Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, complete
Part 2 out of 11
waverings and weakness, and did not rush to the adoration of decision of
mind, we should not behold them turning contemptuously from philosophers
in their agony, to find refuge in the arms of smirking orthodoxy. I do
not say that Mr. Barrett ventured to play the intelligent Cornelia like a
fish; but such a fish was best secured by the method he adopted: that of
giving her signal victory in trifles, while on vital matters he held his
Very pleasant evenings now passed at Brookfield, which were not at all
disturbed by the wonder expressed from time to time by Mr. Pole, that he
had not heard from Martha, meaning Mrs. Chump. "You have Emilia," the
ladies said; this being equivalent to "She is one of that sort;" and Mr.
Pole understood it so, and fastened Emilia in one arm, with "Now, a kiss,
my dear, and then a toon." Emilia readily gave both. As often as he
heard instances of her want of ladylike training, he would say, "Keep her
here; we'll better her." Mr. Barrett assisted the ladies to see that
there was more in Emilia than even Mr. Pericles had perceived. Her story
had become partially known to them; and with two friendly dependents of
the household, one a gentleman and the other a genius, they felt that
they had really attained a certain eminence, which is a thing to be felt
only when we have something under our feet. Flying about with a
desperate grip on the extreme skirts of aristocracy, the ladies knew to
be the elevation of dependency, not true eminence; and though they
admired the kite, they by no means wished to form a part of its tail.
They had brains. A circle was what they wanted, and they had not to
learn that this is to be found or made only in the liberally-educated
class, into the atmosphere of which they pressed like dungeoned plants.
The parasite completes the animal, and a dependent assures us of our
position. The ladies of Brookfield, therefore, let Emilia cling to them,
remarking, that it seemed to be their papa's settled wish that she should
reside among them for a time. Consequently, if the indulgence had ever
to be regretted, they would not be to blame. In their hearts they were
aware that it was Emilia who had obtained for them their first invitation
to Lady Gosstre's. Gratitude was not a part of their policy, but when it
assisted a recognition of material facts they did not repress it. "And
if," they said, "we can succeed in polishing her and toning her, she may
have something to thank us for, in the event of her ultimately making a
name." That event being of course necessary for the development of so
proper a sentiment. Thus the rides with Wilfrid continued, and the sweet
quiet evenings when she sang.
The windows of Brookfield were thrown open to the air of May, and bees
wandered into the rooms, gold spots of sunshine danced along the floors.
The garden-walks were dazzling, and the ladies went from flower-bed to
flower-bed in broad garden hats that were, as an occasional light glance
flung at a window-pane assured Adela, becoming. Sunshine had burst on
them suddenly, and there was no hat to be found for Emilia, so Wilfrid
placed his gold-laced foraging-cap on her head, and the ladies, after a
moment's misgiving, allowed her to wear it, and turned to observe her now
and then. There was never pertness in Emilia's look, which on the
contrary was singularly large and calm when it reposed: perhaps her
dramatic instinct prompted her half-jaunty manner of leaning against the
sunny corner of the house where the Chinese honeysuckle climbed. She was
talking to Wilfrid. Her laughter seemed careless and easy, and in
keeping with the Southern litheness of her attitude.
"To suit the cap; it's all to suit the cap," said Adela, the keen of eye.
Yet, critical as was this lady, she acknowledged that it was no mere
acting effort to suit the cap.
The philosopher (I would keep him back if I could) bids us mark that the
crown and flower of the nervous system, the head, is necessarily
sensitive, and to that degree that whatsoever we place on it, does, for a
certain period, change and shape us. Of course the instant we call up
the forces of the brain, much of the impression departs but what remains
is powerful, and fine-nerved. Woman is especially subject to it. A girl
may put on her brother's boots, and they will not affect her spirit
strongly; but as soon as she puts on her brother's hat, she gives him a
manly nod. The same philosopher who fathers his dulness on me, asserts
that the modern vice or fastness ('Trotting on the Epicene Border,' he
has it) is bred by apparently harmless practices of this description. He
offers to turn the current of a Republican's brain, by resting a coronet
on his forehead for just five seconds.
Howsoever these things be, it was true that Emilia's feet presently
crossed, and she was soon to be seen with her right elbow doubled against
her head as she leaned to the wall, and the little left fist stuck at her
belt. And I maintain that she had no sense at all of acting Spanish
prince disguised as page. Nor had she an idea that she was making her
friend Wilfrid's heart perform to her lightest words and actions, like
any trained milk-white steed in a circus. Sunlight, as well as Wilfrid's
braided cap, had some magical influence on her. He assured her that she
looked a charming boy, and she said, "Do I?" just lifting her chin.
A gardener was shaving the lawn.
"Please, spare those daisies," cried Emilia. "Why do you cut away
The gardener objected that he really must make the lawn smooth. Emilia
called to Adela, who came, and hearing the case, said: "Now this is nice
of you. I like you to love daisies and wish to protect them. They
disfigure a lawn, you know." And Adela stooped, and picked one, and
called it a pet name, and dropped it.
She returned to her sisters in the conservatory, and meeting Mr. Barren
at the door, made the incident a topic. "You know how greatly our Emilia
rejoices us when she shows sentiment, and our thirst is to direct her to
appreciate Nature in its humility as well as its grandeur."
"One expects her to have all poetical feelings," said Mr. Barrett, while
they walked forth to the lawn sloping to the tufted park grass.
Cornelia said: "You have read Mr. Runningbrook's story?"
But the man had not brought it back, and her name was in it, written with
her own hand.
"Are you of my opinion in the matter?"
"In the matter of the style? I am and I am not. Your condemnation may
be correct in itself; but you say, 'He coins words'; and he certainly
forces the phrase here and there, I must admit. The point to be
considered is, whether friction demands a perfectly smooth surface.
Undoubtedly a scientific work does, and a philosophical treatise should.
When we ask for facts simply, we feel the intrusion of a style. Of
fiction it is part. In the one case the classical robe, in the other any
mediaeval phantasy of clothing."
"Yes; true;" said Cornelia, hesitating over her argument. "Well, I must
conclude that I am not imaginative."
"On the contrary, permit me to say that you are. But your imagination is
unpractised, and asks to be fed with a spoon. We English are more
imaginative than most nations."
"Then, why is it not manifested?"
"We are still fighting against the Puritan element, in literature as
"Your old bugbear, Mr. Barrett!"
"And more than this: our language is not rich in subtleties for prose. A
writer who is not servile and has insight, must coin from his own mint.
In poetry we are rich enough; but in prose also we owe everything to the
licence our poets have taken in the teeth of critics. Shall I give you
examples? It is not necessary. Our simplest prose style is nearer to
poetry with us, for this reason, that the poets have made it. Read
French poetry. With the first couplet the sails are full, and you have
left the shores of prose far behind. Mr. Runningbrook coins words and
risks expressions because an imaginative Englishman, pen in hand, is the
cadet and vagabond of the family--an exploring adventurer; whereas to a
Frenchman it all comes inherited like a well filled purse. The audacity
of the French mind, and the French habit of quick social intercourse,
have made them nationally far richer in language. Let me add,
individually as much poorer. Read their stereotyped descriptions. They
all say the same things. They have one big Gallic trumpet. Wonderfully
eloquent: we feel that: but the person does not speak. And now, you will
be surprised to learn that, notwithstanding what I have said, I should
still side with Mr. Runningbrook's fair critic, rather than with him.
The reason is, that the necessity to write as he does is so great that a
strong barrier--a chevaux-de-frise of pen points--must be raised against
every newly minted word and hazardous coiner, or we shall be inundated.
If he can leap the barrier he and his goods must be admitted. So it has
been with our greatest, so it must be with the rest of them, or we shall
have a Transatlantic literature. By no means desirable, I think. Yet,
see: when a piece of Transatlantic slang happens to be tellingly true--
something coined from an absolute experience; from a fight with the
elements--we cannot resist it: it invades us. In the same way poetic
rashness of the right quality enriches the language. I would make it
prove its quality."
Cornelia walked on gravely. His excuse for dilating on the theme,
prompted her to say: "You give me new views": while all her reflections
sounded from the depths: "And yet, the man who talks thus is a hired
This recurring thought, more than the cogency of the new views, kept her
from combating certain fallacies in them which had struck her.
"Why do you not write yourself, Mr. Barrett?"
"I have not the habit."
"I have not heard the call."
"Should it not come from within?"
"And how are we to know it?"
"If it calls to you loudly!"
"Then I know it to be vanity."
"But the wish to make a name is not vanity."
"The wish to conceal a name may exist."
Cornelia took one of those little sly glances at his features which print
them on the brain. The melancholy of his words threw a somber hue about
him, and she began to think with mournfulness of those firm thin lips
fronting misfortune: those sunken blue eyes under its shadow.
They walked up to Mr. Pole, who was standing with Wilfrid and Emilia on
the lawn; giving ear to a noise in the distance.
A big drum sounded on the confines of the Brookfield estate. Soon it was
seen entering the precincts at one of the principal gates, followed by
trombone, and horn, and fife. In the rear trooped a regiment of Sunday-
garmented villagers, with a rambling tail of loose-minded boys and girls.
Blue and yellow ribands dangled from broad beaver hats, and there were
rosettes of the true-blue mingled with yellow at buttonholes; and there
was fun on the line of march. Jokes plumped deep into the ribs, and were
answered with intelligent vivacity in the shape of hearty thwacks,
delivered wherever a surface was favourable: a mode of repartee worthy of
general adoption, inasmuch as it can be passed on, and so with certainty
made to strike your neighbour as forcibly as yourself: of which felicity
of propagation verbal wit cannot always boast. In the line of
procession, the hat of a member of the corps shot sheer into the sky from
the compressed energy of his brain; for he and all his comrades
vociferously denied having cast it up, and no other solution was
possible. This mysterious incident may tell you that beer was thus early
in the morning abroad. In fact, it was the procession day of a
provincial Club-feast or celebration of the nuptials of Beef and Beer;
whereof later you shall behold the illustrious offspring.
All the Brookfield household were now upon the lawn, awaiting the attack.
Mr. Pole would have liked to impound the impouring host, drum and all,
for the audacity of the trespass, and then to have fed them liberally, as
a return for the compliment. Aware that he was being treated to the
honours of a great man of the neighbourhood, he determined to take it
"Come; no laughing!" he said, directing a glance at the maids who were
ranged behind their mistresses. "'Hem! we must look pleased: we mustn't
mind their music, if they mean well."
