Sandra Belloni by George Meredith, v2
Part 2 out of 2
Adela: "He will think you have some good reason to deny him a private
interview," sent her straight to the stairs.
Wilfrid was walking up and down, with his arms folded and his brows bent.
Cornelia stood in the doorway.
"You desire to speak to me, Wilfrid? And in private?"
"I didn't wish to congratulate you publicly, that's all. I know it's
rather against your taste. We'll shut the door, and sit down, if you
don't mind. Yes, I congratulate you with all my heart," he said, placing
a chair for Cornelia.
"May I ask, wherefore?"
"You don't think marriage a matter for congratulation?"
"Sometimes: as the case may be."
"Well, it's not marriage yet. I congratulate you on your offer."
"I thank you."
"You accept it, of course."
"I reject it, certainly."
After this preliminary passage, Wilfrid remained silent long enough for
Cornelia to feel uneasy.
"I want you to congratulate me also," he recommenced. "We poor fellows
don't have offers, you know. To be frank, I think Lady Charlotte
Chillingworth will have me, if--She's awfully fond of Besworth, and I
need not tell you that as she has position in the world, I ought to show
something in return. When you wrote about Besworth, I knew it was as
good as decided. I told her so and--Well, I fancy there's that sort of
understanding between us. She will have me when... You know how the
poorer members of the aristocracy are situated. Her father's a peer, and
has a little influence. He might push me; but she is one of a large
family; she has nothing. I am certain you will not judge of her as
common people might. She does me a particular honour."
"Is she not much older than you, Wilfrid?" said Cornelia.
"Or, in other words," he added, "is she not a very mercenary person?"
"That, I did not even imply."
"Honestly, was it not in your head?"
"Now you put it so plainly, I do say, it strikes me disagreeably; I have
heard of nothing like it."
"Do you think it unreasonable that I should marry into a noble family?"
"That is, assuredly, not my meaning."
"Nevertheless, you are, on the whole, in favour of beggarly alliances."
"Why do you reject this offer that has been made to you?"
Cornelia flushed and trembled; the traitorous feint had thrown her off
her guard. She said, faltering:
"Would you have me marry one I do not love?"
"Well, well!" He drew back. "You are going to do your best to stop the
purchase of Besworth?"
"No; I am quiescent."
"Though I tell you how deeply it concerns me!"
"Wilfrid, my own brother!" (Cornelia flung herself before him, catching
his hand,) "I wish you to be loved, first of all. Think of the horror of
a loveless marriage, however gilded! Does a woman make stipulations ere
she gives her hand? Does not love seek to give, to bestow? I wish you
to marry well, but chiefly that you should be loved."
Wilfrid pressed her head in both his hands.
"I never saw you look so handsome," he said. "You've got back your old
trick of blushing, too! Why do you tremble? By the way, you seem to
have been learning a great deal about that business, lately?"
A river of blood overflowed her fair cheeks.
"How long has this been?" his voice came to her.
There was no escape. She was at his knees, and must look up, or confess
"Come, my dearest girl!" Wilfrid soothed her. "I can help you, and will,
if you'll take advice. I've always known your heart was generous and
tender, under that ice you wear so well. How long has this been going
"You want plain speech?"
She wanted that still less.
"We'll call it 'this,'" he said. "I have heard of it, guessed it, and
now see it. How far have you pledged yourself in 'this?'"
Wilfrid held silent. Finding that her echo was not accepted as an
answer, she moaned his name lovingly. It touched his heart, where a
great susceptibility to passion lay. As if the ghost of Emilia were
about him, he kissed his sister's hand, and could not go on with his
His next question was dew of relief to her.
"Has your Emilia been quite happy, of late?"
"Oh, quite, dear! very. And sings with more fire."
"She does not romp. Her eyes are full and bright."
"She's satisfied with everything here?"
"How could she be otherwise?"
"Yes, yes! You weren't severe on her for that escapade--I mean, when she
ran away from Lady Gosstre's?"
"We scarcely alluded to the subject, or permitted her to."
"Or permitted her to!" Wilfrid echoed, with a grimace. "And she's
"I mean, she doesn't mope?"
"Why should she?"
Cornelia had been too hard-pressed to have suspicion the questions were
an immense relief.
Wilfrid mused gloomily. Cornelia spoke further of Emilia, and her
delight in the visits of Mr. Powys, who spent hours with her, like a man
fascinated. She flowed on, little aware that she was fast restoring to
Wilfrid all his judicial severity.
He said, at last: "I suppose there's no engagement existing?"
"You have not, what they call, plighted your troth to the man?"
Cornelia struggled for evasion. She recognized the fruitlessness of the
effort, and abandoning it stood up.
"I am engaged to no one."
"Well, I should hope not," said Wilfrid. "An engagement might be
"Not by me."
"It might, is all that I say. A romantic sentiment is tougher. Now, I
have been straightforward with you: will you be with me? I shall not
hurt the man, or wound his feelings."
He paused; but it was to find that no admission of the truth, save what
oozed out in absence of speech, was to be expected. She seemed, after
the fashion of women, to have got accustomed to the new atmosphere into
which he had dragged her, without any conception of a forward movement.
"I see I must explain to you how we are situated," said Wilfrid. "We are
in a serious plight. You should be civil to this woman for several
reasons--for your father's sake and your own. She is very rich."
"Well, I find money well thought of everywhere."
"Has your late school been good for you?"
"This woman, I repeat, is rich, and we want money. Oh! not the ordinary
notion of wanting money, but the more we have the more power we have.
