Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, complete
Part 5 out of 11
to himself that there should be an end of double-dealing; and, possibly
consoled by feeling a martyr, he persuaded himself to act the gentle
ruffian. To which end, he was again absent from Brookfield, for a space,
and bitterly missed.
Emilia, for the last two Sundays, had taken Mr. Barrett's place at the
organ. She was playing the prelude to one of the evening hymns, when the
lover, whose features she dreaded to be once more forgetting, appeared in
the curtained enclosure. A stoppage in the tune, and a prolonged squeal
of the instrument, gave the congregation below matter to speculate upon.
Wilfrid put up his finger and sat reverently down, while Emilia plunged
tremblingly at the note that was howling its life away. And as she
managed to swim into the stream of the sacred melody again, her head was
turned toward her lover under a new sensation; and the first words she
murmured were, "We have never been in church together, before."
"Not in the evening," he whispered, likewise impressed.
"No," said Emilia softly; flattered by his greater accuracy.
If Wilfrid could have been sure that he would be perfect master of that
sentimental crew known to him under the denomination of his feelings, the
place he selected for their parting interview might be held creditable to
this young officer's acknowledged strategical ability. It was a place
where any fervid appeals were impossible; where he could contemplate her,
listen to her, be near her, alone with her, having nothing to dread from
tears, supplications, or passion, as a consequence of the short
indulgence of his tenderness. But he had failed to reckon on the chances
that he himself might prove weak and be betrayed by the crew for whose
comfort he was always providing; and now, as she sat there, her face
being sideways to him, the flush of delight faint on her cheek, and her
eyelids half raised to the gilded pipes, while full and sonorous harmony
rolled out from her touch, it seemed the very chorus of the heavens that
she commanded, and a subtle misty glory descended upon her forehead,
which he was long in perceiving to be cast from a moisture on his
When the sermon commenced, Emilia quitted the organ and took his hand.
In very low whispers, they spoke:
"I have wanted to see you so!"
"You see me now, little woman."
"On Friday week next I am to go away."
"Nonsense! You shall not."
"Your sisters say, yes! Mr. Pericles has got my father's consent, they
say, to take me to Italy."
"Do you think of going?"
Emilia gazed at her nerveless hands lying in her lap.
"You shall not go!" he breathed imperiously in her ear.
"Then you will marry me quite soon?" And Emilia looked as if she would
be smiling April, at a word.
"My dear girl!" he had an air of caressing remonstrance.
"Because," she continued, "if my father finds me out, I must go to Italy,
or go to that life of torment in London--seeing those Jew-people--
horrible!--or others and the thought of it is like being under the earth,
tasting bitter gravel! I could almost bear it before you kissed me, my
lover! It would kill me now. Say! say! Tell me we shall be together.
I shudder all day and night, and feel frozen hands catching at me. I
faint--my heart falls deep down, in the dark...I think I know what dying
She stopped on a tearless sob; and, at her fingers' ends, Wilfrid felt
the quivering of her frame.
"My darling!" he interjected. He wished to explain the situation to her,
as he then conceived it. But he had, in his calculation, failed also to
count on a peculiar nervous fretfulness, that the necessity to reiterate
an explanation in whispers must superinduce. So, when Emilia looked
vacant of the intelligence imparted to her, he began anew, and
emphatically; and ere he was half through it, Mr. Marter, from the pulpit
underneath, sent forth a significant reprimand to the conscience of a
particular culprit of his congregation, in the form of a solemn cough.
Emilia had to remain unenlightened, and she proceeded to build on her
previous assumption; doing the whispering easily and sweetly; in the
prettiest way from her tongue's tip, with her chin lifted up; and sending
the vowels on a prolonged hushed breath, that seemed to print them on the
hearing far more distinctly than a volume of sound. Wilfrid fell back on
monosyllables. He could not bring his mouth to utter flinty negatives,
so it appeared that he assented; and then his better nature abused him
for deluding her. He grew utterly ashamed of his aimless selfish double-
dealing. "Can it be?" he questioned his own mind, and listened greedily
to any mental confirmations of surpassing excellence in her, that the
world might possibly acknowledge. Having, with great zeal, created a set
of circumstances, he cursed them heartily, after the fashion of little
people. He grew resigned to abandon Lady Charlotte, and to give his name
to this subduing girl; but a comfortable quieting sensation came over
him, at the thought that his filial duty stood in the way. His father,
he knew, was anxious for him to marry into a noble family--
incomprehensibly anxious to have the affair settled; and, as two or three
scenes rose in his mind, Wilfrid perceived that the obstacle to his
present fancy was his father.
As clearly as he could, with the dread of the preacher's admonishing
cough before him, Wilfrid stated the case to Emilia; saying that he loved
her with his whole heart; but that the truth was, his father was not in a
condition of health to bear contradiction to his wishes, and would, he
was sure, be absolutely opposed to their union. He brought on himself
another reprimand from Mr. Marter, in seeking to propitiate Emilia's
reason to comprehend the position rightly; and could add little more to
the fact he had spoken, than that his father had other views, which it
would require time to combat.
Emilia listened attentively, replying with a flying glance to the squeeze
of his hand. He was astonished to see her so little disconcerted. But
now the gradual fall of Mr. Marter's voice gave them warning.
"My lover?" breathed Emilia, hurriedly and eagerly; questioning with eye
"My darling!" returned Wilfrid.
She sat down to the organ with a smile. He was careful to retreat before
the conclusion of the service; somewhat chagrined by his success. That
smile of hers was inexplicable to him.
Mr. Pole was closeted in his City counting-house with Mr. Pericles,
before a heap of papers and newly-opened foreign letters; to one of
which, bearing a Russian stamp, he referred fretfully at times, as if to
verify a monstrous fact. Any one could have seen that he was not in a
condition to transact business. His face was unnaturally patched with
colour, and his grey-tinged hair hung tumbled over his forehead like
waves blown by a changeing wind. Still, he maintained his habitual
effort to look collected, and defeat the scrutiny of the sallow-eyed
fellow opposite; who quietly glanced, now and then, from the nervous feet
to the nervous fingers, and nodded to himself a sardonic outlandish nod.
"Now, listen to me," said Mr. Pericles. "We shall not burst out about
zis Riga man. He is a villain,--very well. Say it. He is a villain,--
say so. And stop. Because" (and up went the Greek's forefinger), "we
must not have a scandal, in ze fairst place. We do not want pity, in ze
second. Saird, we must seem to trust him, in spite. I say, yeas! What
is pity to us of commerce? It is contempt. We trust him on, and we lose
what he pocket--a sossand. We burst on him, and we lose twenty, serty,
forty; and we lose reputation."
"I'd have every villain hanged," cried Mr. Pole. "The scoundrel! I'd
hang him with his own hemp. He talks of a factory burnt, and dares to
joke about tallow! and in a business letter! and when he is telling one
of a loss of money to that amount!"
"Not bad, ze joke," grinned Mr. Pericles. "It is a lesson of coolness.
We learn it. But mind! he say, 'possible loss.' It is not positif.
Hein! ze man is trying us. So! shall we burst out and make him
desperate? We are in his hand at Riga, you see?"
"I see this," said Mr. Pole, "that he's a confounded rascal, and I'll
know whether the law can't reach him."
"Ha! ze law!" Mr. Pericles sneered. "So you are, you. English. Always,
ze law! But, we are men--we are not machine. Law for a machine, not a
man! We punish him, perhaps. Well; he is punished. He is imprisoned--
forty monz. We pay for him a sossand pound a monz. He is flogged--forty
lashes. We pay for him a sossand pound a lash. You can afford zat? It
is a luxury like anozer. It is not for me."
"How long are we to trust the villain?" said Mr. Pole. "If we trust him
at all, mind! I don't say I do, or will."
"Ze money is locked up for a year, my friend. So soon we get it, so soon
he goes, from ze toe off." Mr. Pericles' shining toe's-tip performed an
agile circuit, and he smoothed his square clean jaw and venomous
moustache reflectively. "Not now," he resumed. "While he hold us in his
hand, we will not drive him to ze devil, or we go too, I believe, or part
of ze way. But now, we say, zat money is frozen in ze Nord. We will
make it in Australie, and in Greek waters. I have exposed to you my
"Yes," said Mr. Pole, "and I've told you I've no pretensions to be a
capitalist. We have no less than three ventures out, already."
"It is like you English! When you have ze world to milk, you go to one
point and stick. It fails, and you fail. What is zat word?"--Mr.
Pericles tapped his brow--"pluck,--you want pluck. It is your decadence.
Greek, and Russian, and Yankee, all zey beat you. For, it is pluck. You
make a pin's head, not a pin. It is in brain and heart you do fail. You
have only your position,--an island, and ships, and some favour. You are
no match in pluck. We beat you. And we live for pleasure, while you
groan and sweat--mon Dieu! it is slavery."
Mr. Pericles twinkled his white eyes over the blinking merchant, and rose
from his chair, humming a bit of opera, and announcing, casually, that a
certain prima-donna had obtained a divorce from her husband.
"But," he added suddenly, "I say to you, if you cannot afford to
speculate, run away from it as ze fire. Run away from it, and hold up
your coat-tail. Jump ditches, and do not stop till you are safe home--
hein? you say 'cosy?' I hear my landlady. Run till you are safe cosy.
But if you are a man wis a head and a pocket, zen you know that
'speculate' means a dozen ventures. So, you come clear. Or, it is ruin.
It is ruin, I say: you have been playing."
"An Englishman," returned Mr. Pole, disgusted at the shrugs he had
witnessed--"an Englishman's as good as any of you. Look at us--look at
our history--look at our wealth. By Jingo! But we like plain-dealing
and common sense; and as to afford, what do you mean?"
"No, no," Mr. Pericles petitioned with uplifted hand; "my English is bad.
It is--ah! bad. You shall look it over--my plan. It will strike your
sense. Next week I go to Italy. I take ze little Belloni. You will
manage all. I have in you, my friend, perfec' confidence. An
Englishman, he is honest. An Englishman and a Greek conjoined, zey beat
ze world! It is true, ma foi. For zat, I seek you, and not a
countryman. A Frenchman?--oh, no! A German?--not a bit! A Russian?--
never! A Yankee?--save me! I am a Greek--I take an Englishman."
"Well, well, you must leave me to think it over," said Mr. Pole,
pleasantly smoothed down. "As to honesty, that's a matter of course with
us: that's the mere footing we go upon. We don't plume ourselves upon
what's general, here. There is, I regret to say, a difference between us
and other nations. I believe it's partly their religion. They swindle
us, and pay their priests for absolution with our money. If you're a
double-dyed sinner, you can easily get yourself whitewashed over there.
