The Adventures of Harry Richmond, v5
Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE ADVENTURES OF HARRY RICHMOND
By George Meredith
XXXIII. WHAT CAME OF A SHILLING
XXXIV. I GAIN A PERCEPTION OF PRINCELY STATE
XXXV. THE SCENE IN THE LAKE-PALACE LIBRARY
XXXVI. HOMEWARD AND HOME AGAIN.
XXXVII. JANET RENOUNCES ME
XXXVIII. MY BANKERS' BOOK.
WHAT CAME OF A SHILLING
The surgeon, who attended us both, loudly admired our mutual delicacy in
sparing arteries and vital organs: but a bullet cuts a rougher pathway
than the neat steel blade, and I was prostrate when the prince came to
press my hand on his departure for his quarters at Laibach. The utterly
unreasonable nature of a duel was manifested by his declaring to me, that
he was now satisfied I did not mean to insult him and then laugh at him.
We must regard it rather as a sudorific for feverish blood and brains.
I felt my wound acutely, seeing his brisk step when he retired. Having
overthrown me bodily, it threw my heart back to its first emotions, and I
yearned to set eyes on my father, with a haunting sense that I had of
late injured him and owed him reparation. It vanished after he had been
in my room an hour, to return when he had quitted it, and incessantly and
inexplicably it went and came in this manner. He was depressed.
I longed for drollery, relieved only by chance allusions to my beloved
one, whereas he could not conceal his wish to turn the stupid duel to
'Pencil a line to her,' he entreated me, and dictated his idea of a
moving line, adding urgently, that the crippled letters would be
affecting to her, as to the Great Frederick his last review of his
invalid veterans. 'Your name--the signature of your name alone, darling
Richie,' and he traced a crooked scrawl with a forefinger,--", Still,
dearest angel, in contempt of death and blood, I am yours to eternity,
Harry Lepel Richmond, sometimes called Roy--a point for your decision in
the future, should the breath everlastingly devoted to the most celestial
of her sex, continue to animate the frame that would rise on wings to say
adieu! adieu!"--Richie, just a sentence?'
He was distracting.
His natural tenderness and neatness of hand qualified him for spreading
peace in a sick-room; but he was too full of life and his scheme, and
knowing me out of danger, he could not forbear giving his despondency an
outlet. I heard him exclaim in big sighs: 'Heavens! how near!' and
again, 'She must hear of it!' Never was man so incorrigibly dramatic.
He would walk up to a bookcase and take down a volume, when the
interjectional fit waxed violent, flip the pages, affecting a perplexity
he would assuredly have been struck by had he perused them, and read, as
he did once,--'Italy, the land of the sun! and she is to be hurried away
there, and we are left to groan. The conspiracy is infamous! One of the
Family takes it upon himself to murder us! and she is to be hurried out
of hearing! And so we are to have the blood of the Roys spilt for
nothing?--no!' and he shut up the book with a report, and bounded to my
side to beg pardon of me. From his particular abuse of the margravine,
the iteration of certain phrases, which he uttered to denounce and defy
them, I gathered that an interview had passed between the two, and that
she had notified a blockade against all letters addressed to the
princess. He half admitted having rushed to the palace on his road to
'But, Richie,' said he, pressing me again to write the moving line, 'a
letter with a broad black border addressed by me might pass.' He looked
mournfully astute. 'The margravine might say to herself," Here's Doctor
Death in full diploma come to cure the wench of her infatuation." I am
but quoting the coarse old woman, Richie; confusion on her and me! for I
like her. It might pass in my handwriting, with a smudge for paternal
grief--it might. "To Her Serene Highness the Margravine of Rippau, etc.,
etc., etc., in trust for the Most Exalted the Princess of Eppenwelzen-
Sarkeld." I transpose or omit a title or so. "Aha!" says she, "there's
verwirrung in Roy's poor head, poor fellow; the boy has sunk to a
certainty. Here (to the princess), it seems, my dear, this is for you.
Pray do not communicate the contents for a day or so, or a month."'
His imitation of the margravine was the pleasantest thing I heard from
him. The princess's maid and confidante, he regretted to state, was
incorruptible, which I knew. That line of Ottilia's writing, 'Violets
are over,' read by me in view of the root-mountain of the Royal House of
Princes, scoffed at me insufferably whenever my father showed me these
openings of his mind, until I was dragged down to think almost that I had
not loved the woman and noble soul, but only the glorified princess--
the carved gilt frame instead of the divine portrait! a shameful acrid
suspicion, ransacking my conscience with the thrusting in of a foul torch
here and there.
For why had I shunned him of late? How was it that he tortured me now?
Did I in no degree participate in the poignant savour of his scheme?
Such questionings set me flushing in deadly chills. My brain was weak,
my heart exhausted, my body seemed truthful perforce and confessed on the
rack. I could not deny that I had partly, insensibly clung to the vain
glitter of hereditary distinction, my father's pitfall; taking it for a
substantial foothold, when a young man of wit and sensibility and, mark
you, true pride, would have made it his first care to trample that under
heel. Excellent is pride; but oh! be sure of its foundations before you
go on building monument high. I know nothing to equal the anguish of an
examination of the basis of one's pride that discovers it not solidly
fixed; an imposing, self-imposing structure, piled upon empty cellarage.
It will inevitably, like a tree striking bad soil, betray itself at the
top with time. And the anguish I speak of will be the sole healthy sign
about you. Whether in the middle of life it is adviseable to descend the
pedestal altogether, I dare not say. Few take the precaution to build a
flight of steps inside--it is not a labour to be proud of; fewer like to
let themselves down in the public eye--it amounts to a castigation; you
must, I fear, remain up there, and accept your chance in toppling over.
But in any case, delude yourself as you please, your lofty baldness will
assuredly be seen with time. Meanwhile, you cannot escape the internal
intimations of your unsoundness. A man's pride is the front and
headpiece of his character, his soul's support or snare. Look to it in
youth. I have to thank the interminable hours on my wretched sick-bed
for a singularly beneficial investigation of the ledger of my deeds and
omissions and moral stock. Perhaps it has already struck you that one
who takes the trouble to sit and write his history for as large a world
as he can obtain, and shape his style to harmonize with every development
of his nature, can no longer have much of the hard grain of pride in him.
A proud puppet-showman blowing into Pandaean pipes is an inconceivable
object, except to those who judge of characteristics from posture.
It began to be observed by others that my father was not the most
comforting of nurses to me. My landlady brought a young girl up to my
room, and introduced her under the name of Lieschen, saying that she had
for a long time been interested in me, and had been diligent in calling
to inquire for news of my condition. Commanded to speak for herself,
this Lieschen coloured and said demurely, 'I am in service here, sir,
among good-hearted people, who will give me liberty to watch by you, for
three hours of the afternoon and three of the early part of the night, if
you will honour me.'
My father took her shoulder between finger and thumb, and slightly shook
her to each ejaculation of his emphatic 'No! no! no! no! What! a
young maiden nurse to a convalescent young gentleman! Why, goodness
gracious me! Eh?'
She looked at me softly, and I said I wished her to come.
My father appealed to the sagacity of the matron. So jealous was he of a
suggested partner in his task that he had refused my earnest requests to
have Mr. Peterborough to share the hours of watching by my side. The
visits of college friends and acquaintances were cut very short, he soon
reduced them to talk in a hush with thumbs and nods and eyebrows; and if
it had not been so annoying to me, I could have laughed at his method of
accustoming the regular visitors to make ready, immediately after
greeting, for his affectionate dismissal of them. Lieschen went away
with the mute blessing of his finger on one of her modest dimples; but,
to his amazement, she returned in the evening. He gave her a lecture,
to which she listened attentively, and came again in the morning. He was
petrified. 'Idiots, insects, women, and the salt sea ocean!' said he, to
indicate a list of the untameables, without distressing the one present,
and, acknowledging himself beaten, he ruefully accepted his holiday.
The girl was like sweet Spring in my room. She spoke of Sarkeld
familiarly. She was born in that neighbourhood, she informed me, and had
been educated by a dear great lady. Her smile of pleasure on entering
the room one morning, and seeing me dressed and sitting in a grand-
fatherly chair by the breezy window, was like a salutation of returning
health. My father made another stand against the usurper of his
privileges; he refused to go out.
'Then must I go,' said Lieschen, 'for two are not allowed here.'
'No! don't leave me,' I begged of her, and stretched out my hands for
hers, while she gazed sadly from the doorway. He suspected some
foolishness or he was actually jealous. 'Hum-oh!' He went forthwith a
She deceived me by taking her seat in perfect repose.
After smoothing her apron, 'Now I must go,' she said.
'What! to leave me here alone?'
She looked at the clock, and leaned out of the window.
'Not alone; oh, not alone!' the girl exclaimed. 'And please, please do
not mention me--presently. Hark! do you hear wheels? Your heart must
not beat. Now farewell. You will not be alone: at least, so I think.
See what I wear, dear Mr. Patient!' She drew from her bosom, attached to
a piece of blue ribbon, the half of an English shilling, kissed it, and
blew a soft farewell to me:
She had not been long gone when the Princess Ottilia stood in her place.
A shilling tossed by an English boy to a couple of little foreign girls
in a woodman's hut!--you would not expect it to withstand the common fate
of silver coins, and preserve mysterious virtues by living celibate,
neither multiplying nor reduced, ultimately to play the part of a
powerful magician in bringing the boy grown man to the feet of an
illustrious lady, and her to his side in sickness, treasonably to the
laws of her station. The little women quarrelled over it, and snatched
and hid and contemplated it in secret, each in her turn, until the strife
it engendered was put an end to by a doughty smith, their mother's
brother, who divided it into equal halves, through which he drove a hole,
and the pieces being now thrown out of the currency, each one wore her
share of it in her bosom from that time, proudly appeased. They were not
ordinary peasant children, and happily for them they had another friend
that was not a bird of passage, and was endowed by nature and position to
do the work of an angel. She had them educated to read, write, and knit,
and learn pretty manners, and in good season she took one of the sisters
to wait on her own person. The second went, upon her recommendation,
into the household of a Professor of a neighbouring University. But
neither of them abjured her superstitious belief in the proved merits of
the talisman she wore. So when they saw the careless giver again they
remembered him; their gratitude was as fresh as on that romantic morning
of their childhood, and they resolved without concert to serve him after
their own fashion, and quickly spied a way to it. They were German
You are now enabled to guess more than was known to Ottilia and me of the
curious agency at work to shuffle us together. The doors of her suite in
the palace were barred against letters addressed to the princess; the
delivery of letters to her was interdicted, she consenting, yet she found
one: it lay on the broad walk of the orange-trees, between the pleasure
and the fruit-gardens, as if dropped by a falcon in mid air. Ottilia
beheld it, and started. Her little maid walking close by, exclaimed,
scuttling round in front of her the while like an urchin in sabots,
'Ha! what is it? a snake? let me! let me !' The guileless mistress
replied, 'A letter!' Whereupon the maid said: 'Not a window near! and no
wall neither! Why, dearest princess, we have walked up and down here a
dozen times and not seen it staring at us! Oh, my good heaven!' The
letter was seized and opened, and Ottilia read:
'He who loves you with his heart has been cruelly used. They have
shot him. He is not dead. He must not die. He is where he has
studied since long. He has his medicine and doctors, and they say
the bullet did not lodge. He has not the sight that cures. Now is
he, the strong young man, laid helpless at anybody's mercy.'
