Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, complete
Part 10 out of 11
(Presuming that he has not previously explained it, the philosopher here
observes that Hippogriff, the foal of Fiery Circumstance out of
Sentiment, must be subject to strong sentimental friction before he is
capable of a flight: his appetites must fast long in the very eye of
provocation ere he shall be eloquent. Let him, the Philosopher, repeat
at the same time that souls harmonious to Nature, of whom there are few,
do not mount this animal. Those who have true passion are not at the
mercy of Hippogriff--otherwise Sur-excited Sentiment. You will mark in
them constantly a reverence for the laws of their being, and a natural
obedience to common sense. They are subject to storm, as in everything
earthly, and they need no lesson of devotion; but they never move to an
object in a madness.)
Now this is good teaching: it is indeed my Philosopher's object--his
purpose--to work out this distinction; and all I wish is that it were
good for my market. What the Philosopher means, is to plant in the
reader's path a staring contrast between my pet Emilia and his puppet
Wilfrid. It would be very commendable and serviceable if a novel were
what he thinks it: but all attestation favours the critical dictum, that
a novel is to give us copious sugar and no cane. I, myself, as a reader,
consider concomitant cane an adulteration of the qualities of sugar. My
Philosopher's error is to deem the sugar, born of the cane, inseparable
from it. The which is naturally resented, and away flies my book back at
the heads of the librarians, hitting me behind them a far more grievous
Such is the construction of my story, however, that to entirely deny the
Philosopher the privilege he stipulated for when with his assistance I
conceived it, would render our performance unintelligible to that acute
and honourable minority which consents to be thwacked with aphorisms and
sentences and a fantastic delivery of the verities. While my Play goes
on, I must permit him to come forward occasionally. We are indeed in a
sort of partnership, and it is useless for me to tell him that he is not
popular and destroys my chance.
"Don't blame yourself, my Wilfrid."
Emilia spoke thus, full of pity for him, and in her adorable, deep-fluted
tones, after the effective stop he had come to.
The 'my Wilfrid' made the owner of the name quiver with satisfaction. He
breathed: "You have forgiven me?"
"That I have. And there was indeed no blame. My voice has gone. Yes,
but I do not think it your fault."
"It was! it is!" groaned Wilfrid. "But, has your voice gone?" He leaned
nearer to her, drawing largely on the claim his incredulity had to
inspect her sweet features accurately. "You speak just as--more
deliciously than ever! I can't think you have lost it. Ah! forgive me!
Emilia was about to put her hand over to him, but the prompt impulse was
checked by a simultaneous feminine warning within. She smiled, saying:
"'I forgive' seems such a strange thing for me to say;" and to convey any
further meaning that might comfort him, better than words could do, she
held on her smile. The smile was of the acceptedly feigned, conventional
character; a polished Surface: belonging to the passage of the discourse,
and not to the emotions. Wilfrid's swelling passion slipped on it.
Sensitively he discerned an ease in its formation and disappearance that
shot a first doubt through him, whether he really maintained his empire
in her heart. If he did not reign there, why had she sent for him? He
attributed the unheated smile to a defect in her manner, that was always
chargeable with something, as he remembered. He began systematically to
account for his acts: but the man was so constituted that as he laid them
out for pardon, he himself condemned them most; and looking back at his
weakness and double play, he broke through his phrases to cry without
premeditation: "Can you have loved me then?"
Emilia's cheeks tingled: "Don't speak of that night in Devon," she
"Ah!" sighed he. "I did not mean then. Then you must have hated me."
"No; for, what did I say? I said that you would come to me--nothing
more. I hated that woman. You? Oh, no!"
"You loved me, then?"
"Did I not offer to work for you, if you were poor? And--I can't
remember what I said. Please, do not speak of that night."
"Emilia! as a man of honour, I was bound--"
She lifted her hands: "Oh! be silent, and let that night die."
"I may speak of that night when you drove home from Penarvon Castle, and
a robber? You have forgotten him, perhaps! What did he steal? not what
he came for, but something dearer to him than anything he possesses. How
can I say--? Dear to me? If it were dipped in my heart's blood!--"
Emilia was far from being carried away by the recollection of the scene;
but remembering what her emotion had then been, she wondered at her
"I may speak of Wilming Weir?" he insinuated.
Her bosom rose softly and heavily. As if throwing off some cloak of
enchantment that clogged her spirit! "I was telling you of this dress,"
she said: "I mean, of Countess Branciani. She thought her husband was
the Austrian spy who had betrayed them, and she said, "He is not worthy
to live. Everybody knew that she had loved him. I have seen his
portrait and hers. I never saw faces that looked so fond of life. She
had that Italian beauty which is to any other like the difference between
velvet and silk."
"Oh! do I require to be told the difference?" Wilfrid's heart throbbed.
"She," pursued Emilia, "she loved him still, I believe, but her country
was her religion. There was known to be a great conspiracy, and no one
knew the leader of it. All true Italians trusted Countess Branciani,
though she visited the Austrian Governor's house--a General with some
name on the teeth. One night she said to him, 'You have a spy who
betrays you.' The General never suspected Countess Branciani. Women are
devils of cleverness sometimes.
"But he did suspect it must be her husband--thinking, I suppose, 'How
otherwise would she have known he was my spy?' He gave Count Branciani
secret work and high pay. Then he set a watch on him. Count Branciani
was to find out who was this unknown leader. He said to the Austrian
Governor, 'You shall know him in ten days.' This was repeated to
Countess Branciani, and she said to herself, 'My husband! you shall
perish, though I should have to stab you myself.'"
Emilia's sympathetic hand twitched. Wilfrid's seized it, but it proved
no soft melting prize. She begged to be allowed to continue. He
entreated her to. Thereat she pulled gently for her hand, and
persisting, it was grudgingly let go.
"One night Countess Branciani put the Austrians on her husband's track.
He knew that she was true to her country, and had no fear of her, whether
she touched the Black-yellow gold or not. But he did not confide any, of
his projects to her. And his reason was, that as she went to the
Governor's, she might accidentally, by a word or a sign, show that she
was an accomplice in the conspiracy. He wished to save her from a
suspicion. Brave Branciani!"
Emilia had a little shudder of excitement.
"Only," she added, "why will men always think women are so weak? The
Count worked with conspirators who were not dreaming they would do
anything, but were plotting to do it. The Countess belonged to the other
party--men who never thought they were strong enough to see their ideas
acting--I mean, not bold enough to take their chance. As if we die more
than one death, and the blood we spill for Italy is ever wasted! That
night the Austrian spy followed the Count to the meeting-house of the
conspirators. It was thought quite natural that the Count should go
there. But the spy, not having the password, crouched outside, and heard
from two that came out muttering, the next appointment for a meeting.
This was told to Countess Branciani, and in the meantime she heard from
the Austrian Governor that her husband had given in names of the
conspirators. She determined at once. 'Now may Christ and the Virgin
Emilia struck her knees, while tears started through her shut eyelids.
The exclamation must have been caught from her father, who liked not the
priests of his native land well enough to interfere between his English
wife and their child in such a matter as religious training.
"What happened?" said Wilfrid, vainly seeking for personal application
in this narrative.
"Listen!--Ah!" she fought with her tears, and said, as they rolled down
her face: "For a miserable thing one can not help, I find I must cry.
This is what she did. She told him she knew of the conspiracy, and asked
permission to join it, swearing that she was true to Italy. He said he
believed her.--Oh, heaven!--And for some time she had to beg and beg; but
to spare her he would not let her join. I cannot tell why--he gave her
the password for the neat meeting, and said that an old gold coin must be
shown. She must have coaxed it, though he was a strong man, who could
resist women. I suppose he felt that he had been unkind.--Were I Queen
of Italy he should stand for ever in a statue of gold!--The next
appointed night a spy entered among the conspirators, with the password
and the coin. Did I tell you the Countess had one child--a girl! She
lives now, and I am to know her. She is like her mother. That little
girl was playing down the stairs with her nurse when a band of Austrian
soldiers entered the hall underneath, and an officer, with his sword
drawn, and some men, came marching up in their stiff way--the machines!
This officer stooped to her, and before the nurse could stop her, made
her say where her father was. Those Austrians make children betray their
parents! They don't think how we grow up to detest them. Do I? Hate is
not the word: it burns so hot and steady with me. The Countess came out
on the first landing; she saw what was happening. When her husband was
led out, she asked permission to embrace him. The officer consented, but
she had to say to him, 'Move back,' and then, with her lips to her
husband's cheek, 'Betray no more of them!' she whispered. Count
Branciani started. Now he understood what she had done, and why she had
done it. 'Ask for the charge that makes me a prisoner,' he said. Her
husband's noble face gave her a chill of alarm. The Austrian spoke. 'He
is accused of being the chief of the Sequin Club.' And then the Countess
looked at her husband; she sank at his feet. My heart breaks. Wilfrid!
Wilfrid! You will not wear that uniform? Say 'Never, never!' You will
not go to the Austrian army--Wilfrid? Would you be my enemy? Brutes,
knee-deep in blood! with bloody fingers! Ogres! Would you be one of
them? To see me turn my head shivering with loathing as you pass? This
is why I sent for you, because I loved you, to entreat you, Wilfrid, from
my soul, not to blacken the dear happy days when I knew you! Will you
hear me? That woman is changeing you--doing all this. Resist her!
Think of me in this one thing! Promise it, and I will go at once, and
want no more. I will swear never to trouble you. Oh, Wilfrid it's not
so much our being enemies, but what you become, I think of. If I say to
myself, 'He also, who was once my lover--Oh! paid murderer of my dear
Emilia threw up both hands to her eyes: but Wilfrid, all on fire with a
word, made one of her hands his own, repeating eagerly: "Once? once?"
"Once?" she echoed him.
"'Once my love?'" said he. "Not now?--does it mean, 'not now?' My
darling!--pardon me, I must say it. My beloved! you said: 'He who was
once my lover:'--you said that. What does it mean? Not that--not--?
does it mean, all's over? Why did you bring me here? You know I must
love you forever. Speak! 'Once?'"
"'Once?'" Emilia was breathing quick, but her voice was well contained:
"Yes, I said 'once.' You were then."
"Till that night in Devon?
"Let it be."
"But you love me still?"
"We won't speak of it."
"I see! You cannot forgive. Good heavens! I think I remember your
saying so once--Once! Yes, then: you said it then, during our 'Once;'
when I little thought you would be merciless to me--who loved you from
the first! the very first! I love you now! I wake up in the night,
thinking I hear your voice. You haunt me. Cruel! cold!--who guards you
and watches over you but the man you now hate? You sit there as if you
could make yourself stone when you pleased. Did I not chastise that man
Pericles publicly because he spoke a single lie of you? And by that act
I have made an enemy to our house who may crush us in ruin. Do I regret
it? No. I would do any madness, waste all my blood for you, die for
Emilia's fingers received a final twist, and were dropped loose. She let
them hang, looking sadly downward. Melancholy is the most irritating
reply to passion, and Wilfrid's heart waged fierce at the sight of her,
grown beautiful!--grown elegant!--and to reject him! When, after a
silence which his pride would not suffer him to break, she spoke to ask
what Mr. Pericles had said of her, he was enraged, forgot himself, and
answered: "Something disgraceful."
Deep colour came on Emilia. "You struck him, Wilfrid?"
"It was a small punishment for his infamous lie, and, whatever might be
the consequences, I would do it again."
"Wilfrid, I have heard what he has said. Madame Marini has told me. I
wish you had not struck him. I cannot think of him apart from the days
when I had my voice. I cannot bear to think of your having hurt him. He
was not to blame. That is, he did not say: it was not untrue."