Our position depends on it."
"Yes, if we can be tempted to think so," flashed Cornelia.
"Our position depends on it. If you posture, and are poor, you provoke
ridicule: and to think of scorning money, is a piece of folly no girls of
condition are guilty of. Now, you know I am fond of you; so I'll tell
you this: you have a chance; don't miss it. Something unpleasant is
threatening; but you may escape it. It would be madness to throw such a
chance away, and it is your duty to take advantage of it. What is there
plainer? You are engaged to no one."
Cornelia came timidly close to him. "Pray, be explicit!"
"Yes; but what--there is something to escape from."
Wilfrid deliberately replied: "There is no doubt of the Pater's
intentions with regard to Mrs. Chump."
"He means to marry her."
"And you, Wilfrid?"
"Well, of course, he cuts me out. There--there! forgive me: but what can
"Do you conspire--Wilfrid, is it possible?--are you an accomplice in the
degradation of our house?"
Cornelia had regained her courage, perforce of wrath. Wilfrid's singular
grey eyes shot an odd look at her. He is to be excused for not
perceiving the grandeur of the structure menaced; for it was invisible to
all the world, though a real fabric.
"If Mrs. Chump were poor, I should think the Pater demented," he said.
"As it is--! well, as it is, there's grist to the mill, wind to the
organ. You must be aware" (and he leaned over to her with his most
suspicious gentleness of tone) "you are aware that all organs must be
fed; but you will make a terrible mistake if you suppose for a moment
that the human organ requires the same sort of feeding as the one in
"Good-night," said Cornelia, closing her lips, as if for good.
Wilfrid pressed her hand. As she was going, the springs of kindness in
his heart caused him to say "Forgive me, if I seemed rough."
"Yes, dear Wilfrid; even brutality, rather than your exultation over the
wreck of what was noble in you."
With which phrase Cornelia swept from the room.
"Seen Wilfrid?" was Mr. Pole's first cheery call to his daughters, on his
return. An answer on that head did not seem to be required by him, for
he went on: "Ah the boy's improved. That place over there, Stornley,
does him as much good as the Army did, as to setting him up, you know;
common sense, and a ready way of speaking and thinking. He sees a thing
now. Well, Martha, what do you,--eh? what's your opinion?"
Mrs. Chump was addressed. "Pole," she said, fanning her cheek with
vehement languor, "don't ask me! my heart's gone to the young fella."
In pursuance of a determination to which the ladies of Brookfield had
come, Adela, following her sprightly fancy, now gave the lead in
affability toward Mrs. Chump.
"Has the conqueror run away with it to bury it?" she laughed.
"Och! won't he know what it is to be a widde!" cried Mrs. Chump. "A
widde's heart takes aim and flies straight as a bullet; and the hearts o'
you garls, they're like whiffs o' tobacca, curlin' and wrigglin' and not
knowin' where they're goin'. Marry 'em, Pole! marry 'em!" Mrs. Chump
gesticulated, with two dangling hands. "They're nice garls; but, lord!
they naver see a man, and they're stuputly contented, and want to remain
garls; and, don't ye see, it was naver meant to be? Says I to Mr.
Wilfrud (and he agreed with me), ye might say, nice sour grapes, as well
as nice garls, if the creatures think o' stoppin' where they are, and
what they are. It's horrud; and, upon my honour, my heart aches for 'm!"
Mr. Pole threw an uneasy side-glance of inquisition at his daughters, to
mark how they bore this unaccustomed language, and haply intercede
between the unworthy woman and their judgement of her. But the ladies
merely smiled. Placidly triumphant in its endurance, the smile said: "We
decline even to feel such a martyrdom as this."
"Well, you know, Martha; I," he said, "I--no father could wish--eh? if
you could manage to persuade them not to be so fond of me. They must
think of their future, of course. They won't always have a home--a
father, a father, I mean. God grant they may never want!--eh? the
dinner; boh! let's in to dinner. Ma'am!"
He bowed an arm to Mrs. Chump, who took it, with a scared look at him:
"Why, if ye haven't got a tear in your eye, Pole?"
"Nonsense, nonsense," quoth he, bowing another arm to Adela.
"Papa, I'm not to be winked at," said she, accepting convoy; and there
was some laughter, all about nothing, as they went in to dinner.
The ladies were studiously forbearing in their treatment of Mrs. Chump.
Women are wonderfully quick scholars under ridicule, though it half-kills
them. Wilfrid's theory had impressed the superior grace of civility upon
their minds, and, now that they practised it, they were pleased with the
contrast they presented. Not the less were they maturing a serious
resolve. The suspicion that their father had secret vile designs in
relation to Mrs. Chump, they kept in the background. It was enough for
them that she was to be a visitor, and would thus destroy the great
circle they had projected. To accept her in the circle, they felt, was
out of the question. Wilfrid's plain-speaking broke up the air-bubble,
which they had so carefully blown, and in which they had embarked all
their young hopes. They had as much as given one another a pledge that
their home likewise should be broken up.
"Are you not almost too severe a student?" Mr. Barrett happened to say to
Cornelia, the day after Wilfrid had worried her.
"Do I show the signs?" she replied.
"By no means. But last night, was it not your light that was not
extinguished till morning?"
"We soon have morning now," said Cornelia; and her face was pale as the
first hour of the dawn. "Are you not a late foot-farer, I may ask in
"Mere restlessness. I have no appetite for study. I took the liberty to
cross the park from the wood, and saw you--at least I guessed it your
light, and then I met your brother."
"Yes? you met him?"
