Mrs. Humphry Ward
Part 15 out of 16
unkind? Your wife knows nothing of it. Oh, did you think when
you came in just now before dinner that I didn't care, that I had
a heart of stone? Did you think I had broken my solemn promise,
my vow to you that day at Murewell? So I have, a hundred times
over. I made it in ignorance; I had not counted the cost--how could
I? It was all so new, so strange. I dare not make it again, the
will is so weak, circumstances so strong. But oh! take me back
into your life! Hold me there! Remind me always of this night;
convict me out of my own mouth! But I _will_ learn my lesson; I
will learn to hear the two voices, the voice that speaks to you and
the voice that speaks to me--I must. It is all plain to me now.
It has been appointed me.'
Then she broke down into a kind of weariness, and fell back in her
chair, her delicate fingers straying with soft childish touch over
'But I am past thinking. Let us bury it all, and begin again.
Words are nothing.'
Strange ending to a day of torture! As she towered above him in
the dimness, white and pure and drooping, her force of nature all
dissolved, lost in this new heavenly weakness of love, he thought
of the man who passed through the place of sin, and the place of
expiation, and saw, at last the rosy light creeping along the East;
caught the white moving figures, and that sweet distant melody
rising through the luminous air, which announced to him the approach
of Beatrice and the nearness of those 'shining tablelands whereof
our God Himself is moon and sun.' For eternal life, the ideal
state, is not something future and distant. Dante knew it when he
talked of '_quella que imparadisa la mia mente_.' Paradise is here,
visible and tangible by mortal eyes and hands, whenever self is
lost in loving, whenever the narrow limits of personality are beaten
down by the inrush of the Divine Spirit.
The saddest moment in the lives of these two persons whose history
we have followed for so long, was over and done with. Henceforward
to the end Elsmere and his wife were lovers as of old.
But that day and night left even deeper marks on Robert than on
Catherine. Afterward she gradually came to feel, running all through
his views of life, a note sterner, deeper, maturer than any present
there before. The reasons for it were unknown to her, though
sometimes her own tender, ignorant, remorse supplied them. But
they were hidden deep in Elsmere's memory.
A few days afterward he was casually told that Madame de Netteville
had left England for some time. As a matter of fact he never set
eyes on her again. After a while the extravagance of his self-blame
abated. He saw things as they were--without morbidness. But a
certain boyish carelessness of mood he never afterward quite
recovered. Men and women of all classes, and not only among the
poor, became more real and more tragic--moral truths more awful--to
him. It was the penalty of a highly strung nature set with exclusive
intensity toward certain spiritual ends.
On the first opportunity after that conversation with Hugh Flaxman
which had so deeply affected her, Catherine accompanied Elsmere to
his Sunday lecture. He tried a little, tenderly, to dissuade her.
But she went, shrinking and yet determined.
She had not heard him speak in public since that last sermon of his
in Murewell Church, every detail of which by long brooding had been
burnt into her mind. The bare Elgood Street room, the dingy outlook
on the high walls of a warehouse opposite, the lines of blanched,
quick-eyed artisans, the dissent from what she loved, and he had
once loved, implied in everything, the lecture itself, on the
narratives of the Passion; it was all exquisitely painful to her,
and, yet, yet she was glad to be there.
Afterward Wardlaw, with the brusque remark to Elsmere that 'any
fool could see he was getting done up,' insisted on taking the
children's class. Catherine, too, had been impressed, as she saw
Robert raised a little above her in the glare of many windows, with
the sudden perception that the worn, exhausted look of the preceding
summer had returned upon him. She held out her hand to Wardlaw
with a quick, warm word of thanks. He glanced at her curiously.
What had brought her there after all?
Then Robert, protesting that he was being ridiculously coddled, and
that Wardlaw was much more in want of a holiday than he, was carried
off to the Embankment, and the two spent a happy hour wandering
westward, Somerset House, the bridges, the Westminster towers rising
before them into the haze of the June afternoon. A little fresh
breeze came off the river; that, or his wife's hand on his arm,
seemed to put new life into Elsmere. And she walked beside him,
talking frankly, heart to heart, with flashes of her old sweet
gayety, as she had not talked for months.
Deep in her mystical sense all the time lay the belief in a final
restoration, in an all-atoning moment, perhaps at the very end of
life, in which the blind would see, the doubter be convinced. And,
meanwhile, the blessedness of this peace, this surrender! Surely
the air this afternoon was pure and life-giving for them, the bells
rang for them, the trees were green for them!
He had need in the week that followed of all that she had given
back to him. For Mr. Grey's illness had taken a dangerous and
alarming turn. It seemed to be the issue of long ill-health, and
the doctors feared that there were no resources of constitution
left to carry him through it. Every day some old St. Anselm's
friend on the spot wrote to Elsmere, and with each post the news
grew more despairing. Since Elsmere had left Oxford, he could count
on the fingers of one hand the occasions on which he and Grey had
met face to face. But for him, as for many another man of our time,
Henry Grey's influence was not primarily an influence of personal
contact. His mere life, that he was there, on English soil, within
a measurable distance, had been to Elsmere in his darkest moments
one of his thoughts of refuge. At a time when a religion which can
no longer be believed clashes with a scepticism full of danger to
conduct, every such witness as Grey to the power of a new and coming
truth holds a special place in the hearts of men who can neither
accept fairy tales, nor reconcile themselves to a world without
faith. The saintly life grows to be a beacon, a witness. Men cling
to it as they have always clung to each other, to the visible, and
the tangible; as the elders of Miletus, though the Way lay before
them, clung to the man who had set their feet therein, 'sorrowing
most of all that they should see his face no more.'
The accounts grew worse--all friends shut out, no possibility of
last words--the whole of Oxford moved and sorrowing. Then at list,
on a Friday, came the dreaded, expected letter: 'He is gone! He
died early this morning, without pain, conscious almost to the end.
He mentioned several friends by name, you among them, during the
night. The funeral is to be on Tuesday. You will be here, of
Sad and memorable day! By an untoward chance it fell in Commemoration
week, and Robert found the familiar streets teeming with life and
noise, under a showery, uncertain sky, which every now and then
would send the bevies of lightly gowned maidens, with their mothers,
and their attendant squires, skurrying for shelter, and leave the
roofs and pavements glistening. He walked up to St. Anselm's, found
as he expected that the first part of the service was to be in the
chapel, the rest in the cemetery, and then mounted the well-known
staircase to Langham's rooms. Langham was apparently in his bedroom.
Lunch was on the table--the familiar commons, the familiar
toast-and-water. There, in a recess, were the same splendid wall
maps of Greece he had so often consulted after lecture. There was
the little case of coins, with the gold Alexanders he had handled
with so much covetous reverence at eighteen. Outside, the irregular
quadrangle with its dripping trees stretched before him; the steps
of the new Hall, now the shower was over, were crowded with gowned
figures. It might have been yesterday that he had stood in that
room, blushing with awkward pleasure under Mr. Grey's first salutation.
The bedroom door opened and Langham came in.
'Elsmere! But of course I expected you.'
His voice seemed to Robert curiously changed. There was a flatness
in it, an absence of positive cordiality which was new to him in
any greeting of Langham's to himself, and had a chilling effect
upon him. The face, too, was changed. Tint and expression were
both dulled; its marble-like sharpness and finish had coarsened a
little, and the figure, which had never possessed the erectness of
youth had now the pinched look and the confirmed stoop of the
'I did not write to you, Elsmere,' he said immediately, as though
in anticipation of what the other would be sure to say; 'I knew
nothing but what the bulletins said, and I was told that Cathcart
wrote to you. It is many years now since I have seen much of Grey.
Sit down and have some lunch. We have time, but not too much
Robert took a few mouthfuls. Langham was difficult, talked
disconnectedly of trifles, and Robert was soon painfully conscious
that the old sympathetic bond between them no longer existed.
Presently, Langham, as though with an effort to remember, asked
after Catherine, then inquired what he was doing in the way of
writing, and neither of them mentioned the name of Leyburn. They
left the table and sat spasmodically talking, in reality expectant.
And at last the sound present already in both minds made itself
heard--the first long solitary stroke of the chapel bell.
Robert covered his eyes.
'Do you remember in this room, Langham, you introduced us first?'
'I remember,' replied the other abruptly. Then, with a half-cynical,
half-melancholy scrutiny of his companion, he said, after a pause,
'What a faculty of hero-worship you have always had, Elsmere!'
'Do you know anything of the end?' Robert asked him presently, as
that tolling bell seemed to bring the strong feeling beneath more
irresistibly to the surface.
'No, I never asked!' cried Langham, with sudden harsh animation.
'What purpose could be served? Death should be avoided by the
living. We have no business with it. Do what we will, we cannot
rehearse our own parts. And the sight of other men's performances
helps us no more than the sight of a great actor gives the dramatic
gift. All they do for us is to imperil the little nerve, break
through the little calm, we have left.'
Elsmere's hand dropped, and he turned round to him with
a flashing smile.
'Ah--I know it now--you loved him still.'
Langham, who was standing, looked down on him sombrely, yet more
'How much you always made of feeling' he said after a little pause,
'in a world where, according to me, our chief object should be not
Then he began to hunt for his cap and gown. In another minute the
two made part of the crowd in the front quadrangle, where the rain
was sprinkling, and the insistent grief-laden voice of the bell
rolled, from pause to pause, above the gowned figures, spreading
thence in wide waves of mourning sound over Oxford.
The chapel service passed over Robert like a solemn pathetic dream.
The lines of undergraduate faces the Provost's white head, the voice
of the chaplain reading, the full male unison of the voices
replying--how they carried him back to the day when as a lad from
school he had sat on one of the chancel benches beside his mother,
listening for the first time to the subtle simplicity, if one may
be allowed the paradox, of the Provost's preaching! Just opposite
to where he sat now with Langham, Grey had sat that first afternoon;
the freshman's curious eyes had been drawn again and again to the
dark massive head, the face with its look of reposeful force, of
righteous strength. During the lesson from Corinthians, Elsmere's
thoughts were irrelevantly busy with all sorts of mundane memories
of the dead. What was especially present to him was a series of
Liberal election meetings in which Grey had taken a warm part, and
in which he himself had helped just before he took orders. A
hundred, odd, incongruous details came back to Robert now with
poignant force. Grey had been to him at one time primarily the
professor, The philosopher, the representative of all that was best
in the life of the University; now, fresh from his own grapple with
London and its life, what moved him most was the memory of the
citizen, the friend and brother of common man, the thinker who had
never shirked action in the name of thought, for whom conduct had
been from beginning to end the first reality.