She took a breath to make this last statement, and continued with the
same peculiar implicity of distinctness, which a terrific thunder of
"What?" from Wilfrid did not overbear: "I was quite mad that day I went
to him. I think, in my despair I spoke things that may have led him to
fancy the truth of what he has said. On my honour, I do not know. And I
cannot remember what happened after for the week I wandered alone about
London. Mr. Powys found me on a wharf by the river at night."
A groan burst from Wilfrid. Emilia's instinct had divined the antidote
that this would be to the poison of revived love in him, and she felt
secure, though he had again taken her hand; but it was she who nursed a
mere sentiment now, while passion sprang in him, and she was not prepared
for the delirium with which he enveloped her. She listened to his raving
senselessly, beginning to think herself lost. Her tortured hands were
kissed; her eyes gazed into. He interpreted her stupefaction as
contrition, her silence as delicacy, her changeing of colour as flying
hues of shame: the partial coldness at their meeting he attributed to the
burden on her mind, and muttering in a magnanimous sublimity that he
forgave her, he claimed her mouth with force.
"Don't touch me!" cried Emilia, showing terror.
"Are you not mine?"
"You must not kiss me."
Wilfrid loosened her waist, and became in a minute outwardly most cool
"My successor may object. I am bound to consider him. Pardon me.
The wretched insult and silly emphasis passed harmlessly from her: but a
word had led her thoughts to Merthyr's face, and what is meant by the
phrase 'keeping oneself pure,' stood clearly in Emilia's mind. She had
not winced; and therefore Wilfrid judged that his shot had missed because
there was no mark. With his eye upon her sideways, showing its circle
wide as a parrot's, he asked her one of those questions that lovers
sometimes permit between themselves. "Has another--?" It is here as it
was uttered. Eye-speech finished the sentence.
Rapidly a train of thought was started in Emilia, and she came to this
conclusion, aloud: "Then I love nobody!" For the had never kissed
Merthyr, or wished for his kiss.
"You do not?" said Wilfrid, after a silence. "You are generous in being
A pressure of intensest sorrow bowed his head. The real feeling in him
stole to Emilia like a subtle flame.
"Oh! what can I do for you?" she cried.
"Nothing, if you do not love me," he was replying mournfully, when, "Yes!
yes!" rushed to his lips; "marry me: marry me to-morrow. You have loved
me. 'I am never to leave you!' Can you forget the night when you said
it? Emilia! Marry me and you will love me again. You must. This man,
whoever he is--Ah! why am I such a brute! Come! be mine! Let me call
you my own darling! Emilia!--or say quietly 'you have nothing to hope
for:' I shall not reproach you, believe me."
He looked resigned. The abrupt transition had drawn her eyes to his.
She faltered: "I cannot be married." And then: "How could I guess that
you felt in this way?"
"Who told me that I should?" said he. "Your words have come true. You
predicted that I should fly from 'that woman,' as you called her, and
come to you. See! here it is exactly as you willed it. You--you are
changed. You throw your magic on me, and then you are satisfied, and
Emilia's conscience smote her with a verification of this charge, and she
trembled, half-intoxicated for the moment, by the aspect of her power.
This filled her likewise with a dangerous pity for its victim; and now,
putting out both hands to him, her chin and shoulders raised
entreatingly, she begged the victim to spare her any word of marriage.
"But you go, you run away from me--I don't know where you are or what you
are doing," said Wilfrid. "And you leave me to that woman. She loves
the Austrians, as you know. There! I will ask nothing--only this: I
will promise, if I quit the Queen's service for good, not to wear the
"Oh!" Emilia breathed inward deeply, scarce noticing the 'if' that
followed; nodding quick assent to the stipulation before she heard the
nature of it. It was, that she should continue in England.
"Your word," said Wilfrid; and she pledged it, and did not think she was
granting much in the prospect of what she gained.
"You will, then?" said he.
"Yes, I will."
"On your honour?"
These reiterated questions were simply pretexts for steps nearer to the
"And I may see you?" he went on.
"Wherever you are staying? And sometimes alone? Alone!--"
"Not if you do not know that I am to be respected," said Emilia, huddled
in the passionate fold of his arms. He released her instantly, and was
departing, wounded; but his heart counselled wiser proceedings.
"To know that you are in England, breathing the same air with me, near
me! is enough. Since we are to meet on those terms, let it be so. Let
me only see you till some lucky shot puts me out of your way."
This 'some lucky shot,' which is commonly pointed at themselves by the
sentimental lovers, with the object of hitting the very centre of the
hearts of obdurate damsels, glanced off Emilia's, which was beginning to
throb with a comprehension of all that was involved in the word she had
"I have your promise?" he repeated: and she bent her head.
"Not," he resumed, taking jealousy to counsel, now that he had advanced a
step: "Not that I would detain you against your will! I can't expect to
make such a figure at the end of the piece as your Count Branciani--who,
by the way, served his friends oddly, however well he may have served his
"His friends?" She frowned.
"Did he not betray the conspirators? He handed in names, now and then."
"Oh!" she cried, "you understand us no better than an Austrian. He
handed in names--yes he was obliged to lull suspicion. Two or three of
the least implicated volunteered to be betrayed by him; they went and
confessed, and put the Government on a wrong track. Count Branciani made
a dish of traitors--not true men--to satisfy the Austrian ogre. No one
knew the head of the plot till that
night of the spy. Do you not see?--he weeded the conspiracy!"
"Poor fellow!" Wilfrid answered, with a contracted mouth: "I pity him
for being cut off from his handsome wife."
"I pity her for having to live," said Emilia.
And so their duett dropped to a finish. He liked her phrase better than
his own, and being denied any privileges, and feeling stupefied by a
position which both enticed and stung him, he remarked that he presumed
he must not detain her any longer; whereupon she gave him her hand. He
clutched the ready hand reproachfully.
"Good-bye," said she.
"You are the first to say it," he complained.
"Will you write to that Austrian colonel, your cousin, to say "Never!
never!" to-morrow, Wilfrid?"
"While you are in England, I shall stay, be sure of that."
She bade him give her love to all Brookfield.
"Once you had none to give but what I let you take back for the purpose!"
he said. "Farewell! I shall see the harp to-night. It stands in the
old place. I will not have it moved or touched till you--"
"Ah! how kind you were, Wilfrid!"
"And how lovely you are!"
There was no struggle to preserve the backs of her fingers from his lips,
and, as this time his phrase was not palpably obscured by the one it
countered, artistic sentiment permitted him to go.
A minute after his parting with Emilia, Wilfrid swung round in the street
and walked back at great strides. "What a fool I was not to see that she
was acting indifference!" he cried. "Let me have two seconds with her!"
But how that was to be contrived his diplomatic brain refused to say.
"And what a stiff, formal fellow I was all the time!" He considered that
he had not uttered a sentence in any way pointed to touch her heart.
"She must think I am still determined to marry that woman."
Wilfrid had taken his stand on the opposite side of the street, and
beheld a male figure in the dusk, that went up to the house and then
stood back scanning the windows. Wounded by his audacious irreverence
toward the walls behind which his beloved was sheltered, Wilfrid crossed
and stared at the intruder. It proved to be Braintop.
"How do you do, sir!--no! that can't be the house," stammered Braintop,
with a very earnest scrutiny.
"What house? what do you want?" enquired Wilfrid.
"Jenkinson," was the name that won the honour of rescuing Braintop from
"No; it is Lady Gosstre's house: Miss Belloni is living there; and stop:
you know her. Just wait, and take in two or three words from me, and
notice particularly how she is looking, and the dress she wears. You can
say--say that Mrs. Chump sent you to enquire after Miss Belloni's
Wilfrid tore a leaf from his pocket-book, and wrote:
"I can be free to-morrow. One word! I shall expect it, with your name
But even in the red heat of passion his born diplomacy withheld his own
signature. It was not difficult to override Braintop's scruples about
presenting himself, and Wilfrid paced a sentinel measure awaiting the
reply. "Free to-morrow," he repeated, with a glance at his watch under a
lamp: and thus he soliloquized: "What a time that fellow is! Yes, I can
be free to-morrow if I will. I wonder what the deuce Gambier had to do
in Monmouthshire. If he has been playing with my sister's reputation, he
shall have short shrift. That fellow Braintop sees her now--my little
Emilia! my bird! She won't have changed her dress till she has dined.
If she changes it before she goes out--by Jove, if she wears it to-night
before all those people, that'll mean 'Good-bye' to me: 'Addio, caro,' as
those olive women say, with their damned cold languor, when they have
given you up. She's not one of them! Good God! she came into the room
looking like a little Empress. I'll swear her hand trembled when I went,
though! My sisters shall see her in that dress. She must have a clever
lady's maid to have done that knot to her back hair. She's getting as
full of art as any of them--Oh! lovely little darling! And when she
smiles and holds out her hand! What is it--what is it about her? Her
upper lip isn't perfectly cut, there's some fault with her nose, but I
never saw such a mouth, or such a face. "Free to-morrow?" Good God!
she'll think I mean I'm free to take a walk!"
At this view of the ghastly shortcoming of his letter as regards
distinctness, and the prosaic misinterpretation it was open to, Wilfrid
called his inventive wits to aid, and ran swiftly to the end of the
street. He had become--as like unto a lunatic as resemblance can
approach identity. Commanding the length of the pavement for an instant,
to be sure that no Braintop was in sight, he ran down a lateral street,
but the stationer's shop he was in search of beamed nowhere visible for
him, and he returned at the same pace to experience despair at the
thought that he might have missed Braintop issuing forth, for whom he
scoured the immediate neighbourhood, and overhauled not a few quiet
gentlemen of all ages. "An envelope!" That was the object of his
desire, and for that he wooed a damsel passing jauntily with a jug in her
hand, first telling her that he knew her name was Mary, at which singular
piece of divination she betrayed much natural astonishment. But a fine
round silver coin and an urgent request for an envelope, told her as
plainly as a blank confession that this was a lover. She informed him
that she lived three streets off, where there were shops. "Well, then,"
said Wilfrid, "bring me the envelope here, and you'll have another
opportunity of looking down the area."
"Think of yourself," replied she, saucily; but proved a diligent
messenger. Then Wilfrid wrote on a fresh slip:
"When I said "Free," I meant free in heart and without a single chain to
keep me from you. From any moment that you please, I am free. This is
written in the dark."
He closed the envelope, and wrote Emilia's name and the address as black
as his pencil could achieve it, and with a smart double-knock he
deposited the missive in the box. From his station opposite he guessed
the instant when it was taken out, and from that judged when she would be
reading it. Or perhaps she would not read it till she was alone? "That
must be her bedroom," he said, looking for a light in one of the upper
windows; but the voice of a fellow who went by with: "I should keep that
to myself, if I was you," warned him to be more discreet.
"Well, here I am. I can't leave the street," quoth Wilfrid, to the stock
of philosophy at his disposal. He burned with rage to think of how he
might be exhibiting himself before Powys and his sister.
It was half-past nine when a carriage drove up to the door. Into this
Mr. Powys presently handed Georgiana and Emilia. Braintop followed the
ladies, and then the coachman received his instructions and drove away.
Forthwith Wilfrid started in pursuit. He calculated that if his wind
held till he could jump into a light cab, his legitimate prey Braintop
might be caught. For, "they can't be taking him to any party with them!"
he chose to think, and it was a fair calculation that they were simply
conducting Braintop part of his way home. The run was pretty swift.
Wilfrid's blood was fired by the pace, until, forgetting the traitor
Braintop, up rose Truth from the bottom of the well in him, and he felt
that his sole desire was to see Emilia once more--but once! that night.