Mr. Barrett gestured an affirmative.
"And he--did he speak?"
"He nodded. He was in some haste."
"But, then, you did not go to bed at all that night? It is almost my
turn to be lecturer, if I might expect to be listened to."
"Do you not know--or am I constitutionally different from others?" Mr.
Barrett resumed: "I can't be alone in feeling that there are certain
times and periods when what I would like to call poisonous influences are
abroad, that touch my fate in the days to come. I know I am helpless. I
can only wander up and down."
"That sounds like a creed of fatalism."
"It is not a creed; it is a matter of nerves. A creed has its 'kismet.'
The nerves are wild horses."
"It is something to be fought against," said Cornelia admonishingly.
"Is it something to be distrusted?"
"I should say, yes."
"Then I was wrong?"
He stooped eagerly, in his temperate way, to catch sight of her answering
face. Cornelia's quick cheeks took fire. She fenced with a question of
two, and stood in a tremble, marvelling at his intuition. For possibly,
at that moment when he stood watching her window-light (ah, poor heart!)
she was half-pledging her word to her sisters (in a whirl of wrath at
Wilfrid, herself, and the world), that she would take the lead in
breaking up Brookfield.
An event occurred that hurried them on. They received a visit from their
mother's brother, John Pierson, a Colonel of Uhlans, in the Imperial-
Royal service. He had rarely been in communication with them; his visit
was unexpected. His leave of absence from his quarters in Italy was not
longer than a month, and he was on his way to Ireland, to settle family
business; but he called, as he said, to make acquaintance with his
nieces. The ladies soon discovered, in spite of his foreign-cut chin and
pronounced military habit of speech and bearing, that he was at heart
fervidly British. His age was about fifty: a man of great force of
shoulder and potent length of arm, courteous and well-bred in manner, he
was altogether what is called a model of a cavalry officer. Colonel
Pierson paid very little attention to his brother-in-law, but the ladies
were evidently much to his taste; and when he kissed Cornelia's hand, his
eyes grew soft, as at a recollection.
"You are what your mother once promised to be," he said. To her he gave
that mother's portrait, taking it solemnly from his breast-pocket, and
attentively contemplating it before it left his hands. The ladies
pressed him for a thousand details of their mama's youthful life; they
found it a strange consolation to talk of her and image her like
Cornelia. The foreign halo about the Colonel had an effect on them that
was almost like what nobility produces; and by degrees they heated their
minds to conceive that they were consenting to an outrage on that
mother's memory, in countenancing Mrs. Chump's transparent ambition to
take her place, as they did by staying in the house with the woman. The
colonel's few expressive glances at Mrs. Chump, and Mrs. Chump's
behaviour before the colonel, touched them with intense distaste for
their present surly aspect of life. Civilized little people are moved to
fulfil their destinies and to write their histories as much by distaste
as by appetite. This fresh sentimental emotion, which led them to
glorify their mother's image in their hearts, heightened and gave an acid
edge to their distaste for the think they saw. Nor was it wonderful that
Cornelia, said to be so like that mother, should think herself bound to
accept the office of taking the initiative in a practical protest against
the desecration of the name her mother had borne. At times, I see that
sentiment approaches too near the Holy of earthly Holies for us to laugh
at it; it has too much truth in it to be denounced--nay, if we are not
alert and quick of wit, we shall be deceived by it, and wonder in the
end, as the fool does, why heaven struck that final blow; concluding that
it was but another whimsy of the Gods. The ladies prayed to their
mother. They were indeed suffering vile torture. Ethereal eyes might
pardon the unconscious jugglery which made their hearts cry out to her
that the step they were about to take was to save her children from
seeming to acquiesce in a dishonour to her memory. Some such words
Adela's tongue did not shrink from; and as it is a common habit for us to
give to the objects we mentally address just as much brain as is wanted
for the occasion, she is not to be held singular.
Colonel Pierson promised to stay a week on his return from Ireland.
"Will that person be here?" he designated Mrs. Chump; who, among other
things, had reproached him for fighting with foreign steel and wearing
any uniform but the red.
The ladies and Colonel Pierson were soon of one mind in relation to Mrs.
Chump. Certain salient quiet remarks dropped by him were cherished after
his departure; they were half-willing to think that he had been directed
to come to them, bearer of a message from a heavenly world to urge them
to action. They had need of a spiritual exaltation, to relieve them from
the palpable depression caused by the weight of Mrs. Chump. They
encouraged one another with exclamations on the oddness of a visit from
their mother's brother, at such a time of tribulation, indecision, and
Mrs. Chump remained on the field. When Adela begged her papa to tell her
how long the lady was to stay, he replied: "Eh? By the way, I haven't
asked her;" and retreated from this almost too obvious piece of
simplicity, with, "I want you to know her: I want you to like her--want
you to get to understand her. Won't talk about her going just yet."
If they could have seen a limit to that wholesale slaughter of the Nice
Feelings, they might have summoned patience to avoid the desperate step
to immediate relief: but they saw none. Their father's quaint kindness
and Wilfrid's treachery had fixed her there, perhaps for good. The
choice was, to let London come and see them dragged through the mire by
the monstrous woman, or to seek new homes. London, they contended, could
not further be put off, and would come, especially now that the season
was dying. After all, their parting from one another was the bitterest
thing to bear, and as each seemed content to endure it for the good of
all, and as, properly considered, they did not bury their ambition by
separating, they said farewell to the young delicious dawn of it. By
means of Fine Shades it was understood that Brookfield was to be
abandoned. Not one direct word was uttered. There were expressions of
regret that the village children of Ipley would miss the supervizing eyes
that had watched over them--perchance! at any rate, would lose them. All
went on in the household as before, and would have continued so, but that
they had a chief among them. This was Adela Pole, who found her powers
with the occasion.