She supped at her father's table, and amused the margravine and him
alternately with cards and a sonata. Before twelve at midnight she was
driving on the road to the University, saying farewell to what her mind
reverenced, so that her lover might but have sight of her. She imagined
I had been assassinated. For a long time, and most pertinaciously, this
idea dwelt with her. I could not dispossess her of it, even after
uttering the word 'duel' I know not how often. I had flatly to relate
the whole-of the circumstances.
'But Otto is no assassin,' she cried out.
What was that she reverenced? It was what she jeopardized--her state,
her rank, her dignity as princess and daughter of an ancient House,
things typical to her of sovereign duties, and the high seclusion of her
name. To her the escapades of foolish damsels were abominable. The laws
of society as well as of her exalted station were in harmony with her
intelligence. She thought them good, but obeyed them as a subject, not
slavishly: she claimed the right to exercise her trained reason. The
modestest, humblest, sweetest of women, undervaluing nothing that she
possessed, least of all what was due from her to others, she could go
whithersoever her reason directed her, putting anything aside to act
justly according to her light. Nor would she have had cause to repent
had I been the man she held me to be. Even with me she had not behaved
precipitately. My course of probation was severe and long before she
allowed her heart to speak.
Pale from a sleepless night and her heart's weariful eagerness to be near
me, she sat by my chair, holding my hand, and sometimes looking into my
eyes to find the life reflecting hers as in a sunken well that has once
been a spring. My books and poor bachelor comforts caught her attention
between-whiles. We talked of the day of storm by the lake; we read the
unsigned letter. With her hand in mine I slept some minutes, and awoke
grasping it, doubting and terrified, so great a wave of life lifted me
'No! you are not gone,' I sighed.
'Only come,' said she.
The nature of the step she had taken began to dawn on me.
'But when they miss you at the palace? Prince Ernest?'
'Hush! they have missed me already. It is done.' She said it smiling.
'Ottilia, will he take you away?'
'Us, dear, us.'
'Can you meet his anger?'
'Our aunt will be the executioner. We have a day of sweet hours before
she can arrive.'
'May I see her first?'
'We will both see her as we are now.'
'We must have prompt answers for the margravine.'
'None, Harry. I do not defend myself ever.'
Distant hills, and folds of receding clouds and skies beyond them, were
visible from my window, and beyond the skies I felt her soul.
'Ottilia, you were going to Italy?'
'Yes: or whither they please, for as long as they please. I wished once
to go, I have told you why. One of the series' (she touched the letter
lying on a reading-table beside her) 'turned the channel of all wishes
and intentions. My friends left me to fall at the mercy of this one.
I consented to the injunction that I should neither write nor receive
letters. Do I argue ill in saying that a trust was implied? Surely it
was a breach of the trust to keep me ignorant of the danger of him I
love! Now they know it. I dared not consult them--not my dear father!
about any design of mine when I had read this odd copybook writing, all
in brief sentences, each beginning "he" and "he." It struck me like
thrusts of a sword; it illuminated me like lightning. That "he" was the
heart within my heart. The writer must be some clever woman or simple
friend, who feels for us very strongly. My lover assassinated, where
could I be but with him?'
Her little Ann coming in with chocolate and strips of fine white bread to
dip in it stopped my efforts to explain the distinction between an
assassination and a duel. I noticed then the likeness of Aennchen to
'She has a sister here,' said Ottilia; 'and let her bring Lieschen to
visit me here this afternoon.'
Aennchen, with a blush, murmured, that she heard and would obey. I had a
memorable pleasure in watching my beloved eat and drink under my roof.
The duel remained incomprehensible to her. She first frightened me by
remarking that duels were the pastime of brainless young men. Her next
remark, in answer to my repeated attempts to shield my antagonist from a
capital charge: 'But only military men and Frenchmen fight duels!'
accompanied by a slightly investigating glance of timid surprise, gave me
pain, together with a flashing apprehension of what she had forfeited,
whom offended, to rush to the succour of a duellist. I had to repeat to
her who my enemy was, so that there should be no further mention of
assassination. Prince Otto's name seemed to entangle her understanding
'Otto! Otto!' she murmured; 'he has, I have heard, been obliged by some
so-called laws of honour once or twice to--to--he is above suspicion of
treachery! To my mind it is one and the same, but I would not harshly
exclude the view the world puts on things; and I use the world's language
in saying that he could not do a dishonourable deed. How far he honours
himself is a question apart. That may be low enough, while the world is
full of a man's praises.'
She knew the nature of a duel. 'It is the work of soulless creatures!'
she broke through my stammered explanations with unwonted impatience, and
pressing my hand: 'Ah! You are safe. I have you still. Do you know,
Harry, I am not yet able to endure accidents and misadventures: I have
not fortitude to meet them, or intelligence to account for them. They
are little ironical laughter. Say we build so high: the lightning
strikes us:--why build at all? The Summer fly is happier. If I had lost
you! I can almost imagine that I should have asked for revenge. For why
should the bravest and purest soul of my worship be snatched away? I am
not talking wisdom, only my shaken self will speak just now! I pardon
Otto, though he has behaved basely.'
'No, not basely,' I felt bound to plead on his behalf, thinking, in spite
of a veritable anguish of gathering dread, that she had become
enlightened and would soon take the common view of our case; 'not basely.
He was excessively irritated, without cause in my opinion; he simply
misunderstood certain matters. Dearest, you have nations fighting: a war
is only an exaggerated form of duelling.'
'Nations at war are wild beasts,' she replied. 'The passions of these
hordes of men are not an example for a living soul. Our souls grow up to
the light: we must keep eye on the light, and look no lower. Nations
appear to me to have no worse than a soiled mirror of themselves in mobs.
They are still uncivilized: they still bear a resemblance to the old
monsters of the mud. Do you not see their claws and fangs, Harry? Do
you find an apology in their acts for intemperate conduct? Men who fight
duels appear in my sight no nobler than the first desperate creatures
spelling the cruel A B C of the passions.'
'No, nor in mine,' I assented hastily. 'We are not perfect. But hear
me. Yes, the passions are cruel. Circumstances however--I mean, there
are social usages--Ay, if one were always looking up t. But should we
not be gentle with our comparisons if we would have our views in
She hung studiously silent, and I pursued:
'I trust you so much as my helper and my friend that I tell you what we
do not usually tell to women--the facts, and the names connected with
them. Sooner or later you would have learnt everything. Beloved, I do
not wait to let you hear it by degrees, to be reconciled to it
'And I forgive him,' she sighed. 'I scarcely bring myself to believe
that Harry has bled from Otto's hand.'
'It was the accident of the case, Ottilia. We had to meet.'
'There are circumstances when men will not accept apologies; they--we--
heaven knows, I was ready to do all that a man could do to avoid this
folly--wickedness; give it the worst of titles!'
'It did not occur accidentally?' she inquired. Her voice sounded
strange, half withheld in the utterance.
'It occurred,' said I, feeling my strength ebb and despair set in, 'it
occurred--the prince compelled me to the meet him.'
'But my cousin Otto is no assassin?
'Compelled, I say: that is, he conceived I had injured him, and left me
no other way of making amends.'
Her defence of Otto was in reality the vehement cherishing of her idea of
me. This caused her bewilderment, and like a barrier to the flowing of
her mind it resisted and resisted. She could not suffer herself to
realize that I was one of the brainless young savages, creatures with
claws and fangs.
Her face was unchanged to me. The homeliness of her large mild eyes
embraced me unshadowed, and took me to its inner fire unreservedly.
Leaning in my roomy chair, I contemplated her at leisure while my heart
kept saying 'Mine! mine!' to awaken an active belief in its possession.
Her face was like the quiet morning of a winter day when cloud and sun
intermix and make an ardent silver, with lights of blue and faint fresh
rose; and over them the beautiful fold of her full eyebrow on the eyelid
like a bending upper heaven. Those winter mornings are divine. They
move on noiselessly. The earth is still, as if awaiting. A wren
warbles, and flits through the lank drenched brambles; hill-side opens
green; elsewhere is mist, everywhere expectancy. They bear the veiled
sun like a sangreal aloft to the wavy marble flooring of stainless cloud.
She was as fair. Gazing across her shoulder's gentle depression, I could
have desired to have the couchant brow, and round cheek, and rounding
chin no more than a young man's dream of woman, a picture alive, without
the animating individual awful mind to judge of me by my acts. I chafed
at the thought that one so young and lovely should meditate on human
affairs at all. She was of an age to be maidenly romantic: our situation
favoured it. But she turned to me, and I was glad of the eyes I knew.
She kissed me on the forehead.
'Sleep,' she whispered.
I feigned sleep to catch my happiness about me.
Some disenchanting thunder was coming, I was sure, and I was right. My
'Princess !' He did amazed and delighted homage, and forthwith
uncontrollably poured out the history of my heroism, a hundred words for
one;--my promptitude in picking the prince's glove up on my sword's
point, my fine play with the steel, my scornful magnanimity, the
admiration of my fellow-students;--every line of it; in stupendous
language; an artillery celebration of victory. I tried to stop him.
Ottilia rose, continually assenting, with short affirmatives, to his
glorifying interrogations--a method he had of recapitulating the main
points. She glanced to right and left, as if she felt caged.
'Is it known?' I heard her ask, in the half audible strange voice which
had previously made me tremble.
'Known? I certify to you, princess,'--the unhappy man spouted his
withering fountain of interjections over us anew; known in every Court
and garrison of Germany! Known by this time in Old England! And, what
was more, the correct version of it was known! It was known that the
young Englishman had vanquished his adversary with the small sword, and
had allowed him, because he had raged demoniacally on account of his
lamed limb, to have a shot in revenge.