Confound them! When that fellow sent no remittance last month, I told
you I suspected him. Who was, the shrewdest then? As for pluck, I never
failed in that yet. But, I will see a thing clear. The man who
speculates blindfold, is a fowl who walks into market to be plucked.
Between being plucked, and having pluck, you'll see a distinction when
you know the language better; but you must make use of your head, or the
chances are you won't be much of a difference,--eh? I'll think over your
scheme. I'm not a man to hesitate, if the calculations are sound. I'll
look at the papers here."
"My friend, you will decide before zat I go to Italy." said Mr. Pericles,
and presently took his leave.
When he was gone, Mr. Pole turned his chair to the table, and made an
attempt to inspect one of the papers deliberately. Having untied it, he
retied it with care, put it aside, marked 'immediate,' and read the
letter from Riga anew. This he tore into shreds, with animadversions on
the quality of the rags that had produced it, and opened the important
paper once more. He got to the end of a sentence or two, when his
fingers moved about for the letter; and then his mind conceived a
necessity for turning to the directory, for which he rang the bell. The
great red book was brought into his room by a youthful clerk, who waited
by, while his master, unaware of his presence, tracked a name with his
forefinger. It stopped at Pole, Samuel Bolton; and a lurking smile was
on the merchant's face as he read the name: a smile of curious meaning,
neither fresh nor sad; the meditative smile of one who looks upon an
afflicted creature from whom he is aloof. After a lengthened
contemplation of this name, he said, with a sigh, "Poor Chump! I wonder
whether he's here, too." A search for the defunct proved that he was out
of date. Mr. Pole thrust his hand to the bell that he might behold poor
Chump in an old directory that would call up the blotted years.
"I am here, sir," said his clerk, who had been holding deferential watch
at a few steps from the table.
"What do you do here then, sir, all this time?"
"I waited, sir, because--"
"You waste and dawdle away twenty or thirty minutes, when you ought to be
doing your work. What do you mean?" Mr. Pole stood up and took an angry
The young man could scarcely believe his master was not stooping to jest
with him. He said: "For that matter, sir, it can't be a minute that I
have been wasting."
"I called you in half an hour ago," returned Mr. Pole, fumbling at his
"It must have been somebody else, sir."
"Did you bring in this directory? Look at it! This?"
"This is the book that I brought in, sir."
"How long since?"
"I think, not a minute and a half, sir."
Mr. Pole gazed at him, and coughed slowly. "I could have sworn..." he
murmured, and commenced blinking.
"I suppose I must be a little queer," he pursued; and instantly his right
hand struck out, quivering. The young clerk grasped it, and drew him to
"Tush," said his master, working his feverish fingers across his
forehead. "Want of food. I don't eat like you young fellows. Fetch me
a glass of wine and a biscuit. Good wine, mind. Port. Or, no; you
can't trust tavern Port:--brandy. Get it yourself, don't rely on the
porter. And bring it yourself, you understand the importance? What is
"Braintop," replied the youth, with the modesty of one whose name has
been too frequently subjected to puns.
"I think I never heard so singular a name in my life," Mr. Pole
ejaculated seriously. "Braintop! It'll always make me think of brandy.
What are you waiting for now?"
"I took the liberty of waiting before, to say that a lady wished to see
Mr. Pole started from his chair. "A foreign lady?"
"She may be foreign. She speaks English, sir, and her name, I think, was
foreign. I've forgotten it, I fear."
"It's the wife of that fellow from Riga!" cried the merchant. "Show her
in. Show her in, immediately. I suspected this. She's in London, I
know. I'm equal to her: show her in. When you fetch the Braintop and
biscuit, call me to the door. You understand."
The youth affected meekly to enjoy this fiery significance given to his
name, and said that he understood, without any doubt. He retired, and in
a few moments ushered in Emilia Belloni.
Mr. Pole was in the middle of the room, wearing a countenance of marked
severity, and watchful to maintain it in his opening bow; but when he
perceived his little Brookfield guest standing timidly in the doorway,
his eyebrows lifted, and his hands spread out; and "Well, to be sure!" he
cried; while Emilia hurried up to him. She had to assure him that
everything was right at home, and was next called upon to state what had
brought her to town; but his continued exclamation of "Bless my soul!"
reprieved her reply, and she sat in a chair panting quickly.
Mr. Pole spoke tenderly of refreshments; wine and cake, or biscuits.
"I cannot eat or drink," said Emilia.
"Why, what's come to you, my dear?" returned Mr. Pole in unaffected
"I am not hungry."
"You generally are, at home, about this time--eh?"
Emilia sighed, and feigned the sad note to be a breath of fatigue.
"Well, and why are you here, my dear?" Mr. Pole was beginning to step to
the right and the left of her uneasily.
"I have come--" she paused, with a curious quick speculating look between
her eyes; "I have come to see you."
"See me, my dear? You saw me this morning."
"Yes; I wanted to see you alone."
Emilia was having the first conflict with her simplicity; out of which it
was not to issue clear, as in the foregone days. She was thinking of the
character of the man she spoke to, studying him, that she might win him
to succour the object she had in view. It was a quality going, and a
quality coming; nor will we, if you please, lament a law of growth.
"Why, you can see me alone, any day, my dear," said Mr. Pole; "for many a
day, I hope."
"You are more alone to me here. I cannot speak at Brookfield. Oh!"--and
Emilia had to still her heart's throbbing--"you do not want me to go to
Italy, do you?"
"Want you to go? Not a bit. There is some talk of it, isn't there? I
don't want you to go. Don't you want to go."
"No! no!" said Emilia, with decisive fervour.
"Don't want to go?"
"No: to stay! I want to stay!"
"Eh? to stay?"
"To stay with you! Never to leave England, at least! I want to give up
all that I may stay."
"All?" repeated Mr. Pole, evidently marvelling as to what that sounding
box might contain; and still more, perplexed to hear Emilia's vehement--
"Yes! all!" as if there were that in the mighty abnegation to make a
reasonable listener doubtful.
"No. I really don't want you to go," he said. "In fact," and the
merchant's hospitable nature was at war with something in his mind, "I
like you, my dear; I like to have you about me. You're cheerful; you're
agreeable; I like your smile; your voice, too. You're a very pleasant
companion. Only, you know, we may break up our house. If the girls get
married, I must live somewhere in lodgings, and I couldn't very well ask
you to cook for me."
"I can cook a little," Emilia smiled. "I went into the kitchen, till
"Yes, but it wouldn't do, you know," pursued Mr. Pole, with the
seriousness of a man thrown out of his line of argument. "You can cook,
eh? Got an idea of it? I always said you were a useful little woman.
Do have a biscuit and some wine:--No? well, where was I?--That
confounded boy. Brainty-top, top! that's it Braintop. Was I talking of
him, my dear? Oh no! about your getting married. For if you can cook,
why not? Get a husband and then you won't got to Italy. You ought to
get one. Some young fellows don't look for money."
"I shall make money come, in time," said Emilia; in the leaping ardour of
whose eyes might be seen that what she had journeyed to speak was hot
within her. "I know I shall be worth having. I shall win a name, I
think--I do hope it!"
"Well, so Pericles says. He's got a great notion of you. Perhaps he
means it himself. He's rich. Rash, I admit. But, as the chances go,
he's tremendously rich. He may mean it."
"What?" asked Emilia.
"Marry you, you know."
"Ah, what a torture!"
In that heat of her feelings she realized the horror of the words to her,
with an intensity that made them seem to quiver like an arrow in her
"You don't like him?" said Mr. Pole.
"Not love him! not love him!"
"Yes, yes, but that comes after marriage. Often the case. Look here:
don't you go against your interests. You mustn't be flighty. If
Pericles speaks to you, have him. Clap your hands. Dozens of girls
would, that I know."
"But, oh!" interposed Emilia; "if he married me he would kiss me!"
Mr. Pole coughed and blinked. "Well!" he remarked, as one gravely
cogitating; and with the native delicacy of a Briton turned it off in a
playful, "So shall I now," adding, "though I ain't your husband."
He stooped his head. Emilia put her hands on his shoulders, and
submitted her face to him.
"There!" went Mr. Pole: "'pon my honour, it does me good:--better than
medicine! But you mustn't give that dose to everybody, my dear. You
don't, of course. All right, all right--I'm quite satisfied. I was only
thinking of you going to Italy, among those foreign rascals, who've no
more respect for a girl than they have for a monkey--their brother. A
set of swindlers! I took you for the wife of one when you came in, at
first. And now, business is business. Let's get it over. What have you
come about? Glad to see you--understand that."
Emilia lifted her eyes to his.
"You know I love you, sir."
"I'm sure you're a grateful little woman."
She rose: "Oh! how can I speak it!"
An idea that his daughters had possibly sent her to herald one of the
renowned physicians of London, concerning whom he was perpetually being
plagued by them, or to lead him to one, flashed through Mr. Pole. He was
not in a state to weigh the absolute value of such a suspicion, but it
seemed probable; it explained an extraordinary proceeding; and, having
conceived, his wrath took it up as a fact, and fought with it.
"Stop! If that's what you've come for, we'll bring matters to a crisis.
You fancy me ill, don't you, my dear?"
"You do not look well, sir."
Emilia's unhesitating reply confirmed his suspicion.
"I am well. I am, I say! And now, understand that, if that's your
business, I won't go to the fellow, and I won't see him here. They'll
make me out mad, next. He shall never have a guinea from me while I
live. No, nor when I die. Not a farthing! Sit down, my dear, and wait
for the biscuits. I wish to heaven they'd come. There's brandy coming,
too. Where's Braintop?"
He took out his handkerchief to wipe his forehead, and jerked it like a
Emilia, in a singular bewilderment, sat eyeing a beam of sombre city
sunlight on the dusty carpet. She could only suppose that the offending
"he" was Wilfrid; but, why he should be so, she could not guess: and how
to plead for him, divided her mind.
"Don't blame him; be angry with me, if you are angry," she began softly.
"I know he thinks of you anxiously. I know he would do nothing to hurt
you. No one is so kind as he is. Would you deprive him of money,
because he offends you?"
"Deprive him of money," repeated Mr. Pole, with ungrudging accentuation.
"Well, I've heard about women, but I never knew one so anxious for a
doctor to get his fee as you are."
Emilia wonderingly fixed her sight on him an instant, and, quite
unillumined, resumed: "Blame me, sir. But, I know you will be too kind.
Oh! I love him. So, I must love you, and I would not give you pain. It
is true he loves me. You will not see him, because he loves me?"
"The doctor?" muttered Mr. Pole. "The doctor?" he almost bellowed; and
got sharp up from his chair, and looked at himself in the glass, blinking
rapidly; and then turned to inspect Emilia.
Emilia drew him to her side again.
"Go on," he said; and there became visible in his face a frightful effort
to comprehend her, and get to the sense of her words.