Emilia, whose face was dismally screwed up at the nerve-searching
discord, said: "Why do they try to play anything but a drum?"
"In the country, in the country;" Mr. Pole emphasized. "We put up with
this kind of thing in the country. Different in town; but we--a--say
nothing in the country. We must encourage respect for the gentry, in the
country. One of the penalties of a country life. Not much harm in it.
New duties in the country."
He continued to speak to himself. In proportion as he grew aware of the
unnecessary nervous agitation into which the drum was throwing him, he
assumed an air of repose, and said to Wilfrid: "Read the paper to-day?"
and to Arabella, "Quiet family dinner, I suppose?"
"Yes, sir," he remarked to Mr. Barrett, as if resuming an old
conversation: "I dare say, you've seen better marching in foreign parts.
Right--left; right--left. Ha! ha! And not so bad, not so bad, I call
it! with their right--left; right--left. Ha! ha! You've seen better.
No need to tell me that. But, in England, we look to the meaning of
things. We're a practical people. What's more, we're volunteers.
Volunteers in everything. We can't make a regiment of ploughmen march
like clock-work in a minute; and we don't want to. But, give me the
choice; I'll back a body of volunteers any day."
"I would rather be backed by them, sir," said Mr. Barrett.
"Very good. I mean that. Honest intelligent industry backing rank and
wealth! That makes a nation strong. Look at England!"
Mr. Barrett observed him stand out largely, as if filled by the spirit of
the big drum.
That instrument now gave a final flourish and bang whereat Sound, as if
knocked on the head, died languishingly.
And behold, a spokesman was seen in relief upon a background of grins,
that were oddly intermixed with countenances of extraordinary solemnity.
The same commenced his propitiatory remarks by assuring the proprietor of
Brookfield that he, the spokesman, and every man present, knew they had
taken a liberty in coming upon Squire Pole's grounds without leave or
warning. They knew likewise that Squire Pole excused them.
Chorus of shouts from the divining brethren.
Right glad they were to have such a gentleman as Squire Pole among them:
and if nobody gave him a welcome last year, that was not the fault of the
Yellow-and-Blues. Eh, my boys?
Groans and cheers.
Right sure was spokesman that Squire Pole was the friend of the poor man,
and liked nothing better than to see him enjoy his holiday. As why
shouldn't he enjoy his holiday now and then, and have a bit of relaxation
as well as other men?
Acquiescent token on the part of the new dignitary, Squire Pole.
Spokesman was hereby encouraged to put it boldly, whether a man was not a
man all the world over.
"For a' that!" was sung out by some rare bookworm to rearward: but no
Scot being present, no frenzy followed the quotation.
It was announced that the Club had come to do homage to Squire Pole and
ladies: the Junction Club of Ipley and Hillford. What did Junction mean?
Junction meant Harmony. Harmonious they were, to be sure: so they joined
to good purpose.
Mr. Barrett sought Emilia's eyes smilingly, but she was intent on the
A cry of "Bundle o' sticks, Tom Breeks. Don't let slip 'bout bundle o'
sticks," pulled spokesman up short. He turned hurriedly to say, "All
right," and inflated his chest to do justice to the illustration of the
faggots of Aesop: but Mr. Tom Breeks had either taken in too much air, or
the ale that had hitherto successfully prompted him was antipathetic to
the nice delicacy of an apologue; for now his arm began to work and his
forehead had to be mopped, and he lashed the words "Union and Harmony"
right and left, until, coming on a sentence that sounded in his ears like
the close of his speech, he stared ahead, with a dim idea that he had
missed a point. "Bundle o' sticks," lustily shouted, revived his
apprehension; but the sole effect was to make him look on the ground and
lift his hat on the point of a perplexed finger. He could not conceive
how the bundle of sticks was to be brought in now; or what to say
concerning them. Union and Harmony:--what more could be said? Mr. Tom
Breeks tried a remonstrance with his backers. He declared to them that
he had finished, and had brought in the Bundle. They replied that they
had not heard it; that the Bundle was the foundation--sentiment of the
Club; the first toast, after the Crown; and that he must go on until the
Bundle had been brought in. Hereat, the unhappy man faced Squire Pole
again. It was too abject a position for an Englishman to endure. Tom
Breeks cast his hat to earth. "I'm dashed if I can bring in the bundle!"
There was no telling how conduct like this might have been received by
the Yellow-and-Blues if Mr. Barrett had not spoken. "You mean everything
when you say "Union," and you're quite right not to be tautological. You
can't give such a blow with your fingers as you can with your fists, can
Up went a score of fists. "We've the fists: we've the fists," was
Cornelia, smiling on Mr. Barrett, asked him why he had confused the poor
people with the long word "tautological."
"I threw it as a bone," said he. "I think you will observe that they are
already quieter. They are reflecting on what it signifies, and will by-
and-by quarrel as to the spelling of it. At any rate it occupies them."
Cornelia laughed inwardly, and marked with pain that his own humour gave
him no merriment.
At the subsiding of the echoes that coupled Squire Pole and the Junction
Club together, Squire Pole replied. He wished them well. He was glad to
see them, and sorry he had not ale enough on the premises to regale every
man of them. Clubs were great institutions. One fist was stronger than
a thousand fingers--"as my friend here said just now." Hereat the
eyelids of Cornelia shed another queenly smile on the happy originator of
Squire Pole then descended to business. He named the amount of his
donation. At this practical sign of his support, heaven heard the
gratitude of the good fellows. The drum awoke from its torpor, and
summoned its brethren of the band to give their various versions of the
"Can't they be stopped?" Emilia murmured, clenching her little hands.
The patriotic melody, delivered in sturdy democratic fashion, had to be
endured. It died hard, but did come to an end, piecemeal. Tom Breeks
then retired from the front, and became a unit once more. There were
flourishes that indicated a termination of the proceedings, when another
fellow was propelled in advance, and he, shuffling and ducking his head,
to the cries of "Out wi' it, Jim!" and, "Where's your stomach?" came
still further forward, and showed a most obsequious grin.
"Why, it's Jim!" exclaimed Emilia, on whom Jim's eyes were fastened.
Stepping nearer, she said, "Do you want to speak to me?"
Jim had this to say: which, divested of his petition for pardon on the
strength of his perfect knowledge that he took a liberty, was, that the
young lady had promised, while staying at Wilson's farm, that she would
sing to the Club-fellows on the night of their feast.
"I towl'd 'em they'd have a rare treat, miss," mumbled Jim, "and they're
all right mad for 't, that they be--bain't ye, boys?"
That they were! with not a few of the gesticulations of madness too.
Emilia said: "I promised I would sing to them. I remember it quite well.
Of course I will keep my promise."
A tumult of acclamation welcomed her words, and Jim looked immensely
She was informed by several voices that they were the Yellow-and-Blues,
and not the Blues: that she must not go to the wrong set: and that their
booth was on Ipley Common: and that they, the Junction Club, only would
honour her rightly for the honour she was going to do them: all of which
Emilia said she would bear in mind.
Jim then retired hastily, having done something that stout morning ale
would alone have qualified him to perform. The drum, in the noble belief
that it was leading, announced the return march, and with three cheers
for Squire Pole, and a crowning one for the ladies, away trooped the
Hardly had the last sound of the drum passed out of hearing, when the
elastic thunder of a fresh one claimed attention. The truth being, that
the Junction Club of Ipley and Hillford, whose colours were yellow and
blue, was a seceder from the old-established Hillford Club, on which it
had this day shamefully stolen a march by parading everywhere in the
place of it, and disputing not only its pasture-grounds but its identity.
There is no instrument the sound of which proclaims such a vast internal
satisfaction as the drum. I know not whether it be that the sense we
have of the corpulency of this instrument predisposes us to imagine it
supremely content: as when an alderman is heard snoring the world is
assured that it listens to the voice of its own exceeding gratulation.
A light heart in a fat body ravishes not only the world but the
philosopher. If monotonous, the one note of the drum is very correct.
Like the speaking of great Nature, what it means is implied by the
measure. When the drum beats to the measure of a common human pulsation
it has a conquering power: inspiring us neither to dance nor to trail the
members, but to march as life does, regularly, and in hearty good order,
and with a not exhaustive jollity. It is a sacred instrument.
Now the drum which is heard to play in this cheerful fashion, while at
the same time we know that discomfiture is cruelly harrying it: that its
inmost feelings are wounded, and that worse is in store for it, affects
the contemplative mind with an inexpressibly grotesque commiseration. Do
but listen to this one, which is the joint corporate voice of the men of
Hillford. Outgeneraled, plundered, turned to ridicule, it thumps with
unabated briskness. Here indeed might Sentimentalism shed a fertile
Anticipating that it will eventually be hung up among our national
symbols, I proceed. The drum of Hillford entered the Brookfield grounds
as Ipley had done, and with a similar body of decorated Clubmen; sounding
along until it faced the astonished proprietor, who held up his hand and
requested to know the purpose of the visit. One sentence of explanation
"What!" cried Mr. Pole, "do you think you can milk a cow twice in ten
Several of the Hillford men acknowledged that it would be rather sharp
Their case was stated: whereupon Mr. Pole told them that he had just been
'milked,' and regretted it, but requested them to see that he could not
possibly be equal to any second proceeding of the sort. On their turning
to consult together, he advised them to bear it with fortitude. "All
right, sir!" they said: and a voice from the ranks informed him that
their word was 'Jolly.' Then a signal was given, and these indomitable
fellows cheered the lord of Brookfield as lustily as if they had
accomplished the feat of milking him twice in an hour. Their lively
hurrahs set him blinking in extreme discomposure of spirit, and he was
fumbling at his pocket, when the drum a little precipitately thumped: the
ranks fell into order, and the departure was led by the tune of the 'King
of the Cannibal islands:' a tune that is certain to create a chorus on
the march. On this occasion, the line:--
"Oh! didn't you know you were done, sir?"
became general at the winding up of the tune. Boys with their elders
frisked as they chimed it, casting an emphasis of infinite relish on the
declaration 'done'; as if they delighted in applying it to Mr. Pole,
though at their own expense.
Soon a verse grew up:--
"We march'd and call'd on Mister Pole,
Who hadn't a penny, upon his soul,
For Ipley came and took the whole,
And didn't you know you were done, sir!"
