Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, complete
Part 9 out of 11
and again he was tempted to lay an irreverent hand on the veil his lady
walked in, and make her bare to herself. Partly in simple bitterness, he
refrained: but the chief reason was that he had no comfort in giving a
shock to his own state of deception. He would have had to open a dark
closet; to disentangle and bring to light what lay in an
undistinguishable heap; to disfigure her to herself, and share in her
changed eyesight; possibly to be, or seem, coarse: so he kept the door of
it locked, admitting sadly in his meditation that there was such a place,
and saying all the while: "If I were not poor!" He saw her running into
the shelter of egregious sophisms, till it became an effort to him to
preserve his reverence for her and the sex she represented. Finally he
imagined that he perceived an idea coming to growth in her, no other than
this: "That in duty to her father she might sacrifice herself, though
still loving him to whom she had given her heart; thus ennobling her love
for father and for lover." With a wicked ingenuity he tracked her
forming notions, encouraged them on, and provoked her enthusiasm by
putting an ironical question: "Whether the character of the soul was
subdued and shaped by the endurance and the destiny of the perishable?"
"Oh! no, no!" she exclaimed. "It cannot be, or what comfort should we
Few men knew better that when lovers' sentiments stray away from feeling,
they are to be suspected of a disloyalty. Yet he admired the tone she
took. He had got an 'ideal' of her which it was pleasanter to magnify
than to distort. An 'ideal' is so arbitrary, that if you only doubt of
its being perfection, it will vanish and never come again. Sir Purcell
refused to doubt. He blamed himself for having thought it possible to
doubt, and this, when all the time he knew.
Through endless labyrinths of delusion these two unhappy creatures might
be traced, were it profitable. Down what a vale of little intricate
follies should we be going, lighted by one ghastly conclusion! At times,
struggling from the midst of her sophisms, Cornelia prayed her lover
would claim her openly, and so nerve her to a pitch of energy that would
clinch the ruinous debate. Forgetting that she was an 'ideal'--the
accredited mistress of pure wisdom and of the power of deciding rightly--
she prayed to be dealt with as a thoughtless person, and one of the herd
of women. She felt that Sir Purcell threw too much on her. He expected
her to go calmly to her father, and to Sir Twickenham, and tell them
individually that her heart was engaged; then with a stately figure to
turn, quit the house, and lay her hand in his. He made no allowance for
the weakness of her sex, for the difficulties surrounding her, for the
consideration due to Sir Twickenham's pride, and to her father's ill-
health. She half-protested to herself that he expected from her the
mechanical correctness of a machine, and overlooked the fact that she was
human. It was a grave comment on her ambition to be an 'ideal.'
So let us leave them, till we come upon the ashy fruit of which this
blooming sentimentalism is the seed.
It was past midnight when Mrs. Chump rushed to Arabella's room, and her
knock was heard vociferous at the door. The ladies, who were at work
upon diaries and letters, allowed her to thump and wonder whether she had
come to the wrong door, for a certain period; after which, Arabella
placidly unbolted her chamber, and Adela presented herself in the passage
to know the meaning of the noise.
"Oh! ye poor darlin's, I've heard ut all, I have."
This commencement took the colour from their cheeks. Arabella invited
her inside, and sent Adela for Cornelia.
"Oh, and ye poor deers!" cried Mrs. Chump to Arabella, who remarked:
"Pray wait till my sisters come;" causing the woman to stare and observe:
"If ye're not as cold as the bottom of a pot that naver felt fire." She
repeated this to Cornelia and Adela as an accusation, and then burst on
"My heart's just breakin' for ye, and ye shall naver want bread, eh! and
roast beef, and my last bottle of Port ye'll share, though ye've no ideea
what a lot o' thoughts o' poor Chump's under that cork, and it'll be a
waste on you. Oh! and that monster of a Mr. Paricles that's got ye in
his power and's goin' to be the rroon of ye--shame to 'm! Your father's
told me; and, oh! my darlin' garls, don't think ut my fault. For, Pole--
Mrs. Chump was choked by her grief. The ladies, unbending to some
curiosity, eliminated from her gasps and sobs that Mr. Pole had, in the
solitude of his library below, accused her of causing the defection of
Mr. Pericles, and traced his possible ruin to it, confessing, that in the
way of business, he was at Mr. Pericles' mercy.
"And in such a passion with me!" Mrs. Chump wrung her hands. "What could
I do to Mr. Paricles? He isn't one o' the men that I can kiss; and Pole
shouldn't wish me. And Pole settin' down his rroon to me! What'll I do?
My dears! I do feel for ye, for I feel I'd feel myself such a beast,
without money, d'ye see? It's the most horrible thing in the world.
It's like no candle in the darrk. And I, ye know, I know I'd naver
forgive annybody that took my money; and what'll Pole think of me? For
oh! ye may call riches temptation, but poverty's punishment; and I heard
a young curate say that from the pulpit, and he was lean enough to know,
Both Cornelia and Arabella breathed more freely when they had heard Mrs.
Chump's tale to an end. They knew perfectly well that she was blameless
for the defection of Mr. Pericles, and understood from her exclamatory
narrative that their father had reason to feel some grave alarm at the
Greek's absence from their house, and had possibly reasons of his own for
accusing Mrs. Chump, as he had done. The ladies administered consolation
to her, telling her that for their part they would never blame her; even
consenting to be kissed by her, hugged by her, playfully patted,
complimented, and again wept over. They little knew what a fervour of
secret devotion they created in Mrs. Chump's bosom by this astounding
magnanimity displayed to her, who laboured under the charge of being the
source of their ruin; nor could they guess that the little hypocrisy they
were practising would lead to any singular and pregnant resolution in the
mind of the woman, fraught with explosion to their house, and that quick
movement which they awaited.
Mrs. Chump, during the patient strain of a tender hug of Arabella, had
mutely resolved in a great heat of gratitude that she would go to Mr.
Pericles, and, since he was necessary to the well-being of Brookfield,
bring him back, if she had to bring him back in her arms.
[Georgiana Ford to Wilfrid:]
"I have omitted replying to your first letter, not because of the nature
of its contents: nor do I write now in answer to your second because of
the permission you give me to lay it before my brother. I cannot think
that concealment is good, save for very base persons; and since you take
the initiative in writing very openly, I will do so likewise.
"It is true that Emilia is with me. Her voice is lost, and she has
fallen as low in spirit as one can fall and still give us hope of her
recovery. But that hope I have, and I am confident that you will not
destroy it. In the summer she goes with us to Italy. We have consulted
one doctor, who did not prescribe medicine for her. In the morning she
reads with my brother. She seems to forget whatever she reads: the
occupation is everything necessary just now. Our sharp Monmouth air
provokes her to walk briskly when she is out, and the exercise has once
or twice given colour to her cheeks. Yesterday being a day of clear
frost, we drove to a point from which we could mount the Buckstone, and
here, my brother says, the view appeared to give her something of her
lost animation. It was a look that I had never seen, and it soon went:
but in the evening she asked me whether I prayed before sleeping, and
when she retired to her bedroom, I remained there with her for a time.
"You will pardon me for refusing to let her know that you have written to
your relative in the Austrian service to obtain a commission for you.
But, on the other hand, I have thought it right to tell her incidentally
that you will be married in the Summer of this year. I can only say that
she listened quite calmly.
"I beg that you will not blame yourself so vehemently. By what you do,
her friends may learn to know that you regret the strange effect produced
by certain careless words, or conduct: but I cannot find that self-
accusation is ever good at all. In answer to your question, I may add
that she has repeated nothing of what she said when we were together in
"Our chief desire (for, as we love her, we may be directed by our
instinct), in the attempt to restore her, is to make her understand that
she is anything but worthless. She has recently followed my brother's
lead, and spoken of herself, but with a touch of scorn. This morning,
while the clear frosty sky continues, we were to have started for an old
castle lying toward Wales; and I think the idea of a castle must have
struck her imagination, and forced some internal contrast on her mind. I
am repeating my brother's suggestion--she seemed more than usually
impressed with an idea that she was of no value to anybody. She asked
why she should go anywhere, and dropped into a chair, begging to be
allowed to stay in a darkened room. My brother has some strange
intuition of her state of mind. She has lost any power she may have had
of grasping abstract ideas. In what I conceived to be play, he told her
that many would buy her even now. She appeared to be speculating on
this, and then wished to know how much those persons would consider her
to be worth, and who they were. Nor did it raise a smile on her face to
hear my brother mention Jews, and name an absolute sum of money; but, on
the contrary, after evidently thinking over it, she rose up, and said
that she was ready to go. I write fully to you, telling you these
things, that you may see she is at any rate eager not to despair, and is
learning, much as a child might learn it, that it need not be.
"Believe me, that I will in every way help to dispossess your mind of the
remorse now weighing upon you, as far as it shall be within my power to
"Mr. Runningbrook has been invited by my brother to come and be her
companion. They have a strong affection for one another. He is a true
poet, full of reverence for a true woman."
[Wilfrid to Georgiana Ford:]
"I cannot thank you enough. When I think of her I am unmanned; and if I
let my thoughts fall back upon myself, I am such as you saw me that night
in Devon--helpless, and no very presentable figure. But you do not
picture her to me. I cannot imagine whether her face has changed; and,
pardon me, were I writing to you alone, I could have faith that the
delicate insight and angelic nature of a woman would not condemn my
desire to realize before my eyes the state she has fallen to. I see her
now under a black shroud. Have her features changed? I cannot remember
one--only at an interval her eyes. Does she look into the faces of
people as she used? Or does she stare carelessly away? Softly between
the eyes, is what I meant. I mean--but my reason for this particularity
is very simple. I would state it to you, and to no other. I cannot have
peace till she is restored; and my prayer is, that I may not haunt her to
defeat your labour. Does her face appear to show that I am quite absent
from her thoughts? Oh! you will understand me. You have seen me stand
and betray no suffering when a shot at my forehead would have been mercy.
To you I will dare to open my heart. I wish to be certain that I have
not injured her--that is all. Perhaps I am more guilty than you think:
more even than I can call to mind. If I may fudge by the punishment, my
guilt is immeasurable. Tell me--if you will but tell me that the
sacrifice of my life to her will restore her, it is hers. Write, and say
this, and I will come: Do not delay or spare me. Her dumb voice is like
a ghost in my ears. It cries to me that I have killed it. Be actuated
by no charitable considerations in refraining to write. Could a
miniature of her be sent? You will think the request strange; but I want
to be sure she is not haggard--not the hospital face I fancy now, which
accuses me of murder. Does she preserve the glorious freshness she used
to wear? She had a look--or did you see her before the change? I only
want to know that she is well."