And why it was so frightful as to be tragic, you will know presently.
He thought of the arrival of Braintop, freighted with brandy, as the only
light in the mist, and breathing heavily from his nose, almost snorting
the air he took in from a widened mouth, he sat and tried to listen to
her words as well as for Braintop's feet.
Emilia was growing too conscious of her halting eloquence, as the
imminence of her happiness or misery hung balancing in doubtful scales
"Oh! he loves me, and I love him," she gasped, and wondered why words
should be failing her. "See us together, sir, and hear us. We will make
The exclamation "Good Lord!" groaned out in a tone as from the lower pits
of despair, cut her short.
Tearfully she murmured: "You will not see us, sir?"
"Together?" bawled the merchant.
"Yes, I mean together."
"If you're not mad, I am." And he jumped on his legs and walked to the
farther corner of the room. "Which of us is it?" His features twitched
in horribly comic fashion. "What do you mean? I can't understand a
word. My brain must have gone;" throwing his hand over his forehead.
"I've feared so for the last four months. Good God! a lunatic asylum!
and the business torn like a piece of old rag! I know that fellow at
Riga's dancing like a cannibal, and there--there 'll be articles in the
papers.--Here, girl! come up to the light. Come here, I say."
Emilia walked up to him.
"You don't look mad. I dare say everybody else understands you. Do
The sad-flushed pallor of his face provoked Emilia to say: "You ought to
have the doctor here immediately. Let me bring him, sir."
A gleam as of a lantern through his oppressive mental fog calmed the
awful irritability of his nerves somewhat.
"You've got him outside?"
The merchant's eagerness faded out. He put his hand to her shoulder, and
went along to a chair, sinking into it, and closing his eyelids. So they
remained, Emilia at his right hand. She watched him breathing with a
weak open mouth, and thought more of the doctor now than of Wilfrid.
Braintop's knock at the door had been unheeded for some minutes. At last
Emilia let him in. The brandy and biscuits were placed on a table, and
Emilia resumed her watch by Mr. Pole. She saw that his lips moved, after
a space, and putting her ear down, understood that he desired not to see
any one who might come for an interview with him: nor were the clerks to
be admitted. The latter direction was given in precise terms. Emilia
repeated the orders outside. On her return, the merchant's eyes were
"My forehead feels damp," he said; "and I'm not hot at all. Just take
hold of my hands. They're like wet crumpets. I wonder what makes me so
stiff. A man mustn't sit at business too long at a time. Sure to make
people think he's ill. What was that about a doctor? I seem to
remember. I won't see one."
Emilia had filled a glass with brandy. She brought it nearer to his
hand, while he was speaking. At the touch of the glass, his fingers went
round it slowly, and he raised it to his mouth. The liquor revived him.
He breathed "ah!" several times, and grimaced, blinking, as if seeking to
arouse a proper brightness in his eyes. Then, he held out his empty
glass to her, and she filled it, and he sipped deliberately, saying: "I'm
warm inside. I keep on perspiring so cold. Can't make it out. Look at
my finger-ends, my dear. They're whitish, aren't they?"
Emilia took the hand he presented, and chafed it, and put it against her
bosom, half under one arm. The action appeared to give some warmth to
his heart, for he petted her, in return.
A third time he held out the glass, and remarked that this stuff was
better than medicine.
"You women!" he sneered, as at a reminiscence of their faith in drugs.
"My legs are weak, though!" He had risen and tested the fact. "Very
shaky. I wonder what makes 'em--I don't take much exercise." Pondering
on this problem, he pursued: "It's the stomach. I'm as empty as an egg-
shell. Odd, I've got no appetite. But, my spirits are up. I begin to
feel myself again. I'll eat by-and-by, my dear. And, I say; I'll tell
you what:--I'll take you to the theatre to-night. I want to laugh. A
man's all right when he's laughing. I wish it was Christmas. Don't you
like to see the old pantaloon tumbled over, my boy?--my girl, I mean. I
did, when I was a boy. My father took me. I went in the pit. I can
smell oranges, when I think of it. I remember, we supped on German
sausage; or ham--one or the other. Those were happy old days!"
He shook his head at them across the misty gulf.
"Perhaps there's a good farce going on now. If so, we'll go. Girls
ought to learn to laugh as well as boys. I'll ring for Braintop."
He rang the bell, and bade Emilia be careful to remind him that he wanted
Braintop's address; for Braintop was useful.
It appeared that there were farces at several of the theatres. Braintop
rattled them out, their plot and fun and the merits of the actors, with
delightful volubility, as one whose happy subject had been finally
discovered. He was forthwith commissioned to start immediately and take
a stage-box at one of the places of entertainment, where two great rivals
of the Doctor genus promised to laugh dull care out of the spirit of man
triumphantly, and at the description of whose drolleries any one with
faith might be half cured. The youth gave his address on paper to
"Make haste, sir," said Mr. Pole. "And, stop. You shall go, yourself;
go to the pit, and have a supper, and I'll pay for it. When you've
ordered the box--do you know the Bedford Hotel? Go there, and see Mrs.
Chickley, and tell her I am coming to dine and sleep, and shall bring one
of my daughters. Dinner, sittingroom, and two bed-rooms, mind. And tell
Mrs. Chickley we've got no carpet-bag, and must come upon her wardrobe.
All clear to you? Dinner at half-past five going to theatre."
Braintop bowed comprehendingly.
"Now, that fellow goes off chirping," said Mr. Pole to Emilia. "It's
just the thing I used to wish to happen to me, when I was his age--my
master to call me in and say "There! go and be jolly." I dare say the
rascal'll order a champagne supper. Poor young chap! let his heart be
merry. Ha! ha! heigho!--Too much business is bad for man and boy. I
feel better already, if it weren't for my legs. My feet are so cold.
Don't you think I'm pretty talkative, my dear?"
"I am glad to hear you talk," said Emilia, striving to look less
perplexed than she felt.
He asked her slyly why she had come to London; and she begged that she
might speak of it by-and-by; whereat Mr. Pole declared that he intended
to laugh them all out of that nonsense. "And what did you say about
being in love with him? A doctor in good practice--but you needn't
commence by killing me if you do go and marry the fellow. Eh? what is
Emilia was too much entangled herself to attempt to extricate him; and
apparently his wish to be enlightened passed away, for he was the next
instant searching among his papers for the letter from Riga. Not finding
it, he put on his hat.
"Must give up business to-day. Can't do business with a petticoat in the
room. I wish the Lord Mayor'd stop them all at Temple Bar. Now we'll go
out, and I'll show you a bit of the City."
He offered her his arm, and she noticed that in walking through the
office, he was erect, and the few words he spoke were delivered in the
peremptory elastic tone of a vigorous man.
"My girls," he said to her in an undertone, "never come here. Well! we
don't expect ladies, you know. Different spheres in this world. They
mean to be tip-top in society; and quite right too. My dear, I think
we'll ride. Do you mind being seen in a cab?"
He asked her hesitatingly: and when Emilia said, "Oh, no! let us ride,"
he seemed relieved. "I can't see the harm in a cab. Different tastes,
in this world. My girls--but, thank the Lord! they've got carriages."
For an hour the merchant and Emilia drove about the City. He showed her
all the great buildings, and dilated on the fabulous piles of wealth they
represented, taking evident pleasure in her exclamations of astonishment.
"Yes, yes; they may despise us City fellows. I say, 'Come and see":
that's all! Now, look up that court. Do you see three dusty windows on
the second floor? That man there could buy up any ten princes in Europe
--excepting one or two Austrians or Russians. He wears a coat just like
"Does he?" said Emilia, involuntarily examining the one by her side.
"We don't show our gold-linings, in the City, my dear."
"But, you are rich, too."
"Oh! I--as far as that goes. Don't talk about me. I'm--I'm still cold
in the feet. Now, look at that corner house. Three months ago that man
was one of our most respected City merchants. Now he's a bankrupt, and
can't show his head. It was all rotten. A medlar! He tampered with
documents; betrayed trusts. What do you think of him?"
"What was it he did?" asked Emilia.
Mr. Pole explained, and excused him; then he explained, and abused him.
"He hadn't a family, my dear. Where did the money go? He's called a
rascal now, poor devil! Business brings awful temptations. You think,
this'll save me! You catch hold of it and it snaps. That'll save me;
but you're too heavy, and the roots give way, and down you go lower and
lower. Lower and lower! The gates of hell must be very low down if one
of our bankrupts don't reach 'em." He spoke this in a deep underbreath.
"Let's get out of the City. There's no air. Look at that cloud. It's
about over Brookfield, I should say."
"Dear Brookfield!" echoed Emilia, feeling her heart fly forth to sing
like a skylark under the cloud.
"And they're not satisfied with it," murmured Mr: Pole, with a voice of
At the hotel, he was received very cordially by Mrs. Chickley, and Simon,
the old waiter.
"You look as young as ever, ma'am," Mr. Pole complimented her cheerfully,
while he stamped his feet on the floor, and put forward Emilia as one of
his girls; but immediately took the landlady aside, to tell her that she
was "merely a charge--a ward--something of that sort;" admitting, gladly
enough, that she was a very nice young lady. "She's a genius, ma'am, in
music:--going to do wonders. She's not one of them." And Mr. Pole
informed Mrs. Chickley that when they came to town, they usually slept in
one or other of the great squares. He, for his part, preferred old
quarters: comfort versus grandeur.
Simon had soon dressed the dinner-table. By the time dinner was ready,
Mr. Pole had sunk into such a condition of drowsiness, that it was hard
to make him see why he should be aroused, and when he sat down, fronting
Emilia, his eyes were glazed, and he complained that she was scarcely
"Some of your old yellow seal, Simon. That's what I want. I haven't got
better at home."
The contents of this old yellow seal formed the chief part of the
merchant's meal. Emilia was induced to drink two full glasses.
"Doesn't that make your feet warm, my dear?" said Mr. Pole.
"It makes me want to talk," Emilia confessed.
"Ah! we shall have some fun to-night. "To-the-rutte-ta-to!" If you
could only sing, "Begone dull care!" I like glees: good, honest,
English, manly singing for me! Nothing like glees and madrigals, to my
mind. With chops and baked potatoes, and a glass of good stout, they
beat all other music."
Emilia sang softly to him.
When she had finished, Mr. Pole applauded her mildly.
"Your music, my dear?"
"My music: Mr. Runningbrook's words. But only look. He will not change
a word, and some of the words are so curious, they make me lift my chin
and pout. It's all in my throat. I feel as if I had to do it on tiptoe.
Mr. Runningbrook wrote the song in ten minutes."