I need not point out to the sagacious that Hillford and not Mr. Pole had
been 'done;' but this was the genius of the men who transferred the
opprobrium to him. Nevertheless, though their manner of welcoming
misfortune was such, I, knowing that there was not a deadlier animal than
a 'done' Briton, have shudders for Ipley.
We relinquished the stream of an epic in turning away from these mighty
Mr. Pole stood questioning all who surrounded him: "What could I do? I
couldn't subscribe to both. They don't expect that of a lord, and I'm a
commoner. If these fellows quarrel and split, are we to suffer for it?
They can't agree, and want us to pay double fines. This is how they
Mr. Barrett, rather at a loss to account for his excitement, said, that
it must be admitted they had borne the trick played upon them, with
remarkable good humour.
"Yes, but," Mr. Pole fumed, "I don't. They put me in the wrong, between
them. They make me uncomfortable. I've a good mind to withdraw my
subscription to those rascals who came first, and have nothing to do with
any of them. Then, you see, down I go for a niggardly fellow. That's
the reputation I get. Nothing of this in London! you make your money,
pay your rates, and nobody bothers a man."
"You should have done as our darling here did, papa," said Adela. "You
should have hinted something that might be construed a promise or not, as
we please to read it."
"If I promise I perform," returned Mr. Pole.
"Our Hillford people have cause for complaint," Mr. Barrett observed.
And to Emilia: "You will hardly favour one party more than another, will
"I am for that poor man Jim," said Emilia, "He carried my harp evening
after evening, and would not even take sixpence for the trouble."
"Are you really going to sing there?"
"Didn't you hear? I promised."
"Do you know what it is you have promised?"
Adela glided to her sisters near at hand, and these ladies presently
hemmed Emilia in. They had a method of treating matters they did not
countenance, as if nature had never conceived them, and such were the
monstrous issue of diseased imaginations. It was hard for Emilia to hear
that what she designed to do was "utterly out of the question and not to
be for one moment thought of." She reiterated, with the same interpreting
stress, that she had given her promise.
"Do you know, I praised you for putting them off so cleverly," said Adela
in tones of gentle reproach that bewildered Emilia.
"Must we remind you, then, that you are bound by a previous promise?"
Cornelia made a counter-demonstration with the word. "Have you not
promised to dine with us at Lady Gosstre's to-night?"
"Oh, of course I shall keep that," replied Emilia. "I intend to. I will
sing there, and then I will go and sing to those poor people, who never
hear anything but dreadful music--not music at all, but something that
seems to tear your flesh!"
"Never mind our flesh," said Adela pettishly: melodiously remonstrating
the next instant: "I really thought you could not be in earnest."
"But," said Arabella, "can you find pleasure in wasting your voice and
really great capabilities on such people?"
Emilia caught her up--"This poor man? But he loves music: he really
knows the good from the bad. He never looks proud but when I sing to
The situation was one that Cornelia particularly enjoyed. Here was a low
form of intellect to be instructed as to the precise meaning of a word,
the nature of a pledge. "There can be no harm that I see, in your
singing to this man," she commenced. "You can bid him come to one of the
out-houses here, if you desire, and sing to him. In the evening, after
his labour, will be the fit time. But, as your friends, we cannot permit
you to demean yourself by going from our house to a public booth, where
vulgar men are smoking and drinking beer. I wonder you have the courage
to contemplate such an act! You have pledged your word. But if you had
pledged your word, child, to swing upon that tree, suspended by your
arms, for an hour, could you keep it? I think not; and to recognize an
impossibility economizes time and is one of the virtues of a clear
understanding. It is incompatible that you should dine with Lady
Gosstre, and then run away to a drinking booth. Society will never
tolerate one who is familiar with boors. If you are to succeed in life,
as we, your friends, can conscientiously say that we most earnestly hope
and trust you will do, you must be on good terms with Society. You must!
You pledge your word to a piece of folly. Emancipate yourself from it as
quickly as possible. Do you see? This is foolish: it, therefore, cannot
be. Decide, as a sensible creature."
At the close of this harangue, Cornelia, who had stooped slightly to
deliver it, regained her stately posture, beautified in Mr. Barrett's
sight by the flush which an unwonted exercise in speech had thrown upon
Emilia stood blinking like one sensible of having been chidden in a
"Does it offend you--my going?" she faltered.
"Offend!--our concern is entirely for you," observed Cornelia.
The explanation drew out a happy sparkle from Emilia's eyes. She seized
her hand, kissed it, and cried: "I do thank you. I know I promised, but
indeed I am quite pleased to go!"
Mr. Barrett swung hurriedly round and walked some paces away with his
head downward. The ladies remained in a tolerant attitude for a minute
or so, silent. They then wheeled with one accord, and Emilia was left to
Richford was an easy drive from Brookfield, through lanes of elm and
The ladies never acted so well as when they were in the presence of a
fact which they acknowledged, but did not recognize. Albeit constrained
to admit that this was the first occasion of their ever being on their
way to the dinner-table of a person of quality, they could refuse to look
the admission in the face. A peculiar lightness of heart beset them; for
brooding ambition is richer in that first realizing step it takes,
insignificant though it seem, than in any subsequent achievement. I fear
to say that the hearts of the ladies boiled, because visages so sedate,
and voices so monotonously indifferent, would witness decidedly against
me. The common avoidance of any allusion to Richford testified to the
direction of their thoughts; and the absence of a sign of exultation may
be accepted as a proof of the magnitude of that happiness of which they
might not exhibit a feature. The effort to repress it must have cost
them horrible pain. Adela, the youngest of the three, transferred her
inward joy to the cottage children, whose staring faces from garden porch
and gate flashed by the carriage windows. "How delighted they look!" she
exclaimed more than once, and informed her sisters that a country life
was surely the next thing to Paradise. "Those children do look so
happy!" Thus did the weak one cunningly relieve herself. Arabella
occupied her mind by giving Emilia leading hints for conduct in the great
house. "On the whole, though there is no harm in your praising
particular dishes, as you do at home, it is better in society to say
nothing on those subjects until your opinion is asked: and when you
speak, it should be as one who passes the subject by. Appreciate
flavours, but no dwelling on them! The degrees of an expression of
approbation, naturally enough, vary with age. Did my instinct prompt me
to the discussion of these themes, I should be allowed greater licence
than you." And here Arabella was unable to resist a little bit of the
indulgence Adela had taken: "You are sure to pass a most agreeable
evening, and one that you will remember."
North Pole sat high above such petty consolation; seldom speaking, save
just to show that her ideas ranged at liberty, and could be spontaneously
sympathetic on selected topics.
Their ceremonious entrance to the state-room of Richford accomplished,
the ladies received the greeting of the affable hostess; quietly
perturbed, but not enough so to disorder their artistic contemplation of
her open actions, choice of phrase, and by-play. Without communication
or pre-arrangement, each knew that the other would not let slip the
opportunity, and, after the first five minutes of languid general
converse; they were mentally at work comparing notes with one another's
imaginary conversations, while they said "Yes," and "Indeed," and "I
think so," and appeared to belong to the world about them.
"Merthyr, I do you the honour to hand this young lady to your charge,"
said Lady Gosstre, putting on equal terms with Emilia a gentleman of
perhaps five-and-thirty years; who reminded her of Mr. Barrett, but was
unclouded by that look of firm sadness which characterized the poor
organist. Mr. Powys was a travelled Welsh squire, Lady Gosstre's best
talker, on whom, as Brookfield learnt to see, she could perfectly rely to
preserve the child from any little drawing-room sins or dinner-table
misadventures. This gentleman had made sacrifices for the cause of
Italy, in money, and, it was said, in blood. He knew the country and
loved the people. Brookfield remarked that there was just a foreign
tinge in his manner; and that his smile, though social to a degree
unknown to the run of English faces, did not give him all to you, and at
a second glance seemed plainly to say that he reserved much.
Adela fell to the lot of a hussar-captain: a celebrated beauty, not too
foolish. She thought it proper to punish him for his good looks till
propitiated by his good temper.
Nobody at Brookfield could remember afterwards who took Arabella down to
dinner; she declaring that she had forgotten. Her sisters, not unwilling
to see insignificance banished to annihilation, said that it must have
been nobody in person, and that he was a very useful guest when ladies
were engaged. Cornelia had a different lot. She leaned on the right arm
of the Member for Hillford, the statistical debate, Sir Twickenham Pryme,
who had twice before, as he ventured to remind her, enjoyed the honour of
conversing, if not of dining, with her. Nay, more, he revived their
topics. "And I have come round to your way of thinking as regards
hustings addresses," he said. "In nine cases out of ten--at least,
nineteen-twentieths of the House will furnish instances--one can only, as
you justly observed, appeal to the comprehension of the mob by pledging
oneself either to their appetites or passions, and it is better plainly
to state the case and put it to them in figures." Whether the Baronet
knew what he was saying is one matter: he knew what he meant.
Wilfrid was cavalier to Lady Charlotte Chillingworth, of Stornley, about
ten miles distant from Hillford; ninth daughter of a nobleman who passed
current as the Poor Marquis; he having been ruined when almost a boy in
Paris, by the late illustrious Lord Dartford. Her sisters had married
captains in the army and navy, lawyers, and parsons, impartially. Lady
Charlotte was nine-and-twenty years of age; with clear and telling stone-
blue eyes, firm but not unsweet lips, slightly hollowed cheeks, and a jaw
that certainly tended to be square. Her colour was healthy. Walking or
standing her figure was firmly poised. Her chief attraction was a bell-
toned laugh, fresh as a meadow spring. She had met Wilfrid once in the
hunting-field, so they soon had common ground to run on.
Mr. Powys made Emilia happy by talking to her of Italy, in the intervals
of table anecdotes.
"Why did you leave it?" she said.
"I found I had more shadows than the one allotted me by nature; and as I
was accustomed to a black one, and not half a dozen white, I was fairly
frightened out of the country."
"You mean, Austrians."
"Do you hate them?"
"Not at all."
"Then, how can you love the Italians?"
"They themselves have taught me to do both; to love them and not to hate
their enemies. Your Italians are the least vindictive of all races of
"Merthyr, Merthyr!" went Lady Gosstre; Lady Charlotte murmuring aloud:
"And in the third chapter of the Book of Paradox you will find these
"We afford a practical example and forgive them, do we not?" Mr. Powys
smiled at Emilia.