Running hard, in the midst of obstacles, and with eye and mind fined on
one object, disasters befell him. He knocked apples off a stall, and
heard vehement hallooing behind: he came into collision with a gentleman
of middle age courting digestion as he walked from his trusty dinner at
home to his rubber at the Club: finally he rushed full tilt against a
pot-boy who was bringing all his pots broadside to the flow of the
street. "By Jove! is this what they drink?" he gasped, and dabbed with
his handkerchief at the beer-splashes, breathlessly hailing the looked-
for cab, and, with hot brow and straightened-out forefinger, telling the
driver to keep that carriage in sight. The pot-boy had to be satisfied
on his master's account, and then on his own, and away shot Wilfrid, wet
with beer from throat to knee--to his chief protesting sense, nothing but
an exhalation of beer! "Is this what they drink?" he groaned, thinking
lamentably of the tastes of the populace. All idea of going near Emilia
was now abandoned. An outward application of beer quenched his frenzy.
She seemed as an unattainable star seen from the depths of foul pits.
"Stop!" he cried from the window.
"Here we are, sir," said the cabman.
The carriage had drawn up, and a footman's alarum awakened one of the
houses. The wretched cabman had likewise drawn up right under the
windows of the carriage. Wilfrid could have pulled the trigger of a
pistol at his forehead that moment. He saw that Miss Ford had recognized
him, and he at once bowed elegantly. She dropped the window, and said,
"You are in evening dress, I think; we will take you in with us."
Wilfrid hoped eagerly he might be allowed to hand them to the door, and
made three skips across the mire. Emilia had her hands gathered away
from the chances of seizure. In wild rage he began protesting that he
could not possibly enter, when Georgiana said, "I wish to speak to you,"
and put feminine pressure upon him. He was almost on the verge of the
word "beer," by way of despairing explanation, when the door closed
"Permit me to say a word to your recent companion. He is my father's
clerk. I had to see him on urgent business; that is why I took this
liberty," he said, and retreated.
Braintop was still there, quietly posted, performing upon his head with a
Wilfrid put Braintop's back to the light, and said, "Is my shirt soiled?"
After a short inspection, Braintop pronounced that it was, "just a
"Do you smell anything?" said Wilfrid, and hung with frightful suspense
on the verdict. "A fellow upset beer on me."
"It is beer!" sniffed Braintop.
"What on earth shall I do?" was the rejoinder; and Wilfrid tried to
remember whether he had felt any sacred joy in touching Emilia's dress as
they went up the steps to the door.
Braintop fumbled in the breast-pocket of his coat. "I happen to have,"
he said, rather shamefacedly.
"What is it?"
"Mrs. Chump gave it to me to-day. She always makes me accept something:
I can't refuse. It's this:--the remains of some scent she insisted on my
taking, in a bottle."
Wilfrid plucked at the stopper with a reckless desperation, saturated his
handkerchief, and worked at his breast as if he were driving a lusty
dagger into it.
"What scent is it?" he asked hurriedly.
"Alderman's Bouquet, sir."
"Of all the detestable!---" Wilfrid had no time for more, owing to fresh
arrivals. He hastened in, with his smiling, wary face, half trusting
that there might after all be purification in Alderman's Bouquet, and
promising heaven due gratitude if Emilia's senses discerned not the curse
on him. In the hall a gust from the great opening contention between
Alderman's Bouquet and bad beer, stifled his sickly hope. Frantic, but
under perfect self-command outwardly, he glanced to right and left, for
the suggestion of a means of escape. They were seven steps up the stairs
before his wits prompted him to say to Georgiana, "I have just heard very
serious news from home. I fear--"
"What?--or, pardon me: does it call you away?" she asked, and Emilia gave
him a steady look.
"I fear I cannot remain here. Will you excuse me?"
His face spoke plainly now of mental torture repressed. Georgiana put
her hand out in full sympathy, and Emilia said, in her deep whisper, "Let
me hear to-morrow." Then they bowed. Wilfrid was in the street again.
"Thank God, I've seen her!" was his first thought, overhearing "What did
she think of me?" as he sighed with relief at his escape. For, lo! the
Branciani dress was not on her shoulders, and therefore he might imagine
what he pleased:--that she had arrayed herself so during the day to
delight his eyes; or that, he having seen her in it, she had determined
none others should. Though feeling utterly humiliated, he was yet happy.
Driving to the station, he perceived starlight overhead, and blessed it;
while his hand waved busily to conduct a current of fresh, oblivious air
to his nostrils. The quiet heavens seemed all crowding to look down on
the quiet circle of the firs, where Emilia's harp had first been heard by
him, and they took her music, charming his blood with imagined harmonies,
as he looked up to them. Thus all the way to Brookfield his fancy
soared, plucked at from below by Alderman's Bouquet.
The Philosopher, up to this point rigidly excluded, rushes forward to the
footlights to explain in a note, that Wilfrid, thus setting a perfume to
contend with a stench, instead of wasting for time, change of raiment,
and the broad lusty airs of heaven to blow him fresh again, symbolizes
the vice of Sentimentalism, and what it is always doing. Enough!
"Let me hear to-morrow." Wilfrid repeated Emilia's petition in the tone
she had used, and sent a delight through his veins even with that clumsy
effort of imitation. He walked from the railway to Brookfield through
the circle of firs, thinking of some serious tale of home to invent for
her ears to-morrow. Whatever it was, he was able to conclude it--"But
all's right now." He noticed that the dwarf pine, under whose spreading
head his darling sat when he saw her first, had been cut down. Its
absence gave him an ominous chill.
The first sight that saluted him as the door opened, was a pile of Mrs.
Chump's boxes: he listened, and her voice resounded from the library.
Gainsford's eye expressed a discretion significant that there had been an
explosion in the house.
"I sha'nt have to invent much," said Wilfrid to himself, bitterly.
There was a momentary appearance of Adela at the library-door; and over
her shoulder came an outcry from Mrs. Chump. Arabella then spoke: Mr.
Pole and Cornelia following with a word, to which Mrs. Chump responded
shrilly: "Ye shan't talk to 'm, none of ye, till I've had the bloom of
his ear, now!" A confused hubbub of English and Irish ensued. The
ladies drew their brother into the library.
Doubtless you have seen a favourite sketch of the imaginative youthful
artist, who delights to portray scenes on a raft amid the tossing waters,
where sweet and satiny ladies, in a pardonable abandonment to the
exigencies of the occasion, are exhibiting the full energy and activity
of creatures that existed before sentiment was born. The ladies of
Brookfield had almost as utterly cast off their garb of lofty reserve and
inscrutable superiority. They were begging Mrs. Chump to be, for pity's
sake, silent. They were arguing with the woman. They were
remonstrating--to such an extent as this, in reply to an infamous
outburst: "No, no: indeed, Mrs. Chump, indeed!" They rose, as she rose,
and stood about her, motioning a beseeching emphasis with their hands.
Not visible for one second was the intense indignation at their fate
which Wilfrid, spying keenly into them, perceived. This taught him that
the occasion was as grave as could be. In spite of the oily words his
father threw from time to time abruptly on the tumult, he guessed what
Briefly, Mrs. Chump, aided by Braintop, her squire, had at last hunted
Mr. Pericles down, and the wrathful Greek had called her a beggar. With
devilish malice he had reproached her for speculating in such and such
Bonds, and sending ventures to this and that hemisphere, laughing
infernally as he watched her growing amazement. "Ye're jokin', Mr.
Paricles," she tried to say and think; but the very naming of poverty had
given her shivers. She told him how she had come to him because of Mr.
Pole's reproach, which accused her of causing the rupture. Mr. Pericles
twisted the waxy points of his moustache. "I shall advise you, go home,"
he said; "go to a lawyer: say, 'I will see my affairs, how zey stand.'
Ze man will find Pole is ruined. It may be--I do not know--Pole has left
a little of your money; yes, ma'am, it may be."
The end of the interview saw Mrs. Chump flying past Mr. Pericles to where
Braintop stood awaiting her with a meditative speculation on that
official promotion which in his attention to the lady he anticipated. It
need scarcely be remarked that he was astonished to receive a scent-
bottle on the spot, as the only reward his meritorious service was
probably destined ever to meet with. Breathless in her panic, Mrs. Chump
assured him she was a howling beggar, and the smell of a scent was like a
crool blow to her;" above all, the smell of Alderman's Bouquet, which
Chump--"tell'n a lie, ye know, Mr. Braintop, said was after him. And I,
smell'n at 't over 'n Ireland--a raw garl I was--I just thought 'm a
prince, the little sly fella! And oh! I'm a beggar, I am!" With which,
she shouted in the street, and put Braintop to such confusion that he
hailed a cab recklessly, declaring to her she had no time to lose, if she
wished to catch the train. Mrs. Chump requested the cabman that as a man
possessed of a feeling heart for the interests of a helpless woman, he
would drive fast; and, at the station, disputed his charge on the ground
of the knowledge already imparted to him of her precarious financial
state. In this frame of mind she fell upon Brookfield, and there was
clamour in the house. Wilfrid arrived two hours after Mrs. Chump. For
that space the ladies had been saying over and over again empty words to
pacify her. The task now devolved on their brother. Mr. Pole, though he
had betrayed nothing under the excitement of the sudden shock, had lost
the proper control of his mask. Wilfrid commenced by fixedly listening
to Mrs. Chump until for the third time her breath had gone. Then, taking
on a smile, he said: "Perhaps you are aware that Mr. Pericles has a
particular reason for animosity tome. We've disagreed together, that's
all. I suppose it's the habit of those fellows to attack a whole family
where one member of it offends them." As soon as the meaning of this was
made clear to Mrs. Chump, she caught it to her bosom for comfort; and
finding it gave less than at the moment she required, she flung it away
altogether; and then moaned, a suppliant, for it once more. "The only
thing, if you are in a state of alarm about my father's affairs, is for
him to show you by his books that his house is firm," said Wilfrid, now
that he had so far helped to eject suspicion from her mind.
"Will Pole do ut?" ejaculated Mrs. Chump, half off her seat.
"Of course I will--of course! of course. Haven't I told you so?" said
Mr. Pole, blinking mightily from his armchair over the fire. "Sit down,
"Oh! but how'll I understand ye, Pole?" she cried.
"I'll do my best to assist in explaining," Wilfrid condescended to say.
The ladies were touched when Mrs. Chump replied, with something of a
curtsey, "I'll thank ye vary much, sir." She added immediately, "Mr.
Wilfrud," as if correcting the 'sir,' for sounding cold.
It was so trustful and simple, that it threw alight on the woman under
which they had not yet beheld her. Compassion began to stir in their
bosoms, and with it an inexplicable sense of shame, which soon threw any
power of compassion into the background. They dared not ask themselves
whether it was true that their father had risked the poor thing's money
in some desperate stake. What hopeful force was left to them they
devoted to her property, and Adela determined to pray that night for its
safe preservation. The secret feeling in the hearts of the ladies was,
that in putting them on their trial with poverty, Celestial Powers would
never at the same time think it necessary to add disgrace. Consequently,
and as a defence against the darker dread, they now, for the first time,
fully believed that monetary ruin had befallen their father. They were
civil to Mrs. Chump, and forgiving toward her brogue, and her naked
outcries of complaint and suddenly--suggested panic; but their pity, save
when some odd turn in her conduct moved them, was reserved dutifully for
their father. His wretched sensations at the pouring of a storm of tears
from the exhausted creature, caused Arabella to rise and say to Mrs.
Chump kindly, "Now let me take you to bed."
But such a novel mark of tender civility caused the woman to exclaim:
"Oh, dear! if ye don't sound like wheedlin' to keep me blind."
Even this was borne with. "Come; it will do you good to rest," said
"And how'll I sleep?"
"By shutting my eye--peeps,"--as I used to tell my old nurse," said
Adela; and Mrs. Chump, accustomed to an occasional (though not public)
bit of wheedling from her, was partially reassured.