[Tracy Runningbrook to Wilfrid:]
"You had my promise that I would write and give your conscience a
nightcap. I have a splendid one for you. Put it on without any
hesitation. I find her quite comfortable. Powys reads Italian with her
in the morning. His sister (who might be a woman if she liked, but has
an insane preference for celestial neutrality) does the moral
inculcation. The effect is comical. I should like you to see Cold Steel
leading Tame Fire about, and imagining the taming to be her work! You
deserve well of your generation. You just did enough to set this darling
girl alight. Knights and squires numberless will thank you. The idea of
your reproaching yourself is monstrous. Why, there's no one thanks you
more than she does. You stole her voice, which some may think a pity,
but I don't, seeing that I would rather have her in a salon than before
the footlights. Imagine my glory in her!--she has become half cat! She
moves softly, as if she loved everything she touched; making you throb to
feel the little ball of her foot. Her eyes look steadily, like green
jewels before the veil of an Egyptian temple. Positively, her eyes have
grown green--or greenish! They were darkish hazel formerly, and talked
more of milkmaids and chattering pastorals than a discerning master would
have wished. Take credit for the change; and at least I don't blame you
for the tender hollows under the eyes, sloping outward, just hinted...
Love's mark on her, so that men's hearts may faint to know that love is
known to her, and burn to read her history. When she is about to speak,
the upper lids droop a very little; or else the under lids quiver upward-
-I know not which. Take further credit for her manner. She has now a
manner of her own. Some of her naturalness has gone, but she has skipped
clean over the 'young lady' stage; from raw girl she has really got as
much of the great manner as a woman can have who is not an ostensibly
retired dowager, or a matron on a pedestal shuffling the naked virtues
and the decorous vices together. She looks at you with an immense,
marvellous gravity, before she replies to you--enveloping you in a velvet
light. This, is fact, not fine stuff, my dear fellow. The light of her
eyes does absolutely cling about you. Adieu! You are a great master,
and know exactly when to make your bow and retire. A little more, and
you would have spoilt her. Now she is perfect."
[Wilfrid to Tracy Runningbrook:]
"I have just come across a review of your last book, and send it,
thinking you may wish to see it. I have put a query to one of the
passages, which I think misquoted: and there will be no necessity to call
your attention to the critic's English. You can afford to laugh at it,
but I confess it puts your friends in a rage. Here are a set of fellows
who arm themselves with whips and stand in the public thoroughfare to
make any man of real genius run the gauntlet down their ranks till he
comes out flayed at the other extremity! What constitutes their right to
be there?--By the way, I met Sir Purcell Barrett (the fellow who was at
Hillford), and he would like to write an article on you that should act
as a sort of rejoinder. Yon won't mind, of course--it's bread to him,
poor devil! I doubt whether I shall see you when you comeback, so write
a jolly lot of letters. Colonel Pierson, of the Austrian army, my uncle
(did you meet him at Brookfield?), advises me to sell out immediately.
He is getting me an Imperial commission--cavalry. I shall give up the
English service. And if they want my medal, they can have it, and I'll
begin again. I'm sick of everything except a cigar and a good volume of
poems. Here's to light one, and now for the other!
"'Large eyes lit up by some imperial sin,'" etc.
(Ten lines from Tracy's book are here copied neatly.)
[Tracy Runningbrook to Wilfrid:]
"Why the deuce do you write me such infernal trash about the opinions of
a villanous dog who can't even en a decent sentence? I've been damning
you for a white-livered Austrian up and down the house. Let the fellow
bark till he froths at the mouth, and scatters the virus of the beast
among his filthy friends. I am mad-dog proof. The lines you quote were
written in an awful hurry, coming up in the train from Richford one
morning. You have hit upon my worst with commendable sagacity. If it
will put money in Barren's pocket, let him write. I should prefer to
have nothing said. The chances are all in favour of his writing like a
fool. If you're going to be an Austrian, we may have a chance of
shooting one another some day, so here's my hand before you go and sell
your soul; and anything I can do in the meantime--command me."
[Georgiana Ford to Wilfrid:]
"I do not dare to charge you with a breach of your pledged word. Let me
tell you simply that Emilia has become aware of your project to enter the
Austrian service, and it has had the effect on her which I foresaw. She
could bear to hear of your marriage, but this is too much for her, and it
breaks my heart to see her. It is too cruel. She does not betray any
emotion, but I can see that every principle she had gained is gone, and
that her bosom holds the shadows of a real despair. I foresaw it, and
sought to guard her against it. That you, whom she had once called (to
me) her lover, should enlist himself as an enemy, of her country!--it
comes to her as a fact striking her brain dumb while she questions it,
and the poor body has nothing to do but to ache. Surely you could have
no object in doing this? I will not suspect it. Mr. Runningbrook is
acquainted with your plans, I believe; but he has no remembrance of
having mentioned this one to Emilia. He distinctly assures me that he
has not done so, and I trust him to speak truth. How can it have
happened? But here is the evil done. I see no remedy. I am not skilled
in sketching the portraits you desire of her, and yet, if you have ever
wished her to know this miserable thing, it would be as well that you
should see the different face that has come among us within twenty hours."
[Wilfrid to Georgiana Ford:]
"I will confine my reply to a simple denial of having caused this fatal
intelligence to reach her ears; for the truth of which, I pledge my
honour as a gentleman. A second's thought would have told me--indeed I
at once acquiesced in your view--that she should not know it. How it has
happened it is vain to attempt to guess. Can you suppose that I desired
her to hate me? Yet this is what the knowledge of the step I am taking
will make her do! If I could see--if I might see her for five minutes, I
should be able to explain everything, and, I sincerely think (painful as
it would be to me), give her something like peace. It is too late even
to wish to justify myself; but her I can persuade that she--
Do you not see that her mind is still unconvinced of my--I will call it
baseness! Is this the self-accusing you despise? A little of it must be
heard. If I may see her I will not fail to make her understand my
position. She shall see that it is I who am worthless--not she! You
know the circumstances under which I last beheld her--when I saw pang
upon pang smiting her breast from my silence! But now I may speak. Do
not be prepossessed against my proposal! It shall be only for five
minutes--no more. Not that it is my desire to come. In truth, it could
not be. I have felt that I alone can cure her--I who did the harm. Mark
me: she will fret secretly--, but dear and kindest lady, do not smile too
critically at the tone I adopt. I cannot tell how I am writing or what
saying. Believe me that I am deeply and constantly sensible of your
generosity. In case you hesitate, I beg you to consult Mr. Powys."
[Georgiana Ford to Wilfrid:]
"I had no occasion to consult my brother to be certain that an interview
between yourself and Emilia should not take place. There can be no
object, even if the five minutes of the meeting gave her happiness, why
the wound of the long parting should be again opened. She is wretched
enough now, though her tenderness for us conceals it as far as possible.
When some heavenly light shall have penetrated her, she will have a
chance of peace. The evil is not of a nature to be driven out by your
hands. If you are not going into the Austrian service, she shall know as
much immediately. Otherwise, be as dead to her as you may, and your
noblest feelings cannot be shown under any form but that."
[Wilfrid to Tracy Runningbrook:]
"Some fellows whom I know want you to write a prologue to a play they are
going to get up. It's about Shakespeare--at least, the proceeds go to
something of that sort. Do, like a good fellow, toss us off twenty
lines. Why don't you write? By the way, I hope there's no truth in a
report that has somehow reached me, that they have the news down in
Monmouth of my deserting to the black-yellow squadrons? Of course, such
a thing as that should have been kept from them. I hear, too, that your-
-I suppose I must call her now your--pupil is falling into bad health.
Think me as cold and 'British' as you like; but the thought of this does
really affect me painfully. Upon my honour, it does! 'And now he
yawns!' you're saying. You're wrong. We Army men feel just as you poets
do, and for a longer time, I think, though perhaps not so acutely. I
send you the 'Venus' cameo which you admired. Pray accept it from an old
friend. I mayn't see you again."
[Tracy Runningbrook to Wilfrid:]
"Here they are. It will require a man who knows something about metre to
speak them. Had Shakespeare's grandmother three Christian names? and did
she anticipate feminine posterity in her rank of life by saying
habitually, 'Drat it?' There is as yet no Society to pursue this
investigation, but it should be started. Enormous thanks for the Venus.
I wore it this morning at breakfast. Just as we were rising, I leaned
forward to her, and she jumped up with her eyes under my chin. 'Isn't
she a beauty?' I said. 'It was his,' she answered, changing eyes of
eagle for eyes of dove, and then put out the lights. I had half a mind
to offer it, on the spot. May I? That is to say, if the impulse seizes
me I take nobody's advice, and fair Venus certainly is not under my chin
at this moment. As to ill health, great mother Nature has given a house
of iron to this soul of fire. The windows may blaze, or the windows may
be extinguished, but the house stands firm. When you are lightning or
earthquake, you may have something to reproach yourself for; as it is, be
under no alarm. Do not put words in my mouth that I have not uttered.
'And now he yawns,' is what I shall say of you only when I am sure you
have just heard a good thing. You really are the best fellow of your set
that I have come across, and the only one pretending to brains. Your
modesty in estimating your value as a leader of Pandours will be pleasing
to them who like that modesty. Good-bye. This little Emilia is a marvel
of flying moods. Yesterday she went about as if she said, 'I've promised
Apollo not to speak till to-morrow.' To-day, she's in a feverish gabble
--or began the day with a burst of it; and now she's soft and sensible.
If you fancy a girl at her age being able to see, that it's a woman's
duty to herself and the world to be artistic--to perfect the thing of
beauty she is meant to be by nature!--and, seeing, too, that Love is an
instrument like any other thing, and that we must play on it with
considerate gentleness, and that tearing at it or dashing it to earth,
making it howl and quiver, is madness, and not love!--I assure you she
begins to see it! She does see it. She is going to wear a wreath of
black briony (preserved and set by Miss Ford, a person cunning in these
matters). She's going to the ball at Penarvon Castle, and will look--
supply your favourite slang word. A little more experience, and she will
have malice. She wants nothing but that to make her consummate. Malice
is the barb of beauty. She's just at present a trifle blunt. She will
knock over, but not transfix. I am anxious to watch the effect she
produces at Penarvon. Poor little woman! I paid a compliment to her
eyes. 'I've got nothing else,' said she. Dine as well as you can while
you are in England. German cookery is an education for the sentiment of
hogs. The play of sour and sweet, and crowning of the whole with fat,
shows a people determined to go down in civilization, and try the
business backwards. Adieu, curst Croat! On the Wallachian border mayst
thou gather philosophy from meditation."
Dexterously as Wilfrid has turned Tracy to his uses by means of the
foregoing correspondence, in doing so he had exposed himself to the
retributive poison administered by that cunning youth. And now the
Hippogriff seized him, and mounted with him into mid-air; not as when the
idle boy Ganymede was caught up to act as cup-bearer in celestial Courts,
but to plunge about on yielding vapours, with nothing near him save the
voice of his desire.
