don't give up our family jewels to such people.'
'Do you decline to call on her?'
'I do: I respect our name and blood.'
'You will send the order to your bankers for them to deliver the jewels
over to me at my house this day.'
'Look here, Rowsley; you're gone cracked or senile. You 're in the hands
of one of those clever wenches who catch men of your age. She may catch
you; she shan't lay hold of our family jewels: they stand for the honour
of our name and blood.'
'They are to be at my house-door at four o'clock this afternoon.'
'They'll not stir.'
'Then I go down to order your bankers and give them the order.'
'My bankers won't attend to it without the order from me.'
'You will submit to the summons of my lawyers.'
'You're bent on a public scandal, are you?'
'I am bent on having the jewels.'
'They are not yours; you 've no claim to them; they are heirlooms in our
family. Things most sacred to us are attached to them. They belong to
our history. There 's the tiara worn by the first Countess of Ormont.
There 's the big emerald of the necklace-pendant--you know the story
of it. Two rubies not counted second to any in England. All those
diamonds! I wore the cross and the two pins the day I was presented
after my marriage.'
'The present Lady Ormont will wear them the day she is presented.'
'She won't wear them at Court.'
'Don't expect the Lady Ormont of tradesmen and footmen to pass the Lord
'That matter will be arranged for next season. Now I 've done.'
'So have I; and you have my answer, Rowsley.' They quitted their chairs.
'You decline to call on my wife?' said the earl.
Lady Charlotte replied: 'Understand me, now. If the woman has won you
round to legitimize the connection, first, I've a proper claim to see her
marriage lines. I must have a certificate of her birth. I must have a
testified account of her life before you met her and got the worst of it.
Then, as the case may be, I 'll call on her.
'You will behave yourself when you call.'
'But she won't have our family jewels.'
'That affair has been settled by me.'
'I should be expecting to hear of them as decorating the person of one of
that man Morsfield's mistresses.'
The earl's brow thickened. 'Charlotte, I smacked your cheek when you
were a girl.'
'I know you did. You might again, and I wouldn't cry out. She travels
with that Morsfield; you 've seen it. He goes boasting of her. Gypsy or
not, she 's got queer ways.'
'I advise you, you had better learn at once to speak of her
'I shall have enough to go through, if what you say's true, with
questions of the woman's antecedents and her people, and the date of the
day of this marriage. When was the day you did it? I shall have to give
an answer. You know cousins of ours, and the way they 'll be pressing,
and comparing ages and bawling rumours. None of them imagined my brother
such a fool as to be wheedled into marrying her. You say it's done,
Rowsley. Was it done yesterday or the day before?'
Lord Ormont found unexpectedly that she struck on a weak point. Married
from the first? Why not tell me of it? He could hear her voice as if
she had spoken the words. And how communicate the pell-mell of reasons?
'You're running vixen. The demand I make is for the jewels,' he said.
'You won't have them, Rowsley--not for her.'
'You think of compelling me to use force?'
'You swear the jewels are with your bankers?'
'I left them in charge of my bankers, and they've not been moved by me.'
'Well, it must be force.'
'Nothing short of it when the honour of our family's concerned.'
It was rather worse than the anticipated struggle with this Charlotte,
though he had kept his temper. The error was in supposing that an hour's
sharp conflict would settle it, as he saw. The jewels required a siege.
'When does Eglett return?' he asked.
'Back to lunch. You stay and lunch here, Rowsley we don't often have
The earl contemplated her, measuring her powers of resistance for a
prolonged engagement. Odd that the pride which had withdrawn him from
the service of an offending country should pitch him into a series of
tussles with women, for its own confusion! He saw that, too, in his dim
reflectiveness, and held the country answerable for it.
Mr. Eglett was taken into confidence by him privately after lunch.