"I'll sit with you till you do sleep," said Arabella.
"Suppose," Mrs. Chump moaned, "suppose I'm too poor aver to repay ye? If
I'm a bankrup'?--oh!"
Arabella smiled. "Whatever I may do is certainly not done for a
remuneration, and such a service as this, at least, you need not speak
Mrs. Chump's evident surprise, and doubt of the honesty of the change in
her manner, caused Arabella very acutely to feel its dishonesty. She
looked at Cornelia with envy. The latter lady was leaning meditatively,
her arm on a side of her chair, like a pensive queen, with a ready, mild,
embracing look for the company. 'Posture' seemed always to triumph over
Before quitting the room, Mrs. Chump asked Mr. Pole whether he would be
up early the next morning.
"Very early,--you beat me, if you can," said he, aware that the question
was put as a test to his sincerity.
"Oh, dear! Suppose it's onnly a false alarrm of the 'bomunable Mr.
Paricles--which annybody'd have listened to--ye know that!" said Mrs.
Chump, going forth.
She stopped in the doorway, and turned her head round, sniffing, in a
very pronounced way. "Oh, it's you," she flashed on Wilfrid; "it's you,
my dear, that smell so like poor Chump. Oh! if we're not rooned, won't
we dine together! Just give me a kiss, please. The smell of ye's
Wilfrid bent his cheek forward, affecting to laugh, though the subject
was tragic to him.
"Oh! perhaps I'll sleep, and not look in the mornin' like that beastly
tallow, Mr. Paricles says I spent such a lot of money on, speculator--
whew, I hate ut!--and hemp too! Me!--Martha Chump! Do I want to hang
myself, and burn forty thousand pounds worth o' candles round my corpse
danglin' there? Now, there, now! Is that sense? And what'd Pole want
to buy me all that grease for? And where'd I keep ut, I'll ask ye? And
sure they wouldn't make me a bankrup' on such a pretence as that. For,
where's the Judge that's got the heart?"
Having apparently satisfied her reason with these interrogations, Mrs.
Chump departed, shaking her head at Wilfrid: "Ye smile so nice, ye do!"
by the way. Cornelia and Adela then rose, and Wilfrid was left alone
with his father.
It was natural that he should expect the moment for entire confidence
between them to have come. He crossed his legs, leaning over the
fireplace, and waited. The old man perceived him, and made certain
humming sounds, as of preparation. Wilfrid was half tempted to think he
wanted assistance, and signified attention; upon which Mr. Pole became
immediately absorbed in profound thought.
"Singular it is, you know," he said at last, with a candid air, "people
who know nothing about business have the oddest ideas--no common sense in
After that he fell dead silent.
Wilfrid knew that it would be hard for him to speak. To encourage him,
he said: "You mean Mrs. Chump, sir?"
"Oh! silly woman--absurd! No, I mean all of you; every man Jack, as
Martha'd say. You seem to think--but, well! there! let's go to bed."
"To bed?" cried Wilfrid, frowning.
"Why, when it's two or three o'clock in the morning, what's an old fellow
to do? My feet are cold, and I'm queer in the back--can't talk! Light
my candle, young gentleman--my candle there, don't you see it? And you
look none of the freshest. A nap on your pillow'll do you no harm."
"I wanted to talk to you a little, sir," said Wilfrid, about as much
perplexed as he was irritated.
"Now, no talk of bankers' books to-night!" rejoined his father. "I can't
and won't. No cheques written 'tween night and morning. That's
positive. There! there's two fingers. Shall have three to-morrow
morning--a pen in 'em, perhaps."
With which wretched pleasantry the little merchant nodded to his son, and
snatching up his candle, trotted to the door.
"By the way, give a look round my room upstairs, to see all right when
you're going to turn in yourself," he said, before disappearing.
The two fingers given him by his father to shake at parting, had told
Wilfrid more than the words. And yet how small were these troubles
around him compared with what he himself was suffering! He looked
forward to the bittersweet hour verging upon dawn, when he should be
writing to Emilia things to melt the vilest obduracy. The excitement
which had greeted him on his arrival at Brookfield was to be thanked for
its having made him partially forget his humiliation. He had, of course,
sufficient rational feeling to be chagrined by calamity, but his dominant
passion sucked sustaining juices from every passing event.
In obedience to his father's request, Wilfrid went presently into the old
man's bedroom, to see that all was right. The curtains of the bed were
drawn close, and the fire in the grate burnt steadily. Calm sleep seemed
to fill the chamber. Wilfrid was retiring, with a revived anger at his
father's want of natural confidence in him, or cowardly secresy. His
name was called, and he stopped short.
"Yes, sir?" he said.
The voice, buried in curtains, came after a struggle.
"You've done this, Wilfrid. Now, don't answer:--I can't stand talk. And
you must undo it. Pericles can if he likes. That's enough for you to
know. He can. He won't see me. You know why. If he breaks with me--
it's a common case in any business--I'm... we're involved together."
Then followed a deep sigh. The usual crisp brisk way of his speaking was
resumed in hollow tones: "You must stop it. Now, don't answer. Go to
Pericles to-morrow. You must. Nothing wrong, if you go at once."
"But, Sir! Good heaven!" interposed Wilfrid, horrified by the thought of
the penance here indicated.
The bed shook violently.
"If not," was uttered with a sort of muted vehemence, "there's another
thing you can do. Go to the undertaker's, and order coffins for us all.
The bed shook again. Wilfrid stood eyeing the mysterious hangings, as if
some dark oracle had spoken from behind them. In fear of irritating the
old man, and almost as much in fear of bringing on himself a revelation
of the frightful crisis that could only be averted by his apologizing
personally to the man he had struck, Wilfrid stole from the room.
There is a man among our actors here who may not be known to you. It had
become the habit of Sir Purcell Barren's mind to behold himself as under
a peculiarly malign shadow. Very young men do the same, if they are much
afflicted: but this is because they are still boys enough to have the
natural sense to be ashamed of ill-luck, even when they lack courage to
struggle against it. The reproaching of Providence by a man of full
growth, comes to some extent from his meanness, and chiefly from his
pride. He remembers that the old Gods selected great heroes whom to
persecute, and it is his compensation for material losses to conceive
himself a distinguished mark for the Powers of air. One who wraps
himself in this delusion may have great qualities; he cannot be of a very
contemptible nature; and in this place we will discriminate more closely
than to call him fool. Had Sir Purcell sunk or bent under the thong that
pursued him, he might, after a little healthy moaning, have gone along as
others do. Who knows?--though a much persecuted man, he might have
become so degraded as to have looked forward with cheerfulness to his
daily dinner; still despising, if he pleased, the soul that would invent
a sauce. I mean to say, he would, like the larger body of our
sentimentalists, have acquiesced in our simple humanity, but without
sacrificing a scruple to its grossness, or going arm-in-arm with it by
any means. Sir Purcell, however, never sank, and never bent. He was
invariably erect before men, and he did not console himself with a murmur
in secret. He had lived much alone; eating alone; thinking alone. To
complain of a father is, to a delicate mind, a delicate matter, and Sir
Purcell was a gentleman to all about him. His chief affliction in his
youth, therefore, kept him dumb. A gentleman to all about him, he
unhappily forgot what was due to his own nature. Must we not speak under
pressure of a grief? Little people should know that they must: but then
the primary task is to teach them that they are little people. For, if
they repress the outcry of a constant irritation, and the complaint
against injustice, they lock up a feeding devil in their hearts, and they
must have vast strength to crush him there. Strength they must have to
kill him, and freshness of spirit to live without him, after he has once
entertained them with his most comforting discourses. Have you listened
to him, ever? He does this:--he plays to you your music (it is he who
first teaches thousands that they have any music at all, so guess what a
dear devil he is!); and when he has played this ravishing melody, he
falls to upon a burlesque contrast of hurdy-gurdy and bag-pipe squeal and
bellow and drone, which is meant for the music of the world. How far
sweeter was yours! This charming devil Sir Purcell had nursed from
As a child, between a flighty mother and a father verging to insanity
from caprice, he had grown up with ideas of filial duty perplexed, and
with a fitful love for either, that was not attachment: a baffled natural
love, that in teaching us to brood on the hardness of our lot, lays the
foundation for a perniciously mystical self-love. He had waged
precociously philosophic, when still a junior. His father had kept him
by his side, giving him no profession beyond that of the obedient
expectant son and heir. His first allusion to the youth's dependency had
provoked their first breach, which had been widened by many an
ostentatious forgiveness on the one hand, and a dumbly-protesting
submission on the other. His mother died away from her husband's roof.
The old man then sought to obliterate her utterly. She left her boy a
little money, and the injunction of his father was, that he was never to
touch it. He inherited his taste for music from her, and his father
vowed, that if ever he laid hand upon a musical instrument again, he
would be disinherited. All these signs of a vehement spiteful antagonism
to reason, the young man might have treated more as his father's
misfortune than his own, if he could only have brought himself to
acknowledge that such a thing as madness stigmatized his family. But the
sentimental mind conceived it as 'monstrous impiety' to bring this
accusation against a parent who did not break windows, or grin to
deformity. He behaved toward him as to a reasonable person, and felt the
rebellious rancour instead of the pity. Thus sentiment came in the way
of pity. By degrees, Sir Purcell transferred all his father's madness to
the Fates by whom he was persecuted. There was evidently madness
somewhere, as his shuddering human nature told him. It did not offend
his sentiment to charge this upon the order of the universe.
Against such a wild-hitting madness, or concentrated ire of the superior
Powers, Sir Purcell stood up, taking blow upon blow. As organist of
Hillford Church, he brushed his garments, and put a polish on his
apparel, with an energetic humility that looked like unconquerable
patience; as though he had said: "While life is left in me, I will be
seen for what I am." We will vary it--"For what I think myself." In
reality, he fought no battle. He had been dead-beaten from his boyhood.
Like the old Spanish Governor, the walls of whose fortress had been
thrown down by an earthquake, and who painted streets to deceive the
enemy, he was rendered safe enough by his astuteness, except against a
traitor from within.
One who goes on doggedly enduring, doggedly doing his best, must subsist
on comfort of a kind that is likely to be black comfort. The mere piping
of the musical devil shall not suffice. In Sir Purcell's case, it had
long seemed a magnanimity to him that he should hold to a life so
vindictively scourged, and his comfort was that he had it at his own
disposal. To know so much, to suffer, and still to refrain, flattered
his pride. "The term of my misery is in my hand," he said, softened by
the reflection. It is our lowest philosophy.
But, when the heart of a man so fashioned is stirred to love a woman, it
has a new vital force, new health, and cannot play these solemn pranks.
The flesh, and all its fatality, claims him. When Sir Purcell became
acquainted with Cornelia, he found the very woman his heart desired, or
certainly a most admirable picture of her. It was, perhaps, still more
to the lady's credit, if she was only striving to be what he was learning
to worship. The beneficial change wrought in him, made him enamoured of
healthy thinking and doing. Had this, as a result of sharp mental
overhauling, sprung from himself, there would have been hope for him.
Unhappily, it was dependent on her who inspired it. He resolved that
life should be put on a fresh trial in her person; and expecting that
naturally to fail, of which he had always entertained a base conception,
he was perforce brought to endow her with unexampled virtues, in order to
keep any degree of confidence tolerably steadfast in his mind. The lady
accepted the decorations thus bestowed on her, with much grace and
willingness. She consented, little aware of her heroism, to shine forth
as an 'ideal;' and to this he wantonly pinned his faith. Alas! in our
world, where all things must move, it becomes, by-and-by, manifest that
an 'ideal,' or idol, which you will, has not been gifted with two legs.