The Philosopher here peremptorily demands the pulpit. We are subject, he
says, to fantastic moods, and shall dry ready-minted phrases picture them
forth? As, for example, can the words 'delirium,' or 'frenzy,' convey
an image of Wilfrid's state, when his heart began to covet Emilia again,
and his sentiment not only interposed no obstacle, but trumpeted her
charms and fawned for her, and he thought her lost, remembered that she
had been his own, and was ready to do any madness to obtain her?
'Madness' is the word that hits the mark, but it does not fully embrace
the meaning. To be in this state, says the Philosopher, is to be 'On The
Hippogriff;' and to this, as he explains, the persons who travel to Love
by the road of sentiment will come, if they have any stuff in them, and
if the one who kindles them is mighty. He distinguishes being on the
Hippogriff from being possessed by passion. Passion, he says, is noble
strength on fire, and points to Emilia as a representation of passion.
She asks for what she thinks she may have; she claims what she imagines
to be her own. She has no shame, and thus, believing in, she never
violates, nature, and offends no law, wild as she may seem. Passion does
not turn on her and rend her when it is thwarted. She was never carried
out of the limit of her own intelligent force, seeing that it directed
her always, with the simple mandate to seek that which belonged to her.
She was perfectly sane, and constantly just to herself, until the failure
of her voice, telling her that she was a beggar in the world, came as a
second blow, and partly scared her reason. Constantly just to herself,
mind! This is the quality of true passion. Those who make a noise, and
are not thus distinguishable, are on Hippogriff.
--By which it is clear to me that my fantastic Philosopher means to
indicate the lover mounted in this wise, as a creature bestriding an
extraneous power. "The sentimentalist," he says, "goes on accumulating
images and hiving sensations, till such time as (if the stuff be in him)
they assume a form of vitality, and hurry him headlong. This is not
passion, though it amazes men, and does the madder thing."
In fine, it is Hippogriff. And right loath am I to continue my
partnership with a fellow who will not see things on the surface, and is,
as a necessary consequence, blind to the fact that the public detest him.
I mean, this garrulous, super-subtle, so-called Philosopher, who first
set me upon the building of 'The Three Volumes,' it is true, but whose
stipulation that he should occupy so large a portion of them has made
them rock top-heavy, to the forfeit of their stability. He maintains
that a story should not always flow, or, at least, not to a given
measure. When we are knapsack on back, he says, we come to eminences
where a survey of our journey past and in advance is desireable, as is a
distinct pause in any business, here and there. He points proudly to the
fact that our people in this comedy move themselves,--are moved from
their own impulsion,--and that no arbitrary hand has posted them to bring
about any event and heap the catastrophe. In vain I tell him that he is
meantime making tatters of the puppets' golden robe illusion: that he is
sucking the blood of their warm humanity out of them. He promises that
when Emilia is in Italy he will retire altogether; for there is a field
of action, of battles and conspiracies, nerve and muscle, where life
fights for plain issues, and he can but sum results. Let us, he
entreats, be true to time and place. In our fat England, the gardener
Time is playing all sorts of delicate freaks in the lines and traceries
of the flower of life, and shall we not note them? If we are to
understand our species, and mark the progress of civilization at all, we
must. Thus the Philosopher. Our partner is our master, and I submit,
hopefully looking for release with my Emilia, in the day when Italy
reddens the sky with the banners of a land revived.
I hear Wilfrid singing out that he is aloft, burning to rush ahead, while
his beast capers in one spot, abominably ludicrous. This trick of
Hippogriff is peculiar, viz., that when he loses all faith in himself, he
sinks--in other words, goes to excesses of absurd humility to regain it.
Passion has likewise its panting intervals, but does nothing so
preposterous. The wreath of black briony, spoken of by Tracy as the
crown of Emilia's forehead, had begun to glow with a furnace-colour in
Wilfrid's fancy. It worked a Satanic distraction in him. The girl sat
before him swathed in a darkness, with the edges of the briony leaves
shining deadly--radiant above--young Hecate! The next instant he was
bleeding with pity for her, aching with remorse, and again stung to
intense jealousy of all who might behold her (amid a reserve of angry
sensations at her present happiness).
Why had she not made allowance for his miserable situation that night in
Devon? Why did she not comprehend his difficulties in relation to his
father's affairs? Why did she not know that he could not fail to love
her for ever?
Interrogations such as these were so many switches of the whip in the
flanks of Hippogriff.
Another peculiarity of the animal gifted with wings is, that around the
height he soars to he can see no barriers nor any of the fences raised by
men. And here again he differs from Passion, which may tug against
common sense but is never, in a great nature, divorced from it: In air on
Hippogriff, desires wax boundless, obstacles are hidden. It seemed
nothing to Wilfrid (after several tremendous descents of humility) that
he should hurry for Monmouth away, to gaze on Emilia under her fair,
infernal, bewitching wreath; nothing that he should put an arm round her;
nothing that he should forthwith carry her off, though he died for it.
Forming no design beyond that of setting his eyes on her, he turned the
head of Hippogriff due Westward.
Penarvon castle lay over the borders of Monmouthshire. Thither, on a
night of frosty moonlight, troops of carriages were hurrying with the
usual freightage for a country ball:--the squire who will not make
himself happy by seeing that his duty to the softer side of his family
must be performed during the comfortable hours when bachelors snooze in
arm-chairs, and his nobler dame who, not caring for Port or tobacco,
cheerfully accepts the order of things as bequeathed to her: the
everlastingly half-satisfied young man, who looks forward to the hour
when his cigar-light will shine; and the damsel thrice demure as a cover
for her eagerness. Within a certain distance of one of the carriages, a
man rode on horseback. The court of the castle was reached, and he
turned aside, lingering to see whether he could get a view of the lighted
steps. To effect his object, he dismounted and led his horse through the
gates, turning from gravel to sward, to keep in the dusk. A very agile
middle-aged gentleman was the first to appear under the portico-lamps,
and he gave his hand to a girl of fifteen, and then to a most portly lady
in a scarlet mantle. The carriage-door slammed and drove off, while a
groan issued from the silent spectator. "Good heavens! have I followed
these horrible people for five-and-twenty miles!" Carriage after
carriage rattled up to the steps, was disburdened of still more 'horrible
people' to him, and went the way of the others. "I shan't see her, after
all," he cried hoarsely, and mounting, said to the beast that bore him,
"Now go sharp."
Whether you recognize the rider of Hippogriff or not, this is he; and the
poor livery-stable screw stretched madly till wind failed, when he was
allowed to choose his pace. Wilfrid had come from London to have sight
of Emilia in the black-briony wreath: to see her, himself unseen, and go.
But he had not seen her; so he had the full excuse to continue the
adventure. He rode into a Welsh town, and engaged a fresh horse for the
"She won't sing, at all events," thought Wilfrid, to comfort himself,
before the memory that she could not, in any case, touched springs of
weakness and pitying tenderness. From an eminence to which he walked
outside the town, Penarvon was plainly visible with all its lighted
"But I will pluck her from you!" he muttered, in a spasm of jealousy; the
image of himself as an outcast against the world that held her, striking
him with great force at that moment.
"I must give up the Austrian commission, if she takes me."
And be what? For he had sold out of the English service, and was to
receive the money in a couple of days. How long would the money support
him? It would not pay half his debts! What, then, did this pursuit of
Emilia mean? To blink this question, he had to give the spur to
Hippogriff. It meant (upon Hippogriff at a brisk gallop), that he
intended to live for her, die for her, if need be, and carve out of the
world all that she would require. Everything appears possible, on
Hippogriff, when he is going; but it is a bad business to put the spur on
so willing a beast. When he does not go of his own will;--when he sees
that there are obstructions, it is best to jump off his back. And we
should abandon him then, save that having once tasted what he can do for
us, we become enamoured of the habit of going keenly, and defying
obstacles. Thus do we begin to corrupt the uses of the gallant beast
(for he is a gallant beast, though not of the first order); we spoil his
instincts and train him to hurry us to perdition.
"If my sisters could see me now!" thought Wilfrid, half-smitten with a
distant notion of a singularity in his position there, the mark for a
frosty breeze, while his eyes kept undeviating watch over Penarvon.
After a time he went back to the inn, and got among coachmen and footmen,
all battling lustily against the frost with weapons scientifically
selected at the bar. They thronged the passages, and lunged hearty
punches at one another, drank and talked, and only noticed that a
gentleman was in their midst when he moved to get a light. One
complained that he had to drive into Monmouth that night, by a road that
sent him five miles out of his way, owing to a block--a great stone that
had fallen from the hill. "You can't ask 'em to get out and walk ten
steps," he said; "or there! I'd lead the horses and just tip up the off
wheels, and round the place in a twinkle, pop 'm in again, and nobody
hurt; but you can't ask ladies to risk catchin' colds for the sake of the
Several coachmen spoke upon this, and the shame and marvel it was that
the stone had not been moved; and between them the name of Mr. Powys was
mentioned, with the remark that he would spare his beasts if he could.
"What's that block you're speaking of, just out of Monmouth?" enquired
Wilfrid; and it being described to him, together with the exact bearings
of the road and situation of the mass of stone, he at once repeated a
part of what he had heard in the form of the emphatic interrogation,
"What! there?" and flatly told the coachman that the stone had been
"It wasn't moved this morning, then, sir," said the latter.
"No; but a great deal can be done in a couple of hours," said Wilfrid.
"Did you see 'em at work, sir?"
"No; but I came that way, and the road was clear."
"The deuce it was!" ejaculated the coachman, willingly convinced.
"And that's the way I shall return," added Wilfrid.
He tossed some money on the bar to aid in warming the assemblage, and
received numerous salutes as he passed out. His heart was beating fast.
"I shall see her, in the teeth of my curst luck," he thought, picturing
to himself the blessed spot where the mass of stone would lie; and to
that point he galloped, concentrating all the light in his mind on this
maddest of chances, till it looked sound, and finally certain.
"It's certain, if that's not a hired coachman," he calculated. "If he
is, he won't risk his fee. If he isn't, he'll feel on the safe side
anyhow. At any rate, it's my only chance." And away he flew between
glimmering slopes of frost to where a white curtain of mist hung across
the wooded hills of the Wye.
Emilia was in skilful hands, and against anything less powerful than a
lover mounted upon Hippogriff, might have been shielded. What is poison
to most girls, Merthyr prescribed for her as medicine. He nourished her
fainting spirit upon vanity. In silent astonishment Georgiana heard him
address speeches to her such as dowagers who have seen their day can
alone of womankind complacently swallow. He encouraged Tracy
Runningbrook to praise the face of which she had hitherto thought shyly.