Adela thought decisively: "People never move unless they are pushed."
And when you have got them to move ever so little, then propel; but by no
means expect that a movement on their part means progression. Without
propulsion nothing results. Adela saw what Cornelia meant to do. It was
not to fly to Sir Twickenham, but to dismiss Mr. Barrett. Arabella
consented to write to Edward Buxley, but would not speak of old days, and
barely alluded to a misunderstanding; though if she loved one man, this
was he. Adela was disengaged. She had moreover to do penance, for a
wrong committed; and just as children will pinch themselves, pleased up
to the verge of unendurable pain, so do sentimentalists find a keen
relish in performing secret penance for self-accused offences. Thus they
become righteous to their own hearts, and evade, as they hope, the public
scourge. The wrong committed was (translated out of Fine Shades), that
she had made love to her sister's lover. In the original tongue--she had
innocently played with the sacred fire of a strange affection; a child in
the temple!--Our penitent child took a keen pinching pleasure in
dictating words for Arabella to employ toward Edward.
And then, recurring to her interview with Wilfrid, it struck her:
"Suppose that, after all, Money!..." Yes, Mammon has acted Hymen before
now. Nothing else explained Mrs. Chump; so she thought, in one clear
glimpse. Inveterate sentimental habit smeared the picture with two
exclamations--"Impossible!" and "Papa!" I desire it to be credited that
these simple interjections absolutely obscured her judgement. Little
people think either what they are made to think, or what they choose to
think; and the education of girls is to make them believe that facts are
their enemies-a naughty spying race, upon whom the dogs of Pudeur are to
be loosed, if they surprise them without note of warning. Adela silenced
her suspicion, easily enough; but this did not prevent her taking a
measure to satisfy it. Petting her papa one evening, she suddenly asked
him for ninety pounds.
"Ninety!" said Mr. Pole, taking a sharp breath. He was as composed as
"Is that too much, papa, darling?"
"Not if you want it--not if you want it, of course not."
"You seemed astonished."
"The sum! it's an odd sum for a girl to want. Ten, twenty, fifty--a
hundred; but you never hear of ninety, never! unless it's to pay a debt;
and I have all the bills, or your aunt has them."
"Well, papa, if it excites you, I will do without it. It is for a
Mr. Pole fumbled in his pocket, muttering, "No money here--cheque-book in
town. I'll give it you," he said aloud, "to-morrow morning--morrow
"That will do, papa;" and Adela relieved him immediately by shooting far
away from the topic.
The ladies retired early to their hall of council in the bedchamber of
Arabella, and some time after midnight Cornelia went to her room; but she
could not sleep. She affected, in her restlessness, to think that her
spirits required an intellectual sedative, so she went down to the
library for a book; where she skimmed many--a fashion that may be
recommended, for assisting us to a sense of sovereign superiority to
authors, and also of serene contempt for all mental difficulties.
Fortified in this way, Cornelia took a Plutarch and an Encyclopaedia
under her arm, to return to her room. But one volume fell, and as she
stooped to recover it, her candle shared its fate. She had to find her
way back in the dark. On the landing of the stairs, she fancied that she
heard a step and a breath. The lady was of unshaken nerves. She moved
on steadily, her hand stretched out a little before her. What it touched
was long in travelling to her brain; but when her paralyzed heart beat
again, she knew that her hand clasped another hand. Her nervous horror
calmed as the feeling came to her of the palpable weakness of the hand.
"Who are you?" she asked. Some hoarse answer struck her ear. She asked
again, making her voice distincter. The hand now returned her pressure
with force. She could feel that the person, whoever it was, stood
collecting strength to speak. Then the words came--
"What do you mean by imitating that woman's brogue?"
"Papa!" said Cornelia.
"Why do you talk Irish in the dark? There, goodnight. I've just come up
from the library; my candle dropped. I shouldn't have been frightened,
but you talked with such a twang."
"But I have just come from the library myself," said Cornelia.
"I mean from the dining-room," her father corrected himself hastily.
"I can't sit in the library; shall have it altered--full of draughts.
Don't you think so, my dear? Good-night. What's this in your arm?
Books! Ah, you study! I can get a light for myself."
The dialogue was sustained in the hard-whispered tones prescribed by
darkness. Cornelia kissed her father's forehead, and they parted.
At breakfast in the morning it was the habit of all the ladies to
assemble, partly to countenance the decency of matin-prayers, and also to
give the head of the household their dutiful society till business called
him away. Adela, in earlier days, had maintained that early rising was
not fashionable; but she soon grasped the idea that a great rivalry with
Fashion, in minor matters (where the support of the satirist might be
counted on), was the proper policy of Brookfield. Mrs. Chump was given
to be extremely fashionable in her hours, and began her Brookfield career
by coming downstairs at ten and eleven o'clock, when she found a desolate
table, well stocked indeed, but without any of the exuberant smiles of
nourishment which a morning repast should wear.
"You are a Protestant, ma'am, are you not?" Adela mildly questioned,
after informing her that she missed family prayer by her late descent.