What is, then, the duty of the worshipper? To make, as I should say,
some compromise between his superstitious reverence and his recognition
of facts. Cornelia, on her pedestal, could not prefer such a request
plainly; but it would have afforded her exceeding gratification, if the
man who adored her had quietly taken her up and fixed her in a fresh
post, of his own choosing entirely, in the new circles of changeing
events. Far from doing that, he appeared to be unaware that they went,
with the varying days, through circles, forming and reforming. He walked
rather as a man down a lengthened corridor, whose light to which he turns
is in one favourite corner, visible till he reaches the end. What
Cornelia was, in the first flaming of his imagination around her, she was
always, unaffected by circumstance, to remain. It was very hard. The
'ideal' did feel the want--if not of legs--of a certain tolerant
allowance for human laws on the part of her worshipper; but he was
remorselessly reverential, both by instinct and of necessity. Women are
never quite so mad in sentimentalism as men.
We have now looked into the hazy interior of their systems--our last
halt, I believe, and last examination of machinery, before Emilia quits
About the time of the pairing of the birds, and subsequent to the
Brookfield explosion, Cornelia received a letter from her lover, bearing
the tone of a summons. She was to meet him by the decayed sallow--the
'fruitless tree,' as he termed it. Startled by this abruptness, her
difficulties made her take counsel of her dignity. "He knows that these
clandestine meetings degrade me. He is wanting in faith, to require
constant assurances. He will not understand my position!" She
remembered the day at Besworth, of which Adela (somewhat needlessly,
perhaps) had told her; that it had revealed two of the family, in
situations censurable before a gossiping world, however intrinsically
blameless. That day had been to the ladies a lesson of deference to
opinion. It was true that Cornelia had met her lover since, but she was
then unembarrassed. She had now to share in the duties of the household-
-duties abnormal, hideous, incredible. Her incomprehensible father was
absent in town. Daily Wilfrid conducted Adela thither on mysterious
business, and then Mrs. Chump was left to Arabella and herself in the
lonely house. Numberless things had to be said for the quieting of this
creature, who every morning came downstairs with the exclamation that she
could no longer endure her state of uncertainty, and was "off to a
lawyer." It was useless to attempt the posture of a reply. Words, and
energetic words, the woman demanded, not expostulations--petitions that
she would be respectful to the house before the household. Yes,
occasionally (so gross was she!) she had to be fed with lies. Arabella
and Cornelia heard one another mouthing these dreadful things, with a
wretched feeling of contemptuous compassion. The trial was renewed
daily, and it was a task, almost a physical task, to hold the woman back
from London, till the hour of lunch came. If they kept her away from her
bonnet till then they were safe.
At this meal they had to drink champagne with her. Diplomatic Wilfrid
had issued the order, with the object, first, of dazzling her vision; and
secondly, to set the wheels of her brain in swift motion. The effect was
marvellous; and, had it not been for her determination never to drink
alone, the miserable ladies might have applauded it. Adela, on the rare
days when she was fortunate enough to reach Brookfield in time for
dinner, was surprised to hear her sisters exclaim, "Oh, the hatefulness
of that champagne!" She enjoyed it extremely. She, poor thing, had
again to go through a round of cabs and confectioners' shops in London.
"If they had said, 'Oh, the hatefulness of those buns and cold
chickens!'" she thought to herself. Not objecting to champagne at lunch
with any particular vehemence, she was the less unwilling to tell her
sisters what she had to do for Wilfrid daily.
"Three times a week I go to see Emilia at Lady Gosstre's town-house. Mr.
Powys has gone to Italy, and Miss Ford remains, looking, if I can read
her, such a temper. On the other days I am taken by Wilfrid to the
arcades, or we hire a brougham to drive round the park,--for nothing but
the chance of seeing that girl an instant. Don't tell me it's to meet
Lady Charlotte! That lovely and obliging person it is certainly not my
duty to undeceive. She's now at Stornley, and speaks of our affairs to
everybody, I dare say. Twice a week Wilfrid--oh! quite casually! --calls
on Miss Ford, and is gratified, I suppose; for this is the picture:--
There sits Emilia, one finger in her cheek, and the thumb under her chin,
and she keeps looking down so. Opposite is Miss Ford, doing some work--
making lint for patriots, probably. Then Wilfrid, addressing
commonplaces to her; and then Emilia's father--a personage, I assure you!
up against the window, with a violin. I feel a bitter edge on my teeth
still! What do you think he does to please his daughter for one while
hour! He draws his fingers--does nothing else; she won't let him; she
won't hear a tune-up the strings in the most horrible caterwaul, up and
down. It is really like a thousand lunatics questioning and answering,
and is enough to make you mad; but there that girl sits, listening.
Exactly in this attitude--so. She scarcely ever looks up. My brother
talks, and occasionally steals a glance that way. We passed one whole
hour as I have described. In the middle of it, I happened to look at
Wilfrid's face, while the violin was wailing down. I fancied I heard the
despair of one of those huge masks in a pantomime. I was almost choked."
When Adela had related thus much, she had to prevent downright revolt,
and spoil her own game, by stating that Wilfrid did not leave the house
for his special pleasure, and a word, as to the efforts he was making to
see Mr. Pericles, convinced the ladies that his situation was as pitiable
as their own.
Cornelia refused to obey her lover's mandate, and wrote briefly. She
would not condescend to allude to the unutterable wretchedness afflicting
her, but spoke of her duty to her father being foremost in her prayers
for strength. Sir Purcell interpreted this as indicating the beginning
of their alienation. He chided her gravely in an otherwise pleasant
letter. She was wrong to base her whole reply upon the little sentence
of reproach, but self-justification was necessary to her spirit. Indeed,
an involuntary comparison of her two suitors was forced on her, and, dry
as was Sir Twickenham's mind, she could not but acknowledge that he had
behaved with an extraordinary courtesy, amounting to chivalry, in his
suit. On two occasions he had declined to let her be pressed to decide.
He came to the house, and went, like an ordinary visitor. She was
indebted to him for that splendid luxury of indecision, which so few of
the maids of earth enjoy for a lengthened term. The rude shakings given
her by Sir Purcell, at a time when she needed all her power of dreaming,
to support the horror of accumulated facts, was almost resented. "He as
much as says he doubts me, when this is what I endure!" she cried to
herself, as Mrs. Chump ordered her champagne-glass to be filled, with
"Now, Cornelia, my dear; if it's bad luck we're in for, there's nothin'
cheats ut like champagne," and she had to put the (to her) nauseous
bubbles to her lips. Sir Purcell had not been told of her tribulations,
and he had not expressed any doubt of her truth; but sentimentalists can
read one another with peculiar accuracy through their bewitching gauzes.
She read his unwritten doubt, and therefore expected her unwritten misery
to be read.
So it is when you play at Life! When you will not go straight, you get
into this twisting maze. Now he wrote coldly, and she had to repress a
feeling of resentment at that also. She ascribed the changes of his tone
fundamentally to want of faith in her, and absolutely, during the
struggle she underwent, she by this means somehow strengthened her idea
of her own faithfulness. She would have phrased her projected line of
conduct thus: "I owe every appearance of assent to my poor father's
scheme, that will spare his health. I owe him everything, save the
positive sacrifice of my hand." In fact, she meant to do her duty to her
father up to the last moment, and then, on the extreme verge, to remember
her duty to her lover. But she could not write it down, and tell her
lover as much. She knew instinctively that, facing the eyes, it would
not look well. Perhaps, at another season, she would have acted and
thought with less folly; but the dull pain of her great uncertainty, and
the little stinging whips daily applied to her, exaggerated her tendency
to self-deception. "Who has ever had to bear so much?--what slave?" she
would exclaim, as a refuge from the edge of his veiled irony. For a
slave has, if not selection of what he will eat and drink, the option of
rejecting what is distasteful. Cornelia had not. She had to act a part
every day with Mrs. Chump, while all those she loved, and respected, and
clung to, were in the same conspiracy. The consolation of hating, or of
despising, her tormentress was denied. The thought that the poor
helpless creature had been possibly ruined by them, chastened Cornelia's
reflections mightily, and taught her to walk very humbly through the
duties of the day. Her powers of endurance were stretched to their
utmost. A sublime affliction would, as she felt bitterly, have enlarged
her soul. This sordid misery narrowed it. Why did not her lover, if his
love was passionate, himself cut the knot claim her, and put her to a
quick decision? She conceived that were he to bring on a supreme crisis,
her heart would declare itself. But he appeared to be wanting in that
form of courage. Does it become a beggar to act such valiant parts?
perhaps he was even then replying from his stuffy lodgings.
The Spring was putting out primroses,--the first handwriting of the
year,--as Sir Purcell wrote to er prettily. Deire for fresh air, and the
neighbourhood of his beloved, sent him on a journey down to Hillford.
Near the gates of the Hillford station, he passed Wilfrid and Adela,
hurrying to catch the up-train, and received no recognition. His face
scarcely changed colour, but the birds on a sudden seemed to pipe far
away from him. He asked himself, presently, what were those black
circular spots which flew chasing along the meadows and the lighted
walks. It was with an effort that he got the landscape close about his
eyes, and remembered familiar places. He walked all day, making
occupation by directing his steps to divers eminences that gave a view of
the Brookfield chimneys. After night-fall he found himself in the
firwood, approaching the 'fruitless tree.' He had leaned against it
musingly, for a time, when he heard voices, as of a couple confident in
The footman, Gainsford, was courting a maid of the Tinley's, and here,
being midway between the two houses, they met. He had to obtain pardon
for tardiness, by saying that dinner at Brookfield had been delayed for
the return of Mr. Pole. The damsel's questions showed her far advanced
in knowledge of affairs at Brookfield and may account for Laura Tinley's
gatherings of latest intelligence concerning those 'odd girls,' as she
impudently called the three.
"Oh! don't you listen!" was the comment pronounced on Gainsford's stock
of information. But, he told nothing signally new. She wished to hear
something new and striking, "because," she said, "when I unpin Miss Laura
at night, I'm as likely as not to get a silk dress that ain't been worn
more than half-a-dozen times--if I manage. When I told her that Mr.
Albert, her brother, had dined at your place last Thursday--demeaning of
himself, I do think--there!--I got a pair of silk stockings,--not letting
her see I knew what it was for, of coursed and about Mrs. Dump,--Stump;--
I can't recollect the woman's name; and her calling of your master a
bankrupt, right out, and wanting her money of him,--there! if Miss Laura
didn't give me a pair of lavender kid-gloves out of her box!--and I wish
you would leave my hands alone, when you know I shouldn't be so silly as
to wear them in the dark; and for you, indeed!"
But Gainsford persisted, upon which there was fooling. All this was too
childish for Sir Purcell to think it necessary to give warning of his
presence. They passed, and when they had gone a short way the damsel
cried, "Well, that is something," and stopped. "Married in a month!" she
exclaimed. "And you don't know which one?"
"No," returned Gainsford; "master said 'one of you' as they was at
dinner, just as I come into the room. He was in jolly spirits, and kept
going so: "What's a month! champagne, Gainsford," and you should have
sees Mrs.--not Stump, but Chump. She'll be tipsy to-night, and I shall
bust if I have to carry of her upstairs. Well, she is fun!--she don't
mind handin' you a five-shilling piece when she's done tender: but I have
nearly lost my place two or three time along of that woman. She'd split
logs with laughing:--no need of beetle and wedges! 'Och!' she sings out,
'by the piper!'--and Miss Cornelia sitting there--and, 'Arrah!'--bother
the woman's Irish," (thus Gainsford gave up the effort at imitation, with
a spirited Briton's mild contempt for what he could not do) "she pointed
out Miss Cornelia and said she was like the tinker's dog:--there's the
bone he wants himself, and the bone he don't want anybody else to have.
Aha! ain't it good?"
