Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, complete
Part 6 out of 11
"He has latitude! You really fancy that's the sort of letter a friend
"That is how Mr. Powys would write to me," said Emilia. Lady Charlotte
laughed. "My unhappy Merthyr!"
"Only if I could be a great deal older," Emilia hastened to add; and Lady
Charlotte slightly frowned, but rubbed it out with a smile.
Rising, the lady said: "I have spoken to you upon equal terms; and
remember, very few women would have done what I have done. You are cared
for by Merthyr Powys, and that's enough. It would do you no harm to fix
your eyes upon him. You won't get him; but it would do you no harm. He
has a heart, as they call it; whatever it is, it's as strong as a cable.
He is a knight of the antique. He is specially guarded, however. Well,
he insists that you are his friend; so you are mine, and that is why I
have come to you and spoken to you. You will be silent about it, I need
not say. No one but yourself is aware that Lieutenant Pole does me the
honour to liken me to the good old gentleman who accompanied Telemachus
in his voyages, and chooses me from among the handmaidens of earth. On
this head you will promise to be silent."
Lady Charlotte held forth her hand. Emilia would not take it before she
had replied, "I knew this before you came," and then she pressed the
Lady Charlotte drew her close. "Has Wilfrid taken you into his
confidence so far?"
Emilia explained that she had heard it from his father.
The lady's face lit up as from a sting of anger. "Very well--very well,"
she said; and, presently, "You are right when you speak of the power of
lying in men. Observe--Wilfrid told me that not one living creature knew
there was question of an engagement between us. What would you do in my
Emilia replied, "Forgive him; and I should think no more of it."
"Yes. It would be right; and, presuming him to have the vice, I could be
of immense service to him, if at least he does not lie habitually. But
this is a description of treachery, you know."
"Oh!" cried Emilia, "what kind of treachery is that, if he only will keep
his heart open for me to give all mine to it!"
She stood clutching her hands in the half-sobbing ecstasy which
signalises a spiritual exaltation built on disquiet. She had shown small
emotion hitherto. The sight of it was like the sight of a mighty hostile
power to Lady Charlotte--a power that moved her--that challenged, and
irritated, and subdued her. For she saw there something that she had
not; and being of a nature leaning to great-mindedness, though not of the
first rank, she could not meanly mask her own deficiency by despising it.
To do this is the secret evil by which souls of men and women stop their
Lady Charlotte decided now to say good-bye. Her parting was friendly--
the form of it consisting of a nod, an extension of the hand, and a kind
word or two.
When alone, Emilia wondered why she kept taking long breaths, and tried
to correct herself: but the heart laboured. Yet she seemed to have no
thought in her mind; she had no active sensation of pity or startled
self-love. She went to smooth Mr. Pole's pillow, as to a place of
forgetfulness. The querulous tyrannies of the invalid relieved her; but
the heavy lifting of her chest returned the moment she was alone. She
mentioned it to the doctor, who prescribed for liver, informing her that
the said organ conducted one of the most important functions of her
Emilia listened to the lecturer, and promised to take his medicine,
trusting to be perfectly quieted by the nauseous draught; but when Mr.
Powys came, she rushed up to him, and fell with a cry upon his breast,
murmuring broken words that Georgiana might fairly interpret as her
suspicions directed. Nor had she ever seen Merthyr look as he did when
their eyes next met.
The card of Mr. Powys found Arabella alone in the house. Mrs. Lupin was
among village school-children; Mrs. Chump had gone to London to see
whether anything was known of Mr. Pole at his office, where she fell upon
the youth Braintop, and made him her own for the day. Adela was out in
the woods, contemplating nature; and Cornelia was supposed to be walking
whither her stately fancy drew her.
"Will you take long solitary walks unprotected?" she was asked.
"I have a parasol," she replied; and could hear, miles distant, the
domestic comments being made on her innocence; and the story it would be
--"She thinks of no possible danger but from the sun."
A little forcing of her innocence now was necessary as an opiate for her
conscience. She was doing what her conscience could only pardon on the
plea of her extreme innocence. The sisters, and the fashion at
Brookfield, permitted the assumption, and exaggerated it willingly. It
chanced, however, that Adela had reason to feel discontented. It was a
breach of implied contract, she thought, that Cornelia should, as she did
only yesterday, tell her that she had seen Edward Buxley in the woods,
and that she was of opinion that the air of the woods was bad for her.
Not to see would have been the sisterly obligation, in Adela's idea--
especially when seeing embraced things that no loving sister should
Bear in mind that we are sentimentalists. The eye is our servant, not
our master; and--so are the senses generally. We are not bound to accept
more than we choose from them. Thus we obtain delicacy; and thus, as you
will perceive, our civilization, by the aid of the sentimentalists, has
achieved an effective varnish. There, certainly, to the vulgar, mind a
tail is visible. The outrageous philosopher declares vehemently that no
beast of the field or the forest would own such a tail. (His meaning is,
that he discerns the sign of the animal slinking under the garb of the
stately polished creature. I have all the difficulty in the world to
keep him back and let me pursue my course.) These philosophers are a
bad-mannered body. Either in opposition, or in the support of them, I
maintain simply that the blinking sentimentalist helps to make
civilization what it is, and civilization has a great deal of merit.
"Did you not leave your parasol behind you at Ipley?" said Adela, as she
met Cornelia in the afternoon.
Cornelia coloured. Her pride supported her, and she violated fine shades
painfully in her response: "Mr. Barrett left me there. Is that your
Adela was too much shocked to note the courageousness of the reply.
"Well! if all we do is to come into broad daylight!" was her horrified
The veil of life was about to be lifted for these ladies. They found
Arabella in her room, crying like an unchastened school-girl; and their
first idea was one of intense condemnation--fresh offences on the part of
Mrs. Chump being conjectured. Little by little Arabella sobbed out what
she had heard that day from Mr. Powys.
After the first stupor Adela proposed to go to her father instantly, and
then suggested that they should all go. She continued talking in random
suggestions, and with singular heat, as if she conceived that the
sensibility of her sisters required to be aroused. By moving and acting,
it seemed to her that the prospect of a vast misery might be expunged,
and that she might escape from showing any likeness to Arabella's
shamefully-discoloured face. It was impossible for her to realize grief
in her own bosom. She walked the room in a nervous tremour, shedding a
note of sympathy to one sister and to the other. At last Arabella got
fuller command of her voice. When she had related that her father's
positive wish, furthered by the doctor's special injunction to obey it
scrupulously, was that they were not to go to him in London, and not to
breathe a word of his illness, but to remain at Brookfield entertaining
friends, Adela stamped her foot, saying that it was more than human
nature could bear.
"If we go," said Arabella, "the London doctor assured Mr. Powys that he
would not answer for papa's life."
"But, good heavens! are we papa's enemies? And why may Mr. Powys see him
if we, his daughters, cannot? Tell me how Mr. Powys met him and knew of
it! Tell me--I am bewildered. I feel that we are cheated in some way.
Oh! tell me something clear."
Arabella said calmingly: "Emilia is with papa. She wrote to Mr. Powys.
Whether she did rightly or not we have not now to inquire. I believe
that she thought it right."
"Entertain friends!" interjected Adela. "But papa cannot possibly mean
that we are to go through--to--the fete on Besworth Lawn, Bella! It's in
two days from this dreadful day."
"Papa has mentioned it to Mr. Powys; he desires us not to postpone it.
We..." Arabella's voice broke piteously.
"Oh! but this is torture!" cried Adela, with a deplorable vision of the
looking-glass rising before her, as she felt the tears sting her eyelids.
"This cannot be! No father would...not loving us as dear papa does! To
be quiet! to sit and be gay! to flaunt at a fete! Oh, mercy! mercy!
Tell me--he left us quite well--no one could have guessed. I remember he
looked at me from the carriage window. Tell me--it must be some moral
shock--what do you attribute it to? Wilfrid cannot be the guilty one.
We have been only too compliant to papa's wishes about that woman. Tell
me what you think it can be!"
A voice said, "Money!"
Which of the sisters had spoken Adela did not know. It was bitter enough
that one could be brought to utter the thing, even if her ideas were so
base as to suspect it. The tears now came dancing over her under-lids
like triumphing imps. "Money!" echoed through her again and again.
Curiously, too, she had no occasion to ask how it was that money might be
supposed to have operated on her father's health. Unable to realize to
herself the image of her father lying ill and suffering, but just
sufficiently touched by what she could conceive of his situation, the
bare whisper of money came like a foul insult to overwhelm her in floods
of liquid self-love. She wept with that last anguish of a woman who is
compelled to weep, but is incapable of finding any enjoyment in her
tears. Cornelia and Arabella caught her hands; she was the youngest, and
had been their pet. It gratified them that Adela should show a deep and
keen feeling. Adela did not check herself from a demonstration that
enabled her to look broadly, as it were, on her own tenderness of heart.
Following many outbursts, she asked, "And the illness--what is it? not
A voice said, "Paralysis!"
Adela's tears stopped. She gazed on both faces, trying with open mouth
to form the word.
Flying from port to port to effect an exchange of stewards (the endless
occupation of a yacht proprietor), Wilfrid had no tidings from
Brookfield. The night before the gathering on Besworth Lawn he went to
London and dined at his Club--a place where youths may drink largely of
the milk of this world's wisdom. Wilfrid's romantic sentiment was always
corrected by an hour at his Club. After dinner he strolled to a not
perfectly regulated theatre, in company with a brother officer; and when
they had done duty before the scenes for a space of time, they lounged
behind to disenchant themselves, in obedience to that precocious cynicism
which is the young man's extra-Luxury. The first figure that caught
Wilfrid's attention there was Mr. Pericles, in a white overcoat,
stretched along a sofa--his eyelids being down, though his eyes were
evidently vigilant beneath. A titter of ladies present told of some
recent interesting commotion.
"Only a row between that rich Greek fellow who gave the supper, and
Marion," a vivacious dame explained to Wilfrid. "She's in one of her
jealous fits; she'd be jealous if her poodle-dog went on its hind-legs to
"Poodle, by Jove!" said Wilfrid. "Pericles himself looks like an
elongated poodle shaved up to his moustache. Look at him. And he plays
the tyrant, does he?"
"Oh! she stands that. Some of those absurd women like it, I think.
She's fussing about another girl."
"What man's worth it?"
"But, would you?"
"It depends upon the 'him,' monsieur.
"Depends upon his being very handsome!"
"No!" the lady fired up. "There you don't know us."
The colloquy became almost tender, until she said, "Isn't this gassy, and
stifling? I confess I do like a carriage, and Richmond on a Sunday. And
then, with two daughters, you know! But what I complain of is her folly
in being in love, or something like it, with a rich fellow."
"Love the poor devil--manage the rich, you mean."
"Yes, of course; that makes them both happy."
"It's a method of being charitable to two."
A rather fleshy fairy now entered, and walked straight up to the looking-
glass to examine her paint--pronouncedly turning her back to the sofa,
where Mr. Pericles still lay at provoking full length. Her panting was
ominous of a further explosion.
"Innocent child!" in the mockery of a foreign accent, commenced it; while
Wilfrid thought how unjustly and coldly critically he had accused his
little Emilia of vulgarity, now that he had this feminine display of it
swarming about him.