'The honour done me by the princess in visiting me is not to be known,' I
summoned energy enough to say.
She shook her head.
My father pledged himself to the hottest secresy, equivalent to a calm
denial of the fact, if necessary.
'Pray be at no trouble,' she addressed him.
The 'Where am I?' look was painful in her aspect.
It led me to perceive the difference of her published position in
visiting a duellist lover instead of one assassinated. In the latter
case, the rashness of an hereditary virgin princess avowing her
attachment might pass condoned or cloaked by general compassion. How
stood it in the former? I had dragged her down to the duellist's level!
And as she was not of a nature to practise concealments, and scorned to
sanction them, she was condemned, seeing that concealment as far as
possible was imperative, to suffer bitterly in her own esteem. This, the
cruellest, was the least of the evils. To keep our names disjoined was
hopeless. My weakened frame and mental misery coined tears when thoughts
Presently I found the room empty of our poor unconscious tormentor.
Ottilia had fastened her hand to mine again.
'Be generous,' I surprised her by saying. 'Go back at once. I have seen
you! Let my father escort you the road. You will meet the margravine,
or some one. I think, with you, it will be the margravine, and my father
puts her in good humour. Pardon a wretched little scheme to save you
from annoyance! So thus you return within a day, and the margravine,
shelters you. Your name will not be spoken. But go at once, for the
sake of Prince Ernest. I have hurt him already; help me to avoid doing
him a mortal injury. It was Schwartz who drove you? our old Schwartz !
Old Warhead! You see, we may be safe; only every fresh minute adds to
the danger. And another reason for going-another--'
'Ah!' she breathed, 'my Harry will talk himself into a fever.'
'I shall have it if the margravine comes here.'
'She shall not be admitted.'
'Or if I hear her, or hear that she has come! Consent at once, and
revive me. Oh! I am begging you to leave me, and wishing it with all my
soul. Think over what I have done. Do not write to me. I shall see the
compulsion of mere kindness between the lines. You consent. Your wisdom
I never doubt--I doubt my own.'
'When it is yours you would persuade me to confide in?' said she, with
some sorrowful archness.
Wits clear as hers could see that I had advised well, except in proposing
my father for escort. It was evidently better that she should go as she
I refrained from asking her what she thought of me now. Suing for
immediate pardon would have been like the applying of a lancet to a vein
for blood: it would have burst forth, meaning mere words coloured by
commiseration, kindness, desperate affection, anything but her soul's
survey of herself and me; and though I yearned for the comfort passion
could give me, I knew the mind I was dealing with, or, rather, I knew I
was dealing with a mind; and I kept my tongue silent. The talk between
us was of the possible date of my recovery, the hour of her return to the
palace, the writer of the unsigned letters, books we had read apart or
peeped into together. She was a little quicker in speech, less
meditative. My sensitive watchfulness caught no other indication of a
My father drove away an hour in advance of the princess to encounter the
'By,' said he, rehearsing his exclamation of astonishment and delight at
meeting her, 'by the most miraculous piece of good fortune conceivable,
dear madam. And now comes the question, since you have condescended to
notice a solitary atom of your acquaintance on the public highroad,
whether I am to have the honour of doubling the freight of your carriage,
or you will deign to embark in mine? But the direction of the horses'
heads must be reversed, absolutely it must, if your Highness would repose
in a bed to-night. Good. So. And now, at a conversational trot, we may
happen to be overtaken by acquaintances.'
I had no doubt of his drawing on his rarely-abandoned seven-league boots
of jargon, once so delicious to me, for the margravine's entertainment.
His lack of discernment in treating the princess to it ruined my
The sisters Aennchen and Lieschen presented themselves a few minutes
before his departure. Lieschen dropped at her feet.
'My child,' said the princess, quite maternally, 'could you be quit of
your service with the Mahrlens for two weeks, think you, to do duty
'The Professor grants her six hours out of the twenty-four already,' said
'To go where?' she asked, alarmed.
'To come here.'
'Here? She knows you? She did not curtsey to you.'
'Nurses do not usually do that.'
The appearance of both girls was pitiable; but having no suspicion of the
cause for it, I superadded,
'She was here this morning.'
'Ah! we owe her more than we were aware of.'
The princess looked on her kindly, though with suspense in the
'She told me of my approaching visitor,' I said.
'Oh! not told!' Lieschen burst out.
'Did you,'--the princess questioned her, and murmured to me, 'These
children cannot speak falsehoods,' they shone miserably under the burden
of uprightness 'did you make sure that I should come?'
Lieschen thought--she supposed. But why? Why did she think and suppose?
What made her anticipate the princess's arrival? This inveterate why
communicated its terrors to Aennchen, upon whom the princess turned
scrutinizing eyes, saying, 'You write of me to your sister?'
'And she to you?'
Lieschen answered: 'Forgive me, your Highness, dearest lady!'
'You offered yourself here unasked?'
'Have you written to others besides your sister?'
'Seldom, princess; I do not remember.'
'You know the obligation of signatures to letters?'
'You have been remiss in not writing to me, child.'
'Oh, princess! I did not dare to.'
'You have not written to me?'
'Ah! princess, how dared I?'
'Are you speaking truthfully?'
The unhappy girls stood trembling. Ottilia spared them the leap into the
gulfs of confession. Her intuitive glance, assisted by a combination of
minor facts, had read the story of their misdeeds in a minute. She sent
them down to the carriage, suffering her culprits to kiss her fingers;
while she said to one: 'This might be a fable of a pair of mice.'
When she was gone, after many fits of musing, the signification of it was
revealed to my slower brain. I felt that it could not but be an
additional shock to the regal pride of such a woman that these little
maidens should have been permitted to act forcibly on her destiny. The
mystery of the letters was easily explained as soon as a direct suspicion
fell on one of the girls who lived in my neighbourhood and the other who
was near the princess's person. Doubtless the revelation of their
effective mouse plot had its humiliating bitterness for her on a day of
heavy oppression, smile at it as she subsequently might. The torture of
heart with which I twisted the meaning of her words about the pair of
mice to imply that the pair had conspired to make a net for an eagle and
had enmeshed her, may have struck a vein of the truth. I could see no
other antithesis to the laudable performance of the single mouse of
fable. Lieschen, when she next appeared in the character of nurse, met
my inquiries by supplicating me to imitate her sister's generous
mistress, and be merciful.
She remarked by-and-by, of her own accord: 'Princess Ottilia does not
regret that she had us educated.'
A tender warmth crept round me in thinking that a mind thus lofty would
surely be, however severe in its insight, above regrets and recantations.
I GAIN A PERCEPTION OF PRINCELY STATE
I had a visit from Prince Ernest, nominally one of congratulation on my
escape. I was never in my life so much at any man's mercy: he might have
fevered me to death with reproaches, and I expected them on hearing his
name pronounced at the door. I had forgotten the ways of the world. For
some minutes I listened guardedly to his affable talk. My thanks for the
honour done me were awkward, as if they came upon reflection. The prince
was particularly civil and cheerful. His relative, he said, had written
of me in high terms--the very highest, declaring that I was blameless in
the matter, and that, though he had sent the horse back to my stables, he
fully believed in the fine qualities of the animal, and acknowledged his
fault in making it a cause of provocation. To all of which I assented
with easy nods.
'Your Shakespeare, I think,' said the prince, 'has a scene of young
Frenchmen praising their horses. I myself am no stranger to the
enthusiasm: one could not stake life and honour on a nobler brute.
Pardon me if I state my opinion that you young Englishmen of to-day are
sometimes rather overbearing in your assumption of a superior knowledge
of horseflesh. We Germans in the Baltic provinces and in the Austrian
cavalry think we have a right to a remark or two; and if we have not
suborned the testimony of modern history, the value of our Hanoverian
troopers is not unknown to one at least of your Generals. However, the
odds are that you were right and Otto wrong, and he certainly put himself
in the wrong to defend his ground.'
I begged him to pass a lenient sentence upon fiery youth. He assured me
that he remembered his own. Our interchange of courtesies was cordially
commonplace: we walked, as it were, arm-in-arm on thin ice, rivalling one
another's gentlemanly composure. Satisfied with my discretion, the
prince invited me to the lake-palace, and then a week's shooting in
Styria to recruit. I thanked him in as clear a voice as I could command:
'Your Highness, the mine flourishes, I trust?'
'It does; I think I may say it does,' he replied. 'There is always the
want of capital. What can be accomplished, in the present state of
affairs, your father performs, on the whole, well. You smile--but I mean
extraordinarily well. He has, with an accountant at his elbow, really
the genius of management. He serves me busily, and, I repeat, well. A
better employment for him than the direction of Court theatricals?'
'Undoubtedly it is.'
'Or than bestriding a bronze horse, personifying my good ancestor! Are
you acquainted with the Chancellor von Redwitz?'
'All I know of him, sir, is that he is fortunate to enjoy the particular
confidence of his master.'
'He has a long head. But, now, he is a disappointing man in action;
responsibility overturns him. He is the reverse of Roy, whose advice I
do not take, though I'm glad to set him running. Von Redwitz is in the
town. He shall call on you, and amuse an hour or so of your
I confessed that I began to feel longings for society.
Prince Ernest was kind enough to quit me without unmasking. I had not to
learn that the simplest visits and observations of ruling princes signify
more than lies on the surface. Interests so highly personal as theirs
demand from them a decent insincerity.