"Oh! the tinker's dog! won't I remember that!" said the damsel, "she
can't be such a fool."
"Well, I don't know," Gainsford meditated critically. "She is; and yet
she ain't, if you understand me. What I feel about her is--hang it! she
makes ye laugh."
Sir Purcell moved from the shadow of the tree as noiselessly as he could,
so that this enamoured couple might not be disturbed. He had already
heard more than he quite excused himself for hearing in such a manner,
and having decided not to arrest the man and make him relate exactly what
Mr. Pole had spoken that evening at the Brookfield dinner-table, he
hurried on his return to town.
It was not till he had sight of his poor home; the solitary company of
chairs; the sofa looking bony and comfortless as an old female house
drudge; the table with his desk on it; and, through folding-doors, his
cold and narrow bed; not till then did the fact of his great loss stand
before him, and accuse him of living. He seated himself methodically and
wrote to Cornelia. His fancy pictured her now as sharp to every turn of
language and fall of periods: and to satisfy his imagined, rigorous
critic, he wrote much in the style of a newspaper leading article. No
one would have thought that tragic meaning underlay those choice and
sounding phrases. On reperusing the composition, he rejected it, but
only to produce one of a similar cast. He could not get to nature in his
tone. He spoke aloud a little sentence now and then, that had the ring
of a despairing tenderness. Nothing of the sort inhabited his written
words, wherein a strained philosophy and ironic resignation went on
stilts. "I should desire to see you once before I take a step that some
have not considered more than commonly serious," came toward the
conclusion; and the idea was toyed with till he signed his name. "A
plunge into the deep is of little moment to one who has been stripped of
all clothing. Is he not a wretch who stands and shivers still?" This
letter, ending with a short and not imperious, or even urgent, request
for an interview, on the morrow by the 'fruitless tree,' he sealed for
delivery into Cornelia's hands some hours before the time appointed. He
then wrote a clear business letter to his lawyer, and one of studied
ambiguity to a cousin on his mother's side. His father's brother,
Percival Barrett, to whom the estates had gone, had offered him an
annuity of five hundred pounds: "though he had, as his nephew was aware,
a large family." Sir Purcell had replied: "Let me be the first to
consider your family," rejecting the benevolence. He now addressed his
cousin, saying: "What would you think of one who accepts such a gift?--of
me, were you to hear that I had bowed my head and extended my hand?
Think this, if ever you hear of it: that I have acceded for the sake of
winning the highest prize humanity can bestow: that I certainly would not
have done it for aught less than the highest." After that he went to his
narrow bed. His determination was to write to his uncle, swallowing
bitter pride, and to live a pensioner, if only Cornelia came to her
tryst, "the last he would ask of her," as he told her. Once face to face
with his beloved, he had no doubt of his power; and this feeling which he
knew her to share, made her reluctance to meet him more darkly
As he lay in the little black room, he thought of how she would look when
a bride, and of the peerless beauty towering over any shades of
earthliness which she would present. His heated fancy conjured up every
device and charm of sacredness and adoring rapture about that white
veiled shape, until her march to the altar assumed the character of a
religious procession--a sight to awe mankind! And where, when she stood
before the minister in her saintly humility, grave and white, and tall--
where was the man whose heart was now racing for that goal at her right
hand? He felt at the troubled heart and touched two fingers on the rib,
mock-quietingly, and smiled. Then with great deliberation he rose, lit a
candle, unlocked a case of pocket-pistols, and loaded them: but a second
idea coming into his head, he drew the bullet out of one, and lay down
again with a luxurious speculation on the choice any hand might possibly
make of the life-sparing or death-giving of those two weapons. In his
neat half-slumber he was twice startled by a report of fire-arms in a
church, when a crowd of veiled women and masked men rushed to the
opening, and a woman throwing up the veil from her face knelt to a corpse
that she lifted without effort, and weeping, laid it in a grave, where it
rested and was at peace, though multitudes hurried over it, and new stars
came and went, and the winds were strange with new tongues. The sleeper
saw the morning upon that corpse when light struck his eyelids, and he
awoke like a man who knew no care.
His landlady's little female scrubber was working at the grate in his
sitting-room. He had endured many a struggle to prevent service of this
nature being done for him by one of the sex--at least, to prevent it
within his hearing and sight. He called to her to desist; but she
replied that she had her mistress's orders. Thereupon he maintained that
the grate did not want scrubbing. The girl took this to be a matter of
opinion, not a challenge to controversy, and continued her work in
silence. Irritated by the noise, but anxious not to seem harsh, he said:
"What on earth are you about, when there was no fire there yesterday?"
"There ain't no stuff for afire now, sir," said she.
"I tell you I did not light it."
"It's been and lit itself then," she mumbled.
"Do you mean to say you found the fire burnt out, when you entered the
room this morning?"
She answered that she had found it so, and lots of burnt paper lying
The symbolism of this fire burnt out, that had warmed and cheered none,
oppressed his fancy, and he left the small maid-of-all-work to triumph
with black-lead and brushes.
She sang out, when she had done: "If you please, sir, missus have had a
hamper up from the country, and would you like a country aig, which is
quite fresh, and new lay. And missus say, she can't trust the bloaters
about here bein' Yarmouth, but there's a soft roe in one she've squeezed;
and am I to stop a water-cress woman, when the last one sold you them,
and all the leaves jellied behind 'em, so as no washin' could save you
from swallowin' some, missus say?"
Sir Purcell rolled over on his side. "Is this going to be my epitaph?"
he groaned; for he was not a man particular in his diet, or exacting in
choice of roes, or panting for freshness in an egg. He wondered what his
landlady could mean by sending up to him, that morning of all others, to
tempt his appetite after her fashion. "I thought I remembered eating
nothing but toast in this place;" he observed to himself. A grunting
answer had to be given to the little maid, "Toast as usual." She
appeared satisfied, but returned again, when he was in his bath, to ask
whether he had said "No toast to-day?"
"Toast till the day of my death--tell your mistress that!" he replied;
and partly from shame at his unaccountable vehemence, he paused in his
sponging, meditated, and chilled. An association of toast with spectral
things grew in his mind, when presently the girl's voice was heard:
"Please, sir, did say you'd have toast, or not, this morning?" It cost
him an effort to answer simply, "Yes."
That she should continue, "Not sir?" appeared like perversity. "No aig?"
"Well, no; never mind it this morning," said he.
"Not this morning," she repeated.
"Then it will not be till the day of your death, as you said," she is
thinking that, was the idea running in his brain, and he was half ready
to cry out "Stop," and renew his order for toast, that he might seem
consecutive. The childishness of the wish made him ask himself what it
mattered. "I said 'Not till the day;' so, none to-day would mean that I
have reached the day." Shivering with the wet on his pallid skin, he
thought this over.
His landlady had used her discretion, and there was toast on the table.
A beam of Spring's morning sunlight illuminated the toast-rack. He sat,
and ate, and munched the doubt whether "not till" included the final day,
or stopped short of it. By this the state of his brain may be conceived.
A longing for beauty, and a dark sense of an incapacity to thoroughly
enjoy it, tormented him. He sent for his landlady's canary, and the
ready shrill song of the bird persuaded him that much of the charm of
music is wilfully swelled by ourselves, and can be by ourselves
withdrawn: that is to say, the great chasm and spell of sweet sounds is
assisted by the force of our imaginations. What is that force?--the heat
and torrent of the blood. When that exists no more--to one without hope,
for instance--what is music or beauty? Intrinsically, they are next to
nothing. He argued it out so, and convinced himself of his own
delusions, till his hand, being in the sunlight, gave him a pleasant
warmth. "That's something we all love," he said, glancing at the blue
sky above the roofs. "But there's little enough of it in this climate,"
he thought, with an eye upon the darker corners of his room. When he had
eaten, he sent word to his landlady to make up his week's bill. The week
was not at an end, and that good woman appeased before him, astonished,
saying: "To be sure, your habits is regular, but there's little items one
I'll guess at, and how make out a bill, Sir Purcy, and no items?"
He nodded his head.
"The country again?" she asked smilingly.
"I am going down there," he said.
"And beautiful at this time of the year, it is! though, for market
gardening, London beats any country I ever knew; and if you like creature
comforts, I always say, stop in London! And then the policemen! who
really are the greatest comfort of all to us poor women, and seem sent
from above especially to protect our weakness. I do assure you, Sir
Purcy, I feel it, and never knew a right-minded woman that did not. And
how on earth our grandmothers contrived to get about without them! But
there! people who lived before us do seem like the most uncomfortable!
When--my goodness! we come to think there was some lived before tea!
Why, as I say over almost every cup I drink, it ain't to be realized. It
seems almost wicked to say it, Sir Purcy; but it's my opinion there ain't
a Christian woman who's not made more of a Christian through her tea.
And a man who beats his wife my first question is, 'Do he take his tea
regular?' For, depend upon it, that man is not a tea-drinker at all."
He let her talk away, feeling oddly pleased by this mundane chatter, as
was she to pour forth her inmost sentiments to a baronet.
When she said: "Your fire shall be lighted to-night to welcome you," the
man looked up, and was going to request that the trouble might be spared,
but he nodded. His ghost saw the burning fire awaiting him. Or how if
it sparkled merrily, and he beheld it with his human eyes that night?
His beloved would then have touched him with her hand--yea, brought the
dead to life! He jumped to his feet, and dismissed the worthy dame. On
both sides of him, 'Yes,' and 'No,' seemed pressing like two hostile
powers that battled for his body. They shrieked in his ears, plucked at
his fingers. He heard them hushing deeply as he went to his pistol-case,
and drew forth one--he knew not which.
On a wild April morning, Emilia rose from her bed and called to mind a
day of the last year's Spring when she had watched the cloud streaming
up, and felt that it was the curtain of an unknown glory. But now it
wore the aspect of her life itself, with nothing hidden behind those
stormy folds, save peace. South-westward she gazed, eyeing eagerly the
struggle of twisting vapour; long flying edges of silver went by, and
mounds of faint crimson, and here and there a closing space of blue,
swift as a thought of home to a soldier in action. The heavens were like
a battle-field. Emilia shut her lips hard, to check an impulse of prayer
for Merthyr fighting in Italy: for he was in Italy, and she once more
among the Monmouth hills: he was in Italy fighting, and she chained here
to her miserable promise! Three days after she had given the promise to
Wilfrid, Merthyr left, shaking her hand like any common friend.
Georgiana remained, by his desire, to protect her. Emilia had written to
Wilfrid for release, but being no apt letter-writer, and hating the task,
she was soon involved by him in a complication of bewildering sentiments,
some of which she supposed she was bound to feel, while perhaps one or
two she did feel, at the summons. The effect was that she lost the true
wording of her blunt petition for release: she could no longer put it
bluntly. But her heart revolted the more, and gave her sharp eyes to see
into his selfishness. The purgatory of her days with Georgiana, when the
latter was kept back from her brother in his peril, spurred Emilia to
renew her appeal; but she found that all she said drew her into
unexpected traps and pitfalls. There was only one thing she could say
plainly: "I want to go." If she repeated this, Wilfrid was ready with
citations from her letters, wherein she had said 'this,' and 'that,' and
many other phrases. His epistolary power and skill in arguing his own
case were creditable to him. Affected as Emilia was by other sensations,
she could not combat the idea strenuously suggested by him, that he had
reason to complain of her behaviour. He admitted his special faults,
but, by distinctly tracing them to their origin, he complacently hinted
the excuse for them. Moreover, and with artistic ability, he painted
such a sentimental halo round the 'sacredness of her pledged word,' that
Emilia could not resist a superstitious notion about it, and about what
the breaking of it would imply. Georgiana had removed her down to
Monmouth to be out of his way. A constant flight of letters pursued them
both, for Wilfrid was far too clever to allow letters in his hand-writing
to come for one alone of two women shut up in a country-house together.