She looked round her, and reddened a little.
"So long as you do not write that Christian word with the point of a
stiletto!" said Lady Charlotte.
"You are not mad about the Italians?" Wilfrid addressed her.
"Not mad about anything, I hope. If I am to choose, I prefer the
Austrians. A very gentlemanly set of men! At least, so I find them
always. Capital horsemen!"
"I will explain to you how it must be," said Mr. Powys to Emilia. "An
artistic people cannot hate long. Hotly for the time, but the oppression
gone, and even in the dream of its going, they are too human to be
"Do we understand such very deep things?" said Lady Gosstre, who was near
enough to hear clearly.
"Yes: for if I ask her whether she can hate when her mind is given to
music, she knows that she cannot. She can love."
"Yet I think I have heard some Italian operatic spitfires, and of some!"
said Lady Charlotte.
"What opinion do you pronounce in this controversy?" Cornelia made appeal
to Sir Twickenham.
"There are multitudes of cases," he began: and took up another end of his
statement: "It has been computed that five-and-twenty murders per month
to a population...to a population of ninety thousand souls, is a fair
reckoning in a Southern latitude."
"Then we must allow for the latitude?"
"I think so."
"And also for the space into which the ninety thousand souls are packed,"
quoth Tracy Runningbrook.
"Well! well!" went Sir Twickenham.
"The knife is the law to an Italian of the South," said Mr. Powys. "He
distrusts any other, because he never gets it. Where law is established,
or tolerably secure, the knife is not used. Duels are rare. There is
too much bonhomie for the point of honour."
"I should like to believe that all men are as just to their mistresses,"
Lady Charlotte sighed, mock-earnestly.
Presently Emilia touched the arm of Mr. Powys. She looked agitated. "I
want to be told the name of that gentleman." His eyes were led to rest on
the handsome hussar-captain.
"Do you know him?"
"But his name!"
"Do me the favour to look at me. Captain Gambier."
Captain Gambier's face was resolutely kept in profile to her.
"I hear a rumour," said Lady Gosstre to Arabella, "that you think of
bidding for the Besworth estate. Are you tired of Brookfield?"
"Not tired; but Brookfield is modern, and I confess that Besworth has won
"I shall congratulate myself on having you nearer neighbours. Have you
many, or any rivals?"
"There is some talk of the Tinleys wishing to purchase it. I cannot see
"What people are they?" asked Lady Charlotte. "Do they hunt?"
"Oh, dear, no! They are to society what Dissenters are to religion. I
can't describe them otherwise."
"They pass before me in that description," said Lady Gosstre.
"Besworth's an excellent centre for hunting," Lady Charlotte remarked to
Wilfrid. "I've always had an affection for that place. The house is on
gravel; the river has trout; there's a splendid sweep of grass for the
horses to exercise. I think there must be sixteen spare beds. At all
events, I know that number can be made up; so that if you're too poor to
live much in London, you can always have your set about you."
The eyes of the fair economist sparkled as she dwelt on these particular
advantages of Besworth.
Richford boasted a show of flowers that might tempt its guests to parade
the grounds on balmy evenings. Wilfrid kept by the side of Lady
Charlotte. She did not win his taste a bit. Had she been younger, less
decided in tone, and without a title, it is very possible that she would
have offended his native, secret, and dominating fastidiousness as much
as did Emilia. Then, what made him subject at all to her influence, as
he felt himself beginning to be? She supplied a deficiency in the youth.
He was growing and uncertain: she was set and decisive. In his soul he
adored the extreme refinement of woman; even up to the thin edge of
inanity (which neighbours what the philosopher could tell him if he
would, and would, if it were permitted to him). Nothing was too white,
too saintly, or too misty, for his conception of abstract woman. But the
practical wants of our nature guide us best. Conversation with Lady
Charlotte seemed to strengthen and ripen him. He blushed with pleasure
when she said: "I remember reading your name in the account of that last
cavalry charge on the Dewan. You slew a chief, I think. That was
creditable, for they are swordmen. Cavalry in Europe can't win much
honour--not individual honour, I mean. I suppose being part of a
victorious machine is exhilarating. I confess I should not think much of
wearing that sort of feather. It's right to do one's duty, comforting to
trample down opposition, and agreeable to shed blood, but when you have
matched yourself man to man, and beaten--why, then, I dub you knight."
Wilfrid bowed, half-laughing, in a luxurious abandonment to his
sensations. Possibly because of their rule over him then, the change in
him was so instant from flattered delight to vexed perplexity. Rounding
one of the rhododendron banks, just as he lifted his head from that
acknowledgment of the lady's commendation, he had sight of Emilia with
her hand in the hand of Captain Gambier. What could it mean? what right
had he to hold her hand? Even if he knew her, what right?
The words between Emilia and Captain Gambier were few.
"Why did I not look at you during dinner?" said he. "Was it not better
to wait till we could meet?"
"Then you will walk with me and talk to me all the evening?"
"No: but I will try and come down here next week and meet you again."
"Are you going to-night?"
"To-night? To-night before it strikes a quarter to ten, I am going to
leave here alone. If you would come with me! I want a companion. I
know they will not hurt me, but I don't like being alone. I have given
my promise to sing to some poor people. My friends say I must not go. I
must go. I can't break a promise to poor people. And you have never
heard me really sing my best. Come with me, and I will."
Captain Gambier required certain explanations. He saw that a companion
and protection would be needed by his curious little friend, and as she
was resolved not to break her word, he engaged to take her in the
carriage that was to drive him to the station.
"You make me give up an appointment in town," he said.
"Ah, but you will hear me sing," returned Emilia. "We will drive to
Brookfield and get my harp, and then to Ipley Common. I am to be sure
you will be ready with the carriage at just a quarter to ten?"
The Captain gave her his assurance, and they separated; he to seek out
Adela, she to wander about, the calmest of conspirators against the
serenity of a household.
Meeting Wilfrid and Lady Charlotte, Emilia was asked by him, who it was
she had quitted so abruptly.
"That is the gentleman I told you of. Now I know his name. It is
She was allowed to pass on.
"What is this she says?" Lady Charlotte asked.
"It appears...something about a meeting somewhere accidentally, in the
park, in London, I think; I really don't know. She had forgotten his
Lady Charlotte spurred him with an interrogative "Yes?"
"She wanted to remember his name. That's all. He was kind to her."
"But, after all," remonstrated Lady Charlotte, "that's only a
characteristic of young men, is it not? no special distinction. You are
all kind to girls, to women, to anything!"
Captain Gambier and Adela crossed their path. He spoke a passing word,
Lady Charlotte returned no answer, and was silent to her companion for
some minutes. Then she said, "If you feel any responsibility about this
little person, take my advice, and don't let her have appointments and
meetings. They're bad in any case, and for a girl who has no brother--
has she? no:--well then, you should make the best provision you can
against the cowardice of men. Most men are cowards."
Emilia sang in the drawing-room. Brookfield knew perfectly why she
looked indifferent to the plaudits, and was not dissatisfied at hearing
Lady Gosstre say that she was a little below the mark. The kindly lady
brought Emilia between herself and Mr. Powys, saying, "I don't intend to
let you be the star of the evening and outshine us all." After which,
conversation commenced, and Brookfield had reason to admire her
ladyship's practised play upon the social instrument, surely the grandest
of all, the chords being men and women. Consider what an accomplishment
Albeit Brookfield knew itself a student at Richford, Adela was of too
impatient a wit to refrain from little ventures toward independence, if
not rivalry. "What we do," she uttered distinctively once or twice.
Among other things she spoke of "our discovery," to attest her
declaration that, to wakeful eyes, neither Hillford nor any other place
on earth was dull. Cornelia flushed at hearing the name of Mr. Barrett
pronounced publicly by her sister.
"An organist an accomplished man!" Lady Gosstre repeated Adela's words.
"Well, I suppose it is possible, but it rather upsets one's notions, does
"Yes, but agreeably," said Adela, with boldness; and related how he had
been introduced, and hinted that he was going to be patronized.
"The man cannot maintain himself on the income that sort of office brings
him," Lady Gosstre observed.
"Oh, no," said Adela. "I fancy he does it simply for some sort of
occupation. One cannot help imagining a disguise."
"Personally I confess to an objection to gentlemen in disguise," said
Lady Gosstre. "Barrett!--do you know the man?"
She addressed Mr. Powys.
"There used to be good quartett evenings given by the Barretts of
Bursey," he said. "Sir Justinian Barrett married a Miss Purcell, who
subsequently preferred the musical accomplishments of a foreign professor
of the Art."
"Purcell Barrett is his name," said Adela. "Our Emilia brought him to
us. Where is she? But, where can she be?"
"She pressed my hand just now," said Lady Gosstre.
"She was here when Captain Gambler quitted the room," Arabella remarked.
The exclamation came from Adela.
"Oh, Lady Gosstre! I fear to tell you what I think she has done."
The scene of the rival Clubs was hurriedly related, together with the
preposterous pledge given by Emilia, that she would sing at the Ipley
Booth: "Among those dreadful men!"
"They will treat her respectfully," said Mr. Powys.
"Worship her, I should imagine, Merthyr," said Lady Gosstre. "For all
that, she had better be away. Beer is not a respectful spirit."
"I trust you will pardon her," Arabella pleaded. "Everything that
explanations of the impropriety of such a thing could do, we have done.
We thought that at last we had convinced her. She is quite untamed."
Mr. Powys now asked where this place was that she had hurried to.
The unhappy ladies of Brookfield, quick as they were to read every sign
surrounding them, were for the moment too completely thrown off their
balance by Emilia's extraordinary exhibition of will, to see that no
reflex of her shameful and hideous proceeding had really fallen upon
them. Their exclamations were increasing, until Adela, who had been the
noisiest, suddenly adopted Lady Gosstre's tone. "If she has gone, I
suppose she must be simply fetched away."
"Do you see what has happened?" Lady Charlotte murmured to Wilfrid,
between a phrase.
He stumbled over a little piece of gallantry.
"Excellent! But, say those things in French.--Your dark-eyed maid has
eloped. She left the room five minutes after Captain Gambier."
Wilfrid sprang to his feet, looking eagerly to the corners of the room.
"Pardon me," he said, and moved up to Lady Gosstre. On the way he
questioned himself why his heart should be beating at such a pace.
Standing at her ladyship's feet, he could scarcely speak.