Chancellor von Redwitz called on me, and amused me with secret anecdotes
of all the royal Houses of Germany, amusing chiefly through the
veneration he still entertained for them. The grave senior was doing his
utmost to divert one of my years. The immoralities of blue blood, like
the amours of the Gods, were to his mind tolerable, if not beneficial to
mankind, and he presumed I should find them toothsome. Nay, he besought
me to coincide in his excuses of a widely charming young archduchess, for
whom no estimable husband of a fitting rank could anywhere be discovered,
so she had to be bestowed upon an archducal imbecile; and hence--and
hence--Oh, certainly! Generous youth and benevolent age joined hands of
exoneration over her. The princess of Satteberg actually married, under
covert, a colonel of Uhlans at the age of seventeen; the marriage was
quashed, the colonel vanished, the princess became the scandalous Duchess
of Ilm-Ilm, and was surprised one infamous night in the outer court of
the castle by a soldier on guard, who dragged her into the guard-room and
unveiled her there, and would have been summarily shot for his pains but
for the locket on his breast, which proved him to be his sovereign's
son.--A perfect romance, Mr. Chancellor. We will say the soldier son
loved a delicate young countess in attendance on the duchess. The
countess spies the locket, takes it to the duchess, is reprimanded, when
behold! the locket opens, and Colonel von Bein appears as in his
blooming youth, in Lancer uniform.--Young sir, your piece of romance has
exaggerated history to caricature. Romances are the destruction of human
interest. The moment you begin to move the individuals, they are
puppets. 'Nothing but poetry, and I say it who do not read it'--
(Chancellor von Redwitz is the speaker)'nothing but poetry makes romances
passable: for poetry is the everlastingly and embracingly human. Without
it your fictions are flat foolishness, non-nourishing substance--a
species of brandy and gruel!--diet for craving stomachs that can support
nothing solider, and must have the weak stuff stiffened. Talking of
poetry, there was an independent hereditary princess of Leiterstein in
love with a poet!--a Leonora d'Este!--This was no Tasso. Nevertheless,
she proposed to come to nuptials. Good, you observe? I confine myself
to the relation of historical circumstances; in other words, facts; and
of good or bad I know not.'
Chancellor von Redwitz smoothed the black silk stocking of his crossed
leg, and set his bunch of seals and watch-key swinging. He resumed,
entirely to amuse me,
'The Princess Elizabeth of Leiterstein promised all the qualities which
the most solicitous of paternal princes could desire as a guarantee for
the judicious government of the territory to be bequeathed to her at his
demise. But, as there is no romance to be extracted from her story,
I may as well tell you at once that she did not espouse the poet.'
'On the contrary, dear Mr. Chancellor, I am interested in the princess.
Proceed, and be as minute as you please.'
'It is but a commonplace excerpt of secret historical narrative buried
among the archives of the Family, my good Mr. Richmond. The Princess
Elizabeth thoughtlessly pledged her hand to the young sonneteer. Of
course, she could not fulfil her engagement.'
'You see, you are impatient for romance, young gentleman.'
'Not at all, Mr. Chancellor. I do but ask a question.'
'You fence. Your question was dictated by impatience.'
'Yes, for the facts and elucidations!
'For the romance, that is. You wish me to depict emotions.'
Hereupon this destroyer of temper embrowned his nostrils with snuff,
adding,--'I am unable to.'
'Then one is not to learn why the princess could not fulfil her
'Judged from the point of view of the pretender to the supreme honour of
the splendid alliance, the fault was none of hers. She overlooked his
humble, his peculiarly dubious, birth.'
'Her father interposed?'
'Quite inefficacious to arrest her determinations.'
'What then--what was in her way?'
'Great Germany, young gentleman. I should have premised that, besides
mental, she had eminent moral dispositions,--I might term it the
conscience of her illustrious rank. She would have raised the poet to
equal rank beside her had she possessed the power. She could and did
defy the Family, and subdue her worshipping father, the most noble
prince, to a form of paralysis of acquiescence--if I make myself
understood. But she was unsuccessful in her application for the sanction
of the Diet.'
'The German Diet. Have you not lived among us long enough to know that
the German Diet is the seat of domestic legislation for the princely
Houses of Germany? A prince or a princess may say, "I will this or
that." The Diet says, "Thou shalt not"; pre-eminently, "Thou shalt not
mix thy blood with that of an impure race, nor with blood of inferiors."
Hence, we have it what we see it, a translucent flood down from the
topmost founts of time. So we revere it. "Qua man and woman," the Diet
says, by implication, "do as you like, marry in the ditches, spawn
plentifully. Qua prince and princess, No! Your nuptials are nought.
Or would you maintain them a legal ceremony, and be bound by them, you
descend, you go forth; you are no reigning sovereign, you are a private
person." His Serene Highness the prince was thus prohibited from
affording help to his daughter. The princess was reduced to the decision
either that she, the sole child born of him in legal wedlock, would
render him qua prince childless, or that she would--in short, would have
her woman's way. The sovereignty of Leiterstein continued
uninterruptedly with the elder branch. She was a true princess.'
'A true woman,' said I, thinking the sneer weighty.
The Chancellor begged me to recollect that he had warned me there was no
romance to be expected.
I bowed; and bowed during the remainder of the interview.
Chancellor von Redwitz had performed his mission. The hours of my
convalescence were furnished with food for amusement sufficient to
sustain a year's blockade; I had no further longing for society, but I
craved for fresh air intensely.
Did Ottilia know that this iron law, enforced with the might of a whole
empire, environed her, held her fast from any motion of heart and will?
I could not get to mind that the prince had hinted at the existence of
such a law. Yet why should he have done so? The word impossible, in
which he had not been sparing when he deigned to speak distinctly,
comprised everything. More profitable than shooting empty questions at
the sky was the speculation on his project in receiving me at the palace,
and that was dark. My father, who might now have helped me, was off on
I found myself driving into Sarkeld with a sense of a whirlwind round my
head; wheels in multitudes were spinning inside, striking sparks for
thoughts. I met an orderly in hussar uniform of blue and silver,
trotting on his errand. There he was; and whether many were behind him
or he stood for the army in its might, he wore the trappings of an old
princely House that nestled proudly in the bosom of its great jealous
Fatherland. Previously in Sarkeld I had noticed members of the
diminutive army to smile down on them. I saw the princely arms and
colours on various houses and in the windows of shops. Emblems of a
small State, they belonged to the history of the Empire. The Court-
physician passed with a bit of ribbon in his buttonhole. A lady driving
in an open carriage encouraged me to salute her. She was the wife of the
Prince's Minister of Justice. Upon what foundation had I been building?
A reflection of the ideas possessing me showed Riversley, my undecorated
home of rough red brick, in the middle of barren heaths. I entered the
palace, I sent my respects to the prince. In return, the hour of dinner
was ceremoniously named to me: ceremony damped the air. I had been
insensible to it before, or so I thought, the weight was now so crushing.
Arms, emblems, colours, liveries, portraits of princes and princesses of
the House, of this the warrior, that the seductress, burst into sudden
light. What had I to do among them?
The presence of the living members of the Family was an extreme physical
For the moment, beholding Ottilia, I counted her but as one of them. She
welcomed me without restraint.
We chattered pleasantly at the dinner-table.
'Ah! You missed our French troupe,' said the margravine.'
'Yes,' said I, resigning them to her. She nodded:
'And one very pretty little woman they had, I can tell you--for a
'You thought her pretty? Frenchwomen know what to do with their brains
and their pins, somebody has said.'
'And exceedingly well said, too. Where is that man Roy? Good things
always remind me of him.'
The question was addressed to no one in particular. The man happened to
be my father, I remembered. A second allusion to him was answered by
'Roy is off to Croatia to enrol some dozens of cheap workmen. The
strength of those Croats is prodigious, and well looked after they work.
He will be back in three or four or more days.'
'You have spoilt a good man,' rejoined the margravine; 'and that reminds
me of a bad one--a cutthroat. Have you heard of that creature, the
princess's tutor? Happily cut loose from us, though! He has published a
book--a horror! all against Scripture and Divine right! Is there any
one to defend him now, I should like to ask?'
'I,' said Ottilia.
'Gracious me! you have not read the book?'
'Right through, dear aunt, with all respect to you.'
'It 's in the house?'
'It is in my study.'
'Then I don't wonder! I don't wonder!' the margravine exclaimed.
'Best hear what the enemy has to say,' Prince Ernest observed.
'Excellently argued, papa, supposing that he be an enemy.'
'An enemy as much as the fox is the enemy of the poultry-yard, and the
hound is the enemy of the fox!' said the margravine.
'I take your illustration, auntie,' said Ottilia. 'He is the enemy of
chickens, and only does not run before the numbers who bark at him. My
noble old Professor is a resolute truth-seeker: he raises a light to show
you the ground you walk on. How is it that you, adoring heroes as you
do, cannot admire him when he stands alone to support his view of the
truth! I would I were by him! But I am, whenever I hear him abused.'
'I daresay you discard nothing that the wretch has taught you!'
'Nothing! nothing!' said Ottilia, and made my heart live.
The grim and taciturn Baroness Turckems, sitting opposite to her, sighed
'Has the princess been trying to convert you?' the margravine asked her.
'Trying? no, madam. Reading? yes.'
'My good Turckems! you do not get your share of sleep?'
'It is her Highness the princess who despises sleep.'
'See there the way with your free-thinkers! They commence by treading
under foot the pleasantest half of life, and then they impose their bad
habits on their victims. Ottilia! Ernest! I do insist upon having
lights extinguished in the child's apartments by twelve o'clock at
'Twelve o'clock is an extraordinary latitude for children,' said Ottilia,
The prince, with a scarce perceptible degree of emphasis, said,
'Women born to rule must be held exempt from nursery restrictions.'
Here the conversation opened to let me in. More than once the margravine
informed me that I was not the equal of my father.
'Why,' said she, 'why can't you undertake this detestable coal-mine, and
let your father disport himself?'
I suggested that it might be because I was not his equal. She
complimented me for inheriting a spark of Roy's brilliancy.
I fancied there was a conspiracy to force me back from my pretensions by
subjecting me to the contemplation of my bare self and actual condition.
Had there been, I should have suffered from less measured strokes. The
unconcerted design to humiliate inferiors is commonly successfuller than
The prince invited me to smoke with him, and talked of our gradual
subsidence in England to one broad level of rank through the intermixture
by marriage of our aristocracy, squirearchy, and merchants.
'Here it is not so,' he said; 'and no democratic rageings will make it
so. Rank, with us, is a principle. I suppose you have not read the
Professor's book? It is powerful--he is a powerful man. It can do no
damage to the minds of persons destined by birth to wield authority--
none, therefore, to the princess. I would say to you--avoid it. For
those who have to carve their way, it is bad. You will enter your
Parliament, of course? There you have a fine career.'
He asked me what I had made of Chancellor von Redwitz.
I perceived that Prince Ernest could be cool and sagacious in repairing
what his imprudence or blindness had left to occur: that he must have
enlightened his daughter as to her actual position, and was most
dexterously and devilishly flattering her worldly good sense by letting
it struggle and grow, instead of opposing her. His appreciation of her
intellect was an idolatry; he really confided in it, I knew; and this
reacted upon her. Did it? My hesitations and doubts, my fantastic
raptures and despair, my loss of the power to appreciate anything at its
right value, revealed the madness of loving a princess.