Jewels were placed at her disposal, and dresses laid out cunningly suited
to her complexion. She had a maid to wait on her, who gabbled at the
momentous hours of robing and unrobing: "Oh, miss! of all the dark young
ladies I ever see!"--Emilia was the most bewitching. By-and-by, Emilia
was led to think of herself; but with a struggle and under protest. How
could it be possible that she was so very nice to the eye, and Wilfrid
had abandoned her? The healthy spin of young new blood turned the wheels
of her brain, and then she thought: "Perhaps I am really growing
handsome?" The maid said artfully of her hair: "If gentlemen could only
see it down, miss! It's the longest, and thickest, and blackest, I ever
touched!" And so saying, slid her fingers softly through it after the
comb, and thrilled the owner of that hair till soft thoughts made her
bosom heave, and then self-love began to be sensibly awakened, followed
by self-pity, and some further form of what we understand as
consciousness. If partially a degradation of her nature, this saved her
mind from true despair when it began to stir after the vital shock that
had brought her to earth. "To what purpose should I be fair?" was a
question that did not yet come to her; but it was sweet to see Merthyr's
eyes gather pleasure from the light of her own. Sweet, though nothing
more than coldly sweet. She compared herself to her father's old broken
violin, that might be mended to please the sight; but would never give
the tones again. Sometimes, if hope tormented her, she would strangle it
by trying her voice: and such a little piece of self-inflicted anguish
speedily undid all Merthyr's work. He was patient as one who tends a
flower in the Spring. Georgiana marvelled that the most sensitive and
proud of men should be striving to uproot an image from the heart of a
simple girl, that he might place his own there. His methods almost led
her to think that his estimate of human nature was falling low.
Nevertheless, she was constrained to admit that there was no diminution
of his love for her, and it chastened her to think so. "Would it be the
same with me, if I--?" she half framed the sentence, blushing
remorsefully while she denied that anything could change her great love
for her brother. She had caught a glimpse of Wilfrid's suppleness and
selfishness. Contrasting him with Merthyr, she was singularly smitten
with shame, she knew not why.
The anticipation of the ball at Penarvon Castle had kindled very little
curiosity in Emilia's bosom. She seemed to herself a machine; "one of
the rest;" and looked more to see that she was still coveted by Merthyr's
eyes than at the glitter of the humming saloons. A touch of her old
gladness made her smile when Captain Gambier unexpectedly appeared and
walked across the dancers to sit beside her. She asked him why he had
come from London: to which he replied, with a most expressive gaze under
her eyelids, that he had come for one object. "To see me?" thought
Emilia, wondering, and reddening as she ceased to wonder. She had
thought as a child, and the neat instant felt as a woman. He finished
Merthyr's work for him. Emilia now thought: "Then I must be worth
something." And with "I am," she ended her meditation, glowing. He
might have said that she had all beauty ever showered upon woman: she
would have been led to believe him at that moment of her revival.
Now, Lady Charlotte had written to Georgiana, telling her that Captain
Gambier was soon to be expected in her neighbourhood, and adding that it
would be as well if she looked closely after her charge. When Georgiana
saw him go over to Emilia she did not remember this warning: but when she
perceived the sudden brilliancy and softness in Emilia's face after the
first words had fallen on her ears, she grew alarmed, knowing his
reputation, and executed some diversions, which separated them. The
captain made no effort to perplex her tactics, merely saying that he
should call in a day or two. Merthyr took to himself all the credit of
the visible bloom that had come upon Emilia, and pacing with her between
the dances, said: "Now you will come to Italy, I think."
She paused before answering, "Now?" and feverishly continued: "Yes; at
once. I will go. I have almost felt my voice again to-night."
"That's well. I shall write to Marini to-morrow. You will soon find
your voice if you will not fret for it. Touch Italy!"
"Yes; but you must be near me," said Emilia.
Georgiana heard this, and could not conceive other than that Emilia was
growing to be one of those cormorant creatures who feed alike on the
homage of noble and ignoble. She was critical, too, of that very assured
pose of Emilia's head and firm planting of her feet as the girl paraded
the room after the dances in which she could not join. Previous to this
evening, Georgiana had seen nothing of the sort in her; but, on the
contrary, a doubtful droop of the shoulders and an unwilling gaze, as of
a soul submerged in internal hesitations. "I earnestly trust that this
is a romantic folly of Merthyr's, and no more," thought Georgiana, who
would have had that view concerning his love for Italy likewise, if
recollection of her own share of adventure there had not softly
Tracy, Georgiana, Merthyr, and Emilia were in the carriage, well muffled
up, with one window open to the white mist. Emilia was eager to thank
her friend, if only for the physical relief from weariness and
sluggishness which she was experiencing. She knew certainly that the dim
light of a recovering confidence in herself was owing, all, to him, and
burned to thank him. Once on the way their hands touched, and he felt a
shy pressure from her fingers as they parted. Presently the carriage
stopped abruptly, and listening they heard the coachman indulge his
companion outside with the remark that they were a couple of fools, and
were now regularly 'dished.'
"I don't see why that observation can't go on wheels," said Tracy.
Merthyr put out his head, and saw the obstruction of the mass of stone
across the road. He alighted, and together with the footman, examined
the place to see what the chance was of their getting the carriage past.
After a space of waiting, Georgiana clutched the wraps about her throat
and head, and impetuously followed her brother, as her habit had always
been. Emilia sat upright, saying, "I must go too." Tracy moaned a
petition to her to rest and be comfortable while the Gods were
propitious. He checked her with his arm, and tried to pacify her by
giving a description of the scene. The coachman remained on his seat.
Merthyr, Georgiana, and the footman were on the other side of the rock,
measuring the place to see whether, by a partial ascent of the sloping
rubble down which it had bowled, the carriage might be got along.
"Go; they have gone round; see whether we can give any help," said Emilia
to Tracy, who cried: "My goodness! what help can we give? This is an
express situation where the Fates always appear in person and move us on.
We're sure to be moved, if we show proper faith in them. This is my
attitude of invocation." He curled his legs up on the seat, resting his
head on an arm; but seeing Emilia preparing for a jump he started up, and
immediately preceded her. Emilia looked out after him. She perceived a
figure coming stealthily from the bank. It stopped, and again advanced,
and now ran swiftly down. She drew back her head as it approached the
open door of the carriage; but the next moment trembled forward, and was
caught with a cat-like clutch upon Wilfrid's breast.
"Emilia! my own for ever! I swore to die this night it I did not see
"You love me, Wilfrid? love me?"
"Come with me now!"
"Away! with me! your lover!"
"Then you love me!
"I love you! Come!"
"Now? I cannot move."
"I am out in the night without you."
"Oh, my lover! Oh, Wilfrid!"
"Come to me!"
"My feet are dead!"
"It's too late!"
A sturdy hulloa! sounding from the coachman made Merthyr's ears alive.
When he returned he found Emilia huddled up on the seat, alone, her face
in her hands, and the touch of her hands like fire. He had to entreat
her to descend, and in helping her to alight bore her whole weight, and
supported her in a sad wonder, while the horses were led across the
rubble, and the carriage was with difficulty, and some confusions, guided
to clear its wheels of the obstructing mass. Emilia persisted in saying
that nothing ailed her; and to the coachman, who could have told him
something, and was willing to have done so (notwithstanding a gold fee
for silence that stuck in his palm), Merthyr put no question.
As they were taking their seats in the carriage again, Georgiana said,
"Where is your wreath, Sandra?"
The black-briony wreath was no longer on her head.
"Then, it wasn't a dream!" gasped Emilia, feeling at her temples.
Georgiana at once fell into a scrutinizing coldness, and when Merthyr,
who fancied the wreath might have fallen as he was lifting Emilia from
the carriage, proposed to go and search the place for it, his sister laid
her fingers on his arm, remarking, "You will not find it, dear;" and
Emilia cried "Oh! no, no! it is not there;" and, with her hands pressed
hard against her bosom, sat fixed and silent.
Out of this mood she issued with looks of such tenderness that one who
watched her, speculating on her character as Merthyr did, could see that
in some mysterious way she had been, during the few minutes that
separated them, illumined upon the matter nearest her heart. Was it her
own strength, inspired by some sublime force, that had sprung up suddenly
to eject a worthless love? So he hoped in despite of whispering reason,
till Georgiana spoke to him.
When the force of Wilfrid's embrace had died out from her body, Emilia
conceived wilfully that she had seen an apparition, so strange, sudden,
and wild had been his coming and going: but her whole body was a song to
her. "He is not false: he is true." So dimly, however, was the 'he' now
fashioned in her brain, and so like a thing of the air had he descended
on her, that she almost conceived the abstract idea, 'Love is true,' and
possibly, though her senses did not touch on it to shape it, she had the
reflection in her: "After all, power is mine to bring him to my side."
Almost it seemed to her that she had brought him from the grave. She sat
hugging herself in the carriage, hating to hear words, and seeing a ball
of fire away in the white mist. Georgiana looked at her no more; and
when Tracy remarked that he had fancied having seen a fellow running up
the bank, she said quietly, "Did you?"
"Robert must have seen him, too," added Merthyr, and so the interloper
On reaching home, no sooner were they in the hall than Emilia called for
her bedroom candle in a thin, querulous voice that made Tracy shout with
laughter and love of her quaintness.
Emilia gave him her hand, and held up her mouth to kiss Georgiana, but no
cheek was bent forward for the salute. The girl passed from among them,
and then Merthyr said to his sister: "What is the matter?"
"Surely, Merthyr, you should not be at a loss," she answered, in a
somewhat unusual tone, that was half irony.
Merthyr studied her face. Alone with her, he said: "I could almost
suppose that she has seen this man."
Georgiana smiled sadly. "I have not seen him, dear; and she has not told
"You think it was so?"
"I can imagine it just possible."
"What! while we were out and had left her! He must be mad!"
"Not necessarily mad, unless to be without principle is to be mad."
"Mad, or graduating for a Spanish comedie d'intrigue," said Merthyr.
"What on earth can he mean by it? If he must see her, let him come here.
But to dog a carriage at midnight, and to prefer to act startling
surprises!--one can't help thinking that he delights in being a stage-
Georgiana's: "If he looks on her as a stage-heroine?" was unheeded, and
he pursued: "She must leave England at once," and stated certain
arrangements that were immediately to be made.
"You will not give up this task you have imposed on yourself?" she said.
"To do what?"
She could have answered: "To make this unsatisfactory creature love you;"
but her words were, "To civilize this little savage."
Merthyr was bright in a moment: "I don't give up till I see failure."
"Is it not possible, dear, to be dangerously blind?" urged Georgiana.