Mrs. Chump assured her that she was a firm Protestant, and liked to see
faces at the breakfast-table. The poor woman was reduced to submit to
the rigour of the hour, coming down flustered, and endeavouring to look
devout, while many uncertainties as to the condition of the hooks of her
attire distracted her mind and fingers. On one occasion, Gainsford, the
footman, had been seen with his eye on her; and while Mr. Pole read of
sacred things, at a pace composed of slow march and amble, this unhappy
man was heard struggling to keep under and extinguish a devil of
laughter, by which his human weakness was shaken: He retired from the
room with the speed of a voyager about to pay tribute on high seas. Mr.
Pole cast a pregnant look at the servants' row as he closed the book; but
the expression of his daughters' faces positively signified that no
remark was to be made, and he contained himself. Later, the ladies told
him that Gainsford had done no worse than any uneducated man would have
been guilty of doing. Mrs. Chump had, it appeared, a mother's feeling
for one flat curl on her rugged forehead, which was often fondly caressed
by her, for the sake of ascertaining its fixity. Doubts of the precision
of outline and general welfare of this curl, apparently, caused her to
straighten her back and furtively raise her head, with an easy upward
motion, as of a cork alighted in water, above the level of the looking-
glass on her left hand--an action she repeated, with a solemn aspect,
four times; at which point Gainsford gave way. The ladies accorded him
every extenuation for the offence. They themselves, but for the heroism
of exalted natures, must have succumbed to the gross temptation. "It is
difficult, dear papa, to bring one's mind to religious thoughts in her
company, even when she is quiescent," they said. Thus, by the prettiest
exercise of charity that can be conceived, they pleaded for the man
Gainsford, while they struck a blow at Mrs. Chump; and in performing one
of the virtues laid down by religion, proved their enemy to be hostile to
Mrs. Chump was this morning very late. The office of morning reader was
new to Mr. Pole, who had undertaken it, when first Squire of Brookfield,
at the dictate of the ladies his daughters; so that, waiting with the
book before him and his audience expectant, he lacked composure, spoke
irritably in an under-breath of 'that woman,' and asked twice whether she
was coming or not. At last the clump of her feet was heard approaching.
Mr. Pole commenced reading the instant she opened the door. She stood
there, with a face like a petrified Irish outcry. An imploring sound of
"Pole! Pole!" issued from her. Then she caught up one hand to her mouth,
and rolled her head, in evident anguish at the necessitated silence. A
convulsion passed along the row of maids, two of whom dipped to their
aprons; but the ladies gazed with a sad consciousness of wicked glee at
the disgust she was exciting in the bosom of their father.
"Will you shut the door?" Mr. Pole sternly addressed Mrs. Chump, at the
conclusion of the first prayer.
"Pole! ye know that money ye gave me in notes? I must speak, Pole!"
"Shut the door."
Mrs. Chump let go the door-handle with a moan. The door was closed by
Gainsford, now one of the gravest of footmen. A chair was placed for
her, and she sat down, desperately watching the reader for the fall of
his voice. The period was singularly protracted. The ladies turned to
one another, to question with an eyelid why it was that extra allowance
was given that morning. Mr. Pole was in a third prayer, stumbling on and
picking himself up, apparently unaware that he had passed the limit.
This continued until the series of ejaculations which accompanied him
waxed hotter--little muffled shrieks of: "Oh!--Deer--Oh, Lard!--When will
he stop? Oh, mercy! Och! And me burrstin' to speak!--Oh! what'll I do?
I can't keep 't in!--Pole! ye're kill'n me--Oh, deer! I'll be sayin'
somethin' to vex the prophets presently. Pole!"
If it was a race that he ran with Mrs. Chump, Mr. Pole was beaten. He
came to a sudden stop.
Mrs. Chump had become too deeply absorbed in her impatience to notice the
change in his tone; and when he said, "Now then, to breakfast, quick!"
she was pursuing her lamentable interjections. At sight of the servants
trooping forth, she jumped up and ran to the door.
"Ye don't go.--Pole, they're all here. And I've been robbed, I have.
Avery note I had from ye, Pole, all gone. And my purse left behind, like
the skin of a thing. Lord forbid I accuse annybody; but when I get up,
my first rush is to feel in my pocket. And, ask 'em!--If ye didn't keep
me so poor, Pole, they'd know I'm a generous woman, but I cann't bear to
be robbed. And pinmoney 's for spendin;' annybody'll tell you that. And
I ask ye t' examine 'em, Pole; for last night I counted my notes, wantin'
change, and I thought of a salmon I bought on the banks of the Suir to
make a present to Chump, which was our onnly visit to Waterford together:
for he naver went t' Ireland before or after--dyin' as he did! and it's
not his ingrat'tude, with his talk of a Severrn salmon-to the deuce with
'm! that makes me soft-poor fella!--I didn't mean to the deuce;--but
since he's gone, his widde's just unfit to bargain for a salmon at all,
and averybody robs her, and she's kept poor, and hatud!--D'ye heer, Pole?
I've lost my money, my money! and I will speak, and ye shann't interrupt
During the delivery of this charge against the household, Mr. Pole had
several times waved to the servants to begone; but as they had always the
option to misunderstand authoritative gestures, they preferred remaining,
and possibly he perceived that they might claim to do so under
"How can you bring this charge against the inmates of my house--eh? I
guarantee the honesty of all who serve me. Martha! you must be mad,
mad!--Money? why, you never have money; you waste it if you do."
"Not money, Pole? Oh! and why? Becas ye keep me low o' purpose, till I
cringe like a slut o' the scullery, and cry out for halfpence. But, oh!
that seventy-five pounds in notes!"
Mr. Pole shook his head, as one who deals with a gross delusion: "I
remember nothing about it."