There were preparations for the arrival of an important visitor. The
margravine spoke of him emphatically. I thought it might be her
farcically pompous way of announcing my father's return, and looked
pleased, I suppose, for she added, 'Do you know Prince Hermann? He
spends most of his time in Eberhardstadt. He is cousin of the King, a
wealthy branch; tant soit peu philosophe, a ce qu'on dit; a traveller.
They say he has a South American complexion. I knew him a boy; and his
passion is to put together what Nature has unpieced, bones of fishes and
animals. Il faut passer le temps. He adores the Deluge. Anything
antediluvian excites him. He can tell us the "modes" of those days; and,
if I am not very much misinformed, he still expects us to show him the
very latest of these. Happily my milliner is back from Paris. Ay, and
we have fossils in our neighbourhood, though, on my honour, I don't know
where--somewhere; the princess can guide him, and you can help at the
excavations. I am told he would go through the crust of earth for the
backbone of an idio--ilio-something-saurus.'
I scrutinized Prince Hermann as rarely my observation had dwelt on any
man. He had the German head, wide, so as seemingly to force out the
ears; honest, ready, interested eyes in conversation; parched lips; a
rather tropically-coloured skin; and decidedly the manners of a gentleman
to all, excepting his retinue of secretaries, valets, and chasseurs--his
'blacks,' he called them. They liked him. One could not help liking
'You study much?' he addressed the princess at table.
She answered: 'I throw aside books, now you have come to open the earth
and the sea.'
From that time the topics started on every occasion were theirs; the rest
of us ran at their heels, giving tongue or not.
To me Prince Hermann was perfectly courteous. He had made English
friends on his travels; he preferred English comrades in adventure to any
other: thought our East Indian empire the most marvellous thing the world
had seen, and our Indian Government cigars very smokeable upon
acquaintance. When stirred, he bubbled with anecdote. 'Not been there,'
was his reply to the margravine's tentatives for gossip of this and that
of the German Courts. His museum, hunting, and the Opera absorbed and
divided his hours. I guessed his age to be mounting forty. He seemed
robust; he ate vigorously. Drinking he conscientiously performed as an
accompanying duty, and was flushed after dinner, burning for tobacco and
a couch for his length. Then he talked of the littleness of Europe and
the greatness of Germany; logical postulates fell in collapse before him.
America to America, North and South; India to Europe. India was for the
land with the largest sea-board. Mistress of the Baltic, of the North
Sea and the East, as eventually she must be, Germany would claim to take
India as a matter of course, and find an outlet for the energies of the
most prolific and the toughest of the races of mankind,--the purest, in
fact, the only true race, properly so called, out of India, to which it
would return as to its source, and there create an empire magnificent in
force and solidity, the actual wedding of East and West; an empire firm
on the ground and in the blood of the people, instead of an empire of
aliens, that would bear comparison to a finely fretted cotton-hung
palanquin balanced on an elephant's back, all depending on the docility
of the elephant (his description of Great Britain's Indian Empire).
'And mind me,' he said, 'the masses of India are in character elephant
all over, tail to proboscis! servile till they trample you, and not so
stupid as they look. But you've done wonders in India, and we can't
forget it. Your administration of Justice is worth all your battles
This was the man: a milder one after the evaporation of his wine in
speech, and peculiarly moderate on his return, exhaling sandal-wood,
to the society of the ladies.
Ottilia danced with Prince Hermann at the grand Ball given in honour of
him. The wives and daughters of the notables present kept up a buzz of
comment on his personal advantages, in which, I heard it said, you saw
his German heart, though he had spent the best years of his life abroad.
Much court was paid to him by the men. Sarkeld visibly expressed
satisfaction. One remark, 'We shall have his museum in the town!' left
me no doubt upon the presumed object of his visit: it was uttered and
responded to with a depth of sentiment that showed how lively would be
the general gratitude toward one who should exhilarate the place by
introducing cases of fish-bones.
So little did he think of my presence, that returning from a ride one
day, he seized and detained the princess's hand. She frowned with pained
surprise, but unresistingly, as became a young gentlewoman's dignity.
Her hand was rudely caught and kept in the manner of a boisterous wooer--
a Harry the Fifth or lusty Petruchio. She pushed her horse on at a
bound. Prince Hermann rode up head to head with her gallantly, having
now both hands free of the reins, like an Indian spearing the buffalo--
it was buffalo courtship; and his shout of rallying astonishment at her
resistance, 'What? What?' rang wildly to heighten the scene, she leaning
constrained on one side and he bending half his body's length; a strange
scene for me to witness.
They proceeded with old Schwartz at their heels doglike. It became a
question for me whether I should follow in the bitter track, and further
the question whether I could let them escape from sight. They wound up
the roadway, two figures and one following, now dots against the sky, now
a single movement in the valley, now concealed, buried under billows of
forest, making the low noising of the leaves an intolerable whisper of
secresy, and forward I rushed again to see them rounding a belt of firs
or shadowed by rocks, solitary on shorn fields, once more dipping to the
forest, and once more emerging, vanishing. When I had grown sure of
their reappearance from some point of view or other, I spied for them in
vain. My destiny, whatever it might be, fluttered over them; to see them
seemed near the knowing of it, and not to see them, deadly. I galloped,
so intent on the three in the distance, that I did not observe a horseman
face toward me, on the road: it was Prince Hermann. He raised his hat; I
stopped short, and he spoke:
'Mr. Richmond, permit me to apologize to you. I have to congratulate
you, it appears. I was not aware.--However, the princess has done me the
favour to enlighten me. How you will manage, I can't guess, but that is
not my affair. I am a man of honour; and, on my honour, I conceived that
I was invited here to decide, as my habit is, on the spot, if I would, or
if I would not. I speak clearly to you, no doubt. There could be no
hesitation in the mind of a man of sense. My way is prompt and blunt;
I am sorry I gave you occasion to reflect on it. There! I have been
deceived--deceived myself, let's say. Sharp methods play the devil with
you now and then. To speak the truth,--perhaps you won't care to listen
to it,--family arrangements are the best; take my word for it, they are
the best. And in the case of princesses of the Blood!--Why, look you,
I happen to be suitable. It 's a matter of chance, like your height,
complexion, constitution. One is just what one is born to be, eh? You
have your English notions, I my German; but as a man of the world in the
bargain, and "gentleman," I hope, I should say, that to take a young
princess's fancy, and drag her from her station is not--of course, you
know that the actual value of the title goes if she steps down? Very
well. But enough said; I thought I was in a clear field. We are used to
having our way cleared for us, nous autres. I will not detain you.'
We saluted gravely, and I rode on at a mechanical pace, discerning by
glimpses the purport of what I had heard, without drawing warmth from it.
The man's outrageously royal way of wooing, in contempt of minor
presences and flimsy sentiment, made me jealous of him, notwithstanding
I was in the mood to fall entirely into my father's hands, as I did by
unbosoming myself to him for the first time since my heart had been under
the charm. Fresh from a rapid course of travel, and with the sense of
laying the prince under weighty obligations, he made light of my
perplexity, and at once delivered himself bluntly: 'She plights her hand
to you in the presence of our good Peterborough.' His plans were shaped
on the spot. 'We start for England the day after to-morrow to urge on
the suit, Richie. Our Peterborough is up at the chateau. The Frau
Feldmarschall honours him with a farewell invitation: you have a private
interview with the princess at midnight in the library, where you are
accustomed to read, as a student of books should, my boy at a touch of
the bell, or mere opening of the door, I see that Peterborough comes to
you. It will not be a ceremony, but a binding of you both by your word
of honour before a ghostly gentleman.' He informed me that his foresight
had enlisted and detained Peterborough for this particular moment and
identical piece of duty, which seemed possible, and in a singular manner
incited me to make use of Peterborough. For the princess still denied me
the look of love's intelligence, she avoided me, she still kept to the
riddle, and my delicacy went so far that I was restrained from writing.
I agreed with my father that we could not remain in Germany; but how
could I quit the field and fly to England on such terms? I composed the
flattest letter ever written, requesting the princess to meet me about
midnight in the library, that I might have the satisfaction of taking my
leave of her; and this done, my spirits rose, and it struck me my father
was practically wise, and I looked on Peterborough as an almost
supernatural being. If Ottilia refused to come, at least I should know
my fate. Was I not bound in manly honour to be to some degree
So I reasoned in exclamations, being, to tell truth, tired of seeming to
be what I was not quite, of striving to become what I must have divined
that I never could quite attain to. So my worthier, or ideal, self fell
away from me. I was no longer devoted to be worthy of a woman's love,
but consenting to the plot to entrap a princess. I was somewhat
influenced, too, by the consideration, which I regarded as a glimpse of
practical wisdom, that Prince Ernest was guilty of cynical astuteness in
retaining me as his guest under manifold disadvantages. Personal pride
stood up in arms, and my father's exuberant spirits fanned it. He dwelt
loudly on his services to the prince, and his own importance and my
heirship to mighty riches. He made me almost believe that Prince Ernest
hesitated about rejecting me; nor did it appear altogether foolish to
think so, or why was I at the palace? I had no head for reflections.
My father diverted me by levelling the whole battery of his comic mind
upon Peterborough, who had a heap of manuscript, directed against
heretical German theologians, to pack up for publication in his more
congenial country: how different, he ejaculated, from this nest--this
forest of heresy, where pamphlets and critical essays were issued without
let or hindrance, and, as far as he could see, no general reprobation of
the Press, such as would most undoubtedly, with one voice, hail any
strange opinions in our happy land at home! Whether he really understood
the function my father prepared him for, I cannot say. The invitation to
dine and pass a night at the lake-palace flattered him immensely.
We went up to the chateau to fetch him.
A look of woe was on Peterborough's countenance when we descended at the
palace portals: he had forgotten his pipe.
'You shall smoke one of the prince's,' my father said. Peterborough
remarked to me,--'We shall have many things to talk over in England.'
'No tobacco allowed on the premises at Riversley, I 'm afraid,' said I.
He sighed, and bade me jocosely to know that he regarded tobacco as just
one of the consolations of exiles and bachelors.
'Peterborough, my good friend, you are a hero!' cried my father. 'He
divorces tobacco to marry!'
'Permit me,' Peterborough interposed, with an ingenuous pretension to
subtle waggery, in itself very comical,--'permit me; no legitimate union
has taken place between myself and tobacco!'
'He puts an end to the illegitimate union between himself and tobacco
that he may marry according to form!' cried my father.
We entered the palace merrily, and presently Peterborough, who had worn a
studious forehead in the midst of his consenting laughter, observed,
'Well, you know, there is more in that than appears on the surface.'