"Keep to the particular case," he returned; "and don't tempt me into your
woman's snare of a generalization. It's possible, of course, to be one-
ideaed and obstinate. But I have not yet seen your savage guilty of a
deceit. Her heart has been stirred, and her heart, as you may judge, has
force enough to be constant, though none can deny that it has been
"For which you like her better?" said Georgiana, herself brightening.
"For which I like her better," he replied, and smiled, perfectly armed.
"Oh! is it because I am a woman that I do not understand this sort of
friendship?" cried Georgiana. "And from you, Merthyr, to a girl such as
she is! Me she satisfies less and less. You speak of force of heart, as
if it were manifested in an abandonment of personal will."
"No, my darling, but in the strong conception of a passion."
"Yes; if she had discriminated, and fixed upon a worthy object!"
"That," rejoined Merthyr, "is akin to the doctrine of justification by
"You seek to foil me with sophisms," said Georgiana, warming. "A woman--
even a girl--should remember what is due to herself. You are attracted
by a passionate nature--I mean, men are."
"The general instance," assented Merthyr.
"Then, do you never reflect," pursued Georgiana, "on the composition and
the elements of that sort of nature? I have tried to think the best of
it. It seems to me still no, not contemptible at all--but selfishness is
the groundwork of it; a brilliant selfishness, I admit. I see that it
shows its best feature, but is it the nobler for that? I think, and I
must think, that excellence is a point to be reached only by
unselfishness, and that usefulness is the test of excellence."
"Before there has been any trial of her?" asked Merthyr. "Have you not
been a little too eager to put the test to her?"
Georgiana reluctantly consented to have her argument attached to a single
person. "She is not a child, Merthyr."
"Ay; but she should bethought one."
"I confess I am utterly at sea," Georgiana sighed. "Will you at least
allow that sordid selfishness does less mischief than this 'passion' you
admire so much?"
"I will allow that she may do herself more mischief than if she had the
opposite vice of avarice--anything you will, of that complexion."
"And why should she be regarded as a child?" asked Georgiana piteously.
"Because, if she has outnumbered the years of a child, she is no further
advanced than a child, owing to what she has to get rid of. She is
overburdened with sensations that set her head on fire. Her solid, firm,
and gentle heart keeps her balanced, so long as there is no one playing
on it. That a fool should be doing so, is scarcely her fault."
Georgiana murmured to herself, "He is not a fool." She said, "I do see a
certain truth in what you say, dear Merthyr. But I have been
disappointed in her. I have taken her among my poor. She listens to
their tales, without sympathy. I took her into a sick-room. She stood
by a dying bed like a statue. Her remark when we came into the air was,
'Death seems easy, if it were not so stifling!' Herself always! herself
the centre of what she sees and feels! And again, she has no active
desire to do good to any mortal thing. A passive wish that everybody
should be happy, I know she has. Few have not. She would give money if
she had it. But this is among the mysteries of Providence to me, that
one no indifferent to others should be gifted with so inexplicable a
power of attraction."
Merthyr put this case to her: "Suppose you saw any of the poor souls you
wait on lying sick with fever, would it be just to describe the character
of one so situated as fretful, ungrateful, of rambling tongue, poor in
health, and generally of loose condition of mind?"
"There, again, is that foreign doctrine which exults in the meanest
triumphs by getting the thesis granted that we are animal--only animals!"
Georgiana burst out. You argue that at this season and at that season
she is helpless. If she is a human creature, must she not have a mind to
cover those conditions?"
"And a mind," Merthyr took her up, "specially experienced, armed, and
alert to be a safeguard to her at the most critical period of her life!
Oh, yes! Whether she 'must' have it is one thing; but no one can content
the value of such a jewel to any young person."
Georgiana stood silenced; and knew later that she had been silenced by a
fallacy. For, is youth the most critical period of life? Neither
brother nor sister, however, were talking absolutely for the argument.
Beneath this dialogue, the current in her mind pressed to elicit some
avowal of his personal feeling for the girl, toward whom Georgiana's
disposition was kindlier than her words might lead one to think. He, on
the other hand, talked with the distinct object of disguising his
feelings under a tone of moderate friendship for Emilia, that was capable
of excusing her. A sensitive man of thirty odd years does not loudly
proclaim his appreciation of a girl under twenty: moreover, Merthyr
wished to spare his sister.
He thought of questioning Robert, the coachman, whether anyone had
visited the carriage during his five minutes' absence from it: but
Merthyr's peculiar Welsh delicacy kept him from doing that, hard as it
was to remain in doubt and endure the little poisoned shafts of a
In the morning there was a letter from Marini on the breakfast-table.
Merthyr glanced down the contents. His countenance flashed with a
marvellous light. "Where is she?" he said, looking keenly for Emilia.
Emilia came in from the garden.
"Now, my Sandra!" cried Merthyr, waving the letter to her; "can you pack
up, to start in an hour? There's work coming on for us, and I shall be a
boy again, and not the drumstick I am in this country. I have a letter
from Marini. All Lombardy is prepared to rise, and this time the
business will be done. Marini is off for Genoa. Under the orange-trees,
my Sandra! and looking on the bay, singing of Italy free!"
Emilia fell back a step, eyeing him with a grave expression of wonder, as
if she beheld another being from the one she had hitherto known. The
calm Englishman had given place to a volcanic spirit.
"Isn't that the sketch we made?" he resumed. "The plot's perfect. I
detest conspiracies, but we must use what weapons we can, and be Old
Mole, if they trample us in the earth. Once up, we have Turin to back
us. This I know. We shall have nothing but the Tedeschi to manage: and
if they beat us in cavalry, it's certain that they can't rely on their
light horse. The Magyars would break in a charge. We know that they
will. As for the rest:--
Come sarebbe Boemi a Croati,'
we area match for them! Artillery we shall get. The Piedmontese are mad
for the signal. Come; sit and eat. The air seems dead down in this
quiet country; we're out of the stream. I must rush up to London to
breathe and then we won't lose a moment. We shall be in Italy in four
days. Four days, my Sandra! And Italy going to be free; Georgey, I'm
fasting. And you will see all your old friends. All? Good God! No!--
not all! Their blood shall nerve us. The Austrian thinks he wastes us
by slaughter. With every dead man he doubles the life of the living! Am
I talking like a foreigner, Sandra mia? My child, you don't eat! And I,
who dreamed last night that I looked out over Novara from the height of
the Col di Colma, and saw the plain under a red shadow from a huge
Merthyr laughed, swinging round his arm. Emilia continued staring at him
as at a man transformed, while Georgiana asked: "May Marini's letter be
seen?" Her visage had become firm and set in proportion as her brother's
"Eat, my Sandra! eat!" called Merthyr, who was himself eating with a
Georgiana laid down the letter folded under Merthyr's fingers, keeping
her hand on it till he grew alive to her meaning, that it should be put
"Marini is vague about artillery," she murmured.
"Vague!" echoed Merthyr. "Say prudent. If he said we could lay hands on
fifty pieces, then distrust him!"
"God grant that this be not another pit for further fruitless bloodshed!"
was the interjection standing in Georgiana's eyes, and then she dropped
them pensively, while Merthyr recounted the patient schemes that had led
to this hour, the unuttered anxieties and the bursting hopes.
Still Emilia kept her distressfully unenthusiastic looks turned from one
to the other, though her Italy was the theme. She did not eat, but had
dropped one hand flat on her plate, looking almost idiotic. She heard of
Italy as of a distant place, known to her in ancient years. Merthyr's
transformation, too, helped some form of illusion in her brain that she
was cut off from any kindred feeling with other people.
As soon as he had finished, Merthyr jumped up; and coming round to
Emilia, touched her shoulder affectionately, saying: "Now! There won't
be much packing to do. We shall be in London to-night in time for your
mother to pass the evening with you."
Emilia rose straightway, and her eyes fell vacantly on Georgiana for
help, as far as they could express anything.
Georgiana gave no response, save a look well nigh as vacant in the
"But you haven't eaten at all!" said Merthyr.
Emilia shook her head. "No."
"Eat, my Sandra! to please me! You will need all your strength if you
would be a match for Georgey anywhere where there's action."
"Yes!" Emilia traversed his words with a sudden outcry. "Yes, I will go
to London. I am ready to go to London now."
It was clear that a new light had fallen on her intelligence.
Merthyr was satisfied to see her sit down to the table, and he at once
went out to issue directions for the first step in the new and momentous
Emilia put the bread to her mouth, and crumbled it on a dry lip: but it
was evident to Georgiana, hostile witness as she was, that Emilia's mind
was gradually warming to what Merthyr had said, and that a picture was
passing before the girl. She perceived also a thing that no misery of
her own had yet drawn from Emilia. It was a tear that fell heavily on
the back of her hand. Soon the tears came in quick succession, while the
girl tried to eat, and bit at salted morsels. It was a strange sight for
Georgiana, this statuesque weeping, that got human bit by bit, till the
bosom heaved long sobs: and yet no turn of the head for sympathy; nothing
but passionless shedding of big tear-drops!
She went to the girl, and put her hand upon her; kissed her, and then
said: "We have no time to lose. My brother never delays when he has come
to a resolve."
Emilia tried to articulate: "I am ready."
"But you have not eaten!"
Emilia made a mechanical effort to eat.
"Remember," said Georgiana, "we have a long distance to go. You will
want your strength. You would not be a burden to him? Eat, while I get
your things ready." And Georgiana left her, secretly elated to feel that
in this expedition it was she, and she alone, who was Merthyr's mate.
What storm it was, and what conflict, agitated the girl and stupefied
her, she cared not to guess, now that she had the suitable designation,
'savage,' confirmed in all her acts, to apply to her.
When Tracy Runningbrook came down at his ordinary hour of noon to
breakfast, he found a twisted note from Georgiana, telling him that
important matters had summoned Merthyr to London, and that they were all
to be seen at Lady Gosstre's town-house.
"I believe, by Jove! Powys manoeuvres to get her away from me," he
shouted, and sat down to his breakfast and his book with a comforted
mind. It was not Georgiana to whom he alluded; but the appearance of
Captain Gambier, and the pronounced discomposure visible in the handsome
face of the captain on his hearing of the departure, led Tracy to think
that Georgiana's was properly deplored by another, though that other was
said to be engaged. 'On revient toujours,' he hummed.
Three days passed as a running dream to Emilia. During that period she
might have been hurried off to Italy without uttering a remonstrance.
Merthyr's spirited talk of the country she called her own; of its heroic
youth banded to rise, and sworn to liberate it or die; of good historic
names borne by men, his comrades, in old campaigning adventures; and
stories and incidents of those past days--all given with his changed
face, and changed ringing voice, almost moved her to plunge forgetfully
into this new tumultuous stream while the picture of the beloved land,
lying shrouded beneath the perilous star it was about to follow grew in
"Shall I go with the Army?" she asked Georgiana.