"Not about--?" Mrs. Chump dropped her chin. "Ye don't remember the
givin' of me just that sum of seventy-five, in eight notes, Pole?"
"Eh? I daresay I have given you the amount, one time or other. Now,
let's be quiet about it."
"Yesterday mornin', Pole! And the night I go to bed I count my money,
and, says I, I'll not lock ut up, for I'll onnly be unlockin' again to-
morrow; and doin' a thing and undoin' ut's a sign of a brain that's
addled--like yours, Pole, if ye say ye didn't go to give me the notes."
Mr. Pole frowned at her sagaciously. "Must change your diet, Martha!"
"My dite? And what's my dite to do with my money?"
"Who went into Mrs. Chump's bedchamber this morning?" asked Mr. Pole
A pretty little housemaid replied, with an indignant flush, that she was
the person. Mrs. Chump acknowledged to being awake when the shutters
were opened, and agreed that it was not possible her pockets could have
been rifled then.
"So, you see, Martha, you're talking nonsense," said Mr. Pole. "Do you
know the numbers of those notes?"
"The numbers at the sides, ye mean, Pole?"
"Ay, the numbers at the sides, if you like; the 21593, and so on?"
"The 21593! Oh! I can't remember such a lot as that, if ever I leave off
"There! you see, you're not fit to have money in your possession, Martha.
Everybody who has bank-notes looks at the numbers. You have a trick of
fancying all sorts of sums in your pocket; and when you don't find them
there, of course they're lost! Now, let's have some breakfast."
Arabella told the maids to go out. Mr. Pole turned to the breakfast-
table, rubbing his hands. Seeing herself and her case abandoned, Mrs.
Chump gave a deplorable shout. "Ye're crool! and young women that look
on at a fellow-woman's mis'ry. Oh! how can ye do ut! But soft hearts
can be the hardest. And all my seventy-five gone, gone! and no law out
of annybody. And no frightenin' of 'em off from doin' the like another
time! Oh, I will, I will have my money!"
"Tush! Come to breakfast, Martha," said Mr. Pole. "You shall have
money, if you want it; you have only to ask. Now, will you promise to be
quiet? and I'll give you this money--the amount you've been dreaming
about last night. I'll fetch it. Now, let us have no scenes. Dry your
Mr. Pole went to his private room, and returned just as Mrs. Chump had
got upon a succession of quieter sobs with each one of which she
addressed a pathetic roll of her eyes to the utterly unsympathetic ladies
"There, Martha; there's exactly the sum for you--free gift. Say thank
you, and eat a good breakfast to show your gratitude. Mind, you take
this money on condition that you let the servants know you made a
Mrs. Chump sighed heavily, crumpling the notes, that the crisp sweet
sound might solace her for the hard condition.
"And don't dream any more--not about money, I mean," said Mr: Pole.
"Oh! if I dream like that I'll be living double." Mrs. Chump put her
hand to the notes, and called him kind, and pitied him for being the
loser. The sight of a fresh sum in her possession intoxicated her. It
was but feebly that she regretted the loss to her Samuel Bolton Pole.
"Your memory's worth more than that!" she said as she filled her purse
with the notes. "Anyhow, now I can treat somebody," and she threw a wink
of promise at Adela. Adela's eyes took refuge with her papa, who leaned
over to her, and said: "You won't mind waiting till you see me again?
She's taken all I had." Adela nodded blankly, and the next moment, with
an angry glance toward Mrs. Chump, "Papa," said she, "if you wish to see
servants in the house on your return, you must yourself speak to them,
and tell them that we, their master and mistresses, do not regard them as
thieves." Out of this there came a quarrel as furious as the ladies
would permit it to be. For Mrs. Chump, though willing to condone the
offence for the sum she had received, stuck infamy upon the whole list of
them. "The Celtic nature," murmured Cornelia. And the ladies maintained
that their servants should be respected, at any cost. "You, ma'am," said
Arabella, with a clear look peculiar to her when vindictive--"you may
have a stain on your character, and you are not ruined by it. But these
"Ye dare to compar' me--!"
"Contrast you, ma'am."
"It's just as imp'dent."
"I say, our servants, ma'am..."
"Oh! to the deuce with your 'ma'am;' I hate the word. It's like fittin'
a cap on me. Ye want to make one a turbaned dow'ger, ye malicious young
"Those are personages that are, I believe, accepted in society!"
So the contest raged, Mrs. Chump being run clean through the soul twenty
times, without touching the consciousness of that sensitive essence. Mr.
Pole appeared to take the part of his daughters, and by-and-by Mrs.
Chump, having failed to arouse Mrs. Lupin's involuntary laugh (which
always consoled her in such cases), huffed out of the room. Then Mr.
Pole, in an abruptly serious way, bashfully entreated the ladies to be
civil to Martha, who had the best heart in the world. It sounded as if
he were going to say more. After a pause, he added emphatically, "Do!"
and went. He was many days absent: nor did he speak to Adela of the
money she had asked for when he returned. Adela had not the courage to
allude to it.