"He can afford to--comes of a family," said Mr. Pole, and struck up a bit
of "Celia's Arbour," which wandered into "The Soldier Tired," as he came
bendingly, both sets of fingers filliping, toward Emilia, with one of
those ancient glee--suspensions, "Taia--haia--haia--haia," etc., which
were meant for jolly fellows who could bear anything.
"Eh?" went Mr. Pole, to elicit approbation in return.
Emilia smoothed the wrinkles of her face, and smiled.
"There's nothing like Port," said Mr. Pole. "Get little Runningbrook to
write a song: "There's nothing like Port." You put the music. I'll sing
"You will," cried Emilia.
"Yes, upon my honour! now my feet are warmer, I by Jingo! what's that?"
and again he wore that strange calculating look, as if he were being
internally sounded, and guessed at his probable depth. "What a twitch!
Something wrong with my stomach. But a fellow must be all right when his
spirits are up. We'll be off as quick as we can. Taia--haihaia--hum.
If the farce is bad, it's my last night of theatre-going."
The delight at being in a theatre kept Emilia dumb when she gazed on the
glittering lights. After an inspection of the house, Mr. Pole kindly
remarked: "You must marry and get out of this. This'd never do. All
very well in the boxes: but on the stage--oh, no! I shouldn't like you
to be there. If my girls don't approve of the doctor, they shall look
out somebody for you. I shouldn't like you to be painted, and rigged
out; and have to squall in this sort of place. Stage won't do for you.
Emilia replied that she had given up the stage; and looked mournfully at
the drop-scene, as at a lost kingdom, scarcely repressing her tears.
The orchestra tuned and played a light overture. She followed up the
windings of the drop-scene valley, meeting her lover somewhere beneath
the castle-ruin, where the river narrowed and the trees intertwined. On
from dream to dream the music carried her, and dull fell the first words
of the farce. Mr. Pole said, "Now, then!" and began to chuckle. As the
farce proceeded, he grew more serious, repeating to Emilia, quite
anxiously: "I wonder whether that boy Braintop's enjoying it." Emilia
glanced among the sea of heads, and finally eliminated the head of
Braintop, who was respectfully devoting his gaze to the box she occupied.
When Mr. Pole had been assisted to discover him likewise, his attention
alternated between Braintop and the stage, and he expressed annoyance
from time to time at the extreme composure of Braintop's countenance.
"Why don't the fellow laugh? Does he think he's listening to a sermon?"
Poor Braintop, on his part, sat in mortal fear lest his admiration of
Emilia was perceived. Divided? between this alarming suspicion, and a
doubt that the hair on his forehead was not properly regulated, he became
uneasy and fitful in his deportment. His imagination plagued him with a
sense of guilt, which his master's watchfulness of him increased.
He took an opportunity to furtively to eye himself in a pocket-mirror,
and was subsequently haunted by an additional dread that Emilia might
have discovered the instrument; and set him down as a vain foolish dog.
When he saw her laugh he was sure of it. Instead of responding to
Mr. Pole's encouragement, he assumed a taciturn aspect worthy of a
youthful anchorite, and continued to be the spectator of a scene to
which his soul was dead.
"I believe that fellow's thinking of nothing but his supper," said Mr.
"I dare say he dined early in the day," returned Emilia, remembering how
hungry she used to be in the evenings of the potatoe-days.
"Yes, but he might laugh, all the same." And Mr. Pole gave Emilia the
sound advice: "Mind you never marry a fellow who can't laugh."
Braintop saw Emilia smile. Then, in an instant, her face changed its
expression to one of wonder and alarm, and her hands clasped together
tightly. What on earth was the matter with her? His agitated fancy,
centred in himself, now decided that some manifestation of most shocking
absurdity had settled on his forehead, or his hair, for he was certain of
his neck-tie. Braintop had recourse to his pocket-mirror once more. It
afforded him a rapid interchange of glances with a face which he at all
events could distinguish from the mass, though we need not.
The youth was in the act of conveying the instrument to its retreat, when
conscience sent his eyes toward Emilia, who, to his horror, beckoned to
him, and touched Mr. Pole, entreating him to do the same. Mr. Pole
gesticulated imperiously, whereat Braintop rose, and requested his
neighbour to keep his seat for ten minutes, as he was going into that
particular box; and "If I don't come back in ten minutes, I shall stop
there," said Braintop, a little grandly, through the confusion of his
ideas, as he guessed at the possible reasons for the summons.
Emilia had seen her father in the orchestra. There he sat, under the
leader, sullenly fiddling the prelude to the second play, like a man
ashamed, and one of the beaten in this world. Flight had been her first
thought. She had cause to dread him. The more she lived and the dawning
knowledge of what it is to be a woman in the world grew with her, the
more she shrank from his guidance, and from reliance on him. Not that
she conceived him designedly base; but he outraged her now conscious
delicacy, and what she had to endure as a girl seemed unbearable to her
now. Besides, she felt a secret shuddering at nameless things, which
made her sick of the thought of returning to him and his Jew friends.
But, alas! he looked so miserable--a child of harmony among the sons of
discord! He kept his head down, fiddling like a machine. The old
potatoe-days became pathetically edged with dead light to Emilia. She
could not be cruel. "When I am safe," she laid stress on the word in her
mind, to awaken blessed images, "I will see him often, and make him
happy; but I will let him know that all is well with me now, and that I
love him always."
So she said to Mr. Pole, "I know one of those in the orchestra. May I
write a word to him on a piece of paper before we go? I wish to."
Mr. Pole reflected, and seeing her earnest in her desire to do this,
replied: "Well, yes; if you must--the girls are not here."
Emilia borrowed his pencil-case, and wrote:--
"Sandra is well, and always loves her caro papa, and is improving, and
will see him soon. Her heart is full of love for him and for her mama;
and if they leave their lodgings they are to leave word where they go.
Sandra never forgets Italy, and reads the papers. She has a copy of the
score of an unknown opera by our Andronizetti, and studies it, and
anatomy, English, French, and pure Italian, and can ride a horse. She
has made rich friends, who love her. It will not be long, and you will
The hasty scrawl concluded with numerous little caressing exclamations in
Italian diminutives. This done, Emilia thought: "But he will look up and
see me!" She resolved not to send it till they were about to quit the
theatre. Consequently, Braintop, on his arrival, was told to sit down.
"You don't look cheerful in the pit," said Mr. Pole. "You're above it?--
eh? You're all alike in that. None of you do what your dads did. Up-
up-up? You may get too high, eh?--Gallery?" and Mr. Pole winked
knowingly and laughed.
Braintop, thus elevated, tried his best to talk to Emilia, who sat half
fascinated with the fear of seeing her father lift his eyes and recognize
her suddenly. She sat boldly in the front, as before; not being a young
woman to hide her head where there was danger, and having perhaps a
certain amount of the fatalism which is often youth's philosophy in the
affairs of life. "If this is to be, can I avert it?"
Mr. Pole began to nod at the actors, heavily. He said to Emilia, "If
there is any fun going on, give me a nudge." Emilia kept her eyes on her
father in the orchestra, full of pity for his deplorable wig, in which
she read his later domestic history, and sad tales of the family dinners.
"Do you see one of those"--she pointed him out to Braintop; "he is next
to the leader, with his back to us. Are you sure? I want you to give
him this note before he goes; when we go. Will you do it? I shall
always be thankful to you."
Considering what Braintop was ready to do that he might be remembered for
a day and no more, the request was so very moderate as to be painful to
"You will leave him when you have given it into his hand. You are not to
answer any questions," said Emilia.
With a reassuring glance at the musician's wig, Braintop bent his head.
"Do see," she pursued, "how differently he bows from the other men,
though it is only dance music. Oh, how his ears are torn by that
violoncello! He wants to shriek:--he bears it!"
She threw a piteous glance across the agitated instruments, and Braintop
was led to inquire: "Is he anything particular?"
"He can bring out notes that are more like honey--if you can fancy a
thread of honey drawn through your heart as if it would never end! He is
Braintop modestly surveyed her hair and brows and cheeks, and taking the
print of her eyes on his brain to dream over, smelt at a relationship
with the wry black wig, which cast a halo about it.
The musicians laid down their instruments, and trooped out, one by one.
Emilia perceived a man brush against her father's elbow. Her father
flicked at his offended elbow with the opposite hand, and sat crumpled up
till all had passed him: then went out alone. That little action of
disgust showed her that he had not lost spirit, albeit condemned to serve
amongst an inferior race, promoters of discord.
Just as the third play was opening, some commotion was seen in the pit,
rising from near Braintop's vacated seat; and presently a thing that
shone flashing to the lights, came on from hand to hand, each hand
signalling subsequently toward Mr. Pole's box. It approached.
Braintop's eyes were in waiting on Emilia, who looked sadly at the empty
orchestra. A gentleman in the stalls, a head beneath her, bowed, and
holding up a singular article, gravely said that he had been requested to
pass it. She touched Mr. Pole's shoulder. "Eh? anything funny?" said
he, and glanced around. He was in time to see Braintop lean hurriedly
over the box, and snatch his pocket-mirror from the gentleman's hand.
"Ha! ha!" he laughed, as if a comic gleam had illumined him. A portion
of the pit and stalls laughed too. Emilia smiled merrily. "What was
it?" said she; and perceiving many faces beneath her red among
handkerchiefs, she was eager to see the thing that the unhappy Braintop
had speedily secreted.
"Come, sir, let's see it!" quoth Mr. Pole, itching for a fresh laugh; and
in spite of Braintop's protest, and in defiance of his burning blush, he
compelled the wretched youth to draw it forth, and be manifestly
convicted of vanity.
A shout of laughter burst from Mr. Pole. "No wonder these young sparks
cut us all out. Lord, what cunning dogs they are! They ain't satisfied
with seeing themselves in their boots, but they--ha! ha! By George!
We've got the best fun in our box. I say, Braintop! you ought to have
two, my boy. Then you'd see how you looked behind. Ha-ha-hah! Never
enjoyed an evening so much in my life! A looking-glass for their
pockets! ha! ha!--hooh!"
Luckily the farce demanded laughter, or those parts of the pit which had
not known Braintop would have been indignant. Mr. Pole became more and
more possessed by the fun, as the contrast of Braintop's abject
humiliation with this glaring testimony to his conceit tickled him. He
laughed till he complained of hunger. Emilia, though she thought it
natural that Braintop should carry a pocket-mirror if he pleased, laughed
from sympathy; until Braintop, reduced to the verge of forbearance, stood
up and remarked that, to perform the mission entrusted to him, he must
depart immediately. Mr. Pole was loth to let him go, but finally
commending him to a good supper, he sighed, and declared himself a new
"Oh! what a jolly laugh! The very thing I wanted! It's worth hundreds
to me. I was queer before: no doubt about that!"