"Yes, Wilfrid; go after her," said Adela, divining his object.
"By all means go," added Lady Gosstre. "Now she is there, you may as
well let her keep her promise; and then hurry her home. They will saddle
you a horse down below, if you care to have one."
Wilfrid thanked her ladyship, and declined the horse. He was soon
walking rapidly under a rough sky in the direction of Ipley, with no firm
thought that he would find Emilia there.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Being heard at night, in the nineteenth century
Pleasure sat like an inextinguishable light on her face
Beyond a plot of flowers, a gold-green meadow dipped to a ridge
His alien ideas were not unimpressed by the picture
Hushing together, they agreed that it had been a false move
I had to make my father and mother live on potatoes
I had to cross the park to give a lesson
She was perhaps a little the taller of the two
The circle which the ladies of Brookfield were designing
The gallant cornet adored delicacy and a gilded refinement
The philosopher (I would keep him back if I could)
They had all noticed, seen, and observed
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XI. IN WHICH WE SEE THE MAGNANIMITY THAT IS IN BEER.
XII. SHOWING HOW SENTIMENT AND PASSION TAKE
THE DISEASE OF LOVE
XIII. CONTAINS A SHORT DISCOURSE ON PUPPETS
XIV. THE BESWORTH QUESTION
XV. WILFRID'S EXHIBITION OF TREACHERY
XVI. HOW THE LADIES OF BROOKFIELD CAME TO THEIR RESOLVE
XVII. IN THE WOODS
At half-past nine of the clock on the evening of this memorable day, a
body of five-and-twenty stout young fellows, prize-winners, wrestlers,
boxers, and topers, of the Hillford Club, set forth on a march to Ipley
Now, a foreigner, hearing of their destination and the provocation they
had endured, would have supposed that they were bent upon deeds of
vengeance; and it requires knowledge of our countrymen to take it as a
fact that the idea and aim of the expedition were simply to furnish the
offending Ipley boys a little music. Such were the idea and the aim.
Hillford had nothing to do with consequences: no more than our England is
responsible when she sails out among the empires and hemispheres, saying,
'buy' and 'sell,' and they clamour to be eaten up entire. Foreigners
pertinaciously misunderstand us. They have the barbarous habit of
judging by results. Let us know ourselves better. It is melancholy to
contemplate the intrigues, and vile designs, and vengeances of other
nations; and still more so, after we have written so many pages of
intelligible history, to see them attributed to us. Will it never be
perceived that we do not sow the thing that happens? The source of the
flooding stream which drinks up those rich acres of low flat land is not
more innocent than we. If, as does seem possible, we are in a sort of
alliance with Destiny, we have signed no compact, and accomplish our work
as solidly and merrily as a wood-hatchet in the hands of the woodman.
This arrangement to give Ipley a little music, was projected as a return
for the favours of the morning: nor have I in my time heard anything
comparable to it in charity of sentiment, when I consider the detestable
outrage Hillford suffered under.
The parading of the drum, the trombone, a horn, two whistles, and a fife,
in front of Hillford booth, caught the fancy of the Clubmen, who roared
out parting adjurations that the music was not to be spared; and that Tom
Breeks was a musical fellow, with a fine empty pate, if any one of the
instruments should fail perchance. They were to give Ipley plenty of
music: for Ipley wanted to be taught harmony. Harmony was Ipley's weak
point. "Gie 'em," said one jolly ruddy Hillford man, "gie 'em whack fol,
lol!" And he smacked himself, and set toward an invisible partner. Nor,
as recent renowned historians have proved, are observations of this
nature beneath the dignity of chronicle. They vindicate, as they
localize, the sincerity of Hillford.
Really, to be an islander full of ale, is to be the kindest creature on
or off two legs. For that very reason, it may be, his wrath at bad blood
is so easily aroused. In our hot moods we would desire things like unto
ourselves, and object violently to whatsoever is unlike. And also we
desire that the benefits we shed be appreciated. If Ipley understands
neither our music nor our intent, haply we must hold a performance on the
impenetrable sconce of Ipley.
At the hour named, the expedition, with many a promise that the music
should be sweet, departed hilariously: Will Burdock, the left-handed
cricketer and hard-hitter, being leader; with Peter Bartholomew, potboy,
John Girling, miller's man, and Ned Thewk, gardener's assistant, for
lieutenants. On the march, silence was proclaimed, and partially
enforced, after two fights against authority. Near the sign of King
William's Head, General Burdock called a halt, and betrayed irresolution
with reference to the route to be adopted; but as none of his troop could
at all share such a condition of mind in the neighbourhood of an inn, he
was permitted to debate peacefully with his lieutenants, while the rest
burst through the doors and hailed the landlord: a proceeding he was
quickly induced to imitate. Thus, when the tail shows strongest decision
of purpose, the head must follow.
An accurate oinometer, or method of determining what shall be the
condition of the spirit of man according to the degrees of wine or beer
in him, were surely of priceless service to us. For now must we, to be
certain of our sanity and dignity, abstain, which is to clip, impoverish,
imprison the soul: or else, taking wings of wine, we go aloft over capes,
and islands, and seas, but are even as balloons that cannot make for any
line, and are at the mercy of the winds--without a choice, save to come
down by virtue of a collapse. Could we say to ourselves, in the great
style, This is the point where desire to embrace humanity is merged in
vindictiveness toward individuals: where radiant sweet temper culminates
in tremendous wrath: where the treasures of anticipation, waxing riotous,
arouse the memory of wrongs: in plain words, could we know positively,
and from the hand of science, when we have had enough, we should stop.
There is not a doubt that we should stop. It is so true we should stop,
that, I am ready to say, ladies have no right to call us horrid names,
and complain of us, till they have helped us to some such trustworthy
scientific instrument as this which I have called for. In its absence, I
am persuaded that the true natural oinometer is the hat. Were the hat
always worn during potation; were ladies when they retire to place it on
our heads, or, better still, chaplets of flowers; then, like the wise
ancients, we should be able to tell to a nicety how far we had advanced
in our dithyramb to the theme of fuddle and muddle. Unhappily the hat
does not forewarn: it is simply indicative. I believe, nevertheless,
that science might set to work upon it forthwith, and found a system.
When you mark men drinking who wear their hats, and those hats are seen
gradually beginning to hang on the backs of their heads, as from pegs, in
the fashion of a fez, the bald projection of forehead looks jolly and
frank: distrust that sign: the may-fly of the soul is then about to be
gobbled up by the chub of the passions. A hat worn fez-fashion is a
dangerous hat. A hat on the brows shows a man who can take more, but
thinks he will go home instead, and does so, peaceably. That is his
determination. He may look like Macduff, but he is a lamb. The vinous
reverses the non-vinous passionate expression of the hat. If I am
discredited, I appeal to history, which tells us that the hats of the
Hillford five-and-twenty were all exceedingly hind-ward-set when the
march was resumed. It followed that Peter Bartholomew, potboy, made
irritable objections to that old joke which finished his name as though
it were a cat calling, and the offence being repeated, he dealt an
impartial swing of his stick at divers heads, and told them to take that,
which they assured him they had done by sending him flying into a hedge.
Peter, being reprimanded by his commanding officer, acknowledged a hot
desire to try his mettle, and the latter responsible person had to be
restrained from granting the wish he cherished by John Girling, whom he
threw for his trouble and as Burdock was the soundest hitter, numbers
cried out against Girling, revolting him with a sense of overwhelming
injustice that could be appeased only by his prostrating two stout lads
and squaring against a third, who came up from a cross-road. This one
knocked him down with the gentleness of a fist that knows how Beer should
be treated, and then sang out, in the voice of Wilfrid Pole: "Which is
the nearest way to Ipley, you fellows?"
"Come along with us, sir, and we'll show you," said Burdock.
"Are you going there?"
"Well, that's pretty clear."
"Hillford men, are you?"
"We've left the women behind."
"I'm in a hurry, so, good night."
"And so are we in a hurry, sir. But, you're a gentleman, and we want to
give them chaps at Ipley a little surprise, d'ye see, in the way of a
dollop o' music: and if you won't go givin' 'em warning, you may trot;
and that road'll take you."
"All right," said Wilfrid, now fairly divided between his jealousy of
Gambier and anxiety for Emilia.
Could her artist nature, of which he had heard perplexing talk, excuse
her and make her heart absolutely guiltless (what he called 'innocent'),
in trusting herself to any man's honour? I regret to say that the dainty
adorers of the sex are even thus grossly suspicious of all women when
their sentiment is ever so triflingly offended.
Lights on Ipley Common were seen from a rise of the hilly road. The moon
was climbing through drifts of torn black cloud. Hastening his pace, for
a double reason now, Wilfrid had the booth within hearing, listened a
moment; and then stood fast. His unconscious gasp of the words: "Thank
God; there she is!" might have betrayed him to another.
She was sitting near one end of the booth, singing as Wilfrid had never
yet heard her sing: her dark eyes flashing. Behind her stood Captain
Gambier, keeping guard with all the composure of a gentleman-usher at a
royal presentation. Along the tables, men and women were ranged facing
her; open-mouthed, some of them but for the most part wearing a
predetermined expression of applausive judgement, as who should say,
"Queer, but good." They gave Emilia their faces, which was all she
wanted! and silence, save for an intermingling soft snore, here and
there, the elfin trumpet of silence. To tell truth, certain heads had
bowed low to the majesty of beer, and were down on the table between
sprawling doubled arms. No essay on the power of beer could exhibit it
more convincingly than, the happy indifference with which they received
admonishing blows from quart-pots, salutes from hot pipe-bowls, pricks
from pipe-ends, on nose, and cheek, and pate; as if to vindicate for
their beloved beverage a right to rank with that old classic drink
wherewith the fairest of women vanquished human ills. The majority,
however, had been snatched out of this bliss by the intrusion of their
wives, who sat beside them like Consciences in petticoats; and it must be
said that Emilia was in favour with the married men, for one reason,
because she gave these broad-ribboned ladies a good excuse for allowing
their lords to stop where they were so comfortable, a continually-
extending five minutes longer.
Yet, though the words were foreign and the style of the song and the
singer were strange, many of the older fellows' eyes twinkled, and their
mouths pursed with a kind of half-protesting pleasure. All were reverent
to the compliment paid them by Emilia's presence. The general expression
was much like that seen when the popular ear is given to the national
anthem. Wilfrid hung at the opening of the booth, a cynical spectator.