His sweet simpleton air of profundity convulsed me. I handed my father
the letter addressed to the princess to entrust it to the charge of one
of the domestics, thinking carelessly at the time that Ottilia now stood
free to make appointments and receive communications, and moreover that I
was too proud to condescend to subterfuge, except this minor one, in
consideration for her, of making it appear that my father, and not I, was
in communication with her. My fit of laughter clung. I dressed
chuckling. The margravine was not slow to notice and comment on my
'Roy,' she said, 'you have given your son spirit. One sees he has your
blood when you have been with him an hour.'
'The season has returned, if your Highness will let it be Spring,' said
'Far fetched!--from the Lower Danube!' she ejaculated in mock scorn to
excite his sprightliness, and they fell upon a duologue as good as wit
for the occasion.
Prince Hermann had gone. His departure was mentioned with the ordinary
commonplaces of regret. Ottilia was unembarrassed, both in speaking of
him and looking at me. We had the Court physician and his wife at table,
Chancellor von Redwitz and his daughter, and General Happenwyll, chief of
the prince's contingent, a Prussian at heart, said to be a good officer
on the strength of a military book of some sort that he had full leisure
to compose. The Chancellor's daughter and Baroness Turckems enclosed me.
I was questioned by the baroness as to the cause of my father's
unexpected return. 'He is generally opportune,' she remarked.
'He goes with me to England,' I said.
'Oh! he goes,' said she; and asked why we were honoured with the presence
of Mr. Peterborough that evening. There had always been a smouldering
hostility between her and my father.
To my surprise, the baroness spoke of Ottilia by her name.
'Ottilia must have mountain air. These late hours destroy her
complexion. Active exercise by day and proper fatigue by night time--
that is my prescription.'
'The princess,' I replied, envying Peterborough, who was placed on one
side of her, 'will benefit, I am sure, from mountain air. Does she read
excessively? The sea--'
'The sea I pronounce bad for her--unwholesome,' returned the baroness.
'It is damp.'
'Damp,' she reiterated. 'The vapours, I am convinced, affect mind and
body. That excursion in the yacht did her infinite mischief. The
mountains restored her. They will again, take my word for it. Now take
you my word for it, they will again. She is not too strong in
constitution, but in order to prescribe accurately one must find out
whether there is seated malady. To ride out in the night instead of
reposing! To drive on and on, and not reappear till the night of the
next day--I ask you, is it sensible? Does it not approach mania?'
'The princess--?' said I.
'Ottilia has done that.'
'Baroness, can I believe you?--and alone?'
A marvellous twinkle of shuffle appeared in the small slate-coloured eyes
I looked at under their roofing of thick black eyebrows.
'Alone,' she said. 'That is, she was precautious to have her giant to
protect her from violence. There you have a glimmering of reason in her;
and all of it that I can see.'
'Old Schwartz is a very faithful servant,' said I, thinking that she
resembled the old Warhead in visage.
'A dog's obedience to the master's whims you call faithfulness! Hem!'
The baroness coughed dryly.
I whispered: 'Does Prince Ernest--is he aware?'
'You are aware,' retorted the baroness, 'that what a man idolizes he
won't see flaw in. Remember, I am something here, or I am nothing.'
The enigmatical remark was received by me decorously as a piece of
merited chastisement. Nodding with gravity, I expressed regrets that the
sea did not please her, otherwise I could have offered her a yacht for a
cruise. She nodded stiffly. Her mouth shut up a smile, showing more of
the door than the ray. The dinner, virtually a German supper, ended in
general conversation on political affairs, preceded and supported by a
discussion between the Prussian-hearted General and the Austrian-hearted
margravine. Prince Ernest, true to his view that diplomacy was the
weapon of minor sovereigns, held the balance, with now a foot in one
scale, now in the other; a politic proceeding, so long as the rival
powers passively consent to be weighed.
We trifled with music, made our bow to the ladies, and changed garments
for the smoking-room. Prince Ernest smoked his one cigar among guests.
The General, the Chancellor, and the doctor, knew the signal for
retirement, and rose simultaneously with the discharge of his cigar-end
in sparks on the unlit logwood pile. My father and Mr. Peterborough kept
There was, I felt with relief, no plot, for nothing had been definitely
assented to by me. I received Prince Ernest's proffer of his hand, on
making my adieux to him, with a passably clear conscience.
I went out to the library. A man came in for orders; I had none to give.
He saw that the shutters were fixed and the curtains down, examined my
hand-lamp, and placed lamps on the reading-desk and mantel-piece. Bronze
busts of sages became my solitary companions. The room was long, low and
dusky, voluminously and richly hung with draperies at the farther end,
where a table stood for the prince to jot down memoranda, and a sofa to
incline him to the relaxation of romance-reading. A door at this end led
to the sleeping apartments of the West wing of the palace. Where I sat
the student had ranges of classical volumes in prospect and classic
heads; no other decoration to the walls. I paced to and fro and should
have flung myself on the sofa but for a heap of books there covered from
dust, perhaps concealed, that the yellow Parisian volumes, of which I
caught sight of some new dozen, might not be an attraction to the eyes of
chance-comers. At the lake-palace the prince frequently gave audience
here. He had said to me, when I stated my wish to read in the library,
'You keep to the classical department?' I thought it possible he might
not like the coloured volumes to be inspected; I had no taste for a
perusal of them. I picked up one that fell during my walk, and flung it
back, and disturbed a heap under cover, for more fell, and there I let
Ottilia did not keep me waiting.
THE SCENE IN THE LAKE-PALACE LIBRARY
I was humming the burden of Gothe's Zigeunerlied, a favourite one with me
whenever I had too much to think of, or nothing. A low rush of sound
from the hall-doorway swung me on my heel, and I saw her standing with a
silver lamp raised in her right hand to the level of her head, as if she
expected to meet obscurity. A thin blue Indian scarf mufed her throat
and shoulders. Her hair was loosely knotted. The lamp's full glow
illumined and shadowed her. She was like a statue of Twilight.
I went up to her quickly, and closed the door, saying, 'You have come';
my voice was not much above a breath.
She looked distrustfully down the length of the room; 'You were speaking
to some one?'
'You were speaking.'
'To myself, then, I suppose.'
I remembered and repeated the gipsy burden.
She smiled faintly and said it was the hour for Anna and Ursel and Kith
and Liese to be out.
Her hands were gloved, a small matter to tell of.
We heard the portico-sentinel challenged and relieved.
'Midnight,' I said.
She replied: 'You were not definite in your directions about the
'I feared to name midnight.'
'Lest the appointment of midnight--I lose my knowledge of you!--should
make you reflect, frighten you. You see, I am inventing a reason; I
really cannot tell why, if it was not that I hoped to have just those few
minutes more of you. And now they're gone. I would not have asked you
but that I thought you free to act.'
'And you come freely?'
'A "therefore" belongs to every grant of freedom.'
'I understand: your judgement was against it.'
'Be comforted,' she said; 'it is your right to bid me come, if you think
One of the sofa-volumes fell. She caught her breath; and smiled at her
I told her that it was my intention to start for England in the morning;
that this was the only moment I had, and would be the last interview: my
rights, if I possessed any, and I was not aware that I did, I threw down.
'You throw down one end of the chain,' she said.
'In the name of heaven, then,' cried I, 'release yourself.'
She shook her head. 'That is not my meaning.'
Note the predicament of a lover who has a piece of dishonesty lurking in
him. My chilled self-love had certainly the right to demand the
explanation of her coldness, and I could very well guess that a word or
two drawn from the neighbourhood of the heart would fetch a warmer
current to unlock the ice between us, but feeling the coldness I
complained of to be probably a suspicion, I fixed on the suspicion as a
new and deeper injury done to my loyal love for her, and armed against
that I dared not take an initiative for fear of unexpectedly justifying
it by betraying myself.
Yet, supposing her inclination to have become diverted, I was ready
frankly to release her with one squeeze of hands and take all the pain of
she pain, and I said: 'Pray, do not speak of chains.'
'But they exist. Things cannot be undone for us two by words.'
The tremble as of a strung wire in the strenuous pitch of her voice
seemed to say she was not cold, though her gloved hand resting its
finger-ends on the table, her restrained attitude, her very calm eyes,
declared the reverse. This and that sensation beset me in turn.
We shrank oddly from uttering one another's Christian name. I was the
first with it; my 'Ottilia !' brought soon after 'Harry' on her lips, and
an atmosphere about us much less Arctic.
'Ottilia, you have told me you wish me to go to England.'
'We shall be friends.'
'Yes, Harry; we cannot be quite divided; we have that knowledge for our
'The happy knowledge that we may have our bone to gnaw when food's
denied. It is something. One would like possibly, after expulsion out
of Eden, to climb the gates to see how the trees grow there. What I
cannot imagine is the forecasting of any joy in the privilege.'
'By nature or system, then, you are more impatient than I, for I can,'
said Ottilia. She added: 'So much of your character I divined early.
It was part of my reason for wishing you to work. You will find that
hard work in England--but why should I preach to you Harry, you have
called me here for some purpose?'
'I must have detained you already too long.'
'Time is not the offender. Since I have come, the evil----'
'Evil? Are not your actions free?'
'Patience, my friend. The freer my actions, the more am I bound to
deliberate on them. I have the habit of thinking that my deliberations
are not in my sex's fashion of taking counsel of the nerves and the
In truth, Harry, I should not have come but for my acknowledgement of
your right to bid me come.'
'You know, princess, that in honouring me with your attachment, you
imperil your sovereign rank?'
'Except that it is grievously in peril, nothing!'
'Have you known it all along?'
'Dimly-scarcely. To some extent I knew it, but it did not stand out in
broad daylight. I have been learning the world's wisdom recently. Would
you have had me neglect it? Surely much is due to my father? My
relatives have claims on me. Our princely Houses have. My country has.'
'Oh, princess, if you are pleading----'
'Can you think that I am?'
The splendour of her high nature burst on me with a shock.
I could have fallen to kiss her feet, and I said indifferently: 'Not
pleading, only it is evident the claims--I hate myself for bringing you
in antagonism with them. Yes, and I have been learning some worldly
wisdom; I wish for your sake it had not been so late. What made me
overleap the proper estimate of your rank! I can't tell; but now that I
know better the kind of creature--the man who won your esteem when you
knew less of the world!'--
'Hush! I have an interest in him, and do not suffer him to be spurned,'
Ottilia checked me. 'I, too, know him better, and still, if he is
dragged down I am in the dust; if he is abused the shame is mine.' Her
Her sweet warmth of colour was transfused through my veins.