Mr. Eglett's position between the brother and sister was perplexing;
habitually he thought his wife had strong good sense, in spite of the
costliness of certain actions at law not invariably confirming his
opinion; he thought also that the earl's demand must needs be considered
obediently. At the same time, his wife's objections to the new Countess
of Ormont, unmasked upon the world, seemed very legitimate; though it
might be asked why the earl should not marry, marrying the lady who
pleased him. But if, in the words of his wife, the lady had no claim to
be called a lady, the marriage was deplorable. On the other hand, Lord
Ormont spoke of her in terms of esteem, and he was no fondling dotard.
How to compromise the matter for the sake of peace? The man perpetually
plunged into strife by his combative spouse, cried the familiar question
again; and at every suggestion of his on behalf of concord he heard from
Lady Charlotte that he had no principles, or else from Lord Ormont that
his head must be off his shoulders.
The man for peace had the smallest supply of language, and so, unless he
took a side and fought, his active part was football between them.
It went on through the afternoon up to five o'clock. No impression was
betrayed by Lady Charlotte.
She congratulated her brother on the recruit he had enlisted. He smiled
his grimmest of the lips drawn in. A combat, perceptibly of some
extension, would soon give him command of the man of peace; and energy
to continue attacks will break down the energies of any dogged defensive
He deferred the discussion with his unreasonable sister until the next
day at half-past twelve o'clock. Lady Charlotte nodded to the
appointment. She would have congratulated herself without irony on the
result of the first day's altercation but for her brother Rowsley's
unusual and ominous display of patience. Twice during the wrangle she
had to conceal a difficult breathing. She felt a numbness in one arm
now it was over, and mentally complimented her London physician on the
unerringness of his diagnosis. Her heart, however, complained of the
cruelty of having in the end, perhaps, if the wrangle should be
protracted, to yield, for sheer weakness, without ceasing to beat.
THE ORMONT JEWELS
At half-past twelve of the noon next day Lord Ormont was at Lady
Charlotte's house door. She welcomed him affectionately, as if nothing
were in dispute; he nodded an acceptance of her greetings, with a blunt
intimation of the business to be settled; she put on her hump of the
feline defensive; then his batteries opened fire and hers barked back on
him. Each won admiration of the other's tenacity, all the more
determined to sap or split it. They had known one another's character,
but they had never seen it in such strong light. Never had their mutual
and similar, though opposed, resources been drawn out so copiously and
unreservedly. This was the shining scrawl of all that each could do to
gain a fight. They admired one another's contemptibly justifiable
evasions, changes of front, statements bordering the lie, even to
meanness in the withdrawal of admissions and the denial of the same ever
having been made. That was Charlotte! That was Rowsley! Anything to
beat down the adversary.
As to will, the woman's will, of these two, equalled the man's. They
were matched in obstinacy and unscrupulousness.
Her ingenuitics of the defence eluded his attacks, and compelled him to
fall on heavy iteration of his demand for the jewels, an immediate
restitution of the jewels. 'Why immediate?' cried she.
He repeated it without replying to her.
'But, you tell me, Rowsley, why immediate? If you're in want of money
for her, you come to me, tell me, you shall have thousands. I'll drive
down to the City to-morrow and sell out stock. Mr. Eglett won't mind
when he hears the purpose. I shall call five thousand cheap, and don't
ask to see the money again.'
'Ah! double the sum to have your own way!' said he.
She protested that she valued her money. She furnished instances of her
carefulness of her money all along up to the present period of brutal old
age. Yet she would willingly part with five thousand or more to save the
family honour. Mr. Eglett would not only approve, he would probably
advance a good part of the money himself.
'Money! Who wants money?' thundered the earl, and jumped out of her trap
of the further diversion from the plain request. 'To-morrow, when I am
here, I shall expect to have the jewels delivered to me.'
'That you may hand them over to her. Where are they likely to be this
time next year? And what do you know about jewels? You may look at them
when you ask to see them, and not know imitation paste--like the stuff
Lady Beltus showed her old husband. Our mother wore them, and she prized
them. I'm not sure I wouldn't rather hear they were exhibited in a Bond
Street jeweller's shop or a Piccadilly pawnbroker's than have them on
'You speak of my wife.'
'For a season, perhaps; and off they're likely to go, to pay bills, if
her Adderwoods and her Morsfields are out of funds, as they call it.'