"No, my child; you will simply go to school," was the cold reply.
"To school!" Emilia throbbed, "while they are fighting!"
"To the Academy. My brother's first thought is to further your progress
in Art. When your artistic education is complete, you will choose your
"He knows, he knows that I have no voice!" Emilia struck her lap with
twisted fingers. "My voice is thick in my throat. If I am not to march
with him, I can't go; I will not go. I want to see the fight. You have.
Why should I keep away? Could I run up notes, even if I had any voice,
while he is in the cannon-smoke?"
"While he is in the cannon-smoke!" Georgiana revolved the line
thoughtfully. "You are aware that my brother looks forward to the
recovery of your voice," she said.
"My voice is like a dead serpent in my throat," rejoined Emilia. "My
voice! I have forgotten music. I lived for that, once; now I live for
nothing, only to take my chance everywhere with my friend. I want to
smell powder. My father says it is like salt, the taste of blood, and is
like wine when you smell it. I have heard him shout for it. I will go
to Italy, if I may go where my friend Merthyr goes; but nothing can keep
me shut up now. My head's a wilderness when I'm in houses. I can
scarcely bear to hear this London noise, without going out and walking
till I drop."
Coming to a knot in her meditation, Georgiana concluded that Emilia's
heart was warming to Merthyr. She was speedily doubtful again.
These two delicate Welsh natures, as exacting as they were delicate, were
little pleased with Emilia's silence concerning her intercourse with
Wilfrid. Merthyr, who had expressed in her defence what could be said
for her, was unwittingly cherishing what could be thought in her
disfavour. Neither of them hit on the true cause, which lay in
Georgiana's coldness to her. One little pressure of her hand, carelessly
given, made Merthyr better aware of the nature he was dealing with. He
was telling her that a further delay might keep them in London for a
week; and that he had sent for her mother to come to her.
"I must see my mother," she had said, excitedly. The extension of the
period named for quitting England made it more imminent m her imagination
than when it was a matter of hours. "I must see her."
"I have sent for her," said Merthyr, and then pressed Emilia's hand. But
she who, without having brooded on complaints of its absence, thirsted
for demonstrative kindness, clung to the hand, drawing it, doubled,
against her chin.
"That is not the reason," she said, raising her full eyes up at him over
the unrelinquished hand. "I love the poor Madre; let her come; but I
have no heart for her just now. I have seen Wilfrid."
She took a tighter hold of his fingers, as fearing he might shrink from
her. Merthyr hated mysteries, so he said, "I supposed it must have been
so--that night of our return from Penarvon?"
"Yes," she murmured, while she read his face for a shadow of a repulsion;
"and, my friend, I cannot go to Italy now!"
Merthyr immediately drew a seat beside her. He perceived that there
would be no access to her reason, even as he was on the point of
"Then all my care and trouble are to be thrown away?" he said, taking the
short road to her feelings.
She put the hand that was disengaged softly on his shoulder. "No; not
thrown away. Let me be what Merthyr wishes me to be! That is my chief
"Why, then, will you not do what Merthyr wishes you to do?"
Emilia's eyelids shut, while her face still fronted him.
"Oh! I will speak all out to you," she cried. "Merthyr, my friend, he
came to kiss me once, before I have only just understood it! He is going
to Austria. He came to touch me for the last time before his hand is red
with my blood. Stop him from going! I am ready to follow you:--I can
hear of his marrying that woman:--Oh! I cannot live and think of him in
that Austrian white coat. Poor thing!--my dear! my dear!" And she
turned away her head.
It is not unnatural that Merthyr hearing these soft epithets, should
disbelieve in the implied self-conquest of her preceding words. He had
no clue to make him guess that these were simply old exclamations of hers
brought to her lips by the sorrowful contrast in her mind.
"It will be better that you should see him," he said, with less of his
natural sincerity; so soon are we corrupted by any suspicion that our
"Here?" And she hung close to him, open-lipped, open-eyed, open-eared,
as if (Georgiana would think it, thought Merthyr) her savage senses had
laid the trap for this proposal, and now sprung up keen for their prey.
"Here, Merthyr? Yes! let me see him. You will! Let me see him, for he
cannot resist me. He tries. He thinks he does: but he cannot. I can
stretch out my finger--I can put it on the day when, if he has galloped
one way he will gallop another. Let him come."
She held up both her hands in petition, half dropping her eyelids, with a
In Merthyr's present view, the idea of Wilfrid being in ranks opposed to
him was so little provocative of intense dissatisfaction, that it was out
of his power to believe that Emilia craved to see him simply to dissuade
the man from the obnoxious step. "Ah, well! See him; see him, if you
must," he said. "Arrange it with my sister."
He quitted the room, shrinking from the sound of her thanks, and still
more from the consciousness of his torment.
The business that detained him was to get money for Marini. Georgiana
placed her fortune at his disposal a second time. There was his own,
which he deemed it no excess of chivalry to fling into the gulf. The two
sat together, arranging what property should be sold, and how they would
share the sacrifice in common. Georgiana pressed him to dispose of a
little estate belonging to her, that money might immediately be raised.
They talked as they sat over the fire toward the dusk of the winter
"You would not have refused me once, Merthyr!"
"When you were a child, and I hardly better than a boy. Now it's
different. Let mine go first, Georgey. You may have a husband, who will
not look on these things as we do."
"How can I love a husband!" was all she said; and Merthyr took her in his
arms. His gaiety had gone.
"We can't go dancing into a pit of this sort," he sighed, partly to
baffle the scrutiny he apprehended in her silence. "The garrison at
Milan is doubled, and I hear they are marching troops through Tyrol.
Some alerte has been given, and probably some traitors exist. One
wouldn't like to be shot like a dog! You haven't forgotten poor Tarani?
I heard yesterday of the girl who calls herself his widow."
"They were betrothed, and she is!" exclaimed Georgiana.
"Well, there's a case of a man who had two loves--a woman and his
country; and both true to him!"
"And is he so singular, Merthyr?"
"No, my best! my sweetest! my heart's rest! no!"
They exchanged tender smiles.
"Tarani's bride--beloved! you can listen to such matters--she has
undertaken her task. Who imposed it? I confess I faint at the thought
of things so sad and shameful. But I dare not sit in judgement on a
people suffering as they are. Outrage upon outrage they have endured,
and that deadens--or rather makes their heroism unscrupulous. Tarani's
bride is one of the few fair girls of Italy. We have a lock of her hair.
She shore it close the morning her lover was shot, and wore the thin
white skull-cap you remember, until it was whispered to her that her
beauty must serve."
"I have the lock now in my desk," said Georgiana, beginning to tremble.
"Do you wish to look at it?"
"Yes; fetch it, my darling."
He sat eyeing the firelight till she returned, and then taking the long
golden lock in his handy he squeezed it, full of bitter memories and
"Giulietta?" breathed his sister.
"I would put my life on the truth of that woman's love. Well!"
"She abandons herself to the commandant of the citadel."
A low outcry burst from Georgiana. She fell at Merthyr's knees sobbing
violently. He let her sob. In the end she struggled to speak.
"Oh! can it be permitted? Oh! can we not save her? Oh, poor soul! my
sister! Is she blind to her lover in heaven?"
Georgiana's face was dyed with shame.
"We must put these things by," said Merthyr. "Go to Emilia presently,
and tell her--settle with her as you think fitting, how she shall see
this Wilfrid Pole. I have promised her she shall have her wish."
Coloured by the emotion she was burning from, these words smote Georgiana
with a mournful compassion for Merthyr.
He had risen, and by that she knew that nothing could be said to alter
A sentimental pair likewise, if you please; but these were
sentimentalists who served an active deity; and not that arbitrary
protection of a subtle selfishness which rules the fairer portion of our
"My brother tells me it is your wish to see Mr. Wilfrid Pole."
Emilia's "Yes" came faintly in answer to Georgiana's cold accents.
"Have you considered what you are doing in expressing such a desire?"
Another "Yes" was heard from under an uplifted head:--a culprit
affirmative, whereat the just take fire.
"Be honest, Emilia. Seek counsel and guidance to-night, as you have done
before with me, and profited, I think. If I write to bid him come, what
will it mean?"
"Nothing more," breathed Emilia.
"To him--for in his way he seems to care for you fitfully--it will mean--
stop! hear me. The words you speak will have no part of the meaning,
even if you restrain your tongue. To him it will imply that his power
over you is unaltered. I suppose that the task of making you perceive
the effect it really will have on you is hopeless."
"I have seen him, and I know," said Emilia, in a corresponding tone.
"You saw him that night of our return from Penarvon? Judge of him by
that. He would not spare you. To gratify I know not what wildness in
his nature, he did not hesitate to open your old wound. And to what
purpose? A freak of passion!"
"He could not help it. I told him he would come, and he came."
"This, possibly, you call love; do you not?"
Emilia was about to utter a plain affirmative, but it was checked. The
novelty of the idea of its not being love arrested her imagination.
"If he comes to you here," resumed Georgiana--
"He must come!" cried Emilia.
"My brother has sanctioned it, so his coming or not will rest with him.
If he comes, let me know the good that you think will result from an
interview? Ah! you have not weighed that question. Do so;--or you give
no heed to it? In any ease, try to look into your own breast. You were
not born to live unworthily. You can be, or will be, if you follow your
better star, self-denying and noble. Do you not love your country?
Judge of this love by that. Your love, if you have this power over him,
is merely a madness to him; and his--what has it done for you? If he
comes, and this begins again, there will be a similar if not the same
destiny for you."
Emilia panted in her reply. "No; it will not begin again." She threw
out both arms, shaking her head. "It cannot, I know. What am I now? It
is what I was that he loves. He will not know what I am till he sees me.
And I know that I have done things that he cannot forgive. You have
forgiven it, and Merthyr, because he is my friend; but I am sure Wilfrid
will not. He might pardon the poor 'me,' but not his Emilia! I shall
have to tell him what I did; so" (and she came closer to Georgiana)
"there is some pain for me in seeing him."
Georgiana was not proof against this simplicity of speech, backed by a
little dying dimple, which seemed a continuation of the plain sadness of
She said, "My poor child!" almost fondly, and then Emilia looked in her
face, murmuring, "You sometimes doubt me."
"Not your truth, but the accuracy of your perceptions and your knowledge
of your real designs. You are certainly deceiving yourself at this
instant. In the first place, the relation of that madness--no, poor
child, not wickedness--but if you tell it to him, it is a wilful and
unnecessary self-abasement. If he is to be your husband, unburden your
heart at once. Otherwise, why? why? You are but working up a scene,
provoking needless excesses: you are storing misery in retrospect, or
wretchedness to be endured. Had you the habit of prayer! By degrees it
will give you the thirst for purity, and that makes you a fountain of
prayer, in whom these blind deceits cannot hide."