'We shall part in a few minutes. I have a mind to beg a gift of you.'
She made her hand bare and gave me, not the glove, but the hand.
'Ah! but this I cannot keep.'
'Will you have everything spoken?' she said, in a tone that would have
been reproachful had not tenderness melted it. 'There should be a spirit
between us, Harry, to spare the task. You do keep it, if you choose. I
have some little dread of being taken for a madwoman, and more--an actual
horror of behaving ungratefully to my generous father. He has proved
that he can be indulgent, most trusting and considerate for his daughter,
though he is a prince; my duty is to show him that I do not forget I am a
princess. I owe my rank allegiance when he forgets his on my behalf, my
friend! You are young. None but an inexperienced girl hoodwinked by her
tricks of intuition, would have dreamed you superior to the passions of
other men. I was blind; I am regretful--take my word as you do my hand--
for no one's sake but my father's. You and I are bound fast; only, help
me that the blow may be lighter for him; if I descend from the place I
was born to, let me tell him it is to occupy one I am fitted for, or
should not at least feel my Family's deep blush in filling. To be in the
midst of life in your foremost England is, in my imagination, very
glorious. Harry, I remember picturing to myself when I reflected upon
your country's history--perhaps a year after I had seen the two "young
English gentlemen," that you touch the morning and evening star, and wear
them in your coronet, and walk with the sun West and East! Child's
imagery; but the impression does not wear off. If I rail at England, it
is the anger of love. I fancy I have good and great things to speak to
the people through you.'
There she stopped. The fervour she repressed in speech threw a glow over
her face, like that on a frosty bare autumn sky after sunset.
I pressed my lips to her hand.
In our silence another of the fatal yellow volumes thumped the floor.
She looked into my eyes and asked,
'Have we been speaking before a witness?'
So thoroughly had she renovated me, that I accused and reproved the
lurking suspicion with a soft laugh.
'Beloved! I wish we had been.'
'If it might be,' she said, divining me and musing.
'How? What do you ask?'
The look on my face alarmed her. I was breathless and colourless, with
the heart of a hawk eyeing his bird--a fox, would be the truer
comparison, but the bird was noble, not one that cowered. Her beauty and
courage lifted me into high air, in spite of myself, and it was a huge
weight of greed that fell away from me when I said,
'I would not urge it for an instant. Consider--if you had just plighted
your hand in mine before a witness!'
'My hand is in yours; my word to you is enough.'
'Enough. My thanks to heaven for it! But consider--a pledge of fidelity
that should be my secret angel about me in trouble and trial; my wedded
soul! She cannot falter, she is mine for ever, she guides me, holds me
to work, inspirits me!--she is secure from temptation, from threats, from
everything--nothing can touch, nothing move her, she is mine! I mean, an
attested word, a form, that is--a betrothal. For me to say--my beloved
and my betrothed! You hear that? Beloved! is a lonely word:--
betrothed! carries us joined up to death. Would you?--I do but ask to
know that you would. To-morrow I am loose in the world, and there 's a
darkness in the thought of it almost too terrible. Would you?--one sworn
word that gives me my bride, let men do what they may! I go then singing
to battle--sure!--Remember, it is but the question whether you would.'
'Harry, I would, and will,' she said, her lips shuddering--'wait'--for a
cry of joy escaped me--'I will look you me in the eyes and tell me you
have a doubt of me.'
I looked: she swam in a mist.
We had our full draught of the divine self-oblivion which floated those
ghosts of the two immortal lovers through the bounds of their purgatorial
circle, and for us to whom the minutes were ages, as for them to whom all
time was unmarked, the power of supreme love swept out circumstance.
Such embraces cast the soul beyond happiness, into no known region of
sadness, but we drew apart sadly, even as that involved pair of bleeding
recollections looked on the life lost to them. I knew well what a height
she dropped from when the senses took fire. She raised me to learn how
little of fretful thirst and its reputed voracity remains with love when
it has been met midway in air by a winged mate able to sustain, unable to
And it was before a witness, though unviewed by us.
The farewell had come. Her voice was humbled.
Never, I said, delighting in the now conscious bravery of her eyes
engaging mine, shadowy with the struggle, I would never doubt her, and I
renounced all pledges. To be clear in my own sight as well as in hers, I
made mention of the half-formed conspiracy to obtain her plighted troth
in a binding manner. It was not necessary for me to excuse myself; she
did that, saying, 'Could there be a greater proof of my darling's
unhappiness? I am to blame.'
We closed hands for parting. She hesitated and asked if my father was
awake; then promptly to my answer:
'I will see him. I have treated you ill. I have exacted too much
patience. The suspicion was owing to a warning I had this evening,
Harry; a silly warning to beware of snares; and I had no fear of them,
believe me, though for some moments, and without the slightest real
desire to be guarded, I fancied Harry's father was overhearing me. He is
your father, dearest: fetch him to me. My father will hear of this from
my lips--why not he? Ah! did I suspect you ever so little? I will
atone for it; not atone, I will make it my pleasure; it is my pride that
has hurt you both. O my lover! my lover! Dear head, dear eyes!
Delicate and noble that you are! my own stronger soul! Where was my
heart? Is it sometimes dead, or sleeping? But you can touch it to life.
Look at me--I am yours. I consent, I desire it; I will see him. I will
be bound. The heavier the chains, oh! the better for me. What am I, to
be proud of anything not yours, Harry? and I that have passed over to
you! I will see him at once.'
A third in the room cried out, 'No, not that--you do not!'
The tongue was German and struck on us like a roll of unfriendly musketry
before we perceived the enemy. 'Princess Ottilia! you remember your
dignity or I defend you and it, think of me what you will!'
Baroness Turckems, desperately entangled by the sofa-covering, rushed
into the ray of the lamps and laid her hand on the bell-rope. In a
minute we had an alarm sounding, my father was among us, there was a mad
play of chatter, and we stood in the strangest nightmare-light that ever
ended an interview of lovers.
HOMEWARD AND HOME AGAIN
The room was in flames, Baroness Turckems plucking at the bell-rope, my
father looking big and brilliant.
'Hold hand!' he shouted to the frenzied baroness.
She counter-shouted; both of them stamped feet; the portico sentinel
struck the butt of his musket on the hall-doors; bell answered bell along
the upper galleries.
'Foolish woman, be silent!' cried my father.
'Incendiary!' she half-shrieked.
He turned to the princess, begging her to retire, but she stared at him,
and I too, after having seen him deliberately apply the flame of her lamp
to the curtains, deemed him mad. He was perfectly self-possessed, and
said, 'This will explain the bell!' and fetched a deep breath, and again
urged the princess to retire.
Peterborough was the only one present who bethought him of doing
fireman's duty. The risk looked greater than it was. He had but to tear
the lighted curtains down and trample on them. Suddenly the baroness
called out, 'The man is right! Come with me, princess; escape, your
Highness, escape! And you,' she addressed me--'you rang the bell, you!'
'To repair your error, baroness,' said my father.
'I have my conscience pure; have you?' she retorted.
He bowed and said, 'The fire will also excuse your presence on the spot,
'I thank my God I am not so cool as you,' said she.
'Your warmth'--he bent to her--'shall always be your apology, baroness.'
Seeing the curtains extinguished, Ottilia withdrew. She gave me no
All this occurred before the night-porter, who was going his rounds,
could reach the library. Lacqueys and maids were soon at his heels. My
father met Prince Ernest with a florid story of a reckless student,
either asleep or too anxious to secure a particular volume, and showed
his usual consideration by not asking me to verify the narrative. With
that, and with high praise of Peterborough, as to whose gallantry I heard
him deliver a very circumstantial account, he, I suppose, satisfied the
prince's curiosity, and appeased him, the damage being small compared
with the uproar. Prince Ernest questioned two or three times, 'What set
him ringing so furiously?' My father made some reply.
Ottilia's cloud-pale windows were the sole greeting I had from her on my
departure early next morning, far wretcheder than if I had encountered a
misfortune. It was impossible for me to deny that my father had shielded
the princess: she would never have run for a menace. As he remarked,
the ringing of the bell would not of itself have forced her to retreat,
and the nature of the baroness's alarm demanded nothing less than a
conflagration to account for it to the household. But I felt humiliated
on Ottilia's behalf, and enraged on my own. And I had, I must confess, a
touch of fear of a man who could unhesitatingly go to extremities, as he
had done, by summoning fire to the rescue. He assured me that moments
such as those inspired him and were the pride of his life, and he was
convinced that, upon reflection, 'I should rise to his pitch.' He deluded
himself with the idea of his having foiled Baroness Turckems, nor did I
choose to contest it, though it struck me that she was too conclusively
the foiler. She must have intercepted the letter for the princess. I
remembered acting carelessly in handing it to my father for him to
consign it to one of the domestics, and he passed it on with a flourish.
Her place of concealment was singularly well selected under the sofa-
cover, and the little heaps of paper-bound volumes. I do not fancy she
meant to rouse the household; her notion probably was to terrorize the
princess, that she might compel her to quit my presence. In rushing to
the bell-rope, her impetuosity sent her stumbling on it with force, and
while threatening to ring, and meaning merely to threaten, she rang; and
as it was not a retractable act, she continued ringing, and the more
violently upon my father's appearance. Catching sight of Peterborough at
his heels, she screamed a word equivalent to a clergyman. She had lost
her discretion, but not her wits.
For any one save a lover--thwarted as I was, and perturbed by the shadow
falling on the princess--my father's Aplomb and promptness in conjuring a
check to what he assumed to be a premeditated piece of villany on the
part of Baroness Turckems, might have seemed tolerably worthy of
admiration. Me the whole scene affected as if it had burnt my skin. I
loathed that picture of him, constantly present to me, of his shivering
the glass of Ottilia's semi-classical night-lamp, gravely asking her
pardon, and stretching the flame to the curtain, with large eyes blazing
on the baroness. The stupid burlesque majesty of it was unendurable to
thought. Nevertheless, I had to thank him for shielding Ottilia, and I
had to brood on the fact that I had drawn her into a situation requiring
such a shield. He, meanwhile, according to his habit, was engaged in
reviewing the triumphs to come. 'We have won a princess!' And what
England would say, how England would look, when, on a further journey,
I brought my princess home, entirely occupied his imagination, to my
excessive torture--a state of mind for which it was impossible to ask his
mercy. His sole link with the past appeared to be this notion that he
had planned all the good things in store for us. Consequently I was
condemned to hear of the success of the plot, until--for I had not the
best of consciences--I felt my hand would be spell-bound in the attempt
to write to the princess; and with that sense of incapacity I seemed to
be cut loose from her, drifting back into the desolate days before I saw
her wheeled in her invalid chair along the sands and my life knew
But whatever the mood of our affections, so it is with us island
wanderers: we cannot gaze over at England, knowing the old country to be
close under the sea-line, and not hail it, and partly forget ourselves in
the time that was. The smell of sea-air made me long for the white
cliffs, the sight of the white cliffs revived pleasant thoughts of
Riversley, and thoughts of Riversley thoughts of Janet, which were
singularly and refreshingly free from self-accusations. Some love for my
home, similar to what one may have for Winter, came across me, and some
appreciation of Janet as well, in whose society was sure to be at least
myself, a creature much reduced in altitude, but without the cramped
sensations of a man on a monument. My hearty Janet! I thanked her then
for seeing me of my natural height.