'You are aware you are speaking of my wife, Charlotte?'
'You daren't say my sister-in-law.'
He did not choose to say it; and once more she dared him. She could
imagine she scored a point.
They were summoned to lunch by Mr. Eglett; and there was an hour's
armistice; following which the earl demanded the restitution of the
jewels, and heard the singular question, childishly accentuated, 'What
Patience was his weapon and support, so he named his object with an air
of inveteracy in tranquillity they were for his wife to wear.
Lady Charlotte dared him to say they were for her sister-in-law.
He despised the transparent artifice of the challenge.
'But you have to own the difference,' she said. 'You haven't lost
respect for your family, thank God! No. It 's one thing to say she 's
a wife: you hang fire when it 's to say she 's my sister-in-law.'
'You'll have to admit the fact, Charlotte.'
'How long is it since I should have had to admit the fact?'
'From the date of my marriage.'
'Tell me the date.'
'No, you don't wear a wig, Charlotte; but you are fit to practise in the
Law-courts!' he said, exasperatedly jocular.
She had started a fresh diversion, and she pressed him for the date.
'I 'm supposed to have had a sister-in-law-how many weeks?--months?'
'Married years! And if you've been married years, where were you
married? Not in a church. That woman's no church-bride.'
'There are some clever women made idiots of by their trullish tempers.'
'Abuse away. I've asked you where you were married, Rowsley.'
'Go to Madrid. Go to the Embassy. Apply to the chaplain.'
'Married in Madrid! Who's ever married in Madrid! You flung her a
yellow handkerchief, and she tied it round her neck--that 's your
ceremony! Now you tell me you've been married years; and she's a young
woman; you fetch her over from Madrid, set her in a place where those
Morsfields and other fungi-fellows grow, and she has to think herself
lucky to be received by a Lady Staines and a Mrs. Lawrence Finchley, and
she the talk of the town, refused at Court, for all an honourable-enough
old woman countenanced her in pity; and I 'm asked to believe she was my
brother's wife, sister-in-law of mine, all the while! I won't.'
Lady Charlotte dilated on it for a length of time, merely to show she
declined to believe it; pouring Morsfield over him and the talk of the
town, the gypsy caught in Spain--now to be foisted on her as her sister-
in-law! She could fancy she produced an effect.
She did indeed unveil to him a portion of the sufferings his Aminta had
undergone; as visibly, too, the good argumentative reasons for his
previous avoidance of the deadly, dismal wrangle here forced on him.
A truly dismal, profitless wrangle! But the finish of it would be
the beginning of some solace to his Aminta.
The finish of it must be to-morrow. He refrained from saying so, and
simply appointed to-morrow for the resumption of the wrestle, departing
in his invincible coat of patience: which one has to wear when dealing
with a woman like Charlotte, he informed Mr. Eglett, on his way out at
a later hour than on the foregone day. Mr. Eglett was of his opinion,
that an introduction of lawyers into a family dispute was 'rats in the
pantry'; and he would have joined him in his gloomy laugh, if the thought
of Charlotte in a contention had not been so serious a matter. She might
be beaten; she could not be brought to yield.
She retired to her bedroom, and laid herself flat on her bed, immoveable,
till her maid undressed her for the night. A cup of broth and strip of
toast formed her sole nourishment. As for her doctor's possible
reproaches, the symptoms might crowd and do their worst; she fought for
the honour of her family.
At midday of the third day Lady Charlotte was reduced to the condition of
those fortresses which wave defiantly the flag, but deliver no further
shot, awaiting the assault. Her body, affected by hideous old age,
succumbed. Her will was unshaken. She would not write to her bankers.
Mr. Eglett might go to them, if he thought fit. Rowsley was to
understand that he might call himself married; she would have no flower-
basket bunch of a sister-in-law thrust upon her.
Lord Ormont and Mr. Eglett walked down to her bankers in the afternoon.
As a consequence of express injunctions given by my lady five years
previously, the assistant-manager sought an interview with her.
The jewels were lodged at her house the day ensuing. They were examined,
verified by the list in Lady Charlotte's family record-book, and then
taken away--forcibly, of course--by her brother.