The procession through the streets afterward which conveyed the
body of this great son of modern Oxford to its last resting-place
in the citizens' cemetery on the western side of the town, will not
soon be forgotten, even in a place which forgets notoriously soon.
All the University was there, all the town was there side by side
with men honorably dear to England, who had carried with them into
one or other of the great English careers the memory of the teacher,
were men who had known from day to day the cheery modest helper in
a hundred local causes; side by side with the youth of Alma Mater
went the poor of Oxford; tradesmen and artisans followed or accompanied
the group of gowned and venerable figures, representing the Heads
of Houses and the Professors, or mingled with the slowly pacing
crowds of Masters; while along the route groups of visitors and
merrymakers, young men in flannels or girls in light dresses, stood
with suddenly grave faces here and there, caught by the general
wave of mourning, and wondering what such a spectacle might mean.
Robert, losing sight of Langham as they left the chapel, found his
arm grasped by young Cathcart, his correspondent. The man was a
junior Fellow who had attached himself to Grey during the two
preceding years with especial devotion. Robert had only a slight
knowledge of him, but there was something in his voice and grip
which made him feel at once infinitely more at home with him at
this moment than he had felt with the old friend of his undergraduate
They walked down Beaumont Street together. The rain came on again,
and the long black crowd stretched before them was lashed by the
driving gusts. As they went along, Cathcart told him all he wanted
'The night before the end he was perfectly calm and conscious. I
told you he mentioned your name among the friends to whom he sent
his good-by. He thought for everybody. For all those of his house
he left the most minute and tender directions. He forgot nothing.
And all with such extraordinary simplicity and quietness, like one
arranging for a journey! In the evening an old Quaker aunt of his,
a North-country woman whom he had been much with as a boy, and to
whom he was much attached, was sitting with him. I was there too.
She was a beautiful old figure in her white cap and kerchief, and
it seemed to please him to lie and look at her. "It'll not be for
long, Henry," she said to him once "I'm seventy-seven this spring.
I shall come to you soon." He made no reply, and his silence
seemed to disturb her. I don't fancy she had known much of his
mind of late years. "You'll not be doubting the Lord's goodness,
Henry?" she said to him, with the tears in her eyes. "No,", he said,
"no, never. Only it seems to be His Will we should be certain of
nothing--_but Himself!_ I ask no more." I shall never forget the
accent of those words: they were the breath of his inmost life.
If ever man was _Gottbetrunken_ it was he--and yet not a word beyond
what he felt to be true, beyond what the intellect could grasp!'
Twenty minutes later Robert stood by the open grave. The rain beat
down on the black concourse of mourners. But there were blue spaces
in the drifting sky, and a wavering rainy light played at intervals
over the Wytham and Hinksey Hills, and over the butter-cupped river
meadows, where the lush hay-grass bent in long lines under the
showers. To his left, the Provost, his glistening white head bare
to the rain, was reading the rest of the service.
As the coffin was lowered Elsmere bent over the grave. 'My friend,
my master,' cried the yearning filial heart, 'oh, give me something
of yourself to take back into life, something to brace me through
this darkness of our ignorance, something to keep hope alive as you
kept it to the end!'
And on the inward ear there rose, with the solemnity of a last
message, words which years before he had found marked in a little
book of Meditations borrowed from Grey's table--words long treasured
and often repeated:--
'Amid a world of forgetfulness and decay, in the sight of his own
shortcomings and limitations, or on the edge of the tomb, he alone
who has found his soul in losing it, who in singleness of mind _has
lived in order to love and understand_, will find that the God who
is near to him as his own conscience has a face of light and love!'
Pressing the phrases into his memory, he listened to the triumphant
outbursts of the Christian service.
'Man's hope,' he thought, 'has grown humbler than this. It keeps
now a more modest mien in the presence of the Eternal Mystery; but
is it in truth less real, less sustaining? Let Grey's trust answer
He walked away absorbed, till at last in the little squalid street
outside the cemetery it occurred to him to look round for Langham.
Instead, he found Cathcart who had just come up with him.
'Is Langham behind?' he asked. 'I want a word with him before I
'Is he here?' asked the other, with a change of expression.
'But of course! He was in the chapel. How could, you----'
'I thought he would probably go away,' said Cathcart, with some
bitterness. 'Grey made many efforts to get him to come and see him
before he became so desperately ill. Langham came once. Grey never
asked for him again.'
'It is his old horror of expression, I suppose,' said Robert,
troubled; 'his dread of being forced to take a line, to face anything
certain and irrevocable. I understand. He could not say good-by
to a friend to save his life. There is no shirking that! One must
either do it or leave it!'
Cathcart shrugged his shoulders, and drew a masterly little picture
of Langham's life in college. He had succeeded by the most adroit
devices in completely isolating himself both from the older and the
'He attends college-meeting sometimes, and contributes a sarcasm
or two on the cramming system of the college. He takes a constitutional
to Summertown every day on the least frequented side of the road,
that he may avoid being spoken to. And as to his ways of living,
he and I happen to have the same scout--old Dobson, you remember?
And if I would let him, he would tell me tales by the hour. He
is the only man in the University who knows anything about it. I
gather from what he says that Langham is becoming a complete
valetudinarian. Everything must go exactly by rule--his food, his
work, the management of his clothes--and any little _contretemps_
makes him ill. But the comedy is to watch him when there is anything
going on in the place that he thinks may lead to a canvass and to
any attempt to influence him for a vote. On these occasions he
goes off with automatic regularity to an hotel at West Malvern, and
only reappears when the "Times" tells him the thing is done with.'
Both laughed. Then Robert sighed. Weaknesses of Langham's sort
may be amusing enough to the contemptuous and unconcerned outsider.
But the general result of them, whether for the man himself or
those whom he affects, is tragic, not comic; and Elsmere had good
reason for knowing it.
Later, after a long talk with the Provost, and meetings with various
other old friends, he walked down to the station, under a sky clear
from rain, and through a town gay with festal preparations. Not a
sign now, in the crowded, bustling streets, of that melancholy
pageant of the afternoon. The heroic memory had flashed for a
moment like something vivid and gleaming in the sight of all,
understanding and ignorant. Now it lay committed to a few faithful
hearts, there to become one seed among many of a new religious life
On the platform Robert found himself nervously accosted by a tall
'Elsmere, have you forgotten me?'
He turned and recognized a man whom he had last seen as a St.
Anselm's undergraduate--one MacNiell, a handsome rowdy young Irishman,
supposed to be clever, and decidedly popular in the college. As
he stood looking at him, puzzled by the difference between the old
impression and the new, suddenly the man's story flashed across
him; he remembered some disgraceful escapade--an expulsion.
'You came for the funeral, of course?' said the other, his face
'Yes--and you too?'
The man turned away, and something in his silence led Robert to
stroll on beside him to the open end of the platform.
'I have lost my only friend,' MacNiell said at last hoarsely. 'He
took me up when my own father would have nothing to say to me. He
found me work; he wrote to me; for years he stood between me and
perdition. I am just going out to a post in New Zealand he got for
me, and next week before I sail-I--I--am to be married--and he was
to be there. He was so pleased--he had seen her.'
It was one story out of a hundred like it, as Robert knew very well.
They talked for a few minutes, and then the train loomed in the
'He saved you,' said Robert, holding out his hand, 'and at a dark
moment in my own life I owed him everything. There is nothing we
can do for him in return but--to remember him! Write to me, if you
can or will, from New Zealand, for his sake.'
A few seconds later the train sped past the bare little cemetery,
which lay just beyond the line. Robert bent forward. In the pale
yellow glow of the evening he could distinguish the grave, the mound
of gravel, the planks, and some figures moving beside it. He
strained his eyes till he could see no more, his heart full of
veneration, of memory, of prayer. In himself life seemed so restless
and combative. Surely he, more than others, had need of the lofty
lessons of death!
In the weeks which followed--weeks often of mental and physical
depression, caused by his sense of personal loss and by the influence
of an overworked state he could not be got to admit--Elsmere owed
much to Hugh Flaxman's cheery sympathetic temper, and became more
attached to him than ever, and more ready than ever, should the
fates deem it so, to welcome him as a brother-in-law. However, the
fates for the moment seemed to have borrowed a leaf from Langham's
book, and did not apparently know their own minds. It says volumes
for Hugh Flaxman's general capacities as a human being that at this
period he should have had any attention to give to a friend, his
position as a lover was so dubious and difficult.
After the, evening at the Workmen's Club, and as a result of further
meditation, he had greatly developed the tactics first adopted on
that occasion. He had beaten a masterly retreat, and Rose Leyburn
was troubled with him no more.
The result was that a certain brilliant young person was soon sharply
conscious of a sudden drop in the pleasure of living. Mr. Flaxman
had been the Leyburns' most constant and entertaining visitor.
During the whole of May he paid one formal call in Lerwick Gardens,
and was then entertained tete-a-tete by Mrs. Leyburn, to Rose's
intense subsequent annoyance, who know perfectly well that her
mother was incapable of chattering about anything but her daughters.
He still sent flowers, but they came from his head gardener, addressed
to Mrs. Leyburn. Agnes put them in water, and Rose never gave them
a look. Rose went to Lady Helen's because Lady Helen made her, and
was much too engaging a creature to be rebuffed; but, however merry
and protracted the teas in those scented rooms might be, Mr. Flaxman's
step on the stairs, and Mr. Flaxman's hand on the curtain over the
door, till now the feature in the entertainment most to be counted
on, were, generally speaking, conspicuously absent.
He and the Leyburns met, of course, for their list of common friends
was now considerable; but Agnes, reporting matters to Catherine,
could only say that each of these occasions left Rose more irritable
and more inclined to say biting things as to the foolish ways in
which society takes its pleasures.
Rose certainly was irritable, and at times, Agnes thought, depressed.
But as usual she was unapproachable about her own affairs, and the
state of her mind could only be somewhat dolefully gathered from
the fact that she was much less unwilling to go back to Burwood
this summer than had ever been known before.
Meanwhile, Mr. Flaxman left certain other people in no doubt as to
'My dear aunt,' he said calmly to Lady Charlotte, 'I mean to marry
Miss Leyburn if I can at any time persuade her to have me. So much
you may take as fixed, and it will be quite waste of breath on your
part to quote dukes to me. But the other factor in the problem is
by no means fixed. Miss Leyburn won't have me at present, and as
for the future I have most salutary qualms.'
'Hugh!' interrupted Lady Charlotte angrily, 'as if you hadn't had
the mothers of London at your feet for years!'