Emilia sat in her old place under the dwarf pine. Mr. Powys had brought
her back to Brookfield, where she heard that Wilfrid had been seen; and
now her heart was in contest with an inexplicable puzzle: "He was here,
and did not come to me!" Since that night when they had walked home from
Ipley Green, she had not suffered a moment of longing. Her senses had
lain as under a charm, with heart at anchor and a mind free to work. No
one could have guessed that any human spell was on the girl. "Wherever
he is, he thinks of me. I find him everywhere. He is safe, for I pray
for him and have my arms about him. He will come." So she waited, as
some grey lake lies, full and smooth, awaiting the star below the
twilight. If she let her thoughts run on to the hour of their meeting,
she had to shut her eyes and press at her heart; but as yet she was not
out of tune for daily life, and she could imagine how that hour was to be
strewn with new songs and hushed surprises. And 'thus' he would look:
and 'thus.' "My hero!" breathed Emilia, shuddering a little. But now
she was perplexed. Now that he had come and gone, she began to hunger
bitterly for the sight of his face, and that which had hitherto nourished
her grew a sickly phantom of delight. She wondered how she had forced
herself to be patient, and what it was that she had found pleasure in.
None of the ladies were at home when Emilia returned. She went out to
the woods, and sat, shadowed by the long bent branch; watching
mechanically the slow rounding and yellowing of the beam of sunlight over
the thick floor of moss, up against the fir-stems. The chaffinch and the
linnet flitted off the grey orchard twigs, singing from new stations; and
the bee seemed to come questioning the silence of the woods and droning
disappointed away. The first excess of any sad feeling is half
voluntary. Emilia could not help smiling, when she lifted her head out
of a musing fit, to find that she had composed part of a minuet for the
languid dancing motes in the shaft of golden light at her feet. "Can I
remember it?" she thought, and forgot the incident with the effort.
Down at her right hand, bordering a water, stood a sallow, a dead tree,
channelled inside with the brown trail of a goat-moth. Looking in this
direction, she saw Cornelia advancing to the tree. When the lady had
reached it, she drew a little book from her bosom, kissed it, and dropped
it in the hollow. This done, she passed among the firs. Emilia had
perceived that she was agitated: and with that strange instinct of hearts
beginning to stir, which makes them divine at once where they will come
upon the secret of their own sensations, she ran down to the tree and
peered on tiptoe at the embedded volume. On a blank page stood
pencilled: "This is the last fruit of the tree. Come not to gather
more." There was no meaning for her in that sentimental chord but she
must have got some glimpse of a meaning; for now, as in an agony, her
lips fashioned the words: "If I forget his face I may as well die;" and
she wandered on, striving more and more vainly to call up his features.
The--"Does he think of me?" and--"What am I to him?"--such timorous
little feather-play of feminine emotion she knew nothing of: in her heart
was the strong flood of a passion.
She met Edward Buxley and Freshfield Sumner at a cross-path, on their way
to Brookfield; and then Adela joined the party, which soon embraced Mr.
Barrett, and subsequently Cornelia. All moved on in a humming leisure,
chattering by fits. Mr. Sumner was delicately prepared to encounter Mrs.
Chump, "whom," said Adela, "Edward himself finds it impossible to
caricature;" and she affected to laugh at the woman.
"Happy the pencil that can reproduce!" Mr. Barrett exclaimed; and,
meeting his smile, Cornelia said: "Do you know, my feeling is, and I
cannot at all account for it, that if she were a Catholic she would not
seem so gross?"
"Some of the poetry of that religion would descend upon her, possibly,"
returned Mr. Barrett.
"Do you mean," Freshfield said quickly, "that she would stand a fair
chance of being sainted?"
Out of this arose some polite fencing between the two. Freshfield might
have argued to advantage in a Court of law; but he was no match, on such
topics and before such an audience, for a refined sentimentalist. More
than once he betrayed a disposition to take refuge in his class (he being
son to one of the puisne Judges). Cornelia speedily punished him, and to
any correction from her he bowed his head.
Adela was this day gifted with an extraordinary insight. Emilia alone of
the party was as a blot to her; but the others she saw through, as if
they had been walking transparencies. She divined that Edward and
Freshfield had both come, in concert, upon amorous business--that it was
Freshfield's object to help Edward to a private interview with her, and,
in return, Edward was to perform the same service for him with Cornelia.
So that Mr. Barrett was shockingly in the way of both; and the perplexity
of these stupid fellows--who would insist upon wondering why the man
Barrett and the girl Emilia (musicians both: both as it were, vagrants)
did not walk together and talk of quavers and minims--was extremely
comic. Passing the withered tree, Mr. Barrett deserved thanks from
Freshfield, if he did not obtain them; for he lingered, surrendering his
place. And then Adela knew that the weight of Edward Buxley's
remonstrative wrath had fallen on silent Emilia, to whom she clung
"I have had a letter," Edward murmured, in the voice that propitiates
"A letter?" she cried loud; and off flew the man like a rabbit into his
hole, the mask of him remaining.
Emilia presently found Mr. Barrett at her elbow. His hand clasped the
book Cornelia had placed in the tree.
"It is hers," said Emilia.
He opened it and pointed to his initials. She looked in his face.
"Are you very ill?"
Adela turned round from Edward's neighbouring head. "Who is ill?"
Cornelia brought Freshfield to a stop: "Ill?"
Before them all, book in hand, Mr. Barrett had to give assurance that he
was hearty, and to appear to think that his words were accepted, in spite
of blanched jowl and reddened under-lid. Cornelia threw him one glance:
his eyes closed under it. Adela found it necessary to address some such
comforting exclamation as 'Goodness gracious!' to her observant spirit.
In the park-path, leading to the wood, Arabella was seen as they came out
the young branches that fringed the firs. She hurried up.
"I have been looking for you. Papa has arrived with Sir Twickenham
Pryme, who dines with us."
Adela unhesitatingly struck a blow.
"Lady Pryme, we make place for you."
And she crossed to Cornelia. Cornelia kept her eyes fixed on Adela's
mouth, as one looks at a place whence a venomous reptile has darted out.