"Innocent child, indeed! Be as deaf as you like, you shall hear. And
sofas are not made for men's dirty boots, in this country. I believe
they're all pigs abroad--the men; and the women--cats! Oh! don't open
your eyes--don't speak, pray. You're certain I must go when the bell
rings. You're waiting for that, you unmanly dog!"
"A pig," Mr. Pericles here ventured to remind her, murmuring as one in a
"A peeg!" she retorted mildly, somewhat mollified by her apparent
success. But Mr. Pericles had relapsed into his exasperating composure.
The breath of a deliberate and undeserved peacefulness continued to be
drawn in by his nostrils.
At the accustomed warning there was an ostentatious rustle of retiring
dresses; whereat Mr. Pericles chose to proclaim himself awake. The
astute fairy-fury immediately stepped before him.
"Now you can't go on pretending sleep. You shall hear, and everybody
shall hear. You know you're a villain! You're a wolf seeking..."
Mr. Pericles waved his hand, and she was caught by the wrist and told
that the scene awaited her.
"Let them wait!" she shouted, and, sharpening her cry as she was dragged
off, "Dare to take that girl to Italy! I know what that means, with you.
An Englishman might mean right--but you! You think you've been dealing
with a fool! Why, I can stop this in a minute, and I will. It's you're
the fool! Why, I know her father: he plays in the orchestra. I know her
Up sprang the Greek like a galvanized corpse; while two violent jerks
from the man hauling her out rattled the laugh of triumph which burst
from her. At the same time Wilfrid strove forward, with the frown of one
still bent listening, and he and Pericles were face to face. The
eyebrows of the latter shot up in a lively arch. He made a motion toward
the ceremony of 'shake-hands;' but, perceiving no correspondent overture,
grinned, "It is warm--ha?"
"You feel the heat? Step outside a minute," said Wilfrid.
"Oh, no!" Mr. Pericles looked pleasantly sagacious. Ze draught--a cold."
"Will you come?" pursued Wilfrid.
Wilfrid's hand was rising. At this juncture his brother officer slipped
out some languid words in his ear, indicative of his astonishment that he
should be championing a termagant, and horror at the idea of such a thing
being publicly imagined, tamed Wilfrid quickly. He recovered himself
with his usual cleverness. Seeing the signs of hostility vanish, Mr.
Pericles said, "You are on a search for your father? You have found him?
Hom! I should say a maladie of nerfs will come to him. A pin fall--he
start! A storm at night--he is out dancing among his ships of venture!
Not a bid of corage!--which is bad. If you shall find Mr. Pole for to-
morrow on ze lawn, vary glad."
With a smile compounded of sniffing dog and Parisian obsequiousness, Mr.
Pericles passed, thinking "He has not got her:" for such was his
deduction if he saw that a man could flush for a woman's name.
Wilfrid stood like a machine with a thousand wheels in revolt.
Sensations pricked at ideas, and immediately left them to account for
their existence as they best could. The ideas committed suicide without
a second's consideration. He felt the great gurgling sea in which they
were drowned heave and throb. Then came a fresh set, that poised better
on the slack-rope of his understanding. By degrees, a buried dread in
his brain threw off its shroud. The thought that there was something
wrong with his father stood clearly over him, to be swallowed at once in
the less tangible belief that a harm had come to Emilia--not was coming,
but had come. Passion thinks wilfully when it thinks at all. That night
he lay in a deep anguish, revolving the means by which he might help and
protect her. There seemed no way open, save by making her his own; and
did he belong to himself?. What bound him to Lady Charlotte? She was
not lovely or loving. He had not even kissed her hand; yet she held him
in a chain.
The two men composing most of us at the outset of actual life began their
deadly wrestle within him, both having become awakened. If they wait for
circumstance, that steady fire will fuse them into one, who is commonly a
person of some strength; but throttling is the custom between them, and
we are used to see men of murdered halves. These men have what they
fought for: they are unaware of any guilt that may be charged against
them, though they know that they do not embrace Life; and so it is that
we have vague discontent too universal. Change, O Lawgiver! the length
of our minority, and let it not end till this battle is thoroughly fought
out in approving daylight. The period of our duality should be one as
irresponsible in your eyes as that of our infancy. Is he we call a young
man an individual--who is a pair of alternately kicking scales? Is he
educated, when he dreams not that he is divided? He has drunk Latin like
a vital air, and can quote what he remembers of Homer; but how has he
been fortified for this tremendous conflict of opening manhood, which is
to our life here what is the landing of a soul to the life to come?
Meantime, it is a bad business when the double-man goes about kneeling at
the feet of more than one lady. Society (to give that institution its
due) permits him to seek partial invulnerability by dipping himself in a
dirty Styx, which corrects, as we hear said, the adolescent tendency to
folly. Wilfrid's sentiment had served him (well or ill as it may be), by
keeping him from a headlong plunge in the protecting river; and his folly
was unchastened. He did not even contemplate an escape from the net at
Emilia's expense. The idea came. The idea will come to a young man in
such a difficulty. "My mistress! My glorious stolen fruit! My dark
angel of love!" He deserves a little credit for seeing that Emilia never
could be his mistress, in the debased sense of the term. Union with her
meant life-long union, he knew. Ultimate mental subjection he may also
have seen in it, unconsciously. For, hazy thoughts of that nature may
mix with the belief that an alliance with her degrades us, in this
curious hotch-potch of emotions known to the world as youthful man. A
wife superior to her husband makes him ridiculous wilfully, if the wretch
is to be laughed at; but a mistress thus ill-matched cannot fail to cast
the absurdest light on her monstrous dwarf-custodian. Wilfrid had the
sagacity to perceive, and the keen apprehension of ridicule to shrink
from, the picture. Besides, he was beginning to love Emilia. His
struggle now was to pluck his passion from his heart; and such was
already his plight that he saw no other way of attempting it than by
taking horse and riding furiously in the direction of Besworth.
"I am curious to see what you will make of this gathering. I can cook a
small company myself. It requires the powers of a giantess to mix a body
of people in the open air; and all that is said of commanders of armies
shall be said of you, if you succeed."
This was Lady Gosstre's encouragement to the fair presidents of the fete
on Besworth Lawn. There had been a time when they would have cried out
internally: "We will do it, fail who may." That fallow hour was over.
Their sole thought was to get through the day. A little feverish impulse
of rivalry with her great pattern may have moved Arabella; but the
pressure of grief and dread, and the contrast between her actions and
feelings, forcibly restrained a vain display. As a consequence, she did
her duty better, and won applause from the great lady's moveable court on
eminences of the ground.
"These girls are clever," she said to Lady Charlotte. "They don't bustle
too much. They don't make too distinct a difference of tone with the
different sets. I shall propose Miss Pole as secretary to our Pin and
Needle Relief Society."
"Do," was the reply. "There is also the Polish Dance Committee; and, if
she has any energy left, she might be treasurer to the Ladies' General
"That is an association with which I am not acquainted," said Lady
Gosstre, directing her eye-glass on the field. "Here comes young Pole.
He's gallant, they tell me, and handsome: he studies us too obviously.
That's a mistake to be corrected, Charlotte. One doesn't like to see a
pair of eyes measuring us against a preconception quelconque. Now, there
is our Ionian Am...but you have corrected me, Merthyr:--host, if you
please. But, see! What is the man doing? Is he smitten with madness?"
Mr. Pericles had made a furious dash at the band in the centre of the
lawn, scattered their music, and knocked over the stands. When his
gesticulations had been observed for some moments, Freshfield Sumner
said: "He has the look of a plucked hen, who remembers that she once
clapped wings, and tries to recover the practice."
"Very good," said Lady Gosstre. She was not one who could be unkind to
the professional wit. "And the music-leaves go for feathers. What has
the band done to displease him? I thought the playing was good."
"The instruments appear to have received a dismissal," said Lady
Charlotte. "I suppose this is a clearing of the stage for coming alarums
and excursions. Behold! the 'female element' is agitated. There are--
can you reckon at this distance, Merthyr?--twelve, fourteen of my sex
entreating him in the best tragic fashion. Can he continue stern?"
"They seem to be as violent as the women who tore up Orpheus," said Lady
Tracy Runningbrook shrieked, in a paroxysm, "Splendid!" from his couch on
the sward, and immediately ran off with the idea, bodily.
"Have I stumbled anywhere?" Lady Gosstre leaned to Mr. Powys.
He replied with a satiric sententiousness that told Lady Gosstre what she
wanted to know.
"This is the isolated case where a little knowledge is truly dangerous,"
said Lady Gosstre. "I prohibit girls from any allusion to the classics
until they have taken their degree and are warranted not to open the
wrong doors. On the whole, don't you think, Merthyr, it's better for
women to avoid that pool?"
"And accept what the noble creature chooses to bring to us in buckets,"
added Lady Charlotte. "What is your opinion, Georgey? I forget: Merthyr
has thought you worthy of instruction."
"Merthyr taught me in camp," said Georgians, looking at her brother--her
face showing peace and that confirmed calm delight habitual to it. "We
found that there are times in war when you can do nothing, and you are
feverish to be employed. Then, if you can bring your mind to study, you
are sure to learn quickly. I liked nothing better than Latin Grammar."
"Studying Latin Grammar to the tune of great guns must be a new
sensation," Freshfield Sumner observed.
"The pleasure is in getting rid of all sensation," said she. "I mean you
command it without at all crushing your excitement. You cannot feel a
fuller happiness than when you look back on those hours: at least, I
speak for myself."
"So," said Lady Gosstre, "Georgey did not waste her time after all,
What the latter thought was: "She could not handle a sword or fire a
pistol. Would I have consented to be mere camp-baggage?" Yet no woman
admired Georgiana Ford so much. Disappointment vitiated many of Lady
Charlotte's first impulses; and not until strong antagonism had thrown
her upon her generosity could she do justice to the finer natures about
her. There was full life in her veins; and she was hearing the thirty
fatal bells that should be music to a woman, if melancholy music; and she
had not lived. Time, that sounded in her ears, as it kindled no past,
spoke of no future. She was in unceasing rivalry with all of her sex who
had a passion, or a fixed affection, or even an employment. A sense that
she was wronged by her fate haunted this lady. Rivalry on behalf of a
man she would have held mean--she would have plucked it from her bosom at
once. She was simply envious of those who in the face of death could
say, "I have lived." Pride, and the absence of any power of self-
inspection, kept her blind to her disease. No recollection gave her boy
save of the hours in the hunting-field. There she led gallantly; but it
was not because of leading that she exulted. There the quick blood
struck on her brain like wine, and she seemed for a time to have some one
among the crowns of life. An object--who cared how small?--was ahead: a
poor old fox trying to save his brush; and Charlotte would have it if the
master of cunning did not beat her. "It's my natural thirst for blood,"
she said. She did not laugh as she thought now and then that the old red
brush dragging over grey dews toward a yellow yolk in the curdled winter-
morning sky, was the single thing that could make her heart throb.
Brookfield was supported in its trial by the discomfiture of the Tinleys.
These girls, with their brother, had evidently plotted to 'draw out' Mrs.