Lady Charlotte was in a most variable frame of mind; one day hoping
devoutly that the Langham affair might prove lasting enough in its
effects to tire Hugh out; the next, outraged that a silly girl
should waste a thought on such a creature, while Hugh was in her
way; at one time angry that an insignificant chit of a schoolmasters
daughter should apparently care so little to be the Duke of Sedberg's
niece, and should even dare to allow herself the luxury of snubbing
a Flaxman; at another, utterly skeptical as to any lasting obduracy
on the chit's part, The girl was clearly anxious not to fall too
easily, but as to final refusal--pshaw! And it made her mad that
Hugh would hold himself so cheap.
Meanwhile, Mr. Flaxman felt himself in no way called upon to answer
that remark of his aunt's we have recorded.
'I have qualms,' he repeated, 'but I mean to do all I know, and you
and Helen must help me.'
Lady Charlotte crossed her hands before her.
'I may be a Liberal and a lion-hunter,' she said firmly, 'but I
have still conscience enough left not to aid and abet my nephew in
throwing himself away.'
She had nearly slipped in 'again;' but just saved herself.
'Your conscience is all a matter of the Duke,' he told her. 'Well,
if you won't help me, then Helen and I will have to arrange it by
But this did not suit Lady Charlotte at all. She had always played
the part of earthly providence to this particular nephew, and it
was abominable to her that the wretch, having refused for ten years
to provide her with a love affair to manage, should now manage one
for himself, in spite of her.
'You are such an arbitrary creature!' she said fretfully: 'you
prance about the world like Don Quixote, and expect me to play
Sancho without a murmur.'
'How many drubbings have I brought you yet?' he asked her, laughing.
He was really very fond of her. 'It is true there is a point of
likeness; I won't take your advice. But then why don't you give
me better? It is strange,' he added, musing; 'women talk to us
about love as if we were too gross to understand it; and when they
come to business, and they're not in it themselves, they show the
temper of attorneys.'
'Love!' cried Lady Charlotte, nettled. 'Do you mean to tell me,
Hugh, that you are really, seriously in love with that girl?'
'Well, I only know,' he said, thrusting his hands far into his
pockets, 'that unless things mend I shall go out to California in
the autumn and try ranching.'
Lady Charlotte burst into an angry laugh. He stood opposite to
her, with his orchid in his buttonhole, himself the fine flower of
civilization. Ranching, indeed! However, he had done so many odd
things in his life, that, as she knew, it was never quite safe to
decline to take him seriously, and he looked at her now so defiantly,
his clear greenish eyes so wide open and alert, that her will began
to waver under the pressure of his.
'What do you want me to do, sir?'
His glance relaxed at once, and he laughingly explained to her that
what he asked of her was to keep the prey in sight.
'I can do nothing for myself at present,' he said; 'I get on her
nerves. She was in love with that black-haired _enfant du siecle_,--or
rather, she prefers to assume that she was--and I haven't given her
time to forget him. A serious blunder, and I deserve to suffer for
it. Very well, then, I retire, and I ask you and Helen to keep
watch. Don't let her go. Make yourselves nice to her; and, in
fact, spoil me a little now I am on the high rode to forty, as you
used to spoil me at fourteen.'
Mr. Flaxman sat down by his aunt and kissed her hand, after which
Lady Charlotte was as wax before him. 'Thank heaven,' she reflected,
'in ten days the Duke and all of them go out of town.' Retribution,
therefore, for wrong-doing would be, tardy, if wrongdoing there
must be. She could but ruefully reflect that after all the girl
was beautiful and gifted; moreover, if Hugh would force her to
befriend him in this criminality, there might be a certain joy in
thereby vindicating those Liberal principles of hers, in which a
scornful family had always refused to believe. So, being driven
into it, she would fain have done it boldly and with a dash. But
she could not rid her mind of the Duke, and her performance all
through, as a matter of fact, was blundering.
However, she was for the time very gracious to Rose, being in truth,
really fond of her; and Rose, however high she might hold her little
head, could find no excuse for quarrelling either with her or Lady
Toward the middle of June there was a grand ball given by Lady
Fauntleroy at Fauntleroy House, to which the two Miss Leyburns, by
Lady Helen's machinations, were invited. It was to be one, of the
events of the season, and when the cards arrived 'to have the honor
of meeting their Royal Highnesses,' etc., etc., Mrs. Leyburn, good
soul, gazed at them with eyes which grew a little moist under her
spectacles. She wished Richard could have seen the girls, dressed,
'just once.' But Rose treated the cards with no sort of tenderness.
'If one could put them up to auction,' she said flippantly, holding
them up, 'how many German opera tickets I should get for nothing!
I don't know what Agnes feels. As for me, I have neither nerve
enough for the peoples nor money enough for the toilette.'
However, with eleven o'clock Lady Helen ran in, a fresh vision of
blue and white, to suggest certain dresses for the sisters which
had occurred to her in the visions of the night, 'original,
adorable,--cost, a mere nothing!'
'My harpy,' she remarked, alluding to her dressmaker, 'would ruin
you over them, of course. Your maid'--the Leyburns possessed a
remarkably clever one--'will make them divinely for twopence
Rose listened; her eye kindled; the maid was summoned; and the
invitation accepted in Agnes's neatest hand. Even Catherine was
roused during the following ten days to a smiling indulgent interest
in the concerns of the workroom.
The evening came, and Lady Helen fetched the sisters in her carriage.
The ball was a magnificent affair. The house was one of historical
interest and importance, and all that the ingenuity of the present
could do to give fresh life and gayety to the pillared rooms, the
carved galleries and stately staircases of the past, had been done.
The ball-room, lined with Vandycks and Lelys, glowed softly with
electric light; the picture-gallery had been banked with flowers
and carpeted with red, and the beautiful dresses of the women trailed
up and down it, challenging the satins of the Netschers and the
Terburgs on the walls.
Rose's card was soon full to overflowing. The young men present
were of the smartest, and would not willingly have bowed the knee
to a nobody, however pretty. But Lady Helen's devotion, the girl's
reputation as a musician, and her little nonchalant disdainful ways,
gave her a kind of prestige, which made her, for the time being at
any rate, the equal of anybody. Petitioners came and went away
empty. Royalty was introduced and smiled both upon the beauty and
the beauty's delicate and becoming dress; and still Rose, though a
good deal more flushed and erect than usual, and though flesh and
blood could not resist the contagious pleasure which glistened even
in the eyes of that sage Agnes, was more than half-inclined to say
with the Preacher, that all was vanity.
Presently, as she stood waiting with her hand on her partner's arm,
before gliding into a waltz, she saw Mr. Flaxman opposite to her,
and with him a young debutante, in white tulle--a thin, pretty,
undeveloped creature, whose sharp elbows and timid movements,
together with the blushing enjoyment glowing so frankly from her
face, pointed her out as the school-girl of sweet sixteen, just
emancipated, and trying her wings.
'Ah, there is Lady Florence!' said her partner, a handsome young
Hussar. 'This ball is in her honor, you know. She comes Out
to-night. What, another cousin? Really she keeps too much in the
'Is Mr. Flaxman a cousin?'
The young man replied that he was, and then, in the intervals of
waltzing, went on to explain to her the relationships of many of
the people present, till the whole gorgeous affair began to seem
to Rose a mere family party. Mr. Flaxman was of it. She was not.
'Why am I here?' the little Jacobin said to herself fiercely as she
waltzed; 'it is foolish, unprofitable. I do not belong to them,
nor they to me!'
'Miss Leyburn! charmed to see you!' cried, Lady Charlotte, stopping
her; and then, in a loud whisper in her ear, 'Never saw you look
better. Your taste, or Helen's, that dress? The roses--exquisite!'
Rose, dropped her a little mock courtesy and whirled on again.
'_Lady Florences_ are always well dressed,' thought the child
angrily; 'and who notices it?'
Another turn brought them against Mr. Flaxman and his
partner. Mr. Flaxman came at once to greet her with smiling courtesy.
'I have a Cambridge friend to introduce to you--a beautiful youth.
Shall I find you by Helen? Now, Lady Florence, patience a moment.
That corner is too crowded. How good that last turn was!'
And bending with a sort of kind chivalry over his partner, who
looked at him with the eyes of a joyous, excited child, he led her
away. Five minutes later Rose, standing flushed by Lady Helen, saw
him coming again toward her, ushering a tall blue-eyed youth, whom
he introduced to her as 'Lord Waynflete.' The handsome boy looked
at her with a boy's open admiration, and beguiled her of a supper
dance, while a group standing near, a mother and three daughters,
stood watching with cold eyes and expressions which said plainly
to the initiated that mere beauty was receiving a ridiculous amount
'I wouldn't have given it him, but it is _rude_--it is _bad manners_,
not even to ask!' the supposed victress was saying to herself, with
quivering lips, her eyes following not the Trinity freshman, who
was their latest captive, but an older man's well-knit figure, and
a head on which the fair hair was already growing scantily, receding
a little from the fine intellectual brows.
An hour later she was again standing by Lady Helen, waiting for a
partner, when she saw two persons crossing the room, which was just
beginning to fill again for dancing, toward them. One was Mr.
Flaxman, the other was a small wrinkled old man, who leant upon his
arm, displaying the ribbon of the Garter as he walked.
'Dear me,' said Lady Helen, a little fluttered, 'here is my uncle
Sedbergh. I thought they had left town.'
The pair approached, and the old Duke bowed over his niece's hand,
with the manners of a past generation.
'I made Hugh give me an arm,' he said quaveringly. 'These floors
are homicidal. If I come down on them I shall bring an action.'
'I thought you had all left town?' said Lady Helen.
'Who can make plans with a Government in power pledged to every
sort of villainy and public plunder?' said the old man testily.
'I suppose Varley's there to-night, helping to vote away my property
'Some of his own, too, if you please!', said Lady Helen, smiling.
'Yes, I suppose he is waiting for the division, or he would be
'I wonder why Providence blessed _me_ with such a Radical crew of
relations?' remarked the Duke. 'Hugh is a regular Communist. I
never heard such arguments in my life. And as for any idea of
standing by his order----' The old man shook his bald head and
shrugged his small shoulders with almost French vivacity. He had
been handsome once, and delicately featured, but now the left eye
drooped, and the face had a strong look of peevishness and ill-health.
'Uncle,' interposed Lady Helen, 'let me introduce you to my two
great friends, Miss Leyburn, Miss Rose Leyburn.'
The Duke bowed, looked at them through a pair of sharp eyes, seemed
to cogitate inwardly whether such a name had ever been known to
him, and turned to his nephew.
'Get me out of this, Hugh, and I shall be obliged to you. Young
people may risk it, but if _I_ broke I shouldn't mend.'
And still grumbling audibly about the floor, he hobbled off toward
the picture gallery. Mr. Flaxman had only time for a smiling
backward glance at Rose.