He saw how the letterless one would sit speculating shrewdly and
spitefully; so he was careful to amuse his mystified Dragon, while he
drew nearer and nearer to his gold apple. Another object was, that by
getting Georgiana to consent to become in part his confidante, he made it
almost a point of honour for her to be secret with Lady Charlotte.
At last a morning came with no Brookfield letter for either of them. The
letters stopped from that time. It was almost as if a great buzzing had
ceased in Emilia's ears, and she now heard her own sensations clearly.
To Georgiana's surprise, she manifested no apprehension or regret. "Or
else," the lady thought, "she wears a mask to me;" and certainly it was a
pale face that Emilia was beginning to wear. At last came April and its
wild morning. No little female hypocrisies passed between them when they
met; they shook hands at arm's length by the breakfast-table. Then
Emilia said: "I am ready to go to Italy: I will go at once."
Georgiana looked straight at her, thinking: "This is a fit of indignation
with Wilfrid." She answered: "Italy! I fancied you had forgotten there
was such a country."
"I don't forget my country and my friends," said Emilia,
"At least, I must ask the ground of so unexpected a resolution," was
"Do you remember what Merthyr wrote in his letter from Arona? How long
it takes to understand the meaning of some, words! He says that I should
not follow an impulse that is not the impulse of all my nature--myself
altogether. Yes! I know what that means now. And he tells me that my
life is worth more than to be bound to the pledge of a silly moment. It
is! He, Georgey, unkind that you are!--he does not distrust me; but
always advises and helps me: Merthyr waits for me. I cannot be instantly
ready for every meaning in the world. What I want to do, is to see
Wilfrid: if not, I will write to him. I will tell him that I intend to
break my promise."
A light of unaffected pride shone from the girl's face, as she threw down
this gauntlet to sentimentalism.
"And if he objects?" said Georgiana.
"If he objects, what can happen? If he objects by letter, I am gone. I
shall not write for permission. I shall write what my will is. If I see
him, and he objects, I can look into his eyes and say what I think right.
Why, I have lived like a frozen thing ever since I gave him my word. I
have felt at times like a snake hissing at my folly. I think I have felt
something like men when they swear."
Georgiana's features expressed a slight but perceptible disgust. Emilia
continued humbly: "Forgive me. I wish you to know how I hate the word I
gave that separates me from Merthyr in my Italy, and makes you dislike
your poor Emilia. You do. I have pardoned it, though it was twenty
stabs a day."
"But, why, if this promise was so hateful to you, did you not break it
before?" asked Georgiana.
"I had not the courage," Emilia stooped her head to confess; "and
besides," she added, curiously half-closing her eyelids, as one does to
look on a minute object, "I could not see through it before."
"If," suggested Georgiana, "you break your word, you release him from
"No! if he cannot see the difference," cried Emilia, wildly, "then let
him keep away from me for ever, and he shall not have the name of friend!
Is there no difference--I wish you would let me cry out as they do in
Shakespeare, Georgey!" Emilia laughed to cover her vehemence. "I want
something more than our way of talking, to witness that there is such a
difference between us. Am I to live here till all my feelings are burnt
out, and my very soul is only a spark in a log of old wood? and to keep
him from murdering my countrymen, or flogging the women of Italy! God
knows what those Austrians would make him do. He changes. He would
easily become an Austrian. I have heard him once or twice, and if I had
shut my eyes, I might have declared an Austrian spoke. I wanted to keep
him here, but it is not right that I--I should be caged till I scarcely
feel my finger-ends, or know that I breathe sensibly as you and others
do. I am with Merthyr. That is what I intend to tell him."
She smiled softly up to Georgiana's cold eyes, to get a look of
forgiveness for her fiery speaking.
"So, then, you love my brother?" said Georgiana.
Emilia could have retorted, "Cruel that you are!" The pain of having an
unripe feeling plucked at without warning, was bitter; but she repressed
any exclamation, in her desire to maintain simple and unsensational
relations always with those surrounding her.
"He is my friend," she said. "I think of something better than that
other word. Oh, that I were a man, to call him my brother-in-arms!
What's a girl's love in return for his giving his money, his heart, and
offering his life every day for Italy?"
As soon as Georgiana could put faith in her intention to depart, she gave
her a friendly hand and embrace.
Two days later they were at Richford, with Lady Gosstre. The journals
were full of the Italian uprising. There had been a collision between
the Imperial and patriotic forces, near Brescia, from which the former
had retired in some confusion. Great things were expected of Piedmont,
though many, who had reason to know him, distrusted her king. All
Lombardy awaited the signal from Piedmont. Meanwhile blood was flowing.
In the excitement of her sudden rush from dead monotony to active life,
Emilia let some time pass before she wrote to Wilfrid. Her letter was in
her hand, when one was brought in to her from him. It ran thus:--
"I have just returned home, and what is this I hear? Are you utterly
faithless? Can I not rely on you to keep the word you have solemnly
pledged! Meet me at once. Name a place. I am surrounded by misery and
distraction. I will tell you all when we meet. I have trusted that you
were firm. Write instantly. I cannot ask you to come here. The house
is broken up. There is no putting to paper what has happened. My father
lies helpless. Everything rests on me. I thought that I could rely on
Emilia tore up her first letter, and replied:--
"Come here at once. Or, if you would wish to meet me elsewhere, it shall
be where you please: but immediately. If you have heard that I am going
to Italy, it is true. I break my promise. I shall hope to have your
forgiveness. My heart bleeds for my dear Cornelia, and I am eager to see
my sisters, and embrace them, and share their sorrow. If I must not
come, tell them I kiss them. Adieu!"
"I will be by Richford Park gates to-morrow at a quarter to nine. You
speak of your heart. I suppose it is a habit. Be careful to put on a
cloak or thick shawl; we have touches of frost. If I cannot amuse you,
perhaps the nightingales will. Do you remember those of last year? I
wonder whether we shall hear the same?--we shall never hear the same."
This iteration, whether cunningly devised or not, had a charm for
Emilia's ear. She thought: "I had forgotten all about them." When she
was in her bedroom at night, she threw up her window. April was leaning
close upon May, and she had not to wait long before a dusky flutter of
low notes, appearing to issue from the great rhododendron bank across the
lawn, surprised her. She listened, and another little beginning was
heard, timorous, shy, and full of mystery for her. The moon hung over
branches, some that showed young buds, some still bare. Presently the
long, rich, single notes cut the air, and melted to their glad delicious
chuckle. The singer was answered from a farther bough, and again from
one. It grew to be a circle of melody round Emilia at the open window.
Was it the same as last year's? The last year's lay in her memory faint
and well-nigh unawakened. There was likewise a momentary sense of
unreality in this still piping peacefulness, while Merthyr stood in a
bloody-streaked field, fronting death. And yet the song was sweet.
Emilia clasped her arms, shut her eyes, and drank it in. Not to think at
all, or even to brood on her sensations, but to rest half animate and let
those divine sounds find a way through her blood, was medicine to her.
Next day there were numerous visits to the house. Emilia was reserved,
and might have been thought sad, but she welcomed Tracy Runningbrook
gladly, with "Oh! my old friend!" and a tender squeeze of his hand.
"True, if you like; hot, if you like; but I old?" cried Tracy.
"Yes, because I seem to have got to the other side of you; I mean, I know
you, and am always sure of you," said Emilia. "You don't care for music;
I don't care for poetry, but we're friends, and I am quite certain of
you, and think you 'old friend' always."
"And I," said Tracy, better up to the mark by this time, "I think of you,
you dear little woman, that I ought to be grateful to you, for, by
heaven! you give me, every time I see you, the greatest temptation to be
a fool and let me prove that I'm not. Altro! altro!"
"A fool!" said Emilia caressingly; showing that his smart insinuation had
slipped by her.
The tale of Brookfield was told over again by Tracy, and Emilia
shuddered, though Merthyr and her country held her heart and imagination
active and in suspense, from moment to moment. It helped mainly to
discolour the young world to her eyes. She was under the spell of an
excitement too keen and quick to be subdued, by the sombre terrors of a
tragedy enacted in a house that she had known. Brookfield was in the
talk of all who came to Richford. Emilia got the vision of the wretched
family seated in the library as usual, when upon midnight they were about
to part, and a knock came at the outer door, and two men entered the
hall, bearing a lifeless body with a red spot above the heart. She saw
Cornelia fall to it. She saw the pale-faced family that had given her
shelter, and moaned for lack of a way of helping them and comforting
them. She reproached herself for feeling her own full physical life so
warmly, while others whom she had loved were weeping. It was useless to
resist the tide of fresh vitality in her veins, and when her thoughts
turned to their main attraction, she was rejoicing at the great strength
she felt coming to her gradually. Her face was smooth and impassive:
this new joy of strength came on her like the flowing of a sea to a,
land-locked water. "Poor souls!" she sighed for her friends, while
irrepressible exultation filled her spirit.
That afternoon, in the midst of packing and preparations for the journey,
at all of which Lady Gosstre smiled with a complacent bewilderment, a
card, bearing the name of Miss Laura Tinley, was sent up to Emilia. She
had forgotten this person, and asked Lady Gosstre who it was. Arabella's
rival presented herself most winningly. For some time, Emilia listened
to her, with wonder that a tongue should be so glib on matters of no
earthly interest. At last, Laura said in an undertone: "I am the bearer
of a message from Mr. Pericles; do you walk at all in the garden?"
Emilia read her look, and rose. Her thoughts struck back on the creature
that she was when she had last seen Mr. Pericles, and again, by contrast,
on what she was now. Eager to hear of him, or rather to divine the
mystery in her bosom aroused by the unexpected mention of his name, she
was soon alone with Laura in the garden.
"Oh, those poor Poles!" Laura began.
"You were going to say something of Mr. Pericles," said Emilia.
"Yes, indeed, my dear; but, of course, you have heard all the details of
that dreadful night? It cannot be called a comfort to us that it enables
my brother Albert to come forward in the most disinterested--I might
venture to say, generous--manner, and prove the chivalry of his soul;
still, as things are, we are glad, after such misunderstandings, to prove
to that sorely-tried family who are their friends. I--you would little
think so from their treatment of me--I was at school with them. I knew
them before they became unintelligible, though they always had a turn for
it. To dress well, to be refined, to marry well--I understand all that
perfectly; but who could understand them? Not they themselves, I am
certain! And now penniless! and not only that, but lawyers! You know
that Mrs. Chump has commenced an action?--no? Oh, yes! but I shall have
to tell you the whole story."
"What is it?--they want money?" said Emilia.
"I will tell you. Our poor gentlemanly organist, whom you knew, was
really a baronet's son, and inherited the title."
Emilia interrupted her: "Oh, do let me hear about them!"
"Well, my dear, this unfortunate--I may call him 'lover,' for if a man
does not stamp the truth of his affection with a pistol, what other means
has he? And just a word as to romance. I have been sighing for it--no
one would think so--all my life. And who would have thought that these
poor Poles should have lived to convince me of the folly! Oh, delicious
humdrum!--there is nothing like it. But you are anxious, naturally.
Poor Sir Purcell Barren--he may or may not have been mad, but when he was
brought to the house at Brookfield--quite by chance--I mean, his body--
two labouring men found him by a tree--I don't know whether you
remembered a pollard-willow that stood all white and rotten by the water
in the fir-wood:--well, as I said, mad or not, no sooner did poor
Cornelia see him than she shrieked that she was the cause of his death.