For what on earth made her throw such energy, and glory of music, into a
song before fellows like these? He laughed dolorously. "she hasn't a
particle of any sense of ridicule," he said to himself. Forthwith her
voice took hold of him, and led him as heroes of old were led unwillingly
into enchanted woods. If she had been singing things holy, a hymn, a
hallelujah, in this company, it struck him that somehow it would have
seemed appropriate; not objectionable; at any rate, not ridiculous. Dr.
Watts would have put a girdle about her; but a song of romance sung in
this atmosphere of pipes and beer and boozy heads, chagrined Wilfrid in
proportion as the softer half of him began to succumb to the
deliciousness of her voice.
Emilia may have had some warning sense that admiration is only one
ingredient of homage, that to make it fast and true affection must be
won. Now, poor people, yokels, clods, cannot love what is
incomprehensible to them. An idol must have their attributes: a king
must show his face now and then: a song must appeal to their
intelligence, to subdue them quite. This, as we know, is not the case in
the higher circles. Emilia may have divined it: possibly from the very
great respect with which her finale was greeted. Vigorous as the
"Brayvos" were, they sounded abashed: they lacked abandonment. In fact,
it was gratitude that applauded, and not enthusiasm. "Hillford don't
hear stuff like that, do 'em?" which was the main verbal encomium passed,
may be taken testificatorily as to this point.
"Dame! dame!" cried Emilia, finding her way quickly to one of the more
decently-bonneted women; "am I not glad to see you here! Did I please
you? And you, dear Farmer Wilson? I caught sight of you just as I was
finishing. I remember the song you like, and I want to sing it. I know
the tune, but the words! the words! what are the words? Humming won't
"Ah, now!" quoth Farmer Wilson, pointing out the end of his pipe, "that's
what they'll swallow down; that's the song to make 'em kick. Sing that,
miss. Furrin songs 's all right enough; but 'Ale it is my tipple, and
England is my nation!' Let's have something plain and flat on the
Dame Wilson jogged her husband's arm, to make him remember that talking
was his dangerous pastime, and sent abroad a petition for a song-book;
and after a space a very doggy-eared book, resembling a poodle of that
genus, was handed to her. Then uprose a shout for this song and that;
but Emilia fixed upon the one she had in view, and walked back to her
harp, with her head bent, perusing it attentively all the way. There,
she gave the book to Captain Gambier, and begged him to hold it open
before her, with a passing light of eyes likely to be rather disturbing
to a jealous spectator. The Captain seized the book without wincing, and
displayed a remarkable equanimity of countenance as he held it out,
according to direction. No sooner had Emilia struck a prelude of the
well-known air, than the interior of the booth was transfigured; legs
began to move, elbows jerked upward, fingers fillipped: the whole body of
them were ready to duck and bow, dance, and do her bidding she had fairly
caught their hearts. For, besides the pleasure they had in their own
familiar tune, it was wonderful to them that Emilia should know what they
knew. This was the marvel, this the inspiration. She smiled to see how
true she had struck, and seemed to swim on the pleasure she excited.
Once, as her voice dropped, she looked up at Captain Gambier, so very
archly, with the curving line of her bare throat, that Wilfrid was
dragged down from his cynical observatory, and made to feel as a common
man among them all.
At the "thrum-thrum" on the harp-strings, which wound up the song,
frenzied shouts were raised for a repetition. Emilia was perfectly
willing to gratify them; Captain Gambier appeared to be remonstrating
with her, but she put up her joined hands,
mock-petitioningly, and he with great affability held out the book anew.
Wilfrid was thinking of moving to her to take her forcibly away when she
At the same instant--but who, knowing that a house of glass is about to
be shattered, can refrain from admiring its glitter in the beams?--Ipley
crooned a ready accompaniment: the sleepers had been awakened: the women
and the men were alive, half-dancing, half-chorusing here a baby was
tossed, and there an old fellow's elbow worked mutely, expressive of the
rollicking gaiety within him: the whole length of the booth was in a
pleasing simmer, ready to overboil with shouts humane and cheerful, while
Emilia pitched her note and led; archly, and quite one with them all, and
yet in a way that critical Wilfrid could not object to, so plainly did
she sing to give happiness.
I cannot delay; but I request you, that are here privileged to soar aloft
with the Muse, to fix your minds upon one point in this flight. Let not
the heat and dust of the ensuing fray divert your attention from the
magnanimity of Beer. It will be vindicated in the end but be worthy of
your seat beside the Muse, who alone of us all can take one view of the
inevitable two that perplex mortal judgements.
For, if Ipley had jumped jovially up, and met the Hillford alarum with
laughter,--how then? Why, then I maintain that the magnanimity of Beer
would have blazed effulgent on the spot: there would have been louder
laughter and fraternal greetings. As it was, the fire on the altar of
Wisdom was again kindled by Folly, and the steps to the altar were broken
heads, after the antique fashion.
In dismay, Ipley started. The members of the Club stared. Emilia
faltered in horror.
A moment her voice swam stemming the execrable concert, but it was
overwhelmed. Wilfrid pressed forward to her. They could hear nothing
but the din. The booth raged like an insurgent menagerie. Outside it
sounded of brazen beasts, and beasts that whistled, beasts that boomed.
A whirlwind huddled them, and at last a cry, "We've got a visit from
Hillford," told a tale. At once the stoutest hearts pressed to the
opening. "My harp!" Emilia made her voice reach Wilfrid's ear.
Unprovided with weapons, Ipley parleyed. Hillford howled in reply. The
trombone brayed an interminable note, that would have driven to madness
quiescent cats by steaming kettles, and quick, like the springing pulse
of battle, the drum thumped and thumped. Blood could not hear it and
keep from boiling. The booth shook violently. Wilfrid and Gambier threw
over half-a-dozen chairs, forms, and tables, to make a barrier for the
protection of the women.
"Come," Wilfrid said to Emilia, "leave the harp, I will get you another.
"No, no," she cried in her nervous fright.
"For God's sake, come!" he reiterated, she, stamping her foot, as to
emphasize "No! no! no!"
"But I will buy you another harp;" he made audible to her through the
"This one!" she gasped with her hand on it. "What will he think if he
finds that I forsook it?"
Wilfrid knew her to allude to the unknown person who had given it to her.
"There--there," said he. "I sent it, and I can get you another. So,
come. Be good, and come."
"It was you!"
Emilia looked at him. She seemed to have no senses for the uproar about
But now the outer barricade was broken through, and the rout pressed on
the second line. Tom Breeks, the orator, and Jim, transformed from a
lurching yokel to a lithe dog of battle, kept the retreat of Ipley,
challenging any two of Hillford to settle the dispute. Captain Gambier
attempted an authoritative parley, in the midst of which a Hillford man
made a long arm and struck Emilia's harp, till the strings jarred loose
and horrid. The noise would have been enough to irritate Wilfrid beyond
endurance. When he saw the fellow continuing to strike the harp-frame
while Emilia clutched it, in a feeble defence, against her bosom, he
caught a thick stick from a neighbouring hand and knocked that Hillford
man so clean to earth that Hillford murmured at the blow. Wilfrid then
joined the front array.
"Half-a-dozen hits like that a-piece, sir," nodded Tom Breeks.
"There goes another!" Jim shouted.
"Not quite, my lad," interposed Ned Thewk, though Peter Bartholomew was
reeling in confirmation.
His blow at Jim missed, but came sharply in the swing on Wilfrid's cheek-
Maddened at the immediate vision of that feature swollen, purple, even as
a plum with an assiduous fly on it, certifying to ripeness:--Says the
philosopher, "We are never up to the mark of any position, if we are in a
position beneath our own mark;" and it is true that no hero in conflict
should think of his face, but Wilfrid was all the while protesting
wrathfully against the folly of his having set foot in such a place:--
Maddened, I say, Wilfrid, a keen swordman, cleared a space. John Girling
fell to him: Ned Thewk fell to him, and the sconce of Will Burdock rang.
"A rascally absurd business!" said Gambier, letting his stick do the part
of a damnatory verb on one of the enemy, while he added, "The drunken
All the Hillford party were now in the booth. Ipley, meantime, was not
sleeping. Farmer Wilson and a set of the Ipley men whom age had
sagaciously instructed to prefer stratagem to force, had slipped outside,
and were labouring as busily as their comrades within: stooping to the
tent-pegs, sending emissaries to the tent-poles.
"Drunk!" roared Will Burdock. "Did you happen to say 'drunk?'" And
looking all the while at Gambier, he, with infernal cunning, swung at
Wilfrid's fated cheekbone. The latter rushed furiously into the press of
them, and there was a charge from Ipley, and a lock, from which Wilfrid
extricated himself to hurry off Emilia. He perceived that bad blood was
"Forward!" cried Will Burdock, and Hillford in turn made a tide.
As they came on in numbers too great for Ipley to stand against, an
obscuration fell over all. The fight paused. Then a sensation as of
some fellows smoothing their polls and their cheeks, and leaning on their
shoulders with obtrusive affection, inspirited them to lash about
indiscriminately. Whoops and yells arose; then peals of laughter.
Homage to the cleverness of Ipley was paid in hurrahs, the moment
Hillford understood the stratagem by which its men of valour were lamed
and imprisoned. The truth was, that the booth was down on them, and they
were struggling entangled in an enormous bag of canvas.
Wilfrid drew Emilia from under the drooping folds of the tent. He was
allowed, on inspection of features, to pass. The men of Hillford were
captured one by one like wild geese, as with difficulty they emerged,
roaring, rolling with laughter, all.
Yea; to such an extent did they laugh that they can scarce be said to
have done less than make the joke of the foe their own. And this proves
the great and amazing magnanimity of Beer.
A pillar of dim silver rain fronted the moon on the hills. Emilia walked
hurriedly, with her head bent, like a penitent: now and then peeping up
and breathing to the keen scent of the tender ferns. Wilfrid still
grasped her hand, and led her across the common, away from the rout.
When the uproar behind them had sunk, he said "You'll get your feet wet.
I'm sorry you should have to walk. How did you come here?"
She answered: "I forget."
"You must have come here in some conveyance. Did you walk?"
Again she answered: "I forget;" a little querulously; perhaps wilfully.
"Well!" he persisted: "You must have got your harp to this place by some
means or other?"
"Yes, my harp!" a sob checked her voice.