'Have you given my pretty boy a dance?'
'Yes,' she said, but with as much stiffness as she might have shown
to his uncle.
'That's over,' said Lady Helen with relief. 'My uncle hardly meets
any of us now without a spar. He has never forgiven my father for
going over to the Liberals. And then he thinks we none of us consult
him enough. No more we do--except Aunt Charlotte. _She's_ afraid
'Lady Charlotte afraid!' echoed Rose.
'Odd, isn't it? The Duke avenges a good many victims on her, if
they only knew!'
Lady Helen was called away, and Rose was left standing, wondering
what had happened to her partner.
Opposite, Mr. Flaxman was pushing through a doorway, and Lady
Florence was again on his arm. At the same time she became conscious
of a morsel of chaperon's conversation such as, by the kind
contrivances of fate, a girl is tolerably sure to bear under similar
The debutante's good looks, Hugh Flaxman's apparent susceptibility
to them, the possibility of results, and the satisfactory disposition
of the family goods and chattels that would be brought about, by
such a match, the opportunity it would offer the man, too, of
rehabilitating himself socially after his first matrimonial
escapade--Rose caught fragments of all these topics as they were
discussed by two old ladies, presumably also of the family 'ring,'
who gossiped behind her with more gusto than discretion. Highmindedness,
of course, told her to move away; something else held her fast,
till her partner came up for her.
Then she floated away into the whirlwind of waltzers. But as she
moved round the room on her partners arm, her delicate half-scornful
grace attracting look after look, the soul within was all aflame--aflame
against the serried ranks and phalanxes of this unfamiliar, hostile
world! She had just been reading Trevelyan's 'Life of Fox' aloud
to her mother, who liked occasionally to flavor her knitting with
literature, and she began now to revolve a passage from it, describing
the upper class of the last century, which had struck that morning
on her quick retentive memory: "_A few thousand people who thought
that the world was made for them_"-did it not run so?-"_and that,
all outside their own fraternity were unworthy of notice or criticism,
bestowed upon each other an amount of attention quite inconceivable.
. . . Within the charmed precincts there prevailed an easy and
natural mode of intercourse, in some respects singularly delightful._"
Such, for instance, as the Duke of Sedbergh was master of! Well,
it was worth while, perhaps, to have gained an experience, even at
the expense of certain illusions, as to the manners of dukes,
and--and--as to the constancy of friends. But never again-never
again!' said the impetuous inner voice. 'I have my world--they
But why so strong a flood of bitterness against our poor upper
class, so well intentioned for all its occasional lack of lucidity,
should have arisen in so young a breast it is a little difficult
for the most conscientious biographer to explain. She had partners
to her heart's desire; young Lord Waynflete used his utmost arts
upon her to persuade her that at half a dozen numbers of the regular
programme were extras and, therefore at his disposal; and when
royalty supped, it was graciously pleased to ordain that Lady Helen
and her two companions should sup behind the same folding-doors as
itself, while beyond these doors surged the inferior crowd of persons
who had been specially invited to 'meet their Royal Highnesses,'
and had so far been held worthy neither to dance nor to eat in the
same room with them. But in vain. Rose still felt herself, for
all her laughing outward _insouciance_, a poor bruised, helpless
chattel, trodden under the heel of a world which was intolerably
powerful, rich, and self-satisfied, the odious product of 'family
Mr. Flaxman sat far away at the same royal table as herself. Beside
him was the thin tall _debutante_. 'She is like one of the
Gainsborough princesses,' thought Rose, studying her with, involuntary
admiration. 'Of course it is all plain. He will get everything
he wants, and a Lady Florence into the bargain. Radical, indeed!
Then it startled her to find that eyes of Lady Florence's neighbors
were, as it seemed, on herself; or was he merely nodding to Lady
Helen?--and she began immediately to give a smiling attention to
the man on her left.
An hour later she and Agnes and Lady Helen were descending the great
staircase on their way to their, carriage. The morning light was
flooding through the chinks of the carefully veiled windows; Lady
Helen was yawning behind her tiny white hand, her eyes nearly asleep.
But the two sisters, who had not been up till three, on four
preceding nights, like their chaperon, were still as fresh as the
flowers massed in the hall below.
'Ah, there is Hugh!' cried Lady Helen. 'How I hope he has found
At that moment Rose slipped on a spray of gardenia, which had dropped
from the bouquet of some predecessor. To prevent herself from
falling down stairs, she caught hold of the stem of a brazen
chandelier fixed in the balustrade. It saved her, but she gave her
arm a most painful wrench, and leant limp and white against the
railing of the stairs. Lady Helen turned at Agnes's exclamation,
but before she could speak, as it seemed, Mr. Flaxman, who had been
standing talking just below them, was on the stairs.
'You have hurt your arm? Don't speak--take mine. Let me get you
down stairs out of the crush.'
She was too far gone to resist, and when she was mistress of herself
again she found herself in the library with some water in her hand
which Mr. Flaxman had just put there.
'Is it the playing hand?' said Lady Helen anxiously.
'No,' said Rose, trying to laugh; 'the bowing elbow.' And she
raised it but with a contortion of pain.
'Don't raise it,' he said peremptorily. 'We will have a doctor
here in a moment, and have it bandaged.'
He disappeared. Rose tried to sit up, seized with a frantic longing
to disobey him, and get off before he returned. Stinging the girl's
mind was the sense that it might, all perfectly well seem to him a
planned appeal to his pity.
'Agnes, help me up,' she said with a little involuntary groan; 'I
shall be better at home.'
But both Lady Helen and Agnes laughed her to scorn, and she lay
back once more, overwhelmed by fatigue and faintness. A few more
minutes, and a doctor appeared, caught by good luck in the next
street. He pronounced it a severe muscular strain, but nothing
more; applied a lotion and improvised a sling. Rose consulted him
anxiously, as to the interference with her playing.
'A week,' he said; 'no more, if you are careful.'
Her pale face brightened. Her art had seemed specially dear to her
'Hugh!' called Lady Helen, going to the door. 'Now we are ready for
Rose, leaning on Agnes, walked out into the hall. They found him
'The carriage is here,' he said, bending toward her with a look and
tone which so stirred the fluttered nerves, that the sense of
faintness stole back upon her. 'Let me take you to it.'
'Thank you,' she said, coldly, but by a superhuman effort 'my
sister's help is quite enough.'
He followed them with Lady Helen. At the carriage door the sisters
hesitated a moment. Rose was helpless without a right hand. A
little imperative movement from behind displaced Agnes, and Rose
felt herself hoisted in by a strong arm. She sank into the further
corner. The glow of the dawn caught her white delicate features,
the curls on her temples, all the silken confusion of her dress.
Hugh Flaxman put in Agnes and his sister, said something to Agnes
about coming to inquire, and raised his hat. Rose caught the quick
force and intensity of his eyes, and then closed her own, lost in
a languid swoon of pain, memory, and resentful wonder.
Flaxman walked away down Park Lane through the chill morning
quietness, the gathering light striking over the houses beside him
on the misty stretches of the Park. His hat was over his eyes, his
hands thrust into his pockets; a close observer would have noticed a
certain trembling of the lips. It was but a few seconds since her
young warm beauty had been for an instant in his arms; his whole
being was shaken by it, and by that last look of hers. 'Have I gone
too far?' he asked himself anxiously. 'Is it divinely true--
_already_--that she resents being left to herself! Oh! little
rebel! You tried your best not to let me see. But you were angry,
you were! Now, then, how to proceed? She is all fire, all
character; I rejoice in it. She will give me trouble; so much the
better. Poor little hurt thing! the fight is only beginning; but I
will make her do penance some day for all that loftiness to-night.'
If these reflections betray to the reader a certain masterful note
of confidence in Mr. Flaxman's mind, he will perhaps find small
cause to regret that Rose did give him a great deal of trouble.
Nothing could have been more 'salutary,' to use his own word, than
the dance she led him during the next three weeks. She provoked
him indeed at moments so much that he was a hundred times on the
point of trying to seize his kingdom of heaven by violence, of
throwing himself upon her with a tempest shock of reproach and
appeal. But some secret instinct restrained him. She was wilful,
she was capricious; she had a real and powerful distraction in her
art. He must be patient and risk nothing.
He suspected, too, what was the truth--that Lady Charlotte was doing
harm. Rose, indeed, had grown so touchily sensitive that she found
offence in almost every word of Lady Charlotte's about her nephew.
Why should the apparently casual remarks of the aunt bear so
constantly on the subject of the nephew's social importance? Rose
vowed to herself that she needed no reminder of that station whereunto
it had pleased God to call her, and that Lady Charlotte might spare
herself all those anxieties and reluctances which the girl's quick
sense detected, in spite of the invitations so freely showered on
The end of it all was that Hugh Flaxman found himself again driven
into a corner. At the bottom of him was still a confidence that
would not yield. Was it possible that he had ever given her some
tiny involuntary glimpse of it, and that but for that glimpse she
would have let him make his peace much more easily? At any rate,
now he felt himself at the end of his resources.
'I must change the venue,' he said to himself; 'decidedly I must
change the venue.'
So by the end of June he had accepted an invitation to fish in
Norway with a friend, and was gone. Rose received the news with a
callousness which made even Lady Helen want to shake her.
On the eve of his journey, however, Hugh Flaxman had at last confessed
himself to Catherine and Robert. His obvious plight made any further
scruples on their part futile, and what they had they gave him in
the way of sympathy. Also, Robert, gathering that he already knew
much, and without betraying any confidence of Rose's, gave him a
hint or two on the subject of Langham. But more, not the friendliest
mortal could do for him, and Flaxman went off into exile announcing
to a mocking Elsmere that he should sit pensive on the banks of
Norwegian rivers till fortune had had time to change.
GAIN AND LOSS.
A hot July had well begun, but still Elsmere was toiling on in
Elgood Street, and could not persuade himself to think of a holiday.
Catherine and the child he had driven away more than once, but the
claims upon himself were becoming so absorbing, he did not know how
to go even for a few weeks. There were certain individuals in
particular who depended on him from day to day. One was Charles
Richards' widow. The poor desperate creature had put herself
abjectly into Elsmere's hands. He had sent her to an asylum, where
she had been kindly and skillfully treated, and after six weeks'
abstinence she had just returned to her children, and was being
watched by himself and a competent woman neighbor, whom he had
succeeded in interesting in the case.