He laughed in his dry manner; but the reminiscent glimpses, helping him
to see the humour of it, stirred sensations of the tug it had been with
that combative Charlotte, and excused him for having shrunk from the
encounter until he conceived it to be necessary.
Settlement of the affair with Morsfield now claimed his attention. The
ironical tolerance he practised in relation to Morsfield when Aminta had
no definite station before the world changed to an angry irritability
at the man's behaviour now that she had stepped forth under his
acknowledgement of her as the Countess of Ormont. He had come round
to a rather healthier mind regarding his country, and his introduction
of the Countess of Ormont to the world was his peace-offering.
As he returned home earlier on the third day, he found his diligent
secretary at work. The calling on Captain May and the writing to the
sort of man were acts obnoxious to his dignity; so he despatched Weyburn
to the captain's house, one in a small street of three narrow tenements
abutting on aristocracy and terminating in mews. Weyburn's mission was
to give the earl's address at Great Marlow for the succeeding days, and
to see Captain May, if the captain was at home. During his absence the
precious family jewel-box was locked in safety. Aminta and her friend,
little Miss Collett, were out driving, by the secretary's report. The
earl considered it a wholesome feature of Aminta's character that she
should have held to her modest schoolmate the fact spoke well for both of
A look at the papers to serve for Memoirs was discomposing, and led him
to think the secretary could be parted with as soon as he pleased to go:
say, a week hence.
The Memoirs were no longer designed for issue. He had the impulse to
treat them on the spot as the Plan for the Defence of the Country had
been treated; and for absolutely obverse reasons. The secretary and the
Memoirs were associated: one had sprung out of the other. Moreover, the
secretary had witnessed a scene at Steignton. The young man had done his
duty, and would be thanked for that, and dismissed, with a touch of his
employer's hand. The young man would have made a good soldier--a better
soldier, good as he might be as a scribe. He ought to have been in his
father's footsteps, and he would then have disciplined or quashed his
fantastical ideas. Perhaps he was right on the point of toning the
Memoirs here and there. Since the scene at Steignton Lord Ormont's views
had changed markedly in relation to everybody about him, and most things.
Weyburn came back at the end of an hour to say that he had left the
address with Mrs. May, whom he had seen.
'A handsome person,' the earl observed.
'She must have been very handsome,' said Weyburn.
'Ah! we fall into their fictions, or life would be a bald business, upon
Lord Ormont had not uttered it before the sentiment of his greater luck
with one of that queer world of the female lottery went through him on a
swell of satisfaction, just a wave.
An old-world eye upon women, it seemed to Weyburn. But the man who could
crown a long term of cruel injustice with the harshness to his wife at
Steignton would naturally behold women with that eye.
However, he was allowed only to generalize; he could not trust himself
to dwell on Lady Ormont and the Aminta inside the shell. Aminta and Lady
Ormont might think as one or diversely of the executioner's blow she had
undergone. She was a married woman, and she probably regarded the
wedding by law as the end a woman has to aim at, and is annihilated by
hitting; one flash of success, and then extinction, like a boy's cracker
on the pavement. Not an elevated image, but closely resembling that
which her alliance with Lord Ormont had been!
At the same time, no true lover of a woman advises her--imploring is
horrible treason--to slip the symbolic circle of the law from her finger,
and have in an instant the world for her enemy. She must consent to be
annihilated, and must have no feelings; particularly no mind. The mind
is the danger for her. If she has a mind alive, she will certainly push
for the position to exercise it, and run the risk of a classing with
Nature's created mates for reptile men.
Besides, Lady Ormont appeared, in the company of her friend Selina
Collett, not worse than rather too thoughtful; not distinctly unhappy.