Again the ebbing convulsion of laughter seized him. "I feel as clear as
day," he said; and immediately asked Emilia whether she thought he would
have strength to get down to the cab. She took his hand, trying to
assist him from the seat. He rose, and staggered an instant. "A sort of
reddish cloud," he murmured, feeling over his forehead. "Ha! I know what
it is. I want a chop. A chop and a song. But, I couldn't take you, and
I like you by me. Good little woman!" He patted Emilia's shoulder,
preparatory to leaning on it with considerable weight, and so descended
to the cab, chuckling ever and anon at the reminiscence of Braintop.
There was a disturbance in the street. A man with a foreign accent was
shouting by the door of a neighbouring public-house, that he would not
yield his hold of the collar of a struggling gentleman, till the villain
had surrendered his child, whom he scandalously concealed from her
parents. A scuffle ensued, and the foreign voice was heard again:
"Wat! wat you have de shame, you have de pluck, ah! to tell me you know
not where she is, and you bring me a letter? Ho!--you have de cheeks to
This highly effective pluralizing of their peculiar slang, brought a roar
of applause from the crowd of Britons.
"Only a street row," said Mr. Pole, to calm Emilia.
"Will he be hurt?" she cried.
"I see a couple of policemen handy," said Mr. Pole, and Emilia cowered
down and clung to his hand as they drove from the place.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
And, ladies, if you will consent to be likened to a fruit
Passion does not inspire dark appetite--Dainty innocence does
The sentimentalists are represented by them among the civilized
The woman follows the man, and music fits to verse,
You have not to be told that I desire your happiness above all
Wilfrid perceived that he had become an old man
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXVI. SUGGESTS THAT THE COMIC MASK HAS SOME KINSHIP WITH A SKULL
XXVII. SMALL LIFE AT BROOKFIELD
XXVIII. GEORGIANA FORD
XXIX. FIRST SCOURGING OF THE FINE SHADES
XXX. OF THE DOUBLE-MAN IN US, AND THE GREAT FIGHT
WHEN THESE ARE FULL-GROWN
XXXI. BESWORTH LAWN
XXXII. THE SUPPER
XXXIII. DEFEAT AND FLIGHT OF MRS. CHUMP
It was midnight. Mr. Pole had appeased his imagination with a chop, and
was trying to revive the memory of his old after-theatre night carouses
by listening to a song which Emilia sang to him, while he sipped at a
smoking mixture, and beat time on the table, rejoiced that he was warm
from head to foot at last.
"That's a pretty song, my dear," he said. "A very pretty song. It does
for an old fellow; and so did my supper: light and wholesome. I'm an old
fellow; I ought to know I've got a grown-up son and grown-up daughters.
I shall be a grandpa, soon, I dare say. It's not the thing for me to go
about hearing glees. I had an idea of it. I'm better here. All I want
is to see my children happy, married and settled, and comfortable!"
Emilia stole up to him, and dropped on one knee: "You love them?"
"I do. I love my girls and my boy. And my brandy-and-water, do you mean
to say, you rogue?"
"And me?" Emilia looked up at him beseechingly.
"Yes, and you. I do. I haven't known you long, my dear, but I shall be
glad to do what I can for you. You shall make my house your home as long
as you live; and if I say, make haste and get married, it's only just
this: girls ought to marry young, and not be in an uncertain position."
"Am I worth having?"
"To be sure you are! I should think so. You haven't got a penny; but,
then, you're not for spending one. And"--Mr. Pole nodded to right and
left like a man who silenced a host of invisible logicians, urging this
and that--"you're a pleasant companion, thrifty, pretty, musical: by
Jingo! what more do they want? They'll have their song and chop at
"Yes; but suppose it depends upon their fathers?"
"Well, if their fathers will be fools, my dear, I can't help 'em. We
needn't take 'em in a lump: how about the doctor? I'll see him to-morrow
morning, and hear what he has to say. Shall I?"
Mr. Pole winked shrewdly.
"You will not make my heart break?" Emilia's voice sounded one low chord
as she neared the thing she had to say.
"Bless her soul!" the old merchant patted her; "I'm not the sort of man
"His?" Mr. Pole's nerves became uneasy in a minute, at the scent of a
mystification. He dashed his handkerchief over his forehead, repeating:
"His? Break a man's heart! I? What's the meaning of that? For God's
sake, don't bother me!"
Emilia was still kneeling before him, eyeing him with a shadowed
"I say his, because his heart is in mine. He has any pain that hurts
"He may be tremendously in love," observed Mr. Pole; "but he seems a
deuced soft sort of a doctor! What's his name?"
"I love Wilfrid."
The merchant appeared to be giving ear to her, long after the words had
been uttered, while there was silence in the room.
"Wilfrid? my son?" he cried with a start.
"He is my lover."
"Damned rascal!" Mr. Pole jumped from his chair. "Going and playing
with an unprotected girl. I can pardon a young man's folly, but this is
infamous. My dear child," he turned to Emilia, "if you've got any notion
about my son Wilfrid, you must root it up as quick as you can. If he's
been behaving like a villain, leave him to me. I detest, I hate, I
loathe, I would kick, a young man who deceives a girl. Even if he's my
son!--more's the reason!"
Mr. Pole was walking up and down the room, fuming as he spoke. Emilia
tried to hold his hand, as he was passing, but he said: "There, my child!
I'm very sorry for you, and I'm damned angry with him. Let me go."
"Can you, can you be angry with him for loving me?"
"Deceiving you," returned Mr. Pole; "that's what it is. And I tell you,
I'd rather fifty times the fellow had deceived me. Anything rather than
that he should take advantage of a girl."
"Wilfrid loves me and would die for me," said Emilia.
"Now, let me tell you the fact," Mr. Pole came to a halt, fronting her.
"My son Wilfrid Pole may be in love, as he says, here and there, but he
is engaged to be married to a lady of title. I have his word--his oath.
He got near a thousand pounds out of my pocket the other day on that
understanding. I don't speak about the money, but--now--it's a lump--
others would have made a nice row about it--but is he a liar? Is he a
seducing, idling, vagabond dog? Is he a contemptible scoundrel?"
"He is my lover," said Emilia.
She stood without changing a feature; as in a darkness, holding to the
one thing she was sure of. Then, with a sudden track of light in her
brain: "I know the mistake," she said. "Pardon him. He feared to offend
you, because you are his father, and he thought I might not quite please
you. For, he loves me. He has loved me from the first moment he saw me.
He cannot be engaged to another. I could bring him from any woman's
side. I have only to say to myself--he must come to me. For he loves
me! It is not a thing to doubt."
Mr. Pole turned and recommenced his pacing with hasty steps. All the
indications of a nervous tempest were on him. Interjecting half-formed
phrases, and now and then staring at Emilia, as at an incomprehensible
object, he worked at his hair till it lent him the look of one in horror
at an apparition.
"The fellow's going to marry Lady Charlotte Chillingworth, I tell you.
He has asked my permission. The infernal scamp! he knew it pleased me.
He bled me of a thousand pounds only the other day. I tell you, he's
going to marry Lady Charlotte Chillingworth."
Emilia received this statement with a most perplexing smile. She shook
her head. "He cannot."
"Cannot? I say he shall, and must, and in a couple of months, too!"
The gravely sceptical smile on Emilia's face changed to a blank pallor.
"Then, you make him, sir--you?"
"He'll be a beggar, if he don't."
"You will keep him without money?"
Mr. Pole felt that he gazed on strange deeps in that girl's face. Her
voice had the wire-like hum of a rising wind. There was no menace in her
eyes: the lashes of them drooped almost tenderly, and the lips were but
softly closed. The heaving of the bosom, though weighty, was regular:
the hands hung straight down, and were open. She looked harmless; but
his physical apprehensiveness was sharpened by his nervous condition, and
he read power in her: the capacity to concentrate all animal and mental
vigour into one feeling--this being the power of the soul.
So she stood, breathing quietly, steadily eyeing him.
"No, no;" went on Mr. Pole. "Come, come. We'll sit down, and see, and
talk--see what can be done. You know I always meant kindly by you."
"Oh, yes!" Emilia musically murmured, and it cost her nothing to smile
"Now, tell me how this began." Mr. Pole settled himself comfortably to
listen, all irritation having apparently left him, under the influence of
the dominant nature. "You need not be ashamed to talk it over to me."
"I am not ashamed," Emilia led off, and told her tale simply, with here
and there one of her peculiar illustrations. She had not thought of love
till it came to life suddenly, she said; and then all the world looked
different. The relation of Wilfrid's bravery in fighting for her, varied
for a single instant the low monotony of her voice. At the close of the
confession, Mr. Pole wore an aspect of distress. This creature's utter
unlikeness to the girls he was accustomed to, corroborated his personal
view of the case, that Wilfrid certainly could not have been serious, and
that she was deluded. But he pitied her, for he had sufficient
imagination to prevent him from despising what he did not altogether
comprehend. So, to fortify the damsel, he gave her a lecture: first, on
young men--their selfish inconsiderateness, their weakness, the wanton
lives they led, their trick of lying for any sugar-plum, and how they
laughed at their dupes. Secondly, as to the conduct consequently to be
prescribed to girls, who were weaker, frailer, by disposition more
confiding, and who must believe nothing but what they heard their elders
Emilia gave patient heed to the lecture.
"But I am safe," she remarked, when he had finished; "for my lover is not
as those young men are."
To speak at all, and arrange his ideas, was a vexation to the poor
merchant. He was here like an irritable traveller, who knocks at a gate,
which makes as if it opens, without letting him in. Emilia's naive
confidence he read as stupidity. It brought on a fresh access of the
nervous fever lurking in him, and he cried, jumping from his seat: "Well,
you can't have him, and there's an end. You must give up--confound! why!
do you expect to have everything you want at starting? There, my child--
but, upon my honour! a man loses his temper at having to talk for an hour
or so, and no result. You must go to bed; and--do you say your prayers?
Well! that's one way of getting out of it--pray that you may forget all
about what's not good for you. Why, you're almost like a young man, when
you set your mind on a thing. Bad! won't do! Say your prayers
regularly. And, please, pour me out a mouthful of brandy. My hand
trembles--I don't know what's the matter with it;--just like those rushes
on the Thames I used to see when out fishing. No wind, and yet there
they shake away. I wish it was daylight on the old river now! It's
night, and no mistake. I feel as if I had a fellow twirling a stick over
my head. The rascal's been at it for the last month. There, stop where
you are, my dear. Don't begin to dance!"
He pressed at his misty eyes, half under the impression that she was
taking a succession of dazzling leaps in air. Terror of an impending
blow, which he associated with Emilia's voice, made him entreat her to be
silent. After a space, he breathed a long breath of relief, saying: "No,
no; you're firm enough on your feet. I don't think I ever saw you dance.