Another was a young 'secret springer,' to use the mysterious terms
of the trade--Robson by name--whom Elsmere had originally known as
a clever workman belonging to the watchmaking colony, and a diligent
attendant from the beginning on the Sunday lectures. He was now
too ill to leave his lodgings, and his sickly pessimist personality
had established a special hold on Robert. He was dying of tumor
in the throat, and had become a torment to himself and a disgust
to others. There was a spark of wayward genius in him, however,
which enabled him to bear his ills with a mixture of savage humor
and clear-eyed despair. In general outlook he was much akin to the
author of the 'City of Dreadful Night,' whose poems he read; the
loathsome spectacles of London had filled him with a kind of sombre
energy of revolt against all that is. And now that he could only
work intermittently, he would sit brooding for hours, startling the
fellow-workmen who came in to see him with ghastly Heine-like jokes
on his own hideous disease, living no one exactly knew how, though
it was supposed on supplies sent him by a shopkeeper uncle in the
country, and constantly on the verge, as all his acquaintances felt,
of some ingenious expedient or other for putting an end to himself
and his troubles. He was unmarried, and a misogynist to boot. No
woman willingly went near him, and he tended himself. How Robert
had gained any hold upon him no one could guess. But from the
moment when Elsmere, struck in the lecture-room by the pallid ugly
face and swathed neck, began regularly to go and see him, the elder
man felt instinctively that virtue had gone out of him and, that
in some subtle way yet another life had become pitifully, silently
dependent on his own stock of strength and comfort.
His lecturing and teaching also was becoming more and more the
instrument of far-reaching change, and thereafter, more and more,
difficult to leave. The thoughts of God, the image of Jesus which
were active and fruitful in his own mind, had been gradually passing
from the one into the many, and Robert watched the sacred transforming
emotion nurtured at his own heart, now working among the crowd of
men and women his fiery speech had gathered round him, with a
trembling joy, a humble prostration of soul before the Eternal
Truth, no words can fitly describe. With and ever increasing
detachment of mind from the objects of self and sense, he felt
himself a tool, in the Great Workman's hand, 'Accomplish Thy purposes
in me,' was the cry of his whole heart and life; 'use me to the
utmost; spend every faculty I have, O "Thou who mouldest men!"'
But in the end his work itself drove him away. A certain memorable
Saturday evening brought it about. It had been his custom of late,
to spend an occasional evening hour after the night-school work in
the North R---- Club, of which he was now by invitation a member.
Here, in one of the inner rooms, he would stand against the
mantelpiece chatting, smoking often with the men. Everything came
up in turn to be discussed; And Robert was at least as ready to
learn from the practical workers about him as to teach. But in
general these informal talks and debates became the supplement of
the Sunday lectures. Here he met Andrews and the Secularist crew
face to face; here he grappled in Socratic fashion with objections
and difficulties throwing into the task all his charm and all his
knowledge, a man at once of no pretensions and of unfailing natural
dignity. Nothing, so far, had served his cause and his influence
so well as these moments of free discursive intercourse. The mere
orator, the mere talker, indeed, would never have gained any permanent
hold; but the life behind gave weight to every acute or eloquent
word, and importance even to those mere sallies of a boyish enthusiasm
which were still common enough in him.
He had already visited the club once during the week preceding this
Saturday. On both occasions there was much talk of the growing
popularity and efficiency of the Elgood Street work, of the numbers
attending the lectures, the story-telling, the Sunday-school, and
of the way in which the attractions of it had spread into other
quarters of the parish, exciting there, especially among the clergy
of St. Wilfrid's, an anxious and critical attention. The conversation
on Saturday night, however, took a turn of its own. Robert felt
in it a new and curious note of _responsibility_. The men present
were evidently beginning to regard the work as _their_ work also,
and its success as their interest. It was perfectly natural, for
not only had most of them been his supporters and hearers from the
beginning, but some of them were now actually teaching in the
night-school or helping in the various branches of the large and
overflowing boys' club. He listened to them for a while in his
favorite attitude, leaning against the mantelpiece, throwing in a
word or two now and then as to how this or that part of the work
might be mended or expanded. Then suddenly a kind of inspiration
seemed to pass from them to him. Bending forward as the talk dropped
a moment, he asked them, with an accent more emphatic than usual,
whether in view of this collaboration of theirs, which was becoming
more valuable to him and his original helpers every week, it was
not time for a new departure.
'Suppose I drop my dictatorship,' he said; 'suppose we set up
parliamentary government, are you ready to take your share? Are
you ready to combine, to commit yourselves? Are you ready for an
effort to turn this work into something lasting and organic?'
The men gathered round him, smoked on in silence for a minute. Old
Macdonald, who had been sitting contentedly puffing away in a corner
peculiarly his own, and dedicated to the glorification--in broad
Berwickshire--of the experimental philosophers, laid down his pipe
and put on his spectacles, that he might grasp the situation better.
Then Lestrange, in a dry cautious way, asked Elsmere to explain
Robert began to pace up and down, talking out his thought, his eye
But in a minute or two he stopped abruptly, with one of those
striking rapid gestures characteristic of him.
'But no mere social and educational body, mind you!' and his bright
commanding look swept round the circle. 'A good thing, surely,
"yet is there better than it." The real difficulty of every social
effort--you know it and I know it--lies not in the planning of the
work, but in the kindling of will and passion enough to carry it
_through_. And that can only be done by religion--by faith.'
He went back to his old leaning attitude, his hands behind him.
The men gazed at him--at the slim figure, the transparent changing
face--with a kind of fascination, but were still silent, till
Macdonald said slowly, taking off his glasses again and clearing
'You'll be aboot starrtin' a new church, I'm thinkin', Misther
'If you like,' said Robert impetuously. 'I have no fear of the
great words. You can do nothing by despising the past and its
products; you can also do nothing by being too much afraid of them,
by letting them choke and stifle your own life. Let the new wine
have its new bottles if it must, and never mince words. Be content
to be a new "sect," "conventicle," or what not, so long as you feel
that you are _something_ with a life and purpose of its own, in
this tangle of a world.'
Again he paused with knit brows, thinking. Lestrange sat with his
elbows on his knees studying him, the spare gray hair brushed back
tightly from the bony face, on the lips the slightest Voltairean
smile. Perhaps it was the coolness of his look which insensibly
influenced Robert's next words.
'However, I don't imagine we should call ourselves a church!
Something much humbler will do, if you choose ever to make anything
of these suggestions of mine. "Association," "society," "brotherhood,"
what you will! But always, if I can persuade you, with something
in the name, and everything in the body itself, to show that for
the members of it, life rests still, as all life worth having has
everywhere rested, on _trust_ and _memory!_--_trust_ in the God of
experience and history; _memory_ of that God's work in man, by which
alone we know Him, and can approach Him. Well, of that work--I
have tried to prove it to you a thousand times--Jesus of Nazareth
has become to us, by the evolution of circumstance, the most moving,
the most efficacious of all types and epitomes. We have made our
protest--we are daily making it--in the face of society, against
the fictions and overgrowths which at the present time are excluding
Him more and more from human love. But now, suppose we turn our
backs on negation, and have done with mere denial! Suppose we throw
all our energies into the practical building of a new house of
faith, the gathering and organizing of a new Company of Jesus!'
Other men had been stealing in while he was speaking. The little
room was nearly full. It was strange, the contrast between the
squalid modernness of the scene, with its incongruous sights and
sounds, the Club-room, painted in various hideous shades of cinnamon
and green, the smoke, the lines and groups of workingmen in every
sort of working-dress, the occasional rumbling of huge wagons past
the window, the click of glasses and cups in the refreshment bar
outside, and this stir of spiritual passion which any competent
observer might have felt sweeping through the little crowd as Robert
spoke, connecting what was passing there with all that is sacred
and beautiful in the history of the world.
After another silence a young fellow, in a shabby velvet coat, stood
up. He was commonly known among his fellow potters as 'the hartist,'
because of his long hair, his little affectations of dress, and his
aesthetic susceptibilities generally. The wits of the Club made
him, their target, but the teasing of him that went on was more or
less tempered by the knowledge that in his own queer way he had
brought up and educated two young sisters almost from infancy, and
that his sweetheart had been killed before his eyes a year before
in a railway accident.
'I dun know,' he said in a high, treble voice, 'I dun know whether
I speak for anybody but myself--very likely not; but what I _do_
know,' and he raised his right hand and shook it with a gesture of
curious felicity, 'is this,--what Mr. Elsmere starts I'll join,--'where
he goes I'll go--what's good enough for him's good enough, for
me. He's put a new heart and a new stomach into me and what I've
got he shall have, whenever it pleases 'im to call for it! So if
he wants to run a new thing against or alongside the old uns, and
he wants me to help him with it--I don't know as I'm very clear
what he's driving at, nor what good I can do 'im--but when Tom
Wheeler's asked for he'll be there!'
A deep murmur, rising almost into a shout of assent, ran through
the little assembly. Robert bent forward, his eye glistening, a
moved acknowledgment in his look and gesture. But in reality a
pang ran through the fiery soul. It was 'the personal estimate,'
after all, that was shaping their future and his, and the idealist
was up in arms for his idea, sublimely jealous lest any mere personal
fancy should usurp its power and place.
A certain amount of desultory debate followed as to the possible
outlines of a possible organization, and as to the observances which
might be devised to mark its religious character. As it flowed on
the atmosphere grew more and more electric. A new passion, though
still timid and awe-struck, seemed to shine from the looks of the
men, standing or sitting round the central figure. Even Lestrange
lost his smile under the pressure of that strange subdued expectancy
about him; and when Robert walked homeward, about midnight, there
weighed upon him an almost awful sense of crisis, of an expanding
He let himself in softly and went into his study. There he sank
into a chair and fainted. He was probably not unconscious very
long, but after he had struggled back to his senses, and was lying
stretched on the sofa among the books with which it was littered,
the solitary candle in the big room throwing weird shadows about
him, a moment of black depression overtook him. It was desolate
and terrible, like a prescience of death. How was it he had come
to feel so ill? Suddenly, as he looked back over the preceding
weeks, the physical weakness and disturbance which had marked them,
and which he had struggled through, paying as little heed as possible,
took shape, spectre-like, in his mind.
And at the same moment a passionate rebellion against weakness and
disablement arose in him. He sat up dizzily, his head in his hands.
'Rest--strength,' he said to himself, with strong inner resolve,
'for the work's sake!'
He dragged himself up to bed and said nothing to Catherine till the
morning. Then, with boyish brightness, he asked her to take him
and the babe off without delay to the Norman coast, vowing that he
would lounge and idle for six whole weeks if she would let him.
Shocked by his looks, she gradually got from him the story of the
night before. As he told it, his swoon was a mere untoward incident
and hindrance in a spiritual drama, the thrill of which, while he
described it, passed even to her. The contrast, however between
the strong hopes she felt pulsing through him, and his air of
fragility and exhaustion, seemed to melt the heart within her, and
make her whole being, she hardly knew why, one Sensitive dread.