Georgiana paused emphatically; as when, by our unrolling out of our
ideas, we have more thoroughly convinced ourselves.
"You pray to heaven," said Emilia, and then faltered, and blushed. "I
must be loved!" she cried. "Will you not put your arms round me?"
Georgiana drew her to her bosom, bidding her continue. Emilia lay
whispering under her chin. "You pray, and you wish to be seen as you
are, do you not? You do. Well, if you knew what love is, you would see
it is the same. You wish him to see and know you: you wish to be sure
that he loves nothing but exactly you; it must be yourself. You are
jealous of his loving an idea of you that is not you. You think, 'He
will wake up and find his mistake;' or you think, 'That kiss was not
intended for me; not for me as I am.' Those are tortures!"
Her discipline had transformed her, when she could utter such sentiments
Feeling her shudder, and not knowing how imagination forestalls
experience in passionate blood, Georgiana said, "You speak like one who
has undergone them. But now at least you have thrown off the mask. You
love him still, this man! And with as little strength of will! Do you
not see impiety in the comparison you have made?"
"Oh! what I see is, that I wish I could say to him, 'Look on me, for I
need not be ashamed--I am like Miss Ford!'"
The young lady's cheeks took fire, and the clear path of speech becoming
confused in her head she said, "Miss Ford?"
"Georgiana," said Emilia, and feeling that her friend's cold manner had
melted; "Georgey! my beloved! my darling in Italy, where will we go! I
envy no woman but you who have seen my dear ones fight. You and I, and
Merthyr! Nothing but Austrian shot shall part us."
"And so we make up a pretty dream!" interjected Georgiana. "The Austrian
shot, I think, will be fired by one who is now in the Austrian service,
or who will soon be."
"Wilfrid?" Emilia called out. "No; that is what I am going to stop. Why
did I not tell you so at first? But I never know what I say or do when I
am with you, and everything seems chance. I want to see him to prevent
him from doing that. I can."
"Why should you?" asked Georgiana; and one to whom the faces of the two
had been displayed at that moment would have pronounced them a hostile
"Why should I prevent him?" Emilia doled out the question slowly, and
gave herself no further thought of replying to it.
Apparently Georgiana understood the significance of this odd silence: she
was perhaps touched by it. She said, "You feel that you have a power
over him. You wish to exercise it. Never mind wherefore. If you do--if
you try, and succeed--if, by the aid of this love presupposed to exist,
you win him to what you require of him--do you honestly think the love is
then immediately to be dropped?"
Emilia meditated. She caught up her voice hastily. "I think so. Yes.
I hope so. I mean it to be."
"With a noble lover, Emilia. Not with a selfish one. In showing him the
belief you have in your power over him, you betray that he has power over
you. And it is to no object. His family, his position, his prospects--
all tell you that he cannot marry you if he would. And he is, besides,
"Let her suffer!" Emilia's eyes flashed.
"Ah!" and Georgiana thought, "Have I come upon your nature at last?"
However it might be, Emilia was determined to show it.
"She took my lover from me, and I say, let her suffer! I would not hurt
her myself--I would not lay my finger on her: but she has eyes like blue
stones, and such a mouth!--I think the Austrian executioner has one like
it. If she suffers, and goes all dark as I did, she will show a better
face. Let her keep my lover. He is not mine, but he was; and she took
him from me. That woman cannot feed on him as I did. I know she has no
hunger for love. He will look at those blue bits of ice, and think of
me. I told him so. Did I not tell him that in Devon? I saw her eyelids
move as fast as I spoke. I think I look on Winter when I see her lips.
Poor, wretched Wilfrid!"
Emilia half-sobbed this exclamation out. "I don't wish to hurt either of
them," she added, with a smile of such abrupt opposition to her words
that Georgiana was in perplexity. A lady who has assumed the office of
lecturer, will, in such a frame of mind, lecture on, if merely to
vindicate to herself her own preconceptions. Georgiana laid her finger
severely upon Wilfrid's manifest faults; and, in fine, she spoke a great
deal of the common sense that the situation demanded. Nevertheless,
Emilia held to her scheme. But, in the meantime, Georgiana had seen more
clearly into the girl's heart; and she had been won, also, by a natural
gracefulness that she now perceived in her, and which led her to think,
"Is Merthyr again to show me that he never errs in his judgement?" An
unaccountable movement of tenderness to Emilia made her drop a few kisses
on her forehead. Emilia shut her eyes, waiting for more. Then she
looked up, and said, "Have you felt this love for me very long?" at which
the puny flame, scarce visible, sprang up, and warmed to a great heat.
"My own Emilia! Sandra! listen to me: promise me not to seek this
"Will you always love me as much?" Emilia bargained.
"Yes, yes; I never vary. It is my love for you that begs you."
Emilia fell into a chair and propped her head behind both hands, tapping
the floor briskly with her feet. Georgiana watched the conflict going
on. To decide it promptly, she said: "And not only shall I love you
thrice as well, but my brother Merthyr, whom you call your friend--he
will--he cannot love you better; but he will feel you to be worthy the
best love he can give. There is a heart, you simple girl! He loves you,
and has never shown any of the pain your conduct has given him. When I
say he loves you, I tell you his one weakness--the only one I have
discovered. And judge whether, he has shown want of self-control while
you were dying for another. Did he attempt to thwart you? No; to
strengthen you; and never once to turn your attention to himself. That
is love. Now, think of what anguish you have made him pass through: and
think whether you have ever witnessed an alteration of kindness in his
face toward you. Even now, when he had the hope that you were cured of
your foolish fruitless affection for a man who merely played with you,
and cannot give up the habit, even now he hides what he feels--"
So far Emilia let her speak without interruption; but gradually awakening
to the meaning of the words:--
"For me?" she cried.
"Yes; for you."
"The same sort of love as Wilfrid feels?"
"By no means the same sort; but the love of man for woman."
"And he saw me when I was that wretched heap? And he knows everything!
and loves me. He has never kissed me."
"Does that miserable test--?" Georgiana was asking.
"Pardon, pardon," said Emilia penitently; "I know that is almost nothing,
now. I am not a child. I spoke from a sudden feeling. For if he loves
me, how--! Oh, Merthyr! what a little creature I seem. I cannot
understand it. I lose a brother. And he was such a certainty to me.
What did he love--what did he love, that night he found me on the pier?
I looked like a creature picked off a mud-bank. I felt like a worm, and
miserably abandoned, I was a shameful sight. Oh! how can I look on
Merthyr's face again?"
In these interjections Georgiana did not observe the proper humility and
abject gratitude of a young person who had heard that she was selected by
a prince of the earth. A sort of 'Eastern handmaid' prostration, with
joined hands, and, above all things, a closed mouth, the lady desired.
She half regretted the revelation she had made; and to be sure at once
that she had reaped some practical good, she said: "I need scarce ask you
whether you have come to a right decision upon that other question."
"To see Wilfrid?" said Emilia. She appeared to pause musingly, and then
turned to Georgiana, showing happy features; "Yes: I shall see him. I
must see him. Let him know he is to come immediately."
"That is your decision."
"After what I have told you?"
"Oh, yes; yes! Write the letter."
Georgiana chid at an internal wrath that struggled to win her lips.
"Promise me simply that what I have told you of my brother, you will
consider yourself bound to keep secret. You will not speak of it to
others, nor to him."
Emilia gave the promise, but with the thought; "To him?--will not he
speak of it?"
"So, then, I am to write this letter?" said Georgiana.
"Do, do; at once!" Emilia put on her sweetest look to plead for it.
"Decidedly the wisest of men are fools in this matter," Georgiana's
reflection swam upon her anger.
"And dearest! my Georgey!" Emilia insisted on being blunt to the outward
indications to which she was commonly so sensitive and reflective; "my
Georgey! let me be alone this evening in my bedroom. The little Madre
comes, and--and I haven't the habit of being respectful to her. And, I
must be alone! Do not send up for me, whoever wishes it."
Georgiana could not stop her tongue: "Not if Mr. Wilfrid Pole--?"
"Oh, he! I will see him," said Emilia; and Georgiana went from her
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Active despair is a passion that must be superseded
But love for a parent is not merely duty
Had Shakespeare's grandmother three Christian names?
Littlenesses of which women are accused
Love discerns unerringly what is and what is not duty
Our partner is our master
Passion, he says, is noble strength on fire
Silence was their only protection to the Nice Feelings
The dismally-lighted city wore a look of Judgement terrible to see
The sentimentalist goes on accumulating images
True love excludes no natural duty
By GEORGE MEREDITH
L. EMILIA BEGINS TO FEEL MERTHYR'S POWER
LI. A CHAPTER INTERRUPTED BY THE PHILOSOPHER
LII. A FRESH DUETT BETWEEN WILFRID AND EMILIA
LIII. ALDERMAN'S BOUQUET
LIIV. THE EXPLOSION AT BROOKFIELD
LV. THE TRAGEDY OF SENTIMENT
LVI. AN ADVANCE AND A CHECK.
LVII. CONTAINS A FURTHER ANATOMY OF WILFRID
LVIII. FROST ON THE MAY NIGHT.
LVIX. EMILIA'S GOOD-BYE
Emilia remained locked up with her mother all that evening. The good
little shrill woman, tender-eyed and slatternly, had to help try on
dresses, and run about for pins, and express her critical taste in
undertones, believing all the while that her daughter had given up music
to go mad with vanity. The reflection struck her, notwithstanding, that
it was a wiser thing for one of her sex to make friends among rich people
than to marry a foreign husband.
The girl looked a brilliant woman in a superb Venetian dress of purple
velvet, which she called 'the Branciani dress,' and once attired in it,
and the rich purges and swelling creases over the shoulders puffed out to
her satisfaction, and the run of yellow braid about it properly inspected
and flattened, she would not return to her more homely wear, though very
soon her mother began to whimper and say that she had lost her so long,
and now that she had found her it hardly seemed the same child. Emilia
would listen to no entreaties to put away her sumptuous robe. She
silenced her mother with a stamp of her foot, and then sighed: "Ah! Why
do I always feel such a tyrant with you?" kissing her.
"This dress," she said, and held up her mother's chin fondlingly between
her two hands, "this dress was designed by my friend Merthyr--that is,
Mr. Powys--from what he remembered of a dress worn by Countess Branciani,
of Venice. He had it made to give to me. It came from Paris. Countess
Branciani was one of his dearest friends. I feel that I am twice as much
his friend with this on me. Mother, it seems like a deep blush all over
me. I feel as if I looked out of a rose."
She spread her hands to express the flower magnified.