Wilfrid tried to soothe her. "Never mind the harp. It's easily
"Not that one!" she moaned.
"We will get you another."
"I shall never love any but that."
"Perhaps we may hear good news of it to-morrow."
"No; for I felt it die in my hands. The third blow was the one that
killed it. It's broken."
Wilfrid could not reproach her, and he had not any desire to preach. So,
as no idea of having done amiss in coming to the booth to sing illumined
her, and she yet knew that she was in some way guilty, she accused
herself of disregard for that dear harp while it was brilliant and
serviceable. "Now I remember what poor music I made of it! I touched it
with cold fingers. The sound was thin, as if it had no heart. Tick-
tick!--I fancy I touched it with a dead man's finger-nails."
She crossed her wrists tight at the clasp of her waist, and letting her
chin fall on her throat, shook her body fretfully, much as a pettish
little girl might do. Wilfrid grimaced. "Tick-tick" was not a pathetic
elegy in his ears.
"The only thing is, not to think about it," said he. "It's only an
instrument, after all."
"It's the second one I've seen killed like a living creature," replied
They walked on silently, till Wilfrid remarked, that he wondered where
Gambier was. She gave no heed to the name. The little quiet footing and
the bowed head by his side, moved him to entreat her not to be unhappy.
Her voice had another tone when she answered that she was not unhappy.
"No tears at all?" Wilfrid stooped to get a close view of her face. "I
thought I saw one. If it's about the harp, look!--you shall go into that
cottage where the light is, sit there, and wait for me, and I will bring
you what remains of it. I dare say we can have it mended."
Emilia lifted her eyes. "I am not crying for the harp. If you go back I
must go with you."
"That's out of the question. You must never be found in that sort of
"Let us leave the harp," she murmured. "You cannot go without me. Let
me sit here for a minute. Sit with me."
She pointed to a place beside herself on the fork of a dry log under
flowering hawthorn. A pale shadowy blue centre of light among the clouds
told where the moon was. Rain had ceased, and the refreshed earth smelt
all of flowers, as if each breeze going by held a nosegay to their
Wilfrid was sensible of a sudden marked change in her. His blood was
quicker than his brain in feeling it. Her voice now, even in common
speaking, had that vibrating richness which in her singing swept his
"If you cry, there must be a cause, you know," he said, for the sake of
keeping the conversation in a safe channel.
"How brave you are!" was Emilia's sedate exclamation, in reply.
Her cheeks glowed, as if she had just uttered a great confession, but
while the colour mounted to her eyes, they kept their affectionate
intentness upon him without a quiver of the lids.
"Do you think me a coward?" she relieved him by asking sharply, like one
whom the thought had turned into a darker path. "I am not. I hung my
head while you were fighting, because, what could I do? I would not have
left you. Girls can only say, "I will perish with him."
"But," Wilfrid tried to laugh, "there was no necessity for that sort of
devotion. What are you thinking of? It was half in good-humour, all
through. Part of their fun!"
Clearly Emilia's conception of the recent fray was unchangeable.
"And the place for girls is at home; that's certain," he added.
"I should always like to be where..." Her voice flowed on with singular
gravity to that stop.
Wilfrid's hand travelled mechanically to his pricking cheek-bone.
Was it possible that a love-scene was coming on as a pendant to that
monstrously ridiculous affair of half-an-hour back? To know that she had
sufficient sensibility was gratifying, and flattering that it aimed at
him. She was really a darling little woman: only too absurd! Had she
been on the point of saying that she would always like to be where he,
Wilfrid, was? An odd touch of curiosity, peculiar to the languid
emotions, made him ask her this: and to her soft "Yes," he continued
briskly, and in the style of condescending fellowship: "Of course we're
not going to part!"
"I wonder," said Emilia.
There she sat, evidently sounding right through the future with her young
brain, to hear what Destiny might have to say.
The 'I wonder' rang sweetly in his head. It was as delicate a way of
confessing, "I love you with all my soul," as could be imagined.
Extremely refined young ladies could hardly have improved upon it, saving
with the angelic shades of sentiment familiar to them.
Convinced that he had now heard enough for his vanity, Wilfrid returned
emphatically to the tone of the world's highroad.
"By the way," he said, "you mustn't have any exaggerated idea of this
night's work. Remember, also, I have to share the honours with Captain
"I did not see him," said Emilia.
"Are you not cold?" he asked, for a diversion, though he had one of her
She gave him the other.
He could not quit them abruptly: nor could he hold both without being
drawn to her.
"What is it you say?" Wilfrid whispered: "men kiss us when we are happy.
Is that right? and are you happy?"
She lifted a clear full face, to which he bent his mouth. Over the
flowering hawthorn the moon stood like a windblown white rose of the
heavens. The kiss was given and taken. Strange to tell, it was he who
drew away from it almost bashfully, and with new feelings.
Quite unaware that he played the feminine part, Wilfrid alluded to her
flight from Richford, with the instinct to sting his heart by a revival
of his jealous sensations previously experienced, and so taste the luxury
of present satisfaction.
"Why did you run away from me?" he said, semi-reproachfully.
"Would you not break a promise to stay with me?"
"Now I would!"
"You promised Captain Gambier?"
"No: those poor people."
"You are sorry that you went?"
No: she was happy.
"You have lost your harp by it," said Wilfrid.
"What do you think of me for not guessing--not knowing who sent it?" she
returned. "I feel guilty of something all those days that I touched it,
not thinking of you. Wicked, filthy little creature that I was! I
despise ungrateful girls."
"I detest anything that has to do with gratitude," Wilfrid appended,
"pray give me none. Why did you go away with Captain Gambier?"
"I was very fond of him," she replied unhesitatingly, but speaking as it
were with numbed lips. "I wanted to tell him, to thank him and hold his
hand. I told him of my promise. He spoke to me a moment in the garden,
you know. He said he was leaving to go to London early, and would wait
for me in the carriage: then we might talk. He did not wish to talk to
me in the garden."
"And you went with him in the carriage, and told him you were so
"Yes; but men do not like us to be grateful."
"So, he said he would do all sorts of things on condition that you were
"He said--yes: I forget: I do forget! How can I tell what he said?"
Emilia added piteously. "I feel as if I had been emptied out of a sack!"
Wilfrid was pierced with laughter; and then the plainspoken simile gave
him a chilling sensation while he was rising to the jealous pitch.
"Did he talk about taking you to Italy? Put your head into the sack, and
"Yes," she answered blandly, an affirmative that caused him some
astonishment, for he had struck at once to the farthest end of his
"He feels as I do about the Italian Schools," said Emilia. "He wishes me
to owe my learning to him. He says it will make him happy, and I thought
so too." She threw in a "then."
Wilfrid looked moodily into the opposite hedge.
"Did he name the day for your going?" he asked presently, little
anticipating another "Yes": but it came: and her rather faltering manner
showed her to be conscious too that the word was getting to be a black
one to him.
"Did you say you would go?"
Question and answer crossed like two rapiers.
Wilfrid jumped up.
"The smell of this tree's detestable," he said, glancing at the shadowing
Emilia rose quietly, plucked a flower off the tree, and put it in her
Their way was down a green lane and across long meadow-paths dim in the
moonlight. A nightingale was heard on this side and on that. Overhead
they had a great space of sky with broken cloud full of the glory of the
moon. The meadows dipped to a brook, slenderly spanned by a plank. Then
there was an ascent through a cornfield to a copse. Rounding this they
had sight of Brookfield. But while they were yet at the brook, Wilfrid
said, "When is it you're going to Italy?"
In return he had an eager look, so that he was half-ashamed to add, "With
Captain Gambier, I mean." He was suffering, and by being brutal he
expected to draw balm on himself; nor was he deceived.
Emilia just then gave him her hand to be led over, and answered, as she
neared him, "I am never to leave you."
"You never shall!" Wilfrid caught her in his arms, quite conquered by
her, proud of her. He reflected with a loving rapture that her manner at
that moment was equal to any lady's; and the phantom of her with her hand
out, and her frank look, and trustful footing, while she spoke those
words, kept on advancing to him all the way to Brookfield, at the same
time that the sober reality murmured at his elbow.
Love, with his accustomed cunning, managed thus to lift her out of the
mire and array her in his golden dress to idealize her, as we say.
Reconciled for the hour were the contesting instincts in the nature of
this youth the adoration of feminine refinement and the susceptibility to
sensuous impressions. But Emilia walked with a hero: the dream of all
her days! one, generous and gentle, as well as brave: who had fought for
her, had thought of her tenderly, was with her now, having raised her to
his level with a touch! How much might they not accomplish together: he
with sword, she with harp? Through shadowy alleys in the clouds, Emilia
saw the bright Italian plains opening out to her: the cities of marble,
such as her imagination had fashioned them, porticos of stately palaces,
and towers, and statues white among cypresses; and farther, minutely-
radiant in the vista as a shining star, Venice of the sea. Fancy made
the flying minutes hours. Now they marched with the regiments of Italy,
under the folds of her free banner; now she sang to the victorious army,
waving the banner over them; and now she floated in a gondola, and
turning to him, the dear home of her heart, yet pale with the bleeding of
his wound for Italy, said softly, in the tone that had power with him,
"Only let me please you!"
"When? Where? What with?" came the blunt response from England, with
electric speed, and Emilia fell from the clouds.
"I meant my singing; I thought of how I sang to you. Oh, happy time!"
she exclaimed, to cut through the mist of vision in her mind.
"To me? down at the booth?" muttered Wilfrid, perplexed.
"Oh, no! I mean, just now--" and languid with the burden of so full a
heart, she did not attempt to explain herself further, though he said,
invitingly, "I thought I heard you humming?"
Then he was seized with a desire to have the force of her spirit upon
him, for Brookfield was in view; and with the sight of Brookfield, the
natural fascination waxed a shade fainter, and he feared it might be
going. This (he was happily as ignorant as any other youth of the
working of his machinery) prompted him to bid her sing before they
parted. Emilia checked her steps at once to do as he desired. Her
throat filled, but the voice quavered down again, like a fainting
creature sick unto death. She made another effort and ended with a
sorrowful look at his narrowly-watching eyes.
"I can't," she said; and, in fear of his anger, took his hand to beg
forgiveness, while her eyelids drooped.