She sat beside him, her head laid against his shoulder, oppressed
by a strange and desolate sense of her comparatively small share
in this ardent life. In spite of his tenderness and devotion, she
felt often as though he were no longer hers--as though a craving,
hungry world, whose needs were all dark and unintelligible to her,
were asking him from her, claiming to use as roughly and prodigally
as it pleased the quick mind and delicate frame.
As to the schemes developing round him, she could not take them in,
whether for protest or sympathy. She could think only of where to
go, what doctor to consult, how she could persuade him to stay away
There was little surprise in Elgood Street when Elsmere announced
that he must go off for a while. He so announced it that everybody
who heard him understood that his temporary withdrawal was to be
the mere preparation for a great effort--the vigil before the
tourney; and the eager friendliness with which he was met sent him
off in good heart.
Three or four days later, he, Catherine, and Mary were at Petites
Dalles, a little place on the Norman coast, near Fecamp, with which
he had first made acquaintance years before, when he was at Oxford.
Here all that in London had been oppressive in the August heat
suffered 'a sea change,' and became so much matter for physical
delight. It was fiercely hot indeed. Every morning, between five
and six o'clock, Catherine would stand by the little white-veiled
window, in the dewy silence, to watch the eastern shadows spreading
sharply already into a blazing world of sun, and see the tall poplar
just outside shooting into a quivering, changeless depth of blue.
Then, as early as possible, they would sally forth before the glare
became unbearable. The first event of the day was always Mary's
bathe, which gradually became a spectacle for the whole beach, so
ingenious were the blandishments of the father who wooed her into
the warm sandy shallows, and so beguiling the glee and pluck of the
two-year-old English _bebe_. By eleven the heat out of doors grew
intolerable, and they would stroll back--father and mother, and
trailing child--past the hotels on the _plage_, along the irregular
village lane, to the little house where they had established
themselves, with Mary's nurse and a French _bonne_ to look after
them; would find the green wooden shutters drawn close; the dejeuner
waiting for them in the cool bare room; and the scent of the coffee
penetrating from the kitchen, where the two maids kept up a humble
but perpetual warfare. Then afterward Mary, emerging from her
sun-bonnet, would be tumbled into her white bed upstairs, and lie,
a flushed image of sleep, till the patter of her little feet on the
boards which alone separated one story from the other, warned mother
and nurse that an imp of mischief was let loose again. Meanwhile
Robert, in the carpetless _salon_, would lie back in the rickety
arm-chair which was its only luxury, lazily dozing, till dreaming,
Balzac, perhaps, in his hand, but quite another _comedie humaine_
unrolling itself vaguely meanwhile in the contriving optimist mind.
Petites Dalles was not fashionable yet, though it aspired to be;
but it could boast of a deputy, and a senator, and a professor of
the College de France, as good as any at Etretat, a tired journalist
or two, and a sprinkling of Rouen men of business. Robert soon
made friends among them, _more suo_, by dint of a rough-and-ready
French, spoken with the most unblushing accent imaginable, and
lounged along the sands through many an amusing and sociable hour
with one or other of his new acquaintances.
But by the evening husband and wife would leave the crowded beach,
and mount by some tortuous dusty way on to the high plateau through
which was cleft far below the wooded fissure of the village. Here
they seemed to have climbed the bean-stalk into a new world. The
rich Normandy country lay all around them--the cornfields, the
hedgeless tracts of white-flowered lucerne or crimson clover, dotted
by the orchard trees which make one vast garden of the land as one
sees it from a height. On the fringe of the cliff, where the soil
became too thin and barren even for French cultivation, there was
a wild belt, half heather, half tangled grass and flower-growth,
which the English pair loved for their own special reasons. Bathed
in light, cooled by the evening wind, the patches of heather glowing,
the tall grasses swaying in the breeze, there were moments when its
wide, careless, dusty beauty reminded them poignantly, and yet most
sweetly, of the home of their first unclouded happiness, of the
Surrey commons and wildernesses.
One evening they were sitting in the warm dusk by the edge of a
little dip of heather sheltered by a tuft of broom, when suddenly
they heard the purring sound of the night-jar and immediately after
the bird itself lurched past them, and as it disappeared into the
darkness they caught several times the characteristic click of the
Catherine raised her hand and laid it on Robert's. The sudden tears
dropped on to her cheeks.
'Did you hear it, Robert?'
He drew her to him. These involuntary signs of an abiding pain in
her always smote him to the heart.
'I am not unhappy, Robert,' she said at last, raising her head.
'No; if you will only get well and strong. I have submitted. It
is not for myself, but----'
For what then? Merely the touchingness of mortal things as such?--of
youth, of hope, of memory?
Choking down a sob, she looked seaward over the curling flame-colored
waves while he held her hand close and tenderly. No--she was not
unhappy. Something, indeed, had gone forever out of that early
joy. Her life had been caught and nipped in the great inexorable
wheel of things. It would go in some sense maimed to the end. But
the bitter self-torturing of that first endless year was over.
Love, and her husband, and the thousand subtle forces of a changing
world had conquered. She would live and die steadfast to the old
faiths. But her present mind and its outlook was no more the mind
of her early married life than the Christian philosophy of to-day
is the Christian philosophy of the Middle Ages. She was not conscious
of change, but change there was. She had, in fact, undergone that
dissociation of the moral judgment from a special series of religious
formulae which is the crucial, the epoch-making fact of our day.
'Unbelief,' says the orthodox preacher, 'is sin, and implies it:'
and while he speaks, the saint in the unbeliever gently smiles down
his argument; and suddenly, in the rebel of yesterday men see the
rightful heir of to-morrow.
Meanwhile the Leyburns were at Burwood again. Rose's summer, indeed,
was much varied by visits to country houses--many of them belonging
to friends and acquaintances of the Flaxman family--by concerts,
and the demands of several new and exciting artistic friendships.
But she was seldom loath to come back to the little bare valley
and the gray-walled house. Even the rain which poured down in
August, quite unabashed by any consciousness of fine weather
elsewhere, was not as intolerable to her as in past days.
The girl was not herself; there was visible in her not only that
general softening and deepening of character which had been the
consequence of her trouble in the spring, but a painful _ennui_ she
could hardly disguise, a longing for she knew not what. She was
beginning to take the homage paid to her gift and her beauty with
a quiet dignity, which was in no sense false modesty, but implied
a certain clearness of vision, curious and disquieting in so young
and dazzling a creature. And when she came home from her travels
she would develop a taste for long walks, breasting the mountains
in rain or sun, penetrating to their austerest solitudes alone, as
though haunted by that profound saying of Obermann, 'Man, is not
made for enjoyment only--_la tristesse fait aussi partie de ses
What, indeed, was it that ailed her? In her lonely moments,
especially in those moments among the high fells, beside some little
tarn or streamlet, while the sheets of swept by her, or the great
clouds dappled the spreading sides of the hills, she thought often
of Langham--of that first thrill of passion which had passed through
her, delusive and abortive, like one of those first thrills of
spring which bring out the buds, only to provide victims for the
frost. Now with her again, 'a moral east; wind was blowing.' The
passion was gone. The thought of Langham still roused in her a
pity that seemed to strain at her heartstrings. But was it really
she, really this very Rose, who had rested for that one intoxicating
instant on his breast? She felt a sort of bitter shame over her
own shallowness of feeling. She must surely be a poor creature,
else how could such a thing have befallen her and have left so
little trace behind?
And then, her hand dabbling in the water, her face raised to the
blind friendly mountains, she would go dreaming far afield. Little
vignettes of London would come and go on the inner retina, smiles
and sighs would follow one another.
'_How kind he was that time! how amusing this!_'
Or, '_How provoking he was that afternoon! how cold, that Evening!_'
Nothing else:--the pronoun remained ambiguous.
'I want a friend!' she said to herself once as she was sitting far
up in the bosom of High Fill, 'I want a friend badly. Yet my lover
deserts me, and I send away my friend!'
One afternoon Mrs. Thornburgh, the Vicar, and Rose were wandering
round the churchyard together, enjoying a break of sunny weather
after days of rain. Mrs. Thornburgh's personal accent, so to speak,
had grown perhaps a little more defined, a little more emphatic
even, than when we first knew her. The Vicar, on the other hand,
was a trifle grayer, a trifle more submissive, as though on the
whole, in the long conjugal contest of life, he was getting clearly
worsted as the years went on. But the performance through which
his wife was now taking him tried him exceptionally, and she only
kept him to it with difficulty. She had had an attack of bronchitis
in the spring, and was still somewhat delicate--a fact which to his
mind gave her an unfair advantage of him. For she would make use
of it to keep constantly before him ideas which he disliked, and
in which he considered she took a morbid and unbecoming pleasure.
The Vicar was of opinion that when his latter end overtook him he
should meet it on the whole as courageously as other men. But he
was altogether averse to dwelling upon it, or the adjuncts of it,
beforehand. Mrs. Thornburgh, however, since her illness had awoke
to that inquisitive affectionate interest in these very adjuncts
which many women feel. And it was extremely disagreeable to the
At the present moment she was engaged in choosing the precise spots
in the little churchyard where it seemed to her it would be pleasant
to rest. There was one corner in particular which attracted her,
and she stood now looking at it with measuring eyes and dissatisfied
'William, I wish you would come here and help me!'
The Vicar took no notice, but went on talking to Rose.
The Vicar turned unwillingly.
'You know, William, if you wouldn't mind lying with your foot _that_
way, there would be just room for me. But of course if you _will_
have them the other way----' The shoulders in the old black silk
mantle went up, and the gray curls shook dubiously.
The Vicar's countenance showed plainly that he thought the remark
worse than irrelevant.
'My dear,' he said crossly, 'I am not thinking of those things, nor
do I wish to think of them. Everything has its time and place.
It is close on tea, and Miss Rose says we must be going home.'
Mrs. Thornburgh again shook her head, this time with a disapproving
'You talk, William,' she said severely, 'as if you were a young
man, instead of being turned sixty-six last birthday.'
And again she measured the spaces with her eye, checking the results
aloud. But the Vicar was obdurately deaf. He strolled on with
Rose, who was chattering to him about a visit to Manchester, and
the little church gate clicked behind them. Hearing it, Mrs.
Thornburgh relaxed her measurements. They were only really interesting
to her after all when the Vicar was by. She hurried after them as
fast as her short squat figure would allow, and stopped midway to
make an exclamation.
'A carriage!' she said, shading her eyes with a very plump hand,
'stopping at Greybarns!'