Her eyelids shut, and she stood a white sculpture of pain, pitiable to
see. Emilia took her hand, encouraging the tightening fingers with a
responsive pressure. The group shuffled awkwardly together, though Adela
did her best. She was very angry with Mr. Barrett for wearing that
absurdly pale aspect. She was even angry with his miserable bankrupt
face for mounting a muscular edition of the smile Cornelia had shown.
"His feelings!" she cried internally; and the fact presented itself to
her, that feelings were a luxury utterly unfit for poor men, who were to
be accused of presumption for indulging in them.
"Now, I suppose you are happy?" she spoke low between Arabella and
The effect of these words was to colour violently two pair of cheeks.
Arabella's behaviour did not quite satisfy the fair critic. Edward
Buxley was simply caught in a trap: He had the folly to imagine that by
laughing he released himself.
"Is not that the laugh of an engaged?" said Adela to Freshfield.
He replied: "That would have been my idea under other conditions," and
She met the look with: "There are harsh conditions in life, are there
not?" and left him sufficiently occupied by his own sensations.
"Mr. Barrett," she inquired (partly to assist the wretch out of his
compromising depression, and also that the question represented a real
matter of debate in her mind), "I want your opinion; will you give it me?
Apropos of slang, why does it sit well on some people? It certainly does
not vulgarize them. After all, in many cases, it is what they call 'racy
idiom.' Perhaps our delicacy is strained?"
Now, it was Mr. Barrett's established manner to speak in a deliberately
ready fashion upon the introduction of a new topic. Habit made him, on
this occasion, respond instantly; but the opening of the gates displayed
the confusion of ideas within and the rageing tumult.
He said: "In many cases. There are two sorts. If you could call it the
language of nature! which anything...I beg your pardon, Slang! Polite
society rightly excludes it, because..."
"Yes, yes," returned Adela; "but do we do rightly in submitting to the
absolute tyranny?--I mean, I think, originality flies from us in
The pitiable mortal became a trifle more luminous: "The objection is to
the repetition of risked phrases. A happy audacity of expression may
pass. It is bad taste to repeat it, that is all. Then there is the
slang of heavy boorishness, and the slang of impatient wit..."
"Is there any fine distinction between the extremes?" said Cornelia, in
as clear a tone as she could summon.
"I think," observed Arabella, "that whatever shows staleness speedily is
self-condemned; and that is the case with slang."
"And yet it's to avoid some feeling of the sort that people employ it,"
was Adela's remark; and the discussion of this theme dropped lifelessly,
and they walked on as before.
Coming to a halt near the garden gate, Adela tapped Emilia's cheek,
addressing her: "How demure she has become!"
"Ah!" went Arabella, "does she know papa has had a letter from Mr.
Pericles, who wrote from Milan to say that he has made arrangements for
her to enter the Academy there, and will come to fetch her in a few
Emilia's wrists crossed below her neck, while she gave ear.
"To take me away?" she said.
The tragic attitude and outcry, with the mournful flash of her eyes,
might have told Emilia's tale.
Adela unwillingly shielded her by interpreting the scene. "See! she
must be a born actress. They always exaggerate in that style, so that
you would really think she had a mighty passion for Brookfield."
"Or in it," suggested Freshfield.
"Or in it!" she laughed assentingly.
Mr. Pole was perceived entering the garden, rubbing his hands a little
too obsequiously to some remark of the baronet's, as the critical ladies
imagined. Sir Twickenham's arm spread out in a sweep; Mr. Pole's head
nodded. After the ceremony of the salute, the ladies were informed of
Sir Twickenham's observation: Sir Twickenham Pryme, a statistical member
of Parliament, a well-preserved half-century in age, a gentleman in
bearing, passably grey-headed, his whiskers brushed out neatly, as if he
knew them individually and had the exact amount of them collectively at
his fingers' ends: Sir Twickenham had said of Mr. Pole's infant park that
if devoted to mangold-wurzel it would be productive and would pay:
whereas now it was not ornamental and was waste.
"Sir Twickenham calculates," said Mr. Pole, "that we should have a crop
"The average?" Sir Twickenham asked, on the evident upward mounting of a
sum in his brain. And then, with a relaxing look upon Cornelia: "Perhaps
you might have fifteen, sixteen, perhaps for the first year; or, say--you
see, the exact acreage is unknown to me. Say roughly, ten thousand sacks
the first year."
"Of what?" inquired Cornelia.
"Mangold-wurzel," said the baronet.
She gazed about her. Mr. Barrett was gone.
"But, no doubt, you take no interest in such reckonings?" Sir Twickenham
"On the contrary, I take every interest in practical details."
Practical men believe this when they hear it from the lips of
gentlewomen, and without philosophically analyzing the fact that it is
because the practical quality possesses simply the fascination of a form
of strength. Sir Twickenham pursued his details. Day closed on
Brookfield blankly. Nevertheless, the ladies felt that the situation was
now dignified by tragic feeling, and remembering keenly how they had been
degraded of late, they had a sad enjoyment of the situation.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Emilia alone of the party was as a blot to her
I cannot delay; but I request you, that are here privileged
I detest anything that has to do with gratitude
Love, with his accustomed cunning
No nose to the hero, no moral to the tale
Nor can a protest against coarseness be sweepingly interpreted
One of those men whose characters are read off at a glance
The majority, however, had been snatched out of this bliss
Their way was down a green lane and across long meadow-paths
They, meantime, who had a contempt for sleep
Women are wonderfully quick scholars under ridicule
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