Chump. They had asked concerning her, severally; and hearing that she
had not returned from town, had each shown a blank face, or had been
doubtful of the next syllable. Of Wilfrid, Emilia, and Mr. Pole,
question and answer were interchanged. "Wilfrid will come in a few
minutes. Miss Belloni, you know, is preparing for Italy. Papa? Papa, I
really do fear will not be able to join us." Such was Brookfield's
concerted form of reply. The use of it, together with the gaiety of
dancing blood, gave Adela (who believed that she ought to be weeping, and
could have wept easily) strange twitches of what I would ask permission
to call the juvenile 'shrug-philosophy.' As thus: 'What creatures we
are, but life is so!' And again, 'Is not merriment dreadful when a
duty!' She was as miserable as she could be but not knowing that youth
furnished a plea available, the girl was ashamed of being cheerful at
all. Edward Burley's sketch of Mr. Pericles scattering his band, sent
her into muffled screams of laughter; for which she did internal penance
so bitter that, for her to be able to go on at all, the shrug-philosophy
was positively necessary; Mr. Pericles himself saw the sketch, and
remarked critically, "It is zat I have more hair:" following which, he
tapped the signal for an overture to commence, and at the first stroke
took a run, with his elbows clapping exactly as the shrewd hand of Edward
had drawn him.
"See him--zat fellow," Mr. Pericles said to Laura Tinley, pointing to the
leader. "See him pose a maestro! zat leads zis tintamarre. He is a hum-
Laura did the vocal caricaturing, when she had gathered plenty of matter
of this kind. Altogether, as host, Mr. Pericles accomplished his duty in
Late in the afternoon, Sir Twickenham Pryme and Wilfrid arrived in
company. The baronet went straight to Cornelia. Wilfrid beckoned to
Adela, from whom he heard of his father's illness at the hotel in town,
and the conditions imposed on them. He nodded, said lightly, "Where's
Emilia?" and nodded again to the answer, "With papa," and then stopped as
he was walking off to one of the groups. "After all, it won't do for us
to listen to the whims of an invalid. I'm going back. You needn't say
you've seen me."
"We have the doctor's most imperative injunction, dearest," pleaded
Adela, deceived for a moment. "Papa's illness is mental chiefly. He is
able to rise and will be here very soon, if he is not in any way crossed.
For heaven's sake, command yourself as we have done--painfully indeed!
Besides, you have been seen."
"Has she--?" Wilfrid began; and toned an additional carelessness. "She
writes, of course?"
"No, not once; and we are angry with her. It looks like ingratitude, or
stupidity. She can write."
"People might say that we are not behaving well," returned Wilfrid,
repeating that he must go to town. But now Edward Burley camp running
with a message from the aristocratic heights, and thither Wilfrid walked
captive--saying in Adela's ear, "Don't be angry with her."
Adela thought, very justly, "I shall, if you've been making a fool of
her, naughty boy!"
Wilfrid saluted the ladies, and made his bow of introduction to Georgiana
Ford, at whom he looked twice, to confirm an impression that she was the
perfect contrast to Emilia; and for this reason he chose not to look at
her again. Lady Charlotte dropped him a quick recognition.
If Brookfield could have thrown the burden from its mind, the day was one
to feel a pride in. Three Circles were present, and Brookfield
denominated two that it had passed through, and patronized all--from Lady
Gosstre (aristocracy) to the Tinley set (lucre), and from these to the
representative Sumner girls (cultivated poverty). There were also
intellectual, scientific, and Art circles to deal with; music, pleasant
to hear, albeit condemned by Mr. Pericles; agreeable chatter, courtly
flirtation and homage, and no dread of the defection of the letter H from
"I feel more and more convinced," said Adela, meeting Arabella, "that we
can have really no cause for alarm; otherwise papa would not have been
cruel to his children." Arabella kindly reserved her opinion. "So let
us try and be happy," continued Adela, determining to be encouraged by
silence. With that she went on tiptoe gracefully and blew a kiss to her
sister's lips. Running to Captain Gambier, she said, "Do you really
"Charming," replied the ever-affable gentleman. "If I might only venture
to say what makes it so infinitely!"
Much to her immediate chagrin at missing a direct compliment, which would
have had to be parried, and might have led to 'vistas,' the too sprightly
young lady found herself running on: "It's as nice as sin, without the
knowledge that you are sinning."
"Oh! do you think that part of it disagreeable?" said the captain.
"I think the heat terrific:" she retrieved her ground.
"Coquet et coquette," muttered Lady Charlotte, observing them from a
distance; and wondered whether her sex might be strongly represented in
It was not in the best taste, nor was it perhaps good policy (if I may
quote the Tinley set), for the ladies of Brookfield to subscribe openly
to the right of certain people present to be exclusive. Arabella would
have answered: "Lady Gosstre and her party cannot associate with you to
your mutual pleasure and profit; and do you therefore blame her for not
attempting what would fail ludicrously?" With herself, as she was not
sorry to show, Lady Gosstre could associate. Cornelia had given up work
to become a part of the Court. Adela made flying excursions over the
lawn. Laura Tinley had the field below and Mr. Pericles to herself.
That anxious gentleman consulted his watch from time to time, as if he
expected the birth of an event.
Lady Gosstre grew presently aware that there was more acrimony in
Freshfield Sumner's replies to Sir Twickenham (whom he had seduced into a
political argument) than the professional wit need employ; and as Mr.
Powys's talk was getting so attractive that the Court had become crowded,
she gave a hint to Georgiana and Lady Charlotte, prompt lieutenants,
whose retirement broke the circle.
"I never shall understand how it was done," Adela said subsequently. It
is hoped that everybody sees the importance of understanding such points.
She happened to be standing alone when a messenger came up to her and
placed a letter in her hand, addressed to her sister Cornelia. Adela
walked slowly up to the heights. She knew Mr. Barrett's handwriting.
"Good heavens!"--her thought may be translated out of Fine Shades--"does
C. really in her heart feel so blind to our situation that she can go on
playing still?" When she reached the group it was to hear Mr. Powys
speaking of Mr. Barrett. Cornelia was very pale, and stood wretchedly in
contrast among the faces. Adela beckoned her to step aside. "Here is a
letter," she said: "there's no postmark. What has been the talk of that
"Do you mean of Mr. Barrett?" Cornelia replied:--"that his father was a
baronet, and a madman, who has just disinherited him."
"Just?" cried Adela. She thought of the title. Cornelia had passed on.
A bizarre story of Mr. Barrett's father was related to Adela by Sir
Twickenham. She grappled it with her sense, and so got nothing out of
it. "Disinherited him because he wrote to his father, who was dying, to
say that he had gained a livelihood by playing the organ! He had a
hatred of music? It's incomprehensible! You know, Sir Twickenham, the
interest we take in Mr. Barrett." The masked anguish of Cornelia's voice
hung in her ears. She felt that it was now possible Cornelia might throw
over the rich for the penniless baronet, and absolutely for an instant
she thought nakedly, "The former ought not to be lost to the family."
Thick clouds obscured the vision. Lady Gosstre had once told her that
the point of Sir Twickenham's private character was his susceptibility to
ridicule. Her ladyship had at the same time complimented his discernment
in conjunction with Cornelia. "Yes," Adela now thought; "but if my
sister shows that she is not so wise as she looks!" Cornelia's figure
disappeared under the foliage bordering Besworth Lawn.
As usual, Arabella had all the practical labour--a fact that was noticed
from the observant heights. "One sees mere de famille written on that
young woman," was the eulogy she won from Lady Gosstre. How much would
the great dame have marvelled to behold the ambition beneath the bustling
surface! Arabella was feverish, and Freshfield Sumner reported brilliant
things uttered by her. He became after a time her attendant, aide, and
occasional wit-foil. They had some sharp exchanges: and he could not but
reflect on the pleasure her keen zest of appreciation gave him compared
with Cornelia's grave smile, which had often kindled in him profane
doubts of the positive brightness, or rapidity of her intelligence.
"Besworth at sunset! What a glorious picture to have living before you
every day!" said Lady Charlotte to her companion.
Wilfrid flushed. She read his look; and said, when they were out of
hearing, "What a place for old people to sit here near the end of life!
The idea of it makes one almost forgive the necessity for getting old--
doesn't it? Tracy Runningbrook might make a poem about silver heads and
sunset--something, you know! Very easy cantering then--no hunting! I
suppose one wouldn't have even a desire to go fast--a sort of cock-horse,
just as we began with. The stables, let me tell you, are too near the
scullery. One is bound to devise measures for the protection of the
morals of the household."
While she was speaking, Wilfrid's thoughts ran: "My time has come to
strike for liberty."
This too she perceived, and was prepared for him.
He said: "Lady Charlotte, I feel that I must tell you...I fear that I
have been calculating rather more hopefully..." Here the pitfall of
sentiment yawned before him on a sudden. "I mean" (he struggled to avoid
it, but was at the brink in the next sentence) "--I mean, dear lady, that
I had hopes...Besworth pleased you... to offer you this..."
"With yourself?" she relieved him. A different manner in a protesting
male would have charmed her better. She excused him, knowing what stood
in his way.
"That I scarcely dared to hope," said Wilfrid, bewildered to see the
loose chain he had striven to cast off gather tightly round him.
"You do hope it?"
"You have hoped that I..." (she was not insolent by nature, and corrected
the form) "--to marry me?"
"Yes, Lady Charlotte, I--I had that hope...if I could have offered this
place--Besworth. I find that my father will never buy it; I have
He fixed his eyes on her, expecting a cool, or an ironical, rejoinder to
end the colloquy;--after which, fair freedom! She answered, "We may do
very well without it."
Wilfrid was not equal to a start and the trick of rapturous astonishment.
He heard the words like the shooting of dungeon-bolts, thinking, "Oh,
heaven! if at the first I had only told the woman I do not love her!"
But that sentimental lead had ruined him. And, on second thoughts, how
could he have spoken thus to the point, when they had never previously
dealt in anything save sentimental implications? The folly was in his
speaking at all. The game was now in Lady Charlotte's hands.
Adela, in another part of the field, had released herself by a consummate
use of the same weapon Wilfrid had so clumsily handled. Her object was
to put an end to the absurd and compromising sighs of Edward Buxley; and
she did so with the amiable contempt of a pupil dismissing a first
instructor in an art "We saw from the beginning it could not be, Edward."
The enamoured caricaturist vainly protested that he had not seen it from
the beginning, and did not now. He recalled to her that she had said he
was 'her first.' She admitted the truth, with eyes dwelling on him,
until a ringlet got displaced. Her first. To be that, sentimental man
would perish in the fires. To have been that will sometimes console him,
even when he has lived to see what a thing he was who caught the budding
fancy. The unhappy caricaturist groaned between triumph as a leader, and
anguish at the prospect of a possible host of successors. King in that
pure bosom, the thought would come--King of a mighty line, mayhap! And
sentimental man, awakened to this disastrous view of things, endures
shrewder pangs of rivalry in the contemplation of his usurping posterity
than if, as do they, he looked forward to a tricked, perfumed, pommaded
whipster, pirouetting like any Pierrot--the enviable image of the one who
realized her first dream, and to whom specially missioned angels first
opened the golden gates of her heart.