The one road of the valley was visible from the churchyard, winding
along the bottom of the shallow green trough, for at least two
miles. Greybarns was a farmhouse just beyond Burwood, about half
a mile away.
Mrs. Thornburgh moved on, her matronly face aglow with interest.
'Mary Jenkinson taken ill!' she said. 'Of course, that's Doctor
Baker! Well, it's to be hoped it won't be _twins_ this time. But,
as I told her last Sunday, "It's constitutional, my dear." I knew
a woman who had three pairs! Five o'clock now. Well, about seven
it'll be worth while sending to inquire.'
When she overtook the Vicar and his companion, she began to whisper
certain particulars into the ear that was not on Rose's side. The
Vicar, who, like Uncle Toby, was possessed of a fine natural modesty,
would have preferred that his wife should refrain from whispering
on these topics in Rose's presence. But he submitted lest opposition
should provoke her into still more audible improprieties; and Rose
walked on a step or two in front of the pair, her eyes twinkling a
little. At the Vicarage gate she was let off without the customary
final gossip. Mrs. Thornburgh was so much occupied in the fate
hanging over Mary Jenkinson that she, for once, forgot to catechize
Rose, as to any marriageable young men she might have come across
in a recent visit to a great country-house of the neighborhood; an
operation which formed the invariable pendant to any of Rose's
So, with a smiling nod to them both, the girl turned homeward. As
she did so she became aware of a man's figure walking along the
space of road between Graybarns and Burwood, the western light
Dr. Baker? But even granting that Mrs. Jenkinson had brought him
five miles on a false alarm, in the provoking manner of matrons,
the shortest professional visit could not be over in this time.
She looked again, shading her eyes. She was nearing the gate of
Burwood, and involuntarily slackened step. The man who was
approaching, catching sight of the slim girlish figure in the broad
hat and pink and white cotton dress, hurried up. The color rushed
to Rose's cheek. In another minute she and Hugh Flaxman were face
She could not hide her astonishment.
'Why are you not in Scotland?' she said after she had given him her
hand. 'Lady Helen told me last week she expected you in Ross-shire.'
Directly the word left her mouth she felt she had given him an
opening. And why had Nature plagued her with this trick of blushing?
'Because I am here!' he said smiling, his keen dancing eyes looking
down upon her. He was bronzed as she had never seen him. And never
had he seemed to bring with him such an atmosphere of cool pleasant
strength. 'I have slain so much since the first of July that I can
slay no more. I am not like other men. The Nimrod in me is easily
gorged, and goes to sleep after a while. So this is Burwood?'
He had caught her just on the little sweep, leading to gate, and
now his eye swept quickly over the modest old house, with its trim
garden, its overgrown porch and open casement windows. She dared
not ask him again why he was there. In the properest manner she
invited him 'to come in and see Mamma.'
'I hope Mrs. Leyburn is better than she was in town? I shall be
delighted to see her. But must you go in so soon? I left my carriage
half a mile below, and have been reveling in the sun and air. I
am loath to go indoors yet awhile. Are you busy? Would it trouble
you to put me in the way to the head of the valley? Then if you
will allow me, I will present myself later.'
Rose thought his request as little in the ordinary line of things
as his appearance. But she turned and walked beside him pointing
out the crags at the head, the great sweep of High Fell, and the
pass over to Ullswater with as much _sang-froid_ as she was mistress
He, on his side, informed her that on his way to Scotland he had
bethought himself that he had never seen the Lakes, that he had
stopped at Whinborough, was bent on walking over the High Fell pass
to Ullswater, and making his way thence to Ambleside, Grasmere, and
'But you are much too late to-day to get to Ullswater?' cried Rose
'Certainly. You see my hotel,' and he pointed, smiling, to a white
farmhouse standing just at the bend of the valley, where the road
turned toward Whinborough. 'I persuaded the good woman there to
give me a bed for the night, took my carriage a little farther,
then, knowing I had friends in these parts, I came on to explore.'
Rose angrily felt her flush getting deeper and deeper.
'You are the first tourist,' she said coolly, 'who has ever stayed
'Tourist! I repudiate the name. I am a worshipper at the shrine
of Wordsworth and Nature. Helen and I long ago defined a tourist
as a being with straps. I defy you to discover a strap about me,
and I left my Murray in the railway carriage.'
He looked at her laughing. She laughed too. The infection of his
strong sunny presence was irresistible. In London it had been so
easy to stand on her dignity, to remember whenever he was friendly
that the night before he had been distant. In these green solitudes
it was not easy to be anything but natural--the child of the moment!
'You are neither more practical nor more economical than when I saw
you last', she said demurely. 'When did you leave Norway?'
They wandered on past the vicarage talking fast. Mr. Flaxman, who
had been joined for a time, on his fishing tour, by Lord Waynflete,
was giving her an amusing account of the susceptibility to titles
shown by the primitive democrats of Norway. As they passed a gap
in vicarage hedge, laughing and chatting, Rose became aware of a
window and a gray head hastily withdrawn. Mr. Flaxman was puzzled
by the merry flash, instantly suppressed, that shoot across her
Presently they reached the hamlet of High Close, and the house where
Mary Backhouse died, and where her father and the poor bed-ridden
Jim still lived. They mounted the path behind it, and plunged into
the hazel plantation which had sheltered Robert and Catherine on a
memorable night. But when they were through it, Rose turned to the
right along a scrambling path leading to the top of the first great
shoulder of High Fell. It was a steep climb, though a short one,
and it seemed to Rose that when she had once let him help her over
a rock her hand was never her own again. He kept it an almost
constant prisoner on one pretext or another till they were at the
Then she sank down on a rock out of breath. He stood beside her,
lifting his brown wideawake from his brow. The air below had been
warm and relaxing. Here it played upon them both with a delicious
life-giving freshness. He looked round on the great hollow bosom
of the fell, the crags buttressing it on either hand, the winding
greenness of the valley, the white sparkle of the river.
'It reminds me a little of Norway. The same austere and frugal
beauty--the same bare valley floors. But no pines, no peaks, no
'No!' said Rose scornfully, 'we are not Norway, and we are not
Switzerland. To prevent disappointment, I may at once inform you
that we have no glaciers, and that there is perhaps only one place
in the district where a man who is not an idiot could succeed in
He looked at her, calmly smiling.
'You are angry,' he said, 'because I make comparisons. You are
wholly on a wrong scent. I never saw a scene in the world that
pleased me half as much as this bare valley, that gray roof'--and
he pointed to Burwood among its trees-'and this knoll of rocky
His look traveled back to her, and her eyes sank beneath it. He
threw himself down on the short grass beside her.
'It rained this morning,' she still had the spirit to murmur under
He took not the smallest heed.
'Do you know,' he said--and his voice dropped--'can you guess at
all why I am here to-day?'
'You had never seen the Lakes,' she repeated in a prim voice, her
eyes still cast down, the corners of her mouth twitching. 'You
stopped at Whinborough, intending to take the pass over to Ullswater,
thence to make your way to Ambleside and Keswick--or was it to
Keswick and Ambleside?'
She looked up innocently. But the flashing glance she met abashed
'_Taquine!_' he said, 'but you shall not laugh me out of countenance.
If I said all that to you just now, may I be forgiven. One purpose,
one only, brought me from Norway, forbade me to go to Scotland,
drew me to Whinborough, guided me up your valley--the purpose of
seeing your face!'
It could not be said at that precise moment that he had attained
it. Rather she seemed bent on hiding that face quite away from
him. It seemed to him an age before, drawn by the magnetism of his
look, her hands dropped, and she faced him, crimson, her breath
fluttering a little. Then she would have spoken, but he would not
let her. Very tenderly and quietly his hand possessed itself of
hers as he knelt beside her.
'I have been in exile for two months--you sent me. I saw that I
troubled you in London. You thought I was pursuing you--pressing
you. Your manor said "Go!" and I went. But do you think that for
one day, or hour, or moment I have thought of anything else in those
Norway woods but of you and of this blessed moment when I should
be at your feet, as I am now?'
She trembled. Her hand seemed to leap in his. His gaze melted,
enwrapped her. He bent forward. In another moment her silence
would have so answered for her that his covetous arms would have
stolen about her for good and ill. But suddenly a kind of shiver
ran through her--a shiver which was half memory, half shame. She
drew back violently, covering her eyes with her hand.
'Oh no, no!' she cried, and her other hand struggled to get free,
'don't, don't talk to me so--I have a--a--confession.'
He watched her, his lips trembling a little, a smile of the most
exquisite indulgence and understanding dawning in his eyes. Was
she going to confess to him what he knew so well already? If he
could only force her to say it on his breast.
But she held him at arm's length.
'You remember--you remember Mr. Langham?'
'Remember him!' echoed Mr. Flaxman fervently.
'That thought-reading night at Lady Charlotte's, on the way home,
he spoke to me. I said I loved him. I _did_ love him; I let him
Her flush had quite faded. He could hardly tell whether she was
yielding or defiant as the words burst from her.
An expression, half trouble, half compunction, came into his face.
'I knew,' he said, very low; 'or rather, I guessed.' And for an
instant it occurred to him to unburden himself, to ask her pardon
for that espionage of his. But no, no; not till he had her safe.
'I guessed, I mean, that there had been something grave between
you. I saw you were sad. I would have given the world to comfort
Her lip quivered childishly.
'I said I loved him that night. The next morning he wrote to me
that it could never be.'
He looked at her a moment embarrassed. The conversation was not
easy. Then the smile broke once more.
'And you have forgotten him as he deserved. If I was not sure of
that I could wish him all the tortures of the _Inferno!_ As it is,
I cannot think of him; I cannot let you think of him. Sweet, do
you know that ever since I first saw you the one thought of my days,
the dream of my nights, the purpose of my whole life, has been to
win you? There was another in the field; I knew it. I stood by
and waited. He failed you--I knew he must in some form or other.
Then I was hasty, and you resented it. Little tyrant, you made
yourself a Rose with many thorns! But, tell me, tell me, its all
over--your pain, my waiting. Make yourself sweet to me! unfold to
me at last!'
An instant she wavered. His bliss was almost in his grasp. Then
she sprang up, and Flaxman found himself standing by her, rebuffed
'No, no!', she cried, holding out her hand to him though all the
time. 'Oh, it is too soon! I should despise myself, I do despise
myself. It tortures me that I can change and forget so easily; it
ought to torture you. Oh don't ask me yet to--to--'
'To be my wife,' he said calmly, his cheek, a little flushed, his
eye meeting hers with a passion in it that strove so hard for
self-control it was almost sternness.