And she was conversable, smiling. She might have had an explanation with
my lord, accepting excuses--or, who knows? taking the blame, and offering
them. Weakness is pliable. So pliable is it, that it has been known for
a crack of the masterly whip to fling off the victim and put on the
culprit! Ay, but let it be as it may with Lady Ormont, Aminta is of a
different composition. Aminta's eyes of the return journey to London
were haunting lights, and lured him to speculate; and for her sake he
rejected the thought that for him they meant anything warmer than the
passing thankfulness, though they were a novel assurance to him of her
possession beneath her smothering cloud of the power to resolve, and show
forth a brilliant individuality.
The departure of the ladies and my lord in the travelling carriage for
the house on the Upper Thames was passably sweetened to Weyburn by the
command to him to follow in a day or two, and continue his work there
until he left England. Aminta would not hear of an abandonment of the
Memoirs. She spoke on the subject to my lord as to a husband pardoned.
She was not less affable and pleasant with him out of Weyburn's hearing.
My lord earned her gratitude for his behaviour to Selina Collett, to whom
he talked interestedly of her favourite pursuit, as he had done on the
day when, as he was not the man to forget, her arrival relieved him of
anxiety. Aminta, noticed the box on the seat beside him.
They drove up to their country house in time to dress leisurely for
dinner. Nevertheless, the dinner-hour had struck several minutes before
she descended; and the earl, as if not expecting her, was out on the
garden path beside the river bank with Selina. She beckoned from the
step of the open French window.
He came to her at little Selina's shuffling pace, conversing upon water-
'No jewelry to-day?' he said.
And Aminta replied: 'Carstairs has shown me the box and given the key.
I have not opened it.'
'Time in the evening, or to-morrow. You guess the contents?'
'I presume I do.'
She looked feverish and shadowed.
He murmured kindly: 'Anything?'
'Not now: we will dine.'
She had missed, had lost, she feared, her own jewelbox; a casket of no
great treasure to others, but of a largely estimable importance to her.
After the heavy ceremonial entrance and exit of dishes, she begged the
earl to accompany her for an examination of the contents of the box.
As soon as her chamber-door was shut, she said, in accents of alarm:
'Mine has disappeared. Carstairs, I know, is to be trusted. She
remembers carrying the box out of my room; she believes she can remember
putting it into the fly. She had to confess that it had vanished,
without her knowing how, when my boxes were unpacked.'
'Is she very much upset?' said the earl.
'Carstairs? Why, yes, poor creature! you can imagine. I have no doubt
she feels for me; and her own reputation is concerned. What do you think
is best to be done?'
'To be done! Overhaul the baggage again in all the rooms.'
'We've not failed to do that.'
'Control yourself, my dear. If, by bad luck, they're lost, we can
replace them. The contents of this box, now, we could not replace.
Open it, and judge.'
'I have no curiosity--forgive me, I beg. And the servant's fly has been
visited, ransacked inside and out, footmen questioned; we have not left
anything we can conceive of undone. My lord, will you suggest?'
'The intrinsic value of the gems would not be worth--not worth Aminta's
one beat of the heart. Upon my word--not one!'
An amatory knightly compliment breasting her perturbation roused an
unwonted spite; and a swift reflection on it startled her with a
suspicion. She cast it behind her. He could be angler and fish, he
would not be cat and mouse.
She said, however, more temperately: 'It is not the value of the gems.
We are losing precious minutes!'
'Association of them with the giver? Is it that? If that has a value
for you, he is flattered.'
This betrayed him to the woman waxing as intensely susceptible in all her
being as powder to sparks.
'There is to be no misunderstanding, my lord,' she said. 'I like--
I value my jewels; but--I am alarmed lest the box should fall into hands
--into strange hands.'
'The box!' he exclaimed with an outline of a comic grimace; and, if
proved a voluptuary in torturing, he could instance half a dozen points
for extenuation: her charm of person, withheld from him, and to be
embraced; her innocent naughtiness; compensation coming to her in excess
for a transient infliction of pain. 'Your anxiety is about the box?'
'Yes, the box,' Aminta said firmly. 'It contains--'
'No false jewels? A thief might complain.'
'It contains letters, my lord.' 'Blackmail?'
'You would be at liberty to read them. I would rather they were burnt.'
'Ah!' The earl heaved his chest prodigiously. 'Blackmail letters are
better in a husband's hands, if they can be laid there.'