He was laid in the hall--which I have so often trod! and there Cornelia
sat by his poor dead body, and accused Wilfrid and her father of every
unkindness. They say that the scene was terrible. Wilfrid--but I need
not tell you his character. He flutters from flower to flower, but he
has feeling Now comes the worst of all--in one sense; that is, looking on
it as people of the world; and being in the world, we must take a worldly
view occasionally. Mr. Pole--you remember how he behaved once at
Besworth: or, no; you were not there, but he used your name. His mania
was, as everybody could see, to marry his children grandly. I don't
blame him in any way. Still, he was not justified in living beyond his
means to that end, speculating rashly, and concealing his actual
circumstances. Well, Mr. Pericles and he were involved together; that
is, Mr. Pericles--"
"Is Mr. Pericles near us now?" said Emilia quickly.
"We will come to him," Laura resumed, with the complacency of one who saw
a goodly portion of the festival she was enjoying still before her. "I
was going to say, Mr. Pericles had poor Mr. Pole in his power; has him,
would be the correcter tense. And Wilfrid, as you may have heard, had
really grossly insulted him, even to the extent of maltreating him--a
poor foreigner--rich foreigner, if you like! but not capable of standing
against a strong young man in wrath. However, now there can be little
doubt that Wilfrid repents. He had been trying ever since to see Mr.
Pericles; and the very morning of that day, I believe, he saw him and
humbled himself to make an apology. This had put Mr. Pole in good
spirits, and in the evening--he and Mrs. Chump were very fond of their
wine after dinner--he was heard that very evening to name a day for his
union with her; for that had been quite understood, and he had asked his
daughters and got their consent. The sight of Sir Purcell's corpse, and
the cries of Cornelia, must have turned him childish. I cannot conceive
a situation so harrowing as that of those poor children hearing their
father declare himself an impostor! a beggar! a peculator! He cried,
poor unhappy man, real tears! The truth was that his nerves suddenly
gave way. For, just before--only just before, he was smiling and talking
largely. He wished to go on his knees to every one of them, and kept
telling them of his love--the servants all awake and listening! and more
gossiping servants than the Poles always, by the most extraordinary
inadvertence, managed to get, you never heard of! Nothing would stop him
from humiliating himself! No one paid any attention to Mrs. Chump until
she started from her chair. They say that some of the servants who were
crying outside, positively were compelled to laugh when they heard her
first outbursts. And poor Mr. Pole confessed that he had touched her
money. He could not tell her how much. Fancy such a scene, with a dead
man in the house! Imagination almost refuses to conjure it up! Not to
dwell on it too long--for, I have never endured such a shock as it has
given me--Mrs. Chump left the house, and the next thing received from her
was a lawyer's letter. Business men say she is not to blame: women may
cherish their own opinion. But, oh, Miss Belloni! is it not terrible?
You are pale."
Emilia behind what she felt for her friends, had a dim comprehension of
the meaning of their old disgust at Laura, during this narration. But,
hearing the word of pity, she did not stop to be critical. "Can you do
nothing for them?" she said abruptly.
The thought in Laura's shocked grey eyes was, "They have done little
enough for you," i.e., toward making you a lady. "Oh!" she cried; "I can
you teach me what to do? I must be extremely delicate, and calculate
upon what they would accept from me. For--so I hear--they used to--and
may still--nourish a--what I called--silly--though not in unkindness--
hostility to our family--me. And perhaps now natural delicacy may render
it difficult for them to..."
In short, to accept an alms from Laura Tinley; so said her pleading look
for an interpretation.
"You know Mr. Pericles," said Emilia, "he can do the mischief--can he
not? Stop him."
Laura laughed. "One might almost say that you do not know him, Miss
Belloni. What is my influence? I have neither a voice, nor can I play
on any instrument. I would--indeed I will--do my best my utmost; only,
how even to introduce the subject to him? Are not you the person? He
speaks of you constantly. He has consulted doctors with regard to your
voice, and the only excuse, dear Miss Belloni, for my visit to you to-
day, is my desire that any misunderstanding between you may be cleared.
Because, I have just heard--Miss Belloni will forgive me!--the origin of
it; and tidings coming that you were in the neighbourhood, I thought--
hoped that I might be the means of re-uniting two evidently destined to
be of essential service to one another. And really, life means that,
does it not?"
Emilia was becoming more critical of this tone the more she listened.
She declared, her immediate willingness to meet Mr. Pericles. With
which, and Emilia's assurance that she would write, and herself make the
appointment, Laura retired, in high glee at the prospect of winning the
gratitude of the inscrutable millionaire. It was true that the absence
of any rivalry for the possession of the man took much of his sweetness
from him. She seemed to be plucking him from the hands of the dead, and
half recognized that victory over uncontesting rivals claps the laurel-
wreath rather rudely upon our heads.
Emilia lost no time in running straight to Georgiana, who was busy at her
writing-desk. She related what she had just heard, ending breathlessly:
"Georgey! my dear! will you help them?"
"In what possible way can I do so?" said Georgiana. To-morrow night we
shall have left England."
"But to-day we are here." Emilia pressed a hand to her bosom: "my heart
feels hollow, and my friends cry out in it. I cannot let him suffer."
She looked into Georgiana's eyes. "Will you not help them?--they want
The lady reddened. "Is it not preposterous to suppose that I can offer
them assistance of such a kind?"
"Not you," returned Emilia, sighing; and in an under-breath, "me--will
you lend it to me? Merthyr would. I shall repay it. I cannot tell what
fills me with this delight, but I know I am able to repay any sum. Two
thousand pounds would help them. I think--I think my voice has come
"Have you tried it?" said Georgiana, to produce a diversion from the
"No; but believe me when I tell you, it must be. I scarcely feel the
floor; no misery touches me. I am only sorry for my friends, not down on
the ground with them. Believe me! And I have been studying all this
while. I have not lost an hour. I would accept a part, and step on the
boards within a week, and be certain to succeed. I am just as willing to
go to the Conservatorio and submit to discipline. Only, dear friend,
believe me, that I ask for money now, because I am sure I can repay it.
I want to send it immediately, and then, good-bye to England."
Georgiana closed her desk. She had been suspicious at first of another
sentiment in the background, but was now quite convinced of the
simplicity of Emilia's design. She said: "I will tell you exactly how I
am placed. I do not know, that under any circumstances, I could have
given into your hands so large a sum as this that you ask for. My
brother has a fortune; and I have also a little property. When I say my
brother has a fortune, he has the remains of one. All that has gone has
been devoted to relieve your countrymen, and further the interests he has
nearest at heart. What is left to him, I believe, he has now thrown into
the gulf. You have heard Lady Charlotte call him a fanatic."
Emilia's lip quivered.
"You must not blame her for that," Georgiana continued. "Lady Gosstre
thinks much the same. The world thinks with them. I love him, and prove
my love by trusting him, and wish to prove my love by aiding him, and
being always at hand to succour, as I should be now, but that I obeyed
his dearest wish in resting here to watch over you. I am his other self.
I have taught him to feel that; so that in his devotion to this cause he
may follow every impulse he has, and still there is his sister to fall
back on. My child! see what I have been doing. I have been calculating
here." Georgiana took a scroll from her desk, and laid it under Emilia's
eyes. "I have reckoned our expenses as far as Turin, and have only
consented to take Lady Gosstre's valet for courier, just to please her.
I know that he will make the cost double, and I feel like a miser about
money. If Merthyr is ruined, he will require every farthing that I have
for our common subsistence. Now do you understand? I can hardly put the
case more plainly. It is out of my power to do what you ask me to do."
Emilia sighed lightly, and seemed not much cast down by the refusal. She
perceived that it was necessarily positive, and like all minds framed to
resolve to action, there was an instantaneous change of the current of
her thoughts in another direction.
"Then, my darling, my one prayer!" she said. "Postpone our going for a
week. I will try to get help for them elsewhere."
Georgiana was pleased by Emilia's manner of taking the rebuff; but it
required an altercation before she consented to this postponement; she
nodded her head finally in anger.
By the park-gates that evening, Wilfrid received a letter from the hands
of Tracy Runningbrook. It said: "I am not able to see you now. When I
tell you that I will see you before I leave England, I insist upon your
believing me. I have no head for seeing anybody now. Emilia"--was the
simple signature, perused over and over again by this maddened lover,
under the flitting gate-lamp, after Tracy had left him. The coldness of
Emilia's name so briefly given, concentrated every fire in his heart.
What was it but miserable cowardice, he thought, that prevented him from
getting the peace poor Barrett had found? Intolerable anguish weakened
his limbs. He flung himself on a wayside bank, grovelling, to rise again
calm and quite ready for society, upon the proper application of the
clothes-brush. Indeed; he patted his shoulder and elbow to remove the
soil of his short contact with earth, and tried a cigar: but the first
taste of the smoke sickened his lips. Then he stood for a moment as a
man in a new world. This strange sensation of disgust with familiar
comforting habits, fixed him in perplexity, till a rushing of wild
thoughts and hopes from brain to heart, heart to brain, gave him insight,
and he perceived his state, and that for all he held to in our life he
was dependent upon another; which is virtually the curse of love.
"And he passed along the road," adds the Philosopher, "a weaker man, a
stronger lover. Not that love should diminish manliness or gains by so
doing; but travelling to love by the ways of Sentiment, attaining to the
passion bit by bit, does full surely take from us the strength of our
nature, as if (which is probable) at every step we paid fee to move
forward. Wilfrid had just enough of the coin to pay his footing. He was
verily fining himself down. You are tempted to ask what the value of him
will be by the time that he turns out pure metal? I reply, something
considerable, if by great sacrifice he gets to truth--gets to that
oneness of feeling which is the truthful impulse. At last, he will stand
high above them that have not suffered. The rejection of his cigar."
This wages too absurd. At the risk of breaking our partnership for ever,
I intervene. My Philosopher's meaning is plain, and, as usual, good; but
not even I, who have less reason to laugh at him than anybody, can
gravely accept the juxtaposition of suffering and cigars. And, moreover,
there is a little piece of action in store.
Wilfrid had walked half way to Brookfield, when the longing to look upon
the Richford chamber-windows stirred so hotly within him that he returned
to the gates. He saw Captain Gambier issuing on horseback from under the
lamp. The captain remarked that it was a fine night, and prepared to
ride off, but Wilfrid requested him to dismount, and his voice had the
unmistakeable ring in it by which a man knows that there must be no
trifling. The captain leaned forward to look at him before he obeyed the
summons, All self-control had abandoned Wilfrid in the rage he felt at
Gambier's having seen Emilia, and the jealous suspicion that she had
failed to keep her appointment for the like reason.
"Why do you come here?" he said, hoarsely.
"By Jove! that's an odd question," said the captain, at once taking his
"Am I to understand that you've been playing with my sister, as you do
with every other woman?"
Captain Gambier murmured quietly, "Every other woman?" and smoothed his
horse's neck. "They're not so easily played with, my dear fellow. You
speak like a youngster."
"I am the only protector of my sister's reputation," said Wilfrid, "and,
by heaven! if you have cast her over to be the common talk, you shall
The captain turned to his horse, saying, "Oh! Well!" Being mounted, he
observed: "My dear Pole, you might have sung out all you had to say. Go
to your sister, and if she complains of my behaviour, I'll meet you. Oh,
yes! I'll meet you; I have no objection to excitement. You're in the
hands of an infernally clever woman, who does me the honour to wish to
see my blood on the carpet, I believe; but if this is her scheme, it's
not worthy of her ability. She began pretty well. She arranged the
preliminaries capitally. Why, look here," he relinquished his ordinary
drawl; "I'll tell you something, which you may put down in my favour or
not--just as you like. That woman did her best to compromise your sister
with me on board the yacht. I can't tell you how, and won't. Of course,
I wouldn't if I could; but I have sense enough to admire a very charming
person, and I did the only honourable thing in my power. It's your
sister, my good fellow, who gave me my dismissal. We had a little common
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