'Not yet!' she pleaded, and then, after a moment's hesitation, she
broke into the most appealing smiles, though the tears were in her
eyes, hurrying out the broken beseeching words. 'I want a friend
so much--a real friend. Since Catherine left I have had no one.
I have been running riot. Take me in hand. Write to me, scold me,
advise me, I will be your pupil, I will tell you everything. You
seem to me so fearfully wise, so much older. Oh, don't be vexed.
And--and--in six months----'
She turned away, rosy as her name. He held her still, so rigidly
that her hands were almost hurt. The shadow of the hat fell over
her eyes; the delicate outlines of the neck and shoulders in the
pretty pale dress were defined against the green hill background.
He studied her deliberately, a hundred different expressions
sweeping across his face. A debate of the most feverish interest
was within him. Her seriousness at the moment, the chances of the
future, her character, his own--all these knotty points entered
into it, had to be weighed and decided with lightning rapidity.
But Hugh Flaxman was born under a lucky star, and the natal charm
At last he gave a long breath; he stooped and kissed her hands.
'So be it. For, six months I will be your guardian, your friend,
your teasing, implacable censor. At the end of that time I will
be--well, never mind what. I give you fair warning.'
He released her. Rose clasped her hands before her and stood,
drooping. Now that she had gained her point, all her bright mocking
independence seemed to have vanished. She might have been in reality
the tremulous, timid child she seemed. His spirits rose; he began
to like the _role_ she had assigned to him. The touch of unexpectedness,
in all she said and did, acted with exhilarating force on his
fastidious romantic sense.
'Now, then,' he said, picking up her gloves from the grass, 'you
have given me my rights; I will begin to exercise them at once. I
must take you home, the clouds are coming up again, and on the way
will you kindly give me a full, true, and minute account of these
two months during which you have been so dangerously left to your
She hesitated, and began to speak with difficulty, her eyes on the
ground. But by the time they were in the main Shanmoor path again,
and she was not so weakly dependent on his physical aid, her spirits
too returned. Pacing along with her hands behind her, she began
by degrees to throw into her accounts of her various visits and
performances plenty of her natural malice.
And after a bit, as that strange storm of feeling which had assailed
her on the mountain top abated something of its bewildering force,
certain old grievances began to raise very lively heads in her.
The smart of Lady Fauntleroy's ball was still there; she had not
yet forgiven him all those relations; and the teasing image of Lady
Florence woke up in her.
'It seems to me' he said at last dryly, as he opened a gate for her
not far from Burwood, 'that you have been making yourself agreeable
to a vast number of people. In my new capacity of censor, I should
like to warn you that there is nothing so bad for the character as
'_I_ have not got a thousand and one important cousins!' she
exclaimed, her lip curling. 'If I want to please, I must take
pains, else "nobody minds me."'
He looked at her attentively, his handsome face aglow with animation.
'What can you mean by that?' he said slowly.
But she was quite silent, her head well in air.
'Cousins?' he repeated. 'Cousins? And clearly meant as a taunt at
me! Now when did you see my cousins? I grant that I possess a
monstrous and indefensible number. I have it. You think that at
Lady Fauntleroy's ball I devoted myself too much to my family, and
too little to--'
'Not at all!' cried Rose hastily, adding, with charming incoherence,
while she twisted a sprig of honeysuckle in hex restless fingers,
'_Some_ cousins of course are pretty.'
He paused an instant; then a light broke over his face, and his
burst of quiet laughter was infinitely pleasant to hear. Rose got
redder and redder. She realized dimly that she was hardly maintaining
the spirit of their contract, and that he was studying her with
eyes inconveniently bright and penetrating.
'Shall I quote to you,' he said, 'a sentence of Sterne's? If it
violate our contract I must plead extenuating circumstances. Strerne
is admonishing a young friend as to his manners in society: "You
are in love," he says. "_Tant mieux_. But do not imagine that the
fact bestows on you a license to behave like a bear toward all the
rest of the world. _Affection may surely conduct thee through an
avenue of women to her who possesses thy heart without tearing the
flounces of any of their petticoats_"--not even those of little
cousins of seventeen! I say this, you will observe, in the capacity
you have assigned me. In another capacity I venture to think I
could justify myself still better.'
'My guardian and director,' cried Rose, 'must not begin his functions
by misleading and sophistical quotations from the classics!'
He did not answer for a moment. They were at the gate of Burwood,
under a thick screen of wild-cherry trees. The gate was half open,
and his hand was on it.
'And my pupil,' he said, bending to her, 'must not begin by challenging
the prisoner whose hands she has bound, or he will not answer for
His words were threatening, but his voice, his fine expressive face,
were infinitely sweet. By a kind of fascination she never afterward
understood, Rose for answer startled him and herself. She bent her
head; she laid her lips on the hand which held the gate, and then
she was through it in an instant. He followed her in vain. He
never overtook her till at the drawing-room door she paused with
'Mamma,' she said, throwing it open, 'here is Mr. Flaxman. He is
come from Norway, and is on his way to Ullswater. I will go and
speak to Margaret about tea.'
After the little incident recorded at the end of the preceding
chapter, Hugh Flaxman may be forgiven if, as he walked home along
the valley that night toward the farmhouse where he had established
himself, he entertained a very comfortable scepticism as to the
permanence of that curious contract into which Rose had just forced
him. However, he was quite mistaken. Rose's maiden dignity avenged
itself abundantly on Hugh Flaxman for the injuries it had received
at the hands of Langham. The restraints, the anomalies, the
hair-splittings of the situation delighted her ingenuous youth.
'I am free--he is free. We will be friends for six months. Possibly
we may not suit one another at all. If we do--_then_----'
In the thrill of that _then_ lay, of course, the whole attraction
of the position.
So that next morning Hugh Flaxman saw the comedy was to be scrupulously
kept up. It required a tolerably strong masculine certainty at the
bottom of him to enable him to resign himself once more to his part.
But he achieved it, and being himself a modern of the moderns, a
lover of half-shades and refinements of all sorts, he began very
soon to enjoy it, and to play it with an increasing cleverness and
How Rose got through Agnes' cross-questioning on the matter, history
sayeth not. Of one thing, however, a conscientious historian may
be sure, namely, that Agnes succeeded in knowing as much as she
wanted to know. Mrs. Leyburn was a little puzzled by the erratic
lines of Mr. Flaxman's journeys. It was, as she said, curious that
a man should start on a tour through the Lakes from Long Whindale.
But she took everything naively as it came, and as she was told.
Nothing with her ever passed through any changing crucible of
thought. It required no planning to elude her. Her mind was like
a stretch of wet sand, on which all impressions are equally easy
to make and equally fugitive. He liked them all, she supposed, in
spite of the comparative scantiness of his later visit to Lerwick
Gardens, or he would not have gone out of his way to see them. But
as nobody suggested anything else to her, her mind worked no further,
and she was as easily beguiled after his appearance as before it
by the intricacies of some new knitting.
Things of course might have been different if Mrs. Thornburgh had
interfered again; but, as we know, poor Catherine's sorrows had
raised a whole odd host of misgivings in the mind of the Vicar's
wife. She prowled nervously around Mrs. Leyburn, filled with
contempt for her placidity; but she did not attack her. She spent
herself, indeed, on Rose and Agnes, but long practice had made them
adepts in the art of baffling her; and when Mr. Flaxman went to tea
at the Vicarage in their company, in spite of an absorbing desire
to get at the truth, which caused her to forget a new cap, and let
fall a plate of tea-cakes, she was obliged to confess crossly to
the Vicar afterward that 'no one could, tell what a man like that
was after. She supposed his manners were very aristocratic, but
for her part she liked plain people.'
On the last morning of Mr. Flaxman's stay in the valley he entered
the Burwood drive about eleven o'clock, and Rose came down the steps
to meet him. For a moment he flattered himself that her disturbed
looks were due to the nearness of their farewells.
'There is something wrong,' he said, softly detaining her hand a
moment--so much, at least, was in his right.
'Robert is ill. There has been an accident at Petites Dalles. He
has been in bed for a week. They hope to get home in a few days.
Catherine writes bravely, but she evidently is very low.'
Hugh Flaxman's face fell. Certain letters he had received from
Elsmere in July had lain heavy on his mind ever since, so pitiful
was the, half-conscious revelation in them of an incessant physical
struggle. An accident! Elsmere was in no state for accidents.
What miserable ill-luck!
Rose read him Catherine's account. It appeared that on a certain
stormy day a swimmer had been observed in difficulties among the
rocks skirting the northern side of the Patites Dalles bay. The
old _baigneur_ of the place, owner of the still primitive _etablissement
des bains_, without stopping to strip, or even to take off his heavy
boots, went out to the man in danger with a plank. The man took
the plank and was safe. Then to the people watching, it became
evident that the _baigneur_ himself was in peril. He became
unaccountably feeble in the water, and the cry arose that he was
sinking. Robert, who happened to be bathing near, ran off to the
spot, jumped in, and swam out. By this time the old man had drifted
some way. Robert succeeded, however, in bringing him in, and then,
amid an excited crowd, headed by the _baigneur's_ wailing family,
they carried the unconscious form on to the higher beach. Elsmere
was certain life was not extinct, and sent off for a doctor.
Meanwhile, no one seemed to have any common sense, or any knowledge
of how to proceed but himself. For two hours he stayed on the beach
in his dripping bathing-clothes, a cold wind blowing, trying every
device known to him: rubbing, hot bottles artificial respiration.
In vain. The man was too old and too bloodless. Directly after
the doctor arrived he breathed his last, amid the wild and passionate
grief of wife and children.
Robert, with a cloak flung about him, still stayed to talk to the
doctor, to carry one of the _baigneur's_ sobbing grandchildren to
its mother in the village. Then, at last, Catherine got hold of
him, and he submitted to be taken home, shivering, and deeply
depressed by the failure of his efforts. A violent gastric and
lung chill declared itself almost immediately, and for three days
he had been anxiously ill. Catherine, miserable, distrusting the
local doctor, and not knowing how to get hold of a better one, had
never left him night or day. 'I had not the heart to write even
to you,' she wrote to her mother. 'I could think of nothing but
trying one thing after another. Now he has been in bed eight days
and is much better. He talks of getting up to-morrow, and declares
he must go home next week. I have tried to persuade him to stay
here another fortnight, but the thought of his work distresses him
so much that I hardly dare urge it. I cannot say how I dread the
journey. He is not fit for it in any way.'
Rose folded up the letter, her face softened to a most womanly
gravity. Hugh Flaxman paused a moment outside the door, his hands
on his sides, considering.
'I shall not go on to Scotland,' he said; 'Mrs. Elsmere must not
be left. I will go off there at once.'
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