"Oh! what silly talk," said her mother: "it does turn your head, this
"I wish it would give me my voice, mother. My father has no hope. I
wish he would send me news to make me happy about him; or come and run
his finger up the strings for hours, as he used to. I have fancied I
heard him at times, and I had a longing to follow the notes, and felt
sure of my semi-tones. He won't see me! Mother! he would think
something of me if he saw me now!"
Her mother's lamentations reached that vocal pitch at last which Emilia
could not endure, and the little lady was despatched to her home under
charge of a servant.
Emilia feasted on the looking-glass when alone. Had Merthyr, in
restoring her to health, given her an overdose of the poison?
"Countess Branciani made the Austrian Governor her slave," she uttered,
planting one foot upon a stool to lend herself height. "He told her who
were suspected, and who would be imprisoned, and gave her all the State
secrets. Beauty can do more than music. I wonder whether Merthyr loved
her? He loves me!"
Emilia was smitten with a fear that he would speak of it when she next
saw him. "Oh! I hope he will be just the same as he has been," she
sighed; and with much melancholy shook her head at her fair reflection,
and began to undress. It had not struck her with surprise that two men
should be loving her, until, standing away from the purple folds, she
seemed to grow smaller and smaller, as a fire-log robbed of its flame,
and felt insufficient and weak. This was a new sensation. She depended
no more on her own vital sincerity. It was in her nature, doubtless, to
crave constantly for approval, but in the service of personal beauty
instead of divine Art, she found herself utterly unwound without it:
victim of a sense of most uncomfortable hollowness. She was glad to
extinguish the candle and be covered up dark in the circle of her warmth.
Then her young blood sang to her again.
An hour before breakfast every morning she read with Merthyr. Now, this
morning how was she to appear to him? There would be no reading, of
course. How could he think of teaching one to whom he trembled. Emilia
trusted that she might see no change in him, and, above all, that he
would not speak of his love for her. Nevertheless, she put on her robe
of conquest, having first rejected with distaste a plainer garb. She
went down the stairs slowly. Merthyr was in the library awaiting her.
"You are late," he said, eyeing the dress as a thing apart from her, and
remarking that it was hardly suited for morning wear. "Yellow, if you
must have a strong colour, and you wouldn't exhibit the schwartz-gelb of
the Tedeschi willingly. But now!"
This was the signal for the reading to commence.
"Wilfrid would not have been so cold to me," thought Emilia, turning the
leaves of Ariosto as a book of ashes. Not a word of love appeared to be
in his mind. This she did not regret; but she thirsted for the assuring
look. His eyes were quietly friendly. So friendly was he, that he
blamed her for inattention, and took her once to task about a melodious
accent in which she vulgarized the vowels. All the flattery of the
Branciani dress could not keep Emilia from her feeling of smallness. Was
it possible that he loved her? She watched him as eagerly as her shyness
would permit. Any shadow of a change was spied for. Getting no softness
from him, or superadded kindness, no shadow of a change in that
direction, she stumbled in her reading purposely, to draw down rebuke;
her construing was villanously bad. He told her so, and she replied: "I
don't like poetry." But seeing him exchange Ariosto for Roman History,
she murmured, "I like Dante." Merthyr plunged her remorselessly into the
second Punic war.
But there was worse to follow. She was informed that after breakfast she
would be called upon to repeat the principal facts she had been reading
of. Emilia groaned audibly.
"Take the book," said Merthyr.
"It's so heavy," she complained.
"I mean, to carry about."
"If you want to 'carry it about,' the boy shall follow you with it."
She understood that she was being laughed at. Languor, coupled with the
consciousness of ridicule, overwhelmed her.
"I feel I can't learn," she said.
"Feel, that you must," was replied to her.
"No; don't take any more trouble with me!"
"Yes; I expect you to distinguish Scipio from Cicero, and not make the
mistake of the other evening, when you were talking to Mrs. Cameron."
Emilia left him, abashed, to dread shrewdly their meeting within five
minutes at the breakfast-table; to dread eating under his eyes, with
doubts of the character of her acts generally. She was, indeed, his
humble scholar, though she seemed so full of weariness and revolt. He,
however, when alone, looked fixedly at the door through which she had
passed, and said, "She loves that man still. Similar ages, similar
tastes, I suppose! She is dressed to be ready for him. She can't learn:
she can do nothing. My work mayn't be lost, but it's lost for me."
Merthyr did not know that Georgiana had betrayed him, but in no case
would he have given Emilia the signs she expected: in the first place,
because he had self-command; and, secondly, because of those years he
counted in advance of her. So she had the full mystery of his loving her
to think over, without a spot of the weakness to fasten on.
Georgiana's first sight of Emilia in her Branciani dress shut her heart
against the girl with iron clasps. She took occasion to remark, "We need
not expect visitors so very early;" but the offender was impervious.
Breakfast finished, the reading with Merthyr recommenced, when Emilia,
having got over her surprise at the sameness of things this day,
acquitted herself better, and even declaimed the verses musically.
Seeing him look pleased, she spoke them out sonorously. Merthyr
applauded. Upon which Emilia said, with odd abruptness and solemnity,
"Will he come to-day?" It was beyond Merthyr's power of self-control to
consent to be taken into a consultation on this matter, and he attempted
to put it aside. "He may or he may not--probably to-morrow."
"No; to-day, in the afternoon," said Emilia, "be near me."
"I have engagements."
"Some word, say, that will seem to be you with me."
"Some flattery, or you won't remember it."
"Yes, I like flattery."
"Well, you look like Countess Branciani when, after thinking her husband
the basest of men, she discovered him to be the noblest."
Emilia blushed. "That's not easily forgotten! But she must have looked
braver, bolder, not so under a burden as I feel."
"The comparison was meant to suit the moment of your reciting."
"Yes," said Emilia, half-mournfully, "then 'myself' doesn't sit on my
shoulders: I don't even care what I am."
"That is what Art does for you."
"Only by fits and starts now. Once I never thought of myself."
There was a knock at the street-door, and she changed countenance.
Presently there came a gentle tap at their own door.
"It is that woman," said Emilia.
"I fancy it must be Lady Charlotte. You will not see her?"
Merthyr was anticipating a negative, but Emilia said, "Let her come in."
She gave her hand to the lady, and was the less concerned of the two.
Lady Charlotte turned away from her briskly.
"Georgey didn't say anything of you in her letter, Merthyr; I am going up
to her, but I wished to satisfy myself that you were in town, first:--to
save half-a-minute, you see I anticipate the philosophic manly sneer.
Is it really true that you are going to mix yourself up in this mad
Italian business again? Now that you're a man, my dear Merthyr, it seems
almost inexcuseable--for a sensible Englishman!"
Lady Charlotte laughed, giving him her hand at the same time.
"Don't you know I swore an oath?" Merthyr caught up her tone.
"Yes, but you never succeed. I complain that you never succeed. Of what
use on earth are all your efforts if you never succeed?"
Emilia's voice burst out:--
"'Piacemi almen che i miei sospir sien quali
Spera 'l Tevero e 'l Arno,
E 'l Po,--'"
Merthyr continued the ode, acting a similar fervour:--
"'Ben provvide Natura al nostro stato
Quando dell' Alpi schermo
Pose fra noi e la tedesca rabbis."
"We are merely bondsmen to the re-establishment of the provisions of
"And we know we shall succeed!" said Emilia, permitting her antagonism to
pass forth in irritable emphasis.
Lady Charlotte quickly left them, to run up to Georgiana. She was not
long in the house. Emilia hung near Merthyr all day, and she was near
him when the knock was heard which she could suppose to be Wilfrid's, as
it proved. Wilfrid was ushered in to Georgiana. Delicacy had prevented
Merthyr from taking special notice to Emilia of Lady Charlotte's visit,
and he treated Wilfrid's similarly, saying, "Georgey will send down
"Only, don't leave me till she does," Emilia rejoined.
Her agitation laid her open to be misinterpreted. It was increased when
she saw him take a book and sit in the armchair between two lighted
candles, calmly careless of her. She did not actually define to herself
that he should feel jealously, but his indifference was one extreme which
provoked her instinct to imagine a necessity for the other. Word came
from Georgiana, and Emilia moved to the door. "Remember, we dine half-
an-hour earlier to-day, on account of the Cameron party," was all that he
uttered. Emilia made an effort to go. She felt herself as a ship
sailing into perilous waters, without compass. Why did he not speak
tenderly? Before Georgiana had revealed his love for her, she had been
strong to see Wilfrid. Now, the idea smote her softened heart that
Wilfrid's passion might engulf her if she had no word of sustainment from
Merthyr. She turned and flung herself at his feet, murmuring, "Say
something to me." Merthyr divined this emotion to be a sort of foresight
of remorse on her part: he clasped the interwoven fingers of her hands,
letting his eyes dwell upon hers. The marvel of their not wavering or
softening meaningly kept her speechless. She rose with a strength not
her own: not comforted, and no longer speculating. It was as if she had
been eyeing a golden door shut fast, that might some day open, but was in
itself precious to behold. She arose with deep humbleness, which
awakened new ideas of the nature of worth in her bosom. She felt herself
so low before this man who would not be played upon as an obsequious
instrument--who would not leap into ardour for her beauty!
Before that man upstairs how would she feel? The question did not come
to her. She entered the room where he was, without a blush. Her step
was firm, and her face expressed a quiet gladness. Georgiana stayed
through the first commonplaces: then they were alone.
Commonplaces continued to be Wilfrid's refuge, for sentiment was surging
mightily within him. The commonplaces concerning father, sisters,
health, weather, sickened him when uttered, so much that for a time he
was unobservant of Emilia's ready exchange of them. To a compliment on
her appearance, she said: "You like this dress? I will tell you the
history of it. I call it the Branciani dress. Mr. Powys designed it for
me. The Countess Branciani was his friend. She used always to dress in
this colour; just in this style. She also was dark. And she imagined
that her husband favoured the Austrians. She believed he was an Austrian
spy. It was impossible for her not to hate him--"
"Her husband!" quoth Wilfrid. The unexpected richness that had come upon
her beauty and the coolness of her prattle at such an interview amazed
and mortified him.
"She supposed him to be an Austrian spy!"
"Still he was her husband!"
Emilia gave her features a moment's play, but she had not full command of
them, and the spark of scorn they emitted was very slight.
"Ah!" his tone had fallen into a depth, "how I thank you for the honour
you have done me in desiring to see me once before you leave England! I
know that I have not merited it."
More he said on this theme, blaming himself emphatically, until, startled
by the commonplaces he was uttering, he stopped short; and the stopping
was effective, if the speech was not. Where was the tongue of his
passion? He almost asked it of himself. Where was Hippogriff? He who
had burned to see her, he saw her now, fair as a vision, and yet in the
flesh! Why was he as good as tongue-tied in her presence when he had
such fires to pour forth?
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