My girls have given it up. What led me to think...but, let's to bed, and
say our prayers. I want a kiss."
Emilia kissed him on the forehead. The symptoms of illness were strange
to her, and passed unheeded. She was too full of her own burning passion
to take evidence from her sight. The sun of her world was threatened
with extinction. She felt herself already a wanderer in a land of tombs,
where none could say whether morning had come or gone. Intensely she
looked her misery in the face; and it was as a voice that said, "No sun:
never sun any more," to her. But a blue-hued moon slipped from among the
clouds, and hung in the black outstretched fingers of the tree of
darkness, fronting troubled waters. "This is thy light for ever! thou
shalt live in thy dream." So, as in a prison-house, did her soul now
recall the blissful hours by Wilming Weir. She sickened but an instant.
The blood in her veins was too strong a tide for her to crouch in that
imagined corpse-like universe which alternates with an irradiated Eden in
the brain of the passionate young.
"Why should I lose him!" The dry sob choked her.
She struggled with the emotion in her throat, and Mr. Pole, who had
previously dreaded supplication and appeals for pity, caressed her.
Instantly the flood poured out.
"You are not cruel. I knew it. I should have died, if you had come
between us. Oh, Wilfrid's father, I love you!--I have never had a very
angry word on my mouth. Think! think! if you had made me curse you.
For, I could! You would have stopped my life, and Wilfrid's. What would
our last thoughts have been? We could not have forgiven you. Take up
dead birds killed by frost. You cry: Cruel winter! murdering cold! But
I knew better. You are Wilfrid's father, whom I can kneel to. My
lover's father! my own father! my friend next to heaven! Oh! bless my
love, for him. You have only to know what my love for him is! The
thought of losing him goes like perishing cold through my bones;--my
heart jerks, as if it had to pull up my body from the grave every time it
"God in heaven!" cried the horrified merchant, on whose susceptible
nerves these images wrought with such a force that he absolutely had
dread of her. He gasped, and felt at his heart, and then at his pulse;
rubbed the moisture from his forehead, and throwing a fixedly wild look
on her eyes, he jumped up and left her kneeling.
His caress had implied mercy to Emilia: for she could not reconcile it
with the rejection of the petition of her soul. She was now a little
bewildered to see him trotting the room, frowning and blinking, and
feeling at one wrist, at momentary pauses, all his words being: "Let's be
quiet. Let's be good. Let's go to bed, and say our prayers;" mingled
with short ejaculations.
"I may say," she intercepted him, "I may tell my dear lover that you
bless us both, and that we are to live. Oh, speak! sir! let me hear
"Let's go to bed," iterated Mr. Pole. "Come, candles! do light them. In
God's name! light candles. And let's be off and say our prayers."
"You consent, sir?"
"What's that your heart does?" Mr. Pole stopped to enquire; adding:
"There, don't tell me. You've played the devil with mine. Who'd ever
have made me believe that I should feel more at ease running up and down
the room, than seated in my arm-chair! Among the wonders of the world,
Emilia put up her lips to kiss him, as he passed her. There was
something deliciously soothing and haven-like to him in the aspect of her
"Now, you'll be a good girl," said he, when he had taken her salute.
"And you," she rejoined, "will be happier!"
His voice dropped. "If you go on like this, you've done for me!"
But she could make no guess at any tragic meaning in his words. "My
father--let me call you so!"
"Will you see that you can't have him?" he stamped the syllables into her
ears: and, with a notion of there being a foreign element about her,
repeated:--"No!--not have him!--not yours!--somebody else's!"
This was clear enough.
"Only you can separate us," said Emilia, with a brow levelled intently.
"Well, and I"--Mr. Pole was pursuing in the gusty energy of his previous
explanation. His eyes met Emilia's, gravely widening. "I--I'm very
sorry," he broke down: "upon my soul, I am!"
The old man went to the mantel-piece and leaned his elbow before the
Emilia's bosom began to rise again.
She was startled to hear him laugh. A slight melancholy little burst;
and then a louder one, followed by a full-toned laughter that fell short
and showed the heart was not in it.
"That boy Braintop! What fun it was!" he said, looking all the while
into the glass. "Why can't we live in peace, and without bother! Is
your candle alight, my dear?"
Emilia now thought that he was practising evasion.
"I will light it," she said.
Mr. Pole gave a wearied sigh. His head being still turned to the glass,
he listened with a shrouded face for her movements: saying, "Good night;
good night; I'll light my own. There's a dear!"
A shouting was in his ears, which seemed to syllable distinctly: "If she
goes at once, I'm safe."
The sight of pain at all was intolerable to him; but he had a prophetic
physical warning now that to witness pain inflicted by himself would be
more than he could endure.
Emilia breathed a low, "Good night."
"Good night, my love--all right to-morrow!" he replied briskly; and
remorse touching his kind heart as the music of her 'good night'
penetrated to it by thrilling avenues, he added injudiciously: "Don't
fret. We'll see what we can do. Soon make matters comfortable."
"I love you, and I know you will not stab me," she answered.
"No; certainly not," said Mr. Pole, still keeping his back to her.
Struck with a sudden anticipating fear of having to go through this scene
on the morrow, he continued: "No misunderstands, mind! Wilfrid's done
There was a silence. He trusted she might be gone. Turning round, he
faced her; the light of the candle throwing her pale visage into ghostly
"Where is sleep for you if you part us?"
Mr. Pole flung up his arms. "I insist upon your going to bed. Why
shouldn't I sleep? Child's folly!"
Though he spoke so, his brain was in strings to his timorous ticking
nerves; and he thought that it would be well to propitiate her and get
her to utter some words that would not haunt his pillow.
"My dear girl! it's not my doing. I like you. I wish you well and
happy. Very fond of you;--blame circumstances, not me." Then he
murmured: "Are black spots on the eyelids a bad sign? I see big flakes
of soot falling in a dark room."
Emilia's mated look fleeted. "You come between us, sir, because I have
"I tell you it's the boy's only chance to make his hit now." Mr. Pole
stamped his foot angrily.
"And you make my Cornelia marry, though she loves another, as Wilfrid
loves me, and if they do not obey you they are to be beggars! Is it you
who can pray? Can you ever have good dreams? I saved my father from the
sin, by leaving him. He wished to sell me. But my poor father had no
money at all, and I can pardon him. Money was a bright thing to him:
like other things to us. Mr. Pole! What will any one say for you!"
The unhappy merchant had made vehement efforts to perplex his hearing,
that her words might be empty and not future dragons round his couch. He
was looking forward to a night of sleep as a cure for the evil sensations
besetting him--his only chance. The chance was going; and with the
knowledge that it was unjustly torn from him--this one gleam of clear
reason in his brain undimmed by the irritable storm which plucked him
down--he cried out, to clear himself:--
"They are beggars, both, and all, if they don't marry before two months
are out. I'm a beggar then. I'm ruined. I shan't have a penny. I'm in
a workhouse. They are in good homes. They are safe, and thank their old
father. Now, then; now. Shall I sleep?"
Emilia caught his staggering arm. The glazed light of his eyes went out.
He sank into a chair; white as if life had issued with the secret of his
life. Wonderful varying expressions had marked his features and the
tones of his voice, while he was uttering that sharp, succinct
confession; so that, strange as it sounded, every sentence fixed itself
on her with incontrovertible force, and the meaning of the whole flashed
through her mind. It struck her too awfully for speech. She held fast
to his nerveless hand, and kneeling before him, listened for his long
The 'Shall I sleep?' seemed answered.
For days after the foregoing scene, Brookfield was unconscious of what
had befallen it. Wilfrid was trying his yacht, the ladies were preparing
for the great pleasure-gathering on Besworth lawn, and shaping astute
designs to exclude the presence of Mrs. Chump, for which they partly
condemned themselves; but, as they said, "Only hear her!" The excitable
woman was swelling from conjecture to certainty on a continuous public
cry of, "'Pon my hon'r!--d'ye think little Belloni's gone and marrud
Emilia's supposed flight had deeply grieved the ladies, when alarm and
suspicion had subsided. Fear of some wretched male baseness on the part
of their brother was happily diverted by a letter, wherein he desired
them to come to him speedily. They attributed her conduct to dread of
Mr. Pericles. That fervid devotee of Euterpe received the tidings with
an obnoxious outburst, which made them seriously ask themselves
(individually and in secret) whether he was not a moneyed brute, and
nothing more. Nor could they satisfactorily answer the question. He
raved: "You let her go. Ha! what creatures you are--hein? But you find
not anozer in fifty years, I say; and here you stop, and forty hours pass
by, and not a sing in motion. What blood you have! It is water--not
blood. Such a voice, a verve, a style, an eye, a devil, zat girl! and
all drawn up and out before ze time by a man: she is spoilt!"
He exhibited an anguish that they were not able to commiserate. Certain
expressions falling from him led them to guess that he had set some plot
in motion, which Emilia's flight had arrested; but his tragic outcries
were all on the higher ground of the loss to Art. They were glad to see
him go from the house. Soon he returned to demand Wilfrid's address.
Arabella wrote it out for him with rebuking composure. Then he insisted
upon having Captain Gambier's, whom he described as "ce nonchalant
"Him you will have a better opportunity of seeing by waiting here," said
Adela; and the captain came before Mr. Pericles had retreated. "Ce
nonchalant" was not quite true to his title, when he heard that Emilia
had flown. He did not say much, but iterated "Gone!" with an elegant
frown, adding, "She must come back, you know!" and was evidently more
than commonly puzzled and vexed, pursuing the strain in a way that
satisfied Mr. Pericles more thoroughly than Adela.
"She shall come back as soon as she has a collar," growled Mr. Pericles,
"If she'd only come back with her own maiden name," interjected Mrs.
Chump, "I'll give her a character; but, upon my hon'r--d'ye think ut
Arabella talked over her, and rescued her father's name.
The noisy sympathy and wild speculations of the Tinleys and Copleys had
to be endured. On the whole, the feeling toward Emilia was kind, and the
hope that she would come to no harm was fervently expressed by all the
ladies; frequently enough, also, to show the opinion that it might easily
happen. On such points Mrs. Chump never failed to bring the conversation
to a block. Supported as they were by Captain Gambier, Edward Buxley,
Freshfield Sumner, and more than once by Sir Twickenham (whom Freshfield,
launching angry shafts, now called the semi-betrothed, the statistical
cripple, and other strong things that show a developing genius for
street-cries and hustings--epithets in every member of the lists of the
great Rejected, or of the jilted who can affect to be philosophical),
notwithstanding these aids, the ladies of Brookfield were crushed by Mrs.
Chump. Her main offence was, that she revived for them so much of
themselves that they had buried. "Oh! the unutterably sordid City life!"
It hung about her like a smell of London smoke. As a mere animal, they
passed her by, and had almost come to a state of mind to pass her off.