Some hours after parting with my father in London, I lay down to sleep in
my old home, feeling as if I had thrown off a coat of armour. I awoke
with a sailor's song on my lips. Looking out of window at the well-known
features of the heaths and dark firs, and waning oak copses, and the
shadowy line of the downs stretching their long whale backs South to
West, it struck me that I had been barely alive of late. Indeed one who
consents to live as I had done, in a hope and a retrospect, will find his
life slipping between the two, like the ships under the striding
Colossus. I shook myself, braced myself, and saluted every one at the
breakfast table with the frankness of Harry Richmond. Congratulated on
my splendid spirits, I was confirmed in the idea that I enjoyed them,
though I knew of something hollow which sent an echo through me at
intervals. Janet had become a fixed inmate of the house. 'I've bought
her, and I shall keep her; she's the apple of my eye,' said the squire,
adding with characteristic scrupulousness, 'if apple's female.' I asked
her whether she had heard from Temple latterly. 'No; dear little
fellow!' cried she, and I saw in a twinkling what it was that the squire
liked in her, and liked it too. I caught sight of myself, as through a
rift of cloud, trotting home from the hunt to a glad, frank, unpretending
mate, with just enough of understanding to look up to mine. For a second
or so it was pleasing, as a glance out of his library across hill and
dale will be to a strained student. Our familiarity sanctioned a comment
on the growth of her daughter-of-the-regiment moustache, the faintest
conceivable suggestion of a shadow on her soft upper lip, which a poet
might have feigned to have fallen from her dark thick eyebrows.
'Why, you don't mean to say, Hal, it's not to your taste?' said the
'No,' said I, turning an eye on my aunt Dorothy, 'I've loved it all my
The squire stared at me to make sure of this, muttered that it was to his
mind a beauty, and that it was nothing more on Janet's lip than down on a
flower, bloom on a plum. The poetical comparisons had the effect of
causing me to examine her critically. She did not raise a spark of
poetical sentiment in my bosom. She had grown a tall young woman, firmly
built, light of motion, graceful perhaps; but it was not the grace of
grace: the grace of simplicity, rather. She talked vivaciously and
frankly, and gave (to friends) her whole eyes and a fine animation in
talking; and her voice was a delight to friends; there was always the
full ring of Janet in it, and music also. She still lifted her lip when
she expressed contempt or dislike of persons; nor was she cured of her
trick of frowning. She was as ready as ever to be flattered; that was
evident. My grandfather's praise of her she received with a rewarding
look back of kindness; she was not discomposed by flattery, and threw
herself into no postures, nor blushed very deeply. 'Thank you for
perceiving my merits,' she seemed to say; and to be just I should add
that one could fancy her saying, you see them because you love me. She
wore her hair in a plain knot, peculiarly neatly rounded away from the
temples, which sometimes gave to a face not aquiline a look of swiftness.
The face was mobile, various, not at all suggestive of bad temper, in
spite of her frowns. The profile of it was less assuring than the front,
because of the dark eyebrows' extension and the occasional frown, but
that was not shared by the mouth, which was, I admitted to myself, a
charming bow, running to a length at the corners like her eyebrows, quick
with smiles. The corners of the mouth would often be in movement,
setting dimples at work in her cheek, while the brows remained fixed, and
thus at times a tender meditative air was given her that I could not
think her own. Upon what could she possibly reflect? She had not a
care, she had no education, she could hardly boast an idea--two at a time
I was sure she never had entertained. The sort of wife for a fox-hunting
lord, I summed up, and hoped he would be a good fellow.
Peterborough was plied by the squire for a description of German women.
Blushing and shooting a timid look from under his pendulous eyelids at my
aunt, indicating that he was prepared to go the way of tutors at
Riversley, he said he really had not much observed them.
'They're a whitey-brown sort of women, aren't they?' the squire
questioned him, 'with tow hair and fish eyes, high o' the shoulder, bony,
and a towel skin and gone teeth, so I've heard tell. I've heard that's
why the men have all taken to their beastly smoking.'
Peterborough ejaculated: 'Indeed! sir, really!' He assured my aunt that
German ladies were most agreeable, cultivated persons, extremely
domesticated, retiring; the encomiums of the Roman historian were as well
deserved by them in the present day as they had been in the past;
decidedly, on the whole, Peterborough would call them a virtuous race.
'Why do they let the men smoke, then?' said the squire. 'A pretty style
o' courtship. Come, sit by my hearth, ma'am; I 'll be your chimney--
faugh! dirty rascals!'
Janet said: 'I rather like the smell of cigars.'
'Like what you please, my dear--he'll be a lucky dog,' the squire
approved her promptly, and asked me if I smoked.
I was not a stranger to the act, I confessed.
'Well'--he took refuge in practical philosophy--'a man must bring some
dirt home from every journey: only don't smoke me out, mercy's sake.'
Here was a hint of Janet's influence with him, and of what he expected
from my return to Riversley.
Peterborough informed me that he suffered persecution over the last
glasses of Port in the evening, through the squire's persistent inquiries
as to whether a woman had anything to do with my staying so long abroad.
'A lady, sir?' quoth Peterborough. 'Lady, if you like,' rejoined the
squire. 'You parsons and petticoats must always mince the meat to hash
the fact.' Peterborough defended his young friend Harry's moral
reputation, and was amazed to hear that the squire did not think highly
of a man's chastity. The squire acutely chagrined the sensitive
gentleman by drawling the word after him, and declaring that he tossed
that kind of thing into the women's wash-basket. Peterborough, not
without signs of indignation, protesting, the squire asked him point-
blank if he supposed that Old England had been raised to the head of the
world by such as he. In fine, he favoured Peterborough with a lesson in
worldly views. 'But these,' Peterborough said to me, 'are not the views,
dear Harry--if they are the views of ladies of any description, which I
take leave to doubt--not the views of the ladies you and I would esteem.
For instance, the ladies of this household.' My aunt Dorothy's fate was
In reply to my grandfather's renewed demand to know whether any one of
those High-Dutch women had got hold of me, Peterborough said: 'Mr.
Beltham, the only lady of whom it could be suspected that my friend Harry
regarded her with more than ordinary admiration was Hereditary-Princess
of one of the ancient princely Houses of Germany.' My grandfather
thereupon said, 'Oh!' pushed the wine, and was stopped.
Peterborough chuckled over this 'Oh!' and the stoppage of further
questions, while acknowledging that the luxury of a pipe would help to
make him more charitable. He enjoyed the Port of his native land, but he
did, likewise, feel the want of one whiff or so of the less restrictive
foreigner's pipe; and he begged me to note the curiosity of our worship
of aristocracy and royalty; and we, who were such slaves to rank, and
such tyrants in our own households,--we Britons were the great sticklers
for freedom! His conclusion was, that we were not logical. We would
have a Throne, which we would not allow the liberty to do anything to
make it worthy of rational veneration: we would have a peerage, of which
we were so jealous that it formed almost an assembly of automatons; we
would have virtuous women, only for them to be pursued by immoral men.
Peterborough feared, he must say, that we were an inconsequent people.
His residence abroad had so far unhinged him; but a pipe would have
stopped his complainings.
Moved, perhaps, by generous wine, in concert with his longing for
tobacco, he dropped an observation of unwonted shrewdness; he said: 'The
squire, my dear Harry, a most honourable and straightforward country
gentleman, and one of our very wealthiest, is still, I would venture to
suggest, an example of old blood that requires--I study race--varying,
modifying, one might venture to say, correcting; and really, a friend
with more privileges than I possess, would or should throw him a hint
that no harm has been done to the family by an intermixture . . . old
blood does occasionally need it--you know I study blood--it becomes too
coarse, or, in some cases, too fine. The study of the mixture of blood
is probably one of our great physical problems.'
Peterborough commended me to gratitude for the imaginative and chivalrous
element bestowed on me by a father that was other than a country squire;
one who could be tolerant of innocent habits, and not of guilty ones--
a further glance at the interdicted pipe. I left him almost whimpering
The contemplation of the curious littleness of the lives of men and women
lived in this England of ours, made me feel as if I looked at them out of
a palace balcony-window; for no one appeared to hope very much or to
fear; people trotted in their different kinds of harness; and I was
amused to think of my heart going regularly in imitation of those about
me. I was in a princely state of mind indeed, not disinclined for a time
to follow the general course of life, while despising it. An existence
without colour, without anxious throbbing, without salient matter for
thought, challenged contempt. But it was exceedingly funny. My aunt
Dorothy, the squire, and Janet submitted to my transparent inward
laughter at them, patiently waiting for me to share their contentment, in
the deluded belief that the hour would come. The principal items of news
embraced the death of Squire Gregory Bulsted, the marriage of this and
that young lady, a legal contention between my grandfather and Lady Maria
Higginson, the wife of a rich manufacturer newly located among us, on
account of a right of encampment on Durstan heath, my grandfather taking
side with the gipsies, and beating her ladyship--a friend of Heriot's, by
the way. Concerning Heriot, my aunt Dorothy was in trouble. She could
not, she said, approve his behaviour in coming to this neighbourhood at
all, and she hinted that I might induce him to keep away. I mentioned
Julia Bulsted's being in mourning, merely to bring in her name
'Ay, mourning's her outer rig, never doubt,' said the squire. 'Flick
your whip at her, she 's a charitable soul, Judy Bulsted! She knits
stockings for the poor. She'd down and kiss the stump of a sailor on a
stick o' timber. All the same, she oughtn't to be alone. Pity she
hasn't a baby. You and I'll talk it over by-and-by, Harry.'
Kiomi was spoken of, and Lady Maria Higginson, and then Heriot.
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