Wilfrid locked her fingers in a strong pressure, and walked on, silent as
a man who has faced one of the veiled mysteries of life. It struck a
full human blow on his heart, dragging him out of his sentimental
pastures precipitately. He felt her fainting voice to be the intensest
love-cry that could be uttered. The sound of it coursed through his
blood, striking a rare illumination of sparks in his not commonly
brilliant brain. In truth, that little episode showed an image of nature
weak with the burden of new love. I do not charge the young cavalry
officer with the power of perceiving images. He saw no more than that
she could not sing because of what was in her heart toward him; but such
a physical revelation was a divine love-confession, coming involuntarily
from one whose lips had not formed the name of love; and Wilfrid felt it
so deeply, that the exquisite flattery was almost lost, in a certain awed
sense of his being in the presence of an absolute fact: a thing real,
though it was much talked about, and visible, though it did not wear a
hat or a petticoat.
It searched him thoroughly enough to keep him from any further pledges in
that direction, propitious as the moment was, while the moon slipped over
banks of marble into fields of blue, and all the midnight promised
silence. They passed quickly through the laurel shrubs, and round the
lawn. Lights were in the sleepless ladies' bed-room windows.
"Do I love her?" thought Wilfrid, as he was about to pull at the bell,
and the thought that he should feel pain at being separated from her for
half-a-dozen hours, persuaded him that he did. The self-restraint which
withheld him from protesting that he did, confirmed it.
"To-morrow morning," he whispered.
"I shall be down by daylight," answered Emilia.
"You are in the shade--I cannot see you," said he.
The door opened as Emilia was moving out of the line of shadow.
On the morrow Wilfrid was gone. No one had seen him go. Emilia, while
she touched the keys of a muted piano softly in the morning quiet of the
house, had heard the front-door close. At that hour one attributes every
noise to the servants. She played on and waited patiently, till the
housemaid expelled her into the dewy air.
The report from his bedchamber, telling the ladies of his absence, added
that he had taken linen for a lengthened journey.
This curious retreat of my hero belongs to the order of things that are
done 'None know why;' a curtain which drops conveniently upon either the
bewilderment of the showman or the infirmities of the puppet.
I must own (though I need not be told what odium frowns on such a
pretension to excess of cleverness) that I do know why. I know why, and,
unfortunately for me, I have to tell what I know. If I do not tell, this
narrative is so constituted that there will be no moral to it.
One who studies man in puppets (in which purpose lies the chief value of
this amusing species), must think that we are degenerating rapidly. The
puppet hero, for instance, is a changed being. We know what he was; but
now he takes shelter in his wits. His organs affect his destiny.
Careless of the fact that the hero's achievement is to conquer nature, he
seems rather to boast of his subservience to her.
Still, up to this day, the fixture of a nose upon the puppet-hero's
frontispiece has not been attempted. Some one does it at last. When the
alternative came: "No nose to the hero, no moral to the tale;" could
there be hesitation?
And I would warn our sentimentalists to admit the nose among the features
proper to heroes, otherwise the race will become extinct. There is
already an amount of dropping of the curtain that is positively
wearisome, even to extremely refined persons, in order to save him from
apparent misconduct. He will have to go altogether, unless we boldly
figure him as other men. Manifestly the moment his career as a fairy
prince was at end, he was on the high road to a nose. The beneficent
Power that discriminated for him having vanished utterly, he was, like a
bankrupt gentleman, obliged to do all the work for himself. This is
nothing more than the tendency of the generations downward from the
The springs that moved Wilfrid upon the present occasion were simple. We
will strip him of his heroic trappings for one fleeting instant, and show
Jumping briskly from a restless bed, his first act was to address his
features to the looking-glass: and he saw surely the most glorious sight
for a hero of the knightly age that could possibly have been offered.
The battle of the previous night was written there in one eloquent big
lump, which would have passed him current as hero from end to end of the
land in the great days of old. These are the tea-table days. His
preference was for the visage of Wilfrid Pole, which he saw not. At the
aspect of the fearful mask, this young man stared, and then cursed; and
then, by an odd transition, he was reminded, as by the force of a sudden
gust, that Emilia's hair was redolent of pipe-smoke.
His remark was, "I can't be seen in this state." His thought (a dim
reminiscence of poetical readings): "Ambrosial locks indeed!" A sad
irony, which told that much gold-leaf had peeled away from her image in
Wilfrid was a gallant fellow, with good stuff in him. But, he was young.
Ponder on that pregnant word, for you are about to see him grow. He was
less a coxcomb than shamefaced and sentimental; and one may have these
qualities, and be a coxcomb to boot, and yet be a gallant fellow. One
may also be a gallant fellow, and harsh, exacting, double-dealing, and I
know not what besides, in youth. The question asked by nature is, "Has
he the heart to take and keep an impression?" For, if he has,
circumstances will force him on and carve the figure of a brave man out
of that mass of contradictions. In return for such benefits, he pays
forfeit commonly of the dearest of the things prized by him in this
terrestrial life. Whereat, albeit created man by her, he reproaches
nature, and the sculptor, circumstance; forgetting that to make him man
is their sole duty, and that what betrayed him was the difficulty thrown
in their way by his quondam self--the pleasant boonfellow!
He forgets, in fact, that he was formerly led by his nose, and sacrificed
his deeper feeling to a low disgust.
When the youth is called upon to look up, he can adore devoutly and
ardently; but when it is his chance to look down on a fair head, he is,
if not worse, a sentimental despot.
Wilfrid was young, and under the dominion of his senses; which can be, if
the sentimentalists will believe me, as tyrannous and misleading when
super-refined as when ultra-bestial. He made a good stout effort to
resist the pipe-smoke. Emilia's voice, her growing beauty, her
simplicity, her peculiar charms of feature, were all conjured up to
combat the dismal images suggested by that fatal, dragging-down smell.
It was vain. Horrible pipe-smoke pervaded the memory of her. It seemed
to his offended dainty fancy that he could never dissociate her from
smoking-booths and abominably bad tobacco; and, let us add (for this was
part of the secret), that it never could dwell on her without the
companionship of a hideous disfigured countenance, claiming to be Wilfrid
Pole. He shuddered to think that he had virtually almost engaged himself
to this girl. Or, had he? Was his honour bound? Distance appeared to
answer the question favourably. There was safety in being distant from
her. She possessed an incomprehensible attractiveness. She was at once
powerful and pitiable: so that while he feared her, and was running from
her spell, he said, from time to time, "Poor little thing!" and deeply
hoped she would not be unhappy.
A showman once (a novice in his art, or ambitious beyond the mark), after
a successful exhibition of his dolls, handed them to the company, with
the observation, "satisfy yourselves, ladies and gentlemen." The latter,
having satisfied themselves that the capacity of the lower limbs was
extraordinary, returned them, disenchanted. That showman did ill. But I
am not imitating him. I do not wait till after the performance, when it
is too late to revive illusion. To avoid having to drop the curtain, I
choose to explain an act on which the story hinges, while it is
advancing: which is, in truth, an impulse of character. Instead of his
being more of a puppet, this hero is less wooden than he was. Certainly
I am much more in awe of him.
Mr. Pole was one of those men whose characters are read off at a glance.
He was neat, insignificant, and nervously cheerful; with the eyes of a
bird, that let you into no interior. His friends knew him thoroughly.
His daughters were never in doubt about him. At the period of the
purchase of Brookfield he had been excitable and feverish, but that was
ascribed to the projected change in his habits, and the stern necessity
for an occasional family intercommunication on the subject of money. He
had a remarkable shyness of this theme, and reversed its general
treatment; for he would pay, but would not talk of it. If it had to be
discussed with the ladies, he puffed, and blinked, and looked so much
like a culprit that, though they rather admired him for what seemed to
them the germ of a sense delicate above his condition, they would have
said of any man they had not known so perfectly, that he had painful
reasons for wishing to avoid it. Now that they spoke to him of Besworth,
assuring him that they were serious in their desire to change their
residence, the fit of shyness was manifested, first in outrageous praise
of Brookfield, which was speedily and inexplicably followed by a sort of
implied assent to the proposition to depart from it. For Besworth
displayed numerous advantages over Brookfield, and to contest one was to
plunge headlong into the money question. He ventured to ask his
daughters what good they expected from the change. They replied that it
was simply this: that one might live fifty years at Brookfield and not
get such a circle as in two might be established at Besworth. They were
restricted. They had gathering friends, and no means of bringing them
together. And the beauty of the site of Besworth made them enthusiastic.
"Well, but," said Mr. Pole: "what does it lead to? Is there nothing to
He explained: "You're girls, you know. You won't always stop with me.
You may do just as well at Brookfield for yourselves, as over there."
The ladies blushed demurely.
"You forecast very kindly for us, papa," said Cornelia. "Our object is
"I wish I could see it," he returned.
"But, you do see, papa, you do see," interposed Adela, "that a select
life is preferable to that higgledy-piggledy city-square existence so
many poor creatures are condemned to!"
"Select!" said Mr. Pole, thinking that he had hit upon a weakness in
their argument; "how can it be select when you want to go to a place
where you may have a crowd about you?"
"Selection can only be made from a crowd," remarked Arabella, with
terrible placidity. "It is where we see few that we are at the mercy of
kind fortune for our acquaintances."
"Don't you see, papa, that the difference between the aristocracy and the
bourgeoisie is, that the former choose their sets, and the latter are
obliged to take what comes to them?" said Adela.
This was the first domestic discussion upon Besworth. The visit to
Richford had produced the usual effect on the ladies, who were now
looking to other heights from that level. The ladies said: "We have only
to press it with papa, and we shall quit this place." But at the second
discussion they found that they had not advanced. The only change was in
the emphasis that their father added to the interrogations already
uttered. "What does it lead to? What's to come after? I see your
object. But, am I to go into a new house for the sake of getting you out
of it, and then be left there alone? It's against your interests, too.
Never mind how. Leave that to a business man. If your brother had
proposed it...but he's too reasonable."
The ladies, upon this hint, wrote to Wilfrid to obtain his concurrence
and assistance. He laughed when he read the simple sentence: "We hope
you will not fancy that we have any peculiar personal interest in view;"
and replied to them that he was sure they had none: that he looked upon
Besworth with favour, "and I may inform you," he pursued, "that your
taste is heartily applauded by Lady Charlotte Chillingworth, she bids me
tell you." The letter was dated from Stornley, the estate of the marquis,
Lady Charlotte's father. Her ladyship's brother was a member of
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