It was the phantom, or rather the embodiment of their First Circle, that
they hated in the woman. She took heroes from the journals read by
servant-maids; she thought highly of the Court of Aldermen; she went on
public knees to the aristocracy; she was proud, in fact, of all City
appetites. What, though none saw the peculiar sting? They felt it; and
one virtue in possessing an 'ideal' is that, lodging in you as it does,
it insists upon the interior being furnished by your personal
satisfaction, and not by the blindness or stupidity of the outer world.
Thus, in one direction, an ideal precludes humbug. The ladies might
desire to cloak facts, but they had no pleasure in deception. They had
the feminine power of extinguishing things disagreeable, so long as
nature or the fates did them no violence. When these forces sent an
emissary to confound them, as was clearly the case with Mrs. Chump, they
fought. The dreadful creature insisted upon shows of maudlin affection
that could not be accorded to her, so that she existed in a condition of
preternatural sensitiveness. Among ladies pretending to dignity of life,
the horror of acrid complaints alternating with public offers of love
from a gross woman, may be pictured in the mind's eye. The absence of
Mr. Pole and Wilfrid, which caused Mrs. Chump to chafe at the restraint
imposed by the presence of males to whom she might not speak endearingly,
and deprived the ladies of proper counsel, and what good may be at times
in masculine authority, led to one fierce battle, wherein the great shot
was fired on both sides. Mrs. Chump was requested to leave the house:
she declined. Interrogated as to whether she remained as an enemy,
knowing herself to be so looked upon, she said that she remained to save
them from the dangers they invited. Those dangers she named, observing
that Mrs. Lupin, their aunt, might know them, but was as liable to be
sent to sleep by a fellow with a bag of jokes as a watchdog to be quieted
by a bone. The allusion here was to Mrs. Lupin's painful, partially
inexcusable, incurable sense of humour, especially when a gleam of it led
to the prohibited passages of life. The poor lady was afflicted so
keenly that, in instances where one of her sex and position in the social
scale is bound to perish rather than let even the shadow of a laugh
appear, or any sign of fleshly perception or sympathy peep out, she was
seen to be mutely, shockingly, penitentially convulsed: a degrading
sight. And albeit repeatedly remonstrated with, she, upon such
occasions, invariably turned imploring glances--a sort of frowning
entreaty--to the ladies, or to any of her sex present. "Did you not see
that? Oh! can you resist it?" she seemed to gasp, as she made those
fruitless efforts to drag them to her conscious level. "Sink thou, if
thou wilt," was the phrase indicated to her. She had once thought her
propensity innocent enough, and enjoyable. Her nieces had almost cured
her, by sitting on her, until Mrs. Chump came to make her worst than
ever. It is to be feared that Mrs. Chump was beginning to abuse her
power over the little colourless lady. We cannot, when we find ourselves
possessed of the gift of sending a creature into convulsions, avoid
exercising it. Mrs. Lupin was one of the victims of the modern feminine
'ideal.' She was in mind merely a woman; devout and charitable, as her
nieces admitted; but radically--what? They did not like to think, or to
say, what;--repugnant, seemed to be the word. A woman who consented to
perceive the double-meaning, who acknowledged its suggestions of a
violation of decency laughable, and who could not restrain laughter, was,
in their judgement, righteously a victim. After signal efforts to lift
her up, the verdict was that their Aunt Lupin did no credit to her sex.
If we conceive a timorous little body of finely-strung nerves, inclined
to be gay, and shrewdly apprehensive, but depending for her opinion of
herself upon those about her, we shall see that Mrs. Lupin's life was one
of sorrow and scourges in the atmosphere of the 'ideal.' Never did nun
of the cloister fight such a fight with the flesh, as this poor little
woman, that she might not give offence to the Tribunal of the Nice
Feelings which leads us to ask, "Is sentimentalism in our modern days
taking the place of monasticism to mortify our poor humanity?" The
sufferings of the Three of Brookfield under Mrs. Chump was not comparable
to Mrs. Lupin's. The good little woman's soul withered at the self-
contempt to which her nieces helped her daily. Laughter, far from
expanding her heart and invigorating her frame, was a thing that she felt
herself to be nourishing as a traitor in her bosom: and the worst was,
that it came upon her like a reckless intoxication at times, possessing
her as a devil might; and justifying itself, too, and daring to say, "Am
I not Nature?" Mrs. Lupin shrank from the remembrance of those moments.
In another age, the scenes between Mrs. Lupin and Mrs. Chump, greatly
significant for humanity as they are, will be given without offence on
one side or martyrdom on the other. At present, and before our
sentimentalists are a concrete, it would be profitless rashness to depict
them. When the great shots were fired off (Mrs. Chump being requested to
depart, and refusing) Mrs. Lupin fluttered between the belligerents,
doing her best to be a medium for the restoration of peace. In repeating
Mrs. Chump's remarks, which were rendered purposely strong with Irish
spice by that woman, she choked; and when she conveyed to Mrs. Chump the
counter-remarks of the ladies, she provoked utterances that almost killed
her. A sadder life is not to be imagined. The perpetual irritation of a
desire to indulge in her mortal weakness, and listening to the sleepless
conscience that kept watch over it; her certainty that it would be better
for her to laugh right out, and yet her incapacity to contest the justice
of her nieces' rebuke; her struggle to resist Mrs. Chump, which ended in
a sensation of secret shameful liking for her--all these warring
influences within were seen in her behaviour.
"I have always said," observed Cornelia, "that she labours under a
disease." What is more, she had always told Mrs. Lupin as much, and her
sisters had echoed her. Three to one in such a case is a severe trial to
the reason of solitary one. And Mrs. Lupin's case was peculiar, inasmuch
as the more she yielded to Chump-temptation and eased her heart of its
load of laughter, the more her heart cried out against her and subscribed
to the scorn of her nieces. Mrs. Chump acted a demon's part; she
thirsted for Mrs. Lupin that she might worry her. Hitherto she had not
known that anything peculiar lodged in her tongue, and with no other
person did she think of using it to produce a desired effect; but now the
scenes in Brookfield became hideous to the ladies, and not wanting in
their trials to the facial muscles of the gentlemen. A significant sign
of what the ladies were enduring was, that they ceased to speak of it in
their consultations. It is a blank period in the career of young
creatures when a fretting wretchedness forces them out of their dreams to
action; and it is then that they will do things that, seen from the
outside (i.e. in the conduct of others), they would hold to be monstrous,
all but impossible. Or how could Cornelia persuade herself, as she
certainly persuaded Sir Twickenham and the world about her, that she had
a contemplative pleasure in his society? Arabella drew nearer to Edward
Buxley, whom she had not treated well, and who, as she might have
guessed, had turned his thoughts toward Adela; though clearly without
encouragement. Adela indeed said openly to her sisters, with a Gallic
ejaculation, "Edward follows me, do you know; and he has adopted a sort
of Sicilian-vespers look whenever he meets me with Captain Gambier. I
could forgive him if he would draw out a dagger and be quite theatrical;
but, behold, we meet, and my bourgeois grunts and stammers, and seems to
beg us to believe that he means nothing whatever by his behaviour. Can
you convey to his City-intelligence that he is just a trifle ill-bred?"
Now, Arabella had always seen Edward as a thing that was her own, which
accounts for the treatment to which, he had been subjected. A quick spur
of jealousy--a new sensation--was the origin of her leaning toward
Edward; and the plea of saving Adela from annoyance excused and covered
it. He, for his part, scarcely concealed his irritation, until a little
scented twisted note was put in his hand, which said, "You are as anxious
as I can be about our sweet lost Emilia! We believe ourselves to be on
her traces." This gave him wonderful comfort. It put Adela in a
beautiful fresh light as a devoted benefactress and delicious
intriguante. He threw off some of his most telling caricatures at this
period. Adela had divined that Captain Gambier suspected his cousin
Merthyr Powys of abstracting Emilia, that he might shield her from Mr.
Pericles. The Captain confessed it, calmly blushing, and that he was in
communication with Miss Georgiana Ford, Mr. Powys's half-sister; about
whom Adela was curious, until the Captain ejaculated, "A saint!"--whereat
she was satisfied, knowing by instinct that the preference is for
sinners. Their meetings usually referred to Emilia; and it was
astonishing how willingly the Captain would talk of her. Adela repeated
to herself, "This is our mask," and thus she made it the Captain's; for
it must be said that the conquering Captain had never felt so full of
pity to any girl or woman to whom he fancied he had done damage, as to
Emilia. He enjoyed a most thorough belief that she was growing up to
perplex him with her love, and he had not consequently attempted to
precipitate the measure; but her flight had prematurely perplexed him.
In grave debate with the ends of his moustache for a term, he concluded
by accusing Merthyr Powys; and with a little feeling of spite not unknown
to masculine dignity, he wrote to Merthyr's half-sister--"merely to
inquire, being aware that whatever he does you have been consulted on,
and the friends of this Miss Belloni are distressed by her absence."
The ladies of Brookfield were accustomed to their father's occasional
unpremeditated absences, and neither of them had felt an apprehension
which she could not dismiss, until one morning Mr. Powys sent up his card
to Arabella, requesting permission to speak with her alone.
Georgiana Ford would have had little claim among the fair saints to be
accepted by them as one of their order. Her reputation for coldness was
derived from the fact of her having stood a siege from Captain Gambier.
But she loved a creature of earth too well to put up a hand for saintly
honours. The passion of her life centred in devotion to her half-
brother. Those who had studied her said, perhaps with a touch of
malignity, that her religious instinct had its source in a desire to gain
some place of intercession for him. Merthyr had leaned upon it too often
to doubt the strength of it, whatever its purity might be. She, when
barely more than a child (a girl of sixteen), had followed him over the
then luckless Italian fields--sacrificing as much for a cause that she
held to be trivial, as he in the ardour of his half-fanatical worship.
Her theory was: "These Italians are in bondage, and since heaven permits
it, there has been guilt. By endurance they are strengthened, by
suffering chastened; so let them endure and suffer." She would cleave to
this view with many variations of pity. Merthyr's experience was tolerant
to the weaker vessel's young delight in power, which makes her sometimes,
though sweet and merciful by nature, enunciate Hebraic severities
oracularly. He smiled, and was never weary of pointing out practical
refutations. Whereat she said, "Will a thousand instances change the
principle?" When the brain, and especially the fine brain of a woman,
first begins to act for itself, the work is of heavy labour; she finds
herself plunging abroad on infinite seas, and runs speedily into the
anchorage of dogmas, obfuscatory saws, and what she calls principles.