'If there is a necessity for him to read them--yes.'
'There may be a necessity, there can't be a gratification,--though there
are dogs of thick blood that like to scratch their sores,' he murmured to
himself. 'You used to show me these declaration epistles.'
'Not the names.'
'Not the names--no!'
'When we had left the country, I showed you why it had been my wish to
'Xarifa was and is female honour. Take the key, open that box; I will
make inquiries. But, my dear, you guess everything. Your little box was
removed for the bigger impression to be produced by this one.'
A flash came out of her dark eyes.
'No, you guess wrong this time, you clever shrew! I wormed nothing from
you,' said he. 'I knew you kept particular letters in that receptacle of
things of price: Aminta can't conceal. The man has worried you. Why not
have come to me?'
'Oblige me, my lord, by restoring me my box.'
'This is your box.'
Her bosom lifted with the words Oh, no! unspoken. He took the key and
opened the box. A dazzling tray of stones was revealed; underneath it
the constellations in cases, very heavens for the worldly Eve; and he
doubted that Eve could have gone completely out of her. But she had, as
observation instructed him, set her woman's mind on something else, and
must have it before letting her eyes fall on objects impossible for any
of her sex to see without coveting them.
He bowed. 'I will fetch it,' he said magnanimously. Her own box was
brought from his room. She then consented to look womanly at the Ormont
jewels, over which the battle; whereof she knew nothing, and nothing
could be told her, had been fought in her interests, for her sovereign
She looked and admired. They were beautiful jewels the great emerald was
wonderful, and there were two rubies to praise. She excused herself for
declining to put the circlet for the pendant round her neck, or a
glittering ring on her finger. Her remarks were encomiums, not quite so
cold as those of a provincial spinster of an ascetic turn at an
exhibition of the world's flycatcher gewgaws. He had divided Aminta from
the Countess of Ormont, and it was the wary Aminta who set a guard on
looks and tones before the spectacle of his noble bounty, lest any, the
smallest, payment of the dues of the countess should be demanded.
Rightly interpreting him to be by nature incapable of asking pardon, or
acknowledging a wrong done by him, however much he might crave exemption
from blame and seek for peace, she kept to her mask of injury, though she
hated unforgivingness; and she felt it little, she did it easily, because
her heart was dead to the man. My lord's hand touched her on her
shoulder, propitiatingly in some degree, in his dumb way.
Offended women can be emotional to a towering pride, that bends while it
assumes unbendingness: it must come to their sensations, as it were a
sign of humanity in the majestic, speechless king of beasts; and they are
pathetically melted, abjectly hypocritical; a nice confusion of
sentiments, traceable to a tender bosom's appreciation of strength and
the perceptive compassion for its mortality.
In a case of the alienated wife, whose blood is running another way, no
foul snake's bite is more poisonous than that indicatory touch, however
simple and slight. My lord's hand, lightly laid on Aminta's shoulder,
became sensible of soft warm flesh stiffening to the skeleton.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A bird that won't roast or boil or stew
Acting is not of the high class which conceals the art
Ah! we fall into their fictions
Bad luck's not repeated every day Keep heart for the good
Began the game of Pull
By nature incapable of asking pardon
Consciousness of some guilt when vowing itself innocent
Having contracted the fatal habit of irony
He had to shake up wrath over his grievances
Her vehement fighting against facts
His aim to win the woman acknowledged no obstacle in the means
His restored sense of possession
How to compromise the matter for the sake of peace?
I could be in love with her cruelty, if only I had her near me
Men who believe that there is a virtue in imprecations
Not men of brains, but the men of aptitudes
Not the indignant and the frozen, but the genially indifferent
One is a fish to her hook; another a moth to her light
One night, and her character's gone
Passion added to a bowl of reason makes a sophist's mess
Policy seems to petrify their minds
Rage of a conceited schemer tricked
Respect one another's affectations
To time and a wife it is no disgrace for a man to bend
When duelling flourished on our land, frail women powerful
Where heart weds mind, or nature joins intellect
With what little wisdom the world is governed
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