"I have learnt to see, Edward, that you do not honour me with a love you
have diverted from one worthier than I am;" and in answer to the question
whether, though having to abjure her love, she loved him: "No, no; it is
my Arabella I love. I love, I will love, no one but her"--with sundry
caressing ejaculations that spring a thirst for kisses, and a tender
'putting of the case,' now and then.
So much for Adela's part in the conflict. Edward was unaware that the
secret of her mastering him was, that she was now talking common-sense in
the tone of sentiment. He, on the contrary, talked sentiment in the tone
of common-sense. Of course he was beaten: and O, you young lovers, when
you hear the dear lips setting what you call the world's harsh language
to this music, know that an hour has struck for you! It is a fatal sound
to hear. Edward believed that his pleading had produced an effect when
he saw Miss Adela's bosom rise as with a weight on it. The burden of her
thoughts was--"How big and heavy Edward's eyes look when he is not
amusing!" To get rid of him she said, as with an impassioned coldness,
"Go." Her figure, repeating this under closed eyelids, was mysterious,
potent. When he exclaimed, "Then I will go," her eyelids lifted wide:
she shut them instantly, showing at the same time a slight tightening-in
of the upper lip. You beheld a creature tied to the stake of Duty.
But she was exceedingly youthful, and had not reckoned upon man's being a
live machine, possessing impulses of his own. A violent seizure of her
waist, and enough of kisses to make up the sum popularly known as a
'shower,' stopped her performance. She struggled, and muttered
passionately to be released. "We are seen," she hazarded. At the
repetition, Edward, accustomed to dread the warning, let her go and fled.
Turning hurriedly about, Adela found that she had spoken truth unawares,
and never wished so much that she had lied. Sir Twickenham Pryme came
forward to her, with his usual stiff courtly step.
"If you could have been a little--a little earlier," she murmured, with
an unflurried face, laying a trembling hand in his; and thus shielded
herself from a suspicion.
"Could I know that I was wanted?" He pressed her hand.
"I only know that I wish I had not left your side," said she--adding,
"Though you must have thought me what, if I were a man, you Members of
Parliament would call 'a bore,' for asking perpetual questions."
"Nay, an apposite interrogation is the guarantee of a proper interest in
the subject," said the baronet.
Cornelia was very soon reverted to.
"Her intellect is contemplative," said Adela, exhibiting marvellous
mental composure. "She would lose her unerring judgement in active life.
She cannot weigh things in her mind rapidly. She is safe if her course
of action is clear."
Sir Twickenham reserved his opinion of the truth of this. "I wonder
whether she can forgive those who offend or insult her, easily?"
A singular pleasure warmed Adela's veins. Her cheeks kindling, she
replied, giving him her full face. "No; if they are worthy of
punishment. But--" and now he watched a downcast profile--"one must have
some forgiveness for fools."
"Indeed, you speak like charity out of the windows of wisdom," said the
"Do you not require in Parliament to be tolerant at times?" Adela
Ho admitted it, and to her outcry of "Oh, that noble public life!" smiled
deprecatingly--"My dear young lady, if you only knew the burden it
"It brings its burden," said Adela, correcting, with a most proper
instinct, another enthusiastic burst. "At the same time the honour is
above the load. Am I talking too romantically? You are at least
"Nine-tenths of us to no very good purpose," the baronet appended.
She rejoined: "If it were but a fraction, the good done would survive."
"And be more honourable to do, perhaps," he ejaculated. "The consolation
should be great."
"And is somehow small," said she; and they laughed softly.
At this stage, Adela was 'an exceedingly interesting young person' in Sir
Twickenham's mental register. He tried her on politics and sociology.
She kept her ears open, and followed his lead carefully--venturing here
and there to indicate an opinion, and suggesting dissent in a pained
interrogation. Finally, "I confess," she said, "I understand much less
than I am willing to think; and so I console myself with the thought
that, after all, the drawing-room, and the...the kitchen?--well, an
educated 'female' must serve her term there, if she would be anything
better than a mere ornament, even in the highest walks of life--I mean
the household is our sphere. From that we mount to companionship--if we
Amazement of Sir Twickenham, on finding his own thought printed, as it
were, on the air before him by these pretty lips!
The conversation progressed, until Adela, by chance, turned her eyes up a
cross pathway and perceived her sister Cornelia standing with Mr. Barrett
under a beech. The man certainly held one of her hands pressed to his
heart; and her attitude struck a doubt whether his other hand was
disengaged or her waist free. Adela walked nervously on without looking
at the baronet; she knew by his voice presently that his eyes had also
witnessed the sight. "Two in a day," she thought; "what will he imagine
us to be!" The baronet was thinking: "For your sister exposed, you
display more agitation than for yourself insulted."
Adela found Arabella in so fresh a mood that she was sure good news had
been heard. It proved that Mrs. Chump had sent a few lines in a letter
carried by Braintop, to this effect: "My dears all! I found your father
on his back in bed, and he discharged me out of the room; and the sight
of me put him on his legs, and you will soon see him. Be civil to Mr.
Braintop, who is a faithful young man, of great merit, and show your
gratitude to--Martha Chump."
Braintop confirmed the words of the letter: and then Adela said--"You
will do us the favour to stay and amuse yourself here. To-night there
will be a bed at Brookfield."
"What will he do?" Arabella whispered.
"Associate with the Tinleys," returned Adela.
In accordance with the sentiment here half concealed, Brookfield soon
showed that it had risen from the hour of depression when it had simply
done its duty. Arabella formed an opposition-Court to the one in which
she had studied; but Mr. Pericles defeated her by constantly sending to
her for advice concerning the economies of the feast. Nevertheless, she
exhibited good pretensions to social queendom, both personal and
practical; and if Freshfield Sumner, instead of his crisp waspish
comments on people and things, had seconded her by keeping up a two-
minutes' flow of talk from time to time, she might have thought that Lady
Gosstre was only luckier than herself--not better endowed.
Below, the Tinleys and their set surrounded Mr. Pericles--prompting him,
as was seen, to send up continual messages. One, to wit, "Is there to be
dancing to-night?" being answered, "Now, if you please," provoked
sarcastic cheering; and Laura ran up to say, "How kind of you! We
appreciate it. Continue to dispense blessings on poor mortals."
"By the way, though" (Freshfield took his line from the calm closed lips
of his mistress), "poor mortals are not in the habit of climbing Olympus
to ask favours."
"I perceived no barrier," quoth Laura.
"Audacity never does."
"Pray, how am I to be punished?"
Freshfield paused for a potent stroke. "Not like Semele. She saw the
God:--you never will!"
While Laura was hanging on the horrid edge between a false laugh and a
starting blush, Arabella said: "That visual excommunication has been
pronounced years ago, Freshfield."
"Ah! then he hasn't changed his name in heaven?" Laura touched her thus
for the familiar use of the gentle-man's Christian name.
"You must not imagine that very great changes are demanded of those who
can be admitted."
"I really find it hotter than below," said Laura, flying.
Arabella's sharp eyes discerned a movement in Lady Gosstre's circle; and
she at once went over to her, and entreated the great lady, who set her
off so well, not to go. The sunset fronted Besworth Lawn; the last light
of day was danced down to inspiriting music: and now Arabella sent word
for Besworth hall-doors and windows to be opened; and on the company
beginning to disperse, there beckoned promise of a brilliant supper-table.
"Admirable!" said Lady Gosstre, and the encomium was general among the
crowd surrounding Arabella; for up to this point the feasting had been
delicate, and something like plain hunger prevailed. Indeed, Arabella
had heard remarks of a bad nature, which she traced to the Tinley set,
and bore with, to meet her present reward. Making light of her triumph,
she encouraged Freshfield to start a wit-contest, and took part in it
herself, with the gaiety of an unoccupied mind. Her sisters had
aforetime more than once challenged her supremacy, but they bowed to it
now; and Adela especially did when, after a ringing hit to Freshfield
(which the Tinleys might also take to their own bosoms), she said in an
undertone, "What is there between C. and--?" Surprised by this
astonishing vigilance and power of thinking below the surface while she
performed above it, Adela incautiously turned her face toward the
meditative baronet, and was humiliated by Arabella's mute indication of
contempt for her coming answer. This march across the lawn to the
lighted windows of Besworth was the culmination of Brookfield's joy, and
the crown for which it had striven; though for how short a term it was to
be worn was little known. Was it not a very queenly sphere of Fine
Shades and Nice Feelings that Brookfield had realized?
In Arabella's conscience lay a certain reproach of herself for permitting
the "vice of a lower circle" to cling to her--viz., she had still
betrayed a stupid hostility to the Tinleys: she had rejoiced to see them
incapable of mixing with any but their own set, and thus be stamped
publicly for what they were. She had struggled to repress it, and yet,
continually, her wits were in revolt against her judgement. Perhaps one
reason was that Albert Tinley had haunted her steps at an early part of
the day; and Albert--a sickening City young man, "full of insolence, and
half eyeglass," according to Freshfield--had once ventured to propose for
The idea that the Tinleys strove to catch at her skirts made Arabella
spiteful. Up to the threshold of Besworth, Freshfield, Mr. Powys, Tracy,
and Arabella kept the wheel of a dazzling run of small-talk, throwing
intermittent sparks. Laura Tinley would press up, apparently to hear,
but in reality (as all who knew her could see) with the object of being a
rival representative of her sex in this illustrious rare encounter of
divine intelligences. "You are anxious to know?" said Arabella,
"To know, dear?" echoed Laura.
"There was, I presumed, something you did not hear." Arabella was half
ashamed of the rudeness to which her antagonism to Laura's vulgarity
"Oh! I hear everything," Laura assured her.
"Indeed!" said Arabella. "By the way, who conducts you?" (Laura was on
Edward Burley's arm.) "Oh! will you go to"--such and such an end of the
table. "And if, Lady Gosstre, I may beg of you to do me the service to
go there also," was added aloud; and lower, but quite audibly, "Mr.
Pericles will have music, so there can be no talking." This, with the
soupcon of a demi-shrug; "You will not suffer much" being implied. Laura
said to herself, "I am not a fool." A moment after, Arabella was
admitting in her own mind, as well as Fine Shades could interpret it,
that she was. On entering the dining-hall, she beheld two figures seated
at the point whither Laura was led by her partner. These were Mrs. Chump
and Mr. Pole, with champagne glasses in their hands. Arabella was pushed
on by the inexorable crowd of hungry people behind.
Despite the pouring in of the flood of guests about the tables, Mrs.
Chump and Mr. Pole sat apparently unconcerned in their places, and, as if
to show their absolute indifference to observation and opinion, went
through the ceremony of drinking to one another, upon which they nodded
and chuckled: a suspicious eye had the option of divining that they used
the shelter of the table cloth for an interchange of squeezes. This
would have been further strengthened by Mrs. Chump's arresting
exclamation, "Pole! Company!" Mr. Pole looked up. He recognized Lady
Gosstre, and made an attempt, in his usual brisk style, to salute her.
Mrs. Champ drew him back. "Nothin' but his legs, my lady," she
whispered. "There's nothin' sets 'm up like champagne, my dears!" she
called out to the Three of Brookfield.
Those ladies were now in the hall, gazing, as mildly as humanity would
allow, at their common destiny, thus startlingly displayed. There was no
doubt in the bosom of either one of them that exposure was to follow this
prelude. Mental resignation was not even demanded of them--merely
physical. They did not seek comfort in an interchange of glances, but
dropped their eyes, and masked their sight as they best could. Caesar
assassinated did a similar thing.
"My dears!" pursued Mrs. Chump, in Irish exaggerated by wine, "I've found
'm for ye! And if ye'd seen 'm this afternoon--the little peaky, shaky
fellow that he was! and a doctor, too, feelin' his pulse. 'Is ut slow,'
says I, 'doctor?' and draws a bottle of champagne. He could hardly stand
before his first glass. 'Pon my hon'r, my lady, ye naver saw s'ch a
change in a mortal bein.--Pole, didn't ye go 'ha, ha!' now, and seem to
be nut-cracking with your fingers? He did; and if ye aver saw an
astonished doctor! 'Why,' says I, 'doctor, ye think ut's maguc! Why,
where's the secret? drink with 'm, to be sure! And you go and do that,
my lord doctor, my dear Mr. Doctor! Do ut all round, and your patients
'll bless your feet." Why, isn't cheerful society and champagne the vary
best of medicines, if onnly the blood 'll go of itself a little? The
fault's in his legs; he's all right at top!--if he'd smooth his hair a
Checking her tongue, Mrs. Chump performed this service lightly for him,
in the midst of his muttered comments on her Irish.
The fact was manifest to the whole assembly, that they had indeed been
drinking champagne to some purpose.
Wilfrid stepped up to two of his sisters, warning them hurriedly not to
go to their father: Adela he arrested with a look, but she burst the
restraint to fulfil a child's duty. She ran up gracefully, and taking
her father's hand, murmured a caressing "Dear papa!"
"There--all right--quite right--quite well," Mr. Pole repeated. "Glad to
see you all: go away."
He tried to look kindly out of the nervous fit into which a word, in a
significant tone, from one of his daughters had instantly plunged him.
Mrs. Chump admonished her: "Will ye undo all that I've been doin' this
"Glad you haven't missed the day altogether, sir," Wilfrid greeted his
father in an offhand way.
"Ah, my boy!" went the old man, returning him what was meant for a bluff
Lady Charlotte gave Wilfrid an open look. It meant: "If you can act like
that, and know as much as I know, you are worth more than I reckoned."
He talked evenly and simply, and appeared on the surface as composed as
any of the guests present. Nor was he visibly disturbed when Mrs. Chump,
catching his eye, addressed him aloud:--
"Ye'd have been more grateful to me to have brought little Belloni as
well now, I know, Mr. Wilfrid. But I was just obliged to leave her at
the hotel; for Pole can't endure her. He 'bomunates the sight of 'r. If
ye aver saw a dog burnt by the fire, Pole's second to 'm, if onnly ye
speak that garl's name."
The head of a strange musician, belonging to the band stationed outside,
was thrust through one of the window apertures. Mr. Pericles beckoned
him imperiously to retire, and perform. He objected, and an altercation
in bad English diverted the company. It was changed to Italian. "Mia
figlia," seized Wilfrid's ear. Mr. Pericles bellowed, "Allegro." Two
minutes after Braintop felt a touch on his shoulder; and Wilfrid,
speaking in a tone of friend to friend, begged him to go to town by the
last train and remove Miss Belloni to an hotel, which he named.
"Certainly," said Braintop; "but if I meet her father..?" Wilfrid
summoned champagne for him; whereupon Mrs. Chump cried out, "Ye're kind
to wait upon the young man, Mr. Wilfrid; and that Mr. Braintop's an
invalu'ble young man. And what do ye want with the hotel, when we've
left it, Mr. Paricles?"
The Greek raised his head from Mr. Pole, shrugging at her openly. He and
Wilfrid then measured eyes a moment. "Some champagne togezer?" said Mr.
Pericles. "With all my heart," was the reply; and their glasses were
filled, and they bowed, and drank. Wilfrid took his seat, drew forth his
pocket-book; and while talking affably to Lady Charlotte beside him, and
affecting once or twice to ponder over her remarks, or to meditate a
fitting answer, wrote on a slip of paper under the table:--
"Mine! my angel! You will see me to-morrow.
This, being inserted in an envelope, with zig-zag letters of address to
form Emilia's name, he contrived to pass to Braintop's hands, and resumed
his conversation with Lady Charlotte, who said, when there was nothing
left to discover, "But what is it you concoct down there?" "I!" cried
Wilfrid, lifting his hands, and so betraying himself after the fashion of
the very innocent. She despised any reading of acts not on the surface,
and nodded to the explanation he gave--to wit: "By the way, do you mean--
have you noticed my habit of touching my fingers' ends as I talk? I
count them backwards and forwards."
"Shows nervousness," said Lady Charlotte; "you are a boy!"
"Exceedingly a boy."
"Now I put a finger on his vanity," said she; and thought indeed that she
had played on him.
"Mr. Pole," (Lady Gosstre addressed that gentleman,) "I must hope that
you will leave this dining-hall as it is; there is nothing in the
neighbourhood to match it!"
"Delightful!" interposed Laura Tinley; "but is it settled?"
Mr. Pole leaned forward to her ladyship; and suddenly catching the sense
of her words, "Ah, why not?" he said, and reached his hand to some
champagne, which he raised to his mouth, but drank nothing of.
Reflection appeared to tell him that his safety lay in drinking, and he
drained the glass at a gulp. Mrs. Chump had it filled immediately, and
explained to a wondering neighbour, "It's that that keeps 'm on his
"We shall envy you immensely," said Laura Tinley to Arabella; who
replied, "I assure you that no decision has been come to."
"Ah, you want to surprise us with cards on a sudden from Besworth!"
"That is not the surprise I have in store," returned Arabella sedately.
"Then you have a surprise? Do tell me."
"How true to her sex is the lady who seeks to turn 'what it is' into
'what it isn't!'" said Freshfield, trusty lieutenant.
"I think a little peeping makes surprises sweeter; I'm weak enough to
think that," Lady Charlotte threw in.
"That is so true!" exclaimed Laura.
"Well; and a secret shared is a fact uncommonly well aired--that is also
true. But, remember, you do not desire the surprise; you are a
destroying force to it;" and Freshfield bowed.
"Curiosity!" sighed some one, relieving Freshfield from a sense of the
guilt of heaviness.
"I am a Pandora," Laura smilingly said.
"To whom?" Tracy Runningbrook's shout was heard.
"With champagne in the heads of the men, and classics in the heads of the
women, we shall come; to something," remarked Lady Gosstre half to
herself and Georgiana near her.
An observer of Mr. Pole might have seen that he was fretting at a
restriction on his tongue. Occasionally he would sit forward erect in
his chair, shake his coat-collar, frown, and sound a preparatory 'hem;
but it ended in his rubbing his hair away on the back of his head. Mrs.
Chump, who was herself perceiving new virtues in champagne with every
glass, took the movements as indicative of a companion exploration of the
spiritual resources of this vintage. She no longer called for it, but
lifted a majestic finger (a Siddons or tenth-Muse finger, as Freshfield
named it) behind the row of heads; upon which champagne speedily bubbled
in the glasses. Laughter at the performance had fairly set in. Arabella
glanced nervously round for Mr. Pericles, who looked at his watch and
spread the fingers of one hand open thrice--an act that telegraphed
fifteen minutes. In fifteen minutes an opera troupe, with three famous
chiefs and a renowned prima-donna were to arrive. The fact was known
solely to Arabella and Mr. Pericles. It was the Surprise of the evening.
But within fifteen minutes, what might not happen, with heads going at
Arabella proposed to Freshfield to rise. "Don't the ladies go first?"
the wit turned sensualist stammered; and incurred that worse than frown,
a cold look of half-comprehension, which reduces indefinitely the
proportions of the object gazed at. There were probably a dozen very
young men in the room waiting to rise with their partners at a signal for
dancing; and these could not be calculated upon to take an initiative, or
follow one--as ladies, poor slaves! will do when the electric hostess
rustles. The men present were non-conductors. Arabella knew that she
could carry off the women, but such a proceeding would leave her father
at the mercy of the wine; and, moreover, the probability was that Mrs.
Chump would remain by him, and, sole in a company of males, explode her
sex with ridicule, Brookfield in the bargain. So Arabella, under a
prophetic sense of evil, waited; and this came of it. Mr. Pole patted
Mrs. Chump's hand publicly. In spite of the steady hum of small-talk--in
spite of Freshfield Sumner's circulation of a crisp anecdote--in spite of
Lady Gosstre's kind effort to stop him by engaging him in conversation,
Mr. Pole forced on for a speech. He said that he had not been the thing
lately. It might be his legs, as his dear friend Martha, on his right,
insisted; but he had felt it in his head, though as strong as any man
"Harrk at 'm!" cried Mrs. Chump, letting her eyes roll fondly away from
him into her glass.
"Business, my lady!" Mr. Pole resumed. "Ah, you don't know what that is.
We've got to work hard to keep our heads up equal with you. We don't
swim with corks. And my old friend, Ralph Tinley--he sells iron, and
has got a mine. That's simple. But, my God, ma'am, when a man has his
eye on the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic, and the Baltic, and the Black
Sea, and half-a-dozen colonies at once, he--you--"
"Well, it's a precious big eye he's got, Pole," Mrs. Chump came to his
"--he don't know whether he's a ruined dog, or a man to hold up his head
in any company."
"Oh, Lord, Pole, if ye're going to talk of beggary!" Mrs. Chump threw up
her hands. "My lady, I naver could abide the name of 't. I'm a kind
heart, ye know, but I can't bear a ragged friend. I hate 'm! He seems
to give me a pinch."
Having uttered this, it struck her that it was of a kind to convulse Mrs.
Lupin, for whose seizures she could never accurately account; and looking
round, she perceived, sure enough, that little forlorn body agitated,
with a handkerchief to her mouth.
"As to Besworth," Mr. Pole had continued, "I might buy twenty Besworths.
If--if the cut shows the right card. If--" Sweat started on his
forehead, and he lifted his eyebrows, blinking. "But none!" (he smote
the table) "none can say I haven't been a good father! I've educated my
girls to marry the best the land can show. I bought a house to marry
them out of; it was their own idea." He caught Arabella's eyes. I
thought so, at all events; for why should I have paid the money if I
hadn't thought so? when then--yes, that sum..." (was he choking!) saved
A piteous desperate outburst marked the last words, that seemed to
struggle from a tightened cord.
"Not that there's anything the matter," he resumed, with a very brisk
wink. "I'm quite sound: heart's sound, lungs sound, stomach regular. I
can see, and smell, and hear. Sense of touch is rather lumpy at times, I
know; but the doctor says it's nothing--nothing at all; and I should be
all right, if I didn't feel that I was always wearing a great leaden
"My gracious, Pole, if ye're not talkin' pos'tuv nonsense!" exclaimed
"Well, my dear Martha" (Mr. Pole turned to her argumentatively), "how do
you account for my legs? I feel it at top. I declare I've felt the edge
of the brim half a yard out. Now, my lady, a man in that state--sound
and strong as the youngest--but I mean a vexed man--worried man bothered
man, he doesn't want a woman to look after him;--I mean, he does--he
does! And why won't young girls--oh! they might, they might--see that?
And when she's no extra expense, but brings him--helps him to face--and
no one has said the world's a jolly world so often as I have. It's
jolly!" He groaned.
Lady Charlotte saw Wilfrid gazing at one spot on the table without a
change of countenance. She murmured to him, "What hits you hits me."
Mr. Pole had recommenced, on the evident instigation of Laura Tinley,
though Lady Gosstre and Freshfield Sumner had both sought to check the
current. In Chump's lifetime, it appeared, he (Mr. Pole) had thought of
Mrs. Chump with a respectful ardour; and albeit she was no longer what
she was when Chump brought her over, a blooming Irish girl--"her hair
exactly as now, the black curl half over the cheek, and a bright laugh,
and a white neck, fat round arms, and--"
A shout of "Oh, Pole! ye seem to be undressin' of me before them all,"
diverted the neighbours of the Beauty.
"Who would not like such praise?" Laura Tinley, to keep alive the
subject, laid herself open to Freshfield by a remark.
"At the same personal peril?" he inquired smoothly.
Mr. Pericles stood up, crying "Enfin!" as the doors were flung open, and
a great Signora of operatic fame entered the hall, supported on one side
by a charming gentleman (a tenore), who shared her fame and more with
her. In the rear were two working baritones; and behind them, outside,
Italian heads might be discerned.
The names of the Queen of Song and Prince of Singers flew round the room;
and Laura uttered words of real gratitude, for the delightful surprise,
to Arabella, as the latter turned from her welcome of them. "She is
exactly like Emilia--young," was uttered. The thought went with a pang
through Wilfrid's breast. When the Signora was asked if she would sup or
take champagne, and she replied that she would sup by-and-by, and drink
porter now, the likeness to Emilia was established among the Poles.
Meantime the unhappy Braintop received an indication that he must depart.
As he left the hall he brushed past the chief-clerk of his office, who
soon appeared bowing and elbowing among the guests. "What a substitute
for me!" thought Braintop bitterly; and in the belief that this old clerk
would certainly go back that night, and might undertake his commission,
he lingered near the band on the verge of the lawn. A touch at his elbow
startled him. In the half-light he discerned Emilia. "Don't say you
have seen me," were her first words. But when he gave her the letter,
she drew him aside, and read it by the aid of lighted matches held in
Braintop's hat drawing in her fervent breath to a "Yes! yes!" at the
close, while she pressed the letter to her throat. Presently the singing
began in an upper room, that had shortly before flashed with sudden
light. Braintop entreated Emilia to go in, and then rejoiced that she
had refused. They stood in a clear night-air, under a yellowing
crescent, listening to the voice of an imperial woman. Impressed as he
was, Braintop had, nevertheless, leisure to look out of his vinous mist
and notice, with some misgiving, a parading light at a certain distance--
apparently the light of cigarettes being freshly kindled. He was too
much elated to feel alarm: but "If her father were to catch me again," he
thought. And with Emilia on his arm!
Mr. Pole's chief-clerk had brought discomposing news. He was received by
an outburst of "No business, Payne; I won't have business!"
Turning to Mr. Pericles, the old clerk said: "I came rather for you, sir,
not expecting to find Mr. Pole." He was told by Mr. Pericles to speak
what he had to say: and then the guests, who had fallen slightly back,
heard a cavernous murmur; and some, whose eyes where on Mr. Pole,
observed a sharp conflict of white and red in his face.
"There, there, there, there!" went Mr. Pole. "'Hem, Pericles!" His
handkerchief was drawn out; and he became engaged, as it were, in wiping
a moisture from the palm of his hand. "Pericles, have you got pluck now?
Mr. Pericles had leaned down his ear for the whole of the news.
"Ten sossand," he said, smoothing his waistbands, and then inserting his
thumbs into the pits of his waistcoat. "Also a chance of forty. Let us
not lose time for ze music."
He walked away.
"I don't believe in that d---d coolness, ma'am," said Mr. Pole, wheeling
round on Freshfield Sumner. "It's put on. That wears a mask; he's one
of those confounded humbugs who wear a mask. Ten-forty! and all for a
shrug; it's not human. I tell you, he does that just out of a sort of
jealousy to rival me as an Englishman. Because I'm cool, he must be. Do
you think a mother doesn't feel the loss of her children?"
"I fear that I must grow petticoats before I can answer purely feminine
questions," said Freshfield.
"Of course--of course," assented Mr. Pole; "and a man feels like a mother
to his money. For the moment, he does--for the moment. What are those
fellows--Spartans--women who cut off their breasts--?"
Freshfield suggested, "Amazons."
"No; they were women," Mr. Pole corrected him; "and if anything hurt
them, they never cried out. That's what--ha!--our friend Pericles is
trying at. He's a fool. He won't sleep to-night. He'll lie till he
gets cold in the feet, and then tuck them up like a Dutch doll, and
perspire cold till his heart gives a bound, and he'll jump up and think
his last hour's come. Wind on the stomach, do ye call it? I say it's
wearing a mask!"
The bird's-eye of the little merchant shot decisive meaning.
Two young ladies had run from his neighbourhood, making as if to lift
hands to ears. The sight of them brought Mrs. Chump to his side. "Pole!
Pole!" she said, "is there annything wrong?"
"Wrong, Martha?" He bent to her, attempting Irish--"Arrah, now! and
mustn't all be right if you're here?"
She smote his cheek fondly. "Ye're not a bit of an Irish-man, ye deer
"Come along and dance," cried he imperiously.
"A pretty spectacle--two fandangoes, when there's singing, ye silly!"
Mrs. Chump led him upstairs, chafing one of his hands, and remarking
loudly on the wonder it was to see his knees constantly 'give' as he
On the dark lawn, pressing Wilfrid's written words for fiery nourishment
to her heart, Emilia listened to the singing.
"Why do people make a noise, and not be satisfied to feel?" she said
angrily to Braintop, as a great clapping of hands followed a divine aria.
Her ideas on this point would have been different in the room.
By degrees a tender delirium took hold of her sense; and then a subtle
emotion--which was partly prompted by dim rivalry with the voice that
seemed to be speaking so richly to the man she loved--set her bosom
rising and falling. She translated it to herself thus: "What a joy it
will be to him to hear me now!" And in a pause she sang clear out--
"Prima d'Italia amica;"
and hung on the last note, to be sure that she would be heard by him.
Braintop saw the cigarette dash into sparks on the grass. At the same
moment a snarl of critical vituperation told Emilia that she had offended
taste and her father. He shouted her name, and, striding up to her,
stumbled over Braintop, whom he caught with one hand, while the other
fell firmly on Emilia.
"'Amica--amica-a-a,'" he burlesqued her stress of the luckless note-
lowing it at her, and telling her in triumphant Italian that she was
found at last. Braintop, after a short struggle, and an effort at
speech, which was loosely shaken in his mouth, heard that he stood a
prisoner. "Eh! you have not lost your cheeks," insulted his better
acquaintance with English slang.
Alternately in this queer tongue and in Italian the pair of victims were
Emilia knew her father's temper. He had a habit of dallying with an evil
passion till it boiled over and possessed him. Believing Braintop to be
in danger of harm, she beckoned to some of the faces crowding the
windows; but the movement was not seen, as none of the circumstances were
at all understood. Wilfrid, however, knew well who had sung those three
bars, concerning which the 'Prima donna' questioned Mr. Pericles, and
would not be put off by hearing that it was a startled jackdaw, or an
owl, and an ole nightingale. The Greek rubbed his hands. "Now to
recommence," he said; "and we shall not notice a jackdaw again." His eye
went sideways watchfully at Wilfrid. "You like zat piece of opera?"
"Immensely," said Wilfrid, half bowing to the Signora--to whom, as to
Majesty, Mr. Pericles introduced him, and fixed him.
"Now! To seats!"
Mr. Pericles' mandates was being obeyed, when a cry of "Wilfrid!" from
Emilia below, raised a flutter.
Mr. Pole had been dozing in his chair. He rose at the cry, looking hard,
with a mechanical jerk of the neck, at two or three successive faces, and
calling, "Somebody--somebody" to take his outstretched hand trembling in
a paroxysm of nervous terror.
Hearing his son's name again, but more faintly, he raised his voice for
Martha. "Don't let that girl come near me! I--I can't get on with
His eyes went among the curious faces surrounding him. "Wilfrid!" he
shouted. To the second summons, "Sir" was replied, in the silence.
Neither saw the other as they spoke.
"Are you going out to her, Wilfrid?"
"Someone called me, sir."
"He's got the cunning of hell," said Mr. Pole, baffled by his own
"Oh! don't talk o' that place," moaned Mrs. Chump.
"Stop!" cried the old man. "Are you going? Stop! you shan't do
mischief. I mean--there--stop! Don't go. You're not to go. I say
you're not to go out."
Emphasis and gesticulations gave their weight to the plain words.
But rage at the upset of all sentiments and dignity that day made Wilfrid
reckless, and he now felt his love to be all he had. He heard his Emilia
being dragged away to misery--perhaps to be sold to shame. Maddened, he
was incapable of understanding his father's state, or caring for what the
world thought. His sisters gathered near him, but were voiceless.
"Is he gone?" Mr. Pole burst forward. "You're gone, sir? Wilfrid, have
you gone to that girl? I ask you whether...(there's one shot at my
heart," he added in a swift undertone to one of the heads near him, while
he caught at his breast with both hands). "Wilfrid, will you stay here?"
"For God's sake, go to him, Wilfrid," murmured Adela. "I can't."
"Because if you do--if you don't--I mean, if you go..." The old man
gasped at the undertone. "Now I have got it in my throat."
A quick physical fear caught hold of him. In a moment his voice changed
to entreaty. "I beg you won't go, my dear boy. Wilfrid, I tell you,
don't go. Because, you wouldn't act like a d--d--I'm not angry; but it
is like acting like a--Here's company, Wilfrid; come to me, my boy; do
come here. You mayn't ha--have your poor old father long, now he's got
you u--up in the world. I mean accidents, for I'm sound enough; only a
little nervous from brain--Is he gone?"
Wilfrid was then leaving the room.
Lady Gosstre had been speaking to Mr. Powys. She was about to say a word
to Lady Charlotte, when the latter walked to the doorway, and. In a
manner that smote his heart with a spasm of gratitude, said; "Don't heed
these people. He will bring on a fit if you don't stop. His nerves are
out, and the wine they have given him... Go to him: I will go to Emilia,
and do as much for her as you could."
Wilfrid reached his father in time to see him stagger back into the arms
of Mrs. Chump, whose supplication was for the female stimulant known as
On reaching home that night, Arabella surprised herself thinking, in the
midst of her anguish: "Whatever is said of us, it cannot be said that
there is a house where the servants have been better cared for." And
this reflection continued to burn with an astounding brilliancy through
all the revolutions of a mind contemplating the dread of a fallen
fortune, the fact of a public exposure, and what was to her an ambition
destroyed. Adela had no such thoughts. "I have been walking on a
plank," she gasped from time to time, as she gave startled glances into
the abyss of poverty, and hurried to her bedchamber--a faint whisper of
self-condemnation in her ears at the 'I' being foremost. The sisters
were too proud to touch upon one another's misery in complaints, or to be
common by holding debate on it. They had not once let their eyes meet at
Besworth, as the Tinleys wonderingly noticed. They said good night to
their papa, who was well enough to reply, adding peremptorily,
"Downstairs at half-past eight,"--an intimation that he would be at the
break-fast table and read prayers as usual. Inexperienced in nervous
disease, they were now filled with the idea that he was possibly acting--
a notion that had never been kindled in them before; or, otherwise, how
came these rapid, almost instantaneous, recoveries?
Cornelia alone sounded near the keynote. Since the night that she had
met him in the passage, and the next morning when Mrs. Chump had raised
the hubbub about her loss, Cornelia's thoughts had been troubled by some
haunting spectral relationship with money. It had helped to make her
reckless in granting interviews to Purcell Barrett. "If we are poor, I
am free;" and that she might then give herself to whomever she pleased,
was her logical deduction. The exposure at Besworth, and the partial
confirmation of her suspicions, were not without their secret comfort to
her. In the carriage, coming home, Wilfrid had touched her hand by
chance, and pressed it with good heart. She went to the library,
imagining that if he wished to see her he would appear, and by exposing
his own weakness learn to excuse hers. She was right in her guess;
Wilfrid came. He came sauntering into the room with "Ah! you here?"
Cornelia consented to play into his hypocrisy. "Yes, I generally think
better here," she replied.
"And what has this pretty head got to do with thinking?"
"Not much, I suppose, my lord," she replied, affecting nobly to
acknowledge the weakness of the female creature.
Wilfrid kissed her with an unaccustomed fervour. This delicate mumming
was to his taste. It was yet more so when she spoke playfully to him of
his going soon to be a married man. He could answer to that in a smiling
negative, playing round the question, until she perceived that he really
desired to have his feeling for the odd dark girl who had recently shot
across their horizon touched, if only it were led to by the muffled ways
As a dog, that cannot ask you verbally to scratch his head, but wishes
it, will again and again thrust his head into your hand, petitioning
mutely that affection may divine him, so:--but we deal with a
sentimentalist, and the simile is too gross to be exact. For no sooner
was Wilfrid's head scratched, than the operation stuck him as
humiliating; in other words, the moment he felt his sisters fingers in
the ticklish part, he flew to another theme, then returned, and so
backward and forward--mystifying her not slightly, and making her think,
"Then he has no heart." She by no means intended to encourage love for
Emilia, but she hoped for his sake, that the sentiment he had indulged
was sincere. By-and-by he said, that though he had no particular
affection for Lady Charlotte, he should probably marry her.
"Without loving her, Wilfrid? It is unfair to her; it is unfair to
Wilfrid understood perfectly who it was for whom she pleaded thus
vehemently. He let her continue: and when she had dwelt on the horrors
of marriages without love, and the supreme duty of espousing one who has
our 'heart's loyalty,' he said, "You may be right. A man must not play
with a girl. He must consider that he owes a duty to one who is more
dependent;"--implying that a woman s duty was distinct and different in
such a case.
Cornelia could not rise and plead for her sex. Had she pushed forth the
'woman,' she must have stood for her.
This is the game of Fine Shades and Nice Feelings, under whose empire you
see this family, and from which they are to emerge considerably shorn,
but purified--examples of One present passage of our civilization.
"At least, dear, if" (Cornelia desperately breathed the name)
"--if Emilia were forced to give her hand...loving...you...we should be
right in pitying her?"
The snare was almost too palpable. Wilfrid fell into it, from the simple
passion that the name inspired; and now his hand tightened. "Poor
child!" he moaned.
She praised his kind heart: "You cannot be unjust and harsh, I know that.
You could not see her--me--any of us miserable. Women feel, dear. Ah! I
need not tell you that. Their tears are not the witnesses. When they do
not weep, but the hot drops stream inwardly:--and, oh! Wilfrid, let this
never happen to me. I shall not disgrace you, because I intend to see
you happy with...with her, whoever she is; and I would leave you happy.
But I should not survive it. I can look on Death. A marriage without
love is dishonour."
Sentiment enjoys its splendid moods. Wilfrid having had the figure of
his beloved given to him under nuptial benediction, cloaked, even as he
wished it to be, could afford now to commiserate his sister, and he
admired her at the same time. "I'll take care you are not made a
sacrifice of when the event is fixed," he said--as if it had never been
"Oh! I have not known happiness for years, till this hour," Cornelia
whispered to him bashfully; and set him wondering why she should be happy
when she had nothing but his sanction to reject a man.
On the other hand, her problem was to gain lost ground by letting him
know that, of the pair, it was not she who would marry beneath her
station. She tried it mentally in various ways. In the end she thought
it best to give him this positive assurance. "No," he rejoined, "a woman
never should." There was no admission of equality to be got out of him,
so she kissed him. Of their father's health a few words were said--of
Emilia nothing further. She saw that Wilfrid's mind was resolved upon
some part to play, but shrank from asking his confidence, lest facts
should be laid bare.
At the breakfast-table Mr. Pole was a little late. He wore some of his
false air of briskness on a hazy face, and read prayers--drawing breath
between each sentence and rubbing his forehead; but the work was done by
a man in ordinary health, if you chose to think so, as Mrs. Chump did.
She made favourable remarks on his appearance, begging the ladies to
corroborate her. They were silent.
"Now take a chop, Pole, and show your appetite," she said. "'A Chump-
chop, my love?' my little man used to invite me of a mornin'; and that
was the onnly joke he had, so it's worth rememberin'."
A chop was placed before Mr. Pole. He turned it in his plate, and
wonderingly called to mind that he had once enjoyed chops. At a loss to
account for the distressing change, he exclaimed to himself, "Chump! I
wish the woman wouldn't thrust her husband between one's teeth. An egg!"
The chop was displaced for an egg, which he tapped until Mrs. Chump cried
out, "Oh! if ye're not like a postman, Pole; and d'ye think ye've got a
letter for a chick inside there?"
This allusion scared Mr. Pole from the egg. He quitted the table,
muttering, "Business! business!" and went to the library.
When he was gone Mrs. Chump gave a cry to know where Braintop was, but,
forgetting him immediately, turned to the ladies and ejaculated,
"Broth'm. It's just brothin' he wants. Broth, I say, for anny man that
won't eat his chop or his egg. And, my dears, now, what do ye say to me
for bringing him home to ye? I expect to be thanked, I do; and then
we'll broth Pole together, till he's lusty as a prize-ox, and capers like
Wretched woman! that could not see the ruin she had inflicted--that could
not imagine how her bitter breath cut against those sensitive skins!
During a short pause little Mrs. Lupin trotted to the door, and shot
through it, in a paroxysm.
Then Wilfrid's voice was heard. He leaned against a corner of the
window, and spoke without directly looking at Mrs. Chump; so that she was
some time in getting to understand the preliminary, "Madam, you must
leave this house." But presently her chin dropped; and after feeble
efforts to interpose an exclamation, she sat quiet--overcome by the
deliberate gravity of his manner, and motioning despairingly with her
head, to relieve the swarm of unborn figure-less ideas suggested by his
passing speech. The ladies were ranged like tribunal shapes. It could
not be said of souls so afflicted that they felt pleasure in the scene;
but to assist in the administration of a rigorous justice is sweet to
them that are smarting. They scarcely approved his naked statement of
things when he came to Mrs. Chump's particular aspiration in the
household--viz., to take a station and the dignity of their name. The
effect he produced satisfied them that the measure was correct. Her back
gave a sharp bend, as if an eternal support had snapped. "Oh! ye hit
hard," she moaned.
"I tell you kindly that we (who, you will acknowledge, must count for
something here) do not sanction any change that revolutionizes our
domestic relations," said Wilfrid; while Mrs. Chump heaved and rolled on
the swell of the big words like an overladen boat. "You have only to
understand so much, and this--that if we resist it, as we do, you, by
continuing to contemplate it, are provoking a contest which will probably
injure neither you nor me, but will be death to ham in his present
Mrs. Chump was heard to mumble that she alone knew the secret of
restoring him to health, and that he was rendered peaky and poky only by
people supposing him so.
"An astonishin' thing!" she burst out. "If I kiss 'm and say 'Poor
Pole!' he's poor Pole on the spot. And, if onnly I--"
But Wilfrid's stern voice flowed over her. "Listen, madam, and let this
be finished between us. You know well that when a man has children, he
may wish to call another woman wife--a woman not their mother; but the
main question is, will his children consent to let her take that place?
We are of one mind, and will allow no one--no one--to assume that
position. And now, there's an end. We'll talk like friends. I have
only spoken in that tone that you might clearly comprehend me on an
important point. I know you entertain a true regard for my father, and
it is that belief which makes me--"
"Friends!" cried Mrs. Chump, getting courage from the savour of cajolery
in these words. "Friends! Oh, ye fox! ye fox!"
And now commenced a curious duett. Wilfrid merely wished to terminate
his sentence; Mrs. Chump wantonly sought to prevent him. Each was
burdened with serious matter; but they might have struck hands here, had
not this petty accidental opposition interposed.
--"Makes me feel confident..." Wilfrid resumed.
"And Pole's promos, Mr. Wilfrud; ye're forgettin' that."
"He was the firrst to be soft."
"I say, ma'am, for his sake--"
"An' it's for his sake. And weak as he is on 's legs, poor fells; which
marr'ge 'll cure, bein' a certain rem'dy."
"Mrs. Chump! I beg you to listen."
"Mr. Wilfrud! and I can see too, and it's three weeks and ye kissed
little Belloni in the passage, outside this vary door, and out in the
The blow was entirely unexpected, and took Wilfrid's breath, so that he
was not ready for his turn in this singular piece of harmony.
"Ye did!" Mrs. Chump rejoiced to behold how her chance spark kindled
flame in his cheeks. "It's pos'tuv ye did. And ye're the best blusher
of the two, my dear; and no shame to ye, though it is a garl's business.
That little Belloni takes to 't like milk; but you--"
Wilfrid strode up to her, saying imperiously, "I tell you to listen!"
She succumbed at once to a show of physical ascendency, murmuring, "It's
sure he was seen kissin' of her twice, and mayhap more; and hearty smacks
of the lips, too--likin' it."
The ladies rewarded Wilfrid for his service to their cause by absolutely
hearing nothing--a feat women can be capable of.
Wilfrid, however, was angered by the absurdity of the charge and the
scene, and also by the profane touch on Emilia's name.
"I must tell you, ma'am, that for my father's sake I must desire you to
quit this--you will see the advisability of quitting this house for a
"Pole's promus! Pole's promus!" Mrs. Chump wailed again.
"Will you give me your assurance now that you will go, to be our guest
"In writin' and in words, Mr. Wilfrud!"
"Answer me, ma'am."
"I will, Mr. Wilfrud; and Mr. Braintop's a witness, knowin' the nature of
an oath. There naver was a more sacrud promus. Says Pole, 'Martha--'"
Wilfrid changed his tactics. Sitting down by her side, he said: "I am
sure you have an affection for my father."
"I'm the most lovin' woman, my dear! If it wasn't for my vartue I don't
know what'd become o' me. Ye could ask Chump, if he wasn't in his grave,
poor fella! I'll be cryin' like a squeezed orr'nge presently. What with
Chump and Pole, two's too many for a melanch'ly woman."
"You have an affection for my father I know, ma'am. Now, see! he's ill.
If you press him to do what we certainly resist, you endanger his life."
Mrs. Chump started back from the man who bewildered her brain without
stifling her sense of justice. She knew that there was another way of
putting the case, whereby she was not stuck in the criminal box; but the
knowledge groped about blindly, and finding herself there, Mrs. Chump
lost all idea of a counter-accusation, and resorted to wriggling and
cajolery. "Ah! ye look sweeter when ye're kissin' us, Mr. Wilfrud; and I
wonder where the little Belloni has got to!"
"Tell me, that there maybe no misunderstanding." Wilfrid again tried to
"A rosy rosy fresh bit of a mouth she's got! and pouts ut!"
Wilfrid took her hand. "Answer me."
"'Deed, and I'm modust, Mr. Wilfrud."
"You do him the honour to be very fond of him. I am to believe that?
Then you must consent to leave us at the end of a week. You abandon any
idea of an impossible ceremony, and of us you make friends and not
At the concluding word, Mrs. Chump was no longer sustained by her
excursive fancy. She broke down, and wrung her hands, crying, "En'mies!
Pole's children my en'mies! Oh, Lord! that I should live to hear ut! and
Pole, that knew me a bride first blushin'!"
She wailed and wept so that the ladies exchanged compassionate looks, and
Arabella rose to press her hand and diminish her distress. Wilfrid saw
that his work would be undone in a moment, and waved her to her seat.
The action was perceived by Mrs. Chump.
"Oh, Mr. Wilfrud! my dear! and a soldier! and you that was my favourut!
If half my 'ffection for Pole wasn't the seein' of you so big and
handsome! And all my ideas to get ye marrud, avery one so snug in a
corner, with a neat little lawful ring on your fingers! And you that go
to keep me a lone woman, frightened of the darrk! I'm an awful coward,
that's the truth. And ye know that marr'ge is a holy thing! and it's
such a beaut'ful cer'mony! Oh, Mr. Wilfrud!--Lieuten't y' are! and I'd
have bought ye a captain, and made the hearts o' your sisters jump with
bonnuts and gowns and jools. Oh, Pole! Pole! why did you keep me so
short o' cash? It's been the roon of me! What did I care for your
brooches and your gifts? I wanted the good will of your daughters, sir--
your son, Pole!"
Mrs. Chump stopped her flow of tears. "Dear hearts!" she addressed her
silent judges, in mysterious guttural tones, "is it becas ye think
there's a bit of a fear of...?"
The ladies repressed a violent inclination to huddle together, like
cattle from the blowing East.
"I assure ye, 'taint poss'ble," pursued Mrs. Chump. "Why do I 'gree to
marry Pole? Just this, now. We sit chirpin' and chatterin' of times
that's gone, and live twice over, Pole and myself; and I'm used to 'm;
and I was soft to 'm when he was a merry buck, and you cradle lumber in
ideas, mind! for my vartue was always un'mpeach'ble. That's just the
reason. So, come, and let's all be friends, with money in our pockuts;
yell find me as much of a garl as army of ye. And, there! my weak time's
after my Porrt, my dears. So, now ye know when I can't be refusin' a
thing to ye. Are we friends?--say! are we?"
Even if the ladies had been disposed to pardon her vulgarity, they could
not by any effort summon a charitable sentiment toward one of their sex
who degraded it by a public petition for a husband. This was not to be
excused; and, moreover, they entertained the sentimentalist's abhorrence
of the second marriage of a woman; regarding the act as simply execrable;
being treason to the ideal of the sex--treason to Woman's purity--treason
to the mysterious sentiment which places Woman so high, that when a woman
slips there is no help for it but she must be smashed.
Seeing that each looked as implacable as the other, Mrs. Chump called
The lady spoke:--
"We are willing to be your friends, Mrs. Chump, and we request that you
will consider us in that light. We simply do not consent to give you a
"But, we'll do without the name, my dear," interposed Mrs. Chump. "Ye'll
call me plain Martha, which is almost mother, and not a bit of 't.
There--Cornelia, my love! what do ye say?"
"I can only reiterate my sister's words, which demand no elucidation,"
The forlorn woman turned her lap towards the youngest.
"Ad'la! ye sweet little cajoler! And don't use great cartwheels o' words
that leave a body crushed."
Adela was suffering from a tendency to levity, which she knew to be
unbefitting the occasion, and likely to defeat its significance. She
said: "I am sure, Mrs. Chump, we are very much attached to you as Mrs.
Chump; but after a certain period of life, marriage does make people
ridiculous, and, as much for your sake as our own, we would advise you to
discard a notion that cannot benefit anybody. Believe in our attachment;
and we shall see you here now and then, and correspond with you when you
are away. And..."
"Oh, ye puss! such an eel as y' are!" Mrs. Chump cried out. "What are ye
doin' but sugarin' the same dose, miss! Be qu't! It's a traitor that
makes what's nasty taste agree'ble. D'ye think my stomach's a fool? Ye
may wheedle the mouth, but not the stomach."
At this offence there fell a dead silence. Wilfrid gazed on them all
indifferently, waiting for the moment to strike a final blow.
When she had grasped the fact that Pity did not sit in the assembly, Mrs.
"Oh! if I haven't been sitting among three owls and a raven," she
exclaimed. Then she fussed at her gown. "I wish ye good day, young
ladus, and mayhap ye'd like to be interduced to No. 2 yourselves, some
fine mornin'? Prov'dence can wait. There's a patient hen on the eggs of
all of ye! I wouldn't marry Pole now--not if he was to fall flat and
howl for me. Mr. Wilfrud, I wish ye good-bye. Ye've done your work.
I'll be out of this house in half-an-hour."
This was not quite what Wilfrid had meant to effect. He proposed to her
that she should come to the yacht, and indeed leave Brookfield to go on
board. But Mrs. Chump was in that frame of mind when, shamefully wounded
by others, we find our comfort in wilfully wounding ourselves. "No," she
said (betraying a meagre mollification at every offer), "I'll not stop.
I won't go to the yacht--unless I think better of ut. But I won't stop.
Ye've hurrt me, and I'll say good-bye. I hope ye'll none of ye be
widows. It's a crool thing. And when ye've got no children of your own,
and feel, all your inside risin' to another person's, and they hate ye--
hate ye! Oh! Oh!--There, Mr. Wilfrud, ye needn't touch me elbow. Oh,
dear! look at me in the glass! and my hair! Annybody'd swear I'd been
drinkin'. I won't let Pole look at me. That'd cure 'm. And he must let
me have money, because I don't care for 'cumulations. Not now, when
there's no young--no garls and a precious boy, who'd say, when I'm gone,
'Bless her' Oh! 'Poor thing! Bless--' Oh! Augh!" A note of Sorrow's
own was fetched; and the next instant, with a figure of dignity, the
afflicted woman observed: "There's seven bottles of my Porrt, and there's
eleven of champagne, and some comut clar't I shall write where ut's to be
sent. And, if you please, look to the packing; for bits o' glass and a
red stain's not like your precious hope when you're undoin a hamper. And
that's just myself now, and I'm a broken woman; but naver mind, nobody!"
A very formal and stiff "Good-bye," succeeding a wheezy lamentation,
concluded the speech. Casting a look at the glass, Mrs. Chump retired,
with her fingers on the ornamental piece of hair.
The door having closed on her, Wilfrid said to his sisters: "I want one
of you to come with me to town immediately. Decide which will go."
His eyes questioned Cornelia. Hers were dropped.
"I have work to do," pleaded Adela.
"An appointment? You will break it."
"No, dear, not--"
"Not exactly an appointment. Then there's nothing to break. Put on your
Adela slipped from the room in a spirit of miserable obedience.
"I could not possibly leave papa," said Arabella, and Wilfrid nodded his
head. His sisters knew quite well what was his business in town, but
they felt that they were at his mercy, and dared not remonstrate.
Cornelia ventured to say, "I think she should not come back to us till
papa is in a better state."
"Perhaps not," replied Wilfrid, careless how much he betrayed by his
apprehension of the person indicated.
The two returned late that night, and were met by Arabella at the gate.
"Papa has been--don't be alarmed," she began. "He is better now. But
when he heard that she was not in the house, the blood left his hands and
feet. I have had to use a falsehood. I said, 'She left word that she
was coming back to-night or to-morrow.' Then he became simply angry.
Who could have believed that the sight of him so would ever have rejoiced
Adela, worn with fatigue, sobbed, "Oh! Oh!"
"By the way, Sir Twickenham called, and wished to see you," said Arabella
"Oh! so weary!" the fair girl ejaculated, half-dreaming that she saw
herself as she threw back her head and gazed at stars and clouds. "We
met Captain Gambier in town." Here she pinched Arabella's arm.
The latter said, "Where?"
"In a miserable street, where he looked like a peacock in a quagmire."
Arabella entreated Wilfrid to be careful in his management of their
father. "Pray, do not thwart him. He has been anxious to know where you
have gone. He--he thinks you have conducted Mrs. Chump, and will bring
her back. I did not say it--I merely let him think so."
She added presently, "He has spoken of money."
"Yes?" went Adela, in a low breath.
"Cornelia imagines that--that we--he is perhaps in--in want of it.
Merchants are, sometimes."
"Did Sir Twickenham say he would call to-morrow?" asked Adela.
"He said that most probably he would."
Wilfrid had been silent. As he entered the house, Mr. Pole's bedroom-
bell rang, and word came that he was to go to his father. As soon as the
sisters were alone, Adela groaned: "We have been hunting that girl all
day in vile neighbourhoods. Wilfrid has not spoken more than a dozen
sentences. I have had to dine on buns and hideous soup. I am half-dead
with the smell of cabs. Oh! if ever I am poor it will kill me. That
damp hay and close musty life are too intolerable! Yes! You see I care
for what I eat. I seem to be growing an animal. And Wilfrid is going to
drag me over the same course to-morrow, if you don't prevent him. I
would not mind, only it is absolutely necessary that I should see Sir
She gave a reason why, which appeared to Arabella so cogent that she said
at once: "If Cornelia does not take your place I will."
The kiss of thanks given by Adela was accompanied by a request for tea.
Arabella regretted that she had sent the servants to bed.
"To bed!" cried her sister. "But they are the masters, not we! Really,
if life were a round of sensual pleasure, I think our servants might
Arabella affected to show that they had their troubles; but her statement
made it clear that the servants of Brookfield were peculiarly favoured
servants, as it was their mistress's pride to make them. Eventually
Adela consented to drink some sparkling light wine; and being thirsty she
drank eagerly, and her tongue was loosed, insomuch that she talked of
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