Here she is safe; but if her thinking was not originally the mere action
of lively blood upon that battery of intelligence, she will by-and-by
reflect that it is not well for a live thing to be tied to a dead, and
that long clinging to safety confesses too much. Merthyr waited for
Georgians patiently. On all other points they were heart-in-heart. It
was her pride to say that she loved him with no sense of jealousy, and
prayed that he might find a woman, in plain words, worthy of him. This
woman had not been found; she confessed that she had never seen her.
Georgians received Captain Gambier's communication in Monmouth. Merthyr
had now and then written of a Miss Belloni; but he had seemed to refer to
a sort of child, and Georgians had looked on her as another Italian
pensioner. She was decisive. The moment she awoke to feel herself
brooding over the thought of this girl, she started to join Merthyr.
Solitude is pasturage for a suspicion. On her way she grew persuaded
that her object was bad, and stopped; until the thought came, 'If he is
in a dilemma, who shall help him save his sister?' And, with spiritually
streaming eyes at a vision of companionship broken (but whether by his
taking another adviser, or by Miss Belloni, she did not ask), Georgiana
continued her journey.
At the door of Lady Gosstre's town-house she hesitated, and said in her
mind, "What am I doing? and what earthliness has come into my love for
Or, turning to the cry, "Will he want me?" stung herself. Conscious that
there was some poison in her love, but clinging to it not less, she
entered the house, and was soon in Merthyr's arms.
"Why have you come up?" he asked.
"Were you thinking of coming to me quickly?" she murmured in reply.
He did not say yes, but that he had business in London. Nor did he say
Georgiana let him go.
"How miserable is such a weakness! Is this my love?" she thought again.
Then she went to her bedroom, and knelt, and prayed her Saviour's pardon
for loving a human thing too well. But, if the rays of her mind were
dimmed, her heart beat too forcibly for this complacent self-deceit.
"No; not too well! I cannot love him too well. I am selfish. When I
say that, it is myself I am loving. To love him thrice as dearly as I do
would bring me nearer to God. Love I mean, not idolatry--another form of
She prayed to be guided out of the path of snares.
"CAN YOU PRAY? CAN YOU PUT AWAY ALL PROPS OF SELF? THIS IS TRUE
WORSHIP, UNTO WHATSOEVER POWER YOU KNEEL."
This passage out of a favourite book of sentences had virtue to help her
now in putting away the 'props of self.' It helped her for the time.
She could not foresee the contest that was commencing for her.
"LOVE THAT SHRIEKS AT A MORTAL WOUND, AND BLEEDS HUMANLY, WHAT IS HE
BUT A PAGAN GOD, WITH THE PASSIONS OF A PAGAN GOD?"
"Yes," thought Georgiana, meditating, "as different from the Christian
love as a brute from a man!"
She felt that the revolution of the idea of love in her mind (all that
consoled her) was becoming a temptation. Quick in her impulses, she
dismissed it. "I am like a girl!" she said scornfully. "Like a woman"
would not have flattered her. Like what did she strive to be? The
picture of another self was before her--a creature calmly strong,
unruffled, and a refuge to her beloved. It was a steady light through
every wind that blew, save when the heart narrowed; and then it waxed
feeble, and the life in her was hungry for she knew not what.
Georgiana's struggle was to make her great passion eat up all the others.
Sure of the intensity and thoroughness of her love for Merthyr, she would
forecast for herself tasks in his service impossible save to one
sensually dead and therefore spiritually sexless. "My love is pure," she
would say; as if that were the talisman which rendered it superhuman.
She was under the delusion that lovers' love was a reprehensible egoism.
Her heart had never had place for it; and thus her nature was
unconsummated, and the torment of a haunting insufficiency accompanied
her sweetest hours, ready to mislead her in all but very clearest
She saw, or she divined, much of this struggle; but the vision of it was
fitful, not consecutive. It frightened and harassed without illuminating
her. Now, upon Merthyr's return, she was moved by it just enough to take
his hand and say:--
"We are the same?"
"What can change us?" he replied.
"Or who?" and as she smiled up to him, she was ashamed of her smile.
"Yes, who!" he interjected, by this time quite enlightened. All subtle
feelings are discerned by Welsh eyes when untroubled by any mental
agitation. Brother and sister were Welsh, and I may observe that there
is human nature and Welsh nature.
"Forgive me," she said; "I have been disturbed about you."
Perceiving that it would be well to save her from any spiritual twists
and turns that she might reach what she desired to know, he spoke out
fully: "I have not written to you about Miss Belloni lately. I think it
must be seven or eight days since I had a letter from her--you shall see
it--looking as if it had been written in the dark. She gave the address
of a London hotel. I went to her, and her story was that she had come to
town to get Mr. Pole's consent to her marriage with his son; and that
when she succeeded in making herself understood by him, the old man fell,
smitten with paralysis, crying out that he was ruined, and his children
"Ah!" said Georgiana; "then this son is engaged to her?"
"She calls him her lover."
"Have I not told you? 'naked and unashamed.'"
"Of course that has attracted my Merthyr!" Georgians drew to him
tenderly, breathing as one who has a burden off her heart.
"But why did she write to you?" the question started up.
For this reason: it appears that Mr. Pole showed such nervous irritation
at the idea of his family knowing the state he was in, that the doctor
attending him exacted a promise from her not to communicate with one of
them. She was alone, in great perplexity, and did what I had requested
her to do. She did me the honour to apply to me for any help it was in
my power to give.
Georgiana stood eyeing the ground sideways. "What is she like?"
"You shall see to-morrow, if you will come with me."
"Dark, or fair?"
Merthyr turned her face to the light, laughing softly. Georgiana
coloured, with dropped eyelids.
She raised her eyes under their load of shame. "I will come gladly," she
"Early to-morrow, then," rejoined Merthyr.
On the morrow, as they were driving to the hotel, Georgians wanted to
know whether he called 'this Miss Belloni' by her Christian name--a
question so needless that her over-conscious heart drummed with gratitude
when she saw that he purposely spared her from one meaning look. In this
mutual knowledge, mutual help, in minute as in great things, as well as
in the recognition of a common nobility of mind, the love of the two was
Emilia had not been left by Mr. Powys without the protection of a woman's
society in her singular position. Lady Charlotte's natural prompt
kindness required no spur from her friend that she should go and brace up
the spirits of a little woman, whom she pitied doubly for loving a man
who was deceiving her, and not loving one who was good for her. She went
frequently to Emilia, and sat with her in the sombre hotel drawing-room.
Still, frank as she was and blunt as she affected to be, she could not
bring her tongue to speak of Wilfrid. If she had fancied any sensitive
shuddering from the name and the subject to exist, she would have struck
boldly, being capable of cruelty and, where she was permitted to see a
weakness, rather fond of striking deep. A belief in the existence of
Emilia's courage touched her to compassion. One day, however, she said,
"What is it you take to in Merthyr Powys?" and this brought on plain
Emilia could give no reason; and it is a peculiarity of people who ask
such questions that they think a want of directness in the answer
Lady Charlotte said gravely, "Come, come!"
"What do you mean?" asked Emilia. "I like so many things in him."
"You don't like one thing chiefly?"
"I like--what do I like?--his kindness."
"His kindness!" This was the sort of reply to make the lady implacable.
She seldom read others shrewdly, and could not know, that near her,
Emilia thought of Wilfrid in a way that made the vault of her brain seem
to echo with jarred chords. "His kindness! What a picture is the
'grateful girl!' I have seen rows of white-capped charity children
giving a bob and a sniffle as the parson went down the ranks promising
buns. Well! his kindness! You are right in appreciating as much as you
can see. I'll tell you why I like him;--because he is a gentleman. And
you haven't got an idea how rare that animal is. Dear me! Should I be
plainer to you if I called him a Christian gentleman? It's the cant of a
detestable school, my child. It means just this--but why should I
disturb your future faith in it? The professors mainly profess to be 'a
comfort to young women,' and I suppose you will meet your comfort, and
worship them with the 'growing mind;' and I must confess that they bait
it rather cunningly; nothing else would bite. They catch almost all the
raw boys who have anything in them. But for me, Merthyr himself would
have been caught long ago. There's no absolute harm in them, only that
they're a sentimental compromise. I deny their honesty; and if it's
flatly proved, I deny their intelligence. Well! this you can't
"I have not understood you at all," said Emilia.
"No? It's the tongue that's the natural traitor to a woman, and takes
longer runs with every added year. I suppose you know that Mr. Powys
wishes to send you to Italy?"
"I do," said Emilia.
"When are you going?"
"I am not going?"
Emilia's bosom rose. She cried "Dear lady!" on the fall of it, and was
scarce audible--adding, "Do you love Wilfrid?"
"Well, you have brought me to the point quickly," Lady Charlotte
remarked. "I don't commonly beat the bush long myself. Love him! You
might as well ask me my age. The indiscretion would be equal, and the
result the same. Love! I have a proper fear of the word. When two play
at love they spoil the game. It's enough that he says he loves me."
Emilia looked relieved. "Poor lady!" she sighed.
"Poor!" Lady Charlotte echoed, with curious eyes fixed on the puzzle
"Tell me you will not believe him," Emilia continued. "He is mine; I
shall never give him up. It is useless for you or any one else to love
him. I know what love is now. Stop while you can. I can be sorry for
you, but I will not let him go from me. He is my lover."
Emilia closed her lips abruptly. She produced more effect than was
visible. Lady Charlotte drew out a letter, saying, "Perhaps this will
"Nothing!" cried Emilia, jumping to her feet.
"Read it--read it; and, for heaven's sake, ma fille sauvage, don't think
I'm here to fight for the man! He is not Orpheus; and our modern
education teaches us that it's we who are to be run after. Will you read
"Will you read it to please me?"
Emilia changed from a look of quiet opposition to gentleness of feature.
"Why will it please you if I read that he has flattered you? I never lie
about what I feel; I think men do." Her voice sank.
"You won't allow yourself to imagine, then, that he has spoken false to
"Tell me," retorted Emilia, "are you sure in your heart--as sure as it
beats each time--that he loves you? You are not."
"It seems that we are dignifying my gentleman remarkably," said Lady
Charlotte. "When two women fight for a man, that is almost a meal for
his vanity. Now, listen. I am not, as they phrase it, in love. I am an
experienced person--what is called a woman of the world. I should not
make a marriage unless I had come to the conclusion that I could help my
husband, or he me. Do me the favour to read this letter."
Emilia took it and opened it slowly. It was a letter in the tone of the
gallant paying homage with some fervour. Emilia searched every sentence
for the one word. That being absent, she handed back the letter, her
eyes lingering on the signature.
"Do you see what he says?" asked Lady Charlotte; "that I can be a right
hand to him, as I believe I can."
"He writes like a friend." Emilia uttered this as when we have a
contrast in the mind.
"You excuse him for writing to me in that style?"
"Yes; he may write to